ARTS INTERNATIONAL
Editor/Publisher, Bina Sharif
ARTS INTERNATIONAL covers THEATER, FILM, VISUAL ARTS, CUISINE, AND LITERATURE

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS

THEATER                A scene from, "THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS"                  

REVIEW, "THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS"
At Pollonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Pl till Dec 4, 2016

By Bina Sharif

Carlo Goldoni's 18th-Century farce "The Servant of Two Masters" which is produced by Theater For
a New Audience is extremely festive.  The play begins in darkness. Two men descend upon the stage with flashlights and discover some masks in a trunk lying in the middle of a warehouse or a desolate performance space and immediately after that the whole proscenium lights up with stars all over the skyscape which is then replaced by a deep blue sky studded with clouds. I just loved the stage design.

From the very beginning the style of the play,  commedia dell' arte which is improvisational in nature and involves the audience in an intimate manner is established and the whole house is in stiches.

The title charcter of the play, Truffaldino (Steven Epp) who gets into trouble and creates great confusion for every one else comes from a poor background and decides to enlist for two jobs, two masters.  First is Beatrice (Liz Wisan) who is in male disguise and has arrived in Venice pretending that she is her brother who had been killed in a duel. Her brother was engaged to the daughter of a merchant in Venice named Pantalone (Allen Gilmore).  Clarice (Adina verson)  is actually in love with another man, Silvio (Eugene Ma) and Beatrice's arrival puts Clarice in an un-happy situation
till Florindo (Orlando Pabotoy) Beatrice's lover also arives in Venice.

Smeraldina, the maid (Emily Young) falls in love with Truffaldino creating a bit more complexity
in a hectic houshold.  Emily Young turns out to be a very capable actress who has slightly different
style of performance which fits in the show nevertheless.

Every one in town had believed that Beatrice's brother was killed in a duel but he was actually killed by Florindo whose arrival excites Truffaldino to take advantage of the situation and serve the second master as well anticipating double salary. The plot is somewhat confusing but if there is no confusion then there is no commedia dell' arte.  The fun of this kind of theater is all the turns and twists which leads to a happy ending justifying a true comedy.

The production directed by Christpher Bayes is hillarious and frantic in an enticing way.
The show belongs to Steven Epp who is just amazingly equipped to be a buffoon and forever ready and willing to ad-lib without an ounce of hesitation and deliver most of the very contemorary jokes, (Many about the current election) and the audience is just ready for it.  The laughter is just non stop.
After a gruelling election people can't digest anything else but humor and Steven Epp provides that.
He is a very funny actor to say the least. Another wonderful performance is given by Allen Gilmore
in the role of Pantalone.  Most of the cast does a decent job.

The play has been adapted by Constance Congdon, translated by Christina Sibul.
The play is further adapted by Christopher Bayes and Steven Epp.

Since the play has many jokes about the election it becomes a source of innocent fun, escape and relief for the theater goers who might have been trying to shun the reality. Timing of the play is perfect.
Do not miss this delightful show.

artsinternational.blogspot.com
binashariff@gmail.com
Cell; 212-260-6207



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

THEATER REVIEW

"ZORA NEAL HURSTON,"
  a theatrical biography by
   LAURENCE HOLDER
DIRECTED BY WOODIE KING,Jr.
At Castillo Theater.

Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Zora Neal Hurston, a prolific
novelist, playwright, outspoken and bold woman and personality in 1920s and 30s.
The play was produced by American Place theater in 1998 under the direction of
Wynn Handman who is the consulting director of the current production.
Elizabeth Van  Dyke  and Joseph Lewis Edwards recreates their original roles they played in 1998.

"Zora Neal Hurston" Is one of the most brilliant portrait of a historical literary figure
presented here by Superb Elizabeth Van Dyke.  In the very opening scene she is almost
at the end of her career and a heart broken woman who had been misunderstood and had many challanges and oppositions.  Its no joke to make a career as an outspoken black woman in 1920s and 30s.  The character in the begining of the play is going back to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida
and is waiting at a bus stop.

