Archive for category Theater

Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center

The Merchant of Venice is generally classified as a comedy, but the Shakespeare’s Globe production emphasizes the darker aspects of the play. Shylock the Jewish moneylender, brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall), stands upon the stage as a sympathetic and tragic figure by the end of the evening. It’s a pity that the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featured only five special performances in Washington, DC.

Photo of Jonathan Pryce and Dominic Mafham

Jonathan Pryce (Shylock) and Dominic Mafham (Antonio). Credit: Manuel Harlan.

Director Jonathan Munby weaves together the acting and music in a way that immerses viewers in the merriment and excesses of the Venetian setting. A masque sequence is added at the beginning with dancing, drums, and shouting wonderfully choreographed by Lucy Hind. The actors moved about in the aisles to greet us, even going so far as touching the shoulders of theatergoers hurriedly taking their seats. The opening scene also displays the outsider status of passerby Shylock when these Christian revelers cease the music and attack him. Munby confronts us with persecution and thus directs our sympathy toward Shylock from the start.

Shylock is subject to manhandling and insults by Antonio (Dominic Mafham), the titular character who borrows 3,000 ducats. Interestingly, the worst taunt is when Antonio intentionally drops Shylock’s pocket-sized book of Hebrew texts. It’s a small yet moving moment, as Pryce stoops wearily to pick up the book and reverently brushes off the dust. Read the rest of this entry »

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[For the Archive:] Theater Preview (DC): Shakespeare’s Globe Brings ‘The Merchant of Venice’ with Jonathan Pryce to the Kennedy Center

Here’s another piece for my archive, originally published at Blogcritics.orgThe Merchant of Venice had a great run in Washington, D.C. The production has since moved to Chicago and continues on its world tour. See the Globe Theatre on Tour site to see future performance dates and locations.


The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater will host five special performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice from July 27 through 30 in Washington, D.C. The production, directed by Jonathan Munby, stars Jonathan Pryce CBE (Wolf Hall,Game of Thrones) as moneylender Shylock. I reached out to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to learn more about this leg of the Globe Theatre on Tour.

Photo of Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce

Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Credit: Manuel Harlan.

“The range and depth to which Shakespeare’s works have influenced storytelling throughout the ages is what makes his original works so timeless,” said Robert Van Leer, Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning. “His prose reflects themes and messages that are still relevant to our society today, such as the strong familial bond forged between father and daughter at the very heart of The Merchant of Venice.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Theater Review (Washington, D.C.): Special Performances of ‘The Originalist’ at Arena Stage

In July 2012, I won a ticket lottery during my summer internship on Capitol Hill. The speaker slated at the closing lecture was the late Justice Antonin Scalia. To my surprise, Scalia devoted his hour to Q&A time rather than to a prepared speech.

Photo of Edward Gero and Kerry Warren in 'The Originalist'

(L to R) Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Kerry Warren as Cat in The Originalist at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater March 6-April 26, 2015. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

I was struck by a couple of things about Antonin Scalia as I sat in the Supreme Court. He was very polite. Second, he seemed genuinely excited that all of us were interested in government and law, regardless of our backgrounds. He was also quite passionate about looking at the original meanings and contexts within the U.S. Constitution. “I am a textualist. I am an originalist. I am not a nut!” he exclaimed to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Theater Review (Vienna, VA): ‘Creed Bratton (from ‘The Office’): An Evening of Music and Comedy’

Creed Bratton

Photo courtesy of Jammin Java

Creed Bratton concluded his east coast tour last week at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia. The actor and musician recently turned seventy-three and he is probably best known to younger audiences for his role as a fictional version of himself in The Office. He repeated a few quotes from the NBC hit series, most notably lines from the “Gay Witch Hunt” episode and even Steve Carell’s famous “That’s what she said.”

“Those first two years, I really thought I was working at a paper company,” he told the crowd. However, Bratton’s show was not a mere rehash of his best material from the television program.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Theater Review (Bethesda): ‘Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett’

Carol Burnett

Photo of Carol Burnett, courtesy of the Strathmore

I first discovered The Carol Burnett Show around the year 2000, when I was 12 years old. I loved watching those half-hour reruns every weekday after school, admiring those greats of comedy from the 1970s: Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and of course, Carol Burnett. Mention the show to anyone who has seen it and there’s a good chance you’ll be reminiscing together the Gone with the Wind parody, the Tarzan calls, Mama’s Family, and other scenes. Read the rest of this entry »

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From the Archives: My Exclusive Interview with Mark Barrett from ‘Barney Thomson’

Photo of Actor Mark Barrett

Mark Barrett, Credit: Matt Swift

Readers may recall that I caught up with Robert Carlyle during the Whistler Film Festival for the North American premiere of The Legend of Barney Thomson. The actor’s directorial debut tells the story of hapless barber, Barney Thomson, who accidentally falls into serial murder. At the Q&A, Carlyle (TrainspottingOnce Upon a Time) gave credit to a young Scottish actor, Mark Barrett, for his contributions in the rehearsal process. “A lot of aspiring young actors ask for your advice and they never do it!” Carlyle exclaimed on that snowy evening in December. “But Mark, he did become an actor.”

Naturally, Carlyle’s words may have left readers wondering about Mark Barrett, who also has a small role in the black comedy as barber Ricky Callahan. I reached out to Mr. Barrett to find out more about his experiences working on Barney Thomson. The twenty-eight-year-old actor was more than happy to sit down for his first official interview. However, his excitement was tempered by a startling sense of maturity and intensity in his gaze: revealing a sharp and discerning fellow who takes his work seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whistler Film Festival: Spotlight on Robert Carlyle

The Whistler Film Festival held a Spotlight on Robert Carlyle earlier this month in British Columbia, Canada. As part of the WFF Signature Series, the actor-director was presented with the Maverick Award. Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, was screened later in the evening for its North American premiere.

Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle at the Whistler Film Festival. Photo: Pat Cuadros

The event included an intimate conversation with critic Jim Gordon of CTV, a major news network based in Vancouver. Much of the focus on Carlyle these days seems to be on his work with Once Upon a Time and the upcoming Trainspotting 2, projects that he himself appreciates. “One of the lovely things about Once Upon a Time is that [my family and I] can all sit and watch it on a Sunday night together. You can’t really do that with Trainspotting,” he remarked. Read the rest of this entry »

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