Friday, December 23, 2011

TONIGHT - A Very Tawny Christmas!

Following up on the popularity of her appearances at “Fag Bash,” “Showgirls,” and other festive events in P’town last summer, Tawny Heatherton will arrive this yuletide season to debut her own blonde-swept brand of sunny, funny cheer with the holiday show A Very Tawny Christmas! for one-night-only at the Crown & Anchor in Provincetown, MA. With onstage musical direction by John Thomas, and a special guest appearance by Bulgarian diva Elena Mancheva, A Very Tawny Christmas! will perform on Friday, December 23rd at 8PM in The Crown Cabaret at the Crown & Anchor, 247 Commercial Street in Provincetown, MA. All tickets are $15, and can be obtained in-person at the box office, or by calling 508-487-1430, or online at


Purportedly the niece of Serta Mattress superstar Joey Heatherton, Tawny is the newest theatrical creation of Obie Award winner David Drake (The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me). Not one to stay in the shadow of her famous and talented aunt, Tawny is also a showbiz survivor of the ‘80s European disco zeitgeist -- with her breakout hit, “Run Crazy Man!”. Underneath the glitz and glamour (and hardscrabble life of being a “one-hit-wonder”), Tawny still retains the hopeful, happy nature of her childhood upbringing with the People of the Rainbow tribe.

In A Very Tawny Christmas!, Tawny will sing songs of the season while telling stories of wandering the world as a “Rainbow Warrior!” These include Tawny’s stint as a USO dancer with Bob Hope (“Christmas in Nicaragua... now there’s a memory!”), her escapades as a disco queen, her starlet days (as a bit player on Knot’s Landing), and her wash-a-shore journey to Provincetown -- by getting on the wrong bus after a night of partying at Mohegan Sun. Naturally, Tawny will do a some dancing.**


DAVID DRAKE is an actor-writer-director who washed ashore in Provincetown from NYC in 2008. Best-known as the Obie Award-winning playwright/performer of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, one of the longest-running solo shows in NY theater history, David has also starred off-Broadway in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (succeeding Charles Busch for 856 performances), originated the role of “Miss Deep South” in the musical smash Pageant, as well as co-starring with Jim J. Bullock in End of the World Party at the 47th St. Theater, and with B.D. Wong in A Language of Their Own at The Public. His TV credits: LAW & ORDER, THE BEAT, NY UNDERCOVER, and LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. Feature films: Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award-winning Philadelphia, as well as It’s Pat, Naked in New York, David Searching, Bear City, Longtime Companion, and starring in his own adaptation of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. As a stage director, David has twice been a Directing Fellow at the Sundance Theater Lab, and has directed new works in New York at The Public’s “Under the Radar” Festival, Joe’s Pub, Rattlestick, Theater for the New City, and the NYC International Fringe Festival. Regionally, David has directed productions in San Francisco, Baltimore, Anchorage, and this past fall returned to the Provincetown Theater Company on Cape Cod to direct the critically acclaimed world premiere of Myra Slotnick’s drama The Weight of Water. Previously in P’town, David directed the premiere of David Parr’s Slap & Tickle, the New England premiere of Brad Faser’s Poor Super Man, and the acclaimed revival of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. Most recently in New York, David was a director of the 2009 world premiere of Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge at Here, which made the “10 Best Lists” in The New Yorker, The NY Post, The Advocate, Paper Magazine, and won a 2010 Village Voice Obie Award.

JOHN THOMAS is a Provincetown-based composer, pianist, music director, actor, photographer, writer and event producer. A man of many talents, his long list of credits includes composing Pure PolyESTHER: a biblical burlesque (with Abe Rybeck) and music for theater productions from Provincetown to Cape Cod Community College. He wrote and performed the solo show Spontaneous Me: A Night with Walt Whitman. He has been music director for HairCabaretThe Wild PartyNaked Boys SingingWorkingCandide, and other shows. He portrayed Cosme McMoon, Florence Foster Jenkin’s flamboyant pianist, in Souvenir, Mashkan, the Viennese vocal coach, in Old Wicked Songs and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He has performed at Boston Symphony Hall, in California, New Hampshire and Connecticut, and on the Greek island of Mykonos. His music is featured in films and his photographs have been exhibited in Provincetown’s museums and Berta Walker Gallery. His compact disc of original music is titled Composing Myself.

ELENA MANCHEVA was born in the small town of Sandansky in Bulgaria, fifteen miles north of the border of Greece. She grew up listening to and performing Bulgarian traditional music with her father (who is a professional musician). Elena received her bachelor’s degree in music teaching at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. During the past year, she has performed Bulgarian and American music in Provincetown at the Monday Night Coffeehouse at The Mews, the Waterford, the Celebration of Life annual concert, and at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Krapp’s Last Tape" - A harsh, yet tender look at growing old

Review by Judd Hollander
Photo by Richard Termine

Absurdly simple, yet remarkably complex, Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape shows the preciousness and fleetness of life. Starring John Hurt in a breathtaking performance as the title character, this one-person work is presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the BAM 2012 Next Wave Festival.

On the day he turns 69, Krapp, an aging and used-up man, sits down at his desk and prepares to make his annual birthday tape to himself. Before he does so, he first takes part in another tradition, listening to one of his previously recorded tapes.  In this case he chooses one from his 39th birthday - “box three, spool 5” to be precise - though he stops more than once to puzzle over the contents of that spool, as reflected in his notes to himself in a large ledger.

Listening to the tape of his 39 year-old self, one is struck by the cynicism in Krapp’s voice, one which looks forward to the future while seemingly glad to put his past in the rearview mirror, his comments a mixture of half-hearted nostalgia and a hearty dose of “good riddance.” The younger Krapp also recounts his own listening to a tape he made more than a decade earlier (around age 27-29), chiding himself for being so naive. This is an attitude Krapp continues to project in the present.

Beckett takes special care to continually point out just how transient certain moments and memories can be. While Krapp took great pains 30 years earlier to recount a “memorable equinox” in his notes, he now has no recollection of that event. He also has no clue as to the meaning of the word “viduity,” a term which the once-determined, now frustrated writer apparently knew quite well. The tape also contains frequent references to romantic encounters, the dangers of drink and his habit of spending his birthday alone, a practice Krapp seems to have enjoyed back then and has seemingly continued to the present day. Indeed, there’s a bitter circular irony to the man Krapp once and the person he now is, a harsh truth he tries hard not to allow himself to understand.

Hurt’s performance is so striking that when Krapp first appears, one can literally smell the decay on his person, projecting a lonely old man, one with no hope or prospects for the future. Hurt makes Krapp both an object of pity and sympathy - so much so that one can’t help but wonder who this man was and how he could have let his life turn out the way it did. The play’s final moments, when Krapp begins to make the latest tape in the series, are sad, combative, angry and eventually, silently shattering.

Throughout the piece, Hurt and director Michael Cogan take pains to lighten up the work a bit in order to leaven out the play’s overall bleakness - Krapp’s apparently unhealthy addiction to bananas, his somewhat exaggerated reactions to things he once said, and his relationship to the lighted playing area of the stage, its sharp endings seemingly marking a boundary for the path Krapp is able to trod. Beckett's script is only 12 pages long, but director Cogan stretches Krapp's tale with prolonged and pregnant pauses which serve to highlight the poignancy of Krapp’s situation.

The set (not credited in the program) works well here, with the small amount of playing space a sharp contrast to the much larger darkened areas - a kind of metaphor for how Krapp’s life has turned out. James McConnell’s lighting design is effective in its simplicity, like the play itself, showing Krapp for whom he truly is.

Krapp’s Last Tape offers a heartbreaking look at a man going nowhere, even though he doesn’t always realize it, with a brava turn by Hurt that makes the person portrayed come alive, both in the here and now and in the long ago.

Krapp's Last Tape

Featuring John Hurt (Krapp)

Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Michael Colgan
Lighting Design by James McConnell

Presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
2011 Next Wave Festival
BAM Harvey Theatre
651 Fulton Street
Tickets: 718-636-4100 or
Closes: December 18, 2011

Running Time: 65 Minutes

"Titus Andronicus" - Bloody and Powerful

Review by Judd Hollander and Cynthia Leathers
Photo by Joan Marcus

Titus Andronicus is perhaps the ultimate Shakespeare morality tale – and indeed, the bloodiest and most violent – about the repayment of past actions and the danger of blind obedience, a cautionary warning of how vengeance can destroy a person from inside. And The Public Theater's production of Titus, part of their PublicLab series, is literally steeped in blood by the play's end, with director Michael Sexton leaving no one onstage unspattered.

In ancient Rome, General Titus Andronicus (Jay O. Sanders) returns home after a long and successful military campaign against the Goths. Among his captives is Tamora the Goth Queen (Stephanie Roth Haberle) and several of her sons. As is the custom, Titus prepares to sacrifice Tamora's son Alarbus (Frank Dolce) to honor the memory of the Roman soldiers who have fallen in battle, despite the Queen's tearful pleas to Titus to spare her child.

Titus is so trusted by the people of Rome that he is asked by his brother Marcus (Sherman Howard) to choose between Saturnine (Jacob Fisher) or Bassianus (Daoud Heidami), both sons of the late Emperor, to be the next ruler of the Empire, after Titus turns down the position himself. When he chooses Saturninus, the new sovereign claims Tamora as his wife, a position the former captive gladly accepts; but only after Saturninus first picks and then rejects Titus' daughter Lavinia (Jennifer Ikeda), who has long been in love with Bassianus. But Saturninus' initial choice of Lavinia puts Titus' duty to the Empire at odds with his love for his family.

It quickly becomes clear Tamora has far more in mind than simply becoming Empress. Indeed, she quickly begins to wield her power in order to revenge herself on Titus for the death of Alarbus. Helped by her lover, a Moor named Aaron (in a wonderfully villainous turn by Ron Cephas Jones), Tamora soon orchestrates the death of Bassianus and fixes the blame on two of Titus' sons. With Lavinia being savagely mutilated in the process, the resulting horror of these events seem to push Titus beyond the edge of reason. But hope remains as Lucius (Rob Campbell), Titus' sole remaining son, banished from Rome after his failed attempt to help his brothers, has amassed an army and plans to restore the family honor, and obtain justice for those wronged and vengeance for the dead.

Sanders makes a very good and surprisingly multi-layered Titus. When first seen, Titus seems little more than a loyal soldier. Yet when tragedy strikes, he becomes alternatively filled with rage, anger, pity, hatred, and most of all, sorrow. His reactions when he beholds what his been done to Lavinia are particularly affecting. Also, in a refreshing twist to the Shakespeare disguise ploy, Saunders shows Titus to be far more than the simple fool his enemies ultimately believe him to be.

Haberle turns in a brilliant performance as Tamora, a queen and a mother determined to have vengeance and to solidify her new husband's reign. Her pitiless scorn and disdain when Lavinia pleads for her honor enables Haberle to take her role to almost cinematic heights; Tamora is a being of pure evil, a glutton of glory when seeing her enemies struck down.

Where Tamora is motivated by family and emotion, Aaron is a cold-blooded master of manipulation. Using those around him as little more than pieces on a chessboard to in order to consolidate his own power and make his enemies suffer, Aaron is unapologetic for the horrors he has orchestrated, completely amoral, even when offered the chance of repentance. Jones' Aaron is the serpent in the garden whose whispered ideas are the catalyst to the unspeakable evils that trigger an unstoppable bloodletting that engulfs everyone and everything in the play.

William Jackson Harper and Patrick Carroll effortlessly switch from comic ineptitude to callous predators as Tamora's sons Demetrius and Chiron, thinking they can get away with their crimes because of the power their mother wields. Howard projects the aura of a wise counselor as Marcus, a man who, like his brother, is quite ready to revenge any wrongs done against him or his kin. Campbell is a fine Lucius, the character who matures the most over the course of the story - a somewhat bloodthirsty youth at the beginning, he learns from his harsh experiences thus allowing him to temper his vengeful fury with wisdom. Fishel plays Saturninus as a strutting peacock who is more concerned at having his wishes carried out rather than knowing exactly how they are executed.

But it is Jennifer Ikeda as Lavinia who masterfully delivers the personification of the end result of pure evil on a rampage. At first fresh-faced and innocent, her brutalization at the hands of her attackers is horrifying, and Ikeda's portrayal of Lavinia's attempts to live in the aftermath of an unimaginable violation uncomfortable to watch.

Superb fight choreography by Thomas Schall makes the many violent scenes in Titus utterly believable. Brett J. Banks' scenic design, utilizing a stack of large plywood sheets that are used to simulate everything from coffins to tables, from gallows to indictments of crimes, are a versatile canvas on which the bloody scenes unfold. Mark Barton's lighting is fittingly stark, while the music and sound design by Brandon Wolcott is quite gripping, especially in the attack scene with Lavinia and in the final moments of the play.

Violent to the extreme, this production of Titus Andronicus allows the play's

Titus Andronicus

Featuring: Frank Dolce (a boy, Young Lucius, Mutius, Alarbus), Jacob Fishel (Saturninus), Sherman Howard (Marcus Andronicus), Rob Campbell (Lucius), Patrick Carroll (Quintus, Chiron), William Jackson Harper (Martius, Demetrius), Jennifer Ikeda (Lavinia), Daoud Heidami (Publius, Aemilius, Nurse, Messenger, a Goth), Stephanie Roth Haberle (Tamora), Ron Cephas Jones (Aaron)

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Sexton
Scenery Design: Brett J. Banakis
Costume Design: Cait O'Connor
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Music and Sound Design: Brandon Wolcott
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: W. William Shiner
Stage Manager; Alaina Taylor

The Public Theater

425 Lafayette Street
Tickets: 212-967-7555 or

Running Time: Two Hours, 55 Minutes

Closes: December 18, 2011

Our Holiday Title Photo

Our Christmas-themed title photo comes from A Molly Jolly Christmas featuring Andrea Alton as Molly "Equality" Dykeman.  The photo is by Ron Lasko.

The show's final performance is December 22nd at 7:30 PM

The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 W. 42nd St (at 9th Avenue) in the West Bank Cafe

Tickets: $18 (plus a $15 food/drink minimum)
For tickets or more information click here.

Thank you for being a friend...

By Byrne Harrison

On December 17th, Hunter Auction Galleries will be holding an auction made of the items from various estates.  Included in the auction are items from Rue McClanahan's New York apartment.  Among them are the expected "Golden Girls" items, but also a Wicked package, and a personal letter from Rue describing her work as an understudy to Marian Seldes and Brenda Vacarro in Father's Day, and another personal letter from 1957 written backstage at a theatre.

Visit Live Auctioneers to see (and bid on) the items.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

There's No Place Like Home... Thank Goodness

By Byrne Harrison

Last week I had a unique opportunity to see a pair of ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz."  Not just any pair, mind you, but the pair that were used during the close-up when Dorothy clicked her heels together and said, "There's no place like home."

The shoes are expected to sell for more than $3 million this week at auction.  Visit the website for more information about the auction (and check out some of the other items up for bid - Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume, Marilyn Monroe's wedding ring).

While seeing the ruby slippers was a bit of a thrill, it was only one part of an amazing afternoon.  The viewing was held in conjunction with the Hotel Plaza Athénée's afternoon tea service.  The afternoon tea, with its plates full of tiny sandwiches and tiered serving trays piled with delectable sweets, was charming. As was "The Wizard of Oz"-themed music, featuring a keyboard player and violinist performing songs from the film.  There was even a strolling magician performing sleight of hand.

The afternoon tea, held in the stylish, yet comfortable Arabelle restaurant in the hotel, was the perfect event to complement the ruby slippers display.  And that's not just the ruby-tinted champagne talking.

Dorothy was right, there is no place like home.  But considering that my home is a cramped one-bedroom in Queens, I'm more than happy to spend an afternoon enjoying the elegence of some place not at all like home.  My next trip to the Plaza Athénée will probably not involve "The Wizard of Oz" or ruby slippers, but I know it will be just as much of a treat.

About The Plaza Athénée:  One of the most well-respected hotels in the world, New York City’s Hôtel Plaza Athénée provides European grandeur with the intimacy of a boutique hotel. Located on the fashionable Upper East Side of Manhattan on a quiet tree lined street, the hotel offers a unique relaxing atmosphere surrounded by refined townhouses. One short block from Central Park and steps from Madison Avenue, the Plaza Athenee is the perfect getaway from Midtown Manhattan and a welcoming retreat after a long day of seeing the sights.

“Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway” – The Tony-winning X-Man pulls out all the stops for his triumphant return to the Great White Way

Review by Mark A. Newman
Photos by Joan Marcus
If you pass by the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street and wonder why so many of the audience members light up a cigarette as they leave after witnessing Hugh Jackman’s one man show, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, it’s because the Aussie action star/song and dance man doesn’t just engage an audience, he flirts, entices, teases, cajoles, and essentially engages in theatrical foreplay with the audience. And trust me, it was good for them too!
Jackman is a big, blockbuster-opening movie star who doesn’t need to ever step foot on a Broadway stage just to make a buck; he’s back on Broadway for a limited 10-week run because he wants to be there based on his love of live theatre…and it shows. For two hours the audience is taken on a rollicking tour through Jackman’s musical favorites from classic Broadway showstopping toe-tappers to the movie musicals of Hollywood’s golden era, all the way to the Peter Allen tunes that won him a Tony for best actor in a musical in The Boy from Oz in 2004.
Far from being a simple vanity project, Jackman is performing music that he loves and he wants you to love it too. He wants you to love him too. He’s rugged, handsome, funny, smart, self-deprecating, and has got to be one of the most talented and versatile entertainers alive. And guess what? You will end up loving him -- you won’t be able to help yourself. For two hours solid, Jackman effortlessly sings and dances up a storm. In between he tells stories of this or that show, as well as his childhood and how he happened upon acting (to meet girls, of course).
One of Jackman’s most endearing tales was about how determined he was to get a role in a production of The Music Man because his all-boys school was doing a co-production with an all-girls school. He got a copy of the script and memorized the entire opening number…all EIGHT roles, which he ably demonstrates. The number then devolves into a rap bit. Corny? No doubt, but the audience ate it up with a spoon!
The first act treats the audience to a New York City medley, then a “golden age of Hollywood musical” medley as well as big numbers of the classics canon (“Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” from Oklahoma and “Soliloquy” from Carousel). The second act opens with the aforementioned Peter Allen medley in which Jackman adopts the flamboyant singer’s persona and flirts with specific male audience members.
He is backed up by a fierce and tight orchestra led by Patrick Vaccariela as well as the talents of a half dozen lovely ladies who dance and sing with the star throughout his trip down musical memory lane.
However, if I had a bone to pick—and as a critic, I obviously do—my ONLY complaint would be the song selection. It was a bit dated. The most contemporary tunes were the Peter Allen songs and those were from the early 1980s. While I certainly didn’t expect a Lady GaGa medley or the latest Justin Bieber tune, it would have been nice for Jackman to extend his range just a tad, instead of playing it extremely safe.
When he mentioned his upcoming starring role in the movie version of Les Miserables, I could feel the anticipation building that he might perform some tunes from that musical phenomenon, but alas he did not. He could have at least given his audience the debut of Jean Valjean’s heart-rending ballad “Bring Him Home.” Is that too much to ask? I guess we’ll just have to wait until the film is released next December. Yeah, I’ll be there opening night.
Hugh Jackman, you’re such a tease.

Hugh Jackman: Back on BroadwayBroadhurst Theatre235 West 44th Street
Starring: Hugh Jackman. Featuring: Robin Campbell, Kearran Giovanni, Anne Otto, Lara Seibert, Hilary Michael Thompson, and Emily Tyra.
Scenic Consultant: John Lee BeattyCostume Design: William Ivey LongLighting Design: Ken BillingtonSound Design: John ShiversVideo Design: Alexander V. NicholsMusic Directon: Patrick VaccarielloDirected and choreographed by Warren Carlyle
For Ticket or Information:
Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission
Closes January 1, 2012

"Misterman" - Simply Superb

Reviewed by Judd Hollander
Photos by Pavel Antonov

Cillian Murphy gives THE must-see performance of the year in the funny, touching, and ultimate soul-shattering Misterman, Enda Walsh's brilliant and probing work of one man's tortured psyche, now having its American premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse.

Set in Ireland, in the town of Inishfree, Murphy plays Thomas Magill, a 33 year-old man and devout believer in the word of God. Thomas also does his best to bring the Lord's message to those around him. The problem is that most people simply don't measure up to the standards the Scriptures set; least of all Magill himself. Thomas is also a bit of an odd duck, one of the townsfolk remarking that he’s considered "touched" by the locals, and not in a good way.

It soon becomes apparent there’s something not quite right with Thomas. He lives in a giant warehouse/garage, one filled with old style reel-to-reel tape recorders. A bit obsessive when it comes to exact details, Thomas has a habit of continually recording and writing things down, and uses the materials on tape to reconstruct actual scenarios and altercations that have previously occurred between him and the different villagers. (It should be noted here that Murphy is the only on-stage character in the play.) 

As Thomas goes through his routines he finds himself morally challenged time and again as he and the townspeople fail to be worthy of what God demands (and also what Thomas demands of them). However Thomas soon believes he has found salvation in the perfect companion when he meets an angel (voiced by Alice Sykes); someone who can help share his life's work. However it's not long before reality begins to rear its ugly head and Thomas finds himself devising a plan that will make his doubters take notice and finally put him on the path he has desperately sought to tread.

Walsh (who directs his own work here) and Murphy are able to skillfully combine the different genres the play contains (ranging from slapstick to nostalgia to horror) into a fascinating whole.  Even more significantly, with Magill the playwright has created one of the most fully-formed and yet still-mysterious characters on stage today. That Misterman (a nickname given to Thomas by one of the Inishfree locals) is a tour de force for Murphy is putting mildly. His Thomas is a tormented soul, unceasingly yearning to be part of a world he cannot reach; and a man seen by the rest of the village as unbalanced and someone to be avoided as much as possible.

Perhaps the most telling moments occur when Thomas realizes that those he thought good and pure are in fact not (at least by his standards); with the horror of said realizations becoming apparent in his very eyes. Thomas also has issues regarding his own mother and father. The former, (voiced by Marcella Riordan) pretty much an invalid who Thomas has to take care of; and the latter, now dead, who was apparently revered in the county as "a great man." There's also a sort of manic, almost kinetic energy in Thomas’ actions. Someone not neat at all, (eschewing the oft-used prim and proper stereotype), with a habit of throwing things about instead of setting them down, and overturning objects instead of moving them aside or simply stepping around them.

More significantly, Murphy is able to make the character of Thomas both immediately likable and interesting. An important point, because with the beginning of the show offering up more questions than answers, one needs to want to learn more about this mysterious lad and follow him every step of the way on his journey. Murphy also brings life many of the different characters in the script, using various mannerisms, movements and dialects to make them all distinct from one another. From Mrs. Clearly, the owner of the local café, (where one can get some wonderfully tasting cheesecake), to the somewhat overhearing Charlie Mc Anerny, who does a wonderful "banana monologue", each has their own specific identity and local flavor.

Walsh’s direction is nicely sure-handed, keeping the action moving and the tension slowly rising, while guiding Murphy through little respites and side trips until the final destination. In a brilliant touch, the play uses the entire length of the enormous St. Ann's Warehouse stage, with Murphy frequently running from one end to the other. (There's a hilarious scenario with Thomas cooking on one side of the space and then going to use the sink on the other end.)

Jamie Vartan’s set makes good use of the venue space, which, coupled with Gregory Clarke’s sound design work (ranging from barking dogs to crowd noises), and Adam Silverman’s lighting, all combine to create the believably the work suggests. (Though there was a problem with one of the light cues in the beginning.)

An absolutely stunning piece of theatre and a fantastic performance by Murphy makes Misterman stand head and shoulders above the current theatrical pack and one hopes it will be remembered when award season comes around. (The show also has a final pronouncement that will have the audience so in the moment you don't quite know what to do when it ends.)


Featuring: Cillian Murphy (Thomas Magill)
Voices: Marcella Riordan (Mammy), Alice Sykes (Edel)
Other Voices: Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, JD Kelleher, Simone Kirby, Mikel Murfi, Morna Regan, Eileen Walsh, Barry Ward

Written and directed by Enda Walsh
Designer: Jamie Vartan
Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Composer: Donnacha Dennehy
Movement Director: Mikel Murfi
Associate Sound Designer: Helen Atkinson
Prop Buyer: Lizzie Chapman
Costume Assistant: Emily Ní Bhroin
Production Manager: Eamonn Fox
Company Stage Manager: Rachel Murray
Assistant Stage Manager: Kelly Shaffer Allen
Light Board Operator: Liz Jenetopoulos
Set Construction: TPS, Addmor Planned Storage, Ltd
Scenic Artists: Sandra Butler, Jason McCaffrey

Presented by St. Ann's Warehouse and Image Ireland
38 Water Street, Brooklyn (DUMBO)

A Landmark Production/Galway Arts Festival Production

Running Time: 1 Hour 30 minutes, no intermission
Closes: December 22, 2011

"It is Done" - Where One Good Turn Demands A Steep Payment

Review by Judd Hollander
Photo by Jen Maufrais Kelly

Playwright Alex Goldberg seems to have been heavily influenced by the work of Conor McPherson, specifically by such plays as The Weir and The Seafarer; as elements of both (as well as more than a bit of the "Twilight Zone") can be found in Goldberg's nifty little thriller It is Done.

