Three on the Aisle: Problematic Shows and Those Who Love/Hate Them

On this episode, the critics take on a hot topic and chat with guest Jack Cummings III, artistic director of the Transport Group company.

Twice a month, critics Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal; Elisabeth Vincentelli, contributor to The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker; and Peter Marks of The Washington Post get together on their Three on the Aisle podcast to address major issues brewing in the nation’s theatres.

This week starts with “problematic” shows, an expression used to describe the golden-age musicals My Fair Lady and Carousel, which are currently enjoying well-received revivals on Broadway and show how one can update this type of material either with tiny cuts and adjustments (as in Carousel) or via directorial decisions (the ending of My Fair Lady). Vincentelli points out that O’Neill’s while The Iceman Cometh is usually not described as similarly problematic, she agrees with New York magazine critic Sara Holdren that maybe it should be.

Jack Cummings III

Next up is a conversation with Jack Cummings III, artistic director of the New York City-based Transport Group, whose minimalistic revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke recently opened to generally positive reviews. Cummings talks about his company’s first production, Our Town (2002), and guides us through an eclectic roster that has included plays and musicals, revivals (The Boys in the Band, Once Upon a Mattress, Strange Interlude) and premieres (Queen of the Mist, Lysistrata Jones). Cummings is refreshingly honest about the obstacles small companies face, particularly when it comes to funding, but remains excited about the future.

To wrap things up, the critics discuss recent productions they’ve enjoyed. Teachout chooses Alan Ayckbourn’s A Brief History of Women at 59E59 Theaters, Marks goes for the Bedlam company’s revival of Saint Joan at the Folger Theatre, and Vincentelli picks Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at Playwrights Horizons.

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Have comments or requests for what the critics should talk about? Email them at threeontheaisle@gmail.com, or go to @threeontheaisle on Twitter.