All articles by James MacKillop

Setting the (Syracuse) Stage

2014-15 Season at Syracuse Stage.

2012, 2011, 2009, 2002, 1987 and 1972.



On the Double

(REVIEW) Two one-act comedies at the Syracuse University Warehouse Theater

Syracuse Shakespeare Festival, Ronnie Bell’s company that puts on free plays at Thornden Park during the summer, moves indoors during the cold. Winter is also a time to move away from Bardolotry to consider some other theater from 300-plus years ago, while also giving different directors a chance to take charge. For the two one-act comedies at the Syracuse University Warehouse Theater, The Suitors and Commedia (running through Sunday, April 13), two women are calling the shots. Veteran actress and director Judith Harris guides the little-known The Suitors, while Lynn Barbato-King helms Commedia, in which new, anonymous material is arranged in Renaissance format.



Classic Reillustrated

(REVIEW) Syracuse Stage’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’

It does not really matter that Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie ranks high on the list of the greatest American plays of the last 100 years. More importantly, it is the most loved. Teachers cannot kill affection for it by making it assigned reading. That’s why this is the third Syracuse Stage production, after 1979 (directed by Arthur Storch) and 1999.



May the Faust Be With You

STAGE: LeMoyne’s Boot and Buskin Group presents ‘The Master & Margarita’

Many critics cite Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal, anti-Stalinist satire The Master & Margarita as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. As tweaking the regime was then a hanging offense, Bulgakov (1891-1940) had to work on it furtively, and the work was thought lost until it was widely published in 1967. Although only 384 pages in the vintage paperback and a fairly easy read, Master is so filled with allusion it could easily occupy an undergraduate literature class for two weeks. Not only does it draw deeply from European culture, especially the Faust legend, but several characters in the story were written to skewer specific Soviet personages.



Brecht and Effect

STAGE: The Good Woman of Setzuan

Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan, one of the 200 most celebrated stage plays of the 20th century, is being produced the second time in two decades by the Syracuse University Drama Department. Only this time it is not on the Storch Theater stage, the usual venue, but is instead presented upstairs in the Loft Theater, a black box. The smaller space, which puts the action in the faces of people in the front row, evokes the kind of stages Brecht had to use while developing his influential theatrical aesthetic back in Berlin during the Weimar Republic.



When a Man Loves a Woman

STAGE: Lungs at Kitchen Theatre

Just words and movement. According to Lungs playwright Duncan Macmillan’s wishes, “No scenery, no props, and no mime.” The two performers are clothed in this production at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company (running through April 13), and Lisa Boquist is credited with providing costumes, but both look as though they wore just anything to attend a rehearsal. Other than that, nothing: just a black, raised rectangle with lines marking off 12 quadrants and two dozen transparent bulbs high up in the flies.



Bard Wired

Teen-beat flourishes from 1980s John Hughes cinema inform the Redhouse’s revamp of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

John Hughes’ 1985 movie The Breakfast Club was a profound and shaping experience for many creative people now in their mid-30s to late 40s. Together with such style-setting TV shows as Miami Vice, it defines the 1980s as discrete good old days of garish colors and let-it-all-hang-out emotion. Redhouse Arts Center director Stephen Svoboda has embraced the Me Decade effusively in his provocative and arresting adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, running through April 5.



Salt City Shaker

James Kennedy McGuire, the “boy mayor” of Syracuse, is profiled in a new book.

City of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says he was a “remarkable man” and “Syracuse’s own boy mayor.” James Kennedy McGuire (1868-1923) indeed began the first of his three terms as mayor of Syracuse in 1895 at age 27. A maker and shaker, he helped to change the face of the city by, among other things, pushing for the building of 38 schools and paving South Salina Street. Unlike any other local politician, he went on to make his fortune after leaving office. He also rose to national and international prominence and traveled with the powerful. Just before American entry into World War I, he published a jaw-dropping bestseller, arguably the most controversial book ever to come from any Syracusan.



Miller Time

Central New York Playhouse delivers the dramatic goods with Arthur Miller’s evergreen Death of a Salesman

In its short history, Central New York Playhouse, the little company in Shoppingtown Mall, has undertaken two mid-20th-century masterworks of American drama, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire a year ago and now Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Guided by the surprisingly steady hand of first-time director Kasey McHale, this Salesman, running through March 22, is well thought out, runs smoothly at a crisp pace, and includes several bracing scenes with an assortment of well-cast supporting players.



Bone Voyage

Sex and identity issues inform the comic love triangle in Kitchen Theatre’s Cock

Cockfight was the title a squeamish New York Times used two years ago when Mike Bartlett’s award-winning dark comedy Cock opened. In shunning the title used for the earlier London opening, the Gray Lady was on to something. Consider the starkly bare stage from set designer David L. Arsenault that director Margarett Perry has chosen for the production at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company, running through Sunday, March 9. There’s not a single prop, not even a strip of masking tape on the floor.