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Rita Wolf

What Happened? The Michaels Abroad

September 12, 2021

The new play, ironically, does not take place in Rhinebeck, New York, like the preceeding 11 plays but as explained in its subtitle it concerns “Conversations in Angers, France,” the home of the Centre National de Danse Contemporaire (CNDC). Like the previous Michael play, it is set on the eve of a dance festival honoring American dancer and choreographer Rose Michael who has passed away about six months before this play begins. However, unlike the earlier play which was about the art of creation, this play is mainly about living with the Covid pandemic and our adaptations to it, as well as the hermetically sealed world of dancers. While the play tells a lot of anecdotes about dancers and does a certain amount of name dropping of such people as Trisha (Brown), Merce (Cunningham), Dan (Wagoner), it eventually attempts to wax philosophical with such remarks as “there is no life without death,” and “life doesn’t last. Art doesn’t last. And it doesn’t matter…”; and “we dance differently at sixty.” [more]

The Michaels

November 10, 2019

Richard Nelson’s latest play, "The Michaels" (subtitled a “Conversation During Difficult Times”) is a thing of beauty. Low-key like his "Apple Family" quartet and his "The Gabriels" trilogy, it is Chekhovian in the best sense of the word: very little happens but life passes by. The characters who sit in a Rhinebeck, New York,  kitchen (also the setting for the other seven plays) talk of life and death, love and desire, memories and accomplishments. They reveal secrets and ponder changes and ultimately make decisions. Not much takes place but then again all of life occurs in the course of the play’s two hours. [more]

Emma and Max

October 19, 2018

Solondz’s mordant wit makes this the darkness of tragicomedies. Brooke and Jay’s delusions so typical of white entitlement are entire their own. When we finally hear from Brittany, she turns out to be a keen observer of entitled white behavior and middle-class liberal hypocrisy. Though we never meet Emma and Max except on Brooke’s baby cam, their off-stage presence is felt throughout the play. As Solondz’s movies contain brilliantly written dialogue, he is a natural for the theater. While his movies are made up of mostly two character scenes, this technique transfers beautifully to the stage. The only flaw here is that the monologues which become rants go on a bit too long, long after we get the gist and the characters given their many prejudices away. A bit of skillful trim – or the invention of more ideas would make this an even more powerful play. [more]

An Ordinary Muslim

March 14, 2018

The trouble is that there is nothing new or daring or particularly interesting about the play despite its intriguing subject matter.  It is an old-fashioned play—think warmed over Clifford Odets with a touch of Chekhov and more than a few hints of Greek hubris—that deals with the treatment of Pakistani-British Muslims in Great Britain, specifically West London, 2011.  It is full of clichéd writing including having characters appear just as their name is brought up. [more]