Monday, April 29, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 28th April 2013

Duke Ellington's music, orchestra and piano. He was born April 29th 1899.
Some of the music was written with or by Homewood's Billy Strayhorn ("BS")

"At His Very Best-Duke Ellington and His Orchestra" RCA LP LPM 1715-"Creole Love Call' w/Adelaide Hall, voc.-Bubber Miley, tp-Rudy Jackson, cl

"Early Ellington-Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra" Brunswick LP BL 54007-"Mood Indigo" w/ Barney Bigard, cl-Arthur Whetsel, tp

The Ellington Era 1927-1940-Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra-Volume One” Columbia LP C3L 27-“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’/”The Gal from Joe’s” w/Johnny Hodges, as-Harry Carney, bs-Lawrence Brown,tb-Bigard

"Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band" RCA/Bluebird 5659-2RB-"Congo Brava" /"Five O'Clock Whistle"/"Warm Valley"/"Bakiff"/"Chelsea Bridge" (BS)w/ Juan Tizol, tb-Bigard- Hodges-Ben Webster,ts-Carney- Rex Stewart, tp- -Ivy Anderson, voc-Ray Nance, vn.-Billy Strayhorn,p

"Happy Birthday, Duke-The Birthday Sessions-Vol 3" LaserLight 15 785-"She Moved" w/Jimmy Grissom, voc.-Ray Nance,tp-Quentin Jackson,tb-Jimmy Hamilton, ts

"Duke Ellington Presents..." Bethlehem 20-30202-"Frustration" w/Harry Carney, bs

"Duke Ellington-Happy Reunion" Doctor Jazz LP FW 40030-"Play The Blues and Go" w/Clark Terry, tp-Hamilton-Hodges-John Sanders, tb-Sam Woodyard, dms

"Duke Ellington-The Great Paris Concert" Atlantic LP 2-304-"Suite Thursday:Zweet Zursday/Lay-By" (w/BS) w/Nance, vn-Brown-Paul Gonsalves,ts-Hamilton

"Duke Ellington and His Orchestra-Berlin '65-Paris '67" Pablo PACD 5304-2-"Blood Count" (BS) w/Hodges

"Duke Ellington-The Pianist" Fantasy OJCCD =717-2 (F 9462)-"The Shepherd (take 2)" w/John Lamb, bs

"The Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington Cote D'Azur Concerts on Verve" -"La Plus Belle Africaine" w/Lamb- Carney- Hamilton-Rufus Jones, dms

"Duke Ellington's Far East Suite" BMG Heritage/Bluebird 82876-55614-2-"Agra'/"Amad" (w/BS) w/ Carney-Brown

"Duke Ellington-New Orleans Suite" Atlantic LP SD 1580 -"Blues for New Orleans" w/Hodges-"Wild" Bill Davis, org

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 28th April 2013

 Charles Strouse: music & Lee Adams: lyrics-"It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's Superman" (original Broadway cast) Sony Broadway SK 48207-excerpts w/ Bob Holiday, Jack Cassidy, Patricia Marand, Linda Lavin, Michael O'Sullivan, Don Chastain-Harold Hastings, music director

Johnny Mercer: lyrics & Gene De Paul: music -"L'il Abner" (original Broadway cast) Columbia LP OL 5150-excerpts w/Peter Palmer, Marc Breaux, Ralph Linn, Jack Matthew, Robert McClure, George Reeder, Stubby Kaye, Edith Adams, Stanley Simmonds-Lehman Engel, music director

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Theatre review: "Romeo and Juliet" at CMU

Carnegie Mellon school of Drama is presenting a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as conceived by director Don Wadsworth. In performances full of youthful vitality and sincerity, his student cast thoroughly brings out the essence of the story although not giving enough attention to the beauty and eloquence of the language.

