2econd Stage Theater
Tony Kiser Theater
305 West 43rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 12, $30-$89
“I am unexceptional,” the title character tells her shrink in Mary Page Marlowe, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts’s exceptional play, which opened tonight at 2econd Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater. The best play I’ve ever seen about the life and times of a woman written by a man, Mary Page Marlowe follows the protagonist, born in 1946, through eleven nonchronological stages of her rather ordinary existence, portrayed by six terrifically talented actresses and one doll (as the infant). Each scene reveals small but significant details about the character as she goes about her days as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a patient, an employee, and a retiree, trying to find her identity as her relationships — and her name — change. Whether she ever finds her true self — if there even is such a thing — is the question of the play. Mary Page is wonderfully performed by Mia Sinclair Jenness at twelve, Emma Geer at nineteen, Tatiana Maslany (in her New York stage debut) at twenty-seven and thirty-six, Susan Pourfar at forty and forty-four, Kellie Overbey at fifty, and Blair Brown at fifty-nine, sixty-three, and sixty-nine. The nonlinear time shifts are indicated primarily by the character’s clothing (the simple but effective costumes are by Kaye Voyce) and hairstyle as such basic props as beds, tables, couches, and chairs slide on and off Laura Jellinek’s intimate two-level set, making it clear this is about one woman’s interior and exterior changes, not about a changing America.
From childhood to senior citizenship, Mary Page faces illness, divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, displacement, and more, all with the same attitude, as if various key moments in her life are no different from the rest of her days; sometimes the choices aren’t hers, but even when they are, she is often a spectator, much like the audience. “What do you want?” her teenage daughter, Wendy (Kayli Carter), asks at a Denny’s as her younger brother, Louis (Ryan Foust), plays with a map. “Why can’t you just say what you want?” Wendy repeats when her mother avoids the question. Throughout the ninety-minute intermissionless play, Mary Page says “I don’t know” two dozen times, although she also does provide some answers. When her shrink (Marcia DeBonis) asks her why she hasn’t brought up what she believes to be a certain important issue previously, Mary Page says, “Because it’s not relevant, that’s what I’m telling you, it feels like a different person who was going through that,” eliciting a laugh from the audience since each Mary Page is played by a different actress. She then adds, “I still live life even when you’re not watching me,” as if reminding the audience that there is even more to Mary Page than what is revealed onstage, just as there is more to any woman we see in real life. But even when she does — or doesn’t — take action for her own benefit, she shows a resilience to persist, a well-earned survival instinct that keeps her going despite what are sometimes formidable odds.
Letts (August: Osage County, Superior Donuts) and director Lila Neugebauer, who has excelled helming such ensemble pieces as The Antipodes, Everybody, The Wolves, and The Wayside Motor Inn, do a beautiful job moving from scene to scene; even though events happen out of order, Mary Page is in a constant state of progression. We might not ever see them together (at least not until the curtain call), but the six amazing women who play Mary Page flow into one another seamlessly, helping make her one person with many distinct aspects. The large cast also includes Grace Gummer as Mary Page’s mother and Nick Dillenburg as her father; Audrey Corsa and Tess Frazer as her high school friends, Connie and Lorna; David Aaron Baker and Brian Kerwin as significant others Ray and Andy; Maria Elena Ramirez as her nurse; Gary Wilmes as one of her lovers; and Elliot Villar as her dry cleaner, who wraps everything up as they talk about fixing a quilt in which “different women would sew the different panels and then stitch them all together,” just as Letts, Neugebauer, and the cast have so remarkably done in this extraordinary work.
On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob stormed the Bastille prison, a symbolic victory that kicked off the French Revolution and the establishment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Ever since, July 14 has been a national holiday celebrating liberté, égalité, and fraternité. In New York City, the Bastille Day festivities are set for Sunday, July 15, along Sixtieth St., where the French Institute Alliance Française hosts its annual daylong party of food, music, dance, and other special activities. The celebration begins with a live screening of the World Cup Final in Florence Gould Hall and outside, where, as luck would have it, France vies for the coveted title. There will be a Summer in the South of France Tasting in FIAF’s Tinker Auditorium from 12 noon to 4:30 ($25), with wines from Sud de France, French beers from Kronenbourg, Président cheeses, Bayonne Ham, and artisan breads from Maison Kayser, as well as the elegant Champagne & Jazz Party in Le Skyroom at 1:30 and 3:30 ($65-$75), featuring Champagnes from Pol Roger, Ayala, Champagne Delamotte, and Besserat de Bellefon, cocktails from Grand Marnier, macarons from Ladurée, chocolates from Voilà Chocolat, and hors d’oeuvres from Maman Bakery, in addition to a live performance by Chloé Perrier. The annual raffle ($20) can win you such prizes as trips to Paris and Le Martinique or dinners at French restaurants.
