Peter Brook Returns to BAM with ” Battlefield”


by Wickham Boyle
Friday Sep 30, 2016


Thirty years later, Peter Brook retakes the stage created for him at the BAM Harvey Theater with “Battlefield,” a pared-down, much older writer’s take on the aftermath of the great saga and battle illuminated in the “Mahabharata.”

I first encountered Brook’s work in 1971 when I sat spellbound in the BAM opera house watching his “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” From there I endeavored to see all I could from his Bouffe Du Nord theater in Paris, to the Aix-en-Provence Festival, to LaMama. I sat transfixed through the nine hours of Brook’s original “Mahabharata” in 1987 and came back for more.

The original work, based on the epic poem, runs over 200,00 lines of poetry and featured a company of nearly 60 actors. There was music, elaborate costumes, and breaks for sustenance for the intrepid audience.

“Battlefield” is a story told on a bare stage, after all it is the final story in the saga where nearly everyone has been killed and laments a world littered with corpses. Four actors –Carole Karemera, Jared McNeil, Ery Nzaramba and Sean O’Callaghan – inhabit the many characters who tell the tale and fables within stories. Each is remarkable, mutable, reverent and wonderful to regard.

The characters are transformed via accents, affects, and a few errant pieces of cloth. These minimal costume pieces by Oria Puppo allow quick changes and echo the sparse world we witness. Everpresent on the edge is the extraordinary percussionist, Toshi Tsuchitori, who created the music for the original “Mahabharata” and continues to propel this final version forward.

This iteration focuses on Prince Yudishtira and he wrestles with how to live in a world that he has been instrumental in obliterating. This is a battle where even victory is dry dust as both kings have lost all of their families and loved one. They try constantly to unravel the notions of culpability and an afterlife where rebirth is possible. The language in this epic can be astonishingly beautiful. The various tales are evocative of Aesop’s fables, the Bible, and parables like those in the Koran, but all spun together with a distinctly Indian twist.

The play, at less than 90 minutes, is a slow-marching mediation asking the audience to question their own mortality and the choices we have made as a modern society with a constantly war torn world swirling at our well-fed feet. It is a world where” justice is blind and sorrow destroys wisdom.”

The audience at BAM is graying, like your scribe, and so it is a group often contemplating our legacy and the plight of the world we have either helped sink or shape, or perhaps turned our backs on. I spoke with Brook as I left, and I saw a spark still in those crystal-blue eyes, but this work is the effort of a man who at 91 still wants us to see the glory of the “Mahabharata,” a book Brook says is “an immense canvas covering all the aspects of human existence.”

“Battlefield” runs through Oct. 9 at BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street in Brooklyn. For tickets or information, visit

“The Wolves” Howls on 42 Street

viewimage_story-phpEntertainment » Theatre
The Wolves
by Wickham Boyle
Wednesday Sep 14, 2016

“The Wolves” is a world premier play crafted by Sarah DeLappe and developed with care by The Playwrights Realm, a company dedicated to supporting early career playwrights. They certainly unearthed a jewel here.

An all girls soccer team takes the stage. A bare, black box theater space at The Duke on 42nd Street that has been covered in green AstroTurf — a brilliant design conceit by Laura Jellinek and amplified by stark, provocative lighting by Lap Chi Chu.

From the first moment what strikes everyone is a cast of ten, diverse young women. Take a pause here. This is very unusual. And a play written by a woman, directed flawlessly by Lila Neugebauer and with an appreciative audience that conservatively was 60 percent women.


I took a young friend, a 15-year-old who just moved to America from Copenhagen. At dinner before the show we discussed so much of what was vibrantly portrayed in this tight 90-minute work. How are we defined as young women, what should we consider politically, how can we make friends in a new environment, why are people so mean, how do you find a trajectory in life?

These questions were all posed and some were parsed during the time the team stretched, did drills, “knees up, rear kicks, headers, passing the ball,” all was articulated on the turf. These actors are extremely fit. The sheer physicality of the work requires them to run, leap, and stretch hamstrings, quads, and delts endlessly while they unfold their home life, questions regarding abortion, what it means to be home schooled or religious and how to be a fierce athletic warrior.

