The Glass Menagerie
Sunday @ 3:00pm
Tuesday @ 7:00pm
Wednesday @ 2:00pm& 7:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday@ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Opened Sep 26, 2013
Closes Jan 5, 2014
The Booth Theater
Directed by John
Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Brian
Reviewed by Frank
There should be
a good reason to revive a play that has seen so
many past productions—something other than
that some movie star wants to play a certain role.
There should be a ridiculously good reason to
revive a classic that has been studied in classrooms
ad nauseum (seriously, did we really need another
Romeo and Juliet?). At the very least,
it should illuminate certain aspects of the text
that have been buried deep. In a perfect production,
it would also reflect the times we live in—without
I am elated to
say that John Tiffany’s revival of Tennessee
Williams’s The Glass Menagerie
does both and then some. There’s a vitality,
a timeliness to this production but there is also
a great effort to delve deep into the two central
characters and truly investigate that relationship.
In addition, notions of how memory truly damages
a person are explored fearlessly.
I will spare the
reader any plot synopsis. If you are not familiar
with the play, then you’ve either been living
on Mars or…well, I can’t think of
an “or.” And chances are, it’s
required reading on Mars as well.
While I always
liked the play, I found it a bit simplistic and
dull. In High School, we were spoon-fed what the
themes were. And if you argued, disagreed or offered
up alternate thoughts that reflected in your grade—so
conforming to what your teacher thought, was best.
Each TV, film or
stage production I viewed did nothing to change
my mind, except I was excited to see what each
new Diva’s take on Amanda would be. That
was enough to get me through the LONG second act
scene between Laura and her Gentleman Caller,
which was just painful because we knew the outcome.
There was no hope for Laura. She was stuck living
the rest of her life with that monster mother.
What Tiffany and
his masterful cast and crew accomplish in this
heightened yet grounded production is to give
the audience a true hope, even though we are highly
aware that this is a memory play and everything
has already played itself out. We yearn for Amanda
and Tom to find some kind of peace with one another,
for Laura to muster up just enough self-esteem
to be able to recover from the Gentleman Caller’s
devastating 11th hour admittance and for Tom to
exorcise his guilt—his demons—once
and for all.
Magic is captured
in this production, from the way each character
enters via Tom’s intro to the oddly modern
feel of this family, lost in space and time (perhaps
our crippling economic situation has something
to do with this) to the strange yet deep love
the two central characters have for one another,
despite the misery and hurt they inflict on each
probes how memories can not only haunt and scar
you but consume you if you allow it, so everything
you are is forever shaped by the ‘sins of
the past.’ Tom is trying to move on with
his life by telling his story and hoping he finds
some kind of peace, but in reliving it—it’s
only made worse—more painful. There is no
catharsis for Tom. No escape. And he doesn’t
have Amanda’s gift of delusion to get him
If we meld Tom
with Williams, there is real hope as “Shakespeare”
(Tom’s nickname) does have the ability to
write and perhaps that can, at least, offer some
comfort—to the audience. Only, the audience.
also examines how one’s decisions—deliberate
or otherwise—can have life-altering effects
depending on how the ramifications are dealt with.
And that is subject to the life-tools each person
is equipped with.
Amanda cannot forgive
Tom for not being what she wants—needs—him
to be—for not knowing things he should have
known. But, ultimately, she cannot forgive him
for being too much like his father. The irony
is that Amanda raised him to be like his father
by alienating him the way she probably alienated
Tom cannot forgive
Amanda for never being satisfied with him—for
smothering him—instead of allowing him to
be who he is, or, at least, figure that out himself.
Amanda has passed on the ‘unforgiving’
gene to another generation. And, to her horror,
it’s used against her.
spotlights all the familial patterns and buttons
between mother and son. These two love one another
but will NEVER like or respect one another.
