Friday, May 25, 2012

The Common Pursuit: A Tepid Cup of English Tea

Put a bunch of Cambridge grads together, follow them through the years, give them some ups and downs, and end with a death, shake and stir.  The Common Pursuit, by Simon Gray delivers a familiar story akin to your Big Chill-St. Elmo's Fire-Return of the Secaucus Seven-Peter's Friends-type movie.  Sadly, this production of The Common Pursuit,* directed by Moises Kaufman, does not come together to deliver a strong ensemble or the emotional punch needed. 

We are introduced to a gaggle of Cambridge undergraduates.  First, we meet Stuart (Josh Cooke) who is planning to launch a new literary magazine and has assembled a coterie of writers, contributors and friends to produce a high-minded serious publication called The Common Pursuit.  He is also ravishing his girlfriend Marigold (Kristen Bush), when bumbling Martin (Jacob Fishel), walks in on them.  Martin hopes to work behind the scenes on the magazine and learn about publishing since his contribution of a poem about cats showed only his knowledge of cats not poetry.  Uptight writer and poet Humphrey (Tim McGeever) joins the fray, along with chain smoker, bon vivant Nick (Lucas Near-VerBrugghe), and skirt chaser Peter (Kieran Campion).  As these characters grow up, Stuart pursues his high-brow vision of a magazine, Martin finances it, Nick takes his writing and career in a flashier direction, Humphrey becomes a Cambridge professor with a desire to write a meaningful book on Wagner, and Peter, always ending up on top despite putting in the least amount of effort, becomes a professor at Oxford.

Although the play covers a 20-year span, the classic English look to the rooms, furniture and set give it a timeless quality.  The piles of books, spires of Cambridge, and warped old window panes of older buildings all give a comforting, academic and literary feel to the space and play.  However, the costuming seemed utterly without an era, so the passage of time is not really felt as much as it is talked about.

The American cast does a middling job with their English accents.  There was something off about their verbal rhythm and physical movement that left me puzzled for most of the first Act.  The cast seemed to not find the beats to the underlying material.  Funny lines fell flat and emotional moments seemed unbelievable.  The material here is not as strong as say a Stoppard play or even more recently Cock (where English accents were better used and married well with rhythm of the material) but the actors failed to imbue this very English story with much authenticity (save Jacob Fishel whose Martin seemed spot on).  It took until late in the play for me to start to believe these characters cared for one another or were even really invested in each others lives.  It also takes the play a while for the stakes to become real.  Act II was much stronger with both writing and performances but even then the actors overall did not get the material to sing.

The stand-out in the production is Jacob Fishel.  He legitimately felt English.  His awkward ineptitude was charming and well-performed.  He succeeded at finding a physical and verbal rhythm that felt authentic.  He delivered on both comedy and drama.  I'm keeping an eye out for him in other things.  Tim McGeever felt too stiff even for his uptight character.  His character had some fantastically funny, biting lines but the delivery was off (although I will admit I was the one in the mezzanine to laugh-snort loudly during one of his lines--so loud I missed the very serious shift in the scene a moment later).  He needed to be a young Victor Garber with pointedly acid line delivery.  But his lines just got stepped on and the zingers often did not land.  He has a very emotional moment late in the play and the writing offers a sincerely powerful moment but his delivery felt wooden.  Lucas Near-Verbrugghe had the "biggest," loudest character but he seemed over the top.  Every gesture and expression was just too much and did not mesh with the material or the rest of the ensemble.  I wished he could have dialed it down a bit as it could have been funnier if more muted.  Josh Cooke came across as very one note and he had no chemistry with Kristen Bush (in a small thankless role).  Kieran Campion did a fine job as Peter but he is costumed and groomed in such a way that undermined his character's lothario reputation.

This is one of those plays that improves in the second Act but this production makes it a challenge to get there. 

* I received a complementary ticket to this production.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

February House: Rent for the 1940's Set

February House presents an interesting group of famous characters set in an incredible period of time but somehow this musical loses track of its own trajectory and ends up a messy bundle rather than a coherent strong new work.  It is a new musical with music and lyrics by Gabriel Kahane, book by Seth Bockley, and directed by David McCallum.  It is focused on the group of creative types who shared a Brooklyn boarding house in 1940-1941. 

George Davis (Julian Fleisher), a flamboyant former magazine editor and writer, while picking up male prostitutes at the Brooklyn docks, stumbles upon the rundown Brooklyn boarding house at 7 Middagh Street and decides to rent it for his commune of creative types.  His closest friend is Carson McCullers (Kristen Sieh) who is already a well-known author but is desperate to get away from her drunkard of a husband Reeves (Ken Clark).  Next to join the fraternity is W.H. Auden (Erik Lochtefeld) with his husband Chester Kallman (A.J. Shivley).  Rounding out the group is Benjamin Britten (Stanley Bahorek) and Peter Pears (Ken Barnett) refugees from closeted life on Long Island.  Later, Auden's wife, Erika Mann (Stephanie Hayes) arrives from Europe to join them and Gypsy Rose Lee (Kacie Sheik) moves in to write her novel G-String Murders and help the impoverished artists with the rent.

Tensions arise over the war in Europe as Erika pushes the ex-pats from Europe (Britten, Pears, Auden) to take a stand against the war.  Then there are the bed bugs, a broken water heater and romantic problems that plague the group.  The plot becomes burdened by the number of characters, the numerous songs they sing but mostly suffers from the lack of any strong narrative through line.  The tension over the war seemed promising for a time as the galvanizing theme of the work (and reminiscent of last season's new musical The Blue Flower) but it eventually falls away and story meanders away from it losing the momentum it created.  The plot forays into the production of Paul Bunyan the Opera by Britten, Pears and Auden were distracting and added up to nothing.

The cast had potential but I felt like they were lost in the material they were given.  There were too many characters and despite their best efforts the cast could not give life to them.  I liked Kristen Sieh as McCullers but she seemed to have a lot of songs to sing and no voice to sing them.  Stanley Bahorek and Ken Barnett had some nice duets to start and then sadly ended up with an awful bedbug song.  Erik Lochtefeld was a mournful Auden but his relationship (one of the more explored of the ensemble) still felt incomplete and underwritten. Kacie Sheik's Gypsy Rose Lee was a breath of fresh air but she was severely underused.

