Review: The Little Foxes

I have this really bad habit of going to see shows for the last… I don’t know, two years and not having any idea what they’re about. This leads to some anxiety, but usually it just leads to low (or no) expectations. If I have no idea what it’s about, I have no idea whether it will be good or not. I went to see The Little Foxes this week because of it’s two stars: Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney. Because they’re fucking amazing on their own, so together onstage? Sign me up. Manhattan Theatre Club is producing this in rep (sorta) where Nixon and Linney are trading off roles every other performance. When I saw it, Nixon was playing Birdie (the shier of the two sisters-in-law) and Linney was playing Regina (the.. not-shy sister-in-law).

The Little Foxes is a play about southern life, wanting to keep the family money within the family, and trying to make a good investment by any means necessary. There are three siblings Regina (Linney), Oscar (Darren Goldstein), and Ben (Michael McKean) whom want to go into a business deal together with the family money. But Oscar and Ben (Birdie’s husband) need Regina’s husband’s, Horace (the lovely Richard Thomas), permission to use her money (hello, 1900) and he’s been away at a far away hospital recovering from what I presumed was TB. When he returns and refuses to go into the deal, the brothers and Oscar’s son, Leo, take matters into their own hands.

Written out, it sounds terribly complicated, but it’s much more clear onstage. I think The Little Foxes might be (wrongly?) perpetuating the joke that southerners marry their cousins, but that’s exactly what two of the brothers try to facilitate at one point. They decide that Leo, Oscar’s son, will marry Alexandra, Horace’s daughter. The sane thinking characters in the play object wholeheartedly.

This is a play about family and revenge in three acts, but they’re three quick acts. Special shout out to Caroline Stefanie Clay and Charles Turner who are featured as the servants, coming in and out to bookend the scenes.

Going into this, I had zero intention of seeing both casts, but now I definitely want to see Cynthia Nixon play Regina. It’s really hard to imagine her in the role that Linney played but she’s an amazing actress, so she’s definitely capable. Same with Linney in the role of Birdie.

Needless to say, it’s definitely worth seeing at least one of these casts.

Review: 1984 (aka Timely AF)

Last Thursday Kristen and I went to see the London-transfer of 1984. I’ve never read the book but I heard it was incredibly timely and she had heard it a great production, so off we went. We had great seats in the center orchestra and we eagerly waited for the lights to dim.

I will admit that I was a little bit lost for the first twenty or so minutes. I didn’t fully comprehend that most of the play was a flashback. But when we went back in time and this frightening world of Big Brother and constant surveillance was revealed, it was intense. It did get a bit graphic in the latter part of the single-act piece and it was a full- blown sensory overload; with incredibly bright flashing lights and defeating sound design.

The line that resonated with me the most was the line that went “they didn’t see it coming; they didn’t look up from their screens.” BOOM. Yup, that’s what’s happening now. (I say as I type this on my iPhone.)

Reed Birney was excellent (as always) as O’Brien. Olivia Wilde did a good job, but she was nothing extraordinary. The rest of the (I’ll call it an ensemble) cast did an exceptional job of bringing this unfathomably weird story to life onstage as well.

I hope they tighten it up a bit while it’s in previews. It’s listed as an hour-45 online but it was almost two hours in reality and it was a little slow at times, to be honest. But I think given the current state of our country, a refresher of 1984 is appropriate. So hopefully we WILL look up from our screens should we need to.

Oh, and props must be given where they are due. The social media team for 1984 is killing it. Both of our Instagram postings were found, scoured, and creepy stalker comments were left under our photos. Good job, kids.

Oslo: #Not90MinutesNoIntermission

 

I’d mentioned a few weeks back that Kristen and I had bought a bunch of tickets on TDF after the Tony Nominations were announced and one of those shows was Oslo at Lincoln Center. It had a great cast and it was historical. How could it be bad?

Oh yeah, it was three hours long.

Should we get large coffees at Joe beforehand so we’re properly caffeinated?” I’d texted Kristen that morning. She concurred and with large cold brews in hand, we walked over to the Vivian Beaumont. We took our seats in the orchestra, off right of center. The seats were, once again, fantastic. TDF is really killing it lately in that sense. Although it must be mentioned that there’s literally not a bad seat in that theatre. I’ve sat in all of the sections, top and bottom, and they’re all good. A few minutes after 2pm, the incomparable Jefferson Mays walked onto the stage and the lights shifted.

In case you’re living under a rock, Oslo is about the Olso Accords that took place in Oslo (duh) from 1992-1993. Given that I was 6 years old when this happened, and we all know how anything we weren’t responsible for directly is skimmed over in the US school system, I was unaware of everything that went down.

Mays played Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norweigian sociologist and politician, who had a method for conflict resolution that he greatly wanted to attempt to use to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. His wife, Mona (the fabulous Jennifer Ehle) worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and together they worked “in developing the back-channel communications that (reportedly) saved the Oslo negotiations from collapsing.” Because despite what our current president might think, it’s pretty hard to negotiate peace in the Middle East and the US and major world powers in 1992 were attempting the same thing and fucking it up royally. His theory was, I believe, that it was more affective for people only associated with two side’s governments to be at the table, rather than the government officials themselves.

It’s incredibly sad to see how hard people worked on this and then how quickly it all fell apart. The last sequence is the cast onstage together reciting the events that lead to the atrophying of the peace agreements and the eruption into the chaos that we know it is today.

Besides Mays and Ehle, Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Dariush Kashani, and Daniel Oreskes all gave powerful performances as the people who involved in the actual negotiations.

But let’s get back to the length for one second. This was by far the quickest 3 hours in a theatre that I’ve ever experienced. I sat through (the slightly longer) August Osage County and that felt lightyears longer than Oslo. Oslo was so engaging that I was never, ever, even for one second bored. I never flipped through my Playbill or checked my watch. THAT’S how you know you’re experiencing a solid piece of theatre.

Oslo just won the Outer Critics Circle Award and I bet that’s not the last award it will win this season, at least I hope not. This is a simple, yet thoroughly engaging production on a timely AF topic with a top notch cast. Get your tickets.

Review: Miss Saigon

 

As soon as Miss Saigon came up on TDF, Kristen and I immediately bought tickets. I’d been dying for Miss Saigon to be revived basically ever since it closed in 2001. I’d only seen it once on Broadway during it’s initial run when I was 11 (after listening to the cast recording nonstop the summer prior) and I still remember ever word and most of the music. One of the first Broadway stages I ever stepped foot on was after that performance of Miss Saigon, too.

I remember being at the stage door with my mom, and my neighbor and her mom, after the performance waiting for the woman who played Kim (Roxanne Taga, who was the understudy) to come out and she took forever (her vocal coach was there) and she felt so bad for making us wait that when it was the four of us and maybe two other people so she took us all backstage. I think I still have a photo with her somewhere that we took onstage, but she showed us around and where the helicopter is stored when the theatre is dark.

I digress. I was super excited to see this production because I had waited damn long enough for a revival. Our seats were in the front mezzanine and they were perfect. We bounced in our seats in anticipation and everyone in the theatre clapped as the lights went down and the overture started.

I have to say, I remembered 100% of the score and 95% of the words, but I did not remember the sequence of events ,at all. I had no idea how the first act ended so there were two or three false ends in my mind, and I completely forgot that they introduced Ellen in the middle of the first act. But that’s what happens when you have 20 years in between viewings, I guess.

I have to start by saying that his a perfect production. Everyone on the stage is flawless and the direction is beautiful. It might be the exact same staging as the original production, but even so, great, I don’t care. It’s perfect. Eva Noblezada, who played Kim and has been playing her since she was the age of the character (17), has an unbelievable belt and a beautiful voice even when she’s not belting. Alistair Brammer, who played Chris, is boyish and adorable with a voice like a Greek god. They had great chemistry together. I am super disappointed that Jon Jon Briones, who played The Engineer, didn’t receive a Tony nod, because he was hysterical and on point, but what can you do. Katie Rose Clarke was fine as Ellen and Nicholas Christopher was very good as John, but they weren’t the highlights for me.

Now, in my not-so-humble opinion, this score is probably one of the most beautiful scores out there, at least of the traditional musical theatre sort. There are so many show stoppers and memorable melodies. Gahh, I could gush for forever. Seeing this production was also a nice Vietnam history lesson (or brush-up, rather).

I was wondering the entire time if Briones would make a subtle or not-so-subtle Trump reference, because he was chasing the ol’ American Dream, and to both my amusement and annoyance, he did. At the end of “The American Dream,” he screamed, “Let’s make it great again!” There was definitely a moment of pause the audience, who was most likely made up of liberal New Yorkers, had to decide whether or not to laugh, but after a moment, we realized what he’d said and we laughed.

There was also a moment where we thought we might have been cheated out of an actual, legit helicopter landing onstage, but fear not, it is still there.

I could go on and on and on about how spectacular I thought this production was, but I’ll stop. You get the point. If we had to wait 16 years for a revival this worthy to come back to New York, than so be it. It was worth the wait. As of now, it’s closing in January 2018, so run and get your tickets now.

Review: Come From Away

The day after my birthday in April, my parents and I celebrated by seeing the matinee of the new, immensely popular Broadway musical, Come From Away, with book, music, and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I’d been watching this piece come to life through a friend’s Instagram posts and I thought it looked cute, but I wasn’t really dying to see it. But once my parents heard about it and it’s popularity spiked just before their opening night, I finally stopped finding reasons to not get around to see it and I’m certainly glad I did.

A lot of the music sounds very Once-esque, which I was immediately annoyed by (despite being a big fan of Once because that is music for Once and not this, etc. etc.) but I warmed up to this folksy music as well as the rest of the score over the next 100 minutes. (Yes, it’s 100 minutes, no intermission. #best)

I’m pretty resistant to anything and everything that co-ops 9/11 which is probably responsible for some of my resistance to sit down in the Schoenfeld, but Come From Away doesn’t do that. They barely mention what happened and they never say “9/11” explicitly. It’s purely about humanity and this tiny town in Newfoundland named Gander and how it’s citizens come together to host these ~7,000 strangers who are stranded there for a week-ish) by this catastrophic event.

The cast is amazing – filled with some of my favorites from my teenage years as a Renthead, among others – Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, etc. The cast uses very subtle costume adjustments to change characters in an instant when they flip-flop between planes (people were trapped on the plans for 28 hours!). I’m pretty sure this is no easy feat and I’d 100% screw up what character I was when if I had to do that.

My favorite subplot line was the one about the SPCA director in Gander, Bonnie Harris (played by Petrina Bromley) and how she basically forces her way into the cargo holds on the planes because she has the foresight to suspect that there are animals onboard and they need to be taken care of (#squee!). She’s right. There were 19 animals on all the planes – something like 7 cats, 9 dogs, and one pair of rare Bonobo monkeys, among others, all of whom she takes care of while they’re there. This obviously warmed my heart. She deserves a medal.

There are many other touching and tear-jerking story lines which I won’t give away, but you should get yourself to the Schoenfeld and see this heartwarming little show as soon as you can (if you can, because tickets are selling out at each performance).

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

A couple of weekends ago I saw SWEAT, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage, on Broadway. I had no idea what it was about but I’d heard everything from “weird” to “intense.” It was no at all what I was expecting. It was about a group of friends in the factor town of Reading, PA and how they’re adversely affected by NAFTA. Could it be more timely? I think not. Anyways, here’s my brain dump on it:

This piece reminded me a lot of Clyborne Park, probably because of the timeline of the plot. Clyborne Park took place in two different decades and although Sweat switched between past and present, both pieces used time jumps to show how things have declined in their respective neighborhoods.

Sweat was the perfect representation of racism in America, especially after there are layoffs and people who look like immigrants are hired because said-immigrants are desperate for higher paying jobs. The promotion of one of the African American member of the primary group of friends also brings out her friend’s true colors (“they get tax breaks because she’s a minority”).

The ensemble cast was ace, with not a weak link onstage from where I was sitting, and these characters go for a ride on a very emotional rollercoaster. Shitty acting would’ve made this unwatchable.

There’s excellent writing onstage at Studio 54 to bring to life something that’s very current. It’s over two hours, but it flies. It’s playing through June 4th.

Groundhog Day, in Previews

And Rewind.

Last weekend I won the digital lottery for the new Broadway musical, Groundhog Day, and J and I went. He liked most of what he’d seen of the movie and I wanted him to see Andy Karl onstage since we’d watched him on Law & Order semi-recently. This is a transfer from London and they know how to make a pretty good musical, so my expectations were decent.

The music is catchy and the lyrics are feisty in a way that only Tim Minchin can be and I enjoyed the first 15 minutes. Then the day restarted and I suddenly, “Oh my god, is this the entire musical? How does it ever proceed forward from this one day? What have I gotten myself in to?!”

To be clear: I’ve never seen the movie before and I only knew vaguely what the premise was. This was my fault completely.

BUT. They do a fantastic job of rewinding the day each time and it doesn’t feel monotonous at all. The set worked perfectly (no first preview difficulties luckily) and it really keeps the show moving along. Without those turntables, the show would be 4 hours long. A couple of the songs get dark a darkly comedic way, and a couple of the songs could be completely cut (the first song of the second act, for starters).

Andy Karl plays this role perfectly. We feel his angst at his situation which eventually turns to morbid joy, which turns out to be hilarious. Barrett Doss, his costar, is lovely, too. I think Raymond Lee, as one of the town yokles at the bar, was the only other cast member to really stand out. He’s hilarious.

It was about 2 hours and 45 minutes long, which is long, but it never dragged. Like I said, they do a really good job at keeping the pace pretty consistent. We both walked out of the theatre having really enjoyed ourselves.

It was definitely not a wasted night at the theatre and I wouldn’t have been too sad to have been forced to relive it at least one more time.

Rant: Day Job vs. Passion

I’ve been going back and forth in my head for a couple of weeks now about this. I’ve been applying for a bunch of jobs and I’ve been tossing back and forth between applying for only what I’m passionate about or applying for jobs that I’d simply be good at. 

Whenever I mention passion to my much-older cousin, she says it’s dangerous to be fixated on mixing your career with passion. Passion implies forever, and our careers don’t necessarily need to be forever. Especially nowadays when people have several different careers during their lifetimes.

I want to find something I’m passionate about doing because whenever I meet people who are passionate about what they do, I feel a tinge of jealousy – I mean, obviously, right? It was always ingrained in me growing up that I should do what I love and what I’m passionate about, but is that not really the way it is? Just because a very small percentage of the population has managed to find a job they absolutely love, does that have to be what we all strive for? Because it’s almost as hard to find as finding your “soulmate.”

Why isn’t it good enough for all of us if we find a job that pays us so we can live our lives and pay the bills and take the occasional vacation? A job that we might happen to be good at, even though it might not be something we’re particularly passionate about doing? 

So, at first I was limiting my job applications to only companies for which I could muster up some degree of passion. Then I realized that those jobs are super few and far between and maybe my cousin was right: just find a job with people that you like (or can at least tolerate), that pays you well, and that you’re good at and, live your life outside the office. 

I went to school for theatre management and took an extra several-month course in commercial producing after graduation. I worked in theatre and the pay was lousy and the hours were even worse. I loved some of the shows I was working on, but even though I loved (and still love) theatre, I knew it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t work in the industry anymore. It was my passion and I could do it outside work. 

Isn’t that generally what passions are anyways? Things you do in your free time? Yes, I’d love to teach yoga full-time, but that path is hard as fuck, and you have to hustle, and I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. 

So, in the meantime, I’m going to try to teach (for $$ or volunteer) yoga on the side and then get a job that I’m good at. I’ll try my best not to work in an industry that I find revolting (again) and be content that maybe I’m not 100% passionate about what I do from 9 to 5 every day. My life outside of work is more important at the end of the day: friends, yoga, meditation, theatre, music. 

And if you make your passion your day job, is it really your passion anymore? Just asking. For a friend. 

A couple of weeks ago I saw On Your Feet!, The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan at the Marquis Theatre. I only remembered some of her music growing up in the 90′s and I knew nothing about her life growing up in Miami. This was bound to be a history lesson on all fronts.

The timing of this show is perfect – a show about (a lot of) immigrants who do good shit and work their asses off. We need this right now in this country. I don’t think Gloria lived an extraordinary childhood by any means, but she was a very talented kid and to say that she’s lucky that Emilio found her is an understatement. The most amazing part of her story, though, was her recovery from her tour bus accident. I had zero idea this happened and her path to walking and dancing again is an inspiring one. (Sorry, spoiler alert?)

Luckily, this is a jukebox musical that is structured very well. The story flows and boredom is never really a thing that happens because every time you might find yourself looking for your Playbill, another one of her hit songs blares over the speakers and the energy in the audience spikes. Ana Villafane as adult Gloria and Alexandria Suarez as young Gloria were both excellent. Villafane sounded like an exact replica of Gloria herself. And lastly, Omar Lopez-Cepero, whom I remember from American Idiot, duh, was excellent as Emilio. 

On Your Feet! is a must-see for Estefan fans everywhere, at the very least.

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

This musical has seen many stagings: Ars Nova (more of a reading, really), Kazino in the meatpacking district), a lot on 8th avenue, ART in Boston. And now it’s finally, finally on Broadway. Cheap tickets have been hard to find so Kristen and I jumped on $40 tickets that NYU offered her for a student night recently. We found out Josh Groban was out when we arrived but quite honestly, I didn’t care. Josh Groban is really just a non-theatrical version of Josh Young anyways, right? Right.

I sort of remembered the story when I saw The Great Comet in 2013 and Kristen had read the book, so we had an idea of what was going on. 

Let me start by saying that the star of this production is not anyone on the stage, it is the stage, and theatre, itself. I would love to see the budget for the theatre renovation because it is spectacular. In this new staging, they tried as hard as they possibly could to not let the show get lost in the space. They made as many opportunities as possible to get the actors mingling with the audience.

And you definitely want this cast to mingle with you. They are fierce. A lot of them are from the 2013 production and they are all so very talented. Lucas Steele was out, but I think I enjoyed his understudy, Josh Canfield, even more as the pompous asshole Anatole. Scott Stangland was on as Pierre for Josh Groban and he gave a lovely, really nuanced performance.  

The story is kind of ridiculous, though. Natasha meets Anatole and falls for him immediately, not seeing that he’s a complete douche? Come on. And the ‘Great Comet’ is mentioned only in the last 15 seconds of the show. It’s kind of ridiculous. There’s also a LOT going on – because it’s a Russian novel, so, yeah: dense. But as hard as they try, the show gets lost in a theatre as “big” as the Imperial. We sat in the front-rear mezzanine for the first act and it fell flat. When we moved down the second row of the front mezzanine, it became a little bit more exciting.

To that end: this show is beautiful, as is the cast and the score. I just wish it were in a different theatre.