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Sep 11th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Soul Doctor

By Cameron Lowe
By Lucy Komisar in New York

Eric Anderson as Shlomo Carlbach, photo by Carol Rosegg.

Eric Anderson as Shlomo Carlebach, photo Carol Rosegg.

It’s a smidgeon corny, but I found this play about the rabbi-rock singer Shlomo Carlebach (Eric Anders) and the jazz singer Nina Simone (Amber Iman) rather charming. And very entertaining.

The story takes Carlebach from Nazi-occupied Vienna, from which he escaped with his chief rabbi father, but not before the young Shlomo saw people he knew murdered or sent to concentration camps.

Director Daniel S. Wise does a good job connecting the vignettes, making them stylish as well as realistic.

In New York, Shlomo follows his father into the synagogue to study the Torah. He takes his mother’s cookies to a hungry person and is chided for that. He chafes at the limitations of tradition. His brother gets him involved with the Brooklyn Chassidim, albeit not in the mainstream but even more restrictive than what he had left.

Amber Iman as Nina Simone, photo Carol Rosegg.

Amber Iman as Nina Simone, photo Carol Rosegg.

By chance, he goes to sing at a Columbia Rosh Hashanah dance event where the students are not enamored of his sexism when he says, “All the women to separate to this side …and the men to this side.” A coed declares, “What are they, nuts?” The women shout, “Misogynists!” “Gynaphobic Dinosaur!” ”Go back to the Dark Ages!”

Carlebach, by now a young man, asks the band leader, “Are you sure we’re gonna reach millions?” The musician says, “Not by going back to the 19th Century. Wake up man! There’s a revolution goin’ on.”

He takes up the young musician’s invitation to hear his group at a nearby jazz club. But he gets there too late and instead hears the jazz singer Nina Simone, who is not yet celebrated. It is a revelation. Iman has a rich sultry voice.

Amber Iman as Nina Simone and Heather Parcells as her mother, photo Carol Rosegg.

Amber Iman as Nina Simone and Heather Parcells as church-goer, photo Carol Rosegg.

She tells him he can’t know how she feels about the slave past of her family. He tells her about the Holocaust. “I saw my father’s synagogue engulfed in flames… just like your family’s church.” They become friends. She talks about the power of music and takes him to a revival meeting at her mother’s church.

Carlebach is taken by the jazz sound. It influences his own, though still with a religious text, but now a modern feel. He sings “Peace in your heart, shalom.” Anderson has a good folk singer’s voice.

He tells her, “I’ll make you a deal, Nina. I’ll try my songs in synagogue if you try out for Carnegie Hall.”

Ian_Paget, Teddy Walsh, Ryan Strand Eric Anderson, Alexandra Frohlinger and Abdur Rahim Jackson, photo Carol Rosegg.

Eric Anderson as Shlomo Carlebach with cast, photo Carol Rosegg.

In Washington Square Park, a blind guitarist teaches him the instrument. Then Carlebach is discovered by a record producer who tells him, “Not to drop names; you heard of Peter Paul and Mary?” Carlebach replies, “I don’t know so much the New Testament.“ That’s the nature of the humor. Not brilliant, but funny.

Carlebach makes an album of Jewish songs, which takes off. And he helps Simone reach fame. She invites him to perform with her at the Village Gate. The Gate was a jazz club run by Art d’Lugoff, a Zionist and advocate of civil rights, the perfect impresario to present Simone and Carlebach together. (Sorry there’s not a D’Lugoff character in the play.)

Eric Stockton as Shlomo Carlbach, photo Carol Rosegg.

Eric Stockton as Shlomo Carlebach, photo Carol Rosegg.

Carlebach is challenged, accused by the traditional Reb Pinchas (Ron Orbach), his childhood tutor, who had instructed him that, “Being a Jew is about pain and suffering!” and “Joy is for the Gentiles!” Reb Pinchas will be his nemesis through the years, his “holy heckler.”

Carlebach leaves New York to go to the flower-child capital of San Francisco, where in Haight Ashbury he builds “The House of Love and Prayer.”

Eric Anderson as Carlbach and Zarah Mahler as Ruth, photo Carol Rosegg.

Eric Anderson as Carlebach and Zarah Mahler as Ruth, photo Carol Rosegg.

Ruth (Zarah Malher), a young counter-culture woman, develops an affection for Carlebach. Malher has a strong sweet voice.

Carlebach’s rabbi father marches with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. So, their politics were really not so far apart. Change happens.

Anders voice is miked, but that’s fine for rock. So is his long curly hair.

Eric-Anderson as Shlomo Carlbach and Amber Iman as Nina Simone, photo Carol_Rosegg.

Eric-Anderson as Shlomo Carlebach and Amber Iman as Nina Simone, photo Carol Rosegg.

The backdrop is a rough concrete wall; at the end, it appears to be the Wailing Wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production – the politics, the music — including such numbers as “Rosh Hashanah Rock,” “Lord Get Me High” and some very fine jazz numbers by Iman/Simone.

Soul Doctor.” Music and additional lyrics by Shlomo Carlebach, book by Daniel S. Wise, lyrics by David Schechter. Directed by Daniel S. Wise, choreographed by Denoit-Swan Pouffer. Circle in the Square, 50th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway, New York City. (212) 239-6200. Opened Aug 15, 2013. 9/9/13.

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

Sep 10th

Kristin Chenoweth in Concert.

By Irish Reviewers


Kristin Chenoweth gave a dazzling concert at the Hollywood Bowl for 2 nights on 23rd
& 24th August. In 1999, Chenoweth won a Tony Award for her performance as Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway, and in 2003, she received wide notice for originating the role of Glinda in the musical Wicked. Her television roles have included Annabeth Schott in NBC's The West Wing and Olive Snook on the ABC comedy-drama Pushing Daisies, for which she won a 2009 Emmy Award. Chenoweth also starred in the ABC TV series Glee in 2012.

Kristin Chenoweth

The tiny 4’11 TV and Broadway Star won over the crowd with her hilarious charm and belly aching laugh-inducing personality as she sang to an almost sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl. She performed an amazing selection of songs that Broadway fans know her well for including; Que Sera, Sera, Over the Rainbow, I’m tired, For Good, working 9-5, Moonriver, I could have danced all night and Wishing you were somehow here again.

