Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Welcome to ...(wait for it) Jurassic ParQ

Jurassic ParQ, is a goofy ass, fun and entertaining Fringe musical. It never takes itself too seriously, as witnessed by this write up in the Fringe Guide.
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Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical
Writer: Emma Barash, Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo
Director: Marshall Pailet
Choreographer: Hayley Podschun
Boldly re-imagined and retold from the perspective of the dinosaurs, Jurassic Parq is an unflinching meditation on gender, sexual, and racial identity in an evolving landscape destined to stun you with its importance. And you should probably see it drunk.
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Jurassic ParQ (the Q is for Questions) is introduced and narrated by Morgan Freeman (the character, not the man) and features a menagerie of dinosaurs expounded on the meaning of life, in song.
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Which is not to say that it doesn’t follow perfectly acceptable Broadway conventions; to wit, a second song by the ingénue reflecting on her dreams – in this case a Velociraptor played by John Jeffery Martin. There is a outcast who’s warnings are ignored until it is too late, the Velociraptor of Science played by Mary Ellen Ashley. And, of course, the innocent child that has to grow up too soon, in this case a T-Rex of mutating gender played by Natalie Bradshaw.
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The entire cast brings a subversive glee to the proceedings, but the three actors mentioned above, along with Lee Seymour (as Morgan Freeman) and Brandon Espinoza (as the Mime-a-saurus) stand out in the manic proceedings.
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Clocking in at a brisk 70 minutes, Jurassic ParQ barely slows down and so the audience never has time to stop laughing. Director Marshall Pailet does a great job of keeping the pace of the show up, important in a piece as light as this.
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One complaint, the song “I am a Dine-O-Saur” is stuck in my head like “It’s a Small World” after a day at Disneyland.
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Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical
Cast: Mary Ellen Ashley, Natalie Bradshaw, Denise Dumper, Brandon Espinoza, Jay Frisby, Brandon Gill, Olli Haaskivi, Emily Jenda, John Jeffery Martin, Cara Massey, Tara Novie, Lee Seymour
Director: Marshall Pailet
Fringe NYC: The Ellen Stewart Theater
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Remaining Shows: 8/25 – 7:45 , 8/27 – 4:00
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Rating: Well Worth the Money
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What works: Come on, it’s a show with singing dinosaurs
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What doesn't work: Well, if you can’t laugh at singing dinosaurs you aren’t trying
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What you get to brag about to your friends: You saw a gender bending, show about singing dinosaurs before it’s big Broadway premi…. Never mind. How about this? You will know all the words to “I’m a dinosaur” by the time you leave!
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Lost & Found at the Fringe Shows the Value of Family and Love

Lost And Found, at the Fringe NYC, burns with some amazing performances that strain at the confines of The Cherry Pit Theater. And, as benefits the story, the set and the space can barely contain the characters.
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The story of Lost and Found is a full and engaging; after the death of his father a year ago, Tommy – played by Jon Pollono, moves back into his mother’s house to help her and his adult sister with the bills. This claustrophobic situation is made even more tense by the introduction of Vincent (Jon Krupp), a man Tommy’s mother gave up for adoption before her marriage. A neighbor with a husband in Iraq, the cop boyfriend of the adult sister and the partner of the adopted son add to the cast. A large group which engages the audience and never gets lost.
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Tommy’s mother, Eva, is played by Geraldine Librandi and she is exact in her execution. Eva has lived the life of a devoted wife and mother, only to be windowed and challenged for primacy in her own house by her son. She fills her time with cooking and cleaning and is painfully unable to access her own feelings. She finds it easier to relate to the neighbor, Reiko Aylesworth in a stand out role, than the children she raised. She finds it completely impossible to relate to the child she gave up.
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Although often funny, this is a drama about the boundaries of love and desire, not just being in love but the effects of love when it is removed, and the redemption possible when you are open to it.
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Jon Pollono, who plays Tommy, also wrote this piece. The writing is excellent, but the play is too stuffed with conflict and resolution. The show would benefit greatly from either a little more time, or a little less story. Everyone has a situation and everyone’s situation gets resolved. The show feels just a little hurried to get them all in.
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Andrew Block directs and Lost and Found arrives as a fleshed out play. It feels more complete and polished than most FringeNYC pieces and so one holds it to a higher standard. Luckily, it is a standard the show rises to meet.
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Lost and Found
Cast: Reiko Aylesworth, Jonathan Bock, Dana Domenick, Joey Gambetta, Jon Krupp, Geraldine Librandi, John Pollono, Casey Predovic
Director: Andrew Block
Fringe NYC: The Cherry Pit
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Remaining Shows: 8/23- 10:15, 8/26 – 9:15, 8/27 – 3:00
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Rating: Well Worth the Money
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What works: Geraldine Librandi’s turn as Eva
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What doesn't work: One restroom at intermission (go before you go :-)
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What you get to brag about to your friends: Seeing Michelle Dessler from 24 (Reiko Alysworth) and she still looks dynamite - and can act up a storm
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Interesting Choice for Lead of "Women on the Verge"

Lincoln Center - current home of South Pacific - is getting ready for a new show. They have decided to stage a live version of the Pedro Almodovar comedy "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown".
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They have lined up some heavy hitters, as seen below. Sheri Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Patti LuPone, among others. But who to play the final principal role? Who will play the son of Brian Stokes Mitchell and Patti LuPone?


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Drumroll please!
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Justin Guarini.
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Hummmm..... (Although I must admit "From Justin to Kelly" is a total guilty pleasure for me.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Amanda Peet Joins David Duchovny Next November in "Break of Noon"


I already mentioned that David Duchovny will be in "Break of Noon" this November in New York, then in LA. They just announced Amanda Peet in the cast as well.
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If you are a fan of her work (I personally loved her in The Whole Nine Yards - but my taste in movies run decidedly against the grain) then this is a great opportunity to see her.
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(the press blurb)
This fall, Amanda Peet (Broadway’s Barefoot In the Park, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) will appear opposite David Duchovny in the world premiere production of The Break of Noon, Neil LaBute’s seventh collaboration with MCC Theater as Playwright-in-Residence, following the 2009 Tony Award-nominated Best Play, Reasons to be Pretty. Renowned for his darkly-comic morality plays (The Shape of Things, In a Dark Dark House), he teams up again with longtime collaborator, director Jo Bonney (Some Girl(s), Fat Pig), for this exploration of the daunting, sometimes harrowing process of “finding religion.” As previously announced, David Duchovny (“Californication,” “The X-Files”) will star as John Smith, a man who, amidst the chaos and horror of the worst office shooting in American history, sees the face of God. Peet will play two roles in the production, John’s wife ‘Ginger’ and Ginger’s cousin ‘Jesse,’ both struggling to come to terms with the repercussions of John’s revelation. A newcomer to faith, John urgently searches for a modern response to the age-old question: at what cost salvation? Performances begin at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC) on October 28, 2010 and continue through December 12, 2010. An official opening night is set for November 15, 2010. The Break of Noon is a co-production with the Geffen Playhouse (Gil Cates, Producing Director; Randall Arney, Artistic Director; Ken Novice, Managing Director).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cradle Will Rock: to be performed at HOWL!

