Monday, October 2, 2017

Revisiting an Incident That Went Down Some 30 Years Ago in an Opera … On a Mission to Help Kids Pull Themselves Together … Food for Thought and Consumption From The Hort

From "Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined" at the Whitney Museum of American Art: Pregnant, 2017. Charcoal, pastel and pencil on paper, 74 1/2 x 42 in. ©Toyin Ojih Odutola. Photo courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.


THE leaves are turning colors and life is rolling at a good clip. A Nigerian-born artists makes waves in New York City. In Miami Beach, all manner of sounds reverberate at the REVOLT music conference.

An opera about a hateful incident in the City of Brotherly Love turns up at the Apollo Theater. On the film festival circuit: investigative works, international emerging artists, and writers getting their due.

1-7 Oct.

LIFESTYLE. 7 p.m.-11 p.m. 6 Oct. Mission Be 2017 Gratitude Gala. The evening will feature live music, performers,dancing as well as a live and silent auction and more. Mission Be is dedicated to helping students manage stress and regulate their emotions. Captain Bill’s Restaurant & Catering. 122 Ocean Ave. Bay Shore, NY.

MUSIC. 8 p.m. 6-7 Oct. We Shall Not Be Moved. The opera, having its New York premiere at the Apollo Theater, is based on the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. The incident resulted in 11 deaths and the destruction of numerous rowhouses. It is composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain and features choreography by Bill T. Jones.. Apollo Theater, 253 125th St. New York.

8-14 Oct.

MUSIC. 12-15 Oct. REVOLT RMC 2017 Music Conference. The festival from Sean Combs’ new REVOLT TV music cable networks features four days of panels, performances, auditions and more about making it in the music business. Nobu Eden Roc Hotel & Resort, 4525 Collins Ave.. Miami Beach, FL.

15-21 Oct.

FILM. 19-22 Oct. 5th Chelsea Film Festival. The latest iteration of the international film festival that spotlights the work of emerging filmmakers, producers and actors has a new entry this year. Billed as a “pre-celebration of the Chelsea-based festival is the “Women in Power” program on Wednesday, 18 Oct. It is an invite-only, half-day conference,co-partnered by The Hollywood Reporter.
The topic on the table: “Women in Leadership Positions: How Did They Make it To The Top?” … Screenings, Q&As, discussions and industry mixers will predominate once the festival commences in earnest. Various locations in and around the Chelsea neighborhood. New York.

FILM. 19-22 Oct. Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival. Now in its third year, this festival is presented by 100Reporters, an investigative news group. The festival spotlights compelling investigative films, plus features panels and symposiums for journalists and visual storytellers. The opening film is “One of Us,” from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. It follows three people who made the decision to leave Hasidic Judaism. Other films include "The Rape of Recy Taylor. Various locations. Washington, D.C.

ART. 20 Oct. Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined. Billed as the artist’s first solo museum exhibit in New York, “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined” at the Whitney Museum of American Art is a series of fictional portraits that chronicle the lives of two aristocratic Nigerian families. Themes include identity, authenticity and representation. Odutola is Nigerian-born and Alabama-rasied. Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St. New York. http://

22 Oct. and beyond

ART. Through 23 Oct. Calder: Hypermobility. In collaboration with the Calder Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents an exhibition of some of Alexander Calder's most extraordinary mobile sculptures. These works are given space to achieve the range of motions and sounds intended by their creator. The exhibit is accompanied by talks, concerts, film screenings and performances. Whiney Museum of American Art, New York.

FOOD. Noon-2 p.m. 24 Oct. Annual Fall Luncheon. “Putting Good Food on the Table” is the theme of this year’s annual fundraiser of The Horticultural Society of New York. Huguette Hersch is to receive the Award of Excellence. Culinary honorees include Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson (The Cecil, Minton’s Harlem). One of the main goals of “The Hort” is to “sustain the vital connection between people and plants.” The Metropolitan Club. 1 East 60th St. New York.

