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When Nina Arianda made her staggeringly assured professional stage debut five years ago in “Venus in Fur,” every drama critic in town took it for granted that she was headed straight for stardom. But then she appeared in two consecutive flops, “Born Yesterday” and “Tales from Red Vienna,” and it started to look as though she might be doomed to fritter away her career on the supporting film and TV roles that had started to come her way. Now, though, Ms. Arianda has returned to Broadway in a revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” that originated at Massachusetts’ Williamstown Theatre Festival. Directed by Daniel Aukin, it is fully worthy of her gifts, and the results are—almost literally—explosive. This show will make you sweat.
If you don’t know “Fool for Love,” it’s a brutally compact play (four actors, no intermission, 75 minutes) set in a cheap motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert. The central characters are May and Eddie (Ms. Arianda and Sam Rockwell), a couple who can’t decide whether to have sex or kill each other. I exaggerate, but only slightly, and while their indecision has its comic side—one that Mr. Aukin has wisely emphasized in order to leaven the dramatic loaf—the obsession that has flung them together is no joke….
Dane Laffrey, the set designer, has situated the action of the play in a shallow, low-ceilinged wooden box that forces Ms. Arianda and Mr. Rockwell to spend much of their time standing in profile to the audience. They look like a lanky pair of parentheses and act like a pair of rabid dogs in heat….
“Old Times,” Harold Pinter’s enigmatic study of the relationship between a man and two women, one of whom is his wife and the other (possibly) her ex-lover, is back on Broadway for the first time since it was originally seen there in 1971. By all rights, the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production should have been good: It stars Eve Best, who was so magnetic in the most recent Broadway revivals of Mr. Pinter’s “The Homecoming” and Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” and Clive Owen, a belated Broadway debutant whose performance in “Croupier” left no doubt of his own excellence. It is, however, almost perfectly awful, and I think it’s safe to say that the fault belongs to Douglas Hodge, the director, who apparently supposes that the right way to stage “Old Times” is to camp it up….
“The Diary of Anne Frank” hasn’t been seen on Broadway since 1998, but it remains a perennial staple of regional theaters, with good reason. Adapted for the stage in 1955 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, it’s a slightly creaky but nonetheless dramaturgically sound theatrical version of the real-life tale of a teenage Jewish girl from Amsterdam who hid from the Nazis with her family, recording her experiences in a diary that was left behind when the Franks were captured by the SS in 1944. Though Anne later died in Bergen-Belsen, her story lives on, and the Pittsburgh Public Theater is retelling it with absorbing skill in a production that is all the more moving for being played out against the black backdrop of Europe’s recrudescent anti-Semitism….
Remy Zaken, who created the role of Thea in the original Broadway production of “Spring Awakening,” is exactly right as Anne. You have no trouble at all accepting her as is a bright, eager adolescent full of half-understood longings…
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To read my review of Fool for Love, go here.
To read my review of Old Times, go here.
To read my review of The Diary of Anne Frank, go here.
The trailer for Fool for Love: