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.
From the moment one enters the intimate Lion Theatre and sees Joshua Warner’s irreverent Set: the giant, clip art, bulb-lit arrow and graphic pointing hand, a broken arc of stage bulbs, black and white cardboard cut-outs signifying Grecian columns and familiar blue and white Greek coffee shop signage, we know this is no traditional production of The Boys From Syracuse.
Director Jonathan Cerullo’s limber imagination shapes the tuneful 1938 show into a vaudeville meets musical romp cast entirely – but for one-of men! Just as during the Depression, we need what producer Mel Miller calls “a knock-about comedy.” With songs like “Falling In Love With Love,” “This Can’t Be Love,” and “Sing For Your Supper,” to carry one along, the experience is thoroughly enjoyable.
Matt Dengler and Ian Fairlee (Ephesus)
Successfully executing this kind of daft, precision humor in a matter of a mere three weeks is something of a marvel. Ethan Steimel’s scrupulous Lighting Design aides and abets freeze-frames and a waka-waka Harpo horn which punctuates ba-dump-dump moments – not one held too long. The small stage is artfully occupied from the band on a balcony, up and down various ladders, and onto the theater floor by a predominantly talented and entirely game company. Let the shindig begin!
The story, as you may recall, involves two sets of twins separated during a shipwreck seven years ago and mishaps that occur when they all unknowingly find themselves in the city of Ephesus. At the top of the show, the local Duke (Shavey Brown) condemns Aegeon (Jody Cook) to death for being a citizen of Syracuse unable to pay a tithe. Aegeon is father to one set of twins (the other set is their servants). He’s searching for his sons.
Matthew Fairlee and Josh Walden (Syracuse)
Twin Antipholus of Ephesus (Matt Dengler) long ago gave his parents up for dead. He and servant Dromio of Ephesus (Ian Fairlee) live well. The master has a loving wife – Adriana (Jonathan Hoover), and willing mistress, head courtesan of a neighboring brothel (Sam Given). Dromio is married to kitchen maid Luce (Adam B. Shapiro – an inspired piece of physical casting albeit with apparent talent quotient.) Also in their household is Adriana’s sister Luciana (Darrell Marris Jr.).
When Antipholus of Syracuse (Josh Walden) and his servant Dromio-of Syracuse (Matthew Fairlee – yes, the actor servants are real twins) arrive in town, the two are immediately mistaken for their doppelgangers by a tailor, a merchant, the head courtesan (Sam Given), local constabulary, and Antipholus of Ephesus’s household. The hapless Syracusians are even pressed into spending a night with their brothers’ spouses. Realizing it’s unsafe to remain, the visitors plan to return home when Antipholus of Syracuse falls in love with Luciana. Got all that? Believe me, it’s clear as you’re watching.
Matt Dengler, Jose Luaces, Shavey Brown holding Ian Fairlee
Both Antipholuses – Matt Dengler (Ephesus) and Josh Walden (Syracuse) are triple threats. They act, sing, and dance well. Both are adroit with comic timing. Whether planned or not Dengler’s more naturalistic acting beside Walden’s somewhat more broad, music hall delivery works wonderfully further distinguishing the two. (Walden could easily play Jolson.) Thespians worth following.
The Dromios, Ian Fairlee (Ephesus) and his brother Matthew Fairlee (Syracuse) are funny, credibly innocent, and physically adept.
Adam B. Shapiro is marvelous as Luce. The performer stakes claim to the stage without going over a prescribed top (mugging is skilled). A big man, he’s light on his feet, deft with a look, playful; in context – believable. And he sings!
Jonathan Hoover makes the most of Adriana with female bearing, movement, and reactions that serve the production admirably. Darrell Marris Jr.’s Luciana is palpably wide-eyed, soft, and besotted. Sam Given’s sinuous Courtesan is aptly sassy but pushes it to abrasive.
Creative Directorial moments include in part: the tale of the shipwreck told in puppet cut-outs, shadowplay, searching the audience for “an honest man,” an unexpected, hat and cane soft shoe, spoken sound effects, clever acknowledgement of lyrics ahead of their time, tongue-in-cheek, synchronized movement, well engineered fisticuffs… Jonathan Cerullo keeps his cast taut and quick, almost none of them self conscious about farce. Staging is aesthetically appealing and fluid, choreography fun; vivacious high spirits sustained.
