Monday @ 8:00pm
Tuesday @ 8:00pm
Wednesday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday @ 8:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Walter Kerr Theater
Directed By: Pam
A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Christina
Kirk, Annie Parisse, Jeremy Shamos & Frank
There is cause
for celebration. The play is not dead on Broadway.
Earlier in the season Jon Robin Baitz’s
terrific Other Desert Cities opened and
has settled in for a healthy run. Now, at season’s
end, we get the Pulitzer Prize winning Clybourne
Park—which, ironically, almost didn’t
make it to the great white way.
in NYC at Playwrights Horizons in 2010, Bruce
Norris’ gem won the Olivier in London and
has been produced several times regionally. And
after a number of bumpy paths, the play has found
a home at the Walter Kerr Theater. Let’s
hope it’s a nice long lease.
‘dramedy’ dares to take on race and
examine it from every angle without being obvious
or didactic. Nicely structure with Act One set
in 1959 and Act Two, in 2009, we soon see what
we already know—the more things change,
the more they stay the same.
The play takes
place in one particular house in a segregated,
middle-class neighborhood in Chicago.
of genius is that he’s using the same place
and a character borrowed from Lorraine Hansberry’s
groundbreaking play, A Raisin in the Sun.
vocal of "Catch a Falling Star," perfectly
opens Clybourne Park as we meet Bev and
Russ (Christine Kirk & Frank Wood), two broken
people trying to make sense of the senseless suicide
of their soldier son. They have a black maid,
Francine (Crystal A. Dickinson) who is married
to Albert (Damon Gupton). Both sets of couples
have their own way of bickering.
Bev and Russ are
selling their home…to an African-American
family. Enter good-deed-doer Karl (Jeremy Shamos,
playing the Raisin cross-over) and his deaf wife,
Betsy (Annie Parisse). Karl is there to make certain
the house is not sold to ‘colored people.’
Toss in a young minister (Brendan Griffin) and
you have the makings of an explosive situation
where notions of class, race and real estate are
debated while we watch people’s true natures
being revealed—often by what they don’t
say or do.
Act Two fast-forwards
fifty years and each actor plays a mirror-like
contemporary—some more obvious than others.
Now, a new millennium black couple takes issue
with a white couple wanting to make changes to
the home—ergo the neighborhood.
The set, by Daniel
Ostling is just about perfect and everyone in
the ensemble delivers wonderful and complex performances.
Dickinson is the crowd-pleaser character full
of conviction and defiance (what the Viola Davis
character was lacking in The Help). Shamos
is unafraid to go where he needs to go and that
is admirable. Kirk is that wonder, annoying, hilarious
and poignant—all at the same time. Wood
has the funniest line and delivery, directed at
the deaf Betsy in Act One.
Norris weaves story
and character parallels effortlessly to slowly
reveal certain thematic complexities—like
probing the notion that no matter how hard we
would like to
rid ourselves of
inherent racism, a part is always there lingering
and sometimes we overcompensate—which can
come off as patronizing and can reveal deeper
- $127.00 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250
Walter Kerr Theater
| 219 West 48th Street
End of the Rainbow
Sunday @ 3:00pm
Tuesday @ 7:00pm
Wednesday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday @ 7:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday @2:00pm & 8:00pm
Directed by Terry
Bennett, Tom Pelphrey and Michael Cumpsty
Every once in a
while a stage performance captivates in a way
that actually stirs the soul and allows us inside
the psyche of a character—so deep in fact
that it’s quite painful at times to observe—but
is, ultimately, transcendent.
Mamma Rose was one. Meryl Streep’s Mother
Courage, another. Tracie Bennett joins the pantheon
with her tour de force portrayal of Judy Garland
in the surprisingly well-conceived play, End
of the Rainbow. Trust me, this immersion
must be seen to be believed.
performance goes so far beyond impersonation--and
into areas of true embodiment-- it’s astonishing.
Here is Garland, sassy, profane, mean, hungry,
sweet, manipulative, tarty, manic, sad, egomaniacal,
vulnerable--warts galore—and Bennett fearlessly
dives off the steep bio-trappings-laden-cliff
to bring us a full figured human who happens to
have been a celebrity all her life—one with
tremendous talent and equally tremendous flaws
and idiosyncrasies. An adored star that needs
mental lubrication (via booze and dope) to survive.
figure like Judy Garland warrants a bold interpretation
and Bennett isn’t afraid to marry the clichés,
use them and then shatter them.
play takes place in London in 1968 where Garland
is on the comeback trail, yet again, performing
in a nightclub called Talk of the Town. She has
just married her fifth and last husband, Mickey
Deans (a dead-on Tom Pelphrey) who was either
a gold digging cad or a misunderstood dolt, depending
on where your lean is as an audience member—although
the former is given more validity.
trusted accompanist, Anthony (a thoughtful Michael
Cumpsty) is the third main character and represents
her paradoxical gay followers—worshipping
her and wishing her well while reveling a bit
in her many personal battles.
