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Rachel Chavkin

Hadestown

April 29, 2019

The dazzling Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s musical "Hadestown" proves director/developer Rachel Chavkin to be a creative genius. If you had not known it after she fitted her theater-in-the round production of "Natasha and Pierre and the Comet of 1812" into a Broadway theater, it is even more obvious now. This time she has turned her 2016 New York Theatre Workshop staging in the round into a production suitable for Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre with its proscenium stage without losing the sense that the musical takes place in many different places. Along with gripping choreography and movement from David Neumann and an onstage jazz band of six, the show simply takes your breath away, telling the joint stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. [more]

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway

December 23, 2016

We knew it was a great novel, but who knew Leo Tolstoy’s "War and Peace," Part I, would make such an exciting and innovative electro pop-rock opera? Not that the epic novel isn’t a fantastic read, but how to successfully put this 1,200 page novel on the stage? (Prokofiev’s opera needed 70 characters and 13 sequences.) First seen in 2012 for a sold-out 39 performance run at Ars Nova, this sung-through electro pop-rock opera, was then presented in 2013 at a supper club called Kazino (Russian for “Casino”) in the Meatpacking District, twice the size of the Ars Nova space, built specifically to house the show, and later it was moved uptown to a Kazino put up on 45th Street. [more]

Small Mouth Sounds

July 27, 2016

Inspired by the playwright’s attending a silent spiritual retreat at an upstate New York institute in the woods, this is an absorbing play which immediately causes the viewers to listen intently as our world is never really silent. In Stowe Nelson’s remarkable soundscape, the play begins with a torrential rain, and then proceeds to a great many sounds we usually take for granted (both performed by the actors and recorded): breathing, laughing, clicking of a pen, sighing, a gong ringing, whispers, giggling, crickets chirping, the crunching of chips, birds, a sip of tea, a sneeze, coughing, a cell phone ringing. As a result of this state of affairs and the fact that the actors (in general) don’t speak, we become attuned to watch the smallest facial expression and other forms of non-verbal communication. [more]

The Royale

March 27, 2016

The staging is unusual in that no punches are thrown. When the actors are supposed to be delivering their blows, they stamp their feet which is actually more sinister and startling. The cast clap in unison to punctuate various dramatic moments. The ringside bell is live, delineating each of the six scenes, in Matt Hubbs’ sound design. During the fight scenes, the boxers face the audience and we hear what they are thinking moment by moment, rather than see their punches. Nick Vaughan’s set doubles beautifully as gym, boxing ring and locker room. During the first boxing match, ropes on a frame are moved around to give the audience different views of the ring. Austin R. Smith’s subtle lighting helps direct attention to the right spot throughout the play. All of this leads to a remarkable and memorable evening in the theater. [more]