Rosalind Friedman

 
 




Rosalind Friedman, was creator of the “Theater Circuit,” a program devoted to theater critiques and interviews, came to WMNR in 1979 while serving as the reviewer for the Manchester Herald. “I immediately felt at home here surrounded by music and people who loved the arts. Our wonderful listeners are a most intelligent audience.” She retired in the fall of 2014.

A pianist since the age of six, she taught English and Music in public and private schools. Her feature articles, reviews, short fiction and poetry have won numerous awards. Profiled in the New York Times, her theater commentary has been published in the Otis Gurnsey/Burn Mantle Anthology, Best Plays of 1999-2000 and most recently in American Theatre Magazine.


In 2009, “Hanukkah Holiday,” her original musical for children, was published by the Baker Division of the Samuel French Company.

She was proud to be on the Executive Board/Nominating Committee of the New York based Outer Critics Circle, (Recording Secretary), a member of the International American Theatre Critics Association, and a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle.

Her greatest joy is spending time with nine-year old twin granddaughters, Hannah and Charlotte, who are, among other things, studying the piano.

Here is a sample from 2014 of some of her many reviews for WMNR over the years:

Theater Review - Honeymoon in Vegas (NY) 

A really funny show with lots of sparkle and heart, based on the popular film, “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Andrew Bergman's Book is even better on stage.  Who knew that Jason Robert Brown could write such a melodic and down-to earth score, even accessible? Well, he has, and this musical will surprise many people. But not so the SRO audience who, at the finale, were on their feet cheering. 

Tony Danza is the most recognizable name in the cast and he does not disappoint. He is one of a handful of actors whose charm reaches way over the footlights. (Hugh Jackman, who is playing the lead in “The River,” one of the worst shows ever seen, is another.)  In the role of Tommy Korman, a tough millionaire gambler, who wants what he wants when he wants it, Danza sings and dances with a tinge of sadness that is endearing. 

But he is not the only one. Does the name Rob McClure ring a bell? On Broadway, he starred as Charlie Chaplin and won many awards for the musical. Here, he is totally beguiling as Jack Singer, whose mother, as she was dying, made him take an oath never to marry.  Mom is played by Nancy Opel, a terrific character actress, who is appearing in her 13th Broadway show.  We will remember her at nomination time.  For five years, Jack has been dating Betsy, given a strong performance by lovely blond, Brynn O'Malley, but because of his mom's curse, cannot commit to marriage. 

When Betsy threatens to leave Jack, he screws up his courage and flies Betsy from NY to Vegas for a quick wedding; he is waylaid by Danza's Tommy, who decides he wants Betsy for himself.  Oh, the machinations!  Jack gets taken at the gambling table; Betsy travels to Hawaii with Tommy.  The most entertaining scenes in the show are still the Flying Elvis's, who transport Jack back just in time. Let us not forget Catherine Ricafort as the enchantress Mahi.   It is all in good fun.  

Gary Griffin directs this neon-colored, multi-faceted musical with a fast pace. Choreography is in the pink by Denis Jones. Feathers off to Anna Louizos for her Scenic and Projection design, lit brightly by Howell Binkely; a kudo for Brian Hemesath for his Costumes.  THE ORCHESTRA conducted by Tom Murray is fabulous. 
 
“Honeymoon in Vegas” is a blast at the Nederlander Theater.

Theater Review - Wiesenthal (NY) 

From the clutch of Off-Broadway plays and musicals that we see every year, there is always one that stands out as memorable.  This year, “Wiesenthal” falls into that category. Tom Dugan has written and stars in this one-man exploration of the famed Jewish Nazi-hunter, and in one and half hours without intermission, manages to make him a richly dimensional human being. This is all the more surprising, because Dugan is an Irish Catholic!!   In his fifties, directed by Jenny Sullivan, he is completely believable as he becomes Simon Wiesenthal, who is in his nineties on the day of his retirement in April, 2003.  

