Review: King Hedley II, Theatre Royal Stratford East

August Wilson’s King Hedley II is something of a flawed play but it receives a strong production from Nadia Fall here at Theatre Royal Stratford East

“As long as I draw a breath in my body I’m gonna do the right thing for me”

August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle – a series of 10 plays exploring the African American experience in each decade of the 20th century – has some superb plays within it, not least the incendiary Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences. As the ninth instalment in the sequence, King Hedley II doesn’t quite live up to those forebears  but Nadia Fall gives it an impressive production here.

Casting Director Lisa Makin was clearly on fire for this project as she gathered established names (Lenny Henry, Martina Laird) and younger talents (Cherelle Skeete – so good in Fun Home, Aaron Pierre) to give a ferocious account of this challenging play. Challenging not only in length at well over 3 hours but also thematically, as it sprawls over too many subjects to ever hope of doing them all justice. Continue reading “Review: King Hedley II, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Winners of 2016-2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Jaclyn Backhaus, Men on Boats
Sarah DeLappe, The Wolves
Paola Lázaro, Tell Hector I Miss Him
Qui Nguyen, Vietgone
WINNER – Bess Wohl, Small Mouth Sounds

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Nick Cordero, A Bronx Tale
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
WINNER – Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Tony Shalhoub, The Band’s Visit Continue reading “Winners of 2016-2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2016-2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Jaclyn Backhaus, Men on Boats
Sarah DeLappe, The Wolves
Paola Lázaro, Tell Hector I Miss Him
Qui Nguyen, Vietgone
Bess Wohl, Small Mouth Sounds

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Nick Cordero, A Bronx Tale
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Tony Shalhoub, The Band’s Visit Continue reading “Nominations for 2016-2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre

“This is an empty world without the blues“

The title might be something of a misnomer in that there ain’t a whole lot of Ma Rainey in this play but that shouldn’t detract from the extraordinary power of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, part of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle of plays examining each decade of the twentieth century African American experience. And Dominic Cooke’s production for the National Theatre loses nothing of its urgency, it may have been written in 1984 about 1927 but its incendiary racial politics are sadly just as pertinent in 2016.

Rainey was one of the first professional singers of the blues and among the first to be recorded but the play opens with the ‘Mother of The Blues’ singular in her absence. Her manager and studio manager, both white, are fretting about her lateness and how financially dependent on her records they are and downstairs in the rehearsal basement, the four black men who make up her band are shooting the breeze as they gear up for some music-making. But as the wait grows longer, patience wears thinner and long-ingrained injustices start to bubble to the fore. Continue reading “Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre”

22nd Critics’ Choice Awards nominees

Best Picture
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Lion

Loving
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Sully

Best Director
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Denzel Washington – Fences Continue reading “22nd Critics’ Choice Awards nominees”

Nominations for 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Bad Jews, Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, Written by Joshua Harmon
Domesticated, Produced by Lincoln Center Theater, Written by Bruce Norris
The Night Alive, Produced by Atlantic Theater Company, Originally Produced by the Donmar Warehouse, Written by Conor McPherson 
The Open House, Produced by Signature Theatre, Written by Will Eno

Outstanding Musical
Fun Home, Produced by The Public Theater, Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron Based on the Alison Bechdel book
Here Lies Love, Produced by The Public Theater Concept and Lyrics by David Byrne, Music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Additional Music by Tom Gandy and J Pardo
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Produced by Howard & Janet Kagan, Paula Marie Black, John Logan, Lisa Matlin, Daveed Frazier, Tom Smedes, Vertical Ent./Roman Gambourg/Lev Gelfer Written by Dave Malloy
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined, Produced by New York Theatre Workshop, Music by Burt Bacharach, Lyrics by Hal David and Others Conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer   Continue reading “Nominations for 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Review: Fences, Duchess Theatre

 “Don’t try and go through life worrying about if somebody like you or not.”

The role of the anti-hero is a curious one – featuring a protagonist who sours and curdles as the play progresses is a bold move, especially when presented with such a lack of sentimentality as in Paulette Randall’s production of August Wilson’s Fences. There’s no doubting the horrendous circumstances that black people found themselves in even after the abolition of slavery, in a world that had emancipated them yet still considered them way less than equal. This is given visceral life in the lead character of Troy Maxson, whose own promising baseball career was stymied by the enduring racism he faced and an inopportune trip to prison and so as life has progressed and a family built up around him, he has ended up providing for them by becoming a garbage collector.

But Troy is a hugely proud man and the scars of his experience linger on perniciously, affecting the lives of all of those around him even as the opportunities for his sons become greater than anything he was ever granted. Lyons is a great musician but his father refuses to go and see him but the younger Cory bears the brunt of his father’s frustrations as his talent for American football puts him in line for a scholarship, a chance Troy decides to sabotage. Even his marriage to the ever-faithful Rose comes under threat in his search for the satisfaction that constantly eludes him. Continue reading “Review: Fences, Duchess Theatre”

Winners of 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Bethany – Produced by Women’s Project Theater; Written by Laura Marks
Cock – Produced by Stuart Thompson, Jean Doumanian, Royal Court Theatre, William Berlind, Scott Delman, Dena Hammerstein, Jon B. Platt, Scott Rudin, Ted Snowdon, True Love Productions; Written by Mike Bartlett
Detroit – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Lisa D’Amour  
The Flick – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Annie Baker
WINNER – The Whale – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Samuel D. Hunter 

Outstanding Musical
WINNER – Dogfight – Produced by Second Stage Theatre; Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Peter Duchan

Giant – Produced by The Public Theater in association with The Dallas Theater Center; Book by Sybille Pearson, Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, Based on the novel by Edna Ferber 
Murder Ballad – Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club; Conceived by and with Book and Lyrics by Julia Jordan, Music and Lyrics by Juliana NashThe Other Josh Cohen – Produced by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Scandobean Productions, LLC; Book, Music and Lyrics by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen  
Skippyjon Jones – Produced by TheatreworksUSA; Book and Lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, Music by Eli Bolin, Based on the book by Judy Schachner   Continue reading “Winners of 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Nominations for 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced
Paul Downs Colaizzo, Really Really
Joshua Harmon, Bad Jews
Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale
Aaron Posner, My Name Is Asher Lev

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Bertie Carvel, Matilda the Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin: The Musical
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Matthew James Thomas, Pippin
Continue reading “Nominations for 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Bethany – Produced by Women’s Project Theater; Written by Laura Marks
Cock – Produced by Stuart Thompson, Jean Doumanian, Royal Court Theatre, William Berlind, Scott Delman, Dena Hammerstein, Jon B. Platt, Scott Rudin, Ted Snowdon, True Love Productions; Written by Mike Bartlett
Detroit – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Lisa D’Amour  
The Flick – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Annie Baker
The Whale – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Samuel D. Hunter 

Outstanding Musical
Dogfight – Produced by Second Stage Theatre; Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Peter Duchan
Giant – Produced by The Public Theater in association with The Dallas Theater Center; Book by Sybille Pearson, Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, Based on the novel by Edna Ferber 
Murder Ballad – Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club; Conceived by and with Book and Lyrics by Julia Jordan, Music and Lyrics by Juliana NashThe Other Josh Cohen – Produced by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Scandobean Productions, LLC; Book, Music and Lyrics by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen  
Skippyjon Jones – Produced by TheatreworksUSA; Book and Lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, Music by Eli Bolin, Based on the book by Judy Schachner   Continue reading “Nominations for 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards”