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Posts tagged ‘Play’

Oscar Nominee, 20 yr. old, Lucas Hedges Rocks Off Broadway in”Yen”

yen-2It’s so rare to see an Off-Broadway play explode on every artistic level, as the strangely titled “Yen” does at the Lucille Lortel on Christopher St. Meant as a vehicle for rising star and Oscar nominee ( in Supp. Actor) Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea,” he surprises and surpasses on every level possible. Main among them the revelatory fact that young ( 20 yr.old ) Lucas Hedges is no flash in the pan. He fulfills every expectation and surpasses them. He is simply on his way to being one of the greatest young actors of his generation.casey-lucasHe’s shaved his mop top of solid red hair and goes completely bald as British skin-head, Hench, in Anna Jordan’s electric new play “Yen.” It is being given a superb American debut production by director Trip Cullman, whose career I have admired and followed for many years now. Cullman has a way of getting career performances out of his actors and he’s done that here with Ari Graynor, Stefania LaVie Owen and Justice Smith.

Yen which is a nick-name of Owen’s character Jen, is no walk in the park, and is not for the faint of heart. It’s a total gut punch. I felt, too, like Hedges’ character does in the play’s bloody climax, as if I was banging my head into a wall over and over and over again. The sense of the characters’ frustrations are contagious, palpable. But in the best sense of the word. It was exhilarating. And enlightening. It was like it was as dangerous as being caught in a lightning storm at sea with columns of lightning bolts shooting all around you. You see them blazing everywhere . At any moment , you might be hit.yen-1 yen-3

It starts with Hedges nude to the waist and barefoot picking his nose and watching pornography with a dead-eyed expression, while his younger brother Bobbie, also shirtless and barefoot, is jumping around the dirty bed-sit stage like a Mexican jumping bean on speed. Or meth. He’s on something. Because he doesn’t stop imitating the sound of their German Shepherd Taliban who is cooped up off-stage (we hear him, but we never see him) growling and snarling and roaring through this play, like a bat or a German Shepherd out of hell.

Juvenile delinquents – to – be, they rob stores in order to eat, and they only own one dirty T- shirt between them. And seem to have had no parenting whatsoever.yen7

Taliban is caged and so are these two teenaged boys. And we soon find out why as they drag their comatose, drug-addicted, passed-out-drunk mother in through the doorway of their rancid council flat. Ari Graynor is magnificence personified as this young actress tackles these multiple addictions and her two equally addicted, pubescent teenage sons, executing just how twisted her under-class life has made her, in a Cockney accent that is totally spot on. As is Hedges’ and is Justice Smith’s. Smith performs the disturbed Bobbie at a decibel and enery-level that is superhuman. You don’t know what dangerous thing he and/or Hench might do that prefigures the violence that occurs as the play progresses.yen-4

But the violence is not telegraphed. It’s just THERE. A part of these lower-class have-nots’ lives.  I’d say this play was a continuation of John Osborne’s Angry Young Man, working class anti-hero from the ’50s. It’s a kitchen sink drama, except these people are so poor they don’t even HAVE a kitchen sink.

As the play spirals downward, the only glimmer of hope is represented by the entrance of Jennifer or Jen. “Yen” to her family. A sweet Welsh girl, who has just moved into the neighborhood, and is clearly attracted to the hunky Hench ( Hedges )who spends most of the play in his underpants. yen-5Stefania LaVie Owen totally nails this difficult accent, too. As well embodying Yen’s warmth and gritty/slutty attraction. She is astonishingly making her stage debut in this difficult role in this difficult play. But they are all orbiting around Lucas Hedges’ miraculous sun. His talent is out-size and blazing, and he more than fulfills the high expectations his complex Oscar-nominated performance as the troubled, recalcitrant nephew in “Manchester by the Sea,” has set. And “Manchester” has set that bar HIGH.

Hench is a much more difficult role. He has to carry the entire, angry play, barefoot and half-naked, and make you hate him, but love him, and fear him and fear FOR him at the same time. It’s astonishing. HE’S astonishing.

Yen” is closing in March, so you better move fast and see it before it vanishes into theatrical lore as Lucas Hedges’ blazing theatrical debut.

#Yen

#Lucas Hedges

#Trip Cullman

#Off Broadway

#Oscar Nominee Best Supporting Actor

#Manchester by the Sea

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“Mothers & Sons” Best Play of the Year! Tyne Daly Best Actress!

The great Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” is the best new play of the year and the best new play on Broadway. And Tyne Daly as the mother is giving ANOTHER one of her greatest performances and in surely on her way to a Best Actress in a Play Tony nomination, if not a win. She won her first and only Tony(so far) for “Gypsy.”

“Mothers and Sons” is the kind of new play we should be seeing regularly on Broadway, but never do. It’s powerful. Immense, in its’ concentration on only four characters, or five, if you count the off-stage character of the late Andre Gerard, who is the real center of the play, and its’ uniting figure.

Andre is the handsome, sexy, 20-something young actor who dies twenty years before the play actually begins of AIDS.And by the way, we never see him. Except on a theater regional theater poster of him playing a rage-filled Hamlet.

It’s now two decades on and grief and time have brought his angry Republican mother, Katherine (Tyne Daly) and his surviving lover Cal (Frederick Weller) together in his semi-sumptuous Upper West Side apartment that overlooks Central Park.

She has come in her black, bulky fur coat and jewels to return her late son Andre’s diary to Cal. She can’t read it. And neither can he. She’s a dragon, breathing fire at Cal.

