Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
2537 Broadway at 95th St.
Saturday, May 19, free with advance RSVP (reserved premium seating $100-$250), 3:00 - 11:00
Symphony Space celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its popular Wall to Wall series on May 19 with Wall to Wall Leonard Bernstein, eight hours of the Maestro’s music, divided into three segments, running from 3:00 to 5:30, 5:30 to 8:30, and 8:30 to 11:00. Free general admission tickets are available in advance, or you can get premium reserved seating for $100 per segment or $250 for the whole eight hours. The show will feature compositions (and occasional dance) from West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, Peter Pan, and On the Waterfront in addition to such works as the Chichester Psalms, Three Meditations from Mass, To What You Said, The Lark (French and Latin Choruses), Simple Song, and Halil: Nocturne for Flute, Percussion, and Piano. Among the many performers are pianists Garah Landes, Simon Mulligan, Michael Brown, Grant Wenaus, Peter Dugan, and Eric Huebner, cellists Summer Boggess and Nick Canellakis, percussionists Gregory Landes, Daniel Druckman, Pablo Rieppi, and Sae Hashimoto, bassists Randy Landau and Aaron Theno, flutists Janet Axelrod and Mindy Kaufman, sopranos Harolyn Blackwell and Elizabeth Smith, baritone John Brancy, Calliope Brass, DUO: Stephanie and Saar, the Pit Stop Players, Keigwin + Company, and many more. The event will also include film clips and discussions about Bernstein’s life and career. Over the decades, the Wall to Wall program has also honored such luminaries as Steve Reich, Johnny Cash, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Aaron Copland, and the Gerswhins, among others.
Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 10, $65-$159
“There is something about her,” men say of Saint Joan, the title character in Bernard Shaw’s 1923 play. There is also something about Condola Rashad, who portrays Joan in the current Manhattan Theatre Club revival at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Rashad has now appeared in five Broadway shows, earning four Tony nominations, for Stick Fly, The Trip to Bountiful, A Doll’s House, Part 2, and Saint Joan. (She was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her 2009 off-Broadway debut, Ruined, but got shut out as Juliet in a misbegotten Broadway revival of Romeo and Juliet in 2013.) The thirty-one-year-old Rashad is charming as Joan, a teenage farm girl in 1429 who claims that Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine speak to her and that God has commanded her to lead the French to victory in Orleans against the occupying English so the hapless Dauphin (Adam Chanler-Berat) can claim the throne as King Charles VII. She joins a luminous roster of actresses who have played Saint Joan, including Wendy Hiller, Uta Hagen, Joan Plowright, Jean Seberg, Imelda Staunton, Imogen Stubbs, Amy Irving, and Diana Sands, the only other black woman to portray Joan in a major production, at Lincoln Center in 1968. Rashad’s Joan is sweet-natured but determined, gentle yet forceful, a kind of hero just right for the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter generation. Joan goes about the world of men — Rashad is the only woman in the cast, among twelve actors, save for a brief appearance by Mandi Masden as the Duchess de la Trémouille — with an ease that emanates from her faith.
Military squires, royals, and religious leaders disparage Joan until they meet her, slowly falling under her captivating spell. Robert de Baudricourt (Patrick Page) brags about how he “burns witches and hangs thieves,” but Joan tells him, “They all say I am mad until I talk to them, squire. But you see that it is the will of God that you are to do what He has put into my mind,” and he does. Captain La Hire (Lou Sumrall) calls her “an angel dressed as a soldier.” Charles might not want to be king, but Joan is on a holy mission to see that he is crowned at Rheims Cathedral. “If the English win, it is they that will make the treaty: and then God help poor France!” she tells Charles. “You must fight, Charlie, whether you will or no. I will go first to hearten thee. We must take our courage in both hands: aye, and pray for it with both hands too.” But after she impossibly takes Orleans despite being massively outnumbered and then urges the campaign continue on to recapture Paris, the military, the church, and the monarchy realize her power and turn on her, trying her for sins that could get her burned at the stake.