At the shabby Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria on a detailed set designed by Beowulf Boritt, lit by Joel E. Silver, a large map with names of concentration camps covers the back wall lined with book shelves. Well-used file cabinets sit around the room; Anne Frank's picture is clearly seen. A couch and a large bright sunflower are part of the clutter.  Wiesenthal, dressed in a neat sport coat, slacks, sweater, tie and shirt, addresses the audience of Americans who have come to hear him speak.  Interrupted by phone calls from his wife, who wants him to bring home milk, he is still persistently chasing a former Nazi in Brazil, where many escaped after the war. 

While he is packing up his things to send them to The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, he spins the story of his life, which begins with his mother and father sent to the Ghetto and killed on one of the trains.  He spends horrible times in at least 5 concentration camps. Marrying a beautiful blond name Celia, who does not appear to be Jewish, he sends her away, thinking he has saved her. Told she is dead, he discovers in a joyous moment at the end of WWII, that she has survived. They were married for 66 years and had a daughter and three grandchildren.  Between them, they lost 89 relatives. 

Dugan stresses that Wiesenthal pursued the criminals for justice and for a little French boy named Albert, whose letters tear at the heart. His greatest coup was helping to find Adolph Eichmann, a monster responsible for killing and gassing millions. Wiesenthal’s deeds were questioned in books written by others, but Tom Dugan treats Wiesenthal with great respect.  His accent is very accurate. The only fault I can find with Dugan is that he blows his nose frequently during the play, giving the distracting impression he has a bad cold. Not the case, he explained in the wonderful talk-back.  This is a problem he has all the time when he is acting. I remember that James Earl Jones had the same problem during his stint as Thurgood Marshall.  He doesn't in “You can't Take It with You.” I suggest Dugan find out the name of James Earl Jones' doctor. 
“Wiesenthal” is worthy of a visit and get there when Dugan gives a talk-back. He's an intelligent, charmer, who has written an important play.      At the Acorn Theatre on Theater Row. 

Theater Review - Picasso at the Lapin Agile (CT

Perfection!!!!  Here's to the 20th Century full of invention and promise.  Gordon Edelstein's direction and production of Steve Martin's intellectual comedy “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” is 90 minutes of perfection; it is as light and complex as a fine French pastry and as down to earth as a mug of dark ale.   Do not be daunted by the title.  “Lapin Agile” means the nimble rabbit and is the name of a musty bar in Paris, circa 1904, where all of the action takes place. Michael Yeargan's seedy brown set, Donald Holder's lighting and Jess Goldstein's costumes capture the ambiance of the time.                                                                                                                                                   
This bar, which the painter Pablo Picasso frequented as a young man, is still in existence. The playwright, who is not only a great comedian, writer, and musician, but a connoisseur and collector of art, brings together Picasso and Albert Einstein at a turning point in their young lives.  In 1905, Einstein would present his “Special Theory of Relativity” that would change the world. In 1907, Picasso, would paint Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a painting of great beauty and controversy.   

I must admit that this has been one of my favorite plays since I saw it in 1993 at the Off Broadway Promenade Theatre. We do so miss that space.  The marvelous debate between art and science and the creative process used in both, which they share here in the play, reminds me of the passionate conversation on the same subjects during my freshman year at Bard College. That was many years ago, but the subject matter still remains relevant and important.  

Embodying the characters are well-chosen actors. Robbie Tan is delightful as Einstein. As soon as he ruffles his hair into the scientist's familiar hair style, we are captivated by his joie de vivre, his crazy logic, and incredible math skills. Grayson DeJesus could be a bit stronger but is fine as the sex-crazed egoist Picasso, who has slept with Suzanne, the versatile and pretty Dina Shihabi, but does not remember her. (Shihabi is The Countess and the Female Admirer, as well.)   However, Suzanne has in her possession a drawing he made for her, and this gives her bargaining rights. It was so good to see David Margulies; he always nails his part- this time, Gaston; an old man who loves women and wine, he spends much time in the bathroom even when he has not had a drink.  His response to that, “One day, you'll understand,” gets one of the biggest laughs of the night. 

Tom Riis Farrell as Freddy the bar owner, Penny Blafour as Germaine, his insightful girlfriend, Ronald Guttman as Sagot, the art agent, and Jonathan Spivey as Schmendiman are all excellent. But it is Jake Silbermann as A Visitor, who does so well as the surprise guest at this very special event. Silbermann underplays the role of a famous singer, who is time-traveling in blue suede shoes… what fun!!! 

