Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”

Nominations for the 2017 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
If I Forget, by Steven Levenson, Roundabout Theatre Company
Indecent, by Paula Vogel, Vineyard Theatre
A Life, by Adam Bock, Playwrights Horizons
Oslo, by J. T. Rogers, Lincoln Center Theater
Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, The Public Theater
 
Outstanding Musical
Anastasia
The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Come From Away
Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

Continue reading “Nominations for the 2017 Drama Desk Awards”

DVD Review: Hyde Park in Hudson

“But, to answer your question, Elizabeth, I ‘am’ going to eat a hot dog”

Directed by Roger Michell and written by Richard Nelson, Hyde Park in Hudson is a rather delightful little thing, a trifle of a film that nonetheless has an endearing emotional edge to it. Set on the eve of World War II, George VI and Queen Elizabeth become the first British monarchs to visit the US but rather than the pomp and circumstance of an official state visit, they’re taken to Franklin D Roosevelt’s country estate and introduced to the complex personal relationships he’s built around him.

Key among these is Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley, a distant cousin and childhood friend who has recently returned to his life and who narrates the film in Laura Linney’s delicate but determined tones. The Royals want to secure US support for the war they know is coming, the polio-ravaged FDR wants to be left alone to amuse himself with the collection of women he’s gathered around him and Daisy just wants to know where she is in the pecking order. Continue reading “DVD Review: Hyde Park in Hudson”

Winners of 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 
WINNER –The Open House, Produced by Signature Theatre, Written by Will Eno

Outstanding Musical
WINNER – 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 “Winners of 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Nominations for the 2014 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Nell Benjamin, The Explorers Club 
Steven Levenson, Core Values
Conor McPherson, The Night Alive 
Richard Nelson, Regular Singing
Bruce Norris, Domesticated
Robert Schenkkan, All The Way
John Patrick Shanley, Outside Mullingar 

Outstanding Musical
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder 
Aladdin
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Fun Home

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Rocky
The Bridges of Madison County
Continue reading “Nominations for the 2014 Drama Desk Awards”

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”

Nominations for the 2013 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Annie Baker, The Flick
Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard Nelson, Sorry

Outstanding Musical
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Giant
Hands on a Hardbody
Here Lies Love
Matilda
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
The Other Josh Cohen
Continue reading “Nominations for the 2013 Drama Desk Awards”

Review: Farewell to the Theatre, Hampstead Theatre

“Today the theatre has failed all of us, and we suffer from this failure”

This Farewell to the Theatre is a new play at the Hampstead Theatre by Richard Nelson, about Harley Granville Barker. It should not be confused with Farewell to the Theatre, a play by Harley Granville Barker which finally received a premiere at the Rose Kingston last year. They are different beasts, though both skirt around similiar issues of disillusionment and disenchantment, and the former is set at the time at which the latter was actually written.

Nelson tells the story of a group of British ex-pats in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Williamstown in 1916. The Great War is being waged in Europe but has yet to pull in the US and the concerns of this motley crew are of a much more personal nature. Barker has fallen out of love with both the theatre and his wife and finds himself in a boarding house run by an English widow, Dorothy, who is still in mourning. Her brother Henry is a lecturer at the local university but professional jealousies are hampering his progress; glamourous Beatrice is a married actress conducting an affair with a young student; George is looking for a better job; and Frank, who is a reciter of Dickens, is hiding himself away from a horrible truth. Continue reading “Review: Farewell to the Theatre, Hampstead Theatre”