Saturday, August 4, 2018

Swan Song


Swan Song
New York Theater Festival
Summerfest
Hudson Guild Theater
August 6, 8, 11, 2018

Photo courtesy of Swan Song
Swan Song, a new play by Dan Kavulish, is part of the New York Theater Festival’s Summerfest.  The play tackles the highly emotional task of caring for an aging parent in the later years of their life.  As Stage Manager, I have been watching this piece grow over the rehearsal period.  Mr. Kavulish’s writing is full of inner conflict and rich subtext.  Director Justin Bennett’s thorough approach and clear vision are infusing the performance with layers of detail and emotion.

Philip (played by Steve Humphreys) faces unresolved conflicts in the relationship with his mother (played by Rebecca Hoodwin) while she transitions from her assisted living situation to one of skilled nursing, where she will receive round the clock care.  Memories of his deceased brother, the seventeen year estrangement from his family, and his mother’s denial of his homosexuality flood in as he gives his mother the time and attentions she needs and deserves in her final months.

Steve Humphreys and Rebecca Hoodwin rise up together in these roles as their characters’ bond supersedes their conflicts.  They create genuine moments together, fueled by pain and devotion. 

Swan Song is playing a Hudson Guild Theater (441 W. 26 St., between 9th & 10th Ave.) on Monday, August 6 and Wednesday, August 8 at 9:00 PM and Saturday, August 11 at 6:00 PM.  To purchase tickets go to newyorktheaterfestival.com/swan-song/.  Tickets will also be available at the door before the performances.  See you there!


Domenick Danza

Monday, July 30, 2018

Hamlet


Hamlet
The Drilling Company
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
July 28, 2018

Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
Celebrating their 24th year of presenting free Shakespeare on the Lower East Side, The Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot production of Hamlet rings fresh, truthful, and alive.  Director Karla Hendrick trimmed down Shakespeare’s book, kept the action flowing, and guided the actors to dive deeply into the characters to deliver genuine performances.  Ms. Hendrick makes some bold and brilliant choices, especially in casting women in roles written for men, adding levels of humor and social commentary not normally seen in Hamlet.

Jane Bradley & Una Clancy
Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
Hamlet (played by Jane Bradley) is visited by the ghost of his father, King Hamlet (played by Bill Green).  He asks Hamlet to avenge his death.  The King was murdered by his brother, Claudius (played by Robert Arcaro), who then married the anguished Queen, Gertrude (played by Una Clancy).  Claudius now wears the crown and plots to get rid of Hamlet.  Hamlet feigns madness in order to prove the ghost’s message and plan his revenge.  

Jane Bradley is remarkable as Hamlet.  Her melancholy is heartfelt and her madness is cunning.  She takes the audience deeply into Hamlet’s inner thoughts during the soliloquies, bringing nuance and clarity to every word.  Gracie Winchester is charming and coy as Ophelia.  The audience feels for her when she is rejected by Hamlet.  She and Ms. Bradley develop a warm, tender, and truthful connection.  When Hamlet arrives at Ophelia’s burial, Ms. Bradley creates a genuine moment of sorrow and heartache.  

Jane Bradley as Hamlet
Photo courtesy of The Drilling Company
Robert Arcaro and Una Clancy both have a strong presence as Claudius and Gertrude.  Their relationship and position are real, and the tensions between them and Hamlet is tangible.  Elowyn Castle is powerful as Laertes and Ophelia’s mother, Polonia.  The famous advice to Laertes speech is touching and heartfelt.  She then transitions into a political manipulator when playing scenes with Claudius and Gertrude.  John Caliendo delivers an honest performance as Laertes.  The relationship he and Ms. Winchester create as brother and sister is playful and caring.

Aly Byatt and Lulu Fairclough-Stewart bring a humorous aspect to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlets friends from school.  Together the three women have the timing, humor, and bite of set of mean girls.  Strong performances are also delivered by Bill Green, Dan Teachout, Kendra Lee Oberhauser, Niamh Ryan, Colleen Cosgrove, and Margo Tillstrom.

The final performance of Hamlet was July 28.  If you missed it, don’t dismay.  There is one more show in The Drilling Company’s Summer Shakespeare Season.  Macbeth will be performed at Bryant Park on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 PM from August 24 through September 8.  It is sure to be a great production.  Yes, it is FREE, so don’t miss it!
Domenick Danza


Friday, July 27, 2018

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope


Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope
New York City Center
Encores! Off-Center
July 26, 2018

Photo courtesy of New York City Center Encores! Off-Center
The New York City Center Encores! Off-Center production of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope brings new life to Micki Grant’s music and lyrics.  Savion Glover’s staging and direction are concise and engaging.  His choreography merges the precision and energy of the time period with his unique style and rhythm.  His vision for the show is skillfully achieved by the strong singing voices and powerful stage presence of a vibrant ensemble cast.

