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.
Brock (Mark Anderson Phillips), Ted (Michael Ray Wisely), and Sandeep (Jason Kapoor) have just returned victorious from client meetings in Crete that will garner the international corporation for whom they work a great deal of leverage and financial return. They’re high on success and likely jet-lagged. Immediate boss, Hannah (Carrie Paff), and an egotistical Generation Y intern named Scooter (Ben Euphrat) meet the three in a boardroom. (Scooter is quickly dispensed with despite family connections and frankly unnecessary to the piece.)
Michael Ray Wisely, Jason Kapoor, Mark Anderson Phillips, Ben Euphrat
The team was called back for top secret “Project Senna,” which they began drafting on the flight home. CEO J.D., whom we hear on Skype but never see, expects preliminary concepts in a matter of hours. The pivotal white board reads: ID to Collection to Containment to Liquidation to Disposal. (“to” signifies arrows) Three rules are also listed: No PPT- Power Point, for security. 2. Assume the worst when designing 3. No use of the “N” word. What?
Deciding to work backwards, Ted begins by addressing Disposal, the disposal of 1-2 million bodies. Ideas like cremation, mass graves and burial at sea are proffered, all in an objective, pragmatic, meticulouslydetailed, business-like fashion. They even make jokes. “Laugh about it, cry about it, the job’s the job,” comments one shrugging.
Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips, Michael Ray Wisely
Gradually, the group realizes the magnitude and horror of what they’ve been asked to do. “What if they ever have to use the design?” Hannah says warily. “It’s for ‘the infected,’” the answer comes back, referring apparently to the plausible results of biological warfare. “We’re preventing the extinction of mankind.”
Paranoia seeps in. Who knows what? Are there multiple teams? Will people be eradicated after doing their jobs? Is the pressure on because this is not a hypothetical situation? Chart after chart appears on the board. (These add terrifically.) “Country, profit, God, in whose name would such a plan be used?”
Jason Kapoor, Carrie Paff
It seems that the married Hannah and Sandeep have begun an affair. Everything one says affects the other more deeply. Their colleagues know but are discreet. (Paff and Kapoor play this beautifully without being overt.) Briefly left alone, the couple necks passionately (and credibly.)
“Why do you believe we’re building this for the American government?…It’s the most remarkable thing about Americans, you’re so trusting. Someone needs to tell,” Sandeep says when the others return.
Hannah’s knee jerk reaction is to threaten her lover with deportation. He apologizes to the group but insists on taking a walk to clear his head…then disappears. Everyone is alarmed, none more so than Hannah.
Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips
It’s a snowball downhill from here. Conspiracy theories directed towards fellows seen and unseen ricochet from person to person. Things get heated, then violent. Writing is tight and effective. Nothing happens on the stage that feels unrealistic. Every character maintains his own persona. Brock is overwrought, yet his presumptions are not irrational. Single, he suggests he has the least to lose. Ted, a good old boy with brains, mostly trusts the company, but is provoked. Hannah is torn, vulnerable. She’s struggled to get where she is, but can she accept the assignment? Her mind keeps snapping back to Sandeep. Ted and Hannah have families. How would you react? What would you do?
Carrie Paff, Michael Ray Wisely, Mark Anderson Phillips
Acting is excellent across the board. Every consideration and outburst comes from somewhere. Progression of suspicion is almost logical. This is a superbly cast production of actors who work with one another like a humming machine. Focus is riveting. (If Michel Ray Wisley’s southern accent is manufactured, it’s pristine.)
Director Josh Costello gives his players just enough gesture and movement in the confined boardroom to be character expressive. Heat- both sexual and hostile, feels real. Perhaps the highest achievement here, however, is the production’s skilled timing without which we wouldn’t be bound.
Aaron Loeb has concocted a psychologically adept scenario, relevant both as metaphor and conceivable eventuality. Characters are well drawn; backgrounds add to the intriguing mix. One shudders. My only caveat is the ending which, I think, calls for more commitment.
