Off-Broadway, a revival of Snow Orchid, by Joe Pintauro, is a story about a dysfunctional Italian-American family living in Brooklyn. When the father (Robert Cuccioli) returns home from a stay in the hospital following a nervous breakdown, all hell breaks loose. The acting by the five member cast is first rate, under Valentina Fratti's expert direction. The opening night party took place at the elegant Italian restaurant SD26, 19 East 26th St, owned by my dear friendTony May, and his beautiful daughter Marisa. The food was delicious, and everyone enjoyed the occasion.
The New Group's production of Rasheeda Speaking, by Joel Drake Johnson, is about tension in a doctor's office, between the doctor (Darren Goldstein),who wants a white office workr (Dianne Wiest) to spy on a black co-worker (Tonya Pinkins), so that he can fire her. The subject of racism raises its ugly head. The four member cast (Patricia Conolly plays a patient), directed by Cynthia Nixon, is wonderful. It is a provocative play. The lively opening night party took place at the West Bank Cafe, with guests Jan Maxwell, Holly Hunter and David Rabe among many others.
New York City Center Encores! presented Lady, Be Good!, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson. The musical played Broadway in 1924, and London in 1926. It was the Gershwin brothers' first musical together. Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele, were the stars. In this charming production, Danny Gardner and Patti Murin play their roles as an impoverished brother and sister evicted from their home and living on the street.They both sing and dance wonderfully. But the main attraction is the return of 75-years-old Tommy Tune to the stage. He is terrific, singing Fascinating Rhythm and dancing magnificently with the ensemble in the first act. In the second act, he returns to sing and dance Little Jazz Bird.
He is terrific, singing Fascinating Rhythm and dancing magnificently with the ensemble in the first act. In the second act, he returns to sing and dance Little Jazz Bird. He is a treasure, and he performed the two highlights of the show. The plot may be silly, but the Gershwins knew how to write an entertaining musical. Mark Brokaw directed the splendid cast, and Randy Skinner choreographed the marvelous dance routines. Rob Fisher directed the orchestra, which never sounded better.
I returned to SD26 the following night for the Pellegrino Chefs' Competition, where student chefs compete preparing their special dishes. It was a pleasant event. and the young chefs revealed a great deal of culinary talent. Five chefs from leading NYC restaurants were the judges.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival 2015 Annual Benefit Gala was held at City Winery. Among the guests were Martin Short and Katie Finneran, who are now starring in It's Only a Play on Broadway. It was a lovely affair.
MoMA is presenting Carte Blanche: Women's Film Preservation Fund - Women Writing the Language of Cinema February 2-13. Women of the Caper. Trouble in Paradise, by Ernst Lubitsch. USA, 1932, is an entertaining film about two thieves (Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins), who arrive in Paris to steal from a wealthy perfume manufacturer (Kay Francis). Complications arise, when Marshall falls in love with Francis. The three stars are adorable, and the two ladies never looked lovelier, and Marshall was never more debonair. The film is an example of The Lubitsch Touch, and is thoroughly delightful.
Auteurism: Ginger Rogers February 4-March 27. Follow the Fleet, by Mark Sandrich, USA, 1936, is another pleasant Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical. This time Astaire is in the navy, and when his ship docks in San Francisco, he is able to reunite with Rogers, his former dance partner. The music and lyrics are by Irving Berlin, and the dance routines are terrific. The plot is silly, but who cares when one can watch this lovely couple dance and sing throughout the film. You leave the theatre wanting to dance.
The Hunting Ground, by Kirby Dick, USA, 2015, is a disturbing documentary about sexual assaults on university campuses across the United States. It is an epidemic, and the statistics are appalling. Two brave young women, Annie E. Clarkand Andrea Pino, are fighting back, and have organized a national campaign End Rape on Campus (EROC) to make the public aware of the horrors that are taking place, and are working to help the survivors. The interviews with the victims of rape are honest and graphic, and one can only sympathize with their pain and suffering. The fact that most universities downplay the number of assaults, and protect the perpetrators is not only shocking, but disgusting. It is a powerful film.
I attended a press screening of Effie Gray, by Richard Laxton, UK, 2014. We were requested not to write about it until its release in April. My comments will appear in an April column.