A scene where courtesans show their “wares” seems less well thought out and the third reprise of a wonderful, harmonized rendition of “Sing For Your Supper” might ditch its blazers and fedoras.
Adam B. Shapiro, Darrell Marris Jr., Jonathan Hoover
Hope Salvan’s Costumes intentionally have that rummaged from trunks in an attic aspect. Antipholuses and Dromios look swell. Luce resembles a splendid, lavender-wigged Raggedy Anne. I can’t say I understand sporting jeans underneath dresses and courtesan drapery. Use footless leggings if you need cover. Being tentative with sexual designation works against the preposterous credence of the production.
Also featuring: Joseph Scott Holt, Jose Luaces, Elliott Mattox.
The production’s token and completely extraneous female, actress Madeline Hamlet, wears a “The Future Is Female” t-shirt and mostly speaks in irritating squeaks. I would encourage the role dropped in any revivals.
The Band: Cupid & The Arrows– Evan Rees—Conductor/keyboard, Michael Bagby-second keyboard, Matt Watson-drums/percussion, Joseph Scott Holt- cello/violin/percussion
This is Musicals Tonight’s 98th revival of an American musical. It deserves our support.
Photos by Milliron Studios Photography Opening: The Company
Musicals Tonight! presents An (almost) ALL MALE production of The Boys From Syracuse Adapted from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors Libretto- George Abbot Music- Richard Rodgers; Lyrics- Lorenz Hart Directed by Jonathan Cerullo Music Director/Conductor- Evan Rees The Lion Theatre 410 West 42nd Street Through February 26, 2018 NEXT: Anything Goes- February 27-March 11, 2018
The purpose of a man is to love a woman,/And the purpose of a woman is to love a man,/So come on baby let’s start today, come on baby let’s play/The game of love, love, la la la la la love… sings the multi-talented, white-gowned and breech-clad cast moving with happy synchronicity. (Wayne Fontana – “Game of Love”) Yes, you’re in the right theater.
Playwright Kate Hamill, frustrated by “the dearth of complex-female centered characters and story lines …” is mining classic literature possessing that which she finds currently lacking. Pride And Prejudice, which comes to New York from The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, follows rollicking productions of Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair. Hamill reinterprets with irreverent glee, one foot in the appropriate era, the other is contemporary time, never eschewing pivotal plot.
Amelia Pedlow, John Tufts, Chris Thorn, Nance Williamson, Kate Hamill, and Kimberly Chatterjee
For those few of you unfamiliar with Austen’s novel, one might say it’s about the blood sport of husband hunting in Georgian England. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Chris Thorn and Nance Williamson, both warmly believable) have four daughters to advantageously marry off: 14 year-old, motor mouth Lydia – here with a tendency to get drunk (Kimberly Chatterjee who overdoes the childishness of this role); pretty, genteel Jane (Amelia Pedlow, superb in every way); ugly, put-upon Mary (hilariously embodied by a Goth John Tufts) who coughs so persistently, Mr. Bennet finally exclaims, “Have consumption and be done with it!” And our heroine Lizzy (Kate Hamill), who sees courtship as a facile game that can achieve only unfulfilling liaisons.
Mrs. Bennet is clumsily aggressive while Mr. Bennet, not uncaringly just wants to be left alone to read his paper while his girls find their way. When the estate next door is let by rich, eligible, here, puppy-like Mr. Bingley (Tufts-another bull’s-eye) -he pants and fetches a ball thrown by Darcy and his snobbish sister Caroline (the mercurial Mark Bedard whose finesse can’t be overrated), mom goes to work. The cherry on top might be Bingley’s houseguest, Mr. Darcy (Jason O’Connell, inhabiting farce and drama with equal plummy skill) who has double his friend’s income. Two daughters offloaded for the price of one!
Mark Bedard, John Tufts, Jason O’Connell
Long story somewhat short – Lizzy is offended by Darcy’s manner (he enters to the storm trooper theme from Star Wars) and a lie told by cad Mr. Wickham (Bedard, with silky bravado) while Darcy is put off by her lack of station. Multiple good deeds fix this and despite palpable (oh the suffering!), respective unwillingness, they fall in love.
Meanwhile Bingley adores Jane from whom he’s parted and reunited by Darcy. Lydia, who appears to be ensnared by Mr. Wickham, in fact, ensnares him. And prissy cousin, Clergyman Collins (Bedard in tick-enhanced, nasal glory,) who will inherit their home because the Bennett’s have no sons, fixes on neighboring Charlotte (Thorn playing it beautifully straight) when rejected by Lizzy.