Bill English’s antiseptic set suits the story.
Photos by Carol Rosegg Opening: Carrie Paff, Mark Anderson Phillips, Jason Kapoor, Ben Euphrat, Michael Ray Wisely
Ideation by Adam Loeb Directed by Josh Costello Produced by San Francisco Playhouse 59E59 Theaters 59 East 59th Street Through April 17, 2016
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 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.
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.
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
Between Germany’s defeat in World War I and Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, The Weimar Republic exploded with artistic and intellectual experimentation. Politics, money, prejudice, and sex became predominant themes in the chaotic environment, all grotesquely satirized by a darkening culture. German Kabaretts flourished, offering stories, jokes, songs and dancing ripe with sexual innuendo. Nudity became common. Those once forced to hide offending orientation, flaunted it.
Many Americans were made aware of the period’s club culture by Emil Jannings’ 1930 film The Blue Angel starring Marlene Deitrich or, more likely, Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories from which the musical and film, Cabaret derived. Mad Jenny, aka Jenny Lee Mitchell, invokes the style, content, and context of one of these kabaretts, in both English and German. Her well researched, ardent presentation will, at times, make you forget where and when you are.
Emerging in slim cut, man’s suiting and a top hat, hair sharply to one side, Jenny kibitzes with the audience on her way to the stage. (Pushy interaction was common.) “Life’s a Swindle” she sings, Papa swindles/ Mama swindles/ Grandmama’s a lying thief… (Mischa Spoliansky/Marcellus Schiffer; English lyrics: Jeremy Lawrence) Contralto intermittently and purposefully wobbles in the emphasizing manner of the period.
A reference to Donald Trump in Swindle is one of several interjected into the show. Except for the later, politically updated lyric to “Chuck All the Men” (Friedrich Hollander/Claire Waldoff; English lyric: Jeremy Lawrence), I found these gratuitous and distracting. Calling out current, rather scary parallels is unnecessary for that resonance to be apparent, but at least this song is clever and self contained.
It’s March 1923. Hitler has announced he would vote for the antisemitic Henry Ford should Ford run for president. Jenny offers brief, salient facts which help orient us to social ambiance. She also sporadically quotes artist George Grosz, particularly known for his biting visual work depicting Germany in the 1920s.
Mid performance of the aggressive, nasal “There’s Nothing Quite Like Money” (Hanns Eisler/ Bertolt Brecht; English lyrics: Eric Bentley), Jenny rips off literally half her costume to reveal a short, red sequined dress. She’s now half man, half woman. How, she asks incredulously, can Jill love Jack if he’s poor?! One side of her caresses the other while grabbing for an elusive bill.
Jenny wraps a black velvet coat over divided apparel, then offers a brutal musical ‘discussion’ between a desperate, destitute pregnant woman and her unsympathetic doctor. As this ends, with dazed examination of a wire coat hanger on which, it appears, she fantastically plays music, the club is stone silent.
The next song describes histrionic loss of what seems to be a woman’s lover, but turns out to be her ‘pussy.’ “…whoever you love, no one should judge you.” (Remember Kander and Ebb’s “If You Could See Her” from Cabaret in which the emcee is in love with a gorilla?)
Two contemporary numbers find their way into the show masked by arrangements and direction that belie recent composition. Of these, “Love Is a Stranger” (Annie Lennox/David A. Stewart) is particularly effective. Manifest as a duet (with Maria Dessena on accordion and vocals) sung by two women riding in an open car, it might here be about an obsessive same sex relationship. Love is a danger/Of a different kind/To take you away/And leave you far behind…When Jenny lifts one end of her long, red scarf and then the back of her companion’s hair to flutter it behind, we’re captivated.
The actress chats with her audience, referring to the “dingy little room” in which she’s playing, offering drinks tickets to anyone who made the effort to come from Bushwick or Inwood. Though I understand the desire for a little patter, I’d’ve preferred to remain in the conjured kabarett rather than jolted back to the present.
This is followed by exotic dancer, Miss Ekaterna, with a guest turn as Anita Berber. The artist strips down to panties, pasties, and black hose in a somewhat drunken manner while usurping drinks from and draping herself over surprised patrons. She also theatrically provides oral sex to a long stemmed rose. Though she and the rose are wickedly graphic, I find other movement clumsy and without heat. Upon commenting this, however, I was told by someone more knowledgeable, that Berber herself was more shocking than sensual. Guests in future will vary.
“On Suicide” (Hanns Eisler/Bertolt Brecht; English lyric: Eric Bentley from The Good Person of Szechwan) is harsh and hopeless. “In March 1943, the Polish government in exile released the first statement about Auschwitz.” As you look more closely/People and things tend to look threadbare and pointless…Jerry DeVore’s bass sounds like something out of a horror film while Ric Becker’s trombone creates palpable, gothic wind. One shivers.
“When Hitler came to power, many artists fled Berlin. Others were taken away.” Here Jenny introduces audience member Lily Reiser who not only survived a series of concentration camps including the Czech fortress Terezin, but was on a death march when the war ended. Reiser comments that “Performers gave us hope and courage to finish the oppressors and be able to go on again.”
“An Optimistic Song”, with lyrics written in Terezin, translates, in part, as He who bears his torture with faith in the future…don’t lose your sense of humor, you need a sense of humor… (Jaroslav Jezek/Frantisek Komanitz; English lyric: Lisa Peschel)
On each table is a sheet with two verses of “Leben Ohne Liebe Kannst Du Nicht” (Mischa Spoliansky/Robert Gilbert) the homosexual anthem in which we’re invited to join:
We are the ones who are not like the others,/ For we don’t love the way they think is good./They shut us out and call us not their brothers,/Living their boring lives as they think they should.
We do not know the hate and fear they show us,/Even though they do not hold us dear./We love the nights of lavender and freedom,/We are the others and proud to be queer.
How much of humanity now suffers prejudice for provoked by race, religion, sex, class? Changing a few words, this powerful sentiment is unfortunately as pertinent today as when it was written.
Costumes are splendid. Gowns, wraps, and headgear reflect art and photos.
Director Patrice Miller has done an excellent job evoking mood with gesture and expression. The show is dense, but well paced, its numbers effectively sequenced. If only Jenny would look AT her audience more often, toying with us, personally challenging beliefs/conscience!
An absolutely terrific band features Maria Dessena on piano, accordion, and vocals, Ric Becker playing mercurial trombone, and Jerry DeVore expertly communing with a 5-string bass. Outstanding arrangements by Dessena evoke the era like a time machine.
This is an ambitious, well realized presentation, both deeply sobering and entertaining. Recommended.
Performance Photos by Daniel Murtagh Opening: Mad Jenny
Love Und Greed plays the first Monday of every month through June 6, 2016 Pangea 178 Second Avenue at 11th Street Dinner is served both in a front room and the intimate club space.
Club Harlem existed on “the wrong side of the tracks” on Kentucky Avenue, in north Atlantic City, New Jersey from the mid 1930s to the early 1990s. Taken over by Pops and Cliff Williams, its name changed to Clifton’s going into the 1940s. The hot spot was a premier nightclub on “the Chittlin’ Circuit,” hosting such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Nancy Wilson, Moms Mabley, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, and The Temptations. When artists like Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle finished at ‘white venues’, they’d stop by for Club Harlem’s 5 a.m. show.
On Kentucky Avenue originated with actress/singer/producer Jeree Wade who was raised in Atlantic City by her grandmother, commuting to her parents in Manhattan’s Harlem on weekends. It’s a fictional salute to a real place and time inspired by some of the original denizens – and a revelation to most of us.
Evoking period, place, and attitude, the entertainment presents a long forgotten variety format: parading/posing showgirls, spot-lit vocalists with back-up boys or girls, a comedian, a tap dancer, and a performing host. The audience is ostensibly present at a dress rehearsal of the iconic club. This allows for the tiny bit of book, a triangle involving the club’s host, Ivan (Ty Stephens), his past love, Betty Jo (Renee Ternier) who left for Las Vegas, but has now returned, and his new squeeze, Pauline (Andricka Hall). Story line is so thinly sketched, it appears an afterthought.
The show’s title number, “On Kentucky Avenue,” has sassy, scene-setting lyrics and tight, tableau vivant (pose) direction. “Please Sign In,” the stage manager’s entreaty, adds jazz shading to the proceedings. (Musical Director Frank Owens does a bang-up job throughout.) The company interacts just enough for us to get the feel of backstage relations.
“The World Is Mine,” performed by Ivan, is also a successful number. Stephens delivers a smooth, appealing vocal with deep throat vibrato, sympathetic expression, and graceful gestures. The actor’s musical turns are consistently good. At this point, for no discernible reason other than, perhaps, costume change, we get an instrumental by the band which stops narrative momentum cold.
Mindy Haywood, Donna Clark, Renee Ternier, Ty Stephens, Cassandra Palacio
“The Prettiest Girl in the World” (performed by posturing Sepia Sweethearts) is a generic showgirl turn with Ivan at the center. It works. Ivan then announces the return of Betty Jo Stanton who sings, not something from the show they’re rehearsing, but “Am I The Same Girl?” meant to further the plot. (This happens more than once.) Ternier has a bright pop voice. A high spirited, chorus jitterbug is fun, but disappointing, reflecting little of the athleticism familiar to the dance craze.
Comedian Slappy Black is next, delivering vaudeville ba-dump-dump jokes. Lee Summers is very good in the role. Timing, obvious stage ease in the line of fire (all comedians face this), and wry resilience when something falls flat are skillfully manifest. (There are some laughs.) Slappy is, however, over used. A second appearance is believable, but the third, in tandem with Clifton’s singer Damita Jo (Jeree Wade), feels excessive. Damita also sings “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” with even-handed pith. (The show incorporates some songs not original to it.)
Andricka Hall; Renee Ternier
Odell Craft (Wilber Bascomb) wrote and performs the coolest number of the evening, “The Hat,” with insouciant style and great phrasing. Success with women, it seems, is all in the fedora. Guest Tap Dancer DeWitt Fleming Jr. (as Jimmy Cole) moves with agility, precision, and energy.
Ivan’s “current” sweetheart, Pauline (Andricka Hall), doesn’t get to strut her stuff till a medley of recognizable 1960s songs including such as “It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)” “Rescue Me,” and “Respect” with ‘the girls.’ Hall has the original tone down. Glimpses of the mashed potato, the twist, the frug, and the pony (dances) are nostalgic. By the time the medley gets to a lengthy rendition of “The Name Game,” however, attention wavers.
Andricka Hall, Tiffany Webb, Donna Clark, Cassandra Palacio
Pauline understands that Ivan and Betty Jo will get back together. After a solo, she takes off the necklace he gave her and lays it on the stage. In a trio with Ivan and Betty Jo, she then declares she’s not giving him up only to to pack and leave. None of these emotional shifts are explained by anything we, or more importantly, she, sees. (Nor do the three leads relate to one another in any visually credible way.)
As the show goes on, songs become increasingly generic. While this is ok on Clifton’s stage in context, more is expected of those furthering the musical. Just when we think everything will fall into place, Ivan sings “That Old Black Magic” which relates to-what? A cute Rio Samba number which would fare better earlier also follows. We’re chafing at the bit for resolution.