FILM. 26-29 Oct. Austin Film Festival and Writer’s Conference. What sets this film festival apart from most is that it includes a writers conference. Whether one is writing from the movies, TV, theater or online, s/he is celebrated at this festival. Various locations. Austin, Texas.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Over the Top and Overflowing With Laughs, 'Girls Trip' Is a Getaway That You Don't Want to Miss

The Flossy Posse is wigged out: Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall. Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures.


college friends – five years estranged – reunite when they journey to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.

During the stay of the "Flossy Posse" in The Big Easy all manner of fun, good times, hijinks, old hurts, perceived new betrayals and doom are in play.

In a nutshell, that is the premise of "Girls Trip," which opens today in U.S. theaters. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, the comedy stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith.

To be clear, "Girls Trip" is puerile, gross, tasteless and vulgar. It has marked undertones of "Weekend at Bernie's," “Entourage," "Sex in the City" as well as numerous, nameless comedy films aimed at the funny bones and libidos of males 12 to 25. Except, these are women. Black women. Thankfully, with divergent personalities, giving viewers four very different variations of black womanhood. As it should be, since there are myriad iterations.

More important, "Girls Trip" is funny and occasionally tender and touching. It also boasts some entertaining archival concert footage featuring Mariah Carey, Bel Biv Devoe and other acts. There are also a number of cameos, including P. Diddy and chef Carla Hall Mostly, “Girl’s Trip” is funny. Very funny.

Providing most of the laughs is TH. Clearly, she is the designated comic relief. And as Dina, girlfriend brings it in spades in every, well-intentioned, laser-focused, expletive-filled rant. She steals the film. Lest viewers are confused, be advised that comedic acting is difficult; considerably more than dramatic acting. TH is utterly believable as a woman plagued by anger-management problems.

All four are troubled in their own way and doing what they have to do to get through it. Sasha (QL), once a respected journalist, has sunk into the muck and mire of bossip (black folk gossip). Lisa (JPS), serially distrustful of men, has moved herself and her two children in with her mother, spending far too much of her time smothering rather than mothering.

Ryan (RH), who is becoming increasingly successful as a self-help author by declaring to women that they can have it all, has far less than that herself. Including Mr. Right For Her.

On this trip they are to get away from their troubles. And when they do, they go all in. In fact, they let it rip, from bungee-cording (exquisitely tasteless) in the French Quarter, to triple-teaming an interloper during a cooking segment (fun), to going on an absinthe-fueled tear (side splittingly funny) to kicking butt during a dance-off in a nightclub (riotous). The Flossy Posse is in da house, y'all!

Toasting with drinks spiked with way too much absinthe.

Hanging over all of these contretemps, however, like a family of ominous storm clouds, is the threat of a scandal involving Ryan. It has the potential to destroy her marriage and her fledgling empire. This bombshell can potentially tear asunder the Flossy Posse.

It is in these spaces – when disaster is sharpening its poisonous arrows – that the comedy in "Girls Trip" gives way to drama. Usually, in this sort of comedy, the drama is outside of too much, utterly over the top, fully unbelievable.

Here, it is very natural; organic. As when Sasha and Ryan have a belated confrontation in the lobby of their hotel after all four women have a battle royale with each other. Lisa and Dina quit the lobby in high dungeon, leaving Sasha and Ryan alone. It’s a reckoning.

All that fun can wear a girl out.

This exchange will resonate resoundingly with any woman with long-term female friends. Your heart and all your superb wishes go out to them both.

Naturally, “Girls Trip” has a happy ending. And the real exploration is the fun-filled journey getting there.

”Girl’s Trip is rated R. Visit to learn more about the film.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

And the TONY Goes To: Don’t Let the Fact That You Have Not Seen a Broadway Play or Musical Get in the Way of Your Predictions

Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney in “The Little Foxes.” Photo by Joan Marcus.


TONY! TONY! Tony fever, Tony fervor.

Of course, until the CBS telecast of "The 71st Annual Tony Awards" at 8 on Sunday night (11 June), we won't know the results.

Truth be told, I'm happy not to make the big decisions on behalf of the Broadway theater community. I like being a gadfly, irked by some choices the Tony poobahs make, buoyed by others. Sure, I'm passionate about some performances and productions, but like Ado Annie, I "like the one I'm near." So, yes, to some extent, last comes first.

This fickleness was more confusing to me when I went to see everything that was on the Broadway boards. I mimicked those in charge of making the selections so that by the end of May, I could safely say I saw all of the musicals and all of the plays contending for the best in Tony's eyes. This season, I confess, I have seen few of the shows on the short list.

Of those I did, I am loath to pick a favorite. Both men contending for Best Lead Actor (the Tonys use a much longer moniker) whom I saw were terrific. One has been in films; the other was welcome news to me. From these choices, Chris Cooper gets my nod. Not just because I saw him most recently, and definitely not because I did not appreciate the nuances in Denis Arndt's performance in “Heisenberg” opposite Mary-Louise Parker. CC is brilliant, burning with a kind of cold fire as Torvald in “A Doll's House, Part 2.”

Sally Field and Joe Montello in “The Glass Menagerie.” Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

In the Featured Actor in a Play slot, I witnessed three out of five performers. Richard Thomas is an intense Horace Giddens in "The Little Foxes," but Horace provides a moral ballast in a play of consuming evil. Danny DeVito walks away with "The Price" in a production that lacks a lot of other sparks. (Jessica Hecht should have garnered more attention for her Esther Franz in this Roundabout Theatre Company revival).

The third supporting actor has been touted for his classical theater chops in roles such as Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play of the same name. John Douglas Thompson is a solid presence as Becker in the Manhattan Theatre Club revival of August Wilson's "Jitney." Though RT broke my heart with the decency of his Horace, DDeV brings life, color and interest to "The Price" and should be rewarded for his efforts Sunday night.

On the distaff side, of the five nominees for Featured Actress, two are from "Sweat," two are from "A Doll's House, Part 2," and one is from "The Little Foxes." Cynthia Nixon belongs in the Lead Actress category as a co-star to Laura Linney with whom she splits the role in "The Little Foxes." She will, however, have to settle for the statuette for the featured role.

Now for the female leads. Since I did not see either Jennifer Ehle in“Oslo” nor Cate Blanchett in “The Present” – or for that matter LL as Regina in “The Little Foxes,” – I am narrowly choosing between Sally Field as Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” and Laurie Metcalf in “A Doll's House, Part 2.” SF is a sensational Amanda, by turns deluded, protective, self-absorbed, but my Tony goes to LM for her charismatically poignant Nora.

On very small evidence, I am rooting for “A Doll's House, Part 2” for Best Play, as well. Its creator, Lucas Hnath, is a luminous new voice in the theater. I am also partial to Lynn Nottage, and her “Sweat” seems like a major undertaking.

Meanwhile, this season's big musicals have eluded my notice. I mourn that “Bandstand” did not get more recognition for bringing swing to the Broadway stage and for its heart (a gap perhaps already filled by the inclusion of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Come from Away”). At any rate, the smart bet – and buzz – is for “Groundhog Day,” which, along with its star, Andy Karl, is reported to be this year's best.

In the Best Play Revival category, I think “Six Degrees of Separation” may get the win. “Falsettos” is a likely Best Musical Revival, although my heart belongs to “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler.

Laurie Metcalf and Jayne Houdyshell in “A Doll’s House, Part 2. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

The televised show, this year hosted by Kevin Spacey, is always spectacular and gives viewers a taste of the talent that's on Broadway. That, in and of itself, is a win-win proposition.

Visit to learn more about “The 71st Annual Tony Awards.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

In 'Sami Blood, a Familiar Tale of Bigotry, Denial and Self-Hatred in a Surprising Corner of the World

A test to learn how Elle-Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) measures up in "Sami Blood." Photos courtesy of "Sami Blood."


 sometimes, of who and what we are, can be a 180-degree experience. A first step might be discovery of the other, then experimentation/exploration of this other, followed by embracing it while rejecting our true heritage, then - occasionally brought on my regets or being outed - reaffirming (acceptance) our original selves.

The heroine (Lene Cecilia Sparrok) has such a journey in "Sami Blood."Amanda Kernell's rather personal film and feature debut, a hit on the festival circuit, opens today at New York City's Landmark Sunshine Cinema. It will open in some other parts of the country in the coming weeks.

Told mostly in flashback, "Sami Blood" is a story of the little-known indigenous, reindeer-herding Sami people of Sweden - of which the director is one - and the discrimination against them in that country. It is inspired by AK' s grandmother, but it is not clear whether the heroine is based on that lady. Suffice it to know that some Sami have wholly rejected their heritage and fully assimilated into the larger Swedish and Scandinavian culture. Discrimination against them persists to this day. 

In 1930s Sweden, Elle-Marja (LCS, a Sami Swede with no previous acting experience) and her younger sister Njenna (LCS's real-life actor sister, Mia Erika Sparrok) are sent to a Swedish boarding school for Sami or Lapland people. There, like so many indigenous and/or conquered folk, they are fed a steady diet of state-sanctioned propaganda about the superiority of the larger/conquering culture while their own is subjugated and castigated. Of course, they are harassed by the lowly townies.

Amanda Kernell, a Sami Swede, is the director of "Sami Blood."

Elle-Marja, initially indifferent to being sent away and who excels in her studies, slowly begins to distance herself from her culture. A final turning point is a humiliating "race biology" scene during which she is forced by a doctor to disrobe in front of a group. Seemingly, from then on she feels a little inadequate about her Sami origins. No at all surprising, is it?

"Sami Blood" is a film about a lot of things. Not only about rejecting one's culture and inferiority complexes. And bigotry. It is about wanting to fit in, especially during the fragile teen years. And peer pressure. Defying and denying family; one's very own name. It is about going home again. Finally, regret and making amends.

LCS, who leads an able cast, gives a searing performance as Elle-Marja. A vast number of emotions scrolls across her face when she faces or exhibits humiliation, shame, anger, hubris, chutzpah and regret. In old age, "Cristina" (Maj-Doris Rimpi) wears the weight of her choices in every line deeply etched on her face.

When as a mother and grandmother, Elle-Marja returns home to her sister's funeral a long estranged figure, she at first obstinately continues to rejects her past. In short order, however, she re-embraces it through two significant acts. In fact, she accepts both past and present, for they both have made her who she is.

"Sami Blood" is yet another tale of what can happens when a person or people are disenfranchised. When one disowns one's past.

Sami school children, not at-ease, awaiting inspection by their betters in "Sami Blood."

It is a film with universal appeal; it will resonate with many. 

“Sami Blood" is not rated; visit
to learn more about the film.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

On the Towns: In Brooklyn: Sights, Sounds and Sirens Beckon; Whitney Biennial Is Winding Down; Energized Up the Yazoo, Progressives Are Getting Down to It ...

Harry Agress' "Solitude. Kangaroo Island, Australia." He is among the artists whose work is featured at the inaugural The Other Art Fair New York. The photograph is also on sale at Saatchi Art. Dimensions: 27.5 H x 39.5 W x 0.1.

JUNE 2017

AT last, it has come to these shores. A particular showcase of emerging multi-disciplinary artists that has enjoyed favor across the pond and down yonder.

It comes to New York. To Brooklyn. A borough that bustles with commerce and creativity. Said borough is the venue of a daylong festival celebrating a west African country's independence. It is also a preview of a four-day African festival next month.

Away from Brooklyn and along the uber progressive lines of the political spectrum is a gathering that attracts activists, intellectuals, economists, and this year, a material girl.

1-7 June

ART. 1-4 June. The Other Art Fair (TAOF) New York. The emerging artist showcase presented by Saatchi Art makes its U.S. debut after success in both the UK and Australia. It features the work of 110 emerging artists and an immersive features program. Brooklyn Expo Center, 72 Noble St. Brooklyn.

CULTURE. 2-4 June. Left Forum 2017. THE RESISTANCE is the theme of the annual conference that brings together thought leaders, intellectuals, activists and other stakeholders on the left (side of the political divide). Among the topics: feminism after the women's march; New Media; technology and revolution, and one titled "The Normalization of evil in the current Dark Age." Among the speakers ... Madonna. John Jay College, 899 10th Ave (b/w W. 58th and 59th streets). New York.

The Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater (AYAADT) will perform at Libation 2017. Photo courtesy of (AYAADT).

ART. MUSIC. DANCE. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. 4 June. LIBATION 2017. The kickoff of the annual International African Art Festival (IAAF, 1-4 July) this year also celebrates the 60th anniversary of Ghana's independence from the United Kingdom, featuring a tribute to ancient and modern Ghana. Elsewhere, performances by musician Blitz the Ambassador, and the Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater (AYAADT. A dance party and awards ceremony are also on the program. Arts and craft vendors. Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St. Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant).

Hairstylist Melissa Forney (right) transforming Taraji P. Henson into Cookie on the set of "Empire." Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

FILM. TELEVISION. DIGITAL MEDIA. 7 p.m. 6 June. Designing Women. The annual awards programs organized by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) honors notable costume designers, makeup artists and hairstylists in film, television and digital media. Among this year's honorees:  hair stylist Melissa Forney ("Hidden Figures," "Empire"); makeup artist Kyra Panchenko, ("The Girl on the Train," "Kill Bill"), and costume designer Melissa Toth ("Manchester by the Sea," "The Visitor").

Kamasi Washington will be among the performers at the Northside Festival. Photo from Kamasi Washington Facebook page.

Participants and presenters include Rosario Dawson and Amy Schumer. Sasheer Zamata is the host. New York University School of Law, 40 Washington Square South. New York.

MUSIC. CULTURE. LIFESTYLE. 7-11 June. Northside Festival. At nine years, the "music" festival is at the apex of its influence and importance. Over five days, scores of venues around Brooklyn will host bands, talks and content creators. Participants include New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, musician Kamasi Washington, Jane Rosenthal (Tribeca Film Institute), Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter) and Kevin Weil (Instagram). Various locations. Brooklyn.

8-14 June

"Brainpower," curated by Diana Stomiene and Sonata Baliuckaite, is on at ArtVilnius’17.

ART. 8-11 June. ArtVilnius’17: 8th International Contemporary Art Fair. This year the work of more than 200 artists from 20 countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, will be on display. Also featuring  PATH, the intetnatonal exhibition large-scale sculptures, installations and performances. Video art, too, will be represented, including works from the venerable Videonale. Exhibition and Congress Centre Litexpo, Laisves av. 5.Vilnius, Lithuania.

From “Calder: Hypermobility”: Object with Red Discs, (1931). Painted steel rod, wire, wood and sheet aluminum,Overall (variable): 87 1/2 × 52 1/4 × 24 1/2in. (222.3 × 132.7 × 62.2 cm). © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph Jerry L. Thompson.

ART. 9 June-16 October. Calder: Hypermobility. In collaboration with the Calder Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents an exhibition of some of Alexander Calder's most extraordinary mobile sculptures. These works are given space to achieve the range of motions and sounds intended by their creator. The exhibit is accompanied by talks, concerts, film screenings and performances. Whiney Museum of American Art, New York.

FILM. 9-18 June. Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York. The opening film (6:30 p.m.) is the harrowing, award-winning "Nowhere to Hide." It focuses on a male nurse who for five years captures on camera life around him in hotspot, Jalawla, Iraq ... Other notable works in this festival centered around human rights matters are "The Blood at the Doorstep" (police and black male interaction) ... "500 Years" (part of Guatemalan Resistance Saga series) ... "Complicit" (working conditions of Chinese migrant factory workers) ... and "Nobody Speaks: Trials of the Free Press" (Hulk Hogan trial: privacy rights versus First Amendment rights). IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave at W. 3rd St.; Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St. New York.

ARTS. CRAFTS. FASHION. 10 June. World Wide Knit in Public Day (WWKIPDAY). On this day around the world, knitters will gather in public places and spaces to wield their needles in support of nifty creations. According to organizers, it is the world's largest knitter-run event. Visit the website to find a KIP gathering near you like the one at Slip Stitch Needlecraft ( in Brooklyn. Various locations. Numerous countries.