The Long Whart program/playbill is a wonderful work of history and art. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”—Hop right over to see it through Dec 21. 

Theater Review - The Elephant Man (NY) 

The revival of the Tony award-winning “The Elephant Man” at the Booth Theatre on West 45th Street, eerily echoes the revival of the musical “Side Show,” on stage around the corner at the St. James Theatre. Both focus on stories about freaks of nature and how they were perceived and treated in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. “Side Show” concerns the conjoined Hilton twins, who were born in England in 1904 and came to America a few years later. 
Written by Bernard Pomerance and directed by Scott Ellis, “The Elephant Man,” a drama, tells the story of Joseph Carrey Merrick, referred to as John, here, who was born horribly disfigured August 5, 1862 in Leicester, England. In this huge part, invoked by Bradley Cooper of film fame, he is a pitiful creature, yet amazingly intelligent and able to feel pain and frustration. Cooper contorts his body and face into awkward positions and speaks as if his mouth cannot move to convey the character. No easy task!! It is at times a moving performance, especially at the end of the first act, when he weeps aloud.       
  
One of the first scenes in each show presents a seedy manager taking advantage of his charges. In the case of “The Elephant Man,” the miserable manager is Snork, a convincing Scott Lowell, who deserts Merrick on a train station. This poor man is saved by the real Dr. Frederick Treves, an effective Alessandro Nivola, who takes him to a hospital so that he can study him, while at the same time providing a good home for him. 

It is almost impossible to find a nurse to care for Merrick, but a dear friend of Treves’, the elegant actress, Mrs. Kendal, agrees to entertain Merrick.  Patricia Clarkson is lovely in the role of Kendal, who bares it all for this curious man. He also took a strong interest in religion, and Anthony Heald, one of our finest American actors, does a wonderful job here as Bishop How, who meets with Merrick once a week. Merrick constructed a model of St. Phillips Church, which can be seen today at London Hospital.  It is amusing and sad to see women and men from society visit Merrick, loading him with expensive gifts. However, time takes its toll, and Merrick's life begins to unravel, as he grows ill. He died at the age of 27!  

Although tested, the cause of his disfigurement was never really determined. In this production, photos of slides taken by Dr. Trevesin 1886 are used.  This is a respectful production, but there were times when the actors did not project as well as they could have, particularly in the case of Henry Stram, as Carr Gomm, who was head of the hospital. Timothy R. Mackabee's spare set divided by curtains, Philip S. Rosenberg's antique lighting, and Clint Ramos' beautiful costumes, provide the right ambiance for “The Elephant Man,” which will play at the Booth (the original theater) only through Feb 15.       
  
Theater Review - Father Comes Home... (NY) 

FREEDOM AT ANY COST 
  
Playwright Suzan Lori-Parks has stayed true to her roots, engaging the audience with stories of African Americans and their relationship to the white community in a historical context. Rich in language and ideas, “Father Comes Home from the Wars,” Parts 1, 2 & 3, three hours long with one intermission, is probably the most accessible of her many works. It takes place at the end of the American Civil War and is conceived as part of a larger cycle, which will ultimately encompass nine plays that take us into the present. There is a similarity here to August Wilson's cycle of plays. 

Directed with down to earth texture by Jo Bonney, “Father” rings with bluesy music arranged and performed by Steven Bargonette with some of the music composed by Suzan-Lori Parks.  Bargonette introduces the First Act and the Second Act singing and playing the guitar.  During the action, the slaves sing together.  Part 1 is titled  “A Measure of A Man.” It is here on Neil Patel's less than rustic two-tier set consisting of a tiny wooden shack and some rocks on a dusty terrain that we meet the cast. There is the Chorus of Less Than Desirable Slaves—three men and a woman; the white whiskered Oldest of Old Men, a convincing Peter Jay Hernandez; Sterling K Brown's Hero, whom everyone loves and admires, particularly the Oldest Man, who considers him a son, and Penny, who loves him dearly.  She's played by Jenny Jules with deep emotion. And then there is Homer, a bright-eyed Jeremie Harris. 

