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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Standing on the Edge of Time

The Potomac Theatre Project's recent streaming play, Standing on the Edge of Time, consists largely of people talking--alone, in pairs, or in groups--about  history, theatre, relationships (romantic and not), and meaning. Each segment is by a different playwright or poet, resulting in a pleasing and thought-provoking verbal kaleidoscope of words and ideas. (I've provided a list of the shows represented below.) With many young people in the cast, the show sometimes feels like groups of college kids got together for slightly buzzed, totally heartfelt, 2-a.m. discussions. I frequently wished I could join them. 


Rather than discussing the individual segments, of which there are almost 20, I offer some of the lines that stood out for me.
  • All theatres are haunted.
  • Most people are stupid and couldn't tell a play from a pineapple.
  • My real sister became a nun to meet men.
  • To be or nobody.
  • Paranoia transcends politics; it becomes spiritual.
  • God wants peacocks, not ravens.
  • These are cold days, not to be believed.
  • I believe humans will walk on the surface on Mars.
  • The flying car will radically alter [making out].
  • [There will be] a global epidemic of panic and mass despair.
  • Sex will become [boring]; Tupperware will make dildos.
  • They fucked up in the 60s. They took away all the values and didn't put anything in its place.
  • On this planet one is overwhelmed.

One of my favorite lines comes from "What Do You Believe About the Future?" by David Auburn. After around a dozen people make their predictions, some of which are in the list above, a young man says, "I believe I will get a date."

Two points: (1) I wish I had been able to see this in a theatre. (No shit, huh?) I am much better able to sink into the mood and pacing of a word-driven piece like this in a dark theatre than in my studio apartment. (2) I really wish that the pieces had been identified as they started. I completely get why director Cheryl Faraone would not want to interrupt the flow of discussion with title cards or captions, but not knowing was problematic too. I was sometimes distracted by thinking, for example, "Wait, I've heard that before. Is that Kushner? Churchill?" And then I was distracted by thinking, "Wow, I really should be able to distinguish the voices of such individual playwrights." (The only author I identified with no problem was Ntozake Shange; she truly sounds like no one else.)

Faraone forestalls the inevitable Zoom-ness of streaming plays with an appealing, overtly theatrical opening including atmospheric shots of an old theatre and a ringmaster sort of person discussing exactly what theatre is ("Like the inside of a human heart. Only bigger, and not as empty."). When sections do have the dreaded Zoom-like boxes, Faraone uses interesting angles and various other devices to provide variety, plus a few sections are shot outdoors.

The show is well-acted by Alex Draper, Stephanie Janssen, Christopher Marshall, Tara Giordano, Sheyenne Brown, Aubrey Dube, Wynn McClenahan, Becca Berlind, Gabrielle Martin, Maggie Connolly, Madison Middleton, Francis Price, and Gibson Grimm.

It is unfortunate that this show is already gone, but Potomac has one more show this season. A Small Handful is based on the poetry and life of Anne Sexton and utilizes speech, song, and performance to "discover something about the endurance of Anne Sexton’s complex journey." It runs August 13 to 17; more information can be found here.

***

The plays and poems of Standing on the Edge of Time.

Crowbar by Mac Wellman

Next Time I'll Sing to You by James Saunders

The Enemy by Mike Bartlett

Excerpts from "Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia" by Francis Wheen

Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau

Tales of the Lost Formicans by Constance Congdon

Red Noses by Peter Barnes

A Bright Room Called Day (Oranges) by Tony Kushner

Roar by Anna Deavere Smith

Spell of Motion by Stacie Cassarino

What Do You Believe About the Future? by David Auburn

Serial Monogamy by Ntozake Shange

Tickets Are Now on Sale by Caryl Churchill

In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe by Eric Overmyer

Mornings at the Lake by Stacie Cassarino

The Internet is Serious Business by Tim Price

Thursday, April 08, 2021

The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume 4 (book review)

 My latest review is up at Talkin' Broadway.


