Wednesday, November 12, 2008



By David Rabe. Dir. Scott Ellis. Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre. Through Jan. 11, 2009.

Reviews for this revival of Rabe's Vietnam-era play are the definition of mixed. With its focus on recruits waiting to ship off to war, and fighting among themselves over issues of race, class, and sexual orientation, is the play dated or relevant? You won't find a consensus on that. OK, how about Scott Ellis' production and the performances of the cast? Depending on who you read, they're either crackling or dull. AM New York's Matt Windman may embody the play's most salutary effect: He's not sure how much he liked it, but he's still thinking about it.

Associated Press A
(Michael Kuchwara) The setting may be America of four decades ago but there is something eerily topical about the Roundabout Theatre Company's tough-minded, thoroughly engrossing revival of David Rabe's Streamers. Questions about race, violence, sexuality and fighting an unpopular war in a distant country are still with us, just as they were for four young soldiers in an Army barracks somewhere in Virginia in 1965...Rabe is a superb craftsman. He knows how to tell a story and build tension, a sense of suspense that director Scott Ellis carefully exploits in this production. Yet the playwright is also a lover of language, unafraid to give his characters lengthy speeches that veer into the poetic.

Theatermania A
(Sandy MacDonald) Thanks to a crack director, Scott Ellis, and a sizzling cast, the Roundabout Theatre's first-rate rendition...makes you wonder why this play took so long to claim a major marquee...Rabe trains his cool, reportorial eye not on any ideological arguments, but on the systemic marginalization that produces willing killers...There's a searing transparency to his writing, intensified by the honest, grounded performances Ellis has elicited from this elite cadre of actors.

Variety A
(David Rooney) The ongoing relevance of this final play in Rabe's Vietnam trilogy is matched by its striking theatricality. The punchy dialogue is simultaneously literary and naturalistic, shifting repeatedly between dynamic exchanges and beguiling monologues...Aided by a terrific ensemble that exhibits all the frictions and bonds of a unit in close quarters, Ellis brings a firm, even hand to the piece, keeping a judicious lid on performances that could have tipped over into melodrama.

(Linda Winer) Remains a powerful, if a bit predictable, link between racism and homophobia at home and the carnage on faraway battlefields...Rabe puts an improbably tidy cross-section of classes and impulses into the same cadre room, then manages to thread his one-from-column-A, one-from-column-B characters into a subtle weave of brutality and vulnerability. Scott Ellis' production is taut and threatening, yet full of tenderness for his characters.

New Yorker B+
(John Lahr) Within the hubbub of his story line, Rabe captures the particularly toxic chemistry of boredom and dread....Rabe is expert at building the awful pressure of impending woe. The competent cast of this production hits the notes but not always the music of his writing. Nonetheless, his vision is vivid and devastating.

Backstage B+
(David A. Rosenberg) Now, at a distance from Vietnam, Streamers encompasses all wars and pockets of hate, within and without. The communal house that these men struggle to establish is infected by wildernesses of spirit that reflect what happened in the Garden of Eden...In some ways time and circumstances have not been kind to all aspects of Streamers, yet Rabe's talent is not as a historian but as a playwright who knows that at any moment people can be "all of a sudden dead."

Talkin' Broadway B+
(Matthew Murray) Yes, the play creaks in examining the emotional burden of the wisecracking, self-loathing homosexual, but it compensates by being otherwise sufficiently steeped in recognizable realities...Ellis never approaches the somewhat predictable as a foregone conclusion. He builds the rage and the resentment gradually, letting cool disdain and indifference simmer until all they can do is boil over.

The Daily News
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Who needs a battlefield when a barrack gets so fraught with anxiety and frustration that it becomes its own war zone? That notion looms large during the sturdy revival of David Rabe's drama Streamers, which is invigorated by a top-flight, if little-known, cast.

