A few of you messaged me about the first image in this past week’s look at current Off Broadway offerings. I didn’t talk much about THE FLICK at Barrow Street Theatre, the Annie Baker play revived by Scott Rudin after a successful—thought contentious—run at Playwrights Horizons in 2013. I suppose I didn’t talk much about it because this Pulitzer Prize-winning play talks a lot on its own. The show runs over three hours, so long in fact, it prompted PH artistic director Tim Sanford to write an open letter to peeved subscribers. Don’t you love an open letter? Normally, I’d be equally irritated by an especially long play—do any of us Gen Xers or Millennials have the attention span for such an indulgent showing? Unless we’re talking about a master work like ANGELS IN AMERICA or epic like LORD OF THE RINGS, I have no interest in sitting in one uncomfortable seat for that long. The reason I rarely see Wagner operas. Every play I’ve ever written runs under 90 minutes. But I’ll make an exception for THE FLICK. It’s filled with long uncomfortable silences and dialogue-less sub-textual moments that really are earned by the very thoughtful playwright. I’m happy to see that Rudin kept the same cast and artistic team; he didn’t overhaul the production with larger names for the sake of box office. We don’t need a B-list TV actor to butcher the subtleties of THE FLICK. (Through August 30th)
I think it’s worth your while to check out A.R. Gurney’s WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER at the Signature, which, as the title suggests, is a nostalgic coming of age story. It’s also a teacher-inspires story, without being too syrupy—much appreciated, Mr. Gurney. But even more appealing than the story itself, set during WWII, when lead character Charlie’s father is overseas, is the staging. It’s incredibly minimalist and modern—no your-grandma’s-Queens-apartment moldy sets recycled from some regional production of Biloxi Blues. It’s a real homage to Gurney—some of the stage directions are even projected at various points behind the characters. The acting is also very strong—particularly from Tony-nominated Kristine Nielsen. (Closing SOON—June 7th)
Most of you know that I have spent a lot of time both living and traveling in South Africa, so it’s no surprise that my curiosity is always peaked when an Athol Fugard play comes to New York. The latest, also at The Pershing Square Signature Center, as is typical of the playwright, deals with the struggles of Apartheid South Africa, specifically of farm laborer Nukain, who has been painting a rock garden at Revolver Creek for most of his life. Dramaturgy ensues when the landowner’s wife arrives with demands. What makes this NEW Fugard work exciting, is a flash forward to 2003, where anger over redistribution of the land is cleverly weighed against the violence facing farmers, both of which, I assure you, are real problems in South Africa and Zimbabwe today. (THE PAINTED ROCKS AT REVOLVER CREEK closes June 14th)
Broadway legend Patti LuPone and Off Broadway standard Michael Urie take the stage at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre in SHOWS FOR DAYS, an Off Broadway piece that pays homage to community theatre, which, let’s be honest, is how most young Americans get introduced to theatre arts. I love the concept, and I obviously love Patti. In fact, one of my first introductions to community theatre (and to LuPone) was a production of EVITA at Playhouse 22 in East Brunswick, NJ. Patti recently came to visit my friend Ben Rimalower at his cabaret show, BAD WITH MONEY, which I’ve reviewed and archived on this site.
Lastly, the new Rajiv Joseph play GUARDS AT THE TAJ, starring Arian Moayed, a Tony nominee for a favorite play of mine (that lots of people hated) BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO. This new play hasn’t opened yet, and quite frankly, I’m skeptical of the plot, which has been released by Atlantic Theatre Company as follows:
“In 1648 India, two Imperial Guards watch from their post as the sun rises for the first time on the newly-completed Taj Mahal- an event that shakes their respective worlds. When they are ordered to perform an unthinkable task, the aftermath forces them to question the concept of friendship, beauty and duty, and changes them forever.”
However, I loved BENGHAL TIGER…, and based on that alone, I’ll probably check it out when it opens June 11th.