Theatre yesterday and today



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The title of this column is misleading. I'm not asking for a break, I'm taking one.

And I don't have to ask anyone's permission, which may be what I like best about blogging. There's no penalty if I don't meet any of my self-appointed deadlines. I'm not even sure anyone would notice, although the single time I skipped one in the sixteen weeks since I began, one friend (and faithful reader) did actually write and ask, "Hey! No blog today?"

I started this effort on June 12th and today marks my 96th post. Writing a one-thousand word essay six days a week has proven challenging and rewarding. I have loved the process as well as the comments and discussions they have engendered. The challenge of a blank page nearly every day has made my writing much stronger. The feeling when I finish and ostensibly hit "send," is one of accomplishment and pride. My book Up in the Cheap Seats, which has been a four-year endeavor, though very satisfying, over the long term has made me a little crazy. By that I refer to the constant rewriting which seems to be never-ending. Of major importance is the search for just the right phrase and the need to catch any redundancies. On a final proofing before it went to the publisher I saw the phrase "in truth," and for the first time it stuck out at me and I thought "uh oh." Employing the search device turned up nine times I used it in the book. I took out eight of them.

The reason for my break is that I'm heading for Reykjavik, Iceland on Sunday. Sort of a bucket list thing, in that I have always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. Not that there is any sort of guarantee of a Northern Lights sighting, but it's looking like I may have picked a good time of year to try. An article in the New York Times almost magically appeared yesterday,

dangling the tantalizing prospect that I may be in for more than I ever dreamed possible.

I am also going to spend a week in London, which I'm sure will be another thing to report on. Six nights and seven days, and although I'm leaving it all to chance (I haven't purchased anything), needing only one ticket should allow me to get in to most anything. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Well, we'll see. I'm hopeful.

Have you heard of this? It's currently the Hamilton of the West End with tickets nearly as scarce. It's a two-performance event, reminiscent of Nicholas Nickleby). The reviews have been sensational, and though not written by J.K. Rowling, she developed its story and receives credit for it along with the writer Jack Thorne, and the director, John Tiffany (Once).

The always intriguing and stimulating David Hare has a new play, The Red Barn, based on Georges Simenon's novel La Main (The Hand). It stars last year's Tony Award nominated Mark Strong (sensational as Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge) and Hope Davis, a rarity in that she is a well-known American actress being given a shot at the London stage.

The Menier Chocolate Factory is reviving Travesties, Tom Stoppard's Tony Award winning Best Play from 1976. It's of particular interest as its star is Tom Hollander, who recently played one of the most daring and scary villains I've ever seen in the BBC mini-series The Night Manager. The Menier (its name giving away what it was before being transformed into a theatre) has not only the reputation for producing exciting takes on both old and new plays, but also has one of the most intimate and unique stages in London. It's a theatre I've longed to see the inside of.

I'm hoping to get into the Donmar Warehouse, another space that I've yet to explore. They are doing a brand new play by Kemp Powers entitled One Night in Miami. It's a fictional meeting the author posits taking place on February 1964, when the twenty-two-year old Cassius Clay, newly crowned the heavyweight champion of the world, entertains his three closest friends in a Miami hotel room: activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football great Jim Brown. Could be quite an imaginary conversation to listen in on.

But perhaps the place I'm most excited to finally see a show is the recreation outdoors of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, located on the bank of the River Thames. For many years the domaine of Mark Rylance's acting company, my timing will make it possible to see the two-time Tony Award winning actor Jonathan Pryce (he of The Sparrow on Game of Thrones) as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. From all I've been told, the best way to see a show there is to be a groundling: that is, stand for the entire show, huddled in the crowd. I'm bringing a pair of comfortable shoes.

There is also the chance for me to catch a production I missed when it played on Broadway in 2013: Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land. Even though it's been filmed for broadcast in U.S. cinemas, there's nothing like seeing actors of this caliber on stage. And what about Kenneth Branagh taking a stab at yet another part once essayed by Laurence Olivier? Certainly his Archie Rice in The Entertainer will be worth a look.

Of course if I ever get a tiny bit homesick there's always Wicked, Kinky Boots, Aladdin, Beautiful, The Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys, Les Miserables, Mama Mia, Rent, School of Rock and (of course) The Phantom of the Opera all currently running in the West End.

No. That's not gonna happen. I mean, c'mon—gimme a break!

I'll be back October 16th. Till then.

If you would like to comment on any of these posts, please do so below. I look forward to hearing from you.