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

SEBASTIAN MASUDA: TIME AFTER TIME CAPSULE IN NYC

A giant, translucent Hello Kitty is collecting objects made by children for special art project (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

A giant, translucent Hello Kitty is collecting objects made by children for special art project (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
East 47th St. bet. First & Second Aves.
Through Sunday, September 13, free
www.facebook.com/sebastian.m.art
time after time slideshow

Every four years, athletes, tourists, and sports fans from around the world descend on a city for the Summer Olympics. The 2020 Games are being held in Tokyo, where artist Sebastian Masuda’s “Time After Time Capsule” will be shown, a participatory project involving large-scale translucent animal sculptures that are traveling the globe (Miami first, with Amsterdam, Beijing, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Paris, and Kyoto also on the itinerary). In each city, they are being filled up with objects made by children during special family workshops. For New York City, Masuda has installed a nine-foot-tall Hello Kitty in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, just up the street from Japan Society, which is currently hosting “Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection.” (Masuda was at Japan Society in March to talk about the work.) “‘Time After Time Capsule New York’ is a project where people’s memories — that is to say, the concept of ‘kawaii’ [cute] — is sent to the future,” Masuda recently said on Kickstarter. “I truly hope that everyone will collaborate with me and we can build our dreams together.” Be sure to get up close and personal with Hello Kitty, which was created back in 1974 by Sanrio as a marketing character and became a huge part of kawaii culture, to check out the goodies that are piling up inside, entering through the back of her head. Masuda has his own “cute” kawaii concept shop as well, 6%DOKIDOKI, in Tokyo’s Harajuku district. For the 2020 Olympics, all the objects will be placed in a super-large capsule, bringing together the hopes and dreams of children everywhere.

DINNER WITH THE BOYS

Charlie (Dan Lauria), Big Anthony Jr. (Ray Abruzzo), and Dom (Richard Zavaglia) have a dinner to remember in the wilds of New Jersey (photo by Joan Marcus)

Charlie (Dan Lauria), Big Anthony Jr. (Ray Abruzzo), and Dom (Richard Zavaglia) have a dinner to remember in the wilds of New Jersey (photo by Joan Marcus)

The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 5, $75
212-560-2183
dinnerwiththeboysplay.com
www.theatrerow.org

I’ve never met Dan Lauria, best known for his role as the grumpy, put-upon father in The Wonder Years, but I get the impression that he’s a heckuva nice fella, the kind of a guy you wouldn’t mind sitting down and having dinner with. Lauria does just that in Dinner with the Boys, a slight but sweet mob comedy that he has written and is starring in at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row. Lauria, who has appeared on Broadway in the title role of Lombardi, playing the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, and as narrator Jean Shepherd in A Christmas Story: The Musical (no, the big lug doesn’t do any singing or dancing in the holiday show), wrote Dinner with the Boys as a vehicle for his friends Dom DeLuise, Charles Durning, Peter Falk, and Jack Klugman, but with those four no longer with us, the show is now a three-actor, four-character piece, featuring Lauria, Richard Zavaglia (Donnie Brasco), and Ray Abruzzo (The Sopranos). In a very suburban kitchen and small connected garden in the wilds of New Jersey (the set is designed by Jessica Parks, complete with a painting of the Last Supper and a framed photograph of Frank Sinatra), Charlie (Lauria) and Dom (Zavaglia) are living almost like husband and wife, cast off there after a mob hit went wrong. (Their names are tributes to Durning and DeLuise, spelled De Louise on the poster outside the theater.) Waiting for mob boss Big Anthony Jr. (Abruzzo), they talk over old times and wonder what the future holds, arguing like Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple as longtime mob cook Dom prepares a very special dish. When Big Anthony Jr. arrives, Charlie turns into a pathetic, scared little boy as the boss, an angry man with a short fuse and a violent temper, rages on about the state of things — and what his plans are for the two men, which doesn’t exactly make them happy. But they’re not about to just sit back and let themselves get whacked.

Dom and Charlie dream about their future in DINNER WITH THE BOYS (photo by Joan Marcus)

Dom and Charlie dream about their future in DINNER WITH THE BOYS (photo by Joan Marcus)

Originally presented by NJ Rep in Long Branch, Dinner with the Boys is an intimate little story that gets lost in the Acorn. While plenty of the silly jokes and slapstick moments fall flat — oh, that poor zucchini — plenty of clever, funny exchanges that deserve bigger laughs end up buried like Charlie’s former partner, Leo. While it’s fun watching the interplay between the lovable Lauria and the adorable Zavaglia, Abruzzo is a disaster; director Frank Megna (Leather Heart) should have whacked his bombastic, cringe-worthy overacting, as Abruzzo devours a whole lot more than just the scenery. (His character would actually fit a lot better in another current mob tale, the very loud A Queen for a Day, which features a trio of Sopranos veterans.) It’s too bad, because somewhere in Dinner with the Boys is a tasty play, but only morsels satisfy in its current incarnation. On Tuesday nights, VIP packages ($129) include a postshow dinner with the cast at Tony’s Di Napoli, while Wednesday matinees (“Nonna’s Day”) come with a bottle of the Original Jersey Italian Gravy ($45-$55 with the code TRNONNA).