There is no question that the violent and ugly family feuds breaking the peace in long-ago Verona parallel today’s urban street life, as excellently delineated in program notes by CMU dramaturg Isabel Smith-Bernstein and emphasized by Calvin Johnson’s very effective stage projections of graffiti- covered walls and grim buildings. Nor is this the first time for such an analogy, most famously personified in Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents in West Side Story.  Wadsworth makes all that convincingly clear and his staging has the young people moving with as much energy and life as those choreographed to Leonard Bernstein’s music.

The famed balcony scene comes across superbly; each nuance of the young people’s feelings as much manifested in how they speak as it is in how they move. Adam Hagenbuch’s Romeo is full of innocence and bursting wonder which his body cannot contain by ever keeping still. Meanwhile, within the confines of her balcony, Grace Rao’s Juliet paces with equal delight and expressive joy. For me this was the highlight of the experience, its effect overshadowing every moment before and after.  However the delivery of other wonderful words throughout the play often gets trammeled in the intensity, even if the intensity stays believable and the characters remain convincing.  

Elsewhere Rao’s performance stays sweet and sincere, getting much meaning from the feelings behind the words. But Hagenbuch, always physically expressive, delivers most other speeches awkwardly, as if what he says does not come naturally.

Sairus Graham-Thille and Lachlan McKinney as Juliet’s father and Friar Laurence have believable vitality and a good sense of the characters, while Dylan Schwartz-Wallach gives much earnest integrity to the role of Benvolio.   

Wadsworth has done some trimming and transposition of the text, for example cutting most of Friar Laurence’s foreshadowing speech about poisonous plants, or overlapping two separate later scenes or having the prologue serve as an epilogue. None of this does any harm.

He has come up with a visually, physically very alive production. But his student cast has not been given enough chance to discover and reveal the richness of the language which is as much a significant part of this play as the story.    

Romeo and Juliet continues through May 4th at Philip Chosky Theater, Purnell Center for the Arts, on the CMU campus, Oakland.  412/268-2407.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Theatre review: "Clybourne Park" at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Knowing that Bruce Norris’s play Clybourne Park won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award could be an impediment to appreciating the current production at Pittsburgh Public Theater. You might  expect a masterpiece, instead of just admiring a very well-conceived and well-constructed script with more promise than it delivers. Therein lies the problem of advance knowledge along with an anticipatory idea of the intention. Nonetheless, a superior cast of visiting actors makes it all work superbly, with one of them giving an outstanding performance. Credit too director Pamela Berlin for melding everyone into a wonderfully coordinated ensemble, quite an accomplishment. 

Norris has created what some critics have described as a satire. It spins off from Lorraine Hansberry’s true masterpiece A Raisin In The Sun with a second act sequel. Clearly in both acts the core issue is racism and that is explored from a variety of angles but stays more diffused than intensely focused, dealing with people bewildered by such a subject, mentally and emotionally meandering into and out of marginal and sometimes significant thoughts and ideas. Such people certainly are believable. Therein lies Norris’ talent. Most of the time is spent on the characters’ human, often very funny foibles. That makes for many entertaining moments while, at the same time, keeping us outside their self-disguised deepest feelings.  
Hansberry wrote about the black Younger family’s highly emotional struggle and decision to move into a house in an all-white 1950s Chicago neighborhood, Clybourne Park. The neighborhood association sends Karl Lindner to try to buy them out. Norris looks at that from the perspective of white neighborhood people not seen in A Raisin In the Sun with only one character from that, Karl, as the fulcrum. This story begins by hovering over the sometimes buried story of why the house owners, Russ and Bev, want to leave their home. Karl tries to talk them out of it while Russ and Bev’s black housemaid, Francine and her husband Albert, get accidentally trapped in the discussion.

The second act takes place 50 years later when a white couple wants to buy the property and replace the house in an area which became all-black. To do so, that couple must negotiate with the neighborhood association which includes Lena, a relative of the long-since-gone Younger family.

