Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
March 18, 1998. All rights reserved.
Of all the different time periods, contexts and stagings
into which William Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" has been
shoehorned over the years, the latest one, set in a private boys’ school
and retitled "R & J," is one that is genuinely perceptive
and persuasive. And unlike some productions that reek of mushy
this one is extremely bracing. Yes, this is an all-male version, but
under Joe Calarco’s crisp direction, it is also as passionately acted
and as tragically and poignantly considered as any more traditional
The play opens with four prep-school students going through the highly
regimented mechanics of their daily class routine in an obviously
oppressive academic environment. Having bonded together in their joint
love of Shakespeare’s verse, they meet secretly to read aloud the
text of the play.
At first more playful than artful, they cautiously allow the characters
to take hold of them. It isn’t long before the boys find themselves
boisterously empowered, fueled by testosterone, and completely enthused
by their ability to become absorbed by the tragic drama, especially
the various psychosexual currents that connect Shakespeare’s characters.
The actors — Sean Dugan, Danny Gurwin, Greg Shamie, and Daniel
J. Shore — offer quite an exciting show as they expand their voices,
embrace various physical identities, and create a time and a place
with nothing more than some old chests and a long scarf.
Yes, there is the undeniable tremor of the homoerotic in the deepening
encounters between "R & J." Calarco’s slightly altered text
affords the boys time to reveal and mask their true natures. Just
as the boys are audaciously disposed toward all their male and female
counterparts, keeping them distinct and unique, we are genuinely moved
by the boys’ collective flair for the dramatic. Another marvel of
the play is how cleverly the actors keep the play’s many characters
distinct and even more remarkably unique. Then it’s back to class.
What fun! HHH
$40; $20 for students.
Sam Shepard has given us far from his best with "Eyes
for Consuela." Yet there are glimmerings of his characteristic
inclinations toward allegory in this adaptation of a short story called
"The Blue Bouquet" by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz. Unfolding
like a dream — or rather a nightmare — the play is concerned
with the capture of an American man by a Mexican bandit. Accosted
during a walk in the woods, the American is told by the knife-wielding
Mexican that it is his blue eyes that he wants to cut out and take
as a gift to his girlfriend. Pretty grim stuff, except for the fact
that the sheer fantastic surrealism of the situation puts to rest,
if not to the test, any consideration that this is to be taken literally.
As the presumably dead girl (Tanya Gingerich) pays ethereal visits
to the Mexican boardinghouse where the American is apparently being
held against his will, the American seems more metaphysically than
actually held hostage here. And the dramatic conceits seem no less
tantalizing because of their obviousness. Imposing himself upon the
American in his own room, the bandit stays the night and assumes the
posture of a moralizing, though terrorizing, guru.
Having come to this remote village to reflect upon his failed marriage,
the American is aggressively provoked by the lovesick, tequila-intoxicated
Mexican into a spiritual awakening. The transformation comes when
the American realizes that he has to lose his eyesight in order to
face the truth of his life. This isn’t exactly a revelation to those
of us who can hear. Nevertheless, Shepard’s scheme to show the unwillingness
of Americans to see their shortcomings, and the determination of Mexicans
to empower themselves as victims, is curiously, but still dubiously,
Just as Shepard isn’t disposed to being more clever and intriguing
in his writing, director Terry Kinney does not capture the weirdness
that might make this simplistic fable more formidable. The play begins
hauntingly, but soon veers off into moralizing hysteria. David Strathairn
overacts as the American, and Daniel Faraldo, as the Mexican, wavers
between devilishness and distraction. Santo Loquasto’s lush primitive
set is simply super. HH
212-581-1212. To April 12.
Visiting Mr. Green,
And Eli Wallach
Television viewers who also enjoy a non-threatening,
feel-good play will be comforted and amused by "Visiting Mr. Green."
Playwright Jeff Baron has a knack for the kind of formula situation
comedy that was once a Broadway staple, and also on prime-time television
in the 1950s. Who’s to complain if the predictable and ever so endearing
plot has just the right amounts of rueful sentiment, rancid schmaltz,
cutting jabs, and quaint jokes. And what’s not to like about a play
that has the wonderful Eli Wallach in the title role. He plays a
octogenarian who is resigned to being lonely and despondent since
the recent death of his wife.
However, Green is the recent victim of a minor car accident and must
endure court-prescribed visits from Ross Gardner (David Alan Basche),
the young driver who struck him. Except for the fact that Green and
Ross are both Jewish, he and the young man, whose job it is to shop
and clean for Green, have little in common, and never more emphatically
than when Ross confesses to Green that he is gay. These two, although
generations apart, each have things to teach the other. The play works
through the sheer force of its big heart and its small intentions.
There is as much fun watching Green resist Ross’s good intentions
as there is in watching Ross prepare Green to take on life again and
renew his relationship with his estranged daughter. Lonny Price’s
direction and David Shire’s incidental music are appropriately attentive.
$45. Ticketmaster, 212-307-4100.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is an unusual, frankly
bizarre, theatrical concoction. It is a drag show, rock concert, and
sad/funny dramatic narrative all rolled into a dazzling musical discourse
on exhibitionism. Show and tell may be at the fore of John Cameron
Mitchell’s glittering personification of Hedwig, a German-born transvestite
who has a new-found career relating the events of his/her incredible
life in the framework of an Americanized singspiel. Hedwig’s ribald
and raunchy confessional, basically a yearning to find the missing
self as exemplified in Plato’s "Symposium," is echoed in the
arresting musical angst of "Cheater," the super back-up band
that Hedwig calls "The Angry Inch." It is significant that
Hedwig’s angry inch refers to the results of a botched sex-change
The terrific rock songs are by Stephen Trask, who wrote both the words
and music. They are easier to understand than the much too convoluted
and confusing tale that Hedwig spins about her childhood, failed romantic
escapades, indefinite status as a female rock star, and present search
for identity, fame and love. Mitchell is a knockout in the
Farrah Fawcett-ed hair-do, faint and fabulous Dietrich-like accent
and fringed country western couture. Peter Askin’s direction makes
the show more impressive for its expressed superficiality than for
its expository context. Nevertheless, you won’t soon forget Hedwig
or the Angry Inch. HHH
(located in the spooky Riverview Hotel), 113 Jane Street at the West
Side Highway, 212-239-6200. (This is the historic hotel that in 1912
housed the surviving crew of the Titanic.) $35.
Thanks to reader Morris Rubenfeld, who works at a Research
Park-based advertising firm, for this extra information on the A.R.T.
Passport to Off-Broadway discount coupon service listed in last week’s
issue. You can request the coupon and play book by phoning toll-free:
800-610-0713. You can also request coupons through the website at
sidewalk.com. For other A.R.T. services call 212-989-5257 or
write to 131 Varick Street, Room 904, New York, NY 10013.
Corrections or additions?
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