Oct 31, 2007

David Coteine?

A fabulous new painkiller that works by telling you which plays suck and which plays rule, or an innocent typo?
Update: Darn, the byline's been fixed. Reminds me a bit of this tiny kerfluffle.

The Memphis Blues Again

I found Katori Hall's Hoodoo Love surprisingly tasty.

(Photo by Jason Crockett.)

Double Dane

Wooster Group. Hamlet. Need I say more?

Oct 30, 2007


My review of Jim Knable's new play is here.

(Photo by Ari Mintz.)

Oct 29, 2007

Karam Session

I was a speech and debate nerd--actually, only the "speech" part, in such revered events as "poetry interpretation" and "duo acting"--but that's not the only reason I liked Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate. Incidentally, Karam cut his teeth as a playwright in the Blank Theatre Company's Young Playwrights' Festival, an L.A.-based competition that also helped launch the career of White Noise's Joseph Drymala.

(Photo by Joan Marcus.)

Kael Salad

They're no replacement for the full-length reviews, but this compendium of Pauline Kael capsules seems like a pretty indispensible Web resource to me.

Overhead, Underfoot

Though I enjoyed reading both Isherwood and Butler on it, I also enjoyed Fuerzabruta a bit more than they did.

(Photo by Ari Mintz.)

Oct 24, 2007

Not So Much

My review of Sam Marks' The Joke is here.

Oct 19, 2007

Sein oder nicht sein

That's Hamlet's soliloquy in German, I guess. Just one of the delightful details from Back Stage's dialogue with Michale Caine and Kenneth Branagh, which ranges engagingly from Laugh-In to Jean-Louis Barrault, dirty laundry to the "wrong-footedness" of Pinter's humor.

(Photo by Jamie Painter Young.)

Bifocal "View"

My review of Bob Glaudini's A View From 151st Street is here.

(Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)

Oct 18, 2007

Xmas Comes Early

I ordered it as soon as it was up on Amazon, and now that it's finally arrived, I've set aside all my nightstand and subway reading to dive headlong into Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise. I'd already read the first chapter in a journal somewhere, and I haven't got much further than that, but so far it's as good as anything I've ever read about music (or about any art, frankly). I've said before that Ross is my favorite critic currently writing on any subject; to get a whole book of him, and on the particular subject of 20th-century music, is an embarrassment of riches. An advance blurb from an old L.A. colleague, Alan Rich, is almost unbelievably overstated but it captures more or less how I feel (or at least want to feel) about Ross's book: "This will be the best book on what music is about--really about--that you or I will ever own."

Oct 17, 2007


If you haven't already read this Craig Carnelia interview with Stephen Sondheim, which first appeared in the Dramatist's Guild journal and more recently appeared in ASCAP's journal, it's well worth your time. Talking about subtext, Sondheim says, "Self-delusion is the basis of nearly all the great scenes in all the great plays, from Oedipus to Hamlet." I think he coins a verb here: "It's very hard to make things rhyme properly and rhythm properly, and most lyric writers today don't want to work that hard." You'll have to read the whole thing to find out why "Vvrrruup!" is his "major early memory of musical theater," and for the interview's oddly revealing closing anecdote.

Oct 15, 2007

Suite for Strings

Erik Sanko and his delightfully creepy puppets go west, and I'm on the case.

(Photo by Stefano Paltera/Los Angeles Times.)

Upper East Side Story

Who knew? My review of the disarmingly appealing None of the Above is here.

(Photo by Carol Rosegg.)

Oct 12, 2007

Oct 11, 2007

Greece Lightning

Duly noted at the National Theatre of Greece's Electra the other night: two inopportune cellphone bursts, Sigourney Weaver, director Lisa Peterson, and colleagues John Simon, David Cote, and Charles Isherwood. Details, in other words, that didn't make it into my review.

That's what I opted to pay for In Rainbows. How 'bout you?

