“All of my writings address human desires and aspirations with a reverence for facts and principles.”
Keeping us gasping is what Cabaret in all of its incarnations has always been about. Gasping at the opulence, gasping at the decadence, gasping at the heedlessness and the horror. It is intentionally strong stuff, and if it delivers, then it succeeds. And by that yardstick, this version, whatever it may or may not owe to its predecessors, is a smashing success.
The title Perfect Arrangement refers to the compact of a male gay couple and a lesbian couple to hide in plain view from the disapproval of the world in 1950 by posing as two straight couples living in adjoining halves of a Georgetown duplex. The two halves are secretly connected through the residences’ respective front closets, a passage that enables each real couple to reunite at night, unnoticed by the world outside. Such a setup is custom-made for farce.
Support Group for Men will send you away happy. There is nothing profound or challenging in this show: just a well-crafted and very funny comedy of manners, specifically the manners of the male of Species Homo Americanus, youthful to mid-life, as observed in a middle-class Chicago habitat.
Then the government, represented by its functionary Lucius (Michael Rogers), brings in Shimeus (Wade McCollum), a derelict of another sort, whimpering and traumatized by an arson that killed everyone else in his family. Lucius orders the Browns to harbor Shimeus as a guest. Almost immediately, however, Shimeus stops whimpering, and, more importantly, stops behaving like a guest, and more like an invader – well maybe not a declared invader but a lot like a space alien whose intentions toward neighbors aren’t entirely clear but don’t seem encouraging, a la the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
Dougherty unspools the stories of Chester and Dr. Cotton, his treating physician, with novelistic skill. The feeling of truly being in the World War II period never lifts. The stories reel us in: Chester’s of the way he deals with his injury, and Cotton’s of hospital life in wartime, with its politics, scandals, and sexual misbehavior. This show is the whole package: a polished, intriguing, thematically-consistent but otherwise dissimilar pair of stories well-told, leaving one profoundly moved.
It’s an old trick, but a good one: Set two contrasting dramatic tones (usually domestic comedy and dread) against each other and let them fight it out throughout a play. It’s the trick playwright Greg Kalleres employs to advantage in Wrecked,
MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT! at Contemporary American Theater Festival: Clashing Views on Resisting Racism
The drama works because of the intriguing way the characters’ ideas about how to act in response to Marian Anderson’s two provocative exclusions (first from Nassau Inn and then from Constitution Hall) shift repeatedly in response to new information, so that consensus is almost impossible to achieve, at least until the play’s very end. Anderson seeks progress through song, unimpeachable behavior and an avoidance of politics; Albert Einstein wants an end to both racism and antisemitism, and by the end is very worried about the Bomb; Mary Church Terrell embraces confrontation because all else seems to fail; and Abraham Flexner tries hard to protect the Institute as a means of keeping the Holocaust from consuming absolutely all Jews, even though he can save only a few.
And now of course we are into the story of Antonio’s family of origin, and the world of his origin, which has conditioned him to behave this way, which implicitly and explicitly looks to its men to solve problems with violence.
Necessity and Realism Prevail Along with Enchantment in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Berowne gloomily foresees: “Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three year’s space.” And by “necessity” we can be sure he means not simply the logistical necessity of dealing with women but what we might call Jurassic Park Necessity: Life finds a way. As Shakespeare himself wrote in a similar context: “The world must be peopled.” And for peopling, you need relations between the sexes.
A thinly-disguised parable of the ascendancy of Adolf Hitler, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui may have been written in 1941, but it may as well have been addressed directly to Americans of 2019.