Friday, 10 April 2015


     I have read that Paris has recently fallen in love with American musicals. This one, inspired by the great Vincente Minnelli - Gene Kelly film, was hailed at Paris's Chatelet Theatre this past fall. All of us musical theater fans have been curious about how the great contemporary ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon would do with a big Broadway musical. I'm delighted to say that AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a lavish, joyful inpressive entertainment.
     The first thing to say about AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is that it is not a simple, faithful adaptation of the film. Like the film, it uses Gershwin songs (far more than the film), including the extended orchestral piece that gives the show its title, but it does not use all the same songs. Arranger Rob Fisher has mined a lot of Gershwin work to create a rich, varied score. Second, book writer Craig Lucas has kept the central characters of the film but has not simply adapted Alan Jay Lerner's screenplay. The Paris of the stage musical is darker, even a bit menacing. Collaborators are beaten up. Resistance members still try to keep their activities secret. Lisa's Jewishness is crucial to the narrative. All the characters are more developed.
     The Minnelli film was visually ravishing. The central character, Jerry Mulligan, is an artist, and the film was full of paintings and sketches that come to life, most beautifully in the American in Paris ballet. In the stage musical, Jerry creates art that is more appropriate for 1945, very Matisse influenced, so the ballet has a very different look, but it is stunning. The scenic design (Bob Crowley) become the canvas for impressive projections (59 Productions). Crowley's costumes are as ravishing as anything I have seen in a musical. Some might quibble about Wheeldon's choreography -- not that it isn't excellent, but that it depends almost totally on ballet. Gene Kelly's choreography had a little bit of everything from tap to modern dance to ballet, but Wheeldon has not branched out as, for instance Jerome Robbins did in his musicals. I would venture to say that many in the audiences that are now filling the Palace Theatre have never seen so much ballet in their lives. One can only hope that it leads them to want to see more. The American in Paris ballet elicited roaring approval from the audience at the performance I attended.
     Perforce, the two leads are not just ballet dancers but two of the best currently dancing. I certainly know that Robert Fairchild is a terrific dancer with movie star good looks. The surprise is that he is a decent singer and a very good actor. If Hollywood still made the kind of musicals they made in the Golden Age, Fairchild would be the next Gene Kelly. Leanne  Cope doesn't radiate as much personality, but she sings sweetly The two of them dance up a storm. I don't know how they do this eight times a week. The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Brandon Uranowitz in a rewrite of the Oscar Levant role (no one would imitate Levant). Max von Essen is fine as Lise's French fiance. The only thing that puzzled me in Lucas's book were the hints that Henri is gay. His character might have been more interesting if he were trying to deal with that in 1945 Paris, though France was never as repressive about homosexuality as Germany or England. Jill Paice brings personality to the role of the American heiress who loves Jerry in her way.  The ensemble-- really a corps de ballet -- are terrific.
     AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a grand, gorgeous entertainment. You don't get to see many shows like this these days. If I gave stars it would get five.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Palace Theatre. April 8, 2015.

Chita Rivera in Kander/Ebb/McNally's THE VISIT

     I have vivid memories of seeing Friedrich Durrenmatt's THE VISIT on Broadway when I was in high school. The production was directed by the great Peter Brook and starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. I'd never seen anything quite like this powerful, grotesque satire on how easily an entire community can be turned into killers for the right price, and how easily they can justify their crime. Durrenmatt was Swiss, but clearly he is writing about Germany. The protagonist, Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world, is, after all half-Roma and half Jewish, two of the prime targets of Hitler's attempt to create a pure Aryan society. Claire grew up in this small town. As a teenager, she fell in love with Alfred, who left her to marry a local rich girl. When Claire tried to bring a paternity suit against Alfred, two witnesses testified that she was promiscuous and the judge ruled against her. Now those two witnesses and the judge are Claire's retinue. The judge has been blinded and the false witnesses castrated. After years as a prostitute, Claire married a succession of immensely wealthy men who died leaving her their fortune. She has quietly bought up most of her home town and allowed it to become destitute. She returns with her bizarre retinue and an empty coffin to offer the town and every citizen in it a huge fortune if they will kill Alfred. The inevitable happens in this dark picture of human nature.
     THE VISIT is hardly the basis for a conventional Broadway musical. No wonder it has taken over fifteen years to get to Broadway. It is dark, cynical, grotesque. One can only wonder why Sondheim never took it on.  John Kander and Fred Ebb have had their share of dark, satirical musicals (think CABARET, CHICAGO and KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN). If their songs don't have the linguistic brilliance or musical originality of a Sondheim score, they did find the right tone for the work and produced good, if not great scores. The score of THE VISIT is Kander and Ebb back in their minor key Kurt Weill-y mode of CABARET. Like the original play, the score is dark, brooding, but also witty. THE VISIT was, after all, meant to be a comedy. Terrence McNally is a master at adapting plays, movies and novels for the musical stage. Here one must also credit director John Doyle, who knows how to trim a show to its essentials. This version of THE VISIT is a tight ninety minutes.
     A cast of fifteen portray the denizens of this impoverished town. Doyle has wisely cast some of New York's best supporting players, the likes of Mary Beth Peil, Jason Danieley and David Garrison, as ensemble members. He also has included two young singer-dancers to play the young Claire and Anton (the name has been changed from Alfred). In the musical more than the play, Claire and Anton both live for their memories of their youthful passion. The young couple also offer a contrast to their older selves. Of course, Chita Rivera is wonderful. At eighty-two, she still is a commanding performer, a real star. She's now more of a baritone than a belter, but every word and note come across. The energy is still there. All the bland younger generation of musical performers should be required to see her performance. We go to the theater to be excited by distinctive personalities, not Stepford performers. Veteran actor-director-writer Roger Rees radiates his love of acting and his dedication to this part as well as his continued love for Claire, even when she wants him dead. Rees is another grand stage personality. It's worth the price of admission to see these two old pros at work, but everyone is good.
    Doyle is a master of musical staging. Yes, his trademark luggage plays a crucial role. It is amazing how much movement has has brought to this piece, but none of it seems distracting or unnecessary. Graciele Danielle, who has been around almost as long as Chita Rivera has created the minimal choreography. Scott Pask's two-level unit set, is impressive.
     This show won't please the folks who want safe Broadway family entertainment, but it's a must see for those of us who are still invested in the possibilities of musical theatre.
THE VISIT. Lyceum Theatre. April 8, 2015.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

BUZZER by Tracey Scott Wilson at the Public Theater

     Urban rap music is blaring as one enters Martinson Hall of the Public Theater, a signal that we're going to witness something hard-hitting, contemporary and perhaps a bit dangerous (or has the danger gone out of rap?). We soon see that Tracey Scott Wilson's BUZZER is about people surrounded by, and perhaps threatened by, the culture that rap represents. The play takes place in a transitional neighborhood, one slowly going through gentrification, a process that the original inhabitants resent. The real estate agent tells a prospective buyer that a gay couple has moved in -- a sure sign of gentrification and trendiness. Jackson (Grantham Coleman), who has just bought a large, beautifully renovated apartment, was born and raised in this neighborhood, but doesn't feel a part of it. Jackson worked hard in school, got scholarships to Exeter and Ive League universities and law schools, and is now a successful lawyer. He claims that he has moved back into his old neighborhood so he can do some good for the people there, but is he really trying to prove to himself of the people there that he Is not like them? Suzy, his white girlfriend (Tessa Ferrer), an outspoken teacher, is constantly menaced by a group of neighborhood men. Their language contains the hateful misogyny that is an element of urban rap. If there's menace outside, there's also trouble inside the apartment, thanks to the arrival of Don, Jackson's long-time best friend. Don comes from a wealthy, privileged background, but is the family blacksheep with a history of addiction. Don's family helped Jackson and his mother as Jackson was growing up. Don hates his father, but Jackson sees him as a father figure and something of a role model. The weak Don needs the stronger self-controlled Jackson, but it isn't clear why Jackson lets Don move in. Is it out of kindness or a sense of superiority to the rich white man? His feelings toward Don are ambivalent at best. Don remembers when the neighborhood was a warren of crack houses -- when addicts died in this very apartment. The white addict is also a fixture in this community. Don keeps insisting on truthful relations between him, Jackson and Suzy, but the lies, secrets and silences build up and a sense of war between the inhabitants of the apartment and the community outside build up.
     I seem to be seeing a lot of plays that center on emotionally constipated, repressed Black men in relationships with emotionally open white women. BUZZER, THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX and PLACEBO, all explore this territory. The message seems to be that as Black men enter the middle-class, they seal off their emotions and particularly their anger. It's there under the surface, but the men are no longer capable of expressing it and it sours their relationships. These men have entered white-dominated worlds. Has the Obama presidency inspired this group of dramas? Yet the plays are reticent about dealing with issues of race within these biracial relationships. What does Jackson feel about the hostile Black men outside? There's something frustrating about BUZZER. The play could tread on dangerous territory, but it seems to tiptoe around it. I would have liked it to seem less middle-class. Yes, simmering emotions turn violent, but the violence seems abstract, cool. Director Anne Kauffman is partly responsible for this. The set by Laura Jellinek is interesting but cool. Two thirds of the stage is bare with only a sofa and a lamp, the other third contains an abstract version of a beautifully renovated apartment. I see what the set is trying to say -- that these people don't really inhabit the space they live in, that this somewhat fake space in no way defines them -- but it distances us some from the conflicts. Once in a while the black back wall opens and we find ourselves in the entrance hall, the real border between the gentrified world and the hostile world outside.
     Grantham Coleman captures the anger and resentment under Jackson's controlled facade. Michael Stahl-David is superb as rich, feckless, needy but subtly hostile Don. Tessa Ferrer's Suzy seemed a bit generic. She's a good actress, but not a very individual one. Stahl-David dominates the play because he's an interesting, quirky actor.
     A good play, but not a great one. Wilson is another playwright who has had success writing for television. There's a flatness in the writing where one needed sharpness, theatrical poetry. She writes about dangerous subjects without making us feel the danger.
BUZZER. Public Theater. April 7, 2015.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Lisa D'Amour's AIRLINE HIGHWAY at the Manhattan Theatre Club

     It is interesting to observe how many young playwrights are going back to the kind of slice-of-life realism that came out of early twentieth-century playwrights like Maxim Gorky and which influenced American writers like William Saroyan, Sidney Kingsley and the young Lanford Wilson. Narrative coherence isn't the objective here; rather we are given a variety of people society might call losers. Recently Annie Baker has used this form on a smaller scale in plays like ALIENS and THE FLICK, as did Samuel D. Hunter in his lovely play POCATELLO. Now Lisa D'Amour, who wrote the powerful picture of a declining America, DETROIT, gives us a large-scale example of slice-of-life realism in AIRLINE HIGHWAY, set in the parking lot of a sleazy, ramshackle New Orleans motel filled with misfits. On the day the play takes place, they are having a party to celebrate the life of the dying Miss Ruby. There are young and aging prostitutes, recovering addicts, and drag queens, all drawn, as is everyone in the play, to New Orleans because of its Bacchanalian spirit. New Orleans is great because it isn't Atlanta, the avatar of the new, entrepreneurial South, where Bait Boy, the young former occupant of the Hummingbird Motel has gone to find success and a conventional domestic life.
     Like Lanford Wilson in works like THE HOT L BALTIMORE, D'Amour uses a lot of overlapping dialogue. A number of conversations might be going on at the same time or characters are simply talking without listening to other people . I found the play to be an interesting technical exercise, but I couldn't work up much interest in or sympathy for the characters. Some characters, like the drag queen Sissy NaNa, present themselves as victims of awful upbringings. Others seems to be living the outcomes of poor choices. Are we supposed to see these folks as the last gasps of a vibrant culture being uprooted by Walmarts and Costcos and Atlantas? If these people are representatives of that culture, why is it worth lamenting?
     Joe Mantello has given the play a masterful production filled with realistic detail. There may be a dozen or more people on stage at any moment, but all are given detailed action even when they are in the background. Scott Pask's set couldn't be more convincing. The ensemble is uniformly excellent, but Julie White, as always, dominates as the aging prostitute battling addiction. K. Todd Freeman is equally good as Sissy NaNa. This is not a stereotype of a Black drag queen, but a hardened man who has obviously fought a lot of battles.
     I had respect for the talent involved in AIRLINE HIGHWAY. I wish I could have cared more.
AIRLINE HIGHWAY. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. April 3, 2015.  

THE KING AND I at Lincoln Center Theater

     Like many people, I am so familiar with THE KING AND I through many productions and, of course, repeated viewings of the film, that I know not only the songs by heart, but also the dialogue. Yet I never tire of this musical play, perhaps Rodgers and Hammerstein's best. Like any classic, it is open to many interpretations, particularly of the role of the king, from Yul Brynner's sexy posing to Lou Diamond Phillips's boyish charm to Ken Watanabe's intellectual energy. It's harder to bring the same variety to Anna, though we read her differently over the sixty-plus years since the musical first opened. Now she seems less a superior Westerner bringing liberal democratic values to an autocratic court than a feminist asserting the rights of women. After all, what is unusual about this Victorian woman is her willingness to assert herself in a male-dominated society and getting away with it. In Bartlett Sher's visually beautiful, thoroughly thought-out production, we see that it is Anna's intelligence that fascinates and ultimately wins over the king. In general he thinks women are inferior because the women he has seen are conditioned to act inferior, but he knows that Anna is as smart as he is and he needs her understanding of the West to stave off encroaching imperial powers.
     THE KING AND I is one of Oscar Hammerstein's less sappy-sentimental books. Anna and the King are both hard-headed. Tuptim, the young Burmese who is brought to the King as a gift is equally willing to fight for what she wants and what she is against, but doesn't share Anna's privileged position. If only her lover, the Burmese envoy Lun Tha was as well written -- he's there to sing the ballads. Even a fine singing actor like Conrad Ricamora cannot make Lun Tha more than cardboard, partly because he never gets to sing a lyric that is specific to his character. One of the oddities of THE KING AND I is that Lun Tha and Tuptim's two ballads are beautiful melodies set to sappy lyrics that aren't specific character or situation. "I Have Dreamed" is one of my favorite songs in the musical (sadly cut from the film), but the lyric is awful ("I have dreamed/And enjoyed the view" -- ugh!). Throughout, however, Richard Rodgers was inspired. He would never again write a score this strong. The rest of the fifties and beyond represent a sad decline.
     Bartlett Sher is a master at brilliantly mastering the problematic stage of the Vivian Beaumont. The production is beautiful, from the staging to Michael Yeargan's simple but lovely sets to Catherine Zuber's ravishing costumes. And, praise the lord and the sound engineer, the show does not seem to be miked at all.
     The cast is uniformly fine. Kelli O'Hara makes Anna hers from beginning to end. She can be a bland actress, but her Anna is feisty, but always ladylike. She sings the role better than anyone I have seen, with the exception of Barbara Cook. Ken Watanabe is not the first non-singing actor to play the King. He has a very specific take on the role. This is an intelligent, well-meaning man who is limited by his education and training. Until now, he hasn't had to connect to the wider world and wants to succeed at it.  Under Sher's direction he manages to make the King Anna's equal rather than a sexy child-man. At times one cannot understand his accent, but we all know what he is saying and singing by heart. Ruthie Ann Miles, who was so wonderful as Imelda Marcos in HERE LIES LOVE makes Lady Thiang a more three-dimensional character than I have seen. Ashley Park makes Tuptim a tough cookie and Conrad Ricamora, also terrific in HERE LIES LOVE, does all that one can do with Lun Tha. All three sing beautifully. Cheers, too, for the excellent, large orchestra.
     I was happy to see so many families in the audience. This is a show everyone should see, a show about real people and real issues, not cartoon characters -- and with a gorgeous score.
THE KING AND I . Vivian Beaumont Theatre. April 4, 2015.    

Carrie Coon in PLACEBO by Melissa James Gibson at Playwrights Horizons

     Can one create an engrossing play about characters who will not or cannot express what they are feeling? That's the task Melissa James Gibson has set for herself in PLACEBO. I'm afraid she doesn't succeed at it, perhaps because it is an impossible task. Even the charismatic Carrie Coon cannot save this one. Her character, Louise, spends her days as a graduate student lab assistant working on an experiment with a drug that will enable women to want and enjoy sex even with husbands of many years. The fact that the drug doesn't seem to work may be because the playwright believes that even with a miraculous chemical intervention, long term sexual relationships can't work. She also seems to believe that long term relationships are generally doomed. A male colleague of Louise says that he can only stay interested in someone for two to two and a half hours. Louise is in a long term relationship with Jonathan (William Jackson Harper), a doctoral student in classical literature who is writing a dissertation on Pliny. Despite the many years they have been together, Louise and Jonathan talk, but don't really communicate or understand each other's coded messages. Jonathan is mired in doubt about his work. When his dissertation is a success and his doctorate is assured, he seems to lose interest in Louise. What is she to him or he to her? It's hard to decipher which makes it hard to care. We know virtually nothing of characters' back stories, which is all right if something interesting was happening in the present. Gibson is obviously influenced by Harold Pinter's work -- not the short lines, pauses and repetition -- but in Pinter one always knows something interesting is going on under the surface of conversation. The fact that Jonathan is African-American is not an issue at all. The character could just as easily be played by a white actor. This would not be an issue if we were given any way to figure Jonathan out. It's impossible not to wonder why race is not an issue at all. Given the nature of Louise's work, one would think that sex is central to her relationship with Jonathan, but what we see is a non-erotic relationship. What has held them together? Louise seems to connect in a joyful way only through childish games with men: a key toss with Jonathan and a strange relay race to a vending machine that she concocts with her colleague and one-time sexual partner, Tom (Alex Hurt).
     Carrie Coon is always worth watching, but she isn't given much to work with. William Jackson Harper convincingly plays a man who would rather not talk, a man seething inside but trying to maintain control of everything but his nicotine habit. Alex Hurt makes Tom charming, but we can see that he too plays his cards very close to his chest. Daniel Aukin has created a well staged, fast-moving production, but he couldn't make a thin play seem deep.
     It has been a very mixed season so far for Playwrights Horizons. Some very good work -- POCATELLO, GRAND CONCOURSE, BOOTYCANDY; real duds like IOWA; and mediocre work like POSTERITY. Let's hope for more consistency next season.
PLACEBO. Playwrights Horizons. April 5, 2015.  

