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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Atlantic Theater's HOLD onto ME DARLING- Is too Long, Still it Grabbed Me

The lively comedy HOLD onto ME DARLING begins with a country singing star bemoaning the recent passing of his beloved mama.  After that, hold onto your hat because the enormous ego of its charismatic lead, Strings (a handsome hunky Timothy Olyphant) ensures nothing will fit his head.  Strings does not perform a solo of self-serving, manipulative agenda.  Nancy, hired as a masseuse to relieve Strings of stress, lathers herself onto this successful star and won't let go.  This appealing play has a lot to say about givers & takers, movers & shakers and sycophants, hopelessly devoted.   After learning of "dear mama's" passing, Strings skips out on the film he's shooting & takes a detour from his singing tour.  He heads back to his TN hometown to be with his brother for the burial of their mother.  Little brother commiserates with his big brother over their dear departed mama.  Strings tells his brother Duke he envies his life; a wife, kids & steady job.  Strings would gladly trade places.  It's Duke whose led the charmed life of a king.  Strings has never felt he lived up to mama's expectations.  Olyphant & Keith Nobbs as Jimmy, Strings' unctuous lackey are pitch perfect.  The clever rotating set helps the comedy roll along as Strings spins his lascivious web and gets himself tangled.  Does it always come down to blaming the mother?  I find no fault with this witty play other than it held on a bit too long.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Julliard Jazz Artist Diploma Ensemble Perform Early Masters of Jazz

The Diploma Ensemble consists of jazz artists who've earned degrees from Julliard.  Last night's program was a tribute to the early masters of Jazz:  Buddy Bolden, Sideney Bechet and of course, the great Louis Armstrong.  The ensemble comprised a jazz pianist, bass player, drummer, clarinetist, trombonist and trumpet player.  The trumpet player's solos were strong and nuanced.  The trombone player added his vocals to Bolden's "Careless Love" and the trumpet player sang in part to Armstrong's "Heebie Jeebies."  Their singing wouldn't land them gigs but it provided mirth to their numbers.  Bolden, Bechet and Armstrong (the most pivotal & influential figure in jazz) were all artists credited with 1st establishing the Amer artform of jazz.  Bolden was a trumpet player & composer (b. 1877-1931.)  Unfortunately, his playing was never recorded.  (Interesting tidbits of info are shared by the performers.)  The program had an early ragtime, jazzy blues sound.  The horn instruments used mute caps which made the trebling wah wah wah sounds.  Bechet (b. 1897-1959) is considered one of the 1st notable jazz saxophon players.  The stirring program comprised of music originated in the US (primarily New Orleans) is still revered a century later.  The light hearted, thigh slapping music had one short somber composition written as a funeral march "Nearer My God to Thee."  The program of early masters of jazz had the power to evoke joy & sorrow and laid a foundation for the evolving & thriving artform of jazz.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The film MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a Nightmare of a Movie

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is awful and a horrible waste of a talented actors: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver and Kirsten Dunst.  Dunst & Shannon are parents to son, Alton (Jaedan Lieberher.) Alton posses some special abilities that make him sought after by the US military & religious cults.  Jaedan is already a seasoned actor (St. Vincents co-starring Bill Murray & Melissa McCarthy.)   Alton is fleeing with his father & his cohort during the night.  This eerie, violent but unsuspenseful film is a cheap grab bag of E.T. and car chase killer/thrillers.  However, the movie lacks charm & excitement.  For all the fast car chases this movie drags on too long.  The hook comes when we see Alton's eyes turn into lightbeams.  We learn his father is fighting against all odds to…get somewhere, for some reason at some point.  Sheehan, Driver & Edgerton do their best to put some energy into this dreadful movie written & directed by Jeff Nichols (MUD, starring Matthew McConaughey.)  The same cannot be said for Dunst who acts like a dunce & Jaeden Lieberher fails to radiate emotion.  The sic-fi  E.T. twist ending is anti-climatic.  Whatever spectrum of curiosity is aroused gets doused.  Don't search for meaning from this spectrum of film genres.  MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is substellar and should stay in a dark cellar.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

