This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

THE HOMEBOUND PROJECT SPECIAL EDITION: 2021

Who: Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, Christopher Abbott, Deirdre O’Connell, Emily Kuroda, Michael Chernus, Jojo Brown, Dalia Davi, Nicholas Gorham, Carolyn Ratteray, Stacey Karen Robinson, Babak Tafti, Daigi-Ann Thompson, Paul Sparks, Eden Malyn, Amanda Seyfried, Sting
What: New online theatrical works to benefit No Kid Hungry
Where: Link supplied by the Homebound Project after donation
When: January 27-31, $10 or more, 7:00
Why: One of the best theatrical series during the pandemic has been the Homebound Project, short one-act plays, generally between five and ten minutes each, featuring award-winning actors, writers, and directors, filmed wherever the performer is sheltering in place. Among the many highlights from the first five iterations were Alison Pill in C. A. Johnson’s diversions, Marin Ireland in Eliza Clark’s The Jessicas, Kimberly Hébert Gregory in Loy A. Webb’s These Hands, Utkarsh Ambudkar in Marco Ramirez’s Is This a Play Yet, Ashley Park in Bess Wohl’s The Morning Message to the Second Graders in Room 206, Daveed Diggs in Johnson’s Here and Now, Diane Lane in Michael R. Jackson’s Let’s Save the World, Sue Jean Kim in Leslye Headland’s The Rat, ​Marquise Vilsón in Migdalia Cruz’s Meat & Other Broken Promises, and Brian Cox and his wife and children in Melis Aker’s Fractio Panis. If you didn’t catch them the first time around, when they ran online for four days each, then you’re out of luck. But you can soon catch the surprise sixth presentation, which premieres January 27 at 7:00 and can be viewed, with a minimum donation of ten dollars, through January 31 at 7:00. All proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry; more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been collected so far. Much of the reason why they decided to add this extra edition is because of the continued lockdown of many schools and the resulting food insecurity many children are experiencing.

The theme of the first five installments were “Home,” “Sustenance,” “Champions,” “Promise,” and “Homemade”; taking on the prompt of “2021” are the following exciting actor/writer/director collaborations: Christopher Abbott and Deirdre O’Connell / Lucy Thurber / Caitriona McLaughlin (Port Isabel); Dylan Baker and Becky Ann Baker / David Lindsay-Abaire / Paul Mullins (The Narrows); Jojo Brown / Cece Suazo / Jenna Worsham (Things That Were Said to Me​); Michael Chernus / Adam Rapp / Adam Rapp (Sand and Snow); Dalia Davi / Ren Dara Santiago / Jenna Worsham (Someone’s Family); Nicholas Gorham / Brian Otaño / Tatiana Pandiani (close your eyes and count to ten); Emily Kuroda / Kate Cortesi / Jenna Worsham (I love parties); Eden Malyn and Catya McMullen / Catya McMullen (She’s a leaper); Carolyn Ratteray / Bekah Brunstetter (My Mouth); Stacey Karen Robinson / Sharon Bridgforth (bull-jean & dem/dey back); Paul Sparks / Brian Watkins / Danya Taymor (Thing on the Dash); Babak Tafti / Colette Robert / Taylor Reynolds (notes from a survivalist); and Daigi-Ann Thompson / Julissa Contreras (Essential), with special appearances by Amanda Seyfried and Sting.

ARTISTS & COMMUNITY: VIRTUAL EXPLORATION OF THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Arin Arbus and John Douglas Thompson offer a sneak peek at production of The Merchant of Venice this week

Who: Arin Arbus, John Douglas Thompson, Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, Graham Winton
What: Pair of readings and talkbacks about The Merchant of Venice
Where: Theatre for a New Audience
When: Wednesday, July 27, 7:00, and Saturday, July 30, 3:00, free with RSVP
Why: Theatre for a New Audience is planning on staging an in-person adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice once theaters are allowed to reopen in New York City. On January 27 and 30, TFANA will give a sneak peek at its take on the problematic play for the new series “Artists & Community.” Director Arin Arbus and award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson, who have previously worked together on Othello, Macbeth, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and Strindberg’s The Father, are teaming up again for the Bard’s seriocomic work about romance and moneylending. Thompson, who will be playing Shylock, will be joined on Zoom by Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, and Graham Winton, performing Act I, Scene III; Act II, Scenes III and V; and Act III, Scene I on January 27 at 7:00 and Act IV, Scene I: The Trial on July 30 at 3:00. Both free readings will be followed by a talkback with Arbus and members of the cast, moderated by TFANA founding artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz, who said in a statement, “On January 9, the Royal Shakespeare Company, with TFANA and the Young Vic, copresented a livestreamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 Broadway musical Swingin’ the Dream. I’m thrilled that TFANA will now offer another first look: a behind-the-scenes exploration of Shakespeare’s provocative, polarizing play.” Among the lines they are likely to examine is Portia’s courtroom question “Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?”

BROADWAY CARES / EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS: THREE HOTELS BENEFIT READING

Who: Bobby Cannavale, Marisa Tomei
What: Livestreamed reading produced by Tectonic Theater Project
Where: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and YouTube
When: Tuesday, January 26, free (donations accepted), 8:00 (available through January 30)
Why: Originally commissioned for public television, Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels consists of a trio of confessional monologues by executive Ken Hoyle and his wife, Barbara, dealing with personal tragedy and professional complications. First presented by Circle Rep in 1993 with Ron Rifkin and Christine Lahti, it played the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1995 with Richard Dreyfuss and Lahti and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2011 with Steven Weber and Maura Tierney. Tectonic Theater Project is now teaming up with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for a benefit reading of the work with Bobby Cannavale and Marisa Tomei, helmed by Tectonic cofounder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman. “I think I first conceived of Three Hotels as an act of vengeance on my parents’ behalf — this being the kind of hubris only children are capable of, and only when they believe, erroneously or not, that they have witnessed the humiliation of a mother and father,” Baitz writes in an introductory note to the published version. “Memory is everything to me.” The play will stream live on January 26 at 8:00, with an introduction by two-time Pulitzer finalist Baitz (The Substance of Fire, Other Desert Cities) and two-time Tony nominee Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Torch Song), and will be available through January 30. Every dollar donated will help fight HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, and other critical illnesses across the country; Broadway Cares will also be presenting Anjou: The Musical Horror Tale on January 29 and ABC Daytime: Back on Broadway on February 11 with Bobbie Eakes, Melissa Claire Egan, Vincent Irizarry, Eva La Rue, Susan Lucci, Cameron Mathison, Eden Riegel, Chrishell Stause, and Walt Willey from All My Children, Kristen Alderson, BethAnn Fuenmayor, Kathy Brier, Kassie DePaiva, David Gregory, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Catherine Hickland, Mark Lawson, Hillary B. Smith, Jason Tam, and Brittany Underwood from One Life to Live, and Bradford Anderson, Brandon Barash, and Anthony Geary from General Hospital.

IRISH REP ONLINE: THEATRE @ HOME WINTER FESTIVAL

KT Sullivan and Steve Ross follow Covid-19 protocols in restaging their Irish Rep hit, Love, Noël, at the Players (photo courtesy Irish Rep)

Irish Rep Online
January 26 - February 21, free (donations accepted)
https://irishrep.org

New York City’s Irish Rep has been one of the busiest and most innovative companies during the pandemic lockdown, presenting a steady stream of online programming, highlighted by new virtual productions of previously staged shows, each available for a limited time. Called “A Performance on Screen,” the works range from gleeful musicals to haunting tales, filmed at the Irish Rep, in actors’ homes, or over Zoom using technology that makes it appear that the characters are in the same space, interacting with one another directly. Nine of the shows are having four encores apiece for the Theatre @ Home Winter Festival, running January 26 through February 21; tickets are free, although there is a suggested donation of $25 (or $100 for the full festival) if you are able to give. The Irish Rep has been a treasure since its founding in 1988, so it is a joy to see it continuing its established tradition during these challenging times. Below is more information about each show as well as a pair of bonus events.

January 26, February 6, 13, 18
Molly Sweeney: A Performance on Screen
Geraldine Hughes and Ciarán O’Reilly reprise their roles as Molly and Frank from the Irish Rep’s 2011 production of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney, joined by Paul O’Brien as Mr. Rice, whom he played in Keen Company’s 2012 revival. Directed by Charlotte Moore, the story of isolation and fear focuses on a blind woman who is convinced to try to restore her sight through medical means.

January 27, February 2, 14, 17
YES! Reflections of Molly Bloom: A Performance on Screen
It doesn’t get much more intimate than Aedín Moloney and Colum McCann’s adaptation taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which Moloney plays a lustful and heartbroken Molly Bloom, wife of Leopold. Featuring music by her father, Paddy Moloney, the show was recorded on an iPhone from a bedroom in Miami, where Aedín holds nothing back in a bold and moving performance.

January 27, February 6, 10, 19
The Weir: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep virtual restaging of its 2013 and 2015 productions of Conor McPherson’s ghostly play will make you feel like you’re in the pub with Finbar (Sean Gormley), Jim (John Keating), Jack, (Dan Butler), Brendan (Tim Ruddy), and Valerie (Amanda Quaid) as they share ghost stories and drink on an eerie night. Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, the show is one of the best recorded events of the pandemic.

January 28, February 3, 14, 20
Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward — A Performance on Screen
Steve Ross and KT Sullivan reunite at the historic Players club for a virtual edition of their summer 2019 sold-out hit at the Irish Rep, Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward. Written and devised by Barry Day and directed by Charlotte Moore following Covid-19 protocols, the show features the music and letters of the English bon vivant, including catty comments about Gertrude Lawrence, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Elaine Stritch, Lynn Fontanne, Virginia Woolf, Edna Ferber, and the Queen Mother.

