Sunday, June 24, 2012

Octogenarians Going Strong on the New York City Stage

In Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles, the character Vera (played by Mary Louise Wilson) laments that she is the last living member of a circle of octogenarian friends and how her memory is slowly fading. However, if you remove yourself from the intimacy of the Lincoln Center's 4000 Miles production and look around, there have been several wonderful performances recently by octogenarians on the New York City stage.

Joel Grey just joined the club in April and entertains in the musical Anything Goes as Moonface Martin. Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones liven the stage in Gore Vidal's The Best Man. Dick Latessa speaks his mind in the dark comedy The Lyons. Mary Louise Wilson gives us tenderness in Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles. And recently, Rosemary Harris lit up the Broadway stage in Athol's Fugard's The Road to Mecca.

These actors show little sign of weakening, reminding theatergoers that we can go strong at any age, even in our 80s.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quote from Jimmy Fallon's "Thank You Notes" - Part II

Quote from Jimmy Fallon's book Thank You Notes:
Thank you...Lifetime Achievement Awards, for being a nice way of saying, "We think you're about to die."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quote from Jimmy Fallon's "Thank You Notes" - Part I

Quote from Jimmy Fallon's book Thank You Notes
Thank you...person upwrapping a cough drop in the movie theater. I know you think that by unwrapping your lozenge very slowly it's somehow less offensive. It's not. I can hear every damn crinkle of that wrapper. Wait, are you rewrapping it just so you can unwrap it again? Thank you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Women, Can We Have It All?

I love it when a play stays with me. A few weeks ago, it was Death of a Salesman. These days, it is Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn, an exploration of feminism today. 

Meet Catherine, a successful attractive feminist writer and academic in her 40s. She has no man. She has no children. After her mother, the only person who truly cares about her, suffers a heart attack, fear of being alone sets in - so much so that she returns to her New England hometown and considers settling for her married porn-watching, dope-smoking, underachieving college ex-boyfriend.

Now, I'm oversimplifying Ms. Gionfriddo's wonderful and very funny play, which recently extended its run at Playwrights Horizon. However, the questions, thoughts that continue to roam through my mind after seeing the play are not quite as simple. 

As I watched the accomplished Diane Sawyer cling to Mike Nichols during the recent Tony telecast, I googled her bio to see whether the couple has any children together; I found it interesting that Diane Sawyer side stepped this reader question in a 2010 Time magazine article - Do you regret not having children? When you were younger, was it ever a choice between career and family? 

As I flipped though Metro New York, I noticed an article about the book The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single & Childfree written by a middle aged childless black woman who refuses to be pitied. I cynically recall the appalling statistics surrounding black marriage decline and rate of childlessness amongst high achieving black women. 

As I look around at the women in my world, I wonder - Who amongst them has it all? 
  • Robust, successful career. 
  • Loving marriage/relationship.  
  • Children (whose lives they are actually and actively a part of). 
I wonder - Can the average women in this country even have "all" these things or is "all" designated for a chosen few.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quote from "One Man, Two Guvnors"

Spoken by Charlie "The Duck" Clench in Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors:
Love passes through marriage quicker than shit through a small dog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The 66th Annual Tony Awards - The Best of Broadway

I made it through last year's telecast of the Tony Awards but I couldn't make it through this year's show. Neil Patrick Harris was charming as usual.The Book of Mormon opening which included heavyweights Ricky Martin, Matthew Broderick, Judith Light and James Earl Jones was cute. Also, I love love love that Nina Arianda and James Corden took home prizes, instead of the usual suspects. However, I must confess. I flipped the channel as soon as I could to HBO's True Blood. And apparently I wasn't the only one from the dismal ratings the show received - 6 million viewers down 14% from last year and down from 60 Minutes, the show's lead in. 

As usual, post Tony coverage was aplenty. Let's look at some that I found interesting.
  • The New York Post made a big deal about The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess beating out Follies for Best Revival of a Musical after Stephen Sondheim's scathing letter to the NYT last year. At this point, I wonder if anyone still cares. 
  • Speaking of Porgy and Bess, Audra McDonald, Broadway's sweetheart took home her fifth Tony, this time for leading actress in a musical. She is the first Black actress to ever win so many Tony's. To celebrate the occasion, during her acceptance speech, she was nice enough to remind Black folks about what we hate about Porgy and Bess - Blacks depicted as rapists and junkies in this historic...opera, musical...opera-musical?  
  • Breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow, who is working on the score for a musical version of the film Diner, looked wonderful in her first appearance after announcing that she has a brain tumor.   
  • For a brief minute, it looked like James Earl Jones thought that he was the winner when Candace Bergen announced that James...Corden won best actor for his amazingly funny performance in One Man, Two Guvnors
  • Reactions to the Evita performance were lukewarm. An Evita performance where Evita barely sings a word. Very strange!!  
  • For fashionistas, here are some takes on best dressed here and here as well as worst dressed here

Of the 30 shows up for nominations, 11 took home trophies. So, here they are...the best of Broadway. For those that are still playing, good luck getting a discounted ticket now.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Who is Virginia Kull??

Every few months, I find myself examining the familiar face Virginia Kull on the New York City stage. I first noticed Ms. Kull in Signature Theatre's brilliant The Orphan Home Cycle. Since then, I've seen her again in Michael Mitnick's silly play Sex Lives of Our Parents where she ironically plays the character Virginia at Second Stage Uptown. Then when I looked pass the awesome Frank Langella, there was Ms. Kull in Terence Rattigan’s Man and Boy on Broadway. Continuing on, there she was again in Leslye Headland's Assistance. As I write this post, Ms. Kull is appearing in Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn at Playwright Horizons, and if you ask me, she sort of steals the show. 

So, who is Virginia Kull? Well, I don't know. Extremely odd but I've done a bit of online searching and there are very few interviews. So here we have this young talented theater actress who is able to modulate so effortlessly between plays set in early 1900s, 1930s or today and very little coverage that allow audiences to get to know her better.

Well, let's try to piece something together. 

The 30 year old actress is from Austin Texas. While attending Bowie High School, she originally planned to be a doctor but got the acting bug along the way. From high school, she went on to study theater at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. She graduated in 2004 and worked at the Dallas Shakespeare Festival that summer but would eventually moved to New York. 

Refusing to limit herself to just the NYC stage, she has quite a bit of regional theater under her belt. In a interview, she says, I’ve gotten some pretty weighty experience that wouldn’t have had at this point in my career if I hadn’t been willing to travel. If we were to dig a bit into her notices, they have been pretty good. As an example, The New York Times has described her as lovely, convincing, and "so good". 

In a Rapid River Art Magazine article by Marcianne Miller back in 2005, Ms. Kull is quoted as saying when comparing herself to the character Nora in Ibsen's A Doll's House, I have a very child-like energy like she does…we’re both kind of quirky and silly…I have a desire to be in love…I’m not nearly as naive as she is…And I’d like to consider myself an incredibly emphatic person… At the time, the actress had never been in love, however, it must have eventually come her way because she married fellow Texan and actor Ryan Young in 2009.

Virginia Kull is definitely someone to watch out for on the New York City stage. While I am not familiar with her TV work, her theater performances have been consistently good, and hopefully, we can build up this profile of her over time. In the meantime, I say check her out in Rapture, Blister, Burn.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Circus is in Town!!

Circuses are in town! Circuses are in town! Circuses are in town! In addition to acrobatics, the grand Zarkana tosses rock opera in the ring, and the intimate Empire tosses in burlesque and a bar. Oh and don't forget the wonderful simplicity of Traces steadily playing in Union Square. Let's check out a few clips. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quote from Tracy Lett's "August: Osage County"

Conversation between Johnna and Jean in Tracy Lett's August: Osage County:
Johnna: When a Cheyenne baby is born, their umbilical cord is dried and sewn into this pouch. Turtles for girls, lizards for boys. And we wear it for the rest of our lives. 

Jean: Wow. 

Johnna: Because if we lose it, our souls belong nowhere and after we die our souls will walk the Earth looking for where we belong.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tony Award Winning Costumes Up Close at Bloomingdales

Theater lovers who find themselves on the East Side must pop into Bloomingdale's, head to the 4th floor and check out the costumes on display from Tony Award winning plays such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Sister Act, The Phantom of the Opera, The Drowsy Chaperone, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Coast of Utopia

When you are sitting in a large theater such as the Majestic or the Minskoff, there is no way you can see appreciate the details on the amazing costumes. Now, you have the chance to take your time and really check out these Broadway costumes up close. Oh, and you can also do a little shopping.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

"The Way He Was" - Arthur Laurents Estate Auction

Roughly a year ago, Broadway great Authur Laurents passed away. Yesterday, items from his estate were auctioned off downtown at Roland New York. The proceeds will go to the Laurents Hatcher Foundation, which provides an annual cash award each year to a play of social relevance by an emerging American playwright.
Naturally, the Broadway memorabilia peaked my interest and boy did they go like hotcakes. Set and costume renditions, awards, paperweights, portraits, needlepoint illustrations, a leather bound script of Gypsy from Bernadette Peters and a customized lunchbox from Patti Lupone and the cast of Gypsy were all up for sale.

Set and Costume Design Pieces

Irene Sharaff, "Hallelujah Baby" Costume Design sold for $5,000. Robert Randolph, "Gypsy": Two Set Designs sold for $2,250. And Theoni V. Aldredge "La Cage..." Costume Design sold for $5,000.

Needlepoint Illustrations

I loved this collection of small needlepoint illustrations symbolizing the following Arthur Laurents' works - Anyone Can Whistle, Home of the Brave, Hallelujah, Baby!, Invitation to a March, Do I Hear A Waltz, A Clearing in the Woods, Gypsy, The Enclave, The Bird Cage, and West Side Story. Of course, West Side Story received the highest bid at $600  

Sadly, none of my humble bids won. However, the world and me will always have access to the legacy left behind by the great playwright and director - Arthur Laurents.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Random Happenings - May 2012

Some scratch their heads after Tony Award nominations are announced. Tan burned mom hits headlines. President Obama becomes the first US president to support gay marriage. The book closes on Seminar, Magic/Bird, and Leap of Faith and How to Succeed in Business Without Trying.  Claire Tow Theater becomes new home of LCT3. Disco greats Donna Summers and Robin Gibb pass away.  Hoodie donning Zuckerberg gets married. By the way, so did Cynthia Nixon. Yawn, Eric Nederlander arrested again. Ben Brantley boycotts standing ovations.