Tuesday, February 23, 2010

POW! (Play Of The Week)

When The Rain Stops Falling
by Andrew Bovell

This is the play that Lincoln Center has chosen for its 25th Anniversary show. That is a singular honor. But this is a remarkable play. Time spins from 1959 London to 2039 Australian desert.

Here's a hint of this Pinteresque play.

In the opening scene, rain is pouring down. Everyone has umbrellas, (a la Our Town) and a fish suddenly falls from the sky. It appears to be a miracle. Fish are now extinct. Then Gabriel reads an excerpt from the book he has: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire 1975-2015.

This play is filled with the mysteries of what patterns are passed down through the generations and reveals patterns of love and betrayal from parent to child to grandchild.

There is the metaphysical search for one’s parents. The play delves into the parental conflict: how much one loves their parents but also rejects them. The play resonates with the consequences of what we say and what is left unsaid, especially with those we have our most intimate relationships.

There are marvelous monologues in this drama such as Gabriel's opening one, some can be performed by either men or women.

The characters appear as both their young selves and their older selves. The dialogue is poetic and edgy and actors will relish working on the memories that are elicited from the characters’ pasts.

It often seems the hardest thing for a playwright is the ending, and this one is satisfying and appropriate. It brings together all the varied themes of love, of loss, of what we need and never get and wish we’d loved more.

This is such a gorgeous play. Reading it took me back to my teens before college when I first discovered I could read plays as a private reader, not for auditions or for a degree, but to read the play for pure joy.

Review by Nancy Reardon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thurs, Feb 25, 2010. 6:30 PM: THE DOCTOR IS IN - FREE at The Drama Book Shop

FREE 15-minute private career consultations with Actress/Coach Annie Chadwick

Whether you are a seasoned professional, a wide-eyed beginner, or lost in the actor maze, 15 minutes with Annie Chadwick can help you identify a career focus for the next 6 months, insight into making your marketing tools more effective and innovative self-promotional techniques.

For Limited Reservations, please call the Drama Book Shop at 212.944.0595 - Walk-ins are encouraged!


***‘The Doctor Is In' is a new monthly Drama Book Shop event that coincides with our free wine & cheese night. Come enjoy and move your career to the next level!***

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mon, Feb 22 @ 5:30 PM: Book Launch for the OFF-OFF BROADWAY FESTIVAL PLAYS, 34TH SERIES (FREE) At The Drama Book Shop

Come celebrate the winning plays from the acclaimed 2009 Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival

The world’s oldest and largest publisher and licensor of plays, Samuel French Inc., is proud to celebrate its newest release “Off-Off Broadway Festival Plays, 34th Series” --A collection of winning plays from its acclaimed “2009 Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival” The launch celebration will include play readings and appearances by many of the winning authors who will be on hand to sign collection copies after the reading. Wine and Cheese party to follow.

“Off-Off Broadway Festival Plays, 34th Series” includes the following winning plays:

Just Knots by Christina Gorman, The Education Of Macoloco by Jen Silverman, Thucydices by Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola, Drop by J. Michael DeAngelis and Pete Barry, The Student by Matt Hoverman, Realer Than That by Kitt Lavoie.

Applications for the 2010 festival will also be available and Samuel French editorial staff will be there to answer any questions you may have about the 2010 festival. Please visit www.samuelfrench.com for an application and festival information.

Samuel French, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winner of Drama Book Shop Weekly Sweepstakes!

Joan Valentina won 2 tickets in our Fela sweepstakes for The first week of February.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Web, Feb 17, 2010. 7 PM: Conversation with The Pearl Theatre: Charles Dickens' HARD TIMES - FREE at The Drama Book Shop

Conversation with The Pearl Theatre: Charles Dickens' HARD TIMES

A night of performances from Charles Dickens’ HARD TIMES and conversations with Artistic Director and Dramaturg of the Pearl Theatre

In conjunction with The Pearl Theatre Company's stunning adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic Hard Times, The Drama Book Shop presents a conversation with Director, J.R. Sullivan, and Dramaturg, Kate Farrington. This whirlwind adaptation of Dickens' saga features 6 actors portraying over 2 dozen characters, where the darkest industrial landscape fills with honesty, loyalty, and joy. This event will feature readings from the play by members of The Pearl's Resident Acting Company.

ABOUT THE PLAY AND BOOK: Adapted by Stephen Jeffreys and first performed in 1982, this dramatization of Charles Dickens' 1854 novel explores and exposes the social and economic hardships of Victorian England through the tumultuous lives of the inhabitants of Coketown. The Pearl produced this adaptation during its 1997-1998 season

FOR MORE INFO: Contact The Pearl at 212-598-9802 or The Drama Book Shop at 212-944-0595

Samuel French, 1987

Monday, February 08, 2010

POW! (Play Of The Week)

Terre Haute
by Edmund White

Time is not on their side. So much to tell, so much at stake, and yet so little time! One man has a story to tell, and the other a story to write.

