Praise for Judy Gold's new show, David Staller's Shaw project, and film director Sidney Lumet for his employment of stage actors.
Co-written by Gold and playwright Kate Moira Ryan, the 70-minute show is somewhat reminiscent of Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays. Both are comic but probing looks at how family is the foundation of one's life. The key person in Crystal's life was his father; for Gold, it's Ruth, her ever-present, judgmental mother. In this show, the relationship between the two -- always a major factor in Gold's comedy -- seems more universal than ever before.
Gold intersperses her personal tale with interviews that she conducted over a period of several years. These were propelled by her desire to discover if Jewish motherhood comes with the curse of becoming like one's own mother. This is not to say that Gold is your typical Jewish mom (of two sons); after all, she's a famous comedian and a lesbian, even if she does keep kosher. The interviews, which she enacts with broad serio-comic strokes, provide added depth to the piece, and smart segues move the show forward. Smoothly directed by Karen Kohlhaas, 25 Questions is so good it has the potential for a longer run at Ars Nova or a transfer to a larger Off-Broadway theater.
A Shaw Bet
We have watched David Staller's career as a cabaret performer and actor for the better part of two decades, but never has he distinguished himself more than he is doing now with his work as the force behind The Shaw Project.
In this ambitious undertaking, public readings of every play written by George Bernard Shaw will be presented at The Players Club -- one play per month, all with free admission. Even better news is that Staller, who's currently starring in Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession at the Irish Rep, isn't settling for ordinary staged readings; these events will feature some of New York's greatest actors.
Staller launched the series on January 23 by producing and directing Shaw's classic comedy Arms and the Man with a cast that included Nancy Anderson, Alison Fraser, Malcolm Gets, George S. Irving, and Marc Kudisch. It was a reading, so we're not going to review it -- but we will tell you that it was exciting, funny, and incredibly alive. We should all be thankful for this very special gift.
Hollywood directors who make the occasional movie in NYC sometimes hire theater actors for small roles, but dyed-in-the-wool New York directors will always go with as many stage-trained actors as they can. That's certainly true of the great Sidney Lumet. He's got a new movie coming out in March, Find Me Guilty, and it's chock full of theater folk.
The film is based on the true story of Jack DiNorscio, a Mafia kingpin who decided to defend himself in court, resulting in the longest trial in New York City history. Action star Vin Diesel has the lead but the supporting cast includes Raúl Esparza, Peter Dinklage, Chuck Cooper, Annabella Sciorra, Ron Silver, and Robert Stanton. Sounds like it's definitely worth waiting for!