Adina Verson

Vot Ken You Mach?

Review of Indecent at Yale Repertory Theatre

Indecent, the first of three world premieres at the Yale Repertory Theatre this season, presents two striking tableaux: first, a group of players arrayed before us, introduced by the stage manager Lemml (Richard Topol), drip sawdust from their cuffs. And, near the close, a cascade of rain that brings to life the oft-mentioned rain scene in Sholem Asch’s The God of Vengeance, the early twentieth-century Yiddish play that acts as the occasion for Indecent’s revisiting of theater history.

Between those two poetic theatrical moments, Paula Vogel’s new play, directed by Rebecca Taichman, presents the fortunes of Asch’s play, a play that, in 1923 when it finally reached Broadway in a truncated version, was prosecuted as “obscene, indecent.” Sure, the play features a brothel and a lesbian love affair and, maybe, sacrilege, but the real reason for suppression, someone in Vogel’s play suggests, was “Jews on Broadway.”

Steven Rattazzi and the cast of Indecent

Steven Rattazzi and the cast of Indecent

Though presented with quick scene changes, moving from 1907 to 1952, by a cast of 7 actors and 3 musicians with scant use of props and with many minor roles to keep track of, Indecent is oddly static. Vogel employs the vignette approach familiar from her regional staple A Civil War Christmas and tries to work in as much historical detail as possible in a wealth of brief scenes, most supported by subtitles telling us when and what.

Along the way we get the first awkward reading of The God of Vengeance by a group of uncomfortable men; Asch’s play’s dramatic close in a swift “onstage” montage in a number of major European cities; the offstage romance between, first, Ruth (Adina Verson) and Dorothee (Katrina Lenk), then between Virigina (Verson) and Dorothee, shaped by the onstage romance of the characters they play; the troupe’s arrival in the U.S. via Ellis Island; and the fortunes of European Jewry, most particularly and movingly when Lemml, who remains a staunch champion of the play from that first reading onward, stages the play in the Lodz ghetto created by Nazi occupation. Asch’s play, for Lemml, is one of the greatest ever written and, since Lemml is such a sympathetic character, we want to believe him.

Max Gordon Moore (left), Richard Topol (front), Tom Nelis (right)

Max Gordon Moore (left), Richard Topol (front), Tom Nelis (right)

Still, Indecent’s handling of The God of Vengeance makes the earlier play seem at times rather quaint and at other times an incendiary text. It’s hard to say, given what we’re shown of it, how we would respond to it if we were to sit through it, but it’s also hard to say whose attitude toward the play—Asch himself doesn’t seem to think it’s sacrosanct and approves cuts the way anyone who wants to get his play on Broadway might—we should accept. Vogel and Taichman mainly approach the play through its sexual politics, so that a lesbian love—which is enough to cause Asch’s patriarch Yekel to condemn his daughter Rifkele to “a whorehouse”—emerges as the theme to be duly noted and celebrated. Thus the key scene between Rifkele (Verson), the virgin, and Manke (Lenk), the prostitute, is mediated through various enactments and distortions before the final rain scene evokes the highly romantic alignment at the heart of Indecent.

Adina Verson, Katrina Lenk

Adina Verson, Katrina Lenk

Working against whatever dramatic gold might be found in all this retrospective prospecting is Indecent’s somewhat clunky staging. It’s not simply that the characters tend to be caricatures—the big name actor, the vain and clueless name actress, the intense author, the earnest ingenue, the self-conscious lesbian—but that the acting doesn’t help. Playing all the senior male roles, Tom Nelis seems anything but a Yiddish patriarch, while Max Gordon Moore, usually an asset, never seems to inhabit Asch. The female roles fare somewhat better, particularly Lenk’s bit of German cabaret, and the eros-through-acting between Verson’s Virginia and Lenk’s Dorothee. As Lemml, Topol’s focused performance adds the strongest note of advocacy for theater as identity.

Plotwise, movement between scenes is more didactic than intriguing or entertaining. Time marches on and things happen. Eventually, (we know) the play will be resurrected from the dustbin of history by a well-intentioned contemporary playwright. We’re not privy to any scenes from the rehearsals of Indecent, but we do get a final, fairly egregious scene that name-drops Yale as a goyisch bastion from which Mr. Rosen (Moore) travels to do homage to Asch (Ellis) just as McCarthyism is getting underway. It’s as if Vogel’s fertile mind has been tasked with working-in every possible historical connection that might make Asch’s play worthwhile and memorable, though without getting “meta” and commenting on her own appropriation. But by keeping Yiddish culture at arms’ length—we see the language in subtitles but hear precious little onstage—Indecent doesn’t recreate a bygone culture as much as it might, and by rushing through every era with the same even tone, the play’s texture becomes a bit diffuse.

Indecent’s themes, which are important and varied, deserve better. In the end, Indecent is little more than decent.

Indecent
Written by Paula Vogel
Created by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

Choreographer: David Dorfman; Composers: Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva; Music Director: Aaron Halva; Scenic Designer: Riccardo Hernandez; Costume Designer: Emily Rebholz; Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind; Sound Designer: Matt Hubbs; Projection Designer: Tal Yarden; Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis; Fight Director: Rick Sordelet; Yiddish Consultant: Joel Berkowitz; Production Dramaturg: Amy Boratko; Casting Director: Tara Rubin Casting; Stage Manager: Amanda Spooner

Cast: Richard Topol; Katrina Lenk; Mimi Lieber; Max Gordon Moore; Tom Nelis; Steven Rattazzi; Adina Verson; Musicians: Lisa Gutkin; Aaron Halva; Travis W. Hendrix

Yale Repertory Theatre
October 2-24, 2015

Theater on the Fringes

Last month Playbill ran an article on theater groups raising money for their projects through Kickstarter. One example was Old Sound Room, a troupe comprised of current and former Yale School of Drama students. In June, the group’s inaugural production, Old Sound Room Lear, played for 9 performances in Harlem. The show presented an interesting mix of Shakespeare's King Lear—significantly condensed in running time, shorn of many characters and combining others—and contemporary theater touches, such as movement, musical interludes, and the voices of interviewees at the Lilian Booth Home for retired actors. OSR Lear placed front and center the story of Lear as a tale of aging, of the aged coming to terms with their changed status—loss of youth—and with the freshness of the next generation, compelled by ideas of its own. If that doesn’t quite sound like the play you remember, that’s the point. Old Sound Room side-stepped the tragic aspects of the play in an effort to find something more upbeat.

