Cynthia Nixon in Rabbit Hole
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Cynthia Nixon in Rabbit Hole
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
There is much to praise in David Lindsay-Abaire's new play Rabbit Hole. Most notably, there's Cynthia Nixon's eloquently understated performance as a mother suffering the loss of her child, John Slattery's pitch-perfect work as her husband, and Tyne Daly's remarkable delivery of comedy, pathos, and wisdom -- often at the same time -- as Nixon's sometimes meddlesome mother.

The play, a finely crafted family drama that details the way a wound might heal from scab to scar, is totally unlike any of Lindsay-Abaire's earlier works -- and it marks the emergence of a mature playwright. His work is further enhanced by a remarkable set by John Lee Beatty that offers different views of the household with a depth of field that Orson Welles would approve.

But when all is said and done, the delicacy of the style, the subtlety of the acting, and the impeccable production values to be found at the Biltmore all have one unmistakable stamp: The exquisite work of director Daniel Sullivan. He is surely one of Broadway's greatest directors (the recent Julius Caesar, aside), and every young playwright making a Broadway debut should be so lucky as to get Sullivan to direct his work.

********************

Ute Lemper
(Photo © Paul Massey)
Ute Lemper
(Photo © Paul Massey)
The Lady Is a Vamp

New York's staid Upper East Side might not seem like a natural fit with the fiery Ute Lemper, but she has returned once more to The Café Carlyle to stir things up. Her new show, Blue Angels and Demons, is an eclectic mix of European Kabarett and American musical theater songs with bite. Lemper is nothing if not musically adventurous -- and her audacious choices are almost always transformed into triumphs.

While so many young female artists today make it their job to posture like a vamp, Lemper goes right to the source: the song "I Am a Vamp." One of cabaret's great actresses, she inhabits this song and every song from the inside out. And for all her ferocity on tunes like "Black Market" and "Chuck Out All The Men," she can be quite musically gorgeous as well, singing the melancholy minor key "An Angel Weeps" in Yiddish.

For the first time in memory, Lemper speaks of her past, and it's fascinating to see and hear how she has evolved as an entertainer. This sort of patter is a rich addition to her act, and it's helpful for the Café Carlyle audience to hear it in order to fully appreciate the bold booking of this great talent.

********************

Kiss Me Kismet

Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell in Kismet
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell in Kismet
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
City Center Encores! did New York a great service this past weekend when it opened its new season with Kismet, a musical with a book that is all baubles, bangles and beads, and a score that is pure gold. Director Lonny Price captured the broad, baggy-pants fun of the book without undercutting the majesty of the music. But his biggest coup was in casting Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie. The two of them lift this production as if on a magic carpet woven with talent and charisma.

Playful yet powerful, Mitchell also had the commanding voice necessary to play the poet/hero Hajj. As Lalume, the villainous Wazir's wayward wife, Mazzie emerged in this production -- even more so than she did in Kiss Me, Kate -- as a first-class comedienne. If anyone could be said to have stolen the show, it was Mazzie.

The production allowed us the pleasure of hearing songs like "And This Is My Beloved" and "Stranger in Paradise." And the show featured quite a bit of flashy dancing courtesy of choreographer Sergio Trujillo and a cast that included Elizabeth Parkinson and Rachelle Rak. Lastly, we are sure that all New York theatergoers join us in welcoming Paul Gemignani as Encores! new conductor.

********************

[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]