Tag: Theater Review

Threepenny Opera Review – Village Voice

“There are two shows, really, at the Theatre de Lys. One has a cast of 20 ebullient and engag­ing actors and actresses.… The other show has a cast of one, and her name is Lotte Lenya. Miss Lenya is, as you know, not merely the widow of Kurt Weill but the original Jenny of the original Berlin production of Dreigroschenoper. For rea­sons of plot, she is hardly seen, much less heard from, until somewhere near the middle of Act II, when the scene shifts to the reception room of a whorehouse. What happens next is I hope enough to raise the hair on your neck, as it did mine. Critics are always being advised to stay away from the word electric; I can only say that there is no other word available to me, at this late hour, with which to categorize that instant when Miss Lenya shambles front and center to exhale the first weary, husky, terrible notes of her hus­band’s famous song about the Black Freighter.… Her voice lifts and hardens into the reprise (‘ …and the blaaaaaack frayta…’), and suddenly all the essential blandness and healthiness of all that has gone before is swept away, and we are stark up face to face against a kind of world and a kind of half-century that no one born this side of the water can ever quite fully make, or want to make, his own.” – Jerry Tallmer, 1955

A Brief History of Off-Broadway, 1955–1985
A special supplement — with selections from 30 years of the Voice — dedicated to the artists of Off-and Off-Off-Broadway.

John Simon on Beckett’s Happy Days

“The play, as you should know, concerns Winnie, waist-deep in the sod at the center of a mound overgrown with withered grass; and then, in the second act, chin-deep. While she still can, she spends her days fussing with the toiletries in her large bag, a parasol, and, occasionally, her husband, Willie. He lives in a hole on the other side of the mound, is still fully mobile but extremely uncommunicative. Mostly he reads his newspaper, mutters to himself, and now and then says a word or two to Winnie. She, however, is cheerful—insanely cheerful under the circumstances—and keeps up a steady patter of observations, reflections, recollections, and sometimes even snatches of half-remembered poetry and songs. She has a gun in her satchel, but suicide is out of the question; even when she is in it up to her head, even when Willie can no longer climb the mound to touch her, she goes on contentedly, garrulously, gossipily, ecstatically jabbering about the infinite mercies of existence.

Happy Days is both a masterly literary metaphor and a powerful stage image. An image, moreover, that sustains itself through a series of small but brilliant variations for one and a quarter hours—the duration of the play and, it would seem, of human life, with which it manages to become co-extensive. This is not the place—and decidedly not the space—for a full discussion of the play, but I must quote two magisterial moments from it. The first occurs in Act I when, describing how an ant disports itself, Winnie elicits Willie’s pun, “Formication.” Blissfully, she exclaims: “How can one better magnify the Almighty than by sniggering with him at his little jokes, particularly the poorer ones?” A whole world view, a philosophy of life, a theology even, are encapsulated in that remark.”

John Simon on Theater: Criticism 1974-2003