Chris Thorn, Kate Hamill, Amelia Pedlow, and Mark Bedard
Despite the machinations of Collin’s patroness Lady Catherine DeBourgh (Chatterjee, an admirably imperious portrayal), everyone except Mary finds a mate. In one inventive histrionic fit, Mary gestures to Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” (Turandot), gliding up the aisle, arm outstretched like an Edward Gorey character, muttering “keep applauding, this is a long exit.” The actor then runs around the theater backstage – clump, clump, clump and returns to the stage whipping on Bingley’s cravat. Our audience is beside itself.
Call-out military drills, line dancing, frugs, waltzes (Ellenore Scott’s Choreography is buoyant) and any number of oddly apt 1950s songs keep the production at full musical tilt without swallowing up its story. The aisle is skillfully employed. Actors play guitar and piano. “Bits” involving uncooperative chairs (Bedard) and a tangled coat (O”Connell) are silent film worthy. The company, who developed character idiosyncrasies during early development, are adroit with high-low humor. It’s a pleasure to observe the appreciative camaraderie of those not participating in a scene as they watch their peers cavort.
Kimberly Chatterjee and Amelia Pedlow
With all this, intermittent gravitas reminds us emotions are present below the froth. Sometimes it’s a moment of acknowledgment, others, as in Lizzy and Darcy’s later confrontations, galvanize sympathy.
I’m afraid that, like her appearance in Vanity Fair, Hamill embodies her character with less insight and more ham than that with which her fellows manifest theirs. Perhaps the director thinks an author is untouchable. While mostly redeemed by Act II (she can clearly act), the first part finds her tantrum-LOUD, dissonant, and thoroughly unappealing in the part of a young woman who may have a biting tongue and progressive ideas but is, in every outward way, attractive and ladylike. This is not to say Lizzy can’t be funny, but that Hamill’s performance looks like trenchant vaudeville while the others are executing farce.
Kate Hamill and Jason O’Connell
Director Amanda Dehnert helms this screwball scenario with a sure hand (excepting Ms. Hamill and Lydia’s repeatedly jumping on Wickham-really?!). In turn artfully goofy, arch, and exuberant, the production shows an excellent editorial eye. What could often be chaos emerges as well calibrated romp, in almost constant movement, but never messy. Costume/character changes are cleverly mined for humor. Pace is brisk, but knows when to pause.
With laughter at a premium these days, Pride and Prejudice arrives a welcome catharsis. Go! Have fun!
John McDermott’s minimal Set utilizes choice elements to place us. Tracy Christensen’s Costumes are splendid. The facility with which these are changed enhances antic goings on.
Photos by James Leynse Opening: The Company
Primary Stages presents Pride And Prejudice by Kate Hamill Based on the novel by Jane Austen Directed by Amanda Dehnert The Cherry Lane Theatre 38 Commerce Street Through January 6, 2018 Ovationtix
Comley University has some issues with its Drama Society. Tonight, there’s been a box office mix up and “we trust the 650 of you hoping to see Hamilton might enjoy our production as much.” Budget issues have necessitated shows such as Chekhov’s modified Two Sisters and, due to spoilage, James and The Peach, which further regressed to James, Where’s Your Peach? Last year, a casting issue determined the mounting of Snow White and The Seven Tall, Broad-Shouldered Gentlemen. We’re informed of the society’s vicissitudes by Chris Bean at this, his directorial “daboo.”
Fasten your seat belts, audience, this is going to be an hysterical ride.
When longtime butler, Perkins (Jonathan Sayer) and Thomas Colleymore (James Cordon lookalike Henry Lewis, who uses his body like a prop) walk around a wall (the door is stuck) to bring Charles Haversham (Greg Tannahill – picture the deadpan perfection of Simon Jones) back to his wedding rehearsal party, they discover him murdered. Cue lights; ominous chord! Thomas’s sister Sandra (Charlie Russell), fiancé of the deceased, and Inspector Carter (Henry Shields) are sent for.
Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell
Sandra, however, can’t get in either and must recite “No! I can’t believe what I’ve seen!” at the window far from view, then clumsily climbing through. Cecil Haversham (Dave Hearn who resembles Bill Irwin both in appearance and style) is pushed through the door by momentarily exposed, thoroughly abashed, cast members and stage hands. Having made his way through a blizzard – cue the tossing of square-cut white tissue paper outside, the Inspector arrives.
