CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
Elyse's Blog--- Comments & news of current and upcoming streaming events


November 24, 2020
While the the alarming uptick in virus infections and, sadly, deaths continues to cast a dark shadow over Thanksgiving celebrations, we do have something to be thankful for: Despite the Trump administration's harmful attempt to de-legitimize the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the transition IS moving forward. While Trump is unlikely to exit the White House gracefully, his "you're fired" mantra has been turned the other way around by the voting public.

Until the horrid virus is finally conquered so that we can return to a more normal life, safety precautions (masks, social distancing and limited personal get= togethers), the streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, HBO continue to be our source for stimulating staged and filmed entertainment. Lots of exciting new content, is available and in the works. Much of it will be especially meaningful as we soldier along in this strange COVID19 world we've lived in since March.

While you may well prefer escapist fare with great scenery and costumes, Kamilah Forbes has put together a fascinating 80-minute film for HBO. It's based on Ta-Nehisi Coates' award-winning book Between the World and Me. The format of that slim volume — the noted essayist's letter to his 15- year-old son about the history of the black experience. The success of the book seeded a dynamic staged reading at the Apollo Theater where Forbes is Executive Producer.

But this isn't a filmed replay of that Apollo's 2018 staged reading but Forbes's new concept for a streamed of-the-moment production in which the various passages are allocated to different narrating letter writers. Those letter writers include stage and screen luminaries like Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad and Ophra. They and other speakers were filmed in their homes though the production is enhanced by smartly integrated visuals.

As Between the World and Me deepens the relevancy of the Coates book-length essay, not so the film adaptation of another best-selling book — J. D. Vance's Hilbilly Elegies, a memoir about the effect of Vance's roots in poverty-stricken rural Kentucky even after moving to Ohio. This turned Vance's book into a super-hit after Trump's election since it seemed to clarify what made his supporters tick. For Netflix's investment in this page-to-screen adaptation to pay off, the movie adaptation has been homogenized into a dysfunctional family drama and given maximum click appeal with a high gloss production and a cast headed by the always watchable Meryl Streep. I'm still deciding whether I want to spend time writing more about it.

Some Netflix shows on the horizon that I do plan to write further about: in December:
Mank, the story of the challenges faced by script writer Herman Mankiewitz in bringing Citizen Kane, to the silver screen. Kane, in the new film played by Gary Oldman, was a thinly disguised stand-in for newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. It will be released to Netflix subscribers on December 4th.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, August wilson's play about the blues singer also known as "Mother of the Blues" lands on December The 2003 revival of the 1984 play starred Whoopy Goldberg more for her box office magnetism than her bravura rendition of the blues ( my review. The new Netflix film is adapted by r Ruben Santiago Hudson and has one of the theater's outstanding actors, Viola Davis play the iconic singer. Other noteworthy cast members include the ate Chadwick Boseman, Michael Potts and Jeremy Shamos.
Good news too that the theater companies I've known, admired and worked with over the years, are finding ways to carry on even though it requires inventiveness and adjustments. Case in point: The Public Theater's annual Under the Radar Festival is still on from January 6 to January 17, 2021. ash; but like so much else it will be virtual. For details about all the events, visit the Public Theater at https://publictheater.org/programs/under-the-radar/under-the-radar-2021/

There are also a lot of older filmed plays and series to catch up with— many good enough to watch again. If the above mentioned new film about the making of Citizen Kane prompts a desire to see thhe Orson Welles classic, whether again or for the first time, it IS available to rent or buy at Amazon Prime And for fans of political dramas, Borgen, an excellent older series from Denmark is well worth checking out. The dubbing of the Netflix version is not all that good but the acting and plotting is.


November 14, 2020 Update
Of course the drama that has kept all of us glued to our screens has been the election and its aftermath. And while it's clear that Donald Trump's depressing four-year assault on our democracy will not have another season, The Crown has followed three seasons with a fourth.

Unlike Trump, who's been consistently unpopular, the British royals continue to be popular on whatever platform they appear. And so, The Crown's fourth season has been one of the most anticipated events with Netflix viewers. Now the wait is over. Netflix subscribers can binge through all ten episodes, or watch one or two at a time in between keeping up with Donald Trump's historic refusal to heed the fact that the voters have fired him. I'll be posting my review shortly, but to give you a head start, here's that review's set-up with production notes for each season. Reviews of previous seasons are also included. Link to the still pending Season 4 review here

Speaking of highly anticipated streaming events, high on my list is an upcoming HBO movie adaptation of J. T. Rogers' Tony Award-winning play Oslo. The playwright is handling the adaptation and Bartlett Sher, who directed the play, will direct the film. To read my review when Oslo played at Lincoln Center go here. And another stage-to-film adaptation — this one at Netflix — is the musical The Prom. It will star Meryl Streep and James Corden, who weren't in the Broadway production when I reviewed it in 2018 ( My review).

To help you get into the Christmas spirit, the Summoners Ensemble Theatre in association with the Merchant's House Museum presents its 8th year of A Christmas Carol virtually from December 18 to December 24. Performances are free but donations equested and reservations are required at www.summonersensemble.org or www.merchantshouse.org/. To read Deirdre Donovan's review go here.

Another holiday treat comes from the wonderful Irish Repertory Company — Meet me in St. Louis: A Holiday Special in Song and on Screen will join their fall 2020 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. Performances begin December 11, 2020 and run through January 2, 2021. For details about this and the Rep's other offerings, as well as to reserve a ticket ( Again free but donation requested), go to https://irishrep.org/.

While it's nice to keep up with trending shows, this is also a good time to revisit some famous films still available. Given the shifting media landscape, I'd recommend Citiizen Kane, which was Orson Welles' directorial debut. It's available for rent or purchase at Amazon Prime.


October 30, 2020 Update
In case you didn't follow up on my October 11 th update about the Mint Theater's streaming of another of their productions that was filmed: Miles Malleson's election comedy Conflict (my review when it played live). In case you didn't see it, you're in luck. They've extended its availability to November 8th. It's still free but you need a password. To get one send an email to streaming@minttheater.org.

Also still available until November 8: Berkeley Rep (with support of many partners) radio play of Sinclair Lewis's scarier than ever novel, It Can't Happen Here.

And here's some interesting additional information about my review of the Irish Rep's virtual production of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet from my friend and colleague Charles Wright. According to Charles, the production history of More Stately Mansions, had a somewhat more complex history than the one I gave. Here' why: With Carlotta Monterey O'Neill's blessing and encouragement, the play (which O'Neill had deposited with his papers at Yale) was first performed in 1962 at the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre, where O'Neill had long been an icon). Five years later, in 1967, it had a high-profile Broadway production that was directed by Jose Quintero and featured Ingrid Bergman as Deborah, Colleen Dewhurst as Sara, and Arthur Hill as Simon Harford. Broadway power couple Jane Greenwood and Ben Edwards designed costumes and scenery, respectively. The critical reception of that production was mixed, but the play ran 142 performances (not bad for a serious drama in those days).

Great thanks to Charles!



ctober 21, 2020 Update
go here send an email to streaming@minttheater The Irish Rep has mounted many fine productions of Eugene O'Neill's plays. Their plan to present one of O'Neill's later and lesser known works, A Touch of the Poet, was short-stopped by the pandemic. But typical of the company's can-do spirit , they've now re-imagined it for a one-week virtual run: from October 27 to November 1, 2020. Go to https://irishrep.org/show/irish-rep-online-2020/a-touch-of-the-poet-2/ to reserve a performance. It's free but a donation is requested.

Unlike The Plot Against America series that was always meant to be seen online, The Trial of the Chicago Seven was meant to be seen in a movie theater. Consequently you'll have to pop your own popcorn to watch it on your home screen. Unlike Plot. . . it's not a series. However, like the HBO series, this courtroom drama's high profile at Netflix is also due to its paralleling prosecution of current protesters. Along with its timeliness, it has an all-star cast.

October 16 2020 Update
Back in the good old days when going to the theater meant booking a press performance with a show's press agent, usually a few days before the official opening. Like it or not, a review by me or one of my trusty backups would be posted. But now that I'm the only one posting anything on this otherwise frozen site, I can cover only some of what I see online.

With the pandemic landing so many new high profile shows at one of the streaming services that are now my theaters, I have to pick and chose carefully what to see, let alone write about .

As I have for my special section about small and large screen shows, I tend to give priority to anything by people whose stage work I've followed. Thus, while I've had my fill of discussions about James Comey's relationship with President Trump and his controversial report about the Clinton e-mails, I did watch Showyme's two parter based on Comey's book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. I didn't read the book and probablty wouldn't have watched the adaptation if Jeff Daniels weren't the one portraying Comey and Jennifer Ehle his wife. Unfortunately these fine actors weren't enough to make ths a first-rate drama. The sluggish pace of the first part did pick up in the second part. As for Brendan Gleason, he did his best to embody President Trump's awfulness, but no actor can top the real Donald Trump when it comes to being outrageously awful.

I also thought I'd give The latest PBS costume drama, The Duchess, a try since it starred Keira Knightley and Ralph Fienmes — she a beautiful young forbear of another Spencer family who ended up in a notoriously troubled marriage. While the costumes and scenery are indeed grand, even Fiennes, an actor I thought could do no wrong, couldn't save this from playing like a gussied up bodice ripper. What's more, not even the sex is very sexy since it's all a lot of screaming and panting behind closed doors. I confess to a little fast forwarding.

Fortunately, there are many eminently worth watching dramas available, like the timely and beautifully filmed What the Constitution Means to Me, that's my go-along feature with this blog. While Heidi Schrek's unique play based on her experience as a high school debater is unquestionably political, Philip Roth said readers who interpreted his the Plot Against America as a political horror story were wrong. Yet, the 6-part mini-series that I'll be reviewing next is undeniably and scarily so. The series is that rare case of being true to the book but an also brilliantly and originally filmed.
October 11, 2020 Update
As if the barrage of hard-to-believe events of this past week weren't enough, the Broadway League has made it official: Broadway theaters will remain shut through May 30, 2021. This is devastating news not only for the theater community but for all who believe the theater is what makes New York a great place, whether all the time or for a visit.

No doubt being awarded one of the coveted MacArthur Foundation's 2020 "Genius Grants" would have increased the chances of Larissa Fasthorse's terrific Thanksgiving Play getting a run on Broadway and elsewhere as you can tell if you read my review during its 2018 run. To read my reviewclick here.

Until a semblance of normal resumes, theater folks are continuing to do what they can to take advantage of Zoom to give theatergoers a chance to see at least some plays written for the stage rather than TV or the movies. Encouraged by the appreciation of artist and audiences alike, for its summer stre Kate Winslett Now that CurtainUp is frozen ecept for my features about what I've seen on line ranges from new and old movies, series, and Zoomed readings and plays what's on line, I obviously can with the only reports about what's available on line are Comey Rule The Duchess, Grantchester-- the opera-- siccesseopms pm HBP The Duchess" is a handsome historical film, impeccably mounted, gowned, wigged and feathered, where a husband and wife spend hours being dressed in order to appear at dinner to argue about whether the mutton is off. With Keira Knightley playing the duchess and Ralph Fiennes playing her husband, such a conversation is a minefield. The man has no conversation, addresses her primarily to issue instructions and is obsessed with the production of a male heir, who would have much to inherit, including the grandest private house in London, and Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, the favorite of all British country houses. (I have visited Chatsworth and I was in awe. At today's prices, not even Bill Gates could live like the Devonshires.)This is not one of those delightful movies based on a Jane Austen novel. It is about hard realists, constrained in a stifling system and using whatever weapons they can command. slave trade. Note: Yes, the famous tea is named after Earl Grey. Director Saul Dibb smoothly orchestrates these elements in his stately, measured pageant-drama, starring Keira Knightley as Georgiana (counter-intuitively pronounced Jaw-jain-a), Duchess of Devonshire, née Spencer, the brilliant but broken-hearted political hostess and courageous wronged woman whose life story, with a little tweaking, resembles that of her 20th-century descendant: our own Queen of Hearts, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Georgiana moves in racy social and political circles; Simon McBurney plays the turbulent radical Charles James Fox and Aidan McArdle is Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist whose School for Scandal was evidently inspired directly by the Devonshires' notoriously unstable marriage. Both men enjoy her friendship, but again, there is no sense that politics really means all that much to Georgiana other than with one pretty feeble squeak about female suffrage over the port one evening. | a Curtainup blog
CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
Elyse's Blog--- Comments & news of current and upcoming streaming events


October 11, 2020 Update
As if the barrage of hard-to-believe events of this past week weren't enough, the Broadway League has made it official: Broadway theaters will remain shut through May 30, 2021. This is devastating news not only for the theater community but for all who believe the theater is what makes New York a great place, whether all the time or for a visit.

No doubt being awarded one of the coveted MacArthur Foundation's 2020 "Genius Grants" would have increased the chances of Larissa Fasthorse's terrific Thanksgiving Play getting a run on Broadway and elsewhere as you can tell if you read my review during its 2018 run. To read my reviewclick here.

Until a semblance of normal resumes, theater folks are continuing to do what they can to take advantage of Zoom to give theatergoers a chance to see at least some plays written for the stage rather than TV or the movies. Encouraged by the appreciation of artist and audiences alike, for its summer streaming festival the invaluable Mint Theater Company is now offering another play from its collection of filmed performances. Conflict by Miles Malleson is, like everything the Mint does, handsomely staged and well-acted of a play that even if it did have a life in its day, would remain in the attic of work that no longer gets done. Touching as it does on important political issues, Conflict is a particularly apt addition to the Mint's screened offerings. Like the summer screenings, performances are again free, but with a request for a donation and limited run date (from October 19 through November 1)). If you want more details, check out my review here. To receive a password to see it yourself write to: streaming@minttheater.org.

Also coming up via YouTube Is another of teacher-playwright Paula Vogel 's Bard At the Gate readings: Origin Story by Dan LeFrance, and told in the manner of a graphic story by a six-member cast. You can watch it free (again with a donation request) on October 14th at 7pm -- the reading is followed by a question-and-answer with the playwright.



October 3, 2020 Update

It's getting so that I hesitate to post another feature. Before, during or immediately after each of the last three I logged on for came with news that made me feel as if I was trapped in a bad play without an ending.

Streaming filmed and original online plays did previously boost my spirits and enhanced my isolated life enough to keep me writing and also give a little life to my otherwise frozen theaterzine. But the news delivered on my home screens has made it hard to concentrate on the arts content, let alone write about it.

I watched The Glorias, my newest feature, in two sessions, something that I never could or would do if I were in a regular theater. But then I never had to process the effect of a Supreme Court justice's death, or a shockingly uncivil and rule breaking presidential debate — and most recently, that the American president has falllen a victim of the virus he was sure would disappear.

What could be more of a cliffhanger than the uncertaintly about who else at an unmasked Rose Garden event would be sidelined from keeping our country functioning and safe?

Like Mr. Trump, Gloria Steinem, whose the subject of the feature I'm now posting, is, like President Trump of a vulnerable age, but It's a safe bet to be certain that she has worn a mask. What's more, while she shook up existing mores, she did so with civility, truthfulness and unselfishness.




September 27, 2020 Update
A documentary about the antiquarian book business may not sound like something to take your mind off the less than uplifting news. But The Booksellers is one of my latest streaming discoveries that I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did.

Another film on my streaming radar — The Glorias — the new biography is a directed and produced by Julie Taymor, from a screenplay by Taymor and Sarah Ruhl. It's based upon Steinem's memoir, My Life on the Road and stars Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander from ages 20 to 40. Due to the pandemic it will be available on Amaon in just a few days (9/30). I was lucky enough to see Gloria Steinem in person before everything shut down. That was in 2018 at the premiere of Gloria a Life written by Emily Mann and directed byDiane Paulus IN which Steinem appeared at the poignant post-performance discussion.

Since I have been doing a lot of my fishing for never seen gems at Amazon Prime I also watched one of the best but never seen filmed versions of Jane Austiin's Sense and Sensibility What drew me in to watch it was that Mrs. Dashwood was played by the always great Janet McTeer, Willoughbya by Dominic Cooper and Edward Farris by Dan Stevens. New to me but also quite fine were this production's Marianne (Carity Wakefield) and Elnor Hatie Monohan) . This is a charmer well worth seeing, and oh that scenery. I have nice tree lined streets in my neighborhood, but oh for a seaside walk like that!!!


September 20, 2020 Update
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg certainly got Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, off to a sad start. When Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me played off-Broadway and later on Broadway, audiences were given a pocket-sized copy of that document to peruse on their way out. Judge Ginsberg always __ carried a similar pocket Constitution in her purse. While you'll have to get your own copy online (https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text), you will have a chance to see Schreck's enjoyable and informative play on Amazon Prime Video as of October 16. The hit stage production was filmed live during its final week at the Helen Hayes Theater. Schreck will also create content and will donate part of her proceeds from the filming to the Broadway Cares COVID Relief Fund and to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Voting Rights 2020 initiative. I can't think of a more timely way to brush up on its detapls and importance.

Much as I miss seeing plays and musicals in brick-and-mortar venues, chatting with fellow critics and also strangers sitting next to me, it's been wonderful to catch up on movies and TV series I didn't have time for previously. I was amazed at the serious and pertinent issues that were part of the five seasons of Poldark. Sure some of it went overboard on the melodrama but in the light of how the people with money and power are wielding that privilege, this is not just another Masterpiece crowd pleaser.

Finally, having seen several original plays written for online viewing and also to fit the needs theaters to reopen with less costly, small-scale shows, I'd like to see something written for the express purpose of making us laugh and just enjoy ourselves during a time with so little to laugh about.


September 12, 2020 Update
Plays created for streaming have clearly become more than a bandaid during the pandemic but a valid theatrical genre in their own right. And the solo format is sure to have a major presence when theaters do reopen. I'm therefd ore posting two new features: My review of Richard Nelson latest addition to his Zoomed visits with the apple family (Incidental Moments Of The Day- and another about the solo format that includes links to my 2014 in depth feature (solo play feature).

Sadly, our chance to see the impact of Zoomed and solo plays on live theater is hardly just around the corner. According to Dr. Fauci, our chief health authority, going to the theater without worrying about infection is probably not going to happen for a year. And for theater organizations to respond to the very valid protests about systemic racism in executive staffing, and diverse programming and casting will not be easy given the enormous financial losses large as well as small organizations have suffered.

September 2, 2020 Update
As my writing about the online theatergoing has made life in a seemingly endless pandemic, so Richard Nelson has not let being quarantined in his Rhinebeck home keep him from visiting the beloved neighbors he invented and dramatized . He's proved a quick study in restructuring and directing his plays for ZOOM. Popular as his Rhinebeck family plays were at the Public Theater, his first two dinner parties with the Apples in lockdown ( And So We Go Forth & What we Need To Talk About) have been Zoom hits — enough so, for Nelson to return to the Apples to see how they're faring in early September.

This final play in Nelson's pandemic trilogy, INCIDENTAL MOMENTS OF THE DAY: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom, will have its world premiere on September 10th and will be available to watch for free at www.theapplefamilyplays.com but donations to lbenefit Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation in the US and the Theatre Artists Fund in the UK will be welcome. The new dinner party will include a character from Nelson's last staged Rhinebeck play, The Michaels. I'll be there to review it as soon as it opens.

While theater directors have been able to make some live theater available outdoors, they'll have to make other plans comes fall. Not easy, given all the undertainties and financial considerations will require continued inventiveness and adaptability. Many New York organizations have delayed announcing plans until they can be more assured that they can follow through with what they announce.

My own plan is to write about innovative new online work like Nelson's as long as they're around long enough for readers to see them. I'll also continue to use this time to catch up with films and TV fare I missed or didn't have time to watch when I was busy going to press openings three or more times a week and editing the many postings from other theater friendly locations covere. For starters, there's the delightful Carey Mulligan's career making film. An Education courtesy of Amazon Prime and YouTube.

I'm also discovering that the multi-season Masterpiece historic drama, Poldark, isn't just about its handsome hero galloping along the Cornish seashore, but a remarkably relevant take on class prejudice, exploitation of the poor by the rich.

August 22, 2020 Update.
This past week's big online outing was of course the theater of politics: The Democratic party's first ever virtual convention without thousands of people waving flags, cheering and generally into the excitement of this integral part of our American democracy. Since I write about the arts rather than politics, I'll leave it to those whose beat this is to review its highs and lows. I will say that I found the historic setup to be carefully crafted, and I did stay tuned in for the full virtual marathon even though I wasn't spellbound throughout. The ultimate test of this historic event's effectiveness will of course come on November 3rd.
To follow up on our last feature Online Theater Experiments With a Post-Pandemic Future here's yet another company pushing the boundaries of a new medium for live theater by presenting their annual play festival through zoom. The plays are written, directed and performed entirely by members of the company. Each is centered around the theme of "Primal Instincts" and will be performed once a week for six weeks, beginning on Tuesday August 18th at 8pm, and running through September 27th. All will be shown on YouTube and through the Company's social media accounts, and will include a talkback with the actors and director following the performance. Tickets are free but donations are requested (through Venmo or PayPal). Access links: https://www.youtube.com/user/68CentCrewTheatre ;daily updates and scheduling at https://www.facebook.com/events/594587484753890.

In the meantime London's Donmar Warehouse was the first influential theater to reopen. The way they did it was hardly anything remotely like the old normal. The play was by a well-known playwright, Simon Stephens. For this back to live theater production, Stephens created a newdaptation of 1995 novel, <Blindness the 1995 novel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago about a society sent into free fall by a pandemic. The audience (limited to 20% of capacity) was masked and socially distanced. Another histtory making element was that there were four performances a day— shades of movie theaters before they were shut down.

Stephens has had a major life in New York, both on and off-B roadway, and reviewed at CurtainUp. Here are links to these reviews: The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time . . .< Heisenberg . . .Harper Regan . . . Bluebird

August 14, 2020 UPdate.
The closing of the newsroom of The Daily News is another memory trigger of highlights of my pre-CurtainUp days as an agent for popular magazine writers, I often arrived early for my frequent appointments with Macfadden Magazsine editors across the street from the building that The News still called home, so I'd pop into another landmark located there, the Horn and Hardart automat with its then high tech chrome and glass pop-up machines to have a coffee. Like the MacFadden magazines The News left that location long ago and were spun off and reconfigured frequently. The automat stopped being a Manhattan fixture in 1991. The just announced closing of the current offices of The News huts the cover on my memory book.

CurtainUp has, of course, been online throught its life. But the shows I and my colleagues wrote about were seen in brick and mortar theaters. But COVID-19 put an end to that . As I've become accustomed to enjoying and writing about online entertainment, so many who work in the theater have learned to still create theater but doing so online. Some of these survial techniques have been effective enough to become part of the return to normalcy we all hope and pray for. For details, see Online Theater Experiments With a Post-Pandemic Future posted below.

August 10, 2020
CurtainUp was launched in the Berkshires and even as the site expanded to cover Broadway and Off-Broadway and other theatrically vibrant areas, summer was never summer without covering the area's incredibly rich theatrical fare. I'm not surprised that two companies that grew and prospered— Barrington Stage and the Berkshire Theater, now known as the Berkshire Theater Group— are presenting the first live theater since the pandemic struck. Despite daunting requirements to keep actors and audience safe, Godspell and Harry Clarke are being presented at Berkshire Theater Group and Barrington Stage respectively. The arts are vital to the this beautiful area's economy so, bravo, and safe runs.

In the meantime I'm still in lockdown in New York and my only outings are daily walks and looking for streamed entertainment worth a theater enthusiasts' time. The availability of two filmed versions of Horton Foote's beautiful Harrison, Texas plays was my discovery of the week. My feature on these Foote gems is being posted with this blog.

July 31, 2020 With our lockdown lives continuing, theater companies continue to expand their offerings of alternatives to live theater, either testing original Zoomed plays or making productions filmed during origianl runs for the company's archives. Many are free but with donations suggested. The wonderful Irish Repertory Theatre is doing something a little different. Instead of pulling a past filmed prodction of Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward, devised by Barry Day and directed by Charlotte Moore out of their archives, they are offering a newly staged production filmed on location at The Players Theatre, with the cast & crew adhering to all safety protocols. Cabaret performers Steve Ross and KT Sullivan who starred in the 2019 production at the Irish Rep's Chelsea home { CurtainUp's review), are reprising their roles in this freshly staged production .

Since this online viewing is only available for six performances and reservations are required I suggest that you click over to the Irish Rep's website at https://irishrep.org/ and make your reservations. Performances are Tuesday August 11 at 7pm . . . Wednesday August 12 at 3pm and 8pm. . .Thursday August 13 at 7pm. . . Friday August 14 at 8pm . . .Saturday August 15 at 3pm. Tickets are free but a donation is suggested.

While there's no way to recreate the experience of seeing a show at the Irish Rep's beautifully redesigned home, I'm looking forward to seeing this delightful entertainment again The problem with our having had to accustom ourselves to this couch potato way of viewing plays, musicals, concerts and operas, we tend to stick with habits developed as TV vewers: Fast forwarding, doing other things while watching, eating. In short, we allow ourselves to really assume the couch potato viewer's habits instead of treating that log-in to a streamed show as if we were enteriing a real theater. Therefore, Instead of accompanying this blog with a "regular" review, I'm posting a feature for giving a touch of live theater to all your streamed outings. I'm going to follow my own advice when I log on for my August 11th reservation for Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward.

July 27, 2020
I've gotten lots of helpful feedback about CurtainUp's new format. Without my longtime friend and colleague Les Gutman's help and guidance CurtanUp could never have evolved into the multi-faceted theatrical resource it was until the Pandemic struck. Les has now eased the options for accessing our still available content by moving the search box and items below to a still more convenient spot .

Olivia de Havilland remained a grand dame right to the end of her long life. Her death at age 104 adds another name to the archives of the silver screen's legendary stars. She and the stellar cast made 1939 audiences root for all the chacters in Gone With the Wind even though they would all have continued their master-and-slaves society without the Civil war. Even Hattie McDaniel turned her stereotypical Mammie into a class act.

