Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Othello: The Remix

Othello: The Remix
Westside Theatre / Downstairs
December 26, 2016

Photo courtesy of Othello: The Remix
Othello: TheRemix is Shakespeare to the max!  This retelling of Othello is updated to the music world of rap and hip-hop.  The manipulation, lies, and paranoia are fierce, bringing the action to a jealous climax more effective than anticipated.  The concept is ingenious.  The performances are flawless.  This combines to create an impactful theatrical experience beyond expectation.

From the program notes:  “When rapper and hip-hop mogul Othello decides to put out pop rapper Cassio’s album next, hip-hop purist Iago seeks revenge by aiming to destroy Othello’s relationship with his new wife, the breathtaking songstress Desdemona.”

Photo courtesy of Othello: The Remix
The cast of four phenomenal actors play numerous roles, switching instantaneously.  Their characterization, physicality, and vocal dexterity are amazing.  Postell Pringle plays Othello with powerful command.  He is masterful and charismatic.  Jackson Doran plays Cassio and Emilia with charm and humor.  Writer/Director CG plays Iago and Brabantio.  He is cunning and sharp.  Writer/Compose/Director JQ plays Roderigo, Loco Vito, and Bianca.  His comic timing is superb. 

Postell Pringle as Othello
Photo courtesy of Othello: The Remix
The men play the women on a unit set.  The rhythm is like a heartbeat that pulses for eighty fast paced minutes.  The rhymes are funny and sneaky. The conflict is a struggle for power in a high stakes world.  All of this is reflective of classic Shakespeare plays.  Yes, his traditions are alive and thriving Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre.  Go see it!

Domenick Danza

Monday, December 19, 2016

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Booth Theatre
December 17, 2016

Photo courteys of Le Liaisons Dangereuses
Passion.  Betrayal.  Intrigue.  The Dunmar Warehouse production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses  presently playing on Broadway has them all.  Liev Shreiber and Janet McTeer are devilishly wonderful.  Director Josie Rourke directs the play with a subtle through line of tension that builds to a stunning admission of devastating truth by the main characters.  The style and smoothness of the production transports the audience into the frivolous and conniving world of 1780s Paris society. 

When La Marquise de Merteuil (played by Janet McTeer) tempts Le Viscomte de Valmont (played by Liev Shreiber) into ruining the reputation of young Cecile Volanges (played by Elena Kampouris), he surprisingly refuses.  He reveals that his plan of seducing the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (played by Brigitte Hjort Sorensen) is more challenging for him.  La Marquise de Merteuil wages a bet with him, and they play a game of cunning manipulation that forces them both to face the truth of their emotions.

Janet McTeer & Liev Scheiber
Photo courtesy of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Janet McTeer brilliantly plays La Marquise de Merteuil.  She brings a deep level of understanding of the motivations of this complex character.  The gender demands of French society in the 18th century cause her to develop almost sociopathic behavior that begins to crumble when she loses her power.  Liev Shreiber superbly underplays the cruelty of the character of Le Viscomte de Valmont.  This allows the audience to succumb to his charms and believe the revelation of his truer emotions.  Together these two actors masterfully create characters who willfully engage in a battel of power and seduction that undermines any sense of honor.

Brigitte Hjort Sorensen & Liev Shreiber
Photo courtesy of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Brigitte Hjort Sorensen is moving as Madame de Tourvel.  Her resolve is strong, and her despair is deep and sincere.  Elena Kampouris is innocent and playful as Cecile Volanges.  Mary Beth Peil is wise and reserved as Madame de Rosemonde.  There are equally strong performances by Raffi Barsoumian, Ora Jones, and Katrina Cunningham.

The set and costumes, designed by Tom Scott, are breathtaking.  Details in the set suggest the building of a new a structure as well as the destruction of old architecture.  This dichotomy is thematic throughout the play.  His costumes beautifully evoke the time period.  They are elegant, yet show slight wear and fraying, depicting the imperfections of that social circle.  Movement direction by Lorin Latarro keeps the scene transitions flowing with grace and smoothness.  Each move of every character is precise and elegant, setting the tone and pace for the production.

Photo courtesy of Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a must see!  It is in a limited run at the Booth Theatre through January 8.  Be sure to see it. 


