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“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Music and Lyrics by Christopher Anselmo
Book by H. S. Kaufman
Directed and Choreographed by Jen Wineman
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

All John (Dan Rosales) wants is to celebrate his 2014 high school graduation with close friends Chelsea (Gerianne Perez) and her brother Tucker (Alex Walton) and bound-for-Princeton Emmy (Marisa O’Donnell). Reading his post-graduation speech is all that is really on John’s agenda. Somehow college lacrosse star Richie (Michael Luwoye) is invited and interloper Amelia (Madison Micucci) breaks in through window and screen to add to the growing matrix of post-graduation melancholy. What begins as a simple celebration develops into group therapy spiced with an abundance of alcohol.

All this partying occurs in John’s parents’ New England suburban twentieth century colonial in the present. Unfortunately, the characters seem to have been transported from some earlier decade: they seem to lack the sophistication and weltanschauung of twenty-first century late teens. A necessary sense of worldliness is lacking in their characterizations and their conflicts – although identifiable – seem relatively simplistic. All they want is love and acceptance but appear not to have worked diligently to achieve those goals.

The book by H.S. Kaufman captures a bit of everything and too much of nothing, while exploring the thoughts and activities of six young adults at a graduation party, making it difficult to establish a cohesive structure. Characters rotate waiting to sing a song and tell their story. There is no form or arc so it tends to be flat and uninspired. The music however is inspired, although sometimes repetitious, and has a complicated rock feel, that should but fails to infuse the cast with the kinetic energy this piece needs. Part of this problem may be the direction and choreography by Jen Wineman. The lyrics are hit or miss, sometimes spot on for character delineation, but at other times miss the mark leaving cast members who are listening unsure and confused.

The cast is energetic and in fine vocal form. Characters unfortunately appear one dimensional, controlled by external circumstances rather than inner emotion, which may be induced by script and direction. The actors are young, talented and know their craft, but cannot transcend the inconsistent material.

Humankind – old and young alike – live by the mysteries of mythos and fable and cling to those constructs to order their lives and – clinging to their truth or falsehood – manage to separate and individuate and enter adulthood. “Fable” gives us a group of teens who seem to know what they want but do not quite know how to “get there.” This new musical is in its early stages of development and has the potential, with some judicious work, to serve as an authentic trope for the search for identity, love, and acceptance.

FABLE

“Fable” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival, Christopher Mirto, and Reed Ridgley. Jen Wineman is the director and choreographer. H. S. Kaufman has authored the Book. Christopher Anselmo has composed the Music and penned the Lyrics. Karen Dryer is the Musical Director. Orchestrations are by Asher Denburg. Scenery is by Deb O. Costumes are by Elizabeth Barrett Groth. Lighting is by Alan C. Edwards. Sound is by Jessica Paz. Judy Jacksina Company is the Press Representative.

The cast includes: Dan Rosales is John. Michael Luwoye is Richie. Alex Walton is Tucker. Gerianne Perkins is Chelsea. Marissa O’Donnell is Emmy. Madison Micucci is Amelia.

The band inckudes: Guitar – Jeff Barone. Bass – Don Lieber. Violin/Viola – Edward W. Hardy. Drums – RJ Raybin.

“Fable” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935947. Runtime: 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 27, 2014

“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Samuel Bernstein
Music by David Snyder
Directed and Choreographed by Stephen Nachamie
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Mr. Confidential” is the new musical currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With an outstanding book, lyrics that complement and successfully expand the scope of the book, and music pleasing to the ear and heart, this is a big brassy musical with a Broadway beat begging for attention. With a cast headed up by Kevin Spirtas, “Mr. Confidential” tackles the meteoric rise and softer fall of Robert Harrison the 1950s iconic journalistic purveyor of scandal, gossip, and the art of the expose.

American success stories have always chronicled those who win and those who get scarified in the process of “climbing the ladder.” Bob Harrison achieves success with “Confidential” by betraying confidences and outing members of Hollywood’s LGBT community. In one July issue of the magazine, under a photo of Liberace the tease line reads “Why Liberace’s theme song should be, ‘Mad About the Boy.’” Some objects of Harrison’s scathing attacks did not care; others could have been blacklisted and lost their Hollywood appeal.

It is at this point that “Mr. Confidential” the musical becomes most accessible to the audience. Few audience members have not climbed over fallen friends, family, and acquaintances to “make it to the top” of their game. There is a Bob Harrison deep in the heart of each of us. Mr. Harrison believed the magazine was successful because it was liberating for readers and icons; others thought “Confidential” was successful because readers delighted in seeing successful and prominent personages brought down to earth.

Stephen Nachamie’s clear-cut Broadway choreography and exacting direction serve the talented ensemble cast well. Kevin Spirtas (Bob Harrison), Amy Bodnar (Jeannie Douglas), Erin Leigh Peck (Marjorie Meade), and Paul Michael Valley (Howard Rushmore) anchor a superb cast of thirteen. Mr. Spirtas captures Bob Harrison’s character with the wink of an eye or the quick turn of the head and dazzles in the “Chicago” style “Bobby Is Back” where the chorus of fan dancers dons copies of “Confidential.” Amy Bodnar’s Jeannie is as deep as she is shallow and delivers “The Girl with the Yellow Hair” with show-stopping perfection. Erin Leigh Peck captures the soul of Bob’s niece Marjorie who leaves her husband Fred (Joshua Dixon) to head up the magazine’s west coast shenanigans. Her “Girl Next Door” is both a mantra of liberation and – reprised – an anthem of despair and defeat.

“Mr. Confidential” is still in its early stage of development. Most songs have clear placement and serve the plot well; others need editing or cutting. And most of the musical’s scenes handily drive the plot forward. A few, like the trial scene, need to be shortened and perhaps reimagined. Without such prudent pruning, the closing scenes in the second act might spin out of control. There is no need to bring every character onto the stage to resolve her or his particular conflict. To do so weakens the powerful ending.

Don’t breathe a word, but just between you and me, in strict confidence, with some judicious redaction, “Mr. Confidential’s” foray into the sustained prevalence and resilience of gossip and innuendo could easily find its way onto the Broadway stage. Remember, you didn’t hear it from me.

MR. CONFIDENTIAL

“Mr. Confidential” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Ronald Shore and Babyhead Productions. Director and Choreographer: Stephen Nachamie.

The cast for “Mr. Confidential” includes: Jane Blass, Amy Bodnar, Joshua Dixon, Badia Farha, Jamnes Larosa, Michael Marotta, Rachel Lee Norman, Erin Leigh Peck, Elyssa Samsel, Kevin Spirtas, Paul Michael Valley, and Alena Watters. The orchestra includes Kevin Cole (Conductor), Jack Morer (Guitarist), Gregory Landes (Drummer), Ben Ruben-Schnirman (Bass Player), and Brandon Sturiale (Keybaord 2).

The production team is comprised of: Vanessa Leuck (Costume Design), Alan C. Edwards (Set Design), Pete Bragg (Lighting Design), Matt Kraus (Sound Design), Kevin Cole (Music Director), Delores Duran-Cefalu (music supervisor) and Aislinn Curry (production stage manager).Casting by Cindy Rush Casting. Press Representative: The Publicity Office (Jeremy Shaffer).

“Mr. Confidential” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at 5:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935942. Runtime: 2 hours plus one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 27, 2014

“Madame Infamy” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“Madame Infamy” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Book by JP Vigliotti
Music and Lyrics by Cardozie Jones & Sean Willis
Directed by Carlos Armesto
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Madame Infamy,” a new musical being presented at the Alice Griffin Theatre as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, is an undertaking of epic proportion. The attempt to capture the lives of two important historical women namely Marie Antoinette and Sally Hemings in parallel, with Madame Tussaud as their liaison and storyteller, complete with singing narrative, is certainly no easy task. This production certainly has the feel of mega musical partly due to the sometimes sweeping, soaring melodies and intricate orchestrations of composers Cardozie Jones and Sean Willis; however the musical sometimes falters when those orchestrations are entwined in the book and lyrics. Too much effort is spent depicting these figures as idealistic humanitarians, (which is actually debatable) who were martyrs and saviors for their cause. The all evident immorality of both these women is tainted with saccharin and they are portrayed as courageous, compassionate leaders, complimented by frivolous lyrics and all too fortuitous scenes. This seems incongruous when being graced with the incredible music and lyrics of “I Dreamed” delivered by Justin Johnston with heartfelt integrity and strong but vulnerable vocal interpretation. Direction by Carlos Armesto is adequate but too lighthearted and at times distracting.

Once again, as is found throughout the festival, there is an amazing cast that is well prepared and up for the challenge. Rachel Stern uses her enormous vocal to narrate and portray Madame Tussaud with wise and perceptive comment. Bashirrah Creswell does her best to overcome the pitfall of a happy slave, as she inhabits the soul of Sally Hemings with genuine emotion delivering a clear sharp vocal tone. Briana Carlson-Goodman as Marie Antoinette tries to peel away the comical façade afforded her, to reach a darker characterization, and sometimes succeeds, but always delivers a strong voice that emanates determination. Kevin Massey gives credibility to Thomas Jefferson, never infecting the character with obligatory kindness, excessive emotion or melancholy moods and conducts his vocals with strength and power. The remaining cast is superb in every aspect of their support and in part make the production as grand as could be in the intimate space. The band is exceptional exhibiting a clear translation of every emotional chord supporting the spirit of the production.

There are awkward scene transitions in the dialogue and in the score that need to be addressed. The first act finale is weak, falling flat when entertaining the thought of a grand ball at Versailles. Perhaps a bit more attention to the depth of the main characters is in order along with the torment, struggle, morality and emotional stress that they endure which truly makes their mark in history. This certainly is an earnest attempt of a major piece of musical theater and hopefully only the first step. This is where the work begins. If you get the chance, do not be shy and take a look - you may be pleasantly surprised.

MADAME INFAMY

“Madame Infamy” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival. Directed by Carlos Armesto and Choreographed by Elisabetta Spuria.

The cast for “Madame Infamy” includes: Briana Carlson-Goodman, Bashirrah Creswell, Justin Johnston, Kevin Massey, Q Smith, Rachel Stern, Jelani Alladin, Elijah Caldwell, Jessica Dyer, Samille Ganges, Jake Levitt, Crystal Sha’nae, Katie McMillen, Joshua Silver Hughes, Xalvador Tin-Bradbury and Bronwyn Whittle. The orchestra includes Music Director, Keith Robinson; Associate Music Director and Keys, Matthew Russell; Guitar, Micah Burgess; Violin, Chiara Fasi; Cello, Eleanor Norton; Bass, Mark Ziegler; Drums, Casual-T.

The production team is comprised of: Shane Ballard (Costume Design), Damon Wiggins (Set Design), Jake Degroot (Lighting Design), Keith Robinson (Sound Design), Amy Baer and Keith Robinson (orchestrations and arrangements) and Paris D. Rhoad(production stage manager).Casting by Mungioli Theatricals. Press Representative: Theatre Beyond Broadway (Malini Singh McDonald).

“Madame Infamyl” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935941. Runtime: 2 hours plus one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 27, 2014

“The Travels” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)

“The Travels” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)
Music by Kelly Hoppenjans
Lyrics by Aaron Ricciardi
Directed by Travis Greisler
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Meet the Travels: Mr. Travel (J. Anthony Crane) ostensibly travels the globe with sidekick (and lover) Warren (Matthew Patrick Quinn) televising his adventures back to the United States. His broadcasts confirm that the USA is the best of the best and all other locations on the globe are the worst of the worst. France, for example, is terrible because of its bidets. Mrs. Travel (Luba Mason) is the June Cleaver-like stay-at-home mom who does her best to do what is right (rightness) and avoid what is wrong (wrongness) – the mantra of this futuristic Orwellian country (overseen by Mr. Ruler) that is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. Teeny Travel rounds out the Travels clan and just cannot seem to behave as her parents would hope. She has so many demerits (items of support) that she would be located to the Mill was she not one of the Travels. This is satire at its best.

“The Travels” – an epic play with songs – is currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival and is an interesting trope (here an extended metaphor) for the loss and recovery of personal freedom. The Travels inhabit a futuristic America where hypocrisy has supplanted honesty, where indifference has conquered unconditional love, and where wrong and right have landed wrong side up. This is a world where even Consuela (Michelle Rios) wife of the President of Ecuador and her son Pinto (Jose Ramos) are no more than foreigners who may not speak their own language and are fit for either working at nail salons or being domestics in the homes of the 1%.

Under Travis Greisler’s tight direction, the ensemble cast excels at character development and making their characters believable enough to care about or relegate to the Mill. In addition to those mentioned, Jamie Bogyo is a delightful Adonis Perfect who buys into the sham of the Travels and is willing to betray anyone to maintain his inner order. And Leslie Alexander shines as Mrs. More the teacher who has only five children’s books to encourage deep thinking in her students.

The music and lyrics are pleasant and the songs move the plot forward with ease. One song, perhaps entitled “Little Lemmings” (no song list was provided), makes an unfortunate and cheap reference to the death of Natalie Wood and might be re-worked. This type of low-brow lyric is unnecessary in a product as sophisticated at “The Travels.”

Ultimately, at the hands of Pinto who notices Mr. Travel seems to be recording his world-wide travels on a nearby sound stage (“Why does Mr. Travel have two shadows?”), a revolution is mounted by Teeny Travel who “is mad as hell and can’t take it anymore.” Her declaration of revolution speech quotes not just Peter Finch in “Network” but a fusillade of quotes from all the movies she has been secretly watching. This is an epic tale where the women take the lead with heroic aplomb.

The premise of “The Travels” is refreshing, original, and solid; however, some of the execution of this delightful premise and some of the staging needs refinement and clarification. Some of the cast sit on the sidelines for long periods of time – perhaps there is a way to integrate them into scenes as “non-present” observers. “The Travels” is definitely worth the look now and, hopefully, in the future.

THE TRAVELS

“The Travels” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Cohen Theatrical. Director: Travis Greisler; Musical Director: Assaf Gleizner; Scenic Design: Christopher Heilman; Costume Design: Mira Veikley; Lighting Design: KJ Hardy; Sound Design: John Emmet O’Brien; Production Stage Manager: Joshua Quinn; Press Representative: Joe Trentacosta/Spinger Associates).

The cast features Leslie Alexander, James Bogyo, J. Anthony Crane, Holland Mariah Grossman, Luba Mason, Matthew Patrick Quinn, Jose Ramos, and Michelle Rios . The band includes Assaf Gleizner (Conductor/Keyboards); Dan Glaude (Acoustic and electric Guitar); Ray Sullivan (Electric Bass); and Sam Wagner (Drums).

“The Travels” concluded performances on Saturday July 26th at 5:00 p.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935950. Runtime: 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 26, 2014

“As We Lie Still” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“As We Lie Still” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Book by Olivia de Guzman Emile
Music and Lyrics by Patrick Emile
Directed by Michael Serrecchia
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“As We Lie Still” a new production being presented by NYMF at the PTC Performance Space attempts the difficult task of creating a musical drama, but falls a little short. One of the foremost problems is the lack of comic relief in an intermission-less ninety minute, heavy handed exploration of a controversial subject matter. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the dramatically dark lighting which is neither mysterious nor ethereal. The characters are too serious almost brooding and are weighted down by the somber music that sometimes lacks melody and rhythm. The book has promise but becomes lost in the overall tone, never achieving an uplifting spirit. Olivia de Guzman Emile who penned the script, comes closest to defining her character of Josephine. Michael A. Robinson finds compassion in Old Avi and fervently acts as liaison between past and present. It appeared difficult for the rest of the cast to provide any emotional content in their characters, existing in a vacuum and not connecting. There is more to this story and to the characters that needs to be told in order for the drama to cast a spell over the audience. Although the music is original and has a flavor of the period it needs to be a bit more varied and possibly even succumb to a touch of standard Broadway fare. The contrived staging is repetitious and awkward and sometimes performed with no intent and the direction manages to create attractive vignettes but lacks in substance. Hopefully this production has given the creative team the opportunity to examine their work and make revisions which might improve upon the present incarnation.

AS WE LIE STILL

As We Lie Still is an Official Selection of the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival and is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival along with Olivia de Guzman Emile and Patrick Emile. Director: Michael Serrecchia; Music Director: Rachel Olsen; Lighting Design: Sarah Abigail Hoke-Brady; Costume Design: Michael Robinson; Set Design: Michael Robinson; Sound Design: Patrick Emile; Stage Manager: Sarah Duc; Publicist: Paul Siebold/Off Off PR. Production photos by Steve Rosen.

The cast includes Olivia de Guzman Emile, George Michael Ferrie Jr., Clinton Greenspan, Erika Larsen, Michael A. Robinson, and Travis Stuebing.

“As We Lie Still” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at 5:00 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25.00. For tickets, further information about the show and about the New York Musical Theatre Festival, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935242. Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 26, 2014

“Propaganda! The Musical” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

Beth Cheryl Tarnow and Dale Sampson - Photo by Russ Rowland
“Propaganda! The Musical” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Taylor Ferrera and Mat Webster
Directed by Nathan Brewer
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Propaganda the Musical” hits some high notes making it an enjoyable new piece of musical theater at the PTC Performance Space and being presented by NYMF. Taylor Ferrera and Matt Webster use all the right ingredients to serve up a delightful parody of musical theater, executed by a cast that has boundless energy and extreme talent. The book is clever and direct with the skill of efficient storytelling but it delivers nothing new to whet an audience’s appetite for exciting creative theater. The cartoon characters are brought to life with just enough silly to entertain, never losing a grasp on reality and without falling into offensive stereotypes. The music is standard pop with some memorable melodies and provides enough rhythm to galvanize choreographer Jason Sparks to create lively production numbers, but once again nothing fresh. The lyrics are simple, sharp although sometimes wordy with unwarranted rhymes and seem to serve the melodies. Avid musical theater goers have an advantage since it is full of inside jokes, shades and shadows of past mega hits and a complete parody of itself.

Dale Sampson does well defining the naïve and aloof character Rookie, almost always hitting his mark in an exhaustive, vocally demanding role. Kenita R. Miller tears up the stage with her comic timing and powerful voice as she conjures up every ounce of evil in Agent X. Beth Cheryl Tarnow manages to win your heart as the forlorn Tary harnessing all of her seductive energy to get her man and delivering a terrific vocal in “Love Him to Death.” One could never prepare themselves for the appearance of the Fierce Ass Girls (living up to their acronym), in an over top performance by Shaun Repetto, Nick Mason and Benjiman Dallas Redding. Kenny Morris as both Grandpa and Harry turns in a solid and steady character. Marc Cornes, Maryjoanna Grisso and Jillian Wallach do a fine job rounding out the ensemble.

This is an earnest attempt but limited in scope and style with a specific appeal. Ms. Ferrera and Mr. Webster have a keen eye and ear and will hopefully have a bright future as they continue to grow. The stumbling blocks which appear in this production only reinforce the need for a broader spectrum and refinement. Catch a performance if you can, it will provide two hours of harmless entertainment and a few good laughs if nothing more.

PROPAGANDA! THE MUSICAL

“Propaganda! The Musical” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival in association with Taylor Ferrera and Matt Webster. Director: Nathan Brewer; Musical Director: Andre Cerullo; Choreographer: Jason Sparks; Set Designer: Ryan Howell; Lighting Designer: Ethan Steimel; Costume Designer: Sky Switser; Stage Manager: Katie Kavett; General Manager: Form Theatricals (Anthony Francavilla & Zachary Laks); Public Relations: Paul Siebold/Off Off PR. Production photos by Russ Rowland.

The cast includes Marc Cornes, MaryJoanna Grisso, Nick Mason, Kenita Miller, Kenny Morris, Benjiman Dallas Redding, Shaun Repito, Dale Sampson, Beth Cheryl Tarnow, and Jillian Wallach.

The band includes Andre Cerullo (Conductor/Piano), Kris Rogers (Bass), and Dominic Lynch (Drums).

“Propaganda! The Musical” continues performances on Saturday July 26th at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday July 27th at 12:00 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25.00. For tickets, further information about the show and about the New York Musical Theatre Festival, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935747. Running time is 2 hours including one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 26, 2014

“Clinton” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)

“Clinton” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)
Book by Michael Hodge and Paul Hodge
Music and Lyrics by Paul Hodge
Directed by Adam Arian
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The smarmy, insipid, and infantile “Clinton” has crawled west from the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe to have a run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. This boring musical about the presidency of Bill Clinton (or might it be about something else – matters not) depends on puerile sight gags, profanity, and a pernicious book by the Hodges. The musical has no purpose, no redeeming quality, and - one would wish – no future.

This critic had the courage to walk out after thirty-five excruciating minutes – just after an actor embarrassed himself performing a song about Kenneth Starr. The team behind this mess of a musical decided to draw on every stereotype ever heaped upon a gay male to characterize Mr. Starr. Why, one asks? Well, hold on, those Hodges have the two male Clintons (yes, there is a Billy and a WJ) ask following the actor’s bump-and-grind number in sheer shorts and “leather” adornment, “Now why did we decide to have Kenneth Starr be gay in this show.” Their answer was my impetus to flee to safety: “Because he’s going to (expletive deleted) us!”

The patron next to me dropped her head and emitted a pained groan. I left – quickly. What happened thereafter – as good as it might have been – could not excuse or redeem the use of the vile and unnecessary homophobic slur.

No mention will be made of the actors trapped in this hapless endeavor. This mess was spawned by Michael Hodge and Paul Hodge and they and director Adam Arian bear the responsibility for the creative blunder called “Clinton.” Obviously there is no need to see this musical now or ever.

CLINTON

“Clinton” completed its run at NYMF on Saturday July 26th at 5:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. For further information about the show and about the New York Musical Theatre Festival, visit nymf.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, July 25, 2014

“Me and Caesar Lee” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at TBG Theatre (Closes Friday August 8, 2014)

“Me and Caesar Lee” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at TBG Theatre (Closes Friday August 8, 2014)
Music, Lyrics, and Book by Pat Holley
Directed by Jonathan Warman
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is an interesting new work being presented at TBG Theatre as part of MITF entitled “Me and Caesar Lee” that has the potential to develop into a successful little musical. Tackling the conflict between old and new music genres that were erupting in the eighties and discovering self worth and aspiration seem to be the focus of the story. The music, lyrics and book by Pat Holley conjure up some memorable moments but sometimes struggle with distraction leading the musical astray down paths of subplot dead ends. Eliminating some musical numbers that do not move the plot forward, shorter versions of the longer songs and changing tempos might afford the effort to create better flow and structure. The book is informative but needs improvement in areas of character support and scene development. The music is solid and varied with Broadway pop, sultry jazz and soft rap (rhythm talk) which employs a slower tempo and perfect diction adding an interesting storytelling element. “Could It Be Love” should become a standard on the jazz circuit and “I Know the Passion” an R&B classic. Lyrics need to be more economical and less repetitive. This comes as constructive criticism along with strong evidence of a sturdy core that conveys truth, passion and musicality.

The cast is uneven but capable and admirably works in earnest to deliver the material. Robyn Payne is superb as Camille, teasing every emotional turn of a complicated character and captivating the audience with her sultry vocals. Ernestine Jackson delights as Lorraine and adds the perfect amount of comic relief. Her rendition of “Could It Be Love” is remarkable. Amanda Holley is a powerhouse belting “Rough Ride to Heaven” and also captures the savage narcissism of Nakima D. with controllable confidence. Hopefully with this first fully realized production the flaws and fumbles become clear and a collaboration can begin to bring this project to the next level. It deserves that attention in order to continue the journey, and realize the dream, sort of paralleling the message of the show.

ME AND CAESAR LEE

“Me and Caesar Lee” is presented by The Midtown International Theatre Festival and G. Gebony Productions. Director: Jonathan Warman. The creative team includes: Akil Noel (stage manager) and Napoleon Gladney (choreographer).

The cast includes Amanda Holley, Ernestine Jackson, Nick Mara, Robyn Payne, Raun Ruffin, Joshua Scarlett, and Sadat Waddy.

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF)'s fifeenth season will include a slate of full-length plays and musicals, as well as Cabaret MITF. The Festival will run from July 14th to August 10th 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre and the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (1st floor), the Jewel Box Theater (4th floor), and the TBG Theatre (Main Stage) all located at 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Tickets are $18.00 to $20.00 and are available at www.midtownfestival.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111.

“Me and Caesar Lee” continues its run at TBG Theatre (see above) on Saturday July 26th at 8:00 p.m.; Thursday July 31st at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday August 6th at 3:00 p.m.; and Friday August 8th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 (see above). The running time is 2 hours with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, July 25, 2014

“The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 23, 2014)

“The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 23, 2014)
Written by Mary Lou Quinlan and Martha Wollner
Directed by Martha Wollner
Performed by Mary Lou Quinlan
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Not all good books – not even best-selling books – translate well to the stage. Sometimes when readers lose the opportunity to “see” the storyline in their mind’s eye, they connect less to the characters and their conflicts. Mary Lou Quinlan’s touching story of her mother’s “God Box” is a loving tribute of a daughter to her mother that most likely reads better than it plays out in a theatre.

The script for “The God Box” is co-written with director Martha Wollner (LAByrinth Theatre) and is a strong and endearing piece of writing. However, as performed by Mary Lou Quinlan, the script becomes too personal and too introspective. Despite Chris Kateff’s splendid projections, it is difficult to get a sense of who Ms. Quinlan’s mother was and how her life and dying can provide opportunities for understanding, accepting, and processing death and dying as a form of healing. Did Mary Lou’s mother simply “let go and let God” all of her life? Did putting something in one of her many “God Boxes” mean she ceased to be proactive? What is it that Ms. Quinlan wants the audience to learn from her story?

As it stands, the story seems to celebrate faith mixed with magical thinking stirred with deep affection and love. Perhaps that is not a bad recipe for a diet of coping with a bereavement that eventuates in the healthy acceptance of the death of a loved one.

It would be interesting fir Mary Lou Quinlan to hold auditions for an actor who can relate her compelling daughter’s story with the distance needed to make it more accessible to the audience and to allow them to connect to their own processes of bereavement and their own methods of understanding how faith intersects with living and dying.

THE GOD BOX, A DAUGHTER’S STORY

“The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” is presented by Just Ask A Woman as part of the 2014 East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 Theaters.

The creative team of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” includes Justin Townsend (production consultant), Kia Rogers (lighting design), Betsy Rhodes (sound design), and Chris Kateff (projection design).

East to Edinburgh began on Tuesday, July 8 for a limited engagement through Sunday, July 27. The performance schedule varies. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets to each EAST TO EDINBURGH show range from $15 - $20 ($10.50 -$14 for 59E59 Members). Tickets can be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Performances of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” closed on Wednesday July 23, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, July 25, 2014

“WikiMusical” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)

Photo by Billy Bustamante
“WikiMusical” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closed on Saturday July 26, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Frank Ceruzzi and Blake J. Harris
Music by Trent Jeffords
Directed by Richard J. Hinds
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Perhaps the new venture entitled “WikiMusical” being presented as part of NYMF at the PTC Performance space needs to find a better venue to reach its target audience and potential. In this project’s present condition, the concept might have looked fine on the page but it does not translate very well onto the stage as an example of good musical theater. The storyline is simple, especially if you are a tech geek, but it has no substance or character delineation. Yes, it can be said it is all in fun but at times when there is an attempt to be comical, there is only gratuitous vulgarity and distasteful jokes that border on being offensive. The music is scattered, changing tempos and styles mid song with no memorable melodies and the lyrics are insipid. The choreography tries hard to keep the action moving and create some needed energy and sometimes succeeds but needs to be a bit more varied.

The cast members do their best, with some tackling several roles, but are not given enough to establish purposeful characters or situations. It is a difficult task to portray invented, cartoonish characters that cohabitate with humans in a cyber space fantasy. This somewhat modern day “Alice in Wonderland” for the computer age simply does not compare, and falls short in every aspect, appearing bland, sophomoric and lackluster. The capable cast works too hard to make the material they are given amount to no more than a very long high school skit and credit should be given to them for endurance. Possibly this might fare better on a computer screen as a virtual reality cyber musical and attract a recognizable audience.

WIKIMUSICAL

“WikiMusical” completed its run at NYMF on Saturday July 26th at 9:00 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. For further information about the show and about the New York Musical Theatre Festival, visit nymf.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, July 24, 2014

“Deployed” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed on Tuesday July 22, 2014)

The Cast of "Deployed" - Photo by Christine DiPasquale
“Deployed” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed on Tuesday July 22, 2014)
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jessy Brouillard
Directed by Mindy Cooper
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Jessy Brouillard’s “Deployed” just completed its American premiere run at the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival. The new musical seems to be in search of an identity and hopefully this NYMF run will give the creators the opportunity to clarify that identity. On the one hand the musical seems to want to be the heartfelt story of Emily Baker (Janice Landry) and Anthony Wilkes (Bryant Martin) and their somewhat turbulent relationship during the Iraq War. On the other hand, the musical wants to tackle the more enduring questions about war and peace, confession and forgiveness, and unresolved anger. These weightier issues are more than this musical can handle despite its two hour length and its musical score.

Several of the show’s sixteen songs are beautifully written and beautifully performed. Among them are: “I Know I’m Home,” Emily and Anthony’s mantra for their love; “For Those Who Follow;” and “The Poem.” Perhaps the most impressive song in the show is sung by Laila (Nina V. Negron), Emily’s interpreter, eventual confidant, and murderer of Anthony. Laila’s “Lullaby” is heartfelt and expresses the authentic matrix of feelings that occur after the death of a loved one. Unfortunately there are a few songs which have no contextual meaning and are as vapid as they come. Brooke’s “Come to Mama” sung by the talented Natalie Toro could easily be cut from the musical. This actor’s well-honed craft – as exhibited elsewhere in her portrayal of Sergeant Brooke Redmond – is completely wasted on this silly song. Unfortunately, Ms. Toro is given no other opportunity to use her gifted voice.

The plot is driven by characters who are not completely defined and whose growth is either questionable or far too accelerated and by conflicts that remain unclear and beg for resolution. For example, after over one act and three-quarters of being a miserable human being, Corporal Emily Baker – after a bit of a chat with Brooke – experiences redemption and release from years of unresolved anger. Psychotherapy should be a quick and easy. None of this is the fault of performer Janice Landry who gives Emily exactly what the creators and director must have asked for.

Emily feels the need to prove herself in battle and requests a transfer from her home base to Iraq where her boyfriend of nine months is serving. Unfortunately, Anthony is on his way home after inadvertently killing a civilian female child (Laila’s daughter Rose). He has had enough of war and does not sign up for redeployment. So they are again separated and that space seems to give Emily’s rage and jealousy and mean-spiritedness a fertile ground in which to fester. When Emily arrives in Iraq she discovers she will be assigned to train women, not men: this throws her into a tizzy and repeated tiffs with her interpreter and trainees. One wonders: what is the point? If you are so intent on proving you can compete with men, simply take the assignment given and make it work: that is what successful people do!

The plot gets complicated (including Anthony’s return to Iraq) with disingenuous banter about “needing to save the world” and “making the world a better place” and “ending cycles of hate, a problem not solved by war.” Add to that mix Mr. Brouillard’s attempt to deal with the LGBT community and serving in the military: this comes up short and is more gratuitous and homophobic than helpful to the cause.

Hopefully the talented Mr. Brouillard and his creative team will continue to develop this new musical. There is no reason why with some careful editing and re-writing, it could have a successful future.

DEPLOYED

“Deployed” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Mount Elise Entertainment. Director: Mindy Cooper.

The cast for “Deployed” includes: Kyle Robert Carter, Hannah Rose Deflumeri, Erik A. Gullberg, john D. Haggerty, Collin L. Howard, Adam Hyndman, Ashanti J’Aria, Anna Lise Jensen, Clayton Jones, Janice Landry, Bryant Martin, Nina V. Negron, and Natalie Toro. The orchestra includes Justin S. Fischer (Musical Director/Keyboard 1), Jack Morer (Guitarist), Gregory Landes (Drummer), Ben Ruben-Schnirman (Bass Player), and Brandon Sturiale (Keybaord 2).

The production team is comprised of: Frances Nelson McSherry (costume design), David Lee Cuthbert (lighting/projection design), Haddon Kime and Rick Lombardo (sound design), Anna Ebbeson (musical director), Delores Duran-Cefalu (music supervisor) and Matthew Stern (production manager). Press Representative: Richard Hillman. Production photos by Christine DiPasquale.

“Deployed” concluded performances on Tuesday July 22nd at 5:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. For more information on the show or the Festival, visit nymf.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, July 24, 2014

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes Sunday August 24)

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes Sunday August 24)
Based on the Book “The Children of Willesden Lane” by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
Adapted and Directed by Hershey Felder
With Mona Golabek
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

"Through the way where hope is guiding,/Hark, what peaceful music rings;/Where the flock, in Thee confiding,/Drink of joy from deathless springs." – “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Words by Martin Janus)

Mona Golabek’s “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” is an extraordinary Master Class in the resilience and healing of memory, the power of storytelling, and the enduring mystery of the art of the piano and its impressive repertoire. Ms. Golabek shares the inspiring story of her mother Lisa Jura using the rhetorical devices of pathos, ethos, and logos. The audience member feels for Lisa Jura from her childhood through adulthood: the audience member identifies with the marginalization Lisa experienced: the audience member understands it is not reasonable to commit genocide.

Under Hershey Felder’s exacting and sumptuous direction, Ms. Golabek portrays all of the characters in her mother’s remarkable story. She gives each character a unique identity and an authentic presence. The story has broad appeal as it traces Lisa Jura’s difficult journey from war ravaged Vienna to the United States where she marries the French freedom fighter from the Howard Hotel in London’s West End. Ms. Golabek’s remarkable skill at telling the story of her mother’s journey is matched only by her keyboard skills. She narrates and performs all or a selection from fourteen songs.

As she plays through Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata (op. 27, no. 2), Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and “Moonlight” from “Suite bergamasque,” Chopin’s “Nocturne in B-Flat Major” (op. 9, no. 1), and Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C-Sharp Minor” (op. 3, no. 2), Mona Golabek shares the inspiring and often turbulent history of her mother’s experiences in Nazi-era Vienna and beyond. She has the remarkable ability to come in on cue to a recorded orchestra track, speak while playing, and re-enter a piece without hesitation or error.

And Ms. Golabek’s playing of the Grieg “Piano Concerto in A Minor” (op. 18, third movement) as a bonus “encore” is spellbinding and one of the finest performances of this challenging Concerto this critic has witnessed. Mona Golabek clearly remembers the advice her grandmother gave her mother Lisa when she returned from Professor Isellis’s studio in Vienna in 1938: “The secret of a beautiful chord is that the notes must never be played with equal force – the secret is the layers – the layers of beautiful sound.” Indeed, Mona Gloabek’s performance is a series of beautiful chords with layers of beautiful sound which resonates “through the way where hope is guiding."

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” raises a series of rich and enduring question, including: why do human beings have such difficulty understanding that human rights are universal and not matters of entitlement by gender, race, or cultural ties; why do children have to suffer as the result of the grievous errors made by adults; and why cannot humankind live in peace and harmony? Ms. Golabek addresses these and other rich questions without presumption, with pure honesty, and with a welcoming and redemptive spirit.

Given the overwhelming audience interest in this first 5A Season offering at 59E59 it would be prudent to purchase tickets to this and all future offerings. 59E59 has made a fortuitous decision to create this new season of five plays. As part of the flock who witnessed Mona Golabek fire up this season, this critic drank of joy “from deathless springs.”

THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” is presented by 59E59 Theaters, the Geffen Playhouse in association with Hershey Felder, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

The concert grand piano used during the show is provided by Steinway & Sons.

The design team includes Trevor Hay and Hershey Felder (scenic design); Christopher Rynne (lighting design); Jaclyn Maduff (costume design); Erik Carstensen (sound design); and Andrew Wilder and Greg Sowizdrzal (projection design). Production photos are by Carol Resegg.

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” began performances on Friday, July 11 for a limited engagement through Sunday, August 24. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single tickets are $70.00 ($49.00 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“The Gig” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closed on Monday July 21, 2014)

The Cast of "The Gig" - Photo by Russ Rowland
“The Gig” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closed on Monday July 21, 2014)
Based on the Motion Picture “The Gig” by Frank D. Gilroy
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen
Directed by Igor Goldin
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The recent incarnation of “The Gig,” a musical presented by NYMF and performed by an outstanding cast of Broadway vets, leads one to think that it cannot get any better than this - except of course with the addition of lavish sets and opulent costumes. Unfortunately, there will be no need for the latter since this rendition performed on a bare stage reveals all the blemishes and imperfections that impair the product from being a successful musical. Most evident is the book which is predictable, scattered and with no real in-depth characterization, which in this case was left up to the actors who did a remarkable job with what they had to work with. If the audience does not emotionally connect to the characters, then they do not care what happens to them, no matter how well they sing, dance or deliver a joke. What the playwright and composer Douglas J. Cohen does provide are some nice melodic tunes and crafty lyrics that support certain situations.

The storyline is simple. It is NYC in 1975 and friends and amateur musicians with a dream get their first gig at a Catskill resort that ends up not being exactly what they imagined. The expected plot twists and turns highlighting new romance, disappointment, heartbreak, failure, and flat tires - you get the picture. It all starts feeling old and tired, especially when treated to some Borscht Belt jokes by the owner of the resort. Since the musical has been kicking around for several years and is already published, I would not expect too much to change. It is fine as a regional theater piece and will certainly entertain an audience, but once you leave the theater you forget about it and the characters and with the high at-risk stakes in the theater world that just is not enough.

THE GIG

“The Gig” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and The Gig at NYMF, LLC. Director: Igor Goldin; Music Director: Jonathan Smith; Choreographer: Keith Andrews; Scenic Design: Josh Zangen; Costume Design: Ryan J. Moller; Lighting Design: Cory Pattak; Sound Design: John Emmett O’Brien; Stage Manager: Naomi Anhorn; Publicity: Sam Mattingly; and Casting by Michael Cassara. Production photos by Russ Rowland.

The cast includes Stephen Berger, Larry Cahn, Doug Eskew, Kate Fahrner, Nick Gaswirth, Michael Minarik, Kevin Pariseau, Dee Roscioli, Steve Routman, Bruce Sabath, and Donna Vivino. The band members include Jonathan Smith (Keys); Mark Thrasher (Woodwinds); Ray Kilday (Bass); and Joe Mowatt (Drums).

“The Gig” completed its run at NYMF on Monday July 21st at 5:30 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. For further information about the show and about the New York Musical Theatre Festival, visit nymf.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Oprahfication” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closed on Thursday July 24, 2014)

Rachel Dunham as Oprah Winfrey - Photo by Ange Leggas
“Oprahfication” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closed on Thursday July 24, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Rachel Dunham
Music by Shanon D. Whitelock
Directed by Dirk Hoult
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Oprahfication (ˌəʊprəfɪˈkeɪʃən) noun (informal) - the perceived increase in people’s desire to discuss their emotions or personal problems, attributed to the influence of confessional television programmes. Word origin: from Oprah (Winfrey) (born 1954), US actress and pioneer of this genre. – From “Collins English Dictionary”

What happens when a powerful actor with an equally powerful voice portrays one of America’s most powerful (and wealthiest) women ever? Let’s call it “Oprahfication!” Currently running at the New York Musical Festival, “Oprahfication” highlights Oprah Winfrey’s 25th Anniversary Episode through the eyes and heart of actor and singer Rachel Dunham. Ms. Dunham – who watched Oprah live and recorded in the 20th Anniversary DVD Collection - celebrates the years Oprah dominated daytime television and presents the “ultimate interview.”

Under Dirk Hoult’s careful direction and supported by Shanon D. Whitelock’s music, Rachel Dunham pays tribute to all that was, is, and ever shall be ‘Oprah’ in fourteen show-stopping songs inspired by Gospel, Motown, doo-wop, rock ballads, love ballads, and lullabies. Through parody, satire, and humor, Ms. Dunham’s songs pay tribute to Oprah Winfrey: each is a well-penned love letter. “All Things Are Possible,” “Dreams Come True,” “I’m Fine,” “Fat, Black, and Woman,” and “Hand in Hand” are particularly effective. And the “Network Sequence” is sheer, manic, over-the-top joy. Ms. Dunham has a powerhouse of a voice with a full range of vocals which she controls with precision and care.

Ms. Dunham tackles Oprah’s legacy leaving – as does Oprah herself – no stone unturned. When her scheduled interviewee fails to show up, Ms. Dunham has Opera do the obvious but risky alternative: she interviews herself! The “Episode” is filled with affirmations, audience interaction, rumor-control about the Oprah, Stedman Graham and Gayle King Triangle, and references to stellar guests and uber-stellar giveaways. Ms. Dunham’s book and lyrics exhibit her uncanny ability to distance herself from the icon she portrays while providing perspective, humor, and sensitivity toward her subject of interest. In a remarkable feat of acting and singing, Rachel Dunham shows the deepest affection for the Queen of daytime television.

I waited around a bit after the performance to get Oprah’s - I mean Rachel’s - autograph but like any megastar she had slipped out the back entrance. I wonder if it was into a stretch limousine.

OPRAHFICATION

“Oprahfication” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Adam Lowe Theatrical. Director: Dirk Hoult; Music Director: Shanon D. Whitelock¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬; Lighting Design: Alex Berlage and Ross Graham; Sound Design: Sarah J. Trevorrow; Production Stage Manager: Kelly Caitlin Sullivan; Press Representative: JT-PR (Joe Trantacosta). Production photos by Ange Leggas of 3FatesMedia .

The cast features Rachel Dunham as Oprah and Dirk Hoult as the off-stage voice. The band includes Shannon D. Whitelock (Keyboard 1); Yuval Semo (Keyboard 2); Steve Dawson (Lead Guitar); Daniel Asher (Bass Guitar); and Keith Abrams (Drums).

“Oprahfication” concluded performances on Thursday July 24th at 9:00 p.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935948 . Runtime: 115 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Der Gelbe Stern” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (Closes on Monday July 21. 2014)

“Der Gelbe Stern” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Laurie Beechman Theatre (Closes on Monday July 21. 2014)
Created by Alexis Fishman
Written by James Millar and Alexis Fishman
Featuring Alexis Fishman and Heath Saunders
Directed by Sharone Halevy
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The longer humankind “treads the boards” of planet Earth, the more connected the general population of the fragile globe is to what Alexis Fishman calls the unfathomable trauma and tragedy of European Jewry during the Second World War. Alexis Fishman has created a cabaret within a play for the New York Musical Theatre Festival that in narration and song pays tribute to Erika Stern the fictional Jewish chanteuse who is living and performing in pre-war Berlin as the Nazis rise to power. Erika Stern’s bawdy cabaret show with her accompanist Otto (Heath Saunders) is shuttered by the Nazis 1n 1933 because she was a Jew who sang songs with questionable content.

Using those lyrics and the narration (the patter) between and during the songs, Ms. Fishman successfully manages to encapsulate the horrors of the Nazi rise to power during the Weimar Republic. The Nazi reimagining of Club Der Gelbe Stern as The White Elk parallels the Nazi reimagining of an inclusive Germany (and all of Europe) as a superior Aryan race that excludes Jews and members of the LGBT community (among others) and plans meticulously for their extinction and for the extinction or confiscation of their art.

Erika’s life story is counterpointed by songs of the era (with one exception) and the lyrics serve as much as a retelling of the chanteuse’s life as her life’s story seems the perfect provenance of the lyrics. The story of her first lover who decides to side with the Nazis, for example, counterpoints well “I’ve Been In Love Before (Friedrich Hollander/Frank Loesser). The heart wrenching story of her father in opposition to “The Jews Are To Blame” (Music by Georges Bizet) is haunting.

For many denizens of Planet Earth, “the marginalized, the profligates,” any one of their varied “performances” might be their last. “Der Gelbe Stern” is a powerful reminder “not to make arbitrary distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The lives of European Jewry were so much like ours today … until they weren’t.”

The live portion of the character Erika Stern’s performance closes with her farewell song “If You Go Away, Little Boy” a brilliant conflation of “If You Go Away” (Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen) and “Go Away, Little Girl (Gerry Goffin and Carole King). Ms. Fishman’s rendition of these two songs – and her interpretations of all the play’s songs – is as mesmerizing as it is cathartic. This final song (Erika leaves the stage) segues into Otto listening to a recording of “I Don’t Know Who I Belong To” (Friedrich Hollander/Robert Liebmann and Friedrich Hollander) on the radio, believing it might be the recorded voice of Erika Stern whom he never sees after the Club was shuttered. The play closes with the song taking center stage.

“Der Gelbe Stern” needs to be seen before it closes on July 21st and hopefully in a production somewhere soon thereafter.

DER GELBE STERN

“Der Gelbe Stern” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Three Fish Productions. Creator: Alexis Fishman; Writers: James Millar and Alexis Fishman; Director: Sharone Halevy; Original Musical Direction: Michael Lavine; Orchestrations: John Baxindine; Set and Lighting Designer: David Goldstein; General Manager/Line Producer: Paradox Productions/Kristen Luciani & Jason Vanderwoude; Publicist: Paul Siebold/Off Off PR. Production photos by Hunter Canning.

The Band: Giuseppe Fusco and Steve Millhouse.

“Der Gelbe Stern” continues performances on Monday July 21st at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935994. Runtime: 1 hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, July 21, 2014

“Fortune” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre (Closes Saturday August 2, 2014)

“Fortune” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre (Closes Saturday August 2, 2014)
Written by George Cameron Grant
Directed by Joy Kelly
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

When someone escapes from a life-threatening event and makes it to safety, that individual might feel that fortune has smiled on him or her. When an entrepreneur starts up a small business with no capital and the business grows to be profitable, that individual might believe she or he has been visited by good fortune. Not so for Miss Rose Fortune (Elizabeth Flax) who traveling as a child from slavery in Pennsylvania and Virginia achieves both and knows exactly how she succeeded: she was blessed by the very hand of God. “Fortune,” currently running at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in NYC, chronicles Miss Rose’s life story with all the ethos and pathos needed.

Rose’s Daddy (Michael Andrews) sacrifices his life as a member of King George III’s “Ethiopian Regiment” in the American Revolutionary War. Wounded in the battle that ironically gives America its freedom from the British Throne, Rose’s Daddy realizes he served on the wrong side and despite his induction with other black loyalists into the “King George County Register of Free Negroes” he is now nothing more than a runaway slave. He leads his ten-year-old daughter Rose (Olivia Gordon) and her Mama (Shannon Harris) to safety in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, as part of the Black Loyalist migration.

Although the “heat” of his leg wound ends his life, Rose’s Daddy’s initiative and foresight lands his daughter Rose and his wife in a safe place to begin a new life. Playwright George Cameron Grant’s script is the heartwarming story of Rose’s new beginnings as a stranger in a strange land. Despite a shaky beginning with distracting lighting mis-cues, the occasional dark stage, and the stage work lights remaining on for the first fifteen minutes of the performance (this was the first performance of the five), the cast found its footing and as a skilled ensemble cast successfully recounted Rose Fortune’s story with passion and intensity.

This tale is narrated by the “present day” Rose Fortune and as she relates the details of her epic journey, members of the cast enter and exit in a series of flashbacks to dramatize the narration. Elizabeth Flax is a powerful presence whose storytelling craft drives the performance from beginning to end. She also has a strong singing voice and an arsenal of acting skills to make Rose’s story believable and ring with authenticity.

Despite having to struggle with the disruptive lighting issues, the cast is uniformly competent. Christopher Michael Bauer is extraordinary as the Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia resident who welcomes Rose (after considerable coaxing from the young Rose (Kali Turner) and gives her the opportunity to found her Rose Fortune Carting Company. Tomike Lee Ogugua is a commanding persona as Jonah who arrives later in the migration of slaves to Nova Scotia and delivers a believable performance as Rose’s love interest and husband.

“Fortune” is the powerful testament to the ability of the individual to overcome seemingly impossible odds to achieve success. The play is also a testament to the importance of family, faith, and the amazing resilience of the human spirit to overcome.

FORTUNE

“Fortune” is presented by The Rose Fortune Company (Robyn Watson, Executive Producer) in association with T Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, as part of the Black Loyalist migration he Midtown International Theatre Festival. Director: Joy Kelly. The creative team includes: Zach Pizza (Lighting and Sound Design); Ali Turns (Costume Design); and Rositsa Timm (Stage Manager). Publicist: Bao Nguyen.

The cast includes Michael Andrews, Christopher Michael Bauer, Dean Conroy, Elizabeth Flaz, Olivia Gordon, Shannon Harris, Kristoffer Infante, Tomke Lee Ogugua, and Kaili Turner.

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF)'s fifeenth season will include a slate of full-length plays and musicals, as well as Cabaret MITF. The Festival will run from July 14th to August 10th 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre and the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (1st floor), the Jewel Box Theater (4th floor), and the TBG Theatre (Main Stage) all located at 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Tickets are $18.00 to $20.00 and are available at www.midtownfestival.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111.

“Fortune” continues its run at The June Havoc Theatre (see above) on Wednesday July 23rd at 8:00 p.m.; Friday July 25th at 6:00 p.m.; Saturday July 26th at 1:00 p.m.; and Saturday August 2nd at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 (see above). The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, July 21, 2014

“Julia & Buddy” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Jewel Box Theatre (Closes Saturday August 2, 2014)

Claire Warden and Matthew DeCapua - Photo by Linda Jaquez
“Julia & Buddy” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Jewel Box Theatre (Closes Saturday August 2, 2014)
Written and Directed by N. G. McClernan
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The bare stage at the Jewel Box Theatre, one of the venues for the Midtown International Theatre Festival, does not deter the new play “Julia & Buddy from instantly making it a playground for wit, intellect, and heartfelt affection as two actors inhabit the stage and begin their ninety minute banter. Claire Warden playing Julia and Buddy inhabited by Matthew DeCapua seem to capture and understand the age old quip that “opposites attract” and give evidence of proof to this notion with exceptional clarity. The panic ridden philosopher and the forgetful maintenance man are the perfect example of the odd couple: each examines her or his actions carefully, peeling away shallow facades and gently exposing their sensitive cores. Both actors manage to appear real and in control and never waver from an honest and truthful performance. Ms. Warden is strong, mindful and focused, yet frail, vulnerable and distracted and always tempts the audience to wonder about her path and intent - always with a distinct emotional investment. Mr. DeCapua is a pleasure to watch as he morphs into impressions of unseen pertinent characters. He produces a character study which is complex, precise, honest and filled with integrity, resulting in a sensitive portrait of a hopeful soul with fractured dreams and the will to survive. They are generous actors providing for each other and allowing the audience to enter their intimate world, always searching for creative ways to establish an emotional connection.

The writing by N.G. McClernan is quick, intelligent, purposeful and entertaining, never wasting words. Her script provides fuel for the actors allowing them to cruise at full speed never faltering or second guessing their commitment. As director, she knows her voice and characters well, taking all opportunities to squeeze every morsel of emotional energy from each verbal encounter. It would be worth the while to treat yourself to this little gem and witness some fresh, new and interesting New York theatre.

JULIA & BUDDY

“Julia & Buddy” is presented by Mergatroyd Productions in association with The Midtown International Theatre Festival. Director: N. G. McClernan. The creative team includes: Katie Kavett (Stage Manager); Renee Cole (Shopenhauer Costume Creator). Publicist: Tony White/Double Down Productions and Jay Michaels at WrightGroupNY Communications.

The cast includes Matthew DeCapua (Buddy) and Claire Warden (Julia).

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF)'s fifeenth season will include a slate of full-length plays and musicals, as well as Cabaret MITF. The Festival will run from July 14th to August 10th 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre and the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (1st floor), the Jewel Box Theater (4th floor), and the TBG Theatre (Main Stage) all located at 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Tickets are $18.00 to $20.00 and are available at www.midtownfestival.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111.

