Theater

A Curtain Call For Paddy Chayefsky

A new production of ‘Middle of the Night’ and a new biography fueling a reassessment of the screenwriter-playwright’s emotionally charged work.

03/04/2014
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Mention the name of Jewish screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, and most people think of “Marty,” the path-breaking 1950s teleplay turned film about a lonely Italian-American butcher in the Bronx. Or they think of the electrifying scene in the 1976 Sidney Lumet film, “Network,” in which a TV anchorman demands that all New Yorkers throw open their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”

Nicole Lowrance and Jonathan Hadary, left, star in a revival of “Middle of the Night” by Paddy Chayefsky, right.  Carol Rosegg

A Charged Photo Shoot

02/25/2014
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Conflict between brothers is a familiar theme in Jewish culture, from warring brothers in the Torah to sibling rivalry in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “A Serious Man.” Now comes Charles Gershman’s one-act drama, “Shooting Abe,” in which an Orthodox Jew bursts into his photographer brother’s nude male photo shoot. The play, which asks how far a Jew can stray from his heritage, continues this week at the Frigid New York Festival on the Lower East Side.

Ethan Fishbane (Abe), Christopher Moss (Ty), and Joe Kopyt (Shlomi) in scene from “Shooting Abe.”  Mike Lepetit

Choreographing A New Purim Story

02/18/2014
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Jewish holidays typically dramatize the struggles of men — Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son, Moses trying to persuade Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, the Maccabee soldiers battling against the Seleucid Greek oppressors. But Purim puts a Jewish woman front and center, giving her a pivotal role in saving her people from destruction.

The Ariel Rivka Dance performs “Vashti” and “Esther” in two-part show.  Jonathan Beck

Voice Lessons

02/11/2014
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In one of the most shameful episodes in the history of our hemisphere, the S.S. St. Louis, carrying 937 refugees from the Holocaust, was turned away in 1939 from Cuba, the United States and Canada. Now, 75 years later, comes Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz’s “Sotto Voce,” a play in which a young Cuban Jew strikes up a long-distance friendship with a female German novelist whose Jewish lover was a doomed passenger on the ship. It opens this weekend in the East Village. Cruz, who is not Jewish, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his play, “Anna in the Tropics.”

Andhy Mendez and Franca Sofia Barchiesi in Nilo Cruz’s “Sotto Voce,” about the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis.  Jonathan Slaff

Yiddish Theater’s Latest Fusion

Target Margin’s Winter Lab series draws from some unusual sources for its experimental fare.

02/11/2014
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Born in Eastern Europe and raised to its full height on the Lower East Side, the Yiddish theater was always a mongrel art, based on the recycling of serious European dramas, jaunty operettas, helter-skelter variety shows and other high- and lowbrow entertainment. Now, wrapping up a two-year odyssey into Yiddish theater, the Target Margin Theater Company presents a series of new theatrical works that are based on unusual sources ranging from the sweatshop poetry of Celia Dropkin to the comedy of Lenny Bruce. The cutting-edge series, called the Winter Lab, kicks off this week on the Lower East Side.

Target Margin’s 2012 production of “Outside/In,” which explored the political concerns of early 20th-century Yiddish poets.

Spoofing The Spy Thriller

02/04/2014
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Whether you hail Edward Snowdon as a hero or condemn him as a traitor, the Snowdon case has brought renewed attention to the role of spies in international politics. Now comes Leonard Lehrman and Joel Shatzky’s left-wing cabaret show, “Superspy!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical,” a spoof of Cold War espionage thrillers. Lehrman, the composer, will be at the piano as he and his wife, Helene Williams, play all the characters in the show. Featuring songs like “The SDI Waltz,” a reference to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the show runs for three performances  over the next two weeks, beginning this Friday, at the Medicine Show Theatre in Midtown.

Helene Williams and Leonard Lehrman play all the roles in spy spoof at the Medicine Show Theatre.

Recasting The Daniel Pearl Story

01/28/2014
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Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes — and all levels of wealth and education. In Dick Brukenfeld’s new play, “Blind Angels,” a Jewish journalist is taken captive in New York by a group of his former Yale classmates, who are planning a 9/11-style attack. As many liberals have done, the play questions our nation’s use of force, suggesting that American drone attacks have led to reprisals by terrorists. It premieres next week at the Theater for the New City in the East Village.

Qurrat Ann Kadwani and Scott Raker star in “Blind Angels,” at the Theater for the New City. Jonathan Slaff

What’s In A Portrait?

01/21/2014
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Nowadays, people constantly snap photos of themselves — known as “selfies” — and post them casually on the Internet. But in earlier periods of history, portraits were carefully constructed, enduring expressions of a sitter’s self-image and sense of importance in society. In Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy, “The Portrait,” the 18th-century rendering of a Jewish ancestor leads to squabbling among his descendants over the ownership of the valuable painting. The play runs through this weekend at Theatre 54 in Midtown.

Sarah Levine Simon’s comedy “The Portrait”  ownership of a family portrait. Doug Nobiletti

Carole King Musical Doesn’t Sing

Despite a strong performance from Jessie Mueller, ‘Beautiful’ never quite coheres.

01/14/2014
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If ever pop music could be said to define a generation, it was in the 1960s, a time of social ferment set to the beat and rhythm of youth. Carole King, working with her husband Gerry Goffin, helped to set the tone for that era with her catchy tunes about the elusiveness and slipperiness of love. In “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which opened last Sunday at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, King’s music shines through the decades. But the musical itself, which stars Jessie Mueller in a scintillating performance as the composer, never quite coheres into a satisfying show.

Jessie Mueller as Carole King and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin in “Beautiful.” Joan Marcus

This Land Is …

01/14/2014
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There may be only a handful left today, but less than a century ago, there were tens of thousands of Jewish Communists in New York who decried the gap between rich and poor in the city. Now comes Billy Yalowitz’s “East Towards Home,” a 90-minute play that uses dance, live music and animation to connect the Yiddish-speaking, left-wing Jews of New York to the music of Woody Guthrie, whose folk tunes gave voice to the parched people of the Dust Bowl during the Depression.

David Kremenitzer and Eleanor Reissa in Billy Yalowitz’s Woody Guthrie-inspired “East Towards Home.” Jonathan Slaff
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