Monday, April 30, 2007


Hap Erstein from the Palm Beach Post speaks of the rapturous standing ovation at the marathon he attended, and more:

[...] Standing ovations have become distressingly commonplace in the theater, devaluing their meaning, but after spending eight-and-a-half hours with pamphleteer Alexander Herzen, novelist-poet Ivan Turgenev, revolutionary hothead Michael Bakunin and Communist Manifesto writer Karl Marx, the sold-out Lincoln Center audience rose as one, in awe of the cast - which included the likes of Ethan Hawke, Billy Crudup, Amy Irving, Martha Plimpton and Tony winners Brian O’Byrne and Jennifer Ehle.

During the curtain call, someone had the good sense and chutzpah to yell out “Author!,” something you hear about, but I really can’t recall ever seeing done. Sure enough, the shaggy-headed Stoppard had been lurking about the theater all day and he came out onstage to the crowd’s delight.

The Coast of Utopia is the sort of play that you want to read and study to learn how much you missed in performance, so that is probably a failing, but it is breathtaking in its overload of ideas and wit. No matter what I see the rest of this week, there will surely be nothing to compare to it. [...]
Annie shares her marathon trick: caffeine. She also notes the "author" call:
[...] Before posting my comments, I have to say that Mr. Stoppard was in attendance at the shows. Word got around the audience, and after the curtain call (the company only does one at the very end on marathon days,) someone shouted 'author!' and the entire audience burst into applause once again. He had ducked out of the house, but the thunderous clapping was hopefully going to bring him back for acknowlegement... it went on and on, and no Tom. Suddenly, the focus shifted back to the stage, where some of the company had trickled back, and Mr. Stoppard and the director, Jack O'Brien, entered from the side of the house and took the stage. The impromptu recognition gave me chills - for, whatever one's opinion about the pieces, it is obvious that the work as a whole is a tremendously intense and brilliant undertaking. [...]
and I thought this praise of Billy Crudup was on the money:
[...] Mr. Crudup is always a joy to watch on stage, as he inhabits each character he portrays with individual humanity. As an actor, he raises the level of quality of those performing with him onstage. [...]
Jere of Jere-Rigged liveblogged from the same marathon - which he got rush tickets for! - during the breaks: lunch, dinner (he goes against the tide, preferring Voyage over Shipwreck) and post-show (he spotted actress Jane Krakowski in the audience).

At deliasherman's LJ, there's this on Voyage:
[...] The Coast of Utopia: Voyage doesn't threaten Arcadia's throne, but it shares some of the things I like best about it. It's intelligent (duh. It's Tom Stoppard); it has heart without being sentimental; parts of it are very funny at the same time they're harrowing; it demonstrates and makes comprehensible the glories and the horrors of intellectual passion.
I'll have to read the play to figure it all out, but the point was, last night, I didn't care. I was too busy mourning the death of the gently clueless Liubov, and the blindness (both moral and physical) of her father, who owned 500 souls yet called himself a liberal, and adoring the literary critic (Russian names skate right out of my mind--Vassarion, that was it) played by Billy Crudup as an earnest, passionate, clumsy, socially-challenged and still utterly charming and period-appropriate politics geek who, were he alive today, would have a huge and widely read political blog. [...]
And yet more love for Voyage and Billy Crudup from rm:
Amazing. More amazing than I was anticipating and in ways I didn't expect. The staging was both intelligent and innovative and really perfectly, perfectly executed -- certainly, I didn't expect the play to make me have directorial itchiness, but that was exactly what it provoked. Also, great use of music.

The performances were also astounding, with people in, what I thought, were somewhat unlikely roles. Or, perhaps I was just surprised by the nuance in the characters in a time and place and style of play that really could have easily chosen to forgone it and not received too much criticism for it. Billy Crudup plays this bumbling, unnattractive, nervous, lovesick, overwraught critic, and yet, we find out at the end of the play, he's the only guy getting laid, and suddenly we are aware of the character as more deeply human than than perhaps even his peers are. [...]
To the forums: some All That Chatter on marathon dining and similarities between Utopia's musical theme and a Hindemith concerto. At BroadwayWorld, nomdeplume is impressed by Billy Crudup and the production in Voyage, though finds the philosophy a bit much. Another poster shares his Tony predictions- there's much agreement that Utopia is a strong contender.

If reading Russian Thinkers, Romantic Exiles, My Past and Thoughts, etc etc wasn't enough for you, check out these further background reading recommendations from Ask Metafilter.

Keep an eye on the Ghostlight Records site, the company that is releasing the Coast of Utopia score. The CD isn't listed yet, but apparently they will ship free to the US. Thanks to Pinky for the tip.

Another date for your calendars is May 8th, when the 2007 Tonys site will be updated with new "Tony memories" daily from previous winners Jennifer Ehle, Richard Easton and Liev Schreiber amongst others, according to site manager Andrew McGibbon. Oh and the very last marathon ever is on this Saturday May 5th - don't miss out!

PS. She blogs! Ok not really. But cute.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Music IS a creative passion!

  • Continuing the 'food for thought' theme of Mr. Hawke and bovines, 'don't-ask-don't-tell-vegetarian' Josh Hamilton documents everything he eats in six days for New York magazine.
  • Pianist Dan Lipton explains all about his involvement in the show, not least how he has ended up on stage for half of Salvage:

[...] There are a few actors who play piano, but I would have had to spend a lot of time coaching them to play well, and Mark would have been limited in what he could write. So the wacky idea was floated that I should just be in the show, and then Mark could write whatever music he wanted. I'd be able to hold the singing cast of "non-singers" together each night instead of trusting them to lock into pre-recorded tracks. Jack simmered on this idea over Christmas, and consulted Stoppard and Lincoln Center, because they had to okay another salary. I found this prospect HIGHLY unlikely, but I was wrong. So on January 2, I reported to work not as an intern but as a new member of the company. I was told not to cut my hair. Gotta blend in with the rest of the Russians. So I grew out the sideburns too. I was now, somehow, making my Broadway debut, in a straight play, without even having to audition! [...]

He also gives another indication that backstage life is a ball:

[...] I'm in the male ensemble dressing room downstairs, 11 guys plus 2 dressers. This is the new experience for me, because musicians in the orchestra pit don't even have a room sometimes. ... So I love to hang with this motley crew of supporting actors, who understudy all the guys upstairs. The backstage vibe in general is very warm and great fun. You get the feeling that this really is a once in a lifetime experience, and the movie stars and veterans are enjoying the community of personalities as much as the young actors and the piano player. [...]

Specific mentions of a certain person are as follows:

[...] I taught Jennifer Ehle and David Harbour how to look like they are playing piano. ... Jennifer Ehle and I always exchange glances while I'm playing and she's putting a decoration on the piano. [...]

The whole article is worth reading however, giving a more serious insight into the musical aspects of the production. To find out more about Mr. Lipton himself, visit his official site.

  • Playbill comment on the award situation. They say Utopia 'was bound to collect the lion's share of noms given the copious amount of personnel eligible for recognition'. Variety meanwhile, say Utopia's scale make it 'the one to beat'.
  • Subscription-only America magazine gives a big thumbs up to Voyage and its opening sequence.
  • The Hollywood Reporter mentions Mr O'Byrne's new television project.
  • In terms of the present, I wonder how Sir Tom, Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Crowley are enjoying the penultimate marathon?

Friday, April 27, 2007

What's in a nom?

  • The Drama League nominations are now out, with Coast of Utopia up for Distinguished Production of a Play. Utopian blokes Brian F. O'Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Billy Crudup are also nominated for Distinguished Performance. The awards will be announced on May 11th.

  • The Drama Desk nominations are up too, with Utopia scoring TEN nominations. Sadly, no love for Jennifer Ehle there. Here are the categories, lifted from the LCT's news page:

    • Outstanding Play
    • Outstanding Director of a Play (Jack O'Brien)
    • Outstanding Actor in a Play (Brian F. O'Byrne)
    • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Billy Crudup)
    • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Martha Plimpton)
    • Outstanding Set Design (Bob Crowley and Scott Pask)
    • Outstanding Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner, Natasha Katz)
    • Outstanding Costume Design (Catherine Zuber)
    • Outstanding Music for a Play (Mark Bennett)
    • Outstanding Sound Design (Mark Bennett)

    Congrats everyone nominated so far! Get your diaries out, awards recap:

  • Also congrats to Utopia for being the top fundraising Broadway Play for Broadway Cares.

  • There's a new post at the LCT's Utopia backstage blog about some of the above, as well as where the Utopians are headed after the show closes.

  • Elsewhere in blogland, a glowing review of Shipwreck at Laughing Wild with much praise for the cast and production.
    [...] Jack O'Brien's direction leaves me speechless - he HAS to be a lock for every award that's coming up. The way he's masterfully taken this epic, sprawling work, this tremendous ensemble and this grade-A design team and turned it into something that stays true to its spirit, yes has a grand, riveting, almost cinematic in its epic-ness sweep to it stuns me. Everyone studying theatre should experience this production. [...]
    She also posts a discount code that lets you get Voyage seats for $55. Chad Jones of Theatre Dogs notes some of the show's iconic images:
    [...] Walking out of the theater after Shipwreck (when I ran into former San Francisco playwright Adam Bock – New York is such a small town), I could tell you I saw actors Jennifer Ehle, Brian F. O’Byrne, Jason Butler Harner, Ethan Hawke and Amy Irving do some interesting things, but they sort of all ran together in a mish-mash of Russians expounding on philosophical, romantic and political themes. But I won’t soon forget the images by Crowley (working here with Scott Pask): a stunning, forced-perspective view down the Champs d’Elysees; a demolished post-riot white marble statue; a gaudy chandelier and a man sitting deep in thought in the middle of a raging sea. [...]
    There's more love for Utopia at Metaplasmus, and another marathon fan report from Tess up at the forum.

  • Word from EhleNews is that the Alpha Male DVD is due May 1st, presumably in the US. Can't find confirmation of this elsewhere. It has already been released in the UK, Greece and Poland (the Polish title is Skrywane namietnosci), according to IMDB.

  • Check out our video bar over yonder on the right- they're Coast of Utopia clips from YouTube. Plus note that in the "What did you think of Utopia" poll, the coding is messed up so that votes for "haven't seen it yet" are read as 1 star. My bad.

  • We haven't been following Spider-Man 3 here because of Utopia immersion, but there is plenty of news and press about it lately. Rosemary Harris has been doing the publicity rounds in the UK, Japan and Europe. Have a squiz at the official movie blog featuring a video of her saying she's sad she didn't get the chance to fly in this movie!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The cows are noted for their beauty

  • Judd Hollander of The Epoch Times thinks Salvage is too much like a soap opera and it left him feeling 'jumbled'. But he does have a few good words to say:
O'Byrne is quite good as Herzen, as is Ethan Hawke as Michael Bakunin ... Richard Eastman and Jennifer Ehle, both of whom played other roles in the earlier episodes of the trilogy, are also enjoyable here.

Eastman? This is followed by what is potentially the understatement of the century:

Direction by Jack O'Brien is okay.