Garrett Turner, Robert Fowler, Gregory Hanks
The idea for On Kentucky Avenue strikes me as an opportunity not just for entertainment, but illumination. Though its heart and mind are in the right place, execution unfortunately clouds this. Some of the piece is great fun, some seems like padding. Songs, authored by a great many different people, range in quality from really good to bland. As a co-op effort this may be valid, with an aspiring musical, it cries for better cohesion.
The Company: Donna Clark, Cassandra Palacio, Mindy Haywood, Tiffany Webb, Gregory J. Hanks, Garrett Turner, Robert H. Fowler.
In its latter days, both creator Jeree Wade and her husband performed at Club Harlem, though ten years apart. The venue was to have been integrated into a casino building, but got caught in crosshairs and was, instead, demolished. Jeree told me that these days the neighborhood “looks like a war zone.”
Performance Photos 1 & 2 Mojo Visuals; all others by Kenya Lamonte Smith- Universal Concepts Photography
Opening: The Company
City College Center for The Arts and Byron & Sylvia Lewis present On Kentucky Avenue-A Celebration of Atlantic City’s Historic Club Harlem Coinciding with Black History Month. Created by Jeree Wade Directed by Adam Wade Musical Director- Frank Owens Original Music & Lyrics by Ty Stephens, Frank Owens, Wilbur Bascomb, Branice McKenzie, Adam Wade, Jeree Wade City College’s Aaron Davis Hall February 19, 2016
We once again find ourselves in the currently popular, grim, post-apocalyptic future. Anjali (Leah Gabriel) lives in a sterile, minimalist apartment, one among hundreds in a hive like edifice. She’s apparently never been outside. The building’s handyman, Ven (Giacomo Baessato), exits the bedroom with a drill, having finished repairs. He finds her baking. Both characters are dressed in today’s casual clothes, the drill is current as are the room’s appliances.
Ven is attracted, awkward. Anjali appears impervious. She insists he go back and check “sequence” again before leaving. He does and returns. From the bedroom, we hear electronic sounds, then a woman reaching orgasm and crying. “Isn’t that irregular?” Ven asks suspiciously. The female he’s been servicing is a sexbot, a robot prostitute for whom the tenant serves as madam.
How could an android display such human feelings? It seems that when Anjali has strong emotions, the “girl” picks them up with some kind of osmosis. Tears bring more customers. The sexbot now says “don’t go,” afterwards. Men love it. As people no longer readily experience certain emotions, nor, it seems, physical human contact, thrill and novelty has business booming.
Ven can stop the aberration with one report. The tenant offers him a freebe with her bot. Instead, discovering that Anjali can cook, he blackmails her into feeding him a meal of real food every day – the implication being this no longer exists except perhaps among the upper class. It will, Ven thinks, give him a chance to “get to know” Anjali better. She grudgingly agrees.
Over the course of time, these two cross a bridge of personal contact, partially in order to imbue the sexbot with tendencies she could never ordinarily manifest. Clients increasingly request more dramatic/violent sessions. Anjali and Ven unwittingly create a Frankenstein.
It’s an interesting concept with particulars that will chill. Unfortunately, Playwright Emilie Collyer includes scenes she’s explained in her own mind, but not in narrative. There’s one in a bar bathroom with either two other characters or these two pretending or it’s a dream. Not a clue. In another, the two seem to have been drugged – leading us to falsely believe they’d been caught – wreacking havoc with real and false memories. In a third, domestic issues rise completely without context.
The ending is terrific, but there’s too much ambiguous writing between intriguing premise and imaginative resolution to make the play work.
Both actors take some time to warm up and then, through no fault of their own (Director-Adam Fitzgerald) scream their way through a good part of the proceedings. Surely this is not the only way to show anxiety, confusion, anger and fear. When they have something to get their teeth into, Gabriel and Baessato have good passages.
