House Logo
Explore categories +

911 (#110 of 29)

Interview: Laila Robins

Comments Comments (...)

Interview: Laila Robins
Interview: Laila Robins

New York’s fall theater season is the best in recent memory, primarily due to the high quality of its remarkably large number of repertory productions. Performing Twelfth Night in tandem with Richard III, Mark Rylance and his all-male company find fresh immediacy in the 400-year-old traditions of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Ian McKellen and Billy Crudup exhibit impressive versatility moving from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot to Pinter’s No Man’s Land. And Bedlam Theater brings Hamlet and George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan to blazing life due to the energy of four young actors tossing characters around as if they were juggling balls. The greatest ensemble in town though, featured in The Apple Family Plays: Scenes from Life in the Country, performs the same roles in play after play after play after play.

Writer-director Richard Nelson’s intimate four-part work takes place around a dining room table. Writ small, it lands large by enmeshing us in the emotional lives and political beliefs of a Chekhovian family unit—the three Apple sisters and their brother—along with their uncle and a sister’s boyfriend. Emotionally epic, the unique project began as a one-off, with the Public Theater’s production of the 90-minute That Hopey Changey Thing. It opened the night of 2010’s midterm elections, which was also the night the play takes place. There was little expectation that this “disposable” work, as Nelson himself described it, would ever be produced again much less lead to any sequels. It proved such a success a new installment has appeared every year since—on the 10th anniversary of September 11 for Sweet and Sad, 2012’s election night in Sorry, and now, with Regular Singing, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The works’ impact stems largely from the brilliant acting of the company, particularly the four who’ve been with the project from the beginning: Laila Robins and Maryann Plunkett as two of the sisters, Jay O. Sanders as the brother, and Jon De Vries as their uncle, whose amnesia from a stroke sparks the plot and theme of much of the project.

Sinful Cinema Swordfish

Comments Comments (...)

Sinful Cinema: Swordfish
Sinful Cinema: Swordfish

At the dawn of the 2000s, Warner Bros., Joel Silver, and Village Roadshow Pictures had to do something to keep their Matrix momentum going. So, while waiting for the Wachowski siblings to form and polish their tech triumph’s sequels, neither of which would arrive until 2003, the studio bigwigs developed Swordfish, a tacky, brazen knockoff they undoubtedly saw as the next best thing. Even opening, pointlessly, with a familiar, pixelated-screen aesthetic before adjusting to 35mm, this risible techno thriller fires so much aww-shit “coolness” at its viewers that, upon its June 2001 release, few likely realized they were being hit with hollow shells. It’s all an unwitting realization of the “misdirection” philosophy so reiterated by cyber-villain Gabriel (John Travolta), who talks about Houdini and Dog Day Afternoon like he’s a cultural sage with blonde highlights (also rocking berets and traipsing around his LA-nightclub pad, Gabriel trumps Edna Turnblad as Travolta’s gayest role). You see, Swordfish thinks it’s one heady affair flecked with nifty booms and stunts, but its ideas are as goofily slim as its action is often needless, and director Dominic Sena and writer Skip Woods seem blissfully blind to it all. Their film has all the stylized convolution of The Matrix, but virtually none of the coherence or cerebral stimuli.

Critical Distance: The Avengers

Comments Comments (...)

Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>

For 10 years, comic-book superheroes have permeated popular movies. After the mega-success of Spider-Man in 2002, costumed white fellas saving the world became multiplex staples. Once all the iconic heroes were accounted for, studios found continued success with second-tier characters, from the previously obscure (Iron Man) to the uncomfortably jingoistic (Captain America: The First Avenger). The circuit escalated into the late 2000s, spawning remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels with a frequency that only the most ardent fans could keep up with. A few X-Men spinoffs, a Superman hybrid, and two Hulk films later, we now arrive at a moment of superhero saturation, wherein each new release affirms the general consensus that these films represent a creatively dry enterprise.