Jolted by Ibsen, stunned by Strindberg: two marriage portraits at TFANA

IMG_0181 DOLL'S HOUSE Maggie Lacey and John Douglas Thompson photo by Gerry Goodstein(w)

Maggie Lacey (as Nora) and John Douglas Thompson (as Thorwald) in A Doll’s House, presented by Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center (photo by Gerry Goodstein)

Battle has been joined at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. In a smashing double production now being presented by Theatre for a New Audience, it’s not only Nora versus Thorwald in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. It’s also the Captain versus Laura in Strindberg’s The Father, one play versus the other, one view of marital relations versus another, one playwright versus another. The very stage on which these two works are performed suggests a contest. The Polonsky’s auditorium has been reconfigured so that the audience occupies tiered seating on both sides of a rectangle that spreads from left to right before us. Does it resemble a tennis court, or some other field? No matter—you surmise that opponents will square off here.

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If you have nothing better to do—or even if you do—stream these two films while you can

If you’re the kind of person who cares about exactly what is and isn’t available on Netflix at any given time, you’re probably not reading my blog, because I’m not the kind of blogger who writes about such things. But for a moment, I’m going to adopt the persona. I just stumbled across a list of movies and TV shows that can now be streamed from Netflix but that will soon be withdrawn, and two of the films are worth a nod. Both will become unavailable on June 1. Continue reading

What the devil? Hadestown is long on music but short on drama and good sense

Hadestown album

The 2010 album version of Hadestown

Hadestown is a new musical tracing some very old stories—namely those of Orpheus and Eurydice along with Persephone and Hades—and I know just who might like it. A friend of mine lived in New Orleans for a few years while teaching English there, and he had a passion for that place where a shot of alcohol is never far away, cemeteries thrust the dead up into plain view, and the living are always likely to burst into music or sway into a simple dance. Hadestown, largely created by Anaïs Mitchell and now in previews at New York Theater Workshop, is a good deal like that.

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In space, no one can hear you campaign: Hillary Clinton talks about aliens

NYT teaser for Hillary on UFOs

A few days ago, a story teaser on the New York Times website said “space enthusiasts” were excited that Hillary Clinton has spoken openly about the possibility that extraterrestrials have visited our planet. Maybe they are, but I haven’t seen any scientists or science writers talking about the Times’s story. To put it politely, “space enthusiasts” is probably not the best term for those who are excited by this development.

But there’s a bigger glitch here. Continue reading

On actor Ben Foster and making discoveries

Even if you watch the kind of movie trailer that outlines half the plot, you’re likely to be surprised by any decent film, just as you’re likely to be surprised in some manner or degree by most other works of art or entertainment. The experiences they create are just too dense or extensive to be conveyed in reduced form; the reason we read the book that just got good reviews or see the movie everyone’s talking about it is to find out for ourselves what it’s like. But you can get a special kind of kick, or jolt, or unsettling sensation, from going into something with near-total ignorance. Continue reading

Should it take this long to choose a president?

As you will have heard if you pay any attention to the national news, there were developments yesterday in the American presidential race, after a primary in Indiana. On the Republican side, Donald Trump defeated Senator Ted Cruz, who then dropped out—or, as at least one news report put it, “suspended his campaign.” In the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton.

The maneuvering, announcing, and campaigning in the presidential contest began more than a year ago; Continue reading