Domenick Danza

Monday, December 12, 2016

Macbeth

Macbeth
The Seeing Place Theater
The Paradise Factory
December 10, 2016

Photo courtesy of
The Seeing Place Theater
The Seeing Place Theater’s Macbeth is a compact and powerful one hundred minutes of Shakespeare.  They are an “actor driven company” with a strong ensemble that is well showcased in this production.  Director Brandon Walker has a clear vision and insightful understanding of this play.  His bare bones, modern dress approach intensifies the choices made by the main characters and magnifies the effects their actions have on their sense of self.

When Macbeth’s fate is mysteriously foretold, he feels justified taking action to insure his rise to power.  He and Lady Macbeth fall prey to their own greed and sense of entitlement, and are haunted by their deeds.  As the prediction of his downfall begins to unfold, Macbeth has no choice but to fight with his life.

Brandon Walker & Erin Cronican
Photo by Russ Rowland,
courtesy of The Seeing Place Theater 
Brandon Walker portrays Macbeth as a flawed man who makes bold choices knowing full well where they might lead.  Erin Cronican’s Lady Macbeth is solid and sure of herself with the ability to both lead her husband when he is unsure, and follow him when he is decisive.  Together they are riveting.  The audience follows their clear journey of choices and guilt, motivated by their need for power and recognition.  The ensemble is equally commanding.  There are strong performances by Tim Anderson as Macduff, Joshua George as Malcolm, Marcus Peterson as Ross, Olev Aleksander as Banquo, G.W. Reed as Duncan, and the three witches: Jane Kahler, Lisa-Marie Newton, and Candice Oden. 

The Three Witches
Lisa-Marie Newton, Jane Kahler, & Candice Oden
Photo by Russ Rowland,
courtesy of The Seeing Place Theater

With seating on three sides of the small performance space at The Paradise Factory, the audience is placed in the middle of the action.  There is no set, yet the lights, designed by Duane Pagano, envelop you in a highly effective, haunting atmosphere.  The program notes set a clear frame for viewing the performance.  “With Macbeth we ask the questions: What do you feel you are owed in this world?  What are you willing to do to get it?”  

The Seeing Place Theater’s Macbeth is playing at The Paradise Factory, 64 E. 4th Street, through December 22.  Tickets are an affordable $15.  It is a seamless and faced paced production.  Be sure to see it!


Domenick Danza

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks
The Jerry Orbach Theater
December 7, 2016

Photo courtesy of The Fantasticks
I brought a group of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade drama/theatre students to see The Fantasticks.  The production is just as charming and heart-warming as ever.  For most of the students, this was their first experience in an Off-Broadway theatre.  Here is what the students had to say:

“Have you ever felt fantastic?  Well, you aren’t unless you watched The Fantasticks.”

“The plot of the story was forever love.”

“The show is about Louisa (played by Madison Claire Parks) and Matt (played by Nathan Goodrich).  The two characters are in love, but their fathers hate each other, or so they think.  The fathers team up together to put their kids together and get married.  When the kids start to date, the fathers realize they hated each other.  Their gardening style was too different.”

Photo courtesy of The Fantasticks
“The thing that was good was how they suddenly broke each other’s heart.”

“I enjoyed seeing the love and passion between the two characters.  Especially how their dads react to their relationship.  It’s so funny and odd.  Hopefully, they will decide to marry and find the best together.”

“I thought what was good about the play was how long they could hold their notes.”

MacIntrye Dixon as Henry
Photo courtesy of The Fantasticks
“I believe that the transition between every scene was really shocking.  Usually they would close the lights and begin with the scene.  However, they always continued acting and that showed me pride and joy knowing how hard they worked for two hours.”

“The lights make it seem interesting.  I like how they did everything themselves. They had a harp and a piano.  The costumes looked nice.”

“The clothes really told about their life style and showed how they were living.  It was how they were surviving.  It was like us living in a real lifestyle.”

Michael Nostrand as Mortimer
Phots courtesy of The Fantasticks
“Everything was believable.  It was also dramatic and had you at the edge of your seat.”

“I can really see the reason that the musical was on for so long.  It was really good.  It was a lot like a family.  The show made us feel happy and feel upset at the same time.  Like when Matt was getting burned, getting slapped, and getting bitten by snakes.”

“In conclusion, the musical was hysterical and sad.  I recommend it to everyone,”


Domenick Danza & Students

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Life

A Life
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Playwrights Horizons
December 3, 2016

Photo courtesy of Playwrights Horizons
David Hyde Pierce is mesmerizing in A Life at Playwrights Horizons.  Adam Bock’s script is powerful.  He boldly dives into the deep end of this subject matter, bringing his audience through mystery, fear, and uncertainty.  Anne Kauffman skillfully directs a stellar cast, creating uncomfortable realities and masterful long silences that allow the audience to process the action of the play.

Nate (played by David Hyde Pierce) has just broken up with his boyfriend, Mark.  He is painstakingly searching both their astrological charts to find the truth behind the split.  He connects with his friend, Curtis (played by Brad Heberlee), who tries to convince him to call Mark.  The unexpected takes place, which changes everything.

Brad Heberlee & David hyde Pierce
Photo courtesy of Playwrights Horizons
David Hyde Pierce is on stage alone for the first twenty minute of the play.  He is captivating and witty as Nate.  He creates a probing, flawed, and highly likeable character.  Brad Heberlee is funny and charming as Curtis.  They have a great chemistry, and develop traits that are opposite and complementary.  Adam Bock’s writing gives them a wide range of emotion and detail to portray and personalize, and they make the most of it.

The set, designed by Laura Jellinek, is simple and functional.  It is the transitions of the three sets that are truly breathtaking.  They smoothly flip back in a stunning and effective manner that is only heightened by the fact that it is all taking place on the small, limited stage of the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Playwright Adam Bock
Unfortunately, the Playwrights Horizons production closed on December 4 after a well-deserved extended run.  Pick up a copy of the script and read it.  Keep your eyes open for regional theatre productions.  A Life will stun and challenge you.


Domenick Danza

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World
Signature Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Center
November 26, 2016

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World aka The Negro Book of the Dead is presently playing at the Pershing Square Signature Center.  The production rings with rhythm and repetition that brings a visceral understanding to Ms. Parks’ intention.  The ensemble cast is ignited with passion and deliver vocally powerful performances.  Director Lileana Blain-Cruz masterfully blends images, form, and pacing that evoke emotion and a clear connection to Ms. Parks’ themes.

In Ms. Parks’ words, the play is “about a man and his wife, and the man is dying… It is like a funeral mass in a way… his wife is trying to find his final resting place.”  She says the play moves like “free jazz” music and correlates it with “poet’s theatre, slam poetry, hip-hop, like a poetry slam.” 

Photo courtesy fo Signature Theatre
Costume design by Montana Blanco and wig design my Cookie Jordan visually represent the dying man’s heritage, starting from the Pharaohs of Egypt and carrying it through the twentieth century.  These iconic visual images show a strength and connection that one person’s life exemplifies.  The cast of eleven phenomenal actors embody each of these symbols and fill them with life that supersedes their stylistic representation.  

Whether you are new to Suzan-Lori Parks work or an avid follower, this production will evoke an emotional response.  See it and allow it to envelop you.  The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World aka The Negro Book of the Dead runs at Signature Theatre’s Pershing Square Signature Center through December 18.
  

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vietgone

Vietgone
Manhattan Theatre Club
NY City Center Stage I
November 25, 2016

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
Vietgone is Qui Nguyen’s play presently running at Manhattan Theatre Club’s NY City Center Stage I.  This phenomenal script offers a valuable perspective on the experience of the refugees from the Vietnam War.  The characters lose their homes, their families, and their country.  They struggle to let go of the past in order to build a future for themselves in the United States, but they never forget who they are.

Quang (played by Raymond Lee) is a Vietnam helicopter pilot who rescues women and children when Saigon is invaded.  He is unable to get back to save his wife and two children.  Tong (played by Jennifer Ikeda) is given two tickets to the United States to escape the invasion.  She takes her mother, leaving her brother and fiancĂ© behind.  These two characters meet in a refugee camp in Arkansas.  Quang vows to return to his family in Vietnam.  Tong battles with her mother, identity as an Asian woman, and deep fears of intimacy.  Their commonalities bind them in their journey of assimilation in a country and culture that knows nothing about who they are and what they have seen.

Raymond Lee, Jon Hoche, & Jennifer Ikeda
Photo courtesy of Mnhattan Theatre Club
May Adrales has directed a stellar cast who delivers realistic scenes and relationships that are touching, humorous, and poignant.  Jon Hoche, Jennifer Ikeda, Raymond Lee, Samantha Quan, and Paco Tolson join forces as an ensemble to entertain and enlighten the audience with the journey of their characters.  The set (designed by Anthony Tran), lighting (designed by Justin Townsend), and projections (designed by Jared Mezzocchi) create an atmosphere that incite the imagination and focuses the audience intensely on the action of the play.  

