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

THE JUDAS KISS

(photo by Richard Termine)

Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) contemplates what might be his last night of freedom in THE JUDAS KISS (photo by Richard Termine)

Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 12, $30-$125
718-636-4100
www.bam.org

David Hare’s The Judas Kiss is a tale of two plays in more ways than one. The inaugural production in 1998 in London and on Broadway, starring Liam Neeson as Oscar Wilde, was such a critical flop that even Hare (Plenty, Skylight) himself admitted it was a failure. However, seeking to gain support for a film he wrote about Wilde, English actor Rupert Everett helped mount a 2012 revival of The Judas Kiss that has been garnering significantly better reviews as it tours the UK and Canada and has now settled in for a one-month run at the BAM Harvey through June 12. Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, An Ideal Husband) is triumphant as Wilde, but the disconnect between the first and second acts still prevents the play from being a complete success. (Interestingly, Hare made no changes to the script for this revival.) The Judas Kiss opens on April 5, 1895, at the Cadogan Hotel, as the staff, randy hotel employees Arthur Wellesley (Elliot Balchin) and Phoebe Cane (Jessie Hills) under the guidance of the staid and proper valet Sandy Moffat (Alister Cameron), prepares for the arrival of Wilde, who is being tried for “acts of gross indecency” by the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (Charlie Rowe), affectionately known as Bosie. Wilde’s manager and former lover, Robert Ross (Cal MacAninch) soon arrives and the conflict is set in motion: Ross wants Wilde to leave England immediately in order to escape prosecution, while Bosie wants him to stay and fight the charges, as a way for the young lad to stand up to his father. “It appears that the whole of London is fleeing. I looked from my coach. Every invert in the metropolitan area is now packing his bags and heading for France,” Wilde says. “It is a veritable mass migration. I’d never imagined diaspora could be on this scale. The takings at certain fashionable restaurants will tonight be counted in pennies. At a single stroke, the opera will be stone-dead as an art form.” But before choosing his course of action, Wilde explains what is most important. “Let us be realistic. In the name of our common humanity, let us get our priorities straight. Let us pause, let us make the seminal decision: it seems that I still have time for my lunch.” Slapstick comedy mixes with graver matters of freedom and love as Ross and Bosie argue over Wilde’s fate and a phalanx of reporters attempts to storm the hotel. Through it all, Wilde is both witty and effete, courteous and haughty, but time is clearly running out on him, as evidenced by the clock in the room, which has no hands.

(photo by Richard Termine)

Bosie (Charlie Rowe) and Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) face some harsh realities in David Hare revival at BAM (photo by Richard Termine)

The second act is dreary and dour, set two years later in a ramshackle hotel in Naples. Recently released from Reading Gaol, Wilde looks decades older, barely able to move out of his chair. He is joined by Bosie and Bosie’s latest lover, local fisherman Galileo Masconi (Tom Colley), who casually walks around completely naked before sitting on the floor and eating a sugared bun still au naturel. “Oh, it’s wonderful, it’s like a child, isn’t it?” Wilde says, staring lustily at Galileo. “Who said one can never go back? If only I could go back to that! If I ever was like that! Like an animal, like a cat. Truly, one should throw him a ball of string. Look at the little fellow.” But there is no going back for Wilde, now a sad, nearly penniless recluse, wasting away in Italy. “There is no morality in what is called morality; there is no sense in what is called sense; and least of all is there meaning in what is held to be meaning,” he tells Bosie. Director Neil Armfield (Diary of a Madman, Exit the King) can’t quite find the right balance between the engaging first act and the more stationary second act, relying too much on Everett’s towering presence even as he shrinks away. But Everett’s performance makes this Judas Kiss more than worthy; he plays the role with relish and panache, breathing exciting life into a familiar figure, bringing humanity to an often caricatured personality. (In preparing for the role, he even slept in Wilde’s old room at the Cadogan.) You can’t take your eyes off him, whether he’s enjoying champagne and lobster, trapped in his chair, or seen in an enveloping shadow on the wall. (The lighting is by Rick Fisher, sets by Dale Ferguson.) Alan John’s soundtrack is relatively unnecessary; at times it was so soft and distant that it appeared to be a cell phone going off in the audience. But the play remains as relevant as ever, with the continuing controversies and bullying over gay marriage and LGBTQ discrimination. “Just a century ago a man — Oscar — could be imprisoned and ruined — killed off, basically — simply for being gay,” Everett wrote in a recent column for the New York Times, referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage in England. “But tonight a homosexual stood on equal ground with the rest of society, and I was, quite unexpectedly, extremely moved.” So it’s a genuine treat to have Wilde, in the personage of Everett, back at BAM, where, in 1882 in the institution’s original home on Montague St., Wilde spoke as part of his North American lecture tour.