Food, drink, and beauty and fashion items will be available in the French-themed market and the new French Garden from Jerome Dreyfuss, 727 Sailbags, L’atelier, Moutet, French Wink, Ladurée, Brasserie Cognac, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, Le Souk, Miss Madeleine, Oliviers & Co., Mille-feuille, Sel Magique, Simply Gourmand, St. Michel, Sud de France, Macaron Parlour, Pistache, Lunii, and others. The fête also includes roaming French mime Catherina Gasta, a kids corner with a library and arts & crafts, a photobooth, “An Ode for Freedom” interactive street art with Kinmx & Iljin, Can-Can Dancing with Karen Peled (12:45 & 2:10), a Caribbean Zouk dance lesson with Franck Muhel (4:25), the Citroën Classic Car Show, live performances by MarieLine Grinda (1:00), It’s Showtime NYC! (1:30), Jacques & Marie’s Paris Swing Band (2:30), the Hungry March Band (2:55), La Jarry (3:05), and Sense (3:55), and a sneak peek screening of Yvan Attal’s Le Brio ($14, 5:30) in Florence Gould Hall.
Claire Tow Theater
LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater
150 West 65th St.
Through July 22, $30
Antoinette Nwandu takes a hard look at who we are as a nation through the eyes of a pair of young, disenfranchised black men in the searing Pass Over, continuing at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater through July 22. As you enter the small, intimate venue, the main characters are already onstage, one sleeping under a lamp post, the other walking back and forth across a long, angled street curb, occasionally stopping and staring out suspiciously, as if expecting trouble, from racial profiling to blatant discrimination and bigotry. The former is Moses (Jon Michael Hill), a stern, angry man with “plans to rise up to my full potential,” while the latter is Kitch (Namir Smallwood), a naive, less ambitious guy. They call each other by the n-word so often that it is meant to make the mostly white audience feel uncomfortable; in fact, to further that feeling, one reason the two-act, eighty-five-minute show has no intermission is that “if Moses and Kitch cannot leave, neither can you,” Nwandu writes in the script. The two men often talk of getting out, their conversations punctuated by abrupt lighting shifts as they raise their hands in the air, as if suddenly facing the police, or the “po-pos.”
Their space is soon invaded by Mister (Gabriel Ebert), a privileged version of Little Red Riding Hood; Mister is a tall Caucasian man dressed in an all-white suit, with white shoes and a white hat and carrying a picnic basket. He says he got lost on the way to his mother’s house and offers to share his food with them in exchange for their allowing him to sit down and rest his “weak arches.” While Kitch is aching to dig in to the grub, Moses wants no part of Mister, suspicious of his motives and why he’s there. Although they speak a very different language — Mister talks formally and says things like “gosh golly gee” and “salutations,” in blunt contrast to the street poetry of Kitch and Moses — they quickly begin discussing police treatment of blacks, hunger, and the n-word. “Gosh / you really like that word. . . . I mean / every sentence / my n-word this / my n-word that,” Mister says. “Maaaaaan / quit actin’ like / yo ass ain’t sed dat shit,” Kitch argues, but Mister insists he has never used the term. “If they don’t / bess believe / dey want to,” Moses says about white men who claim they don’t say it. A few minutes later, Mister departs, and a uniformed white cop, Ossifer (Ebert), shows up, immediately threatening Moses and Kitch. “Talk shit / like they got power / ain’t got no power / cept dat gun / dat fuckin badge,” Moses says after the policeman has left. They then go to sleep, hoping that the next day will be better. It’s not.