Photos by Lloyd Mulvey
Joyseekers Theatre presents The Good Girl by Emilie Collyer Directed by Adam Fitzgerald Featuring Leah Gabriel & Giacomo Baessato 59E 59 Theaters 59 East 59th Street Through February 28, 2016
“If music be the food of love, play on…Enough! No more. ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before…” begins Len Cariou, speaking above the appealing strains of Mark Janas’s piano accompaniment. (Twelfth Night) Beat. The actor turns from interior oration to his audience:
“Love I Hear,” makes you sigh a lot,/Also, love, I hear, makes you weak…he sings. (Stephen Sondheim- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). This, in a nutshell is the clever concept for Broadway & The Bard, a succession of Shakespearean soliloquies and well chosen Broadway show songs furthering spoken sentiments.
Cariou, a Canadian, honed Shakespeare chops at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He made his New York dramatic debut in 1969 as Henry V. Six months later, the actor’s New York musical theater debut followed with Applause (Lee Adams/ Charles Strouse.) The performer later originated memorable Broadway leads in A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Stephen Sondheim.) In fact, his most eminent years were spent moving back and forth between these two very different art forms.
A highpoint of this evening is simply listening to Cariou put each of the Bard’s contributions in context. He’s a natural and enthusiastic storyteller.
“Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’” Cariou exclaims as Henry V. What is it that we’re living for?/Applause, Applause./Nothing I know/brings on the glow/like sweet applause…he sings with a twinkle in his eye. Oddly, and this crops up in several numbers, every few lines sound as if they come from a rendition with different intention. Also, while a wink is apt, mugging is unnecessary. The lyric makes its point.
“How can you say to me I am a king?” he demands as Richard II. “If I Ruled the World ev’ry day would be the first day of spring/Every heart would have a new song to sing…(Leslie Bricusse/Cyril Ornadel- Pickwick). The song arrives low key and sincere. Unfortunately, and here again, there’s a pattern, engaging performance is marred by a denouement of volume wherein Cariou pushes his vocal to places it won’t comfortably go.
The “I will not love!” speech from Love’s Labour’s Lost is tenderly illuminated by “Her Face” (Michael Stewart/Bob Merrill- Carnival) while its coda, “Down With Love” (E.Y Harburg/Harold Arlen-Hooray For What?) is too fast, straining delivery. Petruchio’s pronouncements from The Taming of the Shrew are enhanced by “How To Handle a Woman” (Lerner & Loewe-Camelot), but playing both an old man and the questioner, looking up and down, takes away from nuanced reflection.
There are well acted speeches like the savored “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players…” (As You Like It) and those that appear all surface such as “…and what’s he then that says I play the villain” (Othello). “How Long Has This Been Going On?” (George & Ira Gershwin-Funny Face) is charming while one of the only poorly chosen numbers, a song from Stephen Sondheim’s TheFrogs, would even be difficult for someone with wider range/younger lungs. The production seesaws.
Lately, I’ve seen a great many veteran performers on stage. Those who are successful adjust to altered capabilities presenting shows that spotlight current top form. Mr. Cariou might consider this.
Mark Janas’s Musical Direction also needs to take Cariou’s limitations into account. His Arrangements and Accompaniment, are, otherwise splendid. That which plays beneath soliloquies feels just right. Song attitudes suit each context. Playing is deft.
Barry Kleinbort’s excellent contribution to the shape of this piece is almost visible. As Director, he sets his player in positions around the minimally set stage with obvious forethought. If only a more consistent performance could be achieved.
Josh Iocavelli’s Set Design is pitch perfect. We see backstage coils of rope, unused lights, a bust of the bard and a shelf with hats, crowns, the framed image of a thespian, a skull, a chest plate…Just enough.
Photos by Carol Rosegg Broadway and The Bard
Performed by Len Cariou
Conceived by Len Cariou, Barry Kleinbort, Mark Janus
Music Direction/Piano- Mark Janus
Directed by Barry Kleinbort
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Through March 6, 2016