FREE SUMMER THEATER 2016

You can catch New York Classical rehearsing MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM in Central Park

You can catch New York Classical rehearsing MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM in Central Park

It might be hard to top the naked version of The Tempest that was recently staged in Central Park by the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, but New York Classical Theatre, Smith Street Stage, Hudson Warehouse, the Manhattan Shakespeare Project, Hip to Hip, the Public Theater, River to River, SummerStage, and others will be presenting clothed works in honor of the four hundredth anniversary of the death of the Bard. Don’t miss out on this city tradition or, as Will wrote in Sonnet 65: “O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out / Against the wreckful siege of batt’ring days, / When rocks impregnable are not so stout, / Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?” (Keep watching this space as more shows are announced.)

Daily through May 30
New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, open rehearsals, Central Park, 103rd St. & Central Park West, 12 noon - 5:30 pm

Tuesday, May 24
through
Sunday, June 26

Shakespeare in the Park: The Taming of the Shrew, starring JCandy Buckley, Donna Lynne Champlin, Morgan Everitt, Rosa Gilmore, Judy Gold, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Cush Jumbo, Teresa Avia Lim, Janet McTeer, Adrienne C. Moore, Anne L. Nathan, Gayle Rankin, Pearl Rhein, Leenya Rideout, Jackie Sanders, Stacey Sargeant, and Natalie Woolams-Torres, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Delacorte Theater, Central Park, 8:00

Tuesday, May 31
through
Sunday, June 5

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Central Park, 103rd St. & Central Park West, 7:00

Thursday, June 2
through
Sunday, June 5

Hudson Warehouse: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Tuesday, June 7
through
Sunday, June 12

Manhattan Shakespeare Project: Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello, directed by Sarah Eismann, Astoria Park, 6:00

Wednesday, June 8
through
Saturday, June 11

Inwood Shakespeare Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Moose Hall Theatre Company, directed by Ted Minos, Inwood Hill Park Peninsula, 7:30

Wednesday, June 8
through
Sunday, June 12

Shakespeare in Carroll Park: The Tempest, Smith Street Stage, directed by Beth Ann Hopkins, bring your own seating, Carroll Park, 7:30

Thursday, June 9
through
Sunday, June 12

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Central Park, 103rd St. & Central Park West, 7:00

Thursday, June 9
through
Sunday, June 12

Hudson Warehouse: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Wednesday, June 15
through
Saturday, June 18

Inwood Shakespeare Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Moose Hall Theatre Company, directed by Ted Minos, Inwood Hill Park Peninsula, 7:30

Wednesday, June 15
through
Sunday, June 19

Shakespeare in Carroll Park: The Tempest, Smith Street Stage, directed by Beth Ann Hopkins, bring your own seating, Carroll Park, 7:30

Kaneza Schaal will GO FORTH on Governors Island in June (photo by Maria Baranova)

Kaneza Schaal will GO FORTH on Governors Island in June (photo by Maria Baranova)

Thursday, June 16
through
Sunday, June 19

River to River Festival: Go Forth, by Kaneza Schaal, Arts Center, Governors Island, Building 110, advance RSVP required, 2:30 or 4:30

Thursday, June 16
through
Sunday, June 19

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Central Park, 103rd St. & Central Park West, 7:00

Thursday, June 16
through
Sunday, June 19

Hudson Warehouse: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Wednesday, June 22
through
Saturday, June 25

Inwood Shakespeare Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Moose Hall Theatre Company, directed by Ted Minos, Inwood Hill Park Peninsula, 7:30

Wednesday, June 22
through
Sunday, June 26

Shakespeare in Carroll Park: The Tempest, Smith Street Stage, directed by Beth Ann Hopkins, bring your own seating, Carroll Park, 7:30

Thursday, June 23
through
Friday, June 24

Manhattan Shakespeare Project: Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello, directed by Sarah Eismann, Summit Rock, Central Park, 6:00

Thursday, June 23
through
Sunday, June 26

Hudson Warehouse: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Thursday, June 23
through
Sunday, June 26

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Central Park, 103rd St. & Central Park West, 7:00

Saturday, June 25
River to River Festival: Open Studios with Kaneza Schaal, Arts Center, Governors Island, Building 110, advance RSVP required, 2:30

Saturday, June 25
and
Sunday, June 26

Manhattan Shakespeare Project: Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello, directed by Sarah Eismann, Morningside Park, 6:00

Wednesday, June 29
through
Saturday, July 2

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City, 7:00

Wednesday, June 29
through
Sunday, July 17

New York Classical Theatre: The Winter’s Tale, open rehearsals, meet at Castle Clinton, Battery Park, 12 noon - 5:30 pm

Thursday, June 30
through
Sunday, July 3

Hudson Warehouse: Lysistrata: “Let’s Make America Great Again,” by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Susane Lee, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

a study in othello

Wednesday, July 6
through
Sunday, July 10

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Prospect Park, 7:00

Thursday, July 7
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, July 7
through
Sunday, July 10

Manhattan Shakespeare Project: Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello, directed by Sarah Eismann, Summit Rock, Central Park, 6:00

Thursday, July 7
through
Sunday, July 10

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Drilling Company, directed by Cathy Curtiss, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Thursday, July 7
through
Sunday, July 10

Hudson Warehouse: Lysistrata: “Let’s Make America Great Again,” by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Susane Lee, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Friday, July 8
through
Sunday, July 31 (excluding Mondays)

SummerStage: The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents Macbeth, directed by Carl Cofield and starring Ty Jones, Marcus Garvey Park, 8:00 (Fridays 8:30)

Tuesday, July 12
Thursday, July 14
through
Sunday, July 17

New York Classical Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Carl Schurz Park, 7:00

Thursday, July 14
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, July 14
through
Sunday, July 17

Manhattan Shakespeare Project: Al’ukhraa: A Study in Othello, directed by Sarah Eismann, Morningside Park, 6:00

Thursday, July 14
through
Sunday, July 17

Hudson Warehouse: Lysistrata: “Let’s Make America Great Again,” by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Susane Lee, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Thursday, July 14
through
Sunday, July 17

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Drilling Company, directed by Cathy Curtiss, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Smith Street Stage will present THE TEMPEST in Carroll Park (photo by Chris Montgomery)

Smith Street Stage will present THE TEMPEST in Carroll Park (photo by Chris Montgomery)

Monday, July 18
through
Sunday, August 7 (excluding Thursdays)

New York Classical Theatre: The Winter’s Tale, meet at Castle Clinton, Battery Park, 7:00

Tuesday, July 19
through
Sunday, August 14

Shakespeare in the Park: Troilus and Cressida, directed by Daniel Sullivan, Delacorte Theater, Central Park, 8:00

Thursday, July 21
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, July 21
through
Sunday, July 24

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Drilling Company, directed by Cathy Curtiss, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Thursday, July 21
through
Sunday, July 24

Hudson Warehouse: Lysistrata: “Let’s Make America Great Again,” by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Susane Lee, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Wednesday, July 27
through
Sunday, August 28