FAMILIAR by Playwright Danai Gurira is Disarming Family Dynamics

Award winning playwright, Danai Gurira has 2 plays currently running.  "Eclipsed" on B'wy &  "Familiar" at The Playwrights Horizons.  Gurira's (b. US and raised in Zimbabwe) writes about Zimbabwe immigrants who fled during the Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979) and live in MN.  The couple have raised their 2 adult daughters, Tendi who is about to be married and Nyasha just returning from Africa to attend the wedding.  The parents Donald & Marvelous live in an upscale suburban area. Margaret is Marvelous' sister.  She lives nearby & is there for her neice's wedding.  Donald is mild mannered and Marvelous is overbearing & commandeering.  As soon as Nyasha returns the bickering between mother & daughter commence, anger mounts and Donald hides out.  Can't blame him for all the yelling.  The boisterous, canterkous accusations fly at high decibles.  Commotion centers around preparations for Tendi's wedding to Chris.  Chris does religious volunteer work in Africa.  Tendi is an atty with her father's firm.  Weddings call up tradition and tension.  The conflicts deal with blending African & US traditions not with race.  FAMILIAR has scenarios of assimilation but on a much broader scale.  The situation spirals out of control when the oldest sister who still lives in Zimbabwe arrives with her own agenda for the nuptials.   The 1st act is a hilarious parody of respect, heritage, relgious & culturak values that is preposterous. The 2nd act takes a serious, absurdist twist that bring intelligence & awareness to what constitutes a family and questions when customs become antiquated.  Gurira's clever writing and strong cast performances combine for an entertaining and discerning play. FAMILIAR resonates on many levels but is atypical from most family dramas.  Nyasha's solo at the end is beautiful. I give the play an A.      

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Julliard Dances Rep 2016 Taylor, Robbins and Klylian Choreography

The Julliard dance students are all commendable, exceptional & exuberant.  I love seeing the dancers - I don't always love the dance.  "Roses" by Paul Taylor (1985) was the 1st of 3 works in the repertoire. I'm not a fan of Taylor's choreography.  "Roses" - you need work at staying awake.  "Roses" is a tired, listless dance.  The lovely dancers were clad in shades of gray, black & white but the entire piece was awash in shades of gray.  There was no spark, no arch and too much lolling on the floor.  The piece was a bore.  Nonetheless, the Julliard Orch performed Wagner's music with flourish and deserve recognition for their playing.  The last piece on the program, "Symphony of Psalms" was the antithesis to Taylor's tedious work.   Choreographer Jiri Kylian's (b. Czech 1947) ambitious dance was set to Stravinsky's powerful Symph of Psalms.  The Julliard Orch played majestically and the Venture (NY) chorus added a layered emotional fabric to the dancing.  Religious outlooks aside, "Praise Ye the Lord, Praise Him with the sound of trumpets…AND THE DANCE."  The students did a remarkable job with demanding chroreography.  I was swept up in the rousing work.  My favorite piece, was by the legendary choreographer, Jerome Robbins entitled" MOVES," (1959.)  The dance is done without music.  The piece remains contemporary.  It combines precise steps & elegiac ballet moves.  The women were on pointe.  The pleasing pastiche of modern & ballet without accompaniment was staggering.  (How did they keep count?)  The dancers evoked a sensual & viseral response in their partnering.  Robbins may have appropriated some moves into his "Glass Pieces" (1983.)  The students gave a penetrating performance. The Julliard Dance programs are always worth attending.  The program is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get but it's always a treat.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

We Really Like Sally Fields in MY NAME is DORIS

MY NAME is DORIS is a very likable film featuring Sally Fields as Doris, a delusional relic in a young person's world.  She plays the old fool willing to learn a few new tricks.  She won me over with her gutsy grab for gusto.  At first, Doris is seems the stereotypical spinster who sacrificed her life to take care of mom leaving her living alone except for a feline and a household of trash.  The courageous, self-effacing quest for the unattainable office hunk leads Doris on a delightful transition into the world of possibilities with a clean slate.  All the characters are likeable, quirky and caring.  Doris (the illuminating Fields) finds herself working in an office with a rubber ball underneath & peers a generation or two younger.  Although not a total recluse, she lives an unhealthy hoarding lifestyle.  Doris' best friend is veteran actress Tyne Daly (6 time Emmy winner & Tony winner.)  Daly performance is Oscar worthy.  This movie is about friendship & compassion as well as taking a leap of faith.  John (Max Greenfield, "The New Girl")  is the new art dir. at the office where Doris is a holdover from before the takeover.  She is an oddball, wallflower willing herself to blossom.  Greenfield plays John charisma & charm and is lead male material.  There are cringeworthy moments due to Doris' obsessive & compulsive behaviors but these make you like her all the more for efforts. MY NAME is DORIS is a movie I adored.  Yes, I really like this chick flick with Sally Fields.  It's a film to look forward to seeing.    

NY Rangers Make Bobble Heads out of Boston Bruins on March 23rd

Wed night's Ranger  game at MSG was a big win over the Boston Bruins who went home with their heads held down.  The 5-2 victory was a slick victory.  In the 1st period, Rangers scored on 2 consecutive power plays in short order but not without a major fight breaking out on the ice.  Boston's Belesky felt slammed (check that) and went after Glass with a sucker punch that was returned.  Glass didn't deserve the penalty for fighting, Belesky started it.  Glass shot at Belesky landed a stunning shiner that showed up before Belesky bolted from the box.  There were 2 interesting calls that worked in the Rangers favor.  Coming into the 21st C with sports challenges, Rangers' coach called for a review on a Bruins goal. He questioned an offsides infraction prior to the goal.  After review, the goal was gone and the crowd went wild: HEY HEY HEY Hey now!  Good call by both the coach & the referees.  Another Bruins goal went under review by the refs and while the jumbo screen seemed to justify the goal, the refs ruled otherwise and Ranger fans will take the goal and be all the wiser.  With little hope or luster left, the Bruins pulled their goalie with 3 minutes left in the 3rd & the Rangers put another goal on the scoreboard.  Despite the Bruins having more than 30 shots on goal only 2 goals made it by Henrik Lundquist.  Center Derek Stepan stepped up his game and everyone could use a wingman like Zuccarello.   Happy Ranger fans all went home with a "Zuc" bobblehead.

THE WAY WEST-Not Worth Wasting Your Time or $ at Labyrinth Theater

I detested this annoyingly misguided show.  It is an aggraviting waste of time.  Set in contemporary CA, this is a long winded story about a mentally unstable mother,  of 2 grown daughters who is financially strapped with a loose grasp on reality.  Family dysfunction and financial crisis can be fodder for drama but this black comedy is without levity, sanity or credibility.  Mom has gone through the last of her $13,000 savings as a gullible rube in a shady scam.  Older, wiser, departed daughter Manda has returned from Chicago as a grant writer (how ironic) to help sort her mother's health & money crisis.  Younger, wilder & ruthless daughter Meesh is a mess who only exacerbates her mother's money woes and Manda's wrath.  The only reprieve and light (other than the house fire) come from the vistas out the 2 large pane windows showing shimmering rays of colorful sunsets.  My interest in this play by Mona Mansour (her previous plays were commissioned by NY Public Theater) died soon after the show started.  Mom's monologues about westerner's resourcefulness & perseverance wears thin. Motivational cliches of  nothing ventured nothing gained are wan.  There were multiple missed opportunities for telling worthy tales from financial crisis fallouts.  The value to seeing this show is irredeemable.  Stay away from this dreadful play which runs low on entertainment and peters on far too long.  

EDGAR DEGAS: A Strange New Beauty at MoMA

Edgar Degas (b. France 1834-1917) is a major artist of the 19th C best known for his lovely depiction of ballet dancers in various positions of repose.  This exciting & rare exhibit of Degas' works: drawings, monotypes, prints, oil & watercolor paintings (no sculptures) is a glimpse into the artist's experimentation with various mediums & his broad oeuvre.  The constant theme throughout is Degas' fascination with capturing ephemeral moments & intimate glimpses of women's private toilette.  The nudes & drawings of women bathing are voyeuristic and titilating.  I think he was motivated to capture a fleeting, unobserved moment.   Many of Degas' depiction of dancers portray them off-stage; adjusting their costumes or relaxing rather than their performance.  I noticed a similarity between Degas' paintings with his fellow Frenchmen, Bonnard (1867-1947) and Lautrec (1864-1901.)  Bonnard & Degas (surprisingly) were both prolific painters of women bathing.  Bonnard & Lautrec were huge fans of dancing & the entertainment nightlife.  Several of Degas' paintings I confused with Lautrec because of  the similar iridescent lighting & composition.  The additional allure of the exhibit is noting the evolution of Degas' works.  The happenstance of his prints and watercolor landscapes demonstrate a freedom & abandon to his practice.  The transition from the precise figurative drawings to the blurred, somewhat abstract paintings of dancers is enthralling.  The last gallery contain elegant & lovely pastels/oils of the ballet world.  It is the choreographing leading to these paintings that enrich the appreciation for his body of work.  "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." (E.D.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

