Monday, October 24, 2011

Milk Like Sugar

"Milk Like Sugar" at Playwrights Horizons, October 21, 2011

A few years ago, there were news reports of unhappy high school girls who formed pacts to all get pregnant and drop out of school.  Playwright Kirsten Greenidge has written this concept into the premise of Milk Like Sugar, in which Talisha (Cherise Boothe), Margie (Nikiya Mathis) and Annie (Angela Lewis) are planning their gift list for their shared baby shower including Coach diaper bags and better cellphones.  Margie is already pregnant. Talisha has plans in place.  Only Annie seems to be dragging her feet even though Talisha has picked out a partner for her as well, Malik (J. Mallory-McCree).

As the play opens, the girls have turned up at a tattoo parlor after hours for Annie to get free ink from an uncertified tattooist.  This only one in a continuing series of bad decisions.  Annie's mother Myrna (Tonya Pinkins), cleans offices to support her family.  She fancies herself a writer,  but doesn't seem to understand why she can't use the computers in the offices she cleans.

Ms. Greenidge seems to surf the story on the backs of stereotypes, from the materialistic, frighteningly misinformed, teen girls (Margie says: "Annie, you should get a red tattoo, cuz Malik's phone is red!"), to the sensitive, poet-type Malik trying to escape his ill mother, to the jaded and bitter mother whose life potential ended with her own teenage pregnancy.  Even the tattooist is a misunderstood artist.  Ms. Greenidge also overworks a flame motif from Annie's tattoo to one of the many heavy-handed scene transitions with overstated symbolism. 

Better served might have been the ladybug nursery rhyme that felt much more organic to the proceedings.  It certainly would have made a better title than the line pulled from one of Annie's later monologues when she recounts the image of powdered milk in a cupboard as a hungry child.  About the only scene that really played truthfully was Margie's traumatic first visit to the doctor and the reality check that followed.

Director Rebecca Taichman, who directed Classic Stage's recent Orlando, keeps things moving once the scenes start, but pushes too hard with the choreographed transitions and seems no more at home in the 21st century than she did in the 16th.

Production values are well up to Playwrights' standards with sets by Mimi Lien and lighting by Justin Townsend.  Toni-Leslie James has some fun with the girls' costumes, particularly Margie's penchant for monochromatic outfits.

Milk Like Sugar runs through November 20, 2011.  Tickets are available here.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Man and Boy

"Man and Boy" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, September 10,  2011

Back to reviving classic American theatre, the Roundabout has scored Frank Langella to lead Terrence Rattigan's 1963 story of a corrupt, big-money, business mogul.  Set in 1934 New York, Gregor Antonescu (Mr. Langella), who single-handedly saved the the Franc in 1926, is viewed as the Warren Buffett of his day.  The parallels to today continue with the Great Depression era during which dissatisfaction with Roosevelt sound a lot like the criticisms of President Obama. The truth turns out to reveal Antonescu as a Madoff-like cretin, who created an elaborate Ponzi scheme which is about to collapse.

Antonescu is laying low in NY, and turns to his estranged, illegitimate son Basil (Adam Driver), for help to complete a last ditch deal to re-supply his organization with cash.  Basil has cut ties and abandoned the lifestyle that might have been his after a failed attempt to shoot his father on his 21st birthday.

Mr. Langella is masterful in this creakily written role, finding depth and nuance that likely aren't on the page.  Mr. Driver is miscast as Basil.  His physical presence is anachronistically buff for the sensitive musician that is this bastard son.  Francesca Faridany turns up for another shallow socialite, similar to her role of Vida Philmore from the Atlantic Theatre Company's The New York Idea from earlier this year.

Director Maria Aitken keeps things moving, but the play might have benefited from a bit of adaptation 50 years later.  Derek McLane's Greenwich Village basement apartment works nicely, but is more serviceable than remarkable, as do Martin Pakledinaz' costumes.

Man and Boy is scheduled to run through November 27.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Playwrights Horizons - Discount on "Milk Like Sugar"

The good folks at Playwrights Horizons have made the following offer.


Order by October 25 and use the code MILKGR
$35 (reg. $55) for Fri, Sat, and Sun evenings, Oct. 14-16; Oct 21-23
$40 (reg. $55) for all other performances Oct. 13-Nov 20

Call: (212) 279-4200 Noon to 8PM daily
In Person: Ticket Central Box Office, 416 W. 42nd Street