Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blog Discount offer: Doris to Darlene

I will be seeing Doris to Darlene: A Cautionary Valentine, a new work written by Jordan Harrison and directed by Les Waters (Eurydice), tonight at Playwrights Horizons and reviewing it shortly thereafter. In the meantime, the good folks over at PH would like to extend a discount offer to the readers of this blog. Here's everything you need to know if you are interested in ordering tickets:

Special Discount offer for Bloggers Posts
$35 (REG. $65) for performances November 16 – 26
$45 (REG. $65) for performances November 27 – December 23.
Limit 4 tickets per order. Subject to availability.

How to order (purchase by December 11 and mention code ‘DDBL’ to receive discount):

Online: Ticket Central and use code DDBL
Phone: Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily) and mention code DDBL.
In person: Ticket Central, 416 West 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Avenues

As always, students holding a valid school ID can purchase rush tickets at the low, low price of $15 beginning one hour prior to curtain, subject to availability. There is a limit of one ticket per ID, so if you want to attempt rushing the show with a friend or two, make sure that you all go to the box office together.

The plot sounds pretty interesting, especially if, like me, you're as passionate about opera as you are about theatre. From the website:

"In the candy-colored 1960s, a biracial schoolgirl named Doris is molded into pop star Darlene by a whiz-kid record producer who culls a top-ten hit out of Richard Wagner’s Liebestod. Rewind to the candy-colored 1860s, where Wagner is writing the melody that will become Darlene’s hit song. Fast-forward to the not-so-candy-colored present, where a teenager obsesses over Darlene’s music — and his music teacher. Three dissonant decades merge into an unlikely harmony in this time-jumping pop fairy tale about the dreams and disasters behind one transcendent song."

I'll be back soon with my review.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Die Mommie Die! - November 1, 2007

Normally I am no fan of movies being turned into stage productions. The spark of originality in a live show is part of the excitement of live theater. The incestuous back and forth that has gone on from screen to stage and vice versa is a bit tiresome. However, when I saw that Charles Busch was bringing Die Mommie Die to the stage there was no way I could stay away.

Busch is nothing if not innovative and God knows, witty - not to mention a knockout in a red wig. So my hopes were high and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

From beginning to end this show has a clear vision of what it is and where it's going and that in itself is a more than many shows Off-Broadway, or on, can provide lately.

The original music by Lewis Flinn is a perfect homage to films and singers of the 1950s-60s era. The collective sigh that went through the audience was clear indication that I was not the only one blown away by the absolutely stunning set design by Michael Anania. Jessica Jahn's costumes are sheer knock-0uts one and all, and Mr. Busch's costumes by Michael Bottari & Ronald Case are so stunning and vintage film perfect (the black and white mourning dress is just insanely cool) they look like they just came out of a time machine from Elizabeth Taylor's and Lucille Ball's closets. If I could get Katherine Carr to design a wig for me I'd wear it every day.
photo credits: Carol Rosegg

This sort of tongue in cheek comedy is not easy to pull off - there is a risk with over the top comedy to go a little too far over the top and be lost. But the cast of Die Mommie Die hits just the right level of camp and fun and never pushes too far beyond - and let's face it, when a suppository becomes an instrument of murder it would be easy to push too far. No pun intended.

Given what a wonderfully fun and polished evening of theater this is, it would be difficult to point to any one person as the standout - except of course that Charles Busch is on stage. This is a performer who is so present at every moment and so in touch with his audience at all times that it is difficult to watch anyone else, yet he is also very clearly a part of an ensemble and never steals focus from any fellow actor. Watching a performer who is so warm and giving, and let's face it honey, looks FAN-tastic in a short skirt is a rare treat.

The rest of the cast deserves mention as well and I would be remiss not to point out that once again Kristine Nielsen (the Nixon-loving maid, Bootsie) kicks ass in every way - as she always does. Chris Hoch (Tony Parker) makes a delightful gigolo. Newcomer to New York, Ashley Morris (Edith Sussman) has great comic timing. Van Hansis (Lance) is "NOT CRAZY" but plays it well, and Bob Ari (Sol Sussman) turns from doting daddy to psycho husband on a dime.

Director Carl Andress has done a wonderful job with Mr. Busch's script and the action moves smoothly and surely towards its 'tragic' conclusion. This production runs only through February so make sure you get tickets, otherwise you will have to be content with the movie version. I suggest you see both.

Die Mommie Die
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Turn of the Screw - October 31, 2007

Henry James's The Turn of the Screw has always been an intriguing source material for films and plays. The Twenty Feet Productions presentation of Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation is a little different than the others in that it is performed by only two people, Erin Cunningham, as the governess, and Tim Scott as all the other characters.

Using only two actors for this play absolutely works, especially when Cunningham's 'is she nutty or is she not' governess bounces off Scott's multiple characters from housekeeper to seductive employer. The question however is are these other characters figments of the governess's own mind or are they real. Using only two actors makes it very easy to believe the voices are all in her head. This is further enhanced by the fact that the entire performance is lit only with two hand-held candles. Each performer carries their candle and for the most part their faces are the only things illuminated in the slightly cavernous and fully black Bleecker Street Theater. While extremely effective I must admit that the lighting eventually became a bit uncomfortable, but because the storytellers on stage were so engaging I think this can easily be excused. Sound effects are also provided solely by the actors and Scott is to be commended for not overdoing his ghostly moaning but hitting the appropriate mark that makes us wonder, is it in fact just the house settling or is it the tortured spirits of Bly House that we hear?

The production values of the piece are low budget yet never cheap. The set consists of one table and one chair. Simplicity is the key to a good ghost story. Though the sound effects during the show are provided by the actors, pre-show there is a chill inducing prerecorded harpsichord playing and from time to time the electricity 'goes out' resulting in a slow winding down of the record which then swings back on as though nothing had happened. This seems a good-natured wink and nod to the audience that yes, we're going to try to scare you here so come along for the ride.

The Turn of the Screw is a difficult piece in that it is always ambiguous - there is no clear and precise wrap-up. As with all good ghost stories we are left wondering and must make our own decisions as to what really happened in the seven day span of the story. Twenty Feet Productions embraces that ambiguity and does not try to answer our questions but rather lets us decide for ourselves. This was a perfect Halloween season show, and perfect for anyone who enjoys a good ghost story.

The Turn of the Screw
Bleecker Street Theatre
45 Bleecker Street (just East of Lafayette Street)
Through November 3
Running Time:
75 minutes (no intermission - NO late seating)
Note: Appropriate 14+
Children under the age of 4 are not permitted in the theatre.