As we entered the Hollywood bowl we were seated with the assistance of a pleasant volunteer usher. We were served wine and a picnic which we had pre-ordered in the outdoor arena. The world renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Kevin Stites sat on stage warming up as the audience were seated. As the orchestra played their first melody while waiting for Chenoweth to grace the stage we found ourselves bedazzled by a spectacular fireworks display. “I like to start with a bang” she says as she enters the stage wearing a stunning white gown. Charming and funny, she easily wins over the crowd before performing song after song, beautifully. With her talent and a witty personality you begin to adore her.

During her performance she mentioned she is working on an animation movie with Disney, called up Dolly Parton on live video asking her for man advice and she even allowed a selected audience member to join her on stage for a duet, which has now gone viral on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S8Cn2FmqxQ

Overall the night was truly spectacular and captured the stars best assets; her personality, and voice. In between her performances she takes time out to joke with the audience and engage in a few hilarious impromptu skits. The night not only captured one of Broadway's most loved stars but the bundle of talent itself that this celebrated icon is famous for in the first place. You can keep up to date with kristin Chenoweth via her website http://officialkristinchenoweth.com/ and for a list of the Hollywood Bowls upcoming concerts you can always visit: http://www.hollywoodbowl.com/

 


Aug 9th

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Two Character Play

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Brad Dourif as Felice, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

Brad Dourif as Felice, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

Delicious surreal theatrical games are featured in Tennessee Williams’ Southern Gothic drama of brother and sister actors of a failed theater company where the characters in a play-within-a-play mirror the duo’s real-life desperation.

Williams, the famous chronicler of Southern psychological disintegration, goes one better by giving the neurotic pair, Clare (Amanda Plummer) and Felice (Brad Dourif), a life as absurd as in the interior play. The actors are brilliant in the expression of their characters’ neuroses.

Plummer sometimes reminds one of a crazy bag lady, and Dourif captures the bi-polarity of Felice (which means happy in French) who sometimes seems more solid than Clare but we learn also once inhabited State Haven. Director Gene David Kirk creates the feel of an edgy dark movie.

Amanda Plummer as Clare, Brad Dourif as Felice, photo Carol Rosegg.

Amanda Plummer as Clare, Brad Dourif as Felice, photo Carol Rosegg.

The actors move between a slightly seedy stage and an inner space that represents a southern living room. If plays are about unreality so is their life. Felice tells Clare the audience is coming in. She insists there is “no show.”

They are on tour. The last few seasons have been disasters.In fact, they get a telegram from the company complaining that as they haven’t been paid, they are decamping.

Actually, the cable is rather blunt: ”Your sister and you are—insane—Having received no pay since—“ The match Felice is holding burns out. He strikes another. “We’ve borrowed and begged enough money to return to—” But patrons and critics might show up.

Brad Dourif as Felize, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

Brad Dourif as Felize, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

The mood is as dark as the decrepit theater. The two rehearse dialogue about fear. They attack each other. Felice says, “Your voice is thick, slurred, you’ve picked up—vulgarisms of—gutters!” Clare interrupts, “What you pick up is stopped at the desk of any decent hotel.” But sometimes they soothe each other. It’s a pas de deux of two people who cling to each other even as they snipe at each other.

Since the other actors have departed, they must put on “The Two-Character Play,” but to what extent are they playing roles? Felice says, “You know I wear a wig for the role of Felice.” Clare responds, “The part of Felice is not the only part that you play.”

The characters in the play, also called Clare and Felice, are living in a house that reminds one of the theater. It is not lighted, and it is empty except for them. In the play, their father shot their mother and left them as recluses without money – no insurance was paid as a result of the crime. They have run up a debt with Grossman’s Market. In a fantasy of the Old South, they discuss if Clare should go “calling,” as ladies do. But she hesitates to go out, because there would be hostile people standing outside their house.

Brad Dourif as Felice, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

Brad Dourif as Felice, Amanda Plummer as Clare, photo Carol Rosegg.

Williams enjoys a clever diversion. Clare notices a throne-chair, and declares, “Why, my God, old Aquitaine Eleanor’s throne! I’m going to usurp it a moment—“

And there’s a bit of mystery when an unscripted revolver appears in the play. Felice declares with a hint of menace, “Now I remove the blank cartridges and insert the real ones as calmly as if I were removing dead flowers from a vase and putting in fresh ones.”

Finally they discover that the doors of the cold theater are locked. The playwright gets in some personal licks, with Clare saying, “I’ve always suspected that theatres are prisons for players . . .” and Felice responding, “Finally, yes. And for writers of plays.”

To ward off the chill, they could put their coats on. But they could also disappear into the Southern play and experience the equally warming heat of an imaginary summer as the boundaries between fantasy and reality are blurred again.

The Two-Character Play.” Written by Tennessee Williams; directed by Gene David Kirk. New World Stages / Stage 5, 340 West 50th Street, New York. 212-239-6200; 800 447-7400. Opened June 19, 2013; closes September 1, 2013. 8/8/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.
Jul 19th

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Explorers' Club

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

I haven’t seen such a clever, funny, outrageous satirical play in years as this work by Nell Benjamin! It’s London in 1879. A very stodgy club of naturalists and explorers is having its annual meeting in a Victorian townhouse whose every inch of wood-paneled walls is decorated with tusks and stuffed animal heads and paintings of illustrious members. At the back, center, is a bar. (The explorer-spoofing set is by Donyale Werle.)

Brian Avers as Professor Cope, Steven Boyer as Professor Walling, photo Joan Marcus.

Brian Avers as Professor Cope, Steven Boyer as Professor Walling, photo Joan Marcus.

One of the members, Professor Walling (a nerdy Steven Boyer), is holding a guinea pig in a wicker cage. It’s the only one he has left after, in an experiment, he put food outside cages of his other mouse-like creatures to see if they could figure out the latches. They did. Now he can’t find them, except for Jane, the only slacker, who couldn’t open the cage door.

Professor Cope (the puffed up Brian Avers), who discovered a deadly new species of cobra, wears one around his neck. She is Rosie, named for his mother.

Not that Benjamin is dissing biology; she is just making fun of these self-important male researchers who have anthropomorphized rodents and snakes. Compare them to intrepid anthropologist and explorer Phyllida Spotte-Hume (Jennifer Westfeldt), who has just discovered a legendary Lost City. Lucius Fretway (Lorenzo Pisoni), acting president, has invited her to give the club’s annual lecture, and he wants to propose her for membership.

However, the other men demur, because she is a woman. Forget that she is talented and they are fools. Westfeldt is a brilliant Phyllida, smart, assertive, ingenious and slightly surprised that the stupid men don’t treat her as she deserves.

Carson Elrod as Luigi, Jennifer Westfeldt as Phyllida Spotte-Hume, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, photo Joan Marcus.

Carson Elrod as Luigi, Jennifer Westfeldt as Phyllida Spotte-Hume, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, photo Joan Marcus.

Nevertheless, Lucius presents Phyllida. She has arrived with Luigi (Carson Elrod), a warrior of the Lost City of Pahatlabonga’s NaKong tribe. Luigi is marked with blue paint, including a line from his scalp down his nose that ends in rough pants tied with a cord. He is also decorated with feathers and tattoos. (He is called Luigi, because Phyllida names everything Luigi.) Elrod is a delightful, quirky tribesman.

Phyllida proceeds to give a faux-erudite and satirical speech displaying British imperial contempt for the lesser folks of discovered lands. She notes that the expedition had set out with “cheap alcohol for the local guides and better quality alcohol for the stove.” But alas, she was “deserted by those guides who had not died of alcohol poisoning.”

She plans to present Luigi to Queen Victoria. As it happens, Cope and Walling are also going to the palace to report on their discoveries and invite her to share a cab.

However, Phyllida does not find the same welcome from Professor Sloane (a pompous John McMartin), who declares, “Your science is adequate, but your sex is weak with sin and led astray with divers lusts. No offense.” Turns out he is professor of archeo-theology, which he declares is Biblical Science.

David Furr as Harry Percy, photo Joan Marcus.

David Furr as Harry Percy, photo Joan Marcus.

He explains, “There’s no reason the Bible can’t be used as a scientific text, and the Bible exhorts us to beware the evil woman.” Does this remind you of Christian fundamentalism?

Meanwhile, the club members have given Luigi a nice room and put Phyllida in the former potato cellar. Oh, and Luigi has one problem: when someone seeks to shake hands, he slaps them across the face, which is how the NaKong introduce themselves.

Harry Percy (a smooth, egotistical David Furr), the club president who has just returned (swathed in fur) from a Pole expedition, is another ridiculous male, who claims to have discovered the East Pole. (An East Pole?) When it’s time for brandy and cigars, he orders Phyllida to the lounge “with the other ladies.” She points out that there are no other ladies.

But there is more than social niceties (or rudeness) involved. Percy declares that brandy and cigars is “the heart and soul of the British Empire.…The Romans? The Persians? The…other ones. If they’d had brandy and cigars, we’d all be speaking Roman today.” In another aperçu, he asserts, “We are manly. And women are not.” He emphasizes manliness with a military costume he says is his old uniform — from a production of “HMS Pinafore.”

David Furr as Harry Percy, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, Arnie Burton as Beebe. photo Joan Marcus.

David Furr as Harry Percy, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, Arnie Burton as Beebe. photo Joan Marcus.

Benjamin cordially mocks religion. When Sloane tries to proselytize Luigi, Lucius declares, “He’s just repeating words he doesn’t understand.” Sloane replies, “That’s good enough for the church.” When Sloane declaims against lust, asserting that “a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread!” Percy interjects, “Really? Where? They’re much more expensive where I go.”

Almost as an afterthought, another member of the club arrives. Beebe (Arnie Burton) was on Percy’s expedition. He was captured by the terrible Warrior Monks of Jho Dae, because Percy had desecrated their Sacred Mountain. He explains that the Jho Dae is a religious sect whose laws are collected in sacred scrolls called the Tao Ra. After talking about his awful ordeal in a miles-long underground maze filled with challenges and horrors, he declares that Jho Dae-ism is not for everyone. (Get it? Read the graf out loud.)

You really can’t imagine what happens when Walling with his cobra, Cope with the guinea pig, and Luigi in full get-up visit Queen Victoria. Let’s just say it leads to the Queen’s Private Secretary Humphries (Max Baker, also appropriately pompous) arriving to demand a map of Pahatlabong which the Brits will level with artillery to revenge an insult.

Jennifer Westfeldt as Phyllida Spotte-Hume, Carson Elrod as Luigi, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, John McMartin as ProfessorSloane, David Furr as Harry Percy, Max Baker as Sir Bernard Humphries, photo Joan Marcus.

Jennifer Westfeldt as Phyllida Spotte-Hume, Carson Elrod as Luigi, Lorenzo Pisoni as Lucius Fretway, John McMartin as ProfessorSloane, David Furr as Harry Percy, Max Baker as Sir Bernard Humphries, photo Joan Marcus.

Humphries needs the map. He notes, “You can’t imagine the paperwork” when British forces attack the wrong target. Meanwhile, the Queen’s Guards surround the Explorers Club.

Aside from the intellectual slapstick (think Stoppard), there’s some wonderful physical farce. To hide him from Humphries, the club members dress Luigi as the bartender. He concocts complicated drinks and then slides them to members off the edge of the bar. “Hanjoy your drinks, sah!” Everyone miraculously catches them. And Phyllida outwits Her Majesty’s Private Secretary.

Kudos to Marc Bruni who has directed this event, making it both bitingly funny and good-spirited. Quite a feat. The same should be said for Nell Benjamin.

The Explorers Club.” Written by Nell Benjamin, directed by Marc Bruni. MTC at The City Center, 131 West 55th Street, New York City. 212-581-1212. Opened June 20, 2013; closes August 4, 2013. 7/17/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic. Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

Jul 2nd

NEW YORK REVIEW: Cornelius

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar

Lucy Komisar reviews "Cornelius" which is presented as part of the "Brits on Broadway" series at 59E59 Theatres in New York:

This rather conventional play by J.B. Priestley (famous for “An Inspector Calls”) occurs and premiered in London in 1935, a period of economic crisis. It’s not brilliant, but it is engrossing.

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius, Carol Rosegg.

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius, Carol Rosegg.

Briggs and Murrison, a London dealer in aluminum, is going through a rough patch. Trade is devastated by the conflict in Europe. A cable from the company man in Ottawa says embargo is certain on everything but low-grade sheet metal. Murrison has gone into the country seeking orders to save the company from collapse. Jim Cornelius (Alan Cox) is in the office trying to stave off the creditors.

The set features old wood desks and a green bookkeeper’s lamp. Cornelius wears pin stripes. The Depression and the European war are referred to only obliquely. Director Sam Yates, following Priestley’s text, treats events quite matter-of-factly rather than as high drama.