Jon Hoche & Raymond Lee
Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
In the final scene Mr. Nguyen makes a mind-blowing statement about the Unites States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.  It is from the perspective of a Vietnamese character who fought and lost everything.  It is noble and heroic, and unlike any political point of view we have heard on this subject.  You must see this play to experience the impact of this moment. 

Vietgone runs through December 4.  You have to see this show!


Domenick Danza

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chita: A Legendary Celebration

Chita: A Legendary Celebration
On Stage at Kingsborough
Kingsborough Community College
November 19, 2016

Photo courtesy of Chita: A Legendary Celebration
Chita Rivera performed her cabaret act, Chita: A Legendary Celebration, at On Stage at Kingsborough this past weekend.  The show included songs from West Side Story, Chicago, Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Visit.  She told stories about her friends Leonard Bernstein, Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon, John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Cy Coleman.  She was energetic, personable, and, as the title states, legendary.

Photo courtesy of Chita: A Legendary Celebration
As she says in one of her personal stories, if you can stand up in the morning after putting one foot on the floor followed by the other, you still have time left and need to spend it wisely.  She certainly lives up to that advice.  In this version of the act she is on stage alone for one hour and fifteen minutes of sheer pleasure (for her) and joy (for the audience).  Chita has been performing this act in a variety of locations and venues.  I highly recommend that you take advantage of any upcoming opportunity to see her perform live.  She will inspire you as she takes you back to, as she calls it, the “golden years” of Broadway.

Photo courtesy of On stage at Kingsborough
Also be sure to check out the 2016-17 season at On Stage at Kingsborough, located in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.  They offer affordable ticket prices and free parking to high quality shows for the entire family (toddlers to seniors) including, theatre, cabaret, dance, and music concerts.


Domenick Danza

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ride the Cyclone

Ride the Cyclone
MCC Theater
Lucille Lortel Theatre
November 12, 2016

Photo courtesy fo MCC Theater
Riding the Cyclone is a haunting and thought-provoking musical directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell.  The MCC Theater production is sharp and spectacular with exceptional sound and lighting effects.  The music and lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond are fun and energetic.  The skilled cast creates characters and moments that are true and touching.  Even with all of this in its favor, the show somehow falls short of building dramatic impact.

After performing at the fair, six members of the Saint Cassian High School Chamber Choir ride the roller coaster.  When an axel breaks in the front car, they are flown high in the air, then plunge to their deaths.  Before crossing to the other side, they review their short lives, hopes, and dreams in an effort to win the chance to go back, which can only be awarded to one of them.

Photo courtesy of MCC Theater
The production elements are amazing and perfectly delivered.   The set design by Scott Davis is spooky, vast, and spectacular.  It fills the Lucille Lortel Theatre with an atmosphere that sets the imagination on fire.  Lighting design by Greg Hofmann take everything on stage a step further by adding depth and illusion that captivates and draws you in.  The projections, designed by Mike Tutaj, are emotionally stimulating and show up in the most unexpected of places.  Unfortunately, these production elements far exceed the journey of the characters and arc of the action of the play.  Although there are poignant moments and a strong thematic finale song, the play is structured with mostly direct address and solos for the purpose of character development.  The relationships are not developed enough to create an emotional connection, and the theme is more stated than viscerally understood.

MCC's Riding the Cyclone is playing at the Lucille Lortel Theater through December 18. See it for yourself and add your comments here. 


Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Servant of Two Masters

The Servant of Two Masters
Theatre for a New Audience
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
November 11, 2016

Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
Theatre for a New Audience’s production of The Servant of Two Masters is pure gold.  Director Christopher Bayes brings energy and magic to this commedia dell’arte classic.  The cast pops every punchline and physicalizes the distinctive style of the period.  The production is bawdy, fast paced, and heartwarming.

Truffalino (played by Steven Epp) finds himself in the service to two masters.  The first, Beatrice (played by Liz Wisan), is disguised as her deceased brother to redeem the promissory notes from his business partner, Pantalone (played by Allen Gilmore).  The second, Florindo (played by Orlando Pabotoy) is the love of Beatrice who killed her brother in a duel.  In order to be convincing in her disguise, Beatrice becomes engaged to Pantalone’s daughter, Clarice (played by Adina Verson), even though she is promised to Silvio (played by Eugene Ma).  Mayhem ensues, all trickery is revealed, and love prevails.

