Friday, June 23, 2023

Theater Review: “The Light in the Piazza” Is a Triumph for Actress Ruthie Ann Miles as a Woman Haunted by Statues and Stories in 1950s Italy

The Light in the Piazza (c) Joan Marcus

 Theater: The Light in the Piazza 
Presented by Encores! at New York City Center 

Premise: The musical The Light in the Piazza, based on Elizabeth Spencer’s 1960 novella, premiered on Broadway in 2005 with songs by Adam Guettel and a book by Craig Lucas. It won six Tony Awards but lost Best Musical to “Spamalot” (SMH, as the kids say). It is 1953 and American Margaret Johnson (Ruthie Ann Miles) and her daughter Clara (Anna Zavelson) are visiting Florence, where Margaret fell in love with her husband Roy (Michael Hayden) years before. Clara meet-cutes the young and very Italian Fabrizio Naccarelli (James D. Gish) as her hat flies off her head and into his heart. Fabrizio’s parents (Ivan Hernandez and Andréa Burns) are happy for their son’s sudden amore. But Margaret is against their growing romance with more than just the usual parental concern, as Clara had an accident as a young girl that affects her mental capacity, which only manifests when she is under stress. After some initial apprehension, Margaret sees the change in Clara and wonders if she has been too overprotective of not only her daughter but her views of the true meaning of love. Spencer’s novel was also made into a film (oddly dropping the first “the” in the title) in 1962 by Guy Green, starring Olivia de Havilland as Margaret and Yvette Mimieux as Clara. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Film Review: “Asteroid City” Is Wes Anderson’s Most Wes Anderson Film That Feels Less of An Opus Than a Minor, Enjoyable Diversion

Asteroid City (c) Focus Features

Film: “Asteroid City” 
In Cinemas 

Premise: We are in the titular Asteroid City, a small town with a population of 87, hosting a Junior Stargazer convention in 1955, chosen (and named) because an asteroid hit it and created a crater many centuries ago. Among the young scientists vying for the big cash prize is Woodrow Steenbeck (Jones Hall), accompanied by his father Augie (Jason Schwartzman), his three younger sisters and his mother’s father (Tom Hanks). Another is Dinah (Grace Edwards), whose mother Midge (Scarlett Johansson) is a famous actress. A sort of flirtation begins between the two partnerless parents and their hormonal offspring, which plays out at the convention. During a nighttime observation of a planetary alignment, a UFO arrives, and the whole town, along with the conventioneers, is quarantined by the US Government. This story, we’re told, is actually a play (hence the title of the movie is in quotes), and the subject of a TV show narrated by a host (Bryan Cranston), about the historical significance of the play, its playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) and its historical first production, directed by Schubert Green (Adrien Brody). 

Friday, June 16, 2023

'The Last of Us' and 'Somebody Somewhere' Lead GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics Dorian TV Award Nominations

Somebody Somewhere (c) Sandy Morris/HBO

GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics today announced its Dorian TV Award nominations for the best in television and streaming, mainstream to niche. HBO’s heart-rending apocalyptic drama The Last of Us topped the list with eight nominations, starting with Best TV Drama, where it faces the same network’s the-rich-must-pay parables Succession and The White Lotus, Showtime’s regretful cannibals opus Yellowjackets, and AMC’s delectably daring series version of Interview with the Vampire

Somebody Somewhere, HBO’s poignant comedy about a single Kansas woman and friends navigating the questions of life, notched six nominations, including Best TV Comedy. Last year’s Dorian winner in that category, Abbott Elementary, chalked up four nods from GALECA, a national group of over 480 professional journalists writing on entertainment for some of the most respected media outlets in the world. 

Some trademark Dorian Awards categories include Visually Striking Show—Disney+’s Star Wars spinoff Andor, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are in the mix there—and Campiest TV Show. Pulling the proverbial wigs off in the latter race: Dead Ringers, Eurovision Song Contest, Hocus Pocus 2, Schmigadoon!, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Netflix’s cheeky-kooky Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Theater Review: Nostalgia Is Tarnished by History in Off-Broadway’s “This Land Was Made” and “Love + Science” as Well as Broadway’s “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”

This Land Was Made (c) Carol Rosegg

Theater: This Land Was Made 
At Vineyard Theater 

Taking a page out of Quentin Tarantino, playwright Tori Sampson, who made quite a splash with her play If Pretty Hurts, Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka a few seasons ago, has decided to write some speculative history surrounding Huey P. Newton, the Black Panthers and who they affect in a small bar in Oakland, California in 1967. As a proud product of the Oakland ethos myself, I was happy to have a play set in my hometown, with the lingos and the landmarks intact. Sampson’s play is set in Miss Trish’s Bar in a primarily Black neighborhood in Oakland, run by a North Carolina transplant named Miss Trish (Libya V. Pugh), who tries to bring a bit of Southern cuisine to the Bay Area. Her daughter (and our narrator), Sassy (the dynamic Antoinette Crowe-Legacy), takes over a little corner of the bar to cut hair, but what she really wants to do is write a book about Oakland. Her love interest is Troy (Matthew Griffin), a Berkeley undergrad who, through circumstances that make up the bulk of the first act, attends a speech being made by Newton (a very persuasive Julian Elijah Martinez) on the infamous night in which Newton was accused of shooting police officers. Sampson inserts her fictional characters into the real-life drama to humanize the story beneath the headlines. This all plays out in Taylor Reynolds’ surprising subdued production, with Wilson Chin’s gorgeously retro bar set and unflashy but period-accurate costumes by Dominique Fawn Hall helping to create an evocative mood. As much I as enjoyed If Pretty Hurts, it seemed like a young playwright showing off her language wordplay and devil-may-care play structure. Here, Sampson has written a more traditional play that may be imperfect but I found way more engaging. The Huey Newton shooting may have been the jumping off point, it was her other characters that stayed with me. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Final 2022-23 Tony Awards Predictions: Thanks to The TV Writers, Broadway is Already A Winner

New York, New York (c) Paul Kolnik

Final Tony Predictions: May 2023 

Here are my Tony Award prediction and one runner-up (with percentage of likelihood) in all the categories as well as The Interested Bystander’s own preference if I was a Tony voter. Unlike the Oscars this year, there are no slam dunks (90% and higher) and it’s a lot harder to predict than usual. There’s even one tie in the runner-ups, that’s how close some of these categories are. 

And thanks to the Writers Guild for allowing the Tony Awards to be telecast with no picket lines. If it weren’t not for the writers, there would be no entertainment to enjoy, let alone Broadway. I stand with them. 

Monday, June 5, 2023

Film Reviews: Indie Films Tackle Sexual Topics Revolving Around Toxic Masculinity (“Horseplay”), Dominance (“Sanctuary”) and Gender Identity (“L’Immensità”)

Horseplay (c) Dark Star Pictures

Film: Horseplay 
In Cinemas 

If you are to believe Marco Berger’s latest film, Horseplay (Los Agitadores), straight men, apparently, whenever together in a group, are obsessed with sex: talking incessantly about it, pulling sexual pranks on each other and being extremely close with each other without ever crossing the line. That line crossing, the homo in the rule “no homo,” ruins the fun. Because horny straight men are the worst. In Horseplay, a group of about 10 (some come and go) twentysomething friends spend a couple of weeks around the Christmas holidays in the family country vacation home of Artur (Iván Masliah). It must be hot in the Argentina countryside at Christmas because most of the guys spend the days shirtless and rough-housing together as if the house was a fraternity in purgatory. For a while the men are interchangeable, with only their hairbuns (or lack thereof) or chest hair (or lack thereof) to help me differentiate any of them. Slowly though, between taking compromising pictures of each other sleeping or pouring water on each other sleeping (my advice: don’t go to sleep), a sort of unease and drama arises between a couple of the guys that doesn’t really resolve itself until literally the last two minutes of the movie. But, I believe, once you know how it ends, watching the movie again will probably provide the clues and moments that fuel that finale. Until then, Berger throws in one of the guys’ fiancé (who is not amused by the sexual photos in the text chains); Artur’s sister, who brings friends over for most of the guys to finally release the pent up sexual energy; and one guy, Poli (Franco Antonio de la Puente), who seems to be the outsider of the group either by his choice or theirs. I like Marco Berger’s previous movies, including the relatively calm two-hander Hawaii and the more engaging The Blonde One. Those movies, like Horseplay, like to throw gay-curious but straight-identifying men into situations where they have to confront their own prejudices and feelings. This film’s setting, however, is not very realistic. The guys mainly act like they’re in a cologne ad, which is nice to look at but feels rather orchestrated and manipulated. The ending points to something more interesting and involving, but after this unexpected moment happens, all we get are the end credits. 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

'Kimberly Akimbo,' 'Fat Ham,' 'Titaníque' Receives LGBTQ Critics' First Annual Dorian Theater Awards

Some Like It Hot (c) Marc J. Franklin

Victoria Clark, Jodie Comer, Marla Mindelle and J. Harrison Ghee Score in Honors Covering All of Broadway and Off-Broadway 

Thursday June 1, 2023 - The 34 members of GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics' theater wing announced the winners and finalists of its inaugural Dorian Theater Awards, honoring the best in Broadway and Off-Broadway for the 2022-2023 season.