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Thomas Jay Ryan (#110 of 3)

Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

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Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

Theatre for a New Audience

Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

As the crowd waited in the lobby of the Polonsky Shakespeare Center for the curtain to rise on Simon Godwin’s production of Measure for Measure, a voice on the loudspeaker said that the bordello was now open. This isn’t the way Shakespeare productions typically begin, even in Brooklyn. Theatre for a New Audience built a passage from the lobby to the theater, with simulated acts of sadomasochism in the occasional opening on either side, separated by a hallway lined with rows of sex toys on small shelves, more boutique retail than museum. Guests were greeted at the entrance by a bored woman with a thick Slavic accent. “Nice to see you again,” she muttered to my wife.

The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

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<em>The Little Foxes</em> at New York Theatre Workshop
<em>The Little Foxes</em> at New York Theatre Workshop

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of provocateur Ivo van Hove’s slick remounting of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes is that it really isn’t that shocking. The man who allowed Hedda Gabler to be humiliated by a flood of tomato juice and employed a hot dog and Hershey’s syrup to illuminate The Misanthrope turns almost cuddly in comparison this time around. Sure, a woman gets dramatically socked in the gut three times in a row and another dry humps a wall, but the closest it gets to beverages and condiments is a mimed sip of good ’ol Southern java. This would seem to be a criticism, and even though this critic truly craved some of van Hove’s signature eyebrow-raisers (it’s a melodrama, guy!), it’s quickly discerned that Hellman’s stinging indictment of a plantation-owning family’s greed (”[The] people who raped the Earth, and those who stood around and watched them do it”) really needs no trickery at all to remain a grabber.

Great Performances: The Temperamentals and Venus in Fur

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Great Performances: <em>The Temperamentals</em> and <em>Venus in Fur</em>
Great Performances: <em>The Temperamentals</em> and <em>Venus in Fur</em>

The Temperamentals could have easily been the title for The Boys in the Band, given that the latter’s party guests fit that description to a T, and it’s interesting that both works are sharing the same season. Both are about a group of men who, despite their differences, try to make sense of what it is to be gay in their society. Except that this play, sensitively written by Jon Marans (Old Wicked Songs), goes back all the way to the early ’50s, when gay wasn’t even a state of mind yet. Cue the advent of the Mattachine Society, a politically based platform begun by married, somewhat conservative Harry Hay (Thomas Jay Ryan), slowly embracing his homosexuality, and his Jewish émigré lover Rudi Gernreich (Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie), and their difficult efforts trying to get a group together to create a faction for men who felt disenfranchised (calling themselves “temperamental”), much like black Americans did in the same time period.