Play Comments by Albert Fried-Cassorla
Last updated: 12-29-15
***** = Loved it and recommend it **** = Enjoyed it *** = Decent ** = Dull * = Why did I bother?
***** = Loved it and recommend it
NYC 4 - Blackbird
Blackbird by David Harrower
I saw this provocative play, a
revival from 2007, at the Belasco Theatre in
But if you want to know NOTHING about the play's plot, please stop reading now.
The axis of the play is a monstrous crime that the main character, Ray (played with fierce intensity by Jeff Daniels, committed with a 12-year old, Uma (played with equal intensity by Michelle Williams). As the play begins, Uma is now returning to confront Ray at his workplace. She is hopping mad and perhaps a bit insane. The story that unfolds is detailed, and believable. The story has many mini-climaxes and shifts of tone and intent. Plus it has a double-whammy surprise, which of course I will not reveal.
Now, about its being disturbing... The playwright leads you to empathize with Ray, in my opinion. So you wonder: should we forgive him, because he is a criminal who has served his time? How would people feel about a person like this of they met him in person? Those are the questions I wondered about. In many ways, these re the same problems or questions that arise when reading or watching Nabokov's Lolita or Paula Vogel's play, How I Learned to Drive. Knowing there are predecessors does not make it easier to sift and weigh.
All of us in the audience were wowed and amazed by this theatrical experience, despite eh above objections or reservations. The play simply grabs you by the throat and does not let go until 90 minutes later, when it ends (without intermission). An immediate standing ovation occurred. I could barely see the actors because of the wall of audience members on their feet in front of me. The actors at their curtain call were seething and upset, still either in their roles... or just actors showing their incredible involvement.
The sound engineering was wonderful, including a deep hum and rumble that I at first thought belonged to some nearby heavy equipment. And the lighting shifted the mood tremendously in ways I will not say. The direction by Joe Montello was superb, although One cannot easily parse out his influence form the creativity of the actors.
Actor Jeff Daniels is an wonderfully reflective artist, and a playwright in his own right. For more very interesting background on this play and his role, I would visit nytimes.com and search for Ben Brantley's review and Jeff Daniels' own article.
***** = Loved it and recommend it
Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason
Philadelphia Theatre Company at
This play is sometimes billed as a comedy. I see it more as a drama with many comic moments. You care about the characters and want to see what becomes of them; as opposed to wanting to be entertained by as many hijinx as possible.
The play was intelligently staged. Ms. Rhinehart showed so many emotions at various turns -- her face was a stage in itself. And Mr. Coffman was jittery, quick-witted and natural. Ms. Eason's script is tight and charming. The ending is remarkable - no give-aways here! Many of us also enjoyed chatting with Ms. Rhinehart after the show. She was so happy to be in Philly and complemented our attentive audience. And she had such a good read of her Olivia character, both on stage and off. Unfortunately, the play's run in Philly has ended. But look for works by Ms. Eason and these talented actors, plus director David Saint.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
EDISON HIGH students attend TWELFTH NIGHT!
The trip took place on May 5th, 2016. It was arranged by English Teacher Mrs. Emily Cohen, and was a great success. Students were very attentive and were exposed to something almost entirely new for many of them -- a live play. The production by the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre was nothing short of fantastic, and I say so for many reasons. Although the language is often dense and archaic, this company under the direction of Carmen Khan made it delightful for our audience of high-schoolers.
was much madcap humor, innovative costuming, cute props, acrobatics, sword
fighting, astute and inappropriate acting, love, Slapstick and philosophy.
All of which made for an intoxicating farrago of theatre. Plus, we were
treated to an after-show meeting with the director and the actors for
Q&A. The Theatre Company even prepared beautiful, colorful programs for
students. Teachers were given a larger program, complete with many teaching
tools. We all took public transportation, boarding four buses adroitly and
all staying together with good discipline and high spirits.
Ms. Kendra Ursta, an English teacher, helped by chaperoning and by guiding the teens. As a volunteer teacher, had been able to assist a few days earlier by coming in to do a mini-teaching session on the plot and characters. And chaperoning them (I say this sincerely!) was a delight. Most of these students are A-level, and many are noted writers whom I know from my English and Drama Classes, Poetry Slams and via their writings in the Edison Literary Journals. It was a pleasure to be among them again.
Thank you, Mrs. Cohen for making this beautiful day possible!
The Hard Problem
A play by Tom Stoppard
(Please also see the endnote about my plays)
8 out of 10 Albert stars
Playing until February 6, 2016
Tom Stoppard is known
for his brainy and challenging plays, such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
are Dead and
This one is no exception. Ostensibly, the play is about the so-called hard problem of consciousness. That is, is the mind completely material? If not, then what else is it?
Stoppard writes witty, literary dialogue that keeps you hopping and following the action. The characters are interesting and have relatively clear motivations. However, this play hardly dealt at all with "the hard problem," a topic which I find an interesting field of study. But this being drama, one has to make allowances!
The main arc of the story is about a young woman's desire to succeed at an institute where they are studying the hard problem, and about the various challenges and depredations she faces. Consciousness is hardly talked about at all. On the other hand, we are treated two important sub-plots about these questions:
· Is it justifiable to falsify data to advance one's career?
· Should children be used as pawns in career ladder climbing games?
And there is an important sexual – romantic subplot, as well. This is still a heady brew, and it generally keeps theatergoers' interest alive.
The production I
saw at the Wilma theater in
Enhancing the show are creative uses of simple white props and draperies, plus the very artistic use of a saxophone player during musical interludes to create a pensive mood. So while not great, in my opinion this play provides an entertaining evening in the theater for those willing to pay close attention.
Oh, about another playwright! 🤓
two plays, Ariadne in Elkins and doesn't quick? are still set for Feb 20
at White Pines in
Thanks! -- Albert
The Metamorphoses - Arden Theatre - Magnificent production. The best! See my Facebook review.
The Book of Mormon - Forrest Theatre
This Is the Week That Is - Good political show, 1812 Productions, At Play & Players
This Is the Week That Is - Good political show, 1812 Productions, At Play & Players
Matilda (on Broadway) - Wonderful! At the Shubert Theatre
Gemini by Albert Inaurrato - funny gay coming out family comedy with pathos/
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang - at the Golden Theater
Talley's Folly by Lanford Wilson -
Awake and Sing by Clifford Odets, Waterfront South Theatre,
Pilobolus Dance Theatre,
Hairspray - music by Marc Shaiman Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Oct. 19 at the Media Theatre, media, PA with Tamara Anderson as Motormouth Maybelle.
by Sarah Ruhl - by MN Players / Spotlight Theatre,
3 Wishes - by Ari Flamingo - Walking Fish Theatre - B. Someday Productions - with Michelle Pauls - a Fringe Festival show
Jerusalem -New Jerusalem, The
Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation:
Love Is here To Stay - a George and Ira Gershwin musical review or Musicale, Bristol Riverside Theatre - Singers included Philip Chaffin, Melissa Joy Hart (standout), Lauren Rooney, Annette Michelle Sanders and Keith Spencer. A song I did not know from this review, and which I enjoyed was "Do, Do, Do."
be Pretty - Neil LaBute -
Endgame by Samuel Beckett's, (movie on Youtube)
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee (movie on Youtube)
Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill (movie on Youtube) with Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, others
Time Stands Still, by Donald Margulies, Act II Theater
Goes - with Joel Gray, Stephen
Sondheim Theater, Broadway,
Sylvia - Act II Theater, Ambler, PA
My Wonderful Day -
by Alan Ayckbourn - June 17, 2011
(our anniversary!) at the
Art - by Yazmina Reza - at the Act II Playhouse in Ambler, PA. With Tony Braithwaite, Ian Merrill Peakes & Peter Pryor. Directed by Bud Martin. Very enjoyable comedy-drama about three men, their friendship, and a work of art that comes among them.
Let Me Down Easy -
by Anna Deveare Smith - at the
Million Dollar Quartet -
by Colin Wescott and Floyd Mutrux
- at the Nederlander Theater in
The Glass Menagerie -
An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf - by Michael Hollinger - at the Old Academy Players in East Falls, PA - An amusing comedy about a man who is jilted by his intended... and who owns a restaurant where he intends to have his final meal. A nicely done, spirited production!
Fela! - Broadway, NYC -
Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov - at the Lantern Theatre. I liked the acting, but strangely Chekhov was rather boring.
Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry - at Stagecrafters - An enjoyable family drama.
Avenue Q -
musical at the
Any Given Monday by Bruce Graham - Comedy at Act II Playhouse. Entertaining and good, rewarding evening.?
Rodgers and Hammerstein are Dead - by Philadelphia Joke Initiative at the Latvian Theater. Inventive riffs on a Peruvian hot dog seller.
Fallen Angels - by Noel Coward. April 16, 2010. Super-witty and fun show, a delightful comedy from the 1920's..
Scapin - by Moliere. January, 2010. Funny comedy with puppets.
Idiot Savant - by Richard Foreman - February, 2010. The Public Theater. Not for everyone, but strange and entertaining as well as cacophanous!
Doubt - by John
Patrick Shanley at People's Light and Theater
I Love You, You're
Perfect, Now Change
- by ??? at
Dutch Country Players,
The Producers -
by Mel Brooks - At the Merriam Theater in
Anna in the Tropics - by Nilo Cruz - Story about a lector (played well by Jimmy Smits) or reader who comes to a cigar factory in Tampa, Florida. He believes in literature and romance, but this proves disruptive to the men of the shop and inspiring to the women. This play, which won the Best Play Pulitzer Prize for 2003, has much poetry and promise. But it does not reach a dramatic crescendo or realize its considerable potential. Still, despite these complaints, I enjoyed the characters, situation, ambience, acting and writing.
Top Dog / Underdog - by Suzan-Lori Parks at Philadelphia Theatre Company.
Reviewed by Albert Fried-Cassorla
This is a brilliant tale of two African-American brothers whose parents
have split off and whom now live together in a rooming house. The play won
the Pulitzer for Best Drama of 2001. Parks has a gift for creating colorful,
interesting characters. One is named Lincoln, who plays Abraham Lincoln at an
arcade, where he gets shot repeatedly. This is comical and ironic, though
it's certainly requires a leap of faith to believe that
Booth is a schemer who wants to master the game of 5-Card Monty, at which
his brother used to excel. But his brother gave it up due to an associate
being murdered in connection with playing this street game-scam. The story is
about ego, the lack of ego-strength, closeness and antagonism of the brothersl, and their hard fight to maintain a scap of pride when everyhing
else seems to be falling apart. Seth Gilliam played
Iphiginia and Other Daughters -
by Ellen McLaughlin, at
Each character in this play is at times compelling. But the eveing has too many long disquisitions and is someties hard to follow. I would encourage the author, if asked (and nobody has!) to rework this play with less leaden dialog, more arch and interesting dialog (of which it does already have some), and more interesting stage action.
Kaiju Big Battel - At the Electric Factory. NOT for everybody, and NOT high-brow, to say the least. This is a campy, messy, loud fun-filled romp, where Japanese monsters and "hereoes" fight each other in a cage, accompanied by tumulutuous cheering from the crowd. Played as comedy with melodrama. Performance art, lots of spraying liquids, mayhem. Fun! To get an idea of what we saw, visit www.kaiju.com. Enter, then click on the videocassette icon (6th symbol down on the left). Then view Kaiju Rampage NY.
It tells the story of the group with words, photos and song. Denny Doherty
tells the story of the group in a personal fashion, providing integumentary tissue between the songs. The anecdotes are
moving. Like many folk groups and individuals, they suffered poverty while
cutting their musical teeth in
The beauty of the show lies in the exceptional harmonic beauty and style of John Phillips' arrangements. That is what I love, and having those harmonies wash over me was sensational! I especially loved the first song, Dedicated to the One I Love. It begins softly, achingly, and builds from there. Creeque Alley has some of the most amazing and clever lyrics of any pop song ever written. The movies, clips and stories all weave together into a beautiful evening. One reviewer wrote the Denny Doherty only tells his side of the story. Excuse me? Whose side is he supposed to tell? His stories are ot particularly self-flattering. He presents himself as booze-addled, and not up to loving Mama Cass because she was "too much woman for him to handle." He sounds embarrassed when he says it, sounding as though he missed a major opportunity.
The stories are excellent... but it's the beautiful music that means everything. By the way, the amazing rock photography of Henry Diltz adorns the back wall and provides the perfect backdrop.
Best related Mamas and the Papas sites:
http://www.mamasandpapasmusical.com - All about the current musical.
http://dredd.aaahosting.net/MamasPapas.html - a great resource
http://www.psycho-jello.com/creeque/ another great resource
http://www.creequealley.com/- all about analyziung the lyrics of one great song with wonderful lyrics, "Creeque Alley."
To me, the essence of the musical is not the music. It is the story, wrapped perhaps in a swam of music, which escalates, rolls, and carries. This is a story of fighting oppression, early tragedy, paternal love, and more. It must be heretical to say the music does not count as much... but like Miss Saigon, it is the tale that tells. Nobody sings a Les Miz tune, as great a show and experience as it is.
Losers tells a humorous tale of a middle-aged couple trying to get
romantic, even while the woman';s
mother is upstairs and pounding the floor with a stick to disrupt them and
get attention. The couple "does something" to keep her at bay. Very
funny and entertaining. Directed by Michael Brophy.
Plays through March 2, 2003 at the Lantern Theater Company, St. Stephen's
Theater, 10th and
Lastly, "Why I Live at the P.O." is a delightful riff about a
woman who cannot abide by her eccentric and spiteful relatives, and who
decides to move out. Kemper is marvelous as this churlish, witty character,
and her portrayal is filled with laughs. Martha Kemper teaches theatre and
directs plays at
Just a few plot elements... Character Millicent Jordan plans a dinner party and has trouble finding appropriate guests. Her husband has heart and business problems. Her daughter is in love with actor Larry Renault, a has-been actor modeled on John Barrymore, whom the authors knew. Those are just a few of the spicy ingredients! Many more make it a heady stew.
What happens and how it happens, I won't say. It's witty,
well put together and a dynamite night in the theater. The
Fuente Overjuna by
Frey Felix Lope de Vega - At the at the Minor
Latham Theater of Barnard College,
Reviewed by Albert Fried-Cassorla
This is a stunning dramatic adaptation of the novel by C.S. Lewis of the same name, as adapted by Tony Lawson. The subject matter is man's temptations into evil, and the desire of "the devil" to make process succeed.
As the play proceeds, various concepts are introduced and explored in intensely dyspeptic and dramatic fashion. These include notions of marriage love, Puritanism and more. Along the way, the story's narrative is interrupted by a different sort of story - highly intense scenes between Screwtape and his assistant, Toadpile, played by Monica Moran. These scenes are a total delight, with insane, over-the-top acting, dancing, S & M, fighting, fire-eating and more. They are a must-see! The staging is highly imaginative, with projections screens and props used to good advantage to enliven the sometimes abstract thoughts expressed.
If there is a caveat, it is that you will need to work in order to follow some of the lengthier discursive sections of monologue. Like a Shakespeare play, you can't expect to just sit there and let the language wash over you. Attending to it brings great rewards.
Don't Make Me Look Too Psychotic by Bruce Pachtman. At Society Hill Playhouse in
I was an "audience leader," which meant that Bruce, who found a kindred spirit in me, asked me to give responses, such as, "Should I do this, Albert?" Did I say the right thing, Albert?" Should I wear the short pants with the suit?" (No!)
Even apart from such audience participation, the writing, comedy, acting and story-telling meld to make an excellent evening. That's probably why it played for 68 weeks in
The Fantasticks - Book and lyrics by Tom Jones, Music by Harvey Schmidt. Performed at the Hedgerow Theatre through March 10th. 2002. - Since its beginning as a short play performed at Barnard College in 1959, The Fantasticks has expressed a certain uniquely charming, naïve view of love, hurt and wisdom. It has defined its own theatrical style - the bare but poetic ambience that is not austere but is in fact rich.
The play has been beautifully interpreted in the current production at the
Hedgerow Theatre in
This is the story of two lovers, Matt and Luisa, and their scheming fathers. A character named El Gallo acts as the agent of wisdom, who provokes teases and torments. El Gallo, played with young Robert Goulet-like style by Brad Little, also gets to sing the musical's best known number, "Try to Remember." The tune itself is bittersweet, which captures the flavor of the evening.
Because this is a show with a philosophy, one that is soft-pedaled but
always present, it does not drift into ultra-sweet storytelling land. The story
may still be too sweet for some, though not for me. I saw it in the 1970's in
Noonday Demons and Other Distractions by Peter Barnes - At the Red Lantern
Girls on the Rocks: A Mermaid's Tale by Martha McDonald - At the
Painted Bride Art Center,
Martha McDonald is a performance artist who uses a team's talents to assemble her shows (or lt least this one). This one-hour presentation is all about sirens in history and art, across many cultures. McDonald sings Monteverdi and Handel and Purecell melodies in an operatic style and is very ocnvincing in creating an historic mood. She wears an evening dress and fan as she sings, and a string wuartet accompanies her sometimes -- at other times a trio of male singers. Female dancers act as sister sirens in some scenes. What I liked the best was her acting a siren on the rocks (a prop she sat on), while 50' wide video projection splashed huge scenes of waves crashing al about. It felt like the ocean was indoors! Quite remarkable.
As I said about preferring a story... I think all of McDonald's innovative techniques and evocative mod creations could find a home within a central tale, such as perhaps that of Ulysses. That would tie things together and I think make the evening more fulfilling. But I am probably a lone voice in that regard.
Museum by Tina Howe. At
Noises Off by Michael Frayne at the Hedgerow Theatre through August 11, 2001
Reviewed by Albert Fried-Cassorla
This is a great, classic farce presented with zest, full of charming caricatures moving at a breakneck pace. It's worth seeing -- a truly hilarious night at the theater.
Like the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera only set at a British theater, this play races on from one absurd situation to another. Or rather, you might see five concurrent bits of craziness followed by nine more in an ever-escalating torrent!
The crazy characters and motivations are all provided: the two-timing lover and director played by Tony Braithwaite; an actor who continually questions his character's motivational logic played by Paul Kuhn; the trysting lovers, the eccentric housekeeper played by Susan Wheel (who just about steals the show!); the drunken burglar portrayed by theatrical renaissance man Zoran Kovcic, and more.
In the first of the play's three acts, we see a troupe performing on the front of a two-story stage with oft-ascended stairs and umpteen slamming doors. After the first intermission we now observe the action from the back of he same set, literally flipped 180 degrees on castors. We are let in on the hilarious behind-the-scenes fights between actors. And it's a good place to be!
The final act is presented frontally again, and the "slapstickery" and comedy keep getting crazier and more frenetic.
As a playwright, I was amazed at the sheer mechanical complexity shown by Frayne in tracking so many shenanigans, and making it all come together with wit and aplomb.
Artistic Director Penny Reed and the cast are to be commended for a bravo performance. This is an evening of laughter that's well worth the trip to Malvern. Visit www.hedgerowtheatre.org for more information.
Albert Fried-Cassorla is a playwright and
The Myster of Irma Vep
by Charles Ludlam, presented by Brat Productions, in
Outside the Box, including Agamemnon by Aeshylus,
adapted by Tony Harrison; Dick Whittington and His Cat Adapted by
Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw - The Lion Theater, St. Mark's Church,
The first half was filled with witty chatter and character delineation. Perhaps too many characters were introduced, it seemed that many have two names. This makes it a bit harder than it ought be to know "who's on first."
The relative lightness of the first three scenes constituting Act I does allow one prepare one for the death-dealing evil of the ecclesiastic church in later scenes. The church recoils as it defends itself against the imagined threat of Joan. For she claims to be in direct touch with God -- Joan hears voices that inspire and guide her. She pays no heed to the authority of the church. So her blasphemy lies simply in ignoring officialdom, not in leading an active rebellion against it. But this proves sufficient for her undoing.
Shaw's powers of language and dramaturgy are at their zenith in the play's
sixth and last major scene, but for a modest epilogue. The fire of hared comes
to the fore. Joan, as you may recall, wore a knight's armor and led French
troops to victory at the siege of
Adding to the luster of this particular performance were the grandeur of the St. Marks church's interior, and the beauty of the four-part harmonies displayed by an a capellla group, which sand chants by Dufay and Josquin de Pres. Lovely!
On a personal note, I felt the impact of this ignominious chapter of
Catholic history in the record of Inquisition during the same or following
period. The play occurs in he 1430's and the Inquisition was in 1492. My
ancestors were exiled from Cazorla,
I enjoyed Saint Joan. The language occasionally gets too full of itself, and it demands great concentration. But in the end, your attention is well-rewarded.