“Julia & Buddy” continues its run at the Jewel Box Theater (see above) on Sunday July 27th at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday August 2nd at 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 (see above). The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 20, 2014

“The Qualification of Douglas Evans” at Walkerspace (Closes Saturday August 9, 2014)

Photo by Russ Rowland
“The Qualification of Douglas Evans” at Walkerspace (Closes Saturday August 9, 2014)
Written by Derek Ahonen
Directed by James Kautz
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Douglas Evans (Derek Ahonen) is the perfect anti-hero in his anti-epic “The Qualification of Douglas Evans” currently running in repertory with “Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace in New York City. This protagonist struggles with his addiction to alcohol as the codependent son of an alcoholic father (Penny Bittone) and completely codependent mother (Barbara Weetman). The audience experiences this playwright want-to-be fall into addiction and reenter the addictive cycle in an ever circling gyre.

Douglas Evans’s journey is complex and although Mr. Ahonen’s writing and acting attempt to capture the tortured soul of an alcoholic, the script depends too heavily on successive flashbacks and concurrent action (past and present on stage at the same time). The audience understands that anyone Douglas meets or loves or harms (Jessica, Holly, Kimmy, Cara, or Robin) will in essence be his mother and father. Delusional behavior, projection, transference, and identification are all part of the matrix of addictive behavior. As playwright, Mr. Ahonen can trust the audience to understand this quickly. The audience wants a more substantive Douglas Evans and a clearer understanding of his conflicts and what would truly be required to ‘qualify’ him.

As it stands, those undefined conflicts paired with a less than resolved conflict drive a series of repetitive plots that begin to wear thin. If only the play clearly reflected Robin’s (Agatha Nowicki) weltanschauung which she summarizes in a conversation with Douglas:

ROBIN: No. You have to remember. We’re animals. Pure, innocent and full of love. But we’re also susceptible to evil influences. You know… Like mice in labs? When they keep going for
Something that’s bad for them cause they’re prisoners of their bodies? That’s us. We’re vulnerable too and we have to spend our lives rising above our spiritual, emotional, and physical weaknesses. But it’s completely okay to fail. Just gotta get back on that horse and keep pushing for greatness.

“The Qualification of Douglas Evans” is overwrought and overlong. Addiction is a serious and debilitating illness: the road to recovery is long and (like Odysseus’ path to Penelope) fraught with setbacks, temptations, blackouts, hallucinations, anger, and disappointment. The stage attempt to address the cycles of addiction, however, does not have to match the length of recovery. There is a solid and powerful ninety minutes in “The Qualification of Douglas Evans” and Mr. Ahonen and Mr. Kautz are more than capable of refashioning the play to a reasonable length without sacrificing any of the theatrical conventions they have consistently managed with excellence.

It is difficult for a playwright to cast himself as the protagonist in his own play (though, obviously, that’s Douglas Evans’s primary conflict) and equally difficult for the Founder and Artistic Director to direct the Founder and Associate Artistic Director: who provides the unbiased perspective and criticism needed? It would be interesting for this team to cast a new Douglas Evans and Mr. Ahonen and Mr. Kautz co-direct a ninety-minute version of “The Qualification of Douglas Evans.” This is just an unsolicited thought from a critic who passionately believes in the important work of the Amoralists.

THE QUALIFICATION OF DOUGLAS EVANS

The Amoralists present “The Gyre” a two play repertory exploring humankind’s vicious cycles. “The Qualification of Douglas Evans” is written by Derek Ahonen and Directed by James Kautz.

The cast for The Qualification of Douglas Evans includes Derek Ahonen, Penny Bittone, Mandy Nicole Moore, Agatha Nowicki, Samantha Strelitz, Kelley Swindall and Barbara Weetman.

The creative team includes David Harwell (Set Design), Brad Peterson (Lighting Design), Lux Haac (Costume Design), Phil Carluzzo (Sound Design), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Special Effects), Francine Volpe (Dramaturg) and Alfred Schatz (Assistant Director). The production team includes Lico Whitfield (Producer), Form Theatricals (General Management), Jeremy Pape (Production Manager) and Jane Davis (Stage Manager). Production Photos are by Russ Rowland.

Performances are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street in NYC (between Broadway and Church). The schedule varies - for exact days and times go to http://www.TheAmoralists.com.

Tickets are $40.00 and $20.00 for students and can be purchased online at http://www.TheAmoralists.com. For more info visit http://www.TheAmoralists.com, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/TheAmoralists and follow on Twitter at @TheAmoralists.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 19, 2014

“The Snow Queen” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closed on Sunday July 20, 2014)

“The Snow Queen” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014)
Book by Kirsten Brandt and Rick Lombardo
Music by Haddon Kime (with Additional Music by Rick Lombardo)
Lyrics by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime, and Rick Lombardo
Directed by Rick Lombardo
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The Snow Queen,” the new musical being presented as part of NYMF at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, is a new twist on the age old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Coming on the heels of a recent reinvented animated movie based on the same story, this reincarnation takes a completely different path. Although the musical has a strong Brechtian epic theatre influence and a more modern approach to the fable - where some of the cast are incorporated into the action playing instruments, providing vocals, and playing multiple characters clad in exquisite bohemian influenced costumes - at times it is a bit unclear what the production wants to be. It certainly is dark enough to captivate adults along with appealing and seductive staging for the teenage crowd and finally a storyline that would be all too familiar with children. The problem lies where there is not enough focus on any of the aforementioned to sustain any age group’s interest for the long two hours and thirty minute production. Focus shifts inadvertently, musical numbers are repetitively long and intent becomes shallow which all affect the pacing. Perhaps with some reconstruction and clearer horizon this interpretation of the famed tale will reemerge in the near future.

All that said this critic must take the opportunity to applaud the cast for their committed and exuberant performance. Eryn Murman and John Michael Presney create the perfect match as Gerta and Kai respectively, each in great vocal form with well defined characterizations. Jane Pfitsch is astonishing as The Snow Queen, eloquently evil, piercing the audience with her strong vocals and mean violin. Jason Hite gives an incredible performance in multiple roles but shines as the Crow with fine and fun vocals, perfect diction and sincere emotional investment. The entire cast shines as they create illusion and understand the importance of ensemble work in order to achieve success in their attempt to bring this tale to the stage.

THE SNOW QUEEN

“The Snow Queen” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival. Director: Rick Lombardo.

The cast for The Snow Queen is: Lauren Cipoletti (Rose/Princess/Robber Girl), Janice Isabelle Engelgau (Flower/Ensemble), Jason Hite (The Crow/Ensemble), Summer C. Latimer (Flower/Ensemble), Eryn Murman (Gerda), Lee Ann Payne (Co-Choreographer/Ensemble), Jane Pfitsch (The Snow Queen), John Michael Presney (Kai), and Reggie D. White (Troll/Reindeer).

The production team is comprised of: Frances Nelson McSherry (costume design), David Lee Cuthbert (lighting/projection design), Haddon Kime and Rick Lombardo (sound design), Anna Ebbeson (musical director), Delores Duran-Cefalu (music supervisor) and Matthew Stern (production manager). Press Representative: Richard Hillman.

“The Snow Queen” continues performances on Sunday July 20th at 8:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935939. Runtime: 2 hours and 5 minutes plus one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 19, 2014

“Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace (Closes on Saturday August 9, 2014)

Mark Roberts and Matthew Pilieci - Photo by Russ Rowland
“Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace (Closes on Saturday August 9, 2014)
Written by Mark Roberts
Directed by Jay Stull
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

An Ode (of sorts) to “Enter at Forest Lawn”

It is perhaps all those wrong turns into Forest Lawn (and other gateways to divided eternal futures) that seem to get us and Jessica (Sarah Lemp) into trouble. We start out all right (ostensibly). Wounded and be-hooked Clinton (Matthew Pilieci) writes in his journal that we are all “pretty much the same” with similar needs, hopes, and problems. But then we get caught up in Jabberwokian machinations and the world begins to tilt a bit, spin uncontrollably, fall out of focus, and ultimately, as Lewis Carroll observes, non-sense reigns: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Like embattled attorney Stanley (David Lanson) who does his best to cover up sitcom star Danny’s delving into debauchery and delusion, we fall ill; and like aforementioned Jessica we are defiled and demoralized by the vicissitudes of life; and like protagonist Jack (Mark Roberts) and his arch-nemesis (or doppelganger) Marla (Anna Stromberg) we get caught up in the culture of competition and success and destroy others before we self-destruct. We call it “getting where we are through talent, hard work, and perseverance” but we secretly know someone has to perish in the fusillade of grenades we have to throw in order to protect our borders and release our rage.

Mark Roberts’s “Enter at Forest Lawn” is having its world premiere as part of the Amoralists's two-play repertory “Gyre” currently running at Walkerspace in New York City. Mr. Roberts also serves as the play’s protagonist Jack who holds forth with a draconian vengeance in his netherworld-like executive office as he attempts to balance success with responsibility and champion fantasy over reality at whatever the cost. Jack is the holy officiate at his own brand of Eucharist behind and around his altar which alternately serves as a table of blessing and an altar of sacrifice. Eventually un-done by Marla’s nephew Clinton in a hook-bashing battle, Jack remains on the Amoralists’s list of stunning morally ambiguous characters.

Under Jay Stull’s convincing and animated direction, the ensemble cast of “Enter at Forest Lawn” brilliantly teases the super ego of the audience with a delicious diet of challenges to its conscience-cluttered domain. After assuming Clinton lost his hand in the Iraq/Iran Wars (His aunt Marla is not sure which) during an attempt to rescue a civilian child, the audience learns later that Clinton lost his hand by holding on too long to one of the grenades he launched into a crowd of civilians. But then again, he was a troubled and abused child and teenager – so who’s to blame? Each cast member carves a believable character out of Mark Roberts’s script. And you either care about them or you do not. You just need to know you are a hair’s breadth away from being or becoming any one of them at any given time.

Catherine Correa’s choreography counterpoints Mr. Stull’s already dynamic direction and imitates the synapse-smashing thoughts swirling in the characters’ brains. David Harwell’s set is miraculously overwhelming as the audience tries to decide if it is an office suite, a worship space, a cemetery chapel, a glimpse of the underworld, or perhaps an illusion. And Jeanne Travis’s sound design will keep you looking under your bed before retiring for some time to come.

Everything is just right in Mark Robert’s brilliant script – or is it just wrong? If you think you know right from wrong, good from evil and have not yet experienced William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” other than in his iconic poem, enter Jack’s world for seventy blessed minutes and think again:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

How is that for a dose of reality? “Enter at Forest Lawn” is brilliant on all counts and needs to be seen before August 9, 2014. Then again, there is no reason it might not have a life beyond its current Walkerspace run.

ENTER AT FOREST LAWN

The Amoralists present “The Gyre” a two play repertory exploring humankind’s vicious cycles. “Enter at Forest Lawn” is written by Mark Roberts and Directed by Jay Stull.

The cast for Enter at Forest Lawn includes David Lanson, Sarah Lemp, Matthew Pilieci, Mark Roberts and Anna Stromberg.

The creative team includes David Harwell (Set Design), Brad Peterson (Lighting Design), Lux Haac (Costume Design), Jeanne Travis (Sound Design), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Special Effects) and Vanessa Vache (Assistant Director). The production team includes Lico Whitfield (Producer), Form Theatricals (General Management), Jeremy Pape (Production Manager) and Judy Merrick (Stage Manager). Production photos are by Russ Rowland.

Performances are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street in NYC (between Broadway and Church). The schedule varies - for exact days and times go to http://www.TheAmoralists.com.

Tickets are $40.00 and $20.00 for students and can be purchased online at http://www.TheAmoralists.com. For more info visit http://www.TheAmoralists.com, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/TheAmoralists and follow on Twitter at @TheAmoralists.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, July 18, 2014

“The Long Shrift” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

Scott Haze and Allie Gallerani - Photo by Joan Marcus
“The Long Shrift” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Written by Robert Boswell
Directed by James Franco
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Playwright Robert Boswell has determined to tackle difficult themes in his new “The Long Shrift” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater: when a crime is committed, who is the innocent and who is the guilty? Does the justice system work? What are the long term effects on the accused and the victimized?

At the age of eighteen, Richard (Scott Haze) attends a party where he sees classmate Beth (Ahna O’Reilly) who, he believes, is showing an interest in him personally and sexually. Beth invites him to a bedroom where Richard attests Beth seduces him. Beth has been drinking and admits to making advances toward Richard. However, at some point during the tryst, Beth claims she said “No” and asked Richard to stop. After telling her boyfriend who is waiting in a car outside, he strikes her, calls the police, and Richard is charged with rape, convicted of that crime, and sentenced for a ten year term in the most violent prison in Texas.

The balance of the plot is just as complicated. Beth recants her charges; Richard is released from prison after five years and returns to his family’s new home (after an extended stay in Florida) where they have relocated after losing their original home. Beth decides to visit Richard there to make amends for her accusation and to get an apology from Richard. This unlikely situation drives the remainder of the plot and the ending of the play is about as odd as one could imagine. To resolve their differences, Beth suggests:

BETH: But ... We could meet every day. At dinner, let’s say. For however long it takes -- a year, three years, five years -- until we’re okay. I’m not talking about sex or sharing a house, but finding a way out together. There has to be some way out.

Prior to the ending there is the requisite dream sequence with Richard’s father and dead mother Sarah (Ally Sheedy) and the flashback of the injuring of a raccoon on the highway which Richard’s (then alive) mother bludgeons to death with a tire iron. There is also a high school reunion that (in parallel fashion) Beth seduces Richard to attend which further intensifies the moral ambiguity of these characters and their actions.

The ensemble cast seems uncomfortable on stage and at times it is difficult to hear them. Director James Franco does not seem to have given the cast the direction they need to enliven Mr. Boswell’s script with authentic energy and commitment. But Mr. Boswell needs to take some responsibility for this lackluster performance: he has not created characters the audience can believe in and has created an unnecessarily convoluted plot. This makes is difficult for the actors (especially actors unfamiliar with the stage) to create authentic characters and deliver believable performances.

Beth tracks Richard down after his release and finds him in Florida. Later, she has a conversation with Richard’s father Henry (Brian Lally) about her guilt and the meaning of “Long Shrift” the name of Richard’s motel in Florida:

BETH: I could see him from my window. I kept wondering, How much harm have I done?
[Then there is a conversation about ‘long shrift’ and how it differs from ‘short shrift.’]
BETH: What would that make the long shrift?
HENRY: I guess it’d be like...when the things that used to make you happy become the opposite, become the things that break your heart.
BETH: Can it work the other way around?
HENRY: What do you mean?
BETH: Can the things that break your heart become the things that save you?

Unfortunately, Mr. Boswell has not answered these important enduring questions in “The Long Shrift.” And the current production does not supply the audience enough incentive to grapple with those questions on their own. The play has a relatively long run. To echo Beth’s sentiment, perhaps there is “some way out” of the production’s current ennui before August 23rd.

THE LONG SHRIFT

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Artistic Director David Van Asselt and Managing Director Brian Long present the world premiere of “The Long Shrift,” written by Robert Boswell and directed by James Franco. The new play opened on July 13th, 2014 and closes on August 23rd.

The cast includes Allie Gallerani, Scott Haze, Brian Lally, Ahna O'Reilly, and Ally Sheedy.

Set design for “The Long Shrift” is by Andromache Chalfant; costume design is by Jessica Pabst; lighting design is by Burke Brown; and sound design is by Bart Fasbender. Production photos are by Joan Marcus.

“The Long Shrift” plays Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place in New York City. Individual tickets for “The Long Shrift” can be purchased at www.rattlestick.org or by calling OvationTix at 866.811.4111. Individual tickets are $20.00, Student tickets are $5.00, and Theater Artist and Under-30 tickets are $10.00.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 13, 2014

“Cloned!” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Saturday July 19, 2014)

“Cloned!” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Saturday July 19, 2014)
Book by Jacey Powers and Dan Wolpow
Music and Additional Story by Adam Spiegel
Lyrics by Dan Wolpow
Directed by Tom Wojtunik
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “Cloned” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, presented as part of NYMF, will hopefully find a future in the effervescent New York theatre scene where it belongs. It has pop theatre music, comedy, parody, farce, a puppet and a sincere silly story combined with a cast of imaginative characters. It has a wonderful enthusiastic ensemble that teases every laugh out of the script or any ridiculous situation they may encounter and will tickle your fancy with their absolutely enticing vocals. While viewing the production certain material triggers memories of past shows but not to worry, the company it keeps is more than welcome with shades of “Little Shop of Horrors” and music reminiscent of Cy Coleman’s “Sweet Charity.” The cast is superb as they succumb to the absurd, revel in the farce, sing through the silly, and triumphantly deliver a solid and entertaining performance.

You might be seeing double as Alex Goley and Eric Mann do double time as Wally but amazingly each holds his own with zany antics and powerful vocals. Melanie Beck as both Izzys is the perfect match for both her Wallys, always strong, determined, and sweet with a powerful voice and well defined characters. Tony Romero (Mr. Choi) is hysterical and in fine voice and wreaks havoc in his encounter with Crystal Kellogg (Sharon) and her big Broadway belt and svelte demeanor in an unsuspected turn of events. Babs Winn, Matthew Knowland and John Alban Coughlan all do excellent work rounding out the comedic ensemble with well defined characterizations. Last but certainly not least is the performance of David Andino who brings to life the pigeon Tramell with great dexterity, precise facial expression, and inventive vocals.

The production moves at a fast clip under the guided direction of Tom Wojtunik and choreographer Ryan Kasprzak moves the actors well in the limited space. On a positive critical note the first act may run a bit too long and there are areas where cutting should be evident. Dr. Marshall needs to be pushed a bit further to the wild side, which might make him blend a little better especially after his turn to evil. After two hours of nonstop and fast paced theatrical entertainment, the audience deserves a pay off, a bigger, better musical finale. So possibly, with a little work and perseverance if you miss this incarnation, you may be able to catch an even better clone of “Cloned” in the future. But for now get searching to score some tickets to this entertaining zany production.

CLONED!

“Cloned!” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Wucka Productions. Director: Tom Wojtunik; Music Director: Julianne B. Merrill; Choreography: Ryan Kasprzak; Scenic Design: Jason Simms; Costume Design: Amanda Shafran; Props Design: Stephen Tyler Davis; Lighting Design: David Goldstein; Sound Design: Brett Rothstein and Justin Stasiw; Puppet Design: David Bizzaro; Stage Manager: Katherine K. White; and Press Representative: Antonio Minino. Production photos are by Andrew Barry Fritz.

The cast includes David Andino, Melanie Beck, John Alban Coughlan, Alex Goley, Crystal Kellogg, Matthew Knowland, Eric Mann, Tony Romero, and Babs Winn. The band includes Julianne B. Merrill and Scott Stein (Keys); Peter Kuan (Trumpet); Henry Hernandez (Reeds); and Sam Wagner (Drums).

“Cloned!” continues performances on Tuesday July 15th at 4:30 p.m. AND 8:30 p.m. and Saturday July 19th at 2:15 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935945. Runtime: 2 hours plus one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, July 13, 2014

“Coming of Age” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)

“Coming of Age” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jon Provan
Directed by Ryan Pifher
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A new song cycle entitled “Coming of Age” is being presented as part of NYMF at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre and proves to be a good addition to the roster of the Festival’s developing musicals. It deals with the awkward transitional experience when one becomes aware of a problematic situation that affects his or her life; simply put, growing up and taking responsibility for life decisions. What resonates is the universal recognition that is put forth, always passionate and intelligent without being pretentious. The music is complicated and diverse, casting an intriguing veil over the well thought, inspired lyrics that tell each character’s story. It is new and fresh yet worn and comfortable; interesting and diverse yet simple and parallel; recognizing the importance to appeal to all ages, all cultures, all societies and all religions. Rarely does it falter and stray too far from its intent and when it does the cast manages to bring it back on track.

The entire cast is a fine ensemble with some connecting to the material better than others but possibly at no fault of their own. Maya Brettell gives a heartfelt interpretation of “Nebraska” telling the story of a young girl’s plight on the plains, with clear, precise emotion delivered with a sweet sound. She is talented beyond her years. Susanna Rizzo turns in an intriguing performance in her understanding of “Role of a Lifetime” using a strong, robust vocal that defines her character but never loses sight of the intent. Ryan Jesse is remarkable in his rendition of “Trees” creating a sensitive, intelligent character that is supported by a tender, emotional and beautiful vocal that was appreciated even more in a natural state since his mike was not working. Kudos!

Nothing is perfect of course or else it would not be a developing musical. The path taken in the direction of the musical is unnecessary and tragic. It was self indulgent and ostentatious to the point that sometimes it seemed to sabotage the actors. Unnecessary physical display by cast members to visualize the text of the vocalist was intrusive and juvenile, at times reducing the production to high school level or worse. Nothing is more powerful than diverse music, exceptional voice and explicit emotion to empower understanding. Less distraction creates more focus; more focus promotes better understanding. What became clear was there was the lack of trust in the material or the actor. These complicated issues need to be internalized by the actor rather than externalized to preach to the audience. One observation in the music composition is that sometimes the tempo changes within a song happen so quickly that the actor has no time to understand the change in emotion that was cued by the music. Lyrics are thoughts and emotions that need to be understood by the actor.

All said, this reviewer would certainly recommend giving it a chance purely to enjoy the music, the cast and the effort.

COMING OF AGE

“Coming of Age” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Jenn Pifher, Devon Ercolano Provan, and Jon Provan. Director: Ryan Pifher; Music Director: Jon Provan; Choreography: Maureen Glennon; Scenic Design: Eric Harriz; Costume Design: Nancy Reynolds; Lighting Design: Zach Pizza; Stage Manager: Tim Love; Press Representative: Richard Hillman.

The cast includes Katy Blake, Maya Bretell, Ethan Haberfield, Ryan Jesse, Joe Paparella, and Susanna Rizzo. The orchestra includes Jon Provan (Keyboards); Jimi Alan (Guitar), Joe Peterson (Bass); and Andy Brockmann (Drums).

“Coming of Age” continues performances on Sunday July 13th at 12:00 Noon and 4:00 p.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935946. Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“Somewhere with You” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)

“Somewhere with You” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)
Book by Peter Zinn
Music and Lyrics by JT Harding
Directed by Peter Zinn
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Somewhere with You,” currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, touts itself to be “THE country-rock musical of a new generation.” If by ‘new generation’ the creators mean (in their own words) “Southerners growing up in the early 2000s confronted by the methamphetamine epidemic, the war in Iraq, and other post-9/11 challenges in the rural South,” then this is “THE” musical for a new generation. Unfortunately, these parameters are (hopefully) not the descriptors of the majority of twenty-first century Americans. If the creative team of “Somewhere with You” has determined not to write a musical with more traditional country-western themes, they need to construct a musical with enduring and universal themes. JT Harding’s songs elucidate these themes; unfortunately, the new musical “Somewhere with You” does not.

Instead the audience is subjected to an improbable story line driven by characters one cares little about with conflicts never clearly defined. These include methamphetamine addicts, abusive drug dealers, friends who betray friends, and verbally and physically abusive parents. The talented cast manages to sing and dance their way through this musical and support its weak book with a stalwart ensemble presence. This seems to be a musical about what happens when people consistently make wrong choices rather than a musical that celebrates those to strive to make right choices. The choreography is pedestrian and the costumes for the women seem designed to make them grab at them in order to cover their frames. Imagine a meth-addicted woman tumbling to her feet only to grab her dress to adjust its length. This is the last thing she would be worried about. Enough said.

Kudos to the cast and to the band for giving their all to make this musical work. Sadly, despite all their efforts, the result is less than satisfying.

“Somewhere with You” includes music by country song writer JT Harding and features many of his hit songs made famous by Kenny Chesney, Uncle Kracker, Jake Owen, and JTX (including Chesney’s number one song “Somewhere with You” and Uncle Kracker’s “Smile”). It would be better to listen to these individual singers to appreciate JT Harding’s songwriting skill than to attempt to navigate through the musical which bears his hit single’s title.

SOMEWHERE WITH YOU

“Somewhere with You” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and SWY Productions, LLC. Director: Peter Zinn; Music Director: Danny Tejera¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬; Arrangements: Ricardo Rust; Choreography: Ricardo Rust; Costume Design: Jeanette Aultz; Lighting Design: Scot Gianelli; and Press Representative: Karen Wiessen.

The cast includes Ashley Arnett, Anna Grace Barlow, Graham Scott Fleming, Katy Frame, Lauren Hoffmeier, Jonathan Judge-Russo, Andrew Rothenberg, Ricardo Rust, Jay Thomas, and Josh Wiles. The band includes Siddhu Anandalingam (Bass); Drew Bastian (Drums); Michael Murray (Guitar); and Danny Tejera (Piano).

“Somewhere with You” continues performances Sunday July 13th at 12:00 Noon AND 4:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935943. Runtime: 1 hour and 40 minutes plus a ten minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“Rescue Rue” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014)

“Rescue Rue” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014)
Music and Lyrics by Kate Steinberg and Joshua Zecher-Ross
Concept, Book, and Additional Lyrics by Stacey Weingarten
Directed by Stacey Weingarten
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Based on the true story of Rue, the Chiweenie who was rescued from a high-kill animal shelter in the South and found her way to the more humane Badness Brooklyn Animal Shelter, “Rescue Rue” is a charming new musical with enduring themes of universal love and the importance of a supportive home and family.

The story itself is narrated by Sarah Haines and is the relatively straightforward tale of the rescue of Rue from her abusive family to a loving home in Brooklyn, New York. That journey puts her in harm’s way as she attempts to survive on the street and in the high-kill shelter where she and her comrades await daily being sold off to dog fight organizers. Rue (Lisa Helmi Johansen) is accompanied most often by her streetwise and heart-hardened buddy Squish (Jennifer Barnhart) who wants to re-open her heart to love.

An outstanding cast of singers and "Avenue Q" puppeteers command the stage as they tell Rue’s important story. Under Stacey Weingarten’s generous and gifted direction and accompanied by the “Rescue Rue” Band, the strong ensemble cast fills the stage with hope, joy, and pure enjoyment. Audience favorites are “Danger’s Coming,” “I Just Need Me,” and “Furever Friend.”

However, “Rescue Rue” is more than a puppet show for children (although it is that par excellence!). Like other children’s stories that hold a deeper meaning for adults (think “Winnie-the-Pooh” or “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland”), “Rescue Rue” is an engaging and marvelous trope for the new beginnings awaiting all those seeking unconditional and non-judgmental love, all those existing on the fringe of society awaiting a place “around the table.” For example, this seemingly innocent musical is a powerful extended metaphor for immigration reform, marriage equality, and the universal struggle for equal rights.

And like those struggles, Rue’s journey often requires the aid of real friends and the occasional “Fairy Dogmother.” Rue’s Fairy Dogmother (GretchenWylder) personifies all those who over the centuries have come to the aid of those on the journey to new beginnings. The day this reviewer saw “Rescue Rue” the real Rue was sitting in the audience in a delightful puppy carrier. Just think, this could also be your bonus gift for attending the remaining performances of this absorbing story of the search for all that humankind calls home.

RESCUE RUE

“Rescue Rue” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Chinese Mother Jewish Daughter LLC. Director: Stacey Weingarten; Music Director: Andrew Wheeler; Choreography: Rhonda Miller; Scenic Design: Mitchell Ost and David Goldstein; Costume Design: Bree Perry; Lighting Design:

Kate Devine; Sound Design: Gordon Heal; Puppet Design: Andy Hayward; Production Stage Manager: Caskey Hunsader; Press Representative: OFF-OFF PR/Paul Siebold. Production photos by Larry Hamilton/BLUE Photography.

The cast includes Jennifer Barnhart, Nate Begle, Sarah Haines, Lisa Helmi Johanson, Jason Jacoby, Brendan Malafronte, and Gretchen Wylder. The orchestra includes Andrew Wheeler (Conductor/Piano); Chris Kelly (Bass); and Chepe Beltranena (Drums).

“Rescue Rue” continues performances on Saturday July 19th at 12:00 p.m. and Sunday July 20th at 11:00 a.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935949. Runtime: 1 hour with no intermission. “Rescue Rue” is suitable for theatre-going children ages three and up, and for all children at heart.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“Searching for Romeo” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)

“Searching for Romeo” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Brian Sutton
Directed by Laura Josepher
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Searching for Romeo,” currently being presented as part of NYMF at the PTC Performance Space, is a pleasant parody. This new musical is entertaining and clever, however not without fault, offering nothing innovative as far as concept, theme or musical development. It would be unfair to critique the cast and their devoted effort, since the production was afflicted with an unfortunate illness of their leading male; however, in true show business fashion the performance was rescued by the fearless assistant to the Director, standing in with script in hand and vocally prepared. What emerged throughout was the bonding and eloquent behavior of the ensemble to support and contribute to the effort put forth by their comrade. Bravo!

As mentioned the concept is nothing new or groundbreaking and the use of innuendo and parody becomes almost tiring, culminating with a replication of the last scene in “West Side Story.” The music is very repetitive with hardly any diversity, (mostly relying on 50’s and 60’s pop style). Lyrics are witty and clever but provide no character exposition. Vocal arrangements need more interest and harmony with less repetition. All these factors contribute to the production losing its charm, motivation and coherency.

So for those less discerning theater goers this could be a great entertaining outing, watching a talented cast with fine vocal prowess performing a new work that with some diligent attention will hopefully have a future. Although a solid structure is in place, reshaping and rediscovery could possibly be in order to bring this project to the next level.

SEARCHING FOR ROMEO

“Searching for Romeo” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and SFR, LLC. Director: Laura Josepher; Music Director: David Sisco; Scenic Design: Lewis Folden; Costume Design: David Crowley; Lighting Design: Susan Hamburger; Sound Design: Benjamin Furiga; Production Stage Manager: Jana Llynn; Press Representative: Dale Heller. Casting by Cindi Rush.

The cast includes Alison Alampi, Robby Dalton, Melissa Rose Hirsch. Greg Horton, Leah Jennings, Mark Lanham, Justine Magnusson, Angelo McDonough, Sean McIntyre, Natalie Newman, Zal Owen, Justin Randolph, Sam Tedaldi, Josh Tollo, and Angela Travino. The orchestra includes David Sisco (Conductor/Keyboard); Alec Berlin (Guitar); John DiSanto (Reed); Skip Ward (Bass); and Mike Riddleberger (Drums).

“Searching for Romeo” continues performances on Saturday July 12th at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday July 13th at 12:00 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935751. Runtime: 1 hour and 45 minutes plus one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“The Mapmaker’s Opera” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Wednesday July 16, 2014)

“The Mapmaker’s Opera” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Wednesday July 16, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Victor Kazan
Music by Kevin Purcell
Directed by Donald Brenner
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

"The Mapmakers Opera,” currently presented at The PTC Performance Space as part of the ongoing NYMF, is a solid effort to adapt the profound and beautiful novel of the same title by Bea Gonzalez for the stage. The results are commendable but as with any new musical project pitfalls are numerous and the need exists to focus a bit more on the intent and plot without straying into meaningless distraction. The cast shines and makes it worth seeing the production in its infancy just to hear their refined vocal ability.

Joel Perez is delightful as he explores the many facets of his character using his strong, clear and effective baritone. Madeleine Featherby is charming and a great match for Mr. Perez, with a pure, focused vocal exhibiting a rich quality and good blend. Natalia Lepore Hagan contributes almost too much to this incarnation but seems to do it all well. Her rendition of “Someday Soon” as an Act 1 finale is superb with a fierce characterization and a stalwart vocal. It would be nice to see this character developed and defined into a larger role. Tony Chiroldes is magnificent in every aspect of his lively performance. He develops a real character and manages to seize every opportunity to translate his emotion to the audience without missing a beat. Mr. Chiroldes is a wonderful storyteller and his musical duet “Men, Feo y Fuerte” with Mr. Perez is a show stopper. This reviewer wishes he was incorporated into the story as a narrator and commentator allowing the plot to focus on more relevant material.

The music is generous but perhaps too ambitious, trying to capture Spanish and Mexican styles especially when accompanying vocals. Perhaps it would fare better if these styles were used for dance and interludes only. The lyrics are telling, precise, and informative in most numbers but lack the exuberance and certain flair to consistently impress. Vocal arrangements are somewhat lacking in interest and harmony. Costume design by Laura Crow is impeccable, remarkably capturing the class, period and place, producing a visual gift: Brava! Choreography is plentiful and can be left at that.

At this stage of development this musical appears uneven and perhaps tries to tackle too much that was easily achievable on the pages of the novel. It is a beautiful love story taking place during the Mexican Revolution and maybe that is all it needs to be. Perhaps with a better focus on character and motivation – elements that successfully drive the plot (rather than the storyline pushing the characters uphill) - “The Mapmaker’s Opera” would provide a more balanced core.

THE MAPMAKER’S OPERA

“The Mapmaker’s Opera” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Stella Entertainment with Quill & Quaver Associates. Director: Donald Brenner; Music Director: Daniel Rein; Choreography and Musical Staging: Stas Kmiec; Scenic Design: Andrew Lu; Costume Design: Laura Crow; Lighting Design: Gertjen Houbens; Sound Design: Alex Hawthorn; Production Stage Manager: David S. Cohen; Press Representative: DDR-Public Relations. Casting by Michael Cassara.

The cast includes Andres Acosta, Debra Cardona, Tony Castellanos, Tony Chioldes, Paul Cosentino, Alma Cuervo, Carlos Encinias, Madeleine Featherby, Henry Gainza, Natalia Lepore Hagan, Sean McDermott, Joel Perez, and Lorraine Serabian. The orchestra includes Daniel Rein (Conductor/Piano); Nilko Andreas Guarin (Guitar 1); Frederick Bryant Hollister (Guitar 2); Richard Miller (Guitar 3); David Boddington (Guitar 4); Janine Hanrahan (Flutes); Steve Bartosik (Percussion 1); and Brian Adler (Percussion 2). Offstage Singers: Katie Heidbreder and Jessica Kahkoska.

“The Mapmaker’s Opera” continues performances on Saturday July 12th at 9:00 p.m., Sunday July 13th at 4:00 p.m., and Wednesday July 16 at 5:00 p.m. at The PTC Performance Space, 455 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935755. Runtime: 2 hours with one ten minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“Academia Nuts” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)

“Academia Nuts” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Becca Anderson and Dan Marshall
Music by Julian Blackmore
Directed by Thomas Caruso
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

With the sweetness of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the caustic humor of “South Park,” and the vitriol of “Hairspray,” the new musical “Academia Nuts” chronicles the quiz kid competition between the McCutter Clan of Weiner, Arkansas and the Walla Walla Walruses from the Pacific Northwest. The musical celebrates the strength of the human spirit and the importance of chasing ones dreams. However, “Academia Nuts” is a far darker comedy than its main plot belies and some of its subplots are more about dreams left unfulfilled and the considerable weakness of some humans.

