John Manieri started going to the theater when he was in high school. His first Broadway show was Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” on December 18th, 1970. He’s been passionate about live theater ever since, especially London theater, where he’s logged in 22 shows in 13 days, a record he’ll be happy to break, as soon as the dollar improves and the exchange rate levels out. In the meantime, enjoy John’s latest rants and raves.
The most interesting and arresting new play in town is “Fetch Clay, Make Man” at The New York Theatre Workshop. The play delves into the odd friendship between Cassius Clay, then rechristened Mohammed Ali, and Stepin Fetchit, the highest paid black actor of the ’30s and ’40s. Odd as the premise may sound, the story is based on a true event. It was the weekend Ali was about to fight Sonny Liston for the second time. Ali wanted to pick Fetchit’s brain about legendary boxer Jack Johnson’s “power punch.” But the old actor wasn’t about to give it away that easily. This is an absorbing new play, directed to perfection by Des McAnuff. It deserves to be seen.
The film “Prisoners” was not at all what I expected from having seen the trailers. This is not a knock down, drag out thriller, but a moody, haunting work that feels like a David Fincher film (if Fincher had made “Winter’s Bone”) The cast is exceptional, especially Jake Gyllenhaal who gives a quietly fierce performance as the detective investigating the disappearance of two young girls. The chameleon-like Melissa Leo, who commands the screen during the few scenes in which she appears. Fine actors such as Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis and Maria Bello add to the tension. And although somewhat long and slowly paced, this is a very surprising addition to the Fall crop of movies.
If you’ve never read anything by Linwood Barclay, you’re missing out on one of the finest writers of nail-biting thrillers around. I’ve just read his last two works (not back-to-back, because I threw in Marissa Pressl’s disturbing novel “Night Film”) and determined Barclay is the newest master of the genre. Remember Robert ludlum when he first burst upon the scene? “The Osterman Weekend”, “The Scarlatti Inheritance”? Well, Barclay is in that league and every book gets better. Buy the paperback of “Trust Your Eyes” and see if it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Then start getting to his other work, like the newest “A Tap On The Window”. Scary, heady stuff.