Eventually the incestuousness of the group becomes its undoing--in the musical more than in life.  I tired of the repetition of complaints of the group.  Like the whiny denizens of Rent, at some point I just stopped caring about their problems.  I disliked our narrator and fearless leader George Davis so much that I was not particularly invested in whether his "vision" succeeded or failed.  It starts to feel claustrophobic (which may have been the intention) and by the end my patience for a work trying to find its legs just ran out.

There is a great kernel of an idea here but the musical felt more like a workshop than a piece that was ready to fly.  It's a subject I am interested in but the execution just needs a lot more work.  Part of me (the part which loves straight plays over musicals) wondered why this was a musical.  It seemed like a gargantuan undertaking as a play.  Adding the music to it seemed to slow down everything rather than flesh it out.  The orchestrations were thin, tinny and banjo-y giving the entire work a bluegrass feel to it: a very strange musical connotation for a musical about European ex-pats, Brooklyn and the 1940's. 

There was no satisfying conclusion to any of the tendrils of the story.  I wondered if the creative team felt beholden to the truth and therefore they got locked into the wanderings of people's lives rather than a dramatically structured narrative.  Life, as we all know, is a lot less narratively satisfying than art.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

James Corden: Charming As Ever

I was invited to hear Kurt Andersen interview James Corden last night at the BBC America offices.  Corden spoke about his time in New York, his work on Gavin & Stacey, and his run in One Man, Two Guvnors.

On Slenderizing...
Discussing his shift to a healthier lifestyle since his fiancée came into his life, Corden joked about the queue at Shake Shack being the best thing for him.

On Acting...
Corden does not see himself as a comedic actor or a dramatic actor.  He summed up the field as either you are a "complete actor or a limited one."  He imagines one of his favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is great in Death of a Salesman but he thinks one of Hoffman's best roles is as "Rusty in Along Came Polly."*

On Gavin & Stacey...
Neither Corden nor his writing partner Ruth Jones had ever written anything before Gavin & Stacey.  After The History Boys, he was getting scripts for small bits in movies but was not getting offered roles were he was the lead.  He'd get pages for parts he described as "the guy who drags off a TV to Hugh Grant, gets two quippy lines" and that was it. 

Rather than sit around and bemoan not getting the work he wanted, he and Jones sat down and wrote Gavin & Stacey. When asked about the few number of episodes of the show and how that differed from America, he quipped "if we were in America, we'd be significantly richer."  But he noted that he loves these characters and wanted to do right by them.  "We never wanted to sell [these characters] short."  Expanding the series might have lost what made the show work.  But he hoped that they would do a special episode at some point.

On One Man, Two Guvnors...
Corden got a call from Nicholas Hytner in 2010 offering him a show at the National Theatre.  Corden didn't know what it was but agreed to do it.  It had not even been written yet.  Kurt Andersen noted that in this show the audience "just wants to cuddle you."  Corden said that he's "not a fan of comedy that is mean."  In fact, he does not come at this from a comedic angle.  He looks at it from a "character point of view."  In this particular play, he needs to get the audience to come with him.  He talked about some earlier run throughs where the show was not working and how they had to tweak the material to connect with the audience.

Now, he tells himself two things before every show, first he has to be "the stupidest person on the stage" and second, he has to be "having the most fun in the building." Corden noted that from scene II to the end of Act I it is a "marathon."  He has to "match the audience for fun."  If you've seen the show, you know that is a massive undertaking.  And he says it is "terrifying."  He has "never done the same show twice."  His challenge as an actor is to "sell the audience that something is happening now and its never happened before."  From my experience, that was what was so successful about the show.  I bought the script because I had to know what was improv and what was scripted.  Watching him sell what is scripted as improv is truly impressive and he deserves enormous credit for that. 

On His Career...
He says he has no snobbery with regard to media.  His intent is to "be good in things that are good."  He hopes to go no more than three years without doing a play or a musical.  He joked about the glamour of filmmaking and film sets.  "People talk about the glamour of Brad Pitt's life...I don't see it....[He's sitting in] a caravan in a car park."  Anyone else who is doing that is a "gypsy."

As for Corden's future, he's got a film project that will be announced at Cannes.  He's doing a new TV show for the BBC.  He described the TV project as "What if 24 was a sitcom...[or] What if Sherlock [was]"..."What if that happened and it happened to two dickheads." 

His future looks bright and I'm pleased we'll be the beneficiaries of more of his work.

*Michael Musto has pointed out that the character in Along Came Polly is Sandy. Perhaps Corden was thinking of Hoffman's other "great" role as Rusty in Flawless?

Let Me Ascertain You: Death by the Civilians

Salem Graveyard Headstone
Sometimes you stumble upon a group, actor or show and wonder why the hell did it take me so long to find this!  I had that feeling on Friday night at Joe's Pub when I was watching The Civilians do their cabaret act called Let Me Ascertain You.

I swore after L'Affair du Daisey to seek out more truth-based theater because I realized at that time that I had seen so little of it.  Steve Cosson, Artistic Director of The Civilians, spoke at the Truth in Theater panel after the Mike Daisey episode so when I saw his tweet about The Civilians cabaret show I grabbed some tickets.

Known for their work in the field of "investigative theater," the Civilians have a cabaret series called Let Me Ascertain You (the series is available in free podcasts).  This show was focused on Death.

The format included several monologues and a few songs all linked together by the subject of Death. It was directed by Mia Rovegno and performed by Emily Ackerman, Matt Dellapina, Dan Domingues, Nina Hellman, Daniel Jenkins, Meghan McGeary, Greg McFadden, Emily Rossell, and Jeanine Serralles.  The monologues are from interviews gathered by the Civilians.  An actor performs the text of the interview subject.* 

The evening was emceed by Matt Dellapina (super cute and can sing!).  The first two interviews (conducted and edited by Alix Lambert) were based around the staff at The Body Farm in Tennessee.  One interview was with the guy who started The Body Farm and how he realized we need to look at death to learn from it (Greg McFadden).  Though it is not pleasant or something he enjoys (having lost two wives to cancer), he believes that it is destructive that we as a culture actively avoid it.  One interview was with an artist who does facial reconstructions and the story of how her brother killed her whole family (Emily Ackerman).  It was possibly the most unexpected and powerful monologue in the show.  As with life, you don't realize what might be around the corner as this woman is telling her story.  Her bubbly personality and straight-forward manner knock you down as she proceeds to describe how her brother murdered her parents.  Ackerman's performance was heart-breaking and beautiful.

