Unless you’ve been in a coma, you know that the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 is upon us, and it is being observed in many public arenas, including theaters. End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer is the New Jewish Theatre’s contribution, and it is mostly successful in balancing respect for the event with much-needed laughter. I liked it a lot.
By her own account, Anne Nelson wrote The Guys in response to the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in only 9 days. By December, the play was in full production at the Flea Theatre in New York City for a three-week run attended by audiences whose shock and grief were communal open wounds. I wish I had seen the production then.
The playwright Edward Bond is the most prolific and important theatrical figure in the last 50 years of so that I’ve never heard of. The Manchester Guardian calls him “one of Britain’s most shocking and uncompromising playwrights.” He has written poetry, criticism, and screenplays. He is a director. Born in 1934 and self-educated after the age of 15, he is still working, and to date has published 40 plays that have received production, and a number of others that haven’t or are not available at this time. He’s a translator and a librettist. Restoration was written as a condemnation of the (Margaret) Thatcher administration—the “Iron Lady” who was the conservative Prime Minister of England in the 1980s—which, if Bond is to be believed, had a kind of “let them eat cake” attitude toward the common people.
Even as inured as much of society has become to violence, every once in a while, something comes along that horrifies us. Such was the case with the press-dubbed “thrill killers,” Nathan Leopold, 18, and Richard Loeb, 19, whose crime, though committed in 1924, still fascinates us today. They were possessed of genius IQ’s, both graduated college at 15, and were influenced by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the “superman” (Übermensch), which Loeb (in the play; Leopold in real life) interpreted to mean that superior beings aren’t bound to the same rules as the rest of humanity. Or at least that’s the reading Thrill Me (book, music and lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff) provides.
Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical is ridiculous in both senses of the word. It is “silly” ridiculous, and “ridiculous” in the current slang meaning “that was so much fun, it was ridiculous!” The NonProphets played to a full house Friday night, which just goes to prove that if you give ‘em what they want, they’ll come out for it. Clearly, what St. Louis theatre-goers have been pining for is a comedy musical based on a classic porno flick. Who knew?
Director Jason Cannon introduced The Crucible by calling it one of the “best plays of the 20th century.” It’s not, but it may be the most important (and it is very good, as well). This production has a number of highs and a few lows, but is successful overall in conveying the madness of a society gone out of control due to factionalism caused by mistrust, misinformation, and misuse of fundamentalist religious beliefs.
Songs from an Unmade Bed is an unexpected little gem that follows The Crumple Zone on weekend nights at 10:30 with two stand-alone Sunday matinees, one of which I attended yesterday. It’s diverting, occasionally moving, always relatable, and performed well by the multitalented Justin Ivan Brown. The time is “last night,” according to the program, and the setting is entirely identifiable as New York City. We’re told that’s where the show takes place, but we wouldn’t need to be because the central character (called simply “Man”) sings about the city in both celebration and lamentation, a New York “state of mind,” always at the forefront.
At the very end of The Crumple Zone, the audience learns what the title means. By then, I just didn’t care. This is a surprisingly amateurish effort by a company that has established itself as a force to be reckoned with since its reorganization and rebirth a couple of seasons ago. It has chosen to focus on gay playwrights and themes, and if there can be such a thing as a “mainstream niche,” Citilites is addressing it. However, this play is wildly uneven, and it was difficult to work up any sympathy for its under-drawn, stereotypical characters easily summed up as follows:
John Patrick Shanley’s first play is far from his best, but in the right hands, it is a powerful, even visceral experience. Director Ray Gabica and actors Robert A. Mitchell (also Artistic Director of the company) and Brooke Edwards are those hands.
The Visit is subtitled “A Tragic Comedy,” and I believe that accurately describes this classic drama (1956) which is currently receiving an excellent production from Stray Dog Theatre. I need to say up front that I don’t know much about Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s work, so I’m approaching this material as an audience member, not an expert. So, with that in mind, the following is what I saw in this intricate, finely wrought play.