A Whole New Blog

Lots of things in flux, many things changing.  To mix things up, I am embarking on a whole new Blog project.  I plan to write at least five new Blog posts each week.  No specific days of the week promised but not overly long.  For goodness sakes, I cannot even Tweet every day and that is only 140 characters long.  I promise here though, only a few paragraphs long for each post so that I do not waste too much of your time.

I will still review and comment on shows I see here in New York.  I will continue to trumpet any productions of my plays.  I will always comment on food and my road trips. All the same stuff but regularly occurring.  If this bugs you, then you may opt out.  If it interests you, which I know is unlikely, climb aboard and subscribe.

So welcome aboard, more to come in the coming days.  Let’s see if I can really carry this through.  Not all positive but all real.  Enjoy.

dreamstime_xxl_87319685 blog image

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes

Laugh Hard at The Play That Goes Wrong

Had the delightful chance last night to catch The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway.  I haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time.  One of my favorite plays is Michael Frayn’s Noises Off (which I have seen several times).   Believe it or not, this is an even broader version of the same concept.  Essentially an amateur drama society is putting on a performance and nearly everything possible goes wrong.

(In my younger days I was in a performance of a British farce Run For Your Wife.  As my character stormed on stage I point to another character on stage only to find the doorknob had come off in my hand as I brought it forward.  I ad-libbed “This house is falling apart at the seams” – which was appropriate and sneaked it off stage to a stagehand who fixed it in the act break.  Now multiply that by a million times.)

The only TONY nod it received was for the scenery, which certainly deserved a nomination.  It is as much a character as any performing on stage – who are all excellent and limber and blessed with excellent timing.  It is every amateur theatrical disaster in one performance.  This is not quite as profound as a Long Days Journey Into Night, but I would estimate it has about two million more laughs.  Don’t miss it.  Just for fun.

BWAY The Play That Goes Wrong

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

The Imbible – A Spirited History of Drinking

Had some friends in town and we wanted to go out but for something fun, no ballet, no opera, not even theater.  So we found this off-Broadway gem at New World Stages – a show held in their bar – The Imbible – A Spirited History of Drinking.

Anthony Corporale, the writer and host for the evening is a terrific guide through alcohol in our culture.  I loved the show because it combined two of my favorite pursuits – history and booze!  The supporting cast of singers, dancers and comedians were terrific as well.

And you get three cocktails with the show.  I had assumed these would be tiny samples in mini plastic cups but they were honest to goodness drinks in glassware.  And quite good at that!  It makes a great evening for a social occasion and a fun way to spend a night out.  They have three offshoots we may look up as well – Daytime drinking for Memorial Day weekend, Pirates and Rum for the summer, and a special Christmas edition.  I’m guessing that includes nog.

OB The Imbible- A Spirited History of Drinking

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Hello Amelie, Goodbye Amelie

The movie that the Broadway new musical “Amelie” is based on must be one heck of a charming film based on the effort demonstrated last night at the Walter Kerr theatre.  Lost on me, however, as I never saw that film and could not make heads nor tails of the muddled mess I saw on stage.  I was in a distinct minority in a supportive audience but to me it seemed interminable.

It is not the style that put me off.  I am a big fan of quirky, grand Michel LeGrande musicals.  Give me some “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” or “Amour” any day of the week.  And there was plenty of talent that went into this work.  Phillapa Soo was sparkling on stage and everyone, including the abundant animations worked very hard to win over my heart.  But it never seemed a focused or effective narrative.  My guess is that the creators slavishly musicalized the film instead of striking off in their own direction to tell the story (and stage musicals are different creatures from art films).

Though the audience was enthusiastic I was not the only naysayer.  It had middling to poor reviews and received no TONY nominations at all.  Though I did not see the Twitter announcements until after the 3 hour show (sorry just seemed that way, only one hour forty minutes) apparently a closing notice was posted at half hour.  It ends May 21.  See it before it closes.  Or not.

BWAY Amelie

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

A Doll’s House Part 2 – one part too many

I mentioned in my last post that I had two contentious reviews and this is part 2.  Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2” has opened to uniformly rapturous reviews.  I’m sorry to say, I am a lone disagreer.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the night in the theater.  Sam Gold has directed a smoothly moving production and shepherded great performances from Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jane Houdyshell, and Condola Rashad.  The concept is intriguing and the debate lively – but three objections on the script:

  • The play uses modern vernacular with no attempt at placing the characters into their supposed actual time – 15 years after Nora storms out of her “doll house” to face the world, creating contemporary theater and the first feminist character.  The anachronistic costumes and settings clashed with the dialogue and debate.
  • Even with all the debate there seemed no urgent need to trod this ground.  Beside rehashing old arguments from the play and spinning them around again to the same result (spoiler alert, Nora slams the door behind her again at the end of the play) there seemed nothing new.
  • And having used the word debate three times already in my description, that is just my issue.  It seemed an academic presentation rather than a true character exploration.  Throughout I felt I was hearing the playwright’s voice (especially in the Emma section) and not the character’s voice.  It was a classroom lecture dressed up in 19th century clothing.

I know my take is far in the minority and I have questioned myself many times since I saw the show and then read the reviews.  But I cannot shake my feeling, even after looking over it closely.  Glad I saw it, but wish it had taken a different approach.  Lucky for the participants and the production, mine is a distinctly minority viewpoint.

BWAY A Doll's House Part 2

As usual you can find more on http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

The Little Foxes on Broadway

The next two Broadway reviews will be a little more contentious than usual.  I had the chance to see “The Little Foxes” as part of my subscription to Manhattan Theater Club.  This production is first rate with terrific direction and performances.

Laura Linney is one of my favorite stage actresses of all time.  She alternates roles with Cynthia Nixon and the night I saw it, my lovely Laura played Birdie, the smaller of the roles but I think more complex and impactful.  She was perfect as always.  She can do no wrong.  Cynthia Nixon was terrific as Regina.  The big surprise was Michael McKean who I have largely seen in light or comic roles.  In this production he was fabulously evil and calculating and complex.  A terrific portrayal.

The contentious part?  Pamela considers this a seminal important work in the American canon.  I consider it a well written Southern Gothic melodrama, so let’s just say we disagree on the merits of the script.  But we agree strongly on the strength of the production.

BWAY The Little Foxes

As always you can find more on http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Six Degrees of Separation on Broadway

John Guare’s script for Six Degrees of Separation has always been on of my favorites.  I didn’t live in New York when it premiered in 1990 and so did not see the original production.  But I did buy a script and performed in a reading in Florida.  And, of course, it established a meme that thrives to this day, a bit of relevance few contemporary play scripts can claim.

This production is first class.  Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey and Corey Hawkins lead a talented ensemble that takes us on a fabulous ride.  Well, the script is the locomotive and once it starts rolling it never stops.  What a great production.  I knew I loved the script and this confirms why.  Under the expert direction of Trip Cullham this is certainly a top candidate for best revival as it is seamless and still compelling.

This is a must see limited run.  Don’t miss it.

BWAY Six Degrees of Separation

As always you can find more on http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes

The Price on Broadway

Had the chance last night to catch “The Price” by Arthur Miller in its most recent Broadway revival.  I’ve seen different versions of the play including the 2000 Broadway Revival.  Arthur Miller is one of my favorite playwrights and this is among his best scripts.

The cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Esther Franz, Tony Shalhoub and Danny DeVito in his Broadway debut.  Danny’s role is a natural scene stealer and he plays it for all its worth.  Every member of the cast is exceptional and this version is well worth seeing.

I’m trying to move to the next level of my own playwriting and have thus far existed in the natural realism that Miller resided in.  While that as gone out of style it still plays well.  Having seen John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation (another of my favorite scripts) recently as well as Paula Vogel’s Indecent (incredible) I need to figure out where I go next.  Stay tuned.  And see The Price before it departs in mid-May.

BWAY The Price 2017

As always you can find more on http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Indecent on Broadway

Time to catch up on more show going observations as this Broadway season winds toward a close.

Paula Vogel is a fantastic playwright and her Broadway debut is long overdue.  Indecent tells the story of a play in the early 20th Century (God of Vengeance) that was innovative and original and thus branded sinful and indecent in America.  Of course.  While it, of course, tells the story of the people involved, from the playwright to a backer to the actors to an acolyte, it is something I could never have conceived of – truly a play about the play.

It is accomplished by one of my favorite tropes, “we are the players here to tell you a story,” which I fall for every time.  I associate it with the original Pippin which I fell for as I was becoming familiar with theater in the first place.

The players rise from the ashes, which we do not understand until later.  This play and this production is stunning and why we want to do theater at all.  I strongly recommend you catch this and believe it is easily the best new play in the season.  Welcome to Broadway, finally, Paula.

BWAY Indecent

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Present Laughter

The reason to see “Present Laughter” at the St. James Theatre is to personally experience Kevin Kline’s mastery of physical comedy, wordplay comedy and facial expression comedy.  He is an amazing treasure and well worth the price of admission.  His supporting cast is deft and a suitable foil but make no mistake, this is Kevin’s play.

Of course, it is also Noel Coward’s play but I am sorry to say, it has not aged well (assuming that Noel himself is in the same condition, but I digress).  Written by Noel Coward for himself to star in, it works with a comic master such as Kevin Kline to give it breath, but the style is dated and would not do well as a new script today.  Our attention spans are shorter, our laugh per page expectations higher and our scandal experiences far stronger.

Essentially, see it with Kevin Kline but be skeptical of any future productions without an equivalent master to guide it.

BWAY Present Laughter

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes