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  • Posted 10/1/14 at 8:00 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: In Tail! Spin!, the Straight Lines Are the Funniest

Tail! Spin! describes itself as a political comedy, and though it features politicians and is often very funny, I’m not sure the phrase really applies. “Political comedy” suggests something that’s fundamentally about government and ultimately happy, neither of which is the case in Mario Correa’s cleverly constructed sound-bite mash-up of recent sex scandals. You might wonder whether fact-based political comedy can even exist now, when governance is little more than psychopathology, and the whole thing is just plain sad.

"Astonishingly stupid sex stories and their pathetic attempts at exculpation." »

What Kind of Girl Reads Not That Kind of Girl?

Lena Dunham's hotly anticipated memoir Not That Kind of Girl hit shelves less than 48 hours ago. It's exciting. People have been waiting for this for a while. I bet you've already bought it. (I absolutely already bought it.) I bet you've bought it, taken a reading selfie, and already posted it to Instagram, haven't you, sheeple? 

It's okay, the latest selfie trend, Woman With Lena Dunham's Memoir, is actually quite helpful in answering the question: What kind of girl is reading Not That Kind of Girl?


8 Books You Need to Read This October

Each month, Boris Kachka will offer nonfiction and fiction book recommendations, and you should read as many of them as possible.

In a landscape littered with rock stars’ literary larks, the Mountain Goats front man stands out. »

Gillian Flynn on 30 Rock, Flowers in the Attic, and 19 Other Things That Have Influenced Her Work

On Friday, after months of rabid speculation over its ending, the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (read our review here) will be released in theaters. Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, spoke with Vulture about the movies, paintings and books that have influenced her career (and the ending of Gone Girl).

As far as I’m concerned, Tina Fey was doing her own “cool girl” riff on 30 Rock every week. »

  • Posted 9/30/14 at 10:00 PM

Theater Review: Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink Still Leaves Marks

If everything a great playwright wrote were top-drawer, the drawer probably wouldn’t open. That’s one reason the Roundabout’s fine mounting of Indian Ink — which is second-tier Tom Stoppard but excellent by almost any other standard — is so welcome. It allows us to see more deeply into the interior of his best works, which get further with many of the same techniques and hide them better. 

Curiously absent from New York until now. »

Art Review: The Great, Inscrutable Robert Gober

Compared to good art, “great art is much harder to talk about,” the sculptor Charles Ray has said, speaking of the phantasmagoric work of Robert Gober, the subject of a 40-year retrospective survey at MoMA, called "The Heart Is Not a Metaphor."  “If you were to ask me what his artwork talks about I would not be able to tell you. But this doesn’t mean it is not speaking … What I do understand … is that I want to see it again. It asks me to be near. To come closer and look longer or to come back tomorrow and look again. The work whispers ‘Be with me.’”

The melancholy narratives of Gober’s work have gripped and bewildered me for 30 years. »

The 11 Worst Batman Villains

If there’s one thing that promotions for Gotham, Fox’s new Batman prequel series, want you to know, it’s this: Sure, we might not have Batman, but we have so many of his famous rogues gallery. The pilot alone — which coincided with Batman's 75th birthday this year (really, he doesn’t look a day over 35, but to be fair, that cowl covers up a lot of his face) — features versions of the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and mob boss Carmine Falcone; with three quarters of a century's worth of comics, movies, and TV shows at their disposal, producers have hundreds more bad guys (no, really) to choose from for future episodes.

But not every villain the Dark Knight has faced is worth translating to television. Any series that’s been around for 75 years is sure to have had its share of off moments, and with literally thousands of Batman comics published during that time, there are plenty of adventures he would like to forget. If any of the following guys show up in Gotham, you can rest assured that the bottom of the barrel is very, very close to being scraped.

Picture young Jim Gordon chasing after a man with a massive kite strapped to his back. »

  • Posted 9/29/14 at 5:40 PM
  • Books

Lena Dunham Will Pay Her Book-Tour Volunteers After All

Consider this micro-scandal squashed: Hours after Gawker raised a stink, Lena Dunham announced that she would in fact pay the local artists working as warm-up acts on her upcoming book tour. "As an artist raised by artists, no one believes more than I do that creators should be fairly compensated for their work," Dunham wrote on Twitter. "Some good points were raised and I've ensured that all opening acts will be compensated for their time, their labor and their talents."


Theater Review: James Earl Jones Helps Keep You Can’t Take It With You Funny

Most contemporary stage comedies are aggressively joke-based. In effect, the playwright demands that theatergoers bend to the rhythm of his punch lines and cough up laughs on cue. It can be a satisfying if rarely a surprising experience, like watching sitcoms in public. In any case such comedies have all but snuffed out the older, milder kind that flourished on Broadway in the first half of the last century with a minimum of mandatory yocks; few written before 1960 seem revivable, at least to commercial producers. It is therefore not just a treat but also a lesson in humor to find a 76-year-old play like You Can’t Take It With You still springing off the page and tearing through an audience. It may be a chestnut, but when staged and cast as smartly as this Broadway revival, a chestnut goes down like marron glacé. 

"Before the play argues, it beckons." »

Jonathan Franzen’s Biography Will Be Titled Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage

Jonathan Franzen, who hates everything from the internet to snark (heh), apparently has no problem with mid-career biographies. The notably cranky author of The Corrections and Freedom gave his blessing to Swarthmore English professor Philip Weinstein to write a biography of him titled Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage. Weinstein titled it so, reports the New York Times, because Franzen is "working toward turning rage into comedy." He was also careful to note that this isn't going to gossipy: "It’s not an exposé of Jonathan Franzen ... It doesn’t pretend to be a full-scale biography. It’s too early for that. He’s in full career mode. Someone later, a generation from now, will do that biography. It’s a report on who he is." Everyone should tweet about this, because that'll make Franzen, like, so peeved.

Wolf Hall Is Coming to Broadway

In addition to being adapted into a miniseries by BBC 2 — starring none other than Sergeant Nicholas Brody — Hilary Mantel’s award-winning epics Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, about the court of Henry VII, are now headed to Broadway. According to the New York Times, the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptations of Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2, which received rave reviews during their run in the U.K., will begin Broadway previews on March 20, 2015, and open on April 9, 2015. The double bill lasts for over five and a half hours and can be seen separately or together with a dinner break in between.

  • Posted 9/25/14 at 9:30 AM
  • Theater

On the Scene at the Flub-Filled First Night of Lindsay Lohan’s Stage Debut

Lindsay Lohan forgot her lines in her first-ever theater performance last night. That’s the headline gleefully reported all over the web today, and it’s accurate.

But what hasn’t been so widely reported is that Lohan wasn’t the first to make a mistake during the opening night of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow at London’s Playhouse Theater. Richard Schiff, who has far more experience, called out, “Give me the line, please,” within minutes of starting the play. British actor Nigel Lindsay was the only person in the three-actor play to get through the entire performance without an audible prompt, and even he seemed to struggle at times to remember what came next.

"The second act, dominated by a complicated speech by Karen, was an undeniable mess." »

Lindsay Lohan Forgot Her Lines During the First Performance of Speed-the-Plow

Aspiring comeback kid Lindsay Lohan suffered some first-night jitters during Wednesday's London debut of David Mamet’s film-industry satire Speed-the-Plow, forgetting her lines on more than one occasion and reportedly eliciting "titters" from the West End audience. Colette Fahy and Bella Brennan described the mishap in MailOnline, writing: "While not an unmitigated disaster, the 28-year-old actress didn't appear to know her lines off by heart, reading some from a book while being fed others from the side of stage and her one main passionate speech only succeeded in causing the audience to burst into laughter, according to onlookers.”


  • Posted 9/23/14 at 2:45 PM
  • Books

Why You Should Read (or Reread) Gone Girl This Week

David Fincher's Gone Girl comes out October 3, which means right about now plenty of movie fans are asking themselves: Should I read the book before I see the adaptation? The answer usually varies by project — we recommend watching Game of Thrones before reading "A Song of Ice and Fire" — and in this case, our answer is an uncompromising "Yes." You should definitely read (or reread) Gillian Flynn's 2012 thriller in the scant days before the movie comes out and everything gets ruined for you. Here's why.

(Note: We've tried to make this post as spoiler-free as possible, but like Nick Dunne's internalized misogyny, some may have slipped through.)

You'll need the ending fresh in your mind. »

Richard Prince’s Instagram Paintings Are Genius Trolling

What does the internet do? The internet hates. Obviously, it does lots of other things, too — it jump-starts insurrections, appropriates, lusts, scrambles, loves cats, disrupts. But hating often seems like what the internet does best, especially when it’s got a good troll. And it's done a lot of hating recently in response to Richard Prince's semi-revolutionary, drop-dead simple, often salacious Instagram paintings. For these works, Prince has been called a dirty old man, creepy, twisted, a pervert. All of which may be true — but true in a great way, if that's possible.

Thirty-seven of Prince’s New Portraits are now on view in the rear of Larry Gagosian's store. »

  • Posted 9/23/14 at 8:30 AM
  • Tv

Watch Emma Thompson Sing ‘Worst Pies in London’ As Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd

Earlier this year, Emma Thompson made her first stage appearance in a quarter century during a five-night performance of Sweeney Todd at Lincoln Center, where she played the murderous meat-pie maker Mrs. Lovett. It was such a hit that she'll be reprising the role on the London stage next year. Until then, however, here's a sneak peek of what it will look like — Live From Lincoln Center will air Sweeney Todd on PBS this Friday, September 26.

  • Posted 9/22/14 at 10:16 PM

Theater Reviews: Scenes From a Marriage and The Money Shot

You can’t accuse the Belgian director Ivo van Hove of picking fights with weaklings. His productions of Hedda Gabler, The Little Foxes, and A Streetcar Named Desire, all at New York Theatre Workshop, have sometimes sucker-punched those venerable plays but in the end did no harm. I realize that’s not a high bar to set, but I have not usually been a fan of van Hove’s garish intrusions, which too often literalized sexual and aggressive drives in ways that made nonsense of the repressive worlds from which they arose. So I thought I was in for more of the same when NYTW announced that it would be producing a version of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage that van Hove had conceived and directed for his company, Toneelgroep Amsterdam. All anyone was talking about was the staging — and perhaps a part of the director’s motivation for erecting elaborate superstructures around his favorite texts is to draw attention to his own creativity. But what of Bergman’s? Scenes From a Marriage, shown in six episodes on Sweden television in 1973 and then released as a shorter theatrical film, is a major statement from a major artist on a major human dilemma. Was it to be reduced to an avant-garde plaything, a lazy Susan of stage gimcrackery?

Yes and no. 

The staging serves the material but does not overwhelm it. »

Allora and Calzadilla’s Fault Lines Borders on Plagiarism

After their atrocious 2011 Venice Biennale U.S. Pavilion — it included an upturned tank with a jogger atop, full-size wood reproductions of business-class airline seats with U.S. Olympic gymnasts doing tricks on them (ruining their feet on the terrazzo floor), and some sort of idiotic cash machine in a pipe organ (I think) — Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have a lot to answer for.* But the curatorial-darling duo’s current Gladstone show only alleviates those past bad judgments a little.

Fault Lines consists of ten large stone “sculptures,” all arranged tastefully about the spacious gallery. »

  • Posted 9/19/14 at 11:45 AM
  • Books

Alison Bechdel: Winning a Genius Grant ‘Kicks Me Out of the League of Being an Everyday Schlub’

On Wednesday, Alison Bechdel became only the second graphic book writer to win a MacArthur “Genius” grant — worth $625,000 and a lifetime of bragging. Her graphic memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, turned her tortured family history — she had OCD and liked girls, her mother showed little affection, her closeted father likely killed himself — into multidimensional art. Erudite and beautiful, they demonstrated just how intelligent and uncompromising comics (and coming-out memoirs) could be. We caught up with her via Skype yesterday in Italy, where she’s on a six-week artist’s residency, to talk about the big prize, her next work, and the irresistible charms of Orange Is the New Black.

One of the great things about winning this is I can get more work done. I tend to get paid more to go out and talk about my work than I get paid to actually do my work. »

  • Posted 9/19/14 at 10:10 AM
  • Primer

One Very Important Thing Is Missing From the New Cosby Biography: A Timeline of the Abuse Charges

Thirty years ago this weekend, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC, and its star was catapulted into the comedic stratosphere. The timing is prime, then, for the release of a sprawling biography. Written by former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, Cosby: His Life and Times documents the man’s rise from the Philadelphia projects, while also detailing the creation of his family sitcom and the murder of his son Ennis in 1997.

The book is notable, however, for its complete avoidance of sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Cosby for more than a decade. In a statement to Buzzfeed's Kate Aurthur, Whitaker says, "I didn’t want to print allegations that I couldn’t confirm independently." Regardless, their absence is glaring. Consider the following timeline an appendix to the book.

"Tamara Green, a lawyer, alleges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in the 1970s." »


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