A door-to-door salesman selling stationary faints because he hasn’t eaten. Cornelius gives him cash and wonders why the fellow can’t get a job. He says to the bookkeeper, Mr. Biddle (the very staid and proper Col Farrell), “I can’t believe it. If you’re willing to work hard, willing to take risks, ready to be scorched or frozen, drowned or sent half mad with thirst there must be openings for you somewhere in the world. They can’t have closed everything up, so that we’re all like bees in a glass case. It’s unthinkable, Biddle.” Of course, that’s the theory of the system, but a businessman couldn’t be so naive as to believe it.

In the midst of the financial crisis, Cornelius is also fighting “the system,” effected by crooks who he calls “twisters.” One gave him a phony price that wasn’t honored. He tells his secretary, “Lots of young men like that about, Miss Porrin (the mousy Pandora Colin). Twisters. If you have it out with some of them, they tell you it’s not their fault, it’s the system. God knows I don’t admire the system. If there is one, it’s getting me down. But they’d still be twisting under any system. They couldn’t go straight on a desert island.”

 Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius and Emily Barber, photo Carol Rosegg.

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius and Emily Barber, photo Carol Rosegg.

Cox as Cornelius is a charmer, a debonair David Niven type in his early 50s. In the midst of the company crisis, there’s also a quiet love triangle of sentiment if not actions. Miss Porrin, the company secretary for years, is secretly in love with the bachelor Cornelius.

He becomes infatuated with Judy Evison (Emily Barber), a pretty young lady who arrives to take the place of her sister who’s had to leave town to care for a sick husband. Miss Porrin burns when she sees Cornelius admire Miss Evison. When Evison tells Cornelius that Miss Porrin is in love with him, he gets angry: “We don’t say things like that here.”

Sometimes the play seems a bit of a soap opera of the sort British TV is famous for. A mix of politics, history and personal drama. It’s quite old-fashioned. The characters are stock figures, the kind that were on the British stage for years. The cast portrays them quite expertly.

The crisis occurs when the creditors arrive. Again, politics mixes in obliquely. Cornelius, increasingly bitter, tells Biddle, “These fellows who are coming here this afternoon, Biddle, they don’t want chaps like you as cashiers. They want Einstein….Yes, Einstein as cashier, and Mussolini and Hitler and the storm troops as salesmen.”

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius at meeting of creditors, photo Carol Rosegg.

Alan Cox as Jim Cornelius at meeting of creditors, photo Carol Rosegg.

He complains, “Some countries you couldn’t get money into. Some countries you couldn’t get money out of. You could send goods in a ship with a blue flag but not in a ship with a red flag. It wasn’t business anymore. It was a game of snakes and ladders—but without the ladders.” So, an international crisis is crushing ordinary people in its grip. It’s all put rather subtly. Cornelius never overtly challenges the system.

The banker Mortimer (Robin Browne) takes over the creditors’ meeting. But there’s little hope. When Murrison (Jamie Newall) shows up, he seems paranoid and talks about being followed. Unless he had worked miracles, the firm would be bankrupt.

Later, the play gets corny when the distraught Cornelius places a gun on his desk. His other choice is represented by a book on the Andes, a promise of adventure. It shows that for Priestley the response to economic crisis was personal rather than political. Cornelius never becomes one of the politically aware characters of Clifford Odets who wrote in the same period. He certainly does not presage the anti-heroes of the angry young men playwrights who raised questions about the economic system in the fifties. They make Priestley seem quaint.

Cornelius.” Written by J.B. Priestley; directed by Sam Yates. Jagged Fence, Handsome Dog and 31 Productions, part of the Brits on Broadway series at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, New York City. 212.279.4200. Opened June 11, 2013; closes June 30, 2013. 6/29/13.

- See more at: http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/2013/06/cornelius-is-j-b-priestleys-engrossing-thirties-play-about-a-company-confronting-bankruptcy/#sthash.esPHa96E.dpuf

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic. Her website is The Komisar Scoop.
Jun 4th

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Last Cyclist

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

“The Last Cyclist” is fascinating in its conception and existence as a satirical political cabaret put on in 1944 by prisoners of the Theresienstadt concentration camp 40 miles from Prague. While suffering from unspeakable hunger, grueling forced labor and other horrors, inmates presented original plays for their fellows to see late nights in building attics.

Judged as an ordinary a piece of theater, the play falters because with one, perhaps two, exceptions, most of the performers are amateurish. On the other hand, the original in the camp also mixed professionals and amateurs, so perhaps this production provides verisimilitude.

Jenny Lee Mitchell as Ma'am and Eric Emil Oleson at the Rat, photo Carol Rosegg.

Jenny Lee Mitchell as Ma’am and Eric Emil Oleson at the Rat, photo Carol Rosegg.

The work was written and directed by Karel Svenk, a Czech playwright, director and comic actor who would be murdered in Auschwitz. It has been pieced together by Naomi Patz, basing much of her work on the recollections of Jana Sedova, an actress who performed in the play and survived the Holocaust.

The absurd parable is structured on a play within a play being put on by members of a lunatic asylum. The meme is that terrible things are happening and the Nazi provocateurs ask who is to blame.

The putative Nazis are caricatured by Jenny Lee Mitchell, as Ma’am, in black coat and black fingernails which she raises to just below her nostrils to approximate Hitler’s moustache. Mitchell is a brilliant satirical performer as she holds up a red air pump and proclaims “Death to Cyclists,” then marches around kicking her feet Nazi style. She declares, “All cyclists must be exiled to Horror Island, where they will be starved to death while they slave for the greater glory of … me!”

Imagine these words spoken at a Nazi concentration camp! The connection was not subtle. The play starts out broadsided. Hitler, not yet in power, addresses a crowd at a Bavarian beer hall. “My fellow citizens, our country is in crisis. We must rid ourselves of the monstrous perversion that is destroying society. Who is to blame for all our troubles? The Jews!“

Young Man: And the cyclists!

Hitler: (After a quick, confused look at the young man) Who is destroying our economy and robbing our wives and children? The Jews!

Young Man: And the cyclists!

Jenny Lee Mitchell as Ma'am, Eric Emil Oleson as the Rat, Kirsten Hopkins as the young woman Zuzana, photo Carol Rosegg.

Jenny Lee Mitchell as Ma’am, Eric Emil Oleson as the Rat, Kirsten Hopkins as the young woman Zuzana, photo Carol Rosegg.

Hitler: (With a quizzical, impatient glance at the young man) Who is the parasite on the body of the nation? The Jews!

Young Man: And the cyclists!

Hitler: (Now studiously ignoring him and ratcheting up the rhetoric) Who is undermining our proud spirit with their whining and conniving? The Jews!

Young Man: And the cyclists!

Hitler: (finally exasperated) Why the cyclists?

