that girl allison

I'm Allison. I see a ton of theatre. I'm a fan of Green Day, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Weezer, Oasis, Adam Rapp, Emily Giffin, and Shakespeare. I run sometimes, and do yoga always.

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thatgirlallison08 at gmail dot com

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I attended the opening night of Manhattan Theater Club’s When We Were Young a couple of weeks ago. I had seen the word ‘feminist’ thrown around in writing about the plot of the show but didn’t really know what to expect.

Cherry Jones plays a woman (Agnes) who runs a home for women who are domestically abused and looked to escape their husbands. Agnes also has a daughter of her own, Hannah (Cherise Boothe), the feminist of the house who wants to go to an Ivy League school and has no time for boys. Mary Anne (played by Zoe Kazan) arrives at their doorstep and while she’s staying with them, she coaches Hannah on how to get her dream guy to ask her to the prom, among other things, and this totally changes Hannah, for better or for worse, who knows.

When We Were Young is much deeper and thought-provoking than I’m making it seem, but it’s also a very heavy. You definitely need to take a moment to remember to breath during intermission.

Cherry Jones is, of course, spectacular. Boothe and Kazan are both enjoyable to watch and believable. Patch Darragh and Morgan Saylor play two supporting roles as well and help keep the play moving and exciting.

This is a fine production at MTC and Jones’ gives a performance not to be missed. 

(Full disclosure: The company I work for works on this show, but the opinions are all my own.)

Two weeks ago I got to see After Midnight, a dance revue playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Patti LaBelle was the current star and Dule Hill is always fabulous, as is Adriane Lenox, so I said why not!

It definitely deserved it’s Best Choreography TONY Award as the dancing was some of the best currently seen on Broadway. The singing was fabulous and it wove several different stories together which all came together at the very end, which I always like.

The cast was uniformly talented and did things with their bodies that you wouldn’t believe was possible. It’s a 95 minute journey back to old Harlem and the music of the day.

What’s thirty? Just, you know, the end of youth.

It was August 24th, 2001, two-ish weeks before 9/11, when I was offered tickets to see the off-broadway production of Jonathan Larson’s tick… tick..BOOM! I was 15 and seeing Rent more often than not. My cousin, who lived on Christopher Street in Sheridan Square at the time, let me stay with her and walked me up West 4th Street, teaching me how to find my way around the crazy maze that is that West Village.

I made a sorta-last minute decision to buy tickets for Kristen and myself to the Encores’ staging of it which opened tonight. And I’m very glad I did. It was a trip down memory lane and I still remembered almost every word. The staging was almost the same as the also very minimalistic production at the Jane Street Theater.

Leslie Odom Jr. (now of Smash fame, though he was actually in Rent long ago) took on the role of Jon’s best friend Michael. He acted the part excellently and sounded great. Karen Olivo absolutely brought the house down with the 11 o’clock number “Come To Your Senses,” although she was primarily playing Jon’s girlfriend Susan.

And then there was Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jon. Sort of a big deal has been made in the theatre world lately about him paying tribute to Jonathan Larson and I get it. They’re both young composers who wrote ground-breaking musicals. Yes, I get it. So I was expecting a stellar performance, and emotionally and acting-wise, it was. Miranda was great on that level. Vocally? He was mediocre (at best). He got through In The Heights because it was mostly rap but how can you take over a role originated by the vocal brilliance of Raul Esparza and have virtually no upper register or any ability to hold notes for any sustained period of time? He was vocally disappointing. He also wore a beanie which was confusing because in all of the photos that I’ve ever seen of Jonathan Larson, he did not, ever wear a beanie. 

ttB! struck a new chord with me because I was 15 last time I saw it and now I’m less than two years away from being 30. It’s also largely about the really tough choice to pursue your dreams or abandon it in favor of a stable and oftentimes boring career. Anyone who works in the arts can tell you that you don’t do it for money, you do it for love, because we don’t make a lot of money (unless you’re Sondheim, Webber, or David Stone, of course). I also didn’t understand this quote when I was 15, but I understand it fully now:

It’s hard for people born after 1960 to be idealistic or original. We know what happens to ideals. They’re assassinated or corrupted or co-opted. It’s 1990 for God’s sake. It is not an exciting period. It is not a period of ferment. It’s fucking stodgy is what it is — conservative, complacent, obtuse and unimaginative. Or, to put it another way: George Bush is president of the United States.”

