- homepage link Editor's Picks

Shows Worth Seeing:

The Pavilion

By Craig Wright
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
224 Waverly Pl.
Box office: (212) 868-4444




Craig Wright’s The Pavilion was written in 2000 but has taken 5 years to reach New York, despite being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and receiving numerous regional productions. The ubiquitous speculation about this delay has ranged from the dismal post-9/11 Off-Broadway economics to a longstanding urbane prejudice against anything that smacks of the old-fashioned wholesomeness of Thornton Wilder. Wright’s sweet, thoughtful work indeed owes a lot to Wilder, yet its originality, its prickly contemporaneity, and its strong, blessedly unfashionable sincerity are also beyond question. The nominal setting is a 20-year high-school reunion in Minnesota, where Kari (Tasha Lawrence) sees Peter (Brian D’Arcy James) for the first time since he ran off, leaving her pregnant and heartbroken. Both have been through a lot in the meantime, and are unhappy, and as the evening progresses they move slowly through swamps of rage and regret to consider renewing their relationship. It’s no ordinary evening and no ordinary setting, though, as the entire action is presided over by a Narrator (Stephen Bogardus) who editorializes and imposes himself even more determinedly than his obvious forebear, the Stage Manager in Our Town. This Narrator transforms a humble tale of loss and regret into a remarkable meditation on time, waxing poetic (and a little prolix, at times) about such recondite matters as forgiveness and spiritual presence. The net of cosmic connections he posits doesn’t quite hold together in the end, but there’s more than enough lucid emotional truth in this work—and in these excellent performances—to leave most open-minded viewers happy they went.


The Girl in the Flammable Skirt
Adapted by Bridgette Dunlap from the book by Aimee Bender
46 Walker St.
Box office: (212) 868-4444



Aimee Bender’s stories are written in a bold and crisp magical realism that surprises by consistently finding fresh treasures in self-consciously bizarre waters that one would’ve thought others had thoroughly fished out. The fable-like tales in the 1999 collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt veer off into unpredictably weird and violent currents, tempered by a subtly aggressive undertone that keeps them from ever turning sappy even though they’re essentially about very conventional matters such as teenage loneliness and suppressed passion. A young woman comes home one day to find her lover stuck in a process of “reverse evolution,” losing “a million years a day”: first he’s an ape, then a sea turtle, eventually a one-celled creature she releases into the sea. A mermaid uses crutches and an imp uses stilts to try to fit in as normal high-school students. A girl with a hand of ice and another with a hand of fire become different sorts of misfits and healers in a creepily isolated provincial town. The wisdom of adapting Bender’s stories into drama isn’t obvious: an imagined “fire hand,” for instance, is always going to be more astonishing than any live effect with a glove. No doubt partly because of the terrific female protagonists, however, the Ateh Theater Group—a collective of seven women—has chosen this material for its inaugural production, and the show is well worth seeing. Director and adaptor Bridgette Dunlap has fine sense of pacing and tone and a knack for knockabout comedy. Also, the young company ultimately makes up in pep for what is lost in marvelousness, so that their enthusiasm and cleverness come off in the end as a sort of surrogate marvelousness that does Bender proud.



By Eric Idle and John Du Prez
Shubert Theatre
225 W. 44th St.
Box office: (212)239-6200

The great surprise of this musical recycling of the classic movie comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the amount of pleasure that can evidently be had at a Broadway show almost completely devoid of surprises. The play is not so much written as cobbled together from gags and vignettes so familiar to the audience that laughs often occur before a joke is told. The very appearance of certain beloved faux-medieval costumes, props and set pieces is enough to create giggling spasms at some points. There are scraps of novelty: the addition of silly songs and Vegas razzle-dazzle, as well as the transformation of self-consciousness about film into self-consciousness about theater (the toothsome Sara Ramirez, as the Lady of the Lake, has some wonderfully gratuitous numbers). The show is basically a masterful spectacle of repackaging, though. And what’s interesting about that is that the audience is laughing at the old gags for new reasons. People seem to savor the experience of enjoying the jokes in the particular circumstance of the theater, perhaps because that communal context recalls the original post-screening group-guffaws that extended their first enjoyment of the movie for months and years afterward. Quasi-private ribbing is reinvented and validated as a public event. In any case, the palpable thrill of rediscovery has a college-reunion flavor that is undeniably infectious.



By John Patrick Shanley
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 W. 48th St.
Box office: (212) 239-6200


This splendidly acted, 90-minute clenched fist of a play may be the most penetrating and tautly written work of Shanley’s long career. It’s certainly the most urgent. Cherry Jones plays a tight-lipped, straight-laced, rule-mongering nun who, as principal of a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, suspects the young parish priest of misbehaving with an 8th-grade boy. She has no hard evidence but nevertheless feels certain and is determined to bring the priest down. Father Flynn is clever, earnest, liberal and likeable, though, and the actor Brian F. O’Byrne gives him a fascinatingly ambiguous edge of intellectual ambitiousness. By the time he finishes defending himself the audience doesn’t know whom to believe. Jones’s severity as Sister Aloysius is frightening and her authoritarian harangues about self-effacement in teaching to Sister James (Heather Goldenhersh), the boy’s teacher, make her hateful, but as she presses the question of the kid’s immediate safety--in the context of a rigid, top-down institutional structure that won't protect him--the plot starts to work as a powerful parable of justice and pseudo-justice in a time of supposed emergency. Director Doug Hughes has found just the right pace for the action, keeping it tightly coiled until about two-thirds through when open confrontation replaces speculation and insinuation. It’s thrilling to watch these formidable actors run with the ball after that point, particularly when you can really see their faces. Anyone who can afford it should spring for the front seats in the big Broadway theater where the show has now moved; the nature of the stalemate between this nun and priest can't be fully appreciated without seeing the subtlety of O'Byrne's reactions during the penultimate scene.





©2003-10 All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or distribute in any form without express permission. Hunter Department of Theater . 695 Park Avenue . New York, NY 10065 .