  • Ethan Hawke's new role is leading him to think about cows. He is also preparing to put pen to paper once more.
  • At Chowhound, aimeezing marathoned March 10, felt pleasantly 'immersed' and is consequently another advocate of the back-to-back approach. Food-wise, she gives a thumbs-up to Fiorello's and Josephina's, both of which seem to have a prix fixe for marathon attendees.
  • Bronze again for Utopia bums-on-seats-wise; joint first were Moon for the Misbegotten and The Year of Magical Thinking both at 94%, with Utopia effectively therefore third at 91%.

(It's a line from Salvage, in case you were wondering...)

Seminar online and OCC nominations

The Working in the Theatre seminar featuring Jennifer Ehle and other Utopians is now available online in Real Player and downloadable mp4 formats. No less than four people let us know about this - thanks everyone!

The other big news is that Coast of Utopia has been nominated in every category for which it's eligible in the Outer Critics Circle awards (see Theatermania, Back Stage). Winners will be announced May 14th. Here are the people and categories:
  • Outstanding New Broadway Play - Coast of Utopia
  • Outstanding Director - Jack O'Brien
  • Outstanding Lighting Design - Brian MacDevitt/ Kenneth Posner/ Natasha Katz
  • Outstanding Set Design - Bob Crowley / Scott Pask
  • Outstanding Costume Design - Catherine Zuber
  • Outstanding Actor in a Play - Brian F. O'Byrne
  • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Billy Crudup
  • Outstanding Actress in a Play - Jennifer Ehle
  • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Martha Plimpton

Monday, April 23, 2007


  • Joyous! The Coast of Utopia soundtrack is going to be released by Ghostlight on June 12th. Pre-order now at CD Universe. Tip from BroadwayWorld, where there's also discussion whether Utopia is a chance in the Best Score category, and it's suggested several times in a thread about the one must-see straight play on Broadway.
  • Brian F. O'Byrne was interviewed about Utopia on CUNY's Theater Talk program that aired last weekish. Watch it online in RealPlayer format.
  • Anne Marie Walsh of the San Diego Union Tribune reviews Utopia. Extremely long but good.
  • Amy Irving is going to be one of the hosts at this year's Broadway Cares Easter Bonnet competition on April 23rd-24th, reports Playbill.
  • SuperJen talks about the marathon, with special mention of Ms Ehle in Shipwreck. Later, she reflects on how "freaking unbelieveably awesome" it was - and how she's glad she didn't see Natalie as Lizzy in a certain lunch scene.
  • Todd saw the three shows on consecutive days, rating Shipwreck as best.
  • A reminder from Stage Door Rants: Outer Critics' Circle nominations are due tomorrow.
  • Brian D. Johnson muses about colour, birth and death in Utopia, and why Belinsky gels with Sir Tom.
  • At Show Showdown, discussion on whether Coram Boy or Utopia are likely wins at the Tonys.
  • Apparently, Road to the Sky/Keral/Kerala has been renamed once again to Before the Rains. Thanks Kate- good spotting!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Expecting the unexpected

  • The NY Times has a nice piece on the plethora of unplanned disasters that can occur mid-performance. One of the disasters mentioned is Mr Easton's collapse in Utopia previews:

Martha Plimpton heard a thud. When she turned and saw her “Coast of Utopia” co-star Richard Easton prone on the stage floor during the second preview, she presumed he had merely tripped. But Ethan Hawke, who had seen Mr. Easton collapse, said he “thought Richard had passed away.”

The two actors found Mr. Easton unconscious. “I never thought I’d say those words, but I said, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ ” Ms. Plimpton recalled. The Lincoln Center audience that night in October did not respond, thinking that the moment was part of the show, especially since Mr. Easton’s character had just finished a fiery diatribe that ended with “That is my last word,” and since the house lights remained down. “The audience just thought, ‘Oh, Tom Stoppard is getting all Pirandello on us,’ ” Mr. Hawke said, referring to the “Utopia” playwright. “Breaking the fourth wall is harder than you think.” [...]

In the fall the “Coast of Utopia” audience realized that Mr. Easton’s collapse was not scripted only when Mr. Hawke made an announcement, stepping center stage and, as Ms. Plimpton did, asking for medical help. (Will Coholan, a stagehand, stepped forward to perform CPR.) That night the actors had no need to stay in character. After what seemed like an eternity, they said, emergency medical workers finally took Mr. Easton, who had suffered an arrhythmia, to the hospital, and everyone went home. “It was the only time I didn’t finish a show,” Mr. Hawke said. “That felt strange.” But leaving the theater early was nothing, Mr. Hawke said, compared with how he and Ms. Plimpton felt when Mr. Easton returned. They felt normal with the understudy in the scene in which Mr. Easton had collapsed, but with Mr. Easton back, they were petrified about it. “I just kept looking at Ethan,” Ms. Plimpton said, while Mr. Hawke said he was busy “hoping the moment would just pass.” It is a feeling the two actors can’t quite shake. “It all depends on how Richard performs it,” Ms. Plimpton said. “If he does it differently, it’s fine, but when he does it just like that night, then we spend the whole scene feeling worried.”

  • Robert Simonson of interviews Jack O'Brien. On whether he still checks up on Utopia, he said:

I [still] wander through [the Beaumont dressing rooms] at half hour and then I go my merry way.

  • NY Times reader reviewer cagott admires the show as a whole, but is troubled by Ms Ehle's apparent breathlessness at the end of lines. francisdyer implies that Salvage was best, and like so many people, gives a big thumbs up to the visual and musical elements of the entire production:

...Being in touch with the mind of Herzen as rock amid the stormy emotions of his fellow reformers, was dramatic experience. But it was the grandness of the visual, music, ballet-like movement, lighting that held me spellbound. [...] It was just grand theater and these people were daring breaking new ground. [...] I thank them all. Broadway is here and just fine.

  • Peter Daniels of the World Socialist Web Site gives a long round-up of the play.
  • Dan Irwin at nnseek discusses the viability of Utopia going national.
  • Past famous faces: the fabulous Julianne Moore.
  • Future famous faces: Tom Stoppard, Bob Crowley and Jack O'Brien are marathoning April 28th, if you are deciding which of the few remaining shows to attend.
  • For those of you who live in the NYC vicinity, tomorrow is ATW seminar day. For those of us who don't, watch this space for the link!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Captivating study in contradictions"

  • Listen to an interesting discussion about the thinkers in The Coast of Utopia at KCRW, featuring William Grimes of "The College Reading List of Utopia" fame and Keith Gessen who wrote the New Yorker feature on Herzen.
  • Coming soon: Utopia the Rock Opera. Brendan Lemon reports at the LCT blog about the cabaret night when cast members showed off their musical chops.
  • Love letter at Edward Copeland on film (part of a long and thoughtful review):
    [...] As impressive as everyone in the cast is, top acting honors must be conferred upon the luminous Ms. Ehle, who excels in three strikingly different roles. The tremulous delicacy that she brings to her performance in “Voyage” as the frail, gentle Liubuv, who finds bittersweet if fleeting happiness in the blush of first romance, exists in stark contrast to the firm-minded pragmatism of “Salvage’s” Malwida, the perspicacious German governess who exerts a steadying influence on the children of the Herzen household while keeping a wary eye fixed on the reckless behavior of its elders. It is in “Shipwreck,” however, that the actress is most prominently featured, and where she makes her most indelible impression. Far from the square-shouldered, sensible spinster of Part 3, or the pale, shy ingenue of Part I, Natalie Herzen is a rose in full bloom, a ravishing, vibrant romantic heroine who follows her heart into uncharted territory even as the ground beneath her feet begins to give way. The actress creates a captivating study in contradictions; winsome yet seductive, incisive yet wrong-headed, alternately reflective and impulsive, she provides the trilogy with its richest characterization, and its most lyrical.

    As evidenced by her brilliant, Tony-winning turn in The Real Thing, Ehle has an instinctive grasp of the nuances of Stoppard’s language; her delivery is so natural and assured that it doesn’t even sound scripted, but rather something being thought up freshly on the spot. This is something I haven’t observed with any other actor in a Stoppard play, or really with many stage actors in general (stage acting seemingly necessitates a certain degree of staginess). The actress’s proficiency with dialogue is made all the more remarkable by its artlessness; although her physical transformation from role to role is quite stunning, her command of the language allows her to thoroughly embody her characters to a point where the effort is no longer visible. [...]
  • Ann Midgette of the NY Times interviews the tireless Jack O'Brien, who is directing Puccini's Il Trittico. He compares the two trilogies:
    [...] “ ‘The Coast of Utopia’ is very different,” he added. “The story is evolving in a historical perspective. The pieces of ‘Trittico’ are bound by Puccini’s own imagination and the sound of his music.”

    Another difference: “The incessant, extremely complex voice of Stoppard needed to be banged off surfaces,” he said. “I had to refresh you, not tire you. ‘Il Trittico’ has different problems, especially prejudices. This is not the first time you’ve seen these operas. Whereas with ‘Coast of Utopia,’ no one knew what the hell it was.” [...]

  • Tom Bestor of Rational Feast reviews Salvage. Verdict:
    [...] Although I can see how some might be disappointed in this last installment (it's a bit clunkier than the first two), taken as a whole, the production of "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy is one of the most stunning works of theater I've ever seen. The scale of the sets and staging and effects and lighting that Lincoln Center can put on never ceases to amaze me. The cast is terrific, maintaining focus and energy throughout these long works. I can hardly imagine what they must look (and feel) like on the days they perform all three plays as a marathon. [...]
  • Jesse Jarnow has a Thoughts from Utopia bit on his blog. He ponders:
    [...] For numerous reasons -- rhythm, dialogue, conceits -- it could never translate to film. Does the fact that it can't be mass entertainment make it pretentious? (It is, of course, but for other reasons, often indistinguishable from why it's so grand.) [...]
  • At Pater Familias, Mr Schaefer has high praise for the show:
    [...] We have now watched all three parts of THE COAST OF UTOPIA. We watched all nine hours with continuous delight. We left the theater each night elated. I can’t imagine a better production of any play. The direction and production took full advantage of the resources of an enormous theater. The acting was terrific. I had thought after the first play that the production was lucky to have world class actors like Jennifer Ehle and Amy Irving in small but pivotal parts. The two later plays provided acting challenges worthy of them. I should comment that in an earlier post I said that I thought Ethan Hawke was a better movie actor than a stage actor, based on his Hotspur, which I had thought was good, but not great. I take it all back. Ethan Hawke was magnificent in COAST OF UTOPIA. [...]
    He also wonders whether Utopia would play well in the provinces. If you're a West Coaster you can see for yourself - there's an auction for a private reading of Coast of Utopia by the Shotgun Players at Berkeley.
  • Elisabeth Vincentelli of The Determined Dilettante has this complaint about Salvage:
    [...] The other men are reduced to bellowing gasbags (particularly Ethan Hawke's Bakunin) and the women pretty much disappear—the etch-a-sketch treatment awarded to Malwida von Meysenbug, played with very dry humor by Jennifer Ehle, is particularly irritating. [...]
  • Chris Riley of Suspended Conversation makes this unusual comparison from watching Voyage:
    [...] there was a very bizarre, disturbing character towards the end of the play - a six foot ginger cat, reminiscent of donnie darko's bunny rabbit, both in the style of its insertion into ordinary life and the sense of fate and doom that it conveyed within the story. [...]
  • Star-spotting of sorts: NY Times Op-Eder Maureen Dowd is seen in the audience.
  • A couple of Utopia-related conversations are going on at BroadwayWorld: on who of Jennifer Ehle, Amy Irving and Martha Plimpton might get a Featured nomination, and on which part of the trilogy to see if you can only make one (Shipwreck seems to be the favourite), and more predictions that Utopia will take out Best Play.
  • Huzzah, a fan report from a marathon! This is from Ann, who went to the December meetup as well. Go to the forum to read it. By the way, we welcome any reports you have from the show. Email them in or post in the forum thread - no registration required.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Paris Reconstructed

Here is the site for Beyond Design Incorporated who were the masterminds behind the marble horse statues in the Place de la Concorde scene in Shipwreck. They have some fantastic photos of the statues in construction and in situ, whilst also giving an insight into how they are able to explode mid-revolt. Clever stuff.

Radio-wise, theatre critic Ed Siegel is interviewed on Here and Now about Utopia. There are three nice audio clips as well as a little helping of music. No specific mention is made of Ms Ehle, but Siegel does argue that 'a Stoppard play without women would be like an HBO show without four-letter words'. Interesting analogy.

Whilst acknowledging that no-one will probably ever do a better production of this play than the Lincoln, he advocates seeing all three over a few days rather than as a marathon. He does however agree with Amy Irving's previous estimation that Shipwreck is the one to see if your rouble balance has seen better days.

Siegel and host Robin also discuss the correct pronunciation of 'Stoppard'. Based on my experiences as an audience member however, I would say it is 'Ehle' that people need to learn to pronounce!

Utopia took the silver capacity-wise last week (ending April 15) with 92%. In first place was Moon for the Misbegotten (96%) and in third was The Year of Magical Thinking which achieved 89%. All others were in the low seventies or lower. Gold next week?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tonys betting etc

  • Getty Images has a couple more photos of Billy Crudup, Jennifer Ehle and Brian F. O'Byrne from the Leonard Leopate interview. Search for "coast of utopia".
  • Randy Gener of the Star-Ledger interviews some of the understudies from Utopia. Much interesting quotage, such as this from Scott Parkinson who went on for Billy Crudup:
    [...] "Understudying is licensed stealing," says Parkinson. "It's one of the positions in the arts where you're expected to copy someone else's work. The job is to faithfully and truthfully recreate the performance of the actors you're covering. It's a meta-version of acting. ... It's almost a purer kind of acting, one step removed from yourself." [...]
  • Tom O'Neil of the LA Times says that Coast of Utopia is the front-runner in the Best Play race, although there are some contenders that haven't opened yet.
  • Marathon runner timaroosky hearts the play:
    [...] This show was the most brilliant thing that I have EVER seen on stage. The production values were the highest I have ever seen, the effects, scene changes, lighting and sound design were flawless. The acting was brilliant and the play(s) were both interesting and informative. [...]
  • Helen Lawson has more of a mixed reaction, agreeing with some of Charles Isherwood's criticisms, but nevertheless dug the production and most of the acting.
    [...] I thrilled to Jack O'Brien's brilliant stage pictures and fluid direction, keeping everything moving and crackling with all the wit and panache at his command. [...]
    And look, a convert:
    [...] I thought there was a lot of sensational acting -- Jennifer Ehle (not a favorite of mine ere now) in three sharply differentiated roles... [...]
  • Michael gives a nice account of the Beaumont experience (squashy seats and all) at Voyage. Plus he gives this reassurance:
    [...] I wasn't expecting the play to be as funny as it was and the jokes ran the gamut from the esoteric to the near-vulgar, the wordplay was involved and entertaining, the whole audience laughed outloud quite a few times . . . the offputting notion in the beginning that the whole play is going to be about Russian politics and philosophy is misguided, I know absolutely nothing about either beyond the scantest basics and I was able to follow the action and discussions with little trouble, Stoppard keeps it fairly accessible, although the notes they give you in the beginning do help. [...]
  • Lucy Komisar goes against the tide of "Stoppard is all head no heart" critique by complaining of the opposite. On the womenfolk:
    [...] And what about the women? Amy Irving, Jennifer Ehle, and Martha Plimpton in multiple roles, especially Irving as Maria Ogarev, estranged wife of Herzen’s hard-drinking friend Nicholas; Ehle as Herzen’s wife Natalie and then as his children’s governess; and Martha Plimpton as Natalie’s friend, the intense Natasha Tuchkov, offer excellent portrayals as the action turns to revolve around them.

    They play a major role, but not for the reasons one might expect in a political play. The female characters are mostly reasonably bright women who spend their free moments thinking about husbands. Bakunin argues for the education of women and for love matches. Did none of the women in that radical milieu ever challenge women’s role? Even the one woman who attends political meetings seems more interested in men than ideas. [...]

  • At All That Chat, there's discussion about Jennifer Ehle's Tony category and more tipping that Utopia will win Best Play.
  • Meanwhile, BroadwayWorld is talking about whether Utopia will be on Live from Lincoln Center (if only!) and there's advice on past-dating Utopia tickets and such. In another thread, one guy is batting hard for Ms Ehle in the Featured Actress category, though there's some debate. Potential competitors mentioned include Susan Lynch in Translations, Dana Ivey in Butley, Jan Maxwell in Coram Boy and Tonya Pinkins in Radio Golf.
  • More star-spotting: Warren Beatty and Annette Bening were in the audience at a performance of Utopia. Just thought of something - given that there is a minute chance some audience members have discovered our humble blog, and given that Utopia audiences seems to be teeming with VIPs...hands up if you've won a Tony, Oscar, Pulitzer? Anyone? Ex-presidents?
  • Sanford Marcus at Queersighted interviews Scott Pask, one of the genius designers on Utopia.
  • Jason Grote reminds us that Utopia dramaturg Anne Cattaneo is going to be on CUNY's Women in Theatre program on April 27 and 29.
  • One fan wrote to the LCT asking about when and where the Utopian Dozen calendar is being sold. Here's the reply she got. "This week" was a while ago, so it should be available now; also, note that while signed calendars are $50, plain unsigned ones are only $20.
    "The calendars will be sold as part of the Broadway Cares fundraising drive which will begin for us this week. We anticipate beginning fundraising following this Wednesday's performance and will sell signed COAST OF UTOPIA posters as well as signed and unsigned copies of the Utopia calendars. All proceeds from the sale of these items will go to Broadway Cares and are completely separate from the items regularly sold in the Beaumont lobby gift shop. As you mentioned, the calendars are also available for purchase from the Broadway Cares website."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Something old, something new

A couple of photos from the Summerfolk programme. (Olivier Theatre, 1999)

There are also a couple of lovely ones from last month's Leonard Lopate radio interview. One with the host, and one mid-broadcast. It must have been a busy weekend, as the next day the ATW seminar was filmed! Again, the schedule for that can be found here. Roll on April 22nd!

On first glance, the aforementioned Summerfolk bares quite a few Utopian resemblances. Firstly, it is all about nineteenth and early twentieth century Russia. Secondly, Ms Ehle's character was called Varvara, and thirdly, the programme even refers to Belinsky at one point. Small world.

Here is a nice KPBS interview from last year with Jack O'Brien. (Who looks most different minus the specs!)

Extensive, accurate stage resumes for key members of the Utopia gang can be found on There is also the odd amusing quote. Martha Plimpton describes herself as 'just kind of an actor', while Richard Easton gives some valuable (if potentially head-scratching) advice: "I've never done anything for any other reason than that I wanted to do the thing itself."

As predicted, much leapfrogging occurred last week box office wise. Utopia took the bronze medal with an impressive 92%, being beaten by The Year of Magical Thinking (98%) and Moon for the Misbegotten (97%). Encountering progressively larger obstacles round the track were Inherit the Wind (83%), Frost/Nixon (66%), Talk Radio (51%) and Journey's End (35%).

EBay items up for grabs include a Tartuffe programme and a signed photo of a (much younger!) Martha Plimpton.

That's all Summerfolks! Nothing borrowed or blue I'm afraid. (I'll work on it...)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pixies ate my post

So proper roundup later. For now, have a look at the transcript of the Platform Series Q&A with Tom Stoppard which is finally online. The event took place on February 14th this year.

The other breaking news for today is that the Tonys committee has ruled that Coast of Utopia will be considered one play. Brian F. O'Byrne will be eligible for the Leading Actor award, while all the other cast members including Jennifer Ehle are in the Featured category. See Playbill.

One more thing actually- Kate has kindly shared her thoughts from her pilgrimage to Utopia.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

  • Above title is inspired by the latest LCT blog offering, in which Brendan Lemon notes some of the funnies overheard in the Beaumont lobby during the intermissions at the marathons.
  • Brian D. Johnson recounts his experience at the Utopia marathon last Saturday, the "ground zero of Stoppardia". On the cast:
    [...] Ethan Hawke has a great role, Bakunin, and he makes the most of it. Billy Crudup was Belinsky and beloved. He carried much of the weight for the required number of Stoppard Self-Referential Sermons (monologues) about Writing and Art. Jennifer Ehle was the love of my life and the fire of my etc. Brian F. O'Byne was brilliant as Herzen. [...]
    Speaking of Stoppardia, Michael Berry of Cheaper Ironies has a post on Sir Tom's political activities.
  • David Clement wanted more Utopia after the 12-hour marathon day. That says it all. By the way, can anyone help him out?
    [...] The subject matter (19th century Russian intelligencia in exhile) is kinduh up my alley; like many suburban introvert kids of my generation, or maybe just one other person I hope to meet someday, I got overexcited when I saw Reds and started reading Russian writers from before the revolution. Tom Stoppard's play was like watching all those provocative, nebulous historical ideas take the form of attractive young actors. [...]
  • Ditto on time flying while you're in Utopia (marathons), at The Laboratorium. Par contre, Jim Carlson couldn't make it through one part.
  • At Broadway & Me, reflection on the audience's "armada of emotions" post-marathon, and some envy at the camaraderie between the actors displayed at the curtain call. Ethan Hawke's "uncontainable joy" is mentioned in particular.
  • Has all this talk of marathons given you the itch? There's a question at All That Chat about whether you can get last-minute tickets - one person says that someone was selling discounted premium seats in the morning.
  • Am, who watched Shipwreck, has an interesting take on the timefoolery element.
  • Nice Belinsky quotage from Patrick Kanouse (try substituting "actor" for "poet", etc):
    “A poem can’t be written by an act of will. When the rest of us are trying our hardest to be present, a real poet goes absent. We can watch him in the moment of creation, there he sits with the pen in his hand, not moving. When it moves, we’ve missed it. Where did he go in that moment? The meaning of art lies in the answer to that question.”
  • Stephen Smoliar talks about the analogy between the search for utopia (as conceived by Isaiah Berlin and Tom Stoppard) and the search for identity. Bit over my head, but that's not saying much.
  • Mondschein of Third Row, Mezzanine makes the connection between the Bakunin sisters and Little Women after seeing Voyage. He enjoyed the performances and production, but was "a bit lost by the pace of the plot and the turnover of characters". And we can add another name to the list of illustrious Utopia attendees, Neil Simon.
  • BroadwayWorld's MargoChanning is tipping Utopia as an almost dead-cert for the Best Play Tony. In another thread about the most hauntingly beautiful images on stage, the opening sequence of the plays as well as the end of Salvage are mentioned.
  • Janmarie Anello is running a promo for her book Forever Yours, the prize for which is the US anniversary edition of Pride and Prejudice.
  • QEIII saw The Philadelphia Story as a requirement for her course. Sadly, she was disappointed by it.
  • Camille Hickman, a casting associate at the LCT who worked on Utopia, is hosting a free Q&A for aspiring actors on April 24.