YSD students gain great training in how to speak Shakespeare, so that element of the show was strong—King Lear being one of the greatest plays ever written, of course—and they also undergo immense challenges of compression in what are called “Shakespeare Quartets” where an extremely scaled-down cast of four or five tackles one of the Bard’s plays in intensive workshop productions. Such skills served OSR in good stead in their version of Lear.

Special mention should be made of Brian Wiles as Lear—head shaved for the occasion like a sort of sinister Daddy Warbucks; his rages were in-keeping with a Lear not mad so much as vain with an old man’s self-regard that added pathos to the performance. The scene on the heath in the storm was particularly memorable with Wiles bound by several ropes he tugged this way and that, making scary lunges at the nearby audience. As the evil sisters, Goneril and Regen, Elia Monte-Brown and Adina Verson, respectively, managed to find some good in the girls, as daughters beset by an unruly and uncooperative elder who has “ever but slenderly known himself.” It was easy to picture the offspring of aged Baby Boomers joining forces against the spoiled brats their parents have become, with Sophie von Haselberg's Fool a kind of doting stepchild.

Fisher Neal, as Kent, engaged Lear from time to time with lively argument, and Laura Gragtmans gave an affecting aura to Cordelia who combined with the role of Edgar—Gloucester’s good son—and ended alive by her father’s side. Here, with no Gloucester in the cast, Lear endured the blinding that befalls the latter, ending his days in peace with his faithful daughter, à la Oedipus, blinded and beggared at Colonus. The condensation of the play created a more recuperative evening, but it made of Edmund (Dan O’Brien) a more toothless villain such as is found in Shakespeare’s comedies. O’Brien did a nice turn as the discontented upstart, unmatched, here, with any good brother to "gall his kibe."

In some ways, the effect was a bit like watching half the play, but OSR found a way to extend their chosen theme by enacting the interviewees from the Booth retirement home. This turned out to be one of my favorite features, as the cast was uniformly entertaining in their staging of aged actors and actresses commenting on Lear and recounting what the process of maturing has meant for them. The movement segments were less clearly apropos, though they made for some swift transitions, while other touches—such as Gragtmans’ very eerie rendition of “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly”—added striking interludes.

So, what’s next for the group? According to Adina Verson, she and OSR Lear’s director, Michael McQuilken, have put together a show called Machine Makes Man which they are preparing to launch in the Amsterdam Fringe Festival under the umbrella of OSR. The Festival is smaller than some—such as New York’s—and is more selective, with the participants put up for the duration of their 6 performances. The show received input from the other OSR members, and there is talk of trying to get the piece installed within an alliance of 9 to 10 different Fringe Festivals in Europe and South Africa, which would give the group a base on a touring circuit. There’s hope too that MMM will find its way to New York, perhaps as early as the fall.

Machine Makes Man is based on the idea of “the singularity” as espoused in the writings of Ray Kurzweil, wherein technological advances overtake the human species’ ability to process them. In other words, living in the future will require “enhanced humans” who have developed beyond “an outdated homo sapien,” to use Ray Davies’ line. In the not-too-distant future, a married couple face the ramifications of enhancing themselves. Specifically, the husband has opted to become “a cloud of energy” and the wife pays a visit to the company responsible for the technology to complain, which sets off a flashback about how the couple got to that point.

Kurzweil, now the head of engineering at Google, has been a major player in the development of technologies with strong human interface, such as translating between languages and the text-to-speech synthesizer, and argues for mankind's improvement through technology. Taking its cue from how transgender characters are portrayed in our culture, Machine Makes Man aims to dramatize the condition of the “transhuman”—an idea Kurzweil sees as key to the future.

And what of the future of OSR? The group has been learning the ropes of being an up-and-coming DIY theater group—which means writing grants and applying for non-profit status—and, because the group’s first show followed hard upon the group’s founding, OSR has still to hash-out what kind of company they want to be. Clearly, the main design is for collaborative theater, though it may be that various theatrical outings may join beneath the OSR banner so long as some of the members are at its core. There are further plans to workshop Lear, though it can’t be done for the same kind of venue due to the “showcase code”—which means that something more in-depth and definite is likely to emerge by and by that is very like Lear and yet not.

For now, the 12 members of OSR have dispersed their divers ways—some returning as students to YSD productions in the fall—to meet again anon.

A New Theatrical Group Debuts

Ever wonder what students in the Yale School of Drama do in the off-season? One answer is: form new theatrical groups. One such new group, Old Sound Room, was recently formed by two current students, Elia Monte-Brown and Dan O’Brien. The troupe consists of 3 other current students and 7 recent YSD grads. OSR’s inaugural production, Old Sound Room Lear begins this weekend, June 14th, and will run till the 23rd.

According to Adina Verson, a co-founder and a performer in the first show, the idea for OSR grew out of the interest in keeping YSD collaborations going after graduation. Verson also mentioned that some of the recent grads had wanted to work with some of their underclassmen and hadn't had many opportunities during their time at YSD. The creativity and talent of the group is assured, but how did the first production idea come about?

For various reasons, the idea of basing the show on Shakespeare was in the cards from early on, but the approach developed through themes the group wanted to explore, particularly inter-generational obligations of seniors to juniors, and vice versa, in our society. Shakespeare’s King Lear, of course, dramatizes the chaos that ensues when a king retires too soon, little suspecting how irrelevant a man becomes once stripped of his former title and duties. His daughters, who have little sympathy for his plight, take on the burden of reigning while also having to care for Lear in his erratic fancies. Verson and her colleagues sought out tenants of retirement homes who would share their views of the aging process and the challenges faced by those who have, like Lear, given up their occupations and duties in retirement. Fortunately, OSR gained the cooperation of the Lillian Booth Assisted Living Facility, which meant that the interviews were conducted with retired actors, from ages 75 to 90.

For Verson and her colleagues, the issue of “responsibility across generations” guided their discussions, trying to assess the younger generation’s obligation to the elder, and the elder’s duties toward the younger, as all families find themselves dealing with the aging of a generation that is long-lived and, as Baby Boomers, never were ones to give up their youth easily. The material from the interviews is scattered throughout the show, along with dance and expressive movement and musical interludes, to highlight the themes of Lear for our current times. The show should be “both a conversation and a confrontation with the separate worlds” that different generations tend to inhabit. By reaching out to retired or semi-retired actors, OSR pondered their own futures as well as the past of persons like themselves, still living in the light of the work they did, still dreaming of roles they would love to play.

