Virtual Theater Review: THE NICETIES (Manhattan Theatre Club in association with The Huntington)

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by Tony Frankel on May 30, 2021

in Theater-New York,Virtual

I just watched Manhattan Theatre Club‘s special new adaptation of The Niceties updated for the virtual stage by playwright Eleanor Burgess. In The Niceties an ambitious young Black college student and her esteemed white professor meet over Skype to discuss a paper the college junior is writing about the American Revolution. Unfortunately, they find it hard to agree about the facts of the past – or the present. Discussions of grammar and Google turn to race and reputation, and soon they’re in dangerous territory neither of them had foreseen – and facing stunning implications that can’t be undone. I originally saw this live at Los Angeles’s Geffen Theatre, and I gotta say, it actually works better virtually. There’s an awful lot of polemics, which could make for some static dramaturgy on stage, but when the teacher and student meet on Skype, it brings us into their world with wrenching intimacy. Regardless of which side your politics reside, or especially if you, like me, found many arguments sound on both sides, get ready for your blood to boil. Original director Kimberly Senior sure does turn up the heat with original cast Lisa Banes and Jordan Boatman better than ever. Tickets are free, and you can view on demand, but the run is short, ending on June 27, 2021. Reserve at Manhattan Theatre Club and The Huntington. (The Niceties debuted at The Huntington in Boston, MA.)

[Editor’s Update: It is with a heavy heart I report that Lisa Banes died yesterday Monday June 14 following a hit-and-run near Lincoln Center, June 4, 2021 in NYC. Banes was on her way to meet her wife for a dinner party when she was struck by a red and black vehicle, which police said was either a scooter or motorbike. According to published reports, Banes was in the crosswalk and had the right of way, while the driver, who had reportedly blown through a red light, fled the scene. That driver is still being sought and no arrests have been made. Anyone who may have information about the driver of the vehicle is urged to call NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

Banes, a native of Ohio, began her acting career in the 1980s, according to IMDB. She starred alongside Tom Cruise in the 1988 film “Cocktail” and played the concerned, prickly mother Marybeth Elliott in the 2014 film “Gone Girl.” Her TV appearances include roles in “Royal Pains,” “Masters of Sex” and “Nashville.” On stage, she has performed in the plays “High Society,” “Arcadia” and “Rumors” and won a Theatre World Award for her role in “Look Back in Anger,” according to Playbill.]

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