Why Alan Cumming’s Co-Stars are Crucial to the Broadway Revival
The current Broadway revival of Macbeth is often called a one-man show, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Yes, the production takes place in a mental institution where Alan Cumming’s character reenacts most of the play by himself, but he is not alone. Jenny Sterlin plays his doctor and Brendan Titley plays his nurse, and the show wouldn’t make sense without them. As Sterlin says, “It would just be a one-man show of Macbeth. It wouldn’t give the reason why you would do it.”
In the opening scene, Sterlin and Titley change Cumming out of his street clothes and into hospital garb. They speak to him as they work, but instead of reciting Shakespeare, they say what a medical staff might naturally say to a patient. And because they aren’t miked, what they’re saying is barely audible.
“It wasn’t important that anybody past row two or three heard it,” says Titley. “They wanted to make sure the audience knew that we were in a world that wasn’t Shakespeare’s world, that where we start off in the play is not a dramatization, so that it was clear that he was surrounded by the natural world.”
May 21, 2013 No Comments
From time to time, TDF Stages will highlight exciting Off and Off-Off Broadway theatre companies with exclusive “getting to know you” videos. Today, we’re featuring the York Theatre Company, which specializes in musicals new and old. (Along with York staff, the film features Stephen Temperley, whose play Souvenir premiered at the York before moving to Broadway.)
Currently, the York Theatre company is presenting Mark Nadler’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself
This video was directed by Mark Blankenship, TDF’s online content editor, and shot and edited by Nicholas Guldner.
May 20, 2013 No Comments
Caissie Levy hurtles into the revival of Murder Ballad
Welcome to Building Character, TDF’s ongoing series about actors and how they create their roles
It’s almost necessary to describe Murder Ballad with urgent words.
A rock opera about a love triangle that ends in blood, it hurtles forward like a bullet. With book and lyrics by Julia Jordan and music and lyrics by Juliana Nash, the show, now at Union Square Theatre, evokes not only the passion that makes us kill for love, but also the thrill of watching a violent love story. It wants us to get heated up and then wonder what our enthusiasm means.
That’s partly why director Trip Cullman puts the audience in the midst of the action, placing patrons at tables throughout the stage. Patrons are often just inches from the actors as they fight, seethe, and kiss, which makes it easier to feel the story’s energy.
For Caissie Levy, there’s been a similar wildness behind the scenes. She plays Sara, a woman torn between the stable man she married and the dangerous rebel she loves, but unlike everyone else in the cast, she’s new to the production. Murder Ballad had a successful run at Manhattan Theatre Club last fall, and when it was time for the Union Square remount, all the actors returned except the original Sara, Karen Olivo. Once Levy got the part, she had to catch up at warp speed.
“The whole thing has been so fast,” she says. “I had one week of rehearsal alone in a room with the director and the writers and the music team. Then I had a week with the cast members, then we went into tech. That’s the fastest I’ve ever put anything up that wasn’t a reading.”
May 17, 2013 No Comments
Lucas Hnath’s experimental new drama explores chaos and control via the Magic Kingdom
It seems so easy to get a handle on A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, the new play by Lucas Hnath that’s now at Soho Rep.
After all, the story is right there in the title: A group of actors gather to read a screenplay that Walt Disney supposedly wrote about his life. When we enter the theatre, we see an anonymous lecture hall/rehearsal space, with cast members sitting behind tables while they drink their water and graze on bowls of snacks. Eventually, Walt (Larry Pine) enters, and he sits down to play himself—the star of his own movie. As he reads through scenes about Disneyworld and nature documentaries, it seems like we’re getting a clever little comedy about an irascible Hollywood legend.
Then everything breaks apart. Walt keeps cutting scenes that make him angry, for instance, but why is he upset about a movie he wrote himself? And why is the actress playing his daughter sulking away to a corner? Isn’t she just playing a character? Or is she somehow turning into Walt’s child?
And what about the handkerchiefs? Walt has several coughing fits that interrupt the story, and almost every time he pulls a handkerchief away from his mouth, it’s covered with blood. Things were supposed to be light and fun, but now, they’re stained bright red.
For Hnath, this intrusion is vital to the show. “There’s the visible world and the invisible world in this play, and then there are moments when there’s a crossover,” he says. “When there’s that crossover, there’s a feeling of a séance. The spirit is summoned very briefly. You get a glimpse of something, and it goes away. I find those moments very uncanny and engaging.”
May 16, 2013 No Comments
“City Council Meeting” asks what we want from theatre and from government
Boredom may not be a new sensation for theatregoers, but intentional boredom is a rarer bird.
That’s what’s created in City Council Meeting, a theatrical event devised by Mallory Catlett, Jim Findlay, and Aaron Landsman.
Presented for free by HERE, the concept of the project is simple: Take a sampling of the minutes of real city council meetings and present them in such a way that challenges the audience to look at both local politics and the theatre in a fresh way.
Running through May 22 in a series of venues ranging from high school auditoriums to El Museo del Barrio, the show revels in both the touching awkwardness of community members’ concerns (one rant revolves around ficus trees) and the ways in which we fail the system by succumbing to boredom.
May 14, 2013 No Comments