Verson says that an impetus behind the innovative approach to the text was the tendency, as YSD students, to rework classics in a more contemporary theatrical idiom, coupled with the challenge of a young troupe—most of them under thirty—taking on the great canonical play of elderly tragedy. Another criteria for the production is that all members have an equal say in the performance, and, though three of the twelve-member group are unavailable to participate in the inaugural production, the show was arrived at democratically.

Michael McQuilken, the only member of the troupe trained as a director at YSD—his original play Jib, featuring his own songs and score, was his thesis show in 2011—directs OSR Lear, but, according to Verson, the role of Artistic Director means, for McQuilken, that he be an “enabler of all voices” in the group, making sure that all are represented in the final work.

Those who have followed YSD shows of the last few years—including work at the Yale Cabaret—will be familiar with most of the troupe already. Brian Wiles, William DeMerritt, Fisher Neal, and Adina Verson all acted in Louisa Proske’s thesis production of Cymbeline in 2010; Ashton Heyl, Dan O'Brien, Sophie von Haselberg, and Carmen Zilles performed in Ethan Heard’s thesis production of Sunday in the Park with George last fall, and O’Brien and Zilles played the title roles in Romeo and Juliet in the spring; Laura Gragtmans played Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra in 2012, and Elia Monte-Brown acted in Richard II this past spring; Neal, Verson and DeMerritt were also featured in Lileana Blain-Cruz’s thesis production of Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights in 2010.

For OSR, this show is only the beginning.  The group raised over $24,000 through Kickstarter to fund a living wage for the actors during the show's run, which will be performed in a donated space.  Future options may include finding a permanent home such as the Yale Cabaret enjoys, or to work within site-specific spaces for different productions.  While the next production is uncertain, what is certain is that OSR Lear promises to be a thoughtful and skillful performance of particular interest to fans of YSD shows.

 

Old Sound Room Lear June 14th- 23rd, 2013: 14th & 15th @ 8pm 16th @ 2pm & 8pm 20th and 21st @ 8pm 22nd at 2pm & 8pm 23rd @ 2pm

General Seating: $18 Under 30/Over 65: $10

HUB Studios 165 Lenox Ave, btwn 118th and 119th 2/3 train to 116th

www.oldsoundroom.com

A Night at the Theater

We sometimes forget how much Shakespeare was a fantasist.  The ghost in Hamlet, the witches and apparitions in Macbeth have become so familiar as to be normal.  Even odd bits of “grand Guignol” style bloodletting—Gloucester’s eyes, anyone?—rarely meet with the shock we might otherwise experience if not somewhat inured by Shakespeare’s sublime reputation.  If we think about it, we might recall that his plays were considered extremely indecorous by the leading lights of eras much less heteroclite in their tastes than ours.  Thus one of the delights of a Romance like Cymbeline, in current production at the Yale School of Drama, is that it reminds us how bizarre and baroque the Bard can be. Because Cymbeline doesn’t get staged as often as the better-known plays, we can still be surprised by it.  It’s a play with a sprawling cast that keeps us guessing about whose story this really is; it gives us lots of set-ups and exposition that seem to have subtitles saying “wait for it!” as it works out a wondrously interlinked plot with no real center; and it’s a play with moments of either comic or icky—or both—melodrama, like Imogen waking from another one of those Juliet-death-trance potions to find herself, she believes, beside the corpse of her love, Posthumus, only the body is headless, so how’s a girl to be sure? Its very oddity makes it quite a good play for YSD as it presents many instances for the team, led by third-year director Louisa Proske, to create effects as erratic as the play itself.

Start with the visually arresting costumes by Nikki Delhomme: rich and classy for the court figures; they situate the characters in some old European film of easy elegance, like Rules of the Game, for instance, and that’s not a bad comparison for the levels of society we encounter in this play; for there are also the bumpkins (who are really royalty), shirtless and perpetually wrassling, and there’s Imogen looking as though she’s imprisoned by her ballooning skirts—until she dons a traveling-coat, looking like Helena Bonham-Carter in A Room with a View setting off on an adventure.  There are also soldiers about who look sort of WWI era, and there’s the sumptuous jacket of the foolish fop Cloten that could grace Liberace, and, finally, our romantic hero Posthumus’ simple man threads—think Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant when he really has to play self-effacing; and don’t forget the scene in a sauna where the guys—lots of prime male flesh on view in this show—hang about in towels, talk women, make a wager on Iachimo seducing Imogen.

Light (Solomon Weisbard) and sound (Palmer Hefferan and Michaël Attias) are also very busy in this production.  Set on the backstage at the University Theater (Meredith B. Ries, scenic design) the trappings of theatrical spectacle are all about us—and they become a part of the play when the lights scaffolds descend to stage level for lighting effects and to create visual chaos during the war scene.  There are also some great uses of music and sound—sometimes a schmaltzy tune will start up, or little tinkling bells make us feel we’re not quite in the normal world, or unnerving crescendoes of drums and metallic sounds add eerieness and drama.  The play has a lot to get through and in lieu of the usual Shakespearean pleasures—great soul-searching soliloquies, highly romantic badinage, verbal jousts, clownish antics—has to find its magic where it can.  As, for instance, having a first grader (Rachel Miller) play the part of Jupiter, in the totally wigged-out deus ex machina moment that almost tips into Disney.  For macabre contrast, there’s that headless corpse rising feet first into the vault.

In the cast, special mention: Lucas Dixon as the giddy Cloten, a true sop who gets to strut and fret in fine style; Brian Wiles as the cunning Iachimo—his glittering eyes and smug look when tricking Posthumus into believing he seduced Imogen are truly villainous; Miriam A. Hyman, all dressed-up up for evil and deliciously duplicitous as The Queen; Tim Brown, as attendant Cornelius, who gets a great laugh when clarifying a bit of business in the endless denoument; Michael Place as a fussily priggish Pisanio; Robert Grant as the dour and limping Cymbeline, doomed to be a bit clueless when so much is going on when he’s not around; Joshua Bermudez as agile Guiderius, who shrugs off decapitating Cloten as easily as the play does; as the lovers who prove true Adina Verson (Imogen) and Fisher Neal (Posthumus) declaim the super-declamatory verse—there are lots of “you gods!” moments—but provide here and there more subtle touches: Verson taking aim with her needle at Posthumus’s ship fading on the horizon; Neal as a spotlighted captive looking on death as proper justice.

