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New York Theatre Workshop (#110 of 5)

No Fourth Wall Allowed Sibyl Kempson’s Fondly, Collette Richland

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No Fourth Wall Allowed: Sibyl Kempson’s Fondly, Collette Richland

Joan Marcus

No Fourth Wall Allowed: Sibyl Kempson’s Fondly, Collette Richland

In the New York theater world, there’s weird, there’s really weird, and then there’s totally insane. From the get-go, it’s pretty clear that Fondly, Collette Richland will fall, at the very least, in the first category. Fritz (Vin Night) and Mabrel Fitzhubert (Laurena Allan), a comically vanilla couple enduring an apparently bleak domestic existence, are introduced by a piano-playing narrator dressed in churchly vestments. Their speech is stilted and ironically melodramatic. Sometimes they blatantly mispronounce a word—no explanation provided. The fourth wall here isn’t merely shattered, it seems as though the playwright has never even heard of it.

Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

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Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America
Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

Theater director Ivo van Hove has made a habit of breaching borders. Born in Belgium, he currently runs the internationally renowned Toneelgroep Amsterdam in the Netherlands and also brings his work to New York with welcome regularity. More significantly, van Hove makes an art of erasing the barrier not only between actor and audience, but also between one scene and another.

During the presidential 2012 election, his epochal production Roman Tragedies, which played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, ran for nearly six hours without any breaks. Van Hove edited Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Anthony and Cleopatra to focus both the text and the theatrical experience on the relationship between politicians and the public. Audiences were encouraged to come and go where and when they pleased—even up onto the stage. The production became an exhilarating and indelible exercise in democracy, mounted by one of the reigning auteurs in global theater.

Review: Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information at New York Theatre Workshop

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Review: Caryl Churchill’s <em>Love and Information</em> at New York Theatre Workshop
Review: Caryl Churchill’s <em>Love and Information</em> at New York Theatre Workshop

Love and Information could go by many titles. Feeling and Knowing, perhaps, or Experience and Science, or Right Brain and Left Brain. Each of these pairings suggests, albeit less elegantly, the paradox that British playwright Caryl Churchill has used her new play to explore. How, this play asks, do we handle the gap between knowing the world and living in it? She approaches the problem like a dedicated curator, collecting a large and varied sample and, eschewing narrative of any kind, lining them up like butterflies in a case, grouping them by type and then arranging them for tone, rhythm, and color. Love and Information is this simple, and yet, in the manner of the best science museum exhibit, surprisingly fascinating, fun, and personally revealing.

In the course of an intermission-less two hours, Love and Information’s company of 15 actors present 57 scene-lets, most of which involve two characters, none of whom we meet again. The performers must evoke, in as little as 30 seconds, entire relationships, sometimes with deep personal histories and other times between strangers, but in each case teasing us with complete dramatic worlds we’re never allowed to fully enter.

An Iliad: The Poet’s Last Words

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<em>An Iliad</em>: The Poet’s Last Words
<em>An Iliad</em>: The Poet’s Last Words

New York Theatre Workshop’s raw space could be the envy of any nightclub owner or movie star-cum-restauranteur in the city. The company also happens to make fantastic use of it in its current production of An Iliad, directed by Lisa Petereson, leaving it unadorned, except for a few simple props such as table, chair, some stage lights, lined up like tin soldiers stage right, and an iron staircase stage left. The time is now, or perhaps it isn’t; perhaps there is no time.

Such is the mood when the play’s only character, the Poet, walks on stage. Don’t expect an ancient toga draped across his shoulder; he isn’t the glorious Homer, but someone vaguely like him. A weary traveler, with a bottle of strong stuff in his suitcase, and the gift of gab to chase away boredom. His background story is one of the goriest epics in the Western canon. Set during the 10-year siege of the ancient city of Troy by the Greeks, it tells of fearsome warriors, petty squabbles, and valorous slaughter. And then there are the gods, who interfere and sometimes switch sides.

The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

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The Little Foxes at New York Theatre Workshop

The New York Theatre Workshop

The Little Foxes 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.