Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Intermission Talk: September 24, 2008, by Tony Vellela

Jim Naughton

The Irish Repertory Company's 20th anniversary year will kick off with a bold choice: the gritty yet introspective Henrik Ibsen classic "The Master Builder." The production will use a new translation by Frank McGuinness. What, you ask, is 'Irish' in this choice? The magnetic, enigmatic, charismatic central character Solness will be portrayed by Jim Naughton, who, in the world of Eugene O'Neill, has the map of Ireland all over his face.

As a serious admirer of Ibsen [having visited both the National Theatre in Oslo, formerly known as Christiana, Norway, and the playwright's influential home town at the southern tip of the Norwegian peninsula, Skein], I extended Naughton my good wishes on the project. His response: "I've always liked Ibsen. Frank McGuinness has done a new translation, and has made it possible for these words to come out of an actor's words. And this is a big piece of meat for any actor to chew on." Naughton added that "I've always been drawn to this sort of big, dark drama. It's really where I came from, and how I spent all those years in Williamstown [at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Massachusetts annual summer playground for great theatre]. So when I heard that Ciaran [O'Reilly] was directing it, I was on board." O'Reilly's Williamstown experience included an acting stint in another McGuinness translation production, "Someone Who Will Watch Over Me." O'Reilly also served as co-founder, with Charlotte Moore, of Irish Rep, bringing Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars" to New York audiences.

Ibsen happily returns to Broadway in a new revival of "Hedda Gabler," who we haven't seen since Kate Burton's provocative interpretation in 2001. This time, the disaffected Hedda, an independent woman way way way ahead of her time, comes to life through the theatrical expertise of Mary Louise Parker, compliments of the Roundabout Theatre Company, next January.

Gina Gershon (left) and Gregg Germann (right) in Boeing-Boeing Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Also happily, three other free-spirited women, this time using an air hostess career to make their escapes from a fulltime domestic sit-down, can be seen taking off and landing in the current revival of "Boeing Boeing." And the most compelling of that trio is the versatlie Gina Gershon. Many theatre-lovers recall her early work as one of the founders of Naked Angels. Here, we can see how she has matured and developed into a stunning and captivating actress of many dimensions. While we wait for her to grow into a production of "The Rose Tattoo," will someone organize a revival of Tennessee Williams' "The Night of Iguana," with Gershon as Maxine [and maybe Liev Schreiber as the wayward defrocked Reverend Shannon?].

Also on view in "Boeing Boeing" is Greg Germann, playing the fiance-juggling Bernard, bringing different colors to the role, and showing a sterling ability to balance comedy, sympathy and farce. This show makes it clear that Germann has the chops to create a new Broadway role, and find all the dimensions in some new, great work.

What is NOT new in "Boeing Boeing" is Christine Baranski's two-dimensional evocation of the cartoon comedy character Edna 'E' Mode, from "The Incredibles," a clear imitation of legendary costume designer and Oscar magnet, Edith Head. Baranski has so much to draw from, that it's surprising who she has not drawn from her own creative reservoir to bring the housekeeper Berthe to life. In the 1965 picture, Berthe was played by the indomitable Thelma Ritter. And if you're not familiar with the film work of this unique actor, screen "All About Eve," or "Rear Window," or "The Misfits," a picture that also starred Monroe, Clift, Gable and Eli Wallach. Eli told me once that Thelma Ritter was so good, he considered her in a class by herself. In this production, it's the double G's - Greg Germann and Gina Gershon - who, in the midst of a hectic, dizzying farce, display real class.

TONY VELLELA, the veteran theatre correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, writes and produces the PBS series about theatre, "Character Studies". His work has also appeared in Parade, Theatre Week, USA Today, Dramatics, Rolling Stone, and several other publications.

Titles mentioned in this post (and please note, even when items appear as "Spcial Order" on our website, they are often in-stock and available--the problem with a shared database):

Frank McGuinness

Someone Who Will Watch Over Me
by Frank Mcguinness
Samuel French, 2005. Acting Edition: $7.50

The Plough and the Stars
by Sean O'Casey
Samuel French Limited. British Acting Edition: $14.95
(Please call 212-944-0595 to order The Plough and the Stars.)