And it is delivered in rat-a-tat speed, just the way modern youth talk. Every sentence is like punctuated in a like rhythmic way with like the word “like.” I often find language contrivances as like difficult to listen to, and in this play it diverted me at times and bothered my grown up sensibility. But it is realistic and was even addressed in a final scene by the only adult to make an appearance.

The girls’ characters were all well written and enacted. There is the goalie Lizzy Jutila, who constantly had to rush off stage to hurl before each game as she was so driven by her perfectionism. Lauren Patten #25 the team captain, gets into massive arguments with teammates and then must muster the gang to win the game. Tiny, blond Sarah Mezzanotte is the groups eating disorder poster child, scarfing down all the orange rinds after the team has left them behind. These are all small or large embodiments of issues that modern girls grapple with and it is so important that it is given a loud, raucous, wise voice, center stage.

“The Wolves” runs through Sept. 29 at The Duke, 229 W 42nd St., New York, NY. For information or tickets, call 212-255-3089 or visit

Men On Boats: All Woman Cast

Men On Boats
by Wickham Boyle
Saturday Aug 13, 2016

Perhaps the wild fire success of “Hamilton” has opened a niche for theater pieces that are historical, irreverent and so non-traditionally cast that they shake us wonderfully. Such is “Men on Boats” originally produced by Clubbed Thumb, a company which since 1996 has presented and commissioned over 100 ground breaking, new works.

“Men on Boats” written with wit and wisdom by Jaclyn Backhaus, features a fearless, fierce all woman cast. Let’s start there. There is wonderful audacity to feature men in the title and yet a swirl of women embodying the explorers who ventured down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869 on the first trip taken by white explorers, and helmed by one-armed Civil War hero John Wesley Powell.

Ten men in four boats embarked on a journey that covered and mapped almost 1,000 miles through uncharted canyons. This changed the west forever. Three months later, only five of the original company plus Powell would emerge from the depths of the Grand Canyon. “Men on Boats’ takes us, in 140 minutes, through every harrowing, often hilarious step of the trip.

The scene is set by huge black and white photomontages of the canyons, cliffs and waterways. The glorious cast holds up only the prows of the boats and yet the fervor, the danger, the heroic saves and swirling eddies is all completely vital. This is of course a concatenation of scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, beautiful costumes by Asta Bennie Hostetter, and sound design that wraps the audience in crashing waves and splintering boats, wrought by Jane Shaw.

The cast is stunning. Kelly McAndrew as Powell leads the pack with a dry wit, cool delivery equally capable of sharing geological facts or short quips. Her lead clues us in to the fact through the writing and the spot on direction by Will Davis, we will constantly be flipping from modern jargon, to late 19th century patter and the jokes and wisdom will be packed in between as tightly as the flour, bacon, whiskey and scientific instruments were stowed on the small vessels that plummeted down the canyon.

There is at times a cartoonish take as Powell and Kristen Sieh, who plays Dunn, a founding member of the theater company and often a cohort to Powell ruminates about what names to give cliffs and inlets, mountains and rivers. There is a nod to the fact that most of this glorious landscape had been named and traversed for eons by native people, but none-the-less, white men do what they must.

The cast features a range of voices, sizes and colors as the women portray crew members like Sumner, (Donnetta Lavinia Grays) who is strait laced and a constant stoic until faced with a rattlesnake when (s)he becomes a whimpering high pitched shrieker who is saved by the cook’s coffee pot.

Birgit Huppuch portrays Goodman, the youngest, smallest boatman. Goodman brings a humor and pluck to every scene and even heroically saves Powell who is stranded on a cliff. In this work, Goodman takes off his trousers and tosses a leg to Powell to haul him over. Emblematic of the play, when the rest of the crew arrives, Goodman and Powell are hugging in gratitude with pants tossed to the side. It is this ability to portray history while not bogging down in it, that makes evening so magical and important.

The rest of the cast, each inspired, includes Elizabeth Kenny as Old Shady, Powell’s brother and a humors character who can assume the shape of a shady tree. Layla Khoshnoudi, Danaya Esperanza, Danielle Davenport, Hannah Cabell, and Jocelyn Bioh round out the crew.

I had the great, and terrifying honor of rafting down the Colorado for only a week and this play brings back the glorious grandeur of the physical surroundings, the amazement of rapids and water falls traversed, and how lucky we all are to have tales to tell that are as magical as “Men on Boats.”

“Men on Boats” runs through August 14 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42 Street in NYC. For information or tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit

Twyla Tharp 50 Years


gay wwwTwyla Tharp and Three Dances
by Wickham Boyle
Tuesday Jul 12, 2016
Twyla Tharp is a 73-year-old pixie with lots of attitude who has shaped the flow and flux of modern dance. Tharp began her dance career in 1965 spinning a yo-yo while arched forward like a ski jumper, in her first piece, called “Tank Dive.” It was performed at Hunter College after her graduation from Barnard College. 2016 marks her fiftieth anniversary of dancing, choreographing and the Joyce Theater is part of a global celebration of her work.

Although raised in the Midwest and California, Tharp is a citizen of the world who has created work that shakes audiences, reviewers, fans and foes to their core. Tharp created dances to “Sinatra on Broadway,” and work for classic ballet companies worldwide. Her 1973 work “Deuce Coupe” is heralded as the first to mix modern and classical dance moves all to the beat and blare of the Beach Boys. Her Broadway musicals include “Movin Out,” “Come Fly Away,” and her choreography electrifies films like “Hair,” “Amadeus,” and “White Nights.”

She has written three books, her 2003 book, “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.” provides life skills for the creative outlaw. She is a mother, a grandmother and the mother hen to many dancers who have passed through her tutelage and heard her roar, and rage. Until July 23 audiences can thrill to “Twyla Tharp and Three Dances,” three very different Tharp dances from favorites to a premiere.

Twyla Tharp Dance in 'Brahms Paganini'

Twyla Tharp Dance in ‘Brahms Paganini’ 


Tharp has joked that she was named for a champion hog caller and her 1976 piece called “Country Dances” seems to hearken to a county fair where four dancers jockey, arabesque and joke wildly to country music like “Took My Gal A’Walkin,” and “Rat Cheese under the Hill.” There are seven different, often hilarious songs and dances to tickle the soul. Tharp has a wonderful way of making us laugh at the usual by upending it.

A pas de deux might just as well be two men, women as the duo, or in this case a very tall, elegant, amazing dancer Kaitlyn Gilliland partnering with the hapless John Seyla who seems to be astounded and often wonderfully tricked by moves made by Gilliland, as well as Amy Ruggiero and Eva Trapp. The four are costumed by Santo Loqusato in mock county gear, embroidered shirts, flare skirts and they whirl across the stage, vie for attention or just up and leave the stage and storm off. It is classic Tharp; funny, irreverent and beautifully wrought so that the audience never anticipates the next step or the next giggle.

The second offering, “Beethoven Opus 130” is a New York City premiere; the world bow was June at Saratoga. Here the full company, eight dancers, Matthew Dibble, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Daniel Baker, Ramona Kelly, Amy Ruggiero, Eva Trapp, Nicholas Coppula, and Reed Tankersley take the stage in marvelous Norma Kamali costumes with evocative lights provided by Stephen Terry. This piece is pure elegance and combustible energy.

The dancers take form as twosomes, or as a full flock of black birds flitting and flying across a bare stage. Again it is diva Gilliland who captivates in a stunning way. Even though there are seven other dancers performing with bravura gusto one can not stop watching Gilliland in her flowing tulle with appendages that seem to elongate with every pirouette and grand jete. Here again the partnering morphs and confuses, the classical mixes with the Marx Brothers and everyone is seduced. It shows that Tharp in on point to perfection even as the decades unfold.

