Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Broadway Reviews: Capsule Reviews Include the Deliciously Sadistic “Hangmen,” the Absurdist “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Leading Up to the Tony Awards

Hangmen (c) Joan Marcus

2022 Tony Awards Recap: Part 1

In honor of the upcoming Tony Awards, I have collected thoughts of Broadway shows I’ve seen that I didn’t write a proper review for. This is the first part, which covers two shows, that are currently still playing on Broadway, as well as three mini-reviews of Tony nominees I saw in their Off-Broadway incarnations. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lost Broadway Review: Uzo Adubo Has a Devilishly Good Time in “Clyde’s”

Clyde's (c) Joan Marcus

Note: For the next few weeks leading up to the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 12, I will catch up with some of the Broadway nominees that I didn’t write a review for, culminating with my Tony Award predictions. 

Theater Review: Clyde’s 
On Broadway (closed) 

Best Play by Lynn Nottage 
Best Featured Actress: Uzo Aduba 
Best Featured Actress: Kara Young 
Best Featured Actor: Ron Cephas Jones 
Best Costume Design: Jennifer Moeller 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Film Reviews: "Mascarpone" and "Montana Story" Characters Deal with Unexpected Trauma, While in "Dr. Strange," Heroes Sometimes Do Wear Cape

Mascarpone (c) Dark Star Pictures

At Cinemas and On Demand Streaming 

Breezy gay comedies are a dime a dozen, but those that rise above the genre are distinguished by the uniqueness of the main character and the believability of the story. (Although sometimes a steady stream of beautiful men can trump all that.) “Mascarpone,” an Italian comedy by directors Alessandro Guida and Matteo Pilati, has a good amount of eye candy (Italy, hello!), but after a slow start, the characters also become more fully realized, despite the unbelievable plot turns. Antonio (Giancarlo Commare) is a happy househusband when Lorenzo (Carlo Calderone) tells him he’s not happy, has been having an affair and wants a divorce. Now adrift for the first time in 12 years, Antonio has to find a new place to live, get a job and possibly start a new relationship. Thankfully, he meets Dennis (Eduardo Valdarnini), a free spirit whom Antonio at first can’t stand, but Dennis rents a room to him in his huge apartment, finds him a job at a bakery with hunky Luca (Gianmarco Saurino) and introduces him to the world of hookup apps. Antonio continues to be a drip about his divorce, but all his friends seem to be very patient with him. Finally, he decides to take his baking hobby seriously as a possible career and maybe settle down again with another guy. Not sure why the English title is named after a cheese (although there is a lot of symbolism about it being so important in making tiramisu) when the Italian title “Maschile Singolare” would have translated nicely into Single Male, as in dating, or Men’s Single, as in tennis, which Antonio and his husband played. The last act, with an improbable proposal from one character and the fate of another, spills into soap opera territory. But until then, with all the eye candy and the funny situations Antonio finds himself in, the movie is breezy and likable enough. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Theater Review: “Which Way to the Stage” and “A Case for the Existence of God” are Plays About Finding a Purpose in Life, While Encores Goes “Into the Woods”

Which Way to the Stage (c) Daniel J. Vasquez

Theater Review: Which Way to the Stage 

The Manhattan Class Company has produced their second play about a woman’s hero worship of an actress. Two years ago, the show was “All the Natalie Portmans,” about a high school girl who goes into the fantasy world of Portman movies whenever life gets stressful. Currently, the object of obsession is Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem for those in the know) in Ana Nogueira’s “Which Way to the Stage.” Two stage door denizens - 30-somethings Judy (Sas Goldberg) and Jeff (Max Jenkins) - are waiting for Menzel while she performs in the 2015 Broadway show, “If/Then.” These theater fanatics and longtime friends not only debate the merits of shows (currently: Bernadette vs Patti’s in “Gypsy”) but are also practitioners as they are both hyphenate actors: Judy an actor-real estate agent and Jeff an actor-downtown drag performer. At an audition, Judy meets Mark (Evan Todd), a former finance guy who quit his job to persue acting, and they hit it off. This relationship starts a love/hate triangle with Jeff, who doesn’t believe Mark is straight and also resents that he already has a leg up in auditions with his charms and good looks. Nogueira knows her theater geek lingo and loyal friendship bonds. If you ever stood in an intermission bathroom line with any of them, this is the kind of talk you would hear verbatim. She also has an ease when casual conversation turns non-theater as well. But it’s only in her dramatic conflicts that the dialogue feels written instead of organic, especially when the topic turns to ownership of semantics and perceived privilege. The finale feels especially rushed and clunky, since it revolves around a character that hasn’t earned its symbolic resolution. All the actors are fun to watch, including Michelle Veintimilla, who expertly plays a couple of smaller roles, and although she coincidently resembles Menzel (spoiler alert), she never plays her, maybe because of a late rewrite. Of the main actors, Goldberg is especially good as Judy, highlighting both her vulnerability and insecurity particularly in the first half of the play. Unfortunately, what starts off as a funny and spot-on love letter to musical theater fans ultimately gets lost on its way to the stage. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

2021 - 2022 Tony Award Nominations Announced. Musical "A Strange Loop" Gets 11, Play "The Lehman Trilogy" Gets 8

A Strange Loop (c) Marc J. Franklin

2021 - 2022 Tony Awards Nominations 

Here is the list of nominations for the 2022 Tony Awards, which will be presented on June 12 at Radio City Musical Hall.  Notable milestone:  L. Morgan Lee is the first transgender performer to be nominated, a record four female directors were nominated, the first time in any year and Best Actor has seven nominations, the most nominations in one category ever.   

Friday, May 6, 2022

Reviews: AAPI Heritage Month Begins With Two Promising Asian Female-Directed Indie Films: “Inbetween Girl” and “In a New York Minute”

Inbetween Girl (c) Utopia

Film Review: Inbetween Girl 
On-Demand Streaming 

For the last couple of years there has been an explosion of high school-themed content in film and TV. The glut has made the stories of teen angst and joy almost predictable and pedestrian. Only when a filmmaker presents the subject in a unique and honest way does their project rise about the coming-of-age din. First time director Mei Makino does indeed attack this material from a different direction, and the result, while not entirely successful, does feel fresh. Makino’s film shares an honesty with the recent Netflix series, “Heartstopper” (one of the best teen dramas ever) and the arty uniqueness of “The Mitchells vs. the Machine” (sans killer robots). Angie (a wonderfully moody Emma Galbraith) is the resident St. Michael’s High outsider, a budding artist whose parents are not having an amicable divorce. She lives with her white, overworked mother while her Chinese father starts to date a Chinese woman with a daughter, Fang (Thanh Bui), Angie’s age. The main drama in her life is her soccer teammate Liam (William Magnuson), the most popular boy in school, who starts to flirt with her even though he is dating up-and-coming influencer Sheryl (Emily Garrett). Makino’s script oscillates between overly familiar teen dialogue to refreshingly original takes on female friendships, especially the one between Angie and Sheryl, which is funny and unpredictable as it goes along its formulaic story routes. There’re also some occasional references to race as both a good thing (cultural and culinary) and a hurdle for well-meaning white people (the setting is in Galveston but doesn’t feel very Texan). Also, Angie’s artwork made by local illustrator Larissa Akhmetova, with its goofy cartoon aesthetic, is a big plus. The film premiered at SXSW this year and won the Visions Award for risk-taking filmmaking. I’ll co-sign that. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Reviews: The New “Spring Awakening” Documentary is a Joy for Fans, while Broadway’s “POTUS” is a Female Empowerment Farce

Spring Awakening: Those You've Known (c) HBO

Film Review: Spring Awakening: Those You've Known 
Currently on HBO and streaming on HBO Max 

I first saw the rock musical “Spring Awakening,” based on the Frank Wedekind 1891 play, at an early concert performance at Lincoln Center in 2005, just because it was pop songwriter Duncan Sheik’s first foray into musicals. It was a fine effort, but I didn’t think it would ever get produced. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see it again, this time at its off-Broadway premiere at the Atlantic Theater in 2006. The piece had been rewritten by Sheik and Steven Slater and was now an extremely exuberant show. It focused on the sexual awakening of a group of German kids, anachronistically pulling mics out of their jackets and jump on their desks to sing rock songs. But when it was announced that the show was transferring to Broadway, I again had my doubts. Well, almost 900 performances later, when it closed in 2009, it had indeed become a cultural phenomenon and an heir apparent to “Rent” which I could never have predicted from that first, humble concert. It was the starting point for many of its young casts’ careers, most specifically Jonathan Groff and Lea Michelle. In fact, Broadway’s “Spring Awakening” walked so the TV show “Glee” could run. In November 2021, the cast reunited for a benefit concert on Broadway. It was said that the pandemic had cleared their schedules. Fun fact: most were 15 or 16 when they started with the show. They are now in their 30s.