Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Grand Horizons


Grand Horizons
Second Stage Theater
The Helen Hayes Theater
December 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
In Grand Horizons playwright Bess Wohl examines the need to be seen and acknowledged amid a “typical” family dynamic.  As the family matriarch expresses her feelings and voices her need, each family member ends up demanding all the attention.  The all-star cast delivers fine performances, illustrating the need for openness and honesty in family relationships.  Ms. Wohl’s characters are well crafted and fully developed.  Her plot packs a few fun surprises. 

The Cast of Grand Horizons
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
Nancy (played by Jane Alexander) and Bill (played by James Cromwell) silently prepare dinner.  They sit down, take a few bites, then Nancy calmly announces she wants a divorce.  Bill consents.  In the next scene we meet their sons, Ben (played by Ben McKenzie) and Brian (played by Michael Urie).  Brian is high strung and finds it hard to believe that after fifty years together his parents are not happily committed to the marriage.  Both sons feel they carry the weight of the responsibility for their aging parents.  Ben researched and put the money up for his parents to move into Grand Horizons, their retirement community.  Ben’s wife, Jess (played by Ashley Park), is eight months pregnant and utilizing her professional skills as a therapist to keep everyone calm and on track.  They are all trying to get their parents to move passed this dilemma.  Bill packs a van with his belongings and everyone seems to be going their separate ways, until Bill drives the van though the wall and into the kitchen.  Everyone is forced to face some unhappy truths.

Playwright Bess Wohl
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
Jane Alexander and James Cromwell fill their silent moments with rich subtext.  Their physicality speaks volumes, creating full characters with years of history between them.  Michael Urie is energetic and delivers the laughs, keeping the pace moving.  Ashley Park and Ben McKenzie have a great chemistry as expectant parents.  Each cast member gets a chance to shine as their character reveals a secret that unearths their long-denied need.  There are two sharp cameos by Priscilla Lopez and Maulik Pancholy. 

The Second Stage Theater production of Grand Horizons is playing at The Helen Hayes Theater through March 1.

Domenick Danza

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Inheritance - Part Two


The Inheritance - Part Two
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
December 26, 2019

Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
Part Two of The Inheritance picks up exactly where Part One left off.  Playwright Matthew Lopez expands on his Part One examination of how we need to know our past in order to understand ourselves.  In Part Two he has his strongly established characters face the pasts they have long denied.  They make choices during the course of story that take them to a place where they are unable to avoid it any longer.  Mr. Lopez makes the statement that the only way to heal a hurting heart is to continue to risk.  He takes these characters to the edge of their hurt, forcing them to plunge into the danger of their own selves.  The actors portray these journeys truthfully and viscerally. 

Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
Henry and Eric’s relationship has deepened.  Henry asks Eric to marry him.  Henry’s conservative,  Republican point of view does not mix well with Eric’s friends, but he says yes to the proposal.  Toby shows up at their wedding with Leo, a young boy he has attached himself to, who is identical to Adam (and played by the same actor).  They are both drunk and high.  Leo recognizes Henry as one of his regular clients.  A physical fight breaks out as Eric’s friends try to protect him.  Henry later admits that he has used Leo’s services on a regular basis.  Eric realizes the truth of the situation he has gotten himself into. 

Lois Smith & Samuel H. Levine (as Adam)
Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
Eric returns to Walter’s house.  This time to care for Leo, who is HIV positive and in failing health.  We meet Margaret (played by Lois Smith), who is the caretaker for the now vacant house.  She tells Eric and Leo of when Walter called her because her son Michael was there, under his care and with only days left to live.  She arrived in time to share his final moments, and stayed to help Walter with the other men in need.  There were over two hundred who died in the house from complications due to AIDS.  She verifies Eric’s initial experience when he entered the house for the first time at the end of Part One.  It is in that house that Eric spends the rest of his life.  
He comes to understand how the past brings us into the present, which allow us to welcome the future.

