Wednesday, October 17, 2018

THEATER: "Mother Of The Maid" Lacks Fire

MOTHER OF THE MAID * out of ****
THE PUBLIC THEATER


My Aunt Peggy was pretty much a saint. I never saw a halo or found her spotlit by a heavenly glow. But Peggy Ann Walpole devoted her life to helping others. She worked as a nurse in Toronto in the 1950s, but found it just...unacceptable that women were sometimes discharged with nowhere to go. Prostitutes, homeless, out of jail, fleeing an abusive husband -- these women left the hospital to wander the streets. So Peggy simply rented a hotel room and told a woman, "You can stay there for the night." And then she did it again and again until she eventually founded Street Haven, providing shelter for women, services to help them mainstream back into society and so much more. Aunt Peggy received every honor you can think of, from the Order of Canada to the highest honor a layperson can be given in the Catholic Church. She met Popes and Mother Teresa but mostly just helped women...that is, when she wasn't in and out of hospitals her entire life with one debilitating illness after another. I know women prayed for her. And since she died in 2006, it wouldn't really surprise me in the least if women prayed to her.

But a saint? Well, that seems strange to say the least when you actually know someone. Aunt Peggy never mentioned a mission from God or visitations from on high. If she had, I would have probably rolled my eyes. Just as a prophet is never honored in their own hometown, a saint is surely never treated as holy in their own family.

That, perhaps, was the starting point for Emmy winner Jane Anderson's new play Mother of The Maid. It stars Glenn Close as Isabelle Arc, whose child Joan would indeed claim a mission from God to cleanse France of the English rabble. What would it be like to raise a girl who would be raised up by the Church and the French court to lead men into battle, only to be captured and burned at the stake as a heretic? One can imagine all sorts of approaches, with Joan's family offering caustic commentary or perhaps revealing the deep wellspring of faith that Joan drew upon. It might be funny, with these modest people contrasting amusingly with the French courtiers aghast or delighted by their frankness.


Glenn Close and Grace Van Patten. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sadly, while Mother of the Maid hints very modestly at all of these possibilities, it succeeds at none of them or more accurately barely strives for any of them at all. The tomboyish, blunt Joan (Grace Van Patten) is clearly bothered by something and her mother -- no stranger to the facts of life as a farmer's wife -- thinks Joan might be feeling sexual urges. When she sees her daughter in what we know to be religious ecstasy, Isabelle's assumption is far more prosaic.

But no, that's not it at all. Joan reveals the truth -- that she has been visited by Saint Catherine and is called by God to lead the French army into battle and defeat the British. Nonsense! And Joan's father (Dermot Crowley) beats her backside and ties the child up before she can disgrace the family any further with her mad talk. Too late, for Joan has already garnered attention. Before you know it, she and her brother (Andrew Hovelson) are off to court, with Joan's mother not far behind, just for a look around and to make sure her daughter is ok.

It's a curiously flat play. Even at the break, indeed even three-quarters of the way through I was still trying to puzzle out exactly what Anderson had in mind. Scenes with Kate Jennings Grant as a Lady of the Court felt especially beside the point. Those scenes aren't funny or insightful or dramatic or much of anything. They feel like the sort of scenes that may get written but are soon cut out for the simple reason that nothing -- dramatically speaking -- happens in them. And on it goes, from triumphs in battle to capture to Joan's execution. Sometimes we are with Joan and sometimes her family but never are we remotely engaged.

Isabelle's husband accuses her of too much faith. Her daughter Joan accuses her of not enough. It hardly seems to matter. Isabelle appears to have an unquestioning simple faith and if she encourages her daughter to deny the visions that came to Joan, well who can blame her? She just wants her child to live. If it's meant as a moment of crisis, the struggle hardly registers. The entire play we stand on the sidelines of historic events. But our perspective doesn't undercut the grandiosity on display or bring great people down to size or offer insight or insert humor or do anything one might hope for.

Among the tech elements, John Lee Beatty does wonders in the tiny three-sided space of the upstairs theater this piece is staged. With the vivid assist of the lighting by Lap Chi Chu, Beatty offers up multiple convincing scenes from a farmhouse to court to a dungeon. The cast can do little with the material on hand, but star Glenn Close is nonetheless admirable in setting the right tone for everyone. She's too much of a pro to not realize the play isn't working. But Close never rides roughshod over the work; she never tries to underline the humor or pathos on tap. She stays resolutely in key with the story when a lesser talent might have tried desperately to cover up the flaws by going bigger.

At the end, the mother of the Maid describes the heartache of Joan's death and how Isabelle's husband died shortly after. She refused to fade away. Instead, Isaballe got a cart, taught herself to read, traveled widely and then headed to Rome where she stared down the Pope, stood before tribunals and insisted her daughter was no heretic. Ultimately she prevailed. Well, heck, that sounds interesting and one is tempted to say Anderson should have told that story instead. But there's no reason to believe that play would have been any stronger than this one. I fear I lack faith.



THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2
On Beckett ***
What The Constitution Means To Me **
The Winning Side *
Oklahoma **
Mother Of The Maid *

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next?Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter! Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Friday, October 12, 2018

THEATER: "Oklahoma" Is (Just) OK

OKLAHOMA ** out of ****
ST. ANN'S WAREHOUSE

At the end of this particular Oklahoma, our hero and heroine are spattered in blood, the cast is spitting out the lyrics of the title song and it climaxes with their faces contorted in rage, frustration and despair as they growl a defiant "HAAA!!" and we are plunged into darkness. Clearly, director Daniel Fish wants to expose the violent underbelly of our nation's history. But the final scenes of this classic musical are so muddled -- and so little of what comes before leads logically to this ending -- that we're left exhausted and annoyed.

It begins nicely. The cowboy Curly (Damon Daunno) wanders onstage, guitar in hand and turns "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'" from an ode to wide open spaces into a flirtatious charmer. (Ditto for "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top.") A bluegrass band at one end of the wide open rectangular stage provides down home accompaniment, chili is cooking in crockpots on pinewood tables that stretch from one end to the other and Aunt Eller starts whipping up some cornbread. (She's played with wit and vinegar by the marvelous Mary Testa).  Laurey (Rebecca Naomi Jones) does her best to resist Curly's appeal and take him down a notch, something his amiable ego can easily handle and probably needs. The singing cowboy is a familiar trope but Laurey still gets a laugh by muttering, "Oh no, please don't play your guitar" when he launches into another song.

Right away, Fish sets an appealing, intimate tone. No full orchestra to overwhelm the simple story, the audience as family sharing a meal and dialogue that weaves in and out of song (just as in the original production). Fish also plays with microphones, allowing characters who want to shout out their sentiments to grab a mike and hear their voices amplified. It works a treat. The show can breathe, the marvelous songs sound fresh and natural and the story simply unfolds. No meta conceit needed here -- they're just holding a classic up to the light.

Curly and Laurey are clearly meant for each other, but she's not going to make it that easy for him. Fair enough, but she goes a little too far by accepting a ride to the dance that Saturday from her hired hand Jud Fry (Patrick Vaill, dressed like a Seattle grunge musician). Jud may be the best hand Aunt Eller ever had, but he's also creepy. Laurey is so scared of him she takes care never to be alone with the man, if possible. Jud keeps to himself, puts nudies up in his room out back and is in general a malignant presence, more disturbed than disdainful.

Laurey goes too far but Ado Annie can't go far enough. Played with charm by Ali Stroker of the marvelous Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening, Ado loves whichever man is in front of her, be it the dimwitted but lovable cowboy Will Parker (a winning James Davis) or the traveling peddler Ali Hakim (Mallory Portnoy, demolishing the stereotypical take on the role and making this part his own). Unlike the main romance, this triangle is pure fun and the three actors make the most of it from start to finish. Davis avoids making Parker too dumb -- he's just determined to get the girl he loves...and maybe not so good at math. The peddler can sometimes be done too broadly; Portnoy makes Ali so specific and fun (he just loves a good time) that a problematic part becomes a showstopper. This Hakim is more traveling-salesman-with-the-farmer's-daughter than a wheedling, ethnic stereotype. And the fringe on top of this particular Surrey is Stroker. She is an actress with a disability and spends most of the show in a wheelchair. It's notable how easily that fact is incorporated into the movement and song and dance, helped immeasurably by Stroker's yodeling vocals, sexy presence and the witty dip in her wheelchair she's given when kissed by Hakim towards the end.

Despite the refreshing presentation, this really is your mother's Oklahoma: the subplot is silly hijinks and the main story is a little serious. As in most productions I've seen, Jud isn't just a loner or outcast, he's a genuine threat to this civilizing territory soon to be a state. It's not that he doesn't fit in: someone as unhinged as Jud doesn't really belong anywhere.

That's driven home by the scene where Curly visits Jud in his lodgings and gives this snake of a man a good rattle. Fish pulls out all the stops here: the theater is plunged into darkness and a camera swoops in to deliver a close-up of Jud's face which we see displayed on a back wall. Curly paints a picture of Jud dying and the whole town coming out to mourn him, suddenly realizing what a swell guy Jud really was. Like some sour Tom Sawyer, Jud eats up this idea for a while until he turns on Curly and the rest of them, vowing to have his revenge once and for all. For all the flashy staging (movie cameras! total darkness!), nothing in this scene changes our understanding of Jud (or Curly) so it's hard to see the point. Perhaps we're meant to be glimpsing into Jud's dark soul, but the moment shows Curly in equally unpleasant terms.




All bets are off in the beginning of Act Two. After some chili and cornbread doled out to the audience (thanks Mary Testa!) during the interval, we're given a whole new slant on the show. While the cast is hardly costumed in period clothing, the suggestion of prairies and country folk and the heartland has been strong (except for Jud's annoyingly anachronistic clothes and facial hair worthy of Kurt Cobain). But following on the high-tech flash of those movie cameras in Act One, we get fog rolling on stage and then dancer Gabrielle Hamilton appears in a dream ballet choreographed by John Heginbotham.

You can hardly pretend they're not making a statement when the five foot nothing and bald-headed woman of color Hamilton comes striding out of the fog. She's wearing an exceptionally ugly top emblazoned with the slogan "DREAM BABY DREAM" and disco shorts, both glossy and modern and looking more appropriate for a Donna Summer musical than Oklahoma. It's a statement writ large, but a rather juvenile one.

Hamilton's diminutive height and strong stage presence creates an interesting dynamic when she stares at multiple cast members, somehow looking down on them even as she looks up. Yet other than some modern technology, nothing in the first act has brought a modern sensibility or revisionist commentary on Oklahoma, so the clothing and the slogan and the vibe of this number just feels like a desperate attempt to carry some import and get in our face.

Whereas the color and disability blind casting for the rest of the show is natural and unforced, here it feels unearned. The show is asking Hamilton to symbolize something they haven't given her the context to deliver. The house band suddenly breaks out an electric guitar and rocks the score, as if Jimi Hendrix tackled songs from Oklahoma at Woodstock rather than the national anthem. Hamilton dances with poise and determination, but to what effect? The sudden appearance of a dozen of so more dancers (all wearing the same garish costume) for a very brief flourish feels similarly wasteful and pointless. I look forward to seeing Hamilton in something worthier of her talent.

It gets worse. Laurey's scene alone with Jud is done in total darkness, just like Curly's scene with him. But since Jud's actions here can be portrayed as anything from awkward to assault and Laurey's reaction is key,  having it take place in the dark is unhelpful dramatically. We're left a little in the dark too, even though before this Laurey has been wise to keep him far, far away. She angrily fires Jud as he buckles up his pants and vows revenge, yet again.

Of course, Laurey and Curly get married but, after weeks away, Jud returns to spoil the moment. Yet now he's modest and shy and nicely dressed? He bashfully asks to kiss the bride, but it's no peck on the cheek. To add to our confusion, Laurey responds positively to his kisses, looking at him wonderingly or with confusion when they're done, rather than the fear or disgust one might expect. In the final absurdity, Jud's death is staged as essentially "suicide by Curly," with Jud handing him a pistol, cocking it and then waiting politely to be shot down. No fight instigated by Jud, no attempt to murder Curly, no self-inflicted mortal wound -- just Jud standing there, knowing what must be will be. Laurey and Curly are splattered with blood and what in God's name any of this could mean escapes me. That leads right into the would-be blistering reprise of the title song.

What began as a rare chance to see talented pros tackle this work in an intimate setting turns into a frustrating shambles by the end. I found Jones rather stiff in her dialogue scenes. Vaill has the unenviable task of tackling Jud in a show that has no clue what to do with him, but Vaill certainly doesn't help matters. My guest preferred Daunno in the musical Hadestown while I liked him more here. But there's no doubt he has charm and presence. Most everyone else is delightful whenever this production gets out of the way and let's them deliver those songs. But that gets rarer and rarer as the show goes on. Whatever Fish wanted to do, he failed to consistently fulfill that vision from start to finish.



I would hardly say Oklahoma is a problem musical. But I've never seen a production that quite makes sense of Jud, not even the brilliant 1998 revival in London that made Hugh Jackman a star and featured Shuler Hensley as Jud. Why is Curly so hostile to Jud? Any fool would realize Jud is hardly a threat to woo away Laurey and Curly is no fool. If Jud is genuinely dangerous then Curly is unnecessarily antagonizing him. If Jud is just a confused, inept loner with poor social skills then the handsome and winning Curly is just being cruel.

Jud makes me think of the John Wayne character in John Ford's classic The Searchers. Wayne's violent, racist Ethan Edwards is a relic of the past, the murderous sort needed to clear the land of "hostiles" (that is, the Native Americans who lived there first). Now that pioneers are settling down in West Texas, Ethan is an unwelcome reminder of how that land was made available in the first place. He was a necessary evil but he's not necessary any more. At the end of that film, the door is firmly shut on Ethan, leaving him on the outside of hearth and home.

Jud on the other hand is hardly necessary at all. Laurey says she is scared of him and -- in the original production -- Jud spoils the wedding, harasses her and tries to kill Curly twice, eventually dying by stumbling and accidentally stabbing himself with his own knife. Jud is his own worst enemy. Making him both hateful, frightening and a sacrificial lamb as in this production simply makes no sense.

But what if Jud were black? (And Laurey and Curly white?) Presumably this has been done somewhere before. Fish's desire to cast a new light on this story might have paid dividends with some color specific casting. (Indeed, it crossed my mind at the beginning of the show that actor Will Mann might be playing Jud; more's the pity he wasn't.) With that change, many of the questions are answered and new possibilities open up.

Aunt Eller insists Jud is the best hired hand she ever had and yet he's given poor lodgings and clearly isolated from the rest of the town folk. If Jud is black, that treatment takes on a whole new meaning. Laurey insists she is scared of him and refuses to be alone with the man. Take your pick: that could be played as simple prejudice or a case of her protesting too much, with Laurey loudly proclaiming one attitude but her genuine desire being quite another.

Curly's immediate antagonism -- especially if he suspects Laurey might actually fancy Jud -- makes more sense here, too. Curly's suggestion Jud simply hang himself takes on an even uglier tone. Some dialogue and action would be better if cut (like Jud's lame attempt to kill Curly with a novelty toy that's booby trapped), but much more that remains would take on new resonance.

When Laurey and Judd are alone, it might be her initiating romance, only to have them be discovered. At that point she could push him away, angrily implying an attempted rape and unfairly firing the man because they're seen by others. His brutal murder by Curly and the joke of a trial at the end? That would be far more potent too. If a production wanted to underline the violence and darkness in American history, a casting choice like this would be consistent with that goal, letting scene after scene build to a shattering conclusion, rather than simply having it come out of nowhere. Certainly it would be in keeping with the bold and provocative work Rodgers and Hammerstein delivered throughout their partnership.

It would certainly be in keeping with the history of Oklahoma. That territory once featured such a vibrant free black population that President Teddy Roosevelt toyed with the idea of turning the area into a black-majority state. Needless to say, such success wasn't allowed to last. The prosperous black people of Tulsa were targeted by a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, the city government, the police and the white community. Their campaign of intimidation climaxed with the shameful 1921 Tulsa Race Riot in which black-owned businesses were decimated and an untold number of black people numbering in the thousands were beaten, hospitalized or killed.

Heck, Jud could be a Native American. The Oklahoma Territory was the location where countless indigenous Americans were forced to relocate by the US government. Eventually, dozens of tribes were displaced to the area and -- again -- just as government officials considered creating a black-majority state, an all-Indian state was almost formed there as well.

No such luck, but their presence remain. The name Oklahoma itself is a combination of two words in the Choctaw language, literally meaning "red people" or more colloquially "Native Americans." So the title song in this all-American musical, the one almost anyone can sing a snatch of (or at least spell), the state name they proclaim as "OK!" with exuberance and joy? That's a Choctaw word. They're shouting out "Native Americans!" The chorus is loudly and proudly (and cluelessly) reminding us of the people that were here first and then brutally removed. If you want to rethink the musical Oklahoma, you could start right there.

THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2
On Beckett ***
What The Constitution Means To Me **
The Winning Side *
Oklahoma **

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next?Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter! Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Monday, October 08, 2018

THEATER: Bill Irwin Clowns (A Little), The Constitution Oppresses (A Lot) And "The Winning Side" Doesn't

ON BECKETT *** out of ****
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME ** out of ****
THE WINNING SIDE * out of ****

ON BECKETT *** out of ****
IRISH REPERTORY THEATRE


Let's make one thing clear: this is not a play. Actor and clown Bill Irwin is giving a lecture, a talk or if it sounds less threatening a discussion of playwright Samuel Beckett. It's true Irwin delivers excerpts of pieces by Beckett and even clowns around a bit, but this is very much not an evening of theater. It's subtitled "exploring the works of Samuel Beckett" and that's just about right. I emphasize this because I spent about half of this event recalibrating what I was seeing. I'm sure audiences who are wise enough to attend will enjoy it a whole lot more if they know precisely what to expect.

When did lectures go out of fashion? At the turn of the 20th century, going to a lecture or talk or public speech was quite the thing. Obviously radio and TV and even the wide availability of books made that less necessary. And yes you can still go see lectures and talks but usually you'll be in a college setting or catch someone plugging a book. Outside of David Sedaris tours, the idea of going to see a public figure weigh in on a topic has faded from view.



What a pity since hearing Bill Irwin share his thoughts on Beckett is fascinating and enlightening. He charmingly introduces the event and performs selections from eight different works, all the while sharing his thoughts on Beckett's voice, the experience of acting in his plays (often, Irwin says, actors will finish a run and insist they were terrible and immediately wonder when they can do it again), the debate on how to pronounce "Godot," the mind-twisting fact that this most Irish of writers wrote his work in French (!), the art of clowning, the pleasure of baggy pants, Beckett's early and powerful exposure to vaudeville and again and again the delightful puzzle of why and how this work speaks so forcefully to Irwin. One answer he gives? No, he doesn't love despair; he loves characters who face up to despair and soldier on as best they can.

Then I thought I spotted the sly, savvy actor in Irwin, despite his charming, self-effacing aura. Young actor Finn O'Sullivan joins Irwin very briefly when doing a scene from "Godot" that features a messenger boy. After it ended, Irwin brought O'Sullivan back out for a quick bow and joshes with him before sending the lad on his way. Ahh, I thought. Smart! O'Sullivan rightly gets his moment in the spotlight, doesn't have to wait around for the final bow...and at the end of the show Irwin will have the applause all to himself. But, no. At the end of the evening O'Sullivan comes back out and they take their bows together. That makes Irwin's earlier gesture all the more generous. Maybe that self-effacement wasn't an act after all.

Irwin's performances are sharp and entertaining here, such as when he demonstrates various ways one can tackle a certain bit or admits trying to set Beckett's dialogue to some new internal rhythm like rap or a waltz. (It just doesn't work.) His insights are many and the sharing of an actor's process (or at least this particular actor's process) is a treat. With just a spare stage, a few props and spot-on lighting (courtesy Michael Gottlieb), this master class in acting and Beckett is a treat. It's the best lecture in town!


WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME ** out of ****
NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP


What a frustrating and unsatisfying bit of theater this proved for me, in an interesting way. It's a pity since the conceit and the politics and the painfully timely nature of a show looking at our Constitution and our government -- well, it's all catnip to me. Writer and star Heidi Schreck spent her childhood going from VFW hall to VFW hall debating other kids and winning scholarship money for college. Indeed, she paid her way through school on the winnings. But what would her present-day self think of the Constitution compared to her admittedly smart but still much younger and perhaps less cynical 15 year old version?

And so we get What The Constitution Means To Me, with Schreck in the heightened VFW hall of her dreams (the sets are by Rachel Hauck), delivering the debate speech she gave so many years ago but with the interruptions and asides she couldn't say at the time, along with the hard-won wisdom and a more nuanced sense of history Schreck has gathered since then.

It's all very meta. Schreck is playing her younger self, though as she explains she won't be "playing" a 15 year old as such. (Though she does amusingly speed up her delivery as time runs out or feel sweetly earnest at times, all of which reads "teen debater.") But then Schreck veers off and isn't delivering that long-ago speech. She's talking about her private life, the violence her mother witnessed as a child, the violence her grandmother endured, the abortion Schreck couldn't bring herself to tell her mom about at the time, the statistics on violence against women in this country and much more. Sometimes she's just a more informed debater; sometimes she's left the debate far behind and tears up at the memory of the degradation women in her family's history have faced or even how she had sex with a guy she really didn't want to because -- as she jokes -- it seemed the polite thing to do. Then she returns to that moment and clarifies that some inner voice told her not to die, to be scared for her life and do what she must to survive.



It's all emotional and sincere and briefly harrowing and often funny. It's also completely artificial. I might blame Schreck's performance but I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with it. I didn't buy it, but I didn't mind it. It's the very structure and conceit of What The Constitution Means To Me that just doesn't work. We know Schreck is "recreating" a moment from her younger self's life. So when she "impulsively" changes tack and starts sharing info from her current point of view, we know this is scripted. And while it feels unfair of me to say this, even her emotional moments feel scripted. Does she really wipe away tears thinking about her grandmother? Or is that simply a beat in the script? Frankly, I didn't even know if everything she said about her family was actually true.

And that's what proves so frustrating about this work of theater. I didn't want to doubt or wonder the truth of any of it. On one level, it shouldn't matter. On another level, if it worked I wouldn't care. But it didn't work and I was annoyed that I found myself wondering precisely what was true. At the end of the evening, a young female debater comes on stage and they tackle an issue and an audience member chooses a winner...and even THAT felt scripted and unconvincing. I assume every word of this confessional night is accurate. I certainly agree with the essential ideas she presented -- one of the most essential being that perhaps the Constitution was not created to slowly spread equal rights to all but simply to create a functioning society in which only the men who created it would enjoy the most power.

If Schreck had just come out and said, "Here's the speech I would give today at the VFW" and told her story, it might have been less dramatic but it would have been more effective. What The Constitution Means To Me is heartfelt and sincere and I agreed with most everything it espouses. But as theater? I didn't believe it for a minute.


THE WINNING SIDE * out of ****
EPIC THEATRE ENSEMBLE AT THEATRE ROW


The life of German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun is filled with moral complexity. He helped design the V-2 rockets that terrorized London during WW II. But then he also helped the US launch a rocket to the moon, inspiring not just Americans but truly the entire world. The bizarre reality of his journey is almost hard to grasp. Did he really go from a Nazi to a celebrated figure on Walt Disney's TV show in the 1950s, just one decade after the end of the war? A black satire, a penetrating drama -- the possibilities of how to tell his story are endless.

The Winning Side captures none of this in a flat, un-involving play that skims over the surface of von Braun's questionable life, saving any attempt to hold his feet to the fire for a confusing, haphazard final few minutes. Indeed, this play by James Wallert jumps back and forth in time in a confusing fashion, as if Wallert himself isn't sure where to start. Mostly it toggles back and forth from post-war America to Nazi-occupied Paris, where von Braun (Sullivan Jones) is wooing and perhaps falling in love with French actress Margot Moreau (played by Melissa Friedman). Also in the mix are Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. as von Braun's military contact and Devin E. Haqq as a about a dozen other characters.

In any case, von Braun woos Moreau and she resists. After all, he's a Nazi! If anything, the play very modestly does a better job of showing her moral dilemma than his. But even here it falls short since we are left to imagine she might be asking von Braun pointed questions and peeking into his briefcase for the Resistance. It seems she wasn't, but the possibility is so strong they should have cleared up that potential path to redemption early on. Even worse, we never quite learn the fate of Moreau when just a little bit of stage business would have cleared it up. Late in the play von Braun is in the US after being forced to leave her behind. (Forced? One never knows with von Braun.) She sends a note pleading for help and he...carefully puts the letter away. Does he do something later? Apparently not but having von Braun tear it up would have made that point clear. It would have also painted him as a villain and the show doesn't want to point fingers too easily.
  



But are they worried we might not like him or that we might? Wernher is put through the wringer only at the end. It's done so hurriedly I'm not sure most theater-goers will follow it. But for some reason I was already aware that von Braun oversaw a factory in which thousands suffered as slave labor, many of them tortured or killed. It was probably impossible for von Braun to not be aware of these atrocities. Yet that barely comes across here.

Long ago I realized how wrong it is to judge actors trapped in a bad play. Nonetheless, the cast sport some outrageous accents, including French and German and British. By the end, I wasn't even sure about their American voices. Sullivan Jones is certainly an appealing presence but the material doesn't even begin to allow him a chance to present a complex character. Most technical elements are ok though I did especially appreciate scenic designer Chika Shimizu's choice of placing a giant fan embedded in the top of the set so it could blow out air at the audience during key moments, like a rocket launch. (It reminded me of a ride at Disney World, ironically enough.)

A brief final stab at moral finger-wagging takes place -- but at the audience. Don't be so quick to judge von Braun, says the play. Instead of listing the many positives that came out of the space program, for example, it say, Hey, the pyramids were made with enforced labor and many people died. No one is calling for them to be torn down, are they? Well, no, but this is a rather weak tangent of an argument to make.

In contrast, act two opens with a short ditty by songwriter and satirist Tom Lehrer. It lasts maybe two minutes but in that brief time Lehrer does more to illuminate and skewer the pliable ethics of von Braun than the rest of the play combined. If they were afraid the show might have us tut-tutting at von Braun, they needn't have worried. The Winning Side barely lays a glove on him.  Werner von Braun wins. Again.

THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2
On Beckett ***
What The Constitution Means To Me **
The Winning Side *

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next?Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter! Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.
Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

Friday, September 28, 2018

THEATER: BERNHARDT! HAMLET! MCTEER! AND TEARS!

BERNHARDT/HAMLET * 1/2 out of ****
AMERICAN AIRLINES THEATRE AT ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY

The danger of quoting a masterpiece in your play is of course that the audience will find the rest of the work wanting in comparison. Theresa Rebeck's new play doesn't face that problem for the uncomfortable reason that you spend the entire night trying to figure out exactly what story she's trying to tell. At first, it seems like a bracing reminder of how women have struggled against artificial restraints for far too long. At the turn of the 20th century, men playing women on stage was perfectly natural.  But when the Divine Sarah Bernhardt,  the greatest actress of her age -- played here by Janet McTeer, who is certainly one of the greatest in ours -- wants to play a man, why it's a travesty!

Then Bernhardt/Hamlet lingers on the romance between this legend and the playwright Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner); maybe this light drama is about the tug of war between artistic impulse and personal happiness? (Personal responsibility has nothing to do with it, not when we're talking about artists.) Or perhaps it's a valentine to acting? And yet, the few scenes with a little warmth and spark are the too-brief moments between Bernhardt and her son Maurice (a sweet Nick Westrate), who is home from college to chide her behavior...and perhaps borrow a little money.

In other words, Bernhardt/Hamlet does a lot of things poorly and none of the technical elements overseen by director Moritz von Stuelpnagel or the probably fine cast lorded over (in the nicest way) by McTeer can do anything about it. I say probably fine, because with weak material, who can tell?



It's 1897 and the world famous and famously scandalous actress Sarah Bernhardt is flat broke right after launching her own company and buying a cavernous new theater. A commercial flop has Bernhardt flailing but instead of wheeling out her cash cow of a vehicle "Camille," she makes the bold, unheard-of decision to star in Hamlet. Her lover Edmond is worried. Critics snipe even before seeing it. Rehearsals are strained. My gosh, even the dependable genius Alphonse -- who usually turns out one iconic Art Nouveau masterpiece after another for Bernhardt -- is uninspired when asked to cook up a poster to promote the show. What's it about, he wonders? What is its essence? One might ask the same here.

