The strain in Spain stays mainly in the brain: The Trip to Spain

How it’s New York: It’s a “Spotlight Narrative” entry in the Tribeca Film Festival – in New York City, of course!

Filmmaker/DirectorMichael Winterbottom on the Red Carpet with Suze (Ray Foley, photographer, NYIA)

How it’s Irish (and English and Welsh): Actress Claire Keelan (“Emma“) is “from Ireland by way of Liverpool.” The director, Michael Winterbottom, hails from Blackburn, Lancashire, England. Steve Coogan (“Steve“) is an English actor, stand-up comedian, impressionist, screenwriter, and producer from Middleton, Manchester, England. And Robert Brydon (“Rob“),  is an MBE and Welsh actor, comedian, radio and television presenter, singer and impressionist.

Road Pictures: a genre as old as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as ground-breaking as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, as turned on its head as Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise, and as final (please!) as what-the-hell-my-agent-said-it’ll-be-good-for-my-career as Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, and William H. Macy in Wild Hogs.

In 2010, Michael Winterbottom contributed his homage  to road pictures as a British television-series-turned-feature-film called

I “squeezed the kids in” but “not doing a Mick Jagger”

The Trip. The premise was a paid food and travel article gig between two buddies, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, that turned into a culinary romp through Northern England. That film was so successful that Winterbottom repeated his efforts twice more: The Trip to Italy (his favorite cuisine) and, now, The Trip to Spain. (more…)

Love After Love at Tribeca Film Festival 2017

Cast of Love After Love at premiere at Tribeca Film Festival (Photo by Nicholas Hunt – © 2017 Getty Images – Image courtesy gettyimages.com)

How it’s New York: The film played at  the Tribeca Film Festival, a festival designed to get New Yorkers back downtown after 9/11. Russell Harbaugh is a New York director.
How it’s Irish: Features Irish Actor and Comedian Chris O’Dowd as Nicholas in slice of life drama by Russell Harbaugh.

“Love after Love” at Tribeca just received

  • Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Chris Teague forLove After Love. The award was given by Alex Orlovsky

 

Usually walking into a movie starring Chris O’Dowd I would expect a laugh-fest, and that was not at all what I encountered with Love After Love this week at Tribeca.  This piece is definitely a more serious and sometimes somber look at the ways that life, love and loss affect us all.  The story from

Dree Hemingway and Chris O’Dowd in Love After Love

director Russell Harbaugh and writer Eric Mendelsohn wends its way through the struggles and emotional chasms of loss and finding love again.

In the lead role of the womanizing and high-strung Nicholas, O’Dowd is miles away from his usual hilarious persona, and gives a riveting look into what makes this guy come unhinged. (more…)

Podcast #38: Wils Wilson on ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart;’ ‘Narcan’

Play
How it’s New York: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was a big hit Off-Broadway. “Narcan” played at Irish Screen America and at the Manhattan Film Festival.   rssheadphones1
How it’s Irish and Scottish: Jim Halpin, of “Narcan,” is from Limerick (he played young Malachy in “Angela’s Ashes.”)
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is by Scottish playwright David Grieg, presented by The National Theatre of Scotland and the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep No More.”)

We spoke to director Wils Wilson about the brilliant and unforgettable Scottish immersive drama “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,”a campfire pub play if there ever was one, with brilliance running through each line like water inside a snowflake. Alice Farrell spoke to Peter Halpin, star of the short film “Narcan,” which may turn into a feature film Stay tuned.

Featured tune is from Annie Grace’s “The Bell.” Annie was in the cast of  “Prudencia” when we attended. We think she has a voice to rival Dolores Keane and were sorely tempted to end with two of her songs.

‘Emerald City’ – A Cinematic Gem That May Speak for a Generation

How it’s New York: A New York story shot on location in the Big Apple.
How it’s Irish: Written and directed by a native of Tyrone, and featuring an ensemble of Irish actors.

Some of the cast and crew at the recent London Film Festival.