Hip to Hip Theatre Company: As You Like It and Julius Caesar, performed in repertory in parks across the city, including Agawam Park, Crocheron Park, Cunningham Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Gantry Plaza State Park, Harlem Meer, Socrates Sculpture Park, Sunnyside Gardens Park, and Van Cortlandt Park, preceded by Kids & the Classics, Wednesday - Sunday at different times

Thursday, July 28
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, July 28
through
Sunday, July 31

Hudson Warehouse: Othello, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Thursday, July 28
through
Sunday, July 31

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: The Merchant of Venice, the Drilling Company, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Thursday, August 4
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, August 4
through
Sunday, August 7

Hudson Warehouse: Othello, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Thursday, August 4
through
Sunday, August 7

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: The Merchant of Venice, the Drilling Company, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Monday, August 8
through
Sunday, August 14 (excluding Thursdays)

New York Classical Theatre: The Winter’s Tale, meet at Bargemusic on Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park, 7:00

Thursday, August 11
Broadway in Bryant Park, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Thursday, August 11
through
Sunday, August 14

Hudson Warehouse: Othello, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Thursday, August 11
through
Sunday, August 14

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: The Merchant of Venice, the Drilling Company, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., 8:00

Thursday, August 18
through
Sunday, August 21

Hudson Warehouse: Othello, directed by Nicholas Martin-Smith, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Riverside Park, 6:30

Wednesday, August 31
SummerStage: Chicago the Musical: 20th Anniversary Concert, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, 8:0

SIGNATURE PLAYS

(photo by Monique Carboni)

A muscleman (Ryan-James Hatanaka) shows off his wares to Grandma (Phyllis Somerville) in Edward Albee’s THE SANDBOX (photo by Monique Carboni)

The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 19, $25-$65
212-244-7529
www.signaturetheatre.org

As part of its twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, the Signature Theatre has put together an evening of compellingly strange one-acts that were previously presented by the company as part of their authors’ Playwright-in-Residence seasons all of which involve unique looks at death. In Edward Albee’s 1959 The Sandbox, first mounted at the Signature in 1994 directed by Albee himself, a WASPy couple who refer to each other as Mommy (Alison Fraser) and Daddy (Frank Wood) relax on lounge chairs after having an impressively toned muscleman in a bathing suit (Ryan-James Hatanaka) deposit Grandma (Phyllis Somerville) in a child’s sandbox on a nearly blindingly yellow set (by Mimi Lien). While Melody Giron plays the cello, the man continues his calisthenics, slowly flapping his arms while standing firmly on the ground, Mommy and Daddy find that they have little to talk about it, and Grandma marvels at the young man’s body while expressing her dismay at her situation. “Honestly! What a way to treat an old woman! Drag her out of the house . . . stick her in a car . . . bring her out here from the city . . . dump her in a pile of sand . . . and leave her here to set. I’m eighty-six years old!” she tells the audience. All of the characters are aware that they are in a play, making comments about the music, the lighting, and the script, but only Grandma, who embodies the entire life cycle, from baby to sexual being to mother to old woman on her last legs, speaks like a real person; the others are more like clichéd stock characters reciting their lines with the sparest of genuine emotion. Director Lila Neugebauer keeps it all bright and cheery as the end nears, in more ways than one.

(photo by Monique Carboni)

Roe (Sahr Ngaujah) teaches Pea (Mikéah Ernest Jennings) about life in María Irene Fornés’s DROWNING (photo by Monique Carboni)

