Geeks Read Books: “Lazarus” & “Oslo”

Reviews by Kitty Drexel

Copies are available on the TCG website, and everywhere that dramatic literature is sold. Or, you could try your local library. 

Lazarus
Written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh
Inspired by The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Theatre Communications Group (TCG)
New York, NY
March 2017
Paperback
$14.95

Please try not to compare the musical to the abysmal 1976 movie The Man Who Fell to Earth starring Bowie and a young, unfortunately naked Rip Torn (as Nathan Bryce). Watch the movie not for the “art” or vastly inappropriate professor on student sex scenes, but for Bowie’s work as Anthean alien, Thomas Newton.

Lazarus picks up a number of years after TMWFtE ended. Newton is marinating in gin. He lives halfway in and out of obsessive delusion. A similar cast of characters to TMWFtE revolve around him when he’s introduced to a young woman who may change his fate. Themes include addiction, murder, rape, dementia and a number of other mature topics.

Lazarus incorporates 17 of Bowie’s songs, and “Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson. The script is funny, darkly unfunny and irreverent. While the music is Bowie’s it is not a “jukebox musical.” Rather, it is a concept musical adapted to include his works. The plot is thick and the opportunity for character development is rich. The title role of Lazarus, and the murderous character Valentine will be challenging for men. The role of Elly requires the actress to represent the torment of an addict.

The book includes a foreword by playwright Enda Walsh on the process of creating the work. The production credits for both the New York run at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2015, and the West End premiere at the King’s Cross Theatre in London are given. We are asked to forgive the publishers as the text of the script went to publication before the end of rehearsals. The text may vary from performances.

Please note that some performances of the New York production had a surprise cameo performance by Alan Cumming. Sadly, his scene is not included in this publication.

After the script, we are gifted a copy of “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. It is followed by creator bios.

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Oslo
Written by J.T. Rogers
Theatre Communications Group (TCG)
New York, NY
April 2017
Paperback
$14.95

Winner of the 2017 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play
Winner of the 2017 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play

From the TCG website, “A darkly funny and sweeping new play, Oslo tells the surprising true story of the back-channel talks, unlikely friendships, and quiet heroics that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As he did with such wit and intelligence in Blood and Gifts, J.T. Rogers presents a deeply personal story set against a complex political canvas. Rogers’s other plays include The Overwhelming, White People, Madagascar, and he is a co-author of The Great Game: Afghanistan.”

Rogers’ embraces the frenetic energy of two entities caught in a vicious war with empathy and political savvy. He makes the political a personal journey, and vice versa. His characters meet as men. Their egos are shucked in exchange for mutually beneficial, albeit momentary, peace.

The dialogue is crunchy and thick. It is at times unexpectedly funny in ways that channel man’s inability to maintain uninterrupted pain.

Rogers’ expression of history is limbic in a style that is Stoppard-esque. His casting of many, many men is also in the style of Stoppard. Women play important roles in this show but their presence is not constant. Casting requires extensive accent ability. Most actors will be required to play multiple roles spanning several nationalities. For the right theatre company, Oslo is an excellent opportunity to explore universality by casting non-white actors in typically white roles.  

The book has a foreword by Andre Bishop, and a fascinating Intro by the playwright on the process of writing his play. It includes the usual production history and cast list. There is a character breakdown by name and country of origin as well as minor, unnamed ensemble roles.

Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

TCG has a list of things you can do to help.

#blacklivesmatter #translivesmatter #brownlivesmatter #yellowlivesmatter #lgbtqialivesmatter #immigrantlivesmatter #muslimlivesmatter #disabledlivesmatter #theatreartsmatter #NODAPL

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