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Archive for Notes From Arden

COMPANY at Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

When it debuted on Broadway in 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company (book by George Furth) rattled both social and theatrical sensibilities. Imagine having a boy-meets girls scenario where the boy, Robert (Cris Cortez), starts and ends the musical single. Why? He just doesn’t see the point of marriage and/or he’s unable to connect/commit. Psychotherapy meets existential ennui as another institution (marriage) bites the dust. Or is something else going on?

Robert, or Bobby as he’s frequently called, is a kind of theatrical cipher. Even Hamlet, still attending university (Bobby opens the play celebrating his 35th birthday) is far younger, more depressed and agitated than Bobby. Like Bobby, Hamlet waltzes through his play sabotaging his most intimate relationships, but at least the reasons for his behavior are evident, and he eventually does something about it. Bobby, however, just swirls among five hetero married couples, who each in their respective ways tries to get him to settle down, grow up and get married – as most people felt compelled to do 50-plus years ago. Read more…

Now through August 7

UNCLE VANYA at Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology zooms forward, but human nature remains stubbornly persistent. Thus a play such as Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which premiered in 1899, can still speak to us today, can still cause us to laugh or cry at its characters’ folly or heartbreak. The new production of Vanya at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring a powerhouse lead performance from Hugo Armstrong, is a clear and entertaining demonstration that humanity is the same regardless of the century it’s in. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

Hugo Armstrong Transforms Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Having been largely weaned on the plays of Anton Chekhov, and his turn of the 20th century mingling of regret and humor while something, always something, is ending (Chekhov wrote as the Russian Revolution was brewing), I admit to a trepidation in seeing productions of plays by the Russian literary giant, because they so rarely rise to their complex occasion. They’re usually suffocated by affectation of some kind – such as an obsequious devotion to kitchen sink realism, and samovars and wicker furniture, or, in American or British hands, an effort to invent what it means to be Russian in 1899; that rarely turns out well. Read more…

Now through June 26