Friday, May 31, 2019

Last Night in Marienbad: Dancing the Elusive

Christopher House and Jordan Tannahill in Marienbad. (Photo: Ömer Yükseker)

To access Marienbad, a mesmerizingly teasing dance work whose week-long residency concludes tomorrow night (June 1), you enter Winchester Street Theatre through a side entrance instead of the usual front door. It’s the first clue that what is taking place inside the converted Cabbagetown church that for years has served as home to Toronto Dance Theatre has upended the normal run of things.

A two-man physical and psychological tour de force, Marienbad – likely named for the 1961 Left Bank film about an affair that may or may not have happened – unfolds not on the flat-floor black stage that normally serves as the romping grounds for TDT’s often sprightly dances. It stomps, jogs, zigs and zags down a cascading tier of stairs located where the audience typically sits.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Flamingo Kid: Bare Bones

Alex Wyse, Jimmy Brewer, and Ben Fankhauser in The Flamingo Kid. (Photo: T. Charles Rickson)

In The Flamingo Kid, the new musical premiering at Hartford Stage, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman, an impressionable Brooklyn teenager named Jeffrey Winnick (Jimmy Brewer) spends the summer before college – the summer of 1962 – as a cabana boy at a posh Long Island club. There he loses his virginity to a beautiful, grounded UCLA freshman (Samantha Massell) and gets swept up in the lifestyle and values of her uncle, a car salesman named Phil Brody (Marc Kudisch) who is legendary for his finesse at gin rummy. The book, like the screenplay of the 1984 Gary Marshall movie on which it’s based, pits Jeffrey’s real father, Arthur (Adam Heller), an honest, industrious plumber who wants his son to get a college education, against Brody, who is all flash and offers the kid the appeal of an entrée into the high life – though it’s clear to us that, to Phil’s brittle, unhappy wife Phyllis (Lesli Margherita) and the rest of the El Flamingo clientele, Jeffrey will always be “the cabana boy” (whose shapely ass the sex-starved women are forever ogling or pinching). The material, set firmly in the world of New York Jews, is all about class – and it’s rigged. We don’t have to be told that Phil cheats at cards just as he cheats on his wife, and that Jeffrey, who’s a good kid, will ultimately expose him (while he slaughters him in a legit card game) and choose his father’s square, unvarnished life over Brody’s superficial one, which is both morally and emotionally vacuous. If the seductive car salesman weren’t such a transparent phony and Jeffrey’s parents (his mother, Ruth, is played by Liz Larsen) weren’t so solid and decent – if we could sympathize with the boy’s restlessness with his Brooklyn roots and his fascination with Brody – then the musical (and the movie) might be more than a pat fable. But even Karla, Jeffrey’s girl, is drawn to the Winnicks the moment she meets them and appalled at his insensitive treatment of them.