The HOWL Festival supports the Arts in the Lower East Side with (among other things) a Festival once a year (information on this year's festival).

(2009 Howl Festival)
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One of theshows they are doing is "The Cradle Will Rock". If you saw the movie (which was about making the show - not a performance piece) you know what it is about. If not, here is the press blurb.
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The controversial Marc Blitzstein ‘play in music’ about greed, corruption and the plight of the worker... On a June evening in 1938, director Orson Welles, producer John Houseman and the cast and crew of a new Broadway musical were locked out of their theater on opening night by armed servicemen under orders from the Federal Govt. Without costumes, sets, lights or sound, Welles and Housemen found an unused theater, rented an upright piano and marched their audience up Broadway for what has become the most historic theatrical opening ever recorded. The entire libretto, performed from the audience by actors forbidden to step onto the stage, received a 40 minute standing ovation, as legend has it. Musical Direction and Piano: Mimi Stern-Wolfe, Stage Direction: Larry Marshall, Production Coordinator: Jeannine Otis, Choreographer: Laura Stilwell. Starring Laura Wolfe, Brian Henry, Jeannine Otis, Michael Schilke, Paul Malamphy, Darcy Dunn, Mark Singer, Zak Risinger, Gavin Esham, Greg Senf, Ryan Cahill, Charles Baran, Steve Sieck, Go Takeuchi, Tom Savage, Marcus Moss. Door proceeds to benefit The Actors Fund for HOWL!
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If you are interested, it sounds great! Go here for tickets.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Julius Caesar at the Fringe, Buckle Up and Race With Them.

Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare as adapted by Orson Wells, was first produced in 1937 and brought the play into the contemporary context. The Gangbusters Theatre Company’s presentation races headlong into the Wells’ version, leaping into the text with rage and thunder – and is now playing at the Fringe NYC. Buckle up and watch it.
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Full disclosure here, a friend of mine (Brian Newkirk) was in the show (although he is not a member of the Gangbusters Theatre Company) as Decius Brutus. I like his performance immensely, but I won’t review it here.
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Like the Orson Wells’ version, this Julius is dressed and staged in contemporary trappings. Ominous black outfits, Billy clubs, hunting knives and guns replace the togas and daggers of the Shakespeare version. Combine those costumes with the look of the Gangbusters Company, where severe haircuts and muscular men are the norm, and these actors bring an intimidating presence to the stage. This Julius Caesar Fringe production makes prodigious use of flashlights as lighting, fostering a sense of intimacy. The cast and staging pulls the audience directly into the emotion of the show.
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The cast played excellently off each other. Christian Levatino as Brutus was a stand-out, full of anger and regret. Both menacing and tormented, his conflicted feelings towards Julius played well in the small space. The rest of the cast worked extremely well with each other and within the space.
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Gangbusters brought a large cast for the Fringe, there were a total of 16 speaking characters. The commitment to the project was evident not only in the size of the cast, but their ease in the Shakespearean vocabulary. The cast invested themselves into the language and feelings and challenged the audience to keep up.
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This production of Julius Caesar is an excellent rendition of the show, ready tailored to today’s audience.
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Julius Caesar, the death of a dictator
Cast: Romel Jamison, Christopher Karbo, Christian Levatino, Anthony Annatone, Richard, Ruiz, James Gilbert, Patrick Hume, Mancini Graves, Brian Newkirk, Michael O’Grady Moriarty, Trent Hopkins, Laura Renault, Adam Kerbel, Stephanie Roche, Mary Kelsey, Kelly Lafferty
Director: Leon Shanglebee
Fringe NYC: Here Arts Complex (Mainstage)
Remaining Dates: 8/17 at 10:00, 8/20 at 4:15, 8/22 at 5:15
tickets
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Rating: Well Worth the Money
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What works: The Immediacy of the Production
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What doesn't work: Julius is killed so early, it is hard to be invested if you don’t know the story
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What you get to brag about to your friends: It’s a great treat to see Orson Wells’ adaptation done well
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My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad: Fringe Fun!

My Dad’s Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry is the perfect Fringe Festival Fare. Clocking in at right about an hour, this is an immensely entertaining journey through the recollections of Katherine Heller about her father, a middling famous author, scientist and lousy father.
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The show’s scientific theme is derived from the author / performer’s father’s occupation as a teacher of science. Ms. Heller manages an audio visual tour of her history as if performing a lecture, and the simple effects are entertaining without being overdone.
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The show is helped by the fact that Ms. Heller’s father is oddly crazy. There is no inappropriate touching, or sexual tension. In England he would be regarded as an eccentric, which is much more entertaining from a distance than within your own family.
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Directed by Nell Balaban, the proceedings move along nicely, being occasionally touching without venturing into the maudlin. Ms. Heller makes a wise choice to put a bit of distance between herself and the subject. We all have stories of childhood that can be both humorous and horrifying, depending on our viewpoint. Ms. Heller chooses the humor in her own life and shares it with the audience.
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Ms. Heller is a participant in the on-going ensemble show “Naked in a Fishbowl” – which I have highly recommended in the past. This NY Fringe venture is a welcome addition to her body of work.
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My Dad’s Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry

Cast: Katharine Heller
Director: Nell Balaban
Fringe NYC: Dixon Place,
Remaining Shows: 8/20: 6:15, 8/25: 4:15, 8/27: 9:00
tickets
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Rating: Well Worth the Money
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What works: The Slow Reveal of Ms. Heller’s Father’s Oddnes
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What doesn't work: It is a lightweight piece, but everything in it works
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What you get to brag about to your friends: It’s the Fringe, It’s fun and you get some great stories.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Wolves Premieres at 59E59 Theater