URS FISCHER: BIG CLAY #4

Urs Fischer’s “Big Clay #4” rises in Midtown (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Urs Fischer’s “Big Clay #4” rises in Midtown (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Seagram Building
375 Park Ave. between 52nd & 53rd Sts.
Through September 1, free
www.gagosian.com
big clay #4 slideshow

Four years ago, Zurich-born, New York-based artist Urs Fischer installed “Untitled (Lamp/Bear),” a twenty-three-foot-tall, nearly twenty-ton cuddly yellow teddy bear wearing a working lamp for a hat on the plaza in front of Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building on Park Ave.; the piece sold at auction that summer for more than $6.8 million. Fischer has now returned to that triumphant location with “Big Clay #4,” a forty-two-and-a-half-foot-tall aluminum sculpture of a piece of squeezed clay, complete with the artist’s fingerprints. When the piece was being installed, a printout of plans left near construction materials on the plaza showed the ultimate sculpture (actually for “Big Clay #3”) in multiple colors, reminiscent of Jeff Koons’s “Play-Doh” from his recent Whitney retrospective. But alas, the colors were just to help identify which section went where; the final sculpture is plain silver, twisted metal rising like the Midtown skyscrapers surrounding it, though not quite as orderly. Fischer, who has worked with such materials as bread, wax, and vegetables, here goes back to the very source, a small lump of clay that he squeezed, scanned, digitally enlarged, and now has cast for all to see but not touch.

THE KING AND I

Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe get to know each other in Bartlett Sher’s wonderful revival at Lincoln Center (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe get to know each other in Bartlett Sher’s wonderful revival at Lincoln Center (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater
150 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday - Saturday through January 3, $97-$172
212-362-7600
www.lct.org

In December 1977, my parents took the whole family to Broadway to see a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, with Yul Brynner returning as King Mongkut of Siam and Constance Towers playing Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher hired by the royal leader to teach English and Western culture to his children as he tries to modernize his country, later known as Thailand. It was my introduction to the Broadway musical in person, not a bad way to begin. So it was with fond memories that I entered Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater recently to see this latest revival, and I’m happy to report that everything you’ve heard about it is correct; it’s a memorable experience from start to finish, a delightful staging loaded with charm and elegance. Based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam, a fictionalized version of actual events, the musical gets under way with a lovely overture; the small orchestra, under the direction of Ted Sperling, is in the pit, visible below long wooden slats stretching out in front of the stage. But at the end of the fanfare, the stage floor extends over the musicians, the curtain opens, and a nearly impossibly large, spectacular ship approaches the audience, carrying Anna (six-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara) and her young son, Louis (Jake Lucas), as they pull into Bangkok. Captain Orton (Murphy Guyer) warns Anna not to anger Kralahome (Paul Nakauchi), the king’s prime minister, but the widow immediately shows that she is not afraid of anything, speaking her mind when she learns that she and Louis will be staying at the palace instead of the separate house she was promised. And upon meeting the king (Ken Watanabe), who has a vast number of wives and children, she quickly demonstrates that she is a strong, fearless woman, not about to tolerate treatment as a second-class citizen. In addition to giving lessons to the kids, including the crown prince, Chulalongkorn (Jon Viktor Corpuz), Anna is soon teaching the king a thing or two as well as he seeks to make tiny Siam a major player in the modern world. Meanwhile, the newest member of his harem, Tuptim (Ashley Park), a gift from the king of Burma, is secretly in love with Lun Tha (Conrad Ricamora), a clandestine romance that could get them both killed.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I dazzles in every way at the Vivian Beaumont (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I dazzles in every way at the Vivian Beaumont (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Director Bartlett Sher, who helmed Lincoln Center’s celebrated 2008 production of South Pacific — which earned seven Tonys, including Best Director of a Musical and Best Revival of a Musical, as well as a nomination for O’Hara’s featured performance as Nellie Forbush — has done another sparkling job with The King and I, inviting the audience to bask in the glow of Richard Rodgers’s glorious music and Oscar Hammerstein III’s exquisite book and lyrics. Once the ship departs, Michael Yeargan’s sets are much more spare yet graceful, allowing Catherine Zuber’s sumptuous costumes to shine. The songs are, well, as wonderful as ever, from “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” and “Shall We Dance?” to “Getting to Know You,” “A Puzzlement,” and, natch, “Something Wonderful.” “The March of Siamese Children,” in which the king’s progeny from his favorite wives bow to him, one at a time, then greet Anna, as their mothers watch closely, hoping their children don’t do anything to hurt their status, is particularly effective, not only in its stellar execution but in displaying the old-fashioned ways of the king, which he must overcome if Siam is to thrive internationally. The issue of slavery is raised quite specifically in the second-act ballet “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” a special presentation, based on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for an important British diplomat (Edward Baker-Duly) who is interested in Anna. The show manages to sidestep issues of colonialism and ethnocentricity as Anna criticizes many of Siam’s traditions and her relationship with the king grows more intimate.

