New York City Theater Scene Spring 2016

We had a very short 3 days for our semi-annual getaway to NYC theater, museum, gallery and restaurants. But we were able to see 4 plays. Here are our thoughts on them:

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. We saw the 2002 production with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. The current production, with Ben Whishaw and Teagle Bougere and Sophie Okonedo, was directed by Ivo Van Hove, who directed last season’s incredible revival of Miller’s A View from the Bridge, which we loved. The current production of The Crucible was almost as powerful, especially Whishaw as the righteous John Proctor, Okonedo as his accused wife and Bougere as the self-righteous judge. Although set in the era of the Salem witch trials, Miller wrote the play as an indictment of the McCarthy Communist witch hunts of the 1950s. While the frightening play is almost as relevant to today, its impact was only slightly blunted by the mechanistic following of the cultish teenage girls and an artificially dramatic fire-and-brimstone-like scene that was intended to show the power of the devil. Probably a B in our book.

Eclipsed. A tale of women’s survival during the Liberian Civil War and the very different ways in which different “wives” of a rebel officer dealt with the trauma. Two of the wives accepted their roles as slave/wives, while another chose the more highly valued position (at least in the eyes of the officer) as fighter in the resistance. The play revolves around the future of a younger woman, captured as a wife, who is torn between the two means of survival. It ends with another dilemma for all the women—what to do when a settlement is reached and the rebellion is dissolved. A very powerful play worthy of another B+.

The Father. A star vehicle for Frank Langella, a cantankerous, obstreperous old man who may, or may not be suffering from dementia. Although his malady is obvious at first, each subsequent scene raises questions as to whether he is being tricked into believing he has the malady. And then come other twists to make you question whether the play may be presenting alternate realities mixed together. In the end, one is left with more questions than answers—but with a much more profound empathy for both the victim and his family. Joyce and Tom differed, but between a B and a B+.

An American In Paris. We added one evening of fantasy and pure entertainment into a series of very good, very thought-provoking, but ultimately depressing plays. This musical, with memorable music and familiar songs from George and Ira Gerswhin (songs including I Got Rhythm, S Wonderful and I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, as well as the eponymous An American in Paris). The music, built around a rather flimsy “boy meets/gets girl” theme was complemented by dreamy ballet and a continually changing series of beautiful (and in at least one case, dazzling) modern art-themed sets. Good for a mind-suspending musical, but we typically favor more thought provoking fare. C+.

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