Tag Archives: Jennifer Ehle

My Favorite NYC Shows of 2017

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By Karen Isaacs

 Of the 40 or so shows I saw in NYC in 2017, which were my favorites

 Musicals

Come from Away

COME FROM AWAY, Jenn Colella Photo by Matthew MurphyIn 2017, I needed a show that reminded me of people’s goodness and caring. Come from Away did just that without being manipulative nor saccharine. The show combined extraordinary direction by Christopher Ashley, fine cast with Jenn Colella as a standout and a enjoyable score by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I was delighted it was a hit.

 

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

natasha-pierre-the-great-comet-of-1812-photo-by-chad-batka_edited-6 I had missed the various off-Broadway incarnations of this show, but the one at the Imperial Theater was amazing. I loved how the theater was totally transformed into a Russian café and the cast was all around me. I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of musical genres and was delighted with Josh Groban’s performance as the depressed and lonely Pierre. I only regretted the limited awards it won and the producers’ missteps that led to its early departure.

The Band’s Visit

           

THE BAND'S VISIT, Photo by Matthew Murphy the band

Tony Shalhoub and the band. Photo by Matthew Murphy

David Yazbek’s score and this sweet, gentle story—though occasionally slow – again reminds us of people’s innate kindness. Plus it featured an astounding performance by Katrina Lenk.

Hello, Dolly!

I won’t say this is a definitive production of this classic musical, and Bette Midler may not be the perfect Dolly, but what a show it was. She is an amazing performer and the rest of the cast was able to hold own against her star power. Brava!

My runner-up Musicals

War Paint 
Goodman Theater

 Of, the Broadway musicals that opened or were revived, I enjoyed War Paint the best. To see Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole together was wonderful. Plus I found the score delightful.

Off-Broadway, John Kander (with new partner Greg Pierce) tackled a tough subject in Kid Victory. The return of a teen boy who was abducted and held captive by a predator before being returned to his conservative, religious family. Karen Ziemba as the mother and Jeffrey Denham as the predator were terrific.

My Top Plays

 Oslo

         oslo _jenniferjefferson.jpg__50000x390_q85_subsampling-2 The back story of the Israeli-Palestine Peace Accords signed in 1993 might not seem made for theater, but playwright J. R. Rogers, director Barlett Sher and a top notch cast led by Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle turned this into a fascinating and suspenseful drama.

Indecent

          

indecent topol and lenk rosegg

  I saw this play at Yale Rep and was entranced; the magic continued on Broadway with this spectacular ensemble cast and a fascinating look at a piece of forgotten American theater history.

 Sweat

           

Sweat 
Studio 54

Lynn Nottage play about blue collar workers losing their economic footing in 21st century America made me want to cry. It was real, it touched the economic issues and the personal ones.  It featured another terrific ensemble cast.

 

 

Jitney

           

Jitney

A strong ensemble cast led by John Douglas Thompson and Brandon J. Dirden plus superb direction by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and a great set by David Gallo brought out all the strengths in this August Wilson play.

Shadowlands (off-Broadway)

 

SHADOWLANDS 3 photo by Jeremy Daniel (2)

This revival of William Nicholson’s play about the unlikely love story between C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham was intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving. It also featured a fine cast and set – that easily would have garnered praise on Broadway.

The Little Foxes

        

LILLIAN HELLMAN’S THE LITTLE FOXES
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
With Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon
Darren Goldstein, Michael McKean, Richard Thomas
David Alford, Michael Benz, Francesca Carpanini, Caroline Stefanie Clay, Charles Turner

    I saw Laura Linney as Regina and Cynthia Nixon as Birdie and wished I had also seen them in the opposite roles. They were terrific as were the entire cast including Richard Thomas as Horace. The production was both chilling in its depiction of greed and spell binding.

In the runner-up category, I’d include

The Price

           

The Price

Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub and Jessica Hecht were all terrific in this revival of Arthur Miller’s play, directed by Terry Kinney.  I found that Danny DeVito was over-the-top as the antique dealer, detracting from the piece.

Present Laughter

           

Present Laughter
St. James Theatre

Kevin Kline made this revival a must see. He WAS the perfect actor to play Gary Essendine. Of course, the fabulous set and the strong performances by Kate Burton, Kristine Nielsen, Cobie Smulders and Bhavesh Patel added to the fun.

The Home Place

It isn’t Brian Friel’s best play, but this production at the Irish Rep was so good and focused on such interesting topics that any failings of the play were easily overlooked.

 

The Man from Nebraska

          

MAN FROM NEBRASKA
By TRACY LETTS

Directed by DAVID CROMER

  Pitch perfect performances by Reed Birney and Annett O’Toole as a conventional man who loses his faith and his wife, made this Tracy Lett’s play at Second Stage riveting. Lett shows us what happens when those who always follow the rules, stop doing so, but he doesn’t provide easy answers. Birney and O’Toole also did not take the easy road in their performances.

“Oslo” Gives Us a Compelling Look at the Arab-Israeli Peace Accords — It’s Worth Seeing Twice

 

osloslideshow_4.jpg__590x320_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

By Karen Isaacs

 In September 1993, an event occurred in the White House Rose Garden that gave the world hope for a Middle East peace: it was the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the PLO. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat were photographed shaking hands and later the two shared the Nobel Peace Prize. President Clinton looked on.

The back story that led to that historic occasion is the subject of the new play Oslo at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater.

Playwright J. T. Rogers makes it very clear in his notes that this is not intended to be an absolutely accurate portrayal of the “back channel” negotiations that occurred in Oslo. He admits that locations and chronology has been changed and compressed. He has removed some characters and as he says “some of those who remain have been assigned different roles than their actual counterparts…the words they say are mine.”

But accepting that this is not a documentary, it is still a compelling though long (about three hours) drama. At times it reminded me of Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, another play about unconventional diplomatic negotiations.  I saw the play first last August when it was produced at Lincoln Center’s smaller theater. The response was so enthusiastic it reopened this March in the larger Beaumont Theater. I was eager to see this play again.

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Jennifer Ehle and Jeffrey Mays. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

For while the signing of the accords was at the White House, the US had very little to do with the entire process. That was the doing of Norwegian diplomats and Terje Rod-Larsen, director of the Fafo Institute and the husband of an official in the foreign ministry. It was his theory that for negotiations to be successful, rather than put everything on the table at once, the two parties should start with one issue and when that is resolved, go on to the next. He also believed that personal relationships are a necessity for success.

Some research assured me that Larsen, was indeed head of the Institute which focused on Labour and Social Research as well as Applied International Studies. He had a PhD in sociology.

At the end of 1992, two unofficial representatives of the Israeli government met with Ahmed Quiri, finance minister of the PLO and Hassan Asfour at a manor house outside of Oslo. Larsen insisted that the four men meet and talk alone; in the evenings he expected them to join him and his wife, Mona, over food, drink and non-business talk of families and backgrounds mixed with humor.

It was an auspicious start. The two Israelis, economists, had no authority but were reporting to the deputy foreign minister who had sent them on his own imitative. The PLO delegates had more authority and standing, but were angry and skeptical.

Over the course of months and months of meetings, the four men began not only to establish personal relationships but to hammer out an initial draft of an understanding that dealt with such issues as Jericho and the Gaza Strip.

As Mona states early in the play, it took nine months. The movement was in fits and starts. The issues were enormous. The PLO representatives wanted the Israeli negotiators to be government officials; finally that happened when Uri Savir, director-general of the foreign ministry joined the talks.

In the play, senior Norwegian officials were also in the dark about this effort for months; when the foreign minister Johan Jorgen Holst learns of the act ivies of Larsen and Mona, he is not necessarily thrilled. It is dangerous effort and could alienate the US.

Praises to director Bartlett Sher and the entire cast. Sher and his cast not only keep the pace moving and the tension building – even though you know from the outset that the agreement was reached – but they mine the humor that is necessary to keep this from being dull. His entire production team has worked in concert to fulfill his vision.

The cast returned to this play after a hiatus; their performances have deepened and sharpened. If each was good the when I saw last August, they are even better now. Director Bartlett Sher has also adjusted his staging to the larger playing space without losing either intimacy or pace.

Particular praise must be given to dialect coach Elizabeth Smith – she and the cast maintain a variety of accents – primarily Norwegian, Arab and Israeli – while remaining understandable at all times. The accents never become stereotypical but always sound authentic.

Let us heap praises on the cast. Jefferson Mays is one of my favorite actors and again as Larsen he turns in marvelous performance. Not only with the accent but the depths of the character from his certainties to his ego to his doubt.  Jennifer Ehle matches his as his wife, Mona. She is steady, calming and truly diplomatic.  Michael Aronov is fantastic as the Uri Savir who takes over the negotiations for the Israeli government. Dariush Kashani as Hassam and AnthonyAzizi Quiri are also outstanding.  In fact, there is no one in the cast that can be faulted. Each actor whether playing one role or more, creates fully rounded characters that you know and relate to.

Oslo is a play that is well worth seeing.  In fact, it is worth seeing twice.

For tickets visit Lincoln Center.

“Oslo” Gives Us a Compelling Look at the Arab-Israeli Peace Accords

oslo_carousel_5.jpg__50000x390_q85_subsampling-2

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

By Karen Isaacs

 In September 1993, an event occurred in the White House Rose Garden that gave the world hope for a Middle East peace: it was the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the PLO. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat were photographed shaking hands and later the two shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

The back story that led to that historic occasion is the subject of the new play Oslo at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

Playwright J. R. Rogers makes it very clear in his notes that this is not intended to be an absolutely accurate portrayal of the “back channel” negotiations that occurred in Oslo. He admits that locations and chronology has been changed and compressed. He has removed some characters and as he says “some of those who remain have been assigned different roles than their actual counterparts…the words they say are mine.”

But accepting that this is not a documentary, it is still a compelling though long (about three hours) drama. At times it reminded me of Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, another play about unconventional diplomatic negotiations.

oslo_carousel_2.jpg__50000x390_q85_subsampling-2

Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

For while the signing of the accords was at the White House, the US had very little to do with the entire process. That was the doing of Norwegian diplomats and Terje Rod-Larsen, director of the Fafo Institute and the husband of an official in the foreign ministry. It was his theory that for negotiations to be successful, rather than put everything on the table at once, the two parties should start with one issue and when that is resolved, go on to the next. He also believed that personal relationships are a necessity for success. Yet neither Larsen not the Norwegians got very much public acknowledgement of their efforts.

Some research assured me that Larsen, was indeed head of the Institute which focused on Labour and Social Research as well as Applied International Studies. He had a PhD in sociology.

At the end of 1992, two unofficial representatives of the Israeli government met with Ahmed Quiri, finance minister of the PLO and Hassan Asfour at a manor house outside of Oslo. Larsen insisted that the four men meet and talk alone; in the evenings he expected them to join him and his wife, Mona, over food, drink and non-business talk of families and backgrounds mixed with humor.

It was an auspicious start. The two Israelis, economists, had no authority but were reporting to the deputy foreign minister who had sent them on his own imitative. The PLO delegates had more authority and standing, but were angry and skeptical.

Over the course of months and months of meetings, the four men began not only to establish personal relationships but to hammer out an initial draft of an understanding that dealt with such issues as Jericho and the Gaza Strip.

As Mona states early in the play, it took nine months. The movement was in fits and starts. The issues were enormous. The PLO representatives wanted the Israeli negotiators to be government officials; finally that happened when Uri Savir, director-general of the foreign ministry joined the talks.

In the play, senior Norwegian officials were also in the dark about this effort for months; when the foreign minister Johan Jorgen Holst learns of the act ivies of Larsen and Mona, he is not necessarily thrilled. It is dangerous effort and could alienate the US.

So much of the play is compelling that it seems peevish to complain about the length. With two intermissions, is runs nearly three hours and by the end you are glad it is over. It needs some judicious cutting.

Praises to director Bartlett Sher and the entire cast. Sher and his cast not only keep the pace moving and the tension building – even though you know from the outset that the agreement was reached – but they mine the humor that is necessary to keep this from being dull. His entire production team has worked in concert to fulfill his vision.

Particular praise must be given to dialect coach Ben Furey – he and the cast maintain a variety of accents – primarily Norwegian, Arab and Israeli – while remaining understandable at all times. The accents never become stereotypical but always sound authentic.

Let us heap praises on the cast. Jefferson Mays is one of my favorite actors and again as Larsen he turns in marvelous performance. Not only with the accent but the depths of the character from his certainties to his ego to his doubt.  Jennifer Ehle matches his as his wife, Mona. She is steady, calming and truly diplomatic.  Dariush Kashani as Hassam and Anthony Asisi as Quiri are aslo outstanding.  In fact, there is no one in the cast that can be faulted. Each actor whether playing one role or more, creates fully rounded characters that you know and relate to.

Oslo is a play that is well worth seeing. It runs through Aug. 28 at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. BUT plans have already been announced to move it to the larger Vivian Beaumont Theater in March for an extended “Broadway” run. The delay is caused by commitments that the cast members – including Mays – have. At the Beaumont it will be eligible for Tony award nominations.

For tickets visit lct.org.

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The handshake between the Israeli and Arab negotiators. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

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The negotiations. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

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