Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kyogen: Traditional Comic Theater Of Japan

Perhaps the most surprising thing about "Kyogen: Traditional Comic Theater of Japan," comprised of two classic kyogen - literal translation "mad words" or "wild speech" - tales, is how accessible the production is to western eyes. Presented by the Yamamoto Kyogen Company, a family that for generations has been practicing this comedic art form that developed alongside noh and dates back to the early 14th century, "Shido Hogaku (Stop in Your Tracks)" and "Tsukimi Zato (Moon-viewing Blind Man)" are both as timeless and engaging as anything in the Shakespeare canon. No wonder Charlie Chaplin called kyogen "the most sophisticated art form" when he visited the Yamamoto clan's theater in 1932.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Two Gentlemen Of Lebowski

As a theater and film critic familiar with the Bard's buddy comedy about friendship and love, but who must guiltily confess to never having seen the Coen brothers' cult hit on which filmmaker Adam Bertocci's play "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski" is mostly based, I can attest that one need not be a White Russian drinking, pot smoking, bowling playing fan of The Dude to enjoy DMTheatrics' American Shakespeare Factory (in association with Horse Trade Theater Group's) latest thoroughly engaging and swift moving production. But it helps. Especially if you don't want to feel left out as those seated around you anxiously await the transformation of their favorite Dude koans.

To read the rest visit Theater Online.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Caligula Maximus

"Rocky Horror Picture Show" meets Coney Island Sideshow is how best to describe writer/director Alfred Preisser and writer Randy Weiner's "Caligula Maximus," a loveably scruffy and ragged extravaganza set on the last night of the debauched dictator's life. While not exactly DIY indie theater - Preisser is better known as the co-founder of Classical Theatre of Harlem while Weiner owns hipster venue The Box - "Caligula Maximus" does boast a homemade "let's put on a show" sensibility that shines addictively through.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Story of Ramb O" now available on YouTube!

My four-minute, homoerotic quickie The Story of Ramb O is now playing for a limited time (until YouTube gives me the boot).

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Oath at New Directors/New Films 2010

Fresh on the heels of the Academy Award-nominated “My Country, My Country” (New Directors/New Films 2006), “The Oath” is the second film in director Laura Poitras's trilogy examining America and the repercussions of its policies after 9/11, and yet already it feels dated. Poitras spent two years filming in Yemen and Guantanamo Bay in order to tell the parallel stories of Salim Hamdan—of "Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld," Osama bin Laden's onetime driver who the Supreme Court sided with in that landmark case—and the brother-in-law who recruited him into Al Qaeda, Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former bodyguard. While family man Hamdan, a low-priority target sitting in solitary confinement, is seen and heard only through grainy video images and prison letters, charismatic psychopath Jandal shuttles between prayers with his young son, the Yemeni streets in his taxicab, and meetings with jihadi wannabes.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

“The Sun Behind The Clouds”: missed opportunity

To this jaded New Yorker, the recent political brouhaha surrounding Tibetan filmmakers Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin’s “The Sun Behind The Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom” seems much ado about nothing. The documentary, shot throughout 2008 leading up to the Beijing Olympics and structured around the biggest uprising in that Chinese-controlled country since it lost its independence in 1959, was the reason the state-run China Film Group pulled its feature “City of Life and Death” from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. (A subsequent screening of that movie here at NYC’s Film Forum, which premieres “The Sun Behind The Clouds” on March 31st, was also cancelled.)

That the Chinese don’t want to be included in any festival that also screens a pro-Tibet doc is simply as childish as that same government’s naïve belief that all their Tibetan woes will vanish once the Dalai Lama dies and a state-approved lama takes his place. It’s as silly as Americans once magically thinking that the capture of Osama bin Laden would quell Muslim hatred of us.

To read the rest of my review visit Global Comment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Perestroika at New Directors/New Films 2010