For an Irish emigrant in the latter half of the 20th century, there was a supposed ‘holy triumvirate’ of occupations that one could, not so much enjoy, but experience. Three jobs the weary long-term ‘visitor’ has, over generations, been either, welcome to try his hand at, or been firmly nudged towards, due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. There’s the pulling of pints and there’s the moving of furniture. Then there is the knocking down, and building up of; walls, ceilings, floors, apartments, skyscrapers, neighborhoods and entire cities. See, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve torn things down, and built them up. Whether it be buildings and businesses, or friendships and families. We’ve held them together, and torn them apart, for over 200 years in this town. This home from home, this Big Apple, this ‘Emerald City’.
Writer/director Colin Broderick, one of those unique breeds, a County Tyrone-born and reared New Yorker, has set out to tell a tale or three, involving several memorable characters from this, his first movie, detailing the lives and loves of an ageing Irish construction crew. ‘Emerald City’ expertly weaves a number of storylines together into a colorful tapestry, one that is rich in character and colorful of language. It is as much a tribute to the immigrants who came and stayed and those who never made it back, as it is to Broderick’s beloved New York.  This is where he, before honing his skills as an acclaimed writer of two biographical works (‘Orangutan’ and ‘That’s That’) and a number of plays, worked in the construction industry, where ideas for many of his characters no doubt, first developed.  (more…)

‘Emperor Jones’ review: stay out of the woods

Obi Abili as Brutus Jones in Irish Rep’s production of ‘The Emperor Jones.’ © Carol Rosegg

How it’s New York: Irish Rep presents the piece, one of the finest gems of a residential theatre in the city.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill was proud of his Irish heritage.

“The Emperor Jones” is Horror.

It is in the Horror genre the way “Night of the Walking Dead” is Horror.

How did I never notice this before?

“Blair Witch Project” has nothing on Eugene O’Neill’s (1920) play “The Emperor Jones.”

From the moment Brutus Jones (Obi Abili ) enters the woods, to try to get to the other side of the island, away from the natives he robbed blind, the drums never stop, the shadows hide monsters, and the creep factor is too high to measure.

O’Neill wrote his one-act this way—the “little formless  fears” are the first thing Jones encounters. But usually the takeaway is the psychological study, the ghosts of Jones’ own past that afflict him and the race memory that takes him to an auction block and even a slave ship.

Also, the takeaway from the show is usually the tour de force of the eponymous role. But while Abili brings gravitas and intensity to his role, his performance is not the main event. The play itself is, and that’s how it should be.

Director Ciarán O’Reilly, with the help of choreographer Barry McNabb, and evocative music by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab, additional music by Christian Frederickson, has put together a dark, precise and unforgettable production.

What terrors lurk in the woods?

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When Irish eyes are rolling… (Hail the Unnamed Irishman)

How it’s New York: Trump is from New York.

Donald Trump, making Ireland Nigerian Again.

How it’s Irish: It’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and Trump wanted to find an Irish proverb to read to Enda Kenny.

Because of the day that’s in it, Irish people, such as Irish Labour secretary Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, he of the piercing blue eyes who called Trump a “fascist” right after the election (and the video of him saying it went viral, watch it below), are in the U.S.

Ó Ríordáin is here to participate in Irish Stand, a ticketed event at Riverside Church with such people as New York-based writer Colum McCann, “West Wing” actor Richard Schiff, and representatives from the Food Bank for New York City, the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, and politicians. Performances are curated by our friends at Artists Without Walls.  

Proceeds are going to the A.C.L.U., who have been staunch in their defense of those at risk under Trump.

No doubt this is also why Sean Spicer wore a green tie to the press briefing today, at which he once again yelled at the press.

But the real reason for this post is  that I simply could not resist the joy (O frabjous day!) of Trump reading a Nigerian poem and thinking it’s an Irish proverb.

Before you say “this is not culture!” remember: proverbs and poetry are culture… (more…)

Sephira cuts a rug

Sephira will appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday. (Image courtesy of Sephira/Tad Management)

How it’s New York: Sephira will be performing at the Cutting Room on March 16.
How it’s Irish: Ruth and Joyce O’Leary are natives of County Monaghan, and their playing style fuses traditional Celtic music with classical, rock and folk. Before striking out on their own as Sephira, they performed with Celtic Thunder.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Sephira will be bringing their unique blend of violin and vocals to stages in New York.

The duo of vocalist-violinist sisters Ruth and Joyce O’Leary is currently touring the United States. They have three albums to their credit, the most recent being Eternity.

New York Irish Arts spoke to Ruth and Joyce on Wednesday, just before they were to appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday.

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‘The Penitent’ is not absolved

How it’s New York: The play is by acclaimed playwright David Mamet, who is a founding member of one of NYC’s finest residential theatres, Atlantic Theatre Company.
How it’s (Irish) English & Jirish: Rebecca Pidgeon, who plays one of the four roles, has dual British/American citizenship. The play is Jirish because the main character is Jewish and has recently turned to religion to deal with his guilt.

Is it better than “China Doll?”

That’s the burning question.

It is. But honestly, that’s a low bar.

You may remember that David Mamet’s 2015 play, “China Doll,”  starred Al Pacino, who notoriously couldn’t remember his lines. The Broadway play was bad. It wasn’t entirely Pacino’s fault , because who in the Hell casts a movie star in a roll in which he basically has a long monologue (on the phone) for half an hour?  (Yes, Pacino has done a lot of stage work, but not in a while.)

In contrast, “The Penitent” has a series of two-person scenes. There is conflict. (There’s also some clumsy exposition.) There are characters. There is some decent acting (though Rebecca Pidgeon is so horrifically affected she was difficult to watch. She actually waited mid-line to be interrupted. Seriously, acting students know better.)

One could even say, “The Penitent” is GREAT!

Great, that is, if you know nothing about law, psychiatry or Judaism. (more…)

Lúnasa and Karan Casey at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall – Friday March 3, 2017

How it’s New York: At Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City
How it’s Irish: Irish Trad Super Group Lúnasa and Irish Singer Karan Casey

At Carnegie Hall! left to right Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Colin Farrell, Ed Boyd, Trevor Hutchinson

On a windy New York Friday night there was nothing better than being enveloped in the fiery tunes pouring forth from Lúnasa on their 20th Anniversary tour at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.  Clearly chuffed to be playing this historic venue, they launched straight into a set of tunes driven by the “pied piper” Kevin Crawford on whistle.

The program was a delightful romp through their catalog including sets of tunes from Scotland, Galicia in Spain, Brittany and original compositions from piper Cillian Vallely written for his daughters.  The crowd was clapping along throughout and Crawford kept the pace of the show lively and peppered with his hilarious repartee. (more…)

55 years and feeling the buzz: the Chieftains!

How it’s New York: The Chieftains play New Jersey, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, on Sunday, March 5, with special guests Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. The night before, Saturday, March 4, they play Queen’s College, the Kupferberg Center, in Flushing, NY. Paddy’s daughter Aedin Moloney is a New York actress, who runs the company Fallen Angels.
How it’s Irish: Um… it’s The Chieftains…

 

I’ve talked to Paddy Moloney several times and it’s always a treat… he tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, and even sings!

In the brand spanking new paper The Montclair Local I wrote up an interview with him, in honor of his playing at NJPAC this Sunday. Here are a few grafs from that piece… catch the rest here!

We have more to share with you from Paddy and hope to get up another piece, or even a podcast, in the coming weeks!

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone – We have Declan O’Rourke

How it’s New York: The performance took place at The Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish: Declan O’Rourke is Irish

I saw the wonderful Declan O’Rourke at the Irish Arts Center on Sunday night at his final performance of a three night run as part of their Valentine’s weekend programming.

Declan O'Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

The show opened with a 12-piece orchestra playing a piece composed for the evening. This was followed by the arrival of the very large presence of O’Rourke on stage. With the stance and posture of an ancient Irish warrior he opened the set with the very somber and haunting, “Her Silken Brown Hair”, which sounds more like a traditional Irish ballad than something penned by a 39-year-old.

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‘If I Forget’ asks when does history predict the future?

How it’s New York: Characters in the play live in Park Slope, and the play is a production of the Roundabout Theatre Company, one of New York’s most important residential theatres.
How it’s (Irish) Jirish: The play centers on the question of what the Holocaust means to Jewish identity, but in its family dynamics and many of its concerns with the past and the future, will feel very relevant to Irish-Americans too.

The adult sibling relationships in Steven Levenson’s ambitious new drama “If I Forget” are hilariously, and sadly, convincing. The Fischer family children–Michael (Jeremy Shamos), Holly (Kate Walsh, yes that Kate Walsh, of “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Sharon (Maria Dizzia) have just the right amount of in-jokes, shared history and buttons that are pushed, resentments and affection that anyone who’s got them will feel a jolt of pleasant, and uncomfortable, recognition.

The plot of the play, which won the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, is less compelling, despite terrific performances by the cast, which also include Larry Bryggman as elderly father Lou,  Tasha Lawrence as Michael’s wife Ellen, Gary Wilmes as Holly’s attorney husband Howard, and Seth Steinberg as Holly’s teenage son-from-a-prior-marriage Joey.

Wading into Arthur Miller territory, Levenson (best known for his libretto to “Dear Evan Hansen”) centers Act One around the question of Jewish identity vis-a-vis the Holocaust. It’s Miller territory because Michael, a Jewish Studies professor who has been “recommended for tenure,” has a book titled “Forgetting the Holocaust” in galleys. Its thesis  suggests that American Jews make too much of the Holocaust and it’s time to forget about it. He delivers well-constructed impassioned speeches, but nobody offers an equally impassioned, articulate rebuttal. Fortunately for the play, the drama doesn’t center so much around this question that it becomes about it. (more…)

‘The Present’: a small gift inside a big box

How it’s New York: ‘The Present’ with Cate Blanchett runs on Broadway, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
How it’s (Irish) Australian: Blanchett hails from Melbourne, Australia; the show comes to us via the the Sydney Theatre Company. Since itis an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Platonov,” his  early (and really, untitled) play, this show is also “Celto-Slav” and Russian.

It helps to read the play first.

That’s an unusual suggestion for me– usually I like to let a work stand by itself. But here, it really helps to know what the set-up is before you go. Even if you just read an act or two.

All of the elements of Anton Chekhov’s later plays are already there in his early work known as “Platonov.” Chekhov didn’t name the play, discovered 20 years after he died himself, and it has been called “Platonov,” “Wild Honey,” and “The Disinherited,” among others; it’s been adapted by Michael Frayn and David Hare; directed with rich theatrical gesture by Jiri Pokorny. Uncut, the play would last about six hours. But it’s all there: ennui. Fading, poor aristocracy. Possibility of a marriage of salvation. Empty trysts. A smart, disillusioned, unfulfilled schoolteacher.

So there’s much to love about “The Present,” an adaptation of that early work by Andrew Upton (Blanchett’s husband), directed by John Crowley. If anyone knew how to put people, hurt, dissatisfied, unpredictable people, in a room together and see what happened, it was Chekhov (Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” owes him a lot).

Blanchett is completely luminous in her Broadway debut as Anna, a young widow who is celebrating her 40th birthday by inviting several suitors and friends to spend the weekend with her at her country estate.

That little synopsis, though, is more than you might figure out for quite a while, all but the 40th birthday bit, which is announced. (more…)

All the world’s a cell: Phyllida Lloyd’s ‘The Tempest’ at St. Ann’s Warehouse

How it’s New York: Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse is one of the hippest places in the city; it’s known

L-R: Erick Betancourt, Harriet Walter, Sophie Stanton ©Teddy Wolff

especially as an importer of acclaimed and innovative work from overseas. The new building has the most comfortable lobby in town, with chaise loungeand often live music in the bar.
How it’s (Irish) English: The show is the third in the trilogy of Shakespeare plays performed by women, with the conceit that they are all inmates in a prison, and hails from England’s Donmar Warehouse.

Of all Shakespeare plays to set in a prison cell, “The Tempest” makes the most sense. Prospero, a sorcerer and the rightful Duke of Milan, is living on an island from which he cannot escape, after having been usurped by his own brother Antonio. He seizes a chance to cause a shipwreck when Antonio and King Alonso of Naples, complicit in the crime, are nearby, and restore himself and his daughter Miranda to their rightful places. Most prisoners can only depend on clemency.

The Tempest” at St. Ann’s Warehouse is the third in a trilogy from the Donmar Warehouse in London, all directed by Phyllida Lloyd, all featuring actor Harriet Walter, and casts of women performing a play within a play. “Julius Caesar” and “Henry IV” were presented earlier this season.

“The Tempest” is fiercely successful, asking the audience when and how does the punishment fit the crime. In each production, an actor frames the play by introducing the modern-day inmate telling the story. In “The Tempest,” Walter shows that Prospero’s interpretation  is based on the story of Judith Clark, a 67-year-old woman serving 75-to-life in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. Clark drove the getaway car in 1981 for a bank robbery that resulted in the deaths of two

(L to R): Liv Spencer (blond, somewhat outside the frame), Leah Harvey, Harriet Walter, Sheila Atim, Jackie Clune, Sophie Stanton, Martina Laird, Jade Anouka
©Teddy Wolff

police officers.  (Andrew Cuomo has commuted Clark’s sentence this past December, according to press notes, and she will be granted a parole hearing this year).

It’s impossible not to hear her story at the top of the show and ask what justice means- and that was the point of the choice. One of the play’s most indelible moments comes at the end, as prisoners leave, calling “Bye, Hannah!” while Walter sits alone in her cell.

But thematic sincerity doesn’t always make for great theater, and this is great theater. It has everything– terrific performances, surprise, spectacle, insight. If you can nab a ticket (It’s sold out, performances through Feb. 19), even if you’ve seen “The Tempest” before, you need to go.

You’ve never seen it done like this.

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