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  • Posted 11/29/15 at 7:39 PM

Theater Review: New York Animals Brings Bacharach Back to Town

Just before the final preview of New York Animals last night, Eric Tucker, the show’s director, warned the audience that the “glamorous and exacting” play about to begin was still being rewritten, reworked, and even recast. This seemed odd for a piece that had been in development for many years. The playwright Steven Sater’s first version of it, with four actors and no songs, was written in the early 2000s, before his immense success as the librettist for Spring Awakening in 2006. He then reconceived the material as a television series for FX; a pilot and six episodes were written but never aired. In 2010, a three-week workshop in Los Angeles developed the play further, but plans for a full production were scrapped. When it next popped up, New York Animals had not only acquired a berth in the current season of the much-praised Bedlam Theatre here, but had grown to include a different artistic team, one more cast member, five musicians, and Burt Bacharach, who at 87 would be providing new material in a New York production for the first time since Promises, Promises in 1968. But unlike Bacharach’s artistry — his four or five songs, with lyrics by Sater, are fresh as a fall evening — the play itself seems to have aged poorly. It suffers not so much from insufficient work, as Tucker suggested, but, like toughened pie dough, from too much. 

Is this what the world needs now? »

  • Posted 11/24/15 at 1:29 PM

Can a Show As Dreary As This One Be Good for the Whitney? Yes.

Lou Reed once said something like, "Hip speaks in a pitch so high, only dogs can hear it." That's what I kept thinking as I made my way through more than 100 works by mostly contemporary artists in "Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner," the Whitney's new sixth-floor-filling show of super-stripped-down, quasi-conceptual, and otherwise super-hip austere art. Some of this art is excellent; some will be forgotten before the turn of the next decade, or sooner; about half of it is addressed only to deep art-world artists and insiders of a certain cerebral ilk who turned away from the world and inward to art during the darkness of the Bush years while being widely lauded as cool in the boom of the market. Because half of this show is so lacking in optical juice, by show's end I was psychically dehydrated. For relief, I dove into the succulent color of Rachel Rose's video and the kaleidoscopic insanity of the Frank Stella shows on the floor below.


  • Posted 11/23/15 at 10:00 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: Are There Any Brains Beneath Important Hats of the Twentieth Century?

“Satire is what closes on Saturday night,” said George S. Kaufman, but that was 90 years ago. Today most satire closes — that is, shuts down internally — before it ever hits the stage. Have we lost the talent, or the taste? After seeing Nick Jones’s Important Hats of the Twentieth Century at Manhattan Theater Club’s Stage 2 space beneath City Center on Friday evening, I read the script on Saturday to see whether its failure to thrive was perhaps the result of the amateurish production, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. It wasn’t, though the unaccountably loud acting and tedious pinball staging certainly didn’t help matters. The problem — as was also the case with Jones’s Verité, seen earlier this year at LCT3, and The Coward, from 2010 — is inherent in the concept, or lack of one. No one involved seems to have operated from the understanding that satire is a pinpoint form of criticism, not a clown car in which irrational characters with funny lines get taken for a ludicrous spin.

"Much of this, I hasten to add, might actually be funny in smaller doses." »

  • Posted 11/23/15 at 5:26 PM

Thomas Adès Effortlessly Merges Modern Dance and Classic Concert Music at Lincoln Center

Dance has been part of the composer’s toolkit since at least the days of the medieval estampie, but in the modern age few have embraced it with the fervor of Thomas Adès, who writes concert music that writhes with rhythm. Adès spent the weekend presiding from the pit and the piano as four choreographers each re-created one of his scores. The production originated at Sadler’s Wells in London, and arrived at City Center courtesy of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, where it built to a finale of collective ecstasy usually reserved for cultish rituals and sporting events.

It must be alarming for a composer to see musical ideas metamorphose into physical ones. Notes become footfalls, beats are counted off according to an arcane system musicians don’t understand, and painstakingly crafted details slip by unremarked. But there’s a physicality in Adès’s music that lends itself to the stage, a sense of concurrent pulses, of bodies in spasm, of slowing treads and perpetual orbits that must be a choreographer’s dream. 


  • Posted 11/23/15 at 5:09 PM
  • Books

Rabia Chaudry From ‘Serial’ Is Writing a Book About Adnan Syed’s Case

Rabia Chaudry*, the lawyer who set in motion the events that led to "Serial," is writing a book about Adnan Syed's case, EW reports. Chaudry, a family friend of Syed, was instrumental in setting him up with "Serial" host Sarah Koenig, who would devote the first season of the podcast to examining Syed's conviction in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Since "Serial" debuted, Chaudry has been one of Syed's most vocal advocates. She currently hosts the podcast "Undisclosed," which offers a sympathetic look at his case; her book, Adnan's Story, will follow in this vein, covering Adnan's initial conviction, his life in prison since then, and his recent legal victories. (Syed is cooperating with the project from prison.) Adnan's Story will be released next September, near the two-year anniversary of the "Serial" debut.


George R. R. Martin on Syria: The Refugees Are Also Victims of ISIS; Let Them In

Amid tensions involving the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin kicked off his weekend with a concise blog post in which he waxed political and unpacked his welcoming stance. The writer cited words from Emma Lazarus's "New Colossus" poem, which appears on the Statue of Liberty's base, and said that those opposing the refugees don't understand that for which America stands. "The Syrian refugees are as much victims of ISIS as the dead in France," he wrote, referencing the devastating attacks from earlier this month. "Let them in. Santa Fe, at least, will welcome them." Martin proceeded to call out governors, along with Donald Trump, in his frustrated plea to recognize the U.S. as an immigrant nation.

Read his full post here: »

Can Art School’s Cool Kids Grow Up to Be Anti-Bullying Activists?

Life seems on the whole to be going pretty well for Tara Subkoff and her husband of nearly three years, Urs Fischer — if what they’re after is a kind of tenured-hipster second act. Fischer, the Swiss artist who has lived in New York for just over a decade, is best known for playful sculptures that often seem to embody a heroic futility. (He made that 23-foot-tall, 17-ton bronze figure of a teddy bear impaled by a desk lamp that stood in front of the Seagram Building a few years back.) Subkoff, the long-durational “It” girl, who not so long ago survived a brain tumor, has her directorial debut, #Horror, opening this month. She grew up in Connecticut — her father owned an antiques shop on Broadway and 13th Street she says Andy Warhol used to frequent — and went to prep school in Massachusetts. For many years, she ran a deliriously conceptual fashion house called Imitation of Christ (at first it recycled clothing from thrift shops like the Salvation Army, sometimes adding punkish slogans; for a time Chloë Sevigny was closely involved) while doing things like collaborating with Easy Spirit on the side, all the while kind of knowing everyone who might be at whatever the then-equivalent of the Beatrice Inn was on any given night. Tonight they’ve joined me for dinner at a tatty neighborhood place called Bistro Les Amis near their Soho apartment, which they share with Fischer’s 6-year-old daughter (when she’s not with her mother) and a rescue poodle named Franzi. “There’s no real scene,” notes Fischer, before ordering the branzino. “If you want Raoul’s, it’s down the street,” says Subkoff, who goes for the steak-frites, medium rare. 


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Will Most Resemble Goblet of Fire

If you're interested in what David Yates's first forthcoming Harry Potter prequel will be like tonally, a producer on the project has answers. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has "the charm of the fourth," David Heyman told EW on Thursday. Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell "talked about the fourth as being like an Indian musical — and it's not that, but it's got the humor of that film. It has the romantic comedy, that fish-out-of-water humor, that very human, natural character comedy. And now [Yates] is always looking for truthful, human moments. It's never just a gag — he's grounding [the storytelling moments] in a reality."


Miss Saigon to Heat Up Broadway Again in 2017

Can you hear the helicopters in the distance? Miss Saigon, the 1989 musical from Les Misérables creators Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, is headed back to Broadway after almost 25 years. The show, a Vietnam War–era update of the opera Madame Butterfly, tells the story of a romance between a Vietnamese bargirl and an American soldier. EW reports that the show will debut at a Shubert theater in the spring of 2017, where it will run until January 18, 2018; after that, it will launch a national tour of cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.


  • Posted 11/19/15 at 1:03 PM
  • Memoirs

Charlie Sheen Is Writing a Memoir

Charlie Sheen and his agent are currently shopping a memoir, ET reports. The tell-all book will reportedly cover Sheen's three decades onscreen and in the public eye, including his disclosure this week that he is HIV-positive. Sheen's book will also likely discuss his headline-making behavior of 2011, as well as his relationships with Denise Richards, Brooke Mueller, and Bree Olsen, though keeping with the tradition of pop-culture biographies, it will probably skip over his history of domestic violence.

Noah Hawley Is Taking Charge of That Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut TV Project

AP English teachers and normal Kurt Vonnegut fans can continue to get pumped: Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley has signed onto and pushed the Cat's Cradle TV project that FX and IM Global are producing further into development, according to reports. Hawley will write and EP for the adaptation, which will be based on Vonnegut's satirical novel of the same name. Brad Yonover and Elkins Entertainment's Sandi Love will also co-EP, THR notes. Still no word on a hard timeline or onscreen personnel info for the project — but hey, ice-nine, Bokononism, and San Lorenzo weren't all built in a day, so this is a good start.

Here Are the 2015 National Book Award Winners

The National Book Foundation announced this year’s National Book Awards Wednesday night, which means that MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates, who took home the award for nonfiction with Between the World and Me, can add another line to his already lengthy resume. The fiction category, meanwhile, experienced a bit of an upset, as Adam Johnson’s story collection Fortune Smiles took first place over more buzzy contenders, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. Read the full list of finalists and winners (bolded) below. And congrats to all!


  • Posted 11/18/15 at 7:00 PM

Theater Review: The Many Steves of Steve

How many Steves does it take to screw up a marriage? Steven and Stephen are a long-term couple with an 8-year-old son and intimacy issues. Steven’s old friend Matt, and Matt’s partner, Brian, are pushing the boundaries of fidelity with (among others) their trainer, Steve. When the two couples and their lesbian sidekick, Carrie, meet to celebrate Steven’s 47th birthday at a nice Manhattan restaurant, it isn’t long before the betrayals spill and the table settings end up on the floor — but not to worry. There to clean up the mess is young Argentine waiter-slash-dancer Esteban, who soon joins this recombinant ménage. If it’s hard to keep all of the Steve-variants straight, well, you don’t have to; none of them is.

Where "Once upon a time" meets "I wish." »

28 People on the Lesbian-Culture Artifacts That Changed Their Lives

To accompany Frank Rich’s essay on Carol, the Todd Haynes adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic lesbian novel, New York invited 28 people to share a specific piece of lesbian cultural history that moved them most. Here are their answers.


Frank Rich on Patricia Highsmith’s Carol and the Enduring Invisibility of Lesbian Culture in America

In early December 1948, Patricia Highsmith took a Christmas-season temp job as a shopgirl in the children’s toy department at Bloomingdale’s. Highsmith, a 27-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas, and a 1942 Barnard graduate, was a budding novelist who had been supporting herself for five years as a freelance action-comic-book writer, concocting stories for lesser superheroes like Spy Smasher and Black Terror — a rare gig for a woman in the golden age of comics. But her average weekly income of $55 no longer ­sufficed now that she had started shelling out $30 a week for psychoanalysis. Highsmith had sought a shrink’s help to deal with her qualms about her pending marriage to a British novelist named Marc Brandel. Up until then, her prolific love life had been defined by a string of affairs with women.

You start to wonder how many cultural treasures and figures are buried in that antiquity, invisible to most of heterosexual America and perhaps to much of younger gay America, too. »

Emma Stone Will Star in Film Adaptation of Love May Fail, About Finding Human Decency

Emma Stone will star in Columbia TriStar's film adaptation of Love May Fail, according to Deadline and Variety. The novel is one of the more recent releases of Silver Linings Playbook author, Matthew Quick. As the book does, the film will revolve around an underappreciated housewife (Stone) who escapes her cheating husband, returns to her childhood home in South Jersey, re-seeks human decency, and attempts to save herself, as well as the legacy of a former, scandal-plagued teacher of hers. If that dynamic kind of gives you flashbacks to Irrational Man, fear not — elevators should play a much lesser role in this project, which has been scripted by Mike White and is now in need of a director.

Sting On His New $7,000 Book, Selling His Picassos and Just Maybe Returning to The Last Ship, in London

Last night, high atop the great black glass Hearst Tower, Sting played a short acoustic set of songs from The Last Ship, his grand industrial lament of a musical, which, despite its beautiful music, and, for a while, in an effort to get the show to sail right, his stepping onto the stage, too, had a rather disappointing run on Broadway last winter, closing in January.

But Broadway is "a very strange world," Sting tells me, before he went up on the little stage, Central Park spread out behind him in the dark. "I mean, you either coincide with popular taste or you don’t, in any particular season," and the fact that the musical didn't turn out to be seaworthy "doesn’t really matter long term. I stand by the tone of the piece, its seriousness, its intent. It wasn’t a success on Broadway." (Its producers lost their entire $15 million investment.)

But he doesn't regret it. It is currently touring: “It’s about to go on in Norway,” he tells me, scratching his seaman’s beard, distractedly. “And we’re looking to have a production in London ... I can’t say where.”


No, Andrew Rannells Won’t Get You a House Ticket to See Hamilton

If the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true, then there are a slew of New Yorkers right now banking on the fact that they “knew” Andrew Rannells way back in middle school. The Book of Mormon actor took over for Jonathan Groff as King George in the hottest ticket on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (Groff is currently shooting the Looking wrap-up movie for HBO). “I’m only in it for two more weeks,” Rannells told Vulture at the premiere of Carol, hosted by Chanel. “I’m so sad to be leaving, and I’m so excited to be there.” But what won’t he miss? “I will not miss people reaching out to me for tickets, though. It’s like everybody and their mother is like, ‘Hey, 'member be? I went to eighth grade with you. Can you get me house seats to Hamilton?’ No, I can’t. I’m not helping you.”


Matthew McConaughey Is Looking at the Villain Role in the Movie Adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower

The Wrap reports Matthew McConaughey is looking at two deals tied to Sony's on-again adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Initially, the actor was thinking about the gunslinging Roland Deschain part, but now he's apparently leaning toward that character's nemesis, the very bad, very prolific Man in Black (not this kind) who has a lot of other aliases. As the Wrap notes, this would be the actor's first role in a major big-screen saga — one also set to have season-long TV installments running in between.

Matt will have to choose wisely: »

Mel Brooks: Hamilton Is the Best Musical Ever, You Know, Other Than The Producers

Everyone from President Obama to Beyoncé has stopped backstage after seeing Hamilton, but the show’s director, Thomas Kail, says he usually leaves it to the cast to schmooze with the big names. “My tendency when these things happen is to sort of watch them interact with the cast, and that, to me, seems to be the greatest thing,” Kail told Vulture at the New York Stage and Film Gala on Sunday. However Kail did get to meet Mel Brooks, who attended the smash Broadway musical about ten days ago. “He said it was the best musical he’s ever seen," said Kail. "Except for The Producers. Which I thought was the most Mel Brooks–ian thing he possibly could have said.” So we guess he liked Hamilton better than Young Frankenstein.


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