Posts Tagged ‘a free man of color’

Culture Vulture: Best theater of 2010

December 26, 2010

YEAR IN THEATER

A strong year in theater, I would say. Here’s my pick of a dozen top productions:


1. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – Les Freres Corbusier’s smart/stupid rock musical, my first exposure to excellent writer/director Alex Timbers and his fearless crew, including rock-star caliber lead performance by Benjamin Walker. As the subway ads put it, “History just got all sexypants!”


2. The Myopia – David Greenspan in a spectacular solo performance of his own crazy play

Lily Rabe, Al Pacino, and Byron Jennings in "The Merchant of Venice"

3. The Merchant of VeniceDaniel Sullivan’s deep, upsetting staging of Shakespeare’s play in which Al Pacino’s Shylock and Lily Rabe’s Portia were 2 out of 20 strong performances

Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber in "A View from the Bridge"

4. A View from the Bridge – direction by Gregory Mosher, with terrific performances by Liev Schreiber, Jessica Hecht, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Cristofer, and Corey Stoll

Billy Porter, Robin Weigert, and Christian Borle in "Angels in America"

5. Angels in America – Michael Greif’s revival of Tony Kushner’s play with extra-fine performances by Christian Borle, Zachary Quinto, Bill Heck, Robin Bartlett, and Robin Weigert

Danielle Skraastad, Susan Pourfar, Marin Ireland, Miriam F. Glover and Michael Chernus in "In The Wake"

6. In the Wake – Lisa Kron’s play (lynchpin of the Public Theater’s admirable political-theater season) with superlative performances by Michael Chernus and Deidre O’Connell

Alessandro Nivola and Karen Young in "A Lie of the Mind"

7. A Lie of the Mind – Ethan Hawke’s surprisingly beautiful re-imagining of Sam Shepard’s play, with a revelatory central performance by Alessandro Nivola

8. A Disappearing Number – fine smart new work from Complicite directed by Simon McBurney with a dazzling production design by Michael Levine

9. The Kid – the smart and tuneful musical adaptation of Dan Savage’s memoir with a good cast well-directed by Scott Elliott, most notably Christopher Sieber, Susan Blackwell, and Jeannine Frumess

Jeffrey Wright in "A Free Man of Color"

10. A Free Man of Color – John Guare’s ambitious stylized epic staged in high style by George C. Wolfe with a huge cast in which standouts included Jeffrey Wright, mos, and Veanne Cox

11. Another American: Asking and Telling – perfect timing for Marc Wolf (above) to bring back his Anna Deveare Smith-like solo performance surveying the topic of gays in the military

Zoe Kazan, Christopher Walken, and Anthony Mackie in "A Behanding in Spokane"

12. A Behanding in Spokane – Martin McDonagh’s hilarious new play with knockout performances by Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell and a superbly seedy set by Scott Pask


I’m not quite sure where to put three shows I’d seen before but were still high-water marks for 2010: Fela! (last year’s #1, which I saw twice again this year), Gatz (above, which made my top 10 in 2007), and the Wooster Group’s North Atlantic (the third revival, with a great new cast including Ari Fliakos, Kate Valk, Steve Cuiffo and Zachary Oberzan).

Miscellaneous highlights:

— William Kentridge’s dense and dazzling production of Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera and his equally theatrical retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art

— Norm Lewis singing “Being Alive” in Sondheim on Sondheim at the Roundabout

— Christine Jones’ set (above) and Michael Mayer’s direction for American Idiot
— Mark Rylance’s justly acclaimed performance in La Bete

The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway – sheer fun!

— Most Valuable Player (male): Scott Shepherd (above) for North Atlantic and Gatz

— Most Valuable Player (female): Bonnie Thunders, Gotham Girls Roller Derby (above)

Theater review: A FREE MAN OF COLOR

November 29, 2010

In my theater pantheon, John Guare looms large. Along with Richard Foreman‘s Rhoda in Potatoland, Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls…, Robert Patrick‘s The Haunted Host (starring Harvey Fierstein), and the Wooster Group‘s Nayatt School, the original production at the Public Theater of Landscape of the Body was one of a handful of productions that smashed my young playgoing brain into pieces. I’ve followed his work closely ever since.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Guare’s new play A Free Man of Color for years, since it was first put on the schedule at the Public, under the direction of George C. Wolfe. It got scratched from the Public, supposedly for financial reasons but really — we learned from the New York Times a few weeks ago — over artistic differences with Oscar Eustis. Happily, Lincoln Center Theater picked it up and has spared no expense putting up this extravagant piece of work.

My review has just been posted on CultureVulture.net, saying in part:

Jeffrey Wright in "A Free Man of Color"

“Few of his works have ever shied away from wildly imagined multiple narratives sprawling in time, space, and dimension. Still, Guare has outdone himself with A Free Man of Color. Here he plays theater nerd as hip-hop DJ, mashing up big swatches of classic dramas (William Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Ben Jonson’s Volpone, The Merchant of Venice and Don Giovanni, to name only the most obvious), in order to tell the story of New Orleans circa 1801 as a unique crossroads of freedom and slavery, geography and imagination, race and racism, American history and American dreams, Europe and Africa, perched halfway between the Caribbean Islands and the Mississippi River.”

You can read the complete review online here.

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