This was a lovely, emotional trip to an old favorite of mine that resonated with new meaning almost 15 years later. Totally worth the $27. 

It plays through Saturday - get your tickets now!

I’d seen Thomas Bradshaw’s last play, Burning, a couple of years ago so I knew what I was getting myself into when I “signed up” to see Intimacy, his latest work produced by The New Group.

There is a lot of nudity, masturbation, and fake semen in this one. It’s about three families in some small American town whose lives are kind of turned upside-down when one of the widower-devout Christian father’s discovers one of the girls next door is a porn star. Values are examined, the porn star’s father has to come to terms with his daughter’s career choice (as the mother seems incredibly supportive), and the climax (no pun intended) is all three families acting in a porno together filmed directed by the devout Christian’s son, Matthew (I’m pretty sure that was his name).

This is the intimacy that that the title refers to. It’s a little weird. Okay, very weird. And incredibly unbelievable, but hey, maybe it’s not so much as we hear more and more nowadays about mothers and daughters doing porn together and the like. The writing in Intimacy was never Pulitzer Prize worthy but when the plot atrophies, so does the writing.

Bradshaw likes to see how far he can push his audiences. Well, he pushed them quite far and a lot of them didn’t come back. But I think that’s part of the fun of a Bradshaw play: observing the audience’s reaction.

By now you might have guessed that I love a good Macbeth. Whether it be one man and ninety minutes, or three and a half hours with a full ensemble, I just can’ get enough of this drama. Yesterday I went to see Lincoln Center’s revival at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Ethan Hawke was staring in the title role and though I can’t think of a single movie I’ve ever seen him in, I was excited to see what he could do onstage.

The production value was fantastic. The lighting and sound designs, Japhy Weideman and Mark Bennett respectively, made the show fifteen times better than any production I’ve seen before. The three witches were played by men in drag (Malcolm Gets, John Glover, and Byron Jennings), which was amazing. Brian d’Arcy James owned his scenes as Banquo, and Anne-Marie Duff was marvelous as Lady Macbeth. The only weak link in the cast? In my opinion it was Ethan Hawke. He was monotone and had only one expression (he’s kind of the Kristen Stewart of Broadway). Maybe my prejudice comes from having seen two masters, Patrick Stewart and Alan Cumming, play the role before him, but I was far from impressed.

Regardless though I still enjoyed this production immensely. I’d probably even see it again. That’s just how much I love Macbeth

When I was studying abroad during the summer in 2007, I saw a play before I came home called “In Celebration" starring Orlando Bloom. I’d never really been an Orlando Bloom fan in particular, but I thought, how many more times will I have the chance to see Orlando Bloom on stage? Probably not many. 

And I was right.. not many have presented themselves. Until now… this fall a new and re-imagined revival of Shakespeare’s classic, Romeo and Juliet will be playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  Orlando Bloom will (obviously) be playing Romeo alongside Condola Rashad (who killed it in last season’s The Trip to Bountiful) as Juliet. The fantastic Chuck Cooper and Jayne Houdyshell are also apart of the stellar cast. 

I am so, so excited for this revival. For one I’ve never seen a professional production of R&J, and with this cast…. WOW! I’ll be seeing it sometime in September and I wanted to give one of you guys a chance to see it too. In the next week or so I’ll be putting together a post to be tweeted/reblogged/etc!

Until then, I leave with you this picture of the charismatic Orlando Bloom from back in 2007:

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And this news surprised absolutely no one. (Seriously, they’ve been making $1 million + every week since they opened.)