Gone With the Wind, is still available for streaming at HBO MAX, but now with an added segment addressing the current protests to its racissm. Of course Gone With the Wind was just one of many films de Havilland played in during in her long career. And there's a treasure trove available at Amazon. There's also a feature I found found interesting enough to warrant its own highly recommended streaming feature: Episode 14 of Hollywood Rivals, a documentary series free with your Prime membership.


July 22, 2020 Update
My latest blog update and streaming review appears on a front page redesigned to better reflect the current theater landscape. My latest review is a special feature Disney has made available as part of your access to the filmed production of Hamilton. . It's a 40-minute documentary created to promote the film but I found it to be enjoyable and enlightening enough to warrant its own review.

Of course, not all streamed shows available are as slick and sophisticated as what's at the bit streaming services. But that doesn't mean that there aren't many well worth your time and support (admission is usually free but donations are encouraged). One especially noteworthy effort comes from one of the theater world's treasures, Paula Vogel.

The pandemic' has put the kibosh on the planned opening of her Pulitzer Prize winning HowI Learnded to Drive with its original cast. (My review when it opened here). Instead of letting this get her down, Vogel started a series of play readings called Bard at the Gate. These are plays that Vogel always wanted to see. The first play, Kernel of Sanity by Kermit Frazier, written in 1978 and never produced was done last month and had more than 2,000 viewers. A respectable number, even if hardly on a par with the clicks that Hamilton is getting. To see what's next in the series, see: http://paulavogelplaywright.com/bardatthegate

While you can't see this long delayed Broadway production of How I Learned to Drive, You can stream Indecent, Vogel's wonderful latest on THIRTEEN'S Masterpece series. I was lucky enough to see and review it both at the Atlantic Theater downtown and on at Broadway's Cort Theater .


July 16, 2020 Update
While the nightly operas streamed from the Metropolitan Opera's extensive archives have been free, the company is now going to test the waters for charging for a new series concerts featuring their star singers. Tickets will be $20, the same as the Met's presentations in movie theaters. The menu will focus on arias from favorite operas. The singers will be paid. The series is set to begin July 18th.

Though the filmed production of Hamilton isn't free, $6. 99 is certainly a bargain. Hope Disney uses the huge number of new subscribers this will bring to add some content that will keep them there.

Another new streamed show that's free (but with registration required and donations encouraged) comes from the Transport Company. This one's a musical called Broadbend, Arkansas. It's about a Black family that has grappled with decades of inequality, violence, and oppression in the South. Check transportgroup.org for details.

July 10, 2020 Update
My latest review of a play specifically created for on line viewing is a somber work that isn't going to help you forget about the pandemic that coninues to affect everything we do. Documentarians Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's title, The Line, refers to the healthcare workers on the front line of the battle to save the lives of people struggling w to survive. the infection. There's no hero's purple heart medal for these civilian soldiers in this unprecedented domestic war, but their stories do indeed deserve to be told-- and seen and supported (the show is free but donations are requested.
Speaking of sad stories, 41-year-ld actor Nick Cordero succumbed to the Virus after a horrendous three month battle to save his life failed. I think a movement to name the Longacre Theater for him is a bit premature. Cordero was a terrific performer but his oeuvre is a lot smaller than some actors and playwights who 've not yet had a theater named for them . But with more and more companies puttig together festivals of original and archived shows to stream, a Nick Cordero Festival would be a wonderful memorial. I'm reasonably sure that most of the shows in which Nick made his mark were filmed at one performance during their run. Ideally such a festival could remain on line a long time, perhaps as part of THIRTEEN'S Great Peeformances Series. In the meantime, here are links of Nick's show's reviewed at Curtainuup:
Toxic Avenger
Bulets Over Broadway
Bronx Tale
Nice Girl ww.curtainup.com/nicegirl15.html-- this was likely to be the only one not captured since it was in a small downtown theater for a brief run. Too bad, since Cordero gave a poignant performance as a butcher, reminiscent of Paddy Chayevsky famous Marty.
July 8, 2020 Update
There's no denying that it's impossible to match the live theater experience of being part of the bustling audience, leafing through your program, and applauding the actors taking their curtain calls. That's why this summer's first ventures into safe live theater okayed by Actors’ Equity for productions featuring its members is welcome news.

For now the green light for presenting onstage productions by two Berkshire theater companies makes sense since this culturally rich area has been spared heavy outbreaks of the pandemic. The shows to have brief runs (which is always the case for summer theater seasons are Harry Clarke, a solo shows in Barrington Stage Company's reconfigured for utmost safety main stage and a safety conforming outdoor production of Godspell by the Berkshire Theater Groupi.

Since Curtainup got its start in the Berkshires where my husband and I spent twenty-eight wonderful summers, buoyed by the areas cultural riches. One of the actors whose performances during those summer seasons were particularly memorable was Mark H. Dold who will star in Barrington Stage's Harry Clarke. To read my raves of some of his performances, just type his name in that "enhanced by Google" box at the right hand side of the main page where I've been posting my blog updates and streaming features (www.curtainup.com). David Cale's Harry Clarke overcame my general lack of enthusiasm for solo shows. I still had the pleasure of seeing Billy Crudup take on all those characters when it ran at the Vineyard Theater in 2017 ( my review). If anyone can do it as well as Crudup did, Dold is definitely your man.

But much as I'd like to be back in the Berkshires, Like most of you, I'm in New York where seeing a play is still l no further away from our computers The good news is that the onscreen theater experience comes with its own pleasures and various produers have generously enabled us to see plays we may have missed or would like to see again. The Metropolitan Opera has dug into its treasure trove of filmed productions and generously posted one each night for FREE. My newiest streaming feature posted below is a triple streamer . It' s almost too much to take in given that this Summer Stock Fstivsl ends on July 19th.

Next on my streaming feature list is another live-streamed world premiere, The Line, written by popular documentarians Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, the first performance of which I'll be watching tonight at 7:30 on the Public Theaster's YouTube channel and website. It's certaintly of the moment in content as well as format since it brings the stories of New York City's first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic to the digital stage.

No, I'm not forgetting about writing about watching Hamilton, a front row seat to which is now available and affordable to alll of us without leaving home.

July 4, 2020 Update
The really big news this week is that Hamilton, which truly deserved its super-hit global success can finally be seen by all who couldn't nab a ticket-- or afford the ticket price that came with that success. No, not on stage, but in a film featuring the original cast and edited and staged by its original directer. Until I can see and write about how it holds up on the screen (very well indeed, according to early viewers), here's a link to my review of the show both off and on Broadway-- with photos and a song list: Reviews of Hamilton on and Off Broadway

Of course, performers, playwrights and theater companies are continuing to display tremendous resourcefulness to give theater goers, as well as themselves, -a way to make it through a time when live theater is having an even harder time to reopen than restaurants and barber shops. As the Metropolitan Opera has dug into its archives to stream an opera every night , so play producers have given audiences a chance to stream performances fortuitously captured on film. My recent review of Gloria: A Life is a case in point. So are some of the archived productions of outstanding plays and musicals at THIRTEEN's Great Performances.

Since just keeping fit, fed, and connected with family and friends is a callenge these days, I'm not covering any of these interim offerings with a full feature unless they're available long enough for anyone reading my post will have at least ten days to find a convenient time to check it out for themselves. One company I'll be covering is the invaluable Mint Theater Company which has assembled three productions from past seasons into a Screenng Festival that will feature for free from July 6th to the 19th. The plays featured are The Fatal Weakness by George Kelly 2014, The New Morality by Harold Chapin 2015, and Women Without Men 2016 from July 6th to July 19th. All for free. And so, this is advance notice to give you ample time to free up an evening between July 6 and 19th. If you have time to see just one of these always authentically produced rescue missions from the theatrical dust bin, I'd recommend the most recently staged Women Without Men

While plays written to fit the zooming format are are not an alternative to theate asr we know it, the always innovative Richard Nelson has now used this format a second time to bring the four siblings of his Apple family to our screens rather than on stage at the Public Theater where his plays about them enjoyed successful runs. My review of And So We Come Forth: The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom based on the first screening of an 8 week run is now posted.




June 30, 2020 Update
As I settle into this onscreen, couch potato mode of theater going, I find it's a fun challenge to fish some movies I never saw, or even heard of, out of the over-stuffed home pages of the various streaming services.

And so my latest screen feature includes Oklahoma Crude, a 1973 Stanley Kramer film that's somehow become relevant as well as entertaining as a result of recent events in Tulsa. The review is paired with a more current drama, this one a BBC TV series available for binging to AcornTV subscribers. And, binge-worthy it certainly is.

