Last Saturday I saw Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love at MTC’s Samuel Friedman Theatre. Frankly, I went because Nina Arianda is amazing, and so is Sam Rockwell. I was obsessed with Shepard’s Buried Child in college, but it was pretty absurd and took a lot of studying to process even a little bit, so I knew this play would probably little to no sense at a first glance. And it didn’t. And that’s OK. It’s basically about a couple who have been on and off and about 15 years going at it again and we get to watch it go down for 75 minutes. 

Arianda is amazing in anything and everything she does, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as amazed with her performance as I was in Born Yesterday or Venus in Fur (this is also OK). Her timing and nuance is impeccable. Sam Rockwell is great. As always. He’s so funny. He is ridiculous in a cowboy hat and holding a lasso, but he got the job done regardless. 

I wouldn’t go see Fool For Love again, but I’m glad I saw it once. 

That’s me deep in conversation with world-famous playwright Henrik Ibsen outside his apartment in Oslo, Norway. And since I know you’re all (not) dying to know what I’m dying to see during the Broadway season that started (in September), here goes:

Hamilton: No, I haven’t run to see it yet. Lin-Manuel Miranda is fine and dandy, but I’m not a super-fan of his. I’ll see it at some point. It’s not going anywhere. I’m sure it’s great.

The Crucible: Classic Arthur Miller with Ciaran Hinds, Jim Norton, and Tavi Gevinson? Sigh me up.

Fool For Love: I love both Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell so I’m THERE. I’ll be buying 30-under-30 tickets as soon as I can drag my lazy butt to the box office.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: YES, YES, YES. I’ve never seen this staged professionally but I worked on it in college and it’s Eugene O’Neil and it’s great. And there’s John Gallagher Jr.! What’s not to be excited about?

Noises Off: Two words: Tracee Chimo. Enough said. Oh, and Rob McClure.

School of Rock: This could be a good adaptation or it could be awful. I hope it’s good. 

She Loves You: I’ve never seen this show or heard the score so I’m very interested. And the cast is great: Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, etc?

Tuck Everlasting: I’ve never seen this movie but it has an awesome cast. Terrance Mann back on Broadway!

A View From the Bridge: More Arthur Miller! I missed the last production, so maybe I’ll actually make it to this one.

Waitress: So, four new musicals on Broadway this season? Sad.com. I’ve heard lots of hype but really, um, maybe? I’ve never seen the movie, but the plot sounds basic. Jessie Mueller is awesome, soo… maybe? I don’t have much of an opinion on this. But if I get a free or cheap ticket, I’d totally go. 

Did you know that Venus in Fur had been translated into a movie? And one in French, nevertheless? Me neither. But it was directed by Roman Polanski and starred his wife in the role of Vanda. I love this play and I was super excited to see the movie translation. 

At Symphony Space on the UWS tonight, I had the opportunity to see a small screening of this film that came out at last year’s Cannes. The screening was followed by a talkback with playwright and screenwriter David Ives (pictured above, on the right). I really enjoyed the movie – it very closely followed the script. I will admit that I was wishing the entire time that it was Nina Arianda on screen, but what can you do. And that’s not to say that Emmanuelle Seigner was bad, at all. I just love Arianda.

Afterwards Ives talked about the collaboration with Polanski on writing the film (him and his wife just spent a few weeks in Switzerland with Polanski and his wife). He talked about the first, very brief message that Polanski ever left on his answering machine. He talked about the subtitles being a mess at first and then he took questions from the audience.  There was a lot of inquiry having to do with the ambiguousness of the theatre and how that gets a little bit less-so with a film. At one point he said, “Nobody is real onstage. Everyone is a metaphor for something else.” I thought that was kind of brilliant.

It’s a great film. I highly recommend it. 

PS: David Ives is currently working with Stephen Sondheim on a new musical. So, there’s that. 

The day after These Paper Bullets, my friend Kristen and I went to see a matinee of Manhattan Theatre Club’s newest production at their off-Broadway space, Tales from Red Vienna by David Grimm. I jumped at the chance because… well: Nina Arianda. What was the surprise second best part? Michael Esper. I’d totally forgotten that he was doing a new show, so that was pretty rad too. 

The play is about a woman (Arianda) who’s husband is assumed to be dead after he’s unheard from in two years after World War II and like many women (apparently) during that time, she turns to prostitution to pay the bills. Her world is turned upside down when she is set up by a friend (more like a frenemy) with the man (Esper) who happened to have been her first customer. 

It was interesting and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed Arianda way more in Venus in Fur, but I suppose I have to succumb to the fact that not every piece Arianda works on will be Venus in Fur. Esper was, of course, fantastic. he’s actually such a brilliant dramatic actor – something that never would’ve been apparent if you only knew his work in American Idiot

Would I recommend this just to see Nina Arianda and Michael Esper? Probably. Just go. 

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.

One of the producer’s of this season’s revival of Born Yesterday, Philip Morgaman, courted the playwright’s estate lawyer for years in order to gain the rights after being a long time fan of the play.  Apparently the last revival was a huge failure and the playwright didn’t want to have his play illy produced again.  Morgaman found a way to make Born Yesterday feel fresh, even though it’s decades old.  

Born Yesterday tells a story that feels very much like Pygmalion, and though it’s not a perfect play and drags sometimes, it is a very amusing script with a great change-of-heart from the main character in the end.  The reason to see this revival is the blonde haired actress above, Nina Arianda.  

Arianda was supposedly discovered by director Walter Bobbie when he cast her in this seasons much buzzed about off-Broadway production of Venus in Fur, which I unfortunately missed.  People talked about her incredible performance in that role but she’s even more captivating in Born Yesterday.  She has perfect comedic timing and made the audience love her [character] even thought she might be a little naive and not truly gets what’s going on around her.

The set is gorgeously designed (by John Lee Beatty) and incredibly detailed, as are the costumes (by Catherine Zuber).  Born Yesterday was enjoyable but Arianda is hands down the best actress of this season (maybe tied with Frances McDormand in Good People) and makes this play something not to be missed.  

I look forward to watching Arianda win her TONY in June.  

(photo via)