Join our mailing list

* indicates required

Tags Matching:

Bruce Chadwick


  • Originally published 08/19/2013

    The Horror! The Horror! 1922 Fright Fest Rears Its Lovable Head Again

    The Cat and the Canary Unicorn Theater 6 East Street Stockbridge, MassachusettsThe Cat and the Canary is one of the most successful plays and horror movies of all time. It has been staged endlessly in its nearly 100 year history and Hollywood has turned it into a movie six different times. It is even the basis for the legendary Haunted Mansion at Disney World, in Orlando, Florida.You can understand why at the Unicorn Theater, in the Berkshires, where it is up and running, and scaring, once again. The fright fest starts as you park outside the rustic old red barn theater. A half dozen “ghosts,” dressed in 1920s costumes, greet theatergoers in a dread-filled, zombie-ish way, heads bobbing and eyes opening and closing slowly. Inside, the theater has been turned into Glencliff Manor, that resembles every black and white manor house you ever saw in chilling movies.

  • Originally published 08/09/2013

    1924 Leopold and Loeb Case: Murder Mania Returns

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two brilliant Chicago college students, have lived in infamy as the brutal slayers of 14 year old Bobby Franks in 1924, a student whom they kidnapped and murdered just to prove that they could commit the perfect crime.The pair planned the murder for seven months. They were certain they could get away with it because they believed they were “supermen” and were smarter than everyone else. They abducted Franks after school. He was beaten to death and dumped in a culvert near a Chicago area lake. Then the kidnappers sent a letter to his millionaire father demanding ransom. They did not know that the body had already been found; no ransom was paid.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Slave Revolt Rides on Broken Down Railroad

    Tellin’ Man Midtown International Theater Festival Dorothy Strelsin Theater 312 W. 36th Street New York, N.Y. Each summer, the festival stages fifty or so plays of different varieties at the midtown theater complex.There were five well known slave revolts in America prior to the Civil War: in New York in 1712, along the Stono River, in South Carolina, in 1740, in Richmond, Virginia in 1800, the Denmark Vesey revolt in Charleston in 1822 and the Nat Turner revolt in Virginia in 1831. Paul Gray’s new play, Tellin’ Man seems to be based most closely on the rebellion led by Gabriel Prosser in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800. In Gray’s play, as in the Prosser revolt, other slaves secretly told the owners of the rebellion and the slave owners worked with law enforcement to quash it.The Tellin’ Man is the story of James, who betrayed his fellow slaves, and what happened to him, his family and his friends after the leaders of the revolt were arrested. It is a narrow focus play about slavery and the eternal hope of those in bondage that they could be free.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Fighting to Save a Sleazy Motel in Boston in the 1940s

    Motel Rasdell June Havoc Theater Midtown International Theater Festival 312 W. 36th Street New York, N.Y.Each summer, the festival presents fifty or so plays with a variety of themes as well as historyIn the 1940s, all proper Bostonian scoffed at the sleazy Motel Rasdell, a fictional hotel on the edge of the city. It was home to drug dealers, drug addicts on their “reefers,” derelicts, the homeless and hard edged hookers. Nobody ever mistook it for a dorm at Harvard, on the other side of the Charles River.It is also home to a bouncy new musical, Motel Rasdell, with an exuberant cast, a solid book and a charming, if harrowing, story.John is a reporter for a Boston newspaper and a womanizer in his personal life. He begins an affair with a hooker, Eve, who works at the Rasdell. He learns all about the wild life at the motel, and the illegality of just about everything that goes on there and writes a story about it. At the same time, his wife Jane catches him in his double life and leaves for Cape Cod, where she sulks on the beach. His two teenaged kids then try to run the house without her.

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Five Hundred Years of Food in Theater and Movies

    Most of us go to the theater and the movies to see drama, action, sturdy heroes and despicable villains. Francine Segan goes for the food.Segan, a former school psychologist, is the author of six cookbooks, all connected to history, theater and opera and delivers talks on food and theater and movies around the country. I caught up with her recently at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires, where she gives a half dozen talks each year on food in the movies and theater (she will be there again August 12 to talk about food and Shakespearean England).Segan, a delightful speaker with an easy charm and a walking encyclopedia of dining, discovered food on stage and in film years ago when she was watching a Shakespeare play.“I was fascinated by all the eating that went on in the plays,” the thin, black-haired speaker said at the gorgeous old Mahaiwe theater. “I thought about other plays and realized the same thing. Then I thought about movies. In movies, there is even more eating. Everybody thinks like I do. We all get intrigued by all the eating on film.”

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    A Scorching History of Rape in America

    Extremities Unicorn Theater 6 East Street Stockbridge, MassachusettsThe first seventeen minutes of Bill Mastrosimone’s savage play Extremities keep theatergoers on the edge of their seats. A stranger invades the home of a young woman he knows is alone and attempts to rape her. He is kneeling over her on the living room rug, his thick legs pinning her to the floor, his hands ripping at her clothes. She utters ear splitting screams of terror, flails her exposed legs wildly in the air and begs for her life.Then, suddenly, she is able to reach for a can of bug repellent and sprays her assailant in the face, disabling him. She springs to her feet, gets behind him and, before he can recover, ties him up. She tosses him into her empty fireplace, ties the iron grill to the wall and holds him captive, determined to kill him in revenge for what he did to her.

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    When Does a War End for the Veterans?

    Heroes Shakespeare and Company 70 Kemble Street Lenox, MassachusettsWhen does a war end for the men who fought it?That’s the question in French writer Gerald Sibleyras play Heroes, translated by Tom Stoppard, which just opened at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. The setting is 1959 somewhere in France. Three veterans of World War One, Phillipe, Gustave and Henri, reminisce about the war every day on the veranda of the Old Soldiers home where they live. Henry has been there 25 years and Phillipe ten. Gustave arrived six months ago.Sibleyras’ fine play seems slow moving and tepid at first. It appears to be the story of three perfectly harmless and lovable old men spending their golden years glorying in their wartime heroism long ago, cheered by all. As the minutes slip way, though, you see them as badly damaged individuals whose problems grow as each day passes. They don’t do anything well except re-fight World War One and act as much as soldiers as they can remember.

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    Country Matters in Elizabethan England

    As You Like It Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey 36 Madison Ave, Madison, NJ Drew UniversityAll is not well in the city where William Shakespeare’s As You Like It begins. The play, written in 1599, now running at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, charts the problems of urban life as cities grow, often without much order, in contrast to the increasingly inviting green retreats of the rural countryside. Within this conflict is the romance between Orlando, a frustrated younger brother in a powerful family, and the lovely Rosalind, a Duke’s daughter.Separately, the pair flees the city and seeks out the solitude of the Forest of Arden, with its thick clusters of trees, meandering streams and cast of characters. Rosalind disguises herself as a man so that she can keep an eye on Orlando, who is smitten with her as a girl. They are one of several pairs of lovers in the forest. The play is simple and relies on its director and actors to make it interesting. They do. As You Like It is impressive.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    Moving New Play on the Rosenbergs and 1950s Atomic Secrets

    Ethel Sings: Espionage in High CWalker Space Theater46 Walker StreetNew York, N.Y.The summer of 2013 is the 60th anniversary of the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, accused of selling American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union from about 1943 to the early 1950s. Even though it was later proved that they were guilty, the pair remains political celebrities today.Ethel Sings, by Joan Beber, is a moving drama about the couple, who died in their mid-30s (Ethel was 38, Julius 35), leaving behind two small children, Michael and Robert. Their case brought on several rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, several delays of execution and even a last minute plea to President Dwight Eisenhower. Beber paints a fine portrait of the couple, who went from joining the Communist Party to organizing labor and political rallies to espionage. They were, like some other ultra-liberals of the era, convinced that world was in better hands with the Soviets than the Americans. So they decided to do what they could to help the Soviets. That was their downfall.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    King Kong Takes Manhattan... Yet Again.

    We all remember King Kong, the lovable big ape from Skull Island, in the last scenes of the 1933 black and white movie, which mesmerized Depression audiences. He was on stage at a Broadway theater, ripping apart his manacles and getting ready to romp through Times Square in search of his true love, Anne Darrow, who, he thought, had a thing for gorillas.Now King Kong is back yet again. Last week, a new musical based on the 1933 Kong Kong movie opened in Melbourne, Australia, and will play through the end of August. If it does well, the talk is that the play will head to Broadway in 2014. Kong will be back home, lumbering through the canyons of New York and trying to swat planes from the top of the Empire State Building.What is the magic of the King Kong story, still successful in this fading recession, eighty years later? Americans have always loved exotic beasts from the past, but none have captured our hearts like King Kong.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    The "Man of Steel" Rusts

    Credit: Flickr.Superman is back in Man of Steel, the latest version of the story about the powerful hero from the planet Krypton who came to Earth to uphold truth, justice and the American way.The movie, starring unknown Henry Cavill as the man who can leap tall buildings with a single bound, opened last week and earned an amazing $113 million in its first weekend, to the astonishment of show business experts.Lord knows why.This latest Superman saga sinks faster than a ton of steel. It is dreary, tedious and lacks any humor, heroism or camaraderie. Superman should fly back to his galaxy and leave crime fighting and planet saving to Batman.

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    Very Far from Heaven in 1957 Connecticut

    Far From Heaven Playwrights Horizon 416 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Fans of the 2002 movie Far from Heaven will flock to the play version of the story, which just opened at Playwrights Horizon in New York. This time the work is a stage musical, not a drama, but the play has much of the same punch as the movie. It is emotional, troubling story of the underbelly of life in quiet Connecticut, in 1957 America, just before the Civil Rights movement gained steam and long before the gay rights movement caught fire.

  • Originally published 06/09/2013

    "Playboy of the Western World" Misses the Party

    Playboy of the Western World Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey Drew University Madison, N.J.In the novel The Great Gatsby, partygoers at Jay Gatsby’s elegant mansion are thrilled to hear a rumor that Gatsby had killed a man. In their champagne drenched eyes, a killer was a hero.In the play and movie Chicago, murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly are turned into singing, dancing heroines in the middle of the Roaring Twenties because they killed the men in their lives.In Playboy of the Western World, by J.M. Synge, which just opened at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, residents of a small village in Ireland in 1907 treat their odd visitor, young Christy Mahon, as a God when he announces with triumphal glee that he has just murdered his father. Men see him as an admirable character and women go crazy over him.

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    "The Great Gatsby's" Historical Razzle-Dazzle

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is a wafer thin book about the 1920s Jazz Age, long lost love and the intrepid chase of the American dream. It is considered the best novel ever written by an American not because of what it says, but because of what it implies. A hundred stories drift lazily between the pages, and over the water from Gatsby’s swimming pool to the green light on Daisy’s dock.In Baz Luhrmann’s new movie The Great Gatsby, the sixth film retelling of Fitzgerald’s tale, the story is inflated and expanded, as if it were based on a 700 page Herman Melville work. Everything you wondered about the story and characters is spelled out and everything you wanted said is spoken. Luhrmann and screenwriter Craig Pearce left no stone unturned, and no glass of champagne from one of Gatsby’s wild parties unfinished in the new Roaring Twenties epic.

  • Originally published 05/27/2013

    Hooray for Bollywood

    Bunty Berman Presents Theater Row 410 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Business is grim for Bunty Berman Productions in Bombay. His latest 1950s Bollywood film was a colossal flop, nine of his other movies cannot be completed because he is nearly bankrupt, his longtime star is getting old and overweight and the critics are ready to bury him.Does Bunty, a huge figure in Indian cinema, give up? No. Singing and dancing, he and his Bollywood friends assure all that they will, as their song goes, “make a movie” and win back the hearts in Indian filmgoers.Bunty Berman Presents is that story. The new play by British Pakistani writer Ayub Khan Din, author of Rafta, Rafta, starts off slowly, but after half an hour or so becomes a charming musical that not only pleases the audience, but gives them lot of history about Indian cinema, which has grown in America in the last decade or so.

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    Who are You Calling Nancy Boy?

    The ‘nance,’ or Nancy Boy, was a gay burlesque character from the 1930s who brought guffaws and belly laughs as he pranced about the stage, creating campy scenes and sketches of gay life. He put on an outrageous show and audiences loved him. In the late 1930s, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, fearful of how the lurid burlesque shows would make his city look in the upcoming World’s Fair of 1939, cracked down on the houses.Part of LaGuardia’s anger was aimed at the Nance, whom critics said created audiences of lusty gay men having sex in the dark balconies of the burlesque emporiums. It was an outrage, the Mayor said, and police began swooping down on burlesque shows, closing many and forcing others to drop the nance act or greatly curb it.The Nance, that just opened in New York, is the very funny, deeply emotional, and winning, story about that crackdown.

  • Originally published 05/03/2013

    A Loving Trip Back to a Different America

    The Trip to Bountiful Stephen Sondheim Theater 146 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.How many of us would like to take a trip to our own historic Bountiful, the town where we grew up and raised our children, but a town that has, over the years, receded far into our memory?That’s what aging Carrie Watts wants to do in Horton Foote’s sixty-year-old story about 1947 Texas, The Trip to Bountiful, a charming, splendid play about a woman in one era in Texas history returning to another.Carrie, a delightful old woman, lives with her last child, middle-aged Ludie, and his pushy wife, Jessie Mae, in a cramped two-room apartment in Houston. She yearns to return to the town near the Gulf of Mexico where she grew up, Bountiful, a place she has not seen in more than twenty years. She just wants to go back for a visit and tour the streets that she loved as a child and young woman.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Old Jews Telling Jokes

    Old Jews Telling JokesWestside Theater 407 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.For generations, the Borscht Belt was the capital of humor in the United States. The Borscht Belt was the chain of resort hotels in New York State’s Catskill Mountains, just a ninety-minute drive from New York City. It was its own ocomic nation in the 1940s and ‘50s.Many of the top comedians performing there -- not to mention most of the audience -- were Jewish (hence the name, as most New York Jews came from eastern Europe). The highlight of these comic routines were well plotted and perfectly timed stories about Jewish, and urban, life in America.They were hysterical.Now the whole country gets a chance to hear the old stories that rattled the funny bones of Americans for generation in Old Jews Telling Jokes, an hilarious historic review of the old stories that just opened at New York’s Westside Theater. It is one of the funniest shows to debut in New York in decades.

  • Originally published 03/29/2013

    A Murky Look Back at the 1969 Stonewall Riots and Gay History

    Hit the Wall Barrow Street Theater 27 Barrow Street New York, N.Y.On the hot, humid evening of June 27, 1969, undercover police at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, alerted their superiors that it was ripe for a raid. Hours later, eight police officers arrived and plunged into the crowd of some two hundred men and women in the bar. The paddy wagons arrived late and those charged stood outside on the hot street. The revelers who had not been arrested came back to see what was going on as the tide of people grew. Neighbors and patrons at other bars, seeing the angry crowd, walked out on to the street, too, and joined it. Shouts and threats were yelled, the people spilled into the busy street and traffic was jammed for blocks. When the police vans finally did arrive, a full scale riot broke out. Gay men threw empty garbage cans at the cops and the police responded by clubbing dozens. Blood flowed. The riots over the Stonewall raid continued for several days. They were highly publicized and the event was said to be one of the places where the American gay rights movement started.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    The 1905 "Bloody Sunday" Showdown in Russia

    NevaNew York Public Theater425 Lafayette StreetNew York, N.Y.If you can sit through the dreadfully dull and dreary first thirty minutes of Neva, Chilean writer Guillermo Calderon’s drama about the January 22, 1905 massacre that later brought about the 1905 revolution in Russia, you will see a pretty good play.The start of the short play, which opened last week, finds two actors in St. Petersburg greeting their new acting company colleague, Olga Knipper, the widow of recently buried Russian writing great Anton Chekhov. She has come to the jewel of Russia to re-start her acting career. The trio talks about the work they are doing and it is casually mentioned that the tsar’s troops have shot down several thousand street protestors, killing about a thousand of them, in another part of town. No one pays much attention and the play rehearsal drones on, endlessly. There does not seem to be any point to it beyond reminding people that Chekhov’s wife had talent, too.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s -- Send It Back

    Breakfast at Tiffany’sCort Theater138 W. 48th StreetNew York, N.Y.Emilia Clarke as Holly Golightly.Anyone sitting in the Cort Theater in New York waiting for Breakfast at Tiffany’s to begin enjoys a wonderful montage of paintings and photographs of the city during World War II to remind you that the play is set in 1943. After ten or fifteen minutes of this luscious buildup, you are ready for a memorable play.You don’t get one, though. You should send Breakfast at Tiffany’s back to the kitchen and try another restaurant.The stage version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, adapted for the theater by Richard Greenberg and based on the incredibly successful 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn, has lost its luster. The executives at Tiffany’s should ask that they rename the play Lunch at Cartier’s

  • Originally published 03/04/2013

    Two Chinese on a Mountain...

