Archive for December, 2022

Culture Vulture: The Year in Review

December 31, 2022

THEATER I LOVED (no particular order)

Company – Marianne Elliott’s gender-reversed staging of the Sondheim musical won me over, with terrific performances especially by Patti Lupone and Claybourne Elder in his underpants

Into the Woods – Lear de Bessonet’s star-studded revival leapt from Encores! to Broadway where it instigated an unusually, and justifiably, ecstatic response from the audience

Merrily We Roll Along — Let it never be said this Sondheim show “doesn’t work.” Maria Friedman’s production at New York Theater Workshop nails it by remaining extremely attentive to George Furth’s book as a smart, emotionally perceptive drama with exquisite songs by Sondheim, performed by a spectacular cast (Jonathan Groff first and foremost, closely followed by Lindsay Mendez, Daniel Radcliffe, Krystal Joy Brown, and Reg Rogers).

Fat Ham – This year’s unlikely Pulitzer winner rocked the Public Theater with its witty queer take on Hamlet

As You Like It – Shaina Taub’s musical version returned to Shakespeare in the Park as a magnificent community event beautifully staged by Laurie Woolery

Funny Girl – We held out to see Lea Michele and it was worth the wait

The Gold Room – This tiny two-hander, slyly written by Jacob Perkins and bravely performed by Scott Parkinson and Robert Stanton under Gus Heagerty’s shrewd direction, stuck with me

Kimberly Akimbo – David Lindsay-Abaire joined forces with the great Jeanine Tesori for this musical adaptation of his poignant play with fetching performances by Victoria Clark, Bonnie Milligan, Justin Cooley, and Steven Boyer

Some Like It Hot – The classic screwball/drag film comedy rethought for 2022 by song-and-dance masters Casey Nicholaw (director-choreographer), Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (score) and Christian Borle (triple-threat performer) joined by new Broadway talent Matthew López and Amber Ruffin (book) and their new stars Adrianna Hicks and J. Harrison Ghee

Underneath the Skin — One of John Kelly’s best pieces ever was a beautiful, sexy, instructive biographical portrait in words, images, movement, and music of Samuel Steward, the writer, educator, tattooist, and diehard fellationist who intersected with a curious array of fascinating figures from the 20th century (Thornton Wilder, Alfred Kinsey, Gertrude Stein, represented on video by the great Lola Pashalinski).

I also liked Shhh, written and directed by Clare Barron; Scot Elliott’s production of Tariq Trotter’s musical Black No More; Aleshea Harris’s On Sugarland; Rashaad Newsome’s mind-blowing multi-disciplinary spectacle Assembly at the Park Avenue Armory (above); the girl-group pop musical Six; Lileana Blain-Cruz’s production of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, on Adam Rigg’s dazzling set at Lincoln Center Theater (below);

Tracy Letts’s spooky play The Minutes; Mary Wiseman in Bryna Turner’s At the Wedding; Martha Clarke’s God’s Fool with a lovely lead performance by Patrick Andrews as St. Francis of Assisi; the Broadway transfer of Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop (shout-out to Kyle Ramar Freeman, the understudy whom I saw play the lead); Tyshawn Sorey’s somber Monochromatic Light (afterlife) at the Park Avenue Armory; JoAnne Akalaitis’s staging of Maria Irene Fornes’s Mud/Drowning for Mabou Mines; Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt; David Greenspan’s one-man version of Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts; Suzan-Lori Parks’s Plays for the Plague Year at Joe’s Pub; Mike Birbiglia’s The Old Man and the Pool; Jordan Cooper’s Ain’t No Mo’ with its exceptional ensemble of quick-change comic performers, most notably Crystal Lucas-Perry. 

LIVE MUSIC:

This was the year I invested time, energy, and resources in checking out EDM concerts at Avant-Gardner (Bonobo), the Knockdown Center (Fatboy Slim, Honey Dijon), and Forest Hills Tennis Stadium (Odesza –pictured above – with Sylvan Esso, Jamie XX/Four Tet/Floating Points). But three concerts topped my concertgoing year – first and foremost, Khruangbin at Radio City Music Hall; Arooj Aftab at the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur; and Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul, touring behind their wonderful album Topical Dancer at the Bowery Ballroom (below).

MOVIES I LOVED:

(no particular order) Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers; Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero; Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car; Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee; Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once; Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s collaboration with Tilda Swinton, Memoria; Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Romanian comedy-drama film written and directed by Radu Jude; Brett Morgen’s filmic essay on David Bowie, Moonage Daydream; Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s trippy Afro-futurist fantasia Neptune Frost (pictured below); Martine Syms’s The African Desperate, with its riveting star performance by Diamond Stingily; and Martin McDonough’s The Banshees of Inisherin.

Also: Jordan Peele’s Nope; Mahamat Saleh Haroun’s Lingui –The Sacred Bonds; Francois Ozon’s homage to Fassbinder, Peter von Kant; Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom’s documentary Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill; Scott Cooper’s spooky murder mystery The Pale Blue Eye; and Billy Eichner’s  Bros.

TELEVISION I LOVED:

The Andy Warhol Diaries; Atlanta; Better Things; How to Change Your Mind; The White Lotus season 2; January 6 Committee Hearings

Quote of the Day: MEDITATION

December 1, 2022

MEDITATION

The purpose of meditation practice is not enlightenment; it is to pay attention even at unextraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life. To be anywhere else is “to paint eyeballs on chaos” [to quote Dogen Zenji].

— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

photo by Subhankar Banerjee

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