Sunday, October 7, 2012

Slow and Uninspired Start to the Fall Theater Season...But Let Us Be Hopeful

I'm back after a lengthy break precipitated in part by an onslaught of work-related demands on my time, and in part by the lackluster start to the fall theater season.  I'll not bore you with the details of the former, but let's do talk about the latter.

Late summer and early fall are generally slow times for New York theater, but this season is getting off to a particularly lurching and sluggish beginning, with little yet to excite the heart and soul of this intrepid theatergoer. 

At least in the summer, you’ve got the opportunity to take some exploratory risks by attending any of the dozens of new and potentially exciting works that are showcased in the various Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway fringe events.

I was happy to venture a bit off the beaten track on the off chance of discovering a new voice or acting talent, without the downside of having to spoon out buckets of money to do so.  I rather admired Hadrian’s Wall by Dani Vetere, Pieces by Chris Phillips, and June and Nancy by Michelle Ramoni.  All three works offered interesting, honest, and unexpected perspectives on LGBT themes.  On the lighter side, I also thoroughly enjoyed the musical How Deep Is the Ocean by the brother/sister team of Peter and Pia Cincotti. I hope all of these will live long and prosper in future productions.

But summer is over.  It’s October.  There is a chill in the air.  And I wait.

Maybe I was spoiled by last year’s kickoff to the fall season, when we were blessed early on with two amazing productions that got things rolling with a bang.  First there was the revival of Terrence McNally’s Master Class, starring Tyne Daly in a Tony-worthy performance as opera diva Maria Callas.  Then came the magnificent full-scale and starry production of Stephen Sondheim’s masterwork, Follies.  We were also privileged to see a mesmerizing  performance by Frank Langella in a revival of Terrence Rattigan’s Man and Boy, a production of a seldom-seen early Lanford Wilson play (Lemon Sky), and new and interesting works by rising playwrights Itamar Moses (Completeness) and Kirsten Greenidge (Milk Like Sugar). 

But this fall, the season seems to be dragging itself forward in a particularly uninspired and awkward manner.  The biggest news thus far has been the still-unraveling cautionary tale of intrigue and possible fraud surrounding the efforts to finance the on-again, off-again production of the musical version of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca

I just can’t get myself worked up to see the truncated version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, or the tepidly-reviewed Chaplin (even though I think its star, Rob McClure, is tremendously talented), or even the fiftieth anniversary production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (didn’t we see a fine production of this, like ten minutes ago, with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin?).

So what have I liked lately?  Off Broadway does have some good options.  Detroit, The Exonerated, and If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet are all well worth seeing.  

And despite my current lack of enthusiasm, I am looking forward to several forthcoming shows, including The Heiress (with Jessica Chastain and Downton Abbey heartthrob Dan Stevens), The Anarchist (David Mamet's new play, starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (with Chita Rivera, Will Chase, Jim Norton), and a production of Tennessee Williams's In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel. 

Hey, I'm getting excited just writing about it.  

Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be a great fall season after all!

Feel free to tell your friends about this blog, and to share your own theater stories by posting a comment.

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