Thursday, July 11, 2024

Broadway Review: Cole Escola’s Irreverent and Hilarious “Oh, Mary” Reimagines Mary Todd Lincoln as a Frustrated and Petulant First Lady Longing to Be Back on Stage

"Oh, Mary!" (c) Emilio Madrid 

Theater: “Oh, Mary!” 
On Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre

Premise: Actor and comedian Cole Escola has created some truly memorable characters on TV and YouTube (including Jesus’ sister Jessica Christ, Bernadette Peters doing her taxes and the spoiled Chassie from At Home with Any Sedaris), and now they have turned their attention to the legitimate stage with “Oh, Mary!” The sold-out hit off-Broadway, directed by Sam Pinkleton, has moved to Broadway, with Escola doing memorable national TV appearances with Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, sometimes even in character to promote it. And that character is Mary Todd Lincoln. It is the waning days of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln (Conrad Ricamora) is feeling the pressure to find a resolution, so he can’t possibly also deal with his bored and drunk wife, Mary (Escola), who yearns to return to the cabaret stage. As a compromise, Abe agrees to let her be in a play if she takes lessons from a handsome, acting teacher (played charmingly by James Scully, reuniting with Ricamora, his Fire Island film co-star), whom Mary takes a liking to, so she agrees. Also in the play are Bianca Leigh as Mary’s much-maligned companion and Tony Macht as a soldier who is Lincoln’s closest (wink, wink) confidant. It’s an understatement to say "Oh, Mary!” is not historically accurate, but it is hysterically inaccurate. 

Monday, July 8, 2024

The Interested Bystander’s 2024 Theater Awards Round-up

The Outsiders (c) Matthew Murphy

Here are the theater awards given out for the 2023-2024 season. 

2024 Tony Awards

Best Play 
Stereophonic by David Adjmi

Best Revival of a Play 
Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Film Reviews: Indie Cinema Tackles Themes of Old Age (“Thelma”), Young Age (“Janet Planet”), Indigenous Life (“Fancy Dance”), Grief (“Ghostlight”) and Whatever It Is Yorgos Lanthimos Dreams Up (“Kinds of Kindness”)

Kinds of Kindness (c) Searchlight Pictures

Film: Kinds of Kindness 
In Cinemas 

Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film gives us his version of the TV series Black Mirror with an unhinged Willem Dafoe personifying Mirror’s theme of technology gone awry. The film stars the same set of actors in three short stories, but they play different roles in each with only the tiniest of threads connecting them. In the first story, Jesse Plemons plays a successful businessman whose perfect life changes when he deviates from his boss’s (Willem Dafoe) prescribed life regimen. In the second, Plemons plays a cop whose wife (Emma Stone) is rescued months after crashing on a deserted island, but he has suspicions that he’s being duped. And in the third, Plemons and Stone are members of a cult (led by Dafoe and Hong Chau) in search of a prophet from God. Like many of his well-received features like Poor Things and The Favourite, these three shorts have characters who are already on the edge of sanity, then the plot throws them into an even more paranoid and hyper reality. The actors are all excellent, with Lanthimos veterans Dafoe and Stone, and newcomer Plemons (who won Best Actor at Cannes), connecting the most with the material in an off-kilter but still lived-in way. Kinds of Kindness (the most ironic title for a movie so far this year) is almost three hours long, so you might as well add Lanthimos’ 2019, 11-minute Nimic (starring a fantastic Matt Dillon and currently playing on MUBI) afterwards and it’ll be like you binged a whole TV season of his unforgiving, unknowable world view.