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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: Theater

This Will All be Yours Review

Nickie Phillips

by Demetra Pappas

Watching This Will All Be Yours, the audience is taken on a journey from The Cherry Orchard to The Exonerated, and with music regarding the decline of the family farm in the last century. This chamber piece works tremendously well under the direction of Ludovica Villar-Hauser and the musical direction of Amy Duran. The “what” that will “all be yours” is a family farm, which becomes increasingly difficult to financially hold onto as three children grow up, and leave home.

In many ways, Laura Pederson’s 80-minute story is as much about an American family in the 1970s and 1980s as much as it is about the economic decline of the small farm owned and operated by, ironically, the Price family. The Prices are played by Jenny Rose Baker (who has a spectacular voice, as well), Matt Farcher, Amy Griffin, Josh Powell and Daniel Rowan; a would be buyer is represented by Jackson Webb (Trevor St. John-Gilbert, in brief but memorable scenes in which the audience learns that his family also had a farm). I was interested to learn from the Author’s Note in the Festabill that Pederson herself grew up in a largely rural part of Western New York. This is the story of how farming became mechanized, as the younger Price family members sequentially leave for urban environments ranging from early Silicon Valley to the youngest son’s final departure for an aspiring acting career on Broadway (in what I take to be authorial tongue in cheek).

During a recent “talk back panel,” Villar-Hauser wittily commented that she took on the chance to work on a play with music, and the play grew into a musical with a story to tell. In this regard, the ensemble production reminded me of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grills, which garnered Audra McDonald a record-breaking sixth Tony, for her role as Billie Holiday – as Best Actress in a Play (with music, so to speak).

I hope that this work by former New York Times columnist Laura Pederson (book) and Charles Bloom (music and lyrics) continues to grow from the seed planted (pun intended) at the Midtown International Theater Festival. It is a recent historical prelude to a contemporary one time in which people are looking for farm to table possibilities, participating in CSA community supported agriculture and organic cooperatives.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD writes about criminology, sociology and legal studies, among other topics. Her recent book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (Greenwood Press, 2012), a 100-year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) was nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize, as well as nominated and short listed, 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize.

Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons

Nickie Phillips

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast Correspondent http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-hnLJcWF3o

As luck would have it, I saw Terrence McNally’s new play, Mothers and Sons, the same week that I saw Dallas Buyers’ Club. The 2013 Dallas Buyers earned Matthew McConaughey a Best Actor Oscar as heterosexual (and homophobic) “guy’s guy” Ron Woodroof, an electrician and rodeo cowboy who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas and created a “virus club” for HIV/AIDS patients after his “30 days to live” diagnosis. In real life, Woodroof viewed this as flipping the bird to the medical establishment, as much as saving time on his life’s clock. He succeeded for years, if success is measurable by the extra years that he lived (not to mention the additional patients who lived longer as a result of his efforts).

Mothers and Sons is the examination by McNally (who also hails from Texas, though from Corpus Christi) of the years after the death of Andre, the boyfriend of lead character Cal Porter (Frederick Weller), who died of AIDS some 20 years earlier.  In 90 minutes, the audience witnesses the real time visit by Andre’s mother, Katharine Gerard (yet another powerful performance by Tony Award winner Tyne Daly). When the play begins, it becomes apparent that Katharine tracked Cal down via his sister, to a beautiful new apartment (designed by Tony Award winner John Lee Beatty), a husband named Will Ogden (Bobby Steggert) and, most shockingly to Katharine, their six-year old, Bud Ogden-Porter (Grayson Taylor).  Katharine, coming to repatriate a personal belonging of her son, which Cal had sent to her, makes her surprise appearance into a family’s life, rather than into the life of the formerly single man she resents for surviving and thriving in the wake of her son’s death.

In other words, McNally is not giving us (and foisting upon Katharine, whose part was expressly written for Daly) Modern Family, but rather A Modern Family. There are difficult to view memorabilia, which serve as conversation starters for the underlying discussion of family and personal secrets, the sick role and the role of the care giver, the meaning of love (both romantic and familial).  Katharine tells Cal that her son Andre “was not gay” until he moved to New York (obviously, and later proven, untrue). There are trades of accusations as to whom and how the transmission of Andre’s HIV took place.

There is formality and contained physicality of drama, an interesting with directorial choices by Sheryl Kaller. As one such example, when the curtain rises, Katharine is standing rigidly while wearing a fur coat (which she refuses to take off for a length of time), and she and Weller (looking equally uncomfortable) look out at the audience for some 30 seconds. They refer to each other by surnames for a length of the play (unthinkable in today’s society of informality, perhaps even more so since the players repeatedly make contemporary references and refer back 20 years to Andre’s death).

The story of Cal’s former lover’s death and his recovery to moving forward to a new marriage and biologically related offspring appalls Katharine, but serves as a social history of AIDS.  Also, in addition to finely making the point that 50-year-old Cal’s generational compatriots were slowly and cruelly robbed of their lives in a parade of horrors, McNally has Cal making the point to Katharine that the world lost contributions in the professional and artistic worlds.  Well-done is McNally’s creation of a 15-year junior husband, who grew up assuming that HIV/AIDS was a risk factor, who assumed that he would have a chance for a full life with children, a life to be lived well.

Today, I had a congenial disagreement with a long-time friend who saw this superb chamber piece a few days after I did. She said that she was disappointed that Katharine does not change in the course of the play;  my response was that Katharine changes enormously, giving both sorrowful back story and a surprising glimmer of hope for an unexpected future.

See this excellent piece and decide for yourself.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c73id4I37_o

 

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press:  2012) has been nominated and short listed for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize and most recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize. Her doctoral dissertation for the London School of Economics and Political Science (Department of Law, co-supervised by the Department of Sociology), was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian.. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.  She may be reached at DemetraPappas@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter @DemetraPappas

A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Museum

Nickie Phillips

John Kelvin Jones starts in A Christmas Carol at the Merchants Museum (photo:

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast correspondent

In a time of economic inequality, the plight of the Cratchit family seems particularly poignant in New York City.

For some, the holiday season is about parties; for others, it is about the seasonal performances. Given that I would not have made a clever criminal, I will admit to having been known to enjoy both.  That said, this particular year, I have been performance focused, since my new knee, only two months old after total knee replacement, has not been deemed suitable for partying. (Actually, I quipped to a friend that my knee was probably suited to such occasions, but I had the sort of concern about brushes with others walking while drinking that I usually reserve to New Year's Eve drivers-- no judgment, just a healthy fear of testing the fall-abilities of the “knew knee,” I say self-deprecatingly.)

A unique opportunity presents at the Merchant’s House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street (between Bowery and Lafayette), 212-777-1089, in association with Summoners Ensemble Theatre.  John Kevin Jones offers a tour de force one man performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The Director’s Note, by Dr. Rhonda Dodd, explains that Jones was in the midst of developing a five actor version of the Dickens work during 2011,  when he decided to try this version, motivated by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots (about which I have previously written about for Crimcast).  So it was that Jones took what Dickens did in 1843 and sought to create an abbreviated version of the play that would match Dickens’ comment on social and economic inequality.

Jones succeeds in this effort tremendously. First, he physically inhabits each character as he represents them, going from full ghostly wingspan to (pun admittedly intended) tiny Tiny Tim.  He voices Scrooge’s trembling fear, joyous rediscovery of life, and likewise gives full voice and physicality to Dickens’ female characters, as well.

Second, the play itself is designed for one hour, with 15-minute segments that a lawyer dealing with billable hours would appreciate (roughly Spirit One/Christmas Past, Spirit Two/Christmas Present, Spirit Three/Christmas Future, with background and conclusion getting equal shares of the remaining quarter).  Several lawyers in the audience commented on this as I (also a lawyer) chimed in as to how remarkable it was.