While it's understandable that we all want to rush out and take advantage of not being quite so completely deprived of normal activities, this virus is a crafty killer. Therefore playing it safe and cautiously means that a good movie or series is still the best way to relax and divert yourself without having to wear a mask.

June 27 2020 Update
So far, so good. Unlike residents in other parts of the country, New Yorkers are entering phase 2 of easing up on lockdown life. But continued caution is required. For sure our entertainment time is still limited to reading and on-screen offerings.

If you never read Finnegan's Wake or War and Peace, you're unlikely to have the sitzfleish to do so now-- especially now that summer is here. As already noted in my last update, books tagged as beach reads don't have to be 100% fluffy. And so, here's another hugely enjoyable summer recommendation: Pianos and Flowers by Alexander Mc Call Smith. Using photos from the London Times photo archives as inspiration, the author invented his own, often hilarious, stories to go with those images. Except for the format, the content of the pieces is not connected, which allows readers to fast forward any that don't grab them . Somehow I found myself reading all 14.

When you finish watching the highly recommended addition to THIRTEEN's theater presentations-- Gloria: A Life. , I suggest you make time to go back to catch THIRTEEN's latest American Masters profiles of Toni Morrison. Beautifully done.
June 20, 2020 Update
I'm keeping my fngers crossed that New York's move into Stage 2 of the Pandemic will not bring an uptick of infections and that the Black Lives Matter will actually matter in changing police violence and overall inequality. In the meantime books and screened entertainment continue to be my main outings to get away from the nonstop news cycle about the pandemic, presidential misstatements. and mismanaged returns to our new normal. Yet, even my book choices have been inspired by what's on the bookshelves of my favorite journalists — and so I'm now reading Ron Chernow's biography of Ulysses S. Grant after spotting it on Judy Woodruff's book shelf. For more of a fun beach read (a term that's hardly accurate this summer) I had a great time reading reliving New York was THE place to be if you loved glamour and the theater courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls. Credit Gilbert for managing her delightful coming-of-age story more than just escape fare, but a moving tribute to friendship, love and New York.

If Apple TV's flagship additions to their streaming service didn't exactly bowl me over, both Defending Jacob and The Morning Show offered enough pluses to keep me watching.
June 3, 2020 Update
"When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in batallions." Like so many famous Shakespeare lines, this one from Hamlet is once again all too relevant . As if the lost lives, lost normalcy, and economic problems caused by the pandemic weren't enough, another black man fell victim to racist police practices. But while protests that included vandslism have always generated enormous media coverage, the problem hasn't gone away.

And neither has the undue loss of lives and jobs suffered by minority Americans during the Pandemic prevented another African-American being killed by excessive police force. Hopefully the nationwide protests this has set off among people regardless of color will finally make the end of the pandemic the beginning of a better and more genuinely fair new normal, with opportunity and fair justice for all — and a police force that may have its bad apples but deserves thanks for its risk taking daily service. If only, the violence and looting by some opportunistic outsiders hasn't diminished the possibility of that opportunity. It won't be, if everyone follows up the protests by voting for true leadership in November!

While I admire the efforts by so many members of the theater community to maintain a meaningful presence despite the inability to put on a show as they once did. Playbill has already crested the Playbill Virtual Thestre Festival specifically for Online Performance to be presented with cutting edge technology Most of these zoomed conversations and performances are place holders for a return to a more topics for actors and audience experiences. But some of these experiments will no doubt be incorporated into that back-to-normal theater

As for me, I continue to prowl the various streaming services for content that comes closest to engaging us the staged plays that have been our focus for so many years. Though I usually went to see a play prior to its official opening, my current reviews are often of movies or series filmed years ago but that three or more theater outings a week didn't leave time to watch. And, so, while I did see Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, I missed While We're Young, Both are still available on Netflix, and the latter is reviewed below.

May 28, 2020 Update
Once upon a time (is it really just a year ago?) I would have spent last Thursday at Sardi's for the Outerc Critics Circle's annual awards celebration, schmoozing with fellow critics and taking selfies with the award recipients. The next day, for more than twenty years, my husband and Curtainup's proofreader-in-chief, would head for our home in the Berkshires to cover that area's vibrant summer theater season. There would be intermittent trips back to New York to cover an opening there.

But this year, there's no theater to cover anywhere, nor will there be for the foreseeable future. For now, everyone involved with putting on a show is experimenting with ways to keep live theater part of our lives. Playwright Richard Nelson, wrote a new play for some of the actors featured in his popular Rhinebeck dinner party plays. Innstead of having his actors share a real meal What Do We Need to Talk About? gathers the actors on a Zoom screen and has them, like the online audience , dealing with the pandemic.

Another successful and prolific playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, decided to complete an unfinished play and rework it in the format of the once popular genre of radio plays. Unlike many of these online presentations which are available for just a few times and date, Ayckbourn's Anna Domino can be accessed any time and for an entire month. What's more, while donations are welcome, it's free. And so, I've added it to my screening reviews even though the only thing you'll see on screen is the image of some domino anagram playing blocks.

May 21, 2020 Update
Since Queens ranks high on New York's pandemic "hot" zones, I'm fortunate to live in one of the borough's less endangered neighborhoods,, with tree lined and uncrowded streets. My lockdownwn existence is in a spacious apartment, with windows in every room providing a view of street life. My building is small by New York standards and many residents know each other.. Still, it's lonely and frustrating that it's going to be a long time before I;m likely to feel comfortable taking advantage of the around easy access to thesters in any l Manhattan neighborhood — as I was doing before everything except for these little blog posts and reviews of my only "theater" going courtesy of screened entertainment.

And so, my latest review is actually an update of Madam Secretary, the combination domestic and political drama. Dedicated bingers can now see all six seasons at Netflix.

A note about actors like Tea Leoni and Tim Daly. With future productions whether on stage or screen will be cautious about intimacy scenes between characters, actors who are real life parters as Leoni and Daly are, are likely to be in great demand.

And here's another update, this one an addendum to my April 15h As I was finishing up that now posted feature I found myself revisiting another of the superbly filmed Broadway plays available to PBS Passport members: Red, John Logan's riveting two person drama about Mark Rothko's preparation of a series of murals for their new Park Avenue restaurant, the Four Seasons . As I noted previously, for me that filmed version of Logan's play was a bittersweet second viewing since when I saw it at Broadway's Golden Theater my wonderful husband Mike was still with me and this was one of his favorite plays of the 2010 season. Given that Beethoven's 9th Symphony was his favorite and most frequently played classical work, Mike was especially blown away by the scene in which Rothko and his assistant primed a huge canvas to the accompaniment of the choral finale of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Mike was also a fan of the American Masters series. The one about Philip Roth was one we both thought was outstanding.
May 14, 2020 Update
The theater community has certainly taken a determined and open-minded approach to dealing with the quarantine that bought the 2019-2020 theater season to an abrupt early standstill, just as new shows were opening up in hopes of making a splash at one of the many awards ceremonies. (the big winner on Broadway being the Tony. When the pandemic finally lets go of its death grip on all our lives, the theater too will eventually come back to life but this new normal will retain some of the survival tactics currently used by theater folks to get through the crisis.

Performers are giving concerts from a new stage: Their living rooms, kitchens, basements. While there's nothing like the spark of performers and audiences being in the same room, there's something about the intimacy of this kind of stage that may call for an ongoing mix of both the old and new normal theater experience.

Songwriters are writing new songs. But if a song cycle has the makings of evolving into a musical, those songs must fit into a new normal style musical.

Playwrights are writing plays that will resonate with audiences even if on a smaller scale and without reliance on big casts — but hey, didn't the fabulous invalid's economic problems have them doing this for a long time already? What's more, haven't chronically underpaid and underemployed actors turned hardship into shows that gave them a profitable platform all over the country for years. And to include songwriters, think of Robert Jason Brown's widely produced 2-person musical, The Last Five Years (my review of the initial productio in 2002n).

Artistic directors ave had to rethink their plans Many seasons were canceled or postponed. Even anticipated reopenings have to come up with new strategies to deal with safety and economic issues. Some like Williamstown Theatre Festival is experimenting by partnering with Audible for a different kind of the show must go on.

The organizations giving out the various coveted awards have also had to decide whether and how to present their awards. Broadway's most high profile Tony Awards were postponed until further notice. Other organizations will hold their awards ceremonies but virtually.

The 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards has stuck to its schedule. The nominations were announced on April 21st and will be awarded at a celebratory ceremony on May 31 . The big difference is that the ceremony will be on line instead of at Town Hall and dedicated to former president William Wolf who fell victim to the virus. I was honored to serve on his board for five years and I still treasure memories of mine and my husband's friendship with him and his wife Lillian.

The Outer Critics Circle, another organization to which I've long belonged, chose a different path. In lieu of selecting and voting for one winner from each category, the 70th Annual Outer Critics Circle Awards is foregoing that format and celebrating up to five honorees in each of its technical categories, and up to six honorees in acting categories. In addition, four artists receive the annual John Gassner Award this season, commemorating works by new American playwrights. Instead of annual party (the most fun of all the awards ceremonies for years) past OCC Award honorees Kristin Chenoweth, Bryan Cranston, Patti LuPone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Patrick Stewart, announced this season's honorees by video feed today, Monday May 11th/ For details abut who was honored for what go to: https://outercritics.org. Reviews can still be read at www.curtainup.com.

Given the likelihood of theaters being among the last to be able to reopen and audiences skittish about returning (especially the older theatergoers, tourists to major entertainment meccas like New York) I will continue to focus on streamed entertainment that's been everyone's alternative theatrical entertainment, and an important part of my creating something of a life-affirming normal routine. That said, even the studios that keep streaming organizations supplied with new contents will need to adjust to the safety issues involved in resuming their own locked down productions.

May 8, 2020 Update
As the pandemic continues to keep us locked into our homes, the streaming services continue to be the favorite alternative for listening to music, and watching movies, plays and musicals. Unsurprisingly, new content featuring big names and being most written about get the most viewers. And so, Becoming, the new documentary companion feature to Michelle Obama's best selling memoir of the same name became an instant must see. After all, this one has the former First Lady constantly and actively on scene. And, yes, there's a guest appearance of her husband as welll as her daughters. I'll admit, I paused my viewing of an older and probably not on everyone's must see or even re-visit list, to see if all the hype is warranted. For now, I'll just say it's worth seeing but I would have liked to see Obama allow it to go all the way to live up to her "go high" mantra.

Another much hyped new Netflix show is Hollywood. It's a 7-episode serial about post World War II La La Land that's stuffed with marquee name actors playing actual people dominating the legendary dream factory. While it's certainly fun to see the likes of Patti LuPone and Jim Parsons playing some of long ago filmdom's actual power players of the era, not to mention the terrific production values it fails to satisfy as a history drama or in its ambition to rewrite history as it could and should have been if not so ingrained with racism and homophobia.

So, go ahead and enjoy the glitzy new mini series, but for a charming and much more authentic behind the scenes look at the film world, consider my latest streaming feature about Harold and Lillian: a Hollywood Love Story.

May 4, 2020 Update
My 2020 day-book remains depressingly empty-- usually the pages are filled with names of shows booked, with where and when details. But as the sun is streaming in through my windows, the pages in my little black book are white as a snowy day in January. And, admirable as all the theater organizations and artists' efforts to keep us connected and hopeful that live theater will indeed live again, I'm finding all this "zooming" less a spirit lifter than watching and writing about screened entertainment available to watch by clicking on one of the devices that are currently our only access to full-bodied theatrical entertainment. As my review of Howards End indicates, playwright Kenneth Lonergan adaptation makes a strong case for playwrights like Lonergan to venture into the multiple episode series format. That said the pleasurable time spent watching this new look at E.M. Forster's novel, did have me wondering how film maker will be able to create new work within the realities of the new normal which will continue to demand that attention must be paid to the safety of the people in front of and behind the cameras

April 25, 2020 Update
Days continue to run together. The other trees on my street have blossomed like the big one that practicslly touches my living room window . I'd like to view this as a sign that the gathering places shuttered by the pandemic will l once again open like the blossoms on those trees. Unfortunately the future of life as it once was, and our return to again enjoy seing plays and musicsls in the company of others remains depressingly uncertain. What's more, even when the new normal feels safe again, for many for whom streamed entertainment will no longer be a temporarary respite from the grim reality of lockdown life. I hope I'm wrong. In the meantime, I'll continue to search for the cream of the crop at the vsrious streaming outlets, and maintain my writing muscles by writing about them.

Finally, I urge you to read George Packer's article "We Live in a Broken State" It's not escape fare, but if ever a famous quotation from a classic play applied to something written in another medium, Linda Lohman's famous "attention must be paid" quote in Arthur Miller's Death of a Saleman appiies to Packer's chilling but important piece. It's avsilable as one of the free preview articles from their June issue of the Atlantic Monthly. You can access it by putting the following link in your browser:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/underlying-conditions/610261/

Better yet support this magazine's outstsnding and always relevant journalism by subscribing.

April 18, 2020 Update
Despite the theater's wide reaching impact on New York City's economy, if, when and how the city's shuttered by COVID-19 they will reopens is anybody's guess. With theater goers especially the vulnerable older ones, are likely to still be nervous about going back before a vaccine is available and while safety precautions are still needed.

Even Off-Broadway plays and musicals that completed their premiere runs in time to garner critical acclaim, may be unable to take advantage of what this would have triggered in the "old normal" days; for example, re-opening the show for a second run, responding to a flurry of requests to mountie productions in regional theaters — best of all planning a transfer to Broadway to give tourists a chance to appreciate the output of away from the rest White Way venues (Hamilton and Hadestown are just some of the big hits that begs life further downtown).

CurtainUp was fortunate enough to still see and review two such outstanding Off-Broadway shows: Heroes Of The Fourth Turning ( review) and Strange Loop ( review). Both premiered at Playwrights Horizon, Off-Broadway's long time champion of provocative new plays. and musicals.

The entire theater community is doing its utmost to insure a positive future for live theater. That includes other theater awards organizations opting to honor worthy shows with digital announcements and ceremonies. The prestigious New York Drama Circle did just that this week by giving best play and best musical awards to Heroes. . . and Strange Loop. Other awards outfits going the digital award announcement and ceremony route, are sure to include citations for these plays and increase their chances for winning more accolades.

While it's frustrating not to see any theater during this enforced stay-at-home-to-stay-safe crisis, don't write off screened entertainment as strictly second best escape from boredom. Within the over-stuffed listings at the home pages of most streaming sites, there have been some remarkable gems. Netflix's newly available 4-part Unorthodox actually had some of that special magic attributed to live theater. This adaptation of Deborah Feldman's 2012 memoir has been so beautifully expanded, filmed and performed that I became so absorbed in the unfolding story that the depressing reality of watching it all alone vanished long enough for me to just binge my way through the all four parts. No stage adaptation could have done this on the scope of this series and the expressive face of its star, Shira Haas, really needs to be seen in the sort of close-up only possible when filmed.

I'll be donning my critic's hat to add Unorthodox to my Streaming Features.

April 15, 2020 Update
As I continue to check out screened entertainment to ease our socially distanced, often isolated life styles, it's good to see that many shows produced and popular many years ago hold up very well indeed. Some, like Slings & Arrows, enough so to warrant one of my streaming features.

As I was finishing up that now posted feature I found myself revisiting another of the superbly filmed Broadway plays available to PBS Passport members — Red, John Logan's riveting two person drama about Mark Rothko's preparation of a series of murals for tehir new Park Avenue restaurant, the Four Seasons .

It was a bittersweet second viewing since when I saw it at Broadway's Golden Theater my wonderful husband Mike was still with me and this was one of his favorite plays of the 2010 season. Given that Beethoven's 9th Symphony was his favorite and most frequently played classical work, Mike was especially blown away by the scene in which Rothko and his assistant primed a huge canvas to the accompaniement of the choral finale of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. .

April 13, 220 Update
This is the last weekend in my calender that was filled with notes about shows for which I had reserved press tickets — a matinee at Lincoln center of an Opera version of Lynn Nottage's lovely 2004 play Intimate Apparel (my review>) and Visitor, a new musical at the Public Theater. I had high expectations for both shows and hoped I could share my enthusiasm with Curtainup readers in my reviews. Maybe this will be possible once life need no longer be dictated by COVID-19. In the meantime, I'll continue to share my thoughts about screened entertainment that should make life without live theater and many other daily pleasures easier.

One of my most pleasurable diversions this weekend was a revisit to a hilarious three part series aptly entitled Slings & Arrows produced in 2003, aired during the following two years, and still available as a DVD or as a 3-part streamer on AcornTV.

Count on my Slings & Arrows feature to highly recommend seeing this at once hilarious and touching take on all the goings on at a theater company (the model for the setting is he Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada)). The title taken from the beginning of Hamlet's To Be or Not to Be speech is apt since each parts takes us through the trials and tribulations of mounting one of the Bard's three ages of man plays: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear.

April 11, 2020 Update
Noel Coward's Present Laughter isn't the be-all and end-all of witty farces. But it's been a hit nevertheless. That's becsuse it's a great opportunity for an older actor to strut his stuff — not to mention a large ensemble of other seasoned thespians.

I last saw one of these star studded, colorfully staged productions just three years ago. It was just a year after the last presidentiial election so it was easy to see parallels between the self-absorbed Garry Essenden and the self-absorbed man in the White House, especially since he too seemed to spend much time in a bathrobe — though unlike Essenden . he kept it as much under cover as his financial history.

