Category Archives: Theater

Last Minute Music: Eisa Davis performs new songs at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater tonight (Video)

You may remember Eisa Davis from “Passing Strange,” where I first encountered her.

But if it strains your brain to reach back that far, and you watch TV, you’ll recognize her from her roles in “House of Cards” and “Blindspot” or her many guest appearances on other popular shows, including “Gotham,” “The Blacklist,” “The Wire,” “The Good Wife,” and many others. 

She’s not just an actor. She’s also a writer, composer, and singer.

She wrote a musical play called “Angela’s Mixtape,” an exploration of family dynamics titled in honor of her aunt, Angela Davis.

Yes, THAT Angela Davis.

Eisa Davis

Eisa Davis

She’s appearingat 8 p.m. Tuesday,  Aug. 2, in the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater series “New Songs Now,” sharing the bill with Zoe Sarnak, in a program of new songs, conversation anda bit of drinking.

She’s a good, charming singer and performer with magnetic stage presence. It should be a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Tuesday evening. 

This is the third in a series of five shows in the Manhattan theater’s unplugged summer concert series. Each features two songwriters who share songs in progress and conversationfollowed by an audience talkback.
Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 on day of show, and include one drink. Go HERE to buy online or call 866-812-4111 or 212-627-2556.

Rattlestick is located at 224 Waverly Place.  


Surreal ‘City of Glass’ leaps from novel to New York stage

Einhorn and Auster - 1.jpg

Playwright Edward Einhorn, left, and novelist Paul Auster on the set for “City of Glass” at the New Ohio Theatre. (Photo by Gil Sperling)

If playwright Edward Einhorn hadn’t been able to think like a gumshoe, he never would have gotten permission to make a theater adaptation of Brooklyn novelist Paul Auster‘s “City of Glass” — one of the best, and most surreal, detective-style novels of the last half century.

But luck and persistence were on the 45-year-old Einhorn’s side, who used his amateur detective skills to put himself and his idea in front of the 69-year-old author.

“I sought out Paul,” he tells Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? in an exclusive telephone interview.

“I found out where he was going to be and I approached him about doing it. To my pleasure he was interested and very responsive. … I figured I would talk to him for a minute or two and just introduce the idea. I wasn’t going to take up too much of his time. But he actually pursued it with a lot more questions and we talked about it longer than expected.

“He seemed very open to the idea.”

“City of Glass,” published in 1986, was the first of three short novels in Auster’s “New York Trilogy.” It tells a surreal story of Daniel Quinn, a writer, who gets a call from someone who thinks he’s a private detective named Paul Auster. The chance call launches a surreal, only-in-New-York narrative that raises questions about sanity, identity, and reality.

It was an instant cult hit and catapulted Auster into literary superstardom at age 39.

Video and ticket discount code after the jump.

0c3bd712-2080-4b39-9585-b594aa2a0459 Continue reading

In performance now: Colman Domingo’s warmhearted ‘Dot’


Colman Domingo, the theatrical triple threat (actor on stage, film, and TV, playwright, and director) and someone from whom I’ve always been able to count on getting a hug since the day we met in 2007 during the Public Theater run of “Passing Strange,”is at it again.

His latest play, “Dot,” had its first performance Thursday night at Manhattan’s Vineyard Theatre  a place that’s shown him a lot of love over the years.

The “Fear the Walking Dead” star’s heartwarming autobiographical “A Boy and His Soul” had a good run there in 2009, and he appeared there in the off-Broadway premiere of “The Scottsboro Boys” the following year before he went to Broadway with the show. (His second play, “Wild With Happy,” was presented at the Public Theater.) Continue reading

Nyack’s Bill Irwin puts on his ‘Old Hats’ again

Bill Irwin in the world premiere run of "Old Hats" at Signature Theatre Company. (© 2013 Joan Marcus)

Bill Irwin in the world première run of “Old Hats” at Signature Theatre Company. (© 2013 Joan Marcus)

Scroll to the bottom of this post for access to a special 2-for-1 ticket deal for Bill Irwin’s “Old Hats,” which returns to Off-Broadway next week. Then click through to read the full story.


You know Bill Irwin.

Maybe you didn’t see him on Broadway, clowning around onstage in baggy pants in “Fool Moon” 1n 1993, or playing the comical Mr. McAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie” in 2011.

Maybe you didn’t grow up with him as Mr. Noodle on “Sesame Street.”

