All over McCarter Theatre tonight, little children were giggling and erupting with laughter at the antics of the Mummenschanz troupe. It took me back to 1981, when I brought my middle school daughter and her friends to see these Swiss masquers/mimes, and that performance set them on a path to using fabric to create imaginative dance.
Immediately, right away, the smallest kids “got it” as abstract shapes played a giant game of peekaboo, or sparred, or nuzzled each other. That the troupe performs in silence, improvising their timing to the moment of the mood, seemed to inspire vocal contributions from adults and children alike. With the possible exception of Sweet Honey and the Rock, I have never heard a more responsive McCarter audience. Their laughter bubbled up all over the theater, like a host of sparrows in a tree.
It reminded me once again of how Jesus was quoted (Matthew 18:3) as saying that — to enter the kingdom of heaven, you have to become like a little child. These children were so privileged to have their imaginations set on fire, and it was my privilege to be in the audience to hear them.
It was a great evening, the Martha Graham Dance Company’s return to McCarter tonight. Gorgeous dancing, with three works of Martha’s (Errand into the Maze, Diversion of Angels, Cave of the Heart, and one new work (the compelling Lamentation Variations, shown above), and an unusually full house. Other than Bill Lockwood, who programs the series, nobody could have been more pleased than Marvin Preston. Preston, a turn-around management consultant, responded to a call to turn-around the Graham company in 2001, when it was in the throes of every kind of despair. Preston took the job knowing nothing about dance, stayed six years, and put the company back on his feet. Needless to say, he knows plenty about dance now. And he had every reason to be pleased and proud tonight.
There’s so much sensuality in the opening scene of Antony & Cleopatra, as staged by Emily Mann at McCarter, that you forget to be intimidated by the language. You are too busy ogling Esau Prichett (what a hunk) and Nicole Ari Parker (hot for him) as they seduce and cavort.
If you read the synopsis in the program, you can follow the plot just fine. The action moves seamlessly between Egypt and Rome, and though the set doesn’t change (Elizabethans performed on a bare stage) you know exactly where you are because the lighting and the score sets the scene — harsh drums for Rome and whispered syncopations for Egypt.
It runs through October 5 in the smaller (Berlind) theater and 45 minutes before curtain time there is an introductory talk.
Full disclosure 1: Though I have never read this play, I was an English major and like Shakespeare.
Full Disclosure 2: You aren’t supposed to review a play in previews (we saw the first preview on 9/5) so this isn’t a review.
But I wanna say it was an edge-of-the-seat evening.
From Bejing, to Princeton — to Alcatraz. The zodiac animals of Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei enliven the plaza at the Woodrow Wilson School. Soon visitors to Alcatraz will see his art. As in today’s New York Times.
That’s the good arts news from Princeton today. The bad news is that the funds of the Triangle Club have been embezzled to the tune of more than $100,000. Robin Lord will be the attorney for the defense and this is one case I hope she doesn’t win.
Or is it good news that an arts organization could make that much money and it wasn’t missed?
The WIBA Leadership Conference was a delightful success, and on an appropriate day, when Congressional women did an endrun around recalcitrant men to lead-broker a compromise.
From Time magazine:
It’s quite an irony that the U.S. Senate was once known for having the worst vestiges of a private men’s club: unspoken rules, hidden alliances, off-hours socializing and an ethic based at least as much on personal relationships as merit to get things done. That Senate—a fraternal paradise that worked despite all its obvious shortcomings—is long gone. And now the only place the old boys’ network seems to function anymore is among the four Republicans and 16 Democrats who happen to be women.
At the WIBA conference, woman after woman told of battling the old boy networks. “Women can’t direct theatre,” Emily Mann was told, yet McCarter hired her. She knew what she could do. Asked: “Did you ever think you would get a Tony? breathless pause expecting modest no”
Mann’s answer: YES.
I think the operative slogan is: “Never underestimate the power of … ”
I saw “Herringbone” at McCarter on opening night, and it was one of those times when you’re glad you went before you read the reviews. Yes, part of it was very dark and horrifying, and in movies I’m such a wuss that I leave the theater for the scary parts, but with live theater I was indeed ready to suspend disbelief. If I had read the reviews, I might not have gone.
And as I reread LucyAnn Dunlap’s interview with Wong (U.S. 1, September 10) I realize that I never saw “M Butterfly,” the David Henry Hwang play and film in which Wong played a female Peking Opera singer.
My first encounter with men playing women on an Oriental stage was in the late 1970s, when the Grand Kabuki troupe played the Beacon Theater in New York. I was freelancing and living Philadelphia, and I managed to snag an interview with an eminent actor. I was starstruck.
I went back and brought two of my young children — they couldn’t have been older than six and nine — to a matinee. They were mesmerized.
I was amazed at how, even within the rigid form of Kabuki, the actor could embody the spirit of an elderly woman with pathos and humor at the same time. It’s this emotion-filled sleight of hand that drew me in, past the dark parts, to “Herringbone.” I can’t get back to McCarter (though the play continues through Oct 12) but maybe I can rent the movie.
BD Wong Makes His Entrance — 11 Times (U.S. !, September 10)
U.S. 1 ran the Simon Saltzman review on September 17.