Why Alan Cumming’s Co-Stars are Crucial to the Broadway Revival
The current Broadway revival of Macbeth is often called a one-man show, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Yes, the production takes place in a mental institution where Alan Cumming’s character reenacts most of the play by himself, but he is not alone. Jenny Sterlin plays his doctor and Brendan Titley plays his nurse, and the show wouldn’t make sense without them. As Sterlin says, “It would just be a one-man show of Macbeth. It wouldn’t give the reason why you would do it.”
In the opening scene, Sterlin and Titley change Cumming out of his street clothes and into hospital garb. They speak to him as they work, but instead of reciting Shakespeare, they say what a medical staff might naturally say to a patient. And because they aren’t miked, what they’re saying is barely audible.
“It wasn’t important that anybody past row two or three heard it,” says Titley. “They wanted to make sure the audience knew that we were in a world that wasn’t Shakespeare’s world, that where we start off in the play is not a dramatization, so that it was clear that he was surrounded by the natural world.”
May 21, 2013 No Comments
The Unusual Staging of Mike Bartlett’s “Bull”
The title of Bull, Mike Bartlett’s latest play, has a double meaning.
On one level, it’s shorthand for “bullying,” which is the central motif of a story about adults behaving like children in the workplace. Now playing at 59E59 as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival, the show follows Thomas, an office worker who becomes an unwitting victim of his colleagues’ nasty, belittling games as they wait for their enigmatic boss to terminate an employee.
However, Bull also refers to the play’s setup, which finds the audience on either side of (and in some cases, standing around) a bullring. It’s the perfect habitat for these animalistic characters. (Bartlett delivered a similar metaphor with last year’s drama Cock, which placed the characters in a cockfighting arena.)
The seeds of Bull were planted while the playwright was on vacation. “I was in Mexico City, and I went to a bull fight,” he explains. “It was a thrilling, shocking, and completely unique event, and it made me wonder what the equivalent play would be. Immediately I thought of bullying in the workplace, which I’ve seen and encountered.”
May 13, 2013 No Comments
600 Highwaymen Find Actors in Unconventional Places
Welcome to Borough Play, our exclusive series on theatre in Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond
When they’re looking for actors, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, the couple and co-artistic directors behind the Brooklyn-based theatre company 600 Highwaymen, travel far beyond a typical audition room. They see potential actors everywhere.
For four years, the duo has blended amateurs with professional actors to perform in such formally inventive shows as This Time Tomorrow, which unfolded in a church basement and relied on improvisation and charades; Empire City, a piece based on a recorded interview between an aging couple in which actors traded characters; and This Great Country, an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman which took place in a 4,000 square foot bingo parlor.
For Everyone Was Chanting Your Name, which runs at Abrons Arts Center May 9-19, Browde and Silverstone have assembled a cast of eight people spanning six decades.
Asked how his company finds its actors, Silverstone says, “We approach people on the street, ask for recommendations from friends, and use Craigslist. We’ve cast former co-workers from day jobs. We’re using the community to cast, but our process isn’t exactly democratic or therapeutic.”
May 9, 2013 No Comments
Inside Richard Greenberg’s 10th visit to the same theatre
By now, it’s hard to imagine Manhattan Theatre Club without playwright Richard Greenberg. After all, his Tony-nominated drama The Assembled Parties, now on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman, marks his 10th collaboration with the company, following earlier productions like Three Days of Rain, The American Plan, and Eastern Standard.
“It’s been something like a quarter century now. It’s home,” Greenberg says.
The Assembled Parties began as a commission from MTC, and that assignment was prompted by the playwright’s rapport with artistic director Lynne Meadow. “After all these years, suddenly they called me and we had a meeting,” Greenberg says. “I made them come to my diner. That was a power trip!”
May 7, 2013 No Comments
Robert Cuccioli finds the human side of a comic book monster
Welcome to Building Character, TDF’s ongoing look at how actors create their roles
To understand the challenge of performing in a musical based on a comic book, just look at Robert Cuccioli’s role in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
At first, Cuccioli plays Norman Osborn, a brilliant, neurotic scientist who’s trying to improve the world with his genetic experiments. One of his mutated spiders escapes and bites a dorky teen named Peter Parker, giving the kid the powers that make him Spider-Man, but the spider’s escape also starts a chain of events that leaves Norman desperate and abandoned. In a frenzy, he performs an experiment on himself, which turns him into the villainous Green Goblin.
In other words: Cuccioli plays a human being and a spectacular freak, and as an actor, he has to honor both extremes. He has to craft a performance that contains recognizable humanity, but also acknowledges a comic book’s splashy fun.
May 3, 2013 No Comments