London Spotlight: June 2008
The Tony Award-winning show Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! comes to the West End for a limited engagement at the Arts Theatre, June 25-September 28. The show features Johnson and his 11 fellow cast members -- including the puppets Bob and Squeaky -- and combines the star's personal history with the history of ventriloquism.
Attention, serious theater-goers. Enid Bagnold's greatly admired play The Chalk Garden is being revived for the first time in 30 years at the Donmar Warehouse (June 5-August 2). It's a family comedy and on the dark side, which is just what grand actors Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton, who head the cast, specialize in. Company artistic director Michael Grandage guides them, and he rarely misses.
As for new plays: The brilliant Michael Frayn has Afterlife at his usual home, The National (beginning June 3), directed by the playwright's regular collaborator, the equally brilliant Michael Blakemore, and featuring Roger Allam, David Burke, and other notables. The play concerns German-Jewish director Max Reinhardt's tribulations when the Nazis come to power in the 30's. At the ever-interesting Bush is 2,000 Feet Away (June 11-July 12) by Anthony Weigh. The piece concerns sex-offender laws and is set in the USA.
Amy Rosenthal's On the Rocks fills the Hampstead from June 26-July 26. It's about D. H. Lawrence and his lovely wife Frieda playing host and hostess to Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry. Sounds like a gossip-lover's delight. The Ugly One, by Marius von Mayenburg, is not exactly new, since it played the Royal Court last year, but it's been brought back by what must be popular demand. The subject is cosmetic surgery that goes right at first and then very wrong.
You can also check out The Quiz, by Richard Crane at the Trafalgar Studios (June 17-28), which is apparently about literally dying on stage, or Sonka Linden's Asylum Dialogues at the politically bold Tricycle (June 22), based on actual asylum seekers and the severe problems they've faced. And get a move on: Gregory Burke's Black Watch, which has been wowing everyone in its travels settles into the Barbican for a while (June 20-July 26). It's about the Scottish regiment and not entirely sanguine.
London's offerings also include Dickens Unplugged (through September 22) at the Comedy, sewn together with a happy hand by The Reduced Shakespeare Company's Adam Long; Christopher Luscombe's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Globe (June 8-October 5), in which Falstaff in a merrier and much sillier mood tries to fool those Windsor wives (but they're on to him); Twelfth Night at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park (June 4-July 30); and Corin Redgrave reprising his reading of De Profundis in the Lyttelton (June 16, July 1-2).
By the way, Hairspray's Michael Ball is the interviewee in this month's Spotlight On... series at the Shaw Theater (June 18). Elaine Paige is the affable and slyly probing host who'll quiz her guest on his experiences as Edna Turnblad and his many other varied roles. And former Tony Award-nominated songwriter Jeff Blumenkratz will present a concert of his songs, with special guests Damien Humbler, Alexandra Silber, and Lauren Ward, at St. Paul's Church (June 22).