Young Man: Why the Jews?

The “Nazis” target bike riders. All the bike owners must wear the letter C for cyclist. Ma’am adds, “These orders apply to anyone who has helped cyclists fix their bikes or inflate their tires or sold them biking gear for the last two hundred years. Round up all their relatives as well.”

Later, the Rat (Eric Emil Oleson), encouraging the repression, tells her, “There is no food. There are no jobs. People are angry and looking for a scapegoat. They need someone to blame. You know that cyclists have always made the best scapegoats.”

Edmund Bagnell, Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld as Manicka, Patrick Pizzolorusso as Borivoj Abeles, photo Carol Rosegg.

Edmund Bagnell, Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld as Manicka, Patrick Pizzolorusso as Borivoj Abeles, photo Carol Rosegg.

Patrick Pizzolorusso does a credible job as Svenk and Borivoj Abeles, a grocery store operator who gets a bicycle to impress a young lady. It will be his downfall.

Adding to the absurdity is a life insurance salesman, “the Opportunist” (Lynn Berg), a smiling fellow in a straw hat hawking his cruelly ironic product.

One of the skits is based on a true story, a Danish-government visit to the camp under the auspices of the International Red Cross. The Germans established a “Potemkin Village,” forcing inmates to discuss the sausages they were eating. The naive visitors were so impressed that they never went on to Auschwitz, which had been on their schedule.

Svenk made a small group of inmates laugh. The cabaret was never produced publicly, because the Jewish Council of Elders charged with running the internal affairs of the camp was afraid it would incite the commanders. Not that it did much good: Of more than 141,000 Jews imprisoned there between 1941 and 1945, only 15 percent got out alive. Svenk’s play survives as an emblem of his and the actors’ courage.

This production is being presented in association by the Consulate General of the Czech Republic and the Czech Center.

The Last Cyclist.” Reimagined and reconstructed by Naomi Patz; directed by Edward Einhorn. The West End Theatre, 263 West 86th Street, New York City. 212-352-3101. Opened May 30, 2013; closes June 9, 2013. 6/1/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic.  Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

Jun 3rd

NEW YORK REVIEW: I'll Eat You Last

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar

Sue Mengers (Bette Midler) was the kind of person who sucked up to those above her and had contempt for those below. A perfect fit for Hollywood, where the title, “I’ll Eat You Last” refers to an affectionate comment by a cannibal, in, as she describes it, “a cannibal love story.” Think about it. Kudos to playwright John Logan for the title as well as the script.

Following the metaphor, Mengers’ story shows how those whose careers she helped dropped her when it was convenient. But they were all playing the same game, so you can’t really feel sorry for her.

Bette Middler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

Bette Midler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

Bette Midler channels Mengers brilliantly as the half obnoxious, half charming (each characteristic aimed at difference audiences) Hollywood agent who, beginning when women agents were unheard of, rose to the top, representing such stars as Barbara Streisand and Gene Hackman. But we see her on the way down, when she is desperately seeking to persuade Streisand’s lawyers not to switch agents.

Director Joe Mantello understands how to make Midler/Mengers appear both caustic and sympathetic. We like her even though we may not like what she stands for.

Midler sits on a salmon-colored sofa wearing a blue caftan to hide Mengers’ excess pounds. (Mengers notes, “Exercise” doesn’t play a big part in my life. By this time your Sue has embraced her inner zaftig.”) Her hair is long and blonde. She wears rimless glasses. The luxurious room is decorated with leafy plants and flowers. We see palms outside the windows.

She is awaiting a call from Streisand’s lawyers. Ironically, it was Streisand who opened doors for her, introduced her to le tout Hollywood and helped her get started as an agent.

In the course of waiting for the call, she tells us about her life. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the Hollywood netherworld as well as a primer of how to be an agent.

Bette Middler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

Bette Midler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

Young Mengers lived in the Bronx and got a job as a secretary at the William Morris Agency. She started going to trendy parties and telling everyone she was “Sue Mengers from William Morris.” A secretary? An agent? Who knew? Then she’d make the “Bataan death march back to the Bronx.” Mengers was very witty, aggressively so; she could have been a stand-up comic.

Midler portrays Mengers terrifically. She is vulgar; she swears a lot; she smokes cigarettes and pot. Her smile is a grimace, her speech is speeded up, exaggerated. She is ferocious. Her conversations with producers are fascinating, even instructive, especially the one where she fights to get Gene Hackman the role of Popeye in “The French Connection.” Hackman would show his appreciation later by dropping her.

On the other hand, she gives as good as she gets. It’s called poaching. She describes how she trudged through mud on Cissy Spacek’s farm to try to sign that actress. No go.

She learns that part of fitting into Hollywood is conspicuous consumption. She recalls, “Actually I did have one argument with my decorating boys. They insisted on putting in the pool. You cannot have, they averred, a Beverly Hills mansion without a pool. You will lose the respect of your friends and neighbors. You will lose tiles in the great Mah Jong game that is Hollywood. So I let them put in the f****** pool.”

Bette Middler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

Bette Midler as Sue Mengers, photo Richard Termine.

She is, however, not above the local passtime, dishing gossip. She quips, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, come sit by me.”

Her husband was a writer, director, and producer, and she ran into trouble when she got her actors to sign onto a disastrous production he promoted. Things ground down. She sighed, “We used to laugh more. Honey, we used to have fun.”

But audiences have a lot of fun at this exceptional Bette Midler reenactment of a rather exceptional woman.

I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers.” Written by John Logan; directed by Joe Mantello. Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400. Opened April 24, 2013; closes June 30, 2013. 6/2/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic. Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

Jun 3rd

NEW YORK REVIEW: Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Bertolt Brecht’s 1944 play with music – almost a chamber opera – is a satiric parody about selflessness and greed. As the narrator puts it, “Terrible is the temptation to do good.” Classic Stage director Brian Kulick helms a strong production laced with Brecht’s irony, colored by caricatures and driven by strong performances. He has edited the text, but he remains true to the author’s conception. Kulick starts the play at the turn of the last century and ends with the collapse of Soviet communism.

Elizabeth A. Davis as Grusha, Mary Testa as the Governor's Wife, Deb Radloff as the nurse, photo Joan Marcus.

Elizabeth A. Davis as Grusha, Mary Testa as the Governor’s Wife, Deb Radloff as the nurse, photo Joan Marcus.

The production begins as a play within a play, actors struggling against continual blackouts that leave them in darkness. It’s an apt metaphor. This is a time of upheaval in early 1900s Georgia. Revolutionary paintings are on the wall. There’s a statue of Lenin. The governor has been killed and the grand duke overthrown in a coup by the prince.

Grusha (Elizabeth A. Davis), the young kitchen maid at the governor’s house, is the good soul to whom everything terrible happens. The governor’s wife (the incomparable Mary Testa), abandons her baby as she organizes her wardrobe for the flight to safety.

Alex Hurt as Simon and Elizabeth A. Davis as Grusha, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Hurt as Simon and Elizabeth A. Davis as Grusha, photo Joan Marcus.

Grusha rescues the infant and then flees, as the Ironshirts — soldiers meant to resemble Nazi storm troopers — pursue the child who is perceived as a threatening heir. She leaves in spite of the danger that she will not again find her soldier sweetheart.

Davis encompasses the girl’s innocence, but she is too mild for the role. She is overpowered by others in the cast.

The scowling village clerk Azdak (a very idiosyncratic, dominating Christopher Lloyd) shelters a fugitive whose white hands show him a landowner. Lloyd is the ballast of the production. Azdal later realizes the “beggar” is the duke. However, he is charged with stealing the prince’s rabbit. He declares, “I am despicable, treacherous, branded! Tell them, flatfoot, how I insisted on being put in chains and brought to the capital. Because I sheltered the Grand Duke, the Grand Swindler, by mistake.” But when he accuses himself, everyone laughs.

Power shifts, and Azdak is put in a position of authority. It’s a new age, maybe. Azdak, who in some respects speaks for Brecht, declares, “Everything is being investigated, brought into the open. In which case a man prefers to give himself up. Why? Because he won’t escape the mob.” He says, “Judgment must always be passed with complete solemnity—because it’s such rot.”

Tom Riis Farrell and Christopher Lloyd as Azdak, the judge, photo Joan Marcus.

Tom Riis Farrell and Christopher Lloyd as Azdak, the judge, photo Joan Marcus.

“Suppose a Judge throws a woman into the clink for having stolen a loaf of bread for her child. And he isn’t wearing his robes. Or he’s scratching himself while passing sentence so that more than a third of his body is exposed—in which case he’d have to scratch his thigh—then the sentence he passes is a disgrace and the law is violated.”

The play is also a satire and critique of the military. It could take place today. The prince wants to make his nephew the judge, but requires the Ironshirts’ support, so Azdak plays the duke in a mock trial. The prince’s nephew declares to Azdak, ”You’re being accused, not of declaring war, which every ruler has to do once in a while, but of conducting it badly.”

THE NEPHEW

It’s not your business to command me. So you claim the Princes forced you to declare war. Then how can you claim they made a mess of it?

AZDAK

Didn’t send enough troops. Embezzled funds. During attack found drunk in whorehouse.

THE NEPHEW

Are you making the outrageous claim that the Princes of this country did not fight?

The Caucasian Chalk Circle Classic Stage Company

AZDAK

No. Princes fought. Fought for war contracts….Princes have won their war. Got themselves paid 3,863,000 piastres for horses not delivered…. 8,240,000 piastres for food supplies not produced…. And therefore victors. War lost only for Grusinia, which is not present in this court.”

The Ironshirts like Azdak and make him the judge. And the bribes continue. It’s so much a part of the job of a judge that he seems destined to grab for the cash. He has to adjudicate an absurd dispute over the theft of a cow and a ham. Of course, injustice ensues. That doesn’t last long. The Ironshirts decide that Azdak is an enemy of the state.

Meanwhile, Gursha carries the child across a rickety bridge and into a snowy village where she desperately seeks shelter, meeting mean welcomes even from relatives.

At the end, Brecht presents the parable of the chalk circle which is just a variant of the Judgment of Solomon. Grusha and the governor’s wife, who both want the boy, are ordered by the judge to each take an arm and pull the child (an entrancing puppet) over opposite sides of a chalk circle.

Alex Hurt as a soldier, Christopher Lloyd as Azdak, Deb Radloff as a soldier, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Hurt as a soldier, Christopher Lloyd as Azdak, Deb Radloff as a soldier, photo Joan Marcus.

Brecht’s play is a political cartoon, and director Kulick draws it expertly. The shift to the fall of the Soviet Union occurs so seamlessly, that you can’t tell it except for the Coca Cola sign. The actors are a fine ensemble, especially Testa as the governor’s loud-mouthed wife. This Classic Stage revival shows again why the Company is so important to New York.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Written by Bertolt Brecht, translated by James and Tania Stern, Lyrics by W.H. Auden, new music by Duncan Sheik, directed by Brian Kulick. Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, New York City. (212) 677-4210 x10. $40 General Rush and $20 Student Rush, one ticket per person, at Box Office starting 1 hour before curtain. Opened May 30th 2013, closes June 23, 2013. 5/31/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic.  Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

May 28th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Women of Will

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

Sometimes Tina Packer’s “Women of Will” seems like a bravura performance by a very talented actress. Other times it is a university course by a master teacher. In fact, it is both, an artistically and intellectually stimulating event for lovers of Shakespeare or simply lovers of the art of acting.

 Nigel Gore and Tina Packer, photo by Kevin Sprague.

Nigel Gore and Tina Packer, photo by Kevin Sprague.

I delighted in Packer’s ability to shift seamlessly among women who are in turn supine, ingratiating, furious and sultry. At the same time I was fascinated by her revelation of how Shakespeare changed in his development of major female characters.

Packer’s ability shows in the change of face, demeanor, and body language among a dozen or more characters, with expressions moving from girlish, to coy, to overpowering, to grim, in voices that are high (submissive), sultry, or grim, never simply assertive. The acting is interspersed with her commentary.

Packer is ably partnered by Nigel Gore in the male roles, the romantic ones, from Petruchio to her Kate, to Romeo and Othello, and the villainous ones in the Henry plays. Director Eric Tucker assures that the shifting moods each assume center stage seamlessly.

Nigel Gore as a king threatened by Tina Packer, photo Kevin Sprague.

Nigel Gore as a king threatened by Tina Packer, photo Kevin Sprague.

Most of Shakespeare’s plays had few women, and they were outside the power structure, except for Cleopatra. Packer starts at the nadir, the submissive Kathryn in the misogynist “Taming of the Shrew.” Petruchio insists “I say it’s the moon” and pulls out a belt. She will declaim, “Tell these headstrong women the duty they owe.” And he puts the belt around her neck. As Packer points out, she’s had her food and clothes and then her language taken away. The contrast Shakespeare sets is Kathryn’s sister Bianca, the little virgin on a pedestal.

But Shakespeare has a journey of enlightenment. He moves from women the supplicant or charmer, as Margaret in the Henry plays of the Wars of the Roses, to the warrior woman, Joan of Arc. The charmer would be more successful.

One is Elizabeth Woodville, who arrived at court to seek return of lands and, smiling flirtatiously, entranced King Edward and married him. She would be the great-grandmother of Queen Elisabeth I, who was on throne for most of Shakespeare’s life. The Wars of the Roses would come to an end by a woman’s maneuvering.

Packer says Shakespeare stops writing about women and starts writing as if he were woman. Now women could have sexuality and spirituality on their own terms.

Tina Packer as Juliet and Nigel Gore as Romeo -- imagine the balcony, photo Kevin Sprague.

Tina Packer as Juliet and Nigel Gore as Romeo — imagine the balcony, photo Kevin Sprague.

After a dozen plays of ruling conflicts and violence, expressed most bloodily in the Henry plays, he turns to love relationships. Packer’s Juliet is another flirtatious charmer. The set, by the way, is just a chair, a carpet and a riser on one side. The balcony is created by Packer leaning on the chair and looking over its back to Gore lying beneath it.

About women such as Juliet and Desdemona, Packer points out, “If they stay in frocks they get killed.” If disguise themselves as men, they turn out well. That’s Rosalind pursued by Orlando in “As You Like It.”

However, it doesn’t turn out well for women if like Lady Macbeth they take over masculine attributes and want the top jobs and power.

Later, Shakespeare plays out the cycle of violence and looks to myths, fairy tales, parables – “Pericles” where the daughter puts things right. The women, often brought up in nature, redeem the sins of the father.

I saw only “The Overview.” Packer and Gore do five separate performances that include many more women. “Women of Will” was developed during 15 years when Packer was Artistic Director at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. Beginning in 2010, she’s performed it in Lenox, Cambridge, Boulder and Prague.

Brilliant in its conception, it is supremely satisfying in its achievement.

Women of Will.” Written by Tina Packer; directed by Eric Tucker. The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, New York City. 866-811-4111. Opened Feb 3, 2013; closes May 26, 2013. 5/25/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic.  Her website is The Komisar Scoop.

May 7th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Lucky Guy

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York
Warning: this review contains suggestive language

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron

There is a fake character in Nora Ephron’s “Lucky Guy.” She is a foul-mouthed Newsday reporter, a woman whose cursing outdoes all the men. Such a female reporter didn’t exist. Quite the reverse: some male reporters at Newsday were so obscenely abusive to the women, that they protested, and the paper’s editor intervened. How could Ephron get this part of her story so wrong?

I knew Nora Ephron when we both worked at the New York Post in the mid-1960s. She must have been taking notes. The paper was dominated in spirit if not numbers by a bunch of hard-drinking, rough-talking Irishmen, and what was on “the wood,” the big headline above the masthead, was eagerly noted as reporters grabbed for the freshly inked papers stacked on gray steel city room desks half a dozen times a day.

Ephron herself was a feature writer, not a hard-news hound, but she was caught up in the spell of the news. (So was I.) The comment by Mike McAlary (Tom Hanks), the hero of “Lucky Guy,” “All I ever wanted to be was a reporter,” speaks for her. But part of the story she tells in the play bothered me and raised questions about her journalism credentials.

Ephron didn’t know McAlary, who was a reporter years after she was at The Post, but his Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of the police attack on Haitian New Yorker Abner Louima made him a star. Ephron also knew a “good story” when she chose to write about him. She recaptured the time by interviewing reporters of the era.

Hanks, in a tan suit, exudes energy and ambition. His McAlary is self-involved to the point of parody. No idealistic muckraking journalist he, McAlary dreams of getting a big house and Subzero fridge.

Deirdre Lovejoy as TV reporter interviewing Tom Hanks as McAlary on his big scoop, photo Joan Marcus.

Deirdre Lovejoy as TV reporter interviewing Tom Hanks as McAlary on his big scoop, photo Joan Marcus.

As Ephron tells it, McAlary has “Breslinitis.” He wants to become a famous Jimmy Breslin-style columnist who breaks big stories. She doesn’t draw him as a superhero. She depicts him building his career by sucking up to bosses and even to Donald Trump as well as by getting sources, especially cops, to talk.

The time is the tabloid wars that started in the late 1980s when hot shots were in a celebrity-writer price war that engaged The Post, The News and Newsday. McAlary worked at all three. Ephron takes him through a rise that began with Newsday. Ironically, McAlary gets his shot when Breslin quits The News for Newsday. One of McAlary’s colleagues remarks that he is “a two-bit hack who got Breslin’s slot but not his talent.”

His big story comes from a tip, as most big stories do. We see him in 1997 at Coney Island Hospital interviewing Louima, who had been sodomized with a plunger by cop Justin Volpe. The story made “the wood” for days. (Louima would undergo three operations to repair the internal damage. Volpe got 30 years in federal prison.) McAlary, ill when he pursued the case, would die of cancer in 1998.

The play is realistic, sometimes hokey, occasionally inaccurate, often riveting and always entertaining. But it starts out wrong-footed.

Ephron depicts New York Newsday reporter Louise Imerman (Deirdre Lovejoy) as uttering “f###” every other word. Though all the other names in the play are real, neither Newsday reporters of that time whom I contacted nor a NexisLexis search turned up anyone with that name. Linda Winer, the theater critic for Newsday, in her review wrote about “a lone woman reporter” without mentioning a name. She told me in an email, “I know people in my office asked the same question and came up with no answer. She may be a composite.”

Tom Hanks as McAlary, Courney Vance as Hap Hairston, Peter Scolari as Michael Daly, Christopher McDonald as Eddie Hayes, Michael Gaston as Jim Dwyer, photo Joan Marcus.

Tom Hanks as McAlary, Courney Vance as Hap Hairston, Peter Scolari as Michael Daly, Christopher McDonald as Eddie Hayes, Michael Gaston as Jim Dwyer, photo Joan Marcus.

The other characters in the play are real people. Louise Imerman is not. Answering my query, the play’s publicist, Christine Olver of Boneau/Bryan-Brown, acknowledged that Imerman was a composite.

It matters because male reporters depicted, including Hap Hairston (Courtney B. Vance), McAlary’s editor at Newsday and then at The Daily News, get a pass in the abusive words department. Sure, the male reporters said “f###” a lot. The play has some 70 “f###,” only seven attributed to Imerman, but it dominates her character’s dialogue.

