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"Jane Anger", "The Chinese Lady" and "A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine"

How Now.

By robert massimiPublished 11 months ago 7 min read
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For anyone who loves the PBS show" Upstart Crow", "Jane Anger" will delight you as well. This show at The Ohio Theater was written by Talene Monahon (who also played Anne Hathaway) and for the most part is a real good one. The show features four terrific actors and the premise is that a cunning woman, Jane Anger (Amelia Workman) is going to help William Shakespeare (Michael Urie) get over his writer's block; and that a pamphlet titled Jane Anger Her Protection for Woman" the author is title less even till this day. With the help of his not so young assistant who is willing to empty Shakespear's chamber pot because he is career obsessed, (Ryan Spahn), Shakespeare is able to get down to writing his new play, King Lear even though it was written years earlier by Thomas Kyd. What better time to be a cunning woman than during a plague? Jane Anger is a real woman as she tells us; before being a cunning woman she was a whore and before that she was a weaver's assistant. While the X's go on doors, we get the humorous puns about those times and our current time. Monahon brings 1606 into 2022.

Director Jess Chayes escalates the action with great comedic timing, the business used by all four actors that makes this farce a must see. Michael Urie who is one of the great male actors of today (Chicken and Biscuits) is a smash as William Shakespeare. Like the TV series "Upstart Crow", he too is able to bring the ridiculous to new levels making this one of the best comedies of the season. His run on sentence wife, Anne Hathaway who arrives later in the show is the perfect blend to the trio that preceded her. Both Jane and Anne are educated woman who can read and write are discounted by Francis and William... woman in the Jacobian era were not allowed to write plays nor act on stage.

Between Nic Vincent's simple lighting and Andrea Wood's well-appointed costumes, "Jane Anger" hits on all cylinders for most of the 90 minutes. When I say most of the 90 minutes, the last 10 minutes could have ended better; it was a disappointment to have the first 80 minutes work so well to have an ending like that. "The ponying " that was made to be funny too was a joke that is funny maybe the first time and defiantly not funny after the third or fourth time. With a Broadway quality, it is best to rework the last little bit and work out some of the other bugs with the writing. Once the show tightens up, they should bring this cast and crew to a much bigger house because this show is a keeper.

"A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine".

"Split Personalities".

A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine played back on Broadway in 1980. The musical was nominated for 9 Tony Awards in which the show won two. The show played over 500 performances before bowing. Unique is this show because it presents essentially independent two act plays. The first act is a revue of classic Hollywood songs in the 1930's set in Graumanns Chinese Theater. The second act is based on Anton Chekov's one act play, "The Bear"; it is presented in the style of the Marx Brothers movie. The show's book and lyrics are by Dick Vosburgh and the music was written by Frank Lazarus (Jerry Herman wrote many of the songs as well).

At Theater Two on Theater Row, J2 Spotlight under Artistic Director Robert W. Schneider put forth a wonderful, heartfelt production of this current musical. Like 1980 the show is humorous, upbeat and well-choregraphed by Diedre Goodwin. In the show's first two numbers "Just Go to the Movies and "Famous Feet", the audience is treated to a frenetic opening song followed by a wonderful tap number. under deft direction by Schneider, all eight characters make easy use of a small stage. The first act works best when all the characters are in the numbers. Songs like "Where Else but on the Silver Screen, the "Richard Whiting Medley" and "Doin' the Production Code" are better than most of the individual numbers. In ""Nelson", "A Day in Hollywood" and "Best in the World" are not as interesting and border on lackluster in the way they are sung. Fortunately, however, we get enough of the full cast to make this act a winner. The opulent set design (the theater lobby) is well appointed by Joshua Warner and so are the costumes by Matthew Solomon.

The second act is even higher octane than the first. Chekov, who was a great comedic writer, gets his writing amped up to the Marx Brothers. David B. Friedman who plays a lawyer by the name of Samovar (The Groucho character) is witty and quick in this act. Suzanne Slade is a fantastic Gino as is Lauren Lukacek as Pavlenko. In this zany farce, Samovar needs to collect money owed to him by Pavlenko's husband who has recently died. Samovar is as crude as he is insulting and when he is forbidden to see her is when the fun begins. In this act to the direction is on the mark in how the characters banty about. The romantic lighting by Ethan Steimel and Burkett Horrigan work well in both acts, bringing the warmness toward the audience. This sets the pace for easy watching as well as listening... almost like having the effect that you were watching the action from your living room.

J2 Spotlight has a knack for putting on warm, feel-good musicals. Up next is "The Bakers wife". This last performance today was as good as anyone could want; it had a real Broadway quality to it.

The Chinese Lady" at The Public has a lot going for it; good acting by Shannon Tyo who plays Afong Moy (the first Chinese woman to come to the United

States; Atung (Daniel K.Isaac), really good costumes (Linda Cho) and an interesting set by Junghyun Georgia Lee. In four different scenes we see Afong's

life in different times and under the direction of Ralph B. Pena we get her different moods and philosophies. The lighting by Chang and Mak are able to

bring forth the different times and has the audience visualizing Moy's life in various forms.

We first meet Afong Moy at the age of fourteen. The year is 1834 and her parents sold her services for two years to the Carnes family. The Carnes put Moy

in the Peale Museum for people to come watch her eat, walk, talk and pose. Moy is always accompanied by Atung. Atung and Moy have funny banter about

throughout the show making the 90 minutes go by quickly. After the two years is up, Moy stays at the museum, and she talks about a tour throughout the

eastern coast of America; she has big plans and ideas in 1837 at the age of 17 years old. The show goes from twenty cents for adults and ten cents for children to fifty cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children. Moy even meets President Jackson at the white house.

"The Chinese Lady" slides in and out

of the world that is Afong Moy. The show also delves into the outside world... what's going on with the opioid war between England and China as well as

the gold rush inside California. Where the play gets away from its plot and quite needlessly is in the last seven minutes of the play. Here Moy's life has

gone from the Peale Museum to P.T. Barnum. She is older and is being replaced by a talented fourteen-year-old. Further to the point she then gives us

the equivalent of today's critical race theory and the nexus is the banning of Chinese immigrants by late 1800's into early 1900's. She lays blame at the

feet of white Americans for the deaths of the Chinese working on the railroads. At the end, Moy is over 200 years old and she brings forth everything that

white males have done badly in the United States. If writer Lloyd Suh stuck to Moy's life sans the last seven minutes, this would have been a much more pleasurable play. Even still, "The Chinese Lady" is recommended.

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About the Creator

robert massimi

I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows

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