One of Tom’s
reactions to Amanda’s bellowing of “Rise
and shine, rise and shine,” in the morning
has never been more telling: “I think to
myself, how lucky dead people are,” delivered
with just the right amount of contempt and sincerity.
helps brings Tom back to the forefront of this
play—where he belongs. Even with Jones’s
brash Amanda onstage, Quinto is able to hold his
own. He’s furious at life (as any good poet/writer
should be)—at the world—for not allowing
him to be who he is. And this portrait of Tom,
more than any other burrows into Williams’
own unease with his sexuality. We sense that Tom
is different. And when he is around Jim (the Gentleman
Caller) he seems to come alive. There is more
homoerotic touchy-feely-play with these two than
I recall seeing in any other production. And the
repressed feelings do not feel one-sided. There’s
an entire new layer explored--and more ‘what-ifs’
Tom is furious
at his mother for her constantly reminding him
of what a failure he is, at Laura for being frail
and forcing him to remain in a living hell situation,
although this Tom seems to have both feet out
the door from the get-go.
power to this Tom. A defiance. A yearning for
something more—something better, also a
struggle--his not wanting to be so bitter—so
angry with his mother and the universe. But she,
along with everyone in his life, keeps disappointing--keeps
pulling him right back into the same dark hole—the
same place that tells him he will never be good
enough, He will always be a failure. His mom feels
this because of his genetic burden (being his
father’s son)…and the world has little
need for him because he’s both lower class
as well as “different--” an outcast
struggling with a host of inner demons.
It’s a magnificent
performance. And speaking of…
I have loved Cherry
Jones (Doubt, The Heiress) and
been indifferent to her (Faith Healer).
Here, she is revelatory.
The 1944 premiere
production boasted a performance by Laurette Taylor
that is legendary. And since it was never captured
for posterity, its status has reached Olympian
is earthy and robust. She’s a hurricane
when needs be, but also a schoolgirl lost in memories
of her youth.
And there is something
more American about her than I ever recall sensing
from the three other Amandas that are stamped
into my memory: Katharine Hepburn in the TV movie,
Joanne Woodward in the film version and Jessica
Lange in the most recent Broadway revival.
is about BBQs and apple pie and parades and potluck
suppers--VERY American and distinctly Southern
in her manner, her behavior, her speech, her thoughts
and her desires.
She is more at
home in her perfectly recreated past than she
is in the present. Even if that past has been
tailored to her survival needs. Yet, she is well
aware of what it takes to get along in the present.
She will never be Laura. And a part of her hates
Tom for having the audacity to move on--get out.
How dare he, when she cannot—no, will not.
Jones seems to
embody all the myriad qualities of past Amandas
(brittle, tough, tentative) yet forges one that
is more flesh-and-blood human—more fierce
mother than Williams’ written monster. Her
Amanda may babble and ramble but it’s calculated.
She uses her shrewd charms to manipulate—for
her family—for her daughter, and a little
bit for herself. One gets the idea that Amanda
wants the Gentleman Caller around for herself
almost as much as for her daughter—to recapture
her youth—if only for fleeting moments.
Not necessarily in a sexual way (as in Lange’s
As for the two
other cast members, they get their moment to shine
in that LONG scene I mentioned earlier—which
in this production feels just the right length.
Celia Keenan-Bolger’s Laura pops her head
out of her self-imposed prison—just enough.
This Laura doesn’t bloom with Jim. She merely
perks up a bit—and begins to find herself
And Brian J. Smith’s
Gentleman Caller Jim has just the right amount
of ego to let himself take things a bit too far.
But it’s more than that. One gets the feeling
he really likes Laura. Does it go that far beyond
the fact that he’s tickled that someone
worshipped him in High School? Maybe not, but
for someone like Jim—that’s a lot.
Would he really court Laura if he weren’t
already taken? I think so. If only to have his
ego re-stroked by both Laura and Amanda. His post-football
days have proven less than thrilling and exposed
him as just another vulnerable adult lacking in
Both Laura and
Jim give each other the gift of confidence. The
Laura/Jim sequence is a sweet scene made all the
more tragic by the promise created.
The entire production
team should be applauded for this truly great
Tickets by phone
212) 239-6200 or telecharge.com.
