a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Marion Cotillard’s New Film Mesmerizes at the Rendez-vous Avec French Cinema  by Stephen Holt

What an unalloyed pleasure to have a brand new film starring one of the greatest screen actresses I saw this past March, none other than Marion Cotillard, at the always enthralling “Rendez-vous with French Cinema.” This was its 22nd delightful year at Lincoln Center now through March 12. And Marion doesn’t disappoint. It’s Opening state-side in July.

I have always felt deeply her acuity in choosing the best-written roles in French cinema (and beyond) no matter how challenging. And she’s has done so again with the oddly titled “From the Land of the Moon.” Based on an Italian novel called “Mal de Pierres.” The original book is based in Sardinia, adapted into French and evidently”totally transformed from its’ source,” director (and sometime actress) Nicole Garcia was present at the Rendez-vous, said. She told an enthusiastic audience of cinephiles and Francophiles of how this rather astounding role was created with Marion Cotillard in mind and she worked with her on shaping it, as well.

Nicole Garcia said she hated the title “From the Land of the Moon.” “I don’t know what it means. I was just stuck with it.” “Mal de Pierres” means Kidney Stones in French, and it’s kind of a shock to find out that that might be what Cotillard’s character of Gabrielle is suffering from. And does she suffer! 

But only a great actress like Cotillard could portray all the levels and innuendos and shades of pain and illness that Gabrielle goes through and make it riveting,moving, monumental. I have rarely seen so a complex role like this for an actress written anywhere. And in a way, only the French could have given us this beautiful performance in this astounding film.

Filmmaker Garcia takes you inside Cotillard’s head. This film is shot in many, many intense close-ups of Cotillard’s great film face, one of the greatest of all time, I would wager, and we see inside this tortured woman’s soul. Her eyes! Oh those eyes! You just disappear into them, as they register every emotion imaginable and you marvel as they seem to shift from gray to green and every color in between, as Cotillard’s Gabrielle suffers unspecified maladies of the heart and of the body.

Most of the film takes place in a Swiss sanitarium where Gabrielle is sent to recover from whatever it is that is making her so unwell. The time is the early 1950’s. And she does recover there, and begins to develop as the French say, an “Amour fou”, certainly a grand passion, for a dashing French lieutenant Andre( the beguiling Louis Garrel), who we discover is terminally ill. And as ready and desperately starved for romance as Gabrielle is.

Dare I say it, but their naked love scenes are more erotic than anything Cotillard recently essayed with Brad Pitt in “Allied,” another War time romance?.And your heart just breaks for the both of them. 

The film seems to be saying that women are always meant to suffer inexplicably and love can cure sometimes, but…

Ah! But thereby hangs the denouement of “From the Land of the Moon” and I won’t spoil its’ surprise here.

Would Oscar get just what a feat of acting (and writing and directing) this film is? Would most Americans? I know all the women who saw it at the Rendez-vous experienced it on a very profound level. As did I. It was utterly transformative. I was at sixes and sevens when I went in, and came out walking on air, and not noticing the sub-zero weather and the wicked wind that put the temperature on W.60th Street  as minus- something. I waited and waited for the NYC bus to come, and didn’t feel anything except the joy that Marion Cotillard’s magnificent performance brought to me.

Or would it just be chalked up as “a Women’s movie”?Just as something only the French could do, or embrace. But I’m telling you, Marion Cotillard in “From the Land of the Moon” is beautiful beyond words. Whether it gets an Oscar nomination or not, it’s going to remembered as one of her very best performances. Said director Nicole Garcia, “I think this is the best she’s ever been.”

There are many other films that I want to talk about at the Rendez-vous but I’ll save them for later. Right now, just remember that odd title “From the Land of the Moon.”

Opening soon.

All twitter because I’m going to see one of my favorite shows in New York, the hilarious spoof of “Hamilton”, “Spamiliton” They’ve just moved from the Triad uptown into the W.47th Theater, where “Forbidden Broadway” used to play all the time. It’s a small Off Broadway proscenium house this time, not a night-club and barely a block away from “Hamilton” If you can’t get ticekts to “Hamilton”, you CAN see “Spamilton” and have yourself a hilarious time! I guarantee it! Even Lin-Manuel Miranda like it, too! See Above! He’s come at least twice. I’m told.

Following close on the heels of the shocking news that two Tony winner “Indecent” is going to close, comes word that Pulitzer Prize Winner “Sweat” and also “Six Degrees of Separation” are also both going to close within the next two weeks. Neither “Sweat” which I actually loved, not “Six Degrees” won no Tonys. When straight plays(not musicals), don’t win any Tonys at all, it’s usually the kiss of death. Even for Pulitzer Prize winners, like Lynn Notage’s “Sweat.”
It’s such a shame. Musicals, of course, fair much better.

I mean, just look at “Bronx Tale” which has been running since the winter. No awards. Not much critical acclaim, but there it is, still there. Of course, it’s got Robert DeNiro’s magic name attached to it as co-director with Gerry Zaks, who also helmed “Hello, Dolly!” this year.