Finally a death related post for my Salem Witch Trial Memorial photo.
There was an interview with the funniest funeral director ever (Dan Domingues). It started with the guy asking, on behalf of his wife, if the person interviewing him could get him tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar.  With his thick Brooklyn accent and personality to spare, I seriously wondered if I wanted that guy to do my funeral. And if his tag line is not "We put the fun in funeral" it should be.  Hard to tell if credit for the humor was due to the subject or Domingues but in any event, I was surprised that the mortician was the funniest bit in the show.

There were songs by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Shaina Taub.  Additional interviews were with hospital staff who deal with death a lot (Emily Rossell, Nina Hellman).  I particularly liked the interview with the documentary filmmaker making a film about the AIDS epidemic (Daniel Jenkins).  He describes how experiencing death so early and often in life changes a person.  He sees people who have experienced loss at a young age as set apart from those who experience it later.  He has lived his life with an anxiety that bad things are always waiting for him.  Now as an older man, he is dreading the process of friends starting to die and having to go through another wave of loss in his life.

Finally my favorite Jeanine Serralles (Maple and Vine, The Maids) performed an interview of an incarcerated woman from a series of interviews done at a Women's Prison in Bogotá, Columbia.  Dare I say it was a hilarious tale of being a prostitute, drug dealer and victim of a stabbing.  Serralles is such an energetic performer.  I know that this episode will be available on a podcast at some point but I think seeing the performers adds to the experience. And I can't say enough good things about Serralles but she delivered a feisty performance as this lady prisoner.

The Civilians next show is in June.  There will be a whole show based on interviews about the yearly Beauty Pageant conducted at the Bogotá Prison on June 13, 2012 at the 92YTribeca

The Civilians approach is fascinating: taking the real words spoken by a non-actor, editing them and presenting them by an actor.  It reminded me of the StoryCorps project and the book Listening is an Act of Love which makes me cry like a baby.  I recommend the book if you have any sort of emotional constipation because if it does not make you cry then you are in fact a robot and you might want to check in with your controlling robot master. 

Sometimes we forget how profound the lives of regular people can be.  It is a nice reminder to just stop and listen.  The Civilians presentation and format allows you to focus on these unexplored lives without distraction.  The monologues get the proper attention without requiring any other theatrical devices.  Even with a heavy subject like Death, the show was well-curated with ups and downs, laughs and sadness. A definite recommend and I would check out this podcast when it becomes available.

*The program did not list which actors performed which monologues.  I hope I have correctly identified them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Title and Deed: Esoteric Musings of a Life Adrift

Title and Deed is my first Will Eno play and surely won't be my last.  I enjoyed the dreamy language and mysterious pondering of a man desperate for connection. 

Title and Deed is a 70 minute monologue by a character called Man.  He enters a theater and begins speaking about his travels from far away and what it is like for him to be here in this new, foreign place.  Where he's from, or where he is even at as he speaks to us, is a bit of a mystery.

Starring Irish actor Conor Lovett and directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett (produced in association with Gare St Lazare Players Ireland) it is hard not to think about Irish literature and theater when watching Title and Deed.  From the poetry of the language to the raconteur style of the piece (and his sort of hobo-vagabond-Godot like appearance), it seems to lend itself to an Irish gloss.  Though I wondered if there was not an Irish accent being employed would the play have a different feeling?  I kept resisting the assumption that this was in fact an Irish traveler talking about Ireland.  I'm not sure why I built up such resistance.  Perhaps it is my natural skepticism or the Eno's avoidance of identifying the country or place that the Man was talking about. 

I got it into my mind that this traveler could have been from any country or any planet for that matter.  I wanted this to remain abstract and not easily be plunked down into the concrete.  Placing it in a real country would cloud the lyricism with history and context.  For once, I quite enjoyed being suspended in a context-less world. And really it had nothing to do with the place.  The place was irrelevant.  This piece is about the culture-shock, homesickness and ennui of disconnection. 

Anyone who travels or has spent time far from home (or feels lost in the world in which they are existing) could probably relate to this traveler and his story.  Sometimes when jet lag and cultural confusion catch up with me (what language are we speaking here, wait was that "thank you" in the language from the last country, If It's Tuesday, It Must be Belgium, right?), I think that just because we can cross the globe so quickly maybe sometimes we shouldn't.  The emotional whiplash that comes with global travel in this day and age is often overlooked until you are crying in your hotel room convinced you have rabies from a street cat who attacked you while you were eating dinner.  Just me?  (It's not just me.  Travel often leads to tears.  Daniel Kitson does a wonderful comedy bit about the loneliness of business travelers in hotels.  Suggesting that the do not disturb signs on hotel room should say "on the one side please do not disturb I am wanking and then I will be crying, and on the other side of that please clean the spunk off my bed then dry the tears on my face then hold me while I sleep, I am so alone.")

Anyway, in Title and Deed, Man's ongoing speeches seemed to be less about what he was saying and more about using his voice to talk through that emotional whiplash.  He was like a child trying to soothe himself with the last thing still familiar to him--his own voice.  Even when he seemed to be lying to himself or to us, just the sound of his own voice gave him a connection to a place or a world that he longed for.  He was full of bold statements and then retractions.  He was an unreliable narrator. But he was not speaking to inform us, instead merely trying to connect, relate, settle himself, and find a sense of home.  The words I kept coming back to as I watched this were "solace" and "comfort."  He was desperate for them.

This desperation spills out as he tries to find common ground with the audience or clutch a touch of the familiar.  His search was palpably painful.  This traveler seems to have become uprooted and has not been able to plant himself again.  Drifting has its romantic allure until you realize what you have to sacrifice to achieve that weightless.

I have a friend who moved abroad.  After a year she had become acclimated to the heat and weather and made a life for herself in a wholly new culture.  But I could not help but feel there was still a massive disconnection between this new place and who she was.  She would have to shed her American identity to acclimate to the cultural traditions of where she was living.  To gain true comfort in her new world, she would have to give up something fundamentally a part of her old identity.  It's rather soul-shattering when you think about leaving those pieces of yourself that connect you to your family, friends, and personal history to find acceptance, comfort or home in a new place. Or maybe liberating for a different soul.

At one point in Title and Deed, Man's girlfriend says to him at a busy shopping place, "Don't get lost for too long."   A lesson he seems to have learned already.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cock: Attention Must Be Paid to Mike Bartlett's Cock

Let's get the double entendres out of the way.  I loved Cock top to bottom. Cock was deep, thrilling, and satisfying.  Cock made me want to squeal with delight.  I cannot get enough of Mike Bartlett's Cock.  I loved it so much, I went back for more Cock.*  A Cock in the hand is worth two in the bush...wait no I think maybe that's a single entendre.

Ok.  We good.  Got that out of our system.  Because I'm not sure I can hold back my true adoration for Mike Bartlett's Cock for much longer. 

Mike Bartlett's play is a language ballet.  No, well...maybe a language ballet blended with a language hootenanny.  At times, it is elegant, structured, restrained and beautiful.  Yet, it is also full of wild and unruly passion, energy and exuberance.  It is deeply funny, richly felt but somehow also raw and immediate.  All these contradictions somehow work together to form a thoughtful exploration of relationships, love, and our humanity.

With the audience seated around the actors in an arena (bullfighting, cockfighting, or boxing--take your pick) the characters come out fighting.  I found boxing to be the best metaphor, because of the punch, jab, and bounce of the verbal battle at hand.  Moreover, these are purely human fights.  Even if figurative blood is shed, guts ripped out, and entrails exposed, the creature doing the harm is another human.  It seems to elevate the emotional carnage knowing this is what people who love each other do to each other and not looking at it through an animalistic gloss.

Photo Courtesy of the Production
Cock is the story of John (Cory Michael Smith) a gay man living with his partner of ten years M (Jason Butler Harner).  John thinks their relationship is soon to end and they are not honestly facing it, so John leaves M.  While they are broken up John meets W (Amanda Quaid).  He sleeps with her and falls in love with her.  But John returns to M and their relationship but admits to M what has happened with W.  But John cannot keep away from W.  M demands that John make a choice between M or W.**  W comes to dinner with M and John.  John is confronted with the two people he loves, both hoping he has made a choice in their favor.  

Although much time in the play is dedicated to people asking John "What are you," it is far too simplistic to dismiss this as a work of the struggles of sexuality and labels.  Bartlett's skill here is that sexuality is the vehicle for a deeper discussion of "Who are you."  The play asks penetrating questions of who we are when we are alone and how we see ourselves, our lives, our futures and how that changes with the people we are in relationships with. 

Using a similar "smash-cut" device that was employed by Dan LeFranc in The Big Meal, scenes end abruptly.  Here, time leaps forward and backward, but unlike The Big Meal, scenes begin and end with the ring of a bell (thus again emphasizing the pugilistic nature of arguments).  But with each scene, and each exchange, I felt like these characters became more fully drawn.  I was invested in their relationships from the start and was transfixed by their dilemma as the play went on.  No one and no argument was easily dismissed. 

Photo Courtesy of the Production
The arena staging (which is called for in the play and not a director's choice) makes for an unusual level of intimacy.  It is not just an intimate topic or just that the actors are feet away from the audience.  There is an unexpected shared intimacy because the audience is lit for the entire performance.  You cannot help but watch the audience around you react.  You see people holding hands, crossing arms, leaning in, recoiling away, covering their faces with their hands.  Rather than be distracting I found this to be part and parcel of the play's experience.  Communal reflection forces you to consider your own reactions.

For all the theatrical elements, the true greatness here is the drama at the core of the play.  Despite hilarious dialogue and a brilliant comedic overlay, there is a heartbreaking undercurrent to this work.  Even when the comedy rises to the level of farce (and it does at the dinner party), the consequences are so brutal, real, and grounded in human truth that the audience's laughter is covering for fear, sadness, and the knowing loss that someone, possibly everyone will be hurt by the outcome of John's dilemma.

I love any play that shows me pieces of myself in the work and results in a richer understanding of our collective humanity.  It's rare and worth celebrating. 

Certainly the text is key to the success of this play but the cast does a phenomenal job to serve that text.  The American cast puts on fine British accents.  Jason Butler Harner as M is priggish, caustic, and playful.  He covers his pain and insecurities with sarcasm (he gets some of the best lines).  He manages to be both a bully and a victim.  Harner makes all aspects of this funny and real.  I last saw Harner in an entirely dramatic role in Through a Glass Darkly.  I plan on keeping an eye out for whatever work he does in the future.  He's incredibly talented.  Smith, as John, has the challenge of selling his character's indecision.  Smith strikes frozen poses and discovers ways to communicate this avoidance artfully.  In many ways his character is frustrating, but Smith deserves credit for finding the humanity and sympathy in John.  Smith makes John's agony over these two people vivid and makes it impossible for the audience to dismiss his struggle too easily.  I recently saw Quaid in Galileo (which I did not fancy) but here she ends up between adorable and intensely direct and it's great. 

James MacDonald directed this production (he was also the director of the London production of Cock at the Royal Court Theatre in 2009).  I still have not wholly forgiven him for his dreadful production of King Lear last year (best performance by an Iron Curtain ever!), but Cock helps.  The actors circle each other, barely touch, and resist touching.  There are powerful moments where the actors do not physically act out what they say they are doing (removing a shirt, holding hands). This restraint in the literal makes you acutely aware of the performances and the writing.  The deft and gentle direction was welcome and served the play well.

Despite being only 31, Mike Bartlett has had a number of plays staged in London over the past few years (currently he has a production of his adaptation of Chariots of Fire headed to the West End).  This is the first of his plays to arrive in New York.  It's an audacious beginning and leaves me wanting more. 

Cock plays at the Duke on 42nd Street.

*I received complementary tickets to the show.