Third, the selection of the Merchant’s House Museum as the location is quite simply inspired. All that the edifice needed (and now has) was a bit of holiday décor (PS on the ground floor, there is a case of vintage stockings and the like, not to be missed on the way in or out).  It is a lovely museum and the front and back rooms provide a perfect setting opportunity (in which folding chairs, which Jones quips are “vintage golden chairs,” as he introduces the performance), are set among the furniture and space of hardware merchant Seabury Treadwell, who purchased the building in 1835, just one year after Dickens authored A Christmas Carol.

cratchit

An additional – and terrific – feature is that Jones himself mingles and chats with audience members as they are leaving the museum.  He told several of us that according to legend (and perhaps even fact), during the writing of the original version (and Jones adapted this version from Dickens’ original touring version, while reintroducing a scene from the original novella), Dickens would wander the streets of London weeping over piece as he planned and re-edited it.  This humanizing authorial angst, combined with activism on behalf of the laboring poor, especially children (which he saw first hand, after his family lost its money and debtors prison resulted for his father, mother and youngest siblings), makes the plight of the Cratchit family even more accessible.

Jones has chiseled and set a jewel of a play at a jewel of a museum.

Crimcast correspondent Demetra Pappas was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College, for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her recent book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (Greenwood Press, 2012)  is a 100-year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) and was recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the British Society of Criminology 2013 Criminology Book Prize.  In addition to her work on end-of-life issues, she writes about anti-stalking mechanisms, pedagogical methodology, visual sociology and pens work on travel (including what has become known as CSI Demetra travel pieces), theater and the arts, dining and culinary books, and historical/cultural sights.

George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell: Romance Arising from Dentistry

Nickie Phillips

Demetra M. Pappas,  JD, MSc, PhD, correspondent 81V5bVczSJ0Y8Y22jw9MsHPBi_2ta2I6WfTXLSxWgsM

David Staller, in his “Note from the Director” of The Pearl Theater Company and Gingold Theatrical Group production of You Never Can Tell, writes that “this charming comedy was so revolutionary for its time that the actors who were cast in its original production at London’s famed Haymarket Theater found it impossible to navigate the psychological twists and turns the play demanded resulting in all of them, one by one, walking out.”

In a comical turn of events of my own, I almost had to leave because the opening scene is one of young dentist Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall) pulling out the tooth of teenaged Dolly Clandon (Emma Wisniewski) with the sort of “pop” that one hears when flicking an index finger against the inner cheek. Having myself had a protracted dental extraction barely 48 hours earlier, I was taken aback, notwithstanding the period scenes (by Mind the Gap) and costumes from the TDF Costume Collection.  When shortly thereafter, Valentine’s landlord Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover) has a tooth similarly pulled, my companion tugged on my sleeve to do a quick check to see if I was experiencing empathetic (or actual) pain.

Here is the mark of a fun production – after the first pop, and young Valentine’s

Photo Credit: YNCT by Al Foote III

introduction of profession, I found myself quite immersed in the Shavian comedy. Imagine middle aged divorced parents, one daughter (Amelia Pedlow) who vaguely remembers a father, young twins (Wisniewski and fraternal twin Philip, played with equal over-the-top glee by Ben Charles) who recall nothing of the man, name changes, unfortunate (or fortunate) encounters years later in a resort town. To add to the hilarity, waitstaff Walter Boon (Dan Daily) finds himself to be immersed in the drama which his son Walter Bohun (Zachary Spicer) comes to mediate, with excessive (and excessively handsome) pomposity. Shaw’s original cast may have been dazed, perplexed and scandalized, but this is a contemporary American family, but for the accents, costumes and resort decor. What may have been confusing social and psychological structure in London would not cause even a raised eyebrow in Judge Judy’s court.

That may have been why this performance was so fun, even if the acting was (almost certainly deliberately) directed to be so over the top. In a less dentally aware state, I may have enjoyed the play less, rather than more.

This just goes to show that You Never Can Tell.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College.  Her book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press,  2012) (100 year study of US and UK  doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) was nominated, 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the 2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.

