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New York Spotlight: July 2006

A Time to Synge

Marie Mullen in DruidSynge
(Photo © Keith Pattison)
No Broadway shows are opening this month, but there's plenty of exciting stuff going on around town thanks to the Lincoln Center Festival 2006 (July 10-30) and the Midtown International Theater Festival (July 17-August 6).

The theatrical highlight of the Lincoln Center event is DruidSynge, the collective title of Tony Award winner Garry Hynes' staging of six works by John Millington Synge -- Riders to the Sea, The Playboy of the Western World, Deirdre of the Sorrows, The Shadow of the Glen, The Well of the Saints, and The Tinker's Wedding -- as a nine-hour marathon (with dinner break). The plays will be performed at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre at John Jay College by a cast of 19 actors including Marie Mullen, a 1999 Tony Award winner for her performance in The Beauty Queen of Leenane (which Hynes directed).

Another major event in the festival is the New York premiere of the opera Grendel, directed and co-written by Julie Taymor (The Lion King). Based on John Gardner's novel of the same title, which in turn was based on the epic poem Beowulf, the opera comes to Lincoln Center in a production that was first seen at the Los Angeles Opera in May. It's described as a darkly comic retelling of the medieval legend from the point of view of the monster Grendel, who can't suppress his instinct to kill. The work has a libretto by Taymor and poet J.D. McClatchy, music by Academy Award winner Elliot Goldenthal (Taymor's husband), and choreography by Angelin Preljocaj. The cast is headed by Eric Owen in the title role and Denyce Graves as the Dragon; Desmond Richardson, who starred on Broadway in Fosse and Movin' Out, will dance the role of Beowulf.

Also part of the festival are two "music-theater" pieces: Heiner Goebbels' Eraritjaritjaka, based on the works of Nobel Prize-winning author Elias Canetti, and Ong Keng Sen's Geisha, to be narrated by Obie Award winner Karen Kandel; Thailand's Ramakien: A Rak Opera; a performance by Israel's Batsheva Dance Company; the world premiere of Elizabeth Streb's dance piece STREB vs. Gravity; and the New York premieres of Bill T. Jones' dance piece Blind Date; and Mark Morris' Sylvia, the latter presented by the San Francisco Ballet.

The seventh annual Midtown International Theatre Festival will take over four different theatrical venues on the same block of West 36th Street between 8th and 9th avenues in Manhattan: the MainStage and Jewel Box spaces of the WorkShop Theater Company, located at 312 West 36th Street (4th floor), and Chatterton's Where Eagles Dare Theatre and Studio Theatre, both located at 347 West 36th Street (on the ground floor and the 12th floor, respectively). Among the many shows slated: Layon Gray's The Girls of Summer, about an all-black female baseball team; Tony Sportiello's LOL, a comedy/drama about finding love on the internet; and Monica Bauer's The Maternal Instinct, about a lesbian marriage.

If all of the above isn't enough theater for you, there are a few commercial Off-Broadway shows that sound intriguing: School of the Americas, José Rivera's new play about Che Guevara (through July 23, Public Theater) starring John Ortiz and Patricia Velasquez; River Deep, a celebration of the life and career of music legend Tina Turner, featuring an original score by composer Philip Hamilton (July 5-29, Playwrights Horizons); Manhattan Madcaps of 1924, in which the classic songs of Richard Rodgers and Loreenz Hart are woven into a new libretto written in the style of '20s musical comedies (July 6-22, Symphony Space); The Peccadillo Theater Company's revival of the 1937 Marx Brothers vehicle Room Service (July 10-August 5, Bank Street Theatre); the Second Stage Theatre Uptown's production of Rajiv Joseph's All This Intimacy, about a lusty 30-year-old poet who finds himself involved in several simultaneous relationships (July 17-August 12, McGinn/Cazale); and Shout! The Mod Musical, featuring songs made famous by Petula Clark, Lulu, Dusty Springfield, and other pop stars of the '60s (beginning previews July 11 at the Julia Miles Theatre).


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