Lady Thiang (Ruthie Ann Miles) and Anna Leonewens (Kelli OHara) come together despite living very different lives (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Lady Thiang (Ruthie Ann Miles) and Anna Leonewens (Kelli O’Hara) come together despite living very different lives (photo by Paul Kolnik)

O’Hara (The Light in the Piazza, Nice Work If You Can Get It) is enchanting as Anna, a role previously played by the likes of Celeste Holm, Hayley Mills, Faith Prince, Maureen McGovern, and Marie Osmond, giving her a fierce, determined edge while letting her vocal cords soar. (Irene Dunne played Anna in John Cromwell’s 1946 film, Anna and the King of Siam, which also starred Rex Harrison as the king and Lee J. Cobb as Kralahome.) Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima, Inception) is a certifiable triumph in a role that might be associated with one actor more than any other role — Brynner played the part more than 4,600 times onstage over the course of thirty-four years, winning two Tonys, while also earning an Oscar for the 1956 film and starring in the 1972 television series Anna and the King with Samantha Eggar. Bare-chested and with a shaven head, Watanabe is utterly engaging as the king, his choppy English adding a nice touch to his depiction of the complex ruler, whether declaring that life is a puzzlement, gleefully exclaiming, “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,” or sweeping across the floor with Anna. (Just for the record, among the other actors who have portrayed the king in various incarnations, both musical and not, are Farley Granger, Lou Diamond Phillips, Zachary Scott, Herbert Lom, Darren McGavin, and Rudolf Nureyev.) Christopher Gattelli’s choreography, based on Jerome Robbins’s original, keeps things flowing beautifully, accompanying Robert Russell Bennett’s lush orchestrations. The original production won all five of the Tony Awards it was nominated for back in 1952 — Brynner as Best Featured Actor, Gertrude Lawrence for Best Leading Actress as Anna, Best Costume Design, Best Scenic Design, and Best Musical — while the revival I saw as a kid earned Drama Desk nominations for Brynner, Angela Lansbury as Anna, and Outstanding Musical. Lincoln Center’s revival is another runaway hit, garnering nine Tony nominations and two Drama Desk nods. It’s an absolute treat getting to know The King and I all over again.

PORTRAYING THE HUMAN CONDITION — THE FILMS OF MASAKI KOBAYASHI AND TATSUYA NAKADAI: KWAIDAN

KWAIDAN

Masaki Kobayashi paints four chilling, ghostly portraits in KWAIDAN, including “Hoichi, the Earless”

KWAIDAN (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Sunday, May 24, $12, 6:00
Series runs through May 24
718-777-6800
www.movingimage.us

The Museum of the Moving Image series “Portraying the Human Condition: The Films of Masaki Kobayashi and Tatsuya Nakadai” comes to a sensational conclusion on May 24 with a 2:00 screening of Harakiri, with the eighty-two-year-old Nakadai on hand to discuss the work, and then, at 6:00, a presentation of the mesmerizing Kwaidan. In the latter film, based on folkloric tales by Lafcadio Hearn, aka Koizumi Yakumo, Kobayashi (The Human Condition, Samurai Rebellion) paints four marvelous ghost stories, each one with a unique look and feel. In “The Black Hair,” a samurai (Rentaro Mikuni) regrets his choice of leaving his true love for societal advancement. Yuki (Keiko Kishi) is a harbinger of doom for a woodcutter (Nakadai) in “The Woman of the Snow.” Hoichi (Katsuo Nakamura) must have his entire body covered in prayer in “Hoichi, the Earless.” And Kannai (Kanemon Nakamura) finds a creepy face staring back at him in “In a Cup of Tea.” The four films subtly, and not so subtly, explore such concepts as greed and envy, love and loss, and the art of storytelling itself. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan is one of the greatest ghost story films ever made, a quartet of chilling existential tales that will get under your skin and into your brain. The score was composed by Tōru Takemitsu, who said of the film, “I wanted to create an atmosphere of terror.” He succeeded.

