Posts Tagged ‘La Ronde’

Review – Hello Again – The Union Theater

September 8, 2019

I’ll say this for Schnitzler’s “La Ronde” – there are a million different ways to slice it on stage. Michael John La Chiusa has turned it into a musical, following the original’s form of “each scene being about a couple, the next scene featuring one person from the previous scene and one new person,” even going so far as to mirror the cast of characters – the sex worker, the soldier etc., ending with the sex worker … although Schnitzler has taken some liberties, such has making the poet a writer and the count a senator … but really, it is a very close parallel to the original work. This is the show, “Hello Again,” that is currently on stage at the Union Theatre.

Stylistically, though, with this framework in place, the music and settings off each piece are hugely varied, almost as if it were intended to be a sourcebook for examples of many different styles (rather in the way Chicago played on the different sort of vaudeville acts). Together it adds up to a fantastic showcase for the cast (although the changes in times from World War I to the Sixties and the Seventies did leave my head spinning). And the sexual encounters, while not involving nudity, did manage to get some real electricity going on stage – especially fun in the scene with the nurse seducing her (hopeful) charge. The heat on stage even seemed to hit the fire monitoring system, as we were forced to leave due to an unruly alarm mistaking smoke for actual danger.

Of the cast, my favorite for pure musical joy was Ellen O’Grady, who opened and closed the piece with a warm, winning voice that spoke to me of years on the stage. It seemed almost a shame to have so many people in the cast – in that it seemed a waste to only have each of them in two numbers! I mean, come on, we got to the seventies, where was the orgy? At least we got to have some same sex scenes, both in a scene set in the early 20th century and one hitting the drugs-and-disco era.

Overall, though, I didn’t find this show blew me away, in part because the episodic nature of the text made it hard to build dramatic tension, narrative, or character. It’s a problem shared by the original to be sure. Still, as a night of showcase moments, it was pleasant enough and adds a good balance to the hardcore musical or theater goer’s diet.

(This review is for opening night, which took place on Friday, August 20th, 2019. It continues through September 21st.)

Review – Fucking Men – King’s Head Theater

September 1, 2015

I know myself pretty well. I don’t just go to theater to be enlightened or entertained; sometimes I like to get a little sexy going, too. Usually I can get my bourgeois porn fix at the ballet or the circus; but theater aimed at gay men will often do it pretty well (and then there’s Briefs, a transvestite circus spectacular, that’s all the boxes ticked in one). In the case of Fucking Men (now on at the King’s Head Theater), I wasn’t entirely sure just how much of an enlightenment I would experience as to the world of gay men on the prowl; but I felt pretty sure that some pecs and glutes in compromising positions were very likely to be on offer. What better play for a first date, I ask you?

As it turns out, Fucking Men, despite its modern title, is just an update of La Ronde, that hundred year old chestnut about people sleeping with each other in a chain. It manages to follow the original structure to the tune that it’s a whore in the first and last scenes; but in between, we have a porn star, a student, an idealistic teacher, an actor … well, actually, looking at La Ronde, it looks like the structure has been followed pretty closely. Still, the devil is in the details, and the hard conversations about what it is that’s turning the various men on is entirely outside of the heterosexual narrative I’m familiar with and much, much steamier. We get crotch-rubbing, naked bums, and sexy torsos galore, not to mention implied oral sex and a fair amount of post coital what have you, with a bit of bonus drugs … my my!

When I could rip my eyes away from the candy on stage, I’m afraid I was occasionally finding the acting and even the dialogue a bit flat – the old married couple arguing was stiff, and the man who played the famous TV personality decidedly wooden – but the action still got a rise out of me. (And, truth be told, the playwright was hilarious, even if he was just too camp to be believed.) But I enjoyed myself anyway – sometimes it’s not all about having your intellectual funnybone tickled.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, August 28, 2015. It continues through September 26th.)