Ruth Snyder, whom Wikipedia pithily if reductively identifies as “an American murderess,” was electrocuted by the State of New York at Sing Sing Prison on Jan. 12, 1928. You’ve seen the photo of her final moment: It’s the muddy shot secretly captured by a camera strapped to the ankle of a Chicago Tribune photographer and plastered the next morning on the cover of the Daily News. She was the first woman executed at Sing Sing in three decades. She’d been convicted and sentenced for conspiring with her lover to murder her husband, an older sad sack with whom she’d had one daughter and a loveless marriage. Read More
The overwhelming success of Fifty Shades of Grey tells Toni Bentley something important about women today: They’re not having good sex. “If a woman has really had amazing sex, this book is not going to work for her,” Ms. Bentley said during a recent interview in an east side café. “So it’s telling us that they’re still not having it. This is a Disney fantasy. It worries me that women are going to continue fantasizing and never get the real thing. Let’s make the Disney fantasy real in your bedroom tonight.”
Ms. Bentley’s own work may be, as she freely admits, about fantasy, but it is anything but a Disney version. A former Balanchine dancer, she made a splash in 2004 with The Surrender, her memoir of her sexual (and spiritual and intellectual) awakening through anal sex, told through her relationship with a man she refers to only as A-Man. These days, she’s back in the news again, with The Surrender adapted for a play that opens this week at the Clurman Theater. Read More
Where you lead, Carole, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to.
And if it happens that you lead me to a mediocre bioplay that combines your peerless catalog—from Brill Building-era songs for the Drifters and the Shirelles and Aretha Franklin and the Monkees to the later, much more personal masterwork that is Tapestry—with a lifeless book, well, I’ll follow you there, too, and more or less happily. Read More
The English actress Rebecca Hall has had an eclectic career, both on stage and on screen, one that has carried her from Woody Allen (a Golden Globe nomination for Vicky Cristina Barcelona) to Shakespeare to Iron Man 3.
Why bother with that cartoony blockbuster? “I’ve never done the ‘hurry up and wait’ movie before,” she said in a recent interview. “Even the studio movies I’ve done have been small studio movies, or indie films that we made on a wing and a prayer. I love those, but Iron Man 3 is refreshing in a way, because it’s something out of my realm of experience.”
This month, she’s taking another big step outside her realm of experience. She’s making her Broadway debut—strapped to an electric chair. In Machinal, she plays Ruth Snyder, who in 1928 became the first woman executed at Sing Sing since 1899. It opens Jan. 16 at American Airlines Theatre, four days after the 86th anniversary of Snyder’s execution. Read More
Given the power and precision of Frank Langella’s baritone, which served him well when he played Richard Nixon in the award-winning play, then film, Frost/Nixon, it is strange that he has done so little Shakespeare. In the early 1960s, when he was 23, he was Iago to James Earl Jones’ first Othello. In the ’80s, he played Prospero at the Downtown Roundabout. He played Malcolm in Macbeth and was Oberon and Theseus in a Tyrone Guthrie Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mr. Langella, who turned 76 on Jan. 1, is now taking a crack at the granddaddy of Bard roles, King Lear, in a production that opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week. Read More
Were Paul Blake the kind of person who took “no” for an answer, Broadway would never have seen White Christmas, and it would never know what Beautiful is.
“Beautiful” is a song by Carole King, and now it’s a big Broadway musical, subtitled The Carole King Story and previewing its way to a Jan. 12 opening at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. It came about because the head of a music company (EMI at the time) invited Mr. Blake to put together a Broadway show based on the life and songs of Ms. King. “Why me?” he wondered reasonably. The CEO couldn’t have been more direct: “Because you’re the guy who got Irving Berlin’s daughters to say ‘yes’ to a stage musical of ‘White Christmas.’ For years, they had said no to everybody else. Whatever you did to them, I want you to do to these people.” Read More
“Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.”
They’re some of the most famous words of the late 19th century, the first phrases Alexander Graham Bell spoke to his lab assistant, Thomas A. Watson, via his new telephone and some 20 feet of cable. Watson himself, however, interviewed for a Bell Labs film 55 years later, remembered them a bit differently. In Watson’s version, Bell’s words ended with “I want you,” a distinction—as the former assistant argues in The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, which opened Monday night at Playwrights Horizons—that indicates a world of difference. The standard version, from Bell’s lab notebook, is the command of a boss to his assistant; Watson’s version, he says in the play, is the request of a colleague to a friend. Read More
W. C. Fields, who died on Christmas Day 1946 a humbugger to the end, would find what John Bolton does eight times per week at Madison Square Garden absolute torture.
Not only does Mr. Bolton have to work with kids and animals, it’s a whole posse of kids—one of whom craves a retina-wrecking BB gun for Christmas and another who, on a triple-dog-dare, gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole. Then, there are the mangy bloodhounds that make off with the Christmas turkey. Yes, it’s that time of the year. Read More
At Marian and Barbara Apple’s house in Rhinebeck, N.Y., it’s time to eat again.
As the lights come up, dimly at first, the women are setting the table—laying silverware, carrying out drinks—and soon enough, the men join them. Marian’s ex-husband is dying of cancer, and she has taken him in, caring for him in another room of the house. There has been a parade of visitors, friends saying their final good-byes, but now it’s late, and just the family remains: the schoolteachers Marian (Laila Robins) and Barbara (Maryann Plunkett); the third sister, Jane (Sally Murphy), a writer, who with her boyfriend, Tim (Stephen Kunken), an actor, has recently moved up to Rhinebeck from the city; their brother, Richard (Jay O. Sanders), now a high-level government lawyer in Albany; and Uncle Benjamin (Jon DeVries), once an actor of some renown, now afflicted with dementia and living at least part of the week at a nursing home. Gathered together, the Apple family, that marvelous creation of the playwright Richard Nelson, will do what it does best: talk—about family, about politics, about, tonight, life and death. Read More
“Is it choreography or is it movement?” Steven Hoggett has been officially stage-credited as one or the other in shows, so when he was asked that question at point-blank range about the jerky gyrations he is now putting a band of twentysomethings through, he paused a long, hard, thoughtful Hoggett beat and smiled a “touché!”
“Good question,” he conceded. “It’s a mix between the two. I suppose that’s why I’m attracted to projects like this. I like to play with fast movement, then choreograph.” Read More