TASTE OF LIC 2015

Who: Honorees Michelle Coffey, Icema Gibbs, Paul Januszewski, Juliana May, Cathy Nolan, Martha Sherman, Rebecca Trent, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Mac Wellman
What: Tenth annual Taste of LIC, presented by the Chocolate Factory
Where: Gantry Plaza State Park, 49th Ave. at the East River
When: Tuesday, June 2, $65-$400, 6:30
Why: Taste of LIC celebrates the growth of the Long Island Community, and for its tenth year it will be honoring ten leaders (one posthumously) in Gantry Plaza State Park, where more than fifty restaurants will be providing food and drink, including Alewife NYC, Alobar, Antidote Chocolate, Astor Bake Shop, Bear Bar & Restaurant, Beija Flor, Bella Via Restaurant, Casa Enrique, the Creek & the Cave, Crescent Grill, Dominie’s Hoek, M. Wells, Manducatis Rustica, Manetta’s Ristorante, the Pie Lady, Sage General Store, Skinny’s Cantina, Southern Wheels Eats, Sweetleaf, Tournesol, and Zenon Taverna. There will also be raffle prizes from more than one hundred LIC businesses, with proceeds benefiting the Chocolate Factory, as well as a live performance by Jon Kinzel, with New York City Council majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer serving as master of ceremonies.

FINDING NEVERLAND

(photo © Carol Rosegg)

Lord Cannan (Tyley Ross), Charles Frohman (Kelsey Grammer), and Mary Barrie (Teal Wicks) toast J. M. Barrie (Michael Morrison) in FINDING NEVERLAND (photo © Carol Rosegg)

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
205 West 46th St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Through December 20, $72-$147
findingneverlandthemusical.com

After nearly four years of heavy out-of-town tinkering, Finding Neverland has at last landed on Broadway, but it’s still lost, in desperate need of finding itself. Produced by a very hands-on Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax company released the 2004 Oscar-nominated film starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, and Julie Christie, the stage musical has gone through major cast, director, and composer changes before settling on the current Great White Way team: director Diane Paulus, Matthew Morrison as J. M. Barrie, music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, book by Jerry Graham, and choreography by Mia Michaels. Based on Allan Knee’s play The Man Who Was Peter Pan, the show follows Barrie, a successful playwright dealing with his first flop, as he teeters between two worlds: the high-society lifestyle preferred by his wife, Mary (Teal Wicks), and the more down-home, simple existence lived by the widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Laura Michelle Kelly) and her four sons, Peter, Jack, George, and Michael (played in various configurations by Alex Dreier, Hayden Signoretti, Noah Hinsdale, Aidan Gemme, Christopher Paul Richards, Sawyer Nunes, and Jackson Demott Hill). His producer, Charles Frohman (Kelsey Grammer), an American, needs him to write a hit, and ideas start percolating as Barrie spends more time with the Davies clan, discovering his inner child with an infectious glee. Little events become fodder for his work, the eventual Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. But while Peter Pan is built around magic, Finding Neverland lacks any real spark.

(photo © Carol Rosegg)

J. M. Barrie (Michael Morrison) turns his experiences with the Davies family into PETER PAN in Broadway musical (photo © Carol Rosegg)

Whenever you see a show, you want to be completely invested in it, lured in by its magic, whether a comedy, a drama, or a glitzy musical. Early in the second act, when Frohman’s acting troupe is drinking together in a pub, its crabby erstwhile star, Mr. Henshaw (Paul Slade Smith), turns to Frohman and asks, “Do they say ‘cheers’ where you come from, mate?” The completely unnecessary reference to the television series that made Grammer famous brings Finding Neverland to a screeching halt; sure, many people in the audience explode in laughter — much as they do when Larry David throws in a gratuitous catchphrase from Curb Your Enthusiasm into the disappointing Fish in the Dark — but it takes you right out of the fantasy, which is what Peter Pan is all about, and the show never recovers. The ballads are drippy, the acting often goes too far over the top — Smith, Josh Lamon as his cohort Mr. Cromer, Tyley Ross as Lord Cannan, and Carolee Carmello as Mary’s mother are particularly annoying — and the way Paulus (Pippin, Hair) and Michaels (So You Think You Can Dance) depict flying is a supreme letdown. It does have its moments — there is a sweet energy between Morrison (The Light in the Piazza, Glee) and Kelly (Mary Poppins, Peter Pan), Grammer has several funny bits, and some of the staging is clever — but it’s all frustratingly inconsistent. Finding Neverland tries way too hard to be a feel-good experience but instead never takes flight.

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