Waiting for Godot meets the biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt in Pass Over, a dark, twenty-first-century fable of the state of race relations in America today — and how much things haven’t changed since before the Civil War. In the script, Nwandu refers to Moses as a slave driver and God’s chosen leader, Kitch as a slave and one of God’s chosen, Mister as a plantation owner and pharaoh’s son, and Ossifer as a patroller and a solder in pharaoh’s army; she also notes that the play takes place in the present as well as 1855 and the thirteenth century BCE, on a ghetto street, on a plantation, and in Egypt, expanding the timelessness of the central narrative. However, the characters, Wilson Chin’s set, and Sarafina Bush’s costumes never switch eras, equating the perpetual nature of racism and slavery through the ages. Tony nominee Hill (Superior Donuts, The Unmentionables) and Smallwood (Pipeline, Buzzer) sizzle as updated versions of Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon, waiting and hoping for a promised land that appears to be far beyond their reach, while Tony and Obie winner Ebert (Matilda the Musical, 4000 Miles) attacks his two roles with relish. The play, which premiered last year at Steppenwolf and was filmed by Spike Lee, is boldly honest, both funny and frightening. When Mister tells Moses and Kitch, “If i were in your shoes / gosh / i’d be terrified,” he’s speaking for everyone in the audience. Taymor (Esai’s Table, Nwandu’s Flat Sam), whose aunt is Emmy and two-time Tony winner Julie Taymor, directs with a sure hand, letting the subject matter take shape before it all shatters. Pass Over ushers in a fresh, vibrant voice in Nwandu, who includes a shock ending to make sure we get her devastating message.
PREMIKA-PARAB (Siwakorn Jarupongpa, 2017)
333 West Twenty-Third St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Friday, July 13, 8:15
Festival runs through July 15
You’re going to think twice about the next time you see a karaoke machine after watching Premika, Siwakorn Jarupongpa’s delightfully fun 2017 horror-comedy making its North American premiere July 13 at the New York Asian Film Festival. The candy-colored Thai flick is set at the grand opening of a hotel in the middle of a forest, where an oddball group of supposed VIPs have gathered. When one of the guests asks if the hotel is haunted, hotel manager Mr. Lee (Fu Nan) freaks out, because of course there is a ghost, and quite an awesome one at that. A young woman in a Sailor Moon outfit whom the police have dubbed “Premika” (Natthacha De Souza) has been murdered by a lake, her body chopped into pieces by a mystery assailant, and she’s determined to stick around until the killer is caught.
Among those wandering around the hotel and forest are Tun (Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich) and Aek (Kidakarn Chatkaewmanee), leaders of a boy band known as the Youth; sexy singing duo Noey (Asiah Johnson) and Yam (Praemai Bailee), accompanied by record producer Somkiat (Pariyate Angoonkitti); the goofy Uab (Tiwat Srisawat) and Uan (Anupapr Suriyathong), who want to be the next big boy band; the adorable Muay (Peraya Aksorndee), whose snide boyfriend, Bird (Nattachai Sirinanthachot), is having problems in the sack; photographers Top (Papinee Srimee) and Nate (Anongnart Yusananda); and Jo (Chattiwut Rungrojsuporn), who has the hots for Noey and Yam. On the Premika murder case are Lt. Poom (Todsapol Maisuk) and Sgt. Ped (Kittipos Mangkang), who have to answer to the chief (Kittiphong Dumavibhat). While the guests grow increasingly uneasy, Premika’s heart beats on in a jukebox, which she uses to test the people at the hotel as she seeks justice. She and the machine will suddenly appear out of nowhere, and the guest, transformed into the star of a lush music video, must sing the selected song perfectly or die a grisly death at the hands of the vengeful Premika, who really knows how to use a hatchet. The longer the investigation goes on without finding her killer, the more brutal Premika becomes.
In his feature-film debut, writer-director Jarupongpa displays quite a knack for both horror and comedy, and his crew, including cowriters Komsun Nuntachit and Sukree Terakunvanich, cinematographer Chukiat Narongrit, production designer Dusit Yapakawong, art director Thiranan Chanthakhat, and costume designer Pirom Ruangkitjakan, has a field day upping the cheese factor while never chintzing on the gore. There’s lots of Three Stooges-level slapstick, utterly silly sound effects, ridiculous double takes, and kooky sexuality, along with plenty of fantabulous carnage. The film is screening July 13 at 8:15 at the SVA Theatre, with De Souza in attendance. The “Savage Seventeenth” edition of the New York Asian Film Festival continues at the SVA Theatre and the Film Society of Lincoln Center through July 15 with a wide range of movies from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Denmark.
