Sunday, December 30, 2018

True West


True West
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theatre
December 28, 2018

Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Co.
In True West Sam Shepard explores the jealousy and competition between brothers by heightening the clashes and destroying all acceptable facades.  The Roundabout Theatre Company production is well conceived and executed.  Director James Macdonald creates a rhythm between the two main characters that establishes their relationship.  As the action develops and the tables turn, the truth of the sibling rivalry reveals itself and explodes to an out of control level.

Lee (played by Ethan Hawke) drops in on his brother, Austin (played by Paul Dano), who is house sitting for their mother (played by Marylouise Burke) while she is on vacation in Alaska.  Austin is focused on writing a screenplay, while Lee is looking for his next grift.  During a meeting Austin has with Saul Kimmer, the producer of his project (played by Gary Wilmes), Lee interrupts and steals his thunder.  When Saul jumps at a story idea pitched by Lee, the months of time and effort Austin put on his project is brought to an abrupt and frustrating end.  The brothers are forced to work together and inadvertently face years of deep seeded rage.

Ethan Hawke & Paul Dano
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke are perfectly matched in this production.  From the beginning of the play they are both driven by underlying emotion that clearly defines their early years of growing up together.  When the stakes are raised, they both reveal how far these suppressed emotions will take them.  In the final scene any remains of rational thinking is eviscerated and the sparks fly freely.  Mr. Dano’s and Mr. Hawke’s characters are impulsively driven.  Each scene contains unexpected turns that reveal their true selves.  Both men challenge themselves and deliver genuine performances.

True West is playing at the American Airlines Theatre through March 17.  Don’t miss this Sam Shepard scrutiny of family dynamics and brotherly rivalry.

Domenick Danza

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine


Fabulation,
or the Re-Education of Undine
Signature Theatre
Pershing Square Signature Center
December 26, 2018

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
What happens when the life you create for yourself collapses around you, leaving you with no choice but to return to your family, who you turned your back on years earlier?  That is the dramatic question and story line of Lynn Nottage’s comedy, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine.  Director Lileana Blain-Cruz finds the timing needed to deliver the laughs in the cutting humor and direct address of the main character.  Ms. Nottage’s play is full of social commentary and bitter sarcasm, yet offers a glimpse for a more hopeful tomorrow. 

Undine (played by Cherise Boothe) is a self-made, high powered, very successful PR exec, who calls all the shots with total disregard for everyone but herself.  When her husband, Herve (played by Ian Lassiter), drains her bank accounts and abandons her, she finds herself pregnant and destitute.  She returns to her family in Brooklyn, who, according to the stories she make up when she re-created herself after college, died in a fire.  The culture shock of her return to the housing projects is heightened when she is arrested for buying crack for her addicted Grandmother (played by Heather Alicia Simms).  As dark as things get, nothing is greater than her fear of having a baby and becoming a mother.

J. Bernard Calloway & Cherise Boothe
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Charisse Boothe delivers a tremendous performance in the difficult and complex role of Undine.  She is brash, pushy, condescending, and unlikeable, yet Ms. Boothe keeps a hold of the audience’s attention as they engage in her character’s journey.  Each one of Undine’s outbursts peels back a layer of her harsh exterior until her vulnerable heart is finally exposed.  At that moment you realize that Ms. Boothe has been playing every one of Undine’s brutal traits with that susceptible heart, which is why you connected to her struggle from the start.

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
The cast is a brilliant ensemble, playing numerous and varied roles.  Funny, touching, and raw character are created by Mayaa Boateng, Marcus Callender, J. Bernard Calloway, Dashiell Eaves, Ian Lassider, Nikiya Mathis, and Heather Alicia Simms. 

Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine is playing at Pershing Square Signature Center through January 13.  There’s still time to get a ticket.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Choir Boy


Choir Boy
Manhattan Theatre Club
The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
December 22, 2018

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
In Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play Choir Boy, he explores the turmoil one young, black man faces to accept his homosexuality and carve out a place for himself in the world.  This Manhattan Theatre Club production is superbly directed by Trip Cullman with a gently touch and warm heart.  Mr. McCraney’s play is highlighted by acapella singing of gospel hymns and spirituals that illuminate the depth and drive of these well-written characters.  Movement by Camille A. Brown viscerally connects the audience to their need for unity and belonging. 

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is celebrating its 50th year of providing excellence and tradition in the education of strong, ethical black men.  Pharus (played by Jeremy Pope) is confident in realizing his goal of leading the choir in his senior year and singing the school song at his own graduation.  Headmaster Marrow (played by Chuck Cooper) is supportive of his talents, while tactfully encouraging him to downplay his flamboyant behavior.  Bobby (played by J. Quinton Johnson) is constantly bullying Pharus, yet unable to bring him down.  Pharus is determined to achieve his goals, fit in, make his mother proud, and become a Drew graduate of distinction.  When he is caught in an intimate encounter with a fellow student, he is put on probation and forced to face his homosexuality.  He finds comfort and acceptance where he least expects it.

Jeremy Pope & Chuck Cooper
Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
Jeremy Pope portrays Pharus with high integrity and strong determination.  As these qualities are put to the test during the action of the play, we see his sensitive and vulnerable side.  Mr. Pope blends all these qualities to deliver a truthful performance of a young man struggling with self-acceptance while challenged to create a respectful position in his community.  J. Quinton Johnson’s Bobby is a strong adversary to Mr. Pope’s Pharus.  He is boldly determined to keep the tradition and honor of Drew Prep free from homosexual influence.  John Clay III plays Pharus’ roommate Anthony.  His character is self-assured and secure.  He has an open heart, full of care and compassion for his good friend.  Caleb Eberhardt delivers a heart wrenching performance as David.  He is full of fear and doubt, due to monumental pressure from his family.

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
This is a cast of highly skilled actor/singers who become one when performing acapella.  The destruction of that unity as each character strives for honor, belonging, and respect is what makes Choir Boy a gripping story.  See it!  It is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through February 17.    

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Ferryman


The Ferryman
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
December 15, 2018

Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
Playwright Jez Butterworth’s play, The Ferryman, skillfully weaves factual occurrences involving the Irish Republican Army with the lives of a poor Irish Farmer and his tight-knit family.  The outcome is an absorbing and intimate story of how a family, bonded by love and faith, can fall as their darker secrets and need for vengeance rise to the surface.  Director Sam Mendes brilliantly interprets this three hour and fifteen minute masterpiece, building the action to a stunning climax.  He successfully focuses a cast of twenty-one phenomenal actors to work as one unit, while delivering genuine and powerful individual performances.

It is 1981 in Northern Ireland.  “For five months, Republican inmates in the Maze Prison have been on hunger strikes to demand they be recognized as political prisoners.  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has refused, and nine successive prisoners have already died in the ‘H block’.”  (from The Ferryman program notes). 

Niall Wright & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
The Carney family welcomes the excitement of Harvest Day.  Quinn Carney (played by Paddy Considine) vigorously wakes his family for a day of hard work and joyous celebration.  Father Horrigan (played by Charles Dale) enters with news that the body of Shamus Carney, who disappeared ten years ago, has been found buried in a bog with a bullet through his head.  Caitlin (played by Laura Donnelly) decides to keep this information about her husband quiet until after the celebration.  Quinn reluctantly agrees, wanting the news of his brother’s murder shared with his family and the rest of the community.  Unfortunately, Caitlin’s fourteen year old son, Oisin (played by Rob Malone) overhears this discussion, and holds back his reaction.  When the family is visited by IRA leader Muldoon (played by Stuart Graham) during their celebration, the news is abruptly broken to the family.  Their past involvement with the IRA is revealed.  Loyalty is expected.  Revenge is desired.  Betrayal is imminent.

Laura Donnelly & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
The cast creates the high energy, close relationships of three generations of a large Irish farming family.  They are warm, caring, boisterous, and volatile.  This environment is vital to the action of the play.  It is genuine and enthralling.  Paddy Considine plays Quinn Carney as a strong father figure with a big heart.  His sons (played by Fra Fee and Niall Wright) are vigorous and fervent.  His daughters (played by Matilda Lawler, Carla Langley, Willow McCarthy, and Brooklyn Shuck) are mischievous and inquisitive.  Laura Donnelly portrays Caitlin Carney with a strong and determined open heart.  She is an equal match to Mr. Considine.  Their chemistry is profound and joyous.

