Results tagged “ben brantley” from Drama Queen

south_park_guitar_queer-o.jpgThis week I'm macking on: This kid. For taking a South Park episode and bringing it to glorious life on the pages of the New York Times. In the Arts section. Only problem is, he can actually play some instruments, which seems pretty unfair. I mean, isn't the whole point of Guitar Hero that you can shred on guitar without having to actually know anything about the guitar? What a tool.


This week I'm hating on: Al Pacino as King Lear. I mean, really? Who's gonna play the Fool, Steve Buscemi? And what, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco are Albany and Goneril? And hey, wait a minute, didn't I review something like this last summer at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival? Yes, I did, and the whole "Gangland Lear" ended up being a pretty cool metaphor. Which means I might might actually be macking on Pacino, after all, which means...


This week I'm hating on: Will Ferrell. For being right. Read the first two paragraphs of Ben Brantley's review of Ferrell's new, sold-out Broadway show You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush. Great punchline; all too true. 


February 6, 2009 4:00 PM | | Comments (0)
InConflictGroup.JPGLast season, Temple University's theater department scored a major hit with In Conflict, an original production based on former Philadelphia Daily News writer Yvonne Latty's book of the same name. The show and its undergrad cast have since gone on to a stint at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival--where they won the "Fringe First" award--and are now Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, where they received an enthusiastic review from the New York Times' Ben Brantley. 

Brantley's review picked out several of the same passages that I did when I reviewed the show last year for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Here's my review. Feel free to compare and contrast. I believe the show has changed a bit since the premiere, but we both seemed to share the same impressions:

War in Their Own Words: Vets Speak on Life and Loss

by Wendy Rosenfield

Congratulations to Temple Theaters and director Douglas C. Wager for creating In Conflict, a collection of former Philadelphia Daily News writer Yvonne Latty's interviews with Iraq war veterans that first appeared in book form, and has now been adapted for the stage.

There are many triumphs in the piece, not the least of which is the sheer variety of vets and war experiences represented, 19 in total: a Vietnam-vet officer who "bleeds red, white and blue"; an unabashed liberal enlistee who says he was sent to Iraq to be a "bullet catcher"; a triple amputee who shyly admits, "I miss my body"; a lost 26-year-old who spits, "I gave up my soul - can't nobody give me a prosthetic soul." Each story is fascinating, heartbreaking, heroic or all three, with insights as original as the individuals who generously share them. It is remarkable that with such a wide range of voices, the same themes emerge in most of their testimonies. They want the Veterans Administration to help care for their wounds, both physical and psychic, but tragically, they have mostly been abandoned. They wonder why exactly they were sent to Iraq. They wonder if civilians even care that they've nearly died defending our right to order a hot latte.

If I have any quarrel with the show it's that it could be shortened by a few narratives - not because they're irrelevant or dull, but because by including so many, they risk losing their individual impact to a sense of overload. However, I also wouldn't want to be the one to choose whom to cut and whom to keep.

So why see this version of Iraq veterans' stories instead of staying home and ordering up HBO's? Because In Conflict's most arresting feature is the irony that suffuses the whole endeavor. Latty recalls, in one of the filmed segments that appear between monologues, the disorientation she felt upon entering Walter Reed Medical Center and seeing men and women, the same age as her Villanova students, wearing the same baseball caps with shredded brims, the same t-shirts that declared their affiliations, but all missing limbs or faces. It is a similar feeling watching these uniformly excellent Temple students reciting the soldiers' tales and adopting their mannerisms. Perhaps they're so good because essentially, they're playing themselves, inhabiting a parallel universe where their doppelgangers are, instead of runnng to Wawa for a Coke, driving a booby-trapped road into hostile territory for that same Coke.

Based on the book by Yvonne Latty, adapted and directed by Douglas C. Wager, scenery by Andrew Laine, costumes by Marian Cooper, sound by Christopher Cappello, lighting by J. Dominic Chacon, video by Warren Bass.

The Cast: Tim Chambers, Sam Paul, Suyeon Kim, Sean Lally, Tom Rader, Stan Sinyakov, Danielle Pinnock, Ethan Haymes, Damon Williams, Amanda Holston, Joy Notom

Today's review marks another first for Temple, a move into Center City Philadelphia. They didn't pick the greatest show for their in-town debut, but did a serviceable job with the production. Review here.


Below: The Official Trailer for In Conflict


September 30, 2008 8:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Ok, so now we all know that Glory Days opened and closed in one, ahem, glorious day, and by all I seriously mean all. But on this, the day of Tony nominations, it's worth noting there's more to the story than Ben Brantley's power to shut down an entire Broadway enterprise. In fact, Mr. Brantley, in his review of the show, was surprisingly gentle, and noted:

"It's been a season of thinking small for the Broadway musical. Two front-runners for the Tony, "In the Heights" and "Passing Strange," are also intimate, personal shows imported from non-Broadway houses. I can see why the producers of "Glory Days" might have thought this was an auspicious moment for a big-time New York transfer ... I do find it heartening that a pair of enthusiastic and gifted young artists have fallen in love with that beleaguered form, the musical, as a means of self-expression."

However, I think he's completely wrong about "that beleaguered form." The musical is making a comeback, though not the kind fed by producers feverishly bent on re-animating '70s film comedies or '70s music, or regurgitating sure-thing revivals, but by the generation that grew up fetishizing Rent and Moulin Rouge. 
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The winds seem to have shifted with Avenue Q, the little show that could--and could while leaning heavily on irony and angst. But after last season's massive success of hormonal rocker Spring Awakening, the fact that Glory Days, a musical by 20-something recent college grads, made it to Broadway right alongside In the Heights, also written by a 20-something recent college grad, surely bodes well for those late bloomers still editing away in urban garrets around the nation. It took Stew a little longer than those other boys to create Passing Strange, but judging by today's nominations, it doesn't seem to have affected his accolades any. There's also the baby-faced team of Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, who wowed L.A. with their emo-musical about our seventh president, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. And what do all these brash new musicals have in common? None of them look or sound like a Broadway musical, several aren't even native New Yorkers, but together they all sound like a burgeoning movement.

These might be dark days for the big, bloated Broadway musical, but for the form itself? As they sing in that re-animated '70s film comedy Spamalot, "Keep him off the cart because he's not yet dead." 
 
May 13, 2008 3:41 PM | | Comments (0)
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