Thursday, 2 April 2015

IOWA by Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond at Playwrights Horizons

     OK, folks, I give up. If this was a brilliant, groundbreaking piece of musical theater, it left me totally cold. Jenny Schwartz's lyrics sounded like they were written by a six year old and Todd Almond's "songs" were little more than chord progressions or chants. Schwartz's book had a few funny moments, but tries so hard to be cute and original with no concern for coherence. Playwrights Horizons is billing the work as absurdist theatre, but the great so-called absurdists like Beckett and Ionesco has a strong sense of form. They were great poets of the theatre. IOWA just throws stuff at the audience with no sense of coherence. I just wondered what drug Schwartz and Almond were on when they concocted this. Maybe I'm just too much of a stodgy traditionalist to get what this show was doing or even to care. I would have walked out of if I could have gracefully.
    What is the show about? Well a ditzy mother moves out to Iowa to marry a man with whom she has been having cybersex. When she gets there, she finds that he is a polygamist with a community of wives dressed in nineteenth century dresses. Along the way, we are offered heavy-handed parodies of types of conventional femininity such as cheerleaders and chorines. And a man dressed as a pony who canters on now and then.
     I sat there thinking about how brave actors are, particularly when they have to appear shamelessly in stuff like this. These courageous performers gave the show their all.
     I saw this on April Fools Day and wondered it some sort of April Fools' joke was being perpetrated.
IOWA. Playwrights Horizons. April 1, 2015.

THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX by Bathsheba Doran at the Lincoln Center Theater

     Bathsheba Doran's THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX is both a comedy of manners and a twenty-first century coming out play. The central characters are two intensely close childhood friends, Charlotte (Gayle Rankin) and Jonny (Mamoudou Athe). These two are an odd couple: Charlotte is the voluble daughter of Howard (Tony Shaloub), a Jewish author of best-selling detective stories, and Luncinda (Diane Lane), his Gentile Southern belle wife; Jonny is a buttoned-up, devout Black Baptist raised by a very religious single mother. Since he was nine, Charlotte's home has been a second home for Jonny. When we first meet them, Charlotte and Jonny are hosting a simple dinner for her parents in her college dorm room. While Lucinda is all charm, Howard not so subtly asserts his dominance. He is also concerned about Charlotte's friendship with Jonny turning into marriage. We soon see that things are not what they seem. When Charlotte tries not very subtly to turn their relationship into one that is sexual and romantic, Jonny holds on to his virginity, claiming that he's waiting for the right Christian girl. Soon both Charlotte and Jonny discover that as much as they love each other as friends, their desires are for their own sex. Neither finds coming out easy. Charlotte gives up her first girl friend because"This is not who I am." Jonny's first sexual affair is with a man he doesn't even like. Their own friendship is strained by Charlotte's resentment of Jonny's inability to be honest with her. The ruptures in their relationship form the basic action of the play. We also see Charlotte's parents' love and support of their daughter as their own marriage falls apart.
       At the heart of Doran's play is the issue of the relationship/conflict between love and sex. There is not doubt of the intense love Charlotte and Jonny feel for each other, but can that survive without a sexual component? Can they love their sexual partners with the same intensity that they love each other, Can Howard and Lucinda's marriage survive without sexual satisfaction? At some point in the play, each of our young protagonists rips off all her/his clothes and offers his naked body to the other. What does that nakedness mean? In Charlotte's case it is offering her body for sex as a means of turning her friendship into something else, but it is also a lie as her sexual desire goes in another direction. Offering her body to Jonny is a way of avoiding what her body is telling her. When Jonny later strips before Charlotte, he is trying to communicate that he is no longer hiding anything from her, but does a naked body really denote honesty? Does it denote anything beyond the body itself? THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX is a comedy of manners for our time that raises a number of pertinent questions. I do have some reservations. Do kids now still have such problems coming out, particularly with liberal parents like Charlotte's? Why is it that Charlotte and Jonny seem to be so detached from their peer group who would probably offer them support? Nonetheless this is a very well crafted play, both serious and funny.
      Sam Gold has given the play a minimalist but highly effective production and the cast couldn't be better. Rankin and Athe are fine young actors. Jonny is a young man who hides his emotions, but Athe allows us to see the turbulence and fear underneath. He's a magnetic actor. Tony Shaloub is, as always magnificent, capturing Howard's charm and his tendency to bully while remaining sympathetic. Diane Lane is vivacious.
     Immensely enjoyable. The play also seemed timely as some backward states try to enshrine prejudice against gay people, especially gay couples.
THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX. Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center Theater. April 1, 2015.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Doug Wright's POSTERITY at the Atlantic Theater Company