Laura Donnelly, Genevieve O'Reilly, & Paddy Considine
Photo courtesy of The Ferryman
Each of the three acts of Jez Butterworth’s play peels back numerous layers of the lives of the characters and the events of their past.  As we see how their actions are dominated by fear, we understand the political situation at that time in Ireland.  As we listen to the stories of Aunt Maggie (played by Fionnula Flanagan) about the howling of the Banshees, and the reading by Uncle Pat (played by Mark Lambert) of the myth of the souls waiting to be carried by the Ferryman across the River Styx, we understand the depth of the haunting of this family and the centuries of injustice imposed upon the Irish people.

The Ferryman is a brilliant piece of theatre.  It is masterfully written. skillfully directed, and magnificently performed.  This production is not to be missed.  Get your tickets right away!

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 9, 2018

American Son


American Son
Booth Theatre
December 8, 2018

Photo courtesy of American Son
In his play, American Son, playwright Christopher Demos-Brown brings emotional depth and a broader perspective to the harsh realities of our present day social struggle and racial divide.  Director Kenny Leon builds the dramatic tension while the main characters revisit the misunderstandings and betrayals in their marriage during a highly vulnerable event.  The distance between this newly separated husband and wife starts with the difference in their race and upbringing, then shift to their egos, deep rooted fears, and unfulfilled expectations.  Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale are both riveting, delivering truthful performances grounded in a genuine sense of connection.   

Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, & Jeremy Jordan
Photo courtesy of American Son
It is 4:00 AM in a police station in Miami, Florida.  Kendra (played by Kerry Washington) is waiting, impatient, and emotionally drained.  Officer Paul Larkin (played by Jeremy Jordan) enters and informs her that he has no news on the whereabouts of her son Jamal, but can verify that his car was in a reported incident.  Protocol demands that she wait for the arrival of Lieutenant Stokes (played by Eugene Lee) for further information.  When Kendra’s husband, Scott (played by Steven Pasquale) shows up, Officer Larkin mistakes him for Lieutenant Stokes and proceeds to fill him in on the case.  Scott’s bureaucratic handling of the situation sends Kendra further into hysterics and generates arguments about their failed marriage and the raising of their son.  When Scott’s brother texts him a link to a video of a local police shooting, they become seriously concerned about Jamal’s well-being.

Kerry Washington & Steven Pasquale
Photo courtesy of American Son
Kerry Washington delivers a monologue in the first half of the show that exposes the deeply rooted fear her character has been unable to get her arms around since the birth of her son.  This is a powerful and truthful moment, and Ms. Washington delivers it with genuine passion.  Steven Pasquale’s response to this monologue succinctly illustrates the distance between the two characters.  It is not until there is evidence that their son could be in serious danger that his character rises to the realities of the situation and exposes his vulnerability.  The richness in Mr. Pasquale’s performance is found in the juxtaposition of his reserve and unanticipated emotional outburst.  These two actors vividly portray the unknown elements that exist between two people in a long term relationship, as well as the bond that unites them forever.   

Eugene Lee’s Lieutenant Stokes takes immediate control upon his arrival and brings a perspective to the situation that expands and deepens the truth and thematic strength of the play.  This is where playwright Christopher Demos-Brown transports the emotionally driven story into broader complexity, challenging your sense of right and wrong and presenting themes that strike the heart of every audience member.

American Son is a well written, well directed, and timely piece of theatre.  The performances are very worth seeing.  The ending is impactful and unexpected.  It is running at the Booth Theatre through January 27.  

Domenick Danza

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Days of Rage


Days of Rage
Second Stage Theater
Tony Kiser Theater
November 24, 2018

Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
What happened to the ideals of the youth of America?  Where is the revolutionary spirit that wasn’t afraid to stand up and protest against an unjust war?  Playwright Steven Levenson takes us back to that time with Days of Rage, now completing a successful run at Second Stage Theater.  It is 1969 in Ithaca, New York, and a handful of college dropouts form a collective to join the revolution for change in America.  Director Trip Cullman finds the perfect pace to tell this powerful and vital story, fueled by the angst of the time period.

