Missing the theater? Here are three full-length productions from “Great Performances” to get you through the long weekend
Need interior design inspiration? A good laugh? Waggish banter? The live-capture of Noël Coward’s “Present Laughter,” starring Kevin Kline and Cobie Smolders, packs a punch — drenched in lovesick suffering and backed by impeccable physical comedy.
Originally staged in London in 1942, the Mortiz von Stuelpnagel-directed revival sees Kline as Garry Essendine, a self-absorbed but sincere aging star. He’s propped up by an equally quick-witted band of castmates, including Kate Burton, Kristine Nielsen, Peter Francis James and Reg Rogers.
[For more theater performances, be sure to check out Great Performances.]
The host of more than a handful of iconic tunes, “The Sound of Music” has taken on many forms over the years — with the Rodgers and Hammerstein melodies ringing out on stage and screen alike. The story draws its plot from the real-life events of the von Trapp Family Singers and their escape from Austria as Nazism gripped the country. When the original Broadway production debuted in 1959, it nabbed five Tony Awards (including the coveted Best Musical). The film adaptation — which arrived in 1965 with Julie Andrews’ crystalline interpretation of Maria — swept up five Oscars.
The version here represents the 2015 live U.K. broadcast of the musical, feautring Kara Tointon, Julian Ovenden, Katherine Kelley, Alexander Armstrong and Maria Friedman. Duplicating the magic of a stage production, the performance was originally streamed live from a London soundstage.
If you feel like truly immersing yourself in live television attempts of the musical, the 2013 stateside version of “The Sound of Music” (starring one Carrie Underwood) streams for 48 hours starting May 22.
The play “Red,” staged at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre, begins with a meditation. Starring Alfred Molina as artist Mark Rothko, the curtain opens to reveal a contemplative scene inside of the painter’s studio. The year is 1958 and his assistant Ken, played by Eddie Redmayne, enters. Rothko instructs him to look at a large canvas of red.
“What do you see,” the painter asks, prompting Ken to reposition himself to see the painting correctly. “No. Wait. Stand closer. You got to get close. Let the picture pulsate. Let it work on you … Let it wrap its arms around you. Let it embrace you, filling even your peripheral vision so nothing else exists or has ever existed or will ever exist.”
A portrait of the New York City art scene in the 1950s (or, at least, Rothko’s version), the play follows the artist and his assistant as they take on the monumental task of creating a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant — the first commission that the then-struggling Rothko ever received. The restaurant offered the painter $35,000 to create the sweeping mural-sized works known as the Seagram paintings.
In the play, the artist explains his curious choice to create the works in a restaurant, noting (darkly) that he intends to “make it a temple.”
“Imagine a frieze all around the room, a continuous narrative filling the walls, one to another, each new chapter, the story unfolding,” he prompts. “You look, and they are there — inescapable and inexorable. Like doom.”
Noël Coward’s “Present Laughter,” “Sound of Music” and “Red” are available to stream on ALL ARTS through May 27. All three performances are presented by Great Performances.