Sorry again about the late and absent posts, dear readers. Thanks to Abi for keeping the ship afloat during my Easter trip to Chelsea's place in Brisbane, our first meeting after almost two years of blog-slogging together. A historic event!

Monday, April 09, 2007

'Beautiful', 'wonderful', 'charismatic' Ehle

Saturday's marathon seems by all accounts to have been another runaway success. Famous faces spotted this time included Ms Ehle's former co-star Ralph Fiennes as well as Brian Cox and Randy Harrison.

The show certainly lived up to emomango's expectations, who is another advocate of the three-in-one approach:

[We were] excited about the event for its event-ness itself, but we quickly fell in love with the production and thrived in our 12-hour experience with all 3 parts of the play.

The set, by Bob Crowley, was gorgeous and genius; the lighting by Brian McDevitt stunning. The acting was fantastic all around, and, instead of feeling like we had crammed too much in one day (as it is possible to see the 3 parts on separate nights as well), we finished the day feeling that the marathon was the best way to see The Coast of Utopia -- it was a journey for the actors as well as for the audience.

There was much praise for the cast as well as the crew, not least for a certain person:

Jennifer Ehle was beautiful and wonderful, as was Billy Crudup, who transformed so completely that he was almost unrecognizable. Ethan Hawke was impressive, too, which redeemed him in my eyes as a stage actor. ... Tonight, he was passionate and charismatic as well as endearingly engaging throughout the 3 parts.

The entire production was executed beautifully... and we left the theater feeling we'd witnessed a spectacularly special show. The Coast of Utopia reminded us of the beauty and power of theater, just how wonderful and magical a theatrical experience could be.

ImTedGreen was also present on Saturday, and came to a similarly laudatory conclusion:
The acting is amazing and, as usual, Tom Stoppard's writing is fascinating. I actually found this show easier to understand than other Stoppard shows I've seen.

thechorine, meanwhile, who attended an earlier marathon, described Brian O'Byrne as 'magnetic' and Ms Ehle as 'charismatic'. But perhaps more interestingly, here is another person for whom Mr Hawke's portrayal of Bakunin has managed to turn their previously negative opinion of him around.

This person also speaks highly of the theatre and Utopia's use of it:
...the sets and effects are MAGNIFICENT. The Vivian a beautiful theater, and what they can do with it boggles the mind.

It does indeed.

Tingly-spined whizzofactory ran a marathon last month and describes Utopia as... of the most extraordinary theater experiences of all. Stoppard is able to weave ideas, history, drama, love and culture together in a wide 40-year arc. It was wonderful seeing it in one take. The staging is also outstanding, with elements that send tingles down the spine. It was worth every minute and every dollar.

Critic-wise, no reviews today, but two captivating discussions instead...

Alice T. Carter of the Tribune talks about the trend of live theater being packaged as 'events' in an effort to attract the modern, spoilt-for-choice audience member. Utopia is mentioned very briefly as an example of a production marketed in this manner.

The NY Times meanwhile, discusses the debate the legendary Stephen Fry provoked, regarding British accents. The Times uses the Lincoln's production of Utopia to argue that a British accent is not a prerequisite for a successful production of Stoppard: doesn’t necessarily take a Briton to do justice to Tom Stoppard, whose dialogue is replete with tongue twisters and intellectual rhapsodies. Like Mr. Frayn’s “Copenhagen,” “The Coast of Utopia,” Mr. Stoppard’s sprawling trilogy about philosophizing Russian revolutionaries, is more exciting in New York (at Lincoln Center, where it runs through mid-May) than it was at the National in London. Granted, in the London production everyone seemed to be more on the same page, or reading from the same sheet music. The American cast (which includes the odd Briton, Canadian and Irishman) is more eclectic, more emphatic and less nuanced. Which is sometimes just what British erudition needs to acquire the racing pulse that makes theater come alive.

Now I'm a Brit, but I can't argue with the box office!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Utterly transported...(and this time really)

Substantiating my theory that almost everyone of theatrical consequence is currently in New York, the great Mr Kevin Spacey talks about his new project, O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, which has just begun previews at the Brooks Atkinson.

He also discusses his significant role at The Old Vic in London. There is quotage from Ms Ehle, who speaks highly of both the theatre and its artistic director. Referring to her work there with Mr Spacey for The Philadelphia Story in 2005, she says:
It was a wonderful experience and a really warm, exciting place to work. The Old Vic is a beautiful theatre to work in. It's quite a large house but it has a feeling of intimacy. And Kevin was utterly focused at rehearsals. He left his other hats at the door.



