I’d heard The Other Place, part of MTC’s current season, was good, and I’d heard Laurie Metcalf was even better. I’d seen Metcalf onstage before and she’d always killed it so I took advantage of a recent opportunity to see The Other Place last Saturday.

Billed as a psychological 80-minute thriller, I thought it sounded really interesting and the fact that it had no intermission was even better. It was the story of a scientist’s recounting of her descent into dementia and how her daughters running away when she was a teenager had effected her life.

Laurie Metcalf was great. Superb actually. The play itself was good – though quite intense. It was somewhat confusing in the second half trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t though (or maybe I just missed something!). Maybe that was the playwrights intention though, to make the audience feel as lost and confused as Metcalf’s character did.

Metcalf’s performance is reason enough to catch this production should you have the opportunity. I’m glad I saw it.

(The overexposed photo above is from the post-show talkback with the cast.)

I heard that An Enemy of the People was very relevant, so I thought it might be a modern play. I obviously did no research on it before seeing it, so I was saddened when I figured out while sitting in the Samuel Friedman Theatre yesterday afternoon that it was a century+ old. But boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong. 

Ibsen’s play is incredibly relevant. An Enemy.. is about a town doctor, played by the incredible Boyd Gaines, in Norway who discovers the water source for his town’s spa (“baths” as they were called then) is poisoning the people and he goes about trying to get the mayor (and brother, played by Richard Thomas) to notify the public about the issue and correct it. Politics and money come into play, and the outcome is eerily similar to current events.

I was stunned by the parallels between now and then. It’s both comforting and disturbing to see that we as a society are still making the same mistakes that we were back in the 1800’s. 

Manhattan Theatre Club has a hit on their hands, and I hope it’s received that way when it’s reviewed. 

Last night Manhattan Theatre Club’s most recent production The Columnist opened and last week I took in a performance at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre starring the impeccable John Lithgow.  The Columnist was about a closeted conservative Washington DC columnist during the 1960’s who was doing everything in his power to lead the conservative party ahead with his writing.

It’s very much a period piece; an interesting one at that though it may have gone on fifteen or twenty minutes too long. John Lithgow gave a superb performance as per usual as the columnist Joseph Alsop  I was also very impressed with Gracie Gummer as his daughter Abigail. She matured believably through the years with ease. Mentions must also be made for the wonderful Boyd Gaines as Lithgow’s brother, Stewart Alsop, and Margaret Colin as Susan Mary Alsop, Lithgow’s wife (and beard, so to speak). 

After a scandal surround him surfaces, Joseph ends up a lonely old man with only his daughter around him when he passes, a depressing ending to be sure. I enjoyed The  Columnist because it was educational romp through the 1960’s, an era I’m always fascinated with. 

A history lesson as well as a lesson in hypocrisy in two acts, The Columnist is another fine work produced by Manhattan Theatre Club.

I remember being urged by multiple friends to catch Venus in Fur at Theatre Row off-Broadway last season but for some reason, I never made the time and I regretted it more and more as more people came forward and told me I totally “should’ve seen it.” So, needless to say, I was ecstatic when Manhattan Theatre Club announced that it would be picking up the play for their next season.  I purchased a mezzanine ticket through MTC’s “30 under 30” program and got excited because who doesn’t love Hugh Dancy, and even more so, who doesn’t love Nina Arianda after seeing her in last season’s Born Yesterday?

Venus in Fur is unbelievably hard to explain but Dancy plays a writer/director looking for his muse and lead for his stage adaptation of the book Venus in Fur (by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who Sadomasochism was named for).  The curtain rises and he’s on the phone with someone complaining about how all the actresses he’s seen are dumb and have trouble reading basic English. While lamenting, an actress bursts through the door toting numerous bags and yelling about her tumultuous trip to get to the audition.

Venus in Fur, the book and play, are about power over another person.  As Dancy and Arianda dissect the script scene by scene, the dynamic changes almost concurrently.  The play’s meant to be ambiguous and not have a clear cut meaning and it succeeds as you believe in one moment Arianda might be a complete psycho about to kill Darcy, and then it does a bate and switch.

