Archive for August 2018

Harassers as Comeback Kids?

Unless we are prepared to deny all abusers a second act – and I doubt that we as a society are prepared to do anything so categorical – we are going to have to think about what second acts may look like. These are some of my thoughts.

A Work Song Becomes A Play: BERTA, BERTA at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Bianca Laverne Jones gives us a Berta a man would want to compose a song about. Her face, her eyes, the modulations of her voice, like the song Berta, Berta itself, communicate so much more than the lines she delivers. “Berta is a voluptuous, stately Black woman with a striking countenance,” say the directions. Just so.

Delicious Fun in THE CAKE at Contemporary American Theater Festival

It is plain that Della’s resolution of the issue whether to bake a cake for Jen’s same-sex wedding will call for a gingerly reassessment of her faith and her life. Realistically, it will not be solved wholesale by Della’s discarding of her allegiance to what Macy dismisses as ‘a book that’s thousands of years old.’ If Della is to find a way, it will require more subtlety and compromise.

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL Revisits a Trauma in Tears and Anger and Healing at the Contemporary American Theater Festival

Alexandra and Frankie are shown tacitly agreeing to steer clear of the secret not merely because such circumspection is calculated to heighten audience interest; once we understand what the secret is, we can see that the characters know that if they address it, a long-buried grievance between them will have to be put on the table, and worse, they will need to rip off the emotional scabs that have formed over a terrible trauma.

Post-Apocalyptic, Classically-Imagined Tragedy: THIRST at Contemporary American Theater Festival

There is a thing Terrance can’t let go of, like Lear, like Othello, like Richard II. And if you’re a tragic hero and you can’t let go when you ought to, then bad things will happen to you and those you are close to.

Great Recall During the Great Terror: MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN at Contemporary American Theater Festival

If you come to this show, do not expect to participate in a truly topical think piece about memory in a time of tyranny. You will witness instead a pair of entwined tales about rare mental abnormality and a somewhat overexposed aspect of totalitarianism. It is the telling of the tales, the acting and the scenery and, the evocations of synesthesia, by which Memoirs will work for you, or not.

Resurrecting Teflon Ron: A LATE MORNING (IN AMERICA) at Contemporary American Theater Festival

A show about Reagan that does not explore how his personality gave rise to so much destructiveness is not going to satisfy any well-informed theatergoer. Yet such a show is unfortunately what playwright Michael Weller has given us in A Late Morning (in America) With Ronald Reagan.

Venue Problems Aside, Stillpointe’s URINETOWN Flush With Possibility

Every so often a production comes along that has an enormous amount going for it, but you cannot enjoy it much because of technical problems that tend to overwhelm an audience’s capacity for pleasure. Unfortunately that is the story with Urinetown, a musical now being revived by Stillpointe Theatre in a space in the United Methodist Church at Mount Vernon Square. Here, at least on press night, both problems were consequences of the space in which the show was being staged: the acoustics were unspeakably bad and the air was almost unendurably hot.

Straight Theatergoer, Closeted Plays

I started my theatergoing on my seventh birthday in 1956. Reviewing each play I saw in my youth, as I have recently done, I am struck not merely by the absence of explicit GLBT subject-matter but by its paradoxical abundance under the surface. In retrospect, there was a huge closet at work: a closet that obscured or concealed not merely gay theater creators themselves but also the work they did. But being a young straight boy in a society that granted scant official recognition to queer sexuality in any form, the emanations from the closet either did not register with me at all, or, if they did, they merely confused me.

Living With What Lies Between Us

The assurance we should each have by now that we are not going to convert each other should also be key to our coexistence. If only because of our shared past, I do not want to lose our connection to each other, and I sense that you do not want to lose it either, no matter how angry we make each other.