N.J. Theaters Surviving (Thriving in!) Winter


(photo: Vicki Weisfeld)

Caught revivals of two 1972 plays at two of New Jersey’s fine local theatres last weekend for completely different experiences.

In partnership with Syracuse Stage, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre brought to the United States the production of Sizwe Banzi is Dead as recently remounted by Johannesburg’s Market Theatre. McCarter has presented several other South African plays in the past few decades, and this work, written by John Kani, Athol Fugard, and Winston Ntshona is much livelier than I remember those created by Fugard alone.

In two main parts, the play illustrates through humor the frustrations of life in an autocratic system and how the only solution, when one is painted into a corner by rules and regulations, is to leap over them and start life anew. Thus, Sizwe Banzi, the pass book holder is dead, but Sizwe Banzi, the man, lives free. The actors, whom Emily Mann says are “two of the most promising young actors in South Africa”—Atandwa Kani (son of the playwright) and Mncedisi Shabangu—gave unforgettable performances. The play was most effective when it worked by humor, rather than harangue, and there was a bit of that, but not much.

Upstate New Yorkers—this production starts at Syracuse Stage 2/25. And if it comes your way, don’t miss it! The struggle for dignity belongs to us all.

Pure comedy was on stage at Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, with Alan Ayckbourn’s classic, Absurd Person Singular. Its three acts takes place on three successive Christmas Eves in the kitchens of the three couples who form the cast: one on the way up in society and life, one on the way down, and one decidedly mixed. Much of the comedy comes from Ayckbourn’s wry and exact observations of human behavior and motivation and his characters’ obliviousness to it. Jessica Stone directed the cast’s six members, who were uniformly up to the precise timing, physical agility, and intelligence needed to make this play work so well


2 thoughts on “N.J. Theaters Surviving (Thriving in!) Winter

    • We had season tickets for years, but gave it up when we started going to the Shakespeare Theatre (and when the musicals, which Papermill excels at) began to recycle! They are going strong. Right now, they’re presenting Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a Christopher Durang play that premiered at McCarter two? seasons back.

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