**When asked what the M and W stood for by my guest, I said Menis and Wagina.  Clearly the most obvious possibilities.  I stand by those names.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Groan and Grumble

Gentlemen may prefer blondes but as usual I prefer something substantial to hold onto in my theater-going.  For me, there was little to like in this Encores! production.  Directed by John Rando with choreography by Randy Skinner, this production is driven by dance numbers with a plot that smacks of the usual frothy, wacky romance caper (akin to Anything Goes or a number of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies).  The audience really seemed to enjoy the talented dancers and mindless ditties.  But I was bored and annoyed by what I saw.

Megan Hilty starred as Lorelei Lee who along with gal pal Dorothy Shaw (Rachel York) set sail for Paris.  Romantic shenanigans ensue.  There is singing, dancing, a tiara and buttons!  The cast included Aaron Lazar, Deborah Rush, Clarke Thorell, and Stephen Buntrock.

Hilty did a fine job trying to carve out a role made famous by two quite famous women (Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe).  Her take on Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend was unique.  Her interpretation had nothing to do with the rest of the show or her character but nevertheless was a lovely rendition.

But overall, there was something leaden about the whole affair for me.  Even without dwelling on the ditzy, gold-digging leading lady, I think the material itself (book by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields) was creaky.  Maybe if I liked the music (by Jules Style) or the cast more I would not have minded.  I will forgive weaker material if I am distracted by great performances or beautiful songs.  But here there was nothing to distract me from my boredom.  The supporting cast felt uncomfortably generic.  I kept wishing that the cast was more adept at comedy or just brought something unique to the proceedings.  All in the all the material came off like an empty shell of a B quality Hollywood musical.  I may have in fact openly wished dead Danny Kaye or dead Bob Hope was in the show because they would have brought more life to the production than the living cast did.  Yeah.  I had no fun at a show that was all about fun.

But as often reported, I am dead inside.

And to add insult to injury...there was the tap number in the second Act.  I know older material can be sexist, racist or downright offensive at times and revivals often struggle with how to address this.  But for me, it is in how the revival deals with the issue that matters.  Here, there is a big tap number set in the opening of a Paris club.  Historically I could see how in the 1920's or even in the 1950's (this musical was written in 1949 but is set in 1920's) this kind of event would lend itself to using black male tap dancers for this number.  I'm not ignoring history and the famous black tap dancing acts (of course pause to think of what that history means or why we have that history).  But what I struggled with here was that the Encores! production ONLY used these dancers for this scene.  In a show, full of dance numbers (including some athletic ones by male dancers) these two talented dancers (Jared Grimes and Phillip Attmore) were not used otherwise.  Some might argue it is because they were the specialty act.  Ok.  Sure.  That's an answer.  Maybe that was the production's reasoning but think about how that choice presents itself to the audience.  And maybe someone in the production should have reflected upon this choice.  Most people were cheering the skillful dance performance and I don't want to take away from the talented hoofers who are at the top of their game.  But I sure as hell was thinking about it and I'd like to think that is something we are supposed to do when we go to the theater--think.  Think about what a work means.  What it means to us today.  What works and what doesn't.  How it reflects our culture and our times back to us.  I know.  This is not a show about thinking (or feeling).  It's about entertainment. <jazz hands>  Sad to say I was not entertained.

All in all I preferred Pipe Dream for its ridiculous plot over Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for its boredom and offensive choices.

An Early History of Fire: Burn This

It takes real skill to write a new play, that feels like a stilted, dated 70's play.  Imagine the homefront scenes from The Deer Hunter written by a 14 year-old and you'd have the sense of An Early History of Fire.*  There was something immature about the whole endeavor and frankly I thought for the entire time I was watching it that this must be an early work of Rabe's that just never got produced before.  But no, it's a new play that should have stayed in a drawer.

Without any real "fire" in it, this new David Rabe play covers well-worn territory.  Stifled working class youths, inter-generational strife, burgeoning sexual awakening, grief and loss.  When done well these themes resonate and feel timeless.  When done poorly, as here, they feel trite, melodramatic and overwrought.  Everything seems to be weighed down by an amorphous nostalgia that lacked truth. 

Theo Stockman plays Danny, a hard-working blue collar guy, who lives with his immigrant father (Gordon Clapp), neither of whom have gotten over the death of Danny's mother.  He has two long-time pals, Terry (Jonny Orsini) and Jake (Dennis Staroselsky) who just want to get laid and get drunk.  But Danny has met college student Karen (Claire van der Boom) from the other side of town who opens his eyes to literature, pot, and the world outside his factory worker existence.

Directed by Jo Bonney, the New Group's production looks fantastic (authentic 60's era living room and clothing).  But everything sounds a little off.  The dialogue is not contemporary but feels dated even for the Midwestern 1960's setting. 

Karen is written to be verbose and obnoxious.  She pontificates and Danny hangs on her every word and practically suckles the ideas she puts forth, so desperate for emotional or intellectual nourishment.  But to the audience, it's all exaggerated and put-upon.  van der Boom does her best under the circumstances but it is a hard role to pull off.  It just felt like she was unsure of what she was saying as she was saying it and could not even convince the audience that her character was real.  The character is more a symbol than a person and as much as David Rabe was trying to set up some tension between rich-girl Karen and poor-boy Danny, it has the class war subtlety of an S.E. Hinton novel.  Stockman moans and groans but he doesn't find the emotional marrow of Danny at all.  Danny is not written with any delicacy but perhaps a more resourceful actor could have mined something from the lumbering text.  It's all angry outbursts or ill-formed expressions of his feelings, but without passion or poetry in the writing. 

The stand-out for me in this production was Erin Darke.  She plays Shirley, the town hooker and the ex-girlfriend of Terry.  Doe-eyed with little to do, she manages to play her few scenes with depth and conviction.  She finds the meaning underneath the words so that her character's lies are based in a personal truth.  Somehow she manages to give a small character a fully-fleshed out existence.  Please cast her in more things world.  She's got a spark. 

*I received a complementary ticket to this production.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

St. Ann's Warehouse: Wrecking Ball Gala

Set List for the Curious
I'm basically of a fan of Daniel Kitson because of St. Ann's Warehouse.  I stumbled upon his work at St. Ann's Warehouse in 2011.  And after spending the better part of January 2012 camped out there for Kitson's story show It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later, I felt like I wanted to support their fundraising efforts this year.