Everyone needs a drink. Perkins takes a grinding, smoke spewing elevator to the second floor study (we see this as an open platform with furniture) and retrieves a full bottle of scotch when, according to dialogue, it should be empty. Thinking fast he pours its contents down the intercom which opens onto the stage below with a splash. There should be a full bottle, he’s told. Reaching elsewhere, he then raises an empty one to the audience. Outcome: the company finds itself repeatedly drinking Paint Thinner (and just as often spitting it out.) Vintage? “Flammable and Corrosive.”
Missing props are blatantly handed in. Others are substituted for on the spot. Looking for the Inspector’s pencil, Thomas finds only duly delivered keys. The requested notebook is replaced by a vase filled with roses. Carter gamely scratches keys against vase to write. Henry Shields has the young John Cleese’s public school persona gone wildly awry. He manages to be staunch patrician and hugely droll at the same time.
Authors: Henry Shields, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis
When the mantel falls off, stagehand Annie (Bryony Corrigan) finds herself holding two candlesticks through the wall a la Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Later, she’s forced to take over for the knocked out actress who plays Sandra, red dress on top of her overalls, book in hand. At first, Annie’s like a deer in headlights, then palpably surprised at the ongoing plot, and finally, territorial. When the original Sandra revives in Act II, returning to the stage in her scanties, the two physically fight out every line. Corrigan is swell.
Charles’s body falls through a stretcher. Two poles are ceremoniously carried out empty as if they were not, while the corpse crawls and slithers his way out the now functional door, rising to dramatically cross hands over chest. Later, Cecil must find an alternative solution to being borne by the broken carrier.
Sandra is having a secret affair with Cecil – did they do it?!, but the actor is repulsed by the actress’s advances. During an eventual forced kiss, he looks like a boa constrictor trying to swallow her whole. This particular player must be new to “the drama society.” He thrills to applause, taking time to appreciate it, beaming, sometimes bowing or repeating an action. Dave Hearn is one of the great highlights of the production. He’s adorable, executes slapstick like a silent film pro, and responds with uproarious precision.
Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell
There’s another murder, a discovered will, and the appearance of a Head Gardener who may be involved (Hearn). Motivation abounds. Cues fall unanswered. Up in a visible stage box, Stage Manager Trevor (Rob Falconer) is more concerned with the loss of his Duran Duran tape than the production, though even he gets amusingly conscripted when two of the cast are stricken unconscious.
When Carter can’t find a mislaid ledger, frustration leads to actual whimpering. We see it under the chaise. An audience member, then several, helpfully call out its location out to the actor. (I’ll wager a month’s rent this occurs on the night you’re there.) Needless to say, he responds with fury at our not taking the play seriously.
The play within the play, though certainly broad satire, is sufficiently well written to hold attention. Focus is paramount and present. Company members each have their contributory strengths with only Charlie Russell and Jonathan Sayer relative disappointments.
Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Dave Hearn
Every move is accompanied by perfectly timed freezes as the cast registers and/or endures one disaster after another. Expressions are priceless. I’ve seen several productions of Michael Frayn’s backstage piece, Noises Off, and I’m here to tell you this multiplies that play’s pandemonium by tenfold. Or more. Fights are beautifully choreographed, elaborate pratfalls and saves worthy of Chaplin and Keaton. Bravo Director Mark Bell.
Nigel Hook’s brilliant, elaborate, tawdry looking Set is engineered within an inch of company lives, like a Rube Goldberg mechanism. Roberto Surace’s Costumes are worthy of Agatha Christie.Sound Design by Andrew Johnson demands as much exactness as cascading scenery and comes through with flying colors.
The Play That Goes Wrong, is conceived and – lucky us – enacted, by three twenty-something, out of work, British actors who will stop appearing after the Broadway iteration. Already a long running West End hit, the farce has spawned a number of other, international productions. It’s easy to imagine the piece going viral with long lives everywhere people need to laugh. Go. It’s a tonic.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel
Opening: Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell (window), Greg Tannahill
The Mischief Theatre production of The Play That Goes Wrong “The Cornley University Drama Society presents Murder at Haversham Manor by Susie H. K. Brideswell” Directed by Mark Bell Written by Henry Shields, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer Lyceum Theatre 149 West 45th Street