Review: Jackie

Jackie

Jackie – a theatrical dissection of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the myths surrounding her – is without a doubt the best high art solo performance piece I’ve ever seen or read. And, because of love affairs with high art and solo performance, I’ve seen and read more of those than you might think.

It’s very German, which isn’t necessarily a compliment (don’t get me wrong, though, I really liked Jackie) – contemporary German literature can be verbose and pretentious, and German literature as a whole has a tendency toward the heavy, slow and laborious. However, while Jackie is certianly verbose – JKO certainly never carried on as volubly as this – it has real smarts in place of pretension. And while it is indeed dense with philosophy and wordplay, playwright Elfride Jelinek makes that dense language dance ever so lightly.

Jelinek is much aided by director Téa Alagic and the actress playing Jackie, Tina Benko. Alagic has set the piece at the deep end of an abandoned outdoor swimming pool (beautifully rendered by scenic designer Marsha Ginsberg), which allows for all kinds of pungent visual metaphors. Also, Jane Shaw’s clangorous yet meticulous sound design effectively accents Alagic’s crisply choreographic staging.

But it’s Benko who really makes this Jackie land. There’s just a hint of Jackie’s breathiness; however, this isn’t a realistic Jackie, it’s her image and spirit speaking from beyond the grave. That creature has all kinds of voices, from growls to purrs, from declamation to seduction. Benko fully inhabits every tone, every idea, with the most intense precision. Truly a tour de force!

For tickets, click here.

I’m directing a reading of “The Passion of Ed Wood” a new musical

EdInAngora

I’m directing a reading of the new musical The Passion of Ed Wood, presented by Musical Mondays (on Thursday) Theatre Lab, on Thursday January 10, 2013 at 6pm at the Jerry Orbach Theater in the Snapple Theater Center. The Passion of Ed Wood has a book and lyrics by Justin Warner and music by Rob Kendt. Musical director is Jody Schum.

In The Passion of Ed Wood, the infamous 1950s Z-movie director, labeled the “worst director of all time,” gets a chance to redeem himself by presenting his incredible life story, narrated by his idol Orson Welles.

The cast will feature Lance Rubin as Ed Wood, Drew Eshelman as Bela Lugosi and Raymond Bokhour as Orson Welles, as well as Dewey Caddell, Sydney Harris, Megan Stern and Jeff Ward.

For tickets, click here.

For more about my directing work, click here.

Review: Hot Mess

The outrageous new Wednesday night drag revue Hot Mess has definitely set a new high bar for drag in NYC. First of all, its the only full-on multi-performer drag revue in a truly gay venue that I can think of in the city. But it’s much more than just that: the queens at the core of this show, Lady Bunny and Bianca Del Rio, are the smartest, wittiest and most fearless in all of drag, and a show that was just them would be legendary in its own right.

But Hot Mess is even more than that. Bunny is the force behind the whole thing, and she has assembled a cast of the city’s most talented drag divas, and the last time she did that, it turned into Wigstock – the annual festival of drag which ran for 20 years. There aren’t as many queens in this but they are truly a choice selection.

Milan, one of the competitors from the last season of RuPaul’s Drag Race acts as the show’s choreographer, and she packs the group numbers with excitement. She’s also a phenomenal dancer herself, serving abundant flash and drama. Jiggly Caliente, also a contestant on this season of Drag Race, is a phenomenally accurate lip syncher and dancer. Skyla Versai specializes in up-tempo stormers from 21st Century pop starlets, and delivers them with infectious high energy. Finally, Sugga Pie Koko brings Andy Kaufman-eque brain-warped comedy to drag, and I feel about her like I did about Andy – she’s often totally annoying, nearly as often brilliant, and never less than compulsively watchable.

On top of all this, you have XL’s crazy sophisticated sound and light system as a backdrop for the ladies. Drag has rarely been this multimedia – and even though it’s truly spectacular, I still think they’ve only scratched the surface of what they can do with it.

Bunny has said of the show, “this is going to be similar to the drag shows I grew up watching down south with production numbers, costumes, choreography, a brilliant emcee (Bianca), some serious dancing, a little celebrity impersonation and of course, lots of laughs!” If that was the plan, she has thoroughly succeeded.

When I saw it on its first night, Hot Mess still had a handful of kinks to work out – it started very late, even for drag time, and the two-hour-plus running time could use some trimming. Even with those problems, Hot Mess is first-class, state-of-the-art New York drag, and not to be missed.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum

Before last night’s gala, I got a sneak peek at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition, and it is definitely one to see. It is very theatrical, like McQueen’s designs, with lots of stage-like backgrounds, “reveals” and moody, constantly changing music.

This spring 2011 Costume Institute exhibition at The Met is on view May 4 through July 31. The exhibition celebrates the late Mr. McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.

“Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. “His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word – he channeled the sublime.”

Galleries showcase recurring themes and concepts in McQueen’s work. “The Romantic Mind” examines his technical ingenuity, which combined the precision of tailoring and patternmaking with the spontaneity of draping and dressmaking. “Romantic Gothic” highlights McQueen’s historicism, particularly his engagement with the Victorian Gothic, and dichotomies such as life and death. “Romantic Nationalism” looks at McQueen’s patriotic impulses, including his reflections on his Scottish heritage and his fascination with British history. “Romantic Exoticism” explores the influence of other cultures on the designer’s imagination, especially China and Japan. “Romantic Primitivism” captures McQueen’s engagement with the ideal of the “noble savage,” while “Romantic Naturalism” considers his enduring interest in raw materials and forms from nature.

Of particular interest is a “Cabinet of Curiosities” that includes various atavistic and fetishized accessories produced in collaboration with the milliners Dai Rees and Philip Treacy, and the jewelers Shaun Leane, Erik Halley, and Sarah Harmarnee. The Cabinet also displays video highlights from ten of McQueen’s renowned runway presentations, including Joan (autumn/winter 1998–99), What a Merry-Go-Round (autumn/winter 2001–02), and They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (spring/summer 2004).

The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of the Met’s Costume Institute. Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, serve as the exhibition’s creative director and production designer, respectively. All head treatments and masks are designed by Guido. The graphic design of the exhibition is by Sue Koch of the Museum’s Design Department.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.