The Cripple of Inishmaan Is Straight-Up Funny

What do you think would be funny about a cripple orphan, a remote town in Ireland and a Hollywood documentary?  If you’re thinking how I was thinking, then you’re answer is probably not very much.  But like me you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that my first thought was totally off the mark.   Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a total laugh riot.

top-7-largeMcDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark, delightful comedy, think of Peyton Place with razor blade roads.  This play is as twisted as Forrest Gump’s back before the braces.  Set in the small community of Inis Meáin off the western coast of Ireland circa 1934, McDonagh uses the real life filming of the documentary Man of Aran as the foundation of the play.   A Hollywood film crew arrives in the neighboring town of Inis Mór to make a film about life on the islands.   The news, carried by town gossip Johnnypateenmike, sets the town ablaze and gives Billy Claven or “Cripple Billy” as he is called by the townsfolk, the idea to finally escape the place that treats him like a poor orphaned outcast.  Billy finds out that local bully Helen McCormick has finagled Babbybobby Bennett, a boatman, to sail her and her henpecked brother Bartley over to Inis Mór for an audition. Billy conjures a heartbreaking tale to secure a seat on the voyage and winds up getting the opportunity to take part in a film in California.  Billy’s sudden departure puts his adopted aunts Kate and Eileen Osbourne into a tailspin.  Kate begins talking to a stone and Eileen devours all the sweets in their shop to try to avoid worrying about the fate of Billy.  But you know what they say about the grass being greener, missing home Cripple Billy returns to face the place he tried run from, the hurt that was left in his wake and the secrets that have haunted him no matter where he traveled.

top-4-largeThe Cripple of Inishmaan first opened December 12, 1996 at London’s Royal National Theatre.  In 1998 the play opened in NYC and L.A.  The play returned to London’s West End in 2013 with Michael Grandage at the helm directing and Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy.  The production was a hit and fresh off the heels of its sold-out run across the pond, The Cripple of Inishmaan opened at the Cort Theatre on April 20 for a limited 14-week engagement.  And this is one engagement that is not to be missed.  This play is may be about a cripple, but there is nothing deficient about this production.  Daniel Radcliffe truly shines in this revival.  The more he sheds his Harry Potter skin the more we are able to witness how his talent has matured.  He is a wonder to watch live, whether he is singing and dancing or using a crutch, Mr. Radcliffe is rad!  In fact, the whole cast is exceptional.   An awesome ensemble, they authentically project the intimate bonds that are created in a small town.  Sarah Greene is a terror as Helen McCormick, but as frightening as she is, she is equally as charming.  Pádraic Delany radiates brooding appeal as Babbybobby.  Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna are equally delightful as Cripple Bobby’s smothering adopted aunts. The zingers delivered by June Watson and Pat Shortt, who play Johnnypateenmike and his alcoholic mom, are absolutely scandalous and some of the best shade (insult throwing for those of you who don’t know) that I’ve heard on stage in a long time.  The scene and costume designs created by Christopher Oram transported the audience to that 1930’s Ireland and aided in projecting a close-knit community aesthetic.

top-1-largeIrreverent in all the right ways, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a winner and with the support of a great cast, this production stands with the best that Broadway has to offer this season.

Photos: Johan Persson

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Under My Skin Ticket Giveaway

That’s right FAMERS, it’s contest time!

F.A.M.E NYC is giving away a pair of tickets for Under My Skin, the new comedy in previews at The Little Shubert Theatre.  This production takes the battle of the sexes to new heights.  And one of you FAMERS could be the lucky winner if you can answer this question…

What iconic blue-eyed singer from Hoboken N.J. recorded a rendition of “I’ve Got You under My Skin?”

 The winner will be announced on Good Friday at 5 p.m.

Happy spring and good luck!

Bullets Over Broadway Is A Shot To the Funny Bone

Woody Allen has been known to make a good film…or two…or three.  In fact, Cate Blanchet just snagged herself an Oscar playing the tragic protagonist in a Woody Allen film.  In 1994, Allen and Douglas McGrath penned a crime-comedy film titled Bullets Over Broadway.  The film starred John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly with Allen sitting in the director’s chair.  Bullets Over Broadway garnered seven Academy Awards; Wiest won for Best Supporting Actress, the second Academy Award win for her under Allen’s direction.

8.198889If you haven’t seen the film, the gist of the plot goes like this…set in the roaring twenties, a young, struggling playwright named David Shayne gets the break of a lifetime. His play will be produced on Broadway and he will direct it ensuring his vision will come to fruition.  Only problem is producer Julian Marx receives the funds to front the production from gangster Nick Valenti, and to get the money Valenti’s girlfriend, Olive Neal, must be cast in one of the roles.  Olive is no more than a second rate line dancer, but David casts her in the role of the psychiatrist in order secure the funds.  Also, he convinces Helen Sinclair, a legendary stage actress and lush, to play lead role and gets compulsive eater Warner Purcell to be the leading man.  Soon David realizes that getting a play on stage as its director isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  He also learns that he isn’t the great artist he thought he was as all his re-writes, which the cast adore, are written by Cheech, Olive’s bodyguard and Valenti’s hitman.

5.198890In 2012, plans for a musical adaptation were announced.  Allen adapted the film into a book and used songs from the American songbook for the musical numbers.  Susan Stroman was brought on as the director and choreographer.  The cast included Zach Braff as David Shayne, Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair, Vincent Pastore as Nick Valenti, Helen Yorke as Olive Neal and Nick Cordero as Cheech.

5.198888The minute the curtain rose at the St. James Theater and I saw the title being shot into the set I thought, “Well this is starting off with a bang, I hope it ends with one.”  What I would come to learn is that Bullets Over Broadway doesn’t overshoot in the laughs department.  It’s a cute comedy that lends itself to a family night at the theater.  The biggest laughs and smiles were delivered by Nick Cordero, Helen Yorke, Brooks Ahsmanskas, who played Warner Purnell and Mr. Woofles, the sweetest little pooch since Toto.  Marin Mazzie offered a good rendition of Helen Sinclair.  I’m sure any members of the audience who had seen the film were just anticipating her saying, “Don’t speak.”  That classic line didn’t fall into the silence of the air. Like the film, it was a hilarious bull’s-eye.

4.198885My complaint with most new musicals as of late is that they are all song and lack dance.  With Bullets Over Broadway, my gripe was the opposite.  Although the songs used in this musical were standards, the use of tunes were flat and was absent of the pop I like to hear, but the choreography, under the leadership of Susan Stroman, assisted in placing the musical numbers on an even-keel.

It seems as if Woody Allen has struck again.  If you want to a good giggle and some good hoofing then Bullets Over Broadway is musical for you.

Photos: Paul Kolnik

Under My Skin Is On Stage at The Little Shubert Theatre

They say, and John Gray Ph.D. wrote, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  But how do we know that for sure unless we are willing to take a visit to each other’s planet, or to borrow another famous idiom, “walk a mile in someone shoes” or stilettos.

Husband and wife writing team Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser add another chapter to this ongoing debate with Under My Skin.  Sternin and Fraser are no strangers to the subject of the male/female relationship conundrum with shows like “Three’s Company” and “Who’s The Boss?” under their belts; Under My Skin takes that enigma and turns it into an out-of-body experience.

The prescription for this new comedy involves a CEO of America’s leading healthcare provider, a single mom from Staten Island and one big outrageous twist of fate.  Under My Skin is directed by Kristen Sanderson and stars Kerry Butler and Matt Walton.  Under My Skin began previews at The Little Shubert Theatre, located at 422 West 42nd Street, on April 5 and is scheduled to open on May 15. FAMERS be on the lookout for a ticket giveaway coming soon!

To learn more about the play click, www.undermyskintheplay.com.  Or click below to meet the cast!

 

Photo and video courtesy of Serino Coyne

The Browning of The American Dream

The Lower East Side is known for being home to famous Latino artists such as poet Miguel Pinero, artist George Lee Quiñones and poet and activist Clemente Soto Vélez.  Soto Vélez was known for mentoring many generations of artists in Puerto Rico and NYC.  His legacy impacted the cultural, social and economic lives of Latinos worldwide.  So it’s befitting that an exhibit that questions the Latino’s role in achieving the American Dream, and even pokes fun at it, should premier at the center bearing his name.

20140403_182437On April 3 Make ‘Em All Mexican debuted at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center.   Conceptualized by L.A. based artist Linda Vallejo, MEAM is her satirical solution to a familiar question: “Where do I fit into the American Dream?”  Vallejo’s answer is a comedic, yet thought provoking look at American iconography from a Chicano point of view.  She takes old photographs, figurines and dolls and gives them a tan shellacking thereby providing them a new purpose, new meaning.

Just imagine…John, Paul, George and Ringo with brown faces and how that drastic change in skin color would’ve affected their role in history and pop culture.  Or the Flintstones…how would different would Bedrock be if Fred and Barney had brown skin, with Barney’s skin being a couple shades darker than Fred’s once again questioning how skin color plays a role within one’s ethnicity.  These are the types of scenarios that are explored through Vallejo’s work.

20140403_183324Over 30 pieces are displayed in the exhibit, some making the literal transformation to brown while others, like The Empire State Building glazed in a cocoa tint, are more esoteric in its challenge of The American Dream.  Aristocrats, founding fathers, Norman Rockwell, even John Belushi doesn’t get spared in Vallejo’s recoloring of American/pop imagery.  Looking at the Superman bust all glistening in candy coated caramel made him appear more animated.

While I had seen photographs of the work, the pieces were extremely dynamic in person.  When displayed together, I felt as if I had stepped into a surreal universe; one that was actually closer to the world I lived in.  As I walked around the room, I began to realize why the work fascinated me.  When I was a girl my father, an avid collector of antiques, brought home two lawn jockeys, only these jockeys didn’t have the traditional jockey outfit, these boys were barefoot slaves.  I asked my dad what he was going to do with them.  He simply said, “I’m going to paint them.”  He told me the history of these boys, how they were a symbol of the racism that is embedded in the core of this country.  Slowly, I watched these slave boys transform.  With primer and a few coats of paint to their skin, I began to see their features more clearly.  I saw their personalities bloom in the colors my father chose for their clothing. The lanterns were replaced with flags.  The sepia-skinned boy held the red, black and green colors of the Black Liberation flag.   The dark-skinned statue held the flag of The African National Congress.  Through this makeover these boys had a new purpose; they were the embodiment of pride.  They instilled pride in me as well.

20140403_192515Growing up watching those boys in my backyard, from my bedroom window gave me a constant reminder of my roots.  It also made me realize that “The American Dream” also belonged to me, that it came in multiple hues, not just red, white and blue.  It is my belief that Make ‘Em All Mexican will do the same for Latinos.  Make ‘Em All Mexican is on display until April 27.  FAMERS get down to The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center and get yourself a good dose of brown.