THEATER REVIEW: Cast hits mark, though ‘Curtains’ has drawbacks

“Curtains” / Mac-Haydn Theatre

THE MUSICAL THEATER composer John Kander is 91. We all know his “Cabaret” and his “Chicago,” but there are prolific Kander-years since, before and between. Many of those shows were built for extraordinary female stars (Liza Minnelli, Lauren Bacall, Gwen Verdon, and perhaps most of all, Chita Rivera.)

Kander has become the grand old man of musical creators, admired and beloved for smarts, dignity and old-fashioned human decency by the people who work with him. What does it mean that his main characters are often so bereft of those very characteristics? Witness the unsavory fame- and money-grabbers of “Chicago” and, most of all, the cold, revenge-obsessed woman (played by Chita Rivera) in “The Visit.” What attracted this composer to the pain, depression and sexual-abuse-trauma suffered by the main character in his 2015 show “Kid Victory”?

Now running at Mac-Haydn Theatre, “Curtains” (by Kander, Ebb, and Stone) is Kander’s 2006 musical about a theater company preparing a show called “Robin Hood.” The characters are something of a departure. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Take this ‘Trip’ for the story, not the scenery

The Actors’ Ensemble production of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the new PS21 black box theater in Chatham includes Fern Sloan (Carrie Watts) and Joey Sorge (Ludie). The remaining performances are Saturday, June 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 9 at 2 p.m. Photo by Deirdre Malfatto

“The Trip to Bountiful” / PS21

ACTRESS FERN SLOAN of Actors’ Ensemble is on my “go see her in anything” list. This time she is Carrie Watts, an old woman flirting with end-days, trapped and plagued by daughter-in-law abuse. She feels compelled to escape for a last journey to Bountiful, the small, disappearing Texas town of her youth.

Sloan extracts meaning and personhood from all her roles. Beauty is hers too—from large wide-set eyes that live a long, narrow distance from her toes, to two big expressive hands in between. Beauty. And she doesn’t even need it.

The play is satisfyingly, appropriately slow. It is like lava pushing people down the mountain. They scrape against one another and comfort and listen to one another on the way. Read more…

The School gallery shows collaborations of Warhol and Basquiat

KINDERHOOK—“Basquiat x Warhol” opened Saturday, June 1 at The School with a reception from 3 to 7 p.m. The crux of the exhibition lies in the eight collaborative paintings, executed in 1984 and 1985 by the two artists, on display in The School’s main exhibition space.

The collaboration consisted of Andy Warhol taking the first pass at the work and Jean-Michel Basquiat finishing it. The works were generally panned when they were shown in the 1980s, with accusations that Warhol was “manipulative” and Basquiat a “too-willing accessory” (New York Times). The relationship, artistic and personal, apparently dwindled after that, until Warhol’s death in 1987 and Basquiat’s death in 1988.

Today, an exuberant Jack Shainman, proprietor of The School, says he is proud to present the works, as a study that mines the creative genius of both artists. “We’re looking at the collaborative paintings 30 years later with fresh eyes,” he said Tuesday. “They’re remarkable.” Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Endearment’ makes the leap from screen to stage

“Terms of Endearment” / The Theater at Copake Grange

IT’S NOT NEWS that grandmas are not what they used to be. Shirley McClain’s Aurora proved it in the 1983 film “Terms of Endearment.” Now, in 2019, Constance Lopez as Aurora speaks her saucy mind and warns us in the first scene that she cares a lot about appearance and status.

Lopez later walks the stage in an elegant, plummy-purple-slit-up-the-calf dress and high heels–and even later in a narrow, mauve, high-waisted skirt with creamy soft top. Hooray for Kimberly Mauch costumes. And a special hooray for gram-glam!

Back in the eighties, it may still have seemed a bit naughty for a slim, vigorous, widowed grandmother to initiate some joyous sex with a neighbor. Now? Ho-hum. But this play is about Aurora’s role as mother. Mama’s borealis nature sometimes includes hurtful words to her daughter. The two cavil and connect; they talk on the phone every morning. The story is built around struggles to create or maintain loving connections–and arrive at the double meaning of “terms.” Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Christmas is very present in this ‘Carol’

A CHRISTMAS CAROL / Performed by David Anderson

GIVE US THE DICKENS. We humans deserve it. Walking the Dog Theater, Inc. provides.

In a low-ceilinged room near the top of the Hancock Shaker brick building, David Anderson performed Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” stripped of everything–everything, that is, but story. (The event is now moving to Warren Street in Hudson.)

Anderson’s solo performance was very lean even when I reviewed it years ago in a blue-cocoon space with theater lights, costumes, and occasional live music. Yesterday, it was just David and his spindly Shaker chair being everybody, while a gray, wet afternoon moved in slowly to give his outline an appropriate blur. Read more…