All too human chatter and gab in the first act merge with stereotypical racist generalizations, which skitter on the surface while causing little harm. There is anger there, Russ’s, but it is directed at his neighbors given the pain he feels about the tragedy which took place in his house. In the second act, amid more diffused conversation, Lena tries to make an emotional case for honoring the good things that happened once the Youngers moved in and for not obliterating  the legacy.  

Clearly, from what I’ve said, these people cannot or choose not to dwell intently and thoroughly on racism. In fact, in the second act, they degenerate into telling crude racist jokes rather than getting involved in deep arguments. Hence the satire.

Thus Norris comments, making them not very likeable, as if we are meant to judge them. If we relate to them, it would not be comfortably. Norris has also come up with a lot of inventive parallel details in the 50-years later act which add to a sense of craftsmanship and a sense of intelligent design. As if these were real humans lost in a garden of Eden, not seeing the forest, only the trees. Intellectually such invention has much virtue.

Brad Bellamy gives a remarkably well-developed and especially distinctive sense of Russ’ disabling emotional pain. And, in the second act, he makes equally memorable the role of handyman Dan who accidentally uncovers Russ’ secrets. As the seemingly jovial and well-meaning Karl, Tim McGeever convincingly stays full of that man’s headstrong and blatant ignorance. I was also impressed by Bjorn DuPaty as Francine’s husband Albert with his thorough yet subtle sense of quiet dignity and careful deference to the dominant white folks.     

Scenic designer Michael Schweikardt perfectly conveys the sense of these two homes in transition. The second act’s set, no doubt conceived by Norris, makes its own special comment, as if confirming belief that such a property inevitably would deteriorate when inhabited by black people.     

Norris has given us a lot to ponder. Cumulatively you can come away admiring his perception and skill.That’s what makes this play so good. And the performances maximize its virtues. I wanted more. To be moved. To feel the pain and shame of the racism that still darkens our lives. Those dimensions lurk beneath the ground in Clybourne Park.   

Clybourne Park continues through May 19th at Pittsburgh Public Theater’s O’Reilly Theater. 621 Penn Ave, downtown. 412/ 316-1600  and







Monday, April 22, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 21st April 2013

"Lou Harrison-Scenes from Cavafy" New World Records 80710-2-"Scenes from Cavafy”: “Gending Ptolemy" w/ John Duykers, singer-Gamelan Pacifica Chorus-Gamelan Pacifica-Jarrad Powell, director

"James Hartway:Imaginary Creatures/Scenes from a Marriage" Naxos 8.559346-"Images of Mogador": "Trance Music; From the Minaret" w/The Woodland Trio:Jeffrey Zook, flute-Caroline Coade, viola-Kerstin Allvin, harp

"David Gompper: Violin Concerto" Naxos 8.559637-"Ikon" w/Wolfgang David, violin-Royal Philharmonic Orchestra-Emmanuel Siffert, conductor

"Anthony Piccolo-Imaginary Symphony and other tales" Navona NV 5904-"Imaginary Symphony": "Lady Bug's Rain Song," "Dream"w/Campanella Children’s Chorus- Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra-Petr Vronsky, conductor

David Gillingham-"Mccormick Percussion Group-Concerti for Piano with Percussion Orchestra" Ravello RR7862-Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra w/Ji Hyun Kim, piano-Mccormick Percussion Group-Robert Mccormick, conductor

"Ben Johnston-String Quartets Nos. 1,5 & 10" New World Records 80693-2-String Quartet No. 10 w/ Kepler Quartet

"Arthur Levering-Still Raining, Still Dreaming" New World Records 80662-2-same w/Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble-Scott Wheeler, conductor

"Jonathan Leshnoff: Chamber Music" Naxos 8.559721-String Quartet No. 2 "Edelman": 3rd movement w/Carpe Diem String Quartet

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 21st April 2013

Judd Woldin: music & Robert Brittan: lyrics-"Raisin" (original Broadway cast) Sony Broadway SK 32754-excerpts w/Ernestine Jackson, Virginia Capers, Elaine Beener, Walter P, Brown, Ted Ross, Joe Morton, Deborah Allen--Howard A. Roberts, music director

John Jiler: lyrics & Ray Leslee: music-"Avenue X" (1997 studio cast) RCA Victor 09026 63208-2-excerpts w/ Chuck Cooper, Jerry Dixon, Jerry Tellier, Wayne Pretlow, Cheryl Alexander-Jerry Dixon, music director

Monday, April 15, 2013

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday 14th April 2013

 Cole Porter: music & lyrics
"Fifty Million Frenchmen" (1991 studio cast) New World Records- 80417-2-excerpts w/Howard McGillin, Susan Powell, Jason Graae, Scott Waara, Kim Criswell, Karen Ziemba, Kay McClelland-Orchestra New England -Evans Haile, conductor

"Silk Stockings" (original Broadway cast) RCA 1102-2-RG -excerpts w/ Don Ameche, Hildegard Neff, Henry Lascoe, Leon Belasco, David Opatoshu-Herbert Greene, music director

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday 14th April 2013

 Sergei Prokofiev-"The Soviet Experience-Vol II -Pacifica Quartet" Cedille CDR 90000 130-String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op 92 w/Pacifica Quartet

Sergei Prokofiev-"Bach-Bartok-Chopin-Ginastera- Prokofiev-Scarlatti-Argerich" EMI 7243 5 56975 2 3-Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat, op. 83 w/Martha Argerich, piano

Dmitri Kabalevsky-"Yo-Yo Ma-Shostakovich & Kabalevsky” CBS Masterworks MK 37840 -Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 49 in g minor-w/Yo-Yo Ma, cello-The Philadelphia Orchestra-Eugene Ormandy, conductor

Nicolai Miaskovsky-"The Soviet Experience Vol. 1-Pacifica Quartet" Cedille CDR 90000 127-String Quartet No. 13 in a minor, op.86 w/Pacifica Quartet

Aram Khachaturian-"Khachaturian-Gayne-Loris Tjeknavorian-National Philharmonic Orchestra" RCA 82876-65836-2-"The Gayne Ballet" excerpts w/ National Philharmonic Orchestra- Tjeknavorian, conductor

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Theatre review: "Our Class" from Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre-Sunday, 14th April 2013

Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre has begun its new season with a play that’s neither Irish nor classic, although Our Class by Polish writer Tadeusz Slobodzianek has been earning a solid reputation since it came to light in 2009.

This adaptation by English writer Ryan Craig needs serious trimming, despite the admiration the script has been accruing. Repetitions of themes and dialogue abound in the second act as trivial narrative details keep coming.

No doubt audiences and critics are deeply disturbed by the subject of the play and how it is presented. Moreover Slobodzianek has created many powerful scenes, the later ones rich in irony. He has come up with a compelling and imaginative way to present the story.

Irish director Aoife Spillane-Hinks has invented visually vivid ways to enhance the concept aided by scenic and lighting designers Gianni Downs and Jim French. And this becomes even more richly compelling to watch due to evocative body gestures and poses created by Pittsburgh movement artist Mark Conway Thompson. Several of the young actors give excellent performances. But Spillane-Hinks needs to work more with her cast on how to deliver their dialogue, especially in the increasingly sluggish second act where many actors plow through their lines as if unaware of the essential meaning of their words, obscuring emphases in mundane delivery.

It may be that such interpretations intend to evoke the sense of Hannah Arendt’s phrase “the banality of evil.” Much of what the characters say and how they say it comes across as straightforward narrative, often blandly stated rather than colored by deep emotion. They do erupt with fierce anger but other emotions, such as sorrow and grief, rarely break through the surface. And much sorrow and grief lies within this story. Moreover that impact is diffused and lost during the concluding scenes.

