Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Alfred Uhry

The Robber Bridegroom – Rowdy and Inventive


You need no special affection for country/rockabilly to be seduced by this rollicking shindig of a tall tale. It happens almost without one’s awareness. Director Alex Timbers’s inspired revival of the 1975 Mississippi whopper is so high spirited, so full of infectious numbers, inventive sight-gags, and artfully exaggerated performances, you’d have to have sold your sense of humor to the devil to remain untouched. “Once upon a time, there was a fairytale kingdom…” Yeehaw!

Upright citizen Jamie Lockhart, (heartthrob Steven Pasquale of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Bridges of Madison County) comes across Little Harp (Andrew Durand, a pitch perfect scalawag) robbing rich plantation owner Clement Musgrove (a genial Lance Roberts) under the watchful direction of his brother, Big Harp (Evan Harrington), whose live severed head he carts around in a trunk. Got all that? Two heads are better than one… When Jamie sends Little Harp packing, the victim tries to give him gold, but is refused despite Musgrove’s assurance there’s a lot more where that came from.

Steven Pasquale

The gregarious Musgrove invites Jamie to meet his second wife Salome (Leslie Kritzer- imagine Carol Burnett on steroids playing a nymphomaniac, wicked stepmother) and beautiful, supposedly docile daughter Rosamund (Ahna O’Reilly with a pithier-than ingénue voice and spunky presence). Every boastful reference to wealth is greeted with more than usual interest. Jamie, it seems, his face masked in berry juice, moonlights as The Bandit of the Woods.

Salome hires the light-brained, bumbling Goat (a wonderfully sweet and funny Greg Hindreth) to kill her stepdaughter. “I will slap your butt into your shoulder blades if you come back without…” The Bandit encounters a restless, bored Rosamund in the forest and steals her clothes, sending her home naked, frustrated, untouched. She sneaks out that night to find her romantic outlaw. Comes a boy, he walks so steady/comes a girl, she seems so ready…When Jamie arrives for dinner, Rosamund makes herself awful in order to discourage him.

Steven Pasquale, Ahna O’Reilly

The Bandit plans to marry Musgrove’s ugly daughter and keep the woman who’s come to him-assuming she plays a bit hard to get and doesn’t do too much cleaning. Rosamund, rejecting her father’s upright choice, pines for a real relationship with the stranger, but who is he? Goat pursues his assignment in order to secure a promised suckling pig. Salome has the hots for Jamie, but the Bandit will do. Little Harp wants a woman and there seems to be one available for bartering. Musgrove will give anything and go anywhere to secure his daughter’s happiness.

Evan Harrington, Steven Pasquale, Leslie Kritzer, Lance Roberts, Nadia Quinn

Having watched Director Alex Timbers ply his imagination in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Peter and the Starcatcher, one expects the unconventional as well as the grounded. Salome likes to behead pigs and repeatedly falls on her face with a loud calump! When Rosamund and The Bandit go deep in the forest, “You comin’ with me? I don’t like to be followed,” they fluidly climb over, under, through, and between obstacles presented by the unobtrusive cast. Goat is not so successful, branches seem to come out to meet him. Pace is lively. Even filled with people, staging never appears sloppy.

Country western music is, for the most part, rowdy and fun; one ballad haunts. Musicians are very fine.

Steven Pasquale, Ahna O’Reilly

Pasquale is a born swashbuckler (by any name). His muscular form and resonant vocals embody the perfect hero. That the actor can also evoke humor – here from his character’s habits, chauvinism, and ego, makes him doubly entertaining.

Nadia Quinn who briefly plays Goat’s Mother deserves a call-out for her very cool personification of an ornery Raven.

The play is based on a 1942 Eudora Welty novella which transplanted a Brothers Grimm story to the Nachez Trace, (a forest trail from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee), embracing the bravado of American fables. Alfred Uhry’s book and lyrics manage to do this without fully eschewing romantic visions of good and evil. His knee-slapping directness would, however, appall fairies.

Choreographer Connor Gallagher presents dance that do-se-does with synchronized movement, utilizing the small stage with buoyancy and skill.

Above our heads, rough wood support beams, diagonal cabin walls, a taxidermy deer head and an enormous wild turkey hang beside mason jars holding candles. (Jake DeGroot Jeff Croiter, who later give us an unorthodox starry sky.) When the “curtain” parts, Donyale Werle’s inventive Set looks as if artist Joseph Cornell got drunk on moonshine and haphazardly decorated The Grand Ole Opry. Terrific.