Within minutes her vigor and fighting spirit and her enormous ability to tell a story revives itself
and she narrates her past in vived details. She has humor and enegy even in some painful tellings of the past events.
 All the credit goes to a powerhouse of an actress,  Elizabeth Van Dyke.  She has a great stage presence and a melodious voice with the tinge of sadness, singsong, depth of feelings and  ability to recall a memory no matter how painful and then to turn that pain into instant joy.
 The actress goes through a long journey in just an hour and a half which keeps us,  the audience in total rapture.
I,  for sure loved her.  Its a very difficult endeavor to hold the audience's attention while one is portrying a historical figure whom many of the audience members might have known.
Though I never met Zora Neal Hurston but for me Elizabeth Van Dyke was her in a very human and majestic way because she made me forget that she was just an actress.

Joseph Lewis Edwards who plays, Herbert, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke and Richard Wright,
Poets and novelists and her contemporaries is another gem of an actor.  He was throughly believable
in all the roles and was charming as hell and also a wonderful singer.  I wanted more and more of his presence on stage.
Both actors had through understanding of the real people they were portrying.  Not an easy task to say the least but that's what a great actor does and these actors were just perfect in their roles.

The play is powerfully directed by Woodie King, Jr.

Laurence Holder is one of the most Important and brilliant writers of our times.  I have always enjoyed his work.  Earlier this year I saw, Sugar Ray, (Sugar Ray Robinson) in a site specific production at the restaurant where the boxer had a bar in Harlem.  It was just an amazing experience
which stayed with me till now.  I appreciate these kinds of historical plays which are extremely
educational experiences into the past of African American literature, their song, their struggle and
their achivements under all odds for a foreigner like me. I was very touched with this bold and sensitive production.

Zora Neal Hurston was known as the, "Queen of Harlem Renaissance"
And for all the right reasons.  She wanted to collect and preserve the language,
folklore, dance and song of the deep south which she did preserved in her Anthropology
research under the tutelage of Franz Boas at Barnard College.  A brilliant sory teller and
in courageous opposition of Jim Crow laws and black integration, she annoyed many black
intellectuals. In her later years she tumbled into obscurity because of false charges of child
molestation.  Her famous autobiography, Their Eyes Were Watching God, " and, 'Mules and Men"
a story collection of folklore are great achievements.






Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FATHER BY STRINDBERG AND DOLL'S HOUSE BY IBSEN


"A DOLL'S HOUSE"  BY IBSEN

AND

" THE FATHER" BY STRINDBERG

Produced by

THEATER FOR A NEW AUDIENCE

Directed by ARIN ARBUS

REVIEWED FOR ARTSINTERNATIONAL
BY
BINA SHARIF

Both plays are paired in repertory.  Both plays have the same leading actor, John Doughlas Thompson
Awsome, Brilliant and the most powerful classical actor on any stage and god's gift for us, the audience and Maggie Lacey, an actress who is pretty capable and decent to share the stage with Mr.Thompson. "A leapord of passion"

Both plays, "A doll's house" and "The father" are about entrappment in a marriage and not an ordinary marriage either but a 19th century Scandinavian marriage. The subject matter of both plays is the same.  Calustrophobia of a marriage within a particular social order.

In "A Doll's house" Nora, (Maggie Lacey) comes to a realization late in the play that she has never been happy and most probably have never loved her husband, Thorwald (Mr. Thompson)
 She has done something behind the husband's back out of love for him considering that he would understand if the secret is ever revealed and protect her but the situation turns out to be the most
ferocious and violent reaction by the husband and thats when she realizes that her marriage had been a catastrophe and a prison where she was unable to breath and the time has come where she needs to
free herself.  This play by Norwegian Ibsen is considered a monumental symbol for women liberation and feminism and is sympathetic and more sensitive towrds wife's character and is produced all over the world.

"The Father" which came later by the younger Swedish playwright Strindberg who felt that Ibsen wrogfully blamed the husband and was too soft towards women.  He wrote, "The Father" as a reaction to Ibsen's "Adoll's house"
to Ibsen's "A Doll's house."

In "The Father"  A captain, the husband and his wife Laura have been fighting over the future of their only child, Bertha (Kimber Monroe).  The husband wants her to be a teacher and wife wants her to be an artist.  Te captain is a man of science and ideas and convictions as solid as un-breakable rocks and certain phobias which leads to immense paranoia about certain convictions such as the proof of paternity of a child.  Laura takes advantage of this condition of her husband's and  comes up  with a Iago like plan and instill the most poisonous doubt in her husband's brittle mind which is at a breaking point already that Bertha might not be his biological child.

She also manipulate the family doctor into believing that her husband has gone insane.
Laure feels justified in destroying her husband because she believes that she has been his prisoner all along.  And once the doubt creeps in the captain's mind, there is no going back and this Othello like
Poisonous state of mind is rendered with  an un-believably powerful skill and passionate fury by Mr.Thompson who was  also the greatest Othello, a few years ago directed by Arin Arbus and produced by theater for a new audience in their old home.

I have never seen a  portrait of a devastating collapse of a brilliant but flawed mind better than in the characerization of Mr.Thompson.  I can't praise him enough but everytime I see him I am amazed at his ability, his diction, the melody in his voice, the clarity and the power of  his passion.

Arin Arbus is also a brilliant director.  She loves language and makes sure that we hear every word
uttered by all actors. Her staging is uncluttered and precise. Nothing else is required but the language and the talent.  What a delight to watch these great plays done in such a marvelous way.
Congratulations to Theater for the new audience.  I have always admired their work.

BINA SHARIF: EDITOR/PUBLISHER
artsinternational.blogspot.com
binashariff@gmail.com
www.facebook.com
Cell:212-260-6207








Friday, April 8, 2016

"HAMLET 10"

THEATER REVIEW

"HAMLET 10"
BY
SHAKESPEARE
Directed by Ross Williams

Reviewed
by
Bina Sharif

New York Shakespeare exchange has taken upon them an ambitious endeavor
to present the Tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, with 10 actors all playing Hamlet.
Actors also play other roles as well and its an adrenaline flowing epic spectacle all along.
The show becomes quiet complicated at times and I guess thats expected.

Tragedy of Hamlet is one of the most soul searching and psychological play of existentialism .
"To be or not to be, that is the question."  This quote from Hamlet has been analyzed, thought
about and talked about for Centuries and no one has yet found the answer. The anguish of Hamlet
lasts as long as he lives.  He desires to take an action of a certain kind and desires that action so immensely but still can't act upon it and has this gnawing pain and tragic existence because of it.
Its the burden of all the psychological as well as moral responsibilities which haunts this young handsome Prince.

When the play starts the king, Hamlet's father had already been murdered by Claudius, Hamlets uncle who has married Hamlet's mother within a month.  Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost which desires revenge for his murder. Since that moment on Hamlet's young life changes.  He wants to kill Claudius but is he capable?  Would he do it? Would he hurt his mother by doing it? Is revenge the right thing?  All these conflicting emotions and thoughts are so vivid and heart breaking in this play
that you just sit on the edge of your seats to accompany Hamlet's troubled mind which has love, hate, anger, morality, humanity, revenge, desire and many other conflicting emotions which paralyze him and make him un-able to take any kind of action.

This production has done justice to many of those complex emotions and characters.
Five women and five men play Hamlet. Some things have been shortened and some taken out and the script is often divided into little sections to be assigned to different actors playing Hamlet and some time they all speak different lines in unison. It creates a haunting if not perfect atmosphere for this
tremendous tragedy.  Some of the performers make better Hamlet than the others.
I really liked Harry Barandes who also plays Horatio,  the best.  He had a great voice and wonderful
diction and was impressive in his delivery.  I was hoping that he will come back towards the end
of the play as Hamlet one more time.  That doesn't mean that the other actors did not do a good job,
they were all good but some stood out more. It was also interesting to see Julie Delaurier,
an impressive stage presence who also played Polonius, to do Hamlet but she shines and is excellent as Polonius.  Its my most favorite role in the play and she did a great justice to it.  She made it charming, witty, funny as well as wise. Its great to see Julie back on stage.

My difficulty was only when the actor who played Claudius, Kevin Brewer as well as the actress who played Gertrude, Julia Watt stepped into the role of Hamlet.  They were pretty good but by that time
the concentration on Hamlet's lines became less intense.  The little trouble I had with this wonderful
Idea of many actors playing Hamlet was that whenever I began to really listen to the lines of the character all of a sudden another actor would jump into the role with obviously different voice, different evocation, (which I am sure was the whole Idea) and my mind had to quickly adjust to his /her interpretation till another actor shows up as Hamlet  and changes the whole scenario. Interesting  as well to see so many actors take on the same role

I also liked, Nathaniel p. Claridad who played Marcellus as well as the grave digger and Hamlet.
He had a very charming quality about him and wonderful energy.  Rebeca Miller who played  Ophelia  was quiet fragile and tender as Ophelia and ferocious as Hamlet when she/he jumps into
her/Ophelia's grave.