Bill Irwin revisits On Beckett virtually at the Irish Rep (photo courtesy Irish Rep)

January 29, February 7, 13, 17
Belfast Blues: A Performance on Screen
Irish actress and playwright Geraldine Hughes says goodbye to her 2003 autobiographical one-woman show, about her childhood growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, in this farewell performance recorded in 2019 at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, directed by Carol Kane. Hughes portrays twenty-four characters as she relates her story with candor and humor, in front of a hugely appreciative home audience.

January 30, February 7, 10, 21
Give Me Your Hand: A Poetical Stroll through the National Gallery of London — A Performance on Screen
Dermot Crowley and Dearbhla Molloy lead the audience through the National Gallery of London in this performance recorded at the Coronet Theatre in London and directed by Jamie Beamish. Crowley and Molloy discuss works by Van Gogh, Van Eyck, Rubens, Gainsborough, and others, enhanced by the poetry of Paul Durcan.

January 30, February 4, 12, 16
A Touch of the Poet: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep was four weeks into rehearsal for its spring revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet when the pandemic lockdown shuttered theaters across the city. But the troupe soldiered ahead, reimagining the show for a virtual audience, shipping Alejo Vietti’s costumes to wherever the actors were sheltering in place as well as using Robert Charles Vallance’s hair and wig design, Joe Dulude’s makeup, Ryan Rumery’s original music, and even Charlie Corcoran’s set. The original cast of Belle Aykroyd, Ciaran Byrne, Robert Cuccioli, Mary McCann, Andy Murray, David O’Hara, Tim Ruddy, David Sitler, and John C. Vennema, led by a terrific Kate Forbes as Nora, makes you feel welcome in the Boston tavern owned by the Melodi family, even if this is not one of O’Neill’s best plays.

January 31, February 5, 10, 20
On Beckett / In Screen — An Exploration of the Works of Samuel Beckett: A Performance on Screen
Bill Irwin adapts his exquisite one-man show for the pandemic, adding elements of the lockdown as he delves into his long relationship with the works of Samuel Beckett, in particular Beckett’s 1955 collection Texts for Nothing, his 1950s novels The Unnamable and Watt, and the classic Waiting for Godot. Directed for the camera by M. Florian Staab and Irwin, it begins with Irwin walking down West Twenty-Second St. and entering the Irish Rep, an act that is both sad and defiant; we might not be able to go inside right now and watch him perform in person, but he’s not about to let that stop him from sharing his fabulous story while implying that we will all be inside, together again, at some point.

January 31, February 3, 11, 21
Meet Me in St. Louis: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep drew raves for its abridged virtual version of the 1989 Broadway musical Meet Me in St. Louis, itself based on the 1944 Christmas movie and the 1941-42 Kensington Stories by Sally Benson. This online production was adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, who played Anna Smith in the original Broadway cast; the book is by Hugh Wheeler, with songs (“The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Shereen Ahmed stars as Esther Smith, with Melissa Errico as Mrs. Smith, Max Von Essen as John Truitt, Ali Ewoldt as Rose Smith, and Ian Holcomb as Warren Sheffield, along with William Bellamy, Rufus Collins, Kerry Conte, Kathy Fitzgerald, Austyn Johnson, Jay Aubrey Jones, Kylie Kuioka, and Ashley Robinson.

BONUS I: January 29, $10, 3:00
The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival
In May, the Irish Rep premiered Darren Murphy’s The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, a short play told over a smartphone, one of the first livestreamed theatrical works to deal with Covid-19, as Tom (Marty Rea), sick with the novel coronavirus, cannot visit his mother, Rose (Marie Mullen), who is dying and being cared for by her brother, Larry (Seán McGinley). You can watch a rebroadcast on January 29 at 3:00 as part of the Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival.

BONUS II: Ongoing
Plaguey Hill: A New Work by Paul Muldoon
The Irish Rep is currently streaming Plaguey Hill, a twenty-minute piece featuring fifteen newly composed sonnets by Paul Muldoon (Incantata, The Dead, 1904) about how he is dealing with the lockdown, read by Liev Schreiber onstage at the Rep, with gorgeous musical interludes by saxophonist Lenny Pickett.

SPECIAL EVENT BENEFIT READING AND BULL SESSION: THE WOMAN HATER

Who: Red Bull Theater company
What: Benefit reading of The Woman Hater and live Q&A
Where: Red Bull Theater website and Facebook Live
When: Monday, January 25, free (suggested donation $25), 7:30 (available on demand through January 29); Bull Session on Thursday, January 28, free, 7:30
Why: For its previous livestream benefit reading, Red Bull Theater, known for its exquisite stagings of Jacobean plays — the company was named after an English playhouse that produced works between 1604 and 1642, not after an energy drink — dipped its toes into the contemporary era with Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III, which was written in 1994 and set in 1821. Red Bull heads to the turn of the eighteenth century with a benefit reading of Frances Burney’s rarely performed The Woman Hater, a protofeminist satire of romance, misogyny, and high society. “The discovery of Frances Burney’s stage plays is a wonderful revelation, and it is a joy for us to be able to share what just might be her funniest play with audiences online,” artistic director Jesse Berger said in a statement. Directed by Everett Quinton and featuring Bill Army, Arnie Burton, Veanne Cox, Rebecca S’Manga Frank, Cherie Corinne Rice, Matthew Saldivar, Jenne Vath, and Nick Westrate, with visual design by David M. Barber and costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti, the work will be performed live January 25 at 7:30 and will be available on demand through January 29.