Now, with the awful pandemic made worse by Trump's incompetent and dishonest reign, a play like Present Laughter is no more substantially witty than ever but an escape from being shut in and stressed out. With the 2017 production I reviewed (review) still available to PBS Passboard members it's our only chance to see a great cast together on a lavishlly disigned set and eye popping costumes. As I've said before, these Great Performance flmed versions of high profile stage plays are exceptionally well done. Admirable as all the flood of theater pieces being produced within the confines of the pandemic are, here's hoping that live theater as we once knew will be an option for theater enthusiasts once again.
April 10, 2020 Update
Another day of streaming, zooming, texting and just coping as best we can in this new abnormal! People have done their best to enjoy virtual Passovers. But what keeps us all going is the hope that next year in live time!!. My latest streaming feature below.

April 9, 2020 Update
With theaters everywhere likely to remain shuttered much longer than anticipated, most organizations are in a wait and see mode even as they scramble to find some way to maintain a digital presence. The Williamstown Theatre Festival has come up with the most innovative so far. Though they will no longer proceed with their 2020 summer season as planned they've launched a partnership with Audible, which will bring audio versions of the season.s plays to the Audible platform.

As the Festival's artistic director Mandy Greenfield put it "This virus might get to tell us what we cannot do, but it does not get to dictate what we can do. The voices of these artists will be heard. Through this alliance with Audible, we keep artists and the generative artistic process centered and steady through this unspeakably difficult moment when public gathering simply isn't possible." Bringing these productions to Audible will preserve a 2020 season that otherwise might have gone unseen (or unheard) while providing continued work for the involved artists and making their work available for Audible listeners around the world. Audible Theater has previously worked to capture Broadway and Off-Broadway performances and also commissioned plays as part of their $5 million Emerging Playwrights Fund, which launched in 2017.

Audible will now work with Williamstown Theatre Festival to distribute their 2020 season, which includes A Streetcar Named Desire starring Audra McDonald and Bobby Cannavale, Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, and the world premieres of Leslye Headland's Cult of Love, Sanaz Toossi's Wish You Were Here, Shakina Nayfac's Chonburi International Hotel & Butterfly Club, Stacy Osei-Kuffour's Animals, and the musical Row with book by Daniel Goldstein and music and lyrics by Dawn Landes.

April 8, 2020 Update. At a time when members of theater organizations like The Drama Desk and Outer Critics are bracing for a show a day (somes two) schedule in order to vote our choices for the annual awards. But these are not ordinary days. Members like me and other CurtainUp critics are limited to "couch potato" theater viewing and theaters have been and continue to be shut. Naturally, this calls for difficult decisions about whether to postpone, cancel or give awards; and figure out how best to reconceive annual celebrations as virtual events

And so, the Drama Desk — recognizing that the theater community's thousands of artists and craftspeople make it more urgent than ever to honor the outstanding work of this season has decided to reconfigure the Awards within the constraints of the difficult reality of the life we all live in. Given the uncertainty about the reopening of theaters and shows that would normally still be running, DD Co-Presidents Charles Wright and David Barbour, have announced that the 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards will adopt a revised season end date of March 11 (when the shutdowns began), move forward with the release of nominations on April 21, and announce the winners online on May 31.

I'm deeply moved to know that this year.s Awards will be presented in honor of the life of my dear friend William Wolf on whose board I was privileged to serve during his tenure as Drama Desk president. I miss you, Bill! In a life of many accomplishments, this is one honor you didn't need. So would my husband Mike and favorite plus-one ticket holder and proofreader, if the Grim Reaper hadn't gotten to him just weeks before you.



April 7, 2020 Update
As Governor Cuomo stated repestedly in this morning's newsbriefing "This is about we, not me. However in today's New York Times letters to the editor section, one reader (Ryan Dowling of Jersey City, NJ) responded to the "No Face Mask for Trump" headline as follows: "Of course Donald Trump will not be wearing a mask. The C.D.C. recommends masks because they help “you” not “me.” In Mr. Trump.s world there is only “me.” As Britain's Boris Johnson, another "me" focused world leader, learned, being powerful does not exempt anyone from having to follow the "we" rules to avoid being struck down by the virus.

April 5, 2020 Update
On and on go the days of living in isolation and contact with family, friends and colleagues lmited to texts and emails, and very occasional six-feet-of-separation-masked visits from my daughter. No more regular theater outings and computer time spent writing reviews, editing submissions from my backups, and keeping our on and off-Broadway listings up to date.

Weekdays and weekends run together with each day spent segueing between three screens - — iphone, ipad, laptop . With many journalists reporting from their homes we get glimpses of their decor. Besides tuning in on television stations more than I ever did, I read several newspapers each day. One of my favorite background pieces triggered by the pandemic was Kate Murphy's "Stop Using Toilet Paper" in the New York Times. As Murphy noted "panic buying of toilet paper has spread around the globe as rapidly as the virus, even though there have been no disruptions in supply and the symptoms of Covid-19 are primarily respiratory, not gastrointestinal. " She quotes from various toilet paper historians, Who knew that there there are indeed a good many of these.

The stress of my personal trauma of losing my beloved husband and now this universal trauma has hardly made for sleep-trough nights-. And so watching new and old , good and not so good filmed entertainment has seen me through many of those "can't get bsck to sleep" post midnight hours.

Without the need for my usually disciplined work schedule, it's not always easy to get myself motivated to post a some more features about my streaming adventures. But more ARE coming.



April 1, 2020 Update.
My own beloved husband lost his bsttle with the Grim Reaper just before the Coronarovirus had us all battling for our lives. I'm gateful thst my Mike was spared dying alone without his family nearby and that we were still able to share memories of him at a get-together at my daughter's home. About those present were my longtime friend and Drama Desk colleague Bill Wolf and his lovely and beloved wife Lilian.

And now the unbelievsble has happened: Bill has succumbed to this nigtmsrish illness and Lilian, like me, must live with her memories of a wonderful man and a beautiful marriage.

Lilian's Bill and my Mike often shared jokes and memories of their long liffe histories when we attended press perforances. If there is indeed a heaven, here's hoping these wonderful men will find a corner where they can keep up that exchange.

March 29, 2020 Updste
Quote of the Day: "The idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another.s pain, sharing one another.s blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race or sex or geography or political affiliation." — Governor Andrew Cuomo including a quote of his father's definition of government's mission, in one of the dsily briefings that have made him America's source of facts and comfort. Another week of no theater-- no lots of things. And sadly , the coronarovirus has claimed too many more victims, including playwright Terrence McNally and one of our favorite actors, Mark Blum. Blum wasn't an actor whose name on the marquee sold tickets-- but his presence on any stage added character and depth. When the character he played in the Williamstown premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gsllery said "It's no fun getting old," he was talking about his octogenarian mother-in-law Gladys Green who was going through a painful decline. But neither is it fun to see so many vibrant people like Mark Blum die while still in their prime. And to know that even when this nightmare is over we won't see this versatile actor be part of the comeback of live theater. Our other shows posted to read about and also go to see remain shut down for the duration.

March 21, 2020 Update With this real life horror show escalating each day the enterprise long dubbed as "the fabulous invalid" is truly on life support. Shows are less likely than ever to actually reopen as announced-- if at all. The Broadway transfer of The Hangman and the latest revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf just aren't going to happen. London too has shut down so our London critic's postings have also hit a dead end.

Stay safe everyone, and if you haven't done so already, give streaming ================== ug. 12, 2020, 10:00 a.m. ET With Broadway still shuttered, Netflix is doing for the theater community what it and other streaming services have done for the movie business: airing content that can’t be seen where it was initially intended. On Wednesday, the Los Gatos-based company announced that it will stream a specially recorded version of “Diana: A Musical,” a new show about the British princess, ahead of its debut on Broadway. “Diana” began previews on March 2, with its opening scheduled for March 31 at the Longacre Theater, only to be shut down because of Covid-19. It will be filmed without an audience at the Longacre next month and will feature the original Broadway cast, including Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth. Christopher Ashley, the head of La Jolla Playhouse, where the show originated, is the director of the musical, which was capitalized at up to $17,750,000. “We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able share our show with theater lovers everywhere,” the lead producers, Beth Williams, Frank Marshall and the Araca Group, said in a joint statement. “Though there is no substitute for the live theater, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide.”


We are all living through an unprecedented chapter in civilization's history. In the thester, this is the first time ever that the motto "the show must go on" doesn't apply. The virus disaster has shuttered not just big Broadway theaters but the smaller ones. Even some of our critics who were able to see new shows during preview press performances have been asked not to post their reviews until the show until the show can indeed open( for example, Six).

Hopefully links to shows we did review will be active again when these precautions about people going to public plaes will no longer be necessary. Since Lonon theaters are still open, the postings there can indeed be seen.

My own recognition of the increased influence of streaming organizations and how their productions have more and more attracted top staage talent — and, of course, audiences — has led to my covering more stsge actor heavy shows like The Irishman & Marriage Story, The Two Popes , Binge Streaming Features:The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel & Shtisel, and Madame Secretary and The Crown. The current crisis is likely to make this "couch potato" style of entertainment the only one available

We're always interested in having some new theater loving, insightful backups join us as reviewers or feature writers. If you're interested, check out our Guidelines and then send details about yourself to esommer@pipeline.com



©Copyright 2020, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com hip with Audible, which will bring audio versions of the season.s plays to the Audible platform.

As the Festival's artistic director Mandy Greenfield put it "This virus might get to tell us what we cannot do, but it does not get to dictate what we can do. The voices of these artists will be heard. Through this alliance with Audible, we keep artists and the generative artistic process centered and steady through this unspeakably difficult moment when public gathering simply isn't possible." Bringing these productions to Audible will preserve a 2020 season that otherwise might have gone unseen (or unheard) while providing continued work for the involved artists and making their work available for Audible listeners around the world. Audible Theater has previously worked to capture Broadway and Off-Broadway performances and also commissioned plays as part of their $5 million Emerging Playwrights Fund, which launched in 2017.

Audible will now work with Williamstown Theatre Festival to distribute their 2020 season, which includes A Streetcar Named Desire starring Audra McDonald and Bobby Cannavale, Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, and the world premieres of Leslye Headland's Cult of Love, Sanaz Toossi's Wish You Were Here, Shakina Nayfac's Chonburi International Hotel & Butterfly Club, Stacy Osei-Kuffour's Animals, and the musical Row with book by Daniel Goldstein and music and lyrics by Dawn Landes.

April 8, 2020 Update. At a time when members of theater organizations like The Drama Desk and Outer Critics are bracing for a show a day (somes two) schedule in order to vote our choices for the annual awards. But these are not ordinary days. Members like me and other CurtainUp critics are limited to "couch potato" theater viewing and theaters have been and continue to be shut. Naturally, this calls for difficult decisions about whether to postpone, cancel or give awards; and figure out how best to reconceive annual celebrations as virtual events

And so, the Drama Desk — recognizing that the theater community's thousands of artists and craftspeople make it more urgent than ever to honor the outstanding work of this season has decided to reconfigure the Awards within the constraints of the difficult reality of the life we all live in. Given the uncertainty about the reopening of theaters and shows that would normally still be running, DD Co-Presidents Charles Wright and David Barbour, have announced that the 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards will adopt a revised season end date of March 11 (when the shutdowns began), move forward with the release of nominations on April 21, and announce the winners online on May 31.

I'm deeply moved to know that this year.s Awards will be presented in honor of the life of my dear friend William Wolf on whose board I was privileged to serve during his tenure as Drama Desk president. I miss you, Bill! In a life of many accomplishments, this is one honor you didn't need. So would my husband Mike and favorite plus-one ticket holder and proofreader, if the Grim Reaper hadn't gotten to him just weeks before you.



April 7, 2020 Update
As Governor Cuomo stated repestedly in this morning's newsbriefing "This is about we, not me. However in today's New York Times letters to the editor section, one reader (Ryan Dowling of Jersey City, NJ) responded to the "No Face Mask for Trump" headline as follows: "Of course Donald Trump will not be wearing a mask. The C.D.C. recommends masks because they help “you” not “me.” In Mr. Trump.s world there is only “me.” As Britain's Boris Johnson, another "me" focused world leader, learned, being powerful does not exempt anyone from having to follow the "we" rules to avoid being struck down by the virus.

April 5, 2020 Update
On and on go the days of living in isolation and contact with family, friends and colleagues lmited to texts and emails, and very occasional six-feet-of-separation-masked visits from my daughter. No more regular theater outings and computer time spent writing reviews, editing submissions from my backups, and keeping our on and off-Broadway listings up to date.

Weekdays and weekends run together with each day spent segueing between three screens - — iphone, ipad, laptop . With many journalists reporting from their homes we get glimpses of their decor. Besides tuning in on television stations more than I ever did, I read several newspapers each day. One of my favorite background pieces triggered by the pandemic was Kate Murphy's "Stop Using Toilet Paper" in the New York Times. As Murphy noted "panic buying of toilet paper has spread around the globe as rapidly as the virus, even though there have been no disruptions in supply and the symptoms of Covid-19 are primarily respiratory, not gastrointestinal. " She quotes from various toilet paper historians, Who knew that there there are indeed a good many of these.

The stress of my personal trauma of losing my beloved husband and now this universal trauma has hardly made for sleep-trough nights-. And so watching new and old , good and not so good filmed entertainment has seen me through many of those "can't get bsck to sleep" post midnight hours.

Without the need for my usually disciplined work schedule, it's not always easy to get myself motivated to post a some more features about my streaming adventures. But more ARE coming.



April 1, 2020 Update.
My own beloved husband lost his bsttle with the Grim Reaper just before the Coronarovirus had us all battling for our lives. I'm gateful thst my Mike was spared dying alone without his family nearby and that we were still able to share memories of him at a get-together at my daughter's home. About those present were my longtime friend and Drama Desk colleague Bill Wolf and his lovely and beloved wife Lilian.

And now the unbelievsble has happened: Bill has succumbed to this nigtmsrish illness and Lilian, like me, must live with her memories of a wonderful man and a beautiful marriage.

Lilian's Bill and my Mike often shared jokes and memories of their long liffe histories when we attended press perforances. If there is indeed a heaven, here's hoping these wonderful men will find a corner where they can keep up that exchange.

March 29, 2020 Updste
Quote of the Day: "The idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another.s pain, sharing one another.s blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race or sex or geography or political affiliation." — Governor Andrew Cuomo including a quote of his father's definition of government's mission, in one of the dsily briefings that have made him America's source of facts and comfort. Another week of no theater-- no lots of things. And sadly , the coronarovirus has claimed too many more victims, including playwright Terrence McNally and one of our favorite actors, Mark Blum. Blum wasn't an actor whose name on the marquee sold tickets-- but his presence on any stage added character and depth. When the character he played in the Williamstown premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gsllery said "It's no fun getting old," he was talking about his octogenarian mother-in-law Gladys Green who was going through a painful decline. But neither is it fun to see so many vibrant people like Mark Blum die while still in their prime. And to know that even when this nightmare is over we won't see this versatile actor be part of the comeback of live theater. Our other shows posted to read about and also go to see remain shut down for the duration.

March 21, 2020 Update With this real life horror show escalating each day the enterprise long dubbed as "the fabulous invalid" is truly on life support. Shows are less likely than ever to actually reopen as announced-- if at all. The Broadway transfer of The Hangman and the latest revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf just aren't going to happen. London too has shut down so our London critic's postings have also hit a dead end.

Stay safe everyone, and if you haven't done so already, give streaming ================== ug. 12, 2020, 10:00 a.m. ET With Broadway still shuttered, Netflix is doing for the theater community what it and other streaming services have done for the movie business: airing content that can’t be seen where it was initially intended. On Wednesday, the Los Gatos-based company announced that it will stream a specially recorded version of “Diana: A Musical,” a new show about the British princess, ahead of its debut on Broadway. “Diana” began previews on March 2, with its opening scheduled for March 31 at the Longacre Theater, only to be shut down because of Covid-19. It will be filmed without an audience at the Longacre next month and will feature the original Broadway cast, including Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth. Christopher Ashley, the head of La Jolla Playhouse, where the show originated, is the director of the musical, which was capitalized at up to $17,750,000. “We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able share our show with theater lovers everywhere,” the lead producers, Beth Williams, Frank Marshall and the Araca Group, said in a joint statement. “Though there is no substitute for the live theater, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide.”


We are all living through an unprecedented chapter in civilization's history. In the thester, this is the first time ever that the motto "the show must go on" doesn't apply. The virus disaster has shuttered not just big Broadway theaters but the smaller ones. Even some of our critics who were able to see new shows during preview press performances have been asked not to post their reviews until the show until the show can indeed open( for example, Six).

Hopefully links to shows we did review will be active again when these precautions about people going to public plaes will no longer be necessary. Since Lonon theaters are still open, the postings there can indeed be seen.

My own recognition of the increased influence of streaming organizations and how their productions have more and more attracted top staage talent — and, of course, audiences — has led to my covering more stsge actor heavy shows like The Irishman & Marriage Story, The Two Popes , Binge Streaming Features:The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel & Shtisel, and Madame Secretary and The Crown. The current crisis is likely to make this "couch potato" style of entertainment the only one available

We're always interested in having some new theater loving, insightful backups join us as reviewers or feature writers. If you're interested, check out our Guidelines and then send details about yourself to esommer@pipeline.com



©Copyright 2020, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com