St. Ann's is one of the rare spaces in New York that you can see terrific international theater.  Their programming is eclectic but always rewarding.  They introduced me to John Tiffany, Steven Hoggett, Frantic Assembly, National Theatre of Scotland, Enda Walsh, Daniel Kitson, Kneehigh Theatre, and TR Warszawa.

They are leaving their current space at 38 Water Street in DUMBO and this year's Gala was called the Wrecking Ball.  Thought I would share some photos from the Wrecking Ball concert and if you'd like to hear Reeve Carney, Sam Amidon and Glen Hansard sing Hallelujah as part of the Jeff Buckley tribute...well then click here.  It's a TREAT!  Also maybe a little video.

I had not heard Sam Amidon before.  After this show, I went out and bought 2 of his albums.  How did I not know about him before?!

St. Ann's Warehouse will be moving just down the street to 29 Jay Street so I highly recommend you check them out in their new space. 

Lou Reed and his androgynous handsome guitarist

More handsome guitarist

Reeve Carney
Karen O

Sam Amidon

Glen Hansard

Emmylou Harris and Sam Amidon

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Sexy, Puckish Romp

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Classic Stage Company is in no way a perfect production but Taylor Mac's Puck, inventive direction, rigorous fight choreography, some lusty and exciting new performers make for a raucous evening and a fun romp.

This production, with set design by Mark Wendland and lighting design by Tyler Micoleau is staged with a tilted, large mirrored set where dreamlike visions are reflected and fairies and magic can spring from it.  Lighting effects make excellent use of the mirror and the artificial mulch that covered the "forest floor." 

The production embraces the spirit of excess with over the top costuming (Hulk hands, sparkly nipples, a pink elephant, a bearded lady), massive amounts of heavenly petals, gratuitous scenes of young people running around in their underwear (well for that I thank you director Tony Speciale).  This "excess" at times is silly but at other times highlighted a fantastic tongue-in-cheek tone the play benefited from.

Central to this success and tone is Taylor Mac as Puck.  Impish with a Southern drawl, he brings a delicious sense of mischief, decadence and spirit to the role.  His costumes get more elaborate and ridiculous over time but his honest, sincere delivery in the performance made it all work.  He also delivered some of the best lines--as he was struggling to rip pants off one of the Athenians he bemoaned "goddamn skinny jeans."

The casting of the the quarrelsome four lovers, Hermia (Christina Ricci), Lysander (Nick Gehlfuss), Demetrius (Jordan Dean), and Helena (Halley Wegryn Gross), must have been a lot of fun as the men and women are meant to look very much alike and look very nice in their undergarments.  Strongest of the four performance-wise is Gross.  She has great comic timing and a fine grasp of the metre and text.  Dean (recently seen in Mamma Mia and the object of @thecraptacular's affection) and Gehlfuss are left to gesticulate a bit too much for my liking but when the romantic frenzy escalates they are strong physical performers and excelled in the feats they were given here.  Their sensitivity and command of the text has its ups and down.  From time to time, I got a little distracted from their performances by their abs but I believe that was in fact the director's intention. This is Midsummer Night's Dream and not Hamlet.  They are playing frisky lovers under the spell of fairies.  They do this well--with their abs on full display.  The lovers' argument is choreographed (by George de la Pena with fight choreography by Carrie Brewer) like a wacky pillow fight at a sorority.   I happened to enjoy it and the dropping of serious pretense--others might not.  Ricci was weakest for me.  She seemed to struggle to find her voice as the headstrong but mindless romantic Hermia.  She played it very one note.

The Oberon/Titania and Theseus/Hippolyta storylines were a lot less fun.  Anthony Heald just seemed out of place in this production.  Awkwardly costumed in Green Goblin cast-offs as Oberon, he came across as stiff and uncomfortable.   He was not as limber or graceful as Neuwirth and their scenes together dragged.  Neuwirth was cold and detached as a dominatrix style Hippolyta, which worked but I would have liked a bit more spark for Titania.  Steven Skybell seemed to channeling Robin Williams for his interpretation of Bottom which worked best when he played the giant ass.

An unexpectedly modern and entertaining production that is worth checking out.  Come for the lust, stay for the creative direction and approach.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Festen: Daddy's Surprise Birthday Present

TR Warszawa's performance of Festen (The Celebration) made me want to revisit the terrific Dogme film it is based on.  Adapted for the stage by Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov, this world-renown Polish theater troupe delves into the murky waters of a family reunion where family secrets spill out in humorous and unsettling ways.

Performed in Polish with English supertitles and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna, Festen is darker than its title suggests with a stronger relationship to Hamlet and Macbeth than Home for the Holidays.  Gathered together for patriarch Helge's (Jan Peszek) birthday, his three living children arrive to the family hotel.  First to arrive is eldest Christian (Andrzej Chyra), who is soft-spoken and beloved by his father.  Second, is the youngest, Michael (Marek Kalita), who is angry and unwelcome with strumpet wife in tow and two unruly children.  Last is Helene (played in the performance I saw by Danuta Stenka-Grzelak) dressed all in leather and a bit of a hellraiser.  Mentions of a recently dead sister, Linda, color the reunion with an emotional black cloud.  Helge appears to be a powerful, rich and prestigious man being celebrated by family and friends.  But when Christian makes his toast to his father the substance of his speech is horror and tragedy even if the tone of his voice remains as it always was--pleasant and unassuming.

Christian's announcement is met with unexpected resistance by the guests and for a moment we are left to wonder about Christian: his motives and the truth.  But like the persistent ghosts that haunt Macbeth, Christian fights on.  With the help of the staff who have long known about his struggles, they conspire to keep the guests trapped at the hotel.  Once Christian has a captive audience, he finds his voice and forces the family to hear him. 

As with any theatrical performance with supertitles, it is a challenge to take in the acting and staging when you are often forced to look in one place for the dialogue.  The play was largely staged in one central area which was helpful but when scenes took place on Stage Left it was hard to focus on the action when the supertitles were Stage Right. 

I enjoyed Andrzej Chyra's performance as Christian.  He brought sympathy and sweetness to a character who must be both adult man and child in his father's presence.  Jan Peszek made Helge severe, stoic, and a frightening presence even if he was not a physically imposing man.  I was less clear about Helene's character and emotional state throughout but that seemed to be a combination of confusing staging, vague writing and frenetic performance.

The adaptation is strongest with the central family story and weakest with the subplots relating to the children's involvement with the staff.  Lack of time to development those plot strands or less specific performances made that aspect of the play less effective.  Was glad to get out of my theatrical comfort zone a bit and take in some truly international theater. 

End of the Rainbow: Car Crash Porn

For some it might be enough to watch someone re-enact Judy Garland's final days in an Unsolved Mysteries style "dramatization."  But End of the Rainbow reminded me a lot of Magic/Bird, as both are biographical plays currently on Broadway and both lack any real dramatic thrust forward leaving a talented cast out in the cold. Written by Peter Quilter and directed by Terry Johnson, End of the Rainbow left me wanting a richer theatrical experience.

Tracie Bennett plays the foul-mouthed, excitable Garland as she tries to put together a concert series in London with the help of her new fiancé Mickey Deans (Tom Pelphrey) and her old accompanist Anthony (Michael Cumpsty). She struggles to stay off drugs and alcohol but eventually falls back into her old ways.  Torn between the man she loves who needs her to perform and the gay man who loves her and wants her to stop, Judy is the addict and pawn we've always imagined her to be.

Despite Bennett's visceral performance and energetic rendering of Garland onstage and off, I found the play tedious.  It was not enough to show her sober, falling apart and attempting to put on her concert under those circumstances.  Nothing came as a surprise.  We know she is going to fall off the wagon at some point and she did not make much of a sympathetic character to begin with.  Watching Deans force feed her pills was despicable but felt practically inevitable.  Bennett is throwing ever fiber of her being into the performance but sadly it felt little more than a convincing reenactment--not a dramatic play.

The play, like Magic/Bird, is practically non-existent here.  Cumpsty has the difficult role of trying to convince us that Judy, without her enablers, would be a kitten worth bringing home.  But not even Judy seems to believe that would be true.  The play sets him up as keeping his distance from her.  There is an about-face where his emotional investment shifts.  Cumpsty plays this as best as he can but I did not buy the dramatic turnaround.  Frankly, his character seemed to be more of a symbol than a person. I found the whole gay savior scenario a strange indulgence into fantasy that again might have meant something if the character had been remotely developed.  Pelphrey is obviously playing a dreadful character but he did not breathe much life into the role.

My boredom gave way to frustration as the play went on and failed to evolve.  Sadly Bennett's performance is not enough to save this show or even make it worth recommending unless you are a connoisseur of all things Judy.  At least in Magic/Bird, there were some laughs.  The laughs at End of the Rainbow were few.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tony Nominations: Hrumph

Tony nominations came out this morning.  I am never happy with award shows.  I am a funny little bird with my misfit toy opinions and so it is rare for my hopes and dreams to align with the rest of my happiness and sadness below with a grain of disgruntled salt.

Also, I am not a completist.  I refuse to see Nice Work if You Can Get it and I skipped a bunch of shows I was uninterested in (that now are nominees or were totally shut-out) or that did not discount (Evita).  Such is the contrarian's life...

Let us wander into my psyche to see how the big ticket nominations fared in my head...put on your hard helmet, it might be a bumpy ride.

Best Play:
Clybourne Park
Other Desert Cities
Peter and the Starcatcher
Venus in Fur 

I knew I would not be happy about this category this year but I really hoped One Man Two Guvnors would slip in. The fact that Penis in Fur was nominated however really burns me up. I would have been happier with almost any other play taking its slot.  And maybe it's the comedy thing or just some anti-Brit sentiment left over from last year's War Horse juggernaut but it's hard to make good comedy work and I wish the show was recognized in this category.  It was not a stellar year for me and plays.  I was not enamored of most of the choices on Broadway.  But the two new plays I liked, One Man and The Columnist didn't make the cut.  I am, not wholly unexpectedly, cranky about this category.

Best Musical
Leap of Faith
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart, Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G. Wilson, Orin Wolf, The Shubert Organization, Robert Cole, New York Theatre Workshop

I left in the producers for Once because Barbara Broccoli is a producer! I love her.  That is all.  Seriously I do love her.  I was not expecting Bonnie & Clyde to make this list but if Leap of Faith is here well then Bonnie & Clyde should be.  Bonnie & Clyde was the lesser of those two evils.  Yup I said it.  And I would have liked to have seen Jeremy Jordan sing from Bonnie & Clyde at The Tonys.  Now we'll have to watch a terrible gospel number from Leap and Matthew Broderick attempt to sing and dance in Nice Work.  The only saving grace will be the Newsies number because the Once number will make you want to kill yourself (this from the girl who likes dark material).

Best Revival of a Play

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Master Class
I had so little interest in Master Class or Wit so I only saw the first two on this list.  And Death of a Salesman will take it so it really doesn't matter what the other filler here is.   Yup I called those shows "filler."  I'm living on the edge.

Best Revival of a Musical

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Jesus Christ Superstar

I am fine with these choices.  I want Follies to win.  It's got a good chance. P&B put me to sleep.  JCS is delicious and over the top but I think Follies has got to get recognized here.  I'm clearly never gonna get a ticket to Evita so at least this way I can see a bit of it on The Tonys.  Also, I look forward to whatever codpieces and spandex make it on the Tony stage in the performance from JCS. 

Best Book of a Musical
Lysistrata Jones
Nice Work If You Can Get It

Well at least Leap of Faith didn't get a nomination here.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bonnie & Clyde
One Man, Two Guvnors
Peter and the Starcatcher

I know it is a strange category because some of the "new musicals" found their scores ineligible because they were not new enough.  But it pleases me to no end to see Grant Olding get recognized here with the One Man, Two Guvnors score.  Will The Craze get to perform at the Tonys!?  I hope so.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
James Earl Jones, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Frank Langella, Man and Boy
John Lithgow, The Columnist

I should just take this category home and make love to it.  Yay James Corden! Yay John Lithgow! And the expected nomination for Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I would have liked to have seen Alan Rickman for Seminar (Didn't like the play at all but he was great in it) over JEJ but I can live with the selections.  Stacy Keach was also very deserving and more so than JEJ.  But I'll take "my" very small victory with this one category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur
Tracie Bennett, End of the Rainbow
Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities
Linda Lavin, The Lyons
Cynthia Nixon, Wit

I really want Linda Lavin to steal the Tony out of Nina Arianda's hands and do a jig when she does.  Also, an evil cackle would be nice. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein, Follies
Jeremy Jordan, Newsies
Steve Kazee, Once
Norm Lewis, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Ron Raines, Follies

Holy Ron Raines batman!  What happened here?  It's like Mr. Tyler Martins was on the nominating committee or something.  Now I happened to like Ron Raines but I know I am in the minority (I thought it was a minority of one person (me) but I guess there are others who nominated him) so when someone I like shows up you have to wonder.  Poor Raúl Esparza was left out in the cold.  But Leap of Faith was not the best show, and not his best performance in this show.  I really want him to get a Tony but give him a good role to win for.  Also Jeremy Jordan should have been nominated for Bonnie & Clyde where his acting was electric.  He's fine in Newsies but it's a much less challenging acting role.  But congrats to Jeremy no matter what.  You're a star and you've got the nomination to prove it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Jan Maxwell, Follies
Audra McDonald, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Cristin Milioti, Once
Kelli O’Hara, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Laura Osnes, Bonnie & Clyde

Yes Bernadette Peters is not on the list.  Laura Osnes is.  Fangirls heads exploded all over the twitter.  I think it is a toss up between who "stole" it from La Bernadette but I'd prefer to blame Cristin Milioti over Laura Osnes (who I have come to really like in the last year).  But let's hope Jan Maxwell wins.  She got hit by a car for God's sake and she just kept going.  Trouper.  

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Michael Cumpsty, End of the Rainbow
Tom Edden, One Man, Two Guvnors
Andrew Garfield, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Jeremy Shamos, Clybourne Park

I should be happy here.  But I am not.  Story of my life.  This was definitely the moment this morning I swore at my television.  Thrilled for Andrew Garfield who is deserving of this nomination and should win it.  Tickled pink for Tom Edden who I was glad to see transferred with the show from London.  But really Michael Cumpsty and Jeremy Shamos?  Really?  Pretty much the entire featured cast of Death of a Salesman should be here over those guys.  Finn Fucking Wittrock people!  Bill Camp even.  I would have also accepted Boyd Gaines from The Columnist.  Oliver Chris from One Man, Two Guvnors.  I'm sorry Cumpsty was fine but not award-worthy.  And Shamos was irritatingly one-note for both roles he played.  I know people love him but I was not a fan especially in that show.  I know I am all alone in feeling this.  But I feel it. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Linda Emond, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Spencer Kayden, Don’t Dress for Dinner
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher
Judith Light, Other Desert Cities
Condola Rashad, Stick Fly

Yeah. Linda Emond all the way and then some.  I will kill however if anyone takes this from her.  Kill I tell you.  But where is Angela Lansbury?  I mean she's Angela Lansbury.  Don't they just reserve a spot for her when she shows up?  I have not seen Don't Dress for Dinner yet and I skipped Stick Fly but can someone tell me if they were really better than Angela Lansbury?  I would have liked Molly Price to also get recognition for her work in Death of a Salesman but probably best there is no one else there to take votes away from Linda.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Phillip Boykin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Michael Cerveris, Evita
David Alan Grier, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Josh Young, Jesus Christ Superstar

Well I know a couple of people who are ready to take to the streets to march on this Josh Young nomination.  As you may be aware, he has struggled with laryngitis for the Broadway run of JCS.  So his understudy Jeremy Kushnier has gone on for Young A LOT.  Kushnier, in fact, covered the role during many press previews.  Young was back for opening night and then was out again for what seemed like a couple of weeks.  Young is back in now.  In any event, it posed a weird question for a nomination because Young has not been consistently performing the role so how could he be nominated--and they cannot nominate an understudy right?  I guess we got our answer today--they nominated Young.  But as far as I'm concerned Jeremy Kushnier deserves at least half this nomination.  Thrilled to see Phillip Boykin and David Alan Grier up here.  I did not love P&B but they were both terrific in it. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Elizabeth A. Davis, Once
Jayne Houdyshell, Follies
Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Jessie Mueller, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost the Musical

I'm pretty angry about this category.  Melissa van der Schyff from Bonnie & Clyde absolutely deserved a nomination here.  No offense to Elizabeth A. Davis or Da'vine Joy Randolph but Melissa gave an award worthy performance that stayed with me long after Bonnie & Clyde closed.  She deserved recognition for that.  And producers please find something else for her to be in.  It's nice to see Jayne Houdyshell here though I know others thought Elaine Paige deserved it for Follies.

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford, Evita
Christopher Gattelli, Newsies
Steven Hoggett, Once
Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It

I will take Steven Hoggett in this category every year.  He makes me almost understand dance. And you have no idea how hard that is.  I love the language of the movement he uses in all the shows he's worked on.  I like how it serves the narratives individually and still feels fresh and new.  I am pleased he has been recognized.  And nice to see Newsies Christopher Gattelli here as well who will probably walk away with the prize. 

Best Direction of a Play

Nicholas Hytner, One Man, Two Guvnors
Pam MacKinnon, Clybourne Park
Mike Nichols, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter and the Starcatcher

If One Man, Two Guvnors got shut out of the Best Play race at least it got a Best Direction nomination.   But if there is any justice in the world (and I'm not saying there is), Mike Nichols should walk away with this award.

Best Direction of a Musical

Jeff Calhoun, Newsies
Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Diane Paulus, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
John Tiffany, Once

I wish I liked Once more but considering the alternatives I will accept this and just move on.  Plus I like all of John Tiffany's other work.  Diane Paulus also staged P&B beautifully.  Too bad it was so boring.   I happened to like the bold, craptacularity of Jesus Christ Superstar and it would have been nice to see Des McAnuff here.  I thought the Newsies direction was a bit of a hyperactive mess...but apparently others disagree.

All in all, I'll tune in on June 10th no matter what.  There are many talented people nominated who are deserving and many talented people working today who have not gotten such recognition yet.   But there is hope for the future.  I mean, I don't have that hope but other people do.
Break legs nominees!