“Hello, Delly!” won Best Actress for Bette Midler and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Bway stalwart Gavin Creel.In a completely opposite case, just TRY to get a ticket to “Hello, Dolly!” just TRY! It’s either feast or famine on Broadway. And then there’s shows like the controversial, horrifying prescient “Julius Caesar” in Central Park, which had a limited run in the first place and is also closing Sunday, like “Six Degrees of Separation.” Tickets, of course, are free, and you have to line up at the crack of dawn to get them. But the night I saw it, before all the media firestorm descended upon it, It was sold out to the walls. But it was a limited run to begin with.Delacourte Theater LineDelacourt Theater

Next up in Central Park is “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” one of Shakespeare’s most uproarious comedies(If done right) and Bavesh Patel, currently cracking audiences up with Tony winner Kevin Kline’s “Present Laughter” should be great casting in the role of Lysander. Can’t wait for that one!

I’m so sad to report a play which I felt was one of the best of the year, if not THEE best, Paula Vogel’s beautiful lesbian musical play “Indecent” is closing on Sunday June 24.

It did win two Tonys, but it didn’t win the crucial Best Play of the Year Award.

Winner of two 2017 Tony Awards, INDECENT will play its final performance on Broadway on Sunday, June 25th at 3:00 PM at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.) At the time of closing, INDECENT will have played 79 performances and 15 previews. One of the most talked-about plays in the 2016-17 season following its debut last year at the Vineyard Theatre in NYC, INDECENT opened on Broadway April 18 and began previews on April 4. INDECENT marked the Broadway debuts of many of the artists involved in its creation, including playwright Paula Vogel, director Rebecca Taichman, choreographer David Dorfman and members of the cast and performing ensemble.

“We are so proud and honored to have had the opportunity to introduce Broadway to INDECENT and the remarkable talents of Paula Vogel, Rebecca Taichman and this exceptional company of actors and theater artists,” the play’s producers Daryl Roth, Elizabeth McCann and Cody Lassen state. “INDECENT has touched the hearts of theater-goers who have experienced the play’s magic at the Cort Theatre for the past three months, and we hope it will continue to do so as it is presented in theaters across in the U.S., Canada and overseas in the months ahead. INDECENT is story-telling in the theater at its very best, and we are grateful that this powerful story will live on.”

The production received Tony Awards for Rebecca Taichman, Best Director of a Play; and Christopher Akerlind, Best Lighting Design of a Play; along with the Outer Critics Circle Award and Obie Award for Outstanding Director of a Play (Rebecca Taichman) and the Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography (David Dorfman). Paula Vogel was honored with a Special Citation as playwright and mentor from the New York Drama Critics Circle, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Obie Awards. INDECENT has also been selected as Best Play by the Off-Broadway Alliance.

INDECENT will continue its life beyond Broadway as a number of theaters in the U.S. and internationally are scheduled to present licensed productions in their upcoming seasons, beginning with The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, this season, and The Huntington in Boston, and into next season with 20 productions anticipated at theaters in the following cities for 2018-2019:

Philadelphia, PA
Palm Beach, FL
Toronto, Canada
Kansas City, MO
Indianapolis, IN
St. Louis, MO
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Denver, CO
Montreal, Canada
Washington, DC
Seattle, WA
Sarasota, FL
Dallas, TX
Chicago, IL
Houston, TX
Portland, OR
Tucson, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Tel Aviv, Israel

A new play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive), created by Ms. Vogel and Rebecca Taichman, and directed by Ms. Taichman, INDECENT is about the love and passion to create theatre, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The play follows a troupe of actors, the cast of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, who risked their lives and careers against enormous challenges to perform a work in which they deeply believed, at a time when art, freedom and truth were on trial. It is a story told with compassion, honesty, but also with great theatricality, and joyous songs and dances.

The ensemble of INDECENT features Matt Darriau, Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva, Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol and Adina Verson. The cast has – not unlike the theater troupe depicted in the play itself – been performing the play together for more than two years: during its development with the Sundance Theater Institute and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, followed by productions at Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and the Vineyard Theatre, where INDECENT had its New York debut last summer.

The production also features Zoë Aqua, Ben Cherry, Andrea Goss, Eleanor Reissa, Uri Sharlin and Doug Wieselman.

INDECENT features music composed by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, who play onstage along with cast members throughout the show.

The production is choreographed by David Dorfman. Scenic design is by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design is by Emily Rebholz; lighting design is by Christopher Akerlind; sound design is by Matt Hubbs and projection design is by Tal Yarden.

Julius Caesar 2


I don’t know what I felt worse about Laura Linney & Josh Groban and my beloved “Natasha, Pierre…” losing to WAAAAAY inferior competitors at the Tonys. It was all going along sooo well, and then the ending happened. I’m heartbroken actually. Laura, Josh, and everybody at “Natasha…” I did everything I could for you. I saw “Little Foxes” twice and then “Natasha Pierre..” FOUR times. I never do this. I never go back to see shows again- and again-and again. But this year I did. And you get more and more involved with your favorites and then, they lose to Laurie Metcalfe and Whatshisface.