So let’s go back to the script. Unlike the men, she is cited by her first name.

HAP HAIRSTON Just let me set the f###ing thing up. Louise.

MCALARY Why do you need Louise?

HAP HAIRSTON In my story, Louise is a character.

Louise Imerman enters, but just barely.

Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary and Courtney B. Vance as Hap Hairston, photo Joan Marcus.

Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary and Courtney B. Vance as Hap Hairston, photo Joan Marcus.

LOUISE McAlary’s right. You don’t really need me. (to audience) This is a story about guys, guys with cops, cops with guys. It’s a very guy thing. (to Hap and the ensemble) The reason they were all hung up on McAlary is he made them think they could go back to the days when there were no women around, none, just Irish guys at the bar all night long. You don’t need me at all.

HAP HAIRSTON (prompting her) So –

LOUISE (with feeling) — Kiss my ass.

HAP HAIRSTON And –

LOUISE (with feeling) — F### you.

HAP HAIRSTON That’s it. (to audience) That’s Louise.

There’s a lot more of that. Hap wants her to go on a story.

LOUISE F### you, kiss my f###ing ass, I have plans. It’s Friday. Did you ever f###ing hear of Friday?

Later, McAlary says: Louise, you are looking stunning.

LOUISE F### you.

And later

HAP HAIRSTON (to audience) — and I call Louise over to give it to her. Because she had seniority. The night before she’d taken the Deputy Police Commissioner to dinner and managed to get the list of cops who were being indicted and faxed it from the restaurant.

Louise Imerman comes over to the desk and looks at Hap.

LOUISE Yeah, what is it?

HAP HAIRSTON (to Louise) I’ve got one of the cops. He’s in the D.A.’s office in Brooklyn. (to audience) So by now you know what Louise is going to say.

LOUISE (to Hap) F### you, kiss my ass, I’m not doing another f###ing thing on this story. I was up all night getting that list, I’m not going home late again, because I had to spend the day holding some cop’s d##k. (to audience) And by the way, that is the end of me in this story.

'Lucky Guy,' Newsday A Candid History of the Respectable Tabloid by Robert F. KeelerSure, that’s the end of it. She fulfilled her function of defining a woman reporter. Of course a play is a made-up thing. But what does “composite” mean in this play that portends to be telling a true story? That there were a few women who occasionally said “f###” and they were “composited” to increase the use of the word? Or that there were “a number” of women who said “f###” as frequently as Louise? Or did McAlary’s remark of “no women around” mean a woman had to make her presence felt by speaking dirtier than they did?

Ephron does not dramatize the fact that, according Robert Keeler, a Newsday journalist for more than 40 years and author of “Newsday: A Candid History of the Respectable Tabloid” (William Morrow, 1990), the New York Newsday newsroom was so “foul-mouthed,” with men liberally sprinkling their language with “c-word,” that women reporters protested. He spelled out the c-word to me, adding that it was removed from his book at the “suggestion” of Newsday’s publisher, Robert Johnson.

Keeler (a Pulitzer Prize winner and later member of the Newsday editorial board) wrote that the women complained “that the newsroom in New York had taken on the demeanor of a men’s locker room. Too many crude and offensive epithets flung at women, too many sexual jokes and anti-gay put downs.” McAlary was at the paper at the time.

I asked Amanda Harris, who was business and state editor then, if there were any women who spoke like “Louise.” She said, “No, literally there weren’t.”

Peter Gerety as John Cotter, Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary, photo Joan Marcus.

Peter Gerety as John Cotter, Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary, photo Joan Marcus.

But she recalled the language of some of the editors. She said, “There was what we used to call a locker room atmosphere, a very unpleasant atmosphere about women. The language that Cotter and Hairston used was the most dramatic thing that was going on. The male editor would stand up at the city desk and point across the room to a reporter and say, ‘Hey c###, come here. I heard Cotter do it.”

One day a group of editors at New York Newsday, including John Cotter (Peter Gerety in the play), were talking about a forthcoming meeting at which the women were going to discuss their complaints with the paper’s editor-in-chief, Tony Marro.

Keeler wrote, “Hap came in and said, ‘I’ve been warning you guys for a year about this.’ He kept going on saying ‘I was innocent. I didn’t do anything. I warned you guys.’ ” Keeler wrote, “The other editors in the room laughed, because they felt that Hairston was as foul-mouthed as any of them.”

Harris said that after the meeting, “Cotter stopped calling women c###s. Hap went to The News. It changed.”

I’m bothered that a journalism aficionada like Ephron would create a foul-mouthed female “composite” without setting her against the infinitely worse foul-mouthed men she worked with. After all, “f###” is just an expletive; the men were crudely attacking women. It seemed unlike Ephron, who was a strong women, if not a feminist.

I asked play publicist Olver, “Can you tell me whether the dialogue of the character Louise Imerman was added or altered after Nora Ephron’s death?” I also asked to speak to someone connected with the play, preferably the director, George C. Wolfe, about this character. Ms. Olver wrote back, “An interview is not available, and the character was written by Nora.”

Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary, Peter Gerety as John Cotter, Richard Masur as Jerry Nachman and Dustin Gulledge as Dino Tortorici, photo Joan Marcus.

Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary, Peter Gerety as John Cotter, Richard Masur as Jerry Nachman and Dustin Gulledge as Dino Tortorici, photo Joan Marcus.

The reporters Ephron and I knew at The Post weren’t as rough-talking as the tabloid guys in the period 25 years later whom she presented in “Lucky Guy,” though some of them routinely repaired to the Page One bar on Rector Street after work and a few of the lobster shift rewritemen went there for morning Martinis. Ephron’s characters, like them, are almost Damon Runyonesque. (The name on this bar’s window is Ephron’s early-days hangout, “Elaine’s.”)

The invented Louise Imerman aside, it’s a very good play. The cast is uniformly excellent, including Vance as the sharp-voiced, cynical Hairston (minus sexist slurs), Peter Scolari as the solid Newsday editor and writer Michael Daly, Christopher McDonald as McAlary’s pinstriped, fast-talking lawyer-manager Eddie Hayes, Gerety as the often soused Cotter, and Maura Tierney as McAlary’s long suffering wife, Alice. It’s a theatrically exciting love letter to journalism.

I just wish all the reporting in the play had been as good.

Lucky Guy.” Written by Nora Ephron; directed by George C. Wolfe. Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th St., New York City. 212-239-6200. Opened April 1, 2013; closes July 3, 2013. 4/25/13.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and critic. This Her website is The Komisar Scoop.