Theatre | 222 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036
The Play's The Thing
Adapted by P. G. Wodehouse
Sept. 20, 21, 23, 26-28th @ 7.30pm
Oct. 3-5, 10-12, 16-19, 23-26th @ 7.30pm
Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26th @ 2pm
Theatre of the Church of Notre Dame
Presented by The
Directed by Peter
Allis, Spencer Aste, Joe Danbusky, James Henry
Doan, George Goss, Alexis Kelley, Jeff Kline and
Reviewed by Carlotta
My recent theatrical
forays above 70th street have been extremely satisfying.
A few months back, I braved the trip to The Drilling
CompaNY Theatre for a fantastically entertaining
production of Dario Fo's We Won’t Pay!
We Won’t Pay! A few days ago, I was
similarly impressed by The Storm Theatre's production
of The Play's the Thing, currently playing
at the company's permanent home, the theatre of
the Church of Notre Dame on 114th street.
the Thing, originally by Hungarian playwright
Ferenc Molnár, but heavily adapted by P.G.
Wodehouse, is an old-school play (technical term).
A 1920s comedy of manners, set in a castle on
the Italian Riviera, featuring characters such
as a prima donna, a famous dramatist, a footman,
and concerning itself with – in the program’s
own words - the goings on of 'febrile high society.'
Here we find an abundance of witticisms, a convoluted
play-within-a-play and a series of humorous misunderstandings.
The Storm's production of it is also rather traditional.
By this I mean that all actors’ genders
are as written in the script, the set is realistic
as is the abundance of props, and the intent of
the production seems to be to stick as closely
as possible to the style and spirit of the original
piece, without imposing any drastically new interpretation
As far as I’m
concerned, none of this is a negative thing. The
play itself contains such a wealth of razor sharp
sarcasm and beautiful language - and the actors
are all so skilled - that I certainly never minded
the production’s traditional approach.
From the very beginning,
The Storm’s production does a remarkable
job of summoning the spirit of the age. Notes
from an instrumental recording of "Dream
a Little Dream of Me" waft up to greet us
before we’ve even stepped down into the
church basement where the theater is located.
The belowground lobby is a sight in itself with
its arches and ancient brick - so very appropriate
when we're meant to be stepping into a medieval
castle. Inside the theater, the audience is divided
in two halves and seated on either side of the
beautifully dressed playing area, facing each
other while the actors work their magic in between.
Speaking of which
– the cast as a whole turns out a remarkable
performance. Joe Danbusky is nearly flawless in
his portrayal of famous dramatist Sandor Turai,
who’s always two steps ahead of everyone
else and cleverly engineers the events of the
play. Mr. Danbusky has impeccable style and comedic
timing, and effortlessly leads the whole cast
with a sharp tongue and a firm hand. The other
standout is Spencer Aste as the Count's footman,
by the unpronounceable name of Dwornitschek. Mr
Aste’s inspired performance is both hysterically
funny and heartwarmingly realistic, and takes
this potential cliché to a three-dimensional
level. He comes very close to stealing the show
- but his cast-members put up a brave fight. The
audience was equally as enamored with Alexis Kelley's
outrageously over-the-top prima donna, as with
Brian Linden's self-centered, pusillanimous leading
The play does seem
to run a little long, and isn't quite compelling
all the way through. Towards the end of the second
act we go through a lengthy meta-theatrical gag
in which the characters - playwrights and composers
themselves - debate how a playwright should end
a second act. Half way through it, I found myself
thinking that I didn't much care how the act ended,
just as long as it ended soon.
Also, so much work
has clearly gone into refining the style of the
piece - directed in a very detailed way by The
Storm Artistic Director Peter Dobbins - that sometimes
style nearly overtook substance. The piece might
have benefitted from something so simple as a
few more pauses, to break up the frantic nature
of the farce and show us just a glimpse of the
characters’ real emotional journey. One
notable exception to this was young love interest
Albert Adam, played by Jeff Kline. Mr. Kline,
while perhaps not as comfortable as the rest of
the cast in the style of the period, made up for
it with some touching moments of emotional honesty.