None of the show's many threads are satisfyingly tied together. The second act perks up a bit -- at least Bernhardt and Rostand fight a little. But it becomes bewildering when we suddenly watch a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac. Wait, what show's genesis are we following here? It doesn't help that a miscast Dylan Baker is not the grand sort of actor who would seize the showy role of Cyrano and run with it. Even more confusing is a final flourish in the show that bows to cinema, which captured Bernhardt in some silent footage late in her life. That leaves this ode to live theater thoroughly discombobulated at the end.

Far better to remember a scene in Act One. Bernhardt and fellow actor Constant Coquelin (Baker) are rehearsing a scene from Hamlet, trying to make it speak to the actress so she can bring the Dane to life. They're tackling a moment between Hamlet and the ghost of his father. Why, she wonders, is Hamlet's father wearing armor when talking to his son? Constant offhandedly says he's done the lead role four times and never asked himself that question. They speak the lines and find a pulse, a quiet moving pulse that brings it alive for them and allows Bernhardt to link Hamlet's missing connection with his father to her own complicated familial history. (She's the daughter of a courtesan and has no idea who her real father might be.)

The audience doesn't need to know this detail of her life; the scene just works. After all, we're watching two actors tackle a scene by Shakespeare. But full credit to Rebeck; here she's made like Stoppard and used the Bard to bring alive two characters and the enchanting world of rehearsal. It doesn't happen often enough but for a moment at least it surely does.

NOTE: For a far more satisfying look at the life of Bernhardt, check out the new dual biography "Playing To The Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonara Duse and the Rivalry That Changed Acting Forever" by Peter Rader. You can find my full review for Broadway Direct here.


THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next?Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter! Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.
Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Movies, Books, Theater, Concerts, CDs I've Seen/Read/Heard So Far In 2018

Updated October 18, 2018

KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2


BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
(Increasingly, I am sampling books, reading 10%, 20% even 40 or 50% before deciding to move on. The books below are only the ones I've read completely. That also explains what looks like generous grading -- more and more, if I sense a book is not going to be among my favorites, I stop reading. Too many books; too little time!)


1. Pietr The Latvian by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #1) ** 1/2
2. Enter Talking by Joan Rivers with Richard Meryman (1986) *** 1/2
3. The Common Good by Robert Reich **
4. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (1961) ***
5. The Carter Of La Providence by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #2) ***/
6. The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman ** 1/2
7. The Late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #3) ***
8. A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin (1968) *** 1/2
9. Coffin, Scarcely Used by Colin Watson (1958) ***
10. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren w Caryle Adler **
11. The Throne Of Caesar by Steven Saylor ** 1/2
12. A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey ***
13. Bump In The Night: A Flaxborough Mystery by Colin Watson ***
14. The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss *** 1/2
15. Space Odyssey by Michael Benson ** 1/2
16. Circe by Madeline Miller *** 1/2
17. Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Bway Revolution by Scott S. Purdum ***
18. Rocket Men by Robert Kurson ** 1/2
19. Factfulness by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund ** 1/2
20. Bob by Wendy Mass and illo by Rebecca Stead ** 1/2
21. Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? by Robert Kuttner ***
22. The Emissary by Yoko Tawada ***
23. Beneath A Ruthless Sun by Gilbert King *** 1/2
24. Endling The Last by Katherine Applegate *** 1/2
25. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston ***
26. The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis **
27. Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt *** 1/2
28. The Mandela Plot by Kenneth Bonert ***
29. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill **
30. Calypso by David Sedaris *** 1/2
31. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson *** (but *** 1/2 in terms of influence)
32. Lincoln's Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher ** 1/2
33. Small Country by Gaël Faye *** 1/2
34. The Street Where I Live by Alan Jay Lerner *** 1/2
35. Island Of The Mad by Laurie R. King ** 1/2
36. The Button War by Avi ** 1/2
37. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje *** 1/2
38. Conan Doyle For The Defense by Margalit Fox ***
39. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik *** 1/2
40. I'm A Free State by V.S. Naipul *** 1/2
41. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively ****
42. Skippy: Daily Comics 1925-1927 by Percy Crosby *** 1/2
43. Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien *** 1/2
44. Farmer In The Sky by Robert Heinlein (1950) * 1/2
45. Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert Heinlein (1957) ** 1/2
46. The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks *** 1/2
47. Skippy: Daily Comics 1928-1930 by Percy Crosby ***
48. Skippy: Daily Comics 1931-1933 by Percy Crosby ***
49. The Spy Of Venice by Benet Brandreth ** 1/2
50. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959) ** 1/2
51. The Complete Terry and the Pirates 1934-1936 by Milt Caniff ** 1/2
52. Toaff's Way by Cynthia Voigt ***
53. The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories by Joan Aiken *** 1/2
54. The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker *** 1/2
55. Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke ***
56. Playing To The Gods by Peter Rader *** 1/2
57. Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter ** 1/2
58. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin ***/
59. Marilla Of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy ***
60. Little Man, Little Man by James Baldwin and illos by Yoran Cazac (1976) *** 1/2
61. Transit by Anna Seghers (1944) *** 1/2
62. The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams ** 1/2
63. The Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older **
64. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943) *** 1/2
65. The Assassination Of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin ** 1/2
66. A Knife In The Fog by Bradley Harper ** 1/2
67. #SAD: Doonesbury In The Time of Trump by Garry Trudeau *** 1/2
68.  Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich with Steven Levonson and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul **
69. The Library Book by Susan Orlean *** 1/2
70. What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera **
71. The Fifth Season by N.J. Jemisin (Broken Earth Trilogy Vol. 1) *** 1/2
72. Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson ** 1/2
73.









CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS (A strong emphasis on the ones I like, so don't think I love everything I listen to -- I just don't bother really listening to the ones I don't )

1. The Alan Parsons Project -- Eye In The Sky (1982) **
2. Dinah Washington -- The Fats Waller Songbook aka Sings Fats Waller (1957) *** 1/2
3. Nina Simone -- Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles ***/
4. The James Hunter Six -- Whatever It Takes ***/
5. Lee Wiley -- West Of The Moon (1956) ** 1/2
6. Petula Clark -- Living For Today ** ("While You See A Chance" cover nice)
7. Kendrick Lamar et al -- Black Panther soundtrack ***/
8. They Might Be Giants -- I Like Fun ** 1/2
9. Fall Out Boy -- Mania ***/
10. Anderson East -- Encore **
11. Jimmy Buffett -- Buried Treasure Vol. 1 **
12. Josh Ritter -- Gathering ***
13. Gaz Coombes -- Matador (2015) ** 1/2
14. Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello -- Flowers In The Dirt demos (1985) *** 1/2
15. Boz Scaggs -- Some Change (1994) *** 1/2
16. Various Artists -- Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack
17. Jo Stafford -- Autumn In New York (1950) **
18. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams (2015) *** 1/2
19. Tracey Thorn -- Record ***/
20. Joan Baez -- Whistle Down The Wind ***
21. Thelonius Monk -- The Complete Prestige 10 Inch LP Collection ****
22. Thelonius Monk -- Thelonius Monk Trio (1954) ****
23. Thelonius Monk -- Monk (1954) *** 1/2
24. Thelonius Monk -- And Sonny Rollins (1954) *** 1/2
25. Curtis Roush -- Cosmic Campfire Music ** 1/2
26. Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson -- Landfall ** 1/2 (not enough Laurie)
27. Steve Winwood -- Greatest Hits Live ** 1/2
28. Philip Phillips -- Collateral **
29. Carmen McRae -- Book Of Ballads (1958) ****
30. The Eagles -- Hotel California (1976) ** 1/2
31. Carmen McRae -- By Special Request (1955) ***
32. Brian Fallon -- Sleepwalkers **
33. Paul McCartney and Youth as The Fireman -- Electric Arguments (2008) ***
34. Mabel Mercer -- Merely Marvelous (1960) ***
35. MGMT -- Little Dark Age **
36. The Moody Blues -- Days of Future Passed (1967) **
37. John Oates -- Arkansas ***
38. John Moreland -- In The Throes (2013) ***
39. Jo Stafford -- Starring Jo Stafford (1953) **
40. Glenn Gould -- Bach: The Goldberg Variations (1981) ****
41. Franz Ferdinand -- Ascending **
42. Merle Haggard -- Mama Tried (1968) ***/
43. The Clash -- The Clash (1977) *** 1/2
44. Simple Minds -- Walk Between Worlds ** 1/2
45. Andy Gibb -- Greatest Hits (1980) **
46. Kacey Musgraves -- Golden Hour ** 1/2
47. Jimi Hendrix -- Both Sides Of The Sky **
48. Tim Christensen -- Honeyburst (2003) *** 1/2
49. The Four Lads -- The Singles Collection 1952-1962 * 1/2
50. Cecile McLorin Salvant -- WomanChild (2013) *** 1/2
51. Meshell Ndegeocello -- Ventriloquism ***
52. Don McLean -- Botanical Gardens * 1/2
53. Ashley McBryde -- Girl Goin' Nowhere ***
54. Paul McCartney -- Memory Almost Full (2007) ***
55. The Fratellis -- In Your Own Sweet Time ***
56. Elizabeth Mitchell -- The Sounding Joy (2013) * 1/2
57. Kurt Elling -- The Questions **
58. Jack White -- Boarding House Reach **
59. Toto -- Greatest Hits: 40 Trips Around The Sun * 1/2
60. Brandi Carlisle -- By The Way, I Forgive You *** 1/2
61. Sonny Rollins -- Way Out West (1957) ***/
62. Habibi -- Cardamom Garden * 1/2
63. Ben Harper and Charles Musselwhite -- No Mercy In This Land **
64. Born Ruffians -- Uncle, Duke and the Chief **
65. Bettye LaVette -- Things Have Changed ***
66. The Meters -- Rejuvenation (1974) *** 1/2
67. Patrick Wolf -- Lupercalia (2011) ***
68. Rick Springfield -- The Snake King ***/ (heretic!!)
69. Rhye -- Blood **
70. Vivian Leva -- Time is Everything **
71. Calum Scott -- Only Human **
72. Scotty McCreery -- Seasons Change ** 1/2
73. The Clash -- Give 'em Enough Rope (1978) *** 1/2
74. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong -- Cheek To Cheek: Complete Duet Recordings *** 1/2
75. Vance Joy -- Nation Of Two **
76. Tom Williams -- All Change **
77. Tom Rogerson -- Finding Shore **
78. Tal National -- Tantabara ** 1/2
79. The Clash -- Combat Rock (1982) ***
80. Donna Summer -- Bad Girls (1979) ** 1/2
81. Donna Summer -- The Wanderer (1980) * 1/2
82. Janelle Monáe -- Dirty Computer *** 1/2
83. Mandy Patinkin -- Diary, January 27, 2018 *** 1/2
84. John  Prine -- The Tree Of Forgiveness ***
85. Frank Turner -- Be More Kind ** (but "The Lifeboat" lovely)
86. Joshua Hedley -- Mr. Jukebox ***/
87. Sting and Shaggy -- 44/876 **
88. Mary Chapin Carpenter -- Sometimes Just The Sky **
89. Sonny and Cher -- The Beat Goes On: The Best Of Sonny and Cher ** 1/2
90. The Magic Numbers -- Outsiders ** 1/2
91. Charlie Puth -- VoiceNotes ***
92. Jason Aldean -- Rearview Town ***/
93. Josh Rouse -- Love In The Modern Age *** 1/2
94. Beach House -- 7 ***
95. Nellie McKay -- Silver Orchid *** 1/2 /
96. Courtney Barnett -- Tell Me How You Really Feel *** /
97. Old Crow Medicine Show -- Volunteer ** 1/2
98. Maddie Poppe -- Songs From The Basement **
99. Jennifer Warnes -- Another Time, Another Place **
100. Shawn Mendez -- Shawn Mendez ** (but "In My Blood" v good)
101. Kanye West -- Ye ** 1/2
102. Leon Bridges -- Good Thing ***
103. Arctic Monkeys -- Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino *** 1/2
104. Willie Nelson -- Last Man Standing **
105. The Temptations -- Psychedelic Shack (1970) *** 1/2 \
106. The Temptations -- Meet The Temptations (1964) ** 1/2
107. The Temptations -- Sing Smokey Robinson (1965) ***
108. Kelly Willis -- Back Bein' Blue ** 1/2
109. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore -- Downey To Lubbock **
110. The Temptations -- The Temptin' Temptations (1965) ***
111. The Pointer Sisters -- Our Hits ** 1/2
112. Dierks Bentley -- The Mountain **
113. Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (1973) ***
114. The Meters -- Fire On The Bayou (1976) ***
115. Neko Case -- Hell-On ***
116. Betty Buckley -- Hope *** (title track great)
117. Brad Mehldau -- Seymour Reads The Constitution ** 1/2
118. Benjamin Jaffe -- Oh, Wild Ocean of Love ***/
119. Ry Cooder -- The Prodigal Son *
120. Ruen Brothers -- All My Shades of Blue **
121. J Balvin -- Vibras ***
122. Birch Pereira -- Western Soul ***/
123. The Temptations -- With A Lot O' Soul (1967) *** 1/2
124. Panic! At The Disco -- Pray For The Wicked ***/
125. Parquet Courts -- Wide Awake! **
126. American Aquarium -- Things Change **
127. Kasey Chambers -- Campfire ***/
128. Kamasi Washington -- Heaven and Earth *** 1/2
129. The Temptations -- In A Mellow Mood (1967) *
130. Frank Sinatra -- Standing Room Only ** 1/2
131. Jerry Reed -- The Unbelievable Guitar And Voice Of Jerry Reed (1967) ***
132. Elvis Presley -- The Searcher (documentary soundtrack) ** 1/2
133. Nas -- Nasir *** 1/2
134. Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Second Helping (1974) ***
135. Tom Rush -- Voices ***/
136. Rufus Wainwright -- Northern Stars ** 1/2
137. Various Artists -- Universal Love: Wedding Songs Reimagined **
138. Sugarland -- Bigger **
139. The Temptations -- Wish It Would Rain (1968) ** 1/2
140. Paul Simon -- Graceland: The Remixes *
141. Van Morrison -- You're Driving Me Crazy w Joey DeFrancesco ** 1/2
142. The Temptations -- Diana Ross and the Supremes Meet The Temptations (1968) * 1/2
143. The Temptations -- Cloud Nine (1969) *** (side one ****; side two ** 1/2)