REMEMBER-An Unforgettable Story of Senior Holocaust Survivors

REMEMBER is a remarkable film that will serve as a reminder of the genocide of 6,000,000 Jews & millions of others during WWII.  It addresses the turbulence of hatred that festers.  The number of survivors from the Holocaust have dwindled.  Soon, there will be no one left with a 1st hand account of the Nazi's atrocities.  Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor and famous Nazi hunter died in 2005.  His mission in the pursuit of Nazis "was justice, not vengence."  Wiesenthal wanted them brought to trial for the world to hear & know the truth of their heinous crimes against humanity.  Max (Oscar winner Martin Landau) and Lev (Christopher Plummer) are 2 elderly men living in the same assisted living facility.  The movie stars with Lev waking calling out for Ruth, his wife of many years who recently passed.  Max (wheel chair bound & tethered to an oxygen tank) and Lev conspire together on the last night of Yahrzeit (mourning) for Lev's wife, Ruth.  The 2 geriatrics still have tricks (& cash) up their sleeves.  It becomes obvious that Lev has dementia.  He is in needs constant reminders & is often confused.  Max has written a letter for Lev (which he constantly refers) and reminds Lev of his promise made for after his beloved Ruth passed.  Both actors give tour de force performances.  Max is a wizened & frail yet still a force to be reckoned.  Lev's senility is so prominent its incredulous to believe him capable of  navigating his travels let alone hunt down & murder the Nazi guard they both knew from Auschwitz.   The movie is filled with intrigue, pathos and mystery.  It will have you riveted throughout the slow suspenseful scenes and the combustible confrontations.  REMEMBER pays tribute to the millions killed in the Holocaust and serves as a permanent, indelible reminder.  "For ever to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing."  "Justice for crimes against humanity must have no limitations." (S. Wiesenthal)

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Coen Brothers' HAIL CEASAR-Conquers at the Box Office

Joel & Ethan Coen are a screenwriter/director duo extraordinaire.  Their films are diverse, dark, comic, & intellectual; an acquired taste that continue to amaze.  This film is an homage to the motion picture industry of the 1950's with a wink to big blockbuster films, studio heads and a serious nod to black listing of writers, actors & directors.  The head of the studio is played by Josh Brolin who is a cool crisis control man with a penchant for confession.  George Clooney is a major star in the latest major production.  He is often errant except this time he's been abducted for ransom.  The Coen brothers are able to reel in major stars for minor roles.  Tilda Swinton is deliciously conniving as twin gossip columnists snooping for a salacious scoop.  Ralph Fiennes play a movie director whose artistic sensibilities are too sensitive.  And, Channing Tatum is the lead in a musical morph of "On the Town." The fancy fleet footwork & musical rendition would have Gene Kelly applauding.  The most hilarious scene has Brolin conferring with 4 disparate religious leaders to seek their approval on the portrayal of Christ in the studio's upcoming movie.  HAIL CEASAR is clever & great tongue in cheek fun.  The Coen brother's trademark genius is imprinted in every cell.  Clooney says he is stepping away from the  camera.  Should this be his swan song, he departs on a pinnacle performance.  Alden Ehrenreich plays a western rodeo actor the studio is grooming for greatness.  Ehrenreich is poised to be an A list movie star.  We'll be seeing a lot more of this handsome lead on the big screen.  HAIL CEASAR is a definite  crowd pleaser.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Oscar de la Renta's Retrospective at the De Young in San Francisco

Oscar de la Renta (b. Dominican Republic 1932) died in the U.S. in 2014; having held duo Dominican & Amer citizenship.  His legacy for haute couture designs are known for their elegance, flair and for making women look & feel their loveliest.  He dressed numerous First Ladies, ladies who lunch and an array of A list celebrities.  His designs adorned First Ladies:  Kennedy, Reagan, Bush & Clinton.  His clothes are worn by contemporary entertainers:  Rihana, Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP), Penelope Cruz and Jessica Chestain.   He designed Amal Clooney's wedding dress, Laura Bush's inaugural dress and was honored at the MET Costume Instit Ball where Sarah Jessica Parker wore a ball gown with his name emblazoned in red (included in the exhibit.)  Many of the gowns & ready to wear outfits are identified by their owners; many belonging to Nan Kempner, Mercedes Bass, Lynn Wyatt and SF's infamous Pres of the  DeYoung Museum, Dede Wilsey.  It's fun to connect the seams with who was seen wearing what outfit.  This lavish exhibit is a joy to behold.  The designs and exquisite craftsmanship are breathtaking.  I dreamt of taking an outfit or two home with me.  Vogue style editor, Andre Leon Talley curates this fashionista's feast.  Talley takes us through Renta's designs beginning in the 1950's through the 21st C.  While some fashions are embedded in a specific era, most are timeless works of art and many iconic pieces are here to admire & eye with envy.  Renta's passions & influences are part of the exhibit. For example, his fascination with Spanish & Russian culture and his love for gardens & flowers are appropriated in his fancy frocks.  The elaborated beaded bolero jackets were my favorite pieces. "Fashion is about the present and the immediate future.  I think in terms of now." (O de la Renta) Oscar's designs demonstrate a timeless beauty.  

SMOKE FALL Starring Zachary Quinto at Lortel Theater

Zachary Quinto, who played the iconic role of Dr Spock in the latest Star Trek trilogy, is cast in a 1st rate crew of actors in this stellar show.  SMOKE FALL is a unique theatrical hybrid.  This family/drama is a blend of tragedy/love, vaudeville/theology and classic literary references.  The family at the center revolves around a husband & wife; the couples' daughter and the wife's father.  Footnotes for the characters:  the mother, Violete, is 9 months pregnant with twin boys, the husband Daniel, abandons the family prior to Violete's delivery, their young daughter, Beauty, has been mute for 3 years and subsists, inexplicably on toxic materials & inedible materials.  Addendum to the footnote:  Violete's father, the Colonel, a life-long military man is senile which is both troubling and bemusing.  To clarify further, the male actors perform duo roles, the female actresses stay in character but appear at different stages in their lives.  Quinto's commanding leads are both as narrator (or footnote explainer,) Fetus Two and Samuel (one of the twins.)  There is a hilarious & clever scene between the two fetuses occurring during labor that is beyond brilliant.  The brothers tickle each other & the audience with their religious banter & future aspirations.  Scenes steer through time at warp speed, traveling between present, past & future.  Playwright & screenwriter (Stand up Guys with Al Pacino) Noah Haidle's skillful writing is engaging & profound.  Questions regarding faith, familial bonds and life's meanings are struck with gravitas.  Regardless of the Colonel's mystifying grasp on reality, he delivers beams of resounding wisdom.  "The greatest act of courage is to love."  This sizzling production will live long and prosper.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Met Breuer "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible"

It's interesting to note that the 1st major exhibit at the new Met Breuer (in what was the Whitney on Madison) is entitled "Unfinished:  Thoughts Left Visible."  As the new transition begins, the artworks represented now are by great master painters and highly esteemed contemporary artists whose works for various reasons remained unfinished.  The works are from the MET's collections.  The top floor contains a plethora of works by major contemporary artists:  Pollack, Twombly, Marden, Mondrian, Newman, Johns, Lewitt, Marshall, & de Kooning are included along with other famous artists.  This gallery is a cornucopia of first-class paintings, sculptures, installations and videos.  With abstract art, it is not clearly defined what constitutes a finished creation.  As much as I enjoyed seeing Twombly's 6 emerald & white oil paintings, de Kooning's abstract figurative painting or one of Pollack's drip paintings, I would assume them to be completed works.  I'll accept the artist's own confirmation that they were unfinished.  An early Mondrian piece utilizes black tape and pencil lines indicative of the direction his modern paintings were headed.  Sol Lewitt's cube sculpture installment shows fragmented   figures.  And, an early grey Jasper John's painting is indicative of his future collage/paintings.  The gallery below contains many breathtaking works by Picasso, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh and Lucian Freud. Here it is more obvious that the works went unfinished (except for the beautiful Van Gogh.)  Nonetheless, there is an stirring beauty, intrigue and solemnity to the works for having been left incomplete.  The new Met Breuer's first show is first rate and one that I will see several more times although this will not be sufficiently satisfying.

ECLIPSED starring Lupita Nyong'o on Bwy

ECLIPSED by playwright Danai Gurira (b. Amer rasied in Zimbabwe) is a gripping & distubing drama depicting the terrors and savagery of war.  ECLIPSED encapsalates the calamities from the Liberian Civil Wars (1989-96 & 1999-2003.)  Gurira focus is on the women as victims of war loads & soldiers; torn from their families and forced into sexual servitude.  Some women chose to take-up arms as fighters rather than being victimized. These women in turn become killers & oppressors.  The play centers around a household of women.  The women were all abducted from their families and now form a family of concubines for a war load.  There's a hierachy amongst the women.  Wife #1 rules the roost over successive wives.  The set is a delapitated hovel and begins with The Girl (Acad Award winner Lupita Nyong'o) captive arrival.  The Girl is disoriented & despondent having been obducted from her parents.  She finds her plight abhorrent but finds comforte from the maternal attentions of Wife #1 & companionship of Wife #3.  Wife #3 is close in age and brings a liveliness to their forced circumstances.  The Girl is literate and reads to the 2 wives about Pres Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky.  There is comic relief in their bafflement as to how the affair is viewed by Mrs Clinton & the American public.  Needless to say, this is an intense drama depicting the horrors of war.  Wife #2 chose to take up arms & empower herself.  Wife #2 returns & manipulates The Girl into joining her on the battlefront.  The Girl's epiphany to her new role is harrowing.  There is a counter balance to the Hell of war from Rita, a representative in the council of women negotiating peace.  ECLIPSED is brilliantly written, deftly acted anti-war play that is worth seeing.  But, the realities of this play overshadows its dramatic achievement.  