The play finishes up with a recognition scene to end all recognition scenes—here it has the feel of the Shakespearean equivalent of the Marx Brothers’ shipboard cabin scene in A Night at the Opera: “I had a feeling you were going to show up.”  All’s well that ends well, and this Cymbeline certainly does.

William  Shakespeare’s Cymbeline Directed by Louisa Proske Yale School of Drama

December 10 to 16, 2011

 

 

Thank You

Gertrude Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights began life as a libretto for an opera, never scored.  It’s now a theater-piece that invites avant enthusiasts to try their hand at staging its signal interplays for voice and chorus.  Robert Wilson did it, in 1992, and this week YSD directing student Lileana Blain-Cruz, with a dream cast and production team, has tackled it as her thesis piece. Fitting, since the play itself seems to articulate Stein’s thesis about theater, which is that, as dramaturg Sunder Ganglani quotes in the program, our emotions while watching it are either behind or ahead of the play we are watching.  Our experience, in other words, is ours, and the play has its own experience, and from those two experiences comes the story.  Of course, to say “our” experience is to suggest there is some common experience of art, but that’s exactly what Stein interrogates.

And nothing asks this question better than theater because in no other form are we, the audience, and they, the performers, together in space and time and actively so.

Dr. Faustus, as audiences of Marlowe know, made a pact with the devil—twenty-four years of supernatural power in exchange for loss of his immortal soul—but he also, due to his powers, was able to court Helen, wife of Menelaus, lover of Paris, prize of the Trojan war, and, as readers of Goethe know, seduced and abandoned a girl called both Margarete and Gretchen.

The “Faust myth” has insinuated its themes into literature and entertainment at various levels, from any hubristic use of knowledge, to any purposeful invocation of demonic powers, to various registers of “all is vanity” or “all is transcendence.”  Stein’s Faustus seems to participate in the Promethean view of knowledge: like Edison, he gave us the lightbulb, but at what cost?

Fanciful enough, but Stein’s intention seems also to be a reworking of the myth to give a different status to Faustus’ paramour, here combined to form a figure called Marguerite Ida and Helena Anabel (played, often in tandem, by Adina Verson and Alexandra Trow, two actresses who also played, in tandem and separately, two of the three parts of Salome in Blain-Cruz’s Yale Cabaret version of Wilde’s play last year).  Speaking broadly, one can say that this figure—whatever we may determine her to “represent”—is finally ascendant and Faustus (enacted by William DeMeritt, though voiced at times by the entire company) is eclipsed.

In other words, unlike in Goethe’s Faust, MI+HA isn’t inclined to save him, and, unlike Goethe’s or Marlowe’s version, Faustus seems fully resigned to going to hell.  What the final state of MI+HA is is harder to say, denuded as she is of her grand Statue of Liberty style trappings and, for a time at least, trapped in a kind of lockstep flight-and-fight-and-dance routine with the somewhat enigmatic Man from Overseas (Seamus Mulcahy in a great coat and creepy halfmask).

All of which is to bother about plot and why bother.  The strengths of this production, as must be the case for any production of this play, are in the staging, the music, the voicing.  All along the way the YSD production is a winner.

The choral mouthing of lines creates aural textures—it’s fascinating to try to determine who all is speaking when lines are heard—that bring out wonderfully the epigrammic, nursery rhymey, enigmatic, incantatory, bumper-stickery, poetic, comic, repetitive quality of the text.  An example of all those things in one that bit me in the ear: “What difference does it make to you if you do what you do.”  This said by a Boy (Jillian Taylor) who spoke and comported himself like an androgynous escapee from a Nickelodeon TV studio.

Stein’s gift for contrapuntal verbal explorations is unmatched, and this company makes the most of it.

The music—a range of solemn to robotic to campy to martial to Felliniesque (at one of my favorite parts)—by Adrian Knight adds much to the proceedings, indeed, helps define the action, as do the vocals by Taylor, Verson, DeMeritt and others;

the varied effects with lights—neon, and bulbs, and lazers, and sparklers (Masha Tsimring, Lighting);

the impressive use of levels and grounds in the staging: a stage within a wasteland, including dirt and taxidermied forest fauna (Adam Rigg, Scenic), and two grand cast-iron stairways, one a spiral, that Country Woman with the Sickle (Hallie Cooper-Novack, the other member of the Salome trio) uses to remarkable comic effect;

the syncopated movements and deliveries by Mephisto (Chris Henry and Lupita Nyong’o, both looking suitably devilish in devilish suits—Jayoung Yoon, costumes), and by Little Boy and Girl (Trow and Cooper-Novack, wearing blonde moptops and addressing “Mr. Viper”—whether Faustus or Mephisto is not always clear—as though he were Daddy Warbucks);

and finally, in long, flowing white hair for fur, Fisher Neal as The Dog who always says Thank You, and whose inclusion in the proceedings seems key for whatever the play means to mean.

If the play is the thing the thing is to play and YSD's production plays this play all the way just a little ahead.

Getrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz

Yale School of Drama October 25-29, 2011

Dead Air

Two local theatrical pieces are presenting the final shows of their brief runs tonight: The New Haven Theatre Company’s production of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio, at Ultra Radio, across from the Shubert, on 242 College Street, at 8 p.m., and The Yale Cabaret’s Slaves, book and music by Sunder Ganglani, at 8 and 11 p.m, 217 Park Street. Both shows, we might say, know something about the risks of “dead air”: a stretch of no music or talk on a radio broadcast, the phrase can also be used to describe a stretch of no sound or speech in a play.  Radio broadcasters strive to avoid dead air.  Playwrights and performers choose sometimes to manipulate it artfully.

ART IS US

As a theatrical experience, Slaves is all about theatrical experience as artful manipulation.  Sound rather circular?  It is.  The show, which consists of three separate “acts” or segments, takes place where “a play” (dialogue, characters, setting, plot) has become “performance” (a space and performers, in this case three, and, in this case, music).  The “setting” is the Cabaret, and the “characters” are the people performing in the play (Adina Verson, Chris Henry, Lilian Taylor) who aren’t themselves, and us, the audience.  In the early going, as Verson and Henry sit before a long, dark, heavy curtain in insistent light, their promptings and musings have the air of Beckettian characters who have decided to confront their onlookers rather than enact a play.  At one point some noises off are identified by Verson as coming from “an actress” (Taylor) who seems to be a menial at first—handing in props (a large ceramic tortoise) and repeating what she’s told.  Verson and Henry, on the other hand, hector, beseech, and ask for audience members to volunteer words, while assuring us that laughter is ok but not intended, and anything we might do is ok (one person chose to walk out).  What was stunning about the opening is the rigor required for these actors to hold onto “dead air” (there are many pauses and gaps) and invigorate it with their presence, staring back at us staring at them.