While Jenny (played by Lauren Patten) is handing out leaflets and trying to motivate college students to join a protest in Chicago, she meets Hal (played by J. Alphonse Nicholson).  She tries to recruit him, until he reveals that his manager sent him out to ask her to move away from the front of their store before he calls the police.  She returns to the collective house she shares with Spence (played by Mike Faist) and Quinn (played by Odessa Young) to discuss the bleak outcome of their recruitment efforts and their financial difficulties.  The next day Hal tracks Jenny down to continue their political discussion and explore their personal connection.  Spence meets Peggy (played by Tavi Gevinson) who is eager to join the collective.  Spence is hesitant to bring her back to the house, but she has something they are in desperate need of, $2,000 cash.  After two of their friends who left the collective house are killed in a bombing attempt, the group is followed by men they believe to be FBI.  Their trust in one another and dedication toward their political beliefs are put into question.

Lauren Patten & Mike Faist
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
All five of the actors are phenomenal.  Their chemistry is electric and their timing is impeccable.  Lauren Patten portrays Jenny's intensity with clear determination.  She is driven by the optimism of her ideals, yet torn by the changing focus and violent direction of the collective.  Mike Faist delivers some of the comic relief with brilliant timing and quick wit.  Odessa Young’s Quinn is dark and brooding, while Tavi Gevinson upsets the norm with rebellious blabber and a hidden secret.  J. Alphonse Nicholson is grounding and rational as Hal, offering the other characters a different perspective on the truth.
  
Odessa Young & Tavi Gevinson
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
In the final scene Spence and Quinn offer a glimpse into the future as they prepare for the Chicago protest.  They see the world moving forward without much improvement and their rebellious efforts turning into fabled stories they pass onto the next generation.  Question: What purpose do their “days of rage” serve?  Answer: To raise a voice that incites action and keeps the world continually moving forward is a constant necessity, regardless of the outcome.

Days of Rage is a powerful play about the values of raising our voices and how the past propels into the future.  This extraordinary Second Stage Theater production closes on November 25.    

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui


The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Classic Stage Company
November 17, 2018

Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
This is an ideal time for a revisit of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and the Classic Stage Company production hits every mark in this political parable.  The Brecht style and utilization of theatre as a vehicle for strong social commentary is heightened in this production by actors changing hats to portray numerous roles and side glances to the audience to acknowledge their presence.  Under the direction of John Doyle this amazing cast finds the poetic timing of Brecht’s writing to incite humor, identification, and outrage.  

Bertolt Brecht wrote The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui after escaping Germany in 1933.  The play parallels Hitler’s rise to power with that of Brooklyn-born Chicago gangster, Arturo Ui (played by Raul Esparza).  He offers protection to the grocery industry by inciting fear in an unknown enemy.  He them proves the presence of this fictional enemy by having his goons burn down a warehouse.  This action is a reference to the burning down of the Reichstag in 1933, which brought Hitler and the Nazi Party to a powerful public position.  Arturo Ui trains himself to have the public persona he knows he needs to gain power with the working class.  Once this is achieved, he is able to rise to greater self-serving heights.

Raul Esparza as Arturo Ui
Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
Raul Esparza displays an amazing range of skill in his portrayal of Arturo Ui.  His character yearns for power and transforms to achieve it.  His vocal characterization goes from nasal and comic to bold and powerful.  His physicalization changes from timid and flippant to magnetic and controlling.  He embodies the power as it shapes his identity.  He takes ownership it, and fully believes it is part of him.  His performance is riveting and inspiring.  You cannot take your eyes off him.  

From the Classic Stage Company electronic program notes: “The play is a parable in which Brecht demonstrates, through satire and high drama, how mundane irrationality can lead to an inhumane and barbaric government."  This is a powerful message for our time, and the cast works as a tight ensemble to deliver it with full impact.  Each actor (George Abud, Eddie Cooper, Elizabeth A. Davis, Christopher Gurr, Omoze Idehenre, Mahira Kakkar, and Thom Sesma) creates distinctive characters that are genuinely layered in truthful detail. 

