Thursday, September 15, 2016

LIZ SMITH: All The Ways To Say I Love You

Judith Light and Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent.”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Autumn in New York, Theater in New York: Judith Light and "All The Ways To Say I Love You" ... Red Bull's "Tartuffe" ... "Jersey Boys" Head Back to The Tunnel.

“YOU SEE him as a saint. I’m far less awed; In fact I see right through him. He’s a fraud.”

So says Dorine in Moliere’s famous (and highly controversial) play, “Tartuffe.”
On October 10th, New York’s Red Bull Theater (423 W. 46th Street) will present Moliere’s comedy of hypocrisy as a kick-off (and benefit party) for its new season, presenting rarely-produced classics.

Directed by Marc Vietor and translated by Richard Wilbur this new “Tartuffe” stars Michael Urie, Dana Ivey, Julie Halston, Bill Camp, Christian Demarais, Gretchen Hall, Naomi Lorrain, Derek Smith, Ben Mehl and Reg Rogers.
I’ve seen some terrific productions out of the Red Bull company, and highly recommend looking into the “Tartuffe” event, as well as Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” (October 18-November 20) and Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” which will happen next spring.

Call 212-352-3101. There’s nothing like autumn in New York and there’s nothing like theater in New York!
The cast of “Tartuffe."
ON September 23rd, Amazon’s award-winning comedy/drama series “Transparent” returns for its third season. The show stars Jeffrey Tambor as a man who is transitioning, gender-wise, and presents how that decision affects his often unpleasantly self-involved family. Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass are the “kids” and Miss Judith Light is on hand as Tambor’s ex-wife. (Mr. Tambor won a well-deserved Emmy and Golden Globe for his masterful, layered performance as Maura Pfefferman.)
Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Amy Landecker, and Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent.”
To be honest, despite the currency of trans issues, it was our old friend Judith Light who was the initial attraction here.  Sometimes we try to pretend that the Emmy and Tony-winning actress is our own personal discovery, or “re-discovery.”  That’s because we know her so well.

Through all the years of writing about Judith — from her tormented days (and nights!) as Karen Wolek on “One Life to Live,” to her long running sitcom stint as Tony Danza’s employer on “Who’s the Boss,” gliding to Broadway triumphs in “Lombardi,” Other Desert Cities” and “The Assembled Parties” — she has remained the same. Honest, funny and forthright; genuinely good at heart. (Her work as an AIDS activist back when such support was still a dicey thing to do, and her overall embrace of the LGTB community has been epic.) To know her is to love her, literally.
Judith as Karen Wolek on “One Life to Live."
As Tony Danza’s employer on “Who’s the Boss."
Judith Light with Jessica Hecht in "The Assembled Parties."
Last week Judith was profiled by Lisa Birnbach in the New York Times. Ms. Birnbach noted that Judith “is enjoying the career she deserves.”  The Times scribe was referring to her talents, which seem limitless. (Light will soon tackle Neil LaBute’s new one-woman play, “All The Ways to Say I Love You,” which opens in New York on September 28th at the Lucille Lortel Theater.) 
But we have to be openly proprietary and personal here.  Judith Light deserves her career because she is a fabulous human being! Talent is a wonderful thing. Heart and soul?  Not as common as one might hope. 

Here’s to Judith — another season of “Transparent,” and another season on Broadway. Well, Off-Broadway, actually. Long may she reign.
Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times
IF YOU have “always wanted” to see Broadway’s great big hit, “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons,” you’ve had eleven years to do so. Now you better put a fire under that itch. On January 15th, “Jersey Boys” will end its run. (It is one of only five current Broadway shows to play over ten years on the Rialto.) The musical has been laden with honors — Tony Award, Britain’s Olivier Award, a Grammy for the cast album.  They love it all over the world, in spots as far flung as Australia and South Africa. (There was also Clint Eastwood’s 2014 screen version of the show. The less said about that, the better.)
2016 cast members Matt Bogart, Dominic Scaglione, Quinn VanAntwerp, and Richard H. Blake. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Original Broadway cast members J. Robert Spencer, John Lloyd Young, Daniel Reichard, and Christian Hoff singing "My Eyes Adored You." Photo: Joan Marcus © 2005.
Anyway, hurry up. Few things compare to the energy and vibrancy of “Jersey Boys.”  You don’t have to love or be overly-familiar with the Four Seasons’ great 1960’s pop classics to revel in this show. It doesn’t hurt, but “JB” is not for Boomers only. I’ve seen Gen X, Z and some happily surprised Millennial audiences dancing in the aisles at the August Wilson Theater — literally.

The show’s final “Frankie Valli” will be Texas-born singer/dancer/choreographer Mark Ballas, who shot to fame on “Dancing With the Stars.” He’ll morph into Newark’s Frankie V. on October 18th,  falsetto and sharp moves ready to go.
A taste of Mark Ballas' Valli-esque falsetto.
BEGINNING TODAY, if you are in Los Angeles — at 5210 Monte Vista Street to be exact — you might want to get in on a mini-Elizabeth Taylor film festival, coordinated by David Gilbert.  It is part of The VeggieCloud Film Series sponsored by The Getty Museum.

“A Public Affair: Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960’s” will present  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” ... ”Boom!” ... ”The Sandpiper” and but of course, “Cleopatra.” (In one of the epic’s various edits. VeggieCloud is showing the 192 minute version.)
"Antony! How can I live without you?" (By this point, La Liz was having a difficult time saying, "Antony" rather than "Richard.")
It’s a pretty good Liz n’ Dick selection, although I would have tossed in “The VIP’s” myself. (Just for the sheer, soapy, glamour of that film, as well as the delectable supporting performances of Maggie Smith, Orson Welles and Margaret Rutherford.)  Also, “Taming of the Shrew,” which was the couple’s last joint success. (After the exuberant “Shrew,” the movie-going public seemed suddenly exhausted by the Burton’s ongoing Abbott and Costello bit.)

“Cleopatra” looks a lot better now, far from the heat of “Le Scandale,” than it did in 1963. The whole thing is worth it just for the great love scene between Cleo and Mark Antony, when Elizabeth whispers: “How it hurts, how love can stab the heart!”  (Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz busily re-wrote and reconceived much of his dialogue between the lovers of antiquity as the modern lovers of the Cinecitta Studio dressing rooms got down to the business of shocking the world.)
"How it hurts! How love can stab the heart!"
“Boom!” written by Tennessee Williams represents everything that was going wrong with Elizabeth and Richard by 1968. But she — as a dying millionaires — is vastly enjoyable, if totally miscast. (La Liz shrieking, “Go shit on your mother!” is one of many immortal moments.) 

Beer and snacks will be served. (Miss Taylor would approve!)  Proceeds benefit the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. (Miss Taylor would bless you.)  Go to veggiecloud.net for info.
NO interruptions!!!" Liz as the world's least fragile dying millionairess in "Boom!"

Contact Liz here.