But if you watch “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Law and Order SVU,” or “Sleepy Hollow,”  you’ve probably seen him playing everything from psychologists to over-the-top villains.

Bill Irwin as the title character in "Uncle Vanya" at Lake Lucille, NY, in 2007. (©2007 Steven P. Marsh/

Bill Irwin as the title character in “Uncle Vanya” on Lake Lucille in New City in 2007. (©2007 Steven P. Marsh/

Or maybe you saw him locally, in some of the summer plays on Lake Lucille in northern New City. He appeared as the title character in Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” in 2007 and the clown Radish in Chekhov’s “Platonov” in 2008.

He’s a versatile actor who admits he works hard to stay that way for a practical reason: to pay the bills. (The Lake Lucille shows may be an exception since they’re labors of love for all involved!)

“It isn’t really an aesthetic choice as much as it is just trying to make the monthly nut,” he told me recently as we sat down for a chat for The Journal News/

He says he and wife Martha Roth take the need to pay the bills pretty seriously.

Bill Irwin clowns around as Radish in Chekhov's "Platonov" on Lake Lucille in New City in 2008. (©2008 Steven P. Marsh/

Bill Irwin clowns around as Radish in Chekhov’s “Platonov” on Lake Lucille in New City in 2008. (©2008 Steven P. Marsh/

“Everybody has a monthly nut, but we have a chant: Monthly nut, monthly nut!”

Irwin and David Shiner, his partner-in-clowning, are returning to the New York City stage next week for a return engagement of their 2013 revue “Old Hats” — with splendid young singer-songwriter Shaina Taub as their onstage foil, master of ceremonies, and music director, filling the shoes of quirky chanteuse Nellie McKay, who originated the part.

The show was a delight the first time around, and sounds like it’ll be just as much of a hoot this time — with some changes that’ll make it well worth seeing again.

Check out my FULL INTERVIEW by clicking here, or pick up this Sunday’s edition of The Journal News on your local newsstand.


Stew and Heidi celebrate Baldwin in the shadow of Bowie


One of the numerous humorous videos projected during “Notes of a Native Song” at Joe’s Pub labels a silent clip of James Baldwin smoking a cigarette with: “Don’t blame any of this on me. These are Stew’s words not mine.”

How does any rock musician play a show — especially in New York City — on the day the world learned that David Bowie died?

With heart and soul.

Heidi Rodewald and Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo © 2016, Steven P. Marsh/

Heidi Rodewald and Stew at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo © 2016, Steven P. Marsh/

Stew and Heidi Rodewald played their “Notes of a Native Song” show at for a mixed crowd of friends, fans, and arts presenters (it was an APAP showcase gig) Joe’s Pub on Monday night as if it was the most important show they’d ever done.

It wasn’t until after taking the final bow that the pair returned to the cramped stage to sing a reverent rendition of Bowie’s “Be My Wife.” The song — never explained by Bowie but often perceived as Bowie’s  musical effort to save his marriage to Angela Bowie — was a beautiful and touching tribute to the chameleonic icon by a pair of artists who once were a couple themselves.

Stew (© 2016, Steven P. Marsh/

Stew (© 2016, Steven P. Marsh/

It has been just seven months since they premiered their James Baldwin-centric show at Harlem Stage as part of the 90th anniversary of the late literary icon’s birth.

It’s the same show I saw in Harlem, but it felt very different. I can’t — and wouldn’t even if I had kept detailed notes — do a song-by-song comparison of the two productions. But the show I saw Monday night felt like it had evolved and grown. Some of the songs seemed tweaked and rewritten.

Was there a new song or two in the mix?  Maybe. But it could simply be my memory playing tricks on me. If it matters, I’m sure Stew will explain.

I’m fairly sure that my sense that the show felt much tighter and even more energized than it was in Harlem is not based on a faulty memory. Freed from the confines of Theater-with-a-capital-T in Harlem, Stew, Heidi (wearing clericals), and their seasoned crew of Mike McGinnis (in a tux and a rather large yarmulke) on winds, Marty Beller (in a bright orange plaid shirt) on drums, and Art Terry (in a choir robe open to his breastbone) on keyboards really rocked.

"The Good Swimmer," with music by Heidi Rodewald, libretto/lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, music co-direction by Marc Doten and Rodewald, direction by Kevin Newbury, is part of the 2016 Prototype festival through Jan. 17.

“The Good Swimmer,” with music by Heidi Rodewald, libretto/lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, music co-direction by Marc Doten and Rodewald, direction by Kevin Newbury, is part of the 2016 Prototype festival through Jan. 17.

Stew made a point to mention from time to time that they were doing a New York version of the show — pointing out the parts that weren’t really in the show that they were peddling to the APAP crowd. But with a show like this — warm, personal, and loosely structured — there’s room for variations to accommodate location and other temporal factors. I expect it’ll be slightly different everywhere it’s performed.

Who knows when this show will reappear in New York?

But if you have a craving for more of this team’s creative output, check out Heidi’s show “The Good Swimmer,” which runs through Jan. 17 as part of the Prototype Festival at HERE arts center, 145 Sixth Avenue. Order tickets online by tapping or clicking here.









Suzanne Vega keeps Carson McCullers alive

Suzanne Vega onstate as novelist Carson McCullers.

Suzanne Vega onstage as novelist Carson McCullers.

New York singer-songwriter Vega has ‘rewritten’ her intimate one-woman portrait of the novelist and is recording the songs

Good news: New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s one-woman musical play about Southern writer Carson McCullers is getting a second life.

I’ve rewritten the entire play. Recording the songs today,” she told me Wednesday in response to a Facebook inquire about the show. The album is expected to come out in the Spring. 

That’s just the latest fantastic news about Vegas efforts to push her talent into the world of theater — efforts that I feared she might have abandoned.

Vega showed the world a new face in 2011 with her one-woman play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love.” She wrote and starred in the play, which featured music co-written with pop artist and “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik.

Someone who knows Vega well told me she was urged to do an out-of-town tryout before staging it in New York. But she apparently ignored the advice and launched it at the small, well-worn Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in downtown Manhattan.

As predicted, didn’t get the results or critical response she had hoped for.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show as a “funky ramble through the life of that Southern writer,” but assessed it as a “messy” project.

Joe Dziemianowicz, the longtime New York Daily News theater critic who was unceremoniously dumped by the tabloid earlier this year, was a bit kinder, but didin’t offer glowing praise:

Vega traces McCullers’ life with great warmth, but at times the play’s matter-of-factness chafes. Vega isn’t fully comfortable acting a role, which is also an issue.

I saw the spare production and was delighted by Vega’s transformation into McCullers — who was only 50 years old (a couple of years younger than Vega was during the Rattlestick run) when she died in 1967 in Nyack, where had lived off and on for 30 years.

The story was fascinating and the music was full of life and told the story of the writer quite well.

Vega’s not the only artist inspired at least in part by McCullers at the  time. Gabriel Kahane’s well-received musical “February House,”  staged in 2012 at The Public Theater, was based an the book of the same name that featured McCullers and a cast of early 20th century arts icons — from Gypsy Rose Lee to W.H.Auden — who lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights for a short, intense time in the 1940s.

But Vega’s show seemed to vanish when the run ended.

While it dropped off the radar, I certainly didn’t forget about it.

I rarely respond to calls for audience requests at concerts, but even have to admit I called out for “anything from the Carson McCullers show” when Vega asked for requests at The Bell House a few years later.

She laughed and politely declined. I figured she just wanted to forget about it.

But it seems I was wrong.

Vega is performing some of the songs from the show  in concert Jan. 15 at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 15.

She rewrote the title, too, while reworking the play. It’s now called “Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” — a title that appears to be influenced by the final moments of the writer’s 1946 novel, “The Member of the Wedding,” which describes 13-year-old motherless character Frankie Addams feeling like “an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

For a little more from Vega about the show, check out this interview with Richmond Magazine.

“Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” is on track to return to the stage in 2016. I, for one, can hardly wait to see what Vega’s done with it.




Naama Potok, Chaim Potok’s daughter, does his memory proud onstage

IMG_0063Actress Naama Potok recently completed a run as the female lead in Aaron Posner’s sympathetic stage adaptation of father Chaim Potok’s novel “My Name is Asher Lev.”

Her role at Rockland County’s Penguin Rep Theatre was a triumphant return to the stage after a hiatus. She recently reflected on her family heritage and her art with me in an interview for The Journal News/

Check out our conversation at

From left: Naama Potok (The Women), Max Wolkowitz (Asher Lev) and Howard Pinhasik (The Men) in “My Name is Asher Lev,” at Penguin Rep Theatre.

From left: Naama Potok (The Women) and Max Wolkowitz (Asher Lev) in “My Name is Asher Lev,” at Penguin Rep Theatre.