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Showtime! features reviews, commentary and assorted theatrical musings from Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com's Chief Theatre Critic. To submit amusing backstage banter, absurd audience observations or noteworthy links to Showtime!, click here. Anonymity's guaranteed. My not taking credit for your clever remark isn't.


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The Last Cargo Cult: Daisey Dukes


I seriously doubt if I'd ever describe a stage performance as being "literally explosive" but gosh darn it if Mike Daisey doesn't make the prospect tempting. If you've ever seen this uproariously funny, socio-politically-minded soloist in action you probably know what I mean since, even though he always performs extemporaneously -- guided by his hand-written notes rather than using a scripted text -- there's a standard look and style to his shows that remains consistent. He is always seated at a table, on which are his neatly piled pages of notes, a glass of water and a small towel for mopping up his ever-perspiring face. Daisey is a large man given to large physical gestures and extraordinarily broad facial expressions. The explosions come periodically, usually preceded by a calm, even-toned explanation of some diabolical system that a government agency or huge industry is using for personal gain at the expense of an unsuspecting public. Then, as he gets to the payoff, which is usually the comic climax of his point, boom! His voice bellows, his face crunches and his arms flutter as though panic, anger and madness are all finding ways to escape from his body. Then, as the audience roars with laughter, he placidly rests his elbows on the table, lightly touching his fingers together, and peacefully watches his listeners until the room is once again quiet.

This time around, The Public Theater is hosting Daisey's The Last Cargo Cult, directed by the writer/performer's decade-long collaborator (and wife), Jean-Michele Gregory. Global economy is the topic of the day, specifically comparing America's current financial woes with the everyday lifestyle of a remote South Pacific island named Tanna.

Occupied by American forces during World War II, Daisey informs us that Tanna -- believe it or not -- holds a yearly festival in celebration of American consumerism. One day a year this society with no monetary system of its own honors our cars, fast food, audio and visual technology and the rest of the cool stuff Americans are said to worship every moment of our existence.

Alternating between there and here, Daisey is at his most grim when speculating how stocks, bonds and derivatives have turned wealth and debt into fictional terms of astronomical proportions, specifically for the purpose of intimidating the little guy into leaving that complicated business to the experts. Lightening the mood are stories of his harrowing plane trip to Tanna and the unusual bond he forms with a pig.

Dealing with economy on a smaller, more tangible level, Daisey has ushers hand each audience member a piece of real, live American currency as they first take their seats. I got a buck, my guest got a twenty, the lady sitting next to me got a fiver and I understand there were even some hundreds circulating around. At the end of the evening Daisey tells us what we can do -- or, if we so choose, not do -- with our newly acquired wealth. For me, carrying a single, the decision was easy. Perhaps not so simple for those given a hundred. Times is hard.

Photo of Mike Daisey by Joan Marcus.

Follow Michael Dale on Twitter at michaeldale.

Posted on: Wednesday, December 09, 2009 @ 01:30 AM Posted by: Michael Dale


Four Homophobes in a Room Bitching

A homophobic organization is mobilizing to protest a Concord high school's production of William Finn's Falsettos. They provide a link for the purpose of writing to the school and telling them that you object to having students perform this "depraved homosexual musical." Of course, you can also use the link on the bottom of their page to tell the school you applaud their choice to have students learn about love, loyalty and strong family values through this important musical.

Posted on: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 @ 12:49 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 12/6 & Theatre Quote of the Week

"It is the destiny of the theatre nearly everywhere and in every period to struggle even when it is flourishing."

-- Howard Taubman

 

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 12/6/2009 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS (22.8%), RACE (20.0%), OLEANNA (19.1%), AFTER MISS JULIE (13.0%), FINIAN'S RAINBOW (11.8%), IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY (9.8%), MEMPHIS (8.3%), GOD OF CARNAGE (8.1%), A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (5.9%), SUPERIOR DONUTS (5.9%), THE 39 STEPS (5.8%), BURN THE FLOOR (5.8%), HAMLET (2.2%), MAMMA MIA! (1.5%), RAGTIME (1.1%), THE ROYAL FAMILY (1.0%), JERSEY BOYS (0.4%), WISHFUL DRINKING (0.4%), A STEADY RAIN (0.1%),

Down for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-20.5%), HAIR (-15.2%), MARY POPPINS (-11.6%), BYE BYE BIRDIE (-10.8%), SOUTH PACIFIC (-10.5%), WEST SIDE STORY (-10.5%), SHREK THE MUSICAL (-7.2%), FELA! (-6.9%), WICKED (-5.3%), THE LION KING (-5.0%), IN THE HEIGHTS (-4.8%), NEXT TO NORMAL (-3.3%), ROCK OF AGES (-2.7%), BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL (-2.3%), CHICAGO (-1.1%),

Posted on: Monday, December 07, 2009 @ 03:35 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

A simple fact of theatre is that a stage piece will never be able to replicate the story, themes and characters of a full-length novel with the same amount of detail. At least not in the amount of time one can reasonably expect audience members to be willing to sit and watch. This is not a flaw in the art form, just a basic characteristic. So while admirers of Carson McCullers' 1940 debut novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, may find Rebecca Gilman's stage adaptation lacking, on the play's own terms, and as directed by Doug Hughes at New York Theatre Workshop, it's a lovely and compelling and work of theatre.

"My tongue feels like a whale in my mouth," explains the deaf John Singer (Harry Stram) to the audience at the outset. His opening monologue is the only talking the character offers until the play's final moment. Instead he prefers to hand out prepared cards to those he encounters, informing them that he must read their lips and converse by writing in a little notebook.

Singer, a jewelry engraver by profession, is a new arrival in a small Depression-era Georgia town where he becomes a great influence in the lives of a handful of isolated souls. The most prominent is the 13-year-old Mick (Cristin Milioti), the daughter of the owner of the boarding house where he stays. While awkwardly dealing with the new attention she's been receiving from her older friend Harry (Bob Braswell), Mick has developed a love for classical music and dreams of being a great composer. Singer takes his meals at the café owned by lonely widower Biff (Randall Newsome), where he meets labor agitator (and heavy drinker) Jake (Andrew Weems). Portia (Roslyn Ruff), the domestic at the boarding house, is the daughter of Dr. Copeland (James McDaniel), a workaholic black physician who expects her and his son Willie (Jimonn Cole) to achieve more than their community expects in order to advance the status of their race.

Stram's elegant performance exudes a calming, genial grace as his character observes, sympathizes and assists those who don't realize the loneliness that Singer himself suffer; being separated from his dearest friend, a deaf-mute named Antonapoulos (I.N. Sierros) who has been committed to an asylum.

Milioti stands out in the fine ensemble, very believable as a character a decade younger than herself and playing Mick with a wry intelligence and a desperate yearning for an exciting and creative life. Ruff is also outstanding, conveying Portia's frustration in trying to be the anchor that steadies conflicts between her pious father and fun-loving brother. She is especially memorable in a scene where she needs alcohol in order to tell her father tragic news.

Set designer Neil Patel places the various settings on upstage platforms which are brought forward as needed, allowing Hughes to keep the action flowing as the story continually changes locale. The stage is effectively lit with dim moodiness by Michael Chybowski and the upstage brick wall is enhanced with scene-setting projections by Jan Hartley. Catherine Zuber does her usual excellent work with the drab, rural costumes.

If there's a flaw in the evening it's that the relationship between Singer and Antonapoulos needs to be more fully developed from the outset, but aside from that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is fully satisfying theatre.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Roslyn Ruff, James McDaniel and Henry Stram; Bottom: Cristin Milioti and Bob Braswell.

Posted on: Monday, December 07, 2009 @ 10:46 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


White Christmas: Back to Berlin

The chance to hear glorious Irving Berlin songs like "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" and "Blue Skies" - the kind of stuff that turns wearing your heart on your sleeve into a hip fashion statement - is reason enough to cheer the return of White Christmas to Broadway this holiday season. Especially when Larry Blank's swing orchestrations provide choreographer Randy Skinner's dancers with a red carpet of sizzle. Also worth cheering are the minor changes that make a big difference from last year's Broadway premiere of director Walter Bobbie's breezy stage version of the holiday film favorite.

Bookwriters David Ives and Paul Blake have made relatively few tweaks to Norman Panama, Norman Krasna and Melvin Frank's original screenplay, cutting the minstrel medley and providing cues for such welcome ear-caressers as "I Love A Piano," "How Deep Is The Ocean," and "Let Yourself Go." James Clow and Tony Yazbeck play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, a pair of World War II vets who become big time Broadway song and dance stars, back in the days when being a Broadway star meant you were famous throughout the country. On the evening before they're to leave for Florida to begin rehearsing their next production, the boys catch Betty and Judy Haynes (Melissa Errico and Mara Davi), performing "Sisters" at a nightclub and, with both professional and romantic possibilities brewing, follow them to their next gig; a holiday engagement at a Vermont inn. But an unexpected heat wave has forced the financially struggling place to forego its entertainment plans after every reservation cancels, until it turns out the owner is Bob and Phil's beloved General Henry Waverly (David Ogden Stiers) from their army days, so they offer to move out of town tryouts for their next Broadway bound show to the general's barn. In the meantime a few wrenches and misunderstandings get in the way of true love, but that's all straightened out by the time the chorus is tap dancing through the eventual snowfall.

The four leading players all deliver enjoyable performances. Clow is a toothy charmer with a pleasing baritone. And while Errico doesn't get an opportunity to display her lovely, more delicate soprano tones, the earthy sensuality she gives to "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" sooths like hot buttered rum. Yazbeck sings and dances with the kind of street-wise appeal he regularly works so well and Davi performs with delightful showgirl sparkle.

But it's the main supporting pair that lift the production to a more interesting level than there was last season. David Ogden Stiers, in his non-singing, non-dancing role, suggests a grizzled weariness that makes you truly believe that this quietly heroic general has seen the worst of warfare. The tough tenderness with which he speaks to his troops (the audience) has the emotional impact of a finely sung ballad and justifies the affection he inspires in the men he leads. Ruth Williamson offers brash comedic fun as the former Broadway star turned wise-cracking inn receptionist, even though the abundance of clunky jokes remains the book's biggest problem.

Skinner's tap dance choreography provides plenty of cheer and Anna Louizos (sets), Carrie Robbins (costumes) and Ken Billington (lights) dress the proceedings with showbizzy Eisenhower-era sophistication.

But Irving Berlin remains the shining star of the show. Broadway's favorite Jewish kid from the lower east side sure knew how to make all your days be merry and bright.

Photo of James Clow, Melissa Errico, Tony Yazbeck and Mara Davi by Joan Marcus.

Posted on: Sunday, December 06, 2009 @ 03:43 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


This: Oh... That.

What was it that Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, California? "There is no there there." I'm almost temped to summarize Melissa James Gibson's new play with, "There is no this in This," but I'm fearful that my faux witticism falls on about the same level as most of the play's dialogue.

Yes, this is one of those evenings where clever urban underachievers who drink a lot (a class of people I normally hold in the highest regard) try and hide their sorrows by bantering away; a genre that works very well when the lines are funnier and the characters are developed to the point where you can care about their troubles.

The central character, Jane (Julianne Nicholson), is a poet whose only book was published fifteen years ago and, as a widowed single mom, earns her living as a proctor for standardized tests. Her close friend, Marrell (Eisa Davis), is a jazz singer/pianist and mother of a newborn with her husband, Tom, (Darren Pettie), a cabinet maker who habitually clutters their amazingly spacious New York apartment with promising pieces of lumber.

Though we never see Jane's daughter, the sleeping habits of Marrell and Tom's infant is a constant concern, as the bulk of the play takes place in their apartment. On the outset, the trio plus Alan (Glenn Fitzgerald), the obligatory wise-cracking gay best friend of the female lead (with the added quirk that he can remember absolutely everything he hears), are wrapping up a dinner party where Marrell is trying to set Jane up with Jean-Pierre (Louis Cancelmi), a French doctor without borders who is sexy in that French doctor without borders way. The situation sets up a running riff on the phrase "without borders" which is no more entertaining than the soon-to-come one-liner about snot.

While the playwright does come up with an interesting and very effective way to fill the audience in on Jane‘s background and initiate some healthy tension, matters of a crumbling marriage, a loveless existence and the inability to go on with one's life after the loss of a loved one are too underwritten to provoke interest. A dramatic speech at the play's finish seems tacked on to explain what the preceding hour and fifty minutes were supposed to be all about.