It seems that sometime ago Hero in response to the Boss Man's promise to free him cut off Homer's foot- a ghastly act. The Boss never followed through with his promise.  Now, Hero is struggling with the idea of accompanying this same Boss Man to the war fighting on the Confederate side against everything in which he believes. He thinks he will gain his freedom, but he hates the idea of supporting the Boss. Finally in a ragtag uniform (Esosa), he decides to go. 

This leads to Part 2:  “A Battle in the Wilderness.”  Here we meet A Colonel in the Rebel Army, played with necessary braggadocio and prejudice by Ken Marks; we can only cringe when the Colonel says, “Thank God, I am white.” Hero, the Colonel's Slave and Smith, an injured Captive Union Soldier, the excellent Louis Cancelmi, form a friendship that gives hope for the future. Secrets are revealed.  This leads to Part 3:”The Union of My Confederate Parts.”   Hero returns home only to admit, much to the shock of Penny and others, that he has taken a wife. Of course, Penny has fallen in love with Homer and is pregnant with his child. The slaves except for Homer decide to leave even though they can't believe that freedom really exists.    

In Part 3, Sterling K Brown plays Ulysses (Grant), hero of the Civil War, and because every show must have a dog Parks obliges by using a human being to play Homer's dog, Odyssey Dog. Costumed with fuzzy vest by Esosa, Jacob Ming-Trent is an original, giving a uniquely hysterical performance in this role. “Father Comes Home for the Wars.”

Theater Review - Sideshow (NY) 

Joined at the Hip and the Lip. 

I did not see the original production of the musical “Sideshow,” which opened on Broadway in 1997 and closed 91 performances later. It is often referred to as a cult show, mainly because the subject matter is so bizarre and perverse. The true story of conjoined twin girls, Violet and Daisy Hilton, born in Brighton, England in 1908, hated by their mother, who sold them, and after training in singing and dancing and playing musical instruments were brought here to the U.S., is certainly a challenging one. This sad, depressing tale made into a musical, you ask? Yes, with Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell, Music by Henry Krieger and additional book material by Bill Condon, who is also the director of this reworked revival. For the most part, I could not warm to this musical; the score is forgettable; the lyrics far too literal.   

“Bring on the Freaks,” the opening number really sets the tone for the entire piece. Here we meet on  David Rockwell's many-stairs set, darkly lit by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, the two women joined at the hip, depicted with big voices, extraordinary precision and touching differences by Erin Davie and Emily Padgett. They are the stars of a dreary sideshow of Oddities, owned by the very nasty Sir, played well by Robert Joy, who holds them hostage.  Among the many diverse characters who people the stage are the 3-Legged Man (Brandon Bieber), Geek (Matthew Patrick Davis), Fortune Teller (a powerful Charity Angel Dawson), Half Man/Half Woman (Kelvin Moon Loh) Bearded Lady (Blair Ross), and Tattoo Girl (Hannah Shankman).  She is not so unusual in this day and age! 

Erin Davie's Violet is the shyer, more practical of the two, who dreams of being “Like Everyone Else.” Emily Padgett's Daisy is flirtatious and dreams of being famous and rich. They are swept away by young and attractive Terry and Buddy, two wannabe producers, who promise them the world. The girls, winning their freedom from the torturer Sir, get coiffed and dressed up in Paul Tazewell's beautiful costumes, and fall in love: Violet with Buddy (Matthew Hydzik), who turns out to be gay and backs out of their wedding, and Daisy with Terry (Ryan Silverman), who agrees to marry her if the twins will go through an operation to separate them. Although they want time alone from each other, they cannot do this, because there is a chance that one of them will die. If that were not bad enough, Jake, an African/American, confesses his love for Violet, which is unrequited. David St. Louis gives a passionate performance as this loyal protector, displaying a rich singing voice in the song, “You Should Be Loved.” And Javier Ignacio's portrayal of Houdini, who is purported to have trained the girls to find a mental private place beautifully presents the best song of the show: “All in the Mind.” 

There is no doubt that Davie and Padgett are excellent in their roles; although because they are so constricted, their performances are more stunt than portrayal. In real life, the Hilton sisters performed with Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin, but at 69 years old died from the Hong Kong Flu in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they had been forced to take jobs as a grocery clerks.  

Theater Review - Allegro (NY) 

I've been singing the praises of New York City’s Classic Stage Company for years. Its latest production, the rejuvenation of “Allegro,” a 1947 Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, is so fresh and so delightful, it demonstrates what theater can be at its very best. The run has been extended through December 14 and I implore you to take the time to experience this very human story in this very intimate space on East 13th Street. Sip a cup of something first at the coffee shop, which serves as the theater's lobby.  
    
Director and Designer John Doyle and Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell have brought their magical musical skills to “Allegro,” which perhaps because it was very modern and followed “Oklahoma” and “Carousel” did not receive the best reviews. It did win the Donaldson Awards for Best Book, Best Musical Score and Best Lyrics.  Doyle has pared down the cast, which originally featured a Greek Chorus, and eliminated the dancing; it now features a fiercely gifted cast of 12, all of whom play many musical instruments, possess wonderful singing voices, and also acting skills that are so natural they seem improvisational. They move with agility around the spare set on a wood-slatted floor upon which is one chair, a couple of wooden benches, and an upright piano that faces the audience and provides a high perch for the actors to sit. Jane Cox's honey-toned lighting gives the production a warm ambiance.    

The plot centers on Joseph Taylor, Jr.'s journey from birth to adulthood. Fresh-faced Claybourne Elder depicts this role with a good supply of naiveté and intelligence.  Joseph is the son of a country doctor, played solidly by Malcolm Gets, who does not make a lot of money, but cares deeply about the people in his community and dreams of building a hospital for them. Jessica Tyler Wright, whose voice is superb, is his mother, Marjorie; she supports her husband's ideals to the fullest, always assuring him when he is down that she has “feeling” things will work out. 
Joseph Jr. is adored by a grandmother, portrayed with authority by Alma Cuervo. His early love for Jenny Brinker, played by Elizabeth A. Davis, whom we remember well from “Once,” becomes a source of problems. He loves medicine and agrees with his family, who wants him to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. However, Jenny and her father, a stolid Ed Romanoff, want wealth above all. Married, she convinces him to move to a big city to become a big-time doc. Everything falls apart and finally he returns home.  

The songs like “A Fellow Needs a Girl to Sit by His Side, “The Gentleman is a Dope,” and “You Are Never Away,” are just lovely and stand the test of time.  Just looking at the array of musical instruments lined up on either side of the stage made me happy. Hearing them played so beautifully and creatively was a joy.  “Allegro,” playing through December 14, at the Classic Stage Company. 

Theater Review - The River (NY) 

Fishing with Dad!  What's in a name?
 
There's been a great “hoo-ha” over Hugh Jackman appearing on a Broadway stage in “The River,” a new play by Englishman Jeremy “Jez” Butterworth.   The adored actor who has conquered musicals, the Tony's and superheroes, can attract a cheering crowd at the toss of a hat. Here it is with the toss of a fish, which he filets, skins and prepares on stage with healthy vegetables. The fish, used in this production, are purchased from F. Rozzo & Sons and consumed on stage. I imagine after this stint, Jackman may never want to look at a fluke or flounder again. He has been quoted as having yearned to play a serious part, but did he actually think that being a chef was part of that equation?  Look out Bobby Flay!!!  

In this Royal Court Theatre Production directed by Ian Rickson, which appears to be at the outset a mystery, but turns out to be a waste of time and talent, Jackman is simply The Man. This gives a big clue to the number one problem. This handsome, beautifully built human has been given no name. These are the things we learn about him:  he loves fishing for sea trout, and knows the name of all the Flies used in this endeavor. He tells each woman he loves them, yet exhibits more passion for fish than for them. He learned to fish with his dad, who was despicable.   
  
When the play opens in a very rustic overly dark cabin, designed by ULTZ and dimly lit by Charles Balfour, he is entertaining a young woman, a new girlfriend named The Woman.  She's played well by Cush Jumbo, an English actress with stunning theatrical credits. The Man wants her to go fishing with him at night; she protests but finally gives in.   Suddenly, backed by the sound of rushing water (Ian Dickinson for Autograph), The Man is on the phone with the police hysterically calling for their help. He has lost The Woman and can't find her. We wonder, did he kill her for not liking fish or poetry by Yeats? But when she turns up, she is The Other Woman, a completely different woman; played pertly by Laura Donnelly, this woman tells a tale of meeting a man, who teaches her how to fish, and has the goods to prove it. Jackman rises above his jealousy and anger toward her to take care of the fish, which is cooked and nibbled.  By the way, they eat it with red wine—a real no-no!  

There are a number of questions that are thrown around like strands of spaghetti.  Who is the woman on shore who laughs? Who is the woman in a red dress with her face scratched out whose picture is framed and rests in a box under The Man's bed?  Is The Man just a womanizer or a psychotic fisherman?     

Unfortunately, there is little to no charm to any of this. We give that award to adorable Kerry Warren; she is the understudy who gives the cell phone speech to the audience. After that, it was all downhill. “The River” at Circle in the Square plays through Jan  25, 2015.   
           
Theater Review - It's Only A Play (NY) 

Comedy for theatergoers! Nathan Lane! Salty language! Not for the kiddies! 

No one can get a ticket for the revival of a Terrence McNally play, “It's Only a Play.” Is it the most brilliant work ever written? No. But directed by Jack O'Brien, it is the funniest show on Broadway, particularly if you love theater and Nathan Lane. Apparently everyone does. When this actor, as James Wicker, enters center stage through an imposing set of double doors on Scott Pask's gorgeous, glam set, the applause is so deafening and continues for so long you're not sure the two and one half hour romp will begin.  It does and is a riot. This part is perfect for Lane, whose timing is gloriously impeccable. 

Wicker, an actor, has flown in from LA, for the opening of a play written by his best friend, Peter Austin, well-loved Matthew Broderick. He may always be a little stilted, but what better casting could there be? In real life, ever-since their hugely successful pairing in “The Producers,” Lane and Broderick have been best buds. So when Austin tells Wicker that he loves him, it comes from the heart.  Wicker has two problems. He has been the star of a TV series that's being canceled and he is trying to hold back his distaste for his friend's work. It's a turkey, he says, flapping his arms like wings.  

Awaiting the reviews of the play, all assemble in Julia Budder's master bedroom suite in a townhouse. Wealthy, good-hearted, dim-witted Budder, an adorable Megan Mullally, whose high-pitched voice punctuates every line, is the sole producer of a play written by Peter Austin. Stockard Channing, sporting a thin black cane, is the beauteous actress Virginia Noyes; she's a former star who has left Hollywood for the theater and needs it to be a hit. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter Series) is the bizarrely dressed (Ann Roth), orange-haired, affected, Frank Finger, the director of this fiasco. Into the midst, stumbles the well-known theater critic, Ira Drew, a part F. Murray Abraham infuses with obnoxious hysteria.  Theater critics are treated cruelly by Terrence McNally with Ben Brantley's name invoked with both scorn and admiration. This NY Times critic even reviewed this production.  There are many references to inside theater stories and jokes, which keep the audience and me howling. Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, Frank Langella and Liza are just some of the stars spoofed.      
   
I have left the best for last. Micah Stock is making his Broadway debut in the role of Gus P. Head.  Stock gives a deadpan, dead-on performance as the naive farm boy collecting coats for a man he met in Times Square. His interplay with each of the characters, and singing at the end, ensure him a bright future. Oh, and if there is a question about the finale… There is a dog in "It's Only A Play," which will run through January 6 with Nathan Lane.  After that, the show will go on with Martin Short taking over the role.  

Theater Review - The Real Thing (NY) 

“If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at 22, the history of music would have been very different.  As would the history of aviation...” spoken by Henry. 