Scott Pask’s set is dominated by large gold pipes hanging from above, as if the entire play takes place inside a giant church organ, spreading Joan’s religious message. “It is in the bells I hear my voices,” Joan tells Jack Dunois (Daniel Sunjata), who ably fights by her side. “Not today, when they all rang: that was nothing but jangling. But here in this corner, where the bells come down from heaven, and the echoes linger, or in the fields, where they come from a distance through the quiet of the countryside, my voices are in them.” Shaw (who preferred not to use the first name George) famously said, “I’m an atheist and I thank God for it”; in writing the play, he was trying to neither convert anyone nor convince them to leave the fold, nor was he creating a biblical-style story of good versus evil. In a preface to the published edition, Shaw wrote, “There are no villains in the piece. . . . It is what men do at their best, with good intentions, and what normal men and women find that they must and will do in spite of their intentions, that really concern us.” Shaw, who also wrote such works as Pygmalion, Major Barbara and Man and Superman and won the Nobel Prize shortly after Saint Joan, does not include any superheroes either. “I am not a daredevil: I am a servant of God,” Joan says to Dunois. “My heart is full of courage, not of anger. I will lead; and your men will follow: that is all I can do. But I must do it: you shall not stop me.”
The exemplary cast also features Max Gordon Moore as Bluebeard, Walter Bobbie as the Bishop of Beauvais, John Glover as the Archbishop of Rheims, Matthew Saldivar as Bertrand de Poulengey, Robert Stanton as Baudricourt’s steward, Russell G. Jones as Monseigneur de la Trémouille, and Jack Davenport as the Earl of Warwick. Most of the actors play more than one role; Page is particularly impressive as Baudricourt and the Inquisitor. Daniel Sullivan’s (The Little Foxes, Proof) direction can get a little bumpy though there are several deft touches, and at nearly three hours, the show can be a little trying. Which brings us to the rather campy epilogue. Shaw wrote Saint Joan in 1923, three years after her canonization, something he deals with in the somewhat surreal, comic, and arguably out-of-place conclusion. “As to the epilogue, I could hardly be expected to stultify myself by implying that Joan’s history in the world ended unhappily with her execution, instead of beginning there,” Shaw wrote. “It was necessary by hook or crook to shew the canonized Joan as well as the incinerated one; for many a woman has got herself burnt by carelessly whisking a muslin skirt into the drawing-room fireplace, but getting canonized is a different matter, and a more important one. So I am afraid the epilogue must stand.” And so it does, for better or worse.
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Monday, May 14, $10, 7:30
Tokyo-based performance artist and playwright Shirotama Hitsujiya will be at Japan Society on May 14 as part of her residency, leading the program “Rest in Peace, New York: Theater, Women, and Immigration.” Hitsujiya, the artistic director of YUBIWA Hotel and a founding member of AJOKAI (Asian Women Performing Arts Collective), has been collecting stories of Vietnamese women who have immigrated to New York City. Their interview-based words are being transcribed onto a makimono, a horizontal rice-paper handscroll, and will be read aloud Monday night by Catherine Filloux of Theatre Without Borders, Vietnam Heritage Center executive director Thùy Q. Phạm, Theatre Communications Group director of artistic and international programs Emilya Cachapero, Michi Barall of the Ma-Yi Theater Company, harunalee company director Kristine Haruna Lee, and Foundry Theatre artistic producer and founder Melanie Joseph, among others. The reading will be followed by an audience Q&A with the participants; tickets are only $10.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through May 13, $12-$25 (New York residents pay-what-you-wish)
Thomas Cole’s five-part masterpiece, “The Course of Empire,” serves as a primer, or maybe more of a warning now, of the fall of a major power. It leads viewers down a dark path, beginning with “The Savage State” and continuing with “The Arcadian or Pastoral State,” “The Consummation of Empire,” “Destruction,” and “Desolation.” But the British-born Cole was more than just a chronicler of doom, as displayed in the Met Fifth Avenue exhibit “Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings,” which closes Sunday. In 1818, the teenage Cole traveled across the ocean, emigrating to America, later venturing back to England and Italy, honing his craft. Cole was an early leader of the Hudson River School with Thomas Doughty and Asher Brown Durand, painting magnificent landscapes in the Catskills and elsewhere. The Met exhibit, which honors the bicentennial of Cole’s arrival in America, includes dozens of his works and related paraphernalia, along with canvases by J. M. W. Turner, Claude Lorrain, John Martin, John Constable, Frederic Edwin Church, Durand, and others.
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 1, $79 - $209
Two-time Oscar and Tony winner Denzel Washington is nothing short of majestic as traveling hardware salesman Theodore “Hickey” Hickman in George C. Wolfe’s powerful adaptation of Eugene’ O’Neill’s staggering masterpiece, The Iceman Cometh. Washington’s charm lights up the dark goings-on at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where set designer Santo Loquasto has transformed the stage into the No Chance Saloon, the Bedrock Bar, the End of the Line Café, a dank, depressing Greenwich Village dive in 1912 owned by Harry Hope (Colm Meaney) that is populated by a gang of luckless losers intent on drinking themselves into oblivion. The only thing they have to look forward to is the twice-a-year arrival of Hickey, who cheers them up by filling them with free drinks and telling wild stories from the real world outside. He’s like Jesus turning water into whiskey for his apostles, who consist of Larry Slade (David Morse), a former activist who has turned his back on life and wants nothing to do with anyone; Ed Mosher (Bill Irwin), a former circus performer; Harvard Law School graduate Willie Oban (Neal Huff); Boer War nemeses Piet Wetjoen (Dakin Matthews) and Cecil Lewis (Frank Wood); nighttime bartender Rocky Pioggi (Danny McCarthy), who also is a pimp for Margie (Nina Grollman), Pearl (Carolyn Braver), and Cora (Tammy Blanchard); Chuck Morello (Danny Mastrogiorgio), the daytime bartender who is in love with Cora; disgraced NYPD detective Pat McGloin (Jack McGee); communist revolutionary Hugo Kalmar (Clark Middleton), who sleeps through much of the show; Joe Mott (Michael Potts), the only African American at the bar, who wants to open a black-only gambling house; and Jimmy Tomorrow (Reg Rogers), a former journalist who believes he will return to society “tomorrow.”
Larry is deeply disturbed when Don Parritt (Austin Butler) shows up, the teenage son of an old lover from Larry’s anarchist days. Don desperately wants Larry’s approval and acceptance, but Larry refuses to care about anyone or anything, choosing to drink till he dies even though he’s probably the only person in the bar who could actually still play a role in society. As the men and women bicker, argue, joke around, and prepare for Harry’s birthday party, Hickey finally arrives, bigger and better than ever, immediately injecting life into the motley group of drunks. But this time around, Hickey, in his trademark straw hat, has something more to offer besides free drinks and Champagne: He is determined to help each man find a reason to stop being a worthless drunk and instead pick himself off his barstool, return to the real world, and make his “pipe dreams” come true. He is also armed with a secret that he’s not quite ready to share.
Four-time Pulitzer Prize winner O’Neill (Long Day’s Journey into Night, Strange Interlude) wrote The Iceman Cometh in 1939, but it was not staged until after WWII, in 1946, debuting at the Martin Beck Theatre. It deals with politics, racism, and the forgotten men of America, but O’Neill does not blame society, the economy, or war for their alcoholism and retreat from existence; these are men who would have given up no matter the era, lending the play a terrifying kind of timelessness. Hickey has never been their savior; ironically, he is the one who betrays them by suddenly trying to give meaning to their miserable lives. Wolfe even stages the party scene at a long table reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Wolfe has trimmed the show down to a slim three hours and fifty minutes, with two intermissions and a pause, pacing the drama well, like drinking a smooth glass of high-end whiskey and not a shot, or full bottle, or rotgut. The cast is exceptional, a team of pros giving it everything they’ve got. Meaney brings depth to Harry, Rogers plays Jimmy with just the right tease of hope, Potts adeptly handles the racism angle, and Butler, in his Broadway debut, is bright-eyed and determined as the young Don, a part previously played by such future stars as Jeff Bridges and Robert Redford.
But the key to the success of the show is the relationship between Hickey and Larry; over the years, the former has been portrayed by Jason Robards, Kevin Spacey, Brian Dennehy, James Earl Jones, Lee Marvin, and Nathan Lane, while the latter has been played by James Cromwell, Robert Ryan, Patrick Stewart, Conrad Bain, Tim Pigott-Smith, and Dennehy. Washington and Morse, who both starred as doctors in the groundbreaking, Emmy-winning 1980s series St. Elsewhere, are staunch and deeply affecting in their roles. Morse’s Larry is loud and angry, often walking to the sides of the stage to just watch the other losers, as if he is better than them, even if he won’t admit it. Washington’s Hickey throws knowing glances at Larry; he wants his friend to change but knows it’s unlikely. Washington commands the stage with his full body, gesturing with his arms and legs, at times hunching over just a bit and leaning his head forward as he spreads his new ideas. He delivers the final monologue — on a chair, not a cross — beautifully as his disciples gaze intently from behind. Both Washington and Morse have received Tony nominations for their performances; the show has also been nominated for Best Revival, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design (Ann Roth), Best Lighting (Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer), Best Sound (Dan Moses Schreier), and Best Director. The title comes from Hickey’s classic story about returning home one day to unexpectedly find the ice salesman with his wife in the hay, but it also refers to the specter of death haunting each one of these characters.