An Eye Opening "Breakfast with Mugabe"

Nickie Phillips

Photo Credit: Joseph Henry Ritter

by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, correspondent

Barely two weeks ago, on August 22, 2013, Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was sworn in for another five year term, extending a tenure which has already lasted 33 years. Reports of the election practices deployed (from not releasing ballots until the day before the July 31 election, to paper only to voters being turned away) were reported on in a way that had Mugabe’s +30% victory over rival Morgan Tsvangirai making the United States election (or not) of George W. Bush and the case of Bush v. Gore look like kindergarten;

for one such example of reportage, see “Taking Oath, Mugabe Adds to His Rule of Zimbabwe,” by Lydia Polgreen, writing for The New York Times. Indeed, Mugabe’s presidency has been marked by tumult and chaos and what might be viewed as reverse colonialism in repatriating lands from the former white elite minority to the black population, so much so that some universities which had awarded him honorary doctorates revoked them (for example, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Edinburgh and Michigan State University, for reasons relating to corruption, human rights abuses and disregard for the democratic process) as well as revocation of honors by Queen Elizabeth (previously bestowed for Mugabe’s fostering of good relations between Britain and Zimbabwe and revoked for abuse of the democratic process and human rights violations). Such a man, whether viewed as a crusader or a folk devil, makes for drama in reality and in dramaturgy.

This excellent Off-Broadway play (Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, Pershing Square Signature Center,

Photo Credit: Joseph Henry Ritter

480 West 42nd Street, 212-279-4200) is written by Fraser Grace. To me, the piece is one part African nationalist revolutionary movement (with most of the violence inferred) and one part The King’s Speech. It imagines Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, a black African revolutionary leader (not in the mold of the now-ailing pacifistic Nelson Mandela, who was also jailed at length) finds himself in Colin Firth’s King George V therapeutic positions. That is to say that the therapeutic language and training (first name of patient, a big controversy in both this play and the Oscar-winning movie script) is elegantly articulated (in both English and tribal languages) during the 110 minute play (the Playbill calls it 90 minutes, but the play runs a bit longer). As an aside, I note that there is also a very useful “Glossary of Shona and Culturally Specific Terms” included in the notes.

There is only one scenic location here – an elegant well-appointed reception room of now-President Mugabe’s Presidential Palace. The chandelier alone is a show stopper (and talking point as audience members enter the theater), and lighting designer Joyce Liao uses it to great effect on Lee Savage’s set. This room is where white psychiatrist Andrew Peric (Ezra Barnes, a study in restraint and composure) is summarily ordered by Mugabe’s secretary-turned-wife Grace (the imperious Rosalyn Coleman) to give therapy to Mugabe (Michael Rogers, whose bullying tantrums and stresses would do Tony Soprano proud, albeit another continent and social setting).

A great deal of time is spent here, as with The King’s Speech, on the fact that the patient should be referred to by his first name, and that time boundaries are to be honored. These small matters of traditional therapy raise eyebrows (and voices) here, as well as stopping the conversation of wife Grace and bodyman Gabriel (lethally played by Che Ayende). Grace’s alternatively played splendid royal and bullying bride is well-matched by Gabriel’s physical and psychological threats of the man who would reluctantly be psychiatrist.

Mugabe engages in a litany of patient-inappropriate behaviors (as one who has written and taught on medical sociology, I can say that many a doctor would have discharged him as a patient, with a sigh of relief). Some behaviors are presidentially inappropriate, too (using his office to ferret out the doctor’s finances and personal life, family history and romantic present, for purposes of bullying him). Unlike the emerging trust and mutual work that emerges between King George and “Lionel” (the not-quite-a-doctor Logue), in this production the audience is confronted by a continuing erosion of trust and numerous betrayals (not by the doctor) of the therapeutic trust relationship. In a parallel story line, which I will not spoil by repeating, “Violence Consultant” J. David Brimmer does a superb and frighteningly realistic visual and auditory set of interchanges.

Watching the psychiatrist (regardless of race) be subjected to the inappropriate conduct of the patient, the wife and the bodyman is painful; once the politics of race and nationalism are factored in, they are predictive of the devastating, irrevocable personal and professional losses the doctor will have to endure, even as Mugabe (and company) go onto political, economic and social gain.

Photo Credit: Joseph Henry Ritter

Hard to watch, yet essential to do, I would send friends (indeed, I already have), family, colleagues and students to see this production, which has the same cast as the 2010 production. There is a fair amount of history, culture and emerging land rights (and wrongs) in the play, well worth absorbing. I would be especially keen to learn the comments of my former colleague during graduate school years, Dr. Bruce Cauthen, whose work was on the sociology of nations and nationalism, and included a case study of South Africa, one very different from the one examined in this play.

Demetra Pappas was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her recent book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) was recently nominated, for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed, British Society of Criminology 2013 Criminology Book Prize.

Steven Levenson’s The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin at the Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre

Nickie Phillips

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin

by Demetra M. Pappas

Some may go to see The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin because of the excellent reputation of the Roundabout; others may go to see the superior David Morse (who won the Drama Desk Award for his performance in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, and has made a career out of playing the heavy since his emergence as a sweet doctor in St. Elsewhere, the machine that gave forth actors from Denzel Washington to television’s NCIS hero Mark Harmon to  game/reality show king Howie Mandel). These are good reasons to go, and to be assured of excellence.

Steven Levenson, the young playwright whose words are spoken, whose gestures are enacted (under the excellent directorion of Scott Ellis, who should also have a credit for choreography) is the star of the show, or at least his words and use of language are. I say this notwithstanding the fact that Morse (as the eponymous character, just out of a five year prison term for white collar crime) and Christopher Denham (as Tom’s son James, who is variously manipulated by multiple characters, until he starts dishing back as good – or bad – as he gets, and who tries to find truth amidst the lies) perform a superb pas de deux, with excellent support by each of the other cast members. Levenson creates an ex-con who is unregenerate, remorseless and (at least insofar as his family and former colleagues are concerned) completely within the realm of recidivistic. Levenson allows the audience to have (the possibility of) empathy for Tom, even as his conniving efforts to immediately con James out of money that the son obviously does not have, coerce (indeed extort) his son-in-law and former law partner Chris (played with awkwardness tempered with fear by the excellent Rich Sommer) and demand reconciliation from his remarried ex-wife Karen (Lisa Emory), who tells James to call the police if Tom contacts him again, then is devastated by information Tom deliberately slips that I won’t disclose for fear of a spoiler alert.  I found myself wanting to call out to the players, “don’t do it,” on several occasions (on one, another audience member of the usually staid attendees actually did so). I also found myself enthralled by Beowulf Boritt’s parallel staging of home and community college (signifying where James, a Yale dropout after the financial ruin, is trying to redeem himself in writing classes).

Tom is a bad guy, nuance though there may be. Early on, David Morse instructs his scrawny, divorce-scarred, dump-living son James to feel his bicep (and then talks about working out in prison). That said, Morse’s physical power and agility in simple acts such as springing up and spinning from a chair demonstrate even more than the implicitly threatening words. Surprisingly, both my companion and I found ourselves talking about this, even as we discussed the effects of the sociopathic man and the devastation he clearly wrote on all who took the stage (including James’ new girlfriend, Katie, played as a post-millennium ingénue by Sarah Goldberg) and those off-stage. If Bernie Madoff got out, this might be a (more erudite) version of family reunion, or more correctly, disunion.


If the shoe fits…. Review of Broadway's Kinky Boots, Lynchburg's Craddock Terry Hotel, and Charlottesville's The Local

Nickie Phillips

craddock-terry201109250148

Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD1 This (rave) review is all about shoes, and more specifically shoe factories. I recently attended a performance of Kinky Boots Al Hirschfeld Theater, with music by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein (both nominated for Tony Awards, among the whopping, show stopping 13 Tony nods Kinky Boots has received). The musical (Lauper’s freshman effort in this arena), based upon a 2005 British comedic film of the same name, tells the (fact-based) story of a young man named Charlie Price (Stark Sands, also nominated for Best Actor) who inherits a reputable-albeit-failing shoe factory from his father – a family business that he did not particularly want.After a drag queen named Lola (the extraordinary Billy Porter, whom I predict will win the Tony, as he has done with the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards) saves Charlie from a mugging, breaking a high-heeled boot in the process, s/he complains at length about the lack of a product for (larger footed) men to be attractively (and femininely) shod in. Lola’s complaints about the shoddy turn into a plan between the two to create a niche market for soon-to-be well-shod drag queens, and save the Price factory.

