Oct 31, 2006

Conflict of Interest Files

It would be presumptuous to say that Isaac Butler takes the words out of my mouth with this open letter to the Times re: its not running my review of In Public by playwright George Hunka, which Mr. Butler directed. Suffice to say I wish I'd written it, and I hope it clears the air. I'm still mortified by the impasse, both as a particular instance of all-around unfortunateness and for its larger implications for the alternately fluid and barbed-wired lines between criticism and theatre practice. As a sometime theatre artist and performer myself, this is pause-giving food for thought, indeed. And it's not exactly a pause that refreshes.
UPDATE: Playgoer has more and more.

Oct 30, 2006

Commuted Sentences

My review of Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited is here.

Oct 27, 2006

Gate "Godot"

My review of the Gate's more-or-less definitive production of Waiting for Godot, now on a tour stop in New York but soon making its way West, is here. I've had the privilege of writing about it twice before: With last year's production at the Theatre at St. Clement's, and the historic production at L.A.'s Matrix Theatre in 2000, directed by Andy Robinson and starring David Dukes, Greg Itzin, John Vickery, Robin Gammell, Tony Amendola, and JD Cullum, among others.

Oct 26, 2006

Scenes From Marriages

Reviews of two extremely different plays about disintegrating couples: John Epperson's My Deah and Philip Kan Gotanda's Yohen.

Oct 25, 2006

A Private "In Public" Review

For a variety of complicated reasons, my review of George Hunka's In Public, assigned by the Times, will not appear in the Times. So here it is. Just imagine the Times font and the newsprint ink on your fingers.

Lesson for accused philanderers: Don’t look the man you may be cuckolding in the eye and lecture him on the nature of honesty and guilt. “The history of the world is a history of the attractive, imaginative lie triumphing over the truth,” says Drew (Daryl Lathon), a sleek art history professor, over drinks with Arthur (Abe Goldfarb), an anxious bartender who suspects Drew of taking an unacademic interest in his wife, Lila. Drew adds, reasonably but not helpfully: “If you can ever know what that is.”

Poor, precious Drew can’t help himself: Throughout George Hunka’s insinuating, meditative new play “In Public,” this impeccably dressed tenure-tracker with a specialty in Weimar-era German art oozes smiling, sardonic superiority, as if the tawdry details of daily discourse, not to mention the finer points of who might be doing what with whom, were a trifling annoyance. Drew’s wife Linda (Jennifer Gordon Thomas), a careworn teacher, is fully equipped to keep up with his rarefied game, but why should she have to work so hard? As for Lila (Ronnica V. Reddick), she shares Drew’s Weimar fixation, but that’s not the fire that lights up their coy confab about aesthetics and the tango.

Director Isaac Butler’s production gathers strength in freighted, misdirected silences and supple, rippling subtexts. The way Mr. Lathon and Ms. Thomas play an acrid face-off, ostensibly over an art treatise he’s written, is a masterful demonstration in infusing a heady argument with a lethal dramatic edge.

Not every scene crackles with this tension, and the distracting comic asides of Brian Sillman, playing a series of waiters and bystanders, belong in another play. But a final, full-cast scene of tentative conciliation, with the couples chastened back into their married selves, has a bite of resignation worthy of Pinter. Who needs privacy when our public masks give us away?

“In Public” runs through Oct. 28 at manhattantheatresrouce, 177 Macdougal St., Manhattan. (212) 868-4444.

Clocking the Water Level

Getting in as many as I can before I leave the beat: Reviews of Dan Clancy's lovely The Timekeepers and Peter Mills' and Cara Reichel's lovely but hollow The Flood.

Oct 24, 2006

Welcome to the Working Week

When I arrived in New York a little over a year ago, I came looking for full-time work in editorial and/or publishing. That this is a theater capital, and that much of my writing has been about theater, was definitely a plus, and I've had a good run freelancing for any number of esteemed institutions.

Last week I was offered the job of online editor (official title pending) for Theatre Development Fund, the folks who bring you TKTS and other audience-access programs. If you go to that site you'll see there's not much there in the way of content—and that's what my job will be, to create original content for the site. It's an exciting opportunity to serve a venerable nonprofit with a mission to make theater more accessible to more people by supporting the audiences of today and helping to create the audiences of tomorrow.

Theater criticism will be a conflict with the new job, though, so this means for the time being that I'll be signing off as a critic. It's been an inspiring and edifying job with odd hours and scraping-by pay, and I know I'm going to miss the chance to consider, and reconsider, the work I see rather than simply letting it wash over me. That's a privilege, and a responsibility, I realize I've taken for granted. My body of work as a critic has been a valuable record for me of my own tastes and insights, and I can only hope it's been of some value to readers, as well.

Since my so-called blog has lately been little more than an aggregator of my published writing, I'm not sure what will become of the Wicked Stage as we know it. It will probably be a lot less wicked, for one. But I do look forward to being put to work supporting this art form more directly than I ever have before. Not having to sweat next month's rent, or health care, or withholding taxes, is also a relief.

As one of my high school teachers, a Jesuit priest, used to say with an encouraging wink: Onward and upward.

Letting Go

Reviews of two very different solo shows, Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God and Daniel Beaty's Emergence-SEE!.

Oct 21, 2006

New iPod

Big life changes on the horizon—more on that soon–but in a kind of celebration I did the obvious thing: upgraded to one of those 80mb iPods that can play video (not like I'll use that) and hold almost all of my 25,000 tunes. The first 10 randomly selected tunes it graced me with this morning:
XTC, "The Mayor of Simpleton"
The Police, "Once Upon a Daydream"
Lyle Lovett, "Bears"
Tammy Wynette & George Jones, "Will You Travel Down This Road With Me"
Monty Python, "Argument Clinic"
Mose Allison, "Your Molecular Structure"
Shostakovich, Moderato from Violin Concerto No. 1
Django Reinhardt, "Minor Swing"
Debussy, Andantino from his String Quartet in G
Beethoven's Rondo in C. Op 51, played by Gerhard Meinl's Tuba Sextet

Machines have odd taste, don't they?

Oct 20, 2006

Mr. Cox, I Presume

Returning to a favorite subject for the LA Times here.

What Comes Naturally

My review of Kathleen Clark's Southern Comforts is here.

Oct 17, 2006

All at Sea

I so wanted to love the Dan Fogler vehicle Voyage of the Carcass. My mixed feelings are registered here.

Oct 12, 2006

Economy and History

Two reviews today: Of the New York premiere of Nickel and Dimed and of Tanya Barfield's Blue Door.

Oct 11, 2006

Meet the Replacements

Broadway.com unveils its new panel of critics. Can't wait to hear what Clark says about Coast of Utopia.

The Apeman Cometh

While the controversy at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center seems to have died down (hat tip to new blogger Trey Graham), a revival of the playwright's seminal Hairy Ape just opened at Irish Rep. My take here.

Oct 10, 2006

Warhorse? Try Racehorse

My review of the Classical Theatre of Harlem's ripping King Lear is here.

Oct 6, 2006

Shepard's Play

My review of LaMama's new revival of The Tooth of Crime is here.

Oct 3, 2006

Bill's Oregon Trail

My in-depth Q&A of former Cornerstone artistic director, now Oregon Shakes AD Bill Rauch is here.

Oct 2, 2006

Small Deal

My review of David Folwell's new play Drug Buddy is here.

White Out

My final review for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, of the provocative, wish-it-weren't-so-entertaining White Noise, is here.