Raul Esparza & Eddie Copper
Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
The purpose of a parable is to simplify a complex situation and offer perspective for deeper and clearer understanding.  The Classic Stage Company production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui does that to perfection.  Don’t miss this timely production.  It is running through December 22.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Marnie


Marnie
The Met Live in HD
Brooklyn Academy of Music
November 10, 2018

Photo courtesy of Met Live in HD
& the Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera production of Nico Muhly’s Marnie was part of the Met Live in HD series at Brooklyn Academy of Music.  I have been attending these broadcasts a few times each season over the past few years.  I don’t post on this blog about them because, although I am learning about opera and beginning to follow the different singers, I don’t have enough expertise to comment on it as an art form.  However, under to the direction of Michael Mayer and with choreography by Lynne Page, this production contains sharp theatrical elements that dramatize the psychological layers of the main character to tell an intensely complex story that I very much want to share.

Based on the novel by Winston Graham, which is the same source material as the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock move starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, the main character has a dark, hidden secret that causes her to take on different personas and run from the truth.  The role of Marnie is performed by Isabel Leonard.  She captures the mystery of the role and uses it to propel the action forward.  The character’s inner world is dark and haunted.  There are four women on stage at various times representing different parts of her personality, as well as an ensemble of male dancers representing the dark forces pulling her in different directions.  The magnificent collaboration between Nico Muhly, Michael Mayer, and Lynne Page is evident in these moments.  They brilliantly illustrate the inner world of the character.  Alfred Hitchcock believed that suspense is created when the audience is aware of the ticking bomb that can explode at any time.  These moments create that tension and engage the audience in caring for the main character.  They are powerful, stylistic, genuine, and clear. 

Christopher Maltman, Isabel Leonard, & the dark figures
of Marnie's inner world
Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera
The role of Terry Rutland (Sean Connery’s role from the Hitchcock movie) is played by Christopher Maltman.  He and Ms. Leonard are phenomenal together.  Their chance meeting during the opening scene is tender and sincere.  The tension between their characters builds throughout the two acts of the opera.  As the intrigue builds, they become tightly bonded through fear and lies, which all falls away as they face the truth in the end.

Michael Mayer’s versatility as a director is truly amazing.  Among other outstanding projects, he has directed the edgy Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the over the top Head Over Heels, and this dark, psychological dramatic opera.  He is highly skilled at finding and balancing the proper ingredients to tell the story in the best, most effective way possible.

Isabel Leonard as Marnie
surrounded by the images that haunt her inner world
Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera
I highly recommend attending the Met Live in HD broadcasts at Brooklyn Academy of Music.  There is always a speaker an hour before the broadcast who shares information about the art form, composer, and background on the production that frames the experience so you can enjoy it and learn how to watch and listen.  The benefits of the Met Live in HD broadcasts are the close-ups of the singers and intimate scenes, the subtitles, and the backstage interviews during the intermissions.  Whether you see one of the classic well-known titles or a new production like this one, Met Live in HD is a great introduction to the world of opera at a very reasonable ticket price.  It is an amazing world to disappear into on a Saturday afternoon. 

Domenick Danza

Monday, November 5, 2018

School Girls; or, The African Mean Girl Play


School Girls;
or, The African Mean Girl Play
MCC Theater
Lucille Lortel Theatre
November 4, 2018

Photo courtesy of MCC THeater
Jealousy, vicious competitiveness, and petty territorialism seem to be world-wide values, or so one can conclude after watching MCC Theater’s production of School Gris; or, The African Mean Girl Play.  Playwright Jocelyn Bioh tells the story of a tight-knit group of high school girls attending a boarding school in central Ghana.  When a new girl is admitted into the school at the start of their senior year, the balance of power is thrown into a tailspin.  Rebecca Taichman directed this amazing group of actors, creating strong bonds in a well-timed, fast-paced, high stakes atmosphere.

Paulina (played by Maameyaa Boafo) is the leader of her small group of friends at Aburi Girls Boarding School.  The year is 1986, and they are all excited for the arrival of the recruiter for the Miss Ghana Pageant.  Paulina’s loyal followers tell her she is sure to be chosen, until Ericka (played by Joanna A. Jones) arrives.  She is a transfer student from the United States.  Her father is one of the richest men in Ghana.  Immediately, Paulina feels threatened and forces Nana (played by Abena Mensah-Bonsu) to steal Ericka’s file from the Headmistress’ office to gather the details she needs to ruin her.  All hell breaks loose when the recruiter arrives.  Tempers are lost, and deals are made, leaving the girls to wonder if it was all worth the trouble in the end.

Joanna A. Jones & Maameyaa Boafo
Photo courtesy of MCC Theater
Maameyaa Boafo portrays Paulina with forceful swagger and sass, masking insurmountable insecurity.  When her truth is revealed, you cannot help but feel for her, even though she exhibited cruel and heartless behavior toward her friends.  Joanna A. Jones is sweet, kind, and likeable as Ericka.  Her generous spirit hides her secrets, yet her actions in the end reveal her true self.

Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole, & Page Guilbert
Photo courtesy of MCC Theater
The ensemble cast has an amazing chemistry. The school girl characters created by Latoya Edwards (Anne), Paige Gilbert (Gifty), Abena Mensah-Bonsu (Nana), and Mirirai Sithole (Mercy) are distinct, sincere, relatable, and each flawed in their own way.  Myra Lucretia Taylor is loving and firm as Headmistress Frances.  She is duly matched by Zenzi Williams as Eloise Amponsah, the Miss Ghana Pageant recruiter, who puts everyone’s integrity to the test.

MCC Theater remounted this production due to its tremendous success last season.  There is still time to see it.  School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play is playing at the Lucille Lortel theatre through December 9.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Thom Pain (Based on Nothing)


Thom Pain
(Based on Nothing)
Signature Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Center
November 3, 2018

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
The subtleties are astounding in Will Eno’s Thom Pain (Based on Nothing).  This play tells a captivating tale of loss of innocence, finding love, losing love, and maintaining hope.  Mr. Eno plays with words in this seventy-minute, one-character play that vividly depict the dichotomy of life’s journey.  His use of language brilliantly paints the landscape of emotion that floods the turning point events that define a life.  Director Oliver Butler seamlessly connects moment to moment, pulling truth to the surface of this distinctive theatrical work that is rich in subtext.

Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Michael C Hall plays Thom Pain.  He starts out in the dark, trying to light a cigarette, telling the audience he is not ready to be seen in the light.  The lights abruptly come on.  He proceeds to tell the story of a young boy, innocent and playful, whose beloved pet dog is killed.  He separates himself from the emotion of the event, then goes on to tell of the loss of a woman he loved.  When he travels back to tell more of the story of the dog, we realize he is the young boy in the story.  He then tells of how he met her, the woman he loved and lost.  We understand the pain of his loss by the way he works to avoid addressing it, yet he cannot help embodying the person he has become because of it. 


Michael C. Hall, Will Eno, & Oliver Butler
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Mr. Hall talks directly to the audience, making direct eye contact with a number of individuals.  He maintains composure and distance, while engaging the packed house on an emotional level.  He evokes a sense of empathy from the audience.  Mr. Eno’s words, which are often intentional juxtaposed to the specific emotion he is encompassing, flow smoothly and resonate deeply from Mr. Hall.  He is direct and clear, while being aloof and subtle.  It is a masterful and genuine performance, ringing with truth and style.

The Signature Theatre production of Will Eno’s Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) is running at the Pershing Square Signature Center through December 2.  This play is a unique and intimate experience that will speak exclusively to each person who sees and hears it.  Don’t miss it! 
Domenick Danza


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Torch Song


Torch Song
Second Stage Theater
The Helen Hayes Theater
October 27, 2018

Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
I saw Torch Song Trilogy at what is now The Helen Hayes Theater thirty-five years ago.  I did not see Harvey Fierstein in the role of Arnold, but it was a memorable experience just the same.  What stands out for me watching the Second Stage Theater production of Torch Song, presently in previews on Broadway in the very same theater, is the writing.  Harvey Fierstein’s dialogue is astounding.  The way he unravels the action to reveal the depth of his characters is skillful and inspiring.  They state their hopes and dreams from the top of the show, then face their truths, fears, and obstacles to not only achieve them, but to accept them in the unexpected form in which they arrive.  Director Moises Kaufman has made the revisit of this phenomenal play a profound journey of hope, love, and self-respect.  

Michael Urie as Arnold
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
The play begins backstage in 1972 as Arnold (played by Michael Urie) is getting ready for a performance.  He is a drag queen.  He shares his secret wish, then he meets Ed (played by Ward Horton), the International Stud of his dreams.  Over the next ten years we see Arnold’s rough and rocky journey of making his dreams a reality.  Ed struggles with his sexuality and decides to marry Laurel (played by Roxanna Hope Radja).  Arnold’s young boyfriend Alan (played by Michael Hsu Rosen) is killed in a gay bashing incident outside their apartment.  Arnold faces his greatest emotional challenge when he confronts his mother (played by Mercedes Ruehl) and tells her he is adopting a gay teenager named David (played by Jack DiFalco).

Ward Horton, Jack DiFalco, Michael Urie, & Mercedes Ruehl
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
Michael Urie’s Arnold is full of guts and heart.  It is a truly phenomenal performance.  His character grows over the duration of the play, yet he never loses his sense of humor.  This is Arnold’s core, how he copes, survives, and thrives.  Ward Horton delivers a fallible, flawed, and extremely likeable Ed, who never stops yearning for more, even at the expense of others who care deeply for him.  He and Mr. Urie are remarkable together.  Their relationship is full of fire and sincere understanding.

Mercedes Ruehl is sold and stoic as Mrs. Beckoff, Arnold’s mother.  The love she feels for her son is matched only by her inability to see past what she cannot relate to or accept.  The confrontation scenes between Ms. Ruehl and Mr. Urie are brutal, overflowing with honesty, and driven by the mutual need for acceptance and self-respect.

Roxanna Hope Radja, Ward Horton, Michael Urie,
& Michael Hsu Rosen
Photo courtesy of Second Stage theater
Jack DiFalco delivers hope as David, the soon to be adopted gay son of Arnold.  His optimism  and humor are infectious and drive each of his scenes.  Michael Hsu Rosen and Roxanna Hope Radja create genuine moments as Alan and Laurel during the “Fugue in a Nursery” scene before the intermission.  Their presence is strongly carried forward into the final act whenever they are referred to, even though they do not appear. 

This is a remarkable cast, brilliantly directed in a timeless piece of theatre.  Go see the Second Stage Production Torch Song at The Helen Hayes Theater for a good laugh… and a great cry. 
Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 21, 2018

King Kong


King Kong
The Broadway Theatre
October 20, 2018


Photo courtesy of King Kong
I believe the measure of a good story is in how well it is told, and the Broadway production of King Kong tells this well-known tale with brilliant, captivating theatricality.  Drew McOnie, Director/Choreographer, partners with a creative team of designer to deliver a truly mesmerizing production.  Scenic and Projection Designer Peter England creates jaw-dropping seascapes and monumental structures.  The Video & Projection Image Content by Artists in Motion keeps the action moving at a phenomenal pace with breathtaking specificity.  Lighting Designer Peter Mumford pulls out all the stops while keeping your eyes focused on every moment.  Sound Designer Peter Hylenski creates a giant with earth shaking sound.  Drew McOnie’s choreography is mammoth.  It sets the tone for the production from the opening scene and continually entertains with movement that metaphorically echoes the dramatic action of the story.

Christiani Pitts as Ann Darrow with Kong
Photo courtesy of King Kong
Christiani Pitts portrays Ann Darrow, the heroine and love interest of Kong, as determined and fearless.  She does not back down or scream in fear.  Instead she stands up for herself and her beliefs, giving Kong the courage to fight back.  Her characterization is more reflective of a woman of the twenty-first century than one of 1931, when the show takes place.  This gives the story a new dimension.  Her dream of stardom, inner conflict, and personal growth are the through-line of the plot.

Ann Darrow & Eric William Morris
Photo courtesy of King Kong
Eric William Morris plays Carl Denham, the filmmaker who captures Kong.  His character is bold and cunning, and juxtaposed by the character of Lumpy, played with heart and tenderness by Eric Lochtefeld.

The true star of this show is Kong, a twenty foot beast operated by ten on-stage puppeteers.  These amazing artists are visible throughout the productions, as are the cables holding up the giant animal.  They become one with the creature.  Their movements are precisely choreographed.  Watching them create the illusion is part of the theatricality of the experience.  Kudos to Gavin Robins, the Kong/Aerial Movement Director, and Jon Hoche, the Voice of Kong.

This show is far more than astonishing spectacle.  It is brilliant theatricality that can only be accomplished through a high level of collaboration, ingenuity, and commitment.  King Kong is presently in previews at The Broadway Theatre.  It is a mind blowing experience. 

Domenick Danza