Wolves, a new work by Delaney Britt Brewer premiering at the 59 East 59th theatre is a challenging and interesting work, but ultimately fails because of the emotional distance it places between the story and the audience.
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As a metaphor for love and commitment, the wolf is a highly ambiguous transmitter. Unknowable and remote, the visceral reaction to a wolf is a highly personal experience. This analogy drives an interesting show, but not necessarily an accessible one.
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Wolves explores the emotions that lay just out of view and just out of reach in relationships. They play is driven by two major vignettes, one on each side of the intermission with a coda that wraps them together. The first act involves the unraveling of a relationship, a discussion precipitated by the main characters car hitting a wolf. The characters’ discussion and recriminations take their importance not only from their words, but via flashbacks to a party earlier that evening which illustrates the weight behind the words. Josh Tyson, as Caleb, brings the full depth of loss, confusion and harangued resentment to a emasculated writer– who uses humor as a defense. Mr. Tyson is identifiable to the audience as a befuddled lover who is somehow a disappointment to his partner and unable to fix it. Elizabeth A. Davies brings a frustrated hardness to the role of Kay, Charlie’s lover. In seeking to understand why and how love has gone wrong, she morphs her confusion into anger directed at Charlie.
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Elizabeth A. Davis and Josh Tyson in the first vignette in Wolves.
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The second act explores loss as a young woman morns the end of her relationship with a magnetic, if slightly selfish, older woman. Megan Hart plays Julie as the wounded lover who interacts with Doug Roland as Elliot, her brother, and later with Julie Fitzpatrick, as Sasha, her ex-lover. In an essentially passive role, Ms. Hart is fine, but Mr. Roland shines brighter in a showier role. In the character of Sasha, the author has found a magical voice. Emotionally lithe and honest, funny and insightful, Sasha is a joy of a character to listen to. Ms. Fitzpatrick plays Sasha with abandon. In this piece, the wolf is a late visitor who makes a perfunctory appearance.
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The final coda unites the two earlier pieces, but the wrap up itself reinforces the problems in the piece. The lack of a consistent central character is a problem for the play, particularly as a few characters that do recur become unpleasant over time. The theme, basically that love is tough and transitory, isn’t enough to hold the piece together cohesively. While Wolves is interesting and challenging, ultimately it is a problematic piece. The audience is left unfulfilled with no sense of closure after watching the piece.
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The direction, by Mike Klar, is well done, making good use of the circular stage and keeping the story clear between flashbacks vs. the current timeline.
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Ultimately Wolves is frustrating. The acting is excellent and parts of the show burn with a clear vision, but the missing pieces stand our starkly and leave the audience removed from the play at the wrong time.
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Wolves
Cast: Josh Tyson, Elizabeth A. Davis, Richard Saudek, Sarah Baskin, Megan Tusing, Megan Hart, Doug Roland, Julie Fitzpatrick, Vikki Vasiliki Eugenis
Director: Mike Klar
Writer: Delaney Britt Brewer
tickets
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59 East 59 Theaters, August 4 – 21, 2010
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Rating: Worth the Money
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What works: Some Amazing Writing
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What doesn't work: The links between the acts are tenuous
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What you get to brag about to your friends: Delany Britt Brewer is an exciting new author that will go very far.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fringe: Lost & Found


Lost And Found will start on August 16th at the Fringe NY.
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From the Press Release... (it looks great to me).
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New York: TV’s Geraldine Librandi (Patty Leotardo in “The Sopranos”) and Reiko Aylesworth (“24” and “DAMAGES”) will lead the cast of the edgy and poignant new play LOST AND FOUND written by John Pollono, directed by Andrew Block, as part of the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.
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LOST AND FOUND will begin performances on August 16 – 27 at NYC’s Cherry Pit Theatre (155 Bank Street).
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In addition to Geraldine Librandi (Patty Leotardo in “The Sopranos”) and Reiko Aylesworth (“24” and “DAMAGES”) the cast also includes: Dana Domenick (Papermill’s Meet Me In St. Louis), Joey Gambetta (“Maury”, Regional: Picasso at the Lapine Agile), Jonathan Bock (Thom Pain (based on nothing)), John Pollono (Fort McCoy,”How I met Your Mother”) and Casey Predovic (Hartford Stage’s Tom Sawyer), and Jon Krupp (Breaking the Chain,”Law & Order”).
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LOST AND FOUND is being presented by LA based theatre company, Rogue Machine Theatre. LOST AND FOUND is a brutally funny and poignant story about a Boston family of cops whose lives are thrown upside down when a mysterious stranger appears on their doorstep, forcing them to confront issues of love, grief, homophobia and regret.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Fringe Info: South Beach Rapture


Well, the New York Fringe is coming and I thought I would highlight a show a day for a while until the Fringe is going. Things I think look fun or interesting.
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Today's is South Beach Rapture. From the Press Release...
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The Plum Theatre Company presents the world premiere of David Caudle's SOUTH BEACH RAPTURE – a new play about three stargazers who find one another during a meteor shower – as part of the 14th Annual New York International Fringe Festival (a production of The Present Company),with performances set for August 15 (7pm), August 21 (11am), August 22(4:15pm), August 23 (3:45pm), and August 25 (7:45pm) at Dixon Place(161A Chrystie Street). Michelle Bossy, Associate Artistic Director of Primary Stages, is set to direct.
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A hot night on South Beach gets even hotter when three strangers meet to watch an unprecedented meteor shower. In SOUTH BEACH RAPTURE,Cynthia (Amelia Jean Alvarez), a pretty New York socialite encounters two very different men: Albert (John G. Preston), local college professor, and Felipe (Bobby Moreno), a seductive hustler. But which meeting was written in the stars? The forty-something failed artist,or the sexy Latino rentboy? Or both?
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It plays starting August 15th

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Irish... and How They Got That Way @ The Irish Rep

“The Irish ..and How They Got That Way” (playing at the Irish Repertory Theater through September 5th ) is a wistful, sentimental and funny journey through traditional Irish Songs and Folklore that will play beautifully for the millions that lovingly watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parades every year. If you fit that bill, this is a beautifully sung and nicely spoken trip of nostalgia that will make your heart ache, your eyes tear up and a lump rise in your throat.
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Seeing the happy faces around me, the lilting accents at intermission and the teary eyes as they expressed their love upon leaving the theater, all of this tells me it is an emotional experience that resonates with the Irish deep in their soul.




Patrick Shields, Ciaran Sheehan, Kerry Conte, Terry Donnelly,Gary Troy and Kevin D. Winebold

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On the other hand, if you aren’t schooled in Irish music and folklore, if you don’t bleed green, this show is a two hour tromp through a litany of anger, sullenness, bitterness and hopelessness.
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The show opens and closes with a cute refrain about how the Irish see music and romance in everyday life – and then proceed to drown out any spark of hope through a forced march of wrongs done to the Irish People through the years. The British get it the worst, starting from an early 1800s satirical piece in “Punch” and moving on with stops at their Empire, their food and their landed class. The Potato Famine then moves the narrative to America, where the show finds blames with the press, the politicians, the employers and the inhabitants of most major cities.
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And the show is not content with only telling the audience how much the Irish were hated, and singing about how much the Irish were hated. The cast reads selected articles and private letters aloud, writings from the 1800s by the very people that hated them the most. Frank McCourt didn’t write this show as much as dig in the archives to find the worst things ever said about the Irish and share them with us, for purposes unfathomable to me.
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The American Civil War forced them to fight brother versus brother, after which the Irish returned to (single handedly) build the transcontinental railroad, pave the streets of New York and dig Eire Canal. Intermission comes as a merciful break.
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In the second half we start with fun vaudeville and Jimmy Cagney, before trudging off to World Wars one and two. It all comes to a close with the assignation of John F Kennedy, before wrapping the show up reminding us that they are a happy people.
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Oddly, the unrelenting tales of woe don’t dampen the enthusiasm the cast brings to the show. The six member ensemble works hard to lift the mood from the dreary stories told. The ensemble of fine voices is nice, but it is the wonderful clear voice of Gary Troy that sells every song he sings.
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The odd directing choices of Charlotte Moore mainly work, unless you were sitting on the side. The Irish Repertory Theater has the main audience seating in front of the stage, but also has a significant amount of seating stage right, and this group was mainly ignored during the show. The staging features the cast primarily sitting on the detritus of travel, old trunks and suitcases, with the story teller or singer standing during their bit. It was interesting for a while, but soon ventured towards the animatronics for me. It seemed like the “The Carousel of Misery” at some depressing version of Disneyland, complete with awkward and forced comic relief.


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The Irish … and How They Got That Way.
Cast: Kerry Conte, Terry Donnelly, Ciaran Sheehan, Patrick Shields, Gary Troy, Kevin B. Winwbold
Director: Charlotte Moore
Writer: Frank McCourt


tickets

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Irish Repertory Theatre, July 22 – September 5, 2010
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Rating: If it sounds interesting to you
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What works: The songs and memories for those of Irish Heritage
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What doesn't work: The songs and memories for those not of Irish Heritage
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What you get to brag about to your friends: Hearing Gary Troy’s majestic voice soar on some well known Irish standards

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Friend Will Be In Julius Ceaser at the Fringe

So I saw a good friend, Brian Newkirk from Los Angeles, up in Provincetown this last week-end and he said that he was going to appear in Julius Caeser during the New York Fringe Festival.
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This is the Orson Welles' adaptation of the Shakespeare play - so I am thrilled to see it. Brian Newkirk plays the second Brutus.
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Let's go see it!
Brian, probably not as he will appear in the show.

Monday, July 5, 2010

David Duchovny stars off Broadway in September

The MCC Theater (at The Lucille Lortel) is bringing David Duchovny to New York for a show done in collaberation with The Geffen in Los Angeles. I love the Geffen - as it used to be the Westwood Playhouse and I went to school at UCLA across the street. Anyway, it sounds great.
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D A V I D D U C H O V N Y
TO MAKE NEW YORK STAGE DEBUT AT MCC THEATER IN THE WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF “ T H E B R E A K O F N O O N ” BY NEIL LaBUTE
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New York, NY – MCC Theater (Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, Artistic Directors; William Cantler, Associate Artistic Director; Blake West, Executive Director) today announced that David Duchovny (“The X-Files,” “Californication”) will make his New York stage debut in the world premiere production of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon, directed by Jo Bonney, a co-production with the Geffen Playhouse (Gil Cates, Producing Director; Randall Arney, Artistic Director; Ken Novice, Managing Director) Rehearsals begin September 28, and performances in New York will begin at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC) on October 28; performances in Los Angeles will begin in previews on January 25 with an official opening on February 2, 2011. Mr. Duchovny will be performing in the New York portion of the run; casting for Los Angeles will be announced at a later date.
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In LaBute’s newest play, Mr. Duchovny will star as John Smith, a man who, amidst the chaos and horror of the worst office shooting in American history, sees the face of God. His modern-day revelation creates a maelstrom of disbelief among everyone he knows. A newcomer to faith, John urgently searches for a modern response to the age-old question: at what cost salvation?
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The Break of Noon marks Neil LaBute’s seventh collaboration with MCC Theater as Playwright-in-Residence, following the 2009 Tony Award-nominated Best Play, Reasons to be Pretty, and is his fourth collaboration with the Geffen Playhouse. Renowned for his darkly-comic morality plays (The Shape of Things, In a Dark Dark House), he teams up again with longtime collaborator, director Jo Bonney (Some Girl(s), Fat Pig), for this exploration of the daunting, sometimes harrowing process of “finding religion.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ideal - ly taken with a grain of salt

The passage of years and the cult like growth of Ann Rand’s reputation unintentionally morphs her 1934 stage play Ideal from a meandering philosophical drama to a wonderful piece of satire and homage to the movies of the 1930s. I am sure Miss Rand would not approve, but as staged at 59E59 theater, Ideal is a hilarious black comedy and a rollicking good time if you choose to go with it.
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If taken seriously - at face value, the play Ideal is heavy handed screed about the narcissistic worldview of self-important artists in an age when the average person is struggling to survive the depression. It is serious and a little dull. However, when Ideal is viewed as Ann Rand’s melodramatic and disdainful take on the Motion Picture Industry of the 1930s, it is a raucously funny black comedy. Particularly when you understand she herself was a failed screenwriter and supported herself for a while as an extra in Cecile B. DeMille extravaganzas.
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Before becoming pin-up girl for raging capitalists and tea-party conservatives the world over, Ann Rand was a frustrated screen writer, and her frustration rages throughout Ideal. The play concerns a famous European actress, Kay Gonda, who yearns to be more than a movie star (it is rather obvious nod towards Greta Garbo or early Marlene Dietrich type, but also can be seen as a reference to Ann Rand herself, a European refugee of Soviet Russia). The play opens in the office frantic studio boss, a maniac surrounded by bad PR flacks and bitter associates. The audience learns that his most famous star, Kay Gonda is on the lamb, running from a murder investigation. Miss Gonda’s secretary shows up to inform the audience that the actress came by the house sometime last night to take 6 fan letters from her desk.
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Why six, why so she can visit six people and participate in six vignettes, as any black and white picture fan would know. In these six vignettes, she shows up in the middle of a stereotypical Hollywood problems of the 1930s, disillusioned husband, tortured artist, and down on his luck playboy among them. Echoes of Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer, William Warren and Marie Dressler scream out from the stage. But the author twists the familiar set ups into arbitrary bleakness and distain, “proving” that she is above the mediocrity of the current playwright.
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Ann Rand’s inflated opinion of herself, her dismissal of the petty bourgeoisie of Hollywood (after they ignored her), and her attempt to poison the artificial plots, all of these unintentional motives layer upon each other too thick to ignore. Ideal ultimately ends up being an homage to the very medium she is trying to disparage. It is hilarious, sometimes purposefully and often accidentally.
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As Kay Gonda, Jessie Barr stand outs in the cast. She captures the self-importance and bitterness of the role wonderfully. The author really doesn’t like this character, and Miss Barr has no problem dishing up a vapid, self-delusional character, while still imbibing her with charisma. The fact that the audience identifies with Kay Gonda is a tribute to Miss Barr.
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The other members of the cast play multiple roles. Unfortunately, as a rule, the cast members are too young to play these roles effectively. They do a fine job generally, but their youth often works against them. Three of the ensemble, (Kim Rosen, Andrew Young and Dan Pfau) succeed in overcoming this wonderfully, by ignoring the age issues and plunging headlong into the characters. Dan Pfau is especially effective in wearing his emotions like a worn out raincoat (sorry, the film noir references come hot and heavy after this show).
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Director Jenny Beth Synder does a good job of moving the show along and allowing the right attitude to each of the vignettes, but the real star here is Ann Rand at her self-important and world-weary best. If this sound like something you might like, hurry to 59E59, Ideal is a hoot.
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It is always a little disconcerting when one person seems to be enjoying a play more than everyone else in the audience. It is particularly disconcerting when that one person is yourself. And so, I felt like a bit fish out of water while thoroughly enjoying myself at Ideal, the New York première of Ann Rand’s 1934 play. But then again, I had the same reaction at the first Austin Powers, a box office dud, that only bloomed on home video release. Ideal won't get a home video release - so go see it now.
(tickets)
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IDEAL
The 59e59 Theatre, June 17 – July 3, 2010
Cast list: Liz Aldefer, Jessie Barr, Ted Caine, Bill Griffin, Sean Ireland, Lee Kasper, Emily Marrow, Cara Massey, Dan Pfau, Kim Rosen, Ariana Seigel, Carly Walsh and Andrew Young

Director: Jenny Beth Synder
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Rating: Well Worth The Money
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What works:
The echos of 1930s movies and movie stars
*
What doesn't work: Some actors are too young for the roles
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: It's a newly produced play by Ann Rand - author of Atlas Shrugged - how often do you see that!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reflections of a Heart: A Painful Journey

Reflections of a Heart is a Serious play with capital S. It tells the story of Isaac Woodard Jr., a well decorated black WWII veteran, who returns to post-war South to the worst kind of discrimination. It is the true story of a hero beaten until he was physical ruined, blinded and emotionally crippled.
Avery Pearson as Erman (pictured, left) and Christopher G. Roberts as Isaac Woodard, Jr. (right) in SteppingStone Theatre Company's "Reflections of a Heart," at Theatre Row, June 11-27.
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In 1946, Issac Woodard Jr was a cause célèbre, attracting attention from the fledgling NAACP (in the form of Thurogood Marshall), President Truman and a host of entertainers from Lena Horn to Orson Wells. It was one of the first civil rights cases, but it ended badly and has been forgotten by history. By 1951, Issac Woodard Jr. was forgotten, a blind black man trying to make a living for his family by playing the guitar. In Reflections, he is rousted on trumped up charges in New York. The play shifts between the 1951 interrogation and the terrible events of 1946, casting a light back on an event forgotten by most.
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While Reflections of a Heart is an important piece of theater, it is not a terribly satisfying play. Quite possibly true but none the less distracting, every white character in Reflections is evil, very evil, sadistically evil or, at best, incompetent. On the other side of the scale, every black character is deferential, kindly, or angelic – and treated with contempt by the white society. There is very little dramatic tension, just a slow expansion of pain and undeserved woe. The playwright, Christopher G. Roberts, attempts to mitigate this by the use of the ghost of one character. The ghost tries to guide the audience with a call to action, but it is only marginally successful in giving Reflections a hopeful message.
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Reflections has some beautiful acting, particularly by Chanel Carrol, who plays the wife of Woodard, Rosie. She brings forth a three dimensional character, alternately hopeful, wary and despondent. She accomplishes this even though her character shows up rarely and out of expect timeline sequence, but when Rosie arrives you believe are witnessing an understandable response.
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Christopher G. Roberts, wrote and directed this play. He also plays Isaac Woodard Jr. and he does an excellent job of anchoring the play within his character. As Woodard, the anger, frustration and strength shine through the performance.
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Avery Pearson as a shell shocked mental patient brings a surprising warmth to the role of Erman. As an outsider who clearly doesn’t understand why this is happening, he (along with Rosie) is one of the few characters the audience can relate to. – but both show up too infrequently.
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Assuming the 1951 story is true, Reflections of a Heart is so heartbreaking it is a little painful to watch. The audience follows the story of Isaac Woodard, Jr. through his hellish experience, but there is no other side, no hopeful redemption. By all means see this Reflections of a Heart, there is a lot to be admired – but few traces of joy.
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REFLECTIONS OF A HEART
The Clurman Theatre at Theater Row, June 10 – June 27, 2010
Cast list: Mary Ruth Baggot, Reginald L. Barnes, Gail Merzer Behrens, Chanel Carroll, Mark Ellmore, Gillian Glasco, Kevin Green, Jim Heaphy, Heather Massie, Jonathan Miles, Avery Pearson, Christopher G. Roberts, Robert Spence, David Wirth, and Jerry Zellers
Director: Christopher G. Roberts
*
Rating: If It Sounds Interesting
*
What works: The story is engaging
*
What doesn't work: The story is constantly painful
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: It is story about a time in our history you didn't know about before.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Goof Ass Fun with Sister Myotis

A forced lock down at a Bible Seminar, even one focused on being a good wife and catered by the ladies auxiliary, sounds a little odd. But when the lock down is enforced by Sister Myotis, a bitter sweet bundle of Southern Christian Redemption swathed in a cocoon of grown up girl scout drag and concocted by Steve Swift, well, then you got a party on your hands.
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Todd Berry as Velma Needlemeyer (pictured, right), Steve Swift as Sister Myotis (center), and Jenny Odle Madden (right) as Ima Lone. in Sister Myotis's Bible Camp. Photo by Kim T. Sharp.

And make no mistake, Sister Myotis’s Bible Camp is a party for believers that will make most everyone want to join in the fun. The premise for this show is simple. Sister Myotis and her two true-believing assistants prepare the audience for what’s in store over the course of a week long female retreat. Sister Myotis’ religious affiliation is kept carefully blurred because the religion is only a ruse that allows Sister Myotis to lecture, warn and hector the audience about sin and sinful actions. Religion itself isn’t mocked; Sister Myotis could be Catholic, Jewish or Amish and the effect would be the same. Sister Myotis’ non-denominational Christianity is merely the mountain she chooses to descend from in order to bring the Truth, as she sees, it to the masses.
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And her truthful missives wander wide, from crafts, to sexual hints, to complaints about the men-folk, to warnings about thongs. Steve Swift as Sister Myotis aims broadly at easy targets both clichéd and new. With its folksy charm and gentle PG jokes, you would feel comfortable taking your Grandmother to this show (and with some jokes about Gunsmoke and Hee Haw, you are forgiven for thinking your Grandmother is the target audience).
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Steve Swift creates a lovable, bumbling taskmaster in Sister Myotis, already a phenomenon on youtube. Easily offended, but sure of herself, Sister Myotis is a fully rounded character, both emotionally and physically. As her devotees, Todd Berry and Jenny Odle Madden bring Sister Velma and Sister Ima to life. Given bits and pieces of business and song, these two make the most of their time in the limelight, but it is a position Sister Myotis is not comfortable giving up.
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As theater piece, the play goes on a little too long, and trim or two would make the evening tighter. Some of the jokes hit a little flat, but they come so fast, that another is bound to come by soon that will tickle your funny bone. Directed by Jerre Dye, there a nice amount of movement and flow in the proceedings, that keep the show from feeling like a session with a stand up comic. And some credit has to go to the outrageous costumes by Ashely Whitten Kopera and Kim Yeager. Sister Myotis Bible Camp is a high energy good time with everything southern but fried chicken.
(tickets)
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SISTER MYOTIS'S BIBLE CAMP
The Abingdon Theatre, June 11 – July 4, 2010
Cast list: Todd Berry, Jenny Odle Madden, Steve Swift
Director: Jerre Dye
*
Rating: Well Worth the Money
*
What works: Sister Myotis - she is a hoot
*
What doesn't work: COOCH (you'll see)
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: She's on You Tube and she is hilarious.

A Disappointing Voyage: When We Go Upon The Sea

Lee Blessing is a playwright best known for his work, A Walk In the Woods which was a view of the US and USSR arm negotiations and reasons behind the complex diplomatic dance. It was thoughtful and nuanced and set the bar high for his future work. Mr. Blessing’s new work, having its New York Premiere at the 59E59 Theater, is When We Go Upon The Sea and Mr. Blessing once again deals with political power. This play imagines George W Bush on the eve of a war crimes trial in The Hague. Unfortunately, When We Go is less concerned with looking at George Bush’s actions, policies and motivations and more interested in caricaturing both the ex-President and sycophantic Europeans as buffoons and delusional.
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Given the limitations of the piece, Conan McCarty does a great job of portraying George Bush. Mr. McCarty’s George W Bush is bitter and confused, yet never pathetic. When given more to do that act perplexed, Mr. McCarty gives a complex portrayal.
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Peter Schmitz plays Piet the Dutch butler determined to provide the ex-President with any entertainment and relaxation the night before the trail begins. Mr. Schmitz gives a well restrained performance. The entire show takes a mean spirited twist when the ex-President starts drinking, drugging and vacillating between self-pity and anger in his discussions with Piet.
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Kim Carson plays Anna-Louis, a stunning female “relaxation specialist”, which ex-president Bush is offered, no strings attached. The motivations of both Piet and Anna-Louise remain murky throughout, despite attempts at explanation to the audience and the ex-President. Piet seems motivated by fear by the end of the play, while Anna-Louise actions are not in sync with her motivations.
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These three characters become more and more friendly as the evening progresses and the intoxicants flow. In the course of the evening the butler and ex-President Bush discuss European and American place in the wilds of the world. Here the audience expects, and is waiting for, a serious reflection on the actions of George Bush. Instead we get superficial ramblings from a bitter, drunk Nixonian reproduction, and the justifications of a frightened colonial apologist. There is no exchange of ideas or even serious attempt to understand what occurred during the Iraq war, and this undercuts the play. When We Go Upon The Sea veers into mean spirited wish fulfillment by mocking George W Bush instead of investigating why or what he did. It is a cathartic journey, but not particularly pleasant to anyone involved.
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The show is extremely well directed by Paul Meshejian. He uses a nicely stuffed stage (scenic design by Meghan Jones) provides a claustrophobic cage in which the actors cannot escape or fully banish their demons. When We Go Upon The Sea isn’t a bad show, but just out of reach lies a truly great show.
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WHEN WE GO UPON THE SEA
The 59e59 Theatre, June 10 – July 3, 2010
Cast list: Conan McCarty, Peter Schmitz, Kim Carson
Director: Paul Meshejian
*
Rating: If it sounds interesting
*
What works: Some of the political discussions of colonization
*
What doesn't work: Exploiting the foibles of President Bush
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: It Lee Blessing! The guy is amazing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Little Doc is an intense ride to Brooklyn of the 1970s

Little Doc is the first play by documentary filmmaker Dan Klores. It is an intense one act piece that explores the dynamics between four friends in the mid-1970s in Brooklyn. Ric and Lenny are long time frenemies who share history, drug sales and the affections of Lenny’s wife, Peggy. Young love struck Billy completes the foursome of friends and small time drug dealers. These four share too little space in an apartment under the “el” and over a neighborhood bar.