The New York Times B
(Charles Isherwood) The theater’s heavy reliance on revivals sometimes feels like a steady diet of disillusionment. Plays that seemed risky and fresh a couple of decades ago can seem tame, lame or seriously stale when they’re dusted off and remounted today. Not so with Streamers...Despite the clarity of the new Roundabout Theater Company production that opened on Tuesday night at the Laura Pels Theater, crisply directed by Scott Ellis, this simmering stew of class and race, sex and violence still seems mighty strange.

Show Showdown B
(Patrick Lee) David Rabe's excellent 1976 play...seems to have been revived for, and directed with a focus on, its gays-in-the-military content. On that score, the production is engaging as a time-capsule that invites contemplation about what has and has not changed. Unfortunately the play's other themes are shortchanged, which drains the production of dramatic tension...Still, it's great to hear Rabe's dialogue again, and two of the performances - by Hale Appelman and J.D. Williams - are exactly right.

AM New York B-
(Matt Windman) Almost a half a week after watching it, we’re still debating the merits and flaws of David Rabe’s 1976 military drama Streamers...Quite frankly, we can’t seem to decide whether or not the drama is dated. While the shock value of the violence is gone and the uneven dramaturgy is frustrating, much of Rabe’s raw dialogue still possesses a compelling spark. And though the Vietnam tale has relevance to our country’s status in Iraq, it offers nothing that we haven’t seen before. In any case, director Scott Ellis has staged a sharp production with an excellent all-male cast.

The Journal News C+
(Jacques Le Sourd) Streamers, a 1976 play by David Rabe, caused quite a stir when it opened. As a revival by the Roundabout Theatre Company, it makes you wonder what all the fuss was about...All this does not invalidate Rabe's occasionally brilliant talent as a dramatist, which surprisingly shines now in an extended coda for a drunken sergeant named Cokes, played with commanding humor by Larry Clarke.

CurtainUp C+
(Elyse Sommer) This earnest, well-acted but mostly patience-trying revival is under the disciplined direction of Scott Ellis. The play certainly makes its points, although they have been blunted by time, and tamed by our increasingly inured perspectives...This 32 year-old play doesn't come close to displaying the kind of graphically detailed brutality and violence that we have recently become accustomed to in the theater. It is not so much an anti-war play as it is a play that examines the psycho-sexual motivations that may be a part of what instigates wars.

New York Post C+
(Frank Scheck) This drama about a group of soldiers nervously biding their time in a Virginia barracks while waiting to be shipped off to combat reveals itself to be both talky and schematic, lurching predictably toward melodrama...The play comes alive only fitfully, primarily in the scenes involving two drunken sergeants (John Sharian, Larry Clarke)...Scott Ellis' production is well-acted and competently staged, but it lacks the dramatic tension necessary to compensate for the play's more predictable aspects.

Time Out NY C
(Helen Shaw) Rabe’s play isn’t just another war-is-hell yellathon. His barracks drama—rife with homosocial tension among gay Richie (Hale Appleman), possibly closeted Billy (Brad Fleischer) and fed-up Roger (J.D. Williams)—has delicacy, craft and humor. Too bad, then, that director Scott Ellis and most of his cast often seem intent on draining those qualities from the show.

Philadelphia Inquirer D+
(Toby Zinman) Unfortunately, it's hard to judge Streamers' current power because the cast is weak - unconvincing and flat. The stage should crackle with unanswered questions, unfathomed motives, uneased consciences. But it doesn't, and Scott Ellis' direction seems flaccid and dull.

Associated Press A 13; Theatermania A 13; Variety A 13; Newsday A- 12; New Yorker B+ 11; Backstage B+ 11; Talkin' Broadway B+ 11; The Daily News B+ 11; The New York Times B 10; Show Showdown B 10; AM New York B- 9; The Journal News C+ 8; CurtainUp C+ 8; New York Post C+ 8; Time Out NY C 7; Philadelphia Inquirer D+ 4; TOTAL: 159/16=9.94 (B)

No comments: