In his August 1928 rave for The Front Page, Brooks Atkinson, of the Times, felt compelled to offer a warning that the Ben Hecht–Charles MacArthur dialogue “bruises the sensitive ear with a Rabelaisian vernacular unprecedented for its up-hill and down-dale blasphemy.” Our ears are not so sensitive 88 years later, and I can print words here that would have turned Rabelais red, but the fourth Broadway revival of the show, which opened last night in a top-notch production starring Nathan Lane, still gets to a man’s heart through his ears. Though it’s generically a farce, if a dark one, you can see why Atkinson called it a melodrama: The first act, which is mostly exposition, works like an orchestral tone poem, with the voices of a septet of Chicago newsmen entering fuguelike in various registers and taking their time to get to a climax. The slow build, like the play overall, is a masterpiece of construction, the kind that for a hundred reasons (including the cost of a 25-person cast) shouldn’t work today, but that under Jack O’Brien’s nervy direction undeniably does.
Internationally Acclaimed Author Zadie Smith Can Sing Too, Which Is Totally Fair and Is Definitely Fine With YouBy Halle Kiefer
Most people have upward of zero talents for which the world would or should ever recognize them. As she revealed at T Magazine's "The Greats" party at New York City's Carlyle Hotel this week, British author Zadie Smith is also an incredible vocalist, which is good and doesn't fill you with any kind of wild jealousy. In a recent T Magazine interview, the White Teeth writer discuses being a cabaret singer to support herself while a student at King’s College in England. Meanwhile, you worked at a Subway. Next month Smith will kick off an 18-stop book tour to support her highly anticipated novel Swing Time, due out November 15, and the instructor of your Intro to Tap class will ask you to drop the course because you are "bumming everybody out."
Trying to avoid the third presidential debate, I decided to watch a press screener of Fox TV’s version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show last night, thinking camp would be the perfect antidote to Trump. After all, the material has comforted and celebrated marginalized people in their struggle against implicit Republicans for more than 40 years. (The stage version premiered in London in 1973.) That it never made much sense seemed immaterial; its songs and story were always secondary to its electric, transgressive spirit, and that of its audience. Unfortunately, in this embalmed remake, neither was much in evidence: There was no live audience, of course, and no electricity, either.
Aside from being a best-selling novelist and former recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, Jonathan Lethem not long ago found himself in the additionally enviable position of being a free man. In 2014, while on sabbatical from his professorship at Pomona College and having just published two ambitious efforts — the multigenerational, far-left family saga Dissident Gardens, and the career-spanning collection The Ecstasy of Influence — Lethem accepted an invitation to spend a few months the American Academy in Berlin. “When I was there,” says Lethem, “I realized that after detoxing from Dissident Gardens and The Ecstasy of Influence, I was in a very cleared-out place; there was nothing obligatory in my situation. And I wanted to reflect that in my next book. I wanted to write a book just for me.” The result is Lethem’s noirish new novel A Gambler’s Anatomy, which concerns, among other things, high-stakes backgammon, psychic powers, and toe-curling descriptions of experimental facial surgery.
The Beatles debuted “All You Need Is Love” on June 25, 1967, at the end of a television spectacular called Our World that was watched by hundreds of millions. We hear a bit of the song as broadcast live that day during the first act of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love, which draws its ironic title from the lyrics. Kenneth, a 19-year-old Oxford wastrel, slumming in his brother’s grotty north London flat, sets out to enjoy on the telly the strange phenomenon of rebellious youth culture going mainstream. The brother, Henry, four years older, isn’t interested; he’s already been co-opted by the Establishment. (He wears a cardigan and tie beneath his leather jacket.) But, boy, is he pissed about it. For the first 20 minutes, the brothers’ enmity, and then the sexual struggle that takes over when Kenneth hooks up with Henry’s leggy mod girlfriend, makes it seem as if we’re in for a gloss on Joe Orton or John Osborne. No such luck. The tone of Love, Love, Love — which follows Kenneth and the girl, Sandra, over the next 44 years, as they marry, spawn, and destroy their offspring — is less Angry Young Man than snarky midlife crisis.
After making a bunch of people very rich and winning a whopping 11 Tony Awards, what comes next for Hamilton? This summer marked the end of act one for the smash Broadway hit: Unlike Alexander Hamilton himself, many of the people involved are taking a break from the production now that their yearlong contracts are up. With the change in administration, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the future of Hamilton, from cast departures to filmed versions to non-Broadway productions. Take a look below to see what you missed.
The story of tonight? Another one of Hamilton's original cast members is leaving the production. Anthony Ramos, who has been playing the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton since Hamilton's Off Broadway run at the Public Theater, will be performing for the last time on November 20. Ramos is leaving the production to film Spike Lee's upcoming Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, in which he'll be a lead. Jordan Fisher, best known for his supporting role in Grease: Live , will serve as his replacement. The news of Ramos's departure comes a few days after the announcement that Christopher Jackson, who originated the role of George Washington, would be leaving the musical on November 13 to pursue other projects.
It’s probably not a coincidence that three of today’s best multi-character monologists — to coin a paradoxical job title — are women of color: Anna Deavere Smith, Nilaja Sun, and Sarah Jones. All are exemplary actors who must at some point have found that the parts available to them were nothing compared to the parts they could write for themselves. Sun’s No Child … , based on her experience as a visiting drama teacher in a Bronx high school, was a stunner in 2006; she gave herself not just one role but 16. Smith’s Fires in the Mirror (1992) vivisected the Crown Heights riots; her Let Me Down Easy (2009) the failures of the health-care system. (Notes From the Field, a new piece about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” opens next month at Second Stage.) And Jones’s Bridge & Tunnel, featuring a hilariously diverse gallery of participants in a hip-hop poetry slam, won a special Tony Award in 2006. Though the women, as performers, all turn themselves into human kaleidoscopes, as playwrights they approach their material quite differently. Smith’s work is taken verbatim from interviews, while Sun shapes and condenses real people and events into an impressionistic group portrait. Jones, the poppiest of the three, focused in Bridge & Tunnel on the individuality of her characters; the wholly invented story that contained them was deeply secondary.
It's fall, and that means the school library is definitely open, and middle-school students across the country are reading the classic young-adult book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Meaning, a younger generation empowered by Twitter and unencumbered by stupid things like heterosexism is reading the book with fresh eyes. So naturally, one young reader had a question about whether the characters Dallas and Johnny Cade were actually gay lovers. Both of them are street toughs, and Dallas, the coolest, baddest-ass greaser of them all, is especially protective of Johnny, who comes from a home filled with abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. Was this a gay relationship that couldn't be explicitly rendered as such back when the book was first published in 1967? Well, the reader thought to ask the author, S.E. Hinton, on Twitter:
Twenty-two hours into A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Taylor Mac, wearing a gown of gutted cassette tapes and a headpiece of skulls, guided the audience through a gradually softening refrain of Patti Smith’s song “People Have the Power,” until the packed theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse was filled with a breathless, omnipresent whisper: People have the power. When the final “r” softly died out, and the lights faded momentarily to black, the room was so quiet I might as well have been standing there alone, and yet I had never felt more profoundly connected to a group of fellow audience members.
In 2010, New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Weiner famously used Twitter to shed light on the sexism surrounding the rave reviews of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. The following is an excerpt from her new memoir, Hungry Heart, where she describes using Twitter as a force for good. The book is out now.
This week we're providing a series of Vulture Hacks: expert advice, gear guides, and recommendations to help you maximize your entertainment experience.
Enjoyable as it is to immerse yourself in an inches-thick work of fiction, having the time — and focus — to do so is increasingly becoming a luxury. In order to keep you turning pages in between Netflix binges and DVR purges, we've assembled a list of excellent books that will take you less than a day to read — each of them 200 pages or fewer. (For more time-efficient entertainment, check out our list of the 53 best movies under 90 minutes.)
These are not the Best Novellas of All Time, because lists of that sort are readily accessible, and you probably read many of those books in grade school, anyway. Rather, these are some of the most entertaining and mind-opening stories, novellas, essays, and short treatises from the recent past. The works vary by degrees of digestibility — some can satisfy your cravings within an hour, while others may take a full day to absorb — but every one of them will leave you glad that you made the time for it.
Spoilers ahead for Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
Throughout the course of Twin Peaks’s 30 episodes, David Lynch and Mark Frost crafted a series that was known equally for its anomalous plot and its damn fine coffee and cherry pie. What began with the seemingly normal murder case of homecoming queen Laura Palmer soon transformed into a narrative of a far more otherworldly, sinister nature. Along the way, we were able to get to know a bit about the various residents of the eccentric Northwestern town, although some of their backstories were never fully explored. In Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, out today, the series’ co-creator expands on the layered history of the town, going as far back as Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition to explain all of the mysteries that encompassed Peaks’s populace. Below, we've compiled 11 backstories about characters in the Twin Peaks universe that we now know more about.
I went to see this summer's Cornelia Parker sculpture on the Metropolitan Museum roof last week, in the final month of its six-month New York run. This proved to be perfect timing. Parker brings a lot of fascinating baggage to the Met rooftop, where she re-created the Victorian Tudor mansion where "Mother" and son lived in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho. Or maybe I brought the baggage.
Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Twin Peaks, as well as Mark Frost’s new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
The second-season finale of the seminal, kooky TV drama Twin Peaks — which later turned out to serve as the show’s series finale — capped off with inarguably one of the most frightening ending scenes in television history. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), now possessed by the demonic entity known as BOB after narrowly escaping the Black Lodge, calmly squeezes a tube of toothpaste into a bathroom sink before smashing his head into a mirror, where BOB’s diabolical reflection stares back at him. (In the process, he coins a chilling catchphrase: “How’s Annie?”) Aside from that nightmare-inducing sequence and its unknown aftermath, though, there were other potential plotline outcomes to unpack: What happened with the explosion at the bank? Were Ben’s injuries life-threatening after Doc Hayward whacked his head against a fireplace? Did Leo ever escape Windom’s pesky tarantula trap?
In his new novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, series co-creator Mark Frost gives us an extensive and fascinating look at the history of the northwestern town and fills in some characters' backstories. In the process, he also clears up a few questions about what happened after the events of the finale. Here are five new things we learned from the book, though we’ll have to wait until the third season begins on Showtime next year to find out how it all turned out.
Benjamin Grant is a photographer who never touches the camera he’s using. His four assistants receive his orders, and then they circle silently, hundreds or thousands of miles from his desk, doing his bidding. They send him digital image files that he then stitches together and polishes and refines to levels of extreme clarity to produce terapixel-size artwork of extreme complexity.
Part of what keeps great plays great, age after age, is that they have so much in them: so much psychology, amusement, conflict, philosophy, politics, emotion, and linguistic pleasure. What keeps them alive is a related phenomenon: No amount of unpacking ever unpacks them. The greater they are the more they outstrip the ability of any one production to demonstrate that greatness; they are always tantalizing, rarely definitive. That has certainly been the case with The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov’s final play, from 1904, which in terms of dramatic technique — keeping all those balls, and 12 major characters, in the air at once — is not only a masterpiece but a paragon and a trap. It feels so complete and fully imagined in précis that you’d think it would just walk itself onstage and say Here I am. But as the ambitious and tentative Roundabout revival that opens tonight demonstrates, its vastness can just as well leave the drama seeming staticky and intermittent, a weak signal from a brilliant, distant source.
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton's George Washington, will soon be taking his final bow in the Broadway show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He'll perform the role, for which he was nominated for a Tony, one last time on November 13. Jackson is currently appearing on the CBS show Bull, and you'll hear his voice on the soundtrack for Moana, singing a number penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You can take the actor out of Hamilton, but you can't take the Hamilton out of the actor.
By the time Matthew Barney’s debut solo show opened at Barbara Gladstone’s Greene Street gallery in 1991, the work of this 24-year-old artist had already rocked my world. The previous year, in an otherwise unremarkable large group show in the now-defunct Althea Viafora Gallery in Soho, I saw a TV monitor depicting a naked male — Barney — scaling a rope to the ceiling, then descending over a shape of cooled Vaseline. Hanging there, he’d finger dollops of jelly and methodically fill all the holes in his body — eyes, ears, mouth, penis, anus, nose, navel. (I’d never thought of the penis as a hole before.) I saw a self in transformation, and, thunderstruck, I said to my wife, “This is one of the futures of art.” She looked up and said, “Yeah, but it’s so male.” It was the first time I saw Barney’s intricate syntax of endurance art, video, post-minimal and process art, which delivered a picture of a strange masculinity: conflicted, involuting, ludicrous, neutered, Kafkaesque. A tree fell within me; here was the art of the 1990s beckoning.
Perhaps it’s the uncertainty principle at work, but one of last year’s best dramas has somehow become one of this year’s best comedies. I’m referring to Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Simon Stephens’s Heisenberg, which opened tonight on Broadway, following an acclaimed Off Broadway run in 2015. Oddly, not much has changed on the surface of what I originally called a liberating and scary new play: The two-person cast — Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt — is still terrific, with Parker doing her best stage work in years, and Arndt again a wonderful surprise to New York audiences. (He has spent most of his career on the West Coast.) The script, too, is all but unaltered. Parker is Georgie, a 42-year-old American expat in London: a self-consciously weird oversharer and possible grifter. Arndt is Alex, a 75-year-old butcher, originally from Ireland, who in response to a history of tragedy and solitude has developed a spectacularly vivid if mostly invisible inner life. (He calls himself at one point “a deranged septuagenarian Pooh bear.”) The unlikely pair meet halfway between cute and harassment, when Georgie comes upon Alex at a train station and impulsively kisses him on the back of his neck; the tale spins off into six weeks of their relationship from there.
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