The Rose Tattoo
by Tennessee Williams
Acting Edition: $7.50

The Night of Iguana
by Tennessee Williams

by Marc Camoletti, Adapted by Beverley Cross
Acting Edition (Samuel French): $7.50

Monday, September 15, 2008

Drama Book Shop now on Facebook

The Drama Book Shop is now on Facebook. New friend requests are coming in as fast as we can handle them! Hope you have a chance to check it out. Thanks, Allen

Friday, September 12, 2008

Play of the week (June 30, 2008) The Sunken Living Room

Sixteen-year-old Wade--effeminate and studious--is about to settle down at home for a quiet afternoon of reading when in bursts his seventeen-year-old brother Chip, a coke-snorting jock in need of some quick cash to pay for his girlfriend's abortion (or so he says). Before the day is out, however, we learn that his pothead girlfriend Tammy has already HAD an abortion, what Chip REALLY wanted the dough for, and, ultimately, that even loud and obnoxious muscleheads can be more troubled and vulnerable than they're willing to admit.

The Sunken Living Room (whose title refers to the architectural style of the 70s-era, suburban Miami home in which the action takes place) is a funny and revealing play about teens in crisis, and a wonderful source of material for young actors.

Cast: 3 TEENS (2M, 1F) and 1 ADULT (Wade and Chip's Mom)

Scenes/Monologues: Both for teenagers, male and female.

Recommended by: Stu
The Sunken Living Room
by David Caudle
Samuel French, 2008
Acting Edition, $9.95

Monday, September 08, 2008

How to Begin an Acting Career in New York City

Sunday, September 14, 2008 2:00 p.m.
How to Begin an Acting Career in New York City:
Workshop with Career Coach, Annie Chadwick

Have you just finished an acting training program and are ready to begin seeking work but don’t know where to start? Are you a new actor to NYC, and want to know the best, most effective ways to market your talent in the Big Apple? Are you returning to acting or just starting to perform after working in the business world? In this 2 hour workshop, Actress and Career Coach Annie Chadwick will give you clear and current tools to begin building an acting career in NYC.

The Workshop will cover: Marketing Tools and Strategies; Self-Promotion; Information on how to self-submit and get your own Film/TV auditions from Online Casting Opportunities and Trade publications; and Classes, Coaches, and Resources. Attendees will also go on a tour of the Drama Book Shop and a list of resources that are essential to keeping-up with the latest projects and acting techniques.

The cost of this workshop is $50, payable on the day of the workshop. To make a reservation, call the bookshop at (212) 944-0595.

Annie just worked with director P.J. Hogan on the new Jerry Bruckheimer film, Confessions of a Shopaholic, playing John Lithgow’s wife.

Sunday, September 14, 2008 2:00 p.m.
How to Begin an Acting Career in New York City
Workshop with Carre Coach, Annie Chadwick
The Drama Book Shop
250 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018

(212) 944-0595

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

[title of show]

[title of show]

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg
Heidi Blickenstaff as Heidi (top, left), Jeff Bowen as Jeff (bottom, left)
Susan Blackwell as Susan (top, right) & Hunter Bell as Hunter (bottom, right)
in the original Broadway musical [title of show]


The Godmother of the charming new musical "[title of show]" is — drum roll please ! —Mamma Mia!

The summer has been long, humid and often peppered with curious developments, such as fouth-graders winning Olympic Gold Medals, Xanadu celebrating its first YEAR on the Rialto, a Presidential candidate choosing a running mate not only 'out of the box,' but out of the icebox, and even more vexing, a political climate where having a personal story trumps having a professional resume.

Well, "[title of show]" certainly has a personal story that trumps a professional resume. And, like Mamma Mia! all those many years ago, it faced an uphill climb prior to opening, that it would be able to win over the ever-dwindling percentage of the Broadway audience that actually lives in the five boroughs [and maybe their hundred-mile perimeter if we are to be gracious about it].

