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Friday, May 7, 2021

The Week in Theater: The Howard Sachs

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Cabaret Live

with Robert Shaftel with Lili Paris and Max McLean, Slainte

When Rebecca Moss chose Elton John’s landmark musical as the subject of her second feature film Slainte, she was inspired by Nell Gwynn, the 18-year-old dropout who set everything off in this iconic tale of youthful passion and intrigue. Moss has figured out how to keep that electricity going, in a production designed by Christine Scott and starring actress Lili Paris (Cats), who effortlessly gives a performance that feels both bravura and subtle. Her reticent character, Cliff Bradshaw, isn’t quite as thrilling as the musicians he falls for in a nightclub, but it’s hard to picture anyone else playing an age-old role with such delicacy and familiarity. There’s plenty to marvel at here — the designer Andre Pieterse’s marvelous wash of fishtail skirts, embroidered ballet tights, and toque, the passionate kisses, the endearingly direct lines of communication with the audience — but all of that plus the songs and the story give the production a universal appeal. Through Dec. 30 at Playwrights Horizons, 425 Lafayette St.; 212-719-1300 or playwrightshorizons.org.

Public

A number of years ago, Mark and Wendy Wasserstein began to lobby for their work to be screened online, something that New York Public Library for the Performing Arts already did. Now their plays deserve to be seen in a new way: Public, which premieres this month at Pace University in Westchester, joins with Participatory Culture for a rather forward-thinking project, the Pantone Theatre Project. A stripped-down version of the production — each scene is completed by actors responding to prompts from the audience — will play across 40 in-person performances of “The Beauty Myth” and “A View from the Bridge” in community theaters throughout the city. Through Jan. 6 at Pace University, 1431 Northern Blvd., Westchester; 914-307-9763 or public.modulus.org.

Under the Influence: The Case of The Lavender Pig

by Damon Runyon

Gives you good ideas. The tales that Runyon imbued with an inimitable zest for the absurd and human cruelty hang on, yet our fascination with him has faded in recent years, in part because of the fact that he’s such a singular voice and also because our cultural ethos has become adept at making those things entertaining without any pretense of wonder. Thomas Kinkade, the contemporary Land Artist of American paintings, was basically an imitation of Runyon, in spite of the fact that he and his cute dogs don’t have a penchant for blasphemy. He’s obviously an excellent artist, but so, too, was the dapper, bon vivant Runyon, who painted pictures of robber barons and whores (the frequent houseguests of the 1920s) all the while employing his trusty rags as his mules, barns, courtyards, and backyard graveyards, as we like to think. Michael Pollan and Richard McGuire’s reading from the book and Q&A will provide some reminders of Runyon’s salty wit, but since those half-century-old tales can be counted on one hand, the event also serves to remind us that some of the writers we take to be inspiring are simply unpleasant and dastardly. Through Jan. 6 at Minetta Lane Theatre, 253 W. 48th St.; http://www.minettalanetheat….

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