Slobodzianek has written about the massacre of 1600 Jews in the German-occupied Polish town of Jedwabne during World War II. Recent research attributes the slaughter to the local people, most already inherently anti-Semitic The story follows 10 classmates from their mid-teens in 1926 all the way through their deaths in a variety of ways and places up to 2003. Five of these people are Jewish.

Collectively and individually they tell of what happened over the years, but the focus, of course, is on the massacre and how the victims and killers behaved. Most of this is staged symbolically rather than graphically, Even so, the detailed verbal descriptions of the brutality remain strongly disturbing.

Slobodzianek’s emphasis seems most to be on what was done but the evil people do not say much if anything to justify their actions, as if anti-Semitism were enough. This tends to put the audience outside what happens and not to connect with the victims and their classmates. This looks like an attempt to emulate Bertolt Brecht, given the interjection of many songs, the use of underscored music and the non-realistic settings and staging. That would make sense, as does a script where everything becomes increasingly distancing. Certainly the guilty ones and the survivors have chosen such distance as a way to deal with the past. You could intellectually see that point. But we are let off from identifying ourselves with people such as they.

The 10 member cast works exceptionally well as an ensemble, especially when portraying rambunctious children. Visiting actor Rafael Goldstein stands out most with passion, depth and personality as Abram, the only member of the class who leaves Poland before the massacre and returns to find the aftermath and to try to understand what happened in his absence. Also Pittsburgh actor Justin Fortunato leaves a strong impression as the seemingly colorless but actually smarmy Henick, a man who chooses to become a priest not as a mission but as a career.

As always, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre admirably provides extensive and illuminating reading in its program book, so you will find much to understand about what happened in that tragic time and before, anti-Semitism never dying.

As for the play, we get to hear and learn much, but comprehending how and why it could happen is harder. Perhaps Slobodzianek does not intend to give us insight, rather asking us to bear witness. But when he or someone else like Brecht pushes us away, is thinking about the issues enough? Are we supposed to stay removed from such horrors and, like survivor Marianna, sit in silence before the incessant images of violence on television sipping tea and clutching cookies?

Our Class presented by Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre continues through May 4th at Henry Heymann Theater-Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland .412-561-6000 -


Theatre review: "Litte Gem" at City Theatre-Sunday 14th April 2013

Sitting in a circle surrounding a smaller, simple circle, attending Little Gem by Elaine Murphy at City Theatre, you might wonder if anything complicated and truly dramatic can surface. And when you look into the program book and see two long and dense columns translating Dublin-like slang you may fear that you’re about to have problems following what these characters will do and say.

Never mind, for you are about to engaged in a sweet and wonderful encounter with the lives of three Irish women who reveal themselves in words and action which unfold like slowly blooming flowers, whose parts are revealed subtly and completely  with never a sense of obvious theatricality.  Credit director Kimberly Senior and her outstanding cast, among which Robin Walsh glows with inner beauty.
These are, indeed, seemingly rather basic Irish folk, but they could hail from any working class part of the world, of course without the accents and the vocabulary (peppered with recurring ,simple profanity.)  So, should you be expecting the often- invoked harshness, darkness and sorrow common to many plays about people of that land, you will, instead, become aware that everyone portrayed is a good person and a kind person. Expect to be charmed, to smile and find a few tears welling up in your eyes. Murphy deserves her awards. 

Most of the time, in three alternating monologues, Kay , Lorraine and Amber talk directly to you about a time of change in their lives, sometimes personifying other people, especially four men.  Kay, the oldest speaks of James, aka “Gem,” her increasingly frail husband, Lorraine’s da. Ray, Lorraine’s ex, is a homeless drug addict yet, eventually, Lorraine has a happy relationship with Niall. Meanwhile, Lorraine’s 19 year old daughter Amber has become pregnant during her on again off again connections with Paul. She gives birth to “Little Gem” who adds new life, bringing the family closer together as does a parallel death. 
For much of the play, gram, ma and daughter stand separately, telling of their problems and their feelings, revealing themselves gradually, naturally. Ultimately, they bond, as other families might in similar circumstances, gathering strength in togetherness. Here too, Murphy shines.  Director Senior makes it work perfectly. As does her cast.
Walsh’s phenomenal performance stirs the heart of the play while Pittsburgh’s Cary Anne Spear and Point Park grad Hayley Nielsen give equal truth and meaning to Kay and Amber. 

I found that the first act takes longer than it needs. But the cumulative experience can send you out into your own part of the world, feeling a strong and, indeed, loving connection with people such as these, people not so very far away as you might think.

Little Gem continues through May 5th at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street on the South Side. 412.431.CITY (2489) or


Monday, April 8, 2013

Playlist: "Classics" Sunday, 7th April 2913

Leonard Bernstein-"Bernstein: The Symphonies-Serenade" DGG 445 245-2-Symphony No. 2:"The Age of Anxiety": "The Masque," "The Epilogue" w/Lukas Foss, piano-Israel Philharmonic Orchestra-Bernstein, conductor

David Noon-"McCormick Percussion Group-Concerti for Piano with Percuission Orchestra" Ravello RR7862-Piano Concerto No.3, Opus 232: "Notturno Semplice" w/ Ji Hyun Kim, piano-McCormick Percussion Group-Robert McCormick, conductor

Robert Xavier Rodriguez-"American Music for Percussion-1" Naxos 8.559683-"El Dia de los Muertos" w/New England Percussion Ensemble-Frank Epstein, conductor

Russell Peck:"The Prism Quartet- Dubois/Levy/ Singelee/Peck/Woods" Koch 3-7024-2-"Drastic Measures"w/The Prism Quartet

Mary Ann Joyce-Walter-"Cantata for the Children of Terezin" Ravello RR 7845-"Transports 5:30 am" -"Birdsong"-"A Little Song without Words" -"The Rose"-w/ Oxnaya Oleskaya, soprano-King Singers of Kiev-Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra-Robert Ian Winstin, conductor

Paul Schoenfield-"Schoenfield-Four Parables-Russo" black box BB M1109-"Rambling Till The Butcher Cuts Us Down"-“Senility's Ride"-"Dog Heaven" w/Andrew Russo, piano-Prague Philharmonia-Joann Falletta, conductor

Warren Gooch-"Paradigms-Gooch-Worthington-Quilling-Brings-Diehl-Koykkar" Navona-NV 5880 -"Clockwork" w/Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra-Robert Black, conductor

David Tanner -"Of Birds and Lemons"-Jose Elizondo-David Tanner" Navona NV5887-"Tyger".w/Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra-Petr Vronsky, conductor

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 7th April 2013

John Kander: music & Fred Ebb: lyrics

"Kiss of the Spider Woman" (original Broadway cast) RCA Victor 09026-61579-2-excerpts w/Chita Rivera, Herndon Lackey, Merle Louise, Kirsti Carnahan, Anthony Crivello, Brent Carver-Jeffrey Huard-musical "supervisor"

"Cabaret" (1998 Broadway cast) RCA Victor 09026-63173-2-excerpts w/Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson-Patrick Vaccariello, music director

 "Cabaret" (original Broadway cast) Columbia CK 3040- excerpts w/Lotte Lenya, Jack Gilford-Harold Hastings, music director

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Theatre review: "Dream of Autumn" from Quantum Theatre

When it comes to Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre we expect the unexpected. And despite that seeming conundrum, no one would contradict the idea that Quantum should be cherished and admired for stretching beyond the usual borders of what most often characterizes theatre.

This time out we witness the world premiere of Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse ’s Dream of Autumn, translated and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, a Norwegian-American. Note that this comes from Ibsen’s climate and that the script comes from 1999 which suggests that it hadn’t previously provoked urgent interest.
When you look at Narelle Sissons’ scenic design and listen to what the characters are saying and doing, or not saying and doing, you could be reminded of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. A bleak landscape. Speeches pondering the meaning of life and death.  Waiting for clarity. Waiting to make up their minds. Long stretches of saying the same things with almost the same words, as if ritual.

You’ve got to hand it to the cast for taking on this challenge and to director Sunde for trying to wring every drop of meaning out of this arid soil. Indeed, look at Sisson’s set to see what I mean. Sand everywhere. Including the contents of two suspended hour glasses you can watch to learn how much longer you have in this slice of your life.      
Watch too the remarkable and astonishingly impressive performance of Martin Giles as he brilliantly finds every nuance, every fractured emotion, every rumination with the utmost internal clarity. Marvel as he does so while maintaining a completely appealing personification of child-like innocence

What it’s about, you ask? Perhaps you need to discover the presumably more subtle parts by yourself, should you wish to go there.
Let me just say that it takes place in a graveyard (Death. Get it?) involving characters called “Man” “Woman” “Mother” “Father” and “Gry.” That should be a clue to Fosse’s imagination. Time stumbles across the territory. Man and Woman seem to have been lovers or will be. Mother and Father hover like ghosts. Gry, Man’s one-time wife, appears. Why the specific name? Dwell on that later, if you think it’s worth it.  

They talk of love or lack of love. They talk of family. They talk of death. Man has trouble coming to decisions. They don’t do much else but talk. Oh well, they meander  all over the physical territory giving you something to look at, into and out of shadows, into and out of bright lights which illuminate very little within themselves. Meanwhile random sound effects puncture the echoing voices.  
Sunde has staged this within the crumbling walls of the former Park Schenley Restaurant in North Oakland, which provide appropriate hollow resonances amid the fragments of semi-buried, broken furniture. So even the graveyard is not taken literally.

So pile on the images, Pile on the expert verbal colorations. And laud our city’s Giles, Karla Boos, Laurie Klatscher, Gregory Lehane and Jennifer Tober for giving their best, never faltering, never failing in undiminished integrity. They prove that the best actors have the artistry to make something even this questionable become vivid. No doubt they will return in something more admirable. And so will you. That could come from Quantum. In spite of this.  
Dream of Autumn continues through April 28th at the former Park Schenley Restaurant, 3955 Bigelow Blvd. Oakland.  Tickets at  ShowClix 1-888-718-4253; or and at

Theatre review: "City of Asylum" at Pitt

University of Pittsburgh’s Repertory Theatre is presenting City of Asylum, which is described in the program books as “a stage performance conceived and directed by Cynthia Croot.” I quote to make clear that this is not called a play. It is, actually, an assemblage of narration and dialogue concerning four writers who have been, to quote the news release “in danger of persecution or death in their home countries.”  Those nations are China, Burma, El Salvador and Venezuela. The City of Asylum movement provides sanctuary to such people and City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, is the first in the United States,

Croot, Assistant Professor and Head of Performance at Pitt, has come up a remarkable array of visual images creating 100 minutes worth of imaginative staging in scenes which feature 11 Pitt students in a variety of roles as narrators, or the writers themselves or as people in dialogue from material they created. Croot’s use of a video camera in particular looks like the work of a highly skilled cinematographer and her projections and props, including a blood spattered gurney, always make this look compelling.  

As for the words, they tell of the horrors of violence, sometimes graphically described, and of the psychological cruelty these artists have endured and witnessed. These topics stay constantly disturbing even though never physically depicted.  Yet the talk sounds and feel most like illustrated lectures. We get to know about these admirable survivors but never get much sense of who they really are; the writing keeps them at a distance, underscored by the fact that no performer stays long in any one role. And the dialogue scenes chosen from what they wrote seem trivial in comparison with the descriptions of their suffering. I suppose you could marvel at the innocence of such material. But that’s as intellectual as is, later, pondering with admiration that these people still cherish life, maintaining the urge to create.

The student cast brings vitality to everything done and  said , but, on preview night, the delivery of the texts often missed the emphases which would most clarify meaning and intensity.   

Croot has something important to tell us, and does not claim to have created a play. A more dramatic choice could have been to have only four actors in one symbolically valid, confined space more thoroughly personifying the writers, physically acting out what they went through with more than words. Perhaps the writers themselves could help her do that.

City of Asylum continues through April 14th as Charity Randall Theater in Stephen Foster Memorial  Oakland. 412-624-PLAY  (7529) or

Monday, April 1, 2013

Playlist::"Classics" Sunday, 31st March 2013

Woody Herman Orchestra-"Woody Herman-The Thundering Herds-1945-1947" Columbia LP CJ 44108 -"Backtalk" w/Red Norvo, vibes-Bill Harris, tb-Flip Phillips. ts-Don Lamond, dms

The Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus-The Savoy Sessions" Savoy LP SJL 2212-"September Song" /"This Can't Be Love" w/Norvo, vibes-Farlow, guitar-Mingus, bass

Red Norvo, vibes & orchestra-"Red Plays the Blues" RCA Victor LP LPM 729-"Just a Mood" w/Harry Edison, tp-Ben Webster, ts-Jimmy Rowles, p- "Britt's Blues" & "Shed No Tears" w/Harold Land, ts-Willie Smith, as-Helen Humes, voc-Rowles

On Stage-Tal Farlow, Hank Jones, Red Norvo, Ray Brown, Jake Hanna" Concord LP CJ 143"-"Rose Room" w/Farlow, g-Jones,p-Norvo-Brown, b-Hanna, dms

Rolf Ericson and His American All-Stars" EmArcy LP MG 36106 -"Visby Groove Alley" w/Ericson, tp-Duke Jordan, p-Cecil Payne,bs-Art Taylor, dms

The Return of Howard McGhee" Bethlehem LP (Japanese re-print) N-11-21-YP 7126-BE-"Don't Blame Me" w/McGhee, tp-Jordan-Sahib Shihab, bs

 Duke Jordan, piano-"Flight to Jordan" Savoy Jazz LP SJL 1169-"Forecast" w/ Percy Heath, b-Art Blakey, dms

Duke Jordan, piano-"Flight to Jordan" (yes!) Blue Note LP 84046-"Starbrite" w/Dizzy Reece, tp-Stanley Turrentine, ts

 "Jimmy McGriff-City Lights" JAM LP 002 -"My Way" w/Jimmy Ponder, g-Bill Easley, Leo Johnson, as-Harold Vick, ts-Danny Moore, tp

 Jimmy McGriff, organist-"Jimmy McGriff-The Starting Five" Milestone LP M 9148--"BGO" & "You Belong to Me' w/Rusty Bryant, ts & as-David "Fathead" Newman, ts, flute-Mel Brown, g

 "Hank Crawford-Jimmy McGriff-Steppin' Up" Milestone LP M 0153-"Steppin' Up" & "Lift Every Voice" w/Jimmy Ponder, guitar

"Jimmy McGriff-The Dream Team" Milestone MCD-68-2-"McGriffin" /"T'ain't Nobody's Bizness if I Do" w/Newman, ts-Red Holloway, as & ts-Mel Brown, g

Playlist: "The Best of Broadway" Sunday, 31st March 2013

George Gershwin: music & Ira Gershwin: lyrics-"Ok, Kay" (1994 studio cast) Nonesuch 79361-2-excerpts w/Patrick Cassidy, Liz Larsen, Stacey A. Logan, Dawn Upshaw, Kurt Ollman ,Adam Arkin-Orchestra of St. Luke's-Eric Stern, conductor,. 

 Kay Swift: music & Paul James: lyrics-"Fine and Dandy" (2004 studio cast) ps classics PS 94219-"Fine and Dandy" w/Carolee Carmello, Mario Cantone-Aaron Gandy, music director