Like the Abba show, this one also takes loosely-connected elements [they had a catalog of songs, this crew had a loosely-defined series of daily-life experiences], and strings them together with catchy numbers, a simple story arch, and a mocking self-awareness that says to those in the acknowledged seats in front of them, "We know. It's a show. Relax. Give us credit for trying our hearts out."

And they succeed. The plot follows the tried and tried and tried and ever-true heartstrings plucker, the one about young hopefuls looking to make their own break in the cruel, brash and closed-door world of big-time theatre. The location moves from Mickey and Judy's barn to the modest apartment of a harmless thirty-something theatre queen, who floats the improbable notion that he and his equally-passionate friend dash off, in three weeks, an entry to a new musicals contest. They rope in two female friends, decide to use the process of writing the musical as the premise OF the musical, and staple together their late-night meetings, lunch hour brain-storming sessions, hectic rehearsals, false starts and mutual self-help moments into a kind of book. Musical support comes from the piano player Larry Pressgrove in the corner—also acknowledged.

Starring in the gem they created are Jeff Bowen [music & lyrics] and Hunter Bell [book], with able support from Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff. Heidi [the person and the character] is the only one whose feet have actually trod Broadway boards, either in large ensembles, or as an understudy.

The segment of the Mamma Mia! audience that gets the most out of that show are those who already knew, and sometimes memorized the songs that make up the score. In "[title of show]", the parallel audience segment would be anyone who remembers arcane facts about failed Broadway shows, the way one of your cousins knows every stat about every pro baseball player for the last century.

But if that is not you, or if that is partially you, it is still a great ride. It was not uncommon for skeptical New Yorkers [this writer included], who embarked on the prospect of spending an Abba night with a spine steeled with determination, vowing to make the best of a bad situation. Then, after being surrounded by ecstatic audience members cheering and stomping from the first moments the music begins, one had to admit that it was fine, it was fun, and should you permit yourself to let yourself go along for the ride, because it would be a doozey.

Director Michael Berresse brings his very recent experience as an actor in the revival of A Chorus Line. The folks that populate "[title of show]" represent those souls who do not make it past the initial cut in the first round of auditions, for a role in a new musical. The environment also recalls that chillingly-funny British comedy Extras, which follows a few wannabees stuck playing background, nameless characters on television and in films, hoping for a chance to say one line, or get cast as someone with a name.

All four actors are at the peak of their powers, not the least of which is to maintain that necessary air of moment-to-moment seeming improvisation. The cast stitches together what could have been a collection of specialty sketches, but instead gives it a cohesion and a vitality that makes the most of very limited resources.

Of the four, Susan Blackwell makes the most memorable Broadway debut. She joins the ranks of actor / comedienne performers who, if she chooses to go with the often limiting dangers of type-casting, can follow in the footsteps of real icons such as Nancy Walker, Thelma Ritter, Eve Arden and more recently, Harriet Harris.

So, it ain't Hamlet It's not even I Hate Hamlet. It is a truly welcome ninety minute vacation from all that stuff happening out there on the street.

TONY VELLELA, the veteran theatre correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, writes and produces the PBS series about theatre, "Character Studies". His work has also appeared in Parade, Theatre Week, USA Today, Dramatics, Rolling Stone, and several other publications.

FREE Q&A with Acting Coach and Author

Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.
“Meet the Author” with Adam Hill

Adam Hill, author of Beyond the Moon and You Got the Job comes to the Drama Book Shop to answer individual questions about any aspect of industry or craft. Adam Hill has taught some of the bright stars of the theatre and film world. A partial list of those who have trained with Hill include Heater Locklear, Laura Dern, Brad Garrett and Doug Savant to name just a few. He also leads an acting workshop every Monday in the Drama Book Shop’s Arthur Seelen Theatre.

250 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018

(212) 944-0595