Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread
Ms. Tyler's latest Baltimore novel once again says
big things about the human condition through quirky characters in everyday situations. A fabulist of the first order,
the writer explores family dynamics over three generations, played out in a well-crafted house built on shaky foundations.
The walking wounded populate Ms. Tyler's world, unable to communicate, emote, and otherwise connect with those they love.
The message here is that we all confront these same people, in different guises, over the course of our lives. Deal
with it (or them) now; they'll be back again. One of her more satisfying books ...
And The Oscar Goes To? - Tinseltown Forecast
This has been a great year for movies in my estimation. Or at least the last few months of the year. If you're
getting ready for the 87th Annual Academy Awards by seeing a last minute show or performance - in my case Two
Days, One Night - you pretty much can't go wrong. (more)
In Praise of Love – Suspicious Minds It’s saying something that the wildly-plotted, cliché ridden,
and didactic late play (1973) of Terence Rattigan’s, which just closed at the Washington Stage Guild, should be the
most appealing entertainment out there for average theatergoer yesterday
BSO Plays Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 & Bruckner 8th - Adagios
for Orchestra Next to the NFC Championship Game, nothing
surprised me as much this weekend as the BSO concert led by venerable guest conductor Gunther Herbig and featuring pianist
Alon Goldstein ... (more)
The Rite of Spring: Marin Alsop and the
BSO - Primal Scream
Stendhal famously wrote that the best way to enter society is with
a duel. Something of that comes to mind when considering the history and provocative composition by Igor Stravinsky
for the Ballets Russes, which heralded a new era ... (more)
The Tempest - Out Like a Lion
As much as I enjoyed Ethan McSweeny's epic staging (Disneyfication?) of the
Bard's farewell play by the Shakespeare Theatre Company (to 1/18) - it has my highest recommendation, even minus the star
Geraint Wyn Davies who was out with the flu for Sunday's matinee - I can't help feeling that theater fans are shortchanged.
In an era which is regurgitating entire texts to the delight of audiences, why can't we get an unabridged, 5-Act Shakespeare
script? Too much for one night, well, alternating productions (Part I, Part II) are not uncommon for modern playwrights,
with day-night shows run on the weekends. And while we're on the topic of words, how about surtitles? I'm
no stranger to the play or era, yet I could make out maybe half of what was said. (I'm not a native-speaking Brit,
for one, nor am I conversant with archaic English.) Surtitles will do for classic theater what projected dialogue has
done for opera: make it accessible to a wider audience.
Wishes for 2015 - Listen Up! It's been an up and
down year in theatergoing and reviewing for me. While the good plays were still out there, I felt less of a pull than
before. It seems the institutions purveying and overseeing them are still with us and more bureaucratized. And
like everything in today's world, things have gotten more factional - an us versus them mentality has set in. So
what will it take to make it a vibrant, fun time again? Here's my thoughts going forward ... (more)
the Woods - Movie Magic Takes Sondheim Classic to the Next Level
Simply put: Rob Marshall's scaled up production
is marvelous. The cinematic translation of the mash-up fairy tale book by James Lapine (who wrote the brighter screenplay)
solves many of the stage longueurs - the special effects work wonders. The casting is near perfect, with excellent vocals
and acting. But the score by Stephen Sondheim, given a big assist by Jonathan Tunick (orchestration) and Paul Gemignani
(conductor) sounds amazing on Dolby. In fact, the music and lyrics feel like a Sondheim retrospective, with references
and prefiguring to his other work. Relive the experience - 50 songs and instrumentals - with the 2-disk CD and MP3 versions
of the movie soundtrack, which are going for around 16 bucks. Disney did this one right.
