Fanmail: “If/Then” Star LaChanze As Theatre Gateway Drug

This is a big one, folks. It is straight-up miraculous I’ve never used this blog to broadcast my bizarrely intense obsession with The Color Purple. I recently got to write “Fanmail” over at TDF Stages about LaChanze, the actress who solidified that obsession into a crucial cornerstone of my teenage years. Check it out!



LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in ‘If/Then’

As a small white boy from Honolulu, I always had difficulty explaining my obsession with The Color Purple. I suppose it started with Alice Walker’s graceful writing in the book, and intensified when I watched Whoopi Goldberg’s and Oprah Winfrey’s powerful performances in the movie. But my fervor truly ignited when, on a rare trip to New York City, I saw the Broadway musical The Color Purple with my father and grandfather. And it was LaChanze, lighting up the stage in her Tony Award-winning role as the downtrodden Celie, who captivated my 16-year-old soul completely.

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Smart Reads: What Are Critics For?

I highly recommend this piece by Suzy Evans, and not just because it delves into a program I attended this summer (and features a photo of me surrounded by some seriously talented fellow Critic Fellows!). It’s worth reading if you’ve ever wondered about the necessity of critics, or if you’re involved in the theater in any way and have heard of the O’Neill, which is of course the most recommendable thing of all. Check us out!

2014 National Critics Institute

James Wirt: From New York to ‘Phoenix’

Hey! I interviewed up-and-coming indie star James Wirt for Backstage! Check it.


Photo Source: Courtesy of Cherry Lane

There’s no other way James Wirt would rather be spending his summer than starring opposite Julia Stiles in Scott Organ’s “Phoenix.” Now playing Off-Broadway, the provocative romantic comedy was chosen specifically, says Wirt, from among 10 or 15 plays of which “Phoenix” was his favorite. “It resonated, it had a charming quality, it wasn’t cynical. It was a good play for the summer.”

“Phoenix” is one of several projects giving Wirt’s career some serious momentum after years of working on New York stages. “I got involved because I know the director [Jennifer DeLia]. I did her movie coming out in November called ‘Billy Bates,’ ” he says. “I had met Julia once at the premiere [at] the SoHo Film Festival, and she liked the movie and agreed to do a play with me.” Wirt and Stiles will be acting opposite each other again in the upcoming Mary Pickford film “The First.”

Wirt chats with us about his relationship with live audiences, the crucial advice he got a decade ago, and—full disclosure—his fondness for Backstage.

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Who’s In Charge of the Giant Bubble?

Check out my TDF Stages article on Fuerza Bruta WAYRA, and then go check out that wild, immersive and dazzling show!


Liam Lane in WAYRA

For performance art junkies and thrill-seekers alike, Fuerza Bruta WAYRA offers a breathtaking array of multi-sensory spectacles not found in an ordinary theatre. From the high-flying performers to the epic, Argentinian-influenced music—not to mention the massive, two-sided climbing wall and the pool of water hovering above the audience’s heads—this operation begs the question: who on Earth is running the show?

“Everyone is in communication with each other from the very start,” says stage manager Roumel Reaux, who also managed Fuerza Bruta‘s previous Off-Broadway incarnation. “The lighting engineer, sound engineer, automation, the riggers, the carpenters: every crew member is in touch.” So while WAYRA features an impressive cast of aerial singers and dancers, Reaux’s eighteen crew members are also stars in their own right.

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I reviewed a really terrific new Atlantic Theater Company play over at – good luck getting tickets!

Between Riverside and Crazy

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Elizabeth Canavan, Michael Rispoli, Rosal Colón, and Ray Anthony Thomas in Between Riverside and Crazy. Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia.

BOTTOM LINE: The New Yorkers in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ new play are vividly depicted with the help of a superb cast led by stage veteran Stephen McKinley Henderson.

“Everybody hates cops. Even cops hate cops.”

So says Walter “Pops” Washington, the besieged patriarch at the center of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ absorbing new play Between Riverside and Crazy, now playing at the Linda Gross Theater. Walter is played by the great Stephen McKinley Henderson, whose performance is so good it’s difficult to imagine anyone else taking on the part of this self-hating, much-maligned former cop. Yet the real star of this show may be the rent-controlled Manhattan apartment to which its title refers.

Walt Spangler’s scenic design is a marvel of specificity. From the ratty doormat to the cramped bathroom to the can of Goya beans on the counter, the set evokes the clutter of New York living in an almost unsettlingly real way. Anyone who has paid rent in this city can relate to the pile of pizza boxes in the corner of the kitchen, a cardboard explosion destined sometime soon for recycling. That the accommodations swivel on a revolving stage makes Spangler’s attention to detail all the more striking. Director Austin Pendleton has judiciously employed the effect to enhance rather than distract from the story’s intimate goings-on.

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