On Broadway, two actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, perform a multitude of short scenes in a play Constellations, by Nick Payne, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, which seems more like an acting exercise. The two actors face each other in unattractive clothing on a bare stage, except for a collection of balloons in the background. Each scene has much repetitious dialogue, which is not only annoying, but is also ridiculous. Examples abound. It begins with Wilson, a scientist, talking about her inability to lick her elbows. This goes on for a couple of scenes. Gyllenhaal, a beekeeper, repeats his love for bees, for, at least, three times in separate scenes. This makes a 75 minute play seem interminable. Michael Longhurst is responsible for the direction. Although, the playwright thinks he is pursuing philosophical ideas, it is rather just self indulgent, pretentious, and extremely boring.
Apparently, the musical Honeymoon in Vegas, book by Andrew Bergman, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, based on the film with the same title, now at the Nederlander Theatre, was well received in New Jersey. Unfortunately, occasionally what is successful in New Jersey does not always travel well to New York. The book about a young man (Rob McClure) engaged for five years, with a curse from his dead mother to never get married, is, to put it gently, ridiculous, and the humor is puerile. The choreography by Denis Jones is functional, and the music has some pleasant songs. The dialogue is forgettable. The actors work hard to bring the musical to life, under the direction of Gary Griffin. But it is a no win situation. It should be added that Tony Danza (from two television series) is the most famous actor on stage, apart from McClure. He appears as a gambler/gangster, who wants to marry McClure's fiancee as she reminds him of his dead wife. He sings modestly, tap dances a little and plays the ukelele, but displays little sex appeal.
For the first time in 40 years as an Outer Critics Circle Nominator and a Drama Desk voter, the two organizations were not permitted to review a Broadway play, which opened November 20, 2014, until February 7, 2015. The press agent gave us a specious reason. I booked February 7, but my ticket was cancelled as Glenn Close was not performing that afternoon. I finally attended the February 14 matinee. Was it worth the wait? Not really. The opportunity to see three splendid actors, John Lithgow, Glenn Close (as his wife) and Lindsay Duncan (as his alcoholic sister), directed by Pam MacKinnon, is the only reason to see the revival of A Delicate Balance, by Edward Albee, at the Golden Theatre. The play is weird, and totally unbelievable. A couple (Bob Balaban and Clare Higgins) flee their home because of an unknown terror, and seek refuge in the bedroom of Lithgow's daughter (Martha Plimpton), who later returns home after the failure of her fourth marriage. Lithgow spends most of the three act, three hour play preparing cocktails and serving them to the rest of the five member cast. It has the desired effect. After the final curtain, many in the audience exit the theatre in a desperate search for the closest bar.
Off-Broadway, Disenchanted!, book, music & lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino, at the Theatre at St. Clement's, features six very loud female performers portraying fairy tale characters after their happy ever endings. They scream and yell for 100 unbearable minutes. This is proof that small Off-Broadway theatres should not be allowed amplification. It is harmful to one's hearing.
One of my favorite actors John Lithgow was honored with the First Marian Heiskell Award for "bringing kids to the arts and arts to the kids" at the Annual 42nd Street Gala, which began with a glorious reception, with delicious food provided by Great Performances at the Lyric Theatre. The lobby of the theatre never looked so good, and was filled with stars like Susan Stroman, Debra Monk and Pam MacKinnon. The Rudin Family was also honored at the event. When Lithgow starred on Broadway in M. Butterfly in 1988, I photographed him in his dressing room with the multitude of celebrities, who came backstage after his performances. He made an album of the occasion.
The Drama Desk held its first Panel of 2015 with six Broadway stars, Jan Maxwell, Sarah Ruhl, Jennifer Foote, T.R.Knight, Jim Brochu and Bob Stillman. I photographed them, but, unfortunately, I was not able to stay to listen to them, as I had to attend the reception of the Annual 42nd Street Gala.
There was a Meet and Greet for the three new cast members, Martin Short, Katie Finneran and Maulik Pancholy, of It's Only A Play at Sardi's. I am looking forward to seeing the hilarious play again.
I attended a VIP reception at the new location of the Flagship Hooters NYC, 155 West 33rd St. Many of the beautiful Hooters Calendar Girls from around the United States were present, and I enjoyed talking and photographing The Calendar Centerfold Emily Phelps and Calendar Miss September Ashley Dill. Drinks and Hooters food specialties were served by the lovely waitresses. It was a pleasant occasion. I can see that the restaurant will be extremely popular.
Film Society Lincoln Center is presenting Let There Be Light: The Films of John Houston, December 19-January 4, 2015. Under the Volcano. USA, 1984, takes place in a Mexican village on the Day of the Dead. Based on a novel by Malcolm Lowry, a former British consul (Albert Finney) is an alcoholic, and his ex-wife (Jacqueline Bisset) returns to attempt to help him, as does his half-brother (Anthony Andrews). Finney gives a shattering performance. It is truly brilliant acting, well supported by his co-stars. It is a fascinating, tragic film.
The last film in the series was Prizzi's Honor, USA, 1985, in which John Huston's daughter, Anjelica Huston, won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. It was richly deserved. Jack Nicholson stars as a contract killer for the Mafia in Brooklyn. He falls in love and marries Kathleen Turner, who also happens to be a contract killer in California. Problems ensue. It is a delightful film, quite funny, and the acting by the entire cast is excellent. It is a fitting tribute to a great film director in his penultimate film. How I miss this magnificent filmmaker!
MoMA is presenting 50 programs by Robert Altman December 3-January 17, 2015. MASH, USA, 1970, is the film that made Robert Altman famous. It is a satire about two army surgeons (Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland) at a field hospital during the Korean War, and their outrageous shenanigans. It is quite a funny film about a horrible war with many bloody scenes of the doctors attending to the wounded soldiers. Believe it or not, many of the scenes are just wild and hilarious. Altman made a remarkable film.
Nashville, USA, 1975, is, without doubt, one of Robert Altman's best films. When it opened 40 years ago (and I only admit to being 33), I enjoyed it so much, that I stayed in the cinema and watched it again. Although not a particular fan of country and gospel music, I liked every song in the film, and I was pleased when Keith Carradine won an Oscar for the best song I'm Easy. Keith became a good friend when he starred on Broadway in The Will Rogers Follies in 1991. The film assembles a magnificent ensemble of actors, singers and musicians and presents a picture of life in the city, leading up to an assassination attempt at an open air concert for a presidential contender. It is a superb film.
MoMA is presenting Acteurism: Joan Bennett to January 30. I Met My Love Again, by Joshua Logan, Arthur Ripley and George Cukor, USA, 1938, is a poorly directed and scripted film, that defies credibility. However, it features Joan Bennett and Henry Fonda, and both look fine on screen. The film features many silly incidents. Just to mention two. Fonda leaves his college biology class saying goodbye to his students, and exits through the window. probably the first time in college history that has ever happened. The second is more comical. Bennett is seduced by a writer when she seeks shelter on a stormy night in his house. She is a virgin, and he asks her if she has ever read Freud. She then sleeps with him and marries him the next day. I must try that Freud line one day! To try to explain the plot would be impossible. No wonder Logan was fired on his debut film and left Hollywood.
Film Society Lincoln Center is presenting Let There Be Light: The Films of John Houston, December 19-January 4, 2015. Moulin Rouge, U.K, 1952, is the story of the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (a memorable performance by Jose Ferrer), who made the nightclub, Moulin Rouge, famous with his paintings and posters of the club, and its popular performers. It is filmed in glorious technicolor, and, with the adorable Zsa Zsa Gabor as the singer Jane Avril, and the wonderful can-can dancers, one feels right at home at the Moulin Rouge. There is a remarkable performance by Colette Marchand as a woman of the streets, who becomes involved with Henri. The scenes between them are powerful. It is another wonderful film by the master director John Huston. I asked my wife if she liked Toulouse-Lautrec. She replied "Aubrey, I don't like to lose anything".
Victory, USA/U.K. 1981, is a film that soccer fans will enjoy. It takes place in a German prison camp in World War II, where a German major (Max von Sydow) arranges an exhibition football match between the Allied prisoners and a German national team for Nazi propaganda purposes. Many of the star football players from many international teams took part in the film, including Pele, Bobby Moore and Mike Summerbee, who played for my hometown team, Manchester City. I had the pleasure of meeting Summerbee at my best friend's nightclub Blinkers one night in Manchester. It was one of the top nightclubs in the city owned by Selwyn Demmy. The film is, without doubt, one of the finest sports films ever made. Michael Caine stars as the manager of the prison team and Sylvester Stallone plays the goalkeeper. Both steal the picture. It is one of Huston's most entertaining films.
The Barbarian and the Geisha, USA, 1958, is the story of Townsend Harris (John Wayne) arriving in Japan in `85 as the first American Consul. His problems establishing his credentials is the main plot, as Japan prefers to remain aislated. It is a picturesque view of the culture of Japan at that time. The film is painless, slow moving, and lacks dramatic interest. Still it is an interesting picture of a medieval country before nineteenth century modernization.