French Composer Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie Conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen

Olivier Messiaen's (b. France 1908-92) Turangalila-symphony is a resounding orchestration.  Written in 1946, the piece sounds contepmorary.  It evokes the genius of Gershwin & Stravinsky.  There is a progressive energy that resonates with vigor & jubilation.  The massive instrumentation placed heavy  emphasis on the percussive section:  Provencal drum, snare drum, bass drum, orchestra bells, vibraphone, temple blocks, wood block and Turkish cymbal.  In addition, the orchestra had a piano and several ondes martenots (electronic keyboard instruments.)  The piano solo was performed by award winning artist Yuja Wang (b. China 1987.)  Guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (b. Finland 1957) led the NYPhil Orch. The ondes martenot solo is played by accomplished pianist & harpist Valerie Hartmann (b. France.)  Hartmann colloborated with Olivier Messian on the Saint Francois Opera d'Assise.  While both soloist play with fluidity & gusto, the drums were predominant.  The Provencal drummer was elevated above the stage and he's playing seemed at the core of the piece while the keyboards embellished the piece.  Messian's lively & whimsical piece (wood blocks, cymbals, maracas and tuba) was captivating.  I was seated among a group of 6-8th graders who were enraptured.  Several of the girls were seated forward in their seats & the young men kept time with their bodies.  Perhap this was a musical group.  Regardless, the exciting concert was appreciated by young & old, alike.  Messiaen described his composition by stating "This work is a song of love."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

RED SPEEDO at NY Theater Workshop-Don't Stop Just Go See this Winning Play

The winning at all costs justification for doping, lying, cheating is in the forefront of all prof. sports.  This prescient play comes at you from every angle with clever dialogue and cloying cunningness.  It stings like a flicked towel.  The 1 act, 4 character play, complete with lap pool, is about deceitfulness with a myopic focus on the prize regardless of any casualties.  The play makes swift twists & turns with a cutting edge.  "I'm tired of winning," says Ray (a convincing Alex Breaux.) He's an athlete whose "whole life has been dedicated to swimming," leaving him little without any other viable skill or income.  Peter, Ray's brother, atty. & business partner tells Ray "People with money are better."  Peter claims to have Ray's back & best interests.  Peter's best interests rely on Ray's qualifying for the olympics in order to cash in on a lucrative endorsement deal with Speedo.  Filling in the cast is Ray's coach and his ex-girlfriend.  Roy Oberson's lyrics "Anything you want, Anything you need, Anything at all, you got it," are played relentlessly prior to the play's start.  Ray plops in & out of the pool making waves.  The jarring horn blares, signaling the start of each race.  There's no horn sounding as people are mercilessly thrown under the bus.  The tempo of the play intensifies until everyone is seeing red.  RED SPEEDO is a slick trainwreck that qualifies as a contender.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Doc Film COLLIDING DREAMS-Zionism & the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

COLLIDING DREAMS is an insightful tour de force examination of the ongoing struggles between Jews v Arabs, Israelis v Palestinians and the oppressed v the oppressor.  Directed by 2 Amer award winning documentarians, Joseph Dorman (b. 1958) and Oren Rudavsky (b. 1957) this contemplative conversation regarding political ideologies of the century-old clash is informative & eye opening.  The doc. does an admirable historical account of the Palestinians and Jews starting towards the end of the 19th C in the Middle East & Eastern Europe.  The doc. begins/ends with a minute of silence in memorium in Israel where the country comes to a complete standstill.  The scene is eerily sobering.  There is historical & contemporary footage, photographs, newsreels & interviews.  The interviews represent an extensive range of historians and political/religious leaders.  The prevailing question of a peaceful solution and its seemingly improbably outcome are weighed heavily.  As an American the indigienous Palestinians and their plight parallels in many ways that of the Native Amer Indian.   And, it is impossible not to understand the the Jewish ideology of a historically significant & democratic haven.  The question is fairly raised if Zionism is a form of racism and it's sought whether the demonized Jew has evolved into a demonological Israeli society.  The impact of co-existence between Jews & Palestinians & Arab nations is continuously escalating into massive carnage.  Glimpses into missed opportunities for peace are heartrending.  War torn battles and violent clashes are maddening. The quote by an Israeli spokesperson poignantly ascertained the hotbed situation.  The Jews settling in Israel is tantamount "to jumping from a burning building onto someone else's head."  COLLIDING DREAMS is must see & discussed --documentary.  This blistering film seeks to represent intelligent & impartial views with aspirations for peace.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Movie EDDIE the EAGLE Starring Hugh Jackman Soars