The evening’s final piece is “Brahms Paganini” from 1980. Jennifer Tipton’s lights bath the Greek god-like Reed Tankersley in white light as he performs a daunting solo dressed in Ralph Lauren’s pure white trousers and shirt. He spins and leaps pretending to lose his way, only to start and stop and beguile us over and over in the portion entitled Book I.

At moments the audience gasps can be heard as the work becomes acrobatic and then back to endless turns and leaps on and off the wings. He is finally joined by the rest of the company in Book II all performed to “Brahms Variations on a Theme By Paganini Opus 35.”

By the final curtain call the house was on their feet screaming as Twyla Tharp was hauled up onto the stage and lifted as a conquering hero. She proceeded to mug and gracefully bow while grinning ear to ear. A perfect elf who had once again created magic.

“Twyla Tharp and Three Dances” runs through July 23 at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eight Avenue in NYC. For tickets or information, call 212-242-0800 or visit

TURN ME LOOSE: Joe Morton is beyond amazing

People toss terms around in reviews and at cocktail parties like “tour de force.” It means a magnetizing performance or show, and we are all hungry for it. If you are looking for a show, a performance, an experience that is up front, brilliant and stunningly smart, run to see acting icon Joe Morton in Gretchen Law’s play “Turn Me Loose.”


Joe Morton plays Dick Gregory

Joe Morton plays Dick Gregory , Joe Morton IS Dick Gregory  


“Turn Me Loose” is the story of comic genius Dick Gregory, the first black stand-up in the ’60s to make white audiences laugh at the absurdity of bigotry. Gregory morphed one of the most successful show business careers of the postwar era into a life of activism, sacrifice and danger alongside Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and other Civil Rights leaders. Wielding razor-sharp wit, Gregory hacked away at myths about race, poverty, war, and politics.

Joe Morton has gained incredible popularity from his recent work in the television hit “Scandal” however his work and fans span decades from “Brother From Another Planet” until this game changer at the jewel box Westside Theatre. Morton doesn’t play comedic genius and activist Dick Gregory he becomes him. From Gregory’s launch in the ’60s until his work continuing right up until today Morton sweats, and hums, groans, weeps and sings us through not only Richard Claxton Gregory’s life, but also the march of the Civil Rights movement through the election of Barack Obama.

Gregory was brilliant. He had an edgy educated, humor that allowed him to stand up to racists from Alabama during his first gig at the Playboy Club in the early ’60s. Gregory’s introduction, given by the very good actor John Carlin who plays many interstitial roles during the play, says, “You may not like him, but you won’t forget him, Dick Gregory.”

In author Gretchen Law’s play, when Gregory encountered heckling from the audience calling him “Nigger,” Gregory’s response was to tell his audience that in his contract it calls for him to receive an extra $50 every time that epithet is hurled.

The play is set up as a nightclub that spans over 50 decades, it is a solid set by Tony winner Leon Rothenberg and its intimacy encourages the audience to respond from time to time. John Gould Rubin’s direction empowers Morton to own every inch of the stage.

He is engaged in a clubby monologue on a stool, he leaves the stage to sit on the apron, wiping his brow telling the tale of the death of Medgar Evers and his own tiny son. A chilling saga where Gregory unfolds a foreboding of death only to receive a call from his beloved wife Lil, with whom he had 10 children, saying their son Richard has died.

Medgar Evers insisted that Gregory go home to his family and Gregory believes it was his son’s death that saved him from being assassinated, as he was constantly standing by Evers’ side.

It was the great Medgar Evers’ last words that inspired the title of this powerful play. As the time shifts from the 60s to today we learn through comedy and exposition facts like “there are more black men imprisoned today than there were enslaved in 1850.” We are forced to come to recon with the tragic path our country has taken and yet to revel in the way that someone like Dick Gregory can pluck humor from the most terrible situation and let it resonate.

Joe Morton is never off stage and never out of character fro 90 minutes, He is drenched and stooped as an old man and upright and dancing as the spry young Gregory. At the close of this show that takes you see sawing from tears to guffaws the entire audience is on its feet before lights have fully dimmer, and many are screaming for MORE, MORE, MORE!

“Turn Me Loose” runs through July 17 at the Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit

When I Was A Girl I Used To Scream and Shout now at Fallen Angels Theater

Entertainment » Theatre
When I Was A Girl I Used To Scream and Shout
by Wickham Boyle
Wednesday Apr 20, 2016

Fallen Angel Theater Company was founded in 2003 by actor Aedin Moloney, who shines as the mother Morag in the off- Broadway premier of Sharman MacDonald’s play with the intriguing title of “When I was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout.”

Fallen Angel Theatre is, according to their mission statement, “the first American company committed to presenting outstanding and dynamic new Irish, American and British plays written by and about women, with the goal of interpreting these plays in a fresh, exciting and commercially viable way for New York audiences.” This company is lauded in the program by Mayor De Blasio and seated behind this reviewer was Mayor Emeritus David Dinkins; quite a political firmament for a tiny theater.

This is a realistic play set on the rocky coast of Scotland in 1983 and it encapsulates so many of the roiling conversations shouted, murmured or even truncated that happen between mother and daughter, and daughter and best friend. The triangle is composed of Mother, played expertly by Moloney, and her daughter Fiona brought to life as an adult, wee child, teen and young woman by the very accomplished Barrie Kreinik. Zoe Watkins brings great zest and humor to the childhood best friend, Vari, now married with three bairns of her own.

The director John Keating and set designer Luke Cantarella have contrived this work so that the shoals of the beach are always visible and this may be the metaphor for this play that is at once beguiling, funny and bitingly acerbic. The beach can be calm, sunny, or the waves can throw any of these women onto the rocks and away from safety, however that is defined.

The vibrant, mutable nature of the relationships in the script are echoed in musical direction and compositions by renowned musician and composer Paddy Moloney, leader of The Chieftains. This is Mr. Moloney’s first collaboration with his daughter Aedin and Fallen Angel Theatre Company.

We see from a series of well crafted, beautifully written scenes that bounce back through time as Morag gets a divorce and she and her daughter toss barbs and treacle back and forth as if it were a badminton match. They cuddle, they fight and they can cut each other to the bone because they have every knife sharpened with history.

They have heard the cries and the sadness and seen the hopes and dreams. This is the life of mothers and daughters. And there is always a “bestie” in the wings waiting with her story and her reflections about what she has observed and learned. In this case Vari is the one Fiona runs to in order to inquire about sex, or when you have a first slimy kiss yet long for a real sweet one.

Author MacDonald is at the top of her game writing women’s truth. The scenes where the girls describe first sex, the weirdness of “his hard thing,” the thrill of a kiss on the ear, the desire for power and even in Fiona’s case the manipulation of getting a country boy, played without guile by Colby Howell, to impregnate you. In this work Fiona gets pregnant as a 15-year-old just to unseat her mother’s second marriage.

As the work opens mother and daughter have gone to a Scottish seaside resort in the town where all the upheaval occurred. Perhaps they are there to finally talk about what transpired half a lifetime ago, or to talk truth about the deep guilt instilled by religion, or perhaps it is a way to start over and forgive. What ensues is a play in two acts that is languid, never rushed and resonates with the powerful ever-vacillating feelings between a mother, and daughter and between friends.

This is a well-polished looking glass held up to complicated women’s lives and it is done with panache, laughter and terrible sadness. The work deserves to be seen and applauded for its honesty and verve and for letting us remember how marvelous and fearful are the many roles women inhabit.

“When I was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout” runs through May 8 at the Clurman Theatre at Theater Row, 410 West 42 Street. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit

Lazarus Rises up Splendidly at NY Theater Workshop By WIckham Boyle

viewimage_story.phpFrom THE EDGE
Tuesday Dec 22, 2015
Read and see photos too

Just as the year grinds to a halt and the weather reminds us that major flux abounds in the heavens, we are graced with the New York Theater Workshop’s mind-blowing production of “Lazarus.”

