is funny, sweet, sad, and revelatory. Playwright
, a frequent collaborator of Cooper's, with thoughtfulness and subtlety. It's the quintessential story of Jewish mothers who also happen to be single mothers, but it doesn't free-fall into cliche.
This is Marny's story, or her play as she refers to it. After finding a lump in her breast, she quits her life and heads home to Long Island to live with her mother again. The story centers around their family, the way they are and dealing with cancer as a fact of life.
It's hilariously and very well acted by a great cast: Lindsay Goranson mother Dolores, Susanna Hari as Grandma, Jenn Mello as Aunt Velma, Michael Rehse as Cousin Stephen, and Elysia Segal as Marny. They had a lively and appreciative audience delighting at their delivery.
I had been to an early reading last year and was so happy to hear some of the lines again. I like the funny bits but the best part was the soliloquy about the "lump" - just to summarize because I couldn't adequately restate the beauty of the tapestry of this soliloquy: Marny muses about lumps - there are a 1000 lumps....taking your lumps...lump it or leave it...a lump of coal...a lump in your breast.
I don't know how this very young playwright Sara Cooper crafts the words with such wisdom and insight. She's able to see the humor and the pain simultaneously and present it in a provacative way that makes me laugh and keeps it in my mind. It's always the minute, still, quietest moments that I love most in a theatre piece and this soliloquy about the lump goes right to the top of that list of favorites of mine.
It's a bonus that Noah Himmelstein
is a genius at directing the smallest details as well - he's all about looking at something thru a magnifying lense without putting flashing lights around it; subtlety, stillness, color and light, and thoughtfulness are his forte.
These collaborators are so young yet they have such wisdom and eyes for seeing the means!
This is one of the very best and what FringeNYC is all about - entertaining, thought-provoking, simple. There are four more opportunities to catch "Things I Left On Long Island": Thursday, August 14th at 4:30pm, Sunday, August 17th at 1:45pm, Thursday, August 21st at 9:00pm and Sunday, August 24th at 1:45pm. It plays at Fringe Venue # 18, in the Players Theatre Building at 115 MacDougal (one of the best and most convenient locations for Fringe). Tickets are available online via Eventbrite
For two weeks this summer, opera diva Renée Fleming is in a PLAY. When Renée told me that she would be doing a play this summer, my reaction was to screech, "A PLAY!?!
" No need to panic though, it's a play with music
about a famous opera diva. On Saturday, Karigee and I drove up to Williamstown, Massachusetts to see this very play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
In LIVING ON LOVE
, Renée plays Raquel, an aging, egotistical, yet insecure but famous opera singer who is married to an aging, egotistical, yet insecure Italian maestro Vito, played by Douglas Sills. The maestro is sort of working on his memoir with a ghost writer played by Justin Long. The writing isn't going well and a brave, ambitious and comely assistant, played by Anna Chlumsky, is sent by the publisher in to threaten the maestro into finishing his work or else return the sizeable advance. Further antagonizing the action are two well healed and talented butlers played by played by Blake Hammong and Scott Robertson.
Joe DiPietro's LIVING ON LOVE
is adapted from Garson Kanin's 1985 play Peccadillo
. Admittedly I have not read Peccadillo
and it has only been produced regionally, however Garson Kanin was one of the best when it came to madcap rom com writing: My Favorite Wife
, Pat and Mike
, Born Yesterday
, Adam's Rib
, among dozens of others both for film and stage. Incidentally, Garson's uniquely brilliant wife Ruth Gordon passed away in 1985. He married Marian Seldes in 1990. He passed away in 1999 at the ripe old age of 87.
Lest you think it's type casting, the only real similarity between Renée and her character Raquel is that they are both famous sopranos. Raquel is every stereotype in the book when it comes to her ego and operatic personality. Renée plays up all of that and then some. I was so nervous for her "acting" but I shouldn't have feared. She's absolutely charming and is very funny. She didn't miss a beat.
It's more accurate to confess that I did see a few other similarities between Renée and Raquel - they are both beautiful, stylish and have beautiful voices that make people melt (she does this to Justin Long more than once.) "Knowing" her as I have for these past years, I do know that she's very quick and humorous - brilliant people usually are.
Fortunately, Renée does sing in many of the scenes - mostly it's snippets of arias and her recording of Vissi d' Arte is played on a record player (a scratchy quality is added to make it sound "period"). Renée also sings some of her lines - it's silly, sing songy - fun, but of course, it's the beautiful voice so always satisfying. In one of her singing entrances, she stops to ponder if it's the birds singing, "Why no, it's just me!" Adorable.
There are so many funny moments so well executed that it's impossible to relay them all - everybody was hilarious and my sides are still splitting from laughing so much. I nearly fell off my chair when "Raquel" was conveying her dismay that she might be losing her power as a soprano and headed toward being a mezzo.
Douglas Sills was the Captain of Laughs with his ridiculous Italian accent, antics, tantrums, jealousy of Leonard Bernstein....he pomaded his hair with maple syrup in a quick attempt to impress his visit from Anna Chlumsky in one of the funniest gags ever on a stage. I loved Anna Chlumsky (My Girl! Veep!)
and Justin Long (Ed
, New Girl
, King of the Hill
I think my favorite scene was Raquel's reenactment of her famous Mimi in the La Scala Boheme
for Justin Long. Renée never performed in La Boheme
so to me it seemed even funnier when she went way, way off from the story by having Justin Long strip off his shirt and rub olive oil all over his chest. He's a well built young man so it was easy to admire, but also hysterically nerdy as he kept on his tie. When they are interrupted by the maestro, his reaction was "Why he shiny?" In the awkward moment, Justin Long covered his nipples with his tie. The cast did their very best not to break character, but it was a very long pause as the audience roared with laughter.
It is a romantic comedy so there's the inevitable-jealousy making and love-making. It's all predictable, but very charming in its old fashioned sensibility and style. On Saturday night, the pacing was crisp and it all went by too quickly. Kathleen Marshall's direction is smart and takes advantage of all of the madcap skills of her cast. The set and costumes are gorgeous. The whole show is as sparkling as a glass of champagne.
The play ends with Renée and Doug waltzing and singing the Irving Berlin tune "I'll be Loving You Always
." It's perhaps one of the sweetest endings I've seen....and I keep thinking that I'd really like Renée to record it on some hoped-for future standards album. As we were waiting to say hello to Renée after, Justin Long passed us whistling the tune. That was just about the sweetest ending too.
Finally the longest running show in Broadway history has modernized with color blind casting and it's brilliantly done. Starring as the latest Phantom of the Opera
is the dashing African American Norm Lewis
. It's extra auspicious that Norm is realizing his dream to play this role.
Having seen POTO only once before - May 24, 2003 - I decided to give it another go when I was invited to a Buzzmaker Evening for bloggers. It was fun to see some familiar blogging colleagues at a pre-show cocktail party and then enjoy lovely orchestra seats.
I saw POTO the first time with a pal visiting from Texas on a very cold and wet Memorial Day weekend. It was before I started seeing opera and the show was lost on me. It was very expensive and my companion was not an easy going visitor. I only remember feeling very annoyed with the entire weekend.
What a difference almost exactly 11 years makes! Being an opera veteran may have enhanced my enjoyment this time around. I was thoroughly entertained by the charming production and I found the cast to be quiet effective. Norm Lewis and his leading lady, Sierra Boggus as Christine Daae, were fabulous. It's richly sung and performed. The story is ridiculously over the top, but opera generally is so it worked for me. The costumes and sets are eye-popping and the production is larger than life, just like the opera. It's easy to appreciate why this is such a long running old-fashioned theatrical favorite.
As for the color blind casting, I found myself wondering if most of the audience really was blind to the fact that Norm is African American. The stage lighting is effectively dim and most of his skin is covered in costume. He sang it like nobody's business with a gorgeous satisfying baritone. Either way, the audience was spectacularly satisfied and didn't hold back with their appreciation.
Any theatrical production should be color blind - theatre is all about suspension of disbelief after all. It's what actors do regardless of age, creed or color. The actual opera has been doing it for decades - casting for voice rather than skin or looks so it's only fitting that a show about an opera finally joins its muse.