David M. Barber designed the visual backdrops for Red Bull reading of The Woman Hater

In addition, Red Bull is hosting a Bull Session on January 28 at 7:30 with Quinton, members of the cast, and scholar Tara K. Menon, who in a statement explained, “Frances Burney wrote The Woman Hater between 1796 and 1801. Although the play was never performed in public, Burney drew a cast list of prominent actors from Drury Lane, including Sarah Siddons, the best known tragedienne of the day, as Eleonora. The play shares its title with the 1607 play by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, which also lampoons misogyny. Burney’s play first came to light in 1945 when the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library acquired a collection of her writing. Her plays were published for the first time in 1995. The Woman Hater is best characterized as a sentimental comedy, but it contains elements of several other genres including gothic drama, farce, and comedy of manners.” It also has echoes of Burney’s 1779 comedy, The Witlings. Tickets to both events are free, but there is a $25 suggested donation for the reading if you are able to contribute.

ORIGINAL CAST BENEFIT READING SERIES: GLORIA

Who: Kyle Beltran, Catherine Combs, Michael Crane, Jennifer Kim, Jeanine Serralles, Ryan Spahn
What: Livestreamed benefit reunion reading
Where: Vineyard Theatre
When: January 19-24, $25
Why: In May 2015, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Gloria premiered at the Vineyard Theatre, a dark, satirical drama set in a Manhattan magazine office where a sudden, tragic event upends the normalcy of the everyday work environment forever. The original cast is reuniting January 19 at 7:00 for a benefit reading, with Kyle Beltran as Miles, Shawn, and Rashaad, Catherine Combs as Ani, Sasha, and Callie, Michael Crane as Lorin, Jennifer Kim as Kendra and Jenna, Jeanine Serralles as Gloria and Nan, and Ryan Spahn as Dean and Devin; many of the characters dream of becoming famous before they reach thirty, but. . . . The Pulitzer Prize finalist received multiple nominations for outstanding play and supporting actress (Serralles); the reading, which can be viewed through January 24, will also bring back original director Evan Cabnet. Jacobs-Jenkins is one of America’s sharpest playwrights; his other shows include Girls, Everybody, War, Appropriate, An Octoroon, and Neighbors, each of which made a significant impact on the theater community. Up next in the Vineyard’s Original Cast Benefit Reading Series is Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination, directed by Joe Morton and starring Morton and Sally Murphy, reprising their roles from the 2001-2 Vineyard production helmed by Diane Paulus.

THE APPROACH

Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach will be streamed live from Dublin for three performances (photo by Patrick Redmond)

Who: Cathy Belton, Derbhle Crotty, Aisling O’Sullivan
What: Livestreamed production of Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach from Dublin
Where: St. Ann’s Warehouse
When: January 21 (2:30 am), 23 (2:30 am), 24 (4:00 pm), €25-€50 (live), January 25-31 on demand, €20
Why: As theater companies continue to adapt to presenting works during the pandemic lockdown, audiences have had to adapt as well. Most of the online productions have been either previously recorded versions of pre-coronavirus stage productions or Zoom readings, which lack the urgency of live theater. But some shows, primarily from across the pond, have been performed live from indoor theaters, resulting in a joyous excitement as people from all over the world experience the work in real time, together, with no pausing or rewinding, a story unfolding as it happens. On January 21, 23, and 24, St. Ann’s Warehouse and Landmark Productions have teamed up to stream three live performances of Mark O’Rowe’s 2018 sold-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit, The Approach, broadcast from the Project Arts Centre stage in Dublin; the play will then be available for on-demand viewing January 25-31.

The hourlong show is also directed by O’Rowe (DruidShakespeare, Howie the Rookie), who wrote the emotion-packed play specifically for Irish stars Cathy Belton (The House, Women in Arms), Derbhle Crotty (DruidShakespeare, The Home Place), and Aisling O’Sullivan (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Big Maggie), who have reunited for this virtual revival. They portray two sisters and a best friend who have drifted apart but reexamine their relationships through three conversations over five years, which can feel particularly relevant while we are all sheltering in place, having Zoom calls with friends and family, including those we might not have seen in a long time. “It takes a crisis of some sort sometimes, or an upheaval, for people to really evaluate how they feel about one another, doesn’t it?” one character says. The production features set and lighting by Sinead McKenna, costumes by Joan O’Clery, and sound by Philip Stewart, attempting to bring as much of the real theater experience as possible to our small screens. (The January 23 show will be followed by a talkback with members of the cast and crew.)

