Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Molly Sweeney

"Molly Sweeney" at The Irish Repertory Theater, February 5, 2011

I haven't had much exposure to the work of Brian Friel, other than the revival of Faith Healer with Cherry Jones and Ralph Fiennes in 2006.  I remember that piece primarily because of the excellent performances turned in by Mr. Fiennes and Ms. Jones, as well as Ian McDiarmid. 

For that reason and that I had yet to see a production from Irish Rep, I was excited to attend Molly Sweeney

If only this production had met my high expectations.  This tale of a woman, blind since early childhood, follows a similar pattern as Mr Friel's Faith Healer, but in this play the monologues of the title character (Geraldine Hughes), her husband Frank (Ciaran O'Reilly) and the surgeon, Mr. Rice (Jonathan Hogan) are randomly interspersed as each characters tells his/her version of the story.  The result is a documentary-style disclosure of the events in Molly's life. 

Director Charlotte Moore has divided the small Irish Rep stage into thirds, characters trapped in their respective boxes and waiting their turn to speak.  The performances were competent and delved into the emotions of the premise, but like the story, they were not compelling.  The medical details are slightly interesting, but I found myself wondering early in the first act why this was a play. The story is neither inherently theatrical nor Irish, inspired by An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Molly Sweeney has just extended its run through April 10.  Tickets available at The Irish Repertory Theater website.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gruesome Playground Injuries

"Gruesome Playground Injuries" at Second Stage Theatre, February3, 2011

Despite some excellent make-up effects, Rajiv Joseph's two-hander about two friends who spend their lives meeting up at the emergency room with injuries ranging from nausea to sprained angles to missing teeth and eyes doesn't quite find a focus.  (I could practically hear Darren McGavin saying, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid.")  Mr. Joseph adds to the confusion by bouncing the plot in non-sequential five year increments.

Pablo Schreiber is Doug, whose injuries are always much more physically damaging than those of Kayleen, played by Jennifer Carpenter.  Both make a valiant effort to bring credibility to their roles, but the evening is undercut the painfully overlong transitions when the actors must change their costumes and sets themselves.   Ms. Carpenter is, to quote a casting director I once heard, "strong by wrong."  I'd like to see her again in a role that suits her better.  Mr. Schreiber is much stronger than his material, as well as being a good bit more physically robust than the accident-prone character he portrays.

Director Scott Ellis does well enough getting the most from his actors, but he's held them back as well, particularly with the mechanics of scene transitions.  The best feature of this play is Neil Patel's open set, which allows additional seating on what is traditionally the upstage area.  Drawers and cabinets open on each end, and acrylic compartments provide a quick wash to clean up after some of the more "gruesome" accidents.  Donald Holder's lighting maximizes the set's ingenuity.

Gruesome Playground Injuries closed February 20, 2011.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The New York Idea

"The New York Idea" presented by Atlantic Theater Company at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, January 30, 2011

I'm not sure if it's the play itself, or just this latest adaptation by David Auburn, but Langdon Mitchell's premise of a divorced woman, newly engaged to a divorced man was better told by the prolific Phillip Barry in The Philadelphia Story, which premiered on Broadway some six years after The New York Idea's last revival.  One can't help but wonder if Mr. Barry had seen that production.

Set in 1906, Mr. Mitchell's work plods through the unseemliness of divorce at the time, punctuated by the dithering and frowns of the mother and aunt of the groom.  The result is an evening of theatrical fluff, verging on lint.

The cast is up for the game and make noble if unsuccessful efforts to breathe life into the stodgy plot.  As Cynthia Karslake (the divorced bride-to-be), Jaime Ray Newman is perky, but trapped.  Jeremy Shamos's John Karslake, her ex, comes across as mostly embarrassed to be caught up in the proceedings, and not from just his character's perspective.

The most fun to be had is by Francesca Faridany as Vida Phillmore, the groom's ex-wife.  Coming from her recent turn in the title role of Orlando at Classic Stage Company, she gives her best take on a nouveau vamp, bohemian and "modern."  It demonstrates a nice departure from her previous role.

Set designer Allen Moyer gives us a luscious and efficient, Austrian-shade draped set with a rotating collection of fireplaces to represent each location.  Michael Krass' gowns are beautiful.

If only the visual production were enough to make all this effort worthwhile.  The New York Idea runs through February 26.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Playwrights Horizons Discount Offer - Kin

Special KIN offer for Third Row, Mezzanine blog readers!
Order by March 21 with code KINGR and tickets are only:
  • $40* (reg. $70) for the first 16 perfs (Feb. 25 – March 10)
  • $55 (reg. $70) for all remaining performances March 11 – April 3
  • Order online at www.ticketcentral.com. Use code KINGR.
  • Call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily)
  • Present a printout of this blog post to the Ticket Central box office at 416 West 42nd Street (Noon-8pm daily).
*A limited number of $40 discounted tickets will be available for purchase. Subject to availability. Valid only in select rows.