Posts Tagged ‘other desert cities’

Top theater of 2011

December 19, 2011

NEW YORK THEATER: Top Ten Productions of 2011

1. JERUSALEM – Jez Butterworth’s dense, lyrical, astonishingly original play superbly directed by Ian Rickson, centered on the justly legendary performance of Mark Rylance (above) as half-man half-myth Rooster Byron, with help from a sturdy ensemble cast and production design by the artist known as Ultz.

2.  THE SELECT (THE SUN ALSO RISES) – Elevator Repair Service’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway lived up to the company’s high standard for wit, depth, theatrical liveliness, and tech savvy. Great ensemble performance directed by John Collins, with a special shout out to lead actors Mike Iveson and Lucy Taylor, supporting performers Kate Scelsa, Susie Sokol, and the amazing Kaneza Schaal, and production designer David Zinn.

3. THE WOOSTER GROUP’S VERSION OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ VIEUX CARRE — an unlikely match and another beautiful triumph for Elizabeth LeCompte and her brave actors, led this time by Ari Fliakos as the author’s stand-in with all subtext stripped away.

4. THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT – Stephen Adly Giurgis’s play kept me laughing really hard at the most heartbreaking scenes, where cruelty and romance kept morphing into one another. Top-notch cast, though for me the revelation was Yul Vazquez as the scene-stealing cousin.

5. OTHER DESERT CITIES – Jon Robin Baitz’s taut play, a showcase for five excellent actors beautifully directed by Joe Mantello (I preferred the Lincoln Center cast with Elizabeth Marvel and Linda Lavin).

6. SLEEP NO MORE – British theater company Punchdrunk’s ambitious mash-up of Shakespeare and Hitchcock made for the year’s single most original theater experience, a dreamscape sprawling over 100 rooms in two adjacent former warehouses in Chelsea.

7. THE ILLUSION – Signature Theater’s Tony Kushner season ended with Michael Mayer’s gem-like staging of this lyrical bit of poetic philosophy featuring memorable performances by Lois Smith, Henry Stram, and Peter Bartlett.

8. BURNING – Thomas Bradshaw’s haunting, provocative play working the raw edges of sex, race, and politics staged with gleeful perversity by Scott Elliott.

9. THE PATSY & JONAS – the incomparable actor and playwright David Greenspan had another banner year with his own play Go Back to Where You Are at Playwrights Horizons and this quirky double-bill of solo virtuosity.


10. SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK – I saw the final performance that could legitimately be said to reflect the work of director Julie Taymor (above), with its mind-boggling sets by George Tsypin and costumes by Eiko Ishioka, and I thought it was terrific. Sue me.

Runners-up:

•    James Macdonald’s production of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at BAM, headed by the formidable trio of Alan Rickman, Lindsay Duncan, and Fiona Shaw (below);

•    David Leveaux’s smart revival of Tom Stoppard’s towering Arcadia


•    Taylor Mac’s collaboration with the Talking Band, The Walk Across America for Mother Earth at La Mama, a perfect tribute to the recently departed champion of idealistic experimental theater

•    The Book of Mormon, thanks to the fearless Trey Parker and Matt Stone and the clever Casey Nickolaw

•    Daniel Sullivan’s lucid Shakespeare in the Park staging of All’s Well That Ends Well

•    David Lindsay-Abaire’s troubling but sticky Good People – Frances McDormand justifiably got the reviews and the awards but let’s not forget Patrick Carroll’s exquisite supporting performance

•    Nina Arianda’s scintillating howdy-do in David Ives’ Venus in Fur (above right, with Hugh Dancy)

Theater review: OTHER DESERT CITIES

November 27, 2011

My somewhat delayed review of the Broadway transfer of Jon Robin Baitz’s fine play Other Desert Cities was posted over the weekend on CultureVulture.net. I continue to admire the play very much, though I have some mixed feelings about the new cast (Judith Light and Rachel Griffiths, below). You can read my review in its entirety here.

Theater review: OTHER DESERT CITIES

January 30, 2011

My review of Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities at Lincoln Center Theater has been published on CultureVulture.net. I met Robbie Baitz when he was very young, 24 or 25, and had just had his first taste of success in Los Angeles with Mislansky/Zilinsky. I’ve been watching his plays ever since.

“It’s not that Baitz has never succumbed to the occasional cliché or authorial contrivance, but he has impressed me with the consistent excellence of his work more than almost any other American playwright, certainly of his generation. In plays like A Fair Country, Mislansky/Zilinsky or ‘Schmucks,’ and The Paris Letter, Baitz zeroes in on corruption and moral rot as it shows up in various corners of business—publishing, academia, high finance, Hollywood, the art world. He’s probably best-known now as the creator of the hit TV series “Brothers and Sisters,” which exposed a wider audience to his gift for dramatizing intricate family dynamics in sophisticated dialogue. Those same talents shine especially bright in his latest play at Lincoln Center Theater, Other Desert Cities.”

You can read the complete review online here.

After Ben Brantley’s rave review in the NY Times, the play’s run is completely sold out. At the show, I sat next to Ken Fallin, who does theater illustrations for the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He mentioned that Other Desert Cities is supposed to move to Broadway in the fall.

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