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This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

THE HOMEBOUND PROJECT SPECIAL EDITION: 2021

Who: Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, Christopher Abbott, Deirdre O’Connell, Emily Kuroda, Michael Chernus, Jojo Brown, Dalia Davi, Nicholas Gorham, Carolyn Ratteray, Stacey Karen Robinson, Babak Tafti, Daigi-Ann Thompson, Paul Sparks, Eden Malyn, Amanda Seyfried, Sting
What: New online theatrical works to benefit No Kid Hungry
Where: Link supplied by the Homebound Project after donation
When: January 27-31, $10 or more, 7:00
Why: One of the best theatrical series during the pandemic has been the Homebound Project, short one-act plays, generally between five and ten minutes each, featuring award-winning actors, writers, and directors, filmed wherever the performer is sheltering in place. Among the many highlights from the first five iterations were Alison Pill in C. A. Johnson’s diversions, Marin Ireland in Eliza Clark’s The Jessicas, Kimberly Hébert Gregory in Loy A. Webb’s These Hands, Utkarsh Ambudkar in Marco Ramirez’s Is This a Play Yet, Ashley Park in Bess Wohl’s The Morning Message to the Second Graders in Room 206, Daveed Diggs in Johnson’s Here and Now, Diane Lane in Michael R. Jackson’s Let’s Save the World, Sue Jean Kim in Leslye Headland’s The Rat, ​Marquise Vilsón in Migdalia Cruz’s Meat & Other Broken Promises, and Brian Cox and his wife and children in Melis Aker’s Fractio Panis. If you didn’t catch them the first time around, when they ran online for four days each, then you’re out of luck. But you can soon catch the surprise sixth presentation, which premieres January 27 at 7:00 and can be viewed, with a minimum donation of ten dollars, through January 31 at 7:00. All proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry; more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been collected so far. Much of the reason why they decided to add this extra edition is because of the continued lockdown of many schools and the resulting food insecurity many children are experiencing.

The theme of the first five installments were “Home,” “Sustenance,” “Champions,” “Promise,” and “Homemade”; taking on the prompt of “2021” are the following exciting actor/writer/director collaborations: Christopher Abbott and Deirdre O’Connell / Lucy Thurber / Caitriona McLaughlin (Port Isabel); Dylan Baker and Becky Ann Baker / David Lindsay-Abaire / Paul Mullins (The Narrows); Jojo Brown / Cece Suazo / Jenna Worsham (Things That Were Said to Me​); Michael Chernus / Adam Rapp / Adam Rapp (Sand and Snow); Dalia Davi / Ren Dara Santiago / Jenna Worsham (Someone’s Family); Nicholas Gorham / Brian Otaño / Tatiana Pandiani (close your eyes and count to ten); Emily Kuroda / Kate Cortesi / Jenna Worsham (I love parties); Eden Malyn and Catya McMullen / Catya McMullen (She’s a leaper); Carolyn Ratteray / Bekah Brunstetter (My Mouth); Stacey Karen Robinson / Sharon Bridgforth (bull-jean & dem/dey back); Paul Sparks / Brian Watkins / Danya Taymor (Thing on the Dash); Babak Tafti / Colette Robert / Taylor Reynolds (notes from a survivalist); and Daigi-Ann Thompson / Julissa Contreras (Essential), with special appearances by Amanda Seyfried and Sting.

ARTISTS & COMMUNITY: VIRTUAL EXPLORATION OF THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Arin Arbus and John Douglas Thompson offer a sneak peek at production of The Merchant of Venice this week

Who: Arin Arbus, John Douglas Thompson, Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, Graham Winton
What: Pair of readings and talkbacks about The Merchant of Venice
Where: Theatre for a New Audience
When: Wednesday, July 27, 7:00, and Saturday, July 30, 3:00, free with RSVP
Why: Theatre for a New Audience is planning on staging an in-person adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice once theaters are allowed to reopen in New York City. On January 27 and 30, TFANA will give a sneak peek at its take on the problematic play for the new series “Artists & Community.” Director Arin Arbus and award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson, who have previously worked together on Othello, Macbeth, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and Strindberg’s The Father, are teaming up again for the Bard’s seriocomic work about romance and moneylending. Thompson, who will be playing Shylock, will be joined on Zoom by Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, and Graham Winton, performing Act I, Scene III; Act II, Scenes III and V; and Act III, Scene I on January 27 at 7:00 and Act IV, Scene I: The Trial on July 30 at 3:00. Both free readings will be followed by a talkback with Arbus and members of the cast, moderated by TFANA founding artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz, who said in a statement, “On January 9, the Royal Shakespeare Company, with TFANA and the Young Vic, copresented a livestreamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 Broadway musical Swingin’ the Dream. I’m thrilled that TFANA will now offer another first look: a behind-the-scenes exploration of Shakespeare’s provocative, polarizing play.” Among the lines they are likely to examine is Portia’s courtroom question “Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?”