Go Southwest

I once spent Christmas in the artsy community of Taos, and I must say, in the opening moments of INTAR's production of Night Over Taos, with the guitars strumming and people milling about in sarapes and peasant skirts, I had a bit of a Southwestern flashback moment--I grew up in Arizona and lived in a very Latino area of L.A. for a long time. Don't get much of that vibe here in the Northeast, gotta say. Anyway, my review of Night Over Taos is here.

(Photo by Carol Rosegg.)

Oct 9, 2007

Seen & Enjoyed

If I'm not assigned to write about a thing, I tend to, um, not write about it. Guess that's the whole deal with blogging--it's designed to air unsolicited thoughts. And I guess I still haven't quite caught that bug, though I stand in awe and admiration for some who clearly have.

But sometimes I do want to record my impressions, if only for my own memory's sake. Herewith a quick roundup of stage-type things recently witnessed in a non-reviewing capacity.

Xanadu. While it's true that we as a culture may be over-entertained, or at least seem to have an endless appetite for fluff and puff and escapism, it's actually quite rare to find a genuine bit of frothy fun that is actually, irreproachably delightful, and not merely a faux-delight or wannabe delight or would-be delight. I don't know how they did it (except, for starters, keeping it short), but I must bow in gratitude to the re-creators of this jury-rigged romp for getting it exactly, precisely right. I defy anyone not to enjoy themselves at this Grecian/Californian roller-disco backstager romance. (I wasn't assigned to review it, but I did have a lovely chat with the librettist, Douglas Carter Beane.)

100 Saints You Should Know. Maybe I'm just a sucker for any play that takes religious faith (and religious doubt) seriously, but I found this drama by Kate Fodor disarmingly tender and subtle. Maybe too subtle at times; the dramaturgy occasionally felt a bit slack, and the plotting arbitrary. As my companion pointed out, the characters and their situations seemed overly generic. I concede some of that, particularly in the play's first act. But by play's end this liability seemed to me to be an asset; it gave the piece the faint patina of fable, which seemed right. My companion and I did agree that the character of the bitterly, teasingly precocious teenager, Abby, was a triumph of both writing and acting (by the extraordinary Zoe Kazan). (I did talk to Fodor, too--how do you think I snag these tickets, after all?)

Dear Mme. In the process of reporting a piece for The LA Times about Erik Sanko's brilliantly macabre marionette show The Fortune Teller (coming to UCLA Live next month), I've pretty much fallen in love with his work and his aesthetic. So I was very enthusiastic about the premiere of Dear Mme, a 20-minute piece for marionettes and string quartet, commissioned by Kronos Quartet and performed last weekend as part of BAM's Next Wave festival. Like Fortune Teller, Dear Mme is an exceedingly appealing and haunting work that somehow magically evokes nostalgia for novelty, if that makes sense--Sanko cites such old, half-remembered forms with such care and seriousness that he almost makes us believe there's a whole world of puppet/chamber-music pieces out there, waiting to be revived and performed...and we want desperately to see more of them.

No People Like Cho People

My review of Margaret Cho's The Sensuous Woman is here. I didn't love the show, but I did relish the thought that it would make John Simon's head explode.

Oct 8, 2007

Lupine Home Invasion

My review of Wolves in the Walls, an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean children's book, is here.

(Photo by Keith Pattison.)

Oct 7, 2007

Peachy Keane

My review of Sive is here.

(Photo by Carol Rosegg.)

Oct 4, 2007

All You Need Is Hate?

For a split second this morning, browsing through The Onion on the train, I thought the weekly parody newspaper had at last begun a section headed "THEATER." I did a double-take and realized that, no--it was The Onion's attempt to revive the defunct mean spirit of Spy, the column "THE HATER." Just one letter and a space a way. Gave me pause.

Oct 2, 2007

Rapp, Roht, Etc.

The new American Theatre is out, with a fascinating piece about some great directors, the aforementioned Adam Rapp profile, and a piece by yours truly about the inimitable Ken Roht (not available online, so, you know, why not spring for a "hard" copy?).