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Pictured L to R: Adam Driver, Dave Tawil, Steven Marcus, Billy Tangradi, Joanne Tucker, Tobias Segal in a scene from "Little Doc" written by Dan Klores and directed by John Gould Rubin. World Premiere production at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (NYC). June 11- July 18, 2010. © Sandra Coudert
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The bar is manned by Rickey’s father, Weasel and owned by Manny. Mannyis the top dog in this group of small time crooks and con, and it turns out Ric is into Mannyfor $50,000. To get information on what happened to the money and why Ric is acting jumpy, Manny turns to Angelo. Angelo is an old acquaintance of the Ricky and his friends, recently release from jail. It is Angelo’s arrival and his agenda that propels the four friends to face the consequences of their small time criminal lifestyle. From the moment Angelo arrives upstairs at the apartment, the piece is set, inexorably, on violent path to conclusion.
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Joanne Tucker as the Peggy and Tobias Segal as Billy are standouts in a very good cast. Both have been drawn into this group dynamic by an emotional and physical attraction to Ricky, and both have been badly served by that same attraction. Their responses couldn’t be more different. Ms. Tucker plays Peggy as forceful and strong. Mr. Segal’s Billy, by contrast, is pretty much silent and withdrawn falling deeper and deeper into a drug stupor. Steven Marcus is Weasel, and he is excellent as Ric’s father, a small time hoodlum overtaken by the twin demands of family and loyalty.
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But it is Adam Driver as Ric that shines the brightest in this cast, particularly in the last section of the show. He plans to get out of his dead end life, at the expense of his friends and family. When his plan is discovered, his failure as a friend and son is overshadowed by his own fear and the desire to escape the consequences of his actions.
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Director John Gould Rubin does a good job of keeping the action on a long slow boil, building tension and dread throughout the show, without wearing the audience out. He is supported by a set design (by David Rockwell) that keeps the action in the two venues tight and focused, switching seamlessly between the bar and apartment and giving the audience more information that the characters. This technique brings the audience into the piece, with full knowledge of the lies and desperation of the characters.
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Little Doc slowly strips away the veneer of invulnerability from Ric, a charming young man, with the soul of a punk and bully. It forces Ric to confront the consequences from his life choices, something everyone must do at some point.
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(tickets)
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LITTLE DOC
The Rattlestick Theatre, June 11 – July 18, 2010
Cast list: Adam Driver, Salvatore Inzerillo, Steve Marcus, Tobias Segal, Billy Tangradi, Dave Tawil and Joanne Tucker
*
Rating: Well Worth The Money
*
What works: Intense moments of excellent acting and a slow burn
*
What doesn't work: The story might be too remote for some
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: The first play by a great film maker.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go Now and See "Freed" at 59E59

Freed is that rare play that entertains, educates and inspires, all at the same time and does it all elegantly. It is a deceptively simple story, the tale of the first free black man, John Newton Templeton, to attend college in the mid-west. John Newton Templeton was born a slave and set free at a young age, after his master passed away. Robert Wilson, a teacher and Reverend at Ohio University offers John the chance to complete a college education. Hung on this framework are the stories of John’s growth, the story of Rev. Wilson, dreams of Liberia for John and, most surprising, Mrs. Wilson’s relationship with John.
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This play could easily have fallen into a lecture on Liberia or the rights of Free Black men in the slave era or any other didactic message about the 1820s. Instead, Freed uses the hope and aspirations of John to pull the audience into a narrative of the times. The Reverend Wilson befriends the young man and sponsors him at the University. When John is not able to live on campus, he stays with the Reverend and his wife. The wife provides a touchstone to the reality outside of the university walls.
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Christopher McCann as Reverend Wilson does a very good job of bringing the conflicted man to life. His teacher is well meaning, but can be condescending when trying to be supportive. His role eschews the easy generalizations of the time. But it is Sheldon Best as John Newton Templeton and Emma O’Donnell as the wife who steal this show. Miss O’Donnell burns up the stage with barely disguised anger towards the life she has. John is tangential target of her disappointment with the world and her place in it. But her anger doesn’t turn into self-pity and bitterness, it turns into a force of unflinching truth, bringing insights to the to the young man.
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In John Newton Templeton, Sheldon Best has found a character to give new voice of the freed black American. This man is smart and ambitious, albeit limited by his time and circumstances. He finds the antagonism of Mrs. Wilson uncomfortable and confusing.
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Without overly explaining the emotional journey of the show, it moved in unexpected ways and dealt with issues new to the audience. It avoided the banal and obvious arguments and instead forced both the characters and the audience to reevaluate preconceptions. Credit has to go to Charles Smith for bringing new stories out in Freed.
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Joe Brancato directed this show with a wonderfully light hand, trusting his actors and the audience to make the journey together. The very simple and organic set is enhanced by a great lighting design, scenic design done by Joseph J. Egan and lighting designer by Martin E. Vreeland. The lighting focuses the play on the individuals and just as the costumes set the era well, without being too overbearing.
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By all means see this show. Go with any preconceptions you have because this show and cast will blow past them.
(tickets)
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FREED
The 59E59 Theatres, June 11 – July 3, 2010

Cast list: Sheldon Best, Christopher McCann, Emma O’Donnell
*
Rating: SEE IT!

*
What works: A surprising stories told by amazing actors.

*
What doesn't work: A very short trip to the meodramtic side

*
What you get to brag about to your friends: You will be talking about this amazing show that has a very limited run. Your friends will be very jealous if they miss it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lee Blessing's A Walk In The Woods Remembrance

Lee Blessing has a new play out that I will review when it opens (June 17th) about George Bush and my expectations were too high. Rather than pull this into the review, I am going to try to explain why now.
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I saw Lee Blessing's A Walk In The Woods in London. It was the first play I ever saw in London and maybe my first grown up play ever. I had seen Agnes of God in New York on a trip, but it was Carrie Fisher's first night and I sat in back of Paul Simon (dating her at the time) and Art Garfunkle and it was a "thang" more than a show.
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No A Walk In The Woods was a half price show I walked into blind, my first time in London and alone. I saw Alec Guiness! Alec freakin' Guiness! And after 20 minutes, he wasn't Obi Wan, I was mesmerised by this play.
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It covers a year of negotiations between the Us and USSR (this was right after during Ronald Reagan) and shit yes the world teetered on the edge.
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And this play showed so much of the "game" of nations..
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I was young and felt that a a curtain had been pulled back showing me the Truth with a capital T.
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Well with that remembrance (and a Pulitzer prise finalist), anything else he does has a high standard of excellence. I expected too much from his new work I fear.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Big Casting News On Broadway (and the Hamptons)

There are some fun things happening in casting the coming up on Broadway and way off-Broadway (let's say the Hamptons!).
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To start, Sam Underwood (so good in Candida) and Alex Baldwin star in Equus in East Hampton. It should be a great show.
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A Little Night Music was worried that with the loss of Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Landsbury there might be no excitement. But they have since since Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch! It should be great (news).


And finally, Ricky Martin is going to come to Broadway (not his debut, he was in Les Miserables before) in the revival of Evita. It should be really fun (news).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wonderful Show! Naked In A Fishbowl

If you read this on a Monday night, then you have to wait another whole week to see one of the funniest shows around. Naked in a Fishbowl is a hilariously, spot on serialized look at the lives of 4 female friends and their circle of acquaintances (tickets). The June 7th show was these collaborators’ first back together as a group after performing this in 2005 – 2007 in various venues. But the audience doesn’t need to know any background at all, to step into the fun.

Let me start by saying that I really don’t like improv – as a rule. A pretty much a hard and fast rule at that. I know it is an art, but to me it is like Mime or Jackson Pollock, just because it is good, doesn’t mean I have to like it. But this show breaks every preconceived notion I have about improv and what it is and can do. This show is standup and cheer great.

Katherine Heller, Brenna Palughi, Lynne Rosenberg, Lauren Seikaly play longtime friends, one married with children, one divorced, one uncomfortable with new found, albeit minor, fame and one yoga instructing single woman. Together, they play off each other with an ease and seamlessness that must be rehearsed, but it is all done as improvisation. The audience would never know, except on the rare occasions that they crack each other up, but even these feel totally authentic as it would if you made friends laugh.

The show I saw on Monday concerned the four women getting ready and then attending a benefit event for planned parenthood. The interplay, the tardiness and annoyance, the question of outfits, it feels like you are spying on old very funny friends – who happen to be going through their own personal emotional issues.

Molly Knefel joined the cast as Alice, a younger cousin of Sara (Katharine Heller). There is some expository background to keep everyone up to speed, but it is given easily as if catching friends up on what gossip they missed out on. Two other women, D’Arcy Erokan and Daliya Karnofsky, are in the cast list and will probably join soon. If the ease in which the cast brought in Molly Knefel is any indication, it will be smooth introductions all around.

These women discussed age, child bearing, appropriate child bearing age, strappy shoes, sex, lesbian sex, ex-husbands and boyfriends, Sarah Palin, difficulties of motherhood, money issues, yoga as life force and the changing nature of friendships without dropping the ball anywhere along the way. There were no pat jokes waiting to be reeled off, just interactions that were hilariously funny and sometimes touching.

There is none of the give us a situation and give me a feeling that screams “improv” to many people, and has many of them running for the exits. Except for the minimal sets, this might be any play, or any play where the inmates take over the asylum.

All four women are amazing, giving full rounded characters and are gracious is yielding the floor and the laughs to each other. You get the feeling that even if there wasn’t a house full of constantly laughing, applauding people, these four actors might still get together every Monday night a 7PM, just to make each other laugh. Naked In A Fishbowl is wonderful.

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Naked In A Fishbowl

The SoHo Playhouse, June 7 – Summer Tickets

Cast list: Katherine Heller, Brenna Palughi, Lynne Rosenberg, Lauren Seikaly, Molly Knefel

Rating: See It

What works: These talented talented women

What doesn't work: nothing

What you get to brag about to your friends: There will be lines that you can quote for the next week

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spend "A Night In Vegas"

If Love American Style was still on TV, then – on a good night - you would see a show very much like A Night in Vegas. Okay, a gay Love American Style. Night is alternately funny, hilarious, occasionally touching and sometimes wildly off the mark. But, more often than not, it is a lot of fun – and with a 10:30 week-end start time, the show is rightly pitching itself as a fun night out.
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Night is built of several scenes, so there is probably something to amuse and annoy most everyone. The over arching theme is around acceptance, and though usually handled delicately, a few times it is as subtle a sledgehammer.
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The play starts with a simple farce where the pace and coincidences build excellently. Nicholas Pierro and Kelly Riley play long time bored lovers who are unexpectedly confronted with an annoyed rent boy, an opportunistic bell hop, a fainting john and an annoyed security guard in a cheap hotel room. Their hopes for a quiet, if not romantic, holiday are uprooted as the situation swings wildly out of control. Misters Pierro and Riley are two of the standouts in the production, both in this scene and in the final scene. The opening scene reminds one of those impossible Marx Brother’s skits, with excellently timing from all involved.
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The mood shifts in the next scene, in which Jason Romas, abandoned by his friends at a dance club, gets a ride home with Drew Stark. Both actors do a fine job with material that might have ventured into melodrama easily. The emotions are honest enough to easily reach the audience.
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The play wobbles in the 3rd piece, an uncomfortable scene might have been designed only to show that physically disabled people can be assholes too.
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And a funny, and possibly poignant, set up in the 4th scene is seriously hampered by age inappropriate casting. Ali Grieb plays a mother who is supposed to be a good 25 + years older than the actress is. Miss Grieb, gamely trying to capture the character without caricature, is hampered by a bad wig and a sense of restraint; when a better role model might have been Shelly Winters in her over-the-top years. Bill Purdy does a great job playing the father, helped by more age appropriate casting. Mr. Purdy is effective here but given little to do.
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Mr. Purdy is however, rewarded in the fifth and final scene with a much meatier role as semi-sugar daddy to a young man waking from a week-end bender to a room full of new friends and a bad hangover. Scott Lilly plays the young man in question, showing a nice comic timing. He portrays the gangly awkwardness and odd sexuality of blossoming youth well. Simultaneously offended and flattered by the attention. Misters Riley and Pierro show up in this final scene as well, perfectly working as a couple who have enjoyed themselves totally. Like all the best pieces in A Night In Vegas, this works in large part because the actors throw themselves into the world of camp.
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Writer Joe Marshall, who penned this in the late 1990s, directs the action in this turn. It is a fun evening, and, like that silly old sitcom, A Night In Vegas works best when actors let themselves go a little crazy. Casper De la Torre handles the scenic and lighting design with a miniature golf goes gay hotel room décor that was probably more appropriate before Vegas got on the gay money bandwagon big time. In fact, between Mr. Marshall’s direction and Mr. De la Torre’s glitter gun, the entire show has a 1990s, let’s have fun vibe.
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A Night In Vegas is a great reason to go out with friends and laugh before hitting the bars for a serious night of bar hopping. . As for the warning about male nudity, that there is. Not too much, and none too subtle, it is a happy fun kind of nudity. It strikes the right note in the show, rooted in frivolity not sleaze.
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A Night In Vegas
The Bleecker Street Theatre, May 28th - tbd
Cast list: Daniel Bak, Jonathan Craig, Edy Escamilla, Joe Fanelli, Ali Grieb, Denis Hawkins, Scott Lilly, Nicholas Pierro, Gerald Prosser Jr., Bill Purdy, Kelly Riley, Jason Romas, Drew Stark, Chris von Hoffmann
*
Rating: Worth the Money
*
What works: The farce and the timing
*
What doesn't work: The foul mouthed blind guy
*
What you get to brag about to your friends: It starts at 10:30 in a theater with a bar, take your friends with you and have a blast.