Tom Vitale of NPR talked to some marathon runners at 11am and then 11pm. There are also words from the famous Ben Brantley as well as the arguably more infamous Charles Isherwood. Mr Hawke also gives his argument for seeing the marathon. Namely, that you will remember it more than a day where you hung out your washing. (Well, one can't argue with that, can one?)


Mr O'Byrne's appearance on Theater Talk was aired on April 6. It should be available online here in a couple of days.


Aaron Riccio discusses the idea of connectedness in theatre in which he makes a brief mention of Utopia. We've already covered it, but his actual review of Salvage is here.


Jesse Rosen was "completely transported" by the show. He ignored his friends' advice regarding pre-show reading, and thinks he made the right decision. (I do, too)

Jesse Jarnow gives some nice comments on the experience of Parts 1 & 2, including a bit about a four-legged audience member who was better behaved than some of his two legged counterparts. (Strange but true, shockingly)

Antonia Malchik advocates running the marathon. She also said the production was so well done that she felt like standing up and warning the characters what they were getting themselves into. (I like it)

H Catherine meanwhile, is falling in love with dead revolutionaries. (Aren't we all!)


Utopia's Dan Lipton is involved in an exciting new project.

There is an interview with the lovely Mr Crudup from the Times (UK) published in February.


Utopia achieved 89.1% capacity last week (ending April 1) putting it at....first place. Frost/Nixon and Moon for the Misbegotten came a very close second and third respectively, while former premier uno The Year of Magical Thinking achieved a lesser (but still respectable) 79%. I predict some leapfrogging over the next five weeks. Sadly, five weeks is all it is. Let them pass Coast-lessly at your peril...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The invisible elves!

This seems to be the week of recognising (quite rightly) the other half of the cause of Utopia's brilliance - namely, the behind the scenes geniuses/genii. When one only sees half of the goings-on, it can be easy to forget that there is another half, and what hard graft must be involved in it, too.

Brendan Lemon gives a round of applause to the costume crew this week, including a nice insight into the backstage world of outfits (and lots of them...). Ms Ehle's fab Shipwreck dresses are briefly mentioned, and there are some nice pics of where all these clothes reside when not on the backs of the actors.

But yes, I am sure there are more jobs and job descriptions involved backstage than us audience members have even heard of, and clearly they are all doing a practically flawless job every night to pull off such a fantastic show without a hitch.

In other news, Ms Ehle's The Real Thing co-star / London Utopian, the fabulous Stephen Dillane, is stepping foot on stage once again. Ms Plimpton meanwhile, kindly lends a hand to an animator friend.

On the goodies front...
  • eBay has a The Real Thing window card up for grabs.
  • The Hightide Festival auction has now closed. The signed trilogy went for £104 ($205) and the wonderful Utopia script was bought by one rouble-laden bidder for its staggering reserve of £1,050 ($2,072). Mr Stoppard's Utopia jumper unfortunately failed to sell, (as did the Shakespeare in Love screenplay, which amazes me!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Yet another Utopia roundup

Sorry this is late.
  • Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer compares contemporary Russian intellectuals to those portrayed in Coast of Utopia.
  • Walter C. Uhler challenges Mr Romano in the Huffington Post, with a long article that discusses the ideas of some of the main players.
  • Subscription-only reviews abound this week. Terry Teachout has one in Commentary, Brooke Allen in New Criterion, and Robert Brunstein in New Republic. Complete Review keeps an eye on the debate.
  • Blogger Simon Crowe attended a marathon, and responds to Mr Brunstein thusly:
    [...] Some critics (Robert Brustein in The New Republic) claim the plays are too much about ideas and not enough about character, but I can honestly say I was never bored since the production is acted, directed, and designed by top-drawer artists. [...]
  • Jeff Goldstein, an usher at the Vivian Beaumont, notes how some Utopian actors tend to flock together at mealtimes during the marathon.
  • At Gorky Rises, another marathon survivor who's impressed - albeit a little overwhelmed - and who rates Ms Ehle as one of the standouts along with Mr Crudup. He also had a brief post live from an intermission at the show.
  • Susannah saw Salvage and found it easiest to understand.
  • Stacey, mother of Annabel, who plays one of the kids in Utopia, writes about how her daughter has been embraced by the LCT family. Check out the pic of Annabel with Ethan Hawke.
  • Joe Pi (!) ran the marathon as well (for $60!), and found it "stunning. incredible. phenomenal. breathtaking. fantastic."
  • More adjectival goodness from olivia_cerce:"incredible. Extraordinary. Sublime."
  • caliban24601 says that Utopia is one of Tom Stoppard's snobbier plays, not that there's anything wrong with that, and is glad of having seen the trilogy spread over different days.
  • W. Scott Smoot reviews the text of the plays.
  • At All That Chat, discussion on whether Utopia will be extended once more, and a heads-up about Utopia tix being on TDF.
  • BroadwayWorlders are talking about how Utopia will be treated by the Tonys committee, once again. Brian F. O'Byrne's chances are mentioned, and one person says Ms Ehle should be up for Featured Actress.
  • There's word that some of the Utopia cast, possibly including Mr Hawke, will be guest speakers for NYU's Grad Acting program.
  • Just a reminder- the show closes in about six weeks. If you're in the hemisphere, go see it!
    One reader notes that you can buy last-minute tickets at the box office on marathon days, at least to single shows.
  • One more thing. The Western USA/Canada DVD set of the lending library has reached the end of the list, and the Australian set is almost there. So if you sign up now, you'll be the first to get it. For new readers, the lending library includes an interview DVD, Self Catering, Pleasure, Beyond Reason and The Maitlands.