BROADWAY CARES / EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS: THREE HOTELS BENEFIT READING

Who: Bobby Cannavale, Marisa Tomei
What: Livestreamed reading produced by Tectonic Theater Project
Where: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and YouTube
When: Tuesday, January 26, free (donations accepted), 8:00 (available through January 30)
Why: Originally commissioned for public television, Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels consists of a trio of confessional monologues by executive Ken Hoyle and his wife, Barbara, dealing with personal tragedy and professional complications. First presented by Circle Rep in 1993 with Ron Rifkin and Christine Lahti, it played the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1995 with Richard Dreyfuss and Lahti and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2011 with Steven Weber and Maura Tierney. Tectonic Theater Project is now teaming up with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for a benefit reading of the work with Bobby Cannavale and Marisa Tomei, helmed by Tectonic cofounder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman. “I think I first conceived of Three Hotels as an act of vengeance on my parents’ behalf — this being the kind of hubris only children are capable of, and only when they believe, erroneously or not, that they have witnessed the humiliation of a mother and father,” Baitz writes in an introductory note to the published version. “Memory is everything to me.” The play will stream live on January 26 at 8:00, with an introduction by two-time Pulitzer finalist Baitz (The Substance of Fire, Other Desert Cities) and two-time Tony nominee Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Torch Song), and will be available through January 30. Every dollar donated will help fight HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, and other critical illnesses across the country; Broadway Cares will also be presenting Anjou: The Musical Horror Tale on January 29 and ABC Daytime: Back on Broadway on February 11 with Bobbie Eakes, Melissa Claire Egan, Vincent Irizarry, Eva La Rue, Susan Lucci, Cameron Mathison, Eden Riegel, Chrishell Stause, and Walt Willey from All My Children, Kristen Alderson, BethAnn Fuenmayor, Kathy Brier, Kassie DePaiva, David Gregory, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Catherine Hickland, Mark Lawson, Hillary B. Smith, Jason Tam, and Brittany Underwood from One Life to Live, and Bradford Anderson, Brandon Barash, and Anthony Geary from General Hospital.

IRISH REP ONLINE: THEATRE @ HOME WINTER FESTIVAL

KT Sullivan and Steve Ross follow Covid-19 protocols in restaging their Irish Rep hit, Love, Noël, at the Players (photo courtesy Irish Rep)

Irish Rep Online
January 26 - February 21, free (donations accepted)
https://irishrep.org

New York City’s Irish Rep has been one of the busiest and most innovative companies during the pandemic lockdown, presenting a steady stream of online programming, highlighted by new virtual productions of previously staged shows, each available for a limited time. Called “A Performance on Screen,” the works range from gleeful musicals to haunting tales, filmed at the Irish Rep, in actors’ homes, or over Zoom using technology that makes it appear that the characters are in the same space, interacting with one another directly. Nine of the shows are having four encores apiece for the Theatre @ Home Winter Festival, running January 26 through February 21; tickets are free, although there is a suggested donation of $25 (or $100 for the full festival) if you are able to give. The Irish Rep has been a treasure since its founding in 1988, so it is a joy to see it continuing its established tradition during these challenging times. Below is more information about each show as well as a pair of bonus events.

January 26, February 6, 13, 18
Molly Sweeney: A Performance on Screen
Geraldine Hughes and Ciarán O’Reilly reprise their roles as Molly and Frank from the Irish Rep’s 2011 production of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney, joined by Paul O’Brien as Mr. Rice, whom he played in Keen Company’s 2012 revival. Directed by Charlotte Moore, the story of isolation and fear focuses on a blind woman who is convinced to try to restore her sight through medical means.

January 27, February 2, 14, 17
YES! Reflections of Molly Bloom: A Performance on Screen
It doesn’t get much more intimate than Aedín Moloney and Colum McCann’s adaptation taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which Moloney plays a lustful and heartbroken Molly Bloom, wife of Leopold. Featuring music by her father, Paddy Moloney, the show was recorded on an iPhone from a bedroom in Miami, where Aedín holds nothing back in a bold and moving performance.

January 27, February 6, 10, 19
The Weir: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep virtual restaging of its 2013 and 2015 productions of Conor McPherson’s ghostly play will make you feel like you’re in the pub with Finbar (Sean Gormley), Jim (John Keating), Jack, (Dan Butler), Brendan (Tim Ruddy), and Valerie (Amanda Quaid) as they share ghost stories and drink on an eerie night. Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, the show is one of the best recorded events of the pandemic.

January 28, February 3, 14, 20
Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward — A Performance on Screen
Steve Ross and KT Sullivan reunite at the historic Players club for a virtual edition of their summer 2019 sold-out hit at the Irish Rep, Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward. Written and devised by Barry Day and directed by Charlotte Moore following Covid-19 protocols, the show features the music and letters of the English bon vivant, including catty comments about Gertrude Lawrence, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Elaine Stritch, Lynn Fontanne, Virginia Woolf, Edna Ferber, and the Queen Mother.

Bill Irwin revisits On Beckett virtually at the Irish Rep (photo courtesy Irish Rep)

January 29, February 7, 13, 17
Belfast Blues: A Performance on Screen
Irish actress and playwright Geraldine Hughes says goodbye to her 2003 autobiographical one-woman show, about her childhood growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, in this farewell performance recorded in 2019 at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, directed by Carol Kane. Hughes portrays twenty-four characters as she relates her story with candor and humor, in front of a hugely appreciative home audience.

January 30, February 7, 10, 21
Give Me Your Hand: A Poetical Stroll through the National Gallery of London — A Performance on Screen
Dermot Crowley and Dearbhla Molloy lead the audience through the National Gallery of London in this performance recorded at the Coronet Theatre in London and directed by Jamie Beamish. Crowley and Molloy discuss works by Van Gogh, Van Eyck, Rubens, Gainsborough, and others, enhanced by the poetry of Paul Durcan.

January 30, February 4, 12, 16
A Touch of the Poet: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep was four weeks into rehearsal for its spring revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet when the pandemic lockdown shuttered theaters across the city. But the troupe soldiered ahead, reimagining the show for a virtual audience, shipping Alejo Vietti’s costumes to wherever the actors were sheltering in place as well as using Robert Charles Vallance’s hair and wig design, Joe Dulude’s makeup, Ryan Rumery’s original music, and even Charlie Corcoran’s set. The original cast of Belle Aykroyd, Ciaran Byrne, Robert Cuccioli, Mary McCann, Andy Murray, David O’Hara, Tim Ruddy, David Sitler, and John C. Vennema, led by a terrific Kate Forbes as Nora, makes you feel welcome in the Boston tavern owned by the Melodi family, even if this is not one of O’Neill’s best plays.

January 31, February 5, 10, 20
On Beckett / In Screen — An Exploration of the Works of Samuel Beckett: A Performance on Screen
Bill Irwin adapts his exquisite one-man show for the pandemic, adding elements of the lockdown as he delves into his long relationship with the works of Samuel Beckett, in particular Beckett’s 1955 collection Texts for Nothing, his 1950s novels The Unnamable and Watt, and the classic Waiting for Godot. Directed for the camera by M. Florian Staab and Irwin, it begins with Irwin walking down West Twenty-Second St. and entering the Irish Rep, an act that is both sad and defiant; we might not be able to go inside right now and watch him perform in person, but he’s not about to let that stop him from sharing his fabulous story while implying that we will all be inside, together again, at some point.

January 31, February 3, 11, 21
Meet Me in St. Louis: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep drew raves for its abridged virtual version of the 1989 Broadway musical Meet Me in St. Louis, itself based on the 1944 Christmas movie and the 1941-42 Kensington Stories by Sally Benson. This online production was adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, who played Anna Smith in the original Broadway cast; the book is by Hugh Wheeler, with songs (“The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Shereen Ahmed stars as Esther Smith, with Melissa Errico as Mrs. Smith, Max Von Essen as John Truitt, Ali Ewoldt as Rose Smith, and Ian Holcomb as Warren Sheffield, along with William Bellamy, Rufus Collins, Kerry Conte, Kathy Fitzgerald, Austyn Johnson, Jay Aubrey Jones, Kylie Kuioka, and Ashley Robinson.

BONUS I: January 29, $10, 3:00
The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival
In May, the Irish Rep premiered Darren Murphy’s The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, a short play told over a smartphone, one of the first livestreamed theatrical works to deal with Covid-19, as Tom (Marty Rea), sick with the novel coronavirus, cannot visit his mother, Rose (Marie Mullen), who is dying and being cared for by her brother, Larry (Seán McGinley). You can watch a rebroadcast on January 29 at 3:00 as part of the Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival.

BONUS II: Ongoing
Plaguey Hill: A New Work by Paul Muldoon
The Irish Rep is currently streaming Plaguey Hill, a twenty-minute piece featuring fifteen newly composed sonnets by Paul Muldoon (Incantata, The Dead, 1904) about how he is dealing with the lockdown, read by Liev Schreiber onstage at the Rep, with gorgeous musical interludes by saxophonist Lenny Pickett.

SPECIAL EVENT BENEFIT READING AND BULL SESSION: THE WOMAN HATER

Who: Red Bull Theater company
What: Benefit reading of The Woman Hater and live Q&A
Where: Red Bull Theater website and Facebook Live
When: Monday, January 25, free (suggested donation $25), 7:30 (available on demand through January 29); Bull Session on Thursday, January 28, free, 7:30
Why: For its previous livestream benefit reading, Red Bull Theater, known for its exquisite stagings of Jacobean plays — the company was named after an English playhouse that produced works between 1604 and 1642, not after an energy drink — dipped its toes into the contemporary era with Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III, which was written in 1994 and set in 1821. Red Bull heads to the turn of the eighteenth century with a benefit reading of Frances Burney’s rarely performed The Woman Hater, a protofeminist satire of romance, misogyny, and high society. “The discovery of Frances Burney’s stage plays is a wonderful revelation, and it is a joy for us to be able to share what just might be her funniest play with audiences online,” artistic director Jesse Berger said in a statement. Directed by Everett Quinton and featuring Bill Army, Arnie Burton, Veanne Cox, Rebecca S’Manga Frank, Cherie Corinne Rice, Matthew Saldivar, Jenne Vath, and Nick Westrate, with visual design by David M. Barber and costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti, the work will be performed live January 25 at 7:30 and will be available on demand through January 29.

