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Apr 22nd

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Heir Apparent

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Amelia Pedlow as Isabelle, Suzanne Bertish as Mme Argante, Dave Quay as Eraste, photo Richard Termine.

Amelia Pedlow as Isabelle, Suzanne Bertish as Mme Argante, Dave Quay as Eraste, photo Richard Termine.

Can an early 18th century French play be hysterically funny and up to the minute in New York? Yes, if the author is David Ives who has turned a 1708 restoration comedy by Jean-Franҁois Regnard into a very witty commentary on greed, including the ethics of cut-throat capitalism. Plus ҁa change

The masterful director is John Rando, who gave us the political satires “Urinetown,” “The Toxic Avenger” and Ives’ “All in the Timing.” This is one of the best plays of the season.

Ives has crafted a broad modern on a tale about greed written in rhyming couplets at the turn of the century – that is the 17th-to-18th century. It’s aristocratic (1%) France. Gilt chandeliers adorn a rich man’s sitting room. His nephew, Eraste (an appealing Dave Quay) in an aquamarine velvet coat, has been waiting around for years to collect a lucrative inheritance. He wants to marry the fetching Isabelle (charming Amelia Pedlow in violet gown), but her mother Madame Argante (a tough, take-no-prisoners Suzanne Bertish) won’t consent unless he has ready cash.

But though the rich uncle, Geronte (a wonderful Paxton Whitehead), seems always at death’s door, he never seems to wheeze his last. And worse, the old guy wants to marry Isabelle, though he calls her Georgina (a former love?)

Things come to a head when he calls a lawyer to write his will. He tells Eraste that he plans to leave some money to relatives he’s just heard from, an American nephew and a niece who’s a pig farmer’s wife.

Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Carson Elrod as Crispin, Claire Karpen as Lisette, photo Richard Termine.

Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Carson Elrod as Crispin, Claire Karpen as Lisette, photo Richard Termine.

Eraste is frantic. But his clever valet Crispin (Carson Elrod), disguises himself as the obnoxious loud mouthed American, with a coonskin cap, woodsman’s garb and Texas accent, to destroy this fellow’s chances. Elrod is wonderfully physical, jittery, jumpy, limbs akimbo, almost acrobatic.

Then Crispin, his lover Lisette (Claire Karpen), who is Geronte’s maid, and Isabelle, arrive one after the other, each dressed as the feckless pig farmer’s wife.

When they have persuaded Geronte to disinherit these fraudsters, they cry, “A million! A million! A million!” And Lisette declaims to Eraste, “Congratulations, sir, from social scum!” The four join hands and Crispin declares, “Now all for one, and one… The rest you know. And here’s to holy matri-money! “

Meanwhile, Ives livens up the script with current politics. Geronte complains about the prices charged by doctors and declares, “Of course if we had national health insurance…But this is seventeen-oh-what?” (oh-eight)

When Madame Argante appears to have solved the cash flow problem with a box of Geronte’s francs she has acquired, she declares to the impecunious suitor Eraste, “Is it my fault your spending powers are spent? That you’re one of the Ninety-Nine Percent?” Estate punches the air.

Claire Karpen as Lisette, Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Dave Quay as Eraste, David Pittu as Scruple, photo Richard Termine.

Claire Karpen as Lisette, Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Dave Quay as Eraste, David Pittu as Scruple, photo Richard Termine.

Ives inserts a couple of comic faux film moments where the lovers, Eraste and Isabelle, in spotlight, declaim:

Eraste: “Ah, mon amour!
Isabelle: Je t’aime!
Eraste: Je t’aime!
Isabelle: La lune!
Eraste: Le soir!

(Et plus.)

The lawyer, smartly named Scruple (a funny, sharp David Pittu), is described as no bigger than a loophole. Pittu plays him on his knees.

These plays always had a moral, and Crispin establishes one here: “… capitalism, cut throat, self-promotion/ In case you didn’t know the ethic this is about.”

And he inquires if it isn’t also “the rise of the bourgeoisie and a proto-capitalist society / devoted to competition, consumerism, and cut-throat self-promotion?” (One assumes Ives updated Regnard’s text of 1708.)

Geronte, who suddenly regains his health, finally understands what is going on and gets philosophical, “And let me toss this thought into the cup:/If people hope you dead, you have Fucked Up.”

Claire Karpen as Lisette, Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Suzanne Bertish as Mme Argante, Dave Quay as Eraste, photo Richard Termine.

Claire Karpen as Lisette, Paxton Whitehead as Geronte, Suzanne Bertish as Mme Argante, Dave Quay as Eraste, photo Richard Termine.

Madame Argante also gets the moral, declaiming:

How gold has “clogged history’s onward march with wars of greed/,
Usurped the common good for private need,/
Transforming me into a heartless vulture/
Who as a blushing maid craved art, and culture!/
Who played bad folk songs wearing purple tights, /
Smoked weed, and argued for the people’s rights!/
Well, I’ll no more be slave to money’s chains,/
But do what mere humanity ordains!/
SOCIALISM!

The others hold up fists. Geronte says: “This is America! “ They sigh, and take down their fists. He corrects himself. “France!” They hold up their fists and twist-dance off stage.

Lucky America that, in spite of the money-buys-all political and economic system that the text suggests, it has Ives’s terrific play.

The Heir Apparent.” By David Ives, adapted from play by Jean-Franҁois Regnard; directed by John Rando. Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, New York City. 212-352-3101. Opened April 9, 2014; closes May 4, 2014.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.
Apr 16th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Potion

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

The Stolen Chair Company did last year’s brilliant (and Drama Desk nominated) production, “The Man Who Laughs.” So it is no surprise that this season’s offering is a supremely inventive and clever site-specific production at a Soho bar. It takes place in the People Lounge on Allen Street south of Delancey. The admission includes three very exotic, interesting, tasty cocktails!

But more than that, the production is an intimate look – from a fly-on-the-wall vantage point – of what happens at a bar among the owners, bartender and patrons, especially regarding their romantic desires and connections.

Raife Bakeras Tom and Natalie Hegg as Charley, photo Carrie Leonard.

Raife Bakeras as Tom and Natalie Hegg as Charley, photo Carrie Leonard.

Since the Stolen Chair Company is never ordinary, the dialogue is done as non-musical opera. That means that the text is spoken, not sung, but it’s said in cadences, in duets and pieces for four, characters speaking over each other as if they would do singing opera. And the pieces and cadences are based on real operas. Quite extraordinary!

The place is Charley’s Potion Lounge Speakeasy. Patrons are seated at low seats along the walls opposite a real bar.

The founder and owner, Charley/Charlotte (Natalie Hegg), is dressed gypsy style with a too-low-cut top. Turns out she is in love with her business partner, Tom (Raife Baker).

The bartender Jim (Noah Schultz), with a Dali moustache, is ready to deal with patrons’ problems (but not those of his bosses).

The plot is a bit like a bar-scene soap opera, but much more immediate, up-close, and more diverting. The cast is first-rate. Collaborators Rikhye and Stancato create an utterly realistic mood.

Noah Schultz as Jim, Molly O'Neill as Emma, Liz Eckert as Andi, David Skeist as Philip, photo Carrie Leonard.

Noah Schultz as Jim, Molly O’Neill as Emma, Liz Eckert as Andi, David Skeist as Philip, photo Carrie Leonard.

Andi (Liz Eckert) an unhappy character who doesn’t like anybody, arrives and soon tells all that “humanity is pitiful.” Jim says, “You hate us, but come here…” Andi: “Because you allow me a minute or two of relief.”

It’s a reality show, like overhearing a bar conversation. Emma (Molly O’Neill), a patron, says, “I don’t think I’ve found who I am.” Charley replies, “We can make you whoever you please.” Charley says, “Everyone wants to change something.”

There’s also interaction among the staff, especially between Charley, who is secretly sweet on Tom. “Charlotte why do we have ten crates of lychee nuts?” She: “They were such a bargain.”

Patrons come in. A guy, Philip (David Skeist) comes on to Andi, hitting on her.

Ed Forth (Jon Forehlich) a health inspector, suggesting he might give the place a bad report, wants a drink potion that makes woman fall in love with him.

David Skeist as Philip and Liz Eckert as Andi, photo Carrie Leonard.

David Skeist as Philip and Liz Eckert as Andi, photo Carrie Leonard.

There’s also the magic of the cocktails that are served through the evening, with labels such as “Curiosity.” They are, we are told, potions that affect how you are. Charley says, “Our drinks intoxicate but do much more.”

The bar is a drinks hall of mirrors that takes peoples’ traits and problems and magnifies them. Philip and Andi have a hot interaction that moves through the bar salon/audience.

Patrons get to sample drinks called “Curiosity,” “Pins Needles,” and “Love Potion. It’s all indeed quite intoxicating.

“Potion, a play in 3 cocktails.” Conceived by Kiran Rikhye and Jon Stancato; written by Rikhye, directed by Stancato. Stolen Chair at People Lounge, 163 Allen Street (south of Delancey Street; F train to 2nd Avenue stop; Allen is a continuation of First Avenue, so take First Avenue exit.) Live music by Sean Cronin; cocktails by Mixologist Marlo Gamora. Sundays at 7pm. The bar is small, so online reservations recommended.

The cocktails are “Curiosity:” rye, cynar, lemon juice, honey, lemon twist; “Pins & Needles:” mescal, ginger beer, green chartreuse, lime juice, chili salt rim, lime twist, and “Love Potion:” lambrusco, gin, absinthe, syrup, lemon juice, lemon twist.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.

Apr 11th

50p For Culture

By Cameron Lowe
 

 
   

Today the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA), supported by My Theatre Matters!, launched a new campaign to safeguard and increase local authority investment in arts, museums and heritage. 

We're bringing together new research, data analysis and a website (www.50pforculture.org) where you can find out how much local authorities planned to spend on culture in your area.

 

 

Local authorities should be investing at least 50p per person per week in arts, museums and heritage

 

   

In a recent poll by Ipsos MORI co-commissioned by the NCA and My Theatre Matters!, 63% of people - almost two thirds - said they believed that even in these difficult financial times, local authorities should be investing at least 50p per person per week in arts, museums and heritage.  Only 12% said local authorities should invest nothing.

Using official data produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Office for National Statistics, the NCA calculates that the actual average budgeted net spend across England in 2013/14 was just 16p per person per week.  In 2011/12 the figure was 18p and in 2010/11 it was 20p.  On average, of every £1 invested by a local authority, less than half a penny (0.5%) goes to support arts, museums and heritage.

 

 

Enter your postcode at 50pforculture.org and TAKE ACTION!

 
   

If you live in England and care about culture, visit www.50pforculture.org and enter your postcode to find out the level of investment in your area. 

We'd then encourage you to use the link on our website to send an appropriate message – of encouragement, steadfastness or praise – to your local representatives. 
 

 

 

Then tell your friends!

 

   

Please tweet using the hashtag #50pforculture and encourage your friends on Facebook to find out about investment in their area.

Do also follow the campaign on Twitter @50pforculture

 
Apr 11th

THE WESTENDERS – with guest-star Tracie Bennett - Princess Theatre, Torquay

By Cameron Lowe

By Leonie Wilde.                                                                               April 9th.

 

According to the programme the basic cast of this show have, between them, appeared in 25 major musicals, and formed their original six-singer group whilst all performing in LES MISERABLES in the West End.  Their voices are solidly well-trained and varied, combining well for the largely ensemble presentation of medleys of songs from musical shows.  A pleasing choice of the romantic, the dramatic and pure fun - ranging from MARY POPPINS to the caucus of Andrew Lloyd Webber shows,  all presented with breakneck speed and vivacious aplomb.


The Westenders

In traditional concert style, movement is basic, relying on ‘positioning’ in lines and smaller groupings, slickly accomplished throughout.  Possibly overall content might have been enhanced with some choreographic ‘hints’ in numbers such as SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, plus a little less dependence on solid down-lighting and a few more ‘costume suggestions.’  Joseph’s actual Technicolor Dream coat was a welcome addition, as were the colourfully outrageous female costumes in the final section of the show.  As hand-held microphones were a constant, the occasional use of a microphone stand, particularly for solo ballads,  would have freed up both arms for greater expression.

Musical support was superb. A fine 7-piece band was led by Jae Alexander who occasionally left the stand to act as compere, also exhibited panache plus vocal prowess in a spirited portrayal of Monsieur Thenardier. There were some spine-tingling vocal pyrotechnics from the whole cast throughout the show; in particular  the purity of Frances Fry’s soprano voice and the power and acting ability of Stephen Weller.

Tracie BennettAs guest-artiste, Tracie Bennett appears to present a fairly short solo spot, consisting of songs from her multi- award winning performance as Judy Garland in the play END OF THE RAINBOW.  This material, coming from a different era to that of the rest of the show’s content is a complete contrast, so it was a pity that her introduction was perfunctory and there was much ‘page-turning’ as members of the audience attempted to find mention of her in the programme – which doesn’t contain even a ‘slipped’ CV of this artiste who has dozens of Stage/Television/Film appearances to her credit, plus two Olivier Awards, a Tony and other theatrical awards/nominations. Her characterisation of Judy was splendid.  Accurately observed tensile movement and gesture  in the ‘powerhouse’ numbers contrasting perfectly with the emotionally-charged stillness in her delivery of Over The Rainbow.

The Westenders

The final part of the show featured a very strong medley of songs from Les Miserables, bringing a section of the audience to its feet. The rest of the audience then joined  in with hand-clapping, arm-waving participation during the MAMA MIA finale.

In spite of the minor criticisms which I’ve noted here, this was an energetic, entertaining and polished production which sent the audience out of the theatre in an obviously happy mood.


Tour details on THE WESTENDERS website.

Apr 10th

The Beautiful Game at Union Theatre, London

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Vera Litvin

“There are three things you need to know about God: he is Irish, he is Catholic and he plays the beautiful game,” so runs one of the quips at the start of this bitter-sweet musical about the lives of a group of young footballers at the height of the Northern Irish Conflict.

The scene is Belfast in 1969. This is creatively sketched out with graffiti on the walls and even on the doors of the toilets (“Brits out”, “Join the IRA”), barbed wire stage decorations and a BBC presenter updating us on the political situation.

The Beautiful Game

Alongside this political turmoil we introduced to Father O’Donnell’s under 18s football team – and here there are tensions of a different kind. John, the star player, can’t seem to keep his mind off Mary – a girl who in his own words he “doesn’t  hate”. Daniel is profiteering from the rioting by “liberating” car radios. Politics rears its ugly head on the team as Thomas bans protestant Del from playing, deaf to Del’s insistence that he’s an atheist. In the meantime, all Gregory wants to do is to be able to kick the ball in a straight line.

The First Act is delivered with plenty of humour and some catchy tunes as one would expect from the star musical and scrip-writing team that is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton. Songs vary from the pop-y “Clean the Kit” to the affecting “God’s Own Country”. Voices are strong, clear, and fill up the small venue completely. There are many funny moments, often exploiting the awkwardness of the teenage characters. However, alongside the normal events in a young person’s life: falling in love, getting drunk, wining a football match, the political situation impinges more and more, until disaster strikes at the end of the first act.

The Beautiful Game

The Second Act is darker, with the young team growing older and dealing with hard times and hard issues. Many of the tunes from the First Act are reprised to a sadder, more a haunting effect. However, the final note of the play is one of redemption.

I particularly enjoyed the inventive staging and choreography on display, such as splicing scenes of a crucial football game with scenes of sectarian violence. The play is performed in-the-round with the whole space being creatively used. Actors appeared behind us to create the impression of stereo cheering at a football game.

The play is funny, touching and rises above its sometimes slightly soap-operatic storylines by raising deeper questions about what homeland means, whether it is worth fighting for and if so, in what ways, and at what costs. Viewed in the same week as the Irish President’s first state visit to the UK, the play is a fitting reminder of the generation affected by the Northern Irish Conflict, laced with laughs and football.   

The Beautiful Game is on at the Union Theatre until Saturday 3rd May 2014.

Director: Lotte Wakeham
Choreographer: Tim Jackson
Musical Director: Ben Holder

Wednesday 2nd April - Saturday 3rd May 2014
Tuesday - Saturday @ 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday @ 2.30pm

Box Office: 0207 261 9876
Tickets: £20 (£18 concessions)

Apr 9th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Stage Kiss

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Sarah Ruhl is a very funny clever playwright. Her “Stage Kiss” is a witty play about acting, especially what happens when two ex-lovers get cast in a play that requires a lot of kissing. That’s a physical “mannerism” that has a lot of physical impact. I mean, even staged fights don’t land real blows.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin and Patrick Kerr as the Director, photo Joan Marcus.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin and Patrick Kerr as the Director, photo Joan Marcus.

The two actors, She (Jessica Hecht) – is this a satirical jab at Albee? – and He (Dominic Fumusa), both now in their mid-40s, are doing a play from 1932 Broadway. Hecht, one of my favorites, seems always slightly mentally off-key, a comic pose, and Fumusa is a very good slightly angry romantic lead. Angry at this impossible woman, but still turned on by her.

She starts out with another actor who is reading the part:

SHE: Nice to meet you, Kevin. Do you want me to actually kiss Kevin, or Kevin do you mind if we kiss; you look young, I don’t want to traumatize you.

KEVIN: No—please, go ahead.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin, photo Joan Marcus.

Jessica Hecht as She, Michael Cyril Creighton as Kevin, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: (To Kevin, as the lover) God, I love you. I love you I love you I love you. They kiss.

AS ADA: Your lips taste like—let me taste them again. She kisses him again. Of cherries? No.

KEVIN: I’m so sorry, I’m so sweaty, the elevator’s broken—

SHE: Oh no, you’re beautiful. She kisses him again. Of chestnuts. Oh, God, I want to kiss you all day!

KEVIN: (AS LOVER) And I you. She kisses him again. She starts laughing. Sorry—there was a little crumb in your mouth.

KEVIN: Oh, sorry. He wipes the crumb.

Then “He” (Fumusa), her former lover, does a rehearsal with “She” (Hecht).

AS JOHNNY: I always said you would end up with a man with a briefcase. I knew that, even when we began our doomed romance.

But don’t tell me you’ve become conventional, darling—kiss me—one last kiss…

That’s what I came for, isn’t it? One last kiss. You’re as beautiful as the day I met you.

(This reminds me of a Noel Coward play. Or maybe it’s “Casablanca.”)

AS ADA: Am I?

AS JOHNNY: (very sincerely, dropping out of character, slightly)
Yes, only I wish I’d put these lines on your face myself. Each one. He traces the lines on her face, tenderly.They kiss.

Dominic Fumusa as He and Jessica Hecht as She in Stage Kiss, photo Joan Marcus.

Dominic Fumusa as He and Jessica Hecht as She in Stage Kiss, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: Oh, Johnny!

HE: Line—

DIRECTOR: Let me take you to Sweden—

AS JOHNNY: (overlapping) Let me take you to Sweden. You should die in a place where the trees are higher than the buildings.

AS ADA: No, I prefer to die where the buildings are higher than the trees. I’m a city girl. I like to be perched high above everything—so I can see. (So wonderfully hokey!!)

AS JOHNNY: Above everything—including people.

AS ADA: What’s that supposed to mean?

AS JOHNNY: (Talking as both Johnny and HE) It was as though you were always perched above me, taking in the view, you couldn’t even see my face.

SHE: Seriously? I saw your face! (not her line at all) What? Line?

DIRECTOR: I can’t help it if you aren’t very tall.

AS ADA: I can’t help it if you aren’t very tall.

AS JOHNNY: Don’t be glib!

The cast, photo Joan Marcus.

The cast, photo Joan Marcus.

AS ADA: I was mad about you! Mad! Don’t you see?

(Isn’t this Coward?)

AS JOHNNY: (Also as HE) Then why’d you leave, Ada!

AS ADA: (Also as SHE) It was impossible! Perhaps if I’d loved you less it would have been hunky-dory! I loved you too much! They look at each other. For longer than is required.

DIRECTOR: I think I hear my husband.

AS ADA: I think I hear my husband. Hang it all!

Husband enters.

AS HUSBAND: Hello, Johnny. Welcome to New York. I understand you’ve been in Sweden?

AS JOHNNY: That’s right. (He says something in Swedish.). That means: Thanks for having me. It’s good of you. In Swedish. I’m sorry about the—circumstances.

Michael Cyril Creighton, Dominic Fumusa and Jessica Hecht in play within a play, photo Joan Marcus.

Michael Cyril Creighton, Dominic Fumusa and Jessica Hecht in play within a play, photo Joan Marcus.

AS HUSBAND: Oh, don’t mention it, she doesn’t want it mentioned. Do you have everything you need to make you comfortable?

They also do a funny noirish play within a play.

You get the idea. Better to cite these clever hokey funny lines than to describe them, which would miss so much. I loved this play.

So they get together for a while, but not permanently, and the end doesn’t really matter. It’s all the dialogue that leads up to it. Sarah Ruhl is a wonderfully funny playwright. And director Rebecca Taichman keeps tongue firmly in check to create a memorable comedic delight.

Stage Kiss.” Written by Sarah Ruhl; directed by Rebecca Taichman. Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, New York City. (212) 279–4200; Opened Feb 7, 2014; closes April 5, 2014. 4/4/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.
Mar 21st

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

This collaborative, inventive multi-media play with music is based on a Samizdat dialogue the Czech dissident Havel wrote in 1987, using the device of a popular rural pastime – roasting a pig – to satirize the communist government. It was inspired by the true story of Havel trying to find a pig to roast for his friends.

The performance starts with the excellent mood device of Czech singer Katarina Vizina and Jenny Lee Mitchell of Cabaret Metropol, doing European songs to music redolent of Kurt Weil.

Robert Honeywell as Václav Havel and Katherine Boynton as American TV reporter in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius

Robert Honeywell as Václav Havel and Katherine Boynton as American TV reporter in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius.

When the play opens, Havel (Robert Honeywell) is trying to buy a pig for a big village party. But every time he thinks he has made a deal with a farmer, the price goes up. Even for buying a pig, the system doesn’t work. It seems corrupt and abusive.

A dumb American TV reporter (Katherine Boynton) has come to interview Havel. She wears a too-tight dress, too-high heels, has too-messy long hair, and pronounces Havel with a long A. She is accompanied by a camera on a tripod, so that we see her scenes and other excellent and funny video on screens on four sides. (The audience is on chairs and at tables along the walls.)

Moira Stone, and Terence Stone as the couple of ‘The Bartered Bride,’ in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius.

Moira Stone, and Terence Stone as the couple of ‘The Bartered Bride,’ in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius.

The story is surreal. In the midst of all, as a political point, sections of the famous opera by Smetana, “The Bartered Bride,” are performed by Moira Stone and Terence Stone. (Their operatic voices are excellent.)

The Smetana work, the most important Czech opera, was written in the 1860s when the country was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czech could not be spoken, though it continued to be heard in rural communities. Thus it had a political message which Czech director Vladimir Morávek added in 2010 when he decided to stage Havel’s samizdat.

Katherine Boynton as American TV reporter, Robert Honeywell as Václav Havel holding the bill for the pig, and cast, in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius.

Katherine Boynton as American TV reporter, Robert Honeywell as Václav Havel holding the bill for the pig, and cast, in ‘The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,’ photo Arthur Cornelius.

The price of the pig goes so high, that everyone in the village has to sign for it. But when the front page of the long, accordion-pleated bill is finally held up, it is Charter 77, the name of the human rights manifesto co-authored by Havel and signed by Czech writers and intellectuals in 1977.

Havel would spend four-and-a-half years in prison before the communist government fell to the Velvet Revolution and he became president.

The production gets a fine adaptation by Edward Einhorn and is directed with smartness and verve by Henry Akona. Honeywell is appropriately self-effacing as Havel, and Boynton emulates every self-important glitzy TV media star. Havel would have loved it.

“The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig.” Written by Václav Havel and Vladimir Morávek. Adapted into English by Edward Einhorn. Directed and musical arrangements by Henry Akona. 3LD Art & Technology Center & Untitled Theater Company #61. 80 Greenwich Street, New York City (a few steps south of the #1 train Rector stop). 866-811-4111.

The 20-minute cabaret begins ten minutes before curtain. After the hour production comes another half hour of music by Cabaret Metropol. You can buy pulled pork or vegetarian sandwiches and Czech beer, or water; no wine. Food must be ordered 24 hours in advance.Opened March 10, 2014; closes March 29, 2014. 3/20/14

Lucy Komisar is a New York Journalist and Theatre Critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.
Mar 19th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Love and Information

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Caryl Churchill is one of my favorite playwrights (“Serious Money,” “Top Girls”) and a major dramatic commentator on the feminist and the political. I am therefore sorry to report my disappointment in her latest work, “Love and Information.” It’s a pastiche that seems thrown together from notes that never got turned into a script.

The play occurs in a black box lined with graph paper. It pretends to be a commentary on what currently is going on in our technological lives. But it is pedestrian compared to what she has done before. Much of it is incomprehensible.

Let’s start with the best. A couple meets after years, but their memories don’t sync. Neither remembers the other’s recollections. What’s left of their romance is just vague.

It’s called “EX.” It’s worth quoting in its entirety, because it is very clever Churchill. Shows what she could have done. And fans will enjoy it.

“I’m glad we’ve done it, just to see
so am I
after all these years
because it was very important at the time, it’s been very important
it has for me, all my life, very important
so never to have seen each other again would have been
it would have been impossible
it would have been sad anyway.

John Procaccino and Randy Danson in 'Love and Information,' photo Joan Marcus.

John Procaccino and Randy Danson in ‘Love and Information,’ photo Joan Marcus.

You remember the Italian restaurant?
no, yes, on the corner was it?
with the bushes outside?
no, I’m mixing it up with
I can see the waiter now
no, I can’t get the waiter
the waiter with the mustache who always smiled so much when we came in.
I used to have spaghetti carbonara and you had clam sauce.
I can’t remember eating, no, I was too busy looking at you probably.

I really loved you then.
I loved you.
I always remember you standing in that field
I wonder where that was, was it
all the buttercups.
I’ve got a really clear picture of you running ahead of me down a street. We were running for
a bus I think.

Do you remember that hotel, we took a room for a couple of hours in a hotel, there was green
wallpaper and we stood there kissing.
I remember the first time
no, that’s got overlaid by so many other times, I can’t, I remember once by a river, we were
practically on a trail where the hikers
the kitchen, the kitchen at your friend’s house
which friend?
I never knew your friends’ names
was it Chris? Terry?

I don’t know, you remember the kitchen?”
I might if I knew which house. Did we do it in a kitchen?
Behind the door. There was soup on the stove.
I remember us just looking at each other.
The time in the street, we just stopped.

I was thinking more a time when you were sitting on the side of the bed.
Was that early on or near the end?
Near the end I think. Do you know the time I mean?

I sometimes go past that coffee shop.
Which one?
The one where we kept trying to say goodbye.

Maria Tucci and John Procaccino in 'Love and Information,' photo Joan Marcus.

Maria Tucci and John Procaccino in ‘Love and Information,’ photo Joan Marcus.

I think I’ve blotted that whole day out.
We were really happy.
Or sad, we used to cry.
Did we?
Sometimes.”

It’s very funny. It conjures up the spirits of Nichols and May. I quote the whole bit, because I thought it so good.

Alas, nothing else in this play comes close.

Two people in their 50s, in a vertical bed covered with a white spread, can’t sleep. She says I can’t sleep, I think I’ll get up and go on Facebook. This is funny?

Other people don’t remember the past without seeing videos of it.

In a bit with uninterested kids, a woman says, “I’m your mother, she’s your grandmother.”

A guy is in love with a virtual woman, a robot. They are on exercycles. He says, “She loves me.”

This is cartoon stuff. Many skits are not close to being interesting or funny or with a point. And if you have to sit there trying to figure out what she means, beyond the boring obvious — yes, some people talk to their computers and cell phones more than to other people – it isn’t working.

I don’t comment on the actors because they all did their jobs, but none of them were memorable.

If this wasn’t Caryl Churchill, no one would take it seriously.

Love and Information.” Written by Caryl Churchill; directed by James Macdonald. New York Theater Workshop, in association with the Royal Court Theater at the Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, New York City. 800-982-2787. Opened Feb 19, 2014; closes April 6, 2014.

Lucy Komisar is a New York Journalist and Theatre Critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.
Mar 14th

Goths will "Die Laughing" in Whitby

By Cameron Lowe

A North East comedy will make history when it becomes the first-ever play to be performed at the Whitby Goth Weekend next month (April).

Dracula: Die Laughing

But north east theatre goers will be able to see the show first when it is performed at the Westovian Theatre in South Shields (opposite the Haven Point sports centre) on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 22 and 23.

Dracula: Die Laughing, will be part of the annual Goth festival that has been running since 1994 and attracts upwards of 12,000 people of all ages from all over the world, many of whom dress as Goths but most attend to take in the styles, music and laid-back atmosphere of the event in the North Yorkshire town.

Dracula: Die Laughing, written by Ed Waugh, co-writer of hit comedies Dirty Dusting, Waiting for Gateaux, A funny Thing Happened on the Way To Durham and Sunday for Sammy sketches, is a spoof about Dracula being pursued by vampire hunters and hiding out at the Whitby Goth Weekend.

The show played small venues in a pre-run last autumn, attracting sell-out audiences and gales of laughter in Durham, Sunderland and North Shields.

 Producer and director Gareth Hunter of Ion Productions said: “Anyone looking for a good laugh shouldn’t miss this show. It’s hilarious; Dracula like you’ve never seen him.

“We are delighted to have been invited to the Whitby Goth Weekend as an official part of the prestigious event.”

The cast is South Shields-based Paul Dunn and Craig Richardson and Sunderland-based Corinne Kilvington and Lauren Waine.

Dracula: Die Laughing at Whitby Goth Festival

Prior to the Whitby run on April 26 and 27 at the Coliseum Theatre, Dracula: Die Laughing will be performed at the Westovian Theatre in South Shields (opposite the Haven Point sports centre) on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 22 and 23 at 7.30pm.

For further information visit Dracula: Die Laughing Facebook events

Tickets for the South Shields show cost £8 and can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point (Ocean Road) or via 07751246176.
Mar 11th

The Play That Goes Wrong at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

If there is a play in existence with a more apt title than “The Play That Goes Wrong”, I have yet to see it!  Mischief Theatre have crafted 100 minutes of mirth and mayhem that had me laughing until I hurt … and then I laughed some more!

The Play That Goes Wrong

This week, Glasgow’s King’s Theatre plays host to a play within a play as a fictional group of not-so-talented am-dramers  (the
Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society) present “The Murder At Haversham Manor” as the accurately titled “Play That Goes Wrong”.  And boy, does it go wrong!

Before curtain up we are treated to a performance of outstanding incompetence as the “stage crew” attempt to set the stage.  From the opening introduction by Director “Chris” (stiffly portrayed by Henry Shields who had more than a hint of John Cleese about his persona) we are in no doubt that we are about to be entertained by a troupe bearing a remarkable heritage of disastrous am-dram flops. 

The curtain rises and we are entertained by shameless overacting from the players, outlandish and unconvincing characters and a broad disrespect of “the fourth wall”.  This is all delightfully OTT and delivered to wring maximum laughs from the outset.  But this would become tired quite quickly … if the writers did not have an endless supply of acting faux-pas and theatrical cock-ups waiting in the wings; each one more calamitous than the last!  Prop mix ups, prat falls, disintegrating sets, dropped lines, slapstick, badly timed entrances … every single one a disaster in its own right; enough to send any self-respecting amateur fleeing from the stage and these are all presented in one show in all of their awkward, heart stopping, nightmare inducing glory.  And we laughed so hard!

Henry Lewis (as Robert playing Thomas Collymoore) gives a great comic portrayal of the victim’s school chum with a particular highlight as he tries to break a dialog loop through unspoken purple faced rage.  Charlie Russell (as Sandra) gives a delightfully unconvincing performance as femme fatal Florence Collymoore and becomes the victim of some spectacular physical gaffs.  Dave Hearn is the prat-fall king as Max (playing Cecil Haversham) and Jonathan Sayer is the youthful Dennis who is superbly miscast as the aging Perkins.  Lotti Maddox develops her character beautifully to hilarious effect as Annie (the reluctant understudy).

Mischief Theatre accept a What's On Stage Award

Direction from Mark Bell expertly balanced the tight timing required for such a complex piece of physical theatre with just enough leeway for the actors to thoroughly enjoy the performance and give the audience a feeling that everything was spontaneous.  Nigel Hook’s set design was inspired; adding significantly to the laughs.  The script from Mischief Theatre’s own writing team of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields was truly the star of this outstanding show.

Miss this at your peril!

Review by Cameron Lowe, for Sue

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

Mon 10 – Sat 15 March GLASGOW King's Theatre

Eves: 7.30pm; Mats: Wed & Sat 2.30pm                  

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/Glasgow (bkg fee)