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Showing posts from April, 2013

The Poor of New York

The Poor of New York
by Dion Boucicault
Produced by Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre
directed by Tyne Rafaeli
Dion Boucicault (1820 – 1890) was one of the most successful melodramatists, acclaimed in both London and New York. His The Poor of New York opened in our city in 1857. It was one of the first plays of its century to take a stab at social amelioration. It was subsequently produced widely, with the place names (and the title) changed to suit the locale.
All the melodramatic elements are here: the hyperbole; the excess of emotion; the black-and-white moralizing; the narrative complications; the happy ending. Instead of simply reflecting nature, melodramatists wrote for effect.
Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre produced it recently in a large venue off-off-Broadway. Director Tyne Rafaeli assumes the challenges of presenting a bona-fide melodrama with all the excesses of its form. She succeeds wonderfully, using humor selectively to keep the play from being …

Bello Mania

Bello Mania
Bello Nock and company
at the New Victory Theater, Broadway Everybody loves a clown. Well, I suppose it depends on the clown. But everybody loves Bello Nock, the former Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey master. From the moment he appears in his recent production of Bello Mania, in a huge, inflated version of his costume, we cannot take our eyes off him. Athletic and precise, he does handstands on a high wire and executes somersaults on a trampoline. He grapples with Spot the (invisible) Wonderdog. He brings a grown-up from the audience and shoots an invisible apple off her head with an invisible arrow. His bike keeps falling apart, but he’s indomitable.
Those infallible critics in the audience, the kids, loved every minute. He invites a few up on stage and works with them to everyone’s delight.
The highlight of the show is the Sway Pole act, in which Bello climbs a mildly streetlight that ascends to the ceiling. The pole is off the stage, at the foot of the audience and…

Strindberg's Redemption

Easter, by August Strindberg
produced by the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre at the Genre Frankel Theater, NYC.
directed by Robert Greer
with Chudney Sykes, Nathan James, DeSean Stokes, Carol Carter, Ley Smith, Jolie Garrett
Strindberg wrote Easter in 1901 in Stockholm. True to his vision, it’s a short play (this production runs less than 90 minutes). It has huge lumps of Strindbergian despair with a welcome garnish of redemption. It concerns a family in huge financial debt due to the father’s swindling. He’s in prison, his daughter has just been release from a madhouse, and the creditor is at the door. I love Strindberg.
Our playwright has little concern with plot; there’s only a flimsy string of dramatic action. A lot of the dialogue is merely repetitive exposition. And our favorite Swede lays on the moralizing so thick that the story, such as it is, is smothered, and the play’s boring.
In the recent production by the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre (NYC, OOB), the actors are …