Sunday, February 28, 2010

reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews reviews!!!!!



Tarragon Theatre until  March 21st



Twelve-year old Lily wakes up screaming, again. As her nightmares consume her, her father Harlem embarks on a quest to a nocturnal world where dreams and reality, the present and the past collide. A thrilling mystery takes us to the very core of our consciousness to discover who we are.



The current Tarragon Theatre production of Rosa Laborde’s impressionistic dream narrative is a powerful tour de force performed with spectacular finesse by a superb ensemble cast. At the apex of this mesmerizing, at times terrifying ‘family’ drama stands the figure of Lily, a precocious pre-teen haunted by the memory of an absent mother and the allure of mature love relationships with very tall dentists.


Vivien Endicott-Douglas, as Lily, delivers an impeccable performance that requires a great range of emotion. As her bewildered father Harlem, Graeme Somerville presents a similar range of acting skill as he appears tender, loving, sexual, and at times frighteningly paternal. Tara Rosling’s Talia is a wonderfully comic and tragic blend of pagan earth goddess/flower child, militant vegetarian, poetic visionary, and abandoned mother. Conrad Coates, as Andre, the lone semi-symbolic black dentist/pagan priest character provides tender interaction with Lily in reality sequences, and moves seamlessly into silent but deadly dream tableaus. In this sea of whitened mayhem Coates creates a mixture of necessary stereotype and complex passion that the script demands.


Performed on a largely blank, darkened set with minimal props and seating areas, the text is enhanced by beautifully harrowing set and lighting design by Trevor Schewellnus and evocative costumes by Patrick Du Wors. The drama unfolds within this eerie enigmatic setting in a series of vignettes superbly directed by Richard Rose. Rose allows for the essential blurring of scenes whereby ample confusion sets in as characters overhear conversations they are often problematically implicated in. What could have been a very dizzying experience becomes, by the end of the play, a strangely powerful meditation on motherhood, race, young love, and dentistry.


One weak point occurs within the creation of Andre. Laborde’s treatment of the racialized character reminds one of John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation. Lost in a world of largely white middle class ethics and morals, Guare’s character is fleshed out in a very moving and somewhat illusory manner. Laborde, however, has left perhaps a bit too much to the imagination in her creation of Andre, whose character could do with a little more back story regarding his relationship to the father and daughter characters. When he delivers sexually loaded lines regarding “men like gods fill[ing] women with the miracle of creation” a bewildering moment occurs where an audience member may require a little more explanation from this very enigmatic character.


Hush leaves a lot of unanswered questions to be considered, but at the end of the play those questions resonate with elements of poignancy and comedy that make this play a must see.








“What is it you can’tface”

(say this line three times fast with a British accent, leaving no space between the words ‘can’t’ and ‘face’




THE DIVINE SISTER is an outrageous comic homage to nearly every Hollywood film involving nuns. Evoking such films as The Song of Bernadette, The Bells of St. Mary’s, The Singing Nun and Agnes of God, THE DIVINE SISTER tells the story of St. Veronica’s indomitable Mother Superior (author Charles Busch) who is determined to build a new school for her Pittsburgh convent. Along the way, she has to deal with a young postulant who is experiencing “visions,” sexual hysteria among her nuns, a sensitive schoolboy in need of mentoring, a mysterious nun visiting from the Mother House in Berlin, and a former suitor intent on luring her away from her vows. 


This madcap trip through Hollywood religiosity evokes the wildly comic but affectionately observed theatrical style of the creator of Die, Mommie, Die! and Psycho Beach Party.


In a statement, Charles Busch said, “It gives me great pleasure to return to Theater for the New City to launch my new comedy, THE DIVINE SISTER. Crystal Field provides a great atmosphere in which one can try out new ideas and where a new production can find its sea legs. Carl and I first presented my play Shanghai Moon here in 1999 before we moved it to an Off-Broadway production, and we thought it was high time we returned to TNC, this time to give the ‘Sisters of St. Veronica’s’ their first home.”



Anyone who loves nun movies, and takes ribald delight in that fabulous old joke about the line “What is it you can’t face” from The Sound of Music, will adore drag artist extraordinaire, Charles Busch’s most recent creation.


Divine Sister, a hilarious and raunchy pastiche of old Hollywood convent flicks, is currently playing in New York at the Theatre for the New City until March 7th.


The play moves with breakneck pacing through the scandalous past of a glamourous Mother Superior, her young psychic and psycho postulant, and another raunchy sister played with spirited abandon by the fabulous Julie Haslton. Busch, as the lead Nun displays his usual impeccable timing and facial expressions, channeling a plethora of Hollywood divas who have donned robes and wimples and taken on the life of women who never get to wear anything but black and white! Now there’s fashion sin to be reckoned with!!!






Karen Finley’s The Jackie Look, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, a posh little downstairs cabaret space on the west side, is a spectacular example of exquisite performance art. Finley is in perfect form as she utilizes some of her famous performance techniques and takes your breath away with a very moving tribute to, and examination of Jackie, and the ways in which photography, its practitioners and journalistic voyeurs, have objectified female celebrity figures over the years. Dressed as Jackie with signature Bouffant and tailored trousers and jacket, Finley takes the stage with grace and incredible strength.