Originally on Broadway in 1972, Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope was conceived by Vinnette Carroll.  The story is told entirely through Micki Grant’s music, which includes a range of compositions from blues and jazz to gospel and Reggae.  From the New York City Center Encores! Off-Center program:  “Don’t Bother Me has always been powered by the energy of the cast and music, along with its story being built on the African American experience.  Even more, Vinnette Carroll and Micki Grant’s presence on Broadway with this show came on the heels of Lorraine Hansberry, the first African American woman to present work on Broadway.”  There are strong and emotionally driven performances by Rheaume Crenshaw, Dayna Dantzler, Aisha de Haas, James T. Lane, and Wayne Pretlow.  

Photo courtesy of New York City Center Encores! Off-Center
Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope remains a relevant piece of musical theatre.  It frames the social voice and point of view of the time period in which it was written, and genuinely rings true today.  The show runs for a very limited time at New York City Center through July 28. 

Domenick Danza

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sleep No More


Sleep No More
The McKittrick Hotel
July 21, 2018

Photo courtesy of Sleep No More
If you have not heard about or seen Sleep No More, you need to go on line, read more about it, and get a ticket.  This site specific work takes place at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea.  Created by Punchdrunk, a British theatre company, the production first premiered on March 7, 2011.  Sleep No More adapts the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and combines it with the styling of noir films to create an immersive, environmental masterpiece told through movement and dance.

Photo courtesy of Sleep No More
When you enter into the hotel, you are immediately transported to a different time period.  You walk through room after room of the four story building on your own.  You are encouraged to explore.  You are not allowed to speak.  Characters appear and slowly and meticulously act out their drama, then disappear.  You follow them into other rooms where they encounter different characters and continue their story.  The action begins to intertwine.  The scenes are dimly lit, emotionally driven, precisely timed, and intensely choreographed.  Your mind connects the images to the story of Macbeth.  All your senses are engaged as the mystery and suspense builds to a stunning climax.   

Photo courtesy of Sleep No More
This was my first immersive theatre experience, and I intend to return to Sleep No More very soon.  Since it takes place on numerous floors and rooms simultaneously, you cannot take in the entire experience at one time.  There were certain characters and plot lines that I did not get to see.  I recommend you refresh your knowledge of the characters and plot from Macbeth before attending.   

Domenick Danza

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Damned


The Damned
Comedie-Francaise
Park Avenue Armory
July 19, 2018

Photo courtesy of Comedie-Francaise
& Park Avenue Armory
The North American premier of the Comedie-Francaise production of The Damned is being presented at the Park Avenue Armory this month.  Director Ivo van Hove interprets Luchino Visconti’s film for the Armory’s vast, expansive space with a cast of twenty-three, archival film sequences, and a highly skilled crew of video and sound technicians.  The piece is spoken in French with English subtitles, and runs two hours and ten minutes without an intermission.  It is full of powerful an alarming images that dramatize the political manipulation of complicit behavior to gain control.

Shortly after Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany, the Reichstag, which housed the German parliament, was burned by a Dutchman with strong communist connections.  On the same night, the Aschenbach family, who owns and runs the largest steel mill in Germany, is celebrating the birthday of their patriarch (played by Eric Genovese).  The steel mill is a vital need of the Nazi party.  Following the death of the patriarch, the deciding votes on the running of the mill falls to his nephew, Martin (played by Christophe Montenez).  To gain power over these decisions the family pits themselves against one another, turning Jewish member over to the party and reporting disloyalty.  The final fight for power is between Martin and his mother (played by Elsa Lepoivre).  Total destruction of the family is inevitable.

Photo courtesy of Comedie-Francaise
& Park Avenue Armory
The strengthening of the Nazi party through the public’s fear and anger is clear and riveting in this story.  The mistrust between the characters is visceral.  It is stated in the play how the political movement is counting on this family for two things.  One is the steel for making weapons.  The other is their complicity in the party’s beliefs and actions.  This theme is historically understood, and rings with truth and relevance today.

The Damned is playing at the Park Avenue Armory through July 28.  A production of this magnitude and importance must be experienced.  The ending will shock and stay with you.  Get your tickets today! 

Domenick Danza

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Head Over Heels


Head Over Heels
Hudson Theatre
July 9, 2018

Photo courtesy of Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels is fun and smart and wild and sexy!  Combining the music of The Go-Go’s with The Arcadia, a play written at the end of the 16th century by Sir Philip Sidney, is pure genius.  The design and style for the production is over the top and brilliant.  It is the Renaissance meets Greek tragedy in the 1980s, surging forward to tell a well needed message of acceptance, love, and persistence.  The creative team, led by director Michael Mayer, pulls out all the stops and picks up the pace to entertain, dazzle, and fill the Hudson Theatre with pure joy.

Princess Philoclea (played by Alexandra Socha) is in love with Musidorus, a mere shepherd boy (played by Andrew Durand).  Her older sister, Princess Pamela (played by Bonnie Milligan), has been introduced to numerous suitors over the past five years, and cannot find anyone to her liking.  Their father, Basilius, King of Arcadia (played by Jeremy Kushnier), is not happy with these events, and his wife, Gynecia (played by Rachel York), is not happy with him.  Pythio, the Oracle of Delphi (played by Peppermint) has four predictions for the King.  When they come true, Arcadia will have a new King, “lose their beat,” and fall into turmoil and despair.  King Basilius keeps the oracle a secret and takes his family and court on a journey to Bohemia to avoid the predictions and face his adversary head on.  Truth in the guise of mayhem ensues, proving that you meet your destiny on your journey of denial.

Photo courtesy of Head Over Heels
The cast and ensemble are a skillful, energetic, and cohesive unit.  They are truly amazing in every way.  Their voices are strong.  Their energies are high.  Their timing is crisp.  Andrew Durand and Alexandra Socha are heartwarming and funny.  Jerry Kushnier and Rachel York are bold and commanding.  Bonnie Milligan and Taylor Iman Jones are daring and hilarious.  Peppermint is dazzling and fabulous.  Tom Alan Robbins is the glue that holds them all together during the mayhem. 

Photo courtesy of Head Over Heels
Scenic design by Julian Crouch creates numerous, imaginary locations that transport you into this outlandish story.  They are lush, alive, and colorful through enhancement from lighting designer Kevin Adams and projection designer Andrew Lazarow.  The costumes, by Arianne Phillips, transcends any specific time period.  They encompass a wide array of styles and evoke clear characters with a single glance.  Tom Kitt’s choreography is fierce and thrilling.

Head Over Heels is playing at the Hudson Theatre.  If you see anything this summer, make it this show!
 
Domenick Danza

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Girls & Boys


Girls & Boys
Minetta Lane Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre
July 7, 2018

Photo courtesy of Girls & Boys
The Royal Court Theatre’s production of Girls & Boys is now running at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  This one woman play starring Carey Mulligan tells the story of family annihilation.  Magnificently directed by Lyndsey Turner, Ms. Mulligan transports herself in and out of the character’s memories in an effort to heal herself of grief and despair.  Playwright Dennis Kelly skillfully structures the story to build curiosity, intrigue, empathy, and knowledge.

Lights come up on Carey Mulligan as “the woman.”  She is alone on an empty, turquoise stage.  She is antsy, foul-mouthed, and desperately in search of herself.  She tells the story of how she met her husband in a line at an airport in Italy.  Her first impulse was one of dislike that turned into interest and attraction as he was approached by two stunningly beautiful models looking to cut the line.  The woman continues to tell the story of their lives together and the building of her very successful career as a film producer.  Cutting into this storytelling are scenes between her and her two children.  She becomes different with them.  Loving.  Caring.  Tender.  We see this woman grow and flourish into a focused and grounded wife, mother, and successful entrepreneur.  She then begins the story of what happened to her children, and we understand why they are not present in her memories.

Carey Mulligam
Photo courtesy of Girls & Boys
Carey Mulligan takes the audience on the journey of this character from discovery to happiness, uncertainty to risk, and despair to recovery.  Her transitions are flawless.  Her conversation is direct and personal to each individual member of the audience.  The timing in her humor is succinct.  Her connections are intimate and genuine.

Scenic design by Es Devlin, costume design by Jack Galloway, lighting design by Oliver Fenwick, and video design by Luke Halls all merge to create an effective environment that deeply absorbs the audience into the storytelling and heightens the emotional impact of the events.

Girls & Boys is a unique piece of theatre.  It is skillfully written, directed, and produced.  Don’t miss this impactful portrayal by Carey Mulligan at the Minetta Lane Theatre, now running through July 22.

Domenick Danza