Posts Tagged ‘the kid’

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: THE KID

May 8, 2010

May 6 – I’ve been hearing about The Kid, the musical adaptation of Dan Savage’s book about adopting a child with his boyfriend, for several years. A friend of Stephen’s, Michael Zam, wrote the book, and with his partners lyricist Jack Lechner and composer Andy Monroe he has been chasing down producers until Scott Elliott agreed to mount the show at the New Group, directing it himself. And it’s terrific: funny, honest, entertaining, smart, and theatrical, not unlike, say, the musicals of Bill Finn. It tells a real and compelling story with a lot of humor but also a lot of heart, and it’s shockingly free of bogus moments that pander either to the audience or to some tradition of musical theater.

The real Dan Savage is a larger-than-life character already, an incredibly smart, sharp-tongued and potty-mouthed sex columnist and political commentator. I was amazed at how successfully the musical created a stage version of Dan that refers to the real-life guy and yet becomes a separate entity – a tribute to the writing and the directing but mostly to the performance of Christopher Sieber. I’ve never felt one way or another about Sieber, but he really puts out here. It’s a little shocking that he’s chubbed up for the part, which makes him NOT look like Dan Savage, but he stays wonderfully true to the character’s highly neurotic, rage-filled smartass and yet completely inhabits a very intimate vulnerability. Lucas Steele as his boyfriend Terry is fine but somewhat thinly drawn – it’s hard to know what Dan sees in him, other than his being “young and cute” (not my taste, but whatever). But their relationship is sexy and feisty and culturally plugged in (I love the role Bjork plays in their life). And the rest of the cast is absolutely terrific – minor superstars of contemporary New York theater including Ann Harada (Christmas Eve in Avenue Q), Tyler Maynard (Altar Boyz), the spectacularly pale and skinny Brooke Sunny Moriber (The Wild Party, The Dead, Parade), and especially Susan Blackwell (of [title of show] fame), who plays the woman from the adoption agency who serves as liaison to the birth mother whose baby the guys adopt. The story has plenty of potential for both zany comedy and dramatic tension, and the treatment of the birth mother – Melissa, a homeless alcoholic teenager – is handled with extraordinary respect and restraint. She’s very well played by Jeannine Frumess, and everything about her has a different tone than Life At Home with Dan and Terry. The score carefully walks a line between storytelling and show-biz. There’s a modesty about it that I really liked, and there are several moments that are genuinely touching. Melissa’s song, “Sparechangin’,” is a dramatic highpoint that shifts the show to an intriguing deeper layer. Many of the songs are chatty and fun, along the lines of, say, Falsettos or Baby, with the occasional change-of-pace blast (“Seize the Day”). But at key moments things drop into truer and realer in a way that feels really solid (the candidate for instant classic is “I Knew,” a PFLAG anthem if I ever heard one, nicely sung by Jill Eikenberry as Dan’s mother). Bravo to this team for pulling it off. I think The Kid is going to be a hit.

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