A collage of the writings and songs of Leonard Cohen

by The Medicine Show Theater Ensemble

Barbara Vann

Chuck Patterson and "Take This Waltz" (TB)

Beth Griffith and Mark Gering

Colleen Quigley and Joel Bernstein

Lucas Van Engen and Chuck Patterson
"The Captain"

Photos © 2004 Eija Arjatsalo
and Thelma Blitz (TB)

Review © 2004 Natalie Fuhr

549 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019

The Players:

"Sincerely L. Cohen" was performed by the Medicine Show Theater, and directed by Barbara Vann. It included Chuck Patterson, Colleen Quigley, Beth Griffith, Mark Gering, Lucas Van Engen, Joel Bernstein and Barbara Vann. “The Cheap Burning Plywood Violin Band” consisted of musical director, Lenny Hat on guitar and piano, as well as Jeremy Rosen on piano, and Gary Heidt playing guitar and banjo.

The Set:

Sparsely decorated, the set consisted of a large metal step ladder, a wooden trapezoid overhang, made to resemble a window, vast white sheets draped everywhere, and black music stands littered all over the stage. The cast was dressed in black and white, which lent well to the minimalist effect created by set design.

The Play:

"Sincerely L. Cohen" was a cornucopia of Leonard Cohen songs and poetry, with a plot-less, non-linear dream-like dynamic. It felt like what a staging of James Joyce’s Ulysses would be like – its intense language coupled with ambiguity and the sense you were lost in a languid sleep you were enjoying and did not want to come out of, made for a unique theatrical experience. The following well-known Cohen songs were performed with exuberance, and vitality:

Tower of Song
Famous Blue Raincoat
Sing Another Song, Boys
That Don’t Make it Junk
The Captain
Dance Me to the End of Love
Take This Waltz
Everybody Knows
The Night Comes On
If it Be Your Will
Poems were proclaimed from volumes such as The Energy of Slaves, Death of a Lady’s Man, Book of Mercy, Beautiful Losers and The Favorite Game. “Sincerely L. Cohen” took from a large repertoire of Cohen material to create a breathing, speaking and singing tribute scrapbook on stage. Each member of the cast was excellent in displaying a world filled with “beautiful losers,” and anyone, regardless of his or her Cohen affiliation, could easily become mesmerized by this wonderful ensemble.

From the prospectus of The Medicine Show:

"Sincerely, L. Cohen" was first developed from Leonard Cohen’s appearance at the Word/Play series of the Ensemble in 1986. The piece (that in 2004 made its third round on stage) charts in a non-realistic fashion an emotional and imagistic journey. It plays with the meaning and meaninglessness of symbolic life.

Medicine Show is a not-for-profit corporation of professional theatre artists founded in 1970 and is dedicated to offering creative alternatives to conventional theatre by creating and presenting works that experiment with language, music, movement, form, and ideas, and meld the strengths of theatrical tradition with innovation. The works are chosen to delight the mind, honor creativity, confound empty convention, encourage active compassion, and present the many facets of the American experience within a global community. Medicine Show has toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe and was awarded the Grand Prize at the XVI Festival Internacional de Teatre in Barcelona and the Popular Prize at the Belgrade Festival. Both of Medicine Show’s artistic directors have been honored with Village Voice OBIES.