Flavorpill: Soho Rep’s “An Octoroon” Challenges Audience to Laugh at Slavery

Originally published on Flavorpill.

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Last season, Soho Rep’s An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was one of those plays that everyone was talking about and not enough people got to see. Theater for a New Audience has brought it back, to their beautiful new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, with a run that extended before it even opened.

An Octoroon has so much going for it, it’s not hard to understand why. The play is a deconstruction of an 1859 racist melodrama rethought through the viewpoint of a black playwright, BJJ (Austin Smith), who happens to share the initials of the actual author of the show.

The play begins with BJJ questioning that very label, and from then on An Octoroon leaves little unchallenged, including the very nature of reality versus fiction. Continue reading

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Flavorpill: Joey Arias Invocation of Billie Holliday Was Spot On

Originally published on Flavorpill.

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It take balls to celebrate Billie Holiday’s centennial by inviting a white drag queen from downtown to sing Lady Day’s songs in one of the most uptown of venues, but that’s exactly what Lincoln Center did at Wednesday night’s American Songbook concert featuring Joey Arias. The intersection of uptown and down, black and white, male and female set the perfect tone for an evening devoted to Holiday, herself a complicated figure too often remembered lately for her struggles with drugs rather than her artistry. Continue reading

Jewschool: Leonard Nimoy: An Appreciation

Originally published on Jewschool.

Leonard_Nimoy_as_Spock_1967The news of Leonard Nimoy’s passing hit me unexpectedly hard today, so I wanted to take a minute to examine why. As a Jew from Boston, Nimoy’s celebrity loomed large in my upbringing. Besides Star Trek, which was omnipresent in those pre-cable days of UHF syndication, Nimoy was a constant presence in the news. He loaned his voice to the Mugar Omni Theater, the first IMAX theater in Boston, located at the Boston Museum of Science. He published a book of Jewish, erotically charged photos. He narrated documentaries. He directed. He sang. But no matter what else he did, he was first and foremost, always and forever, Mr. Spock. Continue reading

Flavorpill: Judy Kuhn: American Songbook Series Review

Originally published on Flavorpill.

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There were a lot of good ideas on display at the Appel Room on Wednesday night: Giving Judy Kuhn the American Songbook spotlight before she returns to Broadway in Fun Home later this season was a good idea. Pairing Ms. Kuhn with Todd Almond as her arranger and musical director was a great idea. Giving them six additional musicians to play charts by Josh Clayton was a wonderful idea. Crafting a show around the three generations of composers in the Rodgers-Guettel family was a superb idea. Why then did the finish product feel much better in theory than in execution? Continue reading

Flavorpill: Review: American Songbook, Reich and Sondheim

 

Originally published on Flavorpill.

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Lincoln Center stretched the definition of American Songbook with Reich and Sondheim: In Conversation and Performance, but the audience at Saturday night’s concert at the Appel Room was glad they did. There’s no question that Stephen Sondheim and Steve Reich are titans of American composition, the former in the realm of musical theater, the latter in contemporary classical. Each man has a Pulitzer, a Gold Medal in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, multiple Grammy Awards, the Praemium Imperiale… you get the idea. It turns out they are also friends and admirers of each other’s work, not to mention innovators and iconoclasts in their respective fields. Continue reading