In recent years NYTW has given us panoply of theatrical marvels and now fans of two of the most lauded guardians of the wonderfully perverse and bizarre, David Bowie and Ivo van Hove have united to create a production that defies description and yet rivets audiences.

We are told that Bowie contemplated writing a theater piece for ages and once introduced to Irish wordsmith Enda Walsh, he felt emboldened to co-pen “Lazarus.” This musical evening is replete with wraparound videos by Tal Yarden, undulating dances by Annie-B Parsons and special effects was inspired by Bowie’s 1976 film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

This work took its inspiration from a 1963 novel by Walter Tevis by the same name, and featured an alien trapped on earth longing to return to his water-starved planet. The alien is referred to as Newton, perhaps as an homage to the first postulator of the theory of gravity, Sir Isaac.

This alien is Thomas Newton, played with a loose-limbed drunkenness and an “abandon all hope ye who enter here” quality by the wildly talented Michael C Hall. Yes, of “Dexter” fame, but also recently Hall wowed audiences as Hedwig on Broadway. He has now reinvented himself as a man clad in boring beige belting, and crooning with Bowie beauty. Hall fills the theater with a longing and a loss that is as palpable as the scratch and blare of the enormous TV, which on occasion leaps into action spewing images or actual actors onto the proscenium.

The plot is minimal. Newton, the alien, is trapped on earth and stuck in an empty yet opulent apartment with a fridge full of gin and Lucky Charms and a quest for Twinkies. He is stymied by his inability to return to his ET home and the loss of his beloved wife Marylou and their children. He is a wastrel described by his assistant — played with verve, legs for days and a voice to match by Cristin Milioti — as “sorta sad, sorta unknowable in the way that you imagine rich, reclusive, eccentric men to be.”

As the play unfolds many new Bowie songs are sung by the full-throated cast and occasional favorites like “Changes,” “Absolute Beginners” and “The Man Who Sold the World” tickle the memories of Bowie fans, faithful for four decades.

Time is not linear, neither in Bowie’s music, nor in “Lazarus.” Over the course of the play’s two hours, we encounter what may be a few days, or a snippet of a dream that lasted seconds. A chorus of Geisha girls sing and dance, clubgoers gyrate and we meet another lost soul, the “young girl” who is a winsome waif played by Sophia Anne Caruso. Caruso brings hapless positive vibes to a group beset by tragedy, ennui and sodden sadness. She sings with angel pipes and she genuinely loves Newton for his longing and his potential goodness.

Into this black and white world is tossed the marvelous Michael Esper, recently in Sting’s “The last Ship.” Esper plays Valentine, clad in all black to Newton’s beige and the young girl’s pure white. He is evil and enjoys ogling lovers, played by the beautiful, sexy duo of Nicholas Christopher and Lynn Craig, in a club. He palpably lurks to steal their passionate energies and eventually kills the man.

Here I have to digress to extoll the environment of this piece as an integral part of the show. There is nothing superfluous about any image projected, any slashed ray of light, or the open set with its many levels. A sonorous band is housed upstage behind a glass wall, which also allows the cast to wander, to be sucked into space or to yearn for life on, literally, another level or Mars.

The director, Ivo van Hove, who has achieved a vaunted fame, all deserved, has a team of designers with whom he works. This includes his life partner, Jan Versweyveld set and lighting design, Tal Yarden video and An D’Huys, costumes; all of these elements were conceived and executed with stellar perfection. I actually consider the set and light to be additional characters with lives that both enhance the work and have a trajectory all their own.

As we search for meaning as the year slouches to its inevitable end, I think that like in all fairy tales, parables or gospels, we are searching for clues pointing us to where we belong. Where is our true north, our home, our safety and our place to marvel? We are all aliens lurching toward that Eden and the team at NYTW allows us to gasp at another vision of that quest.

“Lazarus” runs through Jan. 20, 2016 at the New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. Fourth St. in the East Village. For tickets or information, call 212-780-9037 or visit

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