María Irene Fornés’s 1986 Drowning, initially presented at the Signature in 1999, when John Simon declared in New York magazine that it was “the worst play I have seen all year,” was originally part of Orchards, in which seven contemporary playwrights (among them Wendy Wasserstein, David Mamet, and John Guare) wrote a one-act play inspired by a short story by Anton Chekhov. Cuban-American playwright Fornés chose “Drowning,” although her avant-garde approach was more than a little unusual. In a cafeteria, Pea (Mikéah Ernest Jennings) and Roe (Sahr Ngaujah), a pair of giant potato-like creatures (Kaye Voyce’s elaborate costumes are a certifiable riot), talk ever-so-slowly, almost like a Butoh dance, as the latter teaches the former about newspapers, snow, and flesh. Fornés evokes Beckett as Roe and Pea wait for Stephen (Wood), who actually does show up, and the immature, childlike Pea learns about love and pain. “He is very kind and he could not do harm to anyone,” Stephen says about Roe, who responds, “Yes. And I don’t want any harm to come to him either because he’s good.” Drowning is a bizarre yet captivating journey into what makes us human.

(photo by Monique Carboni)

Adrienne Kennedy’s FUNNYHOUSE OF A NEGRO takes place inside of the mind of young woman facing a harsh reality (photo by Monique Carboni)

The Legacy Program evening concludes with Adrienne Kennedy’s Obie-winning 1964 Funnyhouse of a Negro, which was staged at the Signature in 1995. A complex exploration of slavery, racism, colonialism, and heritage, the entire story takes place inside the mind of Negro-Sarah (Crystal Dickinson) as she encounters Queen Victoria Regina (April Matthis), the Duchess of Hapsburg (January LaVoy), Patrice Lumumba (Ngaujah), and Jesus (Jennings) in addition to her roommate, Raymond (Nicholas Bruder), her landlady (Fraser), and the Mother (Pia Glenn). “My mother was the light. She was the lightest one. She looked like a white woman,” Victoria says. “Black man, black man, I never should have let a black man put his hands on me. The wild black beast raped me and now my skull is shining,” the Mother states. Negro (Sarah) adds, “As for myself I long to become even a more pallid Negro than I am now; pallid like Negroes on the covers of American Negro magazines; soulless, educated, and irreligious. I want to possess no moral value, particularly value as to my being. I want not to be. I ask nothing except anonymity.” And Sarah explains, “The rooms are my rooms; a Hapsburg chamber, a chamber in a Victorian castle, the hotel where I killed my father, the jungle. These are the places myselves exist in. I know no places. That is, I cannot believe in places. To believe in places is to know hope and to know the emotion of hope is to know beauty. It links us across a horizon and connects us to the world. I find there are no places only my funnyhouse.” Each scene takes place in a different, exquisitely designed set by Lien amid darkness and Voyce’s extravagant costumes. Like The Sandbox and Drowning, Funnyhouse of a Negro is a highly stylized, absurdist drama about death, and the death of the American dream, only this time with more overt targets and explicit, at times shocking action. It’s unfortunately still relevant a half century after its debut during the civil rights movement. It’s also a fitting finale to this Signature hat trick that looks back while also peering into the future.

ON BROADWAY: FROM RENT TO REVOLUTION

on broadway

Rizzoli Bookstore
1133 Broadway at 26th St.
Monday, May 23, RSVP only, 6:30
212-759-2424
rizzolibookstore.com
www.broadwaycares.org

Before word of mouth, before the reviews, before the public sees the cast and sets and hears the dialogue and music, a Broadway show attempts to define itself — and sell tickets — by establishing a look, a unique brand, via posters, billboards, and advertisements. For the last twenty years, SpotCo, originally known as Spot Design, has been at the forefront of this business, working on campaigns for more than three hundred clients, including eight Pulitzer Prize winners and the last eight winners of the Tony for Best Musical. The company’s history is celebrated in the new coffee-table book On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution (Rizzoli, April 2016, $45), which explores SpotCo’s branding of such shows as Rent, Chicago, The Vagina Monologues, Doubt, Avenue Q, Hair, Once, Kinky Boots, Fun Home, and Hamilton. “What separates SpotCo’s oeuvre from what has come before and makes it so astounding is that as a whole it has no recognizable visual style, in a business that was long thought to rely on exactly that, no matter how hackneyed and clichéd,” author and graphic designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd writes in his foreword. “The only thing that unites them all is an unwavering sense of intelligence and the apparent belief that their audience is comprised of people who can think, intuit, and take a chance on something they haven’t quite experienced before.” The book also features text by SpotCo founder Drew Hodges and producers, composers, illustrators, playwrights, artistic directors, photographers, and actors (Harvey Fierstein, Cherry Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Patrick Stewart, Sting) detailing the various campaigns, in addition to an introduction by former company maid David Sedaris. On May 23, the Rizzoli Bookstore will host the annual Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS charity event while also celebrating On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution; the evening will include a red carpet entrance for numerous stars of the Great White Way, an auction of original art, and more.