Steven Epp as Truffolino
Photo courtesy of  Theatre for a New Audience
& Yale Repertory Theatre
Steven Epp is genius as Truffalino.  He and Mr. Bayes are credited for ‘further adaptations” of the script.  They skillfully add political commentary throughout the show.  Not only is this effective and hilarious, but it brings the commedia style and appeal into the present.  The antics become more than just buffoonery as the actors’ asides make us laugh at ourselves.  The cast works as a tight ensemble, giving life and verve to an almost three hundred year old theatrical form.

Theatre of a New Audience rises to new heights every year.  Their upcoming season is sure to live up to this expectation.  The Servant of Two Masters runs at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in downtown Brooklyn through December 4.    


Domenick Danza

Monday, November 7, 2016

This Day Forward

This Day Forward
Vineyard Theatre
November 5, 2016

Photo courtesy of Vineyard Theatre
This Day Forward is Nicky Silver’s new play presently in previews at Vineyard Theatre.  The two acts of this funny and dark play are set forty-six years apart, and portray how a decision made at a turning point in life can have a lasting effect.  Director Mark Brokaw successfully takes the high arc of dramatic action all the way through to the end of the journey of the play.  The production has an amazing ensemble, most of whom play different characters in each act.

The first act takes place at the St. Regis Hotel in 1958 on the wedding night of Martin (played by Michael Cane) and Irene (played by Holly Fain).  He is head over heels in love, and she is nervous about telling him something she knows will upset him.  She finally blurts it out and sets into motion the course of the rest of their lives.  Act II takes place forty-six years later in 2004, where the fruits of their lives are displayed for all to see.

The Cast of This Day Forward
Photo courtesy of Vineyard Theatre
Holly Fain is bright and charismatic as young Irene.  She is an optimistic and adorable bride.  She has moments that reveal her darker, antagonistic side that are truly hysterical and foretelling.  June Gable shines in Act II as the older Irene.  She carries the forty-six year history of this character in every cell of her body and glance of her eyes.  In Act I Ms. Gable provides tremendous comic relief and insight into the mindset of the time period as a maid at the St. Regis Hotel.  She is wonderfully impactful.  Michael Crane is vulnerable and eager as the young Martin in Act I, and brings a depth and determination to his role of Noah in Act II.  Francesca Faridany is explosive, both funny and disturbing, as Sheila in Act II.  Andrew Burnap is humorous as Donald in Act I, and charming and sensitive as Leo in Act II.  Joe Tippett is rough, tough, and loveable as Emil.

The first act is funny.  It is set in an idealistic time with a number of twists that set up infinite possibilities, and Mr. Silver skillfully utilizes every one of them.  The second act delivers the punch.  It is biting and realistic, and speaks to what is most valuable in life.  The irony is that this message comes from a character who never attained it.  This Day Forward runs at Vineyard Theatre through December 18.


Domenick Danza

Monday, October 31, 2016

Phantasmagoria; or Let Us Seek Death!

Phantasmagoria; or Let Us Seek Death!
La Mama
October 29, 2016


Photo courtesy of LaMama
Phantasmagoria; or Let us seek Death! is a haunting way to celebrate Halloween.  Playing at LaMama through November 6, the show explores the creative mind of Mary Shelley as she focuses the challenges and experiences of her life into her masterpiece Frankenstein.

In Act I the ensemble sets up an atmosphere of artistic freedom and sexual promiscuity as they portray the lives of Mary Shelley (played by Jane Bradley), Claire Clairmont (played by Katie Melby), Percy Shelley (played by Demetrius Stewart), Lord Byron (played by Equiano), and Doctor Polidori (played by Andrew Lynch).  The play gets dark in Act II as Mary Shelley’s character from her classic novel envelopes her thoughts and takes over the stage.  The team of Randolph Curtis Rand (director) and Chana Porter (playwright) have a strong passion and deep understanding of this history and material.  The puppetry, by Benjamin Stuber, creates a sense of mystery and terror.

Jane Bradley & Demetrius Stewart
Photo courtesy of La Mama
Jane Bradley is charming and light hearted as Mary Shelley in Act I, then grim and brooding as the voice of the monster in Act II.  Her vocal authority is mesmerizing.  Every gesture and detail of her characterization draws you in to a deeper sense of consciousness.  Demetrius Stewart is easy going and irresponsible as Percy Shelley, then haunted and distraught as Victor Frankenstein.  Equiano is bold and brazen as Lord Byron, commanding and manipulating the lives and emotions of those around him.

This production offers a psychological insight into the life of Mary Shelley.  The dichotomy of her thoughts and experiences are explored.  The potent affect this has on her creative writing is brought to light.  It brings great understanding as to why Frankenstein is a classic work with many levels that continue to both frighten and amuse.
 

Domenick Danza

Monday, October 24, 2016

Coriolanus

Coriolanus
Red Bull Theater
Barrow Street Theatre
October 22, 2016

Photo courtesy of Red Bull Theater
Red Bull Theater’s production of Coriolanus is filling the Barrow Street Theatre with the insistence of conspiracy, insurrection, and fury.  Through the vision of director Michael Sexton, this historic Shakespeare tale of ego and pride is made relevant to our present political environment.  As the program states: “The Scene: Rome, 492 BCE, Here, Now.”  By placing the audience in the center of the action, Mr. Sexton and the design team, Brett J. Banakis (set and lighting) and Brandon Wolcott (sound), makes this bloody and aggressive production a visceral experience for all who attend.

Dion Johnstone as Coriolanus
Photo courtesy of Red Bull Theater
When Caius Martius (played by Dion Johnstone) is victorious in battle, he is haled “Coriolanus” and thrust into the political spotlight by his close friend and supporter Menenius Agrippa (played by Patrick Page). Sicinius Velutus (played by Stephen Spinella) and Junius Brutus (played by Merrritt Janson) see to it that the people rebel against Coriolanus’ brusque demeanor and forceful temperament.  The upheaval leads to his banishment.  Coriolanus finds shelter with his enemy Tullus Aufidius (played by Matthew Amendt).  Together they plan on overthrowing the government.  The only one able to convince him to back down from revenge is his mother Volumnia (played by Lisa Harrow), causing disgrace for her and a tragic ending for him.

Patrick Page as Menius Agrippa
Photo courtesy of Red Bull Theater
The performances are powerful and commanding.  The ensemble incites your emotions the moment the play begins.  The political alliances and rivalries are intriguing.  Dion Johnstone and Lisa Harrow deliver performances with depth and honesty that shed light on the flaws and motivations of characters who thrive on power.  Patrick Page, Stephen Spinella, and Merritt Janson embody political figures ruled by the duality of a public life in politics.

The Red Bull Theater production of Coriolanus is stark, bold, and realistic.  Go see it and get a jolt of just how true it is that history repeats itself.  It will be playing at Barrow Street Theatre through November 20.


Domenick Danza

Monday, October 17, 2016

Falsettos

Falsettos
Lincoln Center Theater
Walter Kerr Theatre
October 15, 2016

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Lincoln Center Theater is celebrating William Finn’s Falsettos with a poignant revival at the Walter Kerr Theatre.  Under the directions of James Lapine, this powerhouse cast delivers breathtaking performances.  The production offers a chance to stop and think of not only how far we have come in just a few short decades, but what took place that propelled us forward and how important it is to not fall back.

Act I takes place in 1979.  Marvin (played by Christian Borle) has left his wife, Trina (played by Stephanie J. Block), and son, Jason (played by Anthony Rosenthal), for his lover, Whizzer (played by Andrew Rannells).  In an attempt to maintain a sense of connection, Trina and Jason see Marvin’s psychologist, Mendel (played by Brandon Uranowitz).  The entanglement intensifies when Mendel falls in love with Trina and they get married.  The emotional upheaval that comes with the breakdown of the traditional family is tenderly illustrated in this act.  Uncertainty is felt by all the characters.  Stephani J. Block keeps the humor high in her rendition of the song “I’m Breaking Down.”  She and the men in the cast comically illustrate her point of view about this tough transition in the song “March of the Falsettos.”

The cast of Falsettos
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Act II takes place in 1981.  Marvin has split with Whizzer and befriended his neighbors, Dr. Charlotte (played by Tracie Thoms) and her girlfriend, Cordelia (played by Betsy Wolfe).  When Jason invites Whizzer to his baseball game, Marvin and he start up again.  While plans for Jason’s Bar Mitzvah are underway, Whizzer is diagnosed with AIDS.  Tracie Thoms succinctly expresses the helplessness and confusion that was felt at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  Christian Borle creates a number of sincere and honest moments that connect to what he tells his son in Act I, that love is most important.  It is the chemistry of this amazing ensemble that allows the message of Falsettos to ring true and come full circle.

