Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on SKYLIGHT, FOREVER, THE OTHER THING, HAND TO GOD and NEW COUNTRY.

David Hare’s Skylight, at the Golden Theatre, is a poignant love story about a middle aged man and a much younger woman. He’s a wealthy businessman; she’s his former assistant and mistress who left him 7 years ago and now lives in a cruddy neighborhood in north London, where she teaches underprivileged kids. He turns up and pleads with her to come back to him, his wife having died. Will she or won’t she? Were the play written by an American, that’s pretty much all it would be – a love story. But for Hare, whose work more than once has put me in mind of Shaw, it’s much more than that. Skylight is a beautifully written, deeply felt examination of what makes life worth living. Are we on this Earth to try and make it a better place, or is “What’s in it for me” all that matters?

The current production, starring Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan, is superb. Nighy is far less twitchy than usual, and he’s very eloquent as he makes his case for her dumping poverty. Mulligan is equally eloquent, as she explains why she can’t.

Skylight has another couple of weeks in its run. If you like plays which make you think, don’t miss it – if you can get a ticket.

Forever, at NY Theatre Workshop, is a memoir written by and featuring Dael Orlandersmith, wherein she related how she came to be the person she is, taking us through her abusive childhood. It starts and ends at Paris’ Pere Lachaise cemetery, where many of the literary and musical figures who touched her life are buried. Orlandersmith’s writing is extraordinary, as is she in its delivery. Ordinarily, I am not a fan of narration as opposed to drama, but Forever is an exception. It’s very powerful, and not to be missed.

Emily Schwend’s The Other Thing, at Second Stage Uptown’s McGinn/Cazale Theatre, is a creepy horror story about a free-lance journalist who becomes possessed from time to time by a demonic personality who causes her to murder men. I found the play fascinating, though I was horrified that the playwright veers perilously close to saying that the more murdered men, the better. That said, Samantha Soule’s performance as the tortured anti-heroine, Kim, is very powerful, quite a tour de force. The Other Thing is not exactly feel good theatre, particularly for guys, but I applaud the playwright for her courage and her honesty in delving into the dark corners of the female psyche.

Robert Askins’ Hand to God, at the Booth Theatre, is also about a dual personality, a teenaged boy named Jason  whose hand puppet, whom he calls Tyrone, may or may not be the Devil. Hand to God is a lot funnier than The Other Thing, though, and what makes it a better play is the titanic struggle between Jason and the thing on his hand. Stephen Boyer is giving what deserves to be a “star is born” performance as Jason/Tyrone, and Geneva Carr, who plays his mother, is extraordinary as well.

Hand to God, a new American play with no stars, seems to be making a go of it on Broadway, which is quite an achievement which I attribute to strong word of mouth.

It’s definitely a don’t-miss.

Mark Roberts’ New Country, produced by Rattlestick at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, is a comedy about a callow, self-obsessed country music star named Jason and his entourage which includes, tonight, his slightly addled uncle, who has arrived in Las Vegas for his nephew’s wedding. Also in the mix is his ex-girlfriend, Sharon, who barges in not to disrupt the wedding but to demand a thank-you from Jason for everything she did for him before he became famous and dumped her. All the performances are wonderful, but particularly wonderful are Sarah Lemp as Sharon and the playwright (who is a very successful TV writer and producer) as Uncle Jim.

New Country is the kind of play I used to see regularly at the Humana Festival before it got all artsy-fartsy. It deserves to move; but it probably won’t, so see it while you can. It’s great fun.

SKYLIGHT. Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.

TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200

FOREVER. New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. 4th St.

TICKETS: www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200

THE OTHER THING. McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway

Tickets: 212-246-4422

HAND TO GOD. Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St

TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200

NEW COUNTRY. Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce St.

TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200

 

For discount tickets for groups of ten or more, contact Carol Ostrow Productions & Group Sales. Phone: 212-265-8500. E-Mail: ostrow1776@aol.com.

 

“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”

 

                                                                                      — George F. Will

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

 

                                                                                    — Theodore Roosevelt

 

Share