Category Archives: Theater

‘The Lucky Ones’: An emotional roller-coaster by the husband-wife team behind ‘Hundred Days’

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could tell such a gut-wrenching, personal story to audiences night after night without going over the edge, but Abigail Bengson — who performs with husband Shaun in The Bengsons — is doing just that in “The Lucky Ones,” now playing at the historic Connelly Theater in Manhattan’s East Village.

The piece is charming and entertaining, but gripping and emotionally exhausting at the same time. It’s much more emotional, at least to me, than their previous musical, “Hundred Days.”

I regretted waiting so late in the game — not until Black Friday last year at New York Theater Workshop — to see the Bengsons’ first musical, which centered on their quirky love-and-marriage story. By then it was in what seemed like it umpteenth incarnation. I had passed up opportunities to see earlier versions at Joe’s Pub, The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Series, and probably other venues.

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Abigail and Shaun Bengson in January 2017

I have no idea why. But because when I finally did see it, I found “Hundred Days” to be so enjoyable and endearing experience that I wasn’t about to wait too long to see The Bengsons’ next project.

I was thrilled to see that “The Lucky Ones” was getting its world premiere in New York this month, and got the ticket-buying out of the way early. Continue reading

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NBC TV role saved ‘Paterson’ actor William Jackson Harper from quitting show business

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William Jackson Harper plays Chidi on NBC’s “The Good Place”

It’s hard to believe that William Jackson Harper, who lends a delightful touch of insanity to Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” as the persistent, lovelorn Everett, almost gave up acting altogether.

Adam Driver and William Jackson Harper in

Adam Driver and William Jackson Harper in “Paterson” (Photo by Mary Cybulsky)

But that’s what he told Electronic Urban Report in an interview.

Landing the role of Chidi in the NBC afterlife comedy “The Good Place,” alongside Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, was what kept him going in his craft.

Harper, who’s been seen on stages around New York City in a number of important roles in the last five years, says:

I was burned out. I was doing a lot of theater and I love theater but I was also just so broke all the time that I was just frustrated, and decided that this season was going to be my last pilot season,” Jackson explained. “I was going to start trying to transition out from acting. I hit a point where I was like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s time for me to be realistic and get a regular job and try to have some stability in my life.’ Then this job happened and not only was it a job that gave me a little bit more faith, but also, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect job and a more perfect show for me to be on this one,” he said. “Sitting here with you talking is like a miracle to me, because I’ve been at this for a while, not nearly as long as some, but longer than others.

Harper’s role in the NBC show was announced last February, nearly four months after filming wrapped on “Paterson.” So if not for the heavenly intervention of “The Good Place,” Everett might have been Harper’s swan song as an actor. Continue reading

Garnerville plays unsung role supporting Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch movie ‘Paterson’ (now with video)

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Adam Driver behind the wheel in “Paterson” (Photo by Mary Cybulsky)

I finally saw Jim Jarmusch‘s latest movie, “Paterson” with , last Sunday afternoon at the Fabian 8 Cinema, only movie theater left in the City of Paterson, New Jersey.

Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani in "Paterson" (Photo by Mary Cybulsky)

Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani in “Paterson” (Photo by Mary Cybulsky)

I have known the city for a long time, but can’t say I’m intimately acquainted with it.

Even so, I was hit with a strange feeling early in my viewing of “Paterson” that something wasn’t quite right — aside from the fact that the family bulldog, a male named Marvin, was a gender-bending role for a female named Nellie.

It was more than the occasional script misstep, like the reference indicating that that Driver’s character, Paterson, worked for the city when his bus is clearly marked NJ Transit, a statewide transit agency.

Some of the settings, while authentically gritty, reminded me of somewhere else.

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Look familiar? This scene from the movie “Paterson” wasn’t shot in the movie’s namesake city. (Photo by Mary Cybulsky)

Take, for instance, Paterson’s walk home from the Paterson bus depot, which took him through a brick archway past a “Paterson” sign painted on the wall. Something about the location reminded me of the Garnerville Arts & Industrial Center just a couple of miles from my home in Rockland County, New York.

Click through to the jump for the photographic evidence.

Continue reading

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

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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

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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’

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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/willyoumissme.com)

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

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/lohud.com.

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/willyoumissme.com)

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

“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.

GO HERE FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET 2 TICKETS FOR THE PRICE OF 1.