The Week on Stage Theater Reviews: Guys and Dolls, Farther Than the Farthest, Marjorie Prime

TThis week, the Bridge Theater is transformed into 1920s New York, with Anne Reid starring in one black mirror-like drama, and a new play at the Young Vic stages a revival of Scottish playwright Zinnie Harris’ second play.

Boys and Puppets – Bridge Theater ★★★★☆

In Nicholas Hytner’s production of boys and dolls, nothing stays still for long: not the cast, not the audience, not even the stage. Based on acclaimed immersive productions by Julius Caesar And A Midsummer Night’s Dreamthe Boss of the Bridge Theater transforms the auditorium into Depression-era New York, a place in constant flux.

Bright neon signs hang above the auditorium, warning of the city’s run-down underbelly; a world of late nights and men gambling for almost anything. Nathan Detroit (Daniel Mays) is desperate to find a home for his next illegal crap game while promising his 14-year-old fiancé, Adelaide (Marisha Wallace), that they’ll get married any day. Nathan needs a bet he can’t lose, and thinks he’s found one when he bets playboy Sky Masterson (Andrew Richardson) that he “can’t take a doll to Havana,” when it’s the doll in question local preacher Sarah Brown (Celinde Schoenmaker). .

The cast of “Guys and Dolls”

(Manuel Harlan)

As you watch the whirling ensemble, you’ll hardly know where to look, but our leads confidently run the show. Arriving on stage, Mays is a little lacking in energy, but picks up speed quickly. Wallace, on the other hand, recently received an Olivier nomination for her role in Oklahoma!She continues to dominate every musical she is in. She doesn’t overdo it in this easily overdone role, which makes the oft-tweeted “A Bushel and a Peck” really sexy.

The highlight of the show comes from Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Cedric Neal) who knocks those who haven’t got up out of their seats with a breathtaking rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.” The ensemble comes together in these big, powerful group songs. There are no distractions and the audience regains lost focus. We’re reminded why we’re here: to see musical theater titans at their best, singing from the heart. When it comes to classic revivals of major musicals, you won’t find anything better. Isobel Lewis

Full review here

Marjorie Prime – Menier Chocolate Factory ★★★☆☆

Those currently trembling with fear that their job will soon be replaced by artificial intelligence will be reassured by the gentle vision of an android-rich future Marjorie Prime. Brooklyn-based playwright Jordan Harrison wrote this slightly dystopian play nine years ago, before Chat GPT’s shockingly good AI software was successfully used to create everything from movie posters to sonnets to wedding vows. Accordingly, he envisions a world where androids are flawed helpers to humans, rather than sinister overlords.

Last Tango in Halifax Star Anne Reid is the beating heart of this show as 85-year-old Marjorie: wonderfully bawdy, full of life and far from pathetic as she lives with dementia. But on the other hand, she has a lot to be happy about. She got Walter (Richard Fleeshman) to poke her memory. He’s a “Prime” or exact android facsimile of her late husband, who is forever 30 (it’s amusingly implied that she wanted him in his very hottest form).

Nancy Carroll (left) and Anne Reid in “Marjorie Prime”

(Manuel Harlan)

This play is set 40 years in the future, but AI could easily create something even now with a Prime’s conversational skills. And with AI raising so many ethical talking points, it’s a little disappointing that Harrison’s hints at some of the Prime’s darker uses don’t matter much: this piece’s tone is as even as a gray-painted wall. The scenes move at a ponderous pace, static and loquacious, and bound by the confines of designer Jonathan Femson’s beautifully soft wood-panelled living room. Still, it’s a satisfying 80 minutes at the theater, with a more abstract final scene that hints at a more chilling potential future vision, one in which people could be squeezed from their stories and then thrown away like used toothpaste tubes. It’s a welcome touch of terror in a piece that often feels too cozy. Alice Saville

Full review here

Farther than the farthest – Young Vic ★★★☆☆

Zinnie Harris’ 1999 play follows the residents of a small, remote island who are forced to relocate to England when a natural disaster strikes. In a week of nationwide protests against the government’s illegal immigration law, the revival of the Young Vic couldn’t be more relevant. But as the play progresses, the subject gets lost between increasingly outlandish and confusing storylines, confusing focus.

The play begins on the unnamed island (named after Tristan da Cunha, where Harris lived for a number of years as a child) to which newly minted Francis (Archie Madekwe) returns after spending a year in Cape Town. We meet his sweet Aunt Mill (a mesmerizing Jenna Russell) and fiery Uncle Bill (Cyril Nri), who have little but appear happy. But Francis didn’t come back alone; with him is Mr. Hansen (Gerald Kyd), a textbook colonialist villain who flatters the family with magic tricks before sharing his proposal to build a factory on the island. But then a natural disaster breaks out and the residents flee to damp, smog-ridden England – a country of labour, “the Queen and puddings”, as Mill laments.

Jenna Russell in “Beyond the Farthest”

(Marc Brenner)

It’s hard not to be enchanted by the island’s timeless world, where people’s lives are connected to the earth. They wear simple navy blue smocks and flat, split shoes that imitate hooves. All around them, nature shimmers hypnotically, with neon waves and twinkling stars projected onto the slowly revolving stage. England is presented in sharp, clinical contrast in Act II. The circular light and curved benches on the stage may be reminiscent of aliens and crop circles, but the islanders are the aliens here. When Russell – who brings both depth and rare moments of comic relief to the show – recalls being mocked for always saying “is” instead of “am” or “are,” one can see the utter pain in her see eyes

middle of the second half, Further than the furthest goes off track. Mr. Hansen, a cartoon villain with his cream jacket and slicked-back hair, has a random moment of honesty and delivers a lengthy monologue that takes the show into whole new territory. It’s a good twist, but one that feels unearned by the play. A later, equally lengthy speech by Mill provides another major revelation. In the end everything feels too hectic, too confused. Harris’ message — that no one leaves the house unless they have to — remains, but it’s hard to see through the smog at times. II The Week on Stage Theater Reviews: Guys and Dolls, Farther Than the Farthest, Marjorie Prime

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