Broadway Blogs - Review Roundup: The Philanthropist and More...
Below are BroadwayWorld.com's blogs from Monday, April 27, 2009. Catch up below on anything that you might have missed from BroadwayWorld.com's bloggers!
Review Roundup: The Philanthropist
by Robert Diamond - April 27, 2009
Matthew Broderick returns to the stage as Philip, an insular college professor who obsesses over the details of his bourgeois life while the world is falling apart around him.
David Rooney, Variety: "Director David Grindley had a hit in 2005 with his Donmar Warehouse revival of Christopher Hampton's "The Philanthropist," its cast headed by Simon Russell Beale, an actor who could locate the emotional undertow in even the most distancing role. There's no reason to question the endorsement of London critics, but every reason to suppose the change of venue and lead actor must have taken a dire toll on Grindley's production. With Matthew Broderick reducing the title character to a cartoon, performing in his own hermetic space that excludes everyone else onstage, the play sits inertly, its poignancy lost and its clever dialogue hollowed into empty banter."
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: "Even with gray hair and a tentative English accent, Broderick can't convey sufficient weight or weariness. That's a shame, because the ensemble here generally thrives under the thoughtful direction of David Grindley, who helmed a production of this play for the U.K.'s Donmar Warehouse in 2005. Anna Madeley, the one holdover from Donmar, is a pert, winning Celia, and Steven Weber brings a convincing ennui to Philip's more comfortably cynical colleague, Don. Jonathan Cake nearly steals the show from everyone as a smug, flamboyantly miserable novelist."
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: "As the title character in "The Philanthropist," Matthew Broderick is a mousy professor who has only nice things to say about people. Unfortunately, it's hard to be generous about this zzzz-inducing Roundabout revival, which fails to flatter its star, director or the play."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "It isn't easy to make a passive character interesting. Broderick, a career specialist in alienated innocents, knows just how to look lost at a party. He walks with a studied lack of affect, as if trying to balance a book on his head. But we can't guess why competent women are attracted to Philip, and by the time he reveals the darkness behind the placidity it's too late to start guessing again."
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: "The first fundamental problem is Tim Shortall's preposterously oversize set. The actors look lost in it, and Grindley makes matters worse by keeping them huddled on and around a couch plopped at the center. About half of the first act is dedicated to the most boring dinner party ever held in the British Isles, and the cast sits, yakking, for the entire duration. Did Grindley direct this by phone from London?"
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: "The problem is that watching a dull character who's front-and-center in a play can get tedious pretty quickly. And Broderick, playing it straight, doesn't offer the audience anything offbeat, some kind of humor, that might make Philip's passivity less irritating."
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: "The play desperately needs the wistful inwardness that Simon Russell Beale, who has made a career specialty of wistful inwardness, reportedly brought to his performance as Philip in the production Mr. Grindley directed at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2005. Mr. Broderick's sad-eyed clowning, all on the surface, is an unsatisfactory substitute."
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: "Bottom Line: This mild British comedy just isn't generous enough with its laughs."
Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press: ""The Philanthropist" needs a crackerjack collection of performers to get across Hampton's sly, often quite witty and dark dialogue. It's particularly important for the actor playing Philip, who's intellectually nimble (the man loves anagrams) but psychologically and socially flat-footed. And Matthew Broderick doesn't quite fill the bill as an Oxford don determined not to offend - but does."
David Sheward, Backstage: "A visit to this Philanthropist is like playing word games with a group of unpleasant new acquaintances. You get some mild mind exercise, but you don't really want to know your fellow players."
Kooza: How can you not love a show that features The Wheel of Death?
by Michael Dale - April 27, 2009
Perhaps shows would get better reviews if they all offered critics free champagne before the performance and unlimited trips to the chocolate waterfall at intermission, but even without the edge-removing libations and shots of sugar buzz, Cirque du Soleil's Kooza, now drawing gasps and cheers under the big tent at Randall's Island, is both a soothing kaleidoscope of color and movement and a flat-out, adrenaline-surging rush.
Created and directed by David Shiner, Kooza, combines low-down (family-friendly) burlesque clowning with feats of physical prowess that won't just have you exclaiming, "How do they do that?" but perhaps more frequently, "Why do they do that?"
There a bit (a very small bit) of a plot, involving a young innocent (Stéphan Landry) who opens a surprise box containing a mischievous and sharply-clad fellow called The Trickster (Mike Tyus), who pops out and introduces the lad to a world of danger, exotica and very healthy men and women in tights. The show's name comes from the Sanskrit word for treasure box, and there is an Indian and Hindu influence evident in Jean-Francois Cote's score (played by six pieces and a vocalist above a 2-tiered band stand), Florence Cornet's make-up and many of Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt's beautiful costumes. Lit by Martin Labrecque, the design of Kooza is sumptuously soft and inviting.
But of course, it's the amazing feats of physical artistry that are the main attraction. Contortionists Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson and Dasha Sovik enter tangled in a clump that care be barely distinguished as a human form, then proceed to bend their bodies into spine-snapping angles, often using each other's contorted figure as a supporting platform. Yuri Shavro and Diana Aleshchenko perform romantic balletic movements while maneuvering a unicycle and solo trapeze artist Yulia Korosteleva flies with elegance.
Double high wire performers Angel Quiros Dominguez, Vincente Quiros Dominguez, Angel Villarejo Dominguez and Flouber Sanchez walk and bicycle across parallel tight ropes, balancing their partners as well as themselves, and Zhang Gongli balances himself on a thin tower of chairs as he stacks more and more atop each other. A chorus of aerialists flips through the air from their teeter-totter launching pads.
But the star display of acrobatic machismo comes from Carlos Enrique Marin Loaiza and Jimmy Ibarra Zapata as they enter - you guessed it - The Wheel of Death. This enormous metal contraption consists of two hollow wheels, maybe twenty feet in diameter, orbiting each other vertically on opposite ends of a rotating axis. When one of the fellows enters a spinning wheel he must continually be in motion in order to remain upright. Loaiza and Zapata take turns entering and exiting both the insides and outsides of the wheels as the orbit increases to an insane speed. The guys run, skip rope, leap and dive across the apparatus until the crowd goes nuts with cheers and applause. This one's a real showstopper.
Keeping the evening merry is a troupe of clowns, headed by Gordon White as a wise-cracking king and Lee Thompson as a pickpocket specialist, both involving audience members in their antics.
While I can do without seeing a performer in a dog costume peeing in and aisle, and the cannons blasting confetti into the audience gets a bit overdone, Kooza is a classy, fun and exciting night out.
Photos by Oliver Samson Arcand: Top: Yulia Korosteleva, Bottom: Stéphan Landry and Company
Review Roundup: Desire Under the Elms
by Robert Diamond - April 27, 2009
Direct from Chicago's prestigious Goodman Theatre comes a work of monumental passion and epic sensuality. An intense erotic journey. An experience you will not soon forget...
This spring, Desire Under the Elms reunites Brian Dennehy with director Robert Falls, who previously collaborated together on the revolutionary and critically acclaimed revivals of Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night.
David Rooney, Variety: "Nobody could accuse Robert Falls of taking the safe route with "Desire Under the Elms." As in Simon McBurney's "All My Sons" revival earlier this season, the director layers on bold auteurial flourishes in a stylized bid to fire up the molten Greek tragedy in a naturalistic American drama. And as with that production, responses will range from rejection to rapture. Transferring from Chicago's Goodman Theater, where it was the centerpiece of a Eugene O'Neill festival, the staging is grimly overwrought, with an intensity that never quite translates into emotional impact, yet its unyielding harshness is undeniably compelling."
Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press: "The production from Chicago's Goodman Theatre is big and booming, almost operatic in its intensity and expansiveness. And it's stocked with oversized yet effective performances that hold their own against a gargantuan setting of rocks and a giant farmhouse that literally hangs in the air for much of the evening. That forbidding structure is the centerpiece of designer Walt Spangler's grandiose set design."
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: "With Ms. Gugino, Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Dennehy giving performances of unflagging commitment and exposed feeling, the production manages to transcend the play's flaws to transmit the penetrating truth of O'Neill's underlying vision, of the ineradicable human need to possess and be possessed."
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: "Bottom Line: There's a lot of desire, and even Bob Dylan, but no elms and not a lot of sense in this overheated staging of O'Neill's classic."
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: "And speaking of rocks...they essentially take the place of elms in this production. Enormous, back-breakingly heavy boulders are stacked everywhere on Walt Spangler's stunningly expressionistic set, suggesting that all that's growing on this land is rage, sin, and duplicity. The farmhouse, suspended in mid-air for much of the play, seems as if it could crush the Cabots at any moment. Actually, that set could crush a lot of Broadway actors. But not Dennehy. And certainly not the marvelous Gugino. B+"
David Sheward, Backstage: "But there's nothing melodramatic or phony about this intense, sizzling revival. Falls wisely eschews naturalism and sets the play on a desolate rock-strewn heath. A triangle of greed and sexual rivalry is played out in this forbidding environment under an enormous suspended farmhouse, which hangs over the action like a crushing weight ready to drop at any moment. Designer Walt Spangler deserves full marks for creating a hellish setting that works as both a metaphor for the characters' struggles and the world in which they eat, sleep, and-to put it delicately-fornicate. That last-named activity is the driving force here, defying O'Neill's reputation for writing too many long monologues. The running time is a swift 100 minutes, and many of the passions are conveyed without words."
Matt Windman, AM New York: "But regardless of the cast and director, "Desire Under the Elms" is the kind of play that will be appreciated by some and booed by others. Try and think of it as watching a soap opera set on a 19th century New England farm."
More Reviews to Come in the AM!