I love the music and singing in the new production of “The Real Thing,” a Roundabout Production at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway.  No, this play is not a musical, but it incorporates pop music of the 60s and classical music with a very light touch.  Directed by Sam Gold, the starry cast, Cynthia Nixon, who appeared in the original in 1982, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Josh Hamilton, captures the essence of the play. The cast opens the show accompanied by gifted Madeleine Weinstein (Debbie) on guitar, singing Smokey Robinson's “I'll Be in Trouble” during the breaks and at the end, among the fondly-remembered songs they give us are Neil Sedaka's “Oh, Carol,”  Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich  and Phil Spector's “Be My Baby,” Barry Mann, Cynthia Weill and Spector's “You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling,” and Les Reed's “There's a Kind of Hush All over the World.”    
                                      
Thank goodness Tom Stoppard's characters can't stop talking about important things like love and marriage and art and writing. This is a revival.  The original played in 1982 and won a clutch of awards; The last one in 2000, which I saw, starred Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Dillane.  They both won Tony's and the play, The Best Revival.  I think it is Stoppard's most accessible work.
We first meet Josh Hamilton's Max and Cynthia Nixon's Charlotte in their apartment, where he confronts her with his discovery that she is being unfaithful. It is an arresting first scene. But then we find out that this is really a scene from a play in which they, both actors, are featured. Charlotte is actually married to Henry, the playwright, the very handsome Ewan McGregor, who's having an affair with Max's wife, Annie. This dynamic lady, played by Maggie Gyllenhal, is an actress who is part of a committee to free Brodie, a Scottish solider imprisoned for burning a memorial wreath during a protest. 

Now I must admit that I love Maggie Gyllenhal's work. Tall and sturdy, she still manages to be graceful here in her role of the lover who has left her husband for the playwright. He loves pop music; she loves classical music, and they conflict on that. Annie goes off to do a play in Glasgow, Scotland and seems have a fling with Billy (Ronan Raferty); Henry is jealous of  Annie's overwrought relationship with Brodie (Alex Breaux), so much so that she wants her husband to rewrite Brodie's terribly written play. He refuses in a wonderful speech about writing.  In the end, there is a coming together for both when they realize, they are living “The Real Thing.”   

The only disappointment for me here is David Zinn's rather colorless set.  Kay Voyce's Costumes, particularly for Cynthia Nixon, were chic.  Through January 4.

Theater Review - Hamlet at Hartford Stage (CT) 

There is joy in my heart today; a lightness of spirit that has not been there in a while.  I saw William Shakespeare's “Hamlet” at the Hartford Stage and it was wonderful!!!  Darko Tresnjak, director of this production, and Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, has outdone himself. I must admit that I was not a fan of last year's “Macbeth”; it was literally too dark. But here in “Hamlet” he has captured the essence of this revenge tragedy, and given it a clean and contemporary sheen while keeping the traditional essence it needs.

The first dramatic scene on a bridge in Elsinor that sets the whole tone of the piece is magical.  On Tresnjak's seemingly minimal set design, fascinatingly lit by Matthew Richards in changing colors, a patterned cross on the floor provides the walkway where all the action takes place.  At the audience end, a trap door opens to allow for smoke and at the other end space for a ghost of Hamlet's dad, the king (Andrew Long) to appear majestically high above on a horse.   

And who plays Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, you ask?  A young man named Zach Appleman, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama who is so perfect in the role, so understandable, so believable, so in tune with the rhythm of the language that we are carried away by his character's logic and his madness. Delivering each and every stellar monologue with brio, but no affectation, Appleman heads a splendid cast, beautifully costumed by the award-winning Fabio Toblini.  “Hamlet” has been played by old men, Englishmen, and men who used a faux English accent. It is a relief here to see someone who is the right age for the role; a university student, he is grieving for the death of his father, whom he loved and admired, and furious that his mother has married King Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, only weeks after her husband died in a murder most fowl.

Outstanding are: James Seol, a clearly spoken Horatio, friend to Hamlet; attractive Kate Forbes, Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother; Andrew Long as the duplicitous King Claudius, Edward James Hyland, Polonious, the convincing aged Councilor to the king and father of Laertes (Anthony Roach), and Ophelia, who is brought to life and death by a sparkling Brittany Vicars.
If I have one tiny complaint in this streamlined version is the lack of earth in the gravedigger's scene.  However, that is a small price to pay for an otherwise wonderful production of Hamlet at Hartford Stage through November 16. 

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