Yes, it’s another AIDS play. (I wrote one of the first one’s myself “Fever of Unknown Origin” in 1984, but that’s another story.) “Mothers and Sons” is set decidedly today. In a time when gay marriage is legal, and Cal has indeed moved on since the beloved Andre’s death to marry Will (Bobby Steggert) and they have a son Bud. This arrangement is seen as the highest point of gay achievement, and yes, perhaps it is. It certainly is a profound political and societal change.

Gay Marriage as well as AIDS is also front and center here because that too is what the play is addressing. Since the wonderful privilege of marriage for gay men was not even a serious thought or consideration when Andre died. But now it’s an inspiring fact of gay life.

And Bobby Steggert’s heart-warming, handsome young Wil can’t even imagine a time when it wasn’t this way. The rest of us all do. Wil is the younger generation who has missed the plague years, where literally someone I knew was dropping dead every day. It was like a war zone. It was a holocaust. It was ghastly. It was horrible beyond belief. Nearly everyone I knew died.

Frederick Weller’s Cal has lived through all of that era and nursed Andre through the horrible final stages of that illness that changed all our lives forever.

Weller has never been better and he has the daunting task of standing up to Tyne Daly’s formidable, homophobic monster of a mother. And he does.

Daly is a theatrical miracle in a career-topping performance. I saw her as Momma Rose in “Gypsy.” She was great. I saw her as Maria Callas in “Master Class” She was astonishing. And now her Katharine Gerard is an unforgettable portrait of a right-wing, Texas Republican mother who has all her anger and all her self-righteous conservative prejudices and confusion intact. And is still mourning the loss of her only son.

A seemingly impregnable, immovable slab of Mount Rushmore granite at the start of the play, she removes her black widow mink, to reveal a bright red dress that symbolizes her slow melt. And melt she inevitably does, and it is to Tyne Daly’s unending credit that she makes us like and UNDERSTAND this hostile harridan’s point of view.

And credit too to the great playwright McNally, who has always been one of my favorite American writers. He strips Katharine down to the bone as he has her reveal layer by layer, monologue by searing monologue, the depths of this woman’s despair and loneliness and sense of abandonment. Her husband, whom she didn’t love, has passed away, too, two weeks ago. And though she couldn’t stand him, his passing has sent her reeling into Cal’s CPW apartment to try to find….something….Something she doesn’t even understand she’s looking for.

And we find it with her, and what a journey it is! I can’t stop praising this great, new play and recommend it to one and all everywhere. It’s a great, great theatrical triumph.

Bravo and definitely BRAVA!

Kathleen Turner “High” closes low ~ on Easter Sunday!

Well, blink and you’ve missed her. Kathleen Turner was starring on Bway for a bunch o’ days, but she won’t be after tomorrow late afternoon. Her intermittently interesting starrer “High” is leaving on a season low. Closing on Sunday. Easter no less.

Kathleen Turner, once a great screen beauty, is now, in her later years beginning to resemble Winston Churchill. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se. Her force, her magnetic star power is in full blaze in “High” but the rather weak and extremely clichéd play she’s in “High” is the Bway season’s biggest low. And no match for a blazing, charismatic talent like Turner’s. She literally blows it to pieces.

Usually, a play this mediocre does not make it to Broadway these days. Shows used to open and close in one night. Not so anymore when there are millions of dollars at stake . Shows get workshopped to death in places far from the glare of the Great White Way’s white-hot spotlight.Preparation and caution is all.

But how this low “High” ever made it to the Rialto is a mystery. It simply may have been the star’s wanting to do it. And that’s not really enough.

It’s a BIG part for a BIG GAL,a swearing, formerly alcoholic nun. And these days Miss Turner is nothing if not BIG. She hasn’t passed over into the plus sizes, but she’s getting there. And now she’s sporting a neck the size of Texas.

There’s virtually no sets, and not much in the way of costumes. And there’s one extended nude scene for its’ homo druggie, which actually is the play’s best scene. And Bway newcomer Evan Jonigkeit is more than up to the task. He and Ms. Turner have a nude wrestling scene. He’s nude. She isn’t. And she gets him to the floor, from which he and the play barely get up in the second act.

Jonigkeit does manage to REALLY score in the climatic gutter death scene between him and Turner in Act Two. But by then it’s the play’s death rattle you’re hearing. And it’s too little, too late.

All the characters are more or less repulsive and non-relatable. And Bull Dog Turner’s George C. Scott-like attack-style of acting was much better suited onstage as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” which she successfully essayed several seasons back. Here she just sort of endlessly stands there with her basso profundo voice bellowing in the Booth Theater like she was Enrico Caruso with a sore throat.

Supposedly an expose of corruption in the Catholic Church (and guess what overly used plot device vice that means?) playwright Matthew Lombardo really offers nothing new at all on the subject. “Doubt” starring Cherry Jones in the role of Sister Aloyisius that won her a Tony for Best Actress in a play. And won Best Play, too. And a brace of other Tony and awards galore.”Doubt” has covered all this very same ground and did it a lot faster, and better. Memorably so.

Ms. Turner’s Martha lost the Tony to Ms. Jones’ indelible nun that year and here as Sister Jamison Connelly she’s gonna lose, too. Though stranger things have happened on Broadway. Valerie Harper in Mr. Lombardo’s other Bway bomb, er, offering “Looped” (which I actually kind of enjoyed) got Valerie Harper a Tony nod for her boozy bravura Tallulah Bankhead. Turner could pull off that hat trick, too. The critics were kind.

Me? Ms. Turner reminded of Greater Tuna. The fish, not the show.

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