The trouble with being an aficionado of live theater is that you can never get enough, never see everything that you should – especially at today’s ticket prices. Since the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example, I’ve been kicking myself for missing his performance as Willy Loman on Broadway a couple of years ago. Luckily, that production of Death of a Salesman has been captured on DVD; but plenty of great shows featuring today’s greatest stage actors come and go, and we often don’t realize that we’ve missed out on something historic until it’s all over.
Then there’s the problem that some of the very best in modern theater happens in places like London’s West End, where you’d have to add the price of an airline flight to the already-unaffordable cost. So we have much cause to be thankful that the UK’s National Theatre Live (NTL) program exists, capturing great contemporary stage performances in London and elsewhere and broadcasting them to cinemas around the world, either live or as an “encore.” And we are very fortunate to have four theaters in the mid-Hudson region that screen many of these NTL broadcasts.
Those four are Upstate Films Rhinebeck, the Rosendale Theatre, the Downing Film Center in Newburgh and Time & Space Limited (TSL) in Hudson. If you’re within the readership area of Almanac Weekly, at least one of these venues is bound to be convenient for you to visit, and probably more. The trouble is, scheduling for the NTL screenings varies from place to place. If you miss something that you wanted to see at one regional venue, another might be showing it a week or a month later – or maybe not. So you need to plan, and that’s tough to do without a scorecard. Clip the schedule at the end of this article if you’d like to have a handy guide to what’s playing when at each of the abovementioned theaters in the coming months. But first, a peek at the plays themselves:
One of the most-buzzed-about Live from London offerings was a production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), it featured Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating roles as Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster. Cumberbatch’s star is definitely rising these days, with a Best Actor nod for The Imitation Game widely predicted, so you’ll be sorry if you didn’t catch this show. It’s getting one more go-round in our neck of the woods, at Upstate Films Rhinebeck only: on Wednesday, December 10 at 1:30 p.m.
Another outstanding British actor whom most of us have never had a chance to see perform live, though he’s ubiquitous in movies – usually in secondary “character actor” parts, or as part of an ensemble, as in Love, Actually or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – is Bill Nighy. He and Carey Mulligan star in a West End revival of David Hare’s play Skylight, directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott). Skylight is slated to be screened on Tuesday, December 30 at Upstate Films Rhinebeck and on Sunday, January 25 at the Rosendale Theatre.
Next comes DV8 Physical Theatre’s powerful new production combining traditional theater with dance, titled JOHN. Conceived and directed by Lloyd Newson and based on interviews with real men, it’s a tough story of crime, drug use and survival, suitable for audiences 18 years of age and up. JOHN will screen on Saturday, December 13 at TSL; Sunday, December 28 at the Rosendale Theatre; and Sunday and Monday, January 18 and 19 at the Downing Film Center.
Something a lot more family-friendly will be appearing early in 2015: a “thrilling” new stage adaptation by Bryony Lavery of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of murder, money and mutiny. Kids aged 10 and up should have adequate attention span to sit through it. It will screen at TSL on Thursday and Saturday, January 22 and 24; in Rosendale on Sunday, February 22; and at the Downing on Sunday and Monday, March 15 and 16.
Screenings of three more plays have been as scheduled of this writing at one venue each, though it’s likely that more will announced as the dates grow nearer. An encore of the hit Broadway production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, directed by Anna Shapiro and starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, will return on Sunday, March 22 to Rosendale. The Hard Problem, a highly anticipated new play by Tom Stoppard, to be directed in London by Nicholas Hytner, will screen on Thursday and Saturday, April 16 and 18 at TSL. This spring will also bring a new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, which TSL plans to screen on Saturday, May 16. The director has not yet been announced, but Ralph Fiennes will star.
Tickets to National Theatre Live screenings cost $12 for general admission, $10 for members at the Rosendale Theatre and the Downing Film Center; $15 general admission, $14 for seniors and $13 for members at Upstate Films; and $22 for adults, $15 for children under age 15 at TSL. Check with the theaters for exact screening times. For more on the stage productions, visit https://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk.
Upstate Films Rhinebeck, 6415 Montgomery Street (Route 9), Rhinebeck, (845) 876-2515, https://upstatefilms.org.
Frankenstein: Wednesday, December 10
Skylight: Tuesday, December 30
Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street (Route 213), Rosendale, (845) 658-8989, https://rosendaletheatre.org.
JOHN: Sunday, December 28
Skylight: Sunday, January 25
Treasure Island: Sunday, February 22
Of Mice and Men: Sunday, March 22
Downing Film Center, 19 Front Street, Newburgh, (845) 561-3686, https://www.downingfilmcenter.com.
JOHN: Sunday/Monday, January 18 /19
Treasure Island: Sunday/Monday, March 15/16
Time & Space Limited, 434 Columbia Street, Hudson, (518) 822-8448, https://timeandspace.org.
JOHN: Saturday, December 13
Treasure Island: Thursday & Saturday, January 22 & 24
The Hard Problem: Thursday & Saturday, April 16 & 18
Man and Superman: Saturday, May 16