The feel good formulaic feature based on the true story of an unlikely underdog who proves everyone wrong is just so right.  Michael (Eddie) Edwards a.k.a. Eddie the Eagle competed for Britain in the 1988 Winter Olympics as a Ski Jumper.  Eddie spent a year as a child with a disabling knee impairment.  Yet, he went onto to notoriety & glory in the Olympics despite no one (except for his mum) believing that despite possessing natural athletic ability or training, could muster up the courage and perseverance to overcome insurmountable obstacles and compete in the deathy defying ski jump events.  Hugh Jackman plays former Amer Olympian Bronson Perry, a down & out alcoholic has been who begrudgingly & then lovingly becomes Eddie's co-hort & coach.  The movie stands on the shoulders of British actor Taron Egerton who portrays Eddie with charm, heart (stop me now before I get all teary eyed) & tenacity.  Egerton makes this movie soar to new heights of inspiration & endearing entertainment.  This delifghtful feature is directed by Dexter Fletch (b. Britain 1966) with style and tactful sentimentality.  And, it's all true (at least based on true events if you want to get technical.)  "Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential." (W Churchill)  This is a movie for the entire family will enjoy.  It also proves there is no such thing as small roles only small actors.  Christopher Walken & Jim Broadbent add luster to a movie that is solid gold.

BLACKBIRD on Bwy Starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams

 Spoiler alert - The play is about sexual abuse.   The sexual deviant is Ray a.k.a. Peter (Jeff Daniels) a much older neighbor who preys upon a 12 yr old girl, Una (Michelle Williams.)  The two major stars of film & theater give intense emotional performances that are compelling & repelling.  Therein lies the conundrum; to see or not to see.  If you want to see 2 superlative actors sparring, this is a knockout show.  If you prefer not to endure the calamatous fallout on the victim or attend the perverse manipulation of a pedophile, count this show out.  One should not bury their head in the sand in regards to the destruction of sexual & psychological inflicted on children.   Playwright David Harrower won the Oliver Award for his harrowing examination of the permanent scars inflicted upon victims of molestation & the incredulous justification & tactics deployed by the sexual abuser.  The one act 2 character play starts with an intense energy.  Ray thrusts Una into an office break room.  He can barely restain his hostility.  Their relationship is nebulous.  Una is easily assumed to be his mistress & has come to confront him at his workplace.  As quickly as he's shoved Una into the break room, Ray (now known as Peter) is forcible trying to get her outside the building.  The power play between the two is an impressive battle of wills.  Soon, their past history unravels into the trashy details of their illicit & illegal sexual encounters.  The noble writing & stirring portrayal of a young victim whose life is forever sullied is wrenching.  Individual versions are revealed, tempers cool & sexual tension rises. Ray accounts for his actions & emotions.  Having served his prison sentence & made something of his life through (and less stringent sexual abuse laws) he has made a success of his work & personal life.  The most perverse apex of the play is Ray's justification for his past.  The credible & emotional play takes a toll.  Una's life has been destroyed by continuous debasement by the judge, her parents & her peers.  BLACKBIRD becomes derailed towards the end of the play which mitigates its intelligent handling of this painful subject.  Despite the contemptible topic, the play is formidable and Williams & Daniels are indefatigable.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

HER REQUIEM at LTC3 a new play by Greg Pierce

Greg Pierce's new play at the Claire Tow Theater is a family drama about 2 sparring parents vocalizing opposing views regarding their teenage daughter, Caitlin.  Their daughter has been sequestered to dedicate her full attention to composing a requiem.  Pierce is an author, playwright, screenwriter and composer.  Pierce is a multi-talented artist and he infuses this dark drama with musical references & stanzas of requiem compositions.  There is a literal reference to self-sacrifice made upon a plank outside the family home & barn where "Goths" have gathered awaiting the completion of the Requiem.  The cozy domicile & domestic bliss between Caitlin's parents, Dean (B'wy veteran Peter Friedman) and Allison (Emmy winning actress, Mare Winnigham) quickly turns frosty.  Other characters, Allison's senile mother & Caitlin's ingratiating violin teacher add their own tonal qualities to the mix.  The major movement of the play deals with relationships and how when one party vies for control this withers & destroys the love & connections. This intelligent, well written & acted one act scores a major hit.  I'm hoping for an encore.

Terrence Malick's KNIGHT of CUPS stars Christian Bale

Dir/screenwriter Terrence Malick's movies are an acquired taste for which I don't have the palette or patience.   KNIGHT of CUPS is a turgid, pretentious film and a nightmare awash in esoteric, loftiness that sinks in a mucky pool and never comes up for air.  KINGHT of CUPS is so similar to Malick's other film THE TREE of LIFE (Brad Pitt & Jessica Chastain) he could be accused of plagiarizing his own movie.  He is most guilty of is proselytizing on high & mighty themes: good v. evil, love  & abandonment and the essence to the meaning of life.  The cinematography is breath taking but then it becomes too repetitive.  The movie has a sprinkling of A list stars that sparkle in small moments;  Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett, Brian Dennehy and Cherry Jones.  But, the movie rests on the shoulders of Bale who falls from grace like Lucifer.  Malick is the demon to blame for this pithy, pompous film.  His tongue in cheek debunking of LA, NYC & Las Vegas are hardly original.  Malick's  heavy handedness with metaphors & imagery make this movie one to avoid (or bale out of as I did.)  Any redemption with Malick's body of work came with THE THIN RED LINE but this time, KNIGHT of CUPS is a fragmented film that doesn't add up to anything tempting.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Met Breuer "Relations" Concert with Vijay Iyer

