Posts Tagged ‘another american: asking and telling’

Culture Vulture: Best theater of 2010

December 26, 2010


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)

Performance diary: ANOTHER AMERICAN: asking and telling

August 7, 2010

August 2
– Somehow I managed not to see Marc Wolf’s Obie Award-winning performance Another American: Asking and Telling when he first performed it in 1999-2000 at the New Group, although I heard very favorable things about it. I was under the mistaken impression that Wolf himself had been in the military and was discoursing about his own experience as well as that of others. Only now, when he revived the show for a series of 5 Monday-night performances at the DR2 Theatre in Union Square, do I realize that he did an Anna Deveare Smith number, going on the road and interviewing a wide range of people about the topic of gays serving in the military. He sculpted a play out of his interviews and plays all the various subjects: men and women, gay and straight, military and non-military, pro-DADT and agin. It’s a fantastic show. Wolf is an excellent (and strikingly handsome) actor who is able to transform himself vocally and physically so at times you can’t believe you’re seeing the same guy, even though he uses a minimum of props and costumes. Among the most memorable characters he impersonates are Miriam Ben-Shalom (the first openly gay person to serve in the military, after she spent years fighting an involuntary discharge), the mother of Allen Schindler (a gay Navy man who was beaten to death by shipmates), the guy who invented the expression “don’t ask don’t tell” (a straight academic who doesn’t think gays should be allowed to serve), and a very flamboyant ex-Marine whose fellow soldiers in Vietnam nicknamed him “Mary Alice” and accepted him wholeheartedly (he is repeatedly caught up on the brink of tears remembering the guys who didn’t make it back from that war). The little pocket of information Wolf dramatizes that I hadn’t thought about was the way gay soldiers have been treated by the military in the period between discovery and discharge, which was often brutal and horrifying. The show was beautifully performed and very well directed by Joe Mantello. My friend Wolfie, who knows the actor, corralled Andy and me into going, and we were joined by Stephen Soba and Jonathan Arnold, who sported an amazing pair of trousers (see below) that drew compliments from strangers right and left. We had a delicious dinner afterwards at L’Express on Park Avenue.

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