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I should say that both men acquit themselves admirably (as does Annaleigh Ashford, nominated for Best Featured Actress in her turn as a factory worker with wisdom, wit and a blooming romance with Charlie); however, Porter trumps straight man Sands by well-portraying both a man (Simon, when not in drag as Lola) and a woman. As I told a colleague, I applauded at the curtain call for Sands, but I unabashedly cried at the curtain call for Porter. I enjoyed Lauper’s music, and was riveted when she recently was interviewed by Stephen Colbert and told him that because her sister was a member of the gay community, that made her one, and enhanced her commitment to the show. The 59-year-old fosters aspiration, a girl who wanted to have fun grown into a force to be reckoned with. This said, some of the best moments were owned totally by Porter, such as “red is the color of sex,” and “I came for the adulation.” Stark gets full credit for a hilarious turn as a boot model in a pinch, but the show belongs to Porter. It also belongs to David Rockwell’s sets, for which he is nominated for a Best Scenic Design Tony. Shoe factories are quite the place to see and be seen these days, as I discovered while in Central Virginia, where I stayed at the Craddock Terry Hotel (1312 Commerce Street, Lynchburg, Virginia, www.craddockterryhotel.com, 434–455–1500). One of the “Historic Hotels of America,” Lynchburg’s Craddock Terry was a shoe factory itself, founded in 1888. The waterfront hotel is considered a key element of Lynchburg’s downtown revitalization, much as the shoe factory in Kinky Boots was viewed as saving a social and economic group in Northhampton, England (which I may put on this year’s UK itinerary this year, in homage). The lobby and room décor would give David Rockwell’s Tony nominated sets some serious competition (I found it difficult to simply enter and exit the lobby without looking at shoe displays, antique safes and the like.) The Craddock Terry is a boutique hotel who takes its historical roots very seriously, while providing serious fun to guests. (For example, breakfast is delivered in wooden shoe boxes.) One historical note is that there is a large red high heeled shoe announcing the presence (it is impossible to get lost) of the waterfront hotel. A colleague told me that it (along with another, displayed elsewhere on the property) was original to the factory, which she remembers from her girlhood some decades ago. There is a hotel dog, Buster Brown, a Wirehaired Fox Terrier (who movie buffs will recall as an “Asta dog” in the Nick and Nora Thin Man mystery movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy). The turn down service has a high-heeled shoe cookie that would make Kinky Boots’s Lola swoon with glee. And, in a first, the Craddock Terry has a “Chief Experience Officer,” Timechee Williams, who cheerfully accommodates eccentricities (mine happens to be full fledged milk for my morning dose of caffeine). Should Williams ever wish to venture forward, I suspect that the Kinky Boots cast and crew would be most welcoming indeed. Rounding out the “sets” of shoe factories is the Charlottesville, Virginia restaurant, The Local at 824 Hinton Avenue, 434.984.9749, which was established as a shoe repair shop, circa 1912, with a small apartment upstairs for the proprietor, in the Belmont area. In March 2008, the Local opened to provide a venue to showcase the abundant supply of small farmers, artisan cheese makers, breweries, distilleries and award wining vineyards located in Charlottesville and the surrounding area. A feature I particularly enjoyed was that the Local also uses lamps/stained glass and light fixtures from a local artisans (Vee Osvalds and Charles Hall, respectively, from McGuffy Arts), as well as reclaimed wood and artisanal chairs. There is also a rotating local art exhibition, with works for sale. The exposed brick interior would be as welcome on David Rockwell’s set as on the restaurant walls of the Local. (While this piece is focusing upon the dramaturgical opportunities presented by shoe factories, I note that the food at the Local is also splendid and locally sourced; the crispy shrimp with pickled ginger black sesame aioli, seaweed salad and local honey revealed that seaweed is not just for sushi lovers anymore and was a standout in a menu of standouts replete with flavor of imminent freshness and locally sourced ingredients.) When I first heard of Kinky Boots, I thought it would be, well, fun, to attend the theatrical performance written by the girl who just wanted to have fun. In retrospect, it has taken me down the road of shoes (and their factories) as dramaturgical (and culinary) construction, a most surprising path to walk.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.

The Last Cyclist Review

Nickie Phillips

Illustrated and used with kind permission of Mark Podwell

Guest post by Demetra Pappas. As the Tony Award season for Broadway shows is on, an opportunity presents to attend new Off Broadway theatrical performances. The Last Cyclist, based upon a cabaret piece written in the Terezin Ghetto in 1944 by Karel Svenk, and “reconstructed and reimagined” by Naomi Patz uses outlawed bicyclists as a metaphor for the purging of Jews.