But in all seriousness, good for you guys. Rock it!

(Check out my thoughts on the show from when I saw it in previews.)

So, there really aren’t enough positive words in the English language to describe the powerhouse of talent that is Jan Maxwell. And when I was invited to see the Potomac Theatre Project's New York premiere production of The Castle by Howard Barker, starring Ms. Maxwell, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Castle is centered around a village in England and what happens when the husbands who’ve been away at war for so long come home.

The women have taken a liking to one another while the males of the village aren’t present. Maxwell (as Skinner) is a leader of sorts (and a witch) for the women and detests the thought of having their husbands back in their village. She’s less than thrilled when one of her new lovers discovers that she’s still in love with her newly returned husband.

Jennifer Van Dyck as Ann, the lover of Maxwell, also gives a powerful performance laden with internal conflict. David Barlow as Ann’s husband, Stucley, made audiences laugh continuously with his quibbling portrayal of a man who doesn’t recognize the village, and wife, that he’s come home too. 

The battle between the sexes has never been fiercer. The Castle is playing through August 4th at the Atlantic Theatre Company’s Stage 2. Click here for more information. 

Thank you to DARR Publicity for the tickets!

Murder Ballad

I saw Murder Ballad on Friday night after hearing numerous positive accounts from friends whose opinions I trust. Also: Rebecca Naomi Jones, Will Swenson, and Cassie Levy? Yes, please sign me up.

I guess site-specific, make your stage shows are the rage now. I guess everyone has to have some schtick and Murder Ballad capitalized on this by basically creating their own theatre in the round at the Union Square Theatre. Where I was sitting was basically where the stage would’ve been. The show’s action centers around a long bar in the front orchestra and a pool table in the house left section of the orchestra.

The plot, although semi-cliche, is compelling enough to keep you interested for 80 minutes (No intermission! Score!) and despite the upfront admission that the ending is not happy, is pretty happy. I have to admit that after being told by Jones’ character that someone dies, I spent much of the show guessing who it’d be.

The score is great. There is LOTS of belting. It’s a great rock score, with just the right number of ballads to make sure you don’t get a headache from the volume. The lighting and staging is beautiful, and very creative. John Ellison Conlee was out, so Josh Tower covered for him; and he was great.

Jones’ character is mainly the narrator who breaks down the fourth wall from the very first note. I thought she was, of course, fantastic. And like in American Idiot she wears very little clothing the entire time. 

The show begins and ends in exactly the same, which is something I always love, because it gives you chills. Murder Ballad is eerier form start to finish, and it’s also quite amazing.

Murder Ballad is paying at the Union Square Theatre through July 21st. 

When shall we three meet again?

I love Macbeth. It’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s dramas. I studied it while I was abroad in London. I worked at the last broadway revival starring Patrick Stewart (I watched that production 13 times in all it’s 3 hour and 15 minutes of glory). I was excited but honestly skeptical when I learned it would be coming back again this season.

As a one-man show. That was one act and an hour and forty five minutes long. What?! But the silver lining was that Alan Cumming would be the star. He’d be playing all the characters. Still: the prospect was intimidating.

But yesterday I went to see the recent revival and I was absolutely blown the fuck away.

The premise is that Alan Cumming is a patient in an institution playing all these characters in his padded cell. They make full use of the three cameras and screens watching him. In all fairness, there are two actors in the show with him but they are there mostly to watch over him occasionally and sedate him when necessary.

The concept is truly heartbreaking to watch. Any time Cumming gets a little too into the action he’s imagined, the doctors rush in to sedate and put him back into his bed where he curls up in the fetal position and cries briefly.

Alan Cumming is a force to be reckoned with. He’s incredible. During the curtain call, he seemed very humbled and surprised to be receiving so much attention for his out-of-this-world performance.

I love Macbeth and if you do too, this is a production not to be missed.

Disclosure: My company works on this show, but I am in no way shilling for them.