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The Deuce Recap Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

Paul Schiraldi

The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

Even without considering its title, it becomes obvious that Ruby (Pernell Walker) will figure heavily in the season finale of The Deuce when we see her walk dejectedly through Times Square midway through “My Name Is Ruby.” Normally prone to holding court under the 42nd Street lights, she’s avoided by pedestrians as though she were a piece of debris. Her thoughtless murder late in the episode is heartbreaking precisely because after weeks of her amicable presence, it’s a shock to see her treated as a disposable thing.

The Deuce Recap Season 1, Episode 4, “I See Money”

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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “I See Money”

Paul Schiraldi

The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “I See Money”

Symbolism in The Deuce isn’t always subtle. Sometimes it’s as obvious as a rat crawling onto a prostitute while she gives a blowjob in a porn theater. When that happens to Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in the opening sequence of “I See Money,” the husky rodent does more than portend the indignities awaiting her. An inevitable symptom of Times Square squalor, the rat is an emblem of the collateral damage we see everywhere in the episode.

The Deuce Recap Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

Paul Schiraldi

The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

Fans of David Simon’s The Wire won’t be surprised that the pilot episode of The Deuce lacks a singular inciting event designed to ensure audience retention. In the place of narrative hooks, the episode thoroughly maps the ecosystem of vice that was 1970s New York City, and beckons us to explore a ruinous Times Square alongside a sprawling cast of vibrant characters.

When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones

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When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones
When We Were Young and Unafraid Interview with Cherry Jones

Cherry Jones loves company, so it’s fitting that she plays the proprietor of a bed and breakfast in When We Were Young and Unafraid. You won’t find the actress demanding her own dressing room, starring in a one-woman show, or refusing to talk to someone who recognizes her. She’s motivated most by a desire for connection, deep and true, with her role, the other actors, and the audience. Jones balances this yearning for communion with a sense of loneliness—yet none of it seems neurotic. She’s from Tennessee, with an old-fashioned forthrightness that distinguishes her work and conversation. After all, when she won the Tony Award for The Heiress, she became the first Best Actress to out herself by thanking her then-partner, Mary O’Connor. Jones did so simply, treating it not as a landmark, but the easiest, most natural thing to do. In similar no-nonsense fashion, she exposes her characters’ desires and shortcomings with neither elaborate techniques to distance herself from them nor self-congratulation.

The open-faced actor currently has her work cut out for her playing the emotionally shut-off Agnes. Playwright Sarah Treem, a writer and co-executive producer on House of Cards, endows Jones’s character, who’s forced to deal with other people every waking moment, with limited social skills. As a result, the actress not only has to master a steady stream of rituals as if they’re second nature; she has to alter her own essential transparency. This frisson adds a layer of tension to an already fraught work, which ambitiously maps out the personal and political crosscurrents navigated by American women in 1972. Agnes’s B&B serves as a clandestine shelter for abused women, and while trying to protect her young ward, Penny (Homeland’s Morgan Saylor), from the everyday predations of high school boys, she takes in a savagely beaten young wife, Mary Anne, (Zoe Kazan). Soon Agnes attracts the attention of Hannah an African-American lesbian separatist, made charismatically believable by Cherise Boothe.

Agnes is in her 50s. The three other women in When We Were Young are in their teens, 20s, and 30s. Before a performance of the play, I spoke with Jones about going through each of those stages in her own life and work.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

Compared to most of the season’s races, Best Actress has remained somewhat open, with only two gals firmly secure in their nominations, and at least five more boasting realistic chances. The two locks in question are, of course, Zero Dark Thirty lead Jessica Chastain and Silver Linings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence, a pair whom most believe will duke it out for the win. Coming off of one of the most impressive breakthrough years of any actor in memory, Chastain took top billing in a film that never tried to promote girl power, but nonetheless emerged as a battleground riff on any number of feminist dramas, with a can-do female fighting powers that be to see justice done. Historically, it’s the sort of performance the Academy lives to reward, right up there with the dead-on mimicry of late icons. Lawrence, meanwhile, used her turn in Silver Linings Playbook to cement her career longevity, which has been hinted at since Winter’s Bone, the last film to land her a nod in this category. Far from a flash in the pan, Lawrence has that rare gift of deeply understanding the women she portrays, and her bone-deep grasp of unhinged widow Tiffany is the highlight of David O. Russell’s flawed dramedy.

2011 Theater Fall Preview

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2011 Theater Fall Preview
2011 Theater Fall Preview

With Labor Day, summer vacations, and weekend getaways behind us, it’s time again to tune into the city’s arts and culture vibe. The House checked out the wide variety of theater offerings for Broadway and beyond this fall and made a few selections to put on your calendar:

New Plays

This season is notable for the number of women playwrights with new plays on Broadway. One of them is 29-year-old Katori Hall, who makes her Broadway debut with The Mountaintop (from September 22 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater). In her fictional account, which takes place in 1968, on the night before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in her own home town of Memphis, the playwright imagines a late-night encounter between King and a mysterious woman. Movie and television star Samuel L. Jackson plays the great civil rights leader and Angela Bassett the nocturnal visitor. The production is directed by Kenny Leon, who received a Tony nomination last year for directing Fences. Leon also helms the production of Stick Fly (from November 18 at the Cort Theater), which marks the Broadway debut of another African-American female playwright, Lydia R. Diamond. Stick Fly is a comedy of manners about an affluent black family spending a summer weekend at their home in Martha’s Vineyard.

Adam Rapp is well-known for not pulling his punches, so brace yourself for his latest, Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling (starts September 13 at CSC), a surreal play that promises to “lift the veil on the lives of two wealthy American families” in Connecticut. The Atlantic Theater Company production features a dream cast which includes Christine Lahti, Cotter Smith, Katherine Waterston, and the incomparable Reed Birney.

A Behanding in Spokane at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

A Behanding in Spokane is enfant terrible Martin McDonagh’s first play to be set in America, and stars Christopher Walken, the one celebrity who would seem the perfect fit for the Tarantino-of-the-stage’s mix of startling menace and hilarious absurdity. But the multiple Tony-nominated and Academy Award-winning Irishman’s latest project—despite the presence of always finely tuned Walken and a nothing less than revelatory Sam Rockwell—is minor McDonagh. And that’s being generous. Without those two tent-pole presences holding it up, Behanding would fold like a cheap house of cards.