A wild and unexpected windstorm has forced two travelers to take shelter in a bar so remote there's no other building for 90 miles in any direction. It's also situated smack dab in the middle of a cellular "dead zone". The two people in question (arriving separately) are Jonas (Ean Sheehy) and Ruby (Catin Ojeda). Welcoming them to the bar (called "bar") is the somewhat slovenly, plain-speaking and sexually-fixated Hank (Matt Kalman); the establishment's proprietor/owner and one-man staff.

Unfortunately for Hank, neither of the new arrivals is all that much interested in his overt advances, though there is some interesting banter between Hank and Ruby at times; both Ruby and Jonas having their own particular issues to deal with. Jonas is on a frantic journey to outrace a recurring nightmare. One which recalls a fateful encounter with a childhood bully more than 20 years earlier. Ruby meanwhile is just trying to get to a business appointment (she's a sort of finder of lost people) hoping a local auto mechanic from AAA will be able to rescue her once the storm lifts.

As the temporarily stranded duo begin to bond over a plate of microwaveable pizza, it becomes apparent Ruby knows all about Jonas, in fact, she knows certain things Jonas has never told another living soul. As Jonas tries to figure out what's going on, Ruby only serves to deepen the mystery by revealing that Jonas himself was the one who hired her.

Revealing any more would be giving away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say the question soon becomes not so much what Ruby's ultimate purpose actually is, but rather how exactly she will achieve her goals, and how this will affect Jonas and Hank. (It is also worth nothing certain things in this play aren't exactly what they seem.)

As the playwright points out, one can't escape the past; only perhaps hide from it for a little while. It's also made clear there are always consequences for each decision made, and a time an ultimate reckoning will come due. From Hank's choice to live out in the middle of nowhere, basically cutting himself from the world at large, to Jonas' desperate attempt to run from a secret he only half-remembers, all roads lead to the final confrontation.

To Goldberg and director Tom Wojtunik's credit, the decision was made to set the play in an actual working bar; in this case a place called The Mean Fiddler. The establishment's underground space makes one feel as if they are actually someplace far from the big city, and transported to a location where you can still find a working jukebox that plays Hank Williams tunes, with a dial telephone sitting in the corner. It also helps that the actors move in and around the audience, making those watching feel a part of the action.

Interestingly, it is Kalman as Hank who becomes the most interesting of the characters. A man perennially on the make, he doesn't take himself too seriously and comes off as a likable chauvinist, rather than a mean-spirited one. He's also terribly lonely for company, thought he would never admit it. This is the kind of character you'd love to talk to when you have nothing better to do, though you'd probably want him to vanish once something better came along. Kalman has great fun with the role, making the character so over the top at points one can't help but laugh. However, it would have been nice if Hank had been given more of a back story. Not to mention explaining how he's able to stay in business when he's so far off the beaten track (Ruby and Jonas are his first customers in a week). Hank also embodies most of the humor in the play, allowing for a bit of respite from some of the other underlying tensions present.

Sheehy does a good job with Jonas, a youngish man, earnest, tense and terribly frightened; and not able to understand the terror and secrets that are following him. It also helps that the audience watches events unfold the same time as he does, Jonas in a sense becoming a sort of stand-in for them as the truth is slowly revealed. Jonas' relationship with Ruby also proves to be a nice interlude, though in the end it turns out to be merely the calm before the storm.

Ojeda presents an interesting conundrum as Ruby, a smart sensual woman who could probably handle both Jonas and Hank in and out of bed (though Hank would probably dispute that fact). At the same time, her sexuality hides a powerful secret. One which, if true, could hold the answers Jonas seeks. Yet there are also times Ruby seems too playful with her role, telling Jonas to enjoy the moment and talking about the importance of a good alcohol beverage when there are far more serious things occurring. This may ring true for the character as the playwright and/or director envisioned it, but her attitude takes away from what should be stark and dramatic moments. Some of the conversations between Jonas and Ruby also go on a bit too long, especially once all the pieces are put in place and the audience knows what's coming.

Sound effects, especially the wind storm, are nicely done by Colin Whitely, as is the lighting work by Christopher Thielking. These and the other little touches added (i.e. the phone) all help to give a nice and somewhat nostalgic sense of atmosphere to the proceedings.

It is Done is an intriguing and involving work where the stakes turn out to be bigger than anyone first imagines. With a bit of tweaking here and there, Goldberg might have an Off-Broadway hit on his hands.

It is Done

Featuring: Matt Kalman (Hank), Catin Ojeda (Ruby), Ean Sheehy (Jonas)
Written by Alex Goldberg
Directed by Tom Wojtunik
Sound Design: Colin Whitely
Lighting Design: Christopher Thielking
Production Design: Tim McMath
Stage Manager: Amanda-Mae Goodridge
Assistant Stage Manager: Lisa Haedrich
Movement Consultant: Ryan Kasprzak
Associate Producer: Joe Coots
Press Representative: Joe Trentacosta/Springer Associates
Presented by 22Q Entertainment & GO AlleyCat Productions

The Mean Fiddler
266 West 47th Street

Running Time: Two Hours
Closed: December 5, 2011

"The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a serial killer" - An irreverent and sobering look at the dark side

Review by Judd Hollander
Photos by Richard Termine

John Malkovich cuts an unsettling and engaging figure as Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger in The Infernal Comedy: confessions of a serial killer which was preformed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from November 17th-19th, 2011 as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival.

In a concert hall, much like one where the show is talking place, Unterweger explains that this gathering is both part of his book tour, said book displayed prominently on stage, as well as a chance for him to finally set the record straight regarding what he did or didn't do, and more importantly, exactly why he did or didn't do it.

Unterweger, it should be noted, was convicted of murder in 1974, sentenced to 15 years in jail (and ten more on probation). He subsequently became a jailhouse writer, published an autobiography and gained quite a literary and intellectual following; turning into something of a celebrity upon his release. However his loudly-proclaimed successful rehabilitation left more than a little to be desired -- he murdered six prostitutes within a year after getting out; that total later increasing to 11. Eventually he was caught, convicted and ended up killing himself in his jail cell in 1994.

Despite all the facts stacked against him, Unterweger addresses his listeners with an eager and charismatic energy, seemingly oblivious to how he is perceived. Though he does take more than one verbal swipe at his publisher for some of the things he's had to do since on this tour. Unterweger then quickly gets down to business, talking about his childhood, his relationship with his mother and with some of the women he supposedly killed. (All of the women in the story are played by operatic sopranos Marie Arnet, Kirsten Blaise, Louise Fribo and/or Martene Grimson, who perform various arias during the play, often while Unterweger is murdering them. Not all women appear at each performance.) Yet as eventually becomes obvious, there is no denying the undercurrent of rage Unterweger possesses, sort of a continual inner anger just waiting to be triggered.

While Malkovich certainly presents a compelling portrayal, by the end of the work one is no closer to really understanding Unterweger than when they first walked in. On one level this seems to be playwright and director Michael Sturminger's intent, but on another can be somewhat annoying. There's also the fact, seamlessly dropped into the story early on and expanded on about two-thirds of the way in; that this "book tour" is taking place after Unterweger's death. Although one would assume at such a point in a being's existence they would have no reason to lie; in fact, every word Unterweger utters is suspect, so the audience needs to continually sift through what he says in order to try to find out what he really means.

Besides the underlying conceit of the Unterweger character, there are several other perhaps accusatory themes touched on during the piece, such as the power celebrities can bring to bear, power not always exercised with the best responsibility. Not to mention the failure of the prison system to recognize Unterweger had not exactly turned over a new leaf, as it were. Points Malkovich himself touches on and embraces during his performance. The production also mixes in a lot of humor into the work, usually through Malkovich's interaction with the onstage Weiner Akademie Orchestra that provides continual underlying music throughout the show. Selections include pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Hayden and Vivaldi. (It also helps that the show's music director/conductor is Martin Haselböck, who also came up with the musical concept for the presentation.)

The only real distraction from the proceedings is the accent Malkovich uses, a thick Austrian one modeled, Unterweger explains, after Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately it's also an accent Malkovich is unable to keep up throughout, which takes a bit away from the characterization.

That one major problem aside, Malkovich does a good job with the Unterweger character, drawing the audience into the story, but ultimately keeping them at arm's length in regards to who Unterweger really is. Malkovich's performance reminds one of a fellow who likes to talk just to hear his own voice while his listeners would probably rather be anywhere else. Unterweger's final moments, where he shows the audience exactly what his book contains, reveal a man still trying to hold on to a sense of ambiguity while leaving open the possibility of doubt. (Of course since the play is billed as a confession of a serial killer, this may be a somewhat moot point.)

The various ladies do a wonderful job as the women who figure in Unterweger's life, interacting with Malkovich quite seamlessly and expiring quite powerfully at points. The women's costumes by Birgit Hutter are quite striking; while Malkovich's outfit makes his character look like a gregarious huckster, with the feeling of something seedy hidden beneath his loud attire and attitude. Sturminger's direction nicely ties all the various elements together, keeping the story moving forward and also making sure the piece never overstays its welcome.

The Infernal Comedy makes for an interesting theatre experiment, Sturminger and Malkovich trying to examine and explain the life of a man whose actions were beyond human understanding on some level. Yet ultimately, the play never shows the man behind the public perception and thus leaves the story feeling somewhat incomplete. Still, it's a fascinating piece overall.

The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a serial killer

Featuring: John Malkovich (actor), Marie Arnet (soprano), Kirsten Blaise (soprano), Louise Fribo (soprano), Martene Grimson (soprano)

Written and directed by Michael Sturminger
Music Direction and Concept by Martin Haselböck
Orchester: Wiener Akademie
Costume Design: Birgit Hutter

A Musikkonzept Production

Brooklyn Academy of Music
Howard Gilman Opera House
30 Lafayette Avenue

Running Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Closed: November 19, 2011

"A Molly Jolly Christmas" - A Comic Christmas Treat

Review by Byrne Harrison
Dancing Molly photo by Laura Turley
Molly and presents photo by Ron Lasko

Molly "Equality" Dykeman is a slightly bewildered, pill-popping, mullet-sporting, Cheetos-munching, lesbian security guard/poet, who wants nothing more than to put on a Christmas show to remember, full of leggy, stacked dancers and hot, downtown performers.  The results are a cringe-inducing train wreck.

While that could be the kiss of death for most shows, it is exactly what A Molly Jolly Christmas is supposed to be.  Molly is the wacky and delightful creation of Andrea Alton, the talented actress and comic, who has been performing as her alter-ego for several years now and most recently kicked some downtown ass in The F*cking World According to Molly at FringeNYC.  She also performs as Molly throughout the city at events as diverse as Butch Burlesque and Will Clark's Porno Bingo.

A Molly Jolly Christmas is an absolute riot.  Molly is in rare form as she performs her poetry (a good deal of her poetic style can be inferred from just the title of her first poem: "I Wanna Fuck Meredith Baxter Birney," which is, amazingly, the least offensive of her poems), dances with her leggy dancers, the Mollettes (Victoria Smalc and Meliza Fernandez), and introduces her guest stars.  And, oh my, the guest stars.  While the line-up changes for each performance, her show on Friday, December 9th, included a flamenco dancer/comedian (Inma Heredia), a Lady Gaga impersonator (Athena Reich), a twitchy monologist (Allen Warnock) who performed a dramatic reading from "Gremlins," and The World Famous *BOB*, the amazing burlesque star whose take on "Hard Candy Christmas" from Best Little Whorehouse left the crowd speechless.  Upcoming shows will feature performance artist Shelly Mars, singer/actor/former porn god Colton Ford, burlesque star Vicky Sin, actress Victoria Libertore, and Village Voice columnist and man-about-town, Michael Musto.

In between acts, Molly reminisces about her childhood, reads her Christmas letter to Jesus (she's a little unclear on the whole concept), and dances.  That's right, dances.  Watching Molly and her Mollettes perform "Xanadu" (choreographed by the terrific John Paolillo) is worth the price of admission.

If you're tired of the sugar-plum, treacly Christmas shows that abound this time of year, but you still want something with a good heart and plenty of Christmas spirit, A Molly Jolly Christmas is the show to see.

A Molly Jolly Christmas
Written and performed by Andrea Alton
Directed by Mark Finley
Choreography by John Paolillo

December 6, 9, 13 and 22 at 7:30 PM
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 W. 42nd St (at 9th Avenue) in the West Bank Cafe

Tickets: $18 (plus a $15 food/drink minimum)

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Atlas" - Performed with Quiet Elegance

Review by Judd Hollander

It may look easy, but it’s quite a trick to sing while hanging upside down by your knees while on a trapeze. However making things look easy, as well as graceful, is a common practice in the very enjoyable Atlas, the latest presentation by the all-female performance troupe LAVA, running through December 11th at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side.

Atlas focuses on the concepts of location and guidance and uses different forms of navigation and communicational ideas as jumping off points for making these scenarios come vividly to life. Among the premises explored is the idea of movement through time as shown via a literal forest of bottles (meant to give the suggestion of clocks) which descend from the ceiling as the performers move and glide about them with a seemingly effortless effect.

More family-friendly than some of the group’s other works, and certainly more whimsical, (i.e. two of the performers pedaling on stationary bikes while being manually pushed across the stage), most of the pieces are also imbued with a sense of awe and wonder -- such as with two women singing “Rocket Man” a capella on the aforementioned trapeze, while others moved beneath them on scooters, roller skates and skateboards, their motions meant to indicate the different trajectories of stars in the heavens. There was also a fascinating number which had the performers encased in huge elastic bands, taking on the forms of various drawings; a section that illustrated the possibilities of cloud surfing; and another employing music from a didgeridoo (an indigenous Australian wind instrument).

Also explored are such concepts as “Magnetic North,” the “Compass” and multi-directional movement. For the latter piece, entitled “4 Directions,” the performers used trampolines to lunch themselves into the air and, onto one another. Other acrobatic efforts employed during the production including walking on ones hands, tumbling (often in somewhat slow motion with appropriate mood music), forming a human pyramid, and hanging from a tightrope above the stage.

Perhaps most important was the continual feeling of active motion the different vignettes created, the idea of going somewhere and/or towards something, though exactly what remains open to the interpretation of the audience. It also helped that the LAVA members often looked as they were having a good time during their performances. Good work by director Sarah East Johnson for helping mold the execution of the overall conception into a strong body of work. Kudos also to the performers for the vocals in some of the numbers, such as “The Blues.”

A special treat for those who catch the Saturday matinees is the performance by the LAVA’s junior company, “Magma,” showcasing a group of younger performers (and possibly the LAVA members of tomorrow) and giving them a chance to display their own gymnastic abilities.

Atlas makes for an enjoyable entertainment experience and interesting statement about how we relate to the concepts of movement and direction, and how they relate to us.

Presented by LAVA

Created and performed by Rose Calucchia, Molly Chanoff, Sarah Dey Hirshan, Diana Y Greiner, Sarah East Johnson, Calia Marshall, Lollo Romanski, Allison Schnur

Directed by Sarah East Johnson
Music by DJ Tikka Masala, Mamie Minch
Visual Art by Nancy Brooks Brody, Tony Feher
Costumes by Jocelyn Davis
Lighting Design by Alison May
Production Stage Manager; Catherine Barricklow
Stage Manager: Yolanda Royster

Dixon Place
Chrystie Street

Running time: 80 Minutes

Closes: December 11, 2011

“A Second Chance” – Signature Theatre’s barrage of original musicals continues with an intimate look at a Manhattan couple’s courtship

Review by Mark A. Newman

Two-person musicals are a mixed bag. For every masterpiece like Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, there are at least five misfires like The Story of My Life, a Broadway failure from a season or so ago. A Second Chance by Ted Shen playing at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., I’m happy to say, is a pleasant entry into this genre. It should be noted that Shen is a musical newbie, having recently left a life in the financial sector to let out his inner Lloyd-Webber. It should also be noted that Shen has donated a lot of money to the non-profit theatre’s coffers, so it’s easy to dismiss this show as simply quid pro quo for helping to keep the footlights on another season.

Not so fast. Knowing this backstory I walked into the Signature’s intimate ARC Theatre wanting to dismiss A Second Chance as a vanity project by a rich benefactor with too much money and too little talent. Happily my preconceptions were swept away as soon as the five-piece ensemble started in on Shen’s upbeat, jazzy score. With shades of Sondheim, the aforementioned Jason Robert Brown, and lots of Maury Yeston, Shen’s tunes bounce along nicely throughout the 90-minutes we get to see the blossoming of Dan and Jenna’s budding romance.

Said budding begins when the two “meet cute” at a mutual friend’s dinner party. Dan (a stoic Brian Sutherland) recently lost his wife and Jenna (a bubbly Diane Sutherland) just got through a less-than-amicable divorce. Both are wary of the other and each voices their concern that the relationship is pointless since it won’t go anywhere. They voice these concerns to us rather than to each other in conversation. Speaking of conversations, that’s essentially how most of the lyrics prattle on—like a conversation. The entire 90-minute show is mostly sung-through so points have to get across in an as tuneful manner as possible. Conversations about past loves and losses, art, friends, Sondheim—a blatant homage—and even the plot of the television show “Mad Men” are all sung with lyrics that are unusually real (people really do talk that way) rather than in a manner that would make the rhymes work.

While both Sutherlands are likable and skilled at their craft, the advantage goes to Diane whose Jenna is simply a more approachable, adorable character. Brian’s Dan—obviously wounded at the loss of the woman he considered the love of his life—remains standoffish and reserved throughout the courtship. It’s easy to see what Dan would see in Jenna—she’s funny, quirky, ebullient, full of life, and fun to be around. It’s less obvious trying to figure out what Jenna sees in Dan—he’s, um, tall and I mentioned stoic, right? In my opinion, Jenna could do better in this equation since there are other fish in the sea that is the dating world in New York City.  

The story, the location and Robert Brill’s beautifully sparse yet elegant set reminded me of the most recent revival of Sondheim’s Company, another fantasia on single life in Manhattan. A Second Chance could be the unofficial sequel to this early 1970s chestnut with Dan stepping into Bobby’s bachelor shoes a couple of decades after Bobby’s friends have divorced amid his own failed attempts at romance.

Aside from Brill’s set, Matt Rowe’s sound design, and Jennifer Schriever’s lighting, special attention must be given to Rocco DiSanti’s projections which were displayed across the stark white rear wall throughout the production. Used to transport us to different times and places, the projections ably succeeded in contributing to the show’s subtle elegance. Creative mastermind Susan Hilferty is credited with the costumes, but they simply look like anything bought off the rack at Ann Taylor Loft or Banana Republic, the likely places Dan and Jenna would pop into before their trip to Central Park, the museum, or after brunch with Dan’s judgmental friends.

Kudos to Shen for creating a lovely and intimate little musical and kudos to Signature Theatre for continuing to embark on brave new journeys by taking chances on new artists. I should add that the Signature’s own production of the Broadway sensation Hairspray was playing at the larger theatre next door, but A Second Chance was the perfect antidote to Beltway traffic, throngs of Christmas shoppers, and the quickening descent of December darkness.

A Second Chance

Featuring: Diane Sutherland (Jenna) and Brian Sutherland (Dan).

Book, Music & Lyrics: Ted Shen
Scenic Design: Robert Brill
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Design: Jennifer Schriever
Sound Design: Matt Rowe
Projections Design: Rocco DiSanti
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Music Directon: Zak Sandler
Directed by Jonathan Butterell

Tickets: 703 820 9771 or
Running time: 90 minutes, with one intermission

Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, Virginia 22206

Closes December 11

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review - "Henry V" at the Irondale Ensemble Project

Review by Olivia Jane Smith
Photo by Gerry Goodstein

Matt Nuernberger as Henry
with Terry Greiss
Shakespeare’s Henry V is a play about war, leadership and its attendant responsibilities, and the power of charisma to change the outcome of world events. It’s also about ambivalence toward those things and, on a more personal level, the journey of a young king who is still growing into his giant shoes—even if he’s bent on filling them from the minute he steps into power. In the Irondale Ensemble Project’s elegant, energetic current production in their lofty cavern of a space inside the Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, we see more the determined, single-minded leader than the young man—up until recently a “giddy, shallow youth” as his enemy the French Dauphin would have it—who in the trial-by-fire war he starts with France is still learning what it means to be King: to have the weight of a nation, and the lives of its people, squarely on his shoulders. As a result the trajectory of the play feels somewhat flattened.

Still, there are a lot of reasons to see this production. All the actors have fine moments. Matt Nuernberger, in the title role, gives a fierce, driving, sometimes laser-focused performance. He has the necessary charisma, but his portrayal would benefit from more subtle shades—the more he slows down, the more nuances we get. Alex Miyashiro, who normally plays Katherine of France only in the matinees, was a breath of girlish exuberance as Henry’s future queen. Terry Greiss was especially strong as the shaken Mayor of Harfleur and the sage Sir Thomas Erpingham. While I enjoyed Gabriel King in his more straightforward portrayals, for me his accent, pipe smoking, and mannerisms were distracting in what should have been his standout role as the wry strategist Captain Fluellen. Patrena Murray charmed as Katherine’s English tutor and caretaker, Alice.
Director Jim Niesen’s minimal staging—the play is performed with a cast of 10, with long sticks for swords and a few chairs—is often very effective; the charge into battle that follows Henry’s “Once more unto the breach” speech is one of those moments you always hope for in the theater, when a bunch of actors in a room suddenly become more than that because they have stirred something—a feeling of purpose and moment—in the audience, no special effects required.

It’s a tricky prospect to have all the characters played by only 10 actors, all of them, save for Henry, playing at least three different roles. Niesen mostly succeeds in making it clear which characters we’re watching in any given scene. The simple, pleasing costumes by Hilarie Blumenthal—very well edited street clothes, mostly, plus a couple capes—manage effectively to evoke soldiers, noblemen, French people (always clad in white shirts), and riff-raff, and help us keep it all straight. Still, it takes extra work for the audience to leap from scene to scene; we’re often a few steps behind as we piece together, based on the dialogue, whose company we’re in at any given moment.

Niesen has a graceful touch with the visual elements of the production, from the way he arranges the players in the wide open space, to their movements and the transitions between scenes, to some staging that is quite beautiful. After the battle of Agincourt, a white drape the size of the stage is pulled across it in one slow sweep, in its wake revealing dead bodies lying on the field. It’s not a new coup de theatre, but it’s a good one, and well executed. Even after the other fallen rise and morph back into their other roles, a boy’s body (Ben Mathews) is left on the ground, alone on stage. The company then processes in with candles and solemn music, and amasses around him with their backs to us, like gravestones, filling the stage with the ranks of war dead. In stillness, the boy finally stands to look at the audience, and the company slowly turns to face us. It’s all very simple, and all the more effective for it.

Ken Rothchild’s spare scenic design and lighting both perfectly complement the overall feel of the production. The sudden brightening to a white glare when the traitors against Henry are revealed, and the red glow that accompanies the slow motion charge into Agincourt are two moments when the lights take center stage to good effect. The live music also adds immeasurably, whether from the players singing softly together; Scarlet Maressa Rivera (who also plays Mistress Quickly, among others) accompanying herself on a tiny stringed instrument; or Dan Weschler on the accordion, a nice Gallic touch in a play about the conquering of France.

Many of the play’s speeches—and this goes for Henry as well the other players, when they have more than a few lines of text to deliver at once—seem rushed. Yes, for Henry in particular, there is urgency in these words, but we still want to revel in them. Pacing always seems tricky to me in Shakespeare; too deliberate and it can feel spoon-fed, too fast and our ears can’t keep up, and we miss savoring the language. This production does better when the actors are in dialogue and have each other to listen to. When they speechify, it can feel like we’re the ones under siege.

Perhaps my favorite of Henry’s scenes showed a different side of the King. Near the end when he courts his bride-to-be, he calls himself warlike, but maybe he’s got it wrong—for me this Henry seemed a better lover than a fighter. Here Nuernberger becomes much more lively—he seems to be having more fun. The result is that he shows a comparative rainbow of facial expressions and body language. It makes the rest of his performance look storm cloud grey—tense and energetic, but too uniformly so. There are, of course, exceptions, times when you can see from one moment to the next the lessons Henry is learning registering on his face; there is a marked change from when he plays the heavy in persuading the Mayor of Harfleur to surrender, to the end of that scene, when Henry assures him that if he opens his gates, his people will be safe.

Being Henry V is a lot of weight to carry, as the play clearly points out when the King poses as a commoner and makes the rounds with his soldiers, learning in the process just how keenly they are aware that they lay down their lives on his word: if England fails, it will be “a black matter for the King that led them to it.” It’s also a heavy load for an actor. I hope in his remaining performances, Nuernberger can shake some of that weight off, and enjoy being a warrior prince as much he seems to relish wooing a future queen.

Henry V

November 22 - December 10
Tuesday | 7PM
Wednesday - Saturday | 8PM
No show Thanksgiving
First week of performances and ALL Tuesdays | $10
All other performances | $35
For tickets, click here.