I didn’t fully review “Doll’s House, Part Two” because I disliked it sooo much I felt it wasn’t worth covering, but now this had to happen. Laurie Metcalfe, a performer I had liked before this, winning a Tony for THAT performance, that was jokey and sitcomy, and I felt gave the play absolutely no historical context whatsoever. Which century were we in?

It’s a feminist screed, but written by a young man, a barely talented young man, so it’s all over the place. Are you meant to sympathize or empathize with Nora? Or in the end her poor, deserted husband and her angry daughter?

Wily producing gave “The Doll’s House, Part Two” a midnight performance for Tony Voters, and I guess that sealed the deal.It did not win Best Play, but Laurie Metcalfe got what WASN’T coming to her, a Tony  for Best Actress in a Play.
She looked embarrassed in her seat when they called her name.I’m sure she just assumed her rival in that category Laura Linney was going to win. Metcalfe looked gobsmacked, to put it mildly. And her stunned acceptance speech was lackluster.

OTOH, I’m THRILLED that Michael Aronov has now ascended to an entirely new level in his career with his much deserved win for Best Featured Actor in “Oslo.”

And now we have the Public’s production of “Julius Caesar” to deal with!
I’ve always hated “Julius Caesar” as a play, but others beg to differ. It’s a classic. So OK, I go to the Shakespeare in the Park production expecting the worst, but I got the best. It’s the best production of “Julius Caesar” I’ve ever seen.

And it’s harrowing beyond belief, disturbing and not just because it’s been styled as a Donald Trump take-down. In the end, like in the “Doll’s House, Part Two”(which they should’ve called “Roseanne, Part Two”) I felt very sorry for Julius Caesar (the Trump figure, a marvelous Gregg Henry) and I don’t know if that’s what director Oskar Eustis meant. Like with “Roseanne, Part Two”(Oops! I mean “The Doll’s House, Part Two) I didn’t know where my sympathies were supposed to lie.

[Just to make things clearer than clear Calpurnia, Caesar’s comely, blonde wife ( a great Tina Benko) has a hilarious Slovenian accent, making her every line a punch line.]

Although, maybe that is what Shakespeare meant. You’re conflicted about Caesar, as many are about DJT. He’s given every color of the rainbow from popular hero to pompous ass by Gregg Henry.  It’s complex. HE’S complex. You can’t just take down the blow-hard ambitious leader, esp. in the horribly bloody way he is killed here. It’s historically accurate of course. Caesar WAS killed by his former supporters, “Et ,tu, Brute?” comes from that moment when his most-loyal side-man Brutus, stabs him, too. Corey Stoll, one of America’s great young actors, has a great time here.And so do we. And he is matched beat for beat by “Jitney’s” John Douglas Thompson as Cassius. But wait!

There are consequences! Brutus and Cassius and the other traitor/patriots have unleashed “the Dogs of War” growls Elizabeth Marvel, an absolute marvel as Marc Anthony. This is her greatest role, of course, usually played as a man, but here she’s a Kelly-Anne Conway  redux, a pig-tailed cheerleader, a slavish devotee type, always jogging after Caesar in a gym outfit, but then when Caesar is expectantly assassinated. she turns into a warrior priestess. Her “Friends, Roman’s and Countrymen, lend me your ears! I’ve come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!” was a pinnacle of modern acting. I was gripped and astonished as Marvel turned the character inside-out and backwards.

And then the bloody consequences of this bloody act continue as the assassins worlds’ unravel as a war pretty much breaks out against them. Spoiler alert! There are approximately 50 or so, young  actors hidden in the audience itself, in modern dress, who suddenly break their silence and make their presence known as they  shout and storm the stage, then get mowed down by an armed gang of SWAT teamed soldiers, who shoot their machine guns, RIGHT AT THE AUDIENCE! An explosive, deadly ending, with the bodies piled high, very high, the highest I’ve ever seen in a theater. There must be 75 members in this gigantic cast. And Brutus and Cassius come to self-inflicted ends themselves. Nobody is happy. . Except the audience,Julius Caesar 3

who has been thrilled to see Shakespeare finally done bloody well right. You’re left gasping, in the hot summer night air of Central Park .This is Shakespeare in the Park at a white-hot zenith.

Bette Midler did indeed win Best Actress in a Musical for “Hello, Dolly!” She wore a slinky blue/green sequin dress and gave a long, heartfelt speech. Glenn Close presented her the award.

However, I feel awful for Josh Groban, Laura Linney, and everyone involved with “Natasha, Pierre…” They had 12 Tony nominations and only received one win…Very depressing…but congratulations to Michael Aranov!!!!! I knew you could do it, Michael!!!!

Good night!

Cynthia Nixon looked pretty in pink and she was lovely, moving, and angry, as she made the first political speech of the night, which surprised me, and was totally right on.

Poor Paula Vogel just got to make a short speech about her beautiful play “Indecent.” Wearing a shimmering, light blue tuxedo jacket, she matched Gavin Creel’s tux. But her outstanding Best Play Nominee deserved more than this brief sound bite.

The now closed “Falsettos” Best Revival of a Musical nominee strutted its’ stuff with a re-united original cast including the red-hot duo of Andrew Rannells and Christian Borle.

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