Carey Mulligan is brilliant as a wife and mother telling the gripping story of her family in Dennis Kelly’s engrossing one-woman show, Girls & Boys, which has been extended at the Minetta Lane through July 22. The play unfolds in a series of “chats” in which Mulligan, as the unnamed woman, speaks directly to the audience, interrupted by scenes in which she interacts with her two unseen children, Leanne and Danny. Mulligan speaks to the audience from a shallow, confined area at the front of the stage; the scenes with the children take place when the back wall opens up onto an idyllic kitchen/living room, a large space with objects arranged as if in a Morandi painting, all bathed in a soft robin’s-egg-blue evoking fantasy and memory. (The set is by Es Devlin, with lighting by Oliver Fenwick.) Recounting a brief period in her youth when she went wild with men and drugs, the woman recalls the turning point in her life, a drunken night with her flatmate in which they continued having sex after she threw up. “I remember thinking, ‘If he doesn’t come soon, he’s going to fuck me right into that puddle of puke,’” she says. “Let me tell you something — when a sentence like that appears in your life, you know it’s time to start looking at your choices.” Her tale continues as she relates meeting in an airport queue the man she would eventually marry, and she later describes how she got a job “as a development executive’s assistant’s . . . executive assistant” in a documentary filmmaking company. In between discussing belief, violence, and truth, she plays with, scolds, and shares tender moments with Leanne and Danny. But as her career takes off, her husband’s, selling antique wardrobes, starts experiencing problems that affect their marriage.
Tony winner Kelly (Matilda the Musical, Taking Care of Baby) and Olivier-winning director Lyndsey Turner (Machinal, Chimerica) expertly pace the Royal Theatre production, carefully revealing key bits of plot before a critical moment occurs about two-thirds of the way through, setting up the shocking finale. Oscar and Tony nominee Mulligan (Skylight, An Education) is extraordinary as the woman; as the tension builds over the course of 105 intermissionless minutes, she holds her body ever tighter, barely moving as she gets to the hardest parts of her tale. But through it all, the woman refuses to condemn the human race for the problems she experiences. “I think a lot about violence,” she explains. “Not because I want to or anything. I just think it’s such a fundamental part of our species that how can you understand us without understanding it?” She adds, “And please don’t misunderstand, I’m not negative about . . . us — I think we’re incredible. The things we’ve done. The things we do. I mean if I collapse right here, tonight — you’ll all look after me. You will. You will do that.” At the end of the play, you will want to look after the woman, but of course you can’t; such is the cathartic nature of high-quality, powerful theater. But her story is likely to stay in your mind and heart for a long, long time. (Girls & Boys is the second one-person show produced by Audible at the Minetta Lane Theatre, following David Cale’s Harry Clarke, which starred Billy Crudup. Both plays are available as audiobooks; you can listen to a sample of the former here.)
John, Paul, George, and Ringo are summoned to save Pepperland from the music-hating Blue Meanies in the 1968 psychedelic, surreal animated favorite, Yellow Submarine, being rereleased in theaters July 9 in a sparkling, newly restored 4K version with 5.1 Stereo Surround Sound. The Beatles’ fourth movie, following the dynamic duo of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and the television disaster Magical Mystery Tour, was based on the Fab Four’s 1965–67 Saturday morning cartoon series and the 1966 song “Yellow Submarine,” which appeared on side one of Revolver. The chief Blue Meanie (voiced by Paul Angelis), with his ever-faithful right-hand man, Max (Dick Emery), by his side, declares war on music, sending his troops, including the Apple Bonkers, Clowns, Snapping Turks, and Dreadful Flying Glove, to attack Pepperland, trapping the band in an opaque sphere and turning the residents into stagnant, colorless beings. Only Old Fred (Lance Percival), newly appointed lord admiral by the mayor (Emery), escapes, taking off in an unusual yellow submarine and rounding up John Lennon (John Clive), Paul McCartney (Geoffrey Hughes), George Harrison (Peter Batten and Angelis), and Ringo Starr (Angelis) to try to save the day against the fascist Blue Meanies, who only take no for an answer.
The film mainly comprises set pieces, in varied animation styles, built around such Beatles songs as “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “All You Need Is Love,” “Nowhere Man,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “All Together Now,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” as the Mop Tops are joined by the brilliant but strange Jeremy Hillary Boob (Emery) on their dangerous mission, which is like an acid trip gone loco. Of course, that doesn’t preclude them from sharing silly little jokes, puns, and double entendres along the way as they reference war, soccer, loneliness (“Nothing ever happens to me. I feel like an old splintered drumstick,” Ringo opines), monsters, the art of Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico, Apple Records, famous celebrities, cartoon villains, Albert Einstein’s time-space continuum theory, and other Beatles songs. There are comic scenes in a grand, door-filled hallway and in an expanse of black holes. And of course, there’s an endless parade of great music, including “Hey Bulldog,” which was deleted from the original US release.