The next act, with the curtain pulled back revealing a muted neon triangle, involves more singing and music (the three performers’ voices match well: Verson sounding angelic, Henry more earthy and Taylor somewhere in between), accompanied by somewhat robotic movements that eventually led to Taylor, before the curtain, apologizing, in earnest actress mode, for not performing at her best.

After that, it was time to milk Verson and Henry, via tubes connected to milk jugs down their shirts, into a porcelain receptacle adorned with two white birds.  Earlier Verson had spoken about “waiting” only to falter mid line and make us wait for something more to be said.  To wait for two separate quarts of milk to run out twin I V lines into a birdbath isn’t something you’d probably line up for, but, on the other hand, there’s no way I can tell you what effect sitting through it will have on you (when Henry’s jug, which took longer, finally ran dry there was a small burst of spontaneous applause).  And that’s partly the point: you have to be there, just as the performers do, and wait for the milk to run out.  Real time, like dead air, can be one of the riskiest elements in any performance, but also, oddly, one of the most pregnant.

Fast on the heels of the fluids scene came what seemed a song of ecstatic praise as Verson’s and Henry’s voices became a choir accompanying the whirling, vigorous dance Taylor enacted in non-stop movement for what seemed like ten minutes, illuminated only by the triangle’s neon in full brightness.  An image of the body happy to be body, or as in Eliot’s Four Quartets: “you are music while the music lasts,” this final segment had the feel of culmination but how it “furthered” or “responded” to what preceded it was left to the spectator.

For me, the opening segment commented on the rigors of theater as a participatory spectacle that we might not normally think of that way; the second segment had more to do with the dynamic amongst the performers themselves, attempting to make what they do “work”; the final segment required us, as audience, to lose ourselves in the illusion of a dancer losing herself in dance.  Illusion because the rigor of the movements belies the spontaneity they evoke, and yet . . . is there any more effective image of freely given servitude than a body dancing?

Slaves by Sunder Ganglani with Chris Henry, Jillian Taylor, Adina Verson Additional Music by Ben Sharony The Yale Cabaret September 15-17, 2011 217 Park Street, New Haven, CT

US IS ENTERTAINMENT

Forget the film Oliver Stone made of Bogosian’s Talk Radio; the play which first appeared in 1987, before the murder of “shock jock” Alan Berg and before the rise of Howard Stern, much less Russ Limbaugh.  As performed by the NHTC, the original is not as over-the-top dark as the film, and is even, in comparison to the kinds of wise-mouths and numbskulls who haunt the airwaves today, rather sweet.  As late night caller-based talk show host Barry Champlain, who has progressed from Akron to Cleveland and is poised to go national the very next night, Peter Chenot seems more like a hectoring older brother than a truly malicious razor-tongued cynic.  He berates the stupid—the vast majority of his callers—and is even more uncivil to the bigots and phonies, but he has our sympathy.  It’s a thankless task (though many of his callers worship him)—entertaining people by insulting them, so that they’ll come back for more.

Everyone else in the studio:  Linda (Hilary Brown), his sometime girlfriend and Gal Friday, Stu (Erich Greene) the old buddy and colleague who has got his back (mostly) on the switchboard, and Dan (Steve Scarpa), the Suit who wants the show to be its best for the Big Boys, are all riding the gravy train in good show-biz fashion.  The toll his tirades and tiffs take on Barry is the main plot of the play as we see him veer into an area he rarely gets into—first, the almost phone-sex-like seduction of a lonely mother, and then an actual in-studio meeting with a zonked-out stoner type, Kent (Jack Rogers), whose momentary upstaging of Barry comes as a final straw.

Like the radio show, the play, directed with a great feel for the benefits of the tight, intimate space by Hallie Martenson, is very much Barry’s show and Chenot has the charisma to make it work.  The voice feels right—a gripping, slightly-sharper-than-thou tone that keeps his listeners listening—and, because he’s not just a voice to us, we see how much his performance is also for the benefit of his “handlers,” all mostly silenced while he talks.  They each get their say when Barry is “off” and they reveal nothing very profound, apart from the fact that each seems to feel Barry could crack or go off the deep-end any given night.  Scarpa’s Dan is mostly unflappably pragmatic; he takes credit for inventing “Barry Champlain” and is pleased with how far he’s gone, but knows its just a job, not a calling; Brown’s Linda, in a very winning bid for our sympathy, tells us what it’s like to be seduced by the great Barry Champlain, but also keeps her distance: “nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”; the most telling confidence comes from long-suffering Stu who was with Barry when he made the move to talk radio and has seen plenty of crazy on-air stunts, but now notices a widening rift between them. Greene is great at conveying the tired bonhomie of the background support and the sure eye of the knowing professional, watching from the sidelines.

The supporting cast—including Roger’s disarmingly goofy Kent and Marty Tucker as the voice of the financial advisor in the show preceding Barry, and the voices of the callers—go a long way to making us feel we are watching a real broadcast and not a sit-com version of one.  Bogosian’s lines for the callers often sounded to me far too Saturday Night Live silly—some are hilariously off the wall, like the woman in fear of the trash disposal in her sink—but not as vivid as they might be if the show were written today.  Which is a way of saying that Barry is nicer than today’s shock jocks, in the style of the older advisor/on air shrink, and his callers mostly insomniacs or dopers looking for a little connection.  Barry’s final riff on the ills of society—“your fear, your own lives have become your entertainment”—is certainly prescient enough about where media and “reality” are going, and it’s perhaps nice, in a nostalgic way, to return to an era when they could still be separated.

The dead air that Barry hangs fire through near the end is a respite from his own disgust with his audience, and with himself as the flame attracting these mindless moths, but in Talk Radio it’s the dead air of a big breath, the moment a show hangs upon before the show goes on.  As Beckett says, “I can’t go on I’ll go on.”

Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian Directed by Hallie Martenson Presented by New Haven Theater Company and Ultra Radio September 14-17, 2011 Ultra Radio 242 College Street, New Haven, CT

As You'll Like It

The Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival’s second play of the season, As You Like It, opened last week, and a lively good time it is. First of all, it’s a play that keeps moving—Shakespeare’s tendency to verbal excess doesn’t get the better of the action, even with the abundance of couples trying to make a go of it. And it’s also one of the easiest plays to follow: the situations are crystal clear, the dialogues further the action, and there’s precious little speechifying for its own sake.

Director Louisa Proske’s production is varied enough in its approach to keep things interesting even if you know the play well. The action begins outside in the courtyard where a platform is set up for the wrestling match that will take place between Orlando, our hero, the youngest son of Roland de Bois, but dispossessed by arrogant older brother Oliver (Paul Lieber), and Charles the wrestler. Orlando (Marcus Henderson) is a guileless youth who manages to best the bruiser Charles (Tim Brown in a funny performance that sounded to me like a take-off on Christian Bale in The Fighter), earning himself the enmity of casually ruthless Duke Frederick (Brenda Meaney in the first of three shape-shifting performances), who hands out banishments the way cops do parking-tickets.

Orlando departs for the forest of Arden, already fabled as a place where youths are flocking to disport idyllically with banished Duke Senior.  But first there are some passionate exchanges between Orlando and Rosalind (Adina Verson), the daughter of Duke Senior, who must follow her father into banishment. It’s a real love-at-first-sight moment for Orlando and Rosalind, wherein both characters say what they mean and can’t believe they really mean what they’re saying.

Back inside, the Cab has been transformed into the forest of Arden, and things get much funnier with the arrival of Rosalind, now disguised as the male youth Ganymede, her close confidante Celia, now Aliena, and their sour attendant, the fool Touchstone (Babak Tafti). Much of the play’s fun is found in the Bard’s ability to make wooing and resistance comical—either love will win or it won’t: in either case, the lovers can’t do much about it. A strength of the Cab’s show is how amusing are the exchanges and attitudes of the two friends, imbuing the roles with a sense of the contemporary, an effect aided by whimsical costuming (no photos—you’ll have to see for yourself).

The costuming is particularly effective when we meet the banished Duke (Meaney again, in her best guise of the evening) wearing a wreath of flowers and talking about the simple pleasures of life in the forest of Arden as if he dropped acid with Jerry Garcia. His troupe of faithful (Tim Brown, armed with lute; Tara Kayton, with books of Ginsberg poems and Buddhist philosophy; Paul Lieber, with guitar and a bearded look that recalls Paul McCartney from the Let It Be period) stand about nodding in blissful counterpoint. With a troupe like this, you know the songs will be lilting and they are (had they burst into “Yellow Submarine” it would not have been out of place).

A notable exception to the “no speechifying,” of course, is the melancholy Jaques’s famous disquisition on the Ages of Man. Played by Matt Biagini as the troupe’s black-clad, posturing poet, Jaques enlists a group enactment of the different stages, making the speech into a deliberate communal moment, rather than a personal rant aimed to bum everyone out.

As the lovers impeded by disguise and subterfuge, Verson’s Rosalind is more eager than skeptical; Verson gives a heartfelt performance of a Rosalind head-over-heels, forced to feign otherwise, and not easily won because not believing herself truly deserving. Henderson’s Orlando is primarily driven by reactions, a powerful figure forced to wait on the pleasures of others, and the actor is good at effusive glee.

In smaller roles, the courtship of Touchstone and Audrey (Jillian Taylor) is vulgar and comical in merrily broad fashion, and the lusty pursuit of Ganymede by Phebe (Tara Kayton), while fleeing her lovelorn pursuer Silvius (Tim Brown), makes for a diverting comic complication in the later scenes. Kayton steps into the play from her more familiar role as highly capable Producer of the Festival to enact a no-nonsense rustic who gets thrown for a considerable loop.

My one complaint: Hamlet, we know, tells the players not to let the fools speak more than is set down for them, but he doesn’t say you should cut what is set down for them: I missed Touchstone's deflating mockery of Orlando’s attempts at love poetry, and, elsewhere, he seemed to have shed a few barbs. But all’s well, there are laughs enough in this likeable As You Like It as the entire company is quite adept at playing the fool.

Photos by Ethan Heard, by courtesy of Yale Summer Cabaret

William Shakespeare's As You Like It Directed by Louisa Proske

The Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival July 1-August 14

Yale Cabaret 217 Park Street, Hew Haven 203-432-1567, or summercabaret.org

Such Stuff as Dreams are Made on

A comic Tempest opens the Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival The Yale Summer Cabaret’s ambitious Shakespeare Festival, brain-child of Devin Brain and Tara Kayton, has launched.  The first play in the series, which will run three plays in repertory with a dedicated company of ten actors through August 14, is The Tempest.  A late play, if not the last, in Shakespeare’s canon, it’s a fantastic and lively tale in which all’s well that ends well, but, along the way, it gives much food for thought about the arbitrary nature of power relations, of courtship, of claims to authority, and, in this production especially, some laughs.

There are two daring and potentially off-putting aspects to director Jack Tamburri’s production: the first has to do with design (Kristen Robinson and Andrew Freeberg are the Scenic Design team), and involves fixed stilts with foot- and hand-holds placed at strategic points across the playing space.  This is the airy province of that airy sprite Ariel (Adina Verson), who touches ground as rarely as possible, primarily at entrances and exits.  But no matter how gamely and gracefully Verson navigates the gym course, we don’t get an illusion of movement swift as thought (Ariel’s special quality) and tend to be distracted by the actions.  What’s more, the posts offer little in the way of scenery, even if, with the aid of some magical transformative power akin to Propsero’s, we imagine them as trees upon the island.  The benefit: Ariel hovers over the action and speaks to the other characters from slightly above, which creates some nice effects in dialogue with Prospero when his captive sprite speaks directly into his ear, or when “he” (Ariel is male; Verson is female, and plays the role in a shiny body suit with a noticeable jockstrap bulge) spooks the conspirators from somewhere in the air above them.

The other oddity here is that all the cast members play Prospero at some point.  This requires much shedding and donning of the sparkly cloak that denotes our magical majesty, and also increases potential confusion for viewers having enough trouble keeping, say, Antonio and Trinculo (both played by Paul Lieber) or Alonso and Stephano (both A. Z. Kelsey) straight.  In other words, go with some of the play under your belt or you may find yourself a bit at sea.  Some of the transformations are indeed swift as thought, especially in the denouement when the passing about of Prospero’s book began to resemble a game of hot potato.

The more problematic aspect of this innovation is that, to echo Gertrude Stein’s comment about Oakland, there isn’t any there (or Prospero) there.  Rather, we get six actors in search of a character, which translates into Prospero-schtick most of the time.  This, I assume, is strategic—an effort to undermine this dominant figure, to make him as mercurial as possible, and to show that the trappings of power he wields can indeed be taken up and shed by turns.  He is a sometime Duke and a sometime magus, a sometime father, brother, and so on.  The point, as it should be in theater, is made, as it were, between the lines, but I couldn’t help feeling it was also made at the expense of some lines—as when an actor fully steeped in the role allows us to watch the character change, rather than watch a number of actors change into the character.

The strengths of this production:  First of all, the language.  Short of slowing things down into Shakespeare-ease, as Kenneth Branagh films sometimes do, the cast is quite adept at making Shakespearean speeches sound spoken as opposed to recited.  Second: the audience’s closeness to the action made for enlivening effects when the characters spoke directly to audience members in a conversational way.  Third: the clowns—and, as all are at times Prospero, all are at times clowns.  It’s to the audience’s benefit that these actors are so good at Shakespearean comedy, which can get tedious fast when a cast isn’t.  Kelsey, as Stephano, a butler, and Paul Lieber, as Trinculo, a jester, in particular, made the most of their scenes together, often involving drunken mood swings, but more modulation of tone would’ve helped us perceive their transformations into, respectively, Alonso, King of Naples, and Antonio, Prospero’s usurping brother, as they seemed a bit too broad for aristocracy.

Tim Brown, on the other hand, moved effectively between Sebastian, the rather dim-witted brother of the King, and romantic lead Ferdinand.

A female actor as Caliban is a move against type for it makes for a more refined “monster,” and Brenda Meaney’s performance, while active and comic, lacked the surly pathos the role can command.  Casting a female actor as Ariel is not unusual, and, apart from her headdress and costume, I loved everything about Verson’s Ariel, particularly the glowing sound of her vocals on the songs and her childish enthusiasm in playing all the roles, with Adam Rigg’s effective puppets, during the enchantment scene.  Her rendition, as Prospero, of the curtain speech was effective enough to make one willing, indeed, to “free all faults.”

All in all, a rough and ready Tempest on its way to becoming seaworthy.

 

The Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival Devin Brain,  Artistic Director; Tara Kayton, Producer June 23-August 14, 2011

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest; Directed by Jack Tamburri June 23-August 12, 2011

Photos by Ethan Heard, courtesy of Yale Summer Cabaret

Life at the Cabaret

The Yale Cabaret 2010-11 Season ended in April, and today a cohort of talents graduated from the Yale School of Drama, where most Cab participants are students, so I’d like to take a moment to commend some highpoints of the Cab's recent season, citing the work of some who have taken their final bow there, and of others who might be back. For best overall productions, four original plays, relying on great ensemble work: Good Words, written by Meg Miroshnik, directed by Andrew Kelsey, a movingly musical valedictory treatment of a long life; Vaska Vaska, Glöm, written by Stéphanie Hayes, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, an odd allegorical play, both endearing and unnerving; Erebus and Terror, developed by the ensemble from an idea by Alexandra Henrikson, directed by Devin Brain, a dark but lively play about doomed lives; and Trannequin!, conceived by the ensemble, with Book by Ethan Heard and Martha Jane Kaufman, directed by Ethan Heard, a clever and engaging gender-bending musical; and a notable ensemble production of an already existing work: Alex Mihail’s kick-ass, raucous version of Anton Chekhov’s The Wedding Reception.

For memorable performances, I have to start by citing Max Gordon Moore’s tour de force one-man show as the librarian with an idée fixe in Under the Lintel

Trai Byers’ affecting performance as an old man revisiting his life at his son’s funeral in Good Words

 

 

 

Babak Gharaeti-Tafti, as a passionate wedding guest in The Wedding Reception, and as a nonconformist in The Other Shore

 

 

 

 

 

Lucas Dixon as the hilarious special guest at The Wedding Reception, and Brett Dalton’s comic double roles in Debut Track One.

Of the ladies: Alexandra Henrikson’s edgy Harper in Far Away

Adina Verson for her comic flair in pleasureD, and, for sheer oddity, her performance in a barrel of water in Vaska Vaska, Glöm; Stéphanie Hayes for her frenetic part in pleasureD and as a young male Irish deckhand, in Erebus and Terror

Sarah Sokolovic, swaddled in rags, in Vaska Vaska, Glöm, and giddy and singing in The Wedding Reception; and Alexandra Trow, intelligent and naïve, as Pepper in Debut Track One.

And what about the ingenuity of transforming a basement into whatever the play demands?  Particularly effective work in Sets: Meredith Ries’ cluttered library backroom in Under the Lintel

Julia C. Lee’s doomed ship in Erebus and Terror, aided by Alan C. Edwards’ moody and evocative Lighting

Justin Elie’s visually rich radio studio in The Musicality Radio Hour; Adam Rigg’s dollhouse world for  pleasureD

 

 

 

 

 

and, especially, the combined talents of Kristen Robinson, Meredith Ries, Adam Rigg, with Lighting by Hannah Wasileksi and Masha Tsimring, for the fascinatingly ornate aesthetic of Dorian Gray’s puppetshow.

And for transforming students into what is required, some memorable work in Costumes: Aaron P. Mastin for the period sailors in Erebus and Terror; Maria Hooper for the Victorian dress of both people and puppets in Dorian Gray; Summer Lee Jack for the Brecht-meets-Beckett world of Vaska Vaska, Glöm

 

and for the truly awful threads sported by the ‘80s-era wedding guests in The Wedding Reception.

 

 

 

 

 

For Sound: Junghoon Pi for the aural embellishments of The Other Shore; Palmer for the different aural registers of Debut Track One, and Ken Goodwin’s Sound Design and Elizabeth Atkinson’s Foley work in The Musicality Radio Hour.

And for Music: the inspiring vocals provided by Taylor Vaughn-Lasley, Christina Anderson, Sunder Ganglani, and Nehemiah Luckett in Good Words Pierre Bourgeois’s lively shanties in Erebus and Terror; the inspired songs of Trannequin!, by Ethan Heard, Max Roll, Brian Valencia, and Tim Brown; the Zappa-esque musical work of The Elastic Notion Orchestra in The Musicality Radio Hour; and the performative percussionists, Yun-Chu Chiu, John Corkill, Michael McQuilken, Ian Rosenbaum, Adam Rosenblatt in The Perks.

That’s all for this year—stay tuned for info on The Yale Summer Cabaret Shakespeare Festival, starting next month!

Photos copyright Nick Thigpen, courtesy of Yale Cabaret

The Children's Hour

Once upon a time there were three YSD actresses—a third year (the tall one), a first year (the small one), and a second year (the medium-sized one)—and they lived together in a little room with a sink on one side, a toilet on the other, and a bench in between.  There was also a little door to come and go through and some pictures on the wall. These three actresses were really children and never spoke to one another.  Their time was spent in pantomime and songs.  Each had routines and the routine each had in common was tooth-brushing.  At first it made the tall one weep, but later she did it orgiastically, with liberal lather.  It was not unlike her dance routine upon the toilet, waiting for that liberating splash.  For the small one, the toothbrush was a bullhorn, and brought on a kind of oral/aural seizure.  And for the middle one, the toothbrush was a seductive partner at a dance.

And so the three lived and played and did little tasks—peeling a potato, going to confession, folding laundry—and sang nonsense songs and lip-synched and danced, and mimicked love scenes from Gone With The Wind, From Here to Eternity, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

A big box was delivered to each and contained something important, maybe even something each needed.  For the middle one, the box held a little box she could wear, with clouds inside; for the tall one, the box gave her a light that touched her heart and sent her on wings toward heaven; for the small one, the box held a power drill that got stuck in the wall.

All three actresses have considerable comic skills: the tall one recently played Dogberry in a YSD production of Much Ado About Nothing and was very funny; here she was the sister with the most anxiety and the tears of a clown; the small one had fewer routines but she liked phallic things, like a big, thick dildo and that power drill; the middle one was the most endearing, enacting cute sock puppets making love, or giving out a succession of mouth farts.

Everything they did gave them pleasure or recalled pleasures or, like the cackling baby who was really a vacuum-cleaner, created a sense of the pleasure things have in giving pleasure to humans.  And that’s why the play was called pleasureD.

The Yale Cabaret, where these three actresses performed, will be dark now until March 24-26.  And then there will be a new play and it will be a musical, about a mannequin who might be a boy or might be a girl or might be both, called Trannequin.

pleasureD, conceived, created, and performed by a trio of YSD actresses

The Yale Cabaret, Feb. 17-19

Rock'n'Roll Diva

28337_1511823638164_1311570800_1368637_7342905_n The Yale Summer Cabaret debuted its 2010 season with cult favorite Hedwig and The Angry Inch, text by John Cameron Mitchell, songs by Stephen Trask.  Directed by Jesse Jou, artistic director of the Cab this summer, the working conceit of the piece is that we aren't watching theater but rather a rock band, The Angry Inch, led by Hedwig, perform in some dive.  Between musical numbers, Hedwig regales us with tales of her life in an ongoing monologue -- and colorful, kinky, comical, disheartening and inspiring it is.

Hedwig began life as a boy named Hansel living in East Germany before the Wall fell.  An American soldier named Luther falls in love with the "girlyboy" and in order for them to marry, Hansel, who adopts his mother's name and passport, also agrees to have a sex change operation to become female in fact.  The operation is botched and Hedwig is left genitally indeterminate -- neither male nor female, a perfect character to explore the in-between manner of the transgendered.

As Hedwig, Chad Raines is phenomenal.  His Hedwig is slyly insinuating, an introvert who has become an extrovert in self-defense.  The special condition of Hedwig's sexuality is both a trial by error that makes her grimly ironic about fate, but also a badge of honor that gives credit to her tale.  For this to work, Hedwig can't seem campy -- simply a guy in drag -- and Raines brings it off admirably.  He gives Hedwig an aloof Dietrich air that can veer into Janis-like vocal lacerations at will.

The latter are fueled by the vulnerability of Hedwig's romantic attachment to Tommy Gnosis, a bigtime rock star whom she had an affair with in their youth (when Tommy was a repressed Christian in a Bible Belt trailer park), and whom she now trails about the country as he enacts musical self-celebration in huge arenas, performing songs Hedwig wrote with and/or for him.  According to Hedwig, Tommy is her missing other half, separated from her à la  Aristophanes' story in Plato's  Symposium.  The double whammy -- thwarted romance, thwarted career -- makes Hedwig a true rock diva, showing us the scars on her heart.

But our Hedwig is also cruel (the East German accent helps with that, ja) to herself and to her smitten assistant Yitzhak (Adina Verson), a one-time drag queen whom Hedwig insists wear butch clothing -- in this production, vintage Grunge.  Yitzhak gets no spoken lines -- except for two 'unprintable' epithets directed at her lover/boss -- but Verson's eyes speak plenty as Yitzhak shares the limelight with Hedwig, providing powerful vocal backup, or cringes somewhere in the background as Hedwig confides -- or performs confiding -- in the audience.

The backing band kicks ass and theater-goers who aren't used to musicals that really rock may be somewhat taken aback.  This is not a rock musical with songs cleaned up for the stage in Broadway's neutered idea of what rock sounds like. The Cab space is, appealingly, just the sort of basement venue Hedwig might be playing in the play's reality, and it's easy enough to feel like a spectator in a club, fascinated by a performer who lets it all hang out, even throwing tantrums at the band that may be real or may be staged, or both.

At the heart of it all is the girlyboy with the brittle wit, the belting voice, and an array of costumes -- the Ziggy Stardust get-up was a dead ringer -- that, like the songs, trigger glam memories and rock'n'roll dreams.

As the song by Spoon says: "when you don't believe, it shows, they tear out your soul / when you believe, they call it rock'n'roll."

I call this rock'n'roll.

Yale Summer Cabaret presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch; text by John Cameron Mitchell; music and lyrics by Stephen Trask; directed by Jesse Jou; music directed by Nathan A. Roberts; photo: Nick Thigpen

June 4th-19th 2010, 8 pm. (No performances on Sunday or Monday evenings.) Additional performance, June 12th, 11 p.m.  To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit summercabaret.org or call (203) 432 1567