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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

“Sweat” a Pulitzer Prize- Winning Play That Lives Up to Its’ Title

Sweat 4“Sweat”is this year’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play. and it more than earns that great accolade, as well as its’ daring title. “Sweat” dares you to take into account the sweat of most of its’ main characters’ smaller-than-life lives. Sweat could be a synonym here for “work,” and that is what most of its’ squashed denizens of Reading, Pennsylvania do. Actually, it’s more like slavery. They are slaves to the Steel Mill that the entire town’s economy and their lives are attached to at the hip –Sweat 1 morning, noon and night, until they die. It’s brutal. It’s tough stuff. Now two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage is no stranger to horror. Witness her other, superb, previous Pulitzer-winner “Ruined” about the unspeakable terrors of African warfare and its’ ruinous effect on women.

“Sweat” tackles horrors you can speak of. Over-work and under-pay being the two main topics of nearly every conversation, its’ hard-scrabble characters carry on at the local bar, which is almost womb-like in its’ superb setting by John Lee Beatty, which is so familial and familiar, you feel like you’ve been hanging out there for years, as the plays bedraggled characters have.

If this bar, and its’ Christ-like bartender (a superb James Colby) seem right out of “The Iceman Cometh”, you’re not far wrong. Nottage is really plowing Eugene O’Neill’s lower depths, as well as her own. And like O’Neill, they are all being crushed and cursed by alcohol. Being that it’s 2017, other addictions apply, and pile up on “Sweat”s beleaguered characters as the actions to close down the Mill roll over all their lives in a relentless juggernaut of corporate greed and union busting that leads, of course, to catastrophe.

“Sweat” is terrifyingly prescient. This is the first play I’ve seen that explains why “You Know Who” to quote the View’s Whoopi Goldberg, got elected. This is a Rust-Belt play with all the Rust in full view.Sweat 2“Sweat” begins its’ road to hell-in-a-hand-basket with two matched monologues of two young men, barely out of their teens, childhood friends’ it turns out, one black, one white, who have been imprisoned there for some unspeakable, violent act. We don’t find out just what, until the frightening ending, but suffice it to say, that Khris and Jacob’s predicament hangs over the play like the doomed fog that has shrouded all these characters’ lives, white and black. Eugene O’Neill’s characters have gone from Pipe Dreams to Rust.Sweat 3The cast is uniformly excellent but I do have to single out the German descent White-Supremicist-in-the-making of Will Pullen, who has totally nailed the seemingly sweet, but really brutal Jason, a totally exact product of rural Pennsylvania and his factory working Mom, the Tony nominated Johanna Day.

The two of them enact a scene of horror that rivals any horror film, when he finally gets out of jail and comes home to borrow $5 from her only to find that she is now completely unemployed and a hopeless pill-head, Without that pollution-spilling Steel Mill, they’re both reduced to hopeless addicts and their lives and hopes destroyed.Sweat 5No, “Sweat” isn’t for the faint-of-heart, but it’s god-damned powerful. And Lynn Nottage’s capturing their pain and frustration so winningly is a compelling sign of hope.


#Lynn Nottage #Pulitzer Prize, #Sweat, #Broadway, #Will Pullen # Johanna Day, #Reading Pennsylvania # Stell MillsSweat 4

NYFF 2016 About to Open!

nyff-1Opening on Friday night, with Ava DuVernay’s new doc “The 13th” is the 54th edition of the New York Film Festival. I’m proud and happy to say that I’ll be covering it this year for Awardsdaily.com, with whom I’ve shared a working relationship as a contributing writer on film for over 10 years! More! I was there when it was Oscarwatch.

The great Sasha Stone is still doing the yeoman(or yeowoman) heavy lifting there, and now as the Oscar race begins to gear up big time. Or festival time, it DOES get heavy. Ably abetted and assisted by Ryan Adams. I’m thrilled to pieces to be doing this work for them, and hope I live up to their standards. They’ve set the bar so high!

It’s a pleasure and a privilege, absolutely!

Here’s a link to my first article http://bit.ly/2dsJmoA

Check it out!

And also “Brillo Box (3 cents off)” a great and funny doc about Andy Warhol & his creations is going to be seen in Feb., I think on HBO, if you miss it at the NYFF itself. As they say in Franch, Bon Cinema!

E.T.A. Ok so that link didn’t work. Trying this one.

54th NYFF Opening Friday: French Films and Racial Themes Dominate

This one works! Yay!

 

 

Edgar Ramirez & Ana de Armas “Hands of Stone”

Edgar Remirez and And de Armas two of the hottest, rising stars of the Hispanic world, or any world, chat about how proud they are of their new movie “Hands of Stone”. Just out from the Weinstein co, the film is a biopic of the life of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Aranas. Filmed completely in Panama and co-starring Robert De Niro as his trainer and rock star Usher doing his first serious boxing, and acting role as Sugar Ray Leonard.

Editing by Kevin Teller

#Edgar Ramirez #Hands of Stone # Ana de Armas # Roberto Aranas

#Panama #Boxing # Boxing Movie # Robert de Niro # Usher

New Mary Martin Bio “Some Enchanted Evenings” by David Kaufman

 

Mary Martin 1

Stephen Holt interviews author David Kaufman about his new controversial biography of the late stage star Mary Martin “Some Enchanted Evenings.”

Martin was one of the great stage stars of her day starring on Broadway in the legendary “South Pacific” and also Rogers and Hammerstein’s later work “The Sound of Music.”

This is part one of a two part interview, soon to air on  Friday, Sept. 9 at midnight on Ch.56 and Ch.1996 on Time Warner Cable in Manhattan and Ch.83 on RCN Cable and Ch.34 on Fios, also on Friday at midnight. In Manhattan Only, although it can be seen online at that time on http://www.mnn.org, click on Ch. 2, the Lifestyle channel.

Filmed in the yet-to-open new Theater District restaurant Diane Elizabeth.

Camera & Editing ~ Slava Rusakov

You Tube Editing ~ Kevin Teller

 

 

 

 

“The Royal Road” Must See Lesbian Doc

Vertigo 4Royal Road 4There’s something about intelligent lesbian lovelorn conversation that irrevocably holds me in its sway. And coming out very soon on DVD & VOD on Sept. 6, “The Royal Road” an unusual, innovative documentary is a must-see for every lesbian and gay and everyone else, who is reading this. It’s kind of a jewel, in its’ own unique, stubborn way.

Filmmaker Jenni Olson debuted “The Royal Road” to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but I’m just catching up to its’  challenging  beautys now. “The Royal Road” doesn’t make things easy for the viewer. Its’ esthetic is extreme. The 16 mm. camera NEVER moves and there is not one human being in the frame.Nor will there ever be.Royal Road 1 But there is an incredibly revealing and engaging voice-over by the filmmaker herself. It’s not a lesbian conversation. It’s a lesbian monologue, perhaps the longest one ever, as Olson confronts us with the daunting, relentless shot-after-shot of California’s decaying once pristine Royal Road or the Camino Real.

Once a uninterrupted trail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the road itself is part of California’s repulsive urban sprawl and not romantic at all. While it is nothing to look at, Olson MAKES us look at it, and at the same time, because the images she’s chosen don’t move, you HAVE to listen to her. And you do. And it becomes mesmeric.Royal Road 3

As a native New Yorker, who has still yet to visit the LGBT capital of the world, the City by the Bay, it was all news to me, as Olson wants to show us HER lesbian San Francisco and tell her own woman’s story of how she left her heart there.Golden Gate Bridge 1

And a large part of her story is wrapped up in Alfred Hitchcock’s Number One critically proclaimed film “Vertigo.” By the time, she gets to this part of “The Royal Road” I was completely hooked. I’d only re-watched “Vertigo” earlier this week!On Monday night! It’s a film that never leaves you. It’s its’ own obsession.

Olson  hooked me into her narrative, just as the hypnotic spell of Kim Novak’s Madeline Elster bewitches James Stewart’s stalwart, but vertically challenged policeman Scotty Ferguson in this classic movie of Obsession. And of secondarily, obsession with San Francisco.

Vertigo 1She explains as she reads from an unheard, cut speech from the original “Vertigo” screenplay that Gavin Elster explains that his wife, Madeline(Novak) has fallen under the spell of old San Francisco and that it has driven her mad.Vertigo 2So intense is her desire to find ole San Fran that she roams the city in search of it and stops whenever a piece of it jumps out at her.

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Olson involves the viewer mightily with this ingenious piece of historical/cinematic   dialogue that I’d never heard spoken before. As research, it’s a find. It’s  breathtaking  and I’m not going to do “The Royal Road” the injustice of a complete speech quotation here. That would be tantamount to spoiling it,  but suffice it to say that it makes “The Royal Road” and also “Vertigo” at last make sense.

