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The Lion ROARS: what a great piece of theater.

The Lion
by Wickham Boyle
Wednesday Feb 11, 2015

Ben Scheuer (
A 5 p.m. matinee on a snowy Saturday seemed like a punishment, when all I wanted was tea and comfort, but two minutes into Ben Scheuer’s “The Lion” at the Culture Project, was the only place I could imagine being. What a joy, a wild unexpected ride and a heart-opening experience.

Benjamin Scheuer is tall and fit and so handsome with a shock of messy brown hair and fingers so fast on any of the seven guitars arrayed on stage that for the music and the visage alone you may be willing to surrender to his one-man show. His voice is never perfect, but so alluring, and even better than perfection is the story he has to tell. Scheuer is sharing with us, ever so generously, the tale of his coming to manhood. And we all know that voyage is full of trips, cracking voices, explosions, challenges, sadness and joys, but his is a gripping one.

Scheuer had a stern mathematician father who also harbored a desire and talent for music. He taught young Ben to play on a banjo constructed out of a pie pan with rubber bands and Ben and his dad played music on and off with his two younger brothers. The three boys comprised the lion pack inside the family’s pride. Scheuer’s father was mercurial, one day sweet and funny the next screaming and abusive. Ben caught his full wrath in the weeks leading up to his 14th birthday and then tragically his father died before there could be a denouement.

His British mother took young Ben and the other lion cubs back to England for boarding school and more strictness. Finally Ben headed back to America to be an erstwhile musician; along the way he falls in love, plays hard rock, falls ill and recovers. Well, we knew he would get better otherwise someone else would be telling the story, but knowing he ascends doesn’t in any way diminish this glorious, uplifting piece.

The stories are heartfelt and never maudlin, the music is sweet, or tangy or sad and sings and twangs to tug on our heartstrings. The piece moves with the well-paced direction of Sean Daniels and combines so seamlessly that at the end the tired, cold audience rose to its feet cheering.

The Lynn Redgrave Theater, one of the many spaces at Culture Project, is a clean theater, one that seems to accommodate many different kinds of work at varying levels of wonder and resonance. But the technical elements, the design, the sound, the lights are always so well wrought. In this instance the spare but alluring set design was by Neil Patel, light by Ben Stanton and sound, which worked so well by Leon Rosenberg. This is a great winter interlude.

“The Lion” runs through March 29 at The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street in New York City. For information or tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit

Penny Arcade Longing Lasts Longer at St Ann’s Warehouse

Penny Arcade’s ‘Longing Lasts Longer’
by Wickham Boyle
Contributor THE EDGE
Wednesday Dec 7, 2016

Penny Arcade is a proud 66-year-old wunderkind who rocks the house, vibrates the walls and reduces audiences to tears and raucous giggles and cheers at St. Ann’s Warehouse until December 11 with her new show, Penny Arcade’s “Longing Lasts Longer.” Everyone — boomers, millennials, tweeners, tweeters, and if we could, our cats and dogs and parents — should run, limp, uber, bike or subway to see this show.

It is a mélange of a true prayer meeting, a barnstorming, a testimonial on living young for five decades and never conforming, but always observing life with a gimlet eye. Penny Arcade is a performer with whom many of us grew up. Often she was a first in the genre of “performance art.” And she never disappointed, but now she is at the top of her game and basking in Justin Townsend’s lights, which when they turn magenta just tickle her.

Arcade, whose real name is Susana Ventura, grew up in a traditional Italian immigrant family, left school when she was 13 and came to live on NYC’s Lower East Side. She performed with Wavy Gravy, was a superstar in Andy Warhol’s Factory and acted in many productions at John Vaccaro’s Playhouse of the Ridiculous before launching into her long, lauded, solo performance career.

What is refreshing and compelling about Arcade’s work is her honesty and facility with language, academic concepts, (although she is an autodidact), and her ability to thread cultural observations across the decades seamlessly and lay them at our astounded feet. She begins the show in the gleaming St Ann’s Warehouse space by roaming the audience greeting old friends, doing a bit of chit-chat here and there.

She told the audiences one night that sitting with Marina Abramovic was like sitting with a dog who had been hit by a car, and yet everyone kept saying she was so brave. No one speaks more truth to power than Penny Arcade. And whether you agree with her take on modern art, the suburbanization of our beloved New York City, the solipsism of our youth or the way technology is absorbing our lives, you do not want her to stop coming at you with the force of a hurricane.

Arcade has been collaborating with Steve Zehentner for 25 years. He is on stage with her, albeit to the side, working the sound and collaborating on the direction. Arcade on occasion stops when she gets lost in her patter and asks Steve, where she is going. They banter, he restarts the music and Arcade fiercely forges forward. There is a never a moment when you feel she is anything but genuine, and firmly rooted in the moment. And so as the audience you go with her on her every tangent, gambol, and cultural perambulation.

Arcade says that some people say she is angry, but I identified the emotions as a righteous, yes longing, for what is and was good and amazing. She takes nearly everyone to task: the tourist zombies eating their way across New York bumping into the locals because they have not been inculcated into the art of “the dip” as a way of artful avoidance of collision on the streets and sidewalks; the curse of the Princess Plague, those women tottering along on sky-high heels, arms linked because they have seen “Sex in the City”; and the SUV-sized baby carriages toting giant children through life.

Arcade is never looking to be politically correct; she is looking to be genuine and honest. “I was queer before there was a queer theory. Now we are obsessed with getting pronouns correct. This is another way of distracting us from the loss of democracy.” Arcade’s preferred pronoun, by the way, is “your majesty.” You laugh, and you think. As Arcade says, “Thinking is tough, that’s why so few people do it.”

The show skewers what Arcade calls “The Tyranny of Fragility,” continuing, “There are generations of kids who have never been slapped. Nothing takes the zing out of feeling like a genius than getting slapped.” Yes tough love, but it is certainly what many of us have thought in secret parental or teacher, or avuncular hearts.

The show is seventy-five minutes of non-stop great cogitation, amazing music, a little dancing here and there, and a room crammed with intense feeling. One can feel the wheels turning as we all conjure memories, love, lust and ire, but as Arcade advises, never nostalgia. Only longing, because longing lasts longer and we all want the glow from this show to linger.

Penny Arcade’s “Longing Lasts Longer” runs through
December 11 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water Street in Brooklyn NY. For tickets or information, call 718-254-8779 or visit

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

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

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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