Drama Urge Notable Theater & Performances for 2014 - Year of Living Dangerously
When I consider artistic merit, one of the questions on my decision tree is: "Does
It Pass the Strange Test?" To a degree, all art is derivative, but how it's packaged and presented can distinguish
a pleasant theater visit from a life-long memory ... (more)
L' Hotel Review - The Importance of
Being There are theatrical world premieres and then
there are World Premieres - that's the kind a support the Pittsburgh Public Theater has mounted for Ed Dixon's new
play, running to 12/14 ... (more)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
For a fun and inexpensive backstage look at today's
Broadway venture, this dark send-up of The Biz should be in you and yours stockings. Pittsburgh's (and Gotham's) own
Michael Keaton, playing an aging action movie hero who dreams of legitimacy, and bad boy theatrical phenom Edward Norton mix
it up in a Ray Carver short story adaptation that seems inspired by Jorge Luis Borges. Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis,
Naomi Watts, and Lindsay Duncan - a fiendish critic (yes!) - advance the collateral damage. GoPro-like cinematography
puts the real into this magical film. On many critics Best Movies for 2014 lists but a must see for all theater
fans! November 2014
BSO Rachmaninoff &
Shostakovich - Big and Bigger
If your taste in classical music runs to the monumental, you were in luck this Sunday at Strathmore Music Center.
The only thing topping the impressive program were the outstanding performances ... (more).
L'Hotel - From the Vault What do Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Isadora Duncan, and Victor Hugo have in common?
Or Sarah Bernhardt and Gioachino Rossini? If you said they passed though Paris, you're partly right ... (more)
Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason - I'll
Call You in the Morning
Signature Theatre's well-acted psychosexual drama with Holly Twyford and Luigi Sottile raises broad questions about artistic compromise.
How far are we willing to go down that increasingly slippery slope of commercialism in this age of the internet and social
media to advance our work? When hits and followers are all that matters, what happens to our art form? And if
we're all in - as individuals or groups - who do we become: a persona or flack or a storyteller with an agenda? Play the game, if you must, but don't let it play you!
Deconstructing Theatre Facts 2013 - A Shaky
Foundation The annual report for Theatre Communications
Group's assessment of FY-2013 was analyzed with sound bites in American Theatre's November issue... (more)
- A Heroine for Our Time? You won't be shedding
crocodile tears when Mrs. Tesman pulls the trigger in Quotidian Theatre's modernized production which just opened in Bethesda. Hedda's narcissistic and impulsive behavior seems the norm these
days. And the scheming, deceitful, and frank bids for power in this world make opting out a credible choice in Oslo
or Georgetown. Melodrama doesn't travel well in some circles (still less the expressionistic acting styles motivated
by Ibsen's transitional script). Yet the genre remains popular. How else to explain the successes of Breaking
Bad and Mad Men? Do we enjoy standing on the moral high ground, then as now? You bet we do.
BSO Ein Heldenleben - A Hero's Life A tonal extravaganza is being offered by Marin Alsop and Company over the next four days (10/23-26). Whether
you are in the mood for a full program, featuring the Richard Strauss showpiece, Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy,
and Christopher Rouse's Rapture, or classical music lite - an annotated Ein Heldenleben, followed by
a conductor-audience discussion - the BSO has you covered ... (updated)
The Hot Sardines - Packed Tight & Tangy
background music at my favorite Barnes & Noble Bookstore kept intruding on my browsing consciousness. Who were the
sultry vocalist and those assured instrumentalists playing jazz and blues standards with such distinction? Some classic
band from the vault on a re-mastered classic? Lady Gaga on yet another crossover? Neither: It was The Hot
Sardines, with "Miz Elizabeth" Bougerol on vocals and Evan "Bibs" Palazzo on piano and leading a
very swinging band on their just released, self-titled CD. Check them out on their website or take a look at what they're all about on YouTube. This first-rate recording is highly recommended.
Venus in Fur
- Mighty Aphrodite
Engaging meta-theatrical recreation of the SM classic by David Ives played in the DC area to acclaim in 2011, but
Rep Stage's Venus in Fur is about as good as it gets, especially with chameleon-like Kathryn Tkel as Vanda. Joseph W. Ritsch's fast-paced
and engrossing production, with profile stage arrangement and superb design, lets us all in on the primal psychodrama that
unfolds. The separation between art and life, truth and fiction, and good and evil never seems so close or satisfying.
Check it out before it closes this weekend.
Musical Education - Head Start
Talk to musicians or listen to them speak and one thing stands out: excepting drug-addled
rockers, they are very articulate. They also write clearly, logically, and persuasively (Terry Teachout, Alex Ross).
Intriguing new evidence suggests that early music lessons offer an important first step up the academic and economic
ladder ... (more)
Bruce Alan Rauscher - An American Century Theater Original
The lead actor for George Axelrod's The Seven Year Itch talks about
craft and the creative process for his latest role in a candid interview ... (more)
BSO Rachmaninoff & Korngold
– Exiles on Sunset Boulevard Marin Alsop has programmed a concert this weekend (9/26-28) that looks to be a homage to Hollywood, so closely
do the works of these Tinseltown transplants suggest the moods of various film scores (updated)
The Seven Year Itch – See You in September
The High Price of Excellence – Performing Arts Injuries
Yesterday’s cancellation of Hilary Hahn from the BSO season opener due to “muscle strain” - she was
scheduled to play Beethoven ’s Violin Concerto- got me to thinking about repetitive motion injuries in the performing
arts ... (updated)
National Book Festival
– Going Corporate
Readers and writers were poorly served by the latest iteration of the Library of Congress’s –
its 14th – annual event. … (more)
Sunday in the Park
- Connecting the Dots
masterpiece about artist Georges Seurat gets an edgy and eye-popping look at Signature Theatre ... (more) Fluent
Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It – Speak Easy!
Gabriel Wyner’s “How
To” book broadly promises to upload and download a new language in your cortex with blazing speed and keep it there.
Can he deliver? (more)
Stupid [expletive] Bird - The Seagull on Seventh Street
So what's last year's best play look like?
Find out soon or see again before this encore production closes Sunday (8/17) at the Woolly Mammoth ... (more)
Essentialism 101 – When Good Enough Is Best
We’ve been programmed
by our culture to seek out the best. Certainly in the DC area, where overabundance is the norm and expectations
exceed our grasp, we want (no, expect) excellence on demand. If the show’s not
a rave or your team’s not winning (or playing), the clock’s ticking: find something else. Does
this make sense? (more)July 2014
All-Beethoven – Da Capo
You say you don’t understand classical
musical and the ticket prices are too high. Well, the BSO is offering a concert next week I can pretty
much guarantee will overcome those objections ... (updated)
Uncanny Valley – Science Fictions
Uncanny Valley , an aptly named play by Thomas Gibbons, does produce an unusual aesthetic effect
and a most jarring theatrical experience for the viewer at the Contemporary Theater Festival at Shepherd University (to 8/3). (more)
A Novel by Sadie Jones – Break a Leg!
Jones’s latest about the 1960s and ‘70s London theater scene comes with a lot of advance critical praise, but
mixed reader response. Can a novel with predictable plot turns, almost stereotypical characters, and dialogue that often lapses
into clichés be considered a good one? (more)
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
by Chris Anderson - There's Something Happening HereClear design, whether it's an idea or a blueprint for further development, is a thing of beauty. When it
leads to a fully implemented product, system, or service, it's a driver of the economy. (more)
Philippe Entremont, Pianist, National Gallery of ArtMy eyes did a double take on the announcement. Was that The Philippe Entremont playing in the West
Wing ... for free? The famous soloist who performed the great Romantic Piano Concertos with Eugene Ormandy and Leonard
Bernstein in the 1960s and 1970s, whose vinyl LP recordings I still own and play? (more)
Charm City Postcard - Wired
A pleasant Father's Day Sunday drew us to Baltimore for some siteseeing
John Updike Biography by Adam Begley - Fortunate
Son This entertaining and engrossing account of
Updike's life fills in the blanks in a most satisfying way. A literary bio which analyzes the works vis à
vis the author's life, it is respectful to a fault to the writer, family, and friends ... (more)
A Symphonic Celebration of Kander & Ebb - All That JazzConductor
Jack Everly's rousing finale to the BSO Pops season last night at Strathmore Music Center was something to behold ...
Arguendo - Razing the Bar
Who knew that oral arguments before the Supreme Court could be so, well, funny? That's the verdict in the
latest production by the New York-based Elevator Repair Service now being performed at the Woolly Mammoth (to 4/27) ... (more)
Audience Appreciation Night
Should Be Every Night - Rules of Engagement
The Virtual Theatergoers Union - See Them
In an effort to spur interest in the local performing
arts scene an advocacy group known as the Virtual Theatergoers Union (VIRTU) announced exciting plans for the 2014-2015 season.
Starting this fall, you can "see" your favorite play or musical without actually attending a performance. ... (more)
Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin'
So Sad The 1960s play by Arthur Kopit, with
a mouthful of a title and domineering mother par excellence, is the theater of the absurd's apotheosis of momism.
Now receiving a most creative revival by The American Century Theater (to 4/12) in Arlington, VA ... (more)
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Lobby HeroesHow many people does it take to film a farce? If you're Wes Anderson,
thousands. It's style over substance in this throwback fable about the loss of standards in a changing world. Marvelous
cinematography, art design, and music compete with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and convoluted plot based on (inspired by more
likely) the writings of Stefan Zweig. A frolicsome Ralph Fiennes and just about any bankable male actor Hollywood could
muster join box office draws Soairse Ronan and Tilda Swinton to flesh out this cinematic excess. The full-court-press
marketing is paying big dividends, where the movie is playing everywhere, the reviews are great, and the customers sated.
A feast for the eyes with sober themes, like Gravity, this is one to see on the big screen.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - Making the Old New
I just couldn't take another Mendelssohn Violin Concerto ... Or could I? (more)
Death of the Playwright? - The Revolution Will Not
Be Accredited Who really writes the script we traditionally
assign to the playwright? This question has been raised in the past about novelists and screenwriters, but today the
line of authorship has also been blurred in the theater ... (more)
Tribes - Emotional IntelligenceAre we determined by language or family or biology, and if so, how much?
The artistically inclined characters in Tribes are spring-loaded to state their case in Nina Raine's British
dramedy now at Pittsburgh's City Theatre Company (to 3/30) ... (more)
Short Takes - Moving from Me to You in One Sitting
Research has shown that reading fiction increases empathy, yet as reported in an NEA study less than half of American adults read at least one novel, play, or poem [my emphases] in 2012. Art lovers, that's pretty bad. For those who need to get back in the game, start with short stories.
If one doesn't suit, pick another. Try any collection of Nobel-Prize winner Alice Munro, George Saunders, or Steve Millhauser.
If you're into variety, hit the shuffle mode for authors and select Best American Short Stories of any year. To
bone up for longer works or classics, a short story collection is often the royal road to interpretation - Dubliners
(James Joyce), Go Down, Moses (William Faulkner). Start anywhere, but get going!
Season's Greetings - More Noise, Less Signal Just last month the NSO mailed me their subscription series for 2014-2015; yesterday I received the BSO's.
Earlier Strathmore provided the good news of their upcoming season. These are just the music venues. Each day
my mail box comes filled with exciting programming announcements from theaters. ... (more)
Baltimore Museum of Arts - Free All the Time
Charm City's flagship museum
is in dry dock while renovations are underway and the Cone Collection travels, but the accessible galleries never looked better.
A German Expressionist exhibit and a newly opened Contemporary Art Wing (featuring some Andy Warhols I'd never seen) fill
some of the gaps nicely; and the rest are shown to best advantage with the donated works of arts patron extraordinaire Saidie
A. May (1879-1951). A cousin of the Cones, the relatively unheralded Ms. May fashioned a shadow collection that rivaled
her more celebrated relatives. But history has a way of rectifying fame's omissions: a stolen Renoir from the May
bequest - much in the news of late - is about to be returned and reunited with its family after 60 plus years. See them all 3/30.
Taking One for the Show - Living to Play Another
DayBackstage dramas come in many forms, though the public
usually reads about the ones dealing with last minute cast changes ... But it's not only actors that have to suck it up
for the good of a production ... (more)
Desplat - The French John Williams
Watching the credits
roll on The Monuments Men - an entertaining, bad movie - I was surprised to find that my favorite film composer scored
it. I shouldn't have been. Just over the last year or so I've heard his work in Philomena, Argo,
Zero Dark Thirty, The Ides of March and earlier in everything from The King (as in his Speech)
to The Queen. Younger moviegoers will have met the composer at least subliminally in The New Moon
(of Twilight fame) and the Harry Potter Series. Search him online and you'll find you've heard
him too. Mr. Desplat, who orchestrates and conducts his own music, favors a soaring and rich symphonic sound.
A smart orchestra artistic director somewhere would do well to feature his body of work in a Pops Program. There's
a big audience waiting.
Ticket Prices - Cut Them and They Will Come!
I've said in the past that the high price of tickets (and fees) is stifling audience-building
initiatives. You can't get new subscribers when your seats are empty; neither will those concessions get sold. And
what about the buzz from a full house marketed the most cost-effective way possible: Word of Mouth? Rather than blow
money on design that no one will see, why not ask your generous donors to underwrite the cost of tickets? One theater has gotten the message.
BSO All-Mozart & Off the Cuff: CSI - Biorhythms Marin Alsop and the BSO do a retrospective or if you prefer a post-mortem of the
brief, productive life and the mysterious demise of one of the greatest composers of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ...
Company Going & An Iliad Coming-Masterpiece
Stephen Sondheim fans still have
time to catch Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of Company which runs until Sunday (2/23) ...An Iliad, a one-man play starring Teagle F. Bougere,
opens next month (3/6-4/6) ... (updated)
BSO Valentine's Concert -
Sealed with a KissThe Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has
a romantic weekend program you'll want to take in with that special someone ... (updated)
Richard III - Game of Thrones
He's back! Everyone's favorite Shakespearean villain gets a fresh
look and the play a scintillating in-the- round staging at The Folger Theatre (extended to 3/16) ... (more)
BSO Marvin Hamlisch Tribute:One Singular Achievement
The musical genius of Marvin Hamlisch lived on last night at Strathmore Music Center
Drama Urge Theater Resolutions 2014You want the audiences to come and come again, but the house remains quiet and
empty? Taking a page from some theater critics and an earlier post these New Year's Resolutions are offered not
for my benefit, but the community I follow ... (more)
Bad Dates - ISO Solemate Fans of playwright Theresa Rebeck (Seminar, Mauritius, The Understudy)
and The Bay Theatre Company will have double cause for rejoicing with the top notch production of Bad Dates
(2003) playing at the Chesapeake Arts Center ... (more)
Drama Urge Awards 2013 - Notable Theater & Performances It was a year of highs and lows for me in theater ... my selective, subjective, and small subset of the year's
productions .... (more)
True West - Manifest DestinyThe second installment of Pittsburgh Public Theater's Masterpiece Season is a walk down memory lane of sorts for me ... (more)
Red - Performance Art
John Logan's rumination on creativity, aesthetics, and spirituality gets another go at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore (to 12/8) ... (more)
Meyerhoff Magic - Music Appreciation 21201 The BSO closed out the full program of The Planets concert series on November
10 and a memorable one it was ... (more)
Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill - Model
The funniest play I've seen this year is also
the saddest. Paul Downs Calaizzo's suburban teardown is the playwright's second Signature Theatre world premiere (to 12/8) ... (more)
BSO Plays Holst's The Planets
- Sonic Showstoppers The stars will be aligned (or should
I say the planets?) as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Marin Alsop, takes orbit in a four-day presentation of Gustav Holst's orchestral masterpiece ...
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2013 REVIEWS AND BLOGS SEE ARCHIVES
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