Directed by Edward Einhorn, and showing at the West End Theater (on the second floor of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew at 263 West 86th Street), this could have been a good opportunity to consider ethnic and racial hatred. Here, this was a missed opportunity.  While Off and Off-Off Broadway may not equate to the theatrical work under consideration of Broadway (and is not necessarily expected to), the person who attended this performance asked me if the group of players was amateur, because (my colleague said) they seemed to be laughing with each other at inappropriate times throughout. There may be nothing like an inside joke, but in the theater, there is a certain obligation to share such with the audience.  The final few minutes, when the actors looked straight at the audience and spoke the names of the deceased, and left only one survivor in the end, was the only time that the actors took themselves seriously. Some audience members wondered if this was intended to be theater of the absurd, whereas others simply felt it to be absurd. This work, mounted in association with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, New York and Czech Center, left audience members wanting a cast that took itself and its work – which had a strong anti-hate message – more earnestly, notwithstanding the humorously depicted metaphor.

Demetra M. Pappas teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 Student Government Association Faculty Member of the Year.  Dr. Pappas holds a JD from Fordham University School of Law, an MSc in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics and a PhD from the LSE (from the Department of Law and the Department of Sociology), where her dissertation was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian. In 2012, Greenwood Press published her first book, entitled, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, one of Greenwood’s Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America, which has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize.

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD

Nickie Phillips

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD1924

There has been much ado this year about the NYPD stop and frisk policies, which NYPD and prosecuting authorities claim makes the streets of New York safer, and others claim promotes racial profiling.  At the time of this writing, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin is considering the case of David Floyd et al v. The City of New York, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-1034.  This was not the first racial controversy to be visited upon the NYPD, nor is it likely to be the last.  So I said when originally drafting this review, then I read the recent report in The New York Times article by Frances Robles and N. R. Kleinfeld that the Brooklyn District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit is looking into some 50 murder cases assigned to “acclaimed” homicide Detective Louis Scarcella, who handled cases in the 1980s and 1990s, during the crack epidemic.  On May 24, Robles wrote a follow up piece in which she said that many of the original Scarcella witnesses were either now dead or hard to find.

The same time period – and some of the same issues – are  regarded in the late Nora Ephron’s journalistic play (and ode to journalists), Lucky Guy. The play depicts a painful piece of Policing Past – the scandal surrounding the sodomy of Abner Louima while in custody for a minor offense, at the hands (and toilet plunger) of policemen in Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct. (A former professor of mine, at a dinner party at his Ditmas Park home, pointed out is a local site of notoriety).  As a former criminal appeals attorney and appellate judicial law clerk, I find this play brings out the parenthetical writer in me.

Many people are writing about Tom Hanks’ acting, and there is no question that he is an extraordinary actor in an extraordinary role (going from hungry cub reporter to cancer ridden Pulitzer-winner in the course of the show, without the benefit of few months in between to alter his body, as he did in Cast Away). Rather, this is an ode to ensemble playing, indeed, at the inferential gestures of Hanks himself. As I have told a number of people who have asked me how he was, I have pointedly noted that upon his entrance to thunderous applause, he briefly nodded (as if to nicely say, “yeah, I know, I’m Tom Hanks, now can I please go to work?”) and then disappeared into the role of columnist Mike McAlary and the workaday newsroom.

Lucky GuyBroadhurst TheatreCourtney B. Vance, as Hanks’ boss Hap Hairston, gives what may be the Best Featured Actor Tony performance of the season. Vance variously nurtures, harangues, disciplines and celebrates the reporter who broke the Louima case (the Haitian immigrant is played with earnest compassion by Stephen Tyrone Williams, whose one scene turn reminded me that Judy Dench won an Oscar for 8 minutes in Shakespeare in Love).  As Hanks shows McAlary to be a journalist in a hot mess for going after a rape victim he libelously (but seemingly earnestly) accused of fabrication.  McAlary then takes a call when literally half-dead to show up at Louima’s hospital bedside, the reporter was in search of redemption. After hearing Louima’s story of oral and anal sodomy by police officers in the police station toilet, he tells him, “tell the DA you talked to a reporter.” Those who do not remember a world before cell phone images and videos are well-tutored by the oral history inextricably intertwined by Ephron with action scenes.

