The Playwrights Realm
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
416 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Daily through February 21, $10-$35
Lovers Sarah (Miriam Silverman) and Sam (Matt Dellapina), a couple for just less than a year, are having a pleasant little Christmas Eve in Brooklyn until the incendiary Nate (Nick Westrate) unexpectedly knocks on Sarah’s door, bringing a whirlwind of snark and cynicism with him. Nate is Sarah’s best friend since childhood, but she has conveniently avoided telling Sam about him and their regular conversations. It’s not so much that she’s hiding Nate from Sam; she just doesn’t know what to do about him. Nate is a sarcastic, malicious thirtysomething who says exactly what’s on his mind, no matter how hurtful it can be — or maybe precisely because of how nasty it is. He sees Sam as a threat to his special, unusual relationship with Sarah, and he lets him know that right from the start. “Where are you coming from?” Sam asks. Nate sneeringly replies, “In what sense? Physically? Intellectually? Emotionally?” Sarah adds, as an excuse, “Sorry — he’s crazy,” to which Nate chimes in, “Only for you.” Sarah is a social worker, but she cannot rein in Nate’s lack of social skills; he wants to exist in a world where there is only Sarah and Nate, as if no one else matters, especially Sam, a genuine, nice guy who lets slip that he wants to marry Sarah, which really sets Nate off, and he begins insulting Sam every chance he gets, mining the past to try to prove that Sam will never know and understand Sarah as only he can. Nate jumps all over Sam, a paralegal, amateur philosopher, and singer-songwriter, but Sam is soon giving as good as he gets as the three become immersed in a compelling and involving tug of war over life and death, loneliness and romance, children and parents.
An Alumni Production from the Playwrights Realm, which presented Ziegler’s Dov and Ali in 2009, A Delicate Ship is a tense and fascinating exploration of childhood innocence and the supposed experience that comes with maturity, of the things that change, and the things that don’t. “I don’t actually see why anyone would want to be anything but a child,” Nate says. “It’s not a theory. It’s a statement about life. That the primary joys we experience are as children.” Sarah answers, “I don’t agree.” But Nate is resolute, telling her, “Because agreeing would be admitting your life is getting gradually but steadily worse and that’s an existential predicament you do not wish to acknowledge.” Nate might be a noxious, mean-spirited asshole, but he also makes some insightful points, along with plenty of inciteful ones. Ziegler, whose Photograph 51 is currently playing in London with Nicole Kidman, writes with a sharp love of language and a poetic rhythm that is utterly captivating. Throughout the play, characters turn to the audience and share their thoughts and memories, scenes from the past and hints at the future, while the other characters watch and sometimes even comment. Director Margot Bordelon captains this delicate ship with a sure hand, balancing Sam’s low-key nature with Nate’s unpredictable bravado, navigating steadily through choppy emotional waters. Reid Thompson’s living-room set, which features a Christmas tree, a door standing by itself, and a stone path where Nate sometimes treads, feels real in more ways than one, the smell of evergreen wafting through the air. The cast is superb, their movements across the stage beautifully choreographed, particularly Drama Desk Award winner Westrate’s Nate, who just can’t keep still, like an overactive child. Ziegler (The Minotaur, BFF) was inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” as well as W. H. Auden’s poem about that work, “Musée des Beaux Arts,” both of which can be seen right outside the theater. Auden writes, “In Bruegel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may / Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, / But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone / As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green / Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen / Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, / Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.” Icarus tried to fly to the sun, but his wax wings melted and he fell into the sea. Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship has lofty goals itself, but it soars, never melting, a poetic, unrelenting journey into the heart and soul of what makes us who we are, who we want to be, and who we never will be.
The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 28, $25-$55
A. R. (Pete) Gurney says farewell to WASP culture in the disappointing Love & Money, the third and final work in his Signature Theatre residency that began with revivals of The Wayside Motor Inn and What I Did Last Summer. The octogenarian Gurney, whose Love Letters had an unfortunately abbreviated run on Broadway last year and whose Sylvia is coming to the Great White Way this fall, visits familiar territory in the ever-so-slight Love & Money, a drab seventy-five-minute look into wealth, legacy, and the irrelevance of the Social Register. Gurney veteran Maureen Anderman (Ancestral Voices, Later Life) stars as Cornelia Cunningham, an erudite aging woman who has decided to donate the majority of her impressive fortune to various charities, which does not make her grandchildren very happy, nor her lawyer, Harvey Abel (Joe Paulik), a stuffed shirt with no sense of humor. “And your specialty is difficult old ladies?” Cornelia asks. “My specialty is Trusts and Estates,” he says, to which she responds, “I once knew a lawyer whose specialty was Murders and Impositions.” Harvey has come to Cornelia’s swanky Upper East Side brownstone to warn Cornelia that a man is falsely claiming to be the love child of her late daughter and is after her money, but when Walker “Scott” Williams (Gabriel Brown) arrives, he instantly charms Cornelia with his detailed story as he attempts to worm his way into her life. The “Is he or isn’t he” plot line is straight out of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and just because Gurney refences that play in this one, that’s no excuse him for treading on old ground. He also adds a peripheral character, Juilliard student Jessica Worth (Kahyun Kim), as a forced way to inject some Cole Porter tunes into the play, as well as a love interest for Scott that strains credulity. It all leads to a grand finale that is surprisingly amateurish for such a well-respected playwright, a silly love letter to the theater that falls completely flat.