David M. Barber designed the visual backdrops for Red Bull reading of The Woman Hater

In addition, Red Bull is hosting a Bull Session on January 28 at 7:30 with Quinton, members of the cast, and scholar Tara K. Menon, who in a statement explained, “Frances Burney wrote The Woman Hater between 1796 and 1801. Although the play was never performed in public, Burney drew a cast list of prominent actors from Drury Lane, including Sarah Siddons, the best known tragedienne of the day, as Eleonora. The play shares its title with the 1607 play by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, which also lampoons misogyny. Burney’s play first came to light in 1945 when the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library acquired a collection of her writing. Her plays were published for the first time in 1995. The Woman Hater is best characterized as a sentimental comedy, but it contains elements of several other genres including gothic drama, farce, and comedy of manners.” It also has echoes of Burney’s 1779 comedy, The Witlings. Tickets to both events are free, but there is a $25 suggested donation for the reading if you are able to contribute.

ORIGINAL CAST BENEFIT READING SERIES: GLORIA

Who: Kyle Beltran, Catherine Combs, Michael Crane, Jennifer Kim, Jeanine Serralles, Ryan Spahn
What: Livestreamed benefit reunion reading
Where: Vineyard Theatre
When: January 19-24, $25
Why: In May 2015, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Gloria premiered at the Vineyard Theatre, a dark, satirical drama set in a Manhattan magazine office where a sudden, tragic event upends the normalcy of the everyday work environment forever. The original cast is reuniting January 19 at 7:00 for a benefit reading, with Kyle Beltran as Miles, Shawn, and Rashaad, Catherine Combs as Ani, Sasha, and Callie, Michael Crane as Lorin, Jennifer Kim as Kendra and Jenna, Jeanine Serralles as Gloria and Nan, and Ryan Spahn as Dean and Devin; many of the characters dream of becoming famous before they reach thirty, but. . . . The Pulitzer Prize finalist received multiple nominations for outstanding play and supporting actress (Serralles); the reading, which can be viewed through January 24, will also bring back original director Evan Cabnet. Jacobs-Jenkins is one of America’s sharpest playwrights; his other shows include Girls, Everybody, War, Appropriate, An Octoroon, and Neighbors, each of which made a significant impact on the theater community. Up next in the Vineyard’s Original Cast Benefit Reading Series is Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination, directed by Joe Morton and starring Morton and Sally Murphy, reprising their roles from the 2001-2 Vineyard production helmed by Diane Paulus.

THE APPROACH

Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach will be streamed live from Dublin for three performances (photo by Patrick Redmond)

Who: Cathy Belton, Derbhle Crotty, Aisling O’Sullivan
What: Livestreamed production of Mark O’Rowe’s The Approach from Dublin
Where: St. Ann’s Warehouse
When: January 21 (2:30 am), 23 (2:30 am), 24 (4:00 pm), €25-€50 (live), January 25-31 on demand, €20
Why: As theater companies continue to adapt to presenting works during the pandemic lockdown, audiences have had to adapt as well. Most of the online productions have been either previously recorded versions of pre-coronavirus stage productions or Zoom readings, which lack the urgency of live theater. But some shows, primarily from across the pond, have been performed live from indoor theaters, resulting in a joyous excitement as people from all over the world experience the work in real time, together, with no pausing or rewinding, a story unfolding as it happens. On January 21, 23, and 24, St. Ann’s Warehouse and Landmark Productions have teamed up to stream three live performances of Mark O’Rowe’s 2018 sold-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit, The Approach, broadcast from the Project Arts Centre stage in Dublin; the play will then be available for on-demand viewing January 25-31.

The hourlong show is also directed by O’Rowe (DruidShakespeare, Howie the Rookie), who wrote the emotion-packed play specifically for Irish stars Cathy Belton (The House, Women in Arms), Derbhle Crotty (DruidShakespeare, The Home Place), and Aisling O’Sullivan (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Big Maggie), who have reunited for this virtual revival. They portray two sisters and a best friend who have drifted apart but reexamine their relationships through three conversations over five years, which can feel particularly relevant while we are all sheltering in place, having Zoom calls with friends and family, including those we might not have seen in a long time. “It takes a crisis of some sort sometimes, or an upheaval, for people to really evaluate how they feel about one another, doesn’t it?” one character says. The production features set and lighting by Sinead McKenna, costumes by Joan O’Clery, and sound by Philip Stewart, attempting to bring as much of the real theater experience as possible to our small screens. (The January 23 show will be followed by a talkback with members of the cast and crew.)