At 100 minutes, Venus in Fur keeps the audience (well, okay, I can only speak for myself) on its toes the entire time.  If anything, go see this just to see Nina Arianda, who I can only assume will receive at least a Tony nomination if not the award itself for her performance which is brilliant, heart-breaking, comical, and powerful.

A couple of weekends ago I saw The Pitmen Painters, which is currently playing as part of MTC’s current season at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.  Playwright Lee Hall tells the true and inspiring story of six miners, The Ashington Group, in northern England whose lives are changed when they enroll in an art history class.  

The script is great and I was never tempted to check the time.  Performances are outstanding all around.  Special mention must be made for Christopher Connel who portrays Oliver Kilbourn, the uneducated miner with a talent for painting who’s offered the chance to leave the mines behind for a stipend to paint daily for a wealthy English socialite.  

Copies of paintings by the actual miners are on display downstairs and are pretty cool to see. Pitmen is a reminder of easily art can change a persons life, which is certainly something that I can empathize with.  

(photo via)

I saw the re-mounting of Donald Margulies’ Times Stands Still this past Wednesdaythanks to my friend Patrick.  I was quite nervous because it’s been a while since I’ve watched a show that takes more than an hour and a half and one act, and after a long day at work, I wasn’t sure I could handle two acts.  Did I mention that the original production that, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, that I saw in March wasn’t exactly my favorite?  I really wanted to see Christina Ricci onstage though and I crossed my fingers that some overhauling had been done on the script.

Time Stands Still tells the story of a couple, a war photographer (Laura Linney) and a war reporter (Brian Darcy James), who arrive home after the photographer had been badly injured.  They struggle between wanting to be in the middle of the action and wanting a safer and more conventional life.  Eric Bogosian plays Linney’s editor, with Christina Ricci as his newer (and much younger) girlfriend.  

James, Bogosian, and Linney are all terrific actors and once again did not disappoint.  It took me the entirety of the first act to warm up to Ricci but once the second act rolled around, her character had matured a bit, and she definitely had the affection of the audience who laughed at every joke she delivered.  

The first act flew by and had definitely been tightened up, unfortunately though the second act still needs tweaking.  It slowed during the middle of the first scene and failed to pick up speed again during the second scene.  

Overall I definitely enjoyed it more than the first time.  If you saw it at MTC and you’re skeptical of this new production, you needn’t worry because this may be a show that requires more than one viewing.  

I was very sweetly given a ticket to Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Time Stands Still yesterday evening.  I was very excited because of the cast (Eric Bogosian, Laura Linney, Alicia Silverstone, and Brian Darcy James) but I knew little-to-nothing about the plot.  I read a quick summary on Playbill and was semi-intrigued.  Did I mention I ended up sitting next to Barbara Walters?  That was kinda cool, though I didn’t say anything to her.  

It tells the story of a couple, a war photographer and journalist (Laura Linney and Brian Darcy James, respectively), and their friends (Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone).  Linney’s character was injured in the Middle East and is just returning home.  As the play unfolds, the characters realize that time doesn’t stand still and that the things they want are changing.  The cast all gave compelling performances, and even Ms. Silverstone didn’t disappoint!  (Though her character was only slightly deeper than her character in Clueless.)

Time Stands Still was also two acts, about an hour and fifty five minutes, and never once was I bored and checking my playbill.  As you can see, I waited around after the show and yes, I brought my copy of Clueless for Ms. Silverstone to sign.  How many chances was I going to have to ask her?  Thanks to her I spent much of fourth grade in knee socks and plaid skirts (a habit I thankfully grew out of).  And Eric Bogosian was thrilled to sign my copy of Suburbia, which is my favorite play of his, telling me, “a girl after my own heart!”

Time Stands Still plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on 47th Street (between Broadway and 8th).

What’s on my agenda for next week?  Ages of the Moon on Sunday and The Miracle Worker on Wednesday!