Playwright Matthew Lopez
Mr. Lopez has crafted mesmerizing monologues in his play.  The characters tell their backstory in numerous scenes throughout both parts.  These sections are skillfully written and masterfully directed by Stephen Daldry.  Each cast member who has the privilege of performing one of these monologues finds richness in every moment. 

The ending of the play goes full circle as the young man who stepped forward in the opening scene of Part One is identified as one of the main characters.  The story flows to a resolution that will open your heart.  You become a part of The Inheritance as you fully engage in the experience.  The magnitude of the story is built on a solid structure and surpassed only by the theatrical manner in which it is told.  It is a profound and inspired production.   

Domenick Danza

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Inheritance - Part One


The Inheritance - Part One
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
December 23, 2019

Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
Matthew Lopez has written a profound and stunning piece of theatre.  Part One of The Inheritance opens the door to an immensely compelling and emotional journey.  Mr. Lopez examines the need to know where we came from in order to understand who we are.  He tackles large social and political issues, then narrows the focus on the personal stories of his characters.  These characters are intelligent, complex, and inquisitive.  They are flawed, unsure, and fearful.  They are vulnerable, searching, and human. 

A group of young men assemble with their laptops.  They are writing their stories.  One steps forward and admits he does not know where to start.  He turns to a book by E.M. Foster for inspiration.  Morgan (played by Paul Hilton), who is E.M. Foster, steps forward to guide him.  The story begins.  Eric Glass (played by Kyle Soller) lives in an apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan.  It is rent controlled, left to him by his grandmother who lived there for decades before she passed.  His whole life has been spent in that apartment.  It is a record of his personal history.  He now lives there with his boyfriend, Toby Darling (played by Andrew Burke).  Toby is a writer, far more pretentious than Eric, and unaware that Eric has been served with a notice of eviction.

Kyle Soller, Samuel H.Levine, & Andrew Burke
Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
Eric and Toby’s story deepens as they befriend Adam (played by Samuel H. Levine), a very attractive, young actor, who manipulates himself into being cast in the lead role of a play Toby is writing.  When Toby and Adam are out of town for rehearsal, Eric runs into a wealthy, older acquaintance, Walter (played by Paul Hilton).  Walter and Eric spend time together and become closer.  Walter tells Toby about how he met his partner, Henry (played by  John Benjamin Hickey) thirty-five years ago and the home they bought north of the city.  They used it to escape the sorrow of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.  It was an oasis for them.  When Walter cared for a friend who was dying of AIDS in that home, Henry felt betrayed.  He gave the house to Walter and never returned.  Walter continued to take in friends and acquittances who needed his care.  Many spend their final days in Walter’s home.

Toby realizes he has fallen in love with Adam and breaks it off with Eric on the same night that Henry delivers news that Walter has passed away.  Walter left his house to Eric.  Henry decides to keep this a secret, even as a close friendship grows between him and Eric.  When Henry finally agrees to take Eric to see the house, Eric has a life changing experience.

Jordan Barbour, Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr., Kyle Soller,
Arturo Luis Soria, & Kyle Harris
Photo courtesy of The Inheritance
This cast is phenomenal.  They work as one, portraying funny, multi-dimensional characters, while creating raw and honest moments.  Director Stephen Daldry keeps this three hour and fifteen-minute play moving at a great pace, until the final scene when Eric arrives at the house Walter left him.  It is transformative.  The lights shift, the space softens, and we viscerally know the truthful and significant journey of these characters has only just begun.  It is a prolific and emotional moment, leaving the audience yearning for Part Two.

The Inheritance is playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.  There will be more to come after I see Part Two later this week.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Harry Townsend’s Last Stand


Harry Townsend’s Last Stand
New York City Center Stage II
December 21, 2019

Photo courtesy of Harry Townsend's Last Stand
Len Cariou and Craig Bierko shine in George Eastman’s Harry Townsend’s Last Stand.  Directed by Karen Carpenter, this production is full of warmth and heart.  The confrontational moments are bold and truthful, and resolve with a genuine sense of care and mutuality.