So I have to say thank you, Jenni Olsen, for finally elucidating this. She also audaciously makes Hitchcock a character in her monologue as she is trying to explain and examine HIS obsession with San Francisco and “Vertigo” and her own. For the first time, she claims “Vertigo” as an important lesbian movie in terms of the impact that the quest for character of Madeline, mirrored her own.

So she answers a couple of important, unresolved questions about “Vertigo,” including the fact that the quixotic name of the mysterious Madeline was probably  inspired by Proust! And of course, it’s Proust’s tasting a madeline cookie that sends him on HIS historic literary quest in “Remembrance of Things Past.” Just as Olson has taken us on a “Royal Road” into her own history, in her own unique. original way.

Vertigo 4

I loved this lovely little film and I hope you do, too!

#Vertigo # Royal Road # Lesbian# San Francisco # Documentary # Hitchcock # Royal Road

Brilliant Sophie Hannah’s 2nd Poirot “Closed Casket” – A Non-Review Rave

Closed casket 2How can you review a nifty mystery-thriller without giving “it” away? Dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of literature, I ask you?

“It” being the surprise ending, the twists, the plot, the sub-plots. Well, you can’t. You just can’t. So I won’t. But what I will say is that “Closed Casket” British crime writer Sophie Hannah’s SECOND Poirot novel is a book that I just could not put down. I could not. And that’s called real suspense.

I can’t reveal anything about it, except perhaps it’s amaaaazing back story. Which is a combo of good luck and smarts by the Christie estate in wanting to continue delighting us with crimes for legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to solve.And choosing the brilliant Brit crime writer Sophie Hannah to do it.

I was late catching up with “The Monogram Murders” Sophie Hannah’s first Poirot “continuation.” And so I didn’t review it because the new one “Closed Casket” is coming out very, very soon. Sept.8. And Harper collins, her publisher, generously sent me a review copy. So I’ll respect the pub date and not reveal anything except that, well, you can’t reveal anything. You just can’t. Except I couldn’t put it down!

But I can say that Sophie Hannah is one smart, terrific, delectable choice to fill Poirot’s patent leather shoes. A best-selling crime writer herself internationally, she was still completely unknown to me when I dived into “The Monogram Murders,” not knowing WHAT to expect.

I thought, as most readers did, I suspect, feel that anything “New” from Dame Agatha went to the grave with her. Agatha Christie 2But no! Sophie Hannah, a for-real, respected genre writer(as well as poet and children’s book author) is the authentic thing. La Vrai Choise, as I think Poirot would put it.

And she brought Poirot roaring back to life. Doing the seemingly impossible magic trick of reviving without re-inventing a beloved literary character. I never knew how much I missed him and his “little grey cells” til I found myself re-reading Christie’s entire oeuvre this past year. What had happened to me? Agatha Christie has taken over my life! But wait! I’m not alone! She’s taken over Sophie Hannah’s, too! It’s Christie-mania and it’s contagious! Beware!CLOSED cASKET 1Well, I can say no more about the suspenseful “Closed Casket” until after Sept.8. But I WILL say that a central character Lady Athelinda Playford is going to go down as one of Hannah’s great new creations.

She is one of “Closed Casket”s main characters and it is she who sets the wheels of the plot in motion, by re-writing her will at age 70. She is the widow of the fifth earl of Klonakilty, in County Cork,  Ireland, where “Closed Casket” is set and is the author of many,many children’s books.

More I will not say, except that this is the first novel I’ve ever read anywhere, that has Shakespeare’s “King John”, as a semi-constant reference point.

And yes, there is murder, mayhem, twists and turns and dastardly doings galore and Hercule Poirot at the seeming height of his powers in 1929.What more can one ask of a book? Dame Agatha would be so proud.

But you’ll just have to til Sept. 8 for more, when I predict “Closet Casket” will fly off the shelves! Better pre-order now!www.sophiehannah.org

#Sophie Hannah #Closed Casket # Harpercollins #Agatha Chrisite# Crime Novel # Mystery # Thriller# Novel #British# Detective#Monogram Murders

Newcomer Andrew Burnap’s Astonishing Debut in “Troilus & Cressida”

Troilus and Cressida 1Andrew Burnap 1“Troilus and Cressida” is considered one of  Shakespeare’s Problem Plays. It’s hardly ever done. It’s wildly uneven, and it’s always nigh to impossible to tell the Greeks from the Trojans. It’s clear that there’s a war on, but who’s who and which is which is always mightily confusing.

Director Dan Sullivan has perhaps rectified all that with his testosterone fueled-production in Central Park this summer. He’s cast one of the strongest male casts I’ve ever seen containing some of the best young Shakespearean actors around today. Main among them is newcomer Andrew Burnap in the usually forgettable title role. But Burnap burns up the stage as he holds his own against as formidable a male cast as I’ve ever seen in Shakespeare in the Park, New York’s annual, pastoral summer ritual. Founded by the late Joe Papp to be free to all New Yorkers, the Park never disappoints, though most times the productions certainly do. But not this time.Shakespeara in the Park 1

I’m happy to say that “Troilus and Cressida” is one of the best Shakespeare’s I’ve ever seen in the Park.

But back to Andrew Burnap. A recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he’s stepped right out of school and right into stardom, following in the footsteps of former Yale-ees Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong’o who just soared immediately upon graduation. His beautiful, brave, heart-broken, angry, and eventually murderous Troilus is everything a dream role for a young actor should be. And blond, blue-eyed, dashing Burnap is living the dream. In a part, I’ve never really even noticed before, he makes it seem a greater role than it’s ever been.

Troilus and Cressida are sort of Romeo and Juliet gone wrong.  The Trojan War  breaks them apart early and nearly kills them.

I saw Helen Mirren as a young girl, maybe even a teenager, make her debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the ’60s as Cressida.Helen Mirren Young Her debut, her first scene, she got rolled out of a Persian carpet completely nude. And thus began her great career. She was utterly heart-breaking in the scene where she emerges ravaged from the rival army’s camp where she has been raped repeatedly. She was shattered, bruised, barely able to speak, unforgettable. The actress here, Ismenia Mendes, just can’t cut it. You barely can tell she’s been gang-raped, and you don’t care much either.

But you do care about Andrew Burnap/Troilus’s reaction to his love being so defiled. He goes madly to war against his enemies, main among them the superb young Shakespearean actor Zach Appelman, as Diomedes, another part no one ever remembers. Appelman, you may remember, was the diamond brilliant Hamlet in Hartford, just this past winter for Darko Tresnjak.

Troilus and Cressida 3In the first act, Diomedes has very little to do, except to flex his muscles and show his six-pack lifting barbells and strutting shirtless (as do many others of this studly, sweating, stunning cast) in the 100 degree heat New York is now experiencing. But in Act 2, he gets to come into his own, as he battles Burnap. Appelman is a Yale graduate, too, btw.  As pictured above and below, you can see how intense their final confrontation is.Troilus and Cressida 4

I also must mention the tremendously strong ensemble feel that this T & C production had and I wasn’t surprised when I checked my program later that there were 10 (!) count’em TEN graduates of the equally superb NYU Grad Acting program! Which boasts its’ own  terrific, classically trained actors, main among them Corey Stoll. Stoll was so memorable as Ernest Heminngway in Woody Allen’s ” Midnight in Paris.” Here the completely bald Stoll is oiliness personified as the only man in a suit in this play, the slippery, Ulysseus, whom Stoll plays as   a corrupt ad exec, who arranges Cressida’s gang rape and many other nefarious things.Corey Stoll 1

I also had the privilege of seeing Understudy Keilyn Durrell Jones go on as the muscle-bound Achilles. He was just so loopily love-struck by his male amour Patroclus (Tom Pecinka), he licks his face like a huge puppy dog.Keilyn The Millionaire Jones

Yes, this is also the gay-est play Shakespeare ever wrote and director Sullivan does not hesitate to show the mighty Achilles, gathering his beloved up in his hugely muscled arms and whisking the giggling Patroclus off to their love-tent.

A male cast this awesome, and striking, who speak the Bard’s lines as magnificently as they make love AND war, makes one re-consider “Troilus and Cressida” as a much better play than it ever seemed before.

#Troilus and Cressida # Shakespeare # Trojan War #Andrew Burnap #Zach Appelman #Shakespeare in the Park #Corey Stoll #Achilles #Helen Mirren # Royal Shakespeare Company #Helen Mirren nude #Ulysses #Dan Sullivan # Problem Play # Central Park #Hamlet # Hartford Stage Company # Darko Tresnjak # Keilyn The Billionaire Jones#Achilles

 

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