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

(photo by Joan Marcus)

The Tyrone family battles its inner and outer demons in Roundabout revival of Eugene O’Neill masterpiece (photo by Joan Marcus)

American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 26, $67-$147
212-719-1300
www.roundabouttheatre.org

As the audience enters the American Airlines Theatre to see the Roundabout revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Long Day’s Journey into Night, a white curtain billows ominously from the right side of the set, blown by the wind from an offstage shore. It’s as if we’re being warned that what we’re about to see is a kind of ghost story, and that’s precisely what we witness over the next three hours and forty-five minutes, an intense tale told as if the dysfunctional Tyrone family must relive their personal horrors over and over again, continually hiding from the truths that overwhelm them. Sixty-five-year-old patriarch James Tyrone (Gabriel Byrne) is a miserly, well-known actor who is fond of the bottle and the small tract of land that he owns. He is still in love with his wife, the fifty-four-year-old Mary (Jessica Lange), a morphine addict who has been in and out of sanatoriums and is struggling to deal with reality. Their older son, thirty-three-year-old Jamie (Michael Shannon), is a brash, ne’er-do-well philanderer and would-be actor always at odds with his father. And the younger son, twenty-three-year-old Edmund (John Gallagher Jr.), is a more sensitive soul who is suffering from an illness that might be consumption. It’s August 1912, and the Tyrones are at their summer home on the beach. “I can’t tell you the deep happiness it gives me, darling, to see you as you’ve been since you came back to us, your dear old self again,” James tells Mary, who has recently returned from her latest rehab stint. James and Jamie are trying to keep the severity of Edmund’s illness from Mary, fearful that the truth will send her back to her drug of choice. “It’s a relief to hear Edmund laugh. He’s been so down in the mouth lately,” she says early on, which James ignores resentfully. Soon James and Jamie are having one of their regular arguments, which upsets Edmund and Mary. “What’s all the fuss about? Let’s forget it,” Jamie says. “Yes, forget! Forget everything and face nothing!” James shouts back, summarizing the general Tyrone philosophy. Meanwhile, Mary compares James’s snoring to the foghorn that keeps her awake at night, as if the harsh sound is a wake-up call, warning of dire things to come that all ignore. As they await the verdict from Doc Hardy regarding Edmund’s illness, the ghosts continue to hover over this doomed family, unable to save themselves from their sad destiny.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

James Tyrone (Gabriel Byrne) and wife Mary (Jessica Lange) hold on to each other for dear life in LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (photo by Joan Marcus)

Completed in 1942 but not published and performed until 1956, three years after O’Neill’s death at sixty-five, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a semiautobiographical look at the playwright’s own family over the course of one very long day, from 8:30 in the morning to midnight. It takes a while to get used to accepting the cast as the Tyrone family; while Byrne is around the right age for James, Mary is supposed to be eleven years younger but Lange is actually a year older than Byrne, and Shannon and Gallagher at first seem completely miscast, but they both eventually settle into their roles. Director Jonathan Kent (Hamlet, Man of La Mancha) makes the most of Tom Pye’s (The Testament of Mary, Fiddler on the Roof) inviting yet haunting set, Natasha Katz’s (An American in Paris, Aida) appropriately moody lighting, and Clive Goodwin’s (The Glass Menagerie, Once) menacing sound design, keeping the audience on edge as the intense drama unfolds. Byrne (A Moon for the Misbegotten, A Touch of the Poet) and Lange (A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie) ultimately form a stirring James and Mary, their love complicated by suspicion and doubt, in parts previously played by such pairs as Robert Ryan and Geraldine Fitzgerald, Laurence Olivier and Constance Cummings, Jason Robards and Zoe Caldwell, Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, Jack Lemmon and Bethel Leslie, Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave, and, in 2000, Charles Dance and Lange. The cast also includes Colby Minifie (The Pillowman, Punk Rock) as Cathleen, the Tyrones’ young maid who speaks her mind when she has the chance. “A drop now and then is no harm when you’re in low spirits, or have a bad cold,” she says to Edmund as the two steal a drink from one of James’s closely watched bottles. Of course, drinking can actually do a lot of harm, as the Tyrones, and O’Neill himself, are well aware. This Roundabout revival is a powerful production of one of America’s signature plays, once again justifying its position in the pantheon alongside such other towering achievements as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

MIKE BIRBIGLIA: THANK GOD FOR JOKES

Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia delves into the art of the joke in latest one-man show (photo © Joan Marcus)

Culture Project, Lynn Redgrave Theater
49 Bleecker St. near Lafayette St.
Wednesday - Sunday through May 29, $56.50-$96.50
866-811-4111
www.thankgodforjokes.comcultureproject.org

“At some point this week you told someone where you were going tonight and that person said, ‘Who?’ and you said something I’d been in and they said, ‘What’s that?’ and you said, ‘Go back to bed, Grandma,’” Mike Birbiglia explains near the beginning of his latest one-man show, Thank God for Jokes. “But I’m a niche thing.” The thirty-seven-year-old actor, comedian, writer, and director has appeared in such films as Trainwreck and Hot Pursuit and such cable series as Orange Is the New Black and Girls and is a regular contributor to This American Life on radio. In 2012, he wrote, directed, and starred in the award-winning Sleepwalk with Me, a film based on his one-man show and book about his battle with rapid eye movement (REM) behavior disorder. The success of the indie movie led to his gig hosting the 2012 Gotham Awards, which plays a central role in Thank God for Jokes. Over the course of eighty-five minutes, Birbiglia also discusses spam filters, nut allergies, cursing in front of the Muppets, riffing on Jesus at a Christian college, cats, and his fear of cops. The latter leads to an improvised conversation with an audience member that can be both funny and a little scary depending on the person’s past. He also has a blast with latecomers — the Lynn Redgrave Theater makes it clear that there will be no late seating, but when a few stragglers do indeed arrive after the show has begun, Birbiglia lets them have it. “What late people don’t understand about us on-time people is that we hate you,” he says. “And the reason we hate you is that it’s so easy to be on time. You just have to be early and early lasts for hours and on time just lasts a second and then you’re late. Forever.”

(photo © Joan Marcus)

Mike Birbiglia riffs on lateness, Jesus, fear of cops, the Muppets, and more in THANK GOD FOR JOKES (photo © Joan Marcus)

But mostly, Birbiglia delves into the art of the joke. “I say this about jokes, having thought about them a lot. Jokes are a volatile type of speech. Sometimes when you tell a joke someone will punch you in the face. And the people standing around you will go, [nodding] ‘Yeah.’” Referring to the Charlie Hebdo incident, in which twelve magazine employees were killed for publishing cartoons depicting Muhammad, Birbiglia points out, “A few of my friends said, ‘Can’t people just write jokes that aren’t offensive?’ And I’m not sure that’s possible. I think all jokes are offensive . . . to someone. . . .” Directed by Seth Barrish (All the Rage, The Tricky Part) and designed by Beowulf Boritt (Act One, The Scottsboro Boys), both of whom did the same on Birbiglia’s first two one-man shows, Sleepwalk with Me and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Thank God for Jokes features the relatively soft-spoken and self-effacing Birbiglia walking around a small stage, the audience seated around him on three sides. On the wall behind him are religious-tinged stained-glass windows and a handwritten scrawl about Jesus. But don’t let Birbiglia’s gentle, thoughtful demeanor fool you, as he can pack quite a punch, in his storytelling and his delivery, hitting you with hilarious surprises just when you’ve settled in comfortably. He’s a friendly, engaging guy — as long as the joke’s not on you. The show continues through May 29; you can catch more of Birbiglia this July, when his second film as writer, director, and star, Don’t Think Twice, opens in theaters.

