The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Most noticeable of the effects in the production, however, are the red clown noses that adorn every character. These are, at once, richly and effectively symbolic, and symptomatic of the unrelenting comedic style that robs the production of its underlying “horror.” The world to which these red noses introduce us is one in which everyone is, to some conscious degree, implicated in the corruption. When a character dies, his or her red nose is torn from their face and they are (as I interpret it) forced to breathe the noxious, corrupt, “fishy” odor that pervades this world—a reality they had denied; indeed, it may be assumed that it is of this that they finally die. In the production’s most poignant moment, Ui and his henchmen remove their red noses and their caricature-esque gestures fall away to reveal the real, dimensional criminals that they are. This moment has a visceral quality to it, as if one awoke from a circus dream to find it were only a gaudy gild on a harrowing reality.

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The Source

The principle problem with McKinley’s story is that his story is not a story: it’s a situation. The real story—that is, the drama—never manifests because nothing happens: no one actually acts. They wait and talk and debate and talk and fret but never do anything of consequence. What conflict there is—and a middling conflict at that—is entirely between the two journalists, their rather irritating personalities, and their ethical ideas. That’s the “story”—and it’s boring.

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Gentle

By today’s psychological and social standards the Pawnbroker is—a narcissist—a misogynist—a cruel and autocratic husband! To Dostoevsky—perhaps the same. But there is something more to him, Dostoevsky shows us, as he compassionately winds us through the inchoate abyss of his modern soul—a soul modern psychology and sociology has since imperialized like topographers with signs and calculations and categories

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Blue Man Group – 2017

Blue Man Group is for everyone: kids, couples, visiting in-laws, clients, fun people, boring people, people with taste, people without taste. It’s an immersive, multi-media, comedy-rock-dance-party-show spectacle for all! If you haven’t seen it, you should; if you haven’t seen it recently, bring the kids, the new girlfriend, the family you have nothing to talk about with; if you have seen it recently, you might just as well wait a couple years, it’ll be around.

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Death of a Salesman – 2017

Death of a Salesman so permeates our American subconscious, it hardly needs any introduction. Willy Loman (Brain Parry) is a husk of a man who has staked his life of 30-plus years of traveling salesmanship in the fruitless soil of unrealistic hopes and impractical principles—the pedestrian virtues of being well-liked and wearing a charming smile—to which the world has responded with brutal indifference, literally bricking-out the sun from alighting on his small, urban domain.

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High Fidelity – 2017

Set in a tiny found space converted to look and feel like a real record shop (wonderfully realized by Michelle Manni), and accompanied by an impressive live band, Refuge Theatre Project’s immersive remount of High Fidelity lives up to its last-year’s acclaim: it is infectiously catchy, cleverly comedic, and distractingly entertaining. Those more interested in heart than spectacle, however, will find themselves bored by intermission and disappointed by the end. The biggest joke, though, is that High Fidelity was made into a musical at all—a genre derided by the spirit of the film. But too few will mind this irony amidst the rollicking pop-rock and belly laughs of its musical successor.

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Cymbeline

Continuing its 29th season, the now itinerant Strawdog Theatre Company takes up its own existential theme of “exile” with Shakespeare’s complexly beautiful Cymbeline. A tragicomedy containing pastoral, fantastic, romantic, and historical elements—many of them concise allusions to his earlier plays—Shakespeare’s Cymbeline finds a coherent, quirky, and imaginative translation to the stage under the direction of Robert Kauzlaric.

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Eurydice

Director Hand’s vision of Eurydice’s world comes across as only half concocted. In effect a two-tiered set with a dilapidated brick façade half-obscured by a white, translucent tarp, the “place” of this world is highly ambiguous and suggests virtually no atmosphere to either the realm of the living or of the dead. The nicest touch is an elevator and sliding door, through which the newly deceased enter and in which they are sprinkled with the waters of Lethe (thereby losing their memories). But neither this embellishment nor even the stony inhabitants of Hades, each of whom are dressed like figures from the past—a half-cocked nod toward some theme of “nostalgia”—can redeem this set’s production value in some coherence of “world.”

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Phèdre

Not only for those who appreciate steeping in the viscous bath of lustful tremors, Phèdre also offers much fodder for post-production discussion for those who appreciate thinking. For one, the interplay of the gods, the emasculated Mars and the vindictive Venus, analogues perhaps for their respective passions—or, if psychology is more your bent, the animus and anima—is worth contemplating: specifically, what role does Euripides/Racine/Schmidt/Wiesner see these gods playing in affecting the characters and their actions; and what role does the ruler/patriarch Theseus (Carl Wisniewski) play in attempting to set right his kingdom overrun by passion?

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