But director Daniel Aukin delivers a sharp, professional production -- verbally rhythmic with some nice visual moments -- that makes that hour and fifty minutes zip by. His ensemble cast does very nicely, especially Nicholson's understated and wry Jane and Davis' sweet-singing Marrell. Louisa Thompson's very livable-looking set impressively details the organized clutter of Tom and Marrell's apartment and cleverly converts into various smaller settings. Aside from the play itself, it's a rather enjoyable evening.

Photo by Joan Marcus: Eisa Davis, Darren Pettie, Glenn Fitzgerald, Julianne Nicholson and Louis Cancelmi.

Posted on: Friday, December 04, 2009 @ 01:33 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Ragtime

Count me among those who consider Ragtime, that thrilling creation of Terrence McNally (book), Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (music) to be one of musical theatre's finest works of art. While its 1998 Broadway premiere made no landmark advancements in subject matter, use of music or dance, it is simply a prime example of the high quality of writing that can uniquely exist in musical theatre when spoken words, sung words and music work in tandem.

Based on E.L. Doctorow's 1975 novel, Ragtime takes place in an era when the American people find they must begin to live up to the words written in their constitution. At the turn of the 20th Century the first generation of free American-born blacks was well into adulthood and still struggling to obtain the rights that only existed for them on paper. Meanwhile an enormous flood of immigrants from Europe came in through Ellis Island responding to promises of good jobs and opportunities for a better life, only to find themselves treated as industrial cogs for factory work under inhuman conditions. McNally's book, taking after its source, nimbly mixes real life public figures such as Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington and Emma Goldman with the major plot involving three fictional families (an affluent white Protestant suburban family, an emerging black musician trying to reunite with the mother of his infant child and a newly arrived Jewish immigrant father with a young daughter) as the authors demonstrate the effects that history-makers had on the nameless millions who were learning they could not live cloistered from the other cultures sharing their country.

Flaherty's music contains quite a bit of ragtime, of course, but if you listen closely you'll hear the subtle differences in how the music is interpreted by each ethnic group. This is especially apparent in the show's opening sequence, arguably the best you'll find in all of musical theatre, where three groups of Americans, old and new, consider their uneasy futures together. Ahren's lyrics are rich with alliterations, colorful imagery and solid story-telling. Together they fill Ragtime with an assortment of anthems, marches and musical scenes representative of the era when American music began to take hold.

So strong is the material of Ragtime that even a middling mounting, like the one delivered by director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge that originated at Washington D.C.‘s Kennedy Center and has now moved to Broadway, can leave one exhilarated by the strength of its writing. That's not to say there's anything terribly wrong happening on the Neil Simon Theatre's stage. It's just that, at the risk of sounding like an elitist New York snob, from an acting and staging standpoint, this is a perfectly acceptable regional production that lacks the inventiveness and forward thrust expected for a Broadway revival of a major theatre piece.

Set designer Derek McLane places three levels of metal scaffolding on stage, capped by an arch that, in context, is reminiscent of Grand Central Terminal -- the "Gateway to America" -- which was completed in 1913. Behind the skeletal construction is a backdrop that frequently depicts brilliant blue skies and soft, puffy clouds (lit with symbolic majesty by Donald Holder), suggesting the bright days ahead for a nation that is still building.

While the setting (along with Santo Loquasto's beautiful pageant of period costumes) is a striking visual, director Dodge uses it rather predictably with musical scenes of ensembles separated into their different class levels pacing up and down stairs. (In one scene, a character on the top level reacts to something on stage and takes so long to work her way down to the floor for the moment's climax that you might wish she had a fireman's pole to get the darn thing over with.) Once on stage her group numbers are frequently muddy and unfocused. Important moments of violence are too stylized to register properly.

Christiane Noll registers very properly as Mother, the New Rochelle wife left in the unfamiliar position of making hard decisions while her husband is off exploring the North Pole with Admiral Peary. Choosing to follow her heart instead of the rules of her society when she finds an abandoned black child in her garden, Noll mixes lovely elegance with gracefully tempered authority.

This is my second time seeing Quentin Earl Darrington as Coalhouse Walker, Jr., the well-spoken black piano player whose eloquence and refusal to surrender his own rights makes him especially hated among white bigots. The first time was in director Stafford Arima's scaled down production which I caught at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Back then I was impressed with his powerful presence and voice, but here the interpretation of the role tends to be so grim that performance loses its passionate strength. Dodge doesn't do him any favors by making his beloved Model T Ford, a turn-of-the-century symbol of accomplishment, a silly-looking skeletal contraption that he maneuvers with his feet in a standing position. He fares much better with the skeletal piano, looking like a legitimate artist at the eighty-eights as he mimes playing. Stephanie Umoh, playing his lover, Sarah, is a strong singer but doesn't display the acting chops necessary to be convincing in her character's growth from a devastated single mother willing to abandon her baby to an idealistic woman swept away by the father's dreams of their future together.

Bobby Steggert offers a memorable portrayal as Younger Brother, giving the blank expression and awkward manner of someone who might be a bit mentally disturbed, which enriches the motivations of the man's obsession with mistress-turned-vaudevillian, Evelyn Nesbit (Savannah Wise), and his willingness to embrace social anarchy while looking for a direction in life.

Robert Petkoff has his charms as Tateh, the immigrant Jew who eventually becomes a big-shot in the growing motion picture industry and Sarah Rosenthal, as his quiet little daughter, has a smile that lights up the theatre. Ron Bohmer, in the thankless role of Father, manages to make him seem like not such a bad guy, but simply one who knows no other life than that of his elitist WASP upbringing.

The pros and the cons seem to balance out, but unlike many Broadway revivals that tear apart the original material with "improvements," this Ragtime, despite some editing here and there, trusts the text and that's enough to sufficiently (if not enthusiastically) satisfy.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Quentin Earl Darrington and Company; Center: Christiane Noll; Bottom: Robert Petkoff, Sarah Rosenthal and Company

Posted on: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 @ 06:42 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


My First Time Offers Free Condoms

Producer Ken Davenport wants to make sure people attending his Off-Broadway hit, My First Time, have a safe and healthy holiday season. No, he's not buying everyone flu shots but he is offering free condoms for everyone who sees the show in December.

Inspired from the web site, www.myfirsttime.com, My First Time is a funny and often touching theatre piece where the cast tells stories people have submitted to the web site explaining how they lost their virginity.

Says Davenport, "I recently received a comment on my blog from a young man who told me that he and his girlfriend lost their virginity to each other after seeing My First Time. Last year, a study revealed that 96% of the audience had sex immediately after seeing the show. We've always known that My First Time gets people in the mood, and now we just want to make sure that everyone is prepared!"

Unfortunately, I was part of that other 4%. Maybe I should play the percentages and see it again.

And for playgoers who never venture above 14th Street, keep in mind that the Public Theater keeps a bucket of free condoms at the information desk of their lobby. You know, just in case Idiot Savant gets you all hot and bothered.

 

Posted on: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 @ 10:55 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 11/29 & Theatre Quote of the Week

"A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic."

-- George Bernard Shaw

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 11/29/2009 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: RACE (67.3%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (19.5%), SHREK THE MUSICAL (18.2%), HAIR (16.6%), CHICAGO (15.9%), MARY POPPINS (13.5%), SOUTH PACIFIC (12.8%), THE LION KING (12.2%), WEST SIDE STORY (8.6%), WICKED (7.8%), MAMMA MIA! (7.6%), IN THE HEIGHTS (7.4%), BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL (5.3%), BYE BYE BIRDIE (2.9%), AFTER MISS JULIE (2.1%), THE ROYAL FAMILY (2.0%), NEXT TO NORMAL (0.9%), A STEADY RAIN (0.2%), JERSEY BOYS (0.1%),

Down for the week was: BURN THE FLOOR (-16.1%), MEMPHIS (-15.5%), IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY (-13.9%), OLEANNA (-11.1%), FELA! (-9.2%), FINIAN'S RAINBOW (-8.9%), WISHFUL DRINKING (-8.2%), IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS (-3.8%), RAGTIME (-3.4%), HAMLET (-2.4%), GOD OF CARNAGE (-1.7%), SUPERIOR DONUTS (-1.6%), THE 39 STEPS (-1.2%),

Posted on: Monday, November 30, 2009 @ 04:05 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Santa Sues Christine Pedi???

My holiday season was made significantly cheerier last year, thanks to a visit to Christine Pedi's Holly Jolly Christmas Folly. That exceptional cabaret songstress and ace diva impersonator presented a wonderfully daffy time, highlighted by her specialty number, "The Twelve Divas of Christmas," where audience members would pick names out of a hat (Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch...) to determine who would sing the chorus about the partridge in the pear tree and who would warble about the eight maids a milking.

Ms. Pedi was all set to bring her festivities back to the Laurie Beechman Theatre this December, when she was suddenly served with the biggest holiday surprise of them all...

"My holiday show, Christine Pedi's Holly Jolly Christmas Folly has been the target of concern on the part of the owner of the song 'Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.' A letter from the owner's lawyer arrived at the Laurie Beechman a few weeks ago advising us/me to 'cease and desist' (or pay $2000 for the use of the title - now that's comedy) ... otherwise. The holiday irony is that the owner of this seasonal song of good cheer and happiness threatening to sue this simple little cabaret elf is .... St. Nicholas Music!"

"I've been served by Santa .... He does exist! But what a way to find out!"

Undaunted, Pedi has rechristened her venture, There's No Bizness Like Snow Bizness, confident that whoever owns the rights to the Irving Berlin catalogue has the common sense to recognize an affectionate play on words that will in no way infringe on his or her income from the song.

In the words of Barbra, Liza, Carol, Joan and everyone else in the Pedi repertoire, "Let's go on with the snow!"

Christine Pedi's Holly Jolly Christmas Folly There's No Bizness Like Snow Bizness plays the Laurie Beechman Theatre Dec 7, 14, 21, 26-30 @ 7pm.

Posted on: Sunday, November 29, 2009 @ 07:38 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Age of Iron: The Seven Year Itch

While Helen of Troy's face is said to have launched a thousand ships, I suspect it also launched at least as many plays. As adaptor and director, Classic Stage Company's Artistic Director Brian Kulick has combined two of them -- William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and his contemporary Thomas Heywood's The Iron Age -- into The Age of Iron; a retelling of the epic story of The Trojan War intimately placed in the company's cozy Off-Broadway theatre. The entertaining and well-acted production is filled with humor, sexiness and a lot of trash-talking bad boys.

Leading off with Heywood, Homer's (Michael Potts) prologue segues to a scene that borders on sex farce as Sparta's King Menelaus (Luis Moreno) instructs his wife Helen (coolly attractive Tina Benko) to provide the visiting Trojan prince Paris (Craig Baldwin) with every entertainment they have to offer. She complies by making out with the dude and arranging for her own abduction.

Jump to seven years later and both the Greek and Trojan armies are getting a little antsy about their ongoing war. Despite the blood and carnage, there's an adversarial camaraderie between the two sides, since the lengthy war has led them to know more about each other than the cause they're fighting for.

The top Greek warrior Achilles (a butched up Dion Mucciacito, sporting a Mohawk) is so sick of the whole business that he's shacked up in his tent with his "friend" Patroclus (female Xanthe Elbrick playing a male role with plenty of testosteronic posturing), refusing to fight. So when Troy's Prince Hector (a passionately tempered Elliot Villar) challenges the Greeks to select their best man for a one-on-one battle, Ulysses (beautifully eloquent Steven Skybell) chooses Ajax (played with likeable dunderheadedness by Bill Christ) to accept, in hopes to wound Achilles' pride enough to get him back into the war. As Ajax's slave, Thersites, Steven Rattazzi delivers smart-alecky commentary with an abrasively funny tone.

Set designer Mark Wendland turns the stage into an oversized sandbox, suggesting the childishness of the soldiers as they fight for personal pride and glory rather than for some just cause. Costume designer Oana Botez-Ban dresses both sides in black, emphasizing their sameness.

Meanwhile, Trojan Prince Troilus (Finn Wittrock) has fallen in love with Cressida (Dylan Moore), the daughter of a Trojan priest who has defected to the Greek side. Soon after the couple has their first role in the... sand... Cressida is sent to Greece as part of an ancient prisoner exchange program. Though they're Shakespeare's title characters, their story is significantly trimmed here, but Wittrock is still very impressive, playing Troilus with an innocently youthful fire and passion.

While the play can use a bit of editing from its two hour and forty five minute length and there's the occasionally awkward clash between the lighter moments and tragic, The Age of Iron grandly gallops through its complicated plots in an enjoyable fashion.

Photos by T. Charles Erickson: Top: Dylan Moore and Finn Wittrock; Bottom: Bill Christ and Steven Rattazzi.

Posted on: Saturday, November 28, 2009 @ 08:07 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback




About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.