All in all, The
Play’s the Thing is entertaining, beautifully
done and definitely worth seeing. I’m already
looking forward to The Storm’s upcoming
production of Jean Anouilh’s' Antigone,
coming in January 2014.
Tickets $25 at
the door or www.smarttix.com
The Theatre Of
The Church of Notre Dame | 405 West 114th Street
| New York | New York
Of John Grisham’s
A Time to Kill
Tuesday @ 7:00pm
Wednesday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday @ 7:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Opens October 20, 2013
John Golden Theatre
Directed by Ethan
Arcelus, Chike Johnson, Patrick Page, Tonya Pinkins,
Fred Dalton Thompson, John Douglas Thompson, Ashley
Williams, Jeffrey M. Bender, Dashiell Eaves, J.R.
Horne, John Procaccino, Tijuana Ricks and Lee
Reviewed by Frank
author/singer of the infamous "Escape (the
Pina Colada Song)" and accomplished playwright
(Accomplice, Say Goodnight Gracie)
and librettist (The Mystery of Edwin Drood,
Curtains) has a knack for clever and
crisp dialogue. And when good actors assemble
to ricochet his words off one another, the results
can thrill, stimulate and energize an audience.
The good news is that most of the actors cast
in A Time to Kill, are, indeed wonderful,
making the experience absorbing from the get-go.
There are a few clunky exceptions, though—one
glaring one in particular, which I will get too
Much is being made
that this is the very first stage adaptation of
a John Grisham novel. There could be a very good
reason for that, mainly Grisham writes sweeping
action thrillers that may be courtroom grounded
but are also locale busy and, did I mention, action-packed?
I decided to watch
the 1996 Joel Schumacher film the night before
I saw the stage show and I’m actually glad
I did. My memory was that it was one of my favorite
screen adaptations of a Grisham work and it, for
the most part, held up. I did wonder how certain
important plot reveals and major violent moments
would be done on the stage. I also worried about
the cast size and how each major player would
be given their due.
More often than
not, Holmes manages to do a smashing job of deftly
streamlining the plot, tightening the narrative
and deleting two major players without harming
the potency of the piece. I did miss the brother
of one of the accused (played by Keifer Sutherland)
turned KKK villain, but that character’s
omission ultimately helped attempt to present
a more balanced argument in the play.
The story, set
in the 1980s, centers on an ambitious young lawyer,
Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus) who agrees to
defend a black father, Carl Lee Hailey (John Douglas
Thompson) who has just gunned down the two men
accused of raping and torturing his 10-year-old
daughter. This divides the Mississippi town into
angry mob factions and the morality of such an
obvious revenge crime is debated as the narrative
One of the difficulties
in assessing a courtroom drama like A Time
to Kill is that, no matter the reveal, the
audience is on the Carl’s side. There will
not be any 11th hour introduction of evidence
that will make the watcher wonder if he is guilty.
He is. There will be an argument for justice by
the Prosecutor, Rufus Buckley (Patrick Page),
but that argument can never be strong enough when
the innocence of a 10-year-old is involved.
Add to that the
fact that you know what the verdict will be long
before it’s announced means the excitement
must come from the execution of the play and the
presentation of the arguments.
is forced to remain faithful to Grisham’s
work and that becomes the play’s biggest
problem. As much as there are real moral and ethical
issues to weigh—it becomes impossible to
truly present a real debate, given the limitations
of the source material.
So we have everyone
rooting for Jake and Carl (as I was) and no one
caring about the two murdered men. After all they
were scum--drunk, pedophile, rapist, inbred, uneducated,
murdering, racist scum. How could anyone not want
to see them dead? Now, imagine for a moment that
the narrative presented two respected, educated
boys who were accused but we weren’t certain
about their guilt. Imagine Carl guns them down
and evidence is presented weighing both sides.
Then we’d have a true debate on our hands.
But I am rewriting Grisham, which is heresy. So
I’ll stop now. But, you get where I’m
directs with as much suspense and pizazz as possible,
again given his limitations. And the evening moves
along at a nice pace, helped by exceptional lighting
design (by Jeff Croiter), a fantastic rotating
set (designed by James Noone) and an appropriately
bluesy score (by Lindsay Jones).
When it comes to
the performances, it’s impossible to not
consider the film’s cast, despite the different
has great charisma and does a splendid job of
keeping us engaged and on his side. He’s
subtle but effective. But the decision to give
him that curly Matthew McConaughey hairdo begs
comparisons with his film counterpart…and
he more than acquits himself. His Jake feels more
confident and isn’t weighed down by plodding
scenes with his wife (played by the always-lackluster
Ashley Judd in the film).
John Douglas Thompson
chooses to give us a less angry and unrepentant
Carl and in doing so gains more sympathy than
Samuel L. Jackson did. But loses some of the Jackson
Fred Dalton Thompson’s
Judge is gruff, bellowing yet sympathetic. Thompson
seemed to be struggling with his lines at the
performance I attended.
A welcome, scene-stealing
tornado, Patrick Page gives the best performance
in this production. Slick, but surprisingly poignant,
Page wipes out all memories of Kevin Spacey—who
was surprisingly too understated in the movie.
Page had me riveted every time he spoke or reacted.
great to see Tom Skerritt in the Donald Sutherland
role, having a ball onstage—enjoying his
boozing (a different drink each time). It’s
Skerritt’s Broadway debut and he’s
just wonderful in a too-underwritten part. Speaking
The amazing Tonya
Pinkins, enters in Act One and electrifies—like
delivering an acting master class. Her character
(Carl’s wife) also brings up some interesting
points that should have been debated further.
But she then disappears for way too long and we
aren’t even given a scene in Act 2 that
she can sink her teeth into—it’s supremely
frustrating and the actress deserves better.
The one casting
blunder is Ashley Williams as Ellen Roark. Onscreen,
the character feels superfluous but Sandra Bullock
brings enough moxie to make it palpable. Williams
is just awkward and is trying way too hard. And
the forced kiss between Jake and Ellen is misguided.
Firstly, we can’t really care much about
Jake’s cheating on a wife we never meet—so
there’s no investment there. But Williams
is so bland that we wonder why he would want to
pursue her in the first place.
A few moments fall
flat--the off-stage murders of the accused feels
odd and the reactions to Carl walking back into
the courtroom holding the machine gun is too calm.
The man has a machine gun!
But there are very
effective moments like Jake’s summation
that brilliantly cites race--in a different but
equally powerful way than the film.
A Time to Kill
is still a potent piece of theatre, if you
don’t mind having little to no suspense
with your courtroom drama.
Tickets 69.50 -
132.00 (212) 239-6200 telecharge.com
John Golden Theatre
| 252 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036
The Vatican Knows
Sunday @ 3:00pm
Thursday @ 8:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday @ 8:00pm
Oct. 3rd – 20th, 2013
Theater For The New City
Directed by Stephan
Beck, Giulia Bisinella, Jacob Cribbs, Ian Campbell
Dunn, Debbie Klaar, Timothy Roselle, Mark Ethan
Presented by Theater
for The New City
Reviewed by Carlotta
In The Vatican
Knows, prolific playwright Mario Fratti tackles
a real-life mystery that rocked his native Italy
in 1983. The facts are these: a 15-year-old girl,
the daughter of Church employees who resided in
the Vatican, disappeared in 1983. Nothing further
was ever known of her. Her body was never found.
Naturally, countless theories about her presumed
kidnapping circulated in national and international
media, both at the time and in the years since.
Indeed Fratti, who is known for reading a news
article in the morning and having written a play
about it by the evening, was inspired to write
this play by a New York Times article published
just last year.
his play around the theory that young Emanuela
- or Emma, as she’s called in the play -
was kidnapped by Turkish terrorists who planned
to use her as leverage for the release of Mehmet
Ali Agca, the gunman who shot John Paul II in
1981. Looking beyond this plausible - albeit completely
unproven - scenario, Mr. Fratti takes his story
in a completely imaginary direction: his Emma
holds an unshakable belief that she is the Pope's
biological daughter. It's this belief - which
she readily publicizes to anyone who'll listen
- that makes fictional Emma a terrorist target.
impossible to write anything about the Catholic
Church without some controversy. In The Vatican
Knows, Fratti seems to pack much of the controversy
in the opening scene. As the lights come up on
a Papal chamber, we are welcomed by an off-stage
voice, which narrates in chillingly graphic detail
sexual abuse suffered at the hand of a paedophile
priest. Whilst this opening is presumably meant
to shock the audience to attention, it seems rather
gratuitous once it becomes clear that the rest
of Fratti's play bears no relation whatsoever
to the subject of the Catholic sex abuse scandals.
The victim’s recording is then brusquely
interrupted by John Paul II (Mark Ethan Toporek),
who claims that this is the first he hears of
it, and that this will never happen again under
his watch. Rather controversial, this: it’s
a subject of heated debate whether John Paul II
was in fact very much aware of the abuses all
along, and participated in their cover-ups. Fratti’s
suggestion that he was completely innocent is
sure to raise some eyebrows.
After the opening
scene, the play quickly builds momentum, taking
us into the private lives of Emma, her nervous
lover, her conservative parents, and later the
terrorists who kidnap the young couple.
Given that this
is not an easy subject to sell to an audience,
this production does a commendable job of keeping
us engaged throughout. The cast is - with one
or two exceptions - consistently strong and committed
(even on a Sunday matinee.) The actors do a valiant
job of finding truth and immediacy in Fratti's
largely non-naturalistic language, and of filling
out their characters between the lines.
stands out as Emma, our delusional protagonist,
in a multi-faceted performance. On one hand, she's
a modern woman who positively brags about no longer
being a virgin. A second later, she morphs into
nothing short of a religious fanatic who –
in her words - would throw herself into a fire
for her beloved Pope. The actress deftly handles
these contradictions and layers them to create
an engaging, magnetic, vulnerable character -
while also finding delightful humour where she
Bisinella is surrounded
by equally competent leading men: her lover Gustav,
played by Ian Campbell Dunn, wins our sympathy
as a simple man who loves Emma but is a victim
of her stronger personality and of circumstance.
Also remarkable is Lucas Beck as terrorist ring-leader
Ahmet, whose compelling stage presence forces
us to pay attention. Beck and Dunn particularly
show their skill by keeping the audience interested
– and the tension going - through a rather
long stretch of dry exposition in Act II that
is meant to educate us about the terrorists' world
view and reasons for attacking the Papacy.
Last but not least,
we have of course the play’s central figure,
John Paul II, played by Mark Ethan Toporek. Toporek
shows himself to best advantage during the multiple
sermons he delivers straight to the audience –
and also benefits from a startling resemblance
in both appearance and mannerisms to Jeremy Irons’
questionable Pope Alexander VI (Showtime’s
Broadway director Stephan Morrow shapes this production
with a solid hand, keeping up the pace and never
allowing his actors to veer into the melodrama
that lurks behind some of the play's most intense
moments. Morrow, whose collaboration with Fratti
dates back many years, has nothing but praise
for his actors: "They leave a piece of their
soul on that stage," he told me - which is
why, he says, it's important that audiences overcome
their aversion towards heavy subjects such as
this, and come see this play.
Vatican Knows, whilst definitely worth checking
out, is over almost before it starts. Once the
last line of the play had been spoken, I found
myself wishing that there was more. More scenes,
perhaps, to give us a chance to get closer to
its characters. More answers - real or imagined
- about what happened to Emma. Then again, Mr.
Fratti loves a mystery.
Tickets $10 www.theaterforthenewcity.net
(212) 254 - 1109
Theater for The new City | 155 First Ave.
New York, NY 10003