It was a comfortable and oddly appropriate place to find this kind of highly politicized performance. I laughed, I sighed, I cried a little into my shrimp and shiraz as Finley took her audience on an incredible journey through public opinion and the ongoing glare of the objectifying gaze. One semi-improvised moment of Johnny Weir figure skating adoration, replete with online examples of his gorgeous ice prowess, was a timely and celebratory element of this unpredictable, heat wrenching and heartwarming performance.


On my last afternoon in NYC I found myself standing beside the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, wondering what happened to Bouvier when they named this aquatic landmark after her, and thinking of Jackie, Karen Finely, and my own attempt to portray this incredible icon’s cultural currency in performance.


Staying true to my starstruck status as a celebrity wannabe I left Ms. Finley a little note and package and lo and behold she responded by email. I was delighted, to say the least.


THE JACKIE LOOK - Created, performed and directed by Karen Finley; sound and lighting by David Colbert; video by Amy Khoshbin; costumes by Becky Hubbert; hair and makeup by Darlene Dannenfelser. On Saturdays at the Laurie Beechman Theater, inside the West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42nd Street, Clinton; (212) 352-3101. Through March 6. Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes.



If you’re gay and don’t know Mart Crowley’s landmark drama about the lives and loves of a gaggle of homosexual men living in Manhattan in the swinging sixties then shame shame shame  on you girlfriend!! But this is your big gay chance to brush up on poofter history and fly little bird from the island airport for a weekend of gay gay gay gay gay gay gay theatre and see this once in a lifetime site specific production of a truly important piece of theatre.

The ensemble cast is relatively flawless. Even the slightly marred performances are capable of moving one to tears and laughter. Harold in particular might have chosen to drop a bit of the impersonation of the actor who played the character in the film and the original Broadway cast, and chosen a somewhat more original approach, but it is still immensely entertaining to see his attempt, and his pot smoking daze did not fare well in a matinee where daylight streamed in the windows and took away from the more evening shades of this cocktail/birthday party narrative. Go to an evening performance if you can.

Graham Rowat, an actor from my little home town of Peterborough Ontario, plays Hank, and delivers a subtly  powerful performance as the out of the closet formerly straight school teacher in love with a liberated and unapologetic promiscuous hunk. Yay for Peterborough!!! Yay for out schoolteachers!!! Yay for promiscuous hunks!!!

            I remember studying the play in the early nineties at Tufts University and a fellow graduate student complained that it was a play filled with stereotypes and self hatred. Well, she wasn’t too far off the mark, but she meant it with dramaturgical malice in mind. The stereotypes and self hatred this play portrays are so exquisitely executed and written with such insight and warmth that they left me breathless with tears and lisping laughter. The set design was a bit much. It reminded me too much of my place. I would have went minimalist myself, but as they say, minimalism is fine so long as it’s not overdone.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Evening with Patti Lupone & Mandy Patinkin

The opportunity to see two Broadway legends take part in a brilliant musical conversation between themselves, the audience, and a virtual mini-encyclopedia of composers is one of those rare musical theatre gems one just doesn’t want to miss. An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, created and directed by Patinkin himself, and currently running at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, is a cavalcade of witty characterization and breathtaking singing that is held together by two full sets of memorable songs from shows such as South Pacific and Carousel. 

Selections from these two classic musicals dominate the first and second acts respectively, and take us through a loose narrative that creates the perfect setting for performers at the height of their careers, performing songs they might have done at any stage during the decades they have graced theatres across the continent and worldwide. 

Interspersed with tunes from a variety of other composers, the evening takes on a light story like quality as the two engage in a dialogue of sorts that showcases their amazing ability to move in and out of song, conversation, and light choreography with seamless style and musicality.

Patinkin’s meticulous delivery and his playfully sexy way of gesticulating and telling stories as he relates to his co-star enlivens every song. His breathtaking voice, moving effortlessly from powerful low ranges into a near falsetto is both idiosyncratic and virtuosic. On opening night a mesmerizing rendition of Pennies From Heaven, as an encore, was seemingly prompted by Ms. Lupone’s own beautiful a capella encore interlude, giving the evening a fresh, personal, and unscripted finale.

Lupone, as always, stunned the audience with her emotive and unique versions of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, and Everything’s Coming Up Roses from her 2009 Tony award winning performance in Gypsy. These two songs showcased the highlights of a career that has spanned over thirty years. Her first Tony came from her role as Eva Peron in Evita where she co-starred with Patinkin, who also won the Tony for his portrayal of Che Guevara.

The evening had Patinkin playing paradoxical straight man to Lupone’s delightful and whimsical blocking as he followed some of her bravura solos with idiosyncratic numbers such as The-God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-Blues from Follies, and his gorgeous ballad-like version of Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors. His effusive comic generosity and the ways in which his facial expressions loomed large gave his slight subservience a cheeky glare that never stole the spotlight. Rather, both performers equally shared the evening with their formidable and compatible talents. A duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside became a glorious mélange of two voices in competition and both coming up gold. 

Truly a divine pleasure to see two veteran performers up there singing, dancing delicately in office chairs with the aid of brilliant choreographer Ann Reinking, and chatting back and forth as they strung together so many magical musical theatre moments.


An Evening With Patti Lupone & Mandy Patinkin runs at the Royal Alexandra until February 14th  (260 King Street West) 416 872-1212