"[There is the loud sound of a buzzer.]

HARRISON: That’s it – time’s up. They just give us twenty minutes, though sometimes the guard goes off for a coffee break and forgets. I guess they don’t want us to work up an escape plan – or get to like each other."

Edmund White fashions his powerful two-hander on the famed Gore Vidal/Timothy McVeigh correspondence. He fictionalizes the characters, imagining what possibly would have transpired had the two men met in person at the high-security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

At the peak of his successful and controversial writing career, James interviews Harrison, an all-American-type terrorist incarcerated on “death row” with only days before his execution – or as Harrison (and McVeigh) termed “his government-assisted suicide.”

TERRE HAUTE is an intriguing play of debate and seduction – but who is seducing whom? James strikes a bargain with Harrison: “I’ll defend you in print if you give me the story of how you blew up the Murrah Building.” However, in the telling of that story, there rages a cagey cat- and-mouse game of one-upmanship. The explosive battle of wits, emotions and even sexuality is deterred from physical violence only by the protective plastic partition separating them and a guard within “earshot”. No weapons are allowed; but both men with their axes-to-grind and their persuasive charismas are weapons enough for immediate destruction.v [The buzzer sounds.]

Since time does not allow it, the play demands relentless verbal violence without an intermission. The dialogue is as directly taut and “covertly revealing” as are the characters and their unique situation. Both the playwright and the characters are racing against time.

[Again the buzzer sounds.]

The play has dynamic two-character scenes and riveting monologues which are highly charged by James’s persistent probing and Harrison’s retelling of the “Gulf War”, the FBI’s involvement in the Waco Davidian disaster, his own military training and painful rejection by the Green Berets – events which all propelled Harrison to commit the massacre in Oklahoma City – America’s home-grown terrorist attack.

[The final sound of the buzzer.]

Time has run out.

HARRISON: Goodbye.

JAMES: Thank you.

[HARRISON exits. He doesn’t look back but marches out with military correctness.]

JAMES: (confessing) That was maybe the most extraordinary moment in my life.

TERRE HAUTE: A play about the incident that we cannot and must not forget!

Review by W. Martin

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thurs, Feb 11, 2010. 6 PM: SHAKESPEARE TO SHEPARD - A FREE ACTING CLASS At The Drama Book Shop

CLASS A FREE acting class with Actress/Coach Sybil Lines with a wine & cheese reception after

For actors intrigued, nervous, or thrilled at working on Shakespeare’s characters, this workshop is a free sample class with Actress/Coach Sybil Lines. Her visceral approach makes it suitable for beginners as well as more seasoned professionals. SHAKESPEARE TO SHEPARD, a 6-week acting course, is planned to commence in February.

SHAKESPEARE TO SHEPARD is an acting workshop that explores the similarities and differences in tackling Shakespeare’s works compared to modern American playwrights. There will be scene study work on modern writers (Mamet, Albee, Miller, etc.) and Shakespeare. Sybil encourages the exploration of the primal needs that prompt a character to speak. She encourages an actor to do the detective work into the character by analyzing the use of the words. The class uses exercises that help the actor find the psychological and emotional intensity. There are also exercises to develop the energy and appropriate physical power for classical texts. Exercises from her classical course, “Shakespeare from the Loins,” will also be included in the workshop. Through them, the actor will be more comfortable with heightened language and meter, while avoiding phony tonal qualities and sing-song delivery.

When writers choose to write a drama over a novel or poem, they entrust the completion of their communication to an actor. It is up to you to fulfill that trust with an approach that focuses on organic specificity, modulation and new thought while honing technical skills that enable the full expression of a passionate imagination.

SYBIL LINES has appeared on BBC television and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as work on Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theaters. To read her full bio please visit HYPERLINK

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

POW! (Play Of The Week)

by Lucy Caldwell

Depression. Anxiety. Confusion. Guilt. These are just some of the powerful feelings lurking beneath the understated dialogue in this brand-new play about an Irish family in crisis.

The play begins with the Murdoch clan--parents David and Phyllis, and daughters Poppy and Clover--nervously awaiting the arrival of a third daughter, Lori, who is heading home from college following a suicide attempt. Predictably, Mom and Dad aren't sure they can face her, their two younger children are a tad jittery because their big sister is coming home (and after being under the care of a psychiatrist, no less), and, in general, everyone is ready to explode at everyone else at the drop of the proverbial hat.

Forced laughter and stiff upper lips abound until (and, of course, even after) Lori walks through the door. Before long, she is reuniting, painfully, with her kid sisters, her emotionally repressed Dad, and--most importantly--her Mom, who has scenes with her oldest and most beleaguered child that might, just might, break your heart.

What is to blame for Lori's breakdown? WHO is to blame? Possibilities are hinted at, nothing more. Maybe it was the loneliness she felt attending a school so far from home; maybe it was something else. One of the points of the play, of course, is that a girl's spirit has been broken, perhaps irreparably, and even she doesn't know why. All she can do now is try to put the pieces back together with the help of the people who love her the most. Her return home marks but the first tentative step on the long, rutted road to recovery--but what a crucial step it is.

(There are several two-character scenes featuring various members of the family, as well as some excellent monologues for Phyllis and Lori. An Irish dialect is optional. Well worth taking a look!)

Cast: 1M, 4W

Recommended by: Stu

Monday, February 01, 2010

Intermission Talk

January 30, 2010

Intermission Talk

by Tony Vellela

Reviewing 'Race,'

'A View from the Bridge,'

& 'A Little Night Music,'

The well-known act of betrayal committed by Eddie Carbone, the Italian longshoreman in Arthur Miller's often underrated 1955 drama 'A View from the Bridge,' involves turning in an immigrant who has entered the country illegally - a simple, clear act. What leads up to this shattering development begins with his wife Beatrice's hospitality for her two cousins who have stowed away on a freighter. They have taken up residence in the Red Hook, Brooklyn apartment with her, Eddie, and their seventeen-year-old niece Catherine, whom they have raised since she was a baby after her parents died. Crowded house.

Family trumps risk when lives are at stake, and the stowaways, called 'submarines' by the dock workers, have made this daring move because there is no work at all in their small village. Marco, the older brother, has a wife and children, while his younger brother Rodolfo, is single and a bit carefree. Their motives are all too familiar in an ethnic neighborhood that closes ranks when members of the tribe need help. There is an assumed, unspoken trust that insures discretion, and even deception, a trust that will keep the illegal asylees out of harm's way until they can become just two more invisible workers.

But the opposite of trust, it can be argued, is betrayal. And the examples of betrayal, large and small, public and private, old and new, pepper the tale that Miller has fashioned from a real event he heard about in the early '50s, when he was planning to write a screenplay about the conditions of longshoremen, [titled 'The Hook']. It was never completed, but elements show up in 'On the Waterfront.' Betrayal, to Miller, always registers as one of mankind's greatest sins.

In this production at the Cort Theatre, spot-on acting elevates Miller's basically simple story into one of tragic proportions, in large part because its smallness is honored. All six principals - the aforementioned plus the lawyer Alfieri who also serves as a narrator a few times - come naturally to life through the careful performances of Liev Schreiber [Eddie], Jessica Hecht [Beatrice], Scarlett Johansson [Catherine], Corey Stoll [Marco], Morgan Spector [Rodolfo] and Michael Christofer [Alfieri] - a formidable ensemble, under the quiet directorial hand of Gregory Mosher.

Collectively, they show rather than just tell, the many acts of betrayal as they gain momentum and then spiral out of control. At the rotten core is Eddie's brooding, repressed lust for his niece, which surfaces as jealousy when Catherine and Rodolfo begin a romance. Eddie's obsessive, controlling attention to Catherine's 'welfare' represents the major violation of trust, the one that he joined Beatrice in pledging when they took in the baby to raise as their own.

Jessica Hecht's Beatrice keeps in check as long as she can, the wife's frustration at the decline of their sex life, and the rise of Eddie's no longer subtle attraction to Catherine, a double betrayal. Rodolfo's reckless need to go out nights, with Catherine, betrays the necessity for him and his brother to keep undercover until it is safe for them to leave the Carbones, risking the loss of the money they are making. Rodolfo buys clothes and records, but Marco sends his money back to Italy, to see that his family has food to eat.

Johansson's Catherine is not blameless. She proclaims that she knows more about the world than Eddie or Beatrice realize, which makes her culpable in keeping up her little- girl behavior toward Eddie, while at the same time walking around the apartment in her slip, or talking with him while he shaves in the bathroom in his underwear. The actress, who exerts real restraint in hiding the fact that she is about a decade too old for this part, makes a decent Broadway debut, but is too often overshadowed by the powerhouse duo playing her surrogate parents. When Schreiber careers uncontrollably into the dark abyss that will define his memory, the true impact of his accumulation of betrayals comes through - the actor always maintains the character's sense of his disbelief in the inevitability of his fate.

Carbone is called out by Marco, on the street, who accuses him of turning in his brother, and as a result, robbing Marco of his income to feed his family. Carbone refuses to take the blame, and demands that Marco renounce his accusation. This betrayal extends beyond Carbone's domain. It is a betrayal of the entire community, of the 'extended family' that protects each other against the outsiders, whoever they are, however legitimate their authority. Carbone has brought disgrace, shame to this Brooklyn-based Italian 'village.' "I want my name," Carbone shouts. But he has lost it, forfeited it. Those who know the Miller canon will recall another accused man who makes the same plea - 'The Crucible's' John Proctor, who shouts "Leave me my name."

No one will accuse Stephen Sondheim of betraying his destiny, and his 'A Little Night Music' attests to his dedication to making musical theatre a place of wonder and fulfillment. Would that those who produced the current revival at the Walter Kerr Theatre had the same commitment.

Despite the megawatt star power of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, this luxuriant musical masterpiece comes in somewhat less that dazzling. And the culprit is the current trend of presenting epic theatre creations in minimalist fashion [e.g. the recent, now-shuttered production of 'Ragtime']. A basically bare stage, supplemented by a few chairs and screens from time to time, do not an epic make. Add to that the unfortunate choices made by costume designer David Farley [who also did the set design] to clad most of the participants in shades of grey, and you get the look of a cash-strapped summer theatre struggling to make its fare look more upscale that it is.

Nothing about Ms. Lansbury is low-energy. At eighty-something, her zeal still engulfs the stage. She embodies what 'Streetcar's' Blanche wishes for when she says 'I don't want realism. I want magic.' Even playing Madame Armfeld, a crusty end-of-life courtesan confined to a wheelchair, she radiates her life force like a Chinese lantern, lit from within. As her actress daughter Desiree, who now struggles with that period in a seductress's life when she may be losing her allure, Zeta-Jones hardly looks like a female with that predicament. [remember when Michelle Pfeiffer was cast as the weary, worn-out plain waitress in 'Frankie and Johnny?']. She's got enough vocal ability and on-stage mobility to carry off the demanding lead role, but one never buys into her as ready for her midlife crisis. She would benefit from one of Barbara Cook's vocal classes, where she counsels students on how to use lyrics to tell a story, and to ar-tic-u-late, so the lyricist's craft can be fully appreciated. The real stand-out in the cast, Alexander Hanson, brings to life Desiree's former and once-again present lover Fredrik. He is that rare Broadway commodity, a mature leading man who can sing, move, act and elicit swoons. He's a British import.

Yes, the now-iconic numbers are here, with Lansbury recounting with wry wit her 'Liaisons,' and Zeta-Jones realizing it's time for her to 'Send in the Clowns.' This is a score that caresses you. However, this is a production that only pinches your cheek.

And talk about cheek. Last, and least, there is David Mamet's 'Race.' This shameless piece of claptrap that makes 'Oleanna' look like 'Inherit the Wind,' purports to examine honestly the case of a white, middle-aged executive accused of raping a black female employee - details truly irrelevant. Mamet is more transparent than usual in showing his contempt for audiences - the lawyers are white James Spader, called here Jack LAWSON, and black David Alan Grier, here called Henry BROWN. Their new legal 'apprentice,' a black female law student from Lawson's class called Susan, [Kerry Washington's unmemorable Broadway debut], has no last name. Misogyny, anyone?

Holes in the logic of the story make you wonder how this law firm got to be so successful. First, a critical piece of evidence is a postcard, and later, a letter. Their daily calendar is devoid of other clients. And then there's the business of ... oh, who cares? My verdict is that very soon they will be posting a 'final weeks' notice. Case dismissed.

On Book . . .

Stop me if you know this, but for anyone who likes, admires or reveres the brilliance of Arthur Miller, his imposing autobiography 'Timebends' presents the grand sweep of a grand life, and the more-than-grand outpouring of one of America's true creative geniuses. The other creative genius aforementioned, Stephen Sondheim, has the invention of a dozen of his masterworks chronicled in Craig Zadan's captivating 'Sondheim & Co.' From 'Anyone Can Whistle' and 'A Little Night Music' to 'Sweeney Todd' and 'West Side Story,' and the eight others in between, this 'authorized, behind-the scenes' journal will provide good Company.

Sondheim occupies but one chapter in 'Geniuses of the American Musical Theatre - The Composers and Lyricists.' Herbert Keyser hits all the right notes, from Arlen to Willson, from Berlin to Youmans. This hefty tome is something to sing about. And if the subject of great dramatic story-telling is on your mind after seeing 'A View From The Bridge,' Eric Bentley's 'The Life of the Drama' will provide insight into how all the parts should be constructed to create that well-built play. Bentley gets to the root of enduring, universal playwriting, Here are the basics, and there is no substitute for them.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS documentary series 'Character Studies,' about theatre. He has been covering theatre and the performing arts as a critic, journalist and interviewer for four decades, in dozens of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Dramatics Magazine, Parade, Saturday Review and Rolling Stone. He is also an award-winning playwright, and teaches at HB Studio in New York.