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Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Talley’s Folly – Review

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The curtain-less stage, set for Talley’s Folly (by Jeff Cowie) is impossible to ignore. The southern weathered boathouse littered with rusted and discarded objects begs for the arrival of Miss Havisham. The small apron of the Laura Pel’s stage is festooned in large cartoon-like flowers, setting the stage if you will for this realistic play that knows it’s a play.

Lanford Wilson’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize play begins with eliminating the fourth wall. Matt Friedman (Danny Burstein) walks through the house and onto the stage and announces how long the play will be and why he’s there. He repeats his opening speech (at a higher speed) for latecomers. For audience members who cling affectionately to the fourth wall, this is somewhat terrifying. But before we have time to rethink our choices, a halting and delicate story unfolds and we are immersed, enthralled and utterly smitten. We meet Sally Talley (Sarah Paulson) whom Matt has traveled to woo. Theirs is not an easy courtship. In fact at times it would seem that whatever courtship there is only exists in Matt’s mind. Sally is a lovely blonde woman from a wealthy family that is less than thrilled with the existence of the obviously Jewish and vaguely European Matt. That the play takes place during World War II is interesting but not all that relevant. The family’s attitude is timeless as is the story of Matt and Sally. To outline what occurs between them in the course of 90 minutes would deny potential audiences the real pleasure of this play.

Mr. Burstein who if truth be told, owns any role he plays, is Matt Friedman. True the role will always conjure its creation by Judd Hirsch’s (in 1979), but Mr. Burstein is not in anyone’s shadow. He is larger than his physical self yet not in anyway overblown. He plumbs the humor while swallowing the pain. Matt Friedman could easily become pitiable, but Burstein never allows that to occur. Ms. Paulson could easily become set dressing in his presence but under Michael Wilson’s direction they shine equally upon the stage. While we at times we become frustrated by Sally, we never once doubt her. The actors capture the realism and the poetry of Matt and Sally; we ache for them and we cheer for them.

The Roundabout Theatre’s Talley’s Folly opens on March 5th

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Darkest Decade

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A museum when done right should teach, inspire and evoke an emotional response. There are some museums whose content and themes are so inherently powerful they must rely on the absence of stimuli to evoke a response. Often some section of the museum is devoid of audio or descriptive copy. There is a four-story glass sculpture of freedom, or a pile of suitcases or a melted police car. The power of these selected image(s) can be breathtaking and utterly unnerving.

The Newseum (in Washington D.C.) has not a single quiet space. It is like the topic itself, unrelenting, riveting and compelling. Headlines, newsprint, broadcasts, artifacts and photographs form a cacophony of meta and micro information. “Oh right, THAT event! And how was it covered?” No stone is left unturned in answering the question. (Did you know a journalist created the FBI 10 Most Wanted list? See that!) The Pulitzer Prize Photography gallery is an embarrassment of riches. There are 70 years worth of stunning imagery to be admired and absorbed. Factoring in that the prize was offered in two categories beginning in 1968, that’s a lot of photos. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and mentally mutter “Nice” “Well done” in a monotonous tone. But something unexpected happens by the time you reach the 1960s-1970s section. A theme, spanning over 10 years, begins to develop, and a lump in the throat and pit of the stomach forms.

We’ve seen (most of) these photos over the years individually. The image of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald (Robert H. Jackson) has become part of how we talk about Kennedy’s assassination. We’ve all seen, and perhaps turned our heads, from the image of a naked child running from napalm (Huyhn Cong Ut) and of the Saigon execution (Edward T. Adams). We may recall the university campus gun violence (Kent State and Cornell.) But it is the (1967) photo of James Meredith (the first African-American student to attend the segregated University of Mississippi,) shot on a Mississippi road displayed in proximity to a photo of Ted Landsmark being attacked with the United States flag a full ten years later that is horrifying. And that is the point of this startling decade of American history. There was simply so much, so very much violence. Even the uplifting photos are a reminder of violence and sorrow. The unadulterated joy on the faces of Col. Robert L. Stirm’s family upon his return is a reminder of the heartbreak of Viet Nam soldiers Missing In Action. The war, the assassinations, the racism, the plight of the migrant workers and the violence; it’s all there in obscene excess in those 10 years.

King

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Ruined – Review

This weekend I went, somewhat begrudgingly, to see Ruined at The Manhattan Theatre Club.  I knew nothing about the play except that it had just won the Pulitzer Prize for Lynn Nottage.  That was enough to get me in the door.  Once in the theatre (at City Center) I saw the gigantic wall poster of the play’s synopsis.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted those key cringe inducing Eve Ensler nouns and shuddered.  I felt lightheaded at the very thought of two and a half hours of “women as victims” narrative.  Well, in for a penny in for a pound as they say.  I had my ticket and a pocketful of gourmet jelly beans, so into the theatre with me.  My equilibrium began to return the moment I stepped inside.  The stage is enormous and the house is small; and excellent combination.  The stage was set dramatically and expansively, every inch was performance space.  I took my comfortable sixth row seat and spun my head like an owl.  The house was filled with actual theatergoers.  The interracial crowd was tourist-free; another good sign, nary an M&Ms shopping bag in sight.  Sitting in the row directly in front of me was Philip Seymour Hoffman (or Phil as his friends call him) and Laila Robbins (not together;) another very good sign.  A few rows ahead of me, Lynn Whitfield sat down.  Things were looking up.  The last time I had been at a performance with such a healthy percentage of actor to commoner ration was August Osage County.
Never underestimate the veracity of good omens.  This play is enormous.  Yes, it is a play set in a war torn far off locale, and yes there are unspeakable horrors brought upon women, men and children.  But there is nothing treacly or sentimental or preachy about Ruined.  It is a beautiful story about the human spirit, that brought me to tears (twice) not out of pity for the characters, but out of admiration for their strength.  There are wonderful moments of laughter, and there is music, gorgeous, poetic music.  The play is set in a taverna/brothel, and the music is live and an integral part of the play.  Kate Whoriskey directs this play at a perfect pace.  There is never one moment of downtime or distraction, I was riveted to every moment and motion on stage  The play is mostly led by female characters who were beautifully developed.  The male lead; Russel G. Jones, broke my heart.  He is Herbie to Saidah Arrika Ekulona’s aptly named Mama.  It does not belittle Ruined to draw this Gypsy comparison.  Both Mama’s live off the “talents” of their girls and both
have a traveling salesman wooing them.  Mr Jones’ Christian, like Herbie, is driven by decency, and in Ruined this male character trait is most spectacular.   Ms. Ekulona is a dynamic actress and finds every nuance of Mama, I could not get enough of her.  Condola Rashad (yes, Mrs. Huxtable’s daughter) was a delightful surprise.  She does a very fine job in the difficult and demanding role of Sophie.  It is when she sings that she really comes to life.  A capable singer, she is heartbreaking singing the songs of Lynn Nottage.  Enough can not said about the play itself.  My only concern about it is that now that it has won the Pulitzer, community theatres across America will tackle it.  Human Rights organization will build fundraisers around it.  But without the gorgeous direction of Ms. Whoriskey, the play could be cheapened. Produced on the expansive stage of the MTC and staged in such a realistic manner, there is a degree of intimacy that is a key component to the experience.  This play should not be “watched” it should be experienced.  In the wrong hands it quite possibly could deteriorate into a Congo Monologue.  Please see it now while it is as it should be.  The play and the performances will stay with you and you’ll feel better for having seen it.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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