This production lacks the groundbreaking effect that it had when it was originally produced at Playwrights Horizon in 1981.  It does, however, allow us to reminisce on decades past and reflect on what is important to carry forward in the decades to come.


Domenick Danza

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come
Roundabout Underground
Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre / Black Box Theatre
October 9, 2016

Photo Courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Comapany
Kingdom Come is Jenny Rachel Weiner’s new play presently running at the Roundabout Underground.  Ms. Weiner is a skilled playwright with a bold and adventurous voice.  In this play she draws you in with interesting and quirky characters who go to great lengths to conceal their emotional wounds.  She then embarks on a journey of deep self-awareness.  Kip Fagan successfully directs this daring play and sensitive cast with a clear vision and tender touch.

Samantha (played by Carmen M. Herlihy) and Layne (played by Crystal Finn) take a shot at on line dating.  They both meet and fall in love with their ideal mate.  The problem is that their profiles and photos are totally fabricated.  Before they can admit the truth, they have to face it themselves.  What they discover is more profound than they expect.

The cast of Kingdom Come
Photo Courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Carmen M. Herlihy and Crystal Finn deliver strong and realistic performances as Samantha and Layne.  Both characters are troubled, and suffer from emotional and social disorders.  Their individual stories are very diverse, and they each face their challenges in distinctive manners.  Ms. Weiner’s conception of these two characters is unique, and their juxtaposition is enlightening.  Her handling of the plunge into their secret selves is concise and astounding.  Layne, Ms. Finn’s character, opens up and transcends, while Samantha, Ms. Herlihy’s character, has a lot more to overcome and reverts to her weaknesses.  These two actors share moments together that are touching, true, and unexpected. 

Actors Socorro Santiago, Alex Hernandez, and Stephanie Styles bring high energy, humor and charm to their roles.  Set designer Arnulfo Maldonado and lighting designer Thom Weaver create an expansive and realistic playing area in the small, intimate black box space.  Darrel Maloney designs projections that not only illustrate the virtual relationship of the characters, but masterfully reveals their individual perception of the experience.

Playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner
Photo courtesy of
Roundabout Theatre Company
Roundabout Theatre Company does outstanding and honorable work in their underground black box.  More important than their high production values, which I have come to expect from them, is their commitment to developing the voice of the upcoming playwright.  Kingdom Come offers a glimpse into the fact that our on line selves and virtual personas do connect to real people, and can have a deep and meaningful effect on ourselves and those with whom we engage.  This is a very powerful and important message, experienced and understood in a most appropriate venue. 

Kingdom Come runs through December 18.  The black box has open seating and tickets are a very affordable $25. 


Domenick Danza

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Matilda

Matilda
Shubert Theatre
October 2, 2016

Photo courtesy of Matilda, the Musical
I finally got to see Matilda!  Since they announced the closing of its very successful Broadway run, tickets are easy to get on TDF.  The show is vibrant, dark, and heartwarming.  It has everything you look forward to in a Roald Dahl story – revolting character, grotesque odors, amplified villains, and a precocious heroine.  Director Matthew Warchus pulls out all the stops to create a slick, stylized, and fast paced production filled with chaos, surprises, and uplifting zaniness. 

The cast is skillful and energetic.  There are three young actors who play Matilda at different performances.  Ava Briglia is amazing in the role.  John Sanders and Lesli Margherita are outrageous as her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.  Sean Montgomery is boisterous and absurdly realistic as Miss Trunchbull.  Jennifer Blood is warm and caring as Miss Honey.

Photo courtesy of Matilda, the Musical
Set and costume designs by Rob Howell are colorful, bold, and imaginative.  The costumes succinctly define the characters and give the actors license to delve deeper into their eccentricities.  The set moves in and pieces together like a puzzle, and, at times, grows up out of the stage floor.  Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin reveal the characters’ determination and vigor.  The choreography by Peter Darling sets the style and pace for the show.  The opening number starts strong and fast, and the momentum builds for the next two and a half hours.

See Matilda on Broadway before it closes on January 1.


Domenick Danza