Jason Nahum, an up and coming actor of considerable talent, opens up about his recent foray into the downtown scene, appearing in Axis Theatre’s Hospital 2011 written and directed by Randy Sharp.
Despite the fact that the producers of this spectacle have been changing their minds for months now, throwing out directors and story lines, reworking songs and dance numbers and dialogue, the heart of this superhero musical flutters weakly, pumping worn out clichés—and millions of dollars—through its veins. As the Green Goblin croons cannily at the beginning of Act Two, in a rare moment of clarity, this is a “65 million dollar circus tragedy.”
The escalating one-upmanship led to some truly bizarre innovations, such as casting famous boxers in the lead roles. Reynolds described how Peter Jackson, a famous black boxer, figured into the entertainments: “Uncle Tom, between acts or just before dying, would momentarily trade his slave costume for boxing trunks and spar for three rounds with another actor before resuming his tragic role.”
The production focuses its energies on exposing its illusion-making apparatuses to such an extent that the creaks and cranks of its pulleys and the nonchalant all-female run crew become the focal point of the play. When Prospero declares “I abjure this rough magic” in the final act, Shakespeare’s poetry is imbued with an unexpected shade of meaning because theater itself is shown as a failed contrivance bereft of illusory magic.
Without question, the true stars of this musical are the gorgeous chorus girls who glide along the stage with dazzling grace. Choreographer Jerry Mitchell recalls a bygone era creating magic with an array of kick lines and fan dances. The male chorus also displays energetic power, but really, nothing can compare to those smooth gleaming gams. They hypnotize with effortless feminine beauty.
Tenneriello’s first encounter with theatrical experimentation came from her mother who used to perform impersonations after family dinners. “We would bang our silverware on the table calling for ‘imitations’ at the end of the meal. She would disappear and return dressed like one of us in a bathrobe or jacket, and parody us. It was hysterical.”
The play documents “the search” for Stella Burden, a mysterious acting teacher from the 70s, who started an unnamed company, rehearsed A Streetcar Named Desire for many years (without the parts of Stella, Stanley, Blanche or Mitch) only to leave without word for South America. Her actors continued rehearsing the piece for several more years, applying “The Approach” (Stella Burden’s technique) hoping to perfect their performance.
There are some terrific “There’s something in the sack!” or “What’s that climbing down the wall?” moments, and Danny Boyle really knows how to deploy a flash of lightning. Steering clear of too much mad-scientist “It livessss!” stuff allows him to direct this part of the show with the kind of punch which movie-goers will remember from his film Shallow Grave.
McDormand ‘s stellar performance captures the complexity of her character by combining swift comic timing with nuanced moments of strained vulnerability. One moment during the second scene, she fixes her stare outside a dingy kitchen window to piercingly convey a rising desperation within. With honesty and clarity, Lindsay-Abaire and McDormand come together to create a compelling portrait that doesn’t beg for pity, but commands respect and serious contemplation.
Anna Nicole zipped herself up in a bodybag, surrounded by a crowd of camera-headed creatures which had been stalking her all the way through the second act, peering at her and sorting through piles of rubbish on the stage. The sudden blackout at the end produced a pause, then elated applause.
Alone Together will explore emerging trends in theater and what they tell us about who we are as culture. It will also examine the unique individuals who make these productions and the personal struggles that compel them to seek out the public forum for expression.
Sherlock Holmes as a strict Victorian period piece is over and done with, but the character still has potential in a new context. The only rule is not to stray from the unique faculties that make Sherlock such a distinctive and popular hero. If the story’s focus ceases to be the detective’s brilliant deductive logic, then the magic is lost and the character wasted. If, however, due attention and respect are paid to this detail, the rest is free and open to broader interpretation.
Given the grandeur of its lofty aspirations, the play inevitably fails on some levels, like the idea of America itself. But the failure is spectacular, memorable and exciting.
Patti LuPone, however, does not stumble. In her mesmerizing performance of the show’s best song “Invisible” the actress masterfully transforms a farcical kangaroo court scene into a powerful portrayal of a woman confronting true misery. One by one, the spectacular bells and whistles of the production disappear to leave an exposed and raw LuPone standing alone on a bare stage. Her monumental voice soars through the theater as she reveals a hauntingly vulnerable soul on the brink of collapse.
A movie can do a lot of things to an audience. It may move them, amuse them, disgust them, terrify them, or in all too many cases bore them. One thing only a handful of films can do is inspire wonder. Every once in a while, a winning combination of writer, director, designers, composers and cast meet in perfect harmony. Such, I feel, is the case of Marcel Carné’s 1945 epic romance, Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise).