News Ticker

Classic Stage Company

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Summer and Smoke

May 10, 2018

When Tennessee Williams started writing "Summer and Smoke," his working title for the play was "Chart of Anatomy," taken from a poem by Hart Crane. An anatomical chart becomes one of the very few props in the current Classic Stage Company and Transport Group revival of the 1948 play. Under the circumstances, the many players (a dozen in all) are often reduced to charades, as they describe a new gaudy hat, or a jigsaw puzzle, or gloves. For that matter there’s not really a set at all, only a large white platform in the center of the playing area, echoed by a large white rectangle hanging above--a kind of ceiling for the platform--and shortly after the prologue, six chairs, two of which will, at times, serve as a bench or a sofa. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Fiasco Theater)

December 21, 2017

While not as memorable as several previous Fiasco Theater productions, this "Twelfth Night" takes a while to get where it is going. After winding up the plot in the first half, it settles down to sparkling comedy in its second. A bare-bones production, it focuses attention on the language and the music rather than the usually rich trappings. It is an easy production to follow without being distracted by extraneous interpretations or ideas. [more]

As You Like It (CSC)

October 2, 2017

Known as the Shakespeare play with the most song lyrics, the production also includes a deliciously bouncy new score by Stephen Schwartz in different musical styles from the 1920’s – 1950’s, including setting some of Orlando’s mash notes to Rosalind which are usually spoken in verse. The musical numbers are mostly reassigned to the musical theater veterans like de Shields and Stillman who plays an onstage, upright piano, with Leenya Rideout on violin and double bass, and other members of the cast occasionally joining in on guitar and triangle. All of this adds to the festive, light-hearted atmosphere. Originally announced as a Jazz Age interpretation, that concept seems to have gone by the wayside. [more]

Pacific Overtures

May 23, 2017

The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]

The Liar

February 6, 2017

However, it is Ives’ joy in language that is the most infectious. The rhymed couplets keep coming and surprising us over and over again (bitter/twitter; prize/rhapsodize, jocular/interlocutor, kiss/dentrifice, carbuncle/uncle). He has also created remarkably agile, felicitous and contemporary turns of phrase: meet-and-greet/ bittersweet; Chanel perfume/key to my room; perfect ten/tragic flaw again; chance to laugh/some dumb gaffe; believe this boy/pure trompe l’oeil. Considering the nature of lying, the anachronisms like contact lens, superglue, outed me, Kid Dorante, party clown, pants on fire, etc., seem like natural hyperbole for these poseurs who take themselves all too seriously. So too Kahn’s clever direction is highly in tune with this style: Dorante and Alcippe’s duel is fought without swords in pantomime and Cliton appears with a modern paper coffee cup. [more]

Peer Gynt

May 31, 2016

As with many CSC productions, the modern dress costumes (here designed by Ann Hould-Ward) are entirely in black and white. A small handful of props are used (a tin of buttons, an onion) but the production is basically reduced to its dialogue and story. Since there are no breaks of any kind, the scenes segue one into another without transitions. As a result the audience has to stay focused on the play or it finds itself somewhere new and doesn’t know how it arrived there. The lighting design by Jane Cox alternates between light and dark without creating much atmosphere on the empty stage. [more]

Nathan the Wise

April 14, 2016

It’s an uneasy stretch that ultimately fails to convincingly conflate the surprisingly liberal religious arguments that Lessing makes with the extraordinarily complex political/religious/cultural impasse in today’s Israel. The interactions between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish characters are frank, barbed and boldly modern sounding—at least in Kemp’s version—but come across more as statements of the class structure of eleventh century Jerusalem than deep-seated psychological or sociological issues. [more]

Doctor Faustus

June 24, 2015

Much of the play is directed using Brecht’s so-called alienation effect in which the audience is constantly reminded that this is all a play, a poor choice for a tragedy that wants to put both awe and fear into the hearts of its listeners. Tony Strages’ set design resembles a circus or vaudeville and much of the performance is played on that level. What is sacrificed is the seriousness of the theological and moral issues. There are continual shifts in tone which simply draw attention to themselves, rather than add to the meaning. [more]

Allegro

December 2, 2014

"Allegro" was inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town which also uses no scenery and uses the actors as a chorus commenting on the action. Aside from the actors all playing stringed instruments when the show begins (as well as other instruments in the course of the show such as piano, clarinets, oboe, etc.) in Mary-Mitchell Campbell's folksy new orchestrations, they remain on stage throughout as they both narrate and give advice to its hero Joseph Taylor, Jr. [more]