Sep 30, 2006

Lookin' Ahead

An Off-Broadway preview, circumscribed by Newsday's word count, is here.

Sep 29, 2006

Old School

My review of Jay Johnson: The Two and Only is here. And I've got a coupla New York Musical Theatre Festival reviews on's festival blog: J.O.B. the Hip-Hopera (shout out to L.A. homie Stefan Novinski), Night of the Hunter, and The Man in My Head.

Sep 27, 2006

Why I Don't Blog More

These aren't actually good excuses (considering what some colleagues are doing in their non-blogging hours), but I'm currently singing with these folks and composing with this scrappy troupe, plus I've got new product. La-di-dah.

Sep 24, 2006

A Blow to the Center

The teaching moment has arrived, and the LA Times' McNulty steps up in a big way, surveying the Michael Ritchie reign at CTG thus far and saying exactly the sort of thing only a disinterested critic has the authority, and frankly the responsibility, to say. McNulty's best and sharpest line:
The Taper built its reputation on little-known playwrights, but there's not much in the new season that can be characterized as a Ritchie discovery. The theater should be in the business of nurturing original material rather than shopping for it.

Bravo--and may the criticism prove constructive to an institution that still matters too much to be mishandled.

Sep 22, 2006

Raised in Arizona

I'm back in my hometown of Phoenix for a high-school reunion, won't be seeing any theater here. Been a little buried in finishing up the Brian Cox piece—he's an infinite subject, it seems, with a career that spans everything from Titus Andronicus to the X-Men to this (if you're even remotely familiar with his work, you won't regret checking this out).

I have to say the man was definitive in Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll, and I confess I was somehow both left cold and blown away by the play, an ambitious but very singular reckoning of the author's prickly entente with the Western left—at least that segment of it, represented by Cox's character, Max, an unreconstructed Marxist don at Cambridge, which apologized for the Soviet Empire and dismissed its dissidents as distractions at best, traitors at worst. Largely due to Cox's conviction in the role, Max holds his own. And there's something about Stoppard's intellect that seems to repel direct emotional involvement, that somehow creates the expectation that he's working on a Shavian level of discourse and we're not supposed to feel for his characters, when in fact that's just a front, a mask, worn as much by the characters as by the playwright. What dawns on you, particularly upon later reflection—and this is a play I hope comes to New York, so I can see it again—is that for all its highbrow chatter, this is sweeping, old-fashioned, deeply emotional storytelling. For some reason I thought of Spielberg, an artist who's tried to trade up from his popcorn showman's origins, with results that have similarly both stirred and confounded our responses; under his literate trappings, Stoppard is essentially as much a ripping good showman. Reportedly Mick Jagger has the film rights to the play. If they don't get Milos Forman, Mr. E.T. would make a fantastic choice.

Sep 15, 2006

Across the Pond

In London briefly to interview the estimable Brian Cox. Caught Frayn's Donkey Years tonight. I'd been looking forward to it, as he's written both the last word in contemporary farce (Noises Off) and the era's greatest political play (Democracy), and this promised to be a sort of combination of both, about an Oxbridge college reunion headed by a pompous government minister (Thin Blue Line's David Haig). Alas, no; I'm a bit jetlagged, admittedly, but the show seemed like tiring piffle to me (especially given how it might have resonated, as I've got a high school reunion in Phoenix next week). Tomorrow: Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll. Tried to dip into the script of his Coast of Utopia on the flight over; I'm finding it brittle and overpopulated. More anon.

Sep 13, 2006

Sep 12, 2006

Changes of the Season

Two new bloggers on the scene, both at established entities: David Cote, theater editor at Time Out New York, with the intriguingly named Histriomastix, and Paul Wontorek, editor-in-chief of, with Stage Notes.

Speaking of the latter site, which has been my main reviewing home for a year now: It is discontinuing reviews. Though I'll be covering a few shows for the site's New York Musical Theatre Festival blog, my review of Eve Ensler's The Treatment, which should be posted later tonight, will be my last full review for It's been a good ride. The future now gapes as uncertainly, and I hope as promisingly, as the darkened silence before the play begins.

Sep 8, 2006

Purpose-of-Art Quotes

From Bob Christgau's 1991 review of R.E.M.'s Out of Time:
And though in theory it's true that I would have preferred something that spoke more directly to how shitty I feel about Iraq, in fact this is one of those alternate worlds that music is supposed to create for us—one of those worlds that makes peace worth fighting for. If I hear a better American album all year, I promise to stop wondering what it would be like to live in New Zealand.

From a Slate round-up of luminaries asked what piece of art has helped them "make sense of 9/11," I was struck by author George Saunders' thoughts:
I can't say that anything has helped me make sense of the attacks. I suspect they were just what they felt like they were—namely, a reminder that chaos and hatred sometimes rear their heads and, temporarily, are ascendant. But one work of art that has helped me in a more general way is John Adams' symphonic work "On the Transmigration of Souls"; it has "helped" me in the sense that I've been able to use it, periodically and sacramentally, to move myself to tears remembering that day just as it was. Every time I listen to it, it re-attunes me to the real sadness of that day, the sense of ordinary lives suddenly and horribly interrupted. That, I'd say, is the real purpose of art: to sweep away the mold that conceptual and habitual thought allows to grow over even the most raw experience. And Adams does it—it's a great and courageous piece of music.

Sep 7, 2006

In the Zone

My piece on 3-Legged Dog's new space on Greenwich St. is here (reg. req'd).

Sep 1, 2006


My preview feature on the New York Musical Theatre Festival is here.

Blue Times

I grew up with the New Times in Phoenix; I still have a ratty grey T-shirt for "the Valley's News and Arts Journal," which I won in some back-of-book picture-ID contest. I remember enjoying the film critic Michael Burkett, so much livelier than the lead critic at the Arizona Republic. The New Times was my first introduction to the alternative-weekly template: the studied irreverence and contrarianism, uthe ncensored language, the gushing reviews of music I'd never heard of, the "personal" ads. When I first moved to L.A. and picked up the LA Weekly, my head practically exploded with a mere glance at the cultural listings. But I recognized the format.

Little did I know the bitter, incestuous tangle those two media outlets, and another one I'd dimly heard of called simply "the Voice," would one day get into. By the time I arrived in NY last year, I wasn't much of an alt-weekly reader anymore, largely thanks to the Web, and the Village Voice I've encountered since hasn't given me many reasons to change my readings. But with the news that New Times Media, from its base in my swingin' hometown, is gutting the New York staff of the Voice, particularly in the arts department, it may be time to retire that T-shirt.