Today was my redux visit to hear another concert for the Met Breuer preview week.  In addition to musical performances, there are sound installations and films in the small gallery off the lobby of the Met Breuer; hourly.  Today's concert featured Vijay Iyer, a Grammy-nominated pianist & composer.  DOWNBEAT mag. named Iyer artist of the year (14) & pianist of the year (13.)  DOWNBEAT also named The Iyer Trio, Jazz Group of the year (15.)  Iyer played piano along with 2 artists outside his Trio: Rajna Swaminathan (S Indian percussionist) and Yosvany Terry, originally from Cuba , a saxophonist & percussionist.  I heard Swaminathan perform yesterday on her elongated drum played with her dextrous hands. Today's concert was jazz oriented.  Swaminathan's percussive beat was more predominate and syncopated.  Terry's saxophone playing had an Afro-Cuban aesthetic that blended harmoniously with Iyer's classical jazz piano. Terry also shook a percussive bowl shaped instrument with a beaded African pattern that filled in with a soft, thrashing sound.  As yesterday, most guests merely peered in and left, but those who chose to be seated like myself, remained for the blissful hour of jazz music.  Again, I did not go through the other galleries but will visit next week.  Alas, the "Relations" performances will be over after Sunday.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

MetLiveArts-MET Breuer Concerts Featuring S. Indian & Cuban Musicians

The MET Breuer will be open to the public starting new week.  During its pre-opening, a series of performances & sound installations "Relation," are being held in the 1st floor gallery.  This musical, multi-media extravaganza is the brainchild of musician & composer Vijay Iyer, Met's 2015-16 artist in residence.  At Iyer's invitation, guest musicians & artists will be performing in the intimate space of the James Gallery.  My timing was  fortuitous.  I came this morning intending to see the Met's collection in its new home & the new exhibits "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible" and works by Nasreen Mohamedi.  But, I was informed a concert was about to start.  I thought I'd pop in briefly to listen & then move onto the upper galleries.  I sat in an aisle seat in the back row.  From the onset, I was totally captivated by the female singer's vibrato, a melding of S. Indian Carnatic, contemporary and jazzy vocals.  She was accompanied by 2 other female musicians: a violinist & percussonist also trained in South Indian Carnatic & Western classical.  The pianist, Alfredo Rodriguez, was the odd man out; his classical & jazz training is from his native Cuba.  Rodriguez received a Grammy nomination for jazz in 2015.  The blending of jazz, classical, Latin & S. Indian Carnatic styles created an exceptional sound that was alluring & intoxicating.  I stealthily moved from the back to the front row & happily remained for their entire set.  Most people walked in & out quickly without giving the music's power the opportunity to lure them into staying.  The artwork?  I didn't have time to visit the galleries but the exhibits will remain on display through June.  I'll be back to see the art but first I'm returning Friday  to hear another concert featuring Grammy-nominated Vijay Iyer for jazz who was awarded the 2012 & 2013 Pianist of the Year Awards.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

THE ROYALE at LCT-Powerful, Impactful Play on Boxer Jack Jackson

THE ROYALE playing at LCT is a biopic play about the 1st Afr-Amer boxer who took on a white  heavyweight champion.  The fight is for social justice during the oppressive & brutal Jim Crow era.  Jack (Jay) Johnson (1878-1946) is a Negro boxer at the turn of the 20th C whose prowess in the ring causes repercussive waves throughout a volatile, racially divided nation.  Playwright, Marco Ramirez received a Julliard Playwright Fellowship Award & is an Emmy nominated TV writer.  His play THE ROYALE is a knockout production which should nab rounds of Obie Awards.  Everything about this 1 act play is compelling.  The intelligent writing resonates with the brilliance of Ellison's "Invisible Man."  The deceptively simple staging is a tour-de-force.  The lighting casts a haunting showdow boxing.  The sound illicits a pounding, visceral impact.  The clever choreography is forceful & fleet of foot.  The only female role is Nina, Jay's sister played by Tony nominated actress Montego Glover (Les Miserables & Memphis.)  Glover gave a knockout performance. She throws herself in the ring with her brother and goes the distance confronting him with racial attrocities.  She jabs & messes with his head.  She rings the clarion bell of expected reprisals ensuing from his fight.  THE ROYALE is a theaterical performance of imperial stature & gravitas.  Nevertheless, the play's focus is pervasive racial persecution and the battle for change & self-respect.