Overall this production was innovative, ambitious, experimental, stimulating and exciting.

BINA SHARIF
ARTSINTERNATIONAL:EDITOR/PUBLISHER
artsinternational.blogspot.com
binashariff@gmail.com
212-260-6207


Monday, February 22, 2016

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS 1982

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
1982
Two one acts
A RECLUSE AND HIS GUEST (World premiere)
And
THE REMARKABLE ROOMING-HOUSE
OF MME, LE MONDE (New York Premiere)
A Playhouse Creatures production
At Walker Space
DIRECTED BY COSMIN CHIVU
Running till March 13

REVIEWED
BY
BINA SHARIF

A RECLUSE AND HIS GUEST Is set in a remote time and most probably in a far removed Northern
Town. We encounter a tall person, gender not yet defined, (But we soon finds out that she is a woman) who is wearing layers of raggedy furs to protect herself from the howling winds and cold weather while she roams around in the midnight forest. Her name is Nevrika and she is hungry and
lonely. She encounters a character near a dark alley who calls her a,"WHORE"  and accuses her of
committing ,"Unnatural acts"  While indulging in them himself  and asking her to come back the next day so he can have more of it.
Nevrika, (Brilliant Kate Skinner)  ends up in a baker's shop and steal some stale bread and asks the village people if they know of a man without a wife who needs to be taken care of and finally come to live in a barn like decrepit
house with  the recluse named Ott, (Excellent Ford Austin) Who gradually warms up to her very tender and patient affection.  There is a beautiful little scene where she bathes him and he actually
attend the town's Spring Festival where they enjoy dancing and drinking but then an accident happens, not of any serious consequence but brings the paranoia of the recluse back in full circle
where he doesn't want her any more.  Its a very touching and poignant play with the poetry of Tennessee's earlier plays.  Actually at times she reminded me of Blanche who is always searching for love and kindness of others.  At one point she says to Ott, "Would it offend you if I told you that I am in love...that I love you?"  The words are so moving, so Tennessee Williams.

After she is being asked to leave Nevrika is back in her winter furs and says,"All my travels have lead me, in a wandering way." To the ice in the harbor I will feel the cold for a while and then- I will sleep...I will not have to wait long for it."
Mind you the play was written in 1982 and Tennessee passed away in 1983. "And then I will sleep..."
This line made me feel that Nevrika was more Like Williams than the recluse.
his play is accompanied by live Cello, (Paul Brantley, also the production's composer.
Lighting design in both plays by John Eckert is mesmerizing.
The play is brilliantly directed by Cosmin Chivu.

THE REMARKABLE ROOMING-HOUSE OF MME.LE MONDE

The set remains the same, the action completely changes.  The play takes place in an attic in London The play turns into incredible violence
and abuse of a cripple, Mint (Jade Ziane ) avery demandingly physical role where the actor has to slide down the staircase not once but a few times.  He is paralyzed from the waist down and there are ropes here for him to hang on to which are extremely cumbersome.  Its an attic of a rooming house run by MME LE MONDE, (Kate Skinner) though she appears towards the end of the play but is wonderful and so very different from the other play.
Mint is constantly raped by her son (Declan Eells) and the Hall( Patric Darwin Williams)  an Industrialist, greedy and extremely uncouth old class fellow of Mint who tortures Mint constantly and prevents him even from a cup of tea which he consumes himself teasingly torturing the victim.
The main character of this play, Hall in a brightly tangerine colored suit is ok but suffers from inadequate British accent.  But nevertheless its a great effort on Cosmin Chivu's part to bring us these
late and unknown plays by one of the master of theater to say the least.  Its always a great pleasure to hear Tennessee Williams poetry even if its laced in Violence some time.
Both plays are amazingly staged and directed and very well acted.




Sunday, February 14, 2016

DRUNKEN WITH WHAT

THEATER: artsinternational

DRUNKEN WITH WHAT
A TARGET MARGIN THEATER PRODUCTION
Directed
by
David Herskovits

Reviewed by BINA SHARIF

DRUNKEN WITH WHAT is a study of Mourning Becomes Electra by O'Neill which is
based on the reworking of themes from Greek Tragedy, ORESTEIA By Aeschylus.
In the ancient times the word tragedy was dedicated and blamed on fate. "Tragedy was considered a flaw in nature and thus its result was predetermined by Kismet/fate.  But in modern times the word, "tragedy" has a different take on things and can be analyzed more as a motivational psychological theory.  But in O'Neill's Mourning Become Electra on which Drunken With What is based is for sure
a Greek Myth in which fate asserts a major blow.

Drunken With What as Mourning Becomes Electra has characters parallel from Greek play, Oresteia.
General Ezra, the father--Agamemnon
Christine, the mother--Clytemnestra
Orin, the son--Orestes
Lavinia, the daughter--Electra
And what a brave undertaking by David Herskovits to reintroduce the epic trilogy to the new audience who might not have read or seen O'Neill's Opus.

Though Drunken With What is compressed and many scenes have been taken out of the original
play, it makes perfect sense in the telling of the story.
The play takes place in New England after the Civil War where Lavinia, the dutiful daughter is waiting for the return of her father, General Ezra.  She is also in love with Captain Adam and is horrified to find out that her mother Christine, ( Brilliant Stephanie Weeks) is having an affair with him as well.  Consumed with jealousy she confronts her mother leading to mad anger, adultery and murder. When the General comes home, Christine Poisons him and Lavinia and her brother who is also very fond of his mother, (Incest perhaps? )  Try to take revenge.
Revenge, a major theme of all Greek tragedy always wins but actually no one wins at the end.

Drunken With What is directed very well with no fuss on the set and props.  A minimal setting forwards the story in a clear and coherent manner.  Actors are all very good though I couldn't hear Lavinia, (Eunice Wong ) very clearly first but she became better eventually.
I also enjoyed Mary Neufeld as Seth, the narrator/gardner.
Overall it was a reaffirming experience of a great classic

BINA SHARIF
Editor/Publisher of a theater blog;  artsinternational.blogspot.com
binashariff@gmail.com
binasharif@earthlink.net
www.facebook.com
Cell:212-260-6207




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

O, EARTH AT FOUNDRY THEATER

THEATER REVIEW

FOUNDRY THEATER Presents
O, EARTH
Written by Casey Llewellyn
Directed by Dustin Wills
At HERE Theater till Feb 20

REVIEWED by BINA SHARIF

O, EARTH is a Surrealistic riff on,  Thornton Wilder's "Our Town."
The set has a little mountain of real dirt on one side and a solitary ladder on the other.
The floor of the whole stage is also covered with dusty dirt.
The lights are pretty haunting and ghostly.

We encounter a man with a shovel presumably, Wilder (Martin Moran) digging into the mound
looking for some lost object, (Time ) perhaps? The play tries to cover the time from 20th Century
to 21st Century and the cultural changes which took place in American life.

Then we encounters a stage manager (Donnetta Lavinia Grays) Avery funny black actress narrates for us the story of white folks in that town while she herself feels invisible moving the ladder from one side of the stage to the other.

There is also a love story taking place between Emily (Kristen Sieh) a young woman who is un-satisfied with her life in this town where according to her nothing is happening and nothing is there to hold onto.  She has a boyfriend, George (Jess Barbagallo) who is a transgender and loves baseball as well as Emily.  We also meet Simon Stimson, (Martin Moran) a closeted gay man who drinks a lot to find comfort in his loneliness.

All these characters are very familiar from the play, "Our Town" and then suddenly the play, O, Earth
changes into the present time where we are watching TV and  Ellen DeGeneres (Moe Angelos) appears.  Her wife Portia de Rossi (Emily Davis) is also there first in the background complaining to Ellen that she feels very lonely and then in her actual kitchen having wine with
Emily who by now must have left her isolated town as well as her transgender boyfriend George behind.

The play changes its course from this moment on and becomes more like a TV talk show where
 the ghosts of Marsha P. Johnson (Julienne Brown) and Sylvia Rivera (Cecilia Gentili) EARLY TRANSGENDER ACTIVISTS appear and complain about not being properly represented at the moment.  The play refers to the effect that the gay marriage being legal right now is not good enough
and other issues such as transgender should be paid more attention.

At this time the play scatters and becomes less engrossing and sounds like a political protest
and its dramatic tension withers but some of the earlier elements are very effective.
The set is fantastic, the lights are moody and haunting, the actors do a good job, I particularly
liked Emily Davis who played Portia de Rossi staring into the void and drinking.
Donnetta Lavinia Grays as the stage manager was also very effective.

Bina Sharif
artsinternational.blogspot.com
binashariff@gmail.com
www.facebook.com
Cell: 212-260-6207