The play has been criticized for being too talky, but as one who engaged in ethnographic write up of the criminal trials of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian for a PhD, I can attest that the play was all talk and all action. The search for breaking news, the hanging out on the doorsteps for exclusives, the smoke-filled newsrooms that today would be smoke free and blasting into the blogosphere and Twittersphere are reminiscent of the days (in 1996, especially) when print, radio and television reporters literally lined the walls of a courthouse and (in 1997) literally pitched a tent on the courthouse green. To me, the detail development was enthralling, perhaps because I have had to live in, and observe, that headspace as both a doctoral candidate and a writer. Wives (like Maura Tierney, as McAlary’s), husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends were left aside (if not completely behind), where the social world of the courthouse (to borrow a phrase from LSE sociologist Paul Rock) ruled, even more than the holdings of the court and the judges themselves. For me, the process fascinates, and the professional development (and personal unraveling) of the newsroom journalists and editors was well-worth every word, every gesture, every image and scene depicted in David Rockwell’s set.Lucky Guy Broadhurst Theatre

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of meI dia) has been nominated for the2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.  Her PhD, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Law and Department of Sociology (dual registration), was awarded in 2009, based upon her dissertation of an ethnography entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian, in which she studied the chief prosecuting attorneys/judges, juries, patient’s family members and the media, as well as the changes in law and court culture pertaining to Kevorkian.

Freedom of the City

Nickie Phillips

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Freedom of the City Craig Wroe (as Solider) in Brian Friel's THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY at Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street), directed by Ciaran O'Reilly. For more information, visit www.irishrep.org. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD

Brian Friel’s play, The Freedom of the City, presented by the Irish Repertory tells the story, in juxtaposition, of the January 30, 1972 “Bloody Sunday” when British Parachute Regiment soldiers killed 13 people in Derry, Northern Ireland and the Widgery Commission, set up to investigate. The Widgery Commission found nobody responsible for the Bloody Sunday killings and neither soldiers nor officers were disciplined (let alone brought to trial). Friel infuses this story – and the subsequent public outcry after the sham investigation – with humanity in the forms of aspiring middle-class Michael (James Russell), middle-aged housewife/mother of 11 Lily (Caroline Seymour) and the homeless young Skinner (Joseph Sikora). These three randomly found themselves in the resplendent Mayor’s Parlor in the Guildhall. They move from vague awe and disrespect of the office into a comfortable familiarity, essentially hiding out after some rioting had already taken place. Eventually, they are enjoying the Mayor’s adult beverages and engaging in minor vandalism (of political origin). The three unlikely friends upon leaving the space are shot to death, even as Lily is extending dinner invitations to the young men of meager means. (That this took place as soldiers moved up the aisles of the Irish Repertory Theatre, scope locked on their targets, was all the more touching, an excellent directorial touch by Ciaran O’Reilly.) In bas relief, the judge (Peter Cormican) issued an interspersed recount that led to the shocking verdict as regards the wrongful conduct of the police, a verdict so shocking that in 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair set up another inquiry which lasted some 12 years. However, on June 10, 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron, took responsibility with the findings of Lord Saville’s Commission, and reversing those of the Widgery Commission. Cameron’s official apology for the deaths included a statement that “what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable.” Finally, on July 4, 2012, the police have begun a murder investigation into the deaths of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre. The Irish Repertory’s presentation of Friel’s play reminds us that while justice delayed may be justice denied, there may in the end be some measure of justice in the face of that which is not just. That Friel included the running commentary of a sociologist who is an expert on the culture of poverty, Dr. Dobbs (Christa Scott-Reed) served as a vehicle to make this play about social justice, as well as criminal justice.

For more information, visit www.irishrep.org.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc (Criminal Justice Policy), PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. She did her MSc and PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science, focusing upon emerging criminal law, the courthouse culture of criminal trials and the media’s role in them.