DADDY LONG LEGS

(photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Megan McGinnis shines as orphan getting chance to go to college in DADDY LONG LEGS (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Davenport Theatre
354 West 54th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Friday - Wednesday through June 6, $59.50 - $89.50
www.daddylonglegsmusical.com

Don’t let the title steer you in the wrong direction. The off-Broadway musical Daddy Long Legs is not a stage adaptation of the 1955 Jean Negulesco film starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, nor is it a theatrical version of Josh and Benny Safdie’s 2009 hit indie film, Daddy Longlegs. (It’s not about spiders either, although it references the creepy arachnid.) This absolutely lovely Daddy Long Legs goes back to the source of the earlier film, Jean Webster’s 1912 epistolary novel about an American orphan’s coming-of-age as a young woman in a male-dominated society. Megan McGinnis gives one of the most charming and engaging performances of the season as Jerusha, who is, as she sings in the show’s catchy opening number, “the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home.” She also points out, “Poor Jerusha Abbott / Never breaking free of this place,” but she is finally given a shot at a real life when her essays win her a college scholarship — previously reserved for boys only — from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. But “The Further Education of Miss Jerusha Abbott by Mr. John Smith” comes with nine very specific rules, including requirements that Jerusha must write him a letter every month, can never thank him, will never receive a letter back, and will never meet him. However, her very first letter from college begins to beguile Mr. Smith with her candidness and fresh point of view on life and education. “I just wanna be like other girls / Get all dressed up like other girls / Become a scientist, a motorist / a suffragette, a Methodist / a Fabian, a Freudian / the class valedictorian,” she explains to Mr. Smith, who is actually Jervis Pendleton, the wealthy scion of a society family. In subsequent letters, she wonders more about Daddy Long Legs, whether he is old and bald, rich and tall, while a lovestruck Jervis starts thinking that he needs to meet Jerusha but maintain his secret identity.

(photo by Jeremy Daniel)

DADDY LONG LEGS is told exclusively through letters and songs (photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Two-time Tony-winning director John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickleby) and composer Paul Gordon, who previously collaborated on Jane Eyre, wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Daddy Long Legs, with Caird directing. All of the dialogue comes from Jerusha’s letters, which are either read or sung by her and Jervis, the latter often sitting at his desk at the back of the left corner of the stage, in his book-laden study, while Jerusha is generally front and center. The quaint set and period costumes are by David Farley, with subtle lighting by Paul Toben, sound by Peter Fitzgerald, and splendid orchestrations by Brad Haak, performed live by Haak on piano, Steven Walker on guitar, and Jeanette Stenson on cello. Projections in a cursive typeface identify the precise time and place like chapter headings. McGinnis (Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast) is beyond delightful as Jerusha, casting wide-eyed smiles directly at the audience, making warm, intimate connections with her beautiful voice as well. McGinnis, who originated the role in 2010 at the Rubicon Theatre Company and has played Belle in Beauty on the Beast and Eponine in Les Miz on Broadway, has an infectious charisma and casual grace that should make her a star. The role of Jervis is usually played by McGinnis’s real-life husband, Adam Halpin (Paul Alexander Nolan originated the role off Broadway), but we saw his understudy, Will Reynolds, who was just fine following some initial tightness. Nominated for two Drama Desk Awards and three Outer Critics Circle Awards, Daddy Long Legs was scheduled to end its run on January 10 but was extended to June 6, so there’s not much time left to see one of the best shows of the year.