Tag Archives: play

Eddie and the Edies.

I saw two theatrical productions this weekend and both were excellent and challenging in their different ways.

GREY GARDENS: THE MUSICAL

Grey Gardens is based on the 1975 documentary by Albert & David Maysles that depicts the story of the eccentric Beales, a mother and daughter both named Edith. They lived in squalor in a run down mansion called Grey Gardens in the Hamptons –  New York. Of interest here is that they are the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Strange subject for a Broadway musical you might say, but it works very well. In the documentary the women talk and bicker to the camera telling how it was and how it could have been. How did these former socialites end up like this? The musical’s first act shows us the early years of the Beales and the circumstances that led to their strange co-dependancy. Act 2 closely follows the documentary. The musical has a book by acclaimed playwright Doug Wright (I am My Own Wife, Quills), lyrics by Michael Korie and music by Scott Frankel the score owes a lot to the musical style of Stephen Sondheim. It was first performed off-Broadway in 2006 then transferring to the main stem in a revised version. It won Tony awards for it’s leading ladies Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson.

The Australian premiere has been mounted by The Production Company and features two of Australia’s most talented women – Pamela Rabe and Nancye Hayes. Rabe plays Big Edie in act 1 and in act 2 takes on the role of Little Edie with Hayes portraying the elderly mother Big Edie.

It is a fine production, deftly directed by Roger Hodgman, simple and no fuss, letting the actors shine and boy do they shine. Rabe is monstrous as Big Edie, hilarious and heartbreaking as Little Edie – able to ham it up as the roles allow, her final song is very poignant. Hayes is very much her equal, funny and moving as an old lady frustrated at losing her faculties and relying on her odd daughter’s support. The rest of the cast are very good, I couldn’t fault this fine production which gave it’s final performance from a limited season on Sunday.

Nancye Hayes & Pamela Rabe

Pamela Rabe as Little Edie in Act 1

EDDIE IZZARD – STRIPPED

What a dazzling talent Mr. Izzard is, standing alone on stage for nearly two hours (with intermission) a full force funny man like no other- Izzard the blizzard I say!!!

Izzard’s comedic style has been described as rambling, whimsical and self-referential. His storytelling goes off on all sorts of tangents, with hilarious results. This particular show has a structure in which he explains the formation of the world and civilisation from the beginning of time when ‘god’ had a few busy days being creative. His left leaning politics are apparent but not overdone making it all the more powerful. Highlights for me were a rant on Apple ITunes agreements and downloads, and an observation of the vegetable bok choy, his thread on the Latin language was side splitting, actually the whole night was side splitting and his appreciative audience lapped it up. His talents of voice control and physical comedy to match are outstanding, comedy with this much intelligence is very rare, I just loved every minute of it. Eddie Izzard you are a marvel.

Eddie the incredible

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Hellman’s hour.

publicity photo of Lillian Hellman.

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It seems Lillian Hellman‘s powerful 1934 play “The Children’s Hour” is in demand right now. A major West End revival is being mounted early next year starring Keira Knightly & Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men). Furthermore a TV remake is on the cards.

Set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, Karen and Martha. An angry malicious student, Mary runs away from the school and to avoid being sent back tells her grandmother that the two teachers are having a lesbian affair. The accusation proceeds to destroy the women’s careers, relationships and lives.

The original production opened on Broadway in 1934 and ran for 691 performances. It was Hellman’s first play and was a huge success. It was controversial because of the homosexual subject matter which at the time was illegal to mention on the US stage – for some reason due to it high praise and popularity it was overlooked.

In 1936 a film adaptation directed by William Wyler was made. Due to the film production code of the time the central relationship was turned into a heterosexual one. It was renamed “These Three”  starring Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea. Even with the changes the film was well received due to the excellent writing by Hellman. Wyler revisited the material in 1961 directing a remake with the original title and the lesbian storyline re-instated, although it was watered down and only hinted at, never spoken. It starred Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner.

I was fortunate to see a production at London’s National Theatre back in 1994. It starred Clare Higgins, and a then unknown young actress Emily Watson as the vile child Mary.

The upcoming TV remake has yet to be cast. It intends to modernize the story, highlighting how the social media can help to alter and ruin lives. I guess this means Facebook or its like might come into play. An interesting take.

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an Albee afternoon.

It was a real treat on a cold ‘n’windy Sunday afternoon to attend a talk by acclaimed American playwrite – Edward Albee.

He of “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” fame, not to mention quite a few others. He has won 3 Pulitzer prizes for drama amongst other accolades.

He was a guest of the Melbourne Theatre Company to give their 2010 John Sumner Lecture.

The Octogenarian was at times – naughty, pompous, funny, egotistical, profound, enlightening and delightful.