144. 5 Seconds Of Summer -- Youngblood **
145. John Coltrane -- Both Directions At Once (1963) *** 1/2
146. The Last Poets -- Understand What Black Is **
147. The Temptations -- Puzzle People (1969) ** 1/2
148. Booker T and the MGs -- UpTight (1969) ** 1/2
149. Joan Armatrading -- Not Too Far Away **
150. Françoise Hardy -- Personne d'autre **
151. Arthur Buck -- Arthur Buck **
152. Kadhja Bonet -- Childqueen **
153. Ray Davies -- Our Country -- Americana Act Two **
154. Various Artists -- Baby Driver Volume 2: The Score For A Score **
155. Death Grips -- Year Of The Snitch ** (could be the soundtrack to The First Purge)
156. Don Flemons -- Black Cowboys ** 1/2
157. Corey Harris and Henry Butler -- Vu-Du Menz (2000) *** 1/2
158. Buddy Guy -- The Blues Is Alive And Well *** 1/2
159. The Temptations -- The Temptations' Christmas Card (1970) ** 1/2 but "Silent Night"
160. Gaël Faye -- Rythemes et Botanique (2017) ** 1/2
161. Gaz Coombes -- World's Strongest Man ** 1/2
162. The Temptations -- Sky's The Limit (1971) ***/
163. The Temptations -- Solid Rock (1972) ***
164. Chastity Brown -- Silhouette Of Sirens ** 1/2
165. Ike Reilly -- Crooked Love ** 1/2
166. The Rails -- Other People * 1/2
167. Ben Rector -- Magic **
168. Mike and the Moonpies -- Steak Night at the Prairie Rose **
169. The Milk Carton Kids -- All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn't Do *1/2
170. The Poppy Family - A Good Thing Lost: 1968 - 1973 ** (but nice voice)
171. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever -- Hope Downs ** 1/2
172. Ron Sexsmith -- Carousel One (2015) ***/
173. Cowboy Junkies -- All That Reckoning ** 1/2
174. Van Morrison -- His Band and the Street Choir (1970) ** 1/2\
175. Scott Matthews -- The Great Untold ***/
176. Martin Courtney -- Many Moons **
177. Mary Gauthier -- Rifles and Rosemary Beads *** (esp "Bullet Holes In The Sky")
178. Matt Costa -- Santa Rosa Fangs **
179. Ray LaMontagne -- Part Of The Light **
180. Lori McKenna -- The Tree **
181. Otis Redding -- Dock Of The Bay Sessions (1968/2018) ***\
182. Ruel -- Ready ** 1/2
183. Rev. Shawn Amos -- Breaks It Down (2017) **
184. Corey Harris -- Daily Bread (2005) (weak prod; liked "The Peach")
185. The Free Design -- Kites Are Fun (1967) ** 1/2
186. Ashley Monroe -- Sparrow **
187. Billy Price -- Reckoning **
188. Beth Nielsen Chapman -- Hearts Of Glass **
189. Birds Of Chicago -- Love In Wartime * 1/2
190. Birdtalker -- One **
191. The Bookshop Band -- Accidents and Pretty Girls (2017) **
192. Bombino -- Deran ***
193. Bobby Sanabria -- West Side Story Reimagined ** 1/2
194. Brent Cobb -- Providence Canyon **
195. Clay Parker and Jodi James -- The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound **
196. Ron Sexsmith -- The Last Rider (2017) *** 1/2
197. Boz Scaggs -- Out Of The Blues *** 1/2
198. The Free Design -- You Could Be Born Again (1968) * 1/2
199. Bettye Lavette -- Things Have Changed ***
200. Charles Lloyd and Lucinda Williams -- Vanished Gardens **
201. Cale Tyson -- Careless Soul ** 1/2
202. Nathaniel Rateliff -- Tearing At The Seams ** 1/2
203. Punch Brothers -- All Ashore **
204. The Jayhawks -- Back Roads and Abandoned Motels ** 1/2
205. Matthew Sweet -- Tomorrow's Daughter ***/
206. Rodney Crowell - Acoustic Classics ** 1/2
207. The Coup -- Sorry to Bother You ** 1/2
208. Gorillaz -- The Now Now *** /
209. The Free Design -- Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970) **
210. Bettye LaVette -- Child Of The Seventies (1972) ***/
211. Jim Lauderdale -- Time Flies ** 1/2
212. H.E.R. -- I Used To Know Her ** 1/2
213. Gene Clark -- Sings For You (1967 unreleased demos; put out 2018) **
214. Drake -- Scorpion *** 1/2
215. Gene Clark -- With The Gosdin Brothers (1967) **
216. Lucy Dacus -- Historian **
217. Various Artists -- African Scream Contest 2 *** 1/2
218. Washington Phillips -- And His Manzarene Dreams (1927-1929 recordings) ** 1/2
219. The Left Banke -- Walk Away Renee/ Pretty Ballerina (1967) *** /
220. Various Artists -- Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John **
221. The Vines -- In Miracle Land *** 1/2
222. Amanda Shires -- To The Sunset **
223. Angelique Kidjo -- Remain in Light *** 1/2
224. Brad Mehldau -- After Bach ** 1/2
225. Engelbert Humperdink -- His Greatest Hits (1974) ***
226. Zuli -- Supernatural Voodoo (2015) ** 1/2
227. The Left Banke -- Too (1968) ** 1/2
228. Virginia Wing -- Ecstatic Arrow **
229. Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein -- Viper's Drag (2014) *** 1/2
230. Years and Years -- Palo Santo ***
231. The War and Treaty -- Healing Tide **
232. Wallows -- Spring EP ** 1/2
233. Buffalo Springfield -- Buffalo Springfield (1967) ***
234. Buffalo Springfield -- Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) ***\
235. Margo Guryan -- Take A Picture (1968) ** 1/2
236. MC5 -- Kick Out The Jams (Live) (1969) ***
237. John Coltrane -- Ballads (1963) ** 1/2
238. The Magpie Salute -- High Water I ** 1/2
239. Mary Halvorson -- Code Girl **
240. Manic Street Preachers -- Resistance Is Futile **
241. Mon Laferte -- La Trenza ** 1/2
242. Moses Sumney -- Black In Deep Red, 2014 (EP) ***/
243. Natalie Prass -- The Future and the Past ** 1/2
244. Agnes Obel -- Late Night Tales **
245. Aisha Burns -- Argonauta **
246. Ben Howard -- Noonday Dreams **
247. Alessia Cara -- Know-It-All ** 1/2
248. Buffalo Springfield -- Last Time Around (1968) ***/
249. King Princess -- Make My Bed ** 1/2
250. Let's Eat Grandma -- I'm All Ears **
251. The Beths -- Future Me Hates Me ***
252. Amine -- Good For You **
253. Anna Burch -- Quit The Curse **
254. Anna Tivel -- Small Believer ** 1/2
255. Lindsey Buckingham -- Law and Order (1981) ** 1/2
256. Shannon Shaw -- Shannon in Nashville **
257. Eminem -- Kamikaze ***
258. Gruff Rhys -- Babelsberg ** 1/2
259. The Interruptors -- Fight The Good Fight ***
260. Paul McCartney -- Egypt Station
261. Madeleine Peyroux -- Anthem *** 1/2
262. Richard Thompson -- 13 Rivers ***
263. Shakey Graves -- Can't Wake Up *** 1/2
264. Paul Simon -- In The Blue Light ***
265. Willie Nelson -- My Way *** \
266. Bobbie Gentry -- Ode To Billie Joe (1967) ****
267. Logic YSIV ***
268. Beta Radio ***/
269. Kathy Mattea -- Pretty Bird **
270. Bobbie Gentry -- The Delta Sweete (1968) *** 1/2
271. Gilbert O'Sullivan -- Gilbert O'Sullivan ** 1/2
272. Mandy Patinkin -- Diary: April/May 2018 *** 1/2
273. Richard and the Young Lions -- Vol. 1 (fun Nuggets-era sound but weak lyrics) **
274. Bobbie Gentry -- Local Gentry (1968) ***/
275. Bobbie Gentry and Glenn Campbell -- Bobbie Gentry and Glenn Campbell (1968) ** 1/2
276. Richard Swift -- The Hex ** 1/2
277. Bobbie Gentry -- Touch 'Em With Love (1969) ***
278. Bobbie Gentry -- Fancy (1970) ** 1/2 (but great title track)
279. Bobbie Gentry -- Supper Time: The Lost Jazz Album (1970) my own title ***/
280. Mandy Barnett -- Winter Wonderland ** 1/2
281. Bobbie Gentry -- Patchwork (1971) *** 1/2
282. Michael McDonald -- Season Of Peace: The Christmas Collection * 1/2
283. Eric Clapton -- Happy Xmas * 1/2
284. The Monkees -- Christmas Party ** 1/2
285. Tamino -- Habibi EP ** 1/2
286.






MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES 

(Not TV movies, of course, but movies and TV -- and TV movies if it comes to that. Mostly I only list TV shows when I've tackled an entire season at once or reappraising an entire series after it's over This doesn't really capture my ongoing watching of current TV.)

1. Downsizing ** 1/2
2. Of Mice And Men (1939) ** 1/2
3. I, Tonya ***
4. Paddington 2 ** 1/2
5. The Post **
6. Black Panther **
7. The Greatest Showman **
8. The Founder *** 1/2
9. Obit ***
10. Good Time *** 1/2
11. Machines ** 1/2
12. Dunkirk ****
13. Una Mujer Fantastica *** 1/2
14. Foxtrot *** 1/2
15. Dawson City: Frozen Time ***
16. Bad Lucky Goat ***
17. Loveless *** 1/2
18. God's Own Country *** 1/2
19. The B-Side ***
20. Love, Simon ** 1/2
21. Logan ***
22. Patti Cake$ ** 1/2
23. The Lost City Of Z *** 1/2
24. Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story ***
25. Only The Brave ***
26. A Quiet Passion ***
27. The Breadwinner ***/
28. Happy Death Day ***
29. Land Of Mine *** 1/2
30. Columbus *** /
31. Frantz ** 1/2
32. Get Out ***
33. Brigsby Bear **
34. Risk (Laura Poitras documentary) ***/
35. A Quiet Place ** 1/2
36. Ready Player One *
37. Lean On Pete ** 1/2
38. The Endless **
39. Blockers (esp Ike Barinholtz and Miles Robbins) ***
40. Annihilation **
41. Captain America: Civil War **
42. Le Corbeau (1943) ** 1/2
43. Isle Of Dogs *** 1/2 (prod, score, voice, screenplay)
44. Miracles For Sale (1939) *
45. Deadpool 2 **
46. Solo: A Star Wars Story **
47. At The Circus (1939) *
48. Summer 1993 *** 1/2 (direction, lead perf)
49. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939) * 1/2
50. Yes, My Darling Daughter (1939) * 1/2
51. The Guardians ** 1/2
52. 7th Heaven (1927) w Janet Gaynor (w Noam at Moma)
53. Klute *** 1/2 (at Metrograph w Noam)
54. Who We Are Now *** 1/2 (plus lead perf)
55. Les Parents Terrible (1948) *** (at Quad w Noam) (Jean Marais miscast but excitingly shot)
56. Cuatro Corazones (1939) (at Moma w Noam) ** 1/2
57. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (Mr Rogers documentary) ***
58. Killing Eve Season One *** 1/2
59. The Incredibles 2 ***
60. Halelujah (1929 all-black film about man turned preacher but always tempted by harlot) ** 1/2
61. The Royal Rodeo (1939 short) no stars
62. Whitney ** 1/2
63. Sgt. Madden (1939) ** 1/2
64. American Animals *** 1/2 (screenplay)
65. Lady Of The Tropics (1939) *
66. Sorry To Bother You ** 1/2
67. Teen Titans! Go To The Movies ** 1/2
68.  5th Avenue Girl (1939) ** 1/2
69. Mission: Impossible -- Fallout **1/2
70. Eighth Grade *** 1/2
71. McQueen *** (shame the music isn't the original tracks for the shows)
72. RBG ***/
73. BlacKKKlansman ***
74. Wings Of The Navy (1939) * 1/2
75. Crazy Rich Asians * 1/2
76. The End Of The Fucking World S1 ***
77. Museo (w Gael Garcia Bernal) *** /
78. Fahrenheit 11/9 ** 1/2
79. Detectorists S3 *** 1/2
80. Jack Ryan S1 **
81. First Man (sound design) ***
82.












THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS
(The names after the shows are the people who joined me at the performance.)

1. At Home At The Zoo: Homelife and The Zoo Story (at Signature w Luis) ***/
2. Escape To Margaritaville (w Franny) **
3. Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966  (w TJ) ***
4. Lobby Hero (w Michael Cera) (w Noam) ***
5. Frozen (w Luis) **
6. Rocktopia (w Luis) *
7. Angels in America (w Garrett)** 1/2
8. Mean Girls (w Cohen) ** 1/2
9. The Sting (w Harry Connick Jr.) (w Noam) **
10. Mlima's Tale (w Noam) ** 1/2
11. Children Of A Lesser God (w Joshua Jackson) (w Noam) ** 1/2
12. 
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance (w Vincent) ** 1/2
13. The Metromaniacs (w Noam) ***
14. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (w Cohen) *
15. The Seafarer (w Zoe) **
16. Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) (w Noam) * 1/2
17. Saint Joan (w Noam) **
18. Travesties (w Tom Hollander and Seth Numrich) (alone) *** 1/2
19. My Fair Lady (w Lauren Ambrose) (w Noam) *** 
20. Summer and Smoke (w Marin Ireland at CSC) (w Noam) ** 1/2 
21. Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 (w Luis) ** 1/2
22. August Wilson Monologue Competition at the August Wilson Theatre (w Noam) ** 1/2
23. Paradise Blues (Dominique Moriceau play at Signature) (w Dave Cohen, Zoe, Noam) ** 1/2
24.  Our Lady Of 121st Street (revival at Signature) (w Dave, Zoe, Noam) ** 1/2
25. Dance Nation (at Playwrights Horizons) (w Joanne) ** 1/2
26. Margo Price at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors ***\
27. The Gospel at Colonus at Shakespeare in The Park ** (this perf, not the show)
28. The Nap (w David Cohen) **
29. Bernhardt/Hamlet (w Noam) * 1/2
30. On Beckett (Bill Irwin) (w Joanne)  ***
31. What The Constitution Means To Me (w Cohen) **
32. The Winning Side (Werner von Braun play) (solo) *
33. Oklahoma (at St. Ann's Warehouse) (w Noam) **
34. Mother Of The Maid (w Glenn Close at Public) (w TJ)  *
35.



KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2

Updated October 18, 2018