Sure, a lot of it doesn’t make any sense, but when was the last time you sat down and really listened to such gems as “Only a Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much”? More than two hundred animators — whose faces can be seen in the “Eleanor Rigby” scene — worked on the project, which was written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, and Erich Segal — yes, the author of Love Story — with dialogue enhancement by Liverpool poet Roger McGough and lead animation by Robert Balser and Jack Stokes under the creative direction by Heinz Edelmann. The Beatles, who occasionally made script suggestions but mostly stayed in the background, make an appearance at the end as themselves, not in cartoon form, perhaps to satisfy their movie contract, but they still seem to be having fun, as you will too. And remember, as George says, “It’s all in the mind.” The fiftieth-anniversary restoration of Yellow Sumbarine will be playing at IFC Center, Landmark at 57 West, the Beekman, the Alamo Drafthouse, Kew Gardens Cinemas, Williamsburg Cinemas, and other theaters in the tristate area. Oh, and by the way, “Are you bluish? You don’t look bluish.”
Laura Pels Theatre
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
111 West 46th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 26, $119
Joshua Harmon’s fourth play is another clever and insightful, if occasionally repetitive and overwrought, drama of family relationships. In (Bad Jews, a trio of siblings squabble over a treasured heirloom. In Significant Other, a gay man can’t find love while his girlfriends each get married. And in Admissions, privilege and merit come to the fore when students at a boarding school apply to college. In Skintight, making its world premiere at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, Harmon delves into sex, love, aging, and lust in a dysfunctional Jewish clan. Tony winner Idina Menzel stars as Jodi Isaac, a mother and lawyer facing a midlife crisis when her husband, Greg, leaves her for a much younger woman. In desperate need of unconditional support, she pays an unannounced visit to her father, Elliot (Jack Wetherall), a wealthy clothing entrepreneur who is about to turn seventy and hates surprises. “While Greg and I were at that resort, like, not to be graphic, Daddy, but while we were having like the best sex of our lives, our adult lives, this person was getting her diaper changed, because she didn’t yet possess the motor skills to wipe her own ass,” Jodi says. But that doesn’t exactly gain Elliot’s sympathies; not only is he not exactly a warm and fuzzy father and grandfather, but he’s living with twenty-year-old stud Trey (Will Brittain), with whom he rides motorcycles and goes out to nightclubs. “There has got to be more to life than sex with a hot young thing,” Jodi adds, not seeing the comparison. When her self-involved gay twenty-year-old son, Benji (Eli Gelb), who’s been studying abroad in Budapest, arrives, Elliot worries that he might be interested in Trey. The tension mounts as the birthday dinner approaches and nobody is really listening to what anyone else is saying.
Harmon fills Skintight with plentiful one-liners and keen observations — “It’s not an achievement, to not die,” Jack tells his daughter about not wanting to make a big deal of his milestone birthday — and three-time Obie-winning director Daniel Aukin (Bad Jews, Admissions, 4000 Miles) guides the characters with an assured hand as they make their way through Lauren Helpern’s appropriately cold, ritzy set, an austere, silver-gray Horatio St. living room and staircase. But it’s difficult to accept Jack and Jodi as father and daughter; they lack that necessary connection that would add potency to their pithy disagreements. And Trey is so over the top, particularly when he walks around in a jockstrap, that he feels like he’s from a different play, reminiscent of Cowboy in The Boys in the Band. In a rare nonmusical stage appearance, Tony winner Menzel (Rent, Wicked), whose family is Jewish and emigrated from Eastern Europe, does well as the constantly complaining Jodi, Wetherall (The Elephant Man, Tamara) is cool and calm as the Calvin Klein-like Elliot, and Gelb (How My Grandparents Fell in Love, The Twenty-Seventh Man) is delicious as Ben, a queer studies major who, when discussing seeing Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence, explains, “They come from all over the world to see a statue a gay guy made of a nice Jewish boy. Makes you think the world isn’t such a bad place after all.” The play also features Stephen Carrasco as Jeff and Cynthia Mace as Orsolya, Elliot’s comic-relief-supplying housekeeping staff. In Skintight, Harmon delves into the nature of superficiality but doesn’t dig quite deep enough, although he still comes up with another entertaining night at the theater, showing again that a world with playwrights such as him isn’t such a bad place after all.