Making the political personal seems to be one of the running themes of this year's New Directors/New Films, and Robin Hessman's wondrously thought-provoking “My Perestroika”—literal translation "My Restructuring"—truly brings that concept home. Like a Russian version of Michael Apted's “42 Up,” Hessman's doc, which begins and ends with the national rite of the first day of school, observes the lives of five everyman classmates through the juxtaposition of their Soviet childhood home movies (i.e. unofficial history) and old communist documentary footage (the official history) and present-day interviews. As an American expat who spent a good part of the turbulent '90s living as an outsider in Leningrad and Moscow, tightrope-walking between cultures during the Cold War's thaw, Hessman possesses an East-West street cred that pays off in spades with her honestly reflective and unselfconscious subjects. A Glasnost-worthy openness shines through every face.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I'd been greatly looking forward to seeing "Sin," directed by Kent Paul and adapted from the short story "The Unseen" by Isaac Bashevis Singer (author of the better known "Yentl"), for quite some time now. Though I know nothing of the source material for this comedic thriller - that takes place in 16th Century Poland and concerns a happily married, observantly Jewish couple whose lives are upturned by the devil and his temptress minions on Yom Kippur - I have read the play. Having been given an earlier draft by its writer Mark Altman (who I'd gotten to know after I reviewed "Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls," which he co-wrote) I now find myself in the odd position of also knowing that Altman's page-turner of a play is, well, better than the sum of its production parts.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Women Without Men at New Directors/New Films 2010

Like visual artist Steve McQueen, who also recently made the shift from museums and galleries to the cinema with a story involving British imperialism and the body politic made literal, Iranian-born Shirin Neshat certainly knows how to speak without words. Winner of the Silver Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival, Neshat's debut feature, “Women Without Men,” is based on a novel with magical-realist flourishes by author Shahrnush Parsipur (who also has a delightful turn as a brothel madam in the movie), and like its source, the film's images are painstakingly crafted and painfully alive. Which makes this film about the death of a democracy, and which opens with a suicide, all the more compelling.

To read the rest of my review visit New Directors/New Films 2010 at Slant Magazine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Battle of Chile

“All points of view about a historical reality are valid and contribute to building a country’s history,” a wise young student says in “Chile, Obstinate Memory,” the heartbreaking homecoming film from the four-disc edition of Patricio Guzman’s mid-70s documentary, “The Battle of Chile,” just released by Icarus Films. The three parts of “The Battle of Chile” (“The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie,” “The Coup d’Etat,” and “The Power of The People”) comprise a meticulous and gripping eyewitness account of the events that culminated in the CIA-backed military coup that led to the assassination of the country’s democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende.

To read the rest of my review visit The Rumpus.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury

If you happened to miss the hit simian smackdown "Craven Monkey and the Mountain of Fury" this past December at The Brick Theater's Fight Fest you're in luck. Piper McKenzie Productions is bringing the bug-picking monkeys and eye-popping predators back to The Brick for another delightful run. Wordless save for the disembodied voice of a narrator - played by writer/director Jeff Lewonczyk in the manner of a BBC talking head dryly presenting a nature documentary - piped in over the Darwinian proceedings the play follows the story of one gangly monkey's journey from blissful ignorance to self-conscious awareness. Which is pretty poignant philosophical stuff for a show that begins and ends with some playfully lewd monkey humping.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

“A Behanding in Spokane” at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“A Behanding in Spokane” is enfant terrible Martin McDonagh's first play to be set in America, and stars Christopher Walken, the one celebrity who would seem the perfect fit for the Tarantino-of-the-stage's mix of startling menace and hilarious absurdity. But the multiple Tony-nominated and Academy Award-winning Irishman's latest project—despite the presence of always finely tuned Walken and a nothing less than revelatory Sam Rockwell—is minor McDonagh. And that's being generous. Without those two tent-pole presences holding it up, “Behanding” would fold like a cheap house of cards.

To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Conor McPherson & Ciarán Hinds discuss “The Eclipse”

Writer/director Conor McPherson’s “The Eclipse,” based on a short story by Billy Roche, is a bittersweet romance with a gothic horror twist set in a sleepy Irish seaside town. The film follows single parent Michael Farr (a revelatory Ciarán Hinds) as he struggles to come to terms with both the death of his wife and the impending demise of her father – not to mention terrifying ghosts that appear at random. His only hope comes in the form of Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle, in a seemingly effortless performance), a supernatural fiction writer being stalked by a best-selling author played by a scarily unpredictable Aidan Quinn. Magnolia Pictures will release the film here in New York and in Los Angeles on Friday, March 26th with a national U.S. rollout to follow.

I spoke with both the Tony Award-nominated playwright McPherson (“Shining City,” “The Seafarer”) and his leading man Hinds (“Munich,” “There Will Be Blood”) – who took home the Best Actor award at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for his performance as the haunted widower – at the chic Ace Hotel as a raging snowstorm stirred the spirits of midtown Manhattan outside.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.