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Showing posts from November, 2016

The Screwtape Letters

C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters was first published in serial form, and was published as a book in 1942. It’s a brief, apologetic novel exploring Christianity. It takes the form of 31 letters written from an administrative demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a minor demon, Wormwood. Screwtape is guiding Wormwood in the corruption of a human soul, a man known simply as “The Patient”. It’s heavily ironic satire, taking the perspective of evil in exploring the nature of the Christian life and salvation.
Max Mclean and Jeffrey Fiske have adapted Screwtape for the stage, and the production is presented by Fellowship for Performing Arts. This intellectual source material could make for a ponderous stage production, but the show, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, is terrific – animated and engaging. In place of dramatic tension it serves up a thick irony.
In order to externalize the material, Mr. McLean and Mr. Fiske have Screwtape dictate his letters to his secretary. There are two perfo…

The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui

The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui isn’t usually considered Bertolt Brecht’s best play. It’s the complex story of a Chicago gangster who rises to power through control of the vegetable trade. The plot is overly complicated. There’s no hero appearing throughout the play with whom we can identify, as there is in The Good Woman of Setzuan or Saint Joan of the Stockyards. Brecht fails to involve us either intellectually or emotionally in this play.
In its current production of the play, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble has gone to great lengths – very successfully – to be true to both Brecht’s theory of verfremdungseffekt and the play’s specific historical application.They’ve put the script in the context of a radio play. There are three old-fashioned microphones on stage, and the performers read into them at first. Then they’re freed to live in the fiction, but the shell of the radio broadcast materializes from time to time. Sometimes we see them rattle a metal sheet for thunder.
Arturo Ui is a…

The Roads to Home

What terrific work we see on stage in Primary Stage’s production of Horton Foote’s The Road to Home, presented at the Cherry Lane Theatre! The play is a comprised of three scenes centering on three Houston matrons. The first two scenes are set in 1924. In the first, A Nightingale, we meet Mabel, Vonnie and Annie in Mabel’s kitchen. Early in the play is a long speech in which Mabel describes Annie to Vonnie. We need to pay rapt attention to it, and Hallie Foote, as Mabel, is remarkable in her delivery, as she is throughout the play. Annie enters to visit, and we see that she is indeed as emotionally fragile as she’s been described. The second scene, The Dearest of Friends, takes place six months later and focuses on Vonnie’s marital problems. In the third scene, set four years later, Spring Dance, we find Annie committed to a very nice state psychiatric hospital in Austin. Mabel and Vonnie do not appear and we meet instead some male patients. The entire cast is superb as well. As Vonnie,…

Daddy Issues

In Marshall Goldberg’s play Daddy Issues a gay man, an actor named Donald, hires a ten-year-old boy to pretend to be his son for the benefit of his family. He’s aided in this deception by two friends, a woman named Henrietta and a male buddy named Levi who has a drag act. In the play’s climactic scene Mom and Dad and Grandma come to Donald’s apartment to meet the young boy. As in all farce, the characters are no match for the situation, and we watch as comic bit by comic bit Donald is undone.
Daddy Issues has been presented by David Goldyn Productions at Theatre at St. Clement’s, off-Broadway.
Farce is a difficult and delicate form, but the show’s director, David Goldyn, masters it by keeping everything crisp and snappy. It all moves along allegretto and the pacing never flags. Everything is sharply analyzed and carefully executed.
As Donald, Matt Koplik is animated and well-defined, shouldering the bulk of the comedy. Of all the cast, he alone has that particular nervous energy that enl…