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.
Discovered in a treasure-filled parking lot in Leicester, England (next to a pile of bones that didn’t look that important), an ancient manuscript proves to be the long lost first play written by none other than seventeen-year-old William Shakespeare from Stratford. We are totally not completely making this up. From the program.
This rambunctious comedy, part actual Bard, part extremely clever faux Bard (mostly in couplets and rhymes) and entirely rambunctious, posits that the nascent author’s first effort was a mash-up of everything to come. Three multifaceted, quick-change performers play dozens of carefully enunciated, highly exaggerated roles. “It’s a double Quarto, or a Quarto-Pounder!” exclaims a monk hefting the manuscript.
“An ancient grudge pits Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) against Ariel (The Tempest)…” Bald Puck has a tiny pair of wings and diminutive horns. Ariel first appears in a wig, ersatz mermaid tail and t-shirt printed with a shell bra. Not THAT Ariel! She jettisons the tail, but makes a good case that all Disney stories derive from Shakespeare.
Reed Martin, Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor
The two spirits put spells on characters from familiar plays as if competing on Xbox. Poof! Dromio and Antipholus (Comedy of Errors) are transported to Italy. Poof! Puck manifests Hamlet, “You tend to be a not-to-be Hamlet. I need you to be a to-be Hamlet…” who gets paired with Ariel’s conjured Lady Macbeth. Except for opulent red curls, disoriented Falstaff looks like Charles Laughton as Henry VIII. Puck sprinkles nectar in the eyes of Juliet. Wait for it. “Dromio, Dromio, where for art thou, Dromio?” she importunes. Other floral ambrosia makes Bottom (Midsummer), now Eyore, a victim of undying love.
Richard III “Look at him cooing like a dove, with a hump only a mother could love…” pays court to Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) and is swatted for his efforts. “Thou lovest me!” A ukulele vaudeville serenade follows. No dice. “Maybe Richard wants a he not a she.” Affections fluidly switch genders. Into the three witches’ brew (Macbeth) go “things that are never used in part… Democrat brain, Republican heart…” Fake-muscle-bound Oberon (Midsummer) wanders in accusing Puck. “Why should gentle Puck cross his Oberon?” the fairy asks. “To get to the other side.”
We meet King Lear and his daughters, Prospero and Caliban (The Tempest), “Malvoliago” a compendium who strongly resembles Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Cleopatra “I am Egypt’s queen. In my salad days when I was green, I loved Caesar…” Kate (The Taming of the Shrew), several Henrys, another dozen plus players and the Bard himself.
Austin Tichenor, Teddy Spencer, Reed Martin
The show is fast, its cast uninhibited. There’s NO fourth wall. We’re addressed and winked at; a few of you will participate. All three thespians turn on a dime in accordance with audience reaction. Some of the play is stupid, some of it silly, some of it FUNNY. In order to be a good abstract artist, one has to first understand the figurative. These guys “get” Shakespeare. They wreack havoc with sure hands. Young kids, I think might be lost, but older ones, studying the icon, would likely have a grand time watching him well skewered.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company since 1981 has created 10 stage shows, 2 television specials, several tv pilots, and numerous radio pieces worldwide. There’s a kids pop-up book and one for Attention-Impaired adults
Photos Courtesy of the Company Opening left to right: Reed Martin, Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor
The Reduced Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged) Reed Martin-Co-Author, Co-Director, Performer Austin Tichenor- Co-Author, Co-Director, Performer Teddy Spencer- Performer Through March 11, 2018 The New Victory Theater 209 West 42nd Street
Legendary British thespian John Hurt passed away on January 27th, 2017 at the age of 77 years old. Born in a small coal mining town in Derbyshire, England to former actress Phyllis Massey and Anglican Minister and Mathematician Arnould Hurt. An apathetic student, he would later find his true passion was acting. He was admitted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and would make his stage debut in 1962. He only really began to rise to prominence though, with his performance as the conniving Richard Rich in A Man For all Seasons in 1966.
From then on he worked pretty much constantly. Indeed his career which spanned over six decades would include over 120 film roles not to mention dozens of television appearances. Here are a few highlights. In 1976 his performance as English heroin addict Max in Midnight Express for which he won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1979, he played Kane in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien and was nominated for another BAFTA. In 1980, he played the titular character in The Elephant Man and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and also won—another BAFTA. In 1984 he played Winston Smith in 1984, which won Best British Film of the Year at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. In 1997, he starred as crusty old civil engineer Chuck Langer in the award winning The Climb. He was creepy wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter franchise, kindly, wise, old Professor Broom in Hellboy, totalitarian fascist leader Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta, and ancient vampire Christopher Marlowe in Only Lovers Left Alive.
One of his most recent appearances was that of rebel leader and mysterious mentor figure Gilliam in 2013’s Snowpiercer. The last film he was featured in before his death was Jackie alongside Natalie Portman as Father Richard McSorley. But fans will still have another chance to see him as Neville Chamberlain in the upcoming British war drama Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) opposite Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn.
God speed John Hurt. You truly were an Actor for All Seasons.
Top photo from Bigstock: John Hurt attends The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festival on May 25, 2013 in Cannes, France.
I don’t think I’m dreaming…I ain’t got the brains to make this up.
J.K. Rowling’s took the world by storm with her fantastical vision of Hogwarts and a magical world that we all desperately longed to live in. In fact, the Harry Potter series was so good and so iconic that I was more than a little skeptical about doing a prequel series, that might tarnish the beloved series as The Hobbit prequels only seemed to diminish the grander of Lord of the Rings. Or how The Phantom Menace utterly desecrated Star Wars.
Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston
Thankfully my fears proved groundless. Fantastic Beasts directed by David Yates, who did a number of the Harry Potter films, and set in New York City 70 years before Harry receives that letter from Hogwarts, manages to fit perfectly within the magical world we’ve seen before while paving utterly new ground. Newt Scamander (a rumpled and floppy haired Eddie Redmayne) has come to America on steamer ship to continue his study and collection of magical creatures, who all live in a suitcase.
Unfortunately, a mishap with Muggle/NoMaj Kowalkski (Dan Fogler in a nuanced and affecting performance) means the suitcase goes missing and some of the creatures are set loose, earning him the ire of recently demoted aurora, a dark wizard catcher, Tina (Katherine Waterston of Steve Jobs and Inherent Vice). Moreover there’s an anti-witch campaign being sponsored by Mary Lou Barebone (a terrifying turn by Samantha Morton).
Needless to say, the visuals are spectacular. The 20’s setting only adds to the feeling of enchantment as Kowalski and the audience see a whole new universe unfold before our eyes. Without giving too much away, what you see inside Mr. Scamander’s suitcase actually manages to hold its own against Hogwarts castle in the sense of the wonder and delight it elicits. But the film doesn’t just create some truly fabulous new CGI creatures but a wonderful tapestry of new characters and new motifs.
Colin Farrell and Erza Miller
Eddie Redmayne isn’t just adorably rumpled as Newt, he also showcases an incredible capacity for physical comedy in such moments where he tries to imitate the mating behavior of an Erumpent. (Trust me-you have to be there.) Colin Farrell is looking fitter and trimmer than we’ve seen him in years as the sinister official Graves. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is compelling as Mary Lou Barebone’s troubled adopted son, Credence.
The biggest surprise though, is singer-songwriter Alison Sudol making her film debut. As Tina’s flirty, mind-reading sister, Queenie, Sudol steals every scene she’s in and her romance with Fogler’s Kowalski is surprisingly poignant and sweet.
There are other elements too, that not only make Fantastic Beasts a delightful film in its own right but help set up another great franchise. In the Harry Potter films, muggles never played much of a role except for the odious Dursley’s who only appeared at the beginning anyway. Here, the whole storyline revolves around how wizards and non-wizards exist side by side with one another and the inevitable tensions and difficulties that may ensue. But there’s also a chance for new connections as well. Fantastic Beasts is a fable not only about natural conservation but also a story of bigotry, repression, and the need for tolerance. And in these times, that lesson seems more vital than ever.
Top photo: Katherine Waterston, Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol, and Dan Fogler Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures