A hit Broadway musical in favor of intellectualism and rebellion, that’s a welcome surprise in New York where this season’s best new musicals about people who challenged the system – “Chaplin” and “Scandalous” (about Aimee Semple McPherson) — had short runs. Though of course, this production comes from London and it’s a fantasy, not about real events. Well, not about overtly political events. But it’s about stultifying intellectual repression. From the point of view of children! If you have kids, take them. And if you don’t, go anyway. It’s a play for adults, too.
It’s uncanny how Shakespeare could describe coup politics in modern-day Africa. Of course, what director Gregory Doran shows in this brilliant Royal Shakespeare Company production is that ambition, demagoguery, the manipulation of masses and betrayal of ones comrades haven’t changed much since the era of Julius Caesar 2000 years ago or the treachery of kings and rivals closer to the Bard’s time. Doran ingeniously sets the play in another continent prone to violent political upheavals.
It was the worst of times. Lillian Hellman aptly called it “Scoundrel Time.” It was the early 1950s. Joe Gilford’s play dramatizes the attack on free thought and free speech orchestrated by ruthless politicians who built careers by destroying the lives of actors, writers, directors and their families. It’s based on what happened to his parents, Jack and Madeleine Lee Gilford, victimized by the House Un-American Affairs Committee (HUAC).
Lanford Wilson’s play is a sharp, funny, charming look at romance, with a bitter-sweet sauce. Its hero leaps over barriers of religion, age, and economic and social status. Just what New York theater-goers want. It’s one of the best revivals of the season, directed by Michael Wilson with just right mix of humor and nostalgia.
April 8, 2013 – Amidst the wide-ranging hagiographic praise of film critic Roger Ebert, who died last week, I can add a remembrance of another type. I knew Roger from National Student Association conferences of the 1960s. I liked him. In 1970, he invited me and a friend, Nanette Rainone, both of us strong feminists, to appear at a Russ Meyer Film Festival at Yale Law School. We accepted partly as a lark, partly because we thought that Yale Law students might seriously consider our views.
To be brilliant at playing a human is one thing, but to pull off a tour de force portraying a speaking animal is quite another feat. Kathryn Hunter is an extraordinary actress, and her performance in Kafka’s Monkey will be remembered as one of the best of this and many seasons.