Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
December 15, 1999. All rights reserved.
In New York: Tango
Like the old song says "Take back your samba, aye,
your mambo aye, your cha cha, aye yi yi…" But I hope they never
take away the tango. You can see why when you hear a savvy audience
swoon ecstatically for 2-1/2 hours watching "Tango Argentino,"
the show that started a real craze when it hit Broadway 14 years ago.
These dancers and musicians don’t aspire to the splashes of glitz
and glamour that marked the "Forever Tango" troupe of two
years ago. This company, under the direction of Claudio Segovia and
Hector Orezzoli, was the first to mainstream the tango
and it still appears rooted in integrity, if somewhat lacking in
imagination. It remains, in this welcome revival at the Gershwin
a show designed more for purists than for tourists.
The format for this presentation is simple: sensuous movement and
evocative music. Thirteen musicians (heavy on the bandoneon, a sort
of slinky accordion) sit on a tiered platform at the rear of the stage
playing the pulsating rhythms and melodies as four singers and the
smartly dressed (mostly in black) dancers relentlessly weave the spell
of the tango. Soloists, couples and ensembles fiercely, gently and,
at times, even humorously take their turns at evoking all the passions
and temperaments within this 100-year-old social dance. Devotees will
be able to recognize the influence of the milonga, habanera, Indian
and African rhythms. More than any other folk or popular dance, the
tango has remained the ultimate dance of ecstasy and life. As
by this noticeably mature company, the tango is as varied and rich
a statement of life as movement has ever been choreographed.
It doesn’t take long to notice, however, the lack of spring chickens
on the stage. Even the musicians, quite brilliant and entertaining
on their own, give the appearance of having performed the tango for
half a century or more. The male dancers without exception look like
variations of George Raft and Jean Gabin — late in their careers.
This is not to imply that age is a deterrent. The opposite appears
true. Never have I seen the non-Balanchine physique so gracefully
or sensually deployed.
Space won’t permit listing all the dances and dancers, but
senior members Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves, who wowed audiences
15 years ago, are back a little less tempestuous but no less heroic
in a fluidly executed "Patetico." The old standard "La
Cumparsita," as danced by Pablo Veron and Guillermina Quiroga,
brought a vision of lovers finding romance under a star-filled sky
(the only concession to an atmospheric). Hector and Elsa Mayoral,
in "Milonguero Viejo," demonstrate a contrast of male reserve
and feminine impetuousness. The stern maturity of Carlos Copello is
an insinuating match for the breezy playfulness of his partner, Alicia
Monti, in "Recuerdo." And a curiously muttering Carlos Inez
appeared to be playing mentor to his slavishly responsive partner
Borquez in "La Yumba."
Bodies interlock, intertwine, whirl, spin and, at times, just pose
in this often-philosophical expose of tango. But never doubt that
the tango is tense, a dramatic conveyor of deception, lust, murder,
misery, and pain, and all those other things that make life worth
Other memorable pieces are "El Apache
in which two thugs dance the tango; "Milongita," the story
of a young girl of the barrio who, "seduced by a ruffian, follows
the road of her ruin"; and the grand finale, "Quejas de
in which the dance floor virtually steams from the atmosphere of eight
intensely embraced couples, each locked into their own declaration
of the tango, but all intoxicated by the pulsating rhythms of the
I suppose that you can develop a taste for the kind of angst-driven
songs sung by prominent Argentine vocalists Raul Lavie, Maria Grana,
Jovita Luna, and Alba Solis, all of whom gave the impression they
had been double-crossed or wronged by lovers one too many times in
their lifetime. If you saw the films "Tango," "Tango
or "The Tango Lesson," you will recognize many of the dancers.
I guess this means sign up for another round of those Arthur Murray
tango lessons. HH
— Simon Saltzman
Broadway, New York, 212-307-4100. $25 to $75.
The key: HHHH Don’t miss; HHH
You won’t feel cheated;
HH Maybe you should have stayed home;
H Don’t blame us.
Tonys for the revival and its star Bernadette Peters.
best new musical.
150 West 65. Musical theater from Crossroads Theater.
Porter revival with verve.
Spalding Gray’s latest monologue. Sundays & Mondays only.
in Stephen Sondheim’s revue.
256 West 47.
of Broadway. Ticketmaster.
of Leiber and Stoller.
Buy one get one free through December 16.
starring Lauren Bacall and Rosemary Harris.
127 East 23, 212-777-4900. By Brian Friel.
East 91, 212-831-2000.
407 West 43.
450 West 42.
158 West 72, 212-799-4599.
With Frances Sternhagen.
212-420-8000. Family entertainment from the Umbilical Brothers.
1999 Pulitzer Prize. With Judith Light.
— Simon Saltzman
through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For
listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.
For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,
and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing
arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS
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Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.
A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,
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and the New York Times.
Having just had the pleasure of seeing the ever rascally Eli Wallach
in Anne Meara’s new play at the George Street Playhouse, I was
of how impressed I was with this grand actor’s performance as Solomon,
the appraiser, seven years ago in the Roundabout Theater production
of Arthur Miller’s "The Price." I had forgotten how absolutely
brilliant this undervalued play is. The excellent revival currently
on Broadway is a fitting companion piece to this season’s earlier
acclaimed production of Miller’s "Death of a Salesman." In
fact, it stands ever more firmly at the forefront of the Miller canon.
And how fitting that we can end this century with these two great
works of American dramatic literature. Like a long overdue rematch
between two heavyweight contenders, the resurrected conflict between
two estranged brothers in "The Price" remains, as always,
an entertaining but also tension-filled slice of life.
Faced by family circumstance to come to grips with the past as well
as the future, one brother — an unmotivated and discouraged
policeman about to be retired — and the other — a
and successful surgeon reconnecting with life after a breakdown —
are thrown into a memory-filled arena that is as real as it is
Theatrical realism, in order not to be boring, is generally viewed
as an intensification of life. But it is to Miller’s credit, as well
as to the credit of director James Naughton, that this very human
but agonizing play succeeds not so much with crafty intensification,
but by its subjective implications.
The implications of "The Price" are relatively simple: over
a lifetime, we must take responsiblity for the myriad choices we make.
Having forfeited his college career in order to care for his father
(an emotional and financial victim of the Great Depression), the cop
finds himself, 16 years after the father’s death, in the attic of
a Manhattan brownstone, bargaining with a 90-year-old second-hand
Presumably left alone by his anxious wife to negotiate with this
wheeler-dealer on a price for all the furnishings and nostalgic
the cop is suddenly confronted by the appearance of his brother. The
play — a series of extraordinary riveting confrontations —
implies more than it discloses. As we discover from the verbal round
robin, the truth of the past is generally clouded by our emotions.
There is no lack of humor, particularly as compressed into the role
of the appraiser. Bob Dishy is absolutely sensational as the
90-year-old Solomon, the appraiser who can still find time in the
middle of the deal of the century to sit down and eat a hard-boiled
egg, claim he was once in the British Navy, as well as part of an
acrobatic team ("They should rest in peace, I worked at the
Dishy has reinvented this Second Avenue psychologist with a
relaxed charm. Until he is relegated to a back room, the old appraiser
referees the opening rounds with his philosophically profound grab-bag
of New York-styled Jewish-isms.
As the repressed skeletons in the attic begin their dance, the age-old
ritual of fraternal misunderstandings is played out with great
It is difficult not to shout out loud as we root for one and then
the other. Giving a performance of ever-increasing poignancy, Jeffrey
DeMunn, as Victor the cop, creates a devastating portrait of an
loser. Part smug, but resolutely honest, Harris Yulin gives the role
of the surgeon just the right degree of pragmatic righteousness. And
in a very difficult role, Lizbeth Mackay, as the cop’s wife, does
amazingly well for a complex character that is continually searching
for the key to unlock her true feelings.
The Williamstown Theater Festival first presented this production
on August 19, 1999. As he did there, Naughton has directed this
play with all the patience and attention to its emotional demands
and physical detail that it deserves. Some of the mammoth Victorian
pieces that were gathering dust in Michael Brown’s masterfully
attic setting, look to be a bargain at any cost. The same can be said
for "The Price." HHH
— Simon Saltzman
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