the traveler's resource guide to festivals & filmsa FestivalTravelNetwork.com site part of Insider Media llc.
Written by Sarah Burgess; directed by Thomas Kail
Performances through April 1, 2018
Aya Cash and Zach Grenier in Kings (photo: Joan Marcus)
In Sarah Burgess’s amusing if paper-thin Kings, Lauren and Kate are lobbyists and friends who have worked for long-time Senator—and likely presidential candidate—John McDowell, a veteran Texas Republican. But gumming up the works is Representative Sydney Millsap, an up-and-coming Texan sparkplug who, since she’s black, may well be the party’s—and the country’s—future, if she can focus her energy in the right direction and not ruffle so many feathers.
Sydney instead decides to use the political capital she gained by voting for a carried interest bill opposed by the financial lobby to challenge elder statesman John for his Senate seat, throwing his path to the White House into doubt. After some initial reluctance, Kate decides to join Sydney’s campaign, causing a rift with Lauren, while also causing Kate to question her own political choices and beliefs.
Burgess entertainingly shows how the interactions of lobbyists and those they work with in Congress are inextricably intertwined, and lip service is paid to Kate’s decision to follow her heart instead of her head and work for Sydney’s campaign, but there aren’t many well-reasoned arguments here. In their stead is a lot of lively dialogue, which also helps to offset labored jokes about, for instance, the restaurant chain Chili’s and its ultra-large margaritas.
The appealing performers—Gillian Jacobs (Kate), Aya Cash (Lauren), Eisa Davis (Sydney) and Zach Grenier (John)—bat Burgess’s lines around like expert tennis players, with Grenier providing an hilarious caricature of an entrenched politician oozing smugness from his very pores. But even Thomas Kail’s savvy direction and Anna Louizos’ equally smart set design can’t disguise the fact that Kings is a sitcom masquerading as something more substantial.
Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY
Blu-rays of the Week
An Actor’s Revenge
In Kon Ichikawa’s strangely affecting 1963 drama, a renowned kabuki performer tracks down the three men responsible for the death of his parents when he was young.
Although parts of this oft-dazzling film are dated, Ichikawa’s singular artistry and the splendid acting by Kazuo Hasegawa in an extremely demanding role make this a singular experience, further enriched by Setsuo Kobayashi’s atmospheric color cinematography. The new hi-def transfer is superb, and extras include an hour-long 1999 Ichikawa interview and a video essay by critic Tony Rayns.
The Florida Project
Willem Dafoe gives his most sympathetic performance since Platoon as the manager of a rundown Orlando motel where wild young kids run all over the place, especially Moonee, left alone by a single mom desperate to make a few bucks and survive however she can.
Director Sean Baker’s interesting look at a segment of the population rarely seen onscreen has tremendous young actors (especially Brooklynn Prince as Moonee), but at nearly two hours the film becomes repetitive and collapses long before the admittedly emotional final sequences. The hi-def transfer is fine; extras comprise a making-of featurette, cast-crew interviews and outtakes.
This shamelessly manipulative tearjerker based on R.J. Palacio’s novel about a young boy with a facial deformity (and a close-knit family) attending public school for the first time hits the mark thanks to credible acting by Jacob Tremblay as the boy, Izabela Vidovic as his older sister and Danielle Rose Russell as her best friend.
Director Stephen Chbosky tends toward the obvious—close-ups of the family’s cute dog portend something awful—but gets the sentimental job done. There’s a flawless hi-def transfer; extras include making-of featurette, commentary, music video, and an hour’s worth of interviews and on-set footage.
In the Body of the World
Written and performed by Eve Ensler
Directed by Diane Paulus
Performances through March 25, 2018
Eve Ensler in In the Body of the World (photo: Joan Marcus)
Eve Ensler’s talent for witty and thought-provoking solo shows (notably The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body) continues with her latest, In the Body of the World, which may even be her most intimate and personal work yet.
After describing the steadfast determination of women (horribly scarred physically and psychologically) whom she met while visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ensler then admits that something came along to knock her down: cancer. She initially reacted as many do when something bad happens: she blamed herself, even going so far as to ask whether, instead of having a baby, she ended up growing a tumor instead?
Despite the bleak prognosis, Ensler keeps her sense of humor as she describes what she went through—chemo, pain, hope, despair, even a visit from her alternatingly enervating and helpful sister—as she kept tabs on the African women creating a City of Joy for those who’ve been abused. Her humor is laced with heartbreak: she movingly reenacts her final moments with her dying mother, a woman with whom she wasn’t close but who responded to Eve’s overtures at the end.
There’s a lot to digest in In the Body of the World, some of it uncomfortably stark, but Ensler has always bravely blended the personal and the universal (and the political and cultural and…). Diane Paulus directs sympathetically on Myung Hee Cho’s wonderfully evocative set—which morphs into an astonishing garden that Ensler invites the audience onstage to explore after the play ends—visualizing the beauty in our world, explored by Ensler as potently as anything she’s done.
Manhattan Theater Club, 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY
Page 6 of 348
Sign up for our weekly newsletter!