    The Dance and the Railroad Pershing Square Signature Theater 480 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Photo Credit: Signatory Theater. The play The Dance and the Railroad could have been a landmark drama about the role of the Chinese in the historic construction of the Transcontinental Railroad that connected the entire country by rail in 1869, but something went wrong. David Hwang’s play debuted in 1981 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Price and has been produced hundreds of times since then. Now, thirty-two years later, it has lost whatever punch it had when it opened. The drama is the story of two Chinese workers on the railroad who are killing time on top of a mountain, pretending they are members of a Chinese opera troupe. All of the Chinese laborers are on strike to protest unacceptable conditions on the railroad, from long hours to low pay. The railroad, and strike, are hardly mentioned during the entire length of the play. Towards the finale, there is some discussion about the strike -- management wins -- and the two men now have to return to work.

  • Originally published 02/25/2013

    Is a House a Home in the Segregated 1950s?

    Luck of the Irish Claire Tow Theater/Lincoln Center 150 West 65th Street New York, N.Y.In the middle of the nineteenth century, Boston was the capital of the anti-slavery movement. The capital of Massachusetts was the home of several well-known abolitionist newspapers; the state was led politically by anti-slavery champions such as Senator Charles Sumner and Governor John Andrew, and the 54th Massachusetts -- the first African American regiment in the Union Army -- was mustered near the city in 1863.In the middle of the twentieth century, though, Boston was a hotbed of racism. The Boston Red Sox was one of the last teams to be integrated (Pumpsie Green in 1959) and housing in the Boston area was still segregated. The New England city had actually made enormous backward strides over the prior century.This is the backdrop for Luck of the Irish, a powerful drama about how a white couple “fronted” for a black couple so they could buy a house in the fictional Boston suburb of Billington. It was a practice known as “ghost buying” and widely used all over the country at the time.

  • Originally published 02/25/2013

    Dr. Zhivago Makes an Angry House Call

    Lightning from Heaven Workshop Theater Company 312 W. 36th Street New York, N.Y.Scott C. Sickles’s new play Lightning from Heaven, now on stage at the Workshop Theatre Company in New York City, explores the question that millions of readers and viewers of the book and movie Dr. Zhivago have been asking for decades– was book’s heroine Lara based on someone in Zhivago author Boris Pasternak’s life? Sickles claims in his play that not only was Lara based on Pasternak’s translator, but she was his mistress for fourteen years. Their relationship, the play insists, is the relationship in the book and movie, set against the backdrop of the Russian history from 1905 to 1960.

  • Originally published 02/15/2013

    A Mediocre Evening with Sir Isaac Newton

    Isaac’s Eye Ensemble Studio Theater 549 W. 52nd Street New York, N.Y.Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in plays about historical inventors actually told you what was accurate and what was invented? Well, in Isaac’s Eye, a play about philosopher/mathematician Isaac Newton that just opened in New York, they do. A narrator comes out and tells you what is fact and what is fiction and true parts of the plot are written on the blackboards on the walls of the theater. So now you can sit back and enjoy a play about the great man who invented Calculus and figured out motion and gravity, right?No. Isaac’s Eye is a tedious play that tells very little about history. It's ostensibly set in 1665, but all the characters dress and talk as if it took place last Thursday. The single-set story takes place in what looks like a laboratory or classroom, plus lots of chalk to write on the walls.

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Let's Put a Smile on that Face

    The Man Who Laughs Urban Stages 259 W. 30th Street New York, N.Y.Walk into Urban Stages, a small theater in New York City, and a carnival vendor hands you a free bag of popcorn for the show. For half an hour you're entertained by a singer and pianist at the front of a stage designed to look like a Golden Age movie theater. Another pianist, this one in a suit, then comes out, bows, and starts to play the background music to The Man Who Laughs, a 1928 masterpiece of German Expressionism starring Conrad Veidt, based on Victor Hugo’s 1869 novel. Thus begins the stage adaptation of The Man Who Laughs, not It is very unusual to watch a play designed as a silent film, with no dialogue and the only sound the tingling keys of the piano.The Stolen Chair Theater Company is famous for unusual plays, and The Man Who Laughs, which opened last week, is certainly in that tradition. If you love silent movies, you'll love The Man Who Laughs.

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    A Gay Man, a Housewife, and Mussolini

    Working on a Special Day 59 E. 59 Theaters 59 E. 59th Street New York, N.Y.How do you turn a movie that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and starred Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren into a successful play?Very carefully.

  • Originally published 01/27/2013

    Jam On

    The Jammer Atlantic Stage 2 330 W. 16th Street New York, N.Y.It's Brooklyn, circa 1958. The Dodgers have been gone for two years, Eisenhower is president and rock and roll music is sweeping the nation. It's nighttime at a local sports arena, time for outlandishly dressed men and women to crash over rails, leap over fallen skaters and elbow each other. It is time for fans to lose their sanity and yell and scream at the top of their lungs for the hometown team.It is time for roller derby.From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, the brazen men and wild women of roller derby were skating in smoky arenas all over America on wooden ovals in a frantic race for points and time. Teams from New York to San Francisco drew crowds as large as 50,000 fans at indoor and outdoor arenas and millions more watched on television.The roller derby skating teams, with names such as the Jolters and Bombers, gave the country a very rowdy, fast paced sport, supposedly a little fixed at times. It was like professional wrestling, with roaring crowds, bigger than life stars and non-stop violence.

  • Originally published 01/19/2013

    "Phantom of the Opera" Showcases Rich Parisian History

    Phantom of the Opera Majestic Theater 247 W. 44th Street New York, N.Y.The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running play in American history, celebrates its 25th anniversary in New York Saturday night. There will once again be “oohs” and “aahs” when the huge chandelier falls on stage, scary moments when the Phantom threatens people and, start to finish, some of the most luscious music ever written for the stage.Theatergoers will see the enchanting musical, as good as ever after all these years, and shudder as the ogrish Phantom takes the beautiful actress Christine across the foreboding lake beneath the Paris Opera House to his lair. They will revel in French history, with all of its odd turns, that set the stage for the 1911 novel Le Fantome de L’Opera, by Gaston Leroux, and the hit 1925 silent movie version of it, starring the hideously made up Lon Chaney. While it was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wonderful music, and the character of the Phantom, that made the musical so successful, it was the history that always gave it strength, whether in 1925 movie theaters or in the 148 cities in 28 countries where the musical has been staged.

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Aux armes, citoyens!

    Illustration from an 1886 edition of Les Misérables. Credit: Wiki Commons.To the barricades! Les Misérables is back again, this time on the movie screen.Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a thrilling, violent, enthralling historical story about men and women caught up in a failed political uprising that swept through France in 1832. The original novel, published in 1862, took the world by storm.This latest Les Misérables -- which has earned a tremendous amount of money in the three weeks since it premiered and last week was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture -- has somehow turned into a debate on whether singing the music live is better or worse than the standard recorded music and whether Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway look properly movie star-ish in the close-ups that are used throughout the movie. One critic sneered that Hathaway, who plays Fantine, can’t sing and another howled that she looks anorexic. A third was ecstatic because Hathaway died off at the forty-third-minute mark.

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    The Tragedy of Involuntary Commitment

    Airswimming Irish Repertory Theatre 132 W. 22d Street New York, N.Y.Airswimming is a jolting shocker about two women incarcerated in a mental hospital in England for fifty years due to their eccentricity and because they violated British society’s rules of conduct during the 1920s. At the same time, Charlotte Jones’s 1997 play is an enduring, enchanting story of the strength of the human spirit and how two people’s friendship helped them survive a living hell.In 1922, Dora (played by Aedin Moloney) was tossed into St. Dymphnas Hospital for the Criminally Insane and followed there two years later by Persephone. They mark the first few years of their imprisonment, but so many years go by they lose count. The hospital has teamed them up to clean the bathrooms one hour each day, and that is the time we see them on stage. There, scrubbing down the bathtub, the pair realizes that they need each other to survive the Hades they occupy.

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    The Agony of the Soldier Returned from the Wars

    Water by the Spoonful Second Stage Theater 305 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.Elliot, a hulking war vet, has been back from Iraq for two years. He's still trying to find himself as he struggles to rejoin his deeply dysfunctional and drug addicted family in Philadelphia. He faces many of the same problems that vets faced coming home from Vietnam, Korea, all the way back to the American Revolution. He served his country honorably, but suffered physically and mentally. He arrived back a hero, but not to a hero’s welcome.Elliot is the centerpiece of Water by the Spoonful, the new play by Quiara Alegria Hudes, the author of the successful In the Heights. It's a confusing play that rambles through act one in fits and starts, and long stretches of boredom, before finding its way in the middle of act two. That;s is when Elliot lets down his warrior macho and emotional shield. That is when we see the torment he has lived through in Iraq. He was wounded several times and became addicted to pain killers during his recovery. He also has nightmares about the first man he killed in Iraq -- the man’s ghost keeps getting off the ground to struggle with him.