     Is it possible to write a play about real people without a lot of clunky exposition, particularly now when we can't assume that an audience has much in the way of cultural literacy? Doug Wright's POSTERITY imagines a series of meetings between an aging Henrik Ibsen, who was well aware of his cultural celebrity, and a volatile younger sculptor assigned to create a bust of the great playwright. The sculptor, Gustav Vigeland (Hamish Linklater) thinks this sort of assignment is beneath him even when the subject is Norway's most famous citizen, and Ibsen (John Noble) thinks that having a marble bust of himself in a public park is an insult to his importance. Vigeland takes the job because it may lead to funding for the giant sculpture garden he wants to create in Frogner Park. Both men rightfully see themselves as geniuses, set above the ordinary people, particularly the bureaucrats they have to deal with and the rigid social conventions of their native land. There are only three other charters in POSTERITY: the lawyer who is the go-between between Vigeland and Ibsen (Henry Schram), a young would-be artist who serves as Vigeland's apprentice and model (Mickey Theis) and a middle-aged housekeeper who also serves as a model (Dale Soules).
     One's response to POSTERITY may be based on his/her level of interest in Ibsen and the courage and ego it takes to be a great artist. We live in an age in which people want their artists to be likable. Opera singers on Met broadcasts have to be able to sound like they're on a late night talk show. No temperament allowed. Ibsen and Vigeland would have sneered at pleasing the masses in that way. They lived in an age when artists were revered, set apart from ordinary mortals. They weren't expected to be nice. The play is also a meditation on human limitations -- how our bodies and minds ultimately fail us no matter how great we may be. Ibsen is at the end of his life, trapped in a feeble body. More than his characters, he looks back with regret at his human failings. Vigeland is constantly frustrated at having to beg for the funding to create his works.
     I found the play fascinating. Yes, some of the exposition is awkward, but the confrontations between Ibsen and Vigeland were exciting. Of course, the acting helped. I have never been a fan of John Noble on television. He has always struck me as a shameless ham. Of course, the roles he has been given on shows like FRINGE encouraged that kind of hamming. What one gets from him in POSTERITY is old school "grand" acting that is perfect for the "Grand", if failing Ibsen. Noble's style contrasts effectively with Hamish Linklater's more "method" approach toward Vigeland. Like method actors of the 1950s, Linklater tends to act through in a lot of verbal and physical tics. Both men engage in different forms of what years ago on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE Jon Lovitz called "ACTING!!!" Nonetheless it's fun to watch two rather extreme actors go at each other. The supporting cast is, as usual at the Atlantic, made up of very good ensemble actors: Henry Scram as the lawyer, Dales Soules as the housekeeper/model and Mickey Theis as the frustrated apprentice. Doug Wright has directed his own work effectively. The production is well paced. Derek McLane's set presents a convincing sculptor's studio. Just once, however, I'd like to see a set at the Atlantic that isn't dark colored.
     Henrik Ibsen was one of the most important figures in 19th century intellectual, artistic and theatre history. POSTERITY may not totally do him justice, but it is an absorbing, highly enjoyable play.
POSTERITY. Atlantic Theatre Company, March 31, 2018.