Pilobolus Dance Theatre (Joyce Theatre, 175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St., July 16-Aug. 11). Half modern dance, half gymnastics, frequently amusing, often enthralling, always watchable. Three different programs this summer, including three new dances and revivals of such favorites as “Day Two” (the company’s wildly sexy signature piece), “Pseudopodia,” and “Walklyndon” (TT).
Archives for June 2007
The best show in town this month is in Central Park. The Public Theater’s outdoor version of “Romeo and Juliet” is contemporary in flavor, visually striking, crisply staged and emotionally direct–everything, in short, that a Shakespeare in the Park production should be, right down to the no-holds-barred swordplay. It also marks the arrival of a new star in the theatrical sky: Lauren Ambrose, lately of “Six Feet Under,” who made a strong Broadway debut in last year’s revival of “Awake and Sing” and now confirms that she is an extravagantly gifted stage actress whose potential appears to be unlimited….
Unlike the Public’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s modern-dress “Hamlet” is sabotaged by its youth-friendly, obtrusively clever high concept: It’s all about teen angst. Director Michael Kahn gives us a pouty blond Prince of Denmark (Jeffrey Carlson) who whines his way from scene to scene, brandishing a bottle of pills (Prozac, no doubt) as he lurches into his soliloquy on suicide. Earlier we see him reading A. Alvarez’s “The Savage God: A Study of Suicide,” a directorial touch that deserves some sort of prize for pretentiousness….
John Van Druten is one of the forgotten men of American theater. Twenty of his plays opened on Broadway between 1925 and 1952, but until now none of them has been revived there, not even such long-running hits as “The Voice of the Turtle” or “I Remember Mama.” Now the Roundabout Theatre Company has exhumed “Old Acquaintance,” a 1940 comedy that was bought by Hollywood three years later and turned into an unmemorable vehicle for Bette Davis. I went to see it mainly out of curiosity–but stayed to cheer. Far from being a musty old relic, “Old Acquaintance” is a fabulously well-made play that has lost nothing of its freshness and bite….
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“Poetry is adolescence fermented, and thus preserved.”
José Ortega y Gasset, “In Search of Goethe from Within”
To all the people who thought they read this post: I said you couldn’t pay me to see most of them. What makes you think you know which ones I had in mind?
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway and off-Broadway shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
Warning: Broadway shows marked with an asterisk were sold out, or nearly so, last week.
• Avenue Q * (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
• A Chorus Line * (musical, PG-13/R, adult subject matter, reviewed here)
• The Drowsy Chaperone (musical, G/PG-13, mild sexual content and a profusion of double entendres, reviewed here)
• Frost/Nixon * (drama, PG-13, some strong language, reviewed here, closes Aug. 19)
• 110 in the Shade * (musical, G, suitable for children old enough to enjoy a love story, reviewed here, extended through July 29)
• The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (musical, PG-13, mostly family-friendly but contains a smattering of strong language and a production number about an unwanted erection, reviewed here)
“Summer afternoon–summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James (quoted in Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance)
I was very briefly diverted by the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best American movies, but I couldn’t stay interested long enough to write a full-fledged posting. It’s a safe, middlebrow-earnest big-money canon, even by the standards of Hollywood, though I was no less struck by how many first-rate popular films went unmentioned and, presumably, unregretted. (Where, for instance, is Roman Holiday? Or To Have and Have Not? Or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
I haven’t seen 26 of the films:
4. “Raging Bull,” 1980
7. “Lawrence of Arabia,” 1962
8. “Schindler’s List,” 1993
11. “City Lights,” 1931
30. “Apocalypse Now,” 1979
33. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” 1975
41. “King Kong,” 1933
43. “Midnight Cowboy,” 1969
49. “Intolerance,” 1916
50. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” 2001
53. “The Deer Hunter,” 1978
57. “Rocky,” 1976
59. “Nashville,” 1975 (I couldn’t get past the songs)
62. “American Graffiti,” 1973
66. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1981
67. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, 1966 (no, but I saw the play!)
70. “A Clockwork Orange,” 1971
78. “Modern Times,” 1936
81. “Spartacus,” 1960
82. “Sunrise,” 1927
86. “Platoon,” 1986
91. “Sophie’s Choice,” 1982
95. “The Last Picture Show,” 1971 (I started it but lost interest)
96. “Do the Right Thing,” 1989
97. “Blade Runner,” 1982
99. “Toy Story,” 1995
The only one that I truly regret never having seen is Raging Bull, though I can’t imagine anyone seriously regarding it as the fourth greatest American film ever made. As for the others, you couldn’t pay me to see most of them.
For the record, here are my ten favorite films on the list:
1. “Citizen Kane”
5. “Singin’ in the Rain”
12. “The Searchers”
16. “Sunset Blvd.”
28. “All About Eve”
29. “Double Indemnity”
55. “North by Northwest”
61. “Sullivan’s Travels”
“Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Professor at the Breakfast-Table
Mr. Parabasis has tagged me:
• Name your area of expertise/interest. That’s a tough one. Some would argue that I have no area of expertise! On reflection, though, I’d have to say that it’s criticism in general (though there was a time when I would have said music).
• How did you become interested in it? The first critics to whose work I paid serious attention were the ones who were reviewing records for Stereo Review and High Fidelity (both defunct, alas) back in the early Seventies. The first full-fledged Big Name in criticism whom I read closely and attentively was Edmund Wilson, whose Classics and Commercials and The Bit Between My Teeth made a lasting impression on me a couple of years after that.
• How did you learn how to do it? At first by imitating Wilson, and I also learned a lot from Whitney Balliett and Virgil Thomson a little later on. Mainly, though, I learned by doing. I started covering classical music and jazz for the Kansas City Star in 1977, when I was still an undergraduate. Writing short reviews on tight deadlines for a big-city newspaper is a good way–maybe the best way–for a young critic to learn the basics of his trade.
• Who has been your biggest influence? Fairfield Porter, I hope! Some other critics who’ve left their marks on me are Edwin Denby, Otis Ferguson, Clement Greenberg, Randall Jarrell, H.L. Mencken, and George Orwell.
• What would you teach people about it? I’ve taught numerous classes and seminars in criticism, and I always give my students the following pieces of advice:
Always treat artists with respect. Most of them know how to do something you can’t do.
Don’t be afraid to be wrong.
Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic!
“The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.”
Oscar Wilde, letter to the Scots Observer (Aug. 16, 1890)