Harry (played by Len Cariou) receives an impromptu visit in Vermont from his son, Alan (played by Craig Bierko), who lives on the west coast.  The weekend starts off with their usual sparring.  It doesn’t take Alan long to notice the changes in his father’s ability to live alone and remember things.  The truth comes out that the visit was planned by Alan and his twin sister, who cares for Harry, a number of months ago.  It’s time for Harry to move into an assisted living community.  In order to face the situation, Harry and Alan need to unearth issues and disappointments that have been buried for decades.

Len Cariou & Craig Bierko
Photo courtesy of Harry Townsend's Last Stand
Len Cariou and Craig Bierko are excellent together.  The actions of their characters are motivated by love and compassion.  Both men achieve this by creating a father/son relationship that is honest and genuine.  While Mr. Cariou is charming and boisterous, Mr. Bierko is witty and reserved.  Their timing is perfect.  They create truthful and complex characters cautiously facing unwelcome changes in their lives. 

Harry Townsend’s Last Stand is playing at New York City Center Stage II through February 9.  George Eastman’s writing is heartwarming.  The direction and performances are well worth seeing. 
Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Judgment Day

Judgment Day
The Park Avenue Armory
December 14, 2019

Photo courtesy of The Park Avenue Armory
The Park Avenue Armory production of Judgment Day is spectacular.  Director Richard Jones creates an impressive atmosphere and significant impact, while keeping the action moving at an accelerated pace.  He and Movement Director Anjali Mehra maneuver a cast of seventeen and two monumental set pieces around the Armory’s vast and expansive space with grace and precision.  Christopher Shinn’s adaptation of Ödön von Horváth’s play is skillfully crafted.  The characters are strong.  The underlying themes motivate the action, which builds to a stunning climax.

Luke Kirby & Cast Members
Photo courtesy of The Park Avenue Armory
It is the 1937.  Stationmaster Thomas Hudetz (played by Luke Kirby) is respected by the people of the small town he serves.  His wife (played by Alyssa Bresnahan) is thirteen years his senior, paranoid, and the subject of distasteful gossip from the same people who admire her husband.  When she spies the Inn Keeper’s daughter, Anna (played by Susannah Perkins), flirting with Thomas while he is on the job, she is filled with jealousy.  Anna kisses Thomas, causing him to be distracted and miss the train signal.  His delay in switching the track causes an accident that kills eighteen passengers.  Anna lies to protect Thomas and save her reputation.  She claims she witnessed him switching the tracks before the train passed.  Thomas’ wife confesses what she witnessed, both the kiss and Thomas’ error.  However, her reputation in the town make her less credible.  Anna’s false testimony frees Thomas of prosecution, yet neither of them can escape the guilt that amplifies over time.

Luke Kirby & Susannah Perkins
Photo courtesy of The Park Avenue Armory
Luke Kirby transforms the character of Thomas Hudetz from a meek and vigilant civil servant to a reckless, haunted, and broken man.  While we feel for him, we are also struck by how he buys into the lie that frees him from appropriate consequences.  Susannah Perkins portrays Anna as naïve, young girl, unaware of her own emotion and influence.  The impulses that propel her actions and the affect these actions have on her self-consciousness are astounding.  She and Mr. Kirby are brilliant together.  The discovery of their passion and power combined with their inability to control these emotions are mesmerizing.

Set Design by Paul Steinberg
Photo courtesy of The Park Avenue Armory
There is a synchronicity in the Park Avenue Armory with this production, as the space ignites the energy for the cast and the cast fills the space with life.  You have to experience this production for yourself.  Lighting design by Mimi Jordan Sherin and sound design by Drew Levy and Daniel Kluger create astounding effects.  Judgment Day is playing at the Park Avenue Armory through January 10.  Get your tickets and see it for yourself!

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Greater Clements

Greater Clements
Lincoln Center Theater
The Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater
December 7, 2019

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Samuel D. Hunter’s new play Greater Clements is a moving and powerful story of the long-term effects of inactivity and denial.  The characters are richly developed, facing weighty challenges and life altering decisions.  Director Davis McCallum keeps the action moving in this two hour and forty minute play.  He rivets your attention and utilizes the entire theatre space to create the perfect atmosphere to draw you in.  The cast, led by Judith Ivey, all deliver flawless performances, fully bringing Mr. Hunter’s heart felt writing to life. 

Photo courtesy of Lioncoln Center Theater
The people in the small town of Clements Falls, Idaho have voted to dissolve the township.  What was once a thriving mining town will very soon not exist.  The territory will become part of the county, leaving longtime residents with a lack of identity.  Maggie (played by Judith Ivey) is closing the mine tour office and museum.  Her son Joe (played by Edmund Donovan) has recently returned to town after living on the streets in Alaska.  When Maggie’s high school sweetheart Billy (played by Ken Narasaki) passes through and stops in for a visit, she is faced with a surprising opportunity for a new beginning.  Billy’s granddaughter, Kel (played by Haley Sakamoto), is with him.  Kal carries some emotional baggage.  When combined with Joe’s past, this creates a problem.  In order to move forward, they all need to face the darkness that has been passed on through decades of silence and denial.

Judith Ivey & Edmund Donovan
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Judith Ivey is magnificent in this role.  Her character links every element of the story, and Ms. Ivey keeps the audience focused on the action.  Edmund Donovan creates a potent empathy for Joe’s character.  Each scene exposes a deeper layer of his past, and Mr. Donovan plays every layer truthfully.  He and Ms. Ivey are amazing together.  Their mother/son bond is strong and genuine.  They are the heart of the story.  There are also strong performance by Andrew Garman, Nina Hellman, Kate MacCluggage, Ken Narasaki, and Haley Sakamoto.  Together this cast creates the urgency of this small town spiraling to extinction.
Judith Ivey & Ken Narasaki
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater

Dane Laffrey’s set brilliantly creates the illusion of the multi-level locale.  This heightens the visceral understanding of the depth each character needs to go in order to face their truth.  The concept utilizes the audience space.  It expands the playing area and successfully pulls the audience into the center of the dramatic action.   

Samuel D. Hunter has written a play that is well worth seeing.  He makes a strong thematic statement of how denial and silence begets impotence in future generations.  It will make you questions your complacency with inactivity.  It is a significant work and an enthralling experience.  Greater Clements is playing at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E Newhouse through January 19. 

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Bella Bella


Bella Bella
Manhattan Theatre Club
NY City Center Stage I
November 30, 2019

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
Harvey Fierstein is magnificent in Bella Bella.  He portrays Bella Abzug with heart, guts, and verve.  She was a powerhouse, and Mr. Fierstein has written a striking tribute to her life’s work.  Directed by Kimberly Senior, the Manhattan Theatre Club production is sharp and bold. 

It is 2:00 AM.  Bella Abzug (played by Harvey Fierstein) is waiting for the results of the 1976 NY Senate election.  She has escaped from her friends and supporters into the bathroom of her hotel room to catch her breath.  She reminisces about her early years as a lawyer and when she ran and won her seat in the House of Representatives.  She passionately speaks about the “boys club” and the need for a shift in the power structure to include women in government.  She has confidence in her ability to win her bid as the first female Senator from the State of New York, until she remembers a comment she made in a recent interview.  She realizes the 1% she is waiting for to swing the vote in her favor will not be coming.  

Harvey Fiersteing as Bella Abzug
Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theate Club
Harvey Fierstein represents Bella Abzug’s strong, committed voice with honor and respect.  It is interesting to see how much has changed since 1976 in the political landscape and power structure of our country, and how much still needs to be to accomplish.  This piece gives the audience a chance to look back, laugh, and shift perspectives on the present day political challenges. 

Bella Bella is a heart-felt and timely tribute, expertly written and performed.  The Manhattan Theatre Club production closes on December 1.  Hopefully it will be produced again in the near future. 

Domenick Danza

Fefu and Her Friends


Fefu and Her Friends
Theatre for a New Audience
Polansky Shakespeare Center
November 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
Theatre for a New Audience’s production of María Irene Fornés’ Fefu and Her Friends is riveting.  The integrated cast of women deliver highly skilled and powerful performances.  They bring dimension to Ms. Fornés’ phenomenally drawn characters.  Director Lileana Blaine-Cruz illuminates the detail and intimacy in every moment, building the action to its shocking and unexpected ending.

The year is 1935.  Fefu (played by Amelia Workman) is having a luncheon for seven of her college alumni, socially conscious friends.  They gather in her New England estate to plan the group’s upcoming lecture/presentation.  They are an eclectic group of women.  The bond between them is very strong, yet at the same time, strained.  Each one holds a deep seeded pain or sense of loss that incite various levels of compassion and fear throughout the group.  They gain little comfort from sharing their stories, yet continually seek reassurance from one another’s companionship.

Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience
María Irene Fornés’ broke ground with this play, when it was first presented in 1978, by having the audience split into smaller groups and follow the characters to four different locations in Fefu’s estate.  These four scenes take place simultaneously, and are therefore performed four times.  The audience can hear the other scenes, just as if people are talking in nearby rooms.  The scenes are precisely timed, as the characters enter and exit the four locations.  Scenic design by Adam Rigg efficiently utilizes the space, while immersing the audience in the rich setting of Fefu’s 1935 New England estate.  What was groundbreaking in 1978 remains stunning and unique forty-one years later.  Ms. Fornés’ themes and social commentary remain relevant and ring with truth to a present-day audience.

Ameleia Workman & Jennifer Lim
Photo courtesy of Theatre for a New Audience 
The cast spectacularly portrays individual characters with rich back stories, driven by longing.  There are strong performances by Brittany Bradford, Juliana Canfield, Helen Cespedes, Jennifer Lim, Ronette Levenson, Lindsay Rico, Amelia Workman, and Carmen Zilles.  Fefu and Her Friends is playing downtown Brooklyn at Theatre for a New Audience through December 8.  Check it out!

Domenick Danza

Monday, November 18, 2019

Druid Shakespeare: Richard III


Druid Shakespeare: Richard III
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival
Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College
November 10, 2019

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival
The U.S. Production Premier of Druid Shakespeare: Richard III is mind blowing.  It is part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.  The company is based in Ireland.  The production is masterfully directed by Gerry Hynes.  Aaron Monaghan brings depth, cunning, and malicious humor to the title role.  He captivates the attention of the audience, dragging them into his murderous rise to power.

Aaron Monaghan as Richard III
Photo courtesy of Druid Shakepeare: Richars III
& Lincoln Center's White Lights Festival
Richard, Duke of Gloucester (played by Aaron Monaghan), plots against his brother, King Edward (played by Bosco Hogan), to gain the throne for himself.  He woos Lady Anne (played by Siobhán Cullen) after brutally murdering her husband and father-in-law.  He then creates a rift between Edward and their other brother, Clarence (played by Marty Rea).  He confines Edward’s heirs to the tower, then arranges for Clarence to be executed.  Once crowned king, Richard must do away with Edward’s heirs and marry his daughter, Elizabeth, to insure his sovereignty.  His bloody reign comes to an end before the marriage can be arranged.

Photo courtesy of Druid Shakepeare: Richars III
& Lincoln Center's White Lights Festival
This company of thirteen phenomenal actors illuminates Shakespeare’s classic with clarity and vigor.  Each character is distinctly drawn, crisply interpreted, and urgently driven.  Every actor portrays their character with stunning conviction, confronting threatening conflict with a myriad of tactics that emotionally engage the audience and enthrall the senses.

Druid Shakespeare: Richard III is playing at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College through November 23.  You MUST see this production.  Get a ticket today!

Domenick Danza

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Underlying Chris


The Underlying Chris
Second Stage Theater
Tony Kiser Theater
November 10, 2019


Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
Will Eno’s The Underlying Chris is a touching and provocative exploration about the continuity of life.  The Second Stage Theater production is beautifully directed by Kenny Leon.  Scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado keeps the action flowing smoothly, connecting scenes that often span a number of years.  The cast changes roles from scene to scene, creating memorable and truthful moments that heighten your interest and propel the action forward.

It starts with a birth.  Chris is laying in his bassinette, while his mother is on the phone making an appointment with the pediatrician.  She is concerned because Chris seemed to have sustained a slight injury while playing with a large stuffed toy.  In the next scene Chris is a young boy, telling his nanny about his swimming lessons and aspirations to learn to dive.  He still feels the twinge in his back from his earlier injury.  The scene that follows finds Chris, a teenage girl, in a hospital being examined by a doctor after a diving accident.  We follow Chris as he/she grows to an adult, then a senior citizen.  In each scene the character is played by a different actor of a different gender and/or race.  Chris’ story continues to build, giving each audience member a specific opportunity to relate and identify.  This life story seems to encompass all of us.

The Full Cast of The Underlying Chris
Photo courtesy of Second Stage Theater
Will Eno sets up the structure and device of this journey right away.  Once you buy into it, the connecting messages ring with clarity and truth.  His writing, which seems simple at first, dives deep to the heart of a larger thematic message.  The dialogue is skillfully crafted and his subtle through line is prolifically structured.  The cast does a phenomenal job engaging the audience in this exploration.

The Underlying Chris is playing at the Tony Kiser Theater through December 15.  You’ve got to see it!

Domenick Danza

The Young Man from Atlanta


The Young Man from Atlanta
Signature Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Center
November 9, 2019


Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Horton Foote’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Young Man from Atlanta is back at Signature Theatre where it premiered twenty-four years ago.  The production is directed by Michael Wilson, who guides this stellar cast straight to the heart of Mr. Foote’s writing.  Aiden Quinn and Kristine Nielsen deliver rich performances layered with backstory and subtext.  Mr. Foote’s themes ring with vivid clarity as the characters struggle to regain their sense of value in a changing world.

It is 1950 in Houston Texas.  Will Kidder (played by Aiden Quinn) has just been let go from the company where he has worked for thirty-eight years.  He decides right away to start a company of his own, yet realizes it will be difficult to raise the funds because he has just built a new home for himself and his wife, Lily Dale (played by Kristine Nielsen).  They lost their son to a swimming accident six months ago, and are struggling to face the facts involved in the incident.  Their late son’s friend from Atlanta has been calling and visiting.  Lily Dale is comforted by these calls, but Will refuses to see him.  When Lily Dale admits that she gave money to the young man from Atlanta, Will feels betrayed.  They have to be honest with one another if they are to move through the challenges they face. 

Aiden Quinn & Kristin Nielsen
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Aiden Quinn brings the depth, grounding, and stubbornness required for the role of Will Kidder.  While you feel for him, you also see the changes he needs to undergo in order to survive.  Kristine Nielsen brings humor and charm to the role of Lily Dale.  She delivers genuine moments of heartfelt grief and fear that display the complexity of her character.  Stephen Payne is warm and strong as Pete Davenport, Lily Dale’s stepfather.  Jon Orsini is glib and energetic as Pete’s great nephew, Carson.

The Young Man from Atlanta is playing at the Pershing Square Signature Center through December 15.  It is an excellent production of a riveting play.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Hamnet


Hamnet
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Next Wave 2019
November 2, 2019


Photo courtesy of Dead Centre
& BAM Next Wave 2019
The Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival is presenting the Dead Centre production of Hamnet.  Written and directed by Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel, this unique and original work illuminates what little is known about William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, who died at age eleven.  Shakespeare’s grief over this loss is reflected in much of his work, and his most well-known tragic character, Hamlet, is named for him.  This piece beautifully looks at the abandonment and haunting that results from losing a child at a young age.

We meet Hamnet (played by Aran Murphy), an eleven-year-old boy, looking for his father in the crowd.  He recites the well-known “To be or not to be” soliloquy, yet does not fully understand its meaning.  He throws a ball against the wall, hoping it will one day pass through, as quantum physics predicts if can over infinity.  He invites an audience member to come on stage and play the ghost of King Hamlet as he appears to the Prince.  The scene does not go as well as he hopes, then the ghost of his true father, William Shakespeare, appears to him.  Together they face their grief in order to pass through the wall that separates them.

Photo courtesy fo Dead Centre & BAM Next Wave 2019
Aran Murphy is genuine and delivers a provocative performance.  The writing is layered with metaphor that transcends centuries as it answers the main dramatic questions: Is a parent’s grief caused by the haunting of their deceased child, or is the deceased child trapped into haunting because of the parent’s grief?  The action of the play suggests a mutuality.  The grief propels both characters into a state of inaction, much like the fictional character, Hamlet.

The video design by José Miguel Jiménez is brilliant, creating engaging effects that heighten the main theme of this play.  Hamnet ends it’s run at BAM Fisher on November 3.  It is a thought provoking and intelligently developed piece of theatre.

Domenick Danza


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Macbeth


Macbeth
Classic Stage Company
October 26, 2019

Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
The Classic Stage Company has produced a heart-racing, one hour and forty-minute rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Director John Doyle cuts right to the insatiable lust for power that drives the play, then overshadows it with the overwhelming sense of guilt that brings the downfall of the characters.  The cast of nine seamlessly move the action forward, skillfully portraying noble loyalty, voracious cunning, and vengeful retribution. 

Macbeth (played by Corey Stoll) is sought after by the three weird sisters (played by the ensemble) to predict his rise to power.  When his wife, Lady Macbeth (played by Nadia Bowers) hears the news, she devises a plan to hasten the events.  She manipulates her husband to kill King Duncan (played by Mary Beth Peil) to gain the throne.  He does the deed as planned and finds it only one of many slaughters to come.  He hires assassins to kill his friend Banquo (played by Erik Lochtefeld) in order to secure his position as king.  When the ghost of Banquo haunts him, Macbeth is propelled to visit the three weird sisters for an answer to its meaning.  Their revelations fuel Macbeth’s thirst for power and hide the clues to his imminent downfall.

Corey Stoll as Macbeth
Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company
John Doyle’s choice to have the three weird sisters played by the ensemble is truly inspired.  The theater echoes with their unsettling verse and their evil is existent within every person on stage.  He ends the play with the same lines and formation as the opening, showing how this driving force of selfishness is ever present and seductive as events shift and move forward.

Corey Stoll portrays Macbeth as an honorable man, lured into making choices from which he cannot escape.  His character is changed after the murder of Duncan.  His physical and emotional transformation is clear and strong.  He spends the remainder of the play masking his emotional state as he continues to cause harm.  As he says to Lady Macbeth, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”  

Nadia Bowers as Lady Macbeth
Photo courtesy fo Classic Stage Company
Nadia Bowers is powerful as Lady Macbeth.  She conjures forces within herself to construct her plan and moves on it with unwavering determination.  Her mad scene is focused and unnerving.  Barzin Akhavan is strong as Macduff, and Raffi Barsoumian is passionate and innocent as Malcolm.  Mary Beth Peil is imposing as Duncan, and Erik Lochtefeld is loyal and gentle as Banquo. 

This production of Macbeth is boldly conceived and masterfully interpreted.  It is playing at Classic Stage Company through December 15.  If you are a Macbeth fan, as I am, you will truly enjoy it.

Domenick Danza