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Will Brill

Oklahoma!

April 17, 2019

Like John Doyle’s reconceived musical revivals ("Allegro," "Passion," "Pacific Overtures," "Carmen Jones," "The Cradle Will Rock"), Fish’s production is minimalist but with a difference. While Doyle strips away the trappings both of sets and costumes and offers nothing in their place, Fish has turned his "Oklahoma!" into environmental and communal theater. When the audience enters the Circle in the Square, they are confronted with set designer Laura Jellinek’s giant dance hall with long tables around the perimeter with red crock pots on the center of each. The plywood walls of the theater are covered with rifles, the kind used by real cowboys on the range. The bluegrass band is located in a pit off center, at one end of the circular stage. Some lucky audience members sit at the first row of tables with a ringside view. Scott Zielinski’s lighting is kept on for most of the show so not only does every member of the audience see every other one but it is as though we are part of the show, not just audience members. This communal feeling is continued during the intermission when the audience is invited onto the stage to taste corn bread (that we watched Aunt Eller and Laurey preparing in the opening scene) and chili. [more]

Illyria

November 17, 2017

The conversations revolve around the topics of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s poor finances in 1958, Vaughan’s defection to the Phoenix Theatre which was paying a living wage while the NYSF was not, the choice of Mary Bennett (Vaughan’s choice) or Peggy Papp (Papp’s choice) to play Olivia, George C. Scott’s defection to the movies in his unnamed first film, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee appearances by both Papp and Gersten which has put their jobs in jeopardy, and whether Free Shakespeare in the Park can survive without charging admission. However, none of these conversations are allowed to erupt into real conflict. We are placed in the center of the action as though we are in the room where it happened, but the dialogue remains on the level of chit-chat rather than life or death threatening decisions. The problems never seem to be resolved and the play moves on to its next topic. [more]

Act One

May 5, 2014

James Lapine's stage adaptation of Moss Hart's celebrated autobiography of his early years, Act One, is a bit unwieldy at under three hours in length as it does contain so many characters and incidents. However, like an absorbing mini-series you have lived with over a period of time, you will be sorry when it is over. [more]