The script gives
us every possible Garland meltdown as well as
some pertinent bio info along the way (like how
she was given pills regularly as a teen working
for MGM) that never feel too contrived, mostly
because of Bennett’s searing, honest deliveries.
We are privy to
her love/loathe relationship with Deans and her
near-Machiavellian manipulation techniques when
it comes to getting exactly what she wants.
And, then, we experience
her in concert. Quilter and director Terry Johnson
have peppered the piece with two handfuls of Garland
classics from an exquisite rendition of “The
Man That Got Away, “ from A Star is Born,
to a bizarre and dazzling drug-infused “Come
Rain or Come Shine,” shining a bright beam
of light on her contradictory nature.
I was quite apprehensive
going into End of the Rainbow fearing
yet another caricature-version of this titanic
icon. But the play and, most especially, the star
give the audience a glimpse into this tormented,
brilliant talent who remains one of the most influential
performers of the 20th century. See it for that
and to witness one of the finest stage performances
of the last decade.
Ticket Price: $31.50
- $126.50(212) 239-6200, telecharge.com.
Belasco Theater | 111
West 44th Street | Manhattan
Through April 29, 2012
City Center Stage
Cast: Alexis Bledel,
Curt Bouril, Ansel Elgort, Brian Hutchison, Adriane
Lenox, Lucas Caleb Rooney and Richard Topol
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Reviewed by Frank
the new play by rising young British playwright
Matt Charman, has it's heart in the right place
and I especially appreciated an exchange near
the end of the piece that flies in the face of
the normal answer to a too-oft-asked, now notorious
question from the 1950s. The show features a few
terrific performances and an admirably realistic
set. And shining a light on McCarthyism via how
it affected every day folk is refreshing as well
since we usually get stories about artists and
other public figures whose lives were destroyed
by the Red Scare here in the US of A.
There is plenty
at stake in Regrets. The chief problem
is the way what is at stake is handled feels archaic
The setting is
1954 and the work actually has the feel of a play
written in the 1950s. I'm not certain if this
is intentional on the author’s part (I would
guess it must be). If so, then that would explain
the archetype Hollywood characters he has created
and the Act One plot reveal that doesn't illicit
shock as much as a piqued curiosity.
Had the revelation
gone a bit further into a direction I felt was
obvious, Act Two might have been a lot more electrifying.
It certainly would have been more compelling.
But like the 1950s
dramas it emulates, Regrets sticks to
its straightforward and simplistic narrative right
up to the (surprisingly) moving and (unsurprisingly)
The play opens,
in 1954, on a Nevada desert ranch patronized by
men intent on getting a ‘quickie’
divorce. The bare-bones retreat is run by the
cantankerous Mrs. Duke (Adriane Lenox) who takes
no sass and has specific rules that must be obeyed.
Currently in residence:
the weak and whiney Alvin (Richard Topol) who
looks much older than he is; the quick-tempered
brute Gerald (a solid Lucas Caleb Rooney) and
the literary and wise Ben ((Brian Hutchison) who
is the moral anchor of the story (of course).
Into this mix of
familiar types walks a stunning young man, hair
perfectly coiffed as if he just stepped off some
Hollywood magazine cover (or an underground journal
sold to men who desire men). His name is Caleb
(newcomer Ansel Elgort) and he’s journeyed
from Hollywood (of course) where he works in pictures--behind
the scenes. In the first few scenes, where Caleb
barely speak any dialogue, he reminded me of what
Blanche DuBoise’s “Boy” might
have looked like. Caleb appears way too young
to be seeking a divorce—unless there’s
some nefarious reason behind his need.
Two more characters
eventually enter the scene; one fulfilling a plot
necessity and the other, a throwback hooker (Alexis
Bledel)—well I have no idea why she was
there except to make certain the audience didn’t
make gay assumptions about the male characters.
We get some of
the men’s stories and Caleb’s tale
is eventually explained. And it all ends very
tidy—despite how messy it really it should
Adriane Lenox (so
good in her brief turn in Doubt) steals
each and every moment she is a part of without
exertion. Mrs. Duke, in the hands of a lesser
actress, could have easily taken the route of
anachronistic martyr or period stereotype. She
gives us a real, damaged black woman simply trying
to survive in a white man's world before it was
even possible to do so without giving up some
of your soul.
In his professional
stage debut, Ansel Elgort is more than just a
pretty face. He allows us a window into Caleb's
pain, confusion and frustration. Elgort actually
does more than the writing asks as I found myself
wondering what other hidden secrets this boy was
I found least affecting and quite lackluster was
Brian Hutchison's. I simply didn't give a damn
about the character so his big Act Two moment
didn’t feel organic.
directs in manipulative TV-style (not necessarily
a bad thing for this particular project).
Ultimately, I found
Regrets a worthwhile if safe play about
a time in our history that deserves deeper probing
and a less-than-pat approach.
Tickets $80 (212) 581-1212
City Center Stage
1 | 131 West 55th Street | Manhattan
(212) 581-1212, nycitycenter.org.