Emily Rebholz’s Costumes mix western sagas with a bit of tease, and a smidgen of whimsy. Darron L. West/Charles Coes’ s Sound Design not only delivers the textured music of a five piece bluegrass band (and vocals), but engineers a terrific series of evocative sound effects.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Greg Hildreth, Steven Pasquale, Leslie Kritzer and the Company

Roundabout Theatre Company presents
The Robber Bridegroom
Book & Lyrics by Alfred Uhry
Music by Robert Waldman
Based on the novella by Eudora Welty
Directed by Alex Timbers
The Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street

Angel Reapers – Agony and Ecstasy in Plain White Shingled Houses


Eighty minutes immersed in what is, in essence, a prayer meeting can be hypnotic or exhausting. Most of this powerful dance/theater piece is comprised of the capella singing of iconic songs and illusively simple choreography involving synchronized, rhythmic stomping. When a sect member is ‘possessed,’ all bets are off. He or she trembles, whirls, writhes, or cries. Men move with men, women with women. The extremely spare script features revealing testimony which gives us some idea of participants’ history and difficulties.

Mother AnnMother Ann; Sally Murphy as Mother Ann

In the 18th century, when Quakers began to give up wildly abandoned spiritual expression, a splinter group was formed. The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (USBCSA), or the Shakers, then also known as the “Shaking Quakers,” held fast to the practice of physically frenetic, emotionally expressive sessions during which they often testified and ostensibly received messages from God.

Future leader Ann Lee, whom Martha Clarke has portrayed in this piece as “Mother Ann,” was, with her parents, an early member of the congregation. As a preacher, she called her followers to confess their sins, give up all their worldly goods, and take up the cross of celibacy forsaking marriage.

Lindsay Dietz-Marchat and The Company

A stark room holds only scattered chairs. Wisely, there’s no raised stage, just the wood floor between two sides of gradated seats and a balcony. At the back, we see a white wall and windows indicating time of day. At the front, a sliding door closes us in. (Marsha Ginsberg-Set) Shakers enter, sit, and meditate, registering no one else’s presence until all are accounted for.  (Traditional costumes are skillfully imagined by Donna Zakowska so that they can gracefully move.) ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free/’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be… they sing (a traditional Shaker dancing song by Joseph Brackett).

Each person recites a rule of living; “Once I prayed with my heart, then I learned to pray with my legs” one says, “I call the day I first received the Gospel, my birthday,” declares another; “We bear no arms, we bear no political beliefs, and we countenance no marriage of the flesh…” they call out.

Traditional Dance

Isolation is torture. Mother Ann’s (Sally Murphy) actual brother William (Nicholas Bruder) washes her feet. They were nine, “but only William saw the light,” trailing behind his charismatic sister since childhood. Yet William is one of those who eventually can’t bear the physical and emotional isolation required.

A French woman cries out for her daughter, Madeleine, who died on the sea voyage to America. Another admits to “rutting like a pig,” losing five babies in childbirth. “I had a woman, I had a farm, but neither bore me fruit so I gave them to God,” a man testifies, “But I love them still…” Worshipers seem to look for solace and refuge in regimentation removed from all they experienced. Monologues are wrenching.

Sophie Bortolussi & Sally Murphy

Between frenzied elation and admission of sin, a few couples agonizingly attempt to connect as dance and song continue obliviously around them. Two men are wretched about their attraction to one another. Choreography is visceral. One brother appears to rape a somewhat ambivalent woman. “I fear your sweat. I curse your fingers. I damn your manhood. Yet, I bend and sway…” she admits. Another, a young man, grows increasingly upset, clandestinely meets his inamorata, makes love in front of us, and eventually leaves the sect with her.

Once again, Martha Clarke offers distinctive vision and insight into a world to which we have no access.

Voices are clarion, arrangements extremely affecting.

The Company

Angel Reapers was first presented at The Joyce Theater in 2011.

Performance Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: The Company

Angel Reapers by Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry
Music Direction and Arrangements by Arthur Solari
Directed and Choreographed by Martha Clarke
The Pershing Square Signature Theater 
480 West 42 Street
Through March 20, 2016