According to their interviews in The Untold Stories of Broadway: Volume 4, Ed Dixon has great affection for The Scarlet Pimpernel; Krysta Rodriguez saw Assassins at Studio 54 three times; and Arbender J. Robinson auditioned 30-plus times over many years before being cast in The Lion King. At 8 years old, Andrew Keenan-Bolger was so moved by Les Mis that he cried when characters died. Liz Callaway misses "when theatres were grungy and the area was in danger" (as do I). There were columns in the set of Grand Hotel because there were columns in the rehearsal room. As a kid, William Finn thought that My Fair Lady had always existed, like the Talmud. Longtime stagehand Manny Diaz has never seen a Broadway show from the audience. Twelve-year-old future-director Lynne Meadow thought her first Broadway show (Destry Rides Again) wasn't that good. Pretty much every other interviewee was gobsmacked by their first.
To read more, click here.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Tom Stoppard: A Life (book review)

My review of Tom Stoppard: A Life appears on Talkin' Broadway.




Hermione Lee's Tom Stoppard: A Life is a formidable achievement. Not only does Lee cover the story of Stoppard's life in great detail, but she also examines the genesis of each of his plays, offers social and political context, and provides thumbnail bios for dozens of the people in Stoppard's life. The result is 872 pages long, including copious notes; it is simultaneously fascinating and a bit of a slog. 

To read more, click here.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Myths and Hymns (Chapter 1): Flight

I'm going to cut to the chase here. I highly, highly, highly recommend the MasterVoices streaming production of Myths and Hymns, chapter one of which is available right now. The music, by Adam Guettel, is gorgeous. The lyrics are often lovely, sometimes silly and funny, occasionally grand. The designs are graceful and beautiful. The cast is amazing. And it's free, although you can certainly give a donation. I did.


Here are some excerpts from the press release to give you all the info you need:

Mastervoices Presents Flight, The First Chapter Of Adam Guettel’s Four-Part Theatrical Song Cycle Myths And Hymns, In A Digital Production Conceived And Supervised By Ted Sperling

Flight features the MasterVoices Chorus; singers Julia Bullock, Renée Fleming, Joshua Henry, Capathia Jenkins, Mykal Kilgore, Norm Lewis, Jose Llana, Kelli O'Hara, and Elizabeth Stanley; the a cappella gospel music group Take 6; actress Annie Golden; and pianists Anderson & Roe. It can be found at the ensemble's YouTube channel and on mastervoices.org.

Myths and Hymns - CHAPTER ONE: FLIGHT
Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel
Additional lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh
Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence
MasterVoices, Ted Sperling, ​Artistic Director and Conductor​ 



Prometheus
Anderson & Roe, piano duo
Greg Anderson, arranger and director




Saturn Returns: the Flight
MasterVoices
Joshua Henry, soloist
Ted Sperling, director   



                                               

Icarus
MasterVoices
Mykal Kilgore, soloist (Icarus)
Norm Lewis, soloist (Daedalus)
Sammi Cannold, director
Lucy Mackinnon, designer


Migratory V
MasterVoices
Julia Bullock, soloist
Renée Fleming, soloist
Kelli O'Hara, soloist
Lear deBessonet, director
Danny Mefford, co-creator
Yazmany Arboleda, co-creator and illustrator
Cloud Chatanda, animation 



Pegasus
Annie Golden, narrator
Jose Llana, soloist (Bellerophon)
Capathia Jenkins, soloist (Pegasus)
Elizabeth Stanley, soloist (Gadfly)
Ted Sperling, director
Steven Kellogg, illustrations



Jesus, the Mighty Conqueror
MasterVoices
Take 6, soloists
Mark Kibble, arranger
Khristian Dentley, director


Mastervoices Presents Work, The Second Chapter Of Adam Guettel’s Four-Part Theatrical Song Cycle Myths And Hymns, On February 24, 2021

With the MasterVoices Chorus; Singers Shoshana Bean, Daniel Breaker, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Michael McElroy, Ailyn Pérez, and Nicholas Phan; and actor John Lithgow.

Wendy Caster