Longtime Gurney director Mark Lamos (Our Country’s Good, Seascape) does what he can with the musty tale, and Anderman is wonderfully classy in a role she clearly enjoys playing, an engaging woman who declares, “I’ve committed the major crime of having too much money.” Pamela Dunlap (Yerma, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940) adds some humor as Cornelia’s astute, cynical maid, and Michael Yeargan’s library set is lovely, but Brown (The Mystery of Love & Sex, The City of Conversation) overdoes the smarm as the ambitious Scott, who is looking to break out of his mundane life. Gurney pays tribute to his hometown of Buffalo, name-checks his earlier hits The Cocktail Hour and The Dining Room, shares his thoughts on Charles Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and injects too much Porter as he points out again and again that money can be a curse and that WASP culture is dying. But as Cornelia repeatedly says, “Whatevah.”
Theatre at St. Clement’s
423 West 46th St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Wednesday - Monday through October 11, $69
Back for a return engagement following a run last summer at the Theatre at St. Clement’s (after originating in 2013 at Penguin Rep in Stony Point), Drop Dead Perfect is an over-the-top campy melodrama that is too clever for its own good, trying too hard to be too many things when a clearer focus would have sufficed. Which is not to say it isn’t worth seeing, primarily for the performances of Ridiculous Theatrical Company veteran Everett Quinton and Jason Edward Cook as sisters who evoke the battling siblings played by Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? as if directed by Douglas Sirk. In a cottage in the Florida Keys in 1952, drama queen Idris Seabright (Quinton) cares for her plants, doesn’t care much for her dog, Teddy, and keeps making changes to her will, confusing her lawyer, Phineas Fenn (Timothy C. Goodwin), who hangs around the Seabright home because he’s got the hots for Idris’s blonde bombshell of a sis, Vivien (Cook). When young Cuban hunk Ricardo (Jason Cruz) arrives, claiming to be Idris’s long-lost nephew, the intrigue ratchets up in a flurry of love, lust, greed, treachery, deception, incest, and double and triple entendres. The script, written by the pseudonymous Erasmus Fenn, explains, “Playful abandon is what is important within the framework of a B Grade TV melodrama,” but unfortunately, too much of Drop Dead Perfect feels like “a B Grade TV melodrama” itself, even with tongue, and other body parts, firmly placed in cheek. (This raunchy comedy is most definitely not for kids.)
Directed by Joe Brancato (The Devil’s Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith) with a nonstop bravado, Drop Dead Perfect mixes Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Key Largo with Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood and lots of I Love Lucy; there are endless references to Lucy, Ricky Ricardo, and Fred and Ethel (Mae Potter) Mertz that are funny at first before growing stale and tiresome. James J. Fenton’s sitcomlike set is cozy, Charlotte Palmer-Lane’s costumes are spot-on, and William Neal’s score is appropriately exaggerated, as are the phallic sculptures that Vivien makes in order to win a scholarship. (She titles one of them “Life in Hard Times.”) It’s always a thrill to see Obie and Drama Desk Award winner Quinton (The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Tale of Two Cities), who does some fab scenery chewing, matched bite for bite by Cook (Grinch, The Underclassman), but Cruz can’t quite keep up, his hot Latino gestures overblown. “Not since Jane Austen or Harlequin have we seen such a tale,” Goodwin says as his character’s son, who serves as narrator. It’s just that kind of bluster that prevents Drop Dead Perfect from sustaining itself for the full ninety minutes, trying to be more than it is. Sometimes a little subtlety is more than welcome.
Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal
89 East 42nd St. at Vanderbilt Ave.
August 24-28, free, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm & 4:00 - 7:00
For the second August in a row, Grand Central Terminal’s classy Vanderbilt Hall is getting a makeover, being transformed into an indoor public picnic space August 24-28, with tables covered in gingham cloth, an AstroTurf floor, prizes and giveaways, and food from many of the restaurants that are located throughout GCT. “Life’s a Picnic in Grand Central” will also feature free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and live performances. You can bring your own lunch or pick up specials from a rotating lineup of GCT eateries, including Café Spice, Ceriello Fine Foods, Café Grumpy, Jacques Torres Ice Cream, Financier Patisserie, Junior’s Bakery, Magnolia Bakery, Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate, Zaro’s Bakery, Manhattan Chili Co., Li-Lac Chocolates, Manhattan Chili Co., Shiro of Japan, and Murray’s Cheese. Below is the lineup of special events.
Monday, August 24
Live Food Demonstrations: The Bar Burger by Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s, sushi rolling by Chef Hiro Isikawa of Shiro of Japan, mozzarella making with Dan Belmont of Murray’s Cheese, and cupcake decorating by Amy Tamulonis from Magnolia Bakery, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater presents “Echoes of Etta: A Tribute to Etta James,” featuring William Blake & Michael Thomas Murray, 4:30 - 6:30
Tuesday, August 25
Broadway Hour featuring live performance and more from the Broadway musical Wicked, 12:30
Music Under New York: Robert Anderson Jazz Trio, 4:00 - 7:00
Wednesday, August 26
Big Apple Circus presents Peety the Clown’s Yo-Yos & Stuff Show, 12 noon – 2:00 pm
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater presents Danny Lipsitz and His Brass Tacks, 4:00 – 7:00
Thursday, August 27
Broadway Hour featuring musical performances from the Broadway musicals On the Town and Finding Neverland, 12:30 – 1:30
Music Under New York: Receta Secreta, 4:00 – 7:00
Friday, August 28
Broadway Hour: musical performances from Chicago, Something Rotten! and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, 12:30 – 1:30
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave.
BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St.
BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Pl.
September 16 – December 20, $20-$135
Every fall, we practically move into BAM for its annual Next Wave Festival, three months of exciting, challenging, and cutting-edge dance, music, theater, and other arts. And this year is no exception, with a roster of events that has us salivating. The star attraction is Ivo van Hove’s Antigone, a multimedia adaptation of Sophokles’s classic Greek tragedy in a new colloquial translation by Anne Carson and featuring Oscar winner Juliette Binoche in the title role. Other theater highlights are Stan Douglas and Chris Haddock’s multimedia stage noir, Helen Lawrence; Carl Hancock Rux’s The Exalted, about German-Jewish writer and art historian Carl Einstein, genocide, and genealogy, directed by Anne Bogart and with live music by Theo Bleckman; Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paterson Joseph portraying Charles “Sancho” Ignatius in the one-man show Sancho: An Act of Remembrance; and John Jahnke and Hotel Savant’s Alas, the Nymphs, a modern reimagination of the story of Greek mythological figure Hylas.
The dance lineup at the 2015 Next Wave Festival is extraordinary as always, led by the return of German choreographer Sasha Waltz with Continu, a wild piece of dance theater set to Edgard Varèse’s “Arcana,” and Japanese Butoh troupe Sankai Juku’s Umusuna: Memories Before History, Ushio Amagatsu’s meditative exploration of history through fire, water, air, and earth. The season also includes Finnish choreographer Kenneth Kvarnström’s experimental Tape, the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s Rice, U-Theatre’s Beyond Time, Souleymane Badolo’s Yimbégré, Urban Bush Women’s Walking with ’Trane, Mark Morris’s annual holiday favorite The Hard Nut, and Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in David Michalek’s Hagoromo, with choreography by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green, and Nathan Davis’s score performed live by the International Contemporary Ensemble.
The music program features one of the most unusual works, Kid Koala’s adaptation of his graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall, about a robot in love with an office mate, for which Kid Koala will be joined by the Afiara Quartet. In All Vows, cellist Maya Beiser teams up with bassist Jherek Bischoff, drummer Zachary Alford, and filmmaker Bill Morrison. Timur and the Dime Museum say a glam farewell to the environment in Collapse. In Real Enemies, Darcy James Argue and his Secret Society big band join forces with filmmaker Peter Nigrini, writer-director Isaac Butler, and designer Maruti Evans to delve into American conspiracy theories. South African genius William Kentridge is back at BAM with the multimedia opera Refuse the Hour, a companion piece to his immersive “Refusal of Time” installation recently acquired by the Met. Drummer Jim White and Sasha Waltz & Guests dancer Claudia de Serpa Soares perform on one side of a two-way mirror in More up a tree. And Steppenwolf cofounder Terry Kinney turns Portland indie group Other Lives’ stage show into a multimedia experience. Tickets are going fast — Miranda July’s participatory New Society is already sold out, as is Théâtre de l’Atelier’s Savannah Bay, both of which take place at the small BAM Fisher, where all tickets are always a mere $25 — so don’t hesitate if you want to catch some of these fab presentations.
September 7-20, buy one ticket, get one free
Tickets are now on sale for the summer edition of Broadway Week, which runs September 7-20 and offers theater lovers a chance to see new and long-running shows for half-price as well as have an opportunity to pay a $20 fee to upgrade to better seats. Twenty-two shows are participating, but they’re already starting to sell out, with the most popular selections being Aladdin, Fun Home, and The Lion King. Among the other choices are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, An American in Paris, Hand to God, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The King and I, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Kinky Boots, Something Rotten!, the rebooted Les Misérables, Matilda the Musical, Spring Awakening, and such longtime mainstays as Wicked, Jersey Boys, Chicago, and The Phantom of the Opera. You can look all you want, but the two-for-one list still does not include The Book of Mormon, unfortunately.