ART. Through 11 June. 2017 Whitney Biennial. The 78th edition of the exhibition is the largest in terms of square footage and the first at the new downtown location of the Whitney Museum of American Art ... Sixty-three artists. From emerging to well-established individuals and collectives. Painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, activism, performance, music and video game design. Whitney Museum of American, 99 Gansevoort St. New York.

Sheila E. will perform at the 2017 Apollo Spring Gala Archive photo.

CULTURE. 12 June. 2017 Apollo Spring Gala.Cedric The Entertainer hosts the Apollo Theater's biggest fundraiser of the year. Honorees include Stan Lathan. Performances by CeeLo Green, Sheila E. and others. Apollo Theater, 253 125th St. New York.

22 June and beyond

From "The World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD" exhibit. Photo courtesy of the Onassis Cultural Center of New York.

ART. Through 24 June. A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece 700 BC – 200 AD. Considering how in modern-day Western society we express ourselves and interpret the meaning of others by observing more than 130 "priceless" works of art from ancient Greece. Pieces are on loan from some of the world's most renown museums, including the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum. Onassis Cultural Center, 645 Fifth Avenue. New York.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

'A Doll's House, Part 2': Updating a Masterwork and Perfectly Imagining the Trauma of Abandonment

Laurie Metcalf, left, and Condola Rashad are an estranged mother and daughter in "A Doll's House, Part 2." Photos by Brigitte Lacombe.


is a master of the enigmatic psychological drama. His "A Doll's House" is a play in which Nora Helmer finds herself by finding her way out.

Lucas Hnath picks up Nora's story years later. "A Doll's House, Part 2," at the Golden Theatre through 23 July, begins with a persistent knock on the door.

Nora's (Laurie Metcalf) story in LH's re-imagining bounces like a ping pong ball, highlighting the different ways in which her departure was perceived by each of those affected. 

Nora has returned to tie up loose ends, or at least one particular loose end. Her old nanny, Anne Marie (Jayne Houdyshell), has mixed feelings about this reunion.

What Nora sees as her liberation, Anne Marie considers an abandonment. This view is shared by the husband, Torvald (Chris Cooper), whom she left. When Nora walked out on him, she also deserted her children.

As far as Torvald is concerned, Nora walked away instead of trying to work out the problems in their marriage. It is both a conventional and an unusual perspective for their time and circumstances. 

Torvald (Chris Cooper) is a man who does not understand his wife (Laurie Metcalf) in "A Doll's House, Part 2."

"A Doll's House, Part 2" is set in HI's late 19th century. The sparsely furnished home (designed by Miriam Buether) looks modern Scandinavian, but the costumes (by 2017 Tony nominee David Zinn) are luxuriously of the period when Nora walked out the door.

The drama straddles our contemporary way of looking at things with HI's. Anachronisms begin with the throbbing beats (sound design by Leon Rothenberg) that greet the audience before curtain-up. They continue with the blunt (and funny) profanities of the dialogue.

When Emmy (Condola Rashad) enters to ask her mother what she remembers about her, the unreality of this play is sealed. Nothing is said, or made of, CR's ethnicity in this Norwegian family. 

"A Doll's House, Part 2" is a brilliant amalgam of then and now.

Emmy's welcome of her mother soon wears into composed self-interest. LM's Nora makes no attempt to charm or connect. She is pleased with herself. Torvald, as played by CC, is a reasonable if exasperated man; like wives of his time, he has little control over his life.

Anne Marie, left (Jayne Houdyshell), doesn't approve of some of Nora's (Laurie Metcalf) decisions in "A Doll's House, Part 2."

We are in the midst of Tony season, so congratulations to the entire cast of "A Doll's House, Part 2" - all four are nominees. They are in a play that has been nominated for Best Play and their director Sam Gold has the nod for Best Direction of a Play. Lighting designer, Jennifer Tipton is also nominated for her work.

The production is flawless. The comedy in this play relieves the tensions and strains inherent in the theme LH has inherited. "A Doll's House, Part 2" is an ingenious and seriously original work of theater.

to learn more about "A Doll's House, Part 2."

Friday, May 26, 2017

'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,' a Rickety Vessel That Stays Afloat on Its Abundant Charms

Carina (Kaya Scodelario) and Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) are compelled to execute an escape to pursue a treasure in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.


you had in your hands the means to rid the world of all evil, would you use it to do so?

Most would. And so it is in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The film, which opens in U.S. theaters today, is the fifth in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Of course, Johnny Depp is back as the ever flighty, ever feckless, often self-serving, but ultimately harmless Capt. Jack Sparrow.

At the center of the fantastical "POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is the Trident of Poseidon. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Will - Orlando Bloom back in a cameo role after his absence from "POC: On Stranger Tides" - unleashes the talisman, ridding the seas of all curses.

That includes freeing his father from his confinement on the Flying Dutchman, plus sending some disembodied, revenge-seeking pirate hunters led by Capt. Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem) back from whence they came.

The aforesaid is not a spoiler, for the real revelations and the real story - the most coherent one since the original "POC: Curse of The Black Pearl" -  are in the chase for the Trident. Along the way new characters are introduced into "POC: Dead Men Tell No Tales." JB's dementedly determined Capt. Salazar and Henry are two.

Another is a luminous (Kaya Scodelario) as orphan Carina Smyth. She faces the hangman's noose for witchcraft, owing to her unnatural and unseemly knowledge of astronomy and horology. And Carina has a surprising connection to the Trident.

The ghost of Davy Jones (Bill Nighty) haunts “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

Carina and Will are no doubt the new generation of young lovers, primed to replace OB's Will and (Keira Knightley), who also returns in a cameo, as Elizabeth Swann Turner. The former will make an interesting pair.

BT resembles OB and has some swagger in his swashbuckle. No mere eye candy, KS is as smart as a whip. She is also capable. Where KK's Elizabeth was more the damsel, KS as Carina is a dame. A critical-thinking force to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile, once it becomes apparent to all and sundry the power that the Trident possesses - to rule the seas and by extension, the world - the pursuit and swashbuckling, aided by some dazzling digital effects (parted seas, for instance) albeit, occasionally excessive in the extreme, begin.

The contestants in the great race for this booty: Capt. Jack, Will, Carina, Capt. Salazar&Co., the British navy and Geoffrey Rush's Capt. Hector Barbossa. Except for the navy, allegiances sometime change as quickly as the winds shift.

Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) accepts an offer he can't refuse from Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem).

"POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was released in 2003. By now, the recurring players, particularly JD and GR, are as familiar as family. We accept them, their peccadiloes notwithstanding. Still, directors' Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's "POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales" suffers from slow pacing, among other plagues.

It seems closer to 2 1/2 hours but is actually 129 minutes. There is a heavy hand with the aforesaid digital effects as well as some of the action sequences. The bank robbery scene has promise, until it does not. It could have been pared significantly.

Also, an opportunity in Jeff Nathanson's script is lost in not giving Carina - the most engaging addition to the series since its inception - a backstory told in flashback. It would have been a tender break from the noise.

Elsewhere, JD's Capt. Jack shtick is beginning to show wear and tear, though it still has some appeal. At moments however, JD seems to be simply going through the motions. His eyes, and perhaps his heart, appear not to be in it.

On the otherhand, the technology used to de-age him - in support of Capt. Salazar's backstory - presents a young Jack Sparrow deftly exhibiting the physical and facial ticks that are now classic Jack Sparrow.

As Capt. Salazar, JB is engagingly ferocious and will likely show up in a future "POTC." Similarly, GR is in fine form as Capt. Barbossa and may be back, though "POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales" would have viewers believe that he is the occupant of a watery grave.

Speaking of dead men, the specter of Davy Jones haunts this film. To that end, fans can expect that resurrection in a future "POTC."

Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) makes cutting remarks to Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

For now, there is "POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales." Its shortcomings threaten to sink it but it manages to stay afloat on the force of familiarity and winsome charm.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content; visit
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VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
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