©Jane Murphy

His musings on the collaboration of all art forms was wonderful, and his tale of the Hollywood producer claiming screenplay rights to the film adaptation of his play “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf”, was a highlight.

Even down under we get to see the greats 🙂 on occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hit play to become starry film.

Meryl Streep on the 56th International Film Fe...

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It has been announced that a film adaptation of Tracey Lett’s Pulitzer Prize & Tony award winning play “August: Osage County” is being made.

Based on the 3 & 1/2 hour play set in an Oklahoma country house in which a single extended family — led by its pill popping matriarch Violet, and her headstrong eldest daughter Barbara. They are all grieving the mysterious death of it’s patriarch and then proceed to rip each other apart.

And what a starry cast is on the cards. In talks to play the drug addicted mum is Meryl Streep (no surprise there), and as her eldest daughter – Julia Roberts (not so sure about that choice).

It is to be directed by John Wells who has a TV background – he was show runner on the last few seasons of “West Wing”. Hardly an inspired choice for such an acclaimed play. Surely he is a 2nd or even 3rd choice? Was Mike Nichols approached?

I saw the play at the National Theatre in London with the original Broadway cast and the Sydney Theatre Company brought them all out to Sydney this year to perform.

I was a little underwhelmed by the play itself, while not bad, it just seemed like an imitation of any play by Eugene O’Neill. The performances though were a different matter, they were excellent, there are some meaty roles thats for sure. I’ll look forward to the film, just to see Streep act her chops off, it is a tour-de-force part of the highest order. If there ever was a film role that would finally get Streep her long deserved third Oscar, it is Violet Weston.

It is the second time in recent years that Streep has nabbed the lead role in a Tony winning play’s film adaptation.(Deanna Dunnagan won the Tony playing Violet on Broadway).  In the film adaptation of “Doubt” she played the part originated by Cherry Jones who also won the Tony. Not surprising to go for Meryl as she has been box office gold of late.

I must also note that another Tony winning hit play that underwhelmed me is being adapted into a movie. “Gods Of Carnage” is to be directed by Roman Polanski with a starry cast comprising of Jodie Foster, Christophe Waltz, Kate Winslet & Matt Dillon. Great cast, usually great director. Something else to look forward to.

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A starry lineup for the house.

Edie Falco at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for...

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Deadline Hollywood has just announced that a new revival of John Guare‘s play “The House Of Blue Leaves” will be opening on Broadway in the first quarter of 2011.

Starring in the acclaimed play will be my favorite nurse, Edie Falco and Ben Stiller.

I would so love to see Edie Falco perform on stage.

Guare’s play is set in a Queens household in 1965, on the day that Pope Paul IV is visiting New York. It is a black comedy that features nuns, a political bombing, a soldier heading for Vietnam, a zookeeper with dreams of becoming a songwriter, and his wife Bananas who is a schizophrenic  and headed for a mental institution – the house of blue leaves.

Stiller will play the zookeeper and Falco his mad wife.

The play has previously had productions off- Broadway in 1971 and was revived in 1986 at the Lincoln Centre. It then transfered to a Broadway house where it won the Tony for Best Revival. Ben Stiller made his Broadway debut in the 1986 production playing the part of the zookeeper’s son. Stiller’s mother Anne Meara was in the original 71 off-Broadway cast.

Look at some of the cast members in past productions.

1971 – Frank Converse & Katherine Hellmond (Soap).

1986 – John Mahoney, Swoosie Kurtz, Stockard Channing, Danny Aiello. Replacement casts included Christine Baranski & Patricia Clarkson.

It certainly attracts wonderful performers.

John Guare also wrote “Six Degrees Of Separation” and his new play “A Free Man Of Color” opens in November at the Lincoln Centre with a cast that includes Jeffrey Wright (Angels In America, Basquiat). He was responsible for the superb screenplay to Louis Malle’s film “Atlantic City” which earned him  an Oscar nomination.

Scott Rudin is producing and no director has been announced yet.

This Broadway season is certainly shaping up to be one of the the best in years.

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All About My Mother

Theatre Review:

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER.

Turning one of Spanish primo director, Pedro Almodovar‘s most successful movies into a theatrical play, seemed like an good idea. But with the MTC production of “All About My Mother“, I am sorry to report that it is actually not such a good idea. A very disappointing night at the theatre.

Wendy Hughes & Paul Capsis

Story revolves around Manuela (Alison Whyte), a nurse and single mother living in Madrid with her son Esteban (Blake Davis). On a fateful night to the theatre (A Streetcar Named Desire), her son is killed after being hit by a car. Off she trots to Barcelona to seek out the son’s father, also called Esteban, but now called Lola. Along the way she meets up with a transvestite prostitute (Paul Capsis), pregnant nun (Katie Fitchett), and famous diva actress (Wendy Hughes. All helping her to overcome the grief of losing her beloved child. Throw in junkies and some ribald language and you get pure Almodovar!

Almodovar’s film is full of melodrama, humour, hysteria, has a propulsive energy and is visually arresting.

The play is laboured, staged in an amateurish fashion (bring on the sliding panels, and slow mo walking), and is visually disappointing (furnished like a 70’s waiting room), are we in Spain?  I won’t talk about the hideous costumes. The acting is all over the place, along with the accents (mostly Aussie, with a few Spanish pronounciations thrown in). The humour really only appears in the second half, which I must admit was far superior to the first. The adaptation by Samuel Adamson (first performed at London’s Old Vic) incorporates monologues by the pesky dead son(why does he need to explain All About Eve?), his ghostly appearances are an add on, and oh so annoyingly distracting. Also he gives further monologues to the amusing transvestite Algrado (these work due to Paul Capsis performance, but only just). It has most of the structure of the film intact, and with it’s staging tries to make it filmic in scope. But what is the point of a direct copy? Isn’t it better just to watch the film again. I guess with all the built in melodrama, the touches of Tennessee Williams, and references to All About Eve, make it all so theatrical, perhaps that is where the idea of the adaptation came from?

There are some pleasures to be had. Paul Capsis lights up the second half, Wendy Hughes is always great to watch. The music is good (it is direct from the film). Unfortunately the pleasures do not outweigh the pain. I recommend to watch the film.

Bring on the sliding screens

Mother & Son

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER

Presented by Melbourne Theatre Company

Director – Simon Phillips

Set Designer – Stephen Curtis

Costume Designer – Esther Marie Hayes

Now Playing at John Sumner Theatre till September 26

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theatre? cinema? theatre? cinema? Who cares, it’s a hit!

This Saturday I had two very different theatre experiences, and both involving cinema. I love the fact that one can now sit in a theatre, or a cinema, and feel you have been to both…….at the same time.

Confused?

Let me explain.

Doris & Wanda, knowing I had post NYC blues, invited me to go and see the National Theatre’s live broadcast of “London Assurance”. We had previously immersed ourselves in the same kind of presentation a few months earlier. Back then we saw “The Habit Of Art” by Alan Bennett, and we loved it.

It is basically a filmed performance of a play,  simulcast throughout the world (I doubt the simulcast aspect after checking out the website). It is a great opportunity to see some wonderful productions with fantastic perfomances, all first rate.

London Assurance didn’t disappoint. A play written way back in 1841 by Dion Boucicault, a prolific playwrite of his time. I guess the equivalent of Alan Akybourn today?

It is an old fashioned comedy, and director Nicholas Hyntner has given us a very  entertaining production, full of over the top performances from a brilliant cast. Standing out in particular was Simon Russell Beale, playing an aging society fop full of airs and graces, not to mention a healthy libido! It is a masterful performance, just his standing pose alone is hysterical. I love these kind of performances, nothing but pure delight. Not to shabby alongside him was the wonderful Fiona Shaw, as Lady Gay Spanker (the name alone makes you laugh), full of energy and horsy guffaws. She too just has to do simple things, like lounging on the sofa, and you were guffawing along with her. Richard Briars as her aging senile husband was a delight as well. All the cast were fabulous and each had their moments to shine.

It really does feel like you have been to the theatre, but with the best seats in the house. At $25 it’s a steal. Wanda has told me that the Opera presentations are well worth checking out too.  I will make sure I do.

Simon Russell Beale & Fiona Shaw

The magnificent Simon Russell Beale strikes a very funny pose.


Another dear friend of mine, Gary, invited me to see a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Psycho. Gary is a cinephile and had secured seats because he had witten the program notes on the classic film. The theatrical twist this time was that the film’s magnificent score was to be played by a live orchestra at the Regent theatre. Bernard Herrmann’s score is arguably one of the most famous in cinema history. Boy does it sound good live! At first you notice the orchestra playing beneath the cinema screen, but eventually, to the merit of Mr Hitchcock, the film itself grabs hold and you find yourself immersed in the creepy story flickering above. Of course the screeching strings that accompany the infamous shower scene were a highlight. In the corner of your eye you could see the bows of the orchestra strings thrusting away, whilst on screen the kitchen knife stabs away at poor unfortunate Janet Leigh. I haven’t seen Psycho in years, and never at a cinema or theatre. It holds up as a true classic, even with it’s silly ending and long winded explanation of the sad Norman Bate’s psychotic state. And speaking of Norman Bates, I think Anthony Perkin’s is wonderful in this role. It is a great film, and with the live orchestra playing alongside, it was a great experience.

So I saw a play in a cinema, and a film in a theatre. Either way I was greatly entertained. Entertainment comes in all shapes it seems.

I look forward to being entertained again soon.

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