Home-schooled Maggie McCutter (Alyse Alan Louis) needs to escape from the often abusive clutches of her mother Chrystal (Jennifer Simard). Winning the Chupacabra-sponsored National High School Quiz Bowl Championship is her way out of Arkansas. Maggie’s escape is compromised by her unexpected attraction to and relationship with team rival Tyler O’Neil (Khris Davis) who, through the course of the musical, emancipates Maggie from her maternal prison and all of its concomitant restrictiveness and from her limited understanding of live and love.

Along the way, the audience discovers the motivation for the Walruses to enter the Championship: the team’s coach Sergeant Tina Van Wyck (Stephanie D.Abruzzo) has a prior relationship to Chrystal and Maggie and Chrystal has a suspicious history with moderator Melvin Jessup (Todd Cerveris). “Academia Nuts” is chock full of game show references and other pop-culture innuendo which seem to set the audience howling. There is gender-bending, slap-stick comedy, and the requisite dream ballet (“Lord of the Flies). No Child Left Behind finds its way into the mix as do alcoholism and the bashing of the tenets of conservative Christian teaching (including the Rapture). Oddly, even homeschooling takes a hit.

In addition, there is an unfortunate fusillade of jokes which rely on stereotypes for their punch lines. Granted, this humor helps define Chrystal McCutter’s redneck weltanschauung but there are other ways to achieve characterization without being offensive. More on this later in the review. This downside to “Academia Nuts” is not the fault of its cast.

The young energetic cast handily navigates its way through the musical’s twenty-one songs with exceptional vocal and dance craft. Alyse Alan Louis (Maggie) brings honesty and energy to her “Please Let Me Win.” Khris Davis (Tyler) clearly defines his character in his plaintive “I Just Think of Favre.” Stephanie D’Abruzzo reveals Sergeant Tina’s secrets (and those of the McCutters) in her gripping second act “Soliloquy.” Alexander Ferguson (Dexter) and Alison Lea Bender (Mi Cha Kwak) rock the stage with Ms. Louis and Mr. Davis in the dynamic “Get It Crunk” song and dance routine.

Under Thomas Caruso’s careful direction, the ensemble cast captures the Garden of Eden moment when humankind seize the day, partake of the forbidden fruit, and discover for themselves who they are and who they were meant to be. James J. Fenton’s set is simple yet serviceable using rolling contestant stands that are able to function as other settings. Patricia E. Doherty’s costumes, Sam Gordon’s lighting design, and Andrew Keister’s sound design contribute to the success of the clever and innovative staging of “Academia Nuts.”

Marring the overall success of the musical are three unnecessary and unfortunate homophobic slurs. Granted these are meant to help define character; however the pejorative use of ‘gay,’ the use of ‘faggot,’ and the senseless and irresponsible reference to Harvey Milk to typify the attraction of one man to another is at best shameful. And the musical’s creative team needs to know that a male character (Melvin) falling in love with a transgender (male-to-female) character is not “switch-hitting.”

Despite this, the delicious conflicts of the rich characters drive an engaging and believable plot (and sub-plots) and all’s well that ends well In this sweet musical about coming to terms with one’s reality and chasing ones dreams.

ACADEMIA NUTS

“Academia Nuts” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival, Charissa Bertels and Brian & Cassandra Hess, in association with CAP21 Theatre Company. Director: Thomas Caruso; Music Director: Martyn Axe; Choreography: Ryan Kasprzak; Scenic Design: James J. Fenton; Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty; Lighting Design: Sam Gordon; Sound Design: Andrew Keister; Production Stage Manager: Jason A. Quinn; Press Representative: Joe Trentacosta. Casting by Cindi Rush. Production photos by Micah Joel.

The cast includes Alison Lea Bender, Todd Cerveris, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Khris Davis, Alexander Ferguson, Alyse Alan Louis, Melody Madarasz, Will Roland, and Jennifer Simard. The orchestra includes Martyn Axe (Conductor/Keys I); Jerry DeVore (Bass); and Zachary Eldridge (Percussion).

“Academia Nuts” continues performances on Saturday July 12th at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday July 13th at 8:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935916. Runtime: 1 hour and 50 minutes with one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, July 12, 2014

“666 DSM” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 9, 2014)

Douglas de Souza (Photo by Ed Krieger)
“666 DSM” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 9, 2014)
Written and Performed by Douglas de Souza
Directed by Cindy Sibilsky
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Douglas de Souza’s “666 DSM” concludes its brief run at the 59E59 East to Edinburgh Festival and prepares to face its opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014. Mr. de Souza and his director/producer Cindy Sibilsky have several challenges to face and overcome before rubber hits runway in The Burgh.

In six vignettes, writer/performer Douglas de Souza rants and raves (literally in vignette number 5) about the treatment of those diagnosed (or undiagnosed) to be mentally ill by society, government, religious organizations, and the psychiatric/medical community –the “Illuminati.” Mr. de Souza is a spirited and gifted actor who is capable of portraying a variety of characters giving each a specific persona. However, his script does not give him as an actor much to work with.

“666 DSM” unfortunately contains nothing new about how the mentally ill are treated by society and the medical establishment. Since at least the 5th century B.C.E., philosophers and physicians have been grappling with the presence and provenance of mental illness. Hippocrates shifted the treatment of mental illness from religious and superstitious constructs to changing the mentally ill person’s environment or occupation. In the Middle Ages, the treatment of mental illness shifted back to focus on the religious parameters of the condition.

The playwright’s concerns about privilege are also not new. Throughout the history of mental illness and its diagnosis and treatment, persons of privilege have been in control of the matrices of both diagnosis and treatment. These persons of privilege include physicians, governments, and clergy (among others). It is difficult to ask the audience to “think outside the box” when the members of the audience are not given challenging constructs to assimilate. The text seems to be in search of an identity: it is prose, poetry, or prose-poetry? Mr. de Souza’s delivery of his own work does not help to clarify this concern.

Perhaps the actor would have fared better with more exacting direction. Cindy Sibilsky, who also produces “666 DSM,” provides sparse direction and consistently makes odd choices for staging the piece. Additionally, the play runs about fifteen minutes over its target of 60 minutes. Given the tight scheduling at the Edinburgh Festival, both actor and director will have to tighten up the performance. Eliminating or shortening the psychedelic projections during interludes would be a start. Douglas de Souza is more than capable of changing costumes and getting into character right on stage. Sometimes less is better.

666 DSM

“666 DSM” is presented by INJOY ENTERTAINMENT as part of the 2014 East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 Theaters.

The creative team of “666 DSM” includes William Welles (videographer and sound design) and Nick Thomas (lighting design). Production photo by Ed Krieger.

East to Edinburgh began on Tuesday, July 8 for a limited engagement through Sunday, July 27. The performance schedule varies. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets to each EAST TO EDINBURGH show range from $15 - $20 ($10.50 -$14 for 59E59 Members). Tickets can be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Performances of “666 DSM” closed on Wednesday July 9, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Running time is 60 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, July 10, 2014

“Years to the Day” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes July 12, 2014)

“Years to the Day” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes July 12, 2014)
Written by Allen Barton
Directed by Joel Polis
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Ostensibly eschewing the technology of communication, Dan (Michael Yavnieli) and Jeff (Jeff LeBeau) engage in what proves to be a marathon for gamers par excellence as they reunite at an undisclosed location in “present time adjacent” at a small table. Friends for twenty-five years, these two remaining members of a post-high school foursome of friends engage in exactly the type of exchange Jeff describes when expounding on texting:

JEFF: “Yeah. There’s a mystery to it that is attractive. The gamesmanship. One-upping a funny line, my move, your move. There’s a delicious bit of tension there.”

In Allen Barton’s “Years to the Day” Mr. Yavnieli and Mr. LeBeau bring that delicious tension to a perfect crescendo as they fiercely rehearse twenty-five years of bristling bromance, one-upping one another in a fast-paced virtual chess match of wits and wile. Dan and Jeff, conservative and liberal respectively, tackle infidelity, divorce, politics, cell phone technology, three-term presidents, children, love and loss, and sexual identity in a series of verbal matches that sometimes draw them closer to one another and all-too-often threaten to end their friendship.

Jeff’s take on the new movie both he and Dan saw (Dan hated it) works well as a critique of Mr. Barton’s play:

JEFF: “Yeah. I thought it was provocative. I thought it was original. I was drawn in, I cared what happened.”

Under Joel Polis’s adept and spirited direction, Mr. Yavnieli and Mr. LeBeau draw the audience in and make its members care about the lives of these two forty-something men as they attempt to discern what is real and authentic in life and what ultimately matters: “Ambiance of the environment. Music. Two kids playing somewhere. Traffic. The sounds of twenty-five years of a friendship.”

“Years to the Day” is a transformative testament to what is important. If there is a downside to this piece, it would be its length. Mr. Barton might take on too much for an audience to process if it were not handled by two skilled actors whose craft makes this virtual texting match a breeze through memories and dreams.

See “Years to the Day” before it moves east to Edinburgh. Citizens of The Burgh will love this one. So will you.

YEARS TO THE DAY

“Years to the Day” is presented by Gary Grossman and Skylight Theatre Company as part of the 2014 East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 Theaters.

The cast of “Years to the Day” includes Jeff LeBeau and Michael Yavnieli.

East to Edinburgh began on Tuesday, July 8 for a limited engagement through Sunday, July 27. The performance schedule varies. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets to each EAST TO EDINBURGH show range from $15 - $20 ($10.50 -$14 for 59E59 Members). Tickets can be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Remaining “Years to the Day” runs on the following schedule: Thursday July 10, 2014 at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday July 12, 2014 at 7:15 p.m. Running time is 75 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, July 09, 2014

“West Side Story” San Francisco Symphony Live Recording (Released on June 10, 2014)

“West Side Story” San Francisco Symphony Live Recording (Released on June 10, 2014)
Score by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Michael Tilson Thomas
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas had a long-standing professional and personal relationship with “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein making the June 10, 2014 release of the live recording of the first-ever concert performance of Mr. Bernstein’s complete score for the iconic musical quite significant. Equally significant is the recording itself. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony not only do justice to the score but excel beyond any expectation at providing the most accessible and enjoyable recording of the iconic musical since its Broadway staging and subsequent recordings.

The overall quality of this live recording is excellent and invites recurrent listening. The CDs received excellent engineering support resulting in a recording of the highest quality. This is a set to own and enjoy for years.

Cheyenne Jackson (Tony), Alexandra Silber (Maria), Jessica Vosk (Anita), Julia Bullock (A Girl), and Kevin Vortmann (Riff) lead the all-star soloists who, along with the Symphony Chorus, bring to Bernstein’s score a renewed vitality and authenticity which attest in a dramatic way to the enduring nature of the score of this iconic musical.

Because this is a studio recording, the tone of the performances is necessarily more precise and more polished than a live stage performance. Much of the “feel” of the streets and neighborhoods of the feuding gangs is evident; however, many of the chorus numbers have an appropriate operatic color and disposition.

Act I tracks that are impressive are: Tony’s “Something’s Coming;” the “Dance at the Gym/Meeting Scene;” Tony and Maria’s “Balcony Scene” and the following “Only You;” and Rosalia (Juliana Hansen) and Anita’s impeccably authentic “America” are particularly memorable. “One Hand, One Heart” and “Tonight” close out Act I with emotional integrity and power.

In Act II, the “Ballet Sequence/Lo Stesso Tempo,” the “Procession and Nightmare,” and “I Have A Love” emerge as tracks of superior performance. And even lacking a visual presence, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Silber create impressive images in their vocal renditions in the “Finale.”

This San Francisco Symphony recording of “West Side Story” is a gift of enduring love and craft for all who hold the musical in a special place in memory and heart. It is a must-have for musical theatre lovers.

WEST SIDE STORY LIVE RECORDING BY SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY

“West Side Story” was recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall on June 27-30 and July 2, 2013.

In addition to the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the cast of the live recording includes soloists Julia Bullock (A Girl), Louise Cornillez (Consuelo), Zack Ford (Diesel), Juliana Hanson (Rosalia), Cheyenne Jackson (Tony), Justin Keyes (Action), David Michael Laffey (Big Deal), Kelly Markgraf (Bernardo), Chris Meissner (Baby John), Louise Pardo (A-rab), Alexandra Silber (Maria),Cassie Simone (Francisca), Kevin Vortmann (Riff), and Jessica Vosk (Anita).

The collector’s edition two-disc set available from the SFS Media label includes a 100-pagw booklet featuring a new interview with Michael Tilson Thomas, noted from Rita Moreno and Jamie Bernstein. This set can be ordered at http://www.shopsfsymphony.org/shop/home.php

The download version of the recording is available for purchase at the same Symphony website.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, June 01, 2014

“Commit” at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ (Through Saturday June 7, 2014)

“Commit” at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ (Through Saturday June 7, 2014)
By EJC Calvert
Directed by Mason Beggs
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

EJC Calvert’s new play “Commit,” currently running at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ, is a dark comedy written in three acts. Each act carefully dissects the vicissitudes of the human condition, in particular the abilities of humankind to commit themselves to a variety of relationships despite their prolific and sometimes unsettling flaws. Three creatures appear in the titles and in the action of the three acts: a bear, lamb, and a bird. And each varmint serves as a delicious trope for the unpredictable and cantankerous nature of humankind in its journey through love, loss, and redemption.

In “The Bear: A Tragedy” (Act One), grumpy-as-a-bear Everett Feld blames his irrational and aggressive behavior on a hormonal imbalance but eventually admits it is not “his testes” that are the causative agent: he tells his forbearingly overbearing wife Diane that indeed he has been possessed by a “bear’s spirit.” Diane believes a good dose of church would cure all that ails Everett and plops an enormous cross on the dining room table: the cross made by estranged son Jimmy who is now a priest and arrives to perform an exorcism to rid his father of the demon spirit that has apparently possessed him. Although his parents continue to call him Jimmy, their son insists he is now Father Kellogg – the new last name adopted to distance him from the unsavory pair that spawned him. In the midst of the exorcism, all hell breaks loose and the bear in Everett gets the best of him resulting in Jimmy’s brutal demise, Diane’s retreat, and the establishment of a “bear” support group. Dark indeed, but quite funny as performed by the engaging ensemble cast.

Act Two’s “Murder, Love and Lamb” finds serial killer Robert and his wanna-be-stripper wife Marjorie embroiled in a bitter dispute about Robert’s penchant for murder. Robert’s recent murder of a sex worker has dampened Marjorie’s plans to have dinner guests and serve up a good Riesling with some roast lamb. This is a couple as odds with one another and their “inner child” and their struggles to connect – even despite Marjorie’s willingness to “love who Robert is – flounder. Their journey, far more than mid-life crises – counterpoint the despair, ennui, and sometimes destructive nature of human relationships. Perhaps “the “sacrificial lamb” will bring redemption to Robert and Marjorie and release them from their cycles of self-hatred and destructiveness. Again, the ensemble cast does justice to Mr. Calvert’s text exploring its darkness and mining all evidences of hope.

“A Bird Hits the Window” – Act Three of “Commit” – features John who comes home early after being fired and encounters his daughter home from school after being expelled. Mother and wife Mona joins the mix and exacerbates the obvious gaps in this family’s abilities to find comfort and surcease in their American family unit. Although his daughter yearns for attention from her father, John’s only parental mantra is “I have no one to talk to.” This family exists in photos and a past when marriage and pregnancy was thought to result in happiness. Ms. Calvert’s use of a flashback to a pregnant Mona is effective and provocative: what happened to that hope, that commitment to future. Like birds who when distracted by reflections fly into windows, people distracted by selfishness and self-absorption often fly into their own false perceptions of who they are and who they have become and suffer sometimes irreparable damage to self and others.

There are times when the very live acoustics in the Mana Contemporary space make it difficult to catch every word the actors deliver and the actors sometimes compensate by delivering their lines in a consistently loud manner. But it is difficult to hear when actors speak softly – as they often want or need to. In the third act, for example, director Mason Beggs chooses to have the daughter address her father with her back to the audience and not one word of her part of that dialogue is audible. Mana Contemporary is an iconic and important space; however, if this particular performance venue is to be used for live theatre, there will need to be compensation made for this acoustical problem. The space is probably ideal for dance or performance art where spoken word is far less evident.

“Commit” shows the audience a humanity that can be gentle as a lamb (and as redemptive) or as aggressive and sometime murderous as a hungry, misdirected and threatened bear. In all three acts, the level of commitment extant in human relationships is examined and questioned: is marriage the haven of blessing and place of peace it is assumed to be? Why do humans marry and why do they have children they often have difficulty relating to? What is the real tie that binds humans to one another? Are we perhaps meant to navigate through this life alone, depending only on ourselves? These and a score of other deep and rich enduring questions are raised in Ms. Calvert’s new play and the delightfully wicked cast of the Art House production skillfully bring every nuance in “Commit” to an entertaining, authentic, and delightful hour of superb theatre. Be sure to see “Commit” before it closes on June 7, 2014.

COMMIT

“Commit” is presented by Art House Productions and directed by Mason Beggs.

The cast of “Commit” includes Evie Freeman, Eleanor Handley, Terence MacSweeny, David Riley, and Kit Vogelsang.

The creative team for “Commit” includes Gail Boykewich (Set and Props Design), Pat Christodulidis (Costume Design), Michael Flinck (Sound Design), Walter Free (Stage Manager), Christine Goodman (Executive Producer), Summer Dawn Hortillosa (Production Manager), and Lance Michel (Technical Director/Lighting Design).

“Commit” runs through Saturday June 7, 2014 at Mana Contemporary, 888 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, NJ on the following schedule: Thursday - Saturday, June 5-7 at 8:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $20.00. Advance purchase tickets at $15.00 are available at http://commit.brownpapertickets.com/
For further information on Art House Productions, visit http://arthouseproductions.org/home.html The running time for “Commit” is just under one hour.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, May 31, 2014

“A Piece of My Heart” at the Barrow Mansion in Jersey City, NJ (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)

“A Piece of My Heart” at the Barrow Mansion in Jersey City, NJ (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)
By Shirley Lauro
Directed by Betsy Aiello Sanders
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Suggested by a work by Keith Walker, Shirley Lauro’s 1991 “A Piece of My Heart” attempts to celebrate the lives of the women who served in the Vietnam War as enlisted soldiers, nurses, entertainers, and other volunteers. Under director Betsy Aiello Sanders’ steady hand, the talented ensemble cast of the Speranza Theatre Company tackles Ms. Lauro’s script and brings it to life with heartfelt energy and a high dose of authenticity. Speranza is Jersey City, NJ’s newest theatre company staging performances of “A Piece of My Heart” at the historic Barrow Mansion in downtown Jersey City.

Ms. Lauro’s intensely presentational drama follows the journeys of five American women who are deployed to serve in or volunteer to serve in Vietnam during that iconic and troubled war. From their pre-service exposition through to their return to their homes, these women experience the very highs and the very lows of serving during the Vietnam War. Although they all travel to Vietnam for a variety of motives, the one thing that seems to connect their journeys is their sincere desire to “make a difference” and somehow “save the world.”

Army brat Martha (Diana Cherkas), Texan MaryJo Kinkaid (Natalie Pavelek) - lead singer and rhythm guitarist in Sugar Candies All Girl Band, idealist Sissy (Heather Wahl), Whitney (Danielle M. Treuberg), Leeann (Kathleen Choe), and seasoned soldier Steele (Jennean Farmer) learn quickly that Vietnam is not the safe place their recruiters, senior officers, or agents promised and they learn that very few of their expectations about “saving the world” are realistic or even achievable. They navigate hypocrisy, incompetence, and arrogance in addition to confronting daily the horrors of battlefield war in an unfamiliar and hostile environment.

Jason Faust handily and skillfully portrays all of the “American Men” the women encounter from male entertainment agents and non-responsive top brass to the soldiers who find themselves in the care of a handful of frightened, dedicated, and confused women. There are many unseen men in the play as well, including those who rape singer MaryJo after a USO performance. References to the Bob Hope USO show and to the January 1968 Tet Offensive bring a level of authenticity to the play’s story line.

Each member of the ensemble cast portrays her and his own character as well as a variety of stock characters with commendable craft. Because of the presentational nature of the script, it is sometimes difficult to connect with the characters as deeply as an audience member might prefer; however, that is not a comment on the cast’s abilities as much as it is a comment on the limitations of the script. Ms. Lauro’s piece lacks the intensity of Mr. Walker’s 1986 oral history; however, each of their dynamic characters experiences joy, sorrow, regret, renewal, and catharsis and Speranza’s cast brings all of these emotions to a level of honesty and clarity.

A PIECE OF MY HEART

The cast of “A Piece of My Heart” includes Diana Cherkas, Kathleen Choe, Jennean Farmer, Jason Faust, Natalie Pavelek, Danielle M. Treuberg, and Heather Wahl.

The creative team of “A Piece of My Heart” includes K. B. Sanders (set/lighting design), Estelle Bajou (sound design), Gail Woerner (properties master), and Hope Governali (costume design/stylist).

Performances of “A Piece of My Heart” continue at the Barrow Mansion in Jersey City, NJ through Sunday June 1 on the following schedule: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday June 1 at 2:00 p.m. General Admission tickets for all performances are $20.00 with discounts for seniors ($15.00) and Veterans ($12.00). Tickets can be purchased at the box office on the night of performances or by visiting https://www.artful.ly/store/events/2985. For more information about the Company, please visit http://speranzatheatrecompany.com/ The running time for “A Piece of My Heart” is 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, May 26, 2014

“A Fable” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday June 28, 2014)

“A Fable” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday June 28, 2014)
Written by David Van Asselt
Directed by Daniel Talbott
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" (“Here must all distrust be left behind; all cowardice must be ended.”) - Dante Alighieri, “The Divine Comedy,” Canto III, line 9 of “The Inferno”

One would think that with Dante Alighieri, Goethe, John Milton, Kurt Weill, T.S. Eliot, Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner (among others) in the house, nothing but a good time would be had by all. No so. The myriad allusions to the aforementioned greats and the usually reliable hand of Rattlestick’s David Van Asselt could not save “A Fable,” currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, from unintentional – one would hopefully assume – meaninglessness.

Attempting to gain street creds from the likes of the biblical Book of Job and Goethe’s Faust, “A Fable” pits heaven (Angela) against hell (Luke) in the eternal battle to win souls for their respective domains. Here the one tempted to do wrong and encouraged by his superego to do the right thing is Jonny (think ‘Surabaya’) a member of Operation Island Liberation (yes, O.I.L.) intending to ‘liberate’ the island of Tahooty a fractured trope for any target of the military-industrial complex (there’s even a Hallie Burton!). Jonny falls for Chandra, leaves Chandra to find her father – well that is enough plot for this review. It would have been more meritorious had the story line ended there.

One wonders what the intended audience is/was for this misdirected mélange: high school drama clubs; perhaps church youth groups. One also wonders what anyone/everyone on the creative team was hoping to accomplish by mounting this production. It could not be more ill-conceived or laborious. The actors’ names are not mentioned not to overlook their effort but to protect their innocence.

It was maddening to spend two-and-a-half hours (it seemed interminable) inside on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with “A Fable.” Readers should not follow suit.

Normally, when spending time with any creative endeavor of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, this critic gladly leaves all distrust behind and without cowardice prepares to be moved to the core of my being. Not so with “A Fable.” I just desperately wanted to flee.

Rattlestick’s “The Few” has been extended through June 21. See that instead.

A FABLE

“A Fable” is a presented by piece by piece productions and Rising Phoenix Rep in association with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

The cast of “A Fable” is Edward Carnevale, Liza Fernandez, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Maxwell Hamilton, Jerry Matz, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Eileen Rivera, Pamela Shaw, Samantha Soule, Alok Tewari, Sanford Wilson, and Gordon Joseph Weiss.

Music for “A Fable” is by Elizabeth Swados; set design is by John McDermott; costume design is by Tristan Raines; lighting design is by Joel Moritz; projection design is by Kaitlyn Pietras; sound design is by Janie Bullard; fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House; hair and make-up design is by Caitlin Conci. The production manager is Dave Nelson; the production stage manager is Andrew Slater. Production photos are by Sandra Coudert.


“A Fable” plays Tuesday through Friday at 7pm; Saturday at 2pm and 7pm; and Sunday at 3pm at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street. There will be an added performance on Monday, May 19 at 7pm; there will be no performance on Friday, May 23. Tickets are $66 and may be purchased by visiting www.OvationTix.com or by phoning 866-811-4111. Tickets for those under 30 and theater artists are $26; student tickets are $21. For more information about “A Fable,” visit one of the following: www.piecebypieceproductions.org, www. RisingPhoenixRep.org, or www.rattlestick.org. Running time is 2 hours thirty minutes with an intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, May 22, 2014

“Too Much Sun” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday June 22, 2014)

Jennifer Westfeldt and Linda Lavin as Kitty and Audrey - Photo by Carol Rosegg
“Too Much Sun” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday June 22, 2014)
By Nicky Silver
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“All the world's a stage, /And all the men and women merely players:/They have their exits and their/entrances; /And one man in his time plays many parts.” - Jacques in “As You Like It” Act II, Scene VII (William Shakespeare, 1600)

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Jacques solves the eternal question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art: simply, life is art and art is life. Seasoned stage performers have discovered what acting novices will discover during their careers; namely, as Meryl Streep affirms, “Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding [oneself] in there.” Acting indeed is life’s work.

Perhaps no one knows this better in Nicky Silver’s new play “Too Much Sun” than its protagonist Audrey Langham (Linda Lavin). Just before the opening night of Euripides’ “Medea” in a theatre in Chicago, Audrey realizes that her creative team does not know what acting is: she is trying to find the similarity in what is apparently different about her and Medea so she can find herself in there but her director just wants her to “just get through it” and ‘be’ Medea. Audrey leaves the stage, abandons the production, and two days later shows up unannounced at her daughter’s summer house and takes up residence in her son-in-law’s office (actually the guest bedroom) putting an abrupt halt to his novel-writing and the charade playing out on the summer house stage. Charades become real life drama.

Currently playing at the Vineyard Theatre, “Too Much Sun” is rich in themes. Playwright Nicky Silver tackles life in the theatre, art imitating life, honesty, dishonesty, and motivation. The first act successfully develops these themes as well-rounded characters Audrey, Kitty, Dennis, Lucas, Winston, and Gil have their exits and their entrances with complicated and engaging conflicts that move all story lines forward and set the stage for the second act. Unfortunately, following the intermission and the entr’acte, the second act of “Too Much Sun” begins to unravel.

Life is often predictable; however, there are no surprises in the second act when Dennis (Ken Barnett) confirms his inability to commit to his novel or his wife by ending his summer fling with neighbor Lucas leaving the twenty-something grappling with issues of abandonment. Audrey’s plan to wed Winston (Richard Bekins) to temporarily put an end to ennui crashes on the rocks shortly after Lucas’ body is pulled from the water. And Kitty (Jennifer Westfeldt) discloses her pregnancy to unfaithful Dennis admitting to a one-time tryst with theatre agent assistant and wanna-be rabbi Gil (Matt Dellapina) who bemoans the loss of his ability to join Audrey and Winston in holy matrimony.

Except for one, none of these interesting characters experiences any growth. Any apparent growth – like Audrey’s bid at a second chance to be a good mother – is simply a shift in motivation. As she was in all of her stage roles, she is very good at her roles in life. Better for her to help her daughter raise her child in the summer house than bunk with the long-time friend she deplores. All of the other characters behave as they did during the first act and, as previously stated, do everything the audience assumed they would.

The only character who knows what he wants and knows what he does not want is Lucas (Matt Dickson). Mr. Dickson delivers a stunning performance as a young man dodging his father’s expectations (mired in indifference) and the specter of the suicide of his mother. In Matt Dickson’s nurturing hands, Lucas’ death provides the singular redemptive moment in “Too Much Sun” and brings the audience right to the edge of catharsis.

Mark Brokaw’s careful direction provides a space for the exceptional ensemble cast to display their collective craft. It is a gift to watch the remarkable and iconic Linda Lavin perform. Ms. Lavin comingles her wondrous comedic timing with her ability to bring authenticity and honesty to her characters. Her Audrey Langham is irrepressible, single-minded, and irascible. Medea is no match for an Audrey scorned. Each of Nicky Silver’s characters here have, in one way or another, had too much sun, been too much sun, or longed for more sun. This cast makes these quests believable and memorable.

Despite minor missteps, “Too Much Sun” is a worthwhile and commendable exploration of the human effort to make sense of life, to redefine the meaning of relationship, and to grapple honestly with the vicissitudes of the thing we call love.

TOO MUCH SUN

The cast of “Too Much Sun” includes Ken Barnett, Richard Bekins, Matt Dellapina, Matt Dickson, Linda Lavin, and Jennifer Westfeldt.

The design team for “Too Much Sun” is – scenic design by Donyale Werle; costume design by Michael Krass; lighting design by David Lander; and sound design by David Van Tieghem. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

Now scheduled through June 22, “Too Much Sun” will perform Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $80.00 and can be purchased at the Vineyard Theatre box office (108 E. 15 Street), by phone at 212 353 0303 or online at www.vineyardtheatre.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, May 19, 2014

“The Rivals” at the Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)

Carol Schultz as Mrs. Malaprop - Photo by Al Foote III
“The Rivals” at the Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Directed by Hal Brooks
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a great deal of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in his rollickingly funny “The Rivals” the comedy of manners he wrote for Covent Garden and where it first appeared in 1775. Riffing the sham chivalry and sham romance of his day, Sheridan drew from his life experiences to develop a roster of comedic characters with absurd conflicts that spin outrageous plots and subplots. The action centers on modern woman Lydia Languish (Jessica Love) who indeed languishes after the glamour of eloping with Ensign Beverly who is in reality the wealthy Captain Jack Absolute (Cary Donaldson).

Ms. Languish is under the guardianship of Mrs. Malaprop (Carol Schultz) whose outrageous diction is responsible for the coining of the literary devise malapropism. In an exchange with sexist Sir Anthony Absolute (Dan Daily), Mrs. Malaprop retorts, “Nay, nay, Sir Anthony, you are an absolute misanthropy.” While conspiring to wean Lydia from her affection for the poor Beverly and have her meet the wealthy Captain Jack, Mrs. Malaprop is engaged in her own chicanery. Sir Lucius O’Trigger (Sean McNall), also wanting to court Lydia, is paying Lydia’s maid Lucy (Joey Parsons) to carry love notes between him and Lydia (who uses the name "Delia"), but Lucy is swindling him: "Delia" is actually Mrs. Malaprop.

All of this farcical “drawing room” behavior generates additional problems when one suitor discovers others suitors are attempting to woo the same young woman. Threats become challenges to duels. Actors Chris Mixon as Bob Acres, Sean McNall as Sir Lucius O’Trigger, and John C. Egan as Bob Acres’ right hand man portray suitors at war with each other and with their own self-understanding. They consistently light up the stage with hilarity and amazing craft.

Counterpointing the absurd antics of Lydia and her guardians and suitors is the on-again off-again relationship between the play’s only non-comedic character Julia Melville (Rachel Botchan) and the uber-jealous Faulkland (Brad Heberlee). Their relationship serves as the perfect balance to the play’s comedy and watching these two actors engage in their own brand of dueling is breathtaking.

Stock characters (butler and maid) Fag (Kambi Gathesha) and Lucy (Joey Parsons) keep the intrigue inherent in “The Rivals” festering and compounding at the alarming rate necessary for the plot to move forward. These two fine actors breathe authenticity and honesty into characters that could easily be dismissed. It would be fascinating to see Mr. Gathesha and Mr. Donaldson switch roles in some performances.

PTC’s new Artistic Director Hal Brooks takes the helm as director of “The Rivals” and keeps the pace moving at precisely the correct tempo teasing the very best from his brilliant ensemble cast. The play’s two and one-half hour length seems to race by and at no time does the audience get a rest from laughing and attempting to keep up with who is going to dart on and off the stage with a new twist in the story line. Jo Winiarski’s set is the perfect backdrop for the action of this charming play and its design brings wonderful perspective to all that transpires. Jason Fassl’s lighting is serviceable and Sam Flemming’s costumes are extraordinary in their detail and design.

All in all, this production of “The Rivals” is dazzling and not to be missed. It exemplifies Pearl Theatre Company’s insistence on perfection and quality and belief in the importance of the theatre past, present, and future.

THE RIVALS

The cast of “The Rivals” features Pearl Resident Acting Company (RAC) Members who previously starred in the company’s last production of The Rivals in 2003 including Rachel Botchan (Lydia Languish in ’03, now Julia Melville in ’14), Dan Daily (Sir Lucius O’Trigger in ’03, now Sir Anthony Absolute in ’14), Obie Award-winner Sean McNall (Sir Jack Absolute in ’03, now Sir Lucius O’Trigger in’14), and Carol Schultz reprising her award-winning turn as Mrs. Malaprop. Other Company Members include Chris Mixon (Bob Acres), Joey Parsons (Lucy), joined by guest artists Cary Donaldson (Sir Jack Absolute), John C. Egan (David and Thomas), Kambi Gathesha, and Jessica Love as Lydia Languish.

The creative team includes Jo Winiarski (Sets), Sam Fleming (Costumes), Jason Fassl (Lighting), Jane Shaw (Sound and Musical Arrangement), Rod Kinter (Fight Director), Kate Farrington (Dramaturg) and Michael Palmer (Production Stage Manager). Production photos are by Al Foote III.

Performances of “The Rivals” will take place at The Pearl Theatre through May 25 on the following schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; and Thursday–Saturday at 8:00 p.m. The Pearl Theatre is located at 555 West 42nd Street in New York City. Tickets are $65.00 ($35.00 seniors, $20.00 student rush, $20.00 Thursday rush) and can be purchased by visiting www.pearltheatre.org or calling 212.563.9261. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes including a 15 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, May 09, 2014

“The Few” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday June 8, 2014)

“The Few” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday June 8, 2014)
Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Davis McCallum
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..." – William Shakespeare, “Henry V”

Long distance truckers are indeed a band of brothers and sisters whose escapades on America’s interstate highways place them among the few. And consumers in the United States owe a great deal to these drivers (the term they prefer) who often put their lives in jeopardy by staying on the road for long hours without rest. The stress of the profession has often led to substance abuse. Long distance drivers Bryan (Michael Laurence), QZ (Tasha Lawrence), and their friend Jim started a newspaper “The Few” to reach out to truckers in and passing through Idaho, give them support, and give them a place to gather and find surcease.

The newspaper is successful until Jim dies unexpectedly and Bryan - in the midst of his bereavement - leaves QZ behind to manage her grief and to manage the newspaper on her own. The events surrounding Jim’s death while behind the wheel of his rig are carefully disclosed in Samuel D. Hunter’s “The Few” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Mr. Hunter is skilled at providing exposition in increments and keeping the audience in suspense throughout the play. As “The Few” opens, Bryan is returning after his absence of four years to find that QZ has reinvented the newspaper as a personals weekly to keep it profitable and has hired Jim’s nineteen-year-old nephew Matthew (Gideon Glick) as her assistant.

The internal and external conflicts of QZ, Matthew, and Bryan are complicated and drive a suspenseful and challenging plot: suspenseful because the audience has to wait to find out exactly why Bryan has decided to return, why QZ is so unhappy about his return, and why Matthew is completely obsessed with Bryan; challenging because the answers confront the audience with absorbing and rich questions about the meaning of relationships, the dynamics of suicide, and the horrors of bullying and psychological abuse. Perhaps the most challenging question is one QZ asks near the end of the play: “When we were in high school, I never thought we would turn out to be such awful people. How did we turn out to be such awful people?”

To write more about this “awfulness” would divulge too much to future audience members. For this review, it is important to know that under Davis McCallum’s discerning and exacting direction, the ensemble cast proves that it is in the spaces that the promise of hope, reconciliation, and response exist. It is in the gaps, the absences where proto-hope germinates and flourishes. It is among the few and not the many that safety can be found. It is in the prospect of the Y2K grinding down of society’s core that humankind finds prospects of renewal. Y2K is a workable trope in “The Few” for the multitude of threats that face Bryan, QZ, and Matthew as they scramble for safety and avoid the fallout from their unexpected reunion.

Michael Laurence is hauntingly brilliant as Bryan who, at “the end of his rope,” hopes to reconcile with QZ after walking out on her four years prior to this visit. Bryan has lost his moorings, lost his sense of caring, and is mired in loneliness. Bryan “just doesn’t care anymore. [He] really, really just doesn’t care.”

Gideon Glick shines as the irrepressible Matthew who, after Jim’s death, has nowhere else to go but QZ’s place. Mr. Glick’s ability to embody Matthew’s vulnerability and neediness is extraordinary. After being rebuffed by Bryan, Matthew retorts, “No, actually, you don’t know. When I lost Jim, this paper was the only part of him that I had left. When QZ let me move in, and I started working here, I thought you’d eventually come back, and when you did, I thought you’d understand.” Gideon Glick perfectly channels Matthew’s fear of being alone and Matthew’s wounded spirit from being verbally abused by his homophobic father and ruthlessly bullied by his straight peers. Mr. Glick carefully exposes Matthew’s growth and eventual understanding that Bryan does understand and just wants Matthew to be able to stand on his own and trust his ego strength. Bryan tells Matthew, “The sooner you accept the fact that you are completely alone, the sooner you accept that everyone is completely alone, the better off you’ll be.” That difficult truth sets Matthew free.

Tasha Lawrence has the difficult task of portraying QZ whose life is interrupted by Bryan’s return and his insistence of renewing their relationship. Ms. Lawrence’s QZ is a well-rounded and dynamic character who, like Matthew, grows to understand the need for self-reliance and self-acceptance. In unexpected ways, Bryan’s return brings redemption and release to both QZ and Matthew. The unresolved issue is who will redeem Bryan. Will he have the ego strength to run the newspaper on his own or will he follow in Jim’s footsteps?

We never know – we humans, we few – how much of what we do, we say, or we hint at can mean to someone on the fringe of society, on the edge of self-destruction, in the midst of overwhelming despair. “The Few” addresses this important issue in creative and impressive ways. Be sure to see it before June 8. 2014.

THE FEW

The cast of “The Few” is Gideon Glick, Michael Laurence, and Tasha Lawrence.

The set design for “The Few” is by Dane Laffrey; costume design is by Jessica Pabst; lighting design is by Eric Southern; sound design is by Daniel Kluger; properties design is by Andrew Diaz. The production manager is Eugenia Furneaux; the production stage manager is Katie Young. Production photos are by Joan Marcus.

“The Few” plays Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday at 7:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at 224 Waverly Place, west of Seventh Avenue South. Individual tickets are now available and may be purchased at www.rattlestick.org or by phoning OvationTix at 866.811.4111. Individual tickets are $55.00, Student tickets are $10.00, and Under-30 tickets are $15.00. For more information about Rattlestick Playwright Theater and “The Few,” visit www.rattlestick.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, May 08, 2014

“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)

“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)
By David Rudkin
Directed by Jack McNamara
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“And indeed there will be time/To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”/Time to turn back and descend the stair,/With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—“ From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

The connections playwright David Rudkin draws between T. S. Eliot’s fictional character J. Alfred Prufrock and Mr. Rudkin’s interest Alfred J. Hitchcock are compelling and make for a riveting and important theatre piece. Adapted from his earlier (1993) “film for radio,” David Rudkin’s “The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” plays at 59E59 Theater A through May 25, 2014 as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series.

David Rudkin intends his stage version of the radio play to explore “the obsessions of a haunted man” and “The Lovesong” does that with success and a high level of interest. Martin Miller eerily channels the essence of Alfred Hitchcock not just in posture and pattern of speech but also in spirit and soul. Amidst the same empty streets and “yellows,” Mr. Miller shares a Hitchcock who traverses the same stairs ascended and descended by J. Alfred Prufrock as both men sought meaning in their loneliness and hope in their solitude. Mr. Miller is splendid as the meticulous director thinking and rethinking how to bring the images in his mind to images on the screen.

Anthony Wise portrays three characters and handily gives each his own district personality and character traits: first, the menacing Jesuit priest that punishes Alfred cruelly as a child; second, the priest who hears his “confession later in life; and third, the stranger in the dining car on a train who counterpoints Hitchcock’s own dip into subterranean psychic waters. Tom McHugh plays the screenwriter, Hitchcock’s alter ego who puts into words the director’s visionary images and he charmingly plays the overly attentive waiter on the train. Hitchcock claims he was more comfortable with images than reality and Mr. McHugh’s screenwriter makes that claim clear.

Roberta Kerr shines as Hitchcock’s mother Emma and his wife Alma. Ms. Kerr embodies the meanness and possessiveness of Emma and the stalwart supportiveness of Alma who truly nurtured “Hitch” through his disconnect with reality and his deep loneliness. Roberta Kerr hauntingly exudes an Alma who, even after Hitchcock’s death, struggles with defining precisely how she connected to the complicated man her husband was.

Juliet Shillingford’s design and Asuza Ono’s lighting complement the script and the action with simplicity and chilling starkness. Director Jack McNamara keeps the pace at appropriate speed throughout. The piece is a bit long and could easily run without an intermission which would only intensify the playwright’s intent.

It would have been good to have the connection between Hitchcock’s tormented creativity more clearly delineated and more concretely linked to the difficult relationships between the famed director and his wife Alma and his mother Emma; however, the theatre piece as it stands is a compelling look into “Hitch’s” creative process and his brooding desire to find some connection “at the top of the stairs.”

THE LOVESONG OF ALFRED J. HITCHCOCK

59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer) welcome New Perspectives back to Brits Off-Broadway with the US premiere of David Rudkin's “The Lovesong oF Alfred J. Hitchcock,” directed by Jack McNamara.

The cast features Martin Miller (as Alfred Hitchcock); Roberta Kerr; Tom McHugh; and Anthony Wise.

The design team includes Juliet Shillingford (set and costumes); Azusa Ono (lighting); and Tom Lishman (sound). The Production and Stage Manager is Mandy Ivory-Castile. The AEA Stage Manager is Jess Johnston. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, May 25. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:00 PM; Friday at 8:00 PM; Saturday at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM; Sunday at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Single tickets are $70.00 ($49.00 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org. For more information, visit www.britsoffbroadway.com.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, May 07, 2014

“Playing with Grown Ups” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday May 18, 2014)

“Playing with Grown Ups” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday May 18, 2014)
Written by Hannah Patterson
Directed by Hannah Eidinow
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Two couples trying to discover who they are as dyadic entities. Four individuals attempting to discover who they are in their unitary states. Oddly, the lives of the couples parallel one another and even more curious, each individual has a doppelganger. These four - coupled in twos - collide on one rainy night in a flat in the midst of Joanna’s (Trudi Jackson) apparent post-partum, post traumatic stress disorder meltdown. This collision and its fallout are the subject of Hannah Patterson’s “Playing with Grown Ups” currently running at 59E59 Theaters at part of its Brits Off-Broadway series.

Joanna is part of the first couple: she is married to Robert (Mark Rice-Oxley) a university lecturer. They are in their late 30s and Robert has decided they needed to have a child. The second couple - the interlopers – consists of Jake (Alan Cox) and his seventeen year old squeeze Stella (Daisy Hughes) whom Jake met at one of his presentations as head of the film department in which Robert teaches. Robert invites Jake over and Jake includes Stella in the invitation. All of this is without Joanna’s knowledge or approval. Robert announces it on his return from work telling Joanna Jake insisted on the visit since he had not seen Joanna “in months.” The visit includes Joanna preparing dinner for four. The meltdown gets worse.

Despite the levels of cordiality proffered by Robert and their guests, Joanna is in no mood to entertain. The harder Robert, Jake, and Stella try, the worse the situation becomes. Jake is so insensitive to the dynamics of the visit that he insists on staying the night with Stella. And at no time does Robert intercede on Joanna’s behalf. He is more interested in securing his position at the university and securing his future by producing children. He cares more about whether Jake should be dating a seventeen year old than he does about the psychological and spiritual health of his wife. Joanna has discovered she cares “more about bringing [her] women back into the world than [she does] about bringing [Lily] into the world.” This discovery will change her life and her marriage in catastrophic and cathartic ways and this catharsis is at the very core of “Playing with Grown Ups.”

The difficulty is that no one is listening to Joanna. Even Joanna has not listened to herself in a very long time. Joanna loves her work at the publishing company. She cherishes being able to bring back to life women writers who have become “unpopular.” After Lily’s birth, she realizes that decision to have a child was not hers but her husband’s. Joanna has given up all that she loves in order to do something she does not want to do and to become someone she is not. Robert does not understand Joanna’s ennui and believes everything will be all right if his wife “gets some help.” Apparently not much progress has been made since the nineteenth century solution to a woman’s sadness was to administer a dose of laudanum or prescribe a stint in a “sanatorium.”

Under Hannah Eldinow’s often cumbersome direction, all four actors manage to bring their characters to levels of believability and authenticity. Trudi Jackson brilliantly portrays a Joanna lost in a vacuum of indifference: those who portend to love her are in fact indifferent to her needs and to her aspirations. Mark Rice-Oxley’s Robert is a “good old boy” nattily disguised in thirty-something wolves’ clothes and Mr. Rice-Oxley pulls off that annoying duplicity with charm and wit. Alan Cox gives the audience a Jake whose annoying intrusiveness can easily burst forth in righteous indignation: when Jake defends himself against Robert’s accusations of inappropriate behavior, Mr. Cox shines. And Daisy Hughes is the perfect teenage Stella who is simply trying to discover what it means to be seventeen in the midst of a trio of almost-forties all of whom lack direction or requisite ego strength. She is Joanna’s doppelganger as Jake is Robert’s double.

The only weakness of this production is in its length and its pacing. The performance is too long and the actors’ pacing seems off. It takes far too long to establish the relationship between Stella and Jake and the scenes between them are laborious, particularly the bed scene. There are unnecessary gaps between conversations and individual characters deliver lines at a slow pace. Perhaps this improved after this performance. Nonetheless, “Playing with Grown Ups” is an important play and worth the visit. Joanna’s and Stella’s quests to discover who they are resonate in significant ways with all attempts at self-realization and self-acceptance.

PLAYING WITH GROWN UPS

59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer) welcomes KPS Productions in association with the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh to Brits Off Broadway with “Playing with Grown Ups” by Hannah Patterson, directed by Hannah Eidinow.

The cast for PLAYING WITH GROWN UPS features Alan Cox (Cornelius at Brits Off Broadway at 59E59), Daisy Hughes (Richard III with the Royal Shakespeare Company), Trudi Jackson (Road Rage at the Arcola, Miramax's The Libertine), and Mark Rice-Oxley (Mark Ravenhill's Pool, No Water with Frantic Assembly).

The design team includes Simon Scullion (set design); Nicholas Holdridge (lighting design); and Natalie Pryce (costume design). The Production Stage Manager is Raynelle Wright. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM and 7:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, May 06, 2014

“Sea Marks” at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday June 15, 2014)

Xanthe Elbrick and Patrick Fitzgerald: Photo by Carol Rosegg
“Sea Marks” at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday June 15, 2014)
By Gardner McKay
Directed by Ciarán O'Reilly
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a brooding sadness inherent in and hovering over the love story of Liverpudlian Timothea Stiles (Xanthe Elbrick) and Cliffhorn Heads fisherman Colm Primrose (Patrick Fitzgerald). Gardner McKay’s mesmeric “Sea Marks” echoes the deep sadness of James Joyce and the disputatious anger of Martin McDonagh and, blended with his own unique storytelling style, creates a beautiful tale of love and loss, regret and redemption. “Sea Marks” is not a traditional love story with a happy ending; rather it is a story about what motivates people to do the risky things they do to find happiness or the surcease of loneliness.

Remembering the “pretty girl” he met at a wedding “two winters ago,” Colm sends “Miss Stiles” a letter just to see if she might remember him. The pretty girl Timothea does not remember Colm but they commence on a furious correspondence which transitions from the formal to the affectionate to the romantic. Colm eventually leaves his partner “called the MacAfee” and their fishing boat behind to visit Timothea in Liverpool where she works for the publisher Mr. Blackstone. Colm is head over heels in love with Timothea; in fact, he in infatuated with the idea of her.

Colm’s letters to Timothea are sheer poetry brimming with deep human feeling and constructed with imagery, figurative language and a treasure trove of tropes any poet would die for! Before he visits, Timothea shares with Colm that, “Mr. Blackstone says there’s not many can coax meaning out of words the way you do.” That seems to be a compliment. In fact, it is the foreshadowing of disaster.

Motivation is the key to understanding the love song of Welsh Timothea and Irish Colm. Although it appears on the surface that, through Colm’s letters Timothea develops the same kind of fancy for Colm as Colm has for her, Timothea’s motivation for developing her relationship with Colm is more about publishing than permanency. Before Colm’s arrival, Timothea has set in motion a publishing marketing campaign that will rattle Colm’s weltanschauung to its very core.

All Colm wants to do is please Tomothea. His motives are pure, clean, and primitive – all he desires is as poet and lover to coax the meaning out of their relationship. When all he experiences is the marketing campaign for the book of poems Timothea garnered from his private letters and published without his permission, Colm begins to yearn for the Heads and his partner the MacAfee. The publisher titles Colm’s book of poetry “Sea Sonnets.” Colm would have preferred “Sea Marks” paying homage to “those lines that the highest reach of the tide leaves on the land to remind you that it’ll be back.”

Patrick Fitzgerald’s Colm (meaning ‘dove’) is perfectly “primitive” in the sense of ‘essential, indispensible, fundamental, and pristine." Mr, Fitzgerald gives his Colm the ideal blend of seasoned gritty fisherman and naïve schoolboy. His performance is flawless and freckled with highlights of brilliance. Colm just wants to – as playwright McKay offers – “hold his way of life,” something Timothea does not understand and fails to respect.

Xanthe Elbrick’s Timothea (meaning ‘God-fearing’) is paramour on the outside and Venus Fly Trap just beneath the endearing surface. Ms. Elbrick makes clear that Timothea’s love is as much authentic romance as it is an interest in his sexual naiveté and the publishing possibilities Colm’s writing proffers. Her performance is at once charming as it is calculating and brims with alarming sincerity.

Charlie Corcoran’s scenic design is serviceable and engaging. Michael Gottlieb’s lighting bathes the Heads and Liverpool with appropriate mystery and urban distraction. And Ciarán O'Reilly’s direction is fluid, meticulous, and supportive of the craft of the ensemble cast.

Eventually Colm returns to Cliffhorn Heads to complete a season of fishing. The play ends the same way it begins: Colm writing to Timothea and Timothea beginning to respond. The salutations – “Dear Love” and “My dearest Colm” – seem to prophesy a felicitous reunion. Between the lines, however, is the possibility they both know things will never be the same between them. The “sea marks” of their visit in Liverpool foreshadow difficulty for a true love connection and remind both “lovers” the tides of remorse will return. This final offering in Irish Repertory’s current season is a must see and will not disappoint.

SEA MARKS

The cast of “Sea Marks” features Xanthe Elbrick and Patrick Fitzgerald.

“Sea Marks” has set design by Charlie Corcoran, costume design by Leon Dobkowski, lighting design by Michael Gottlieb, sound design by M. Florian Staab, and music by Ryan Rumery. Wig design is by Robert Charles Vallance, and properties by Sven Henry Nelson. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

“Sea Marks” will be performed April 23rd through June 15th on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage of the Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street). The performance schedule is: Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets for SEA MARKS, priced $55.00-$65.00, are available by calling the Irish Rep box office at 212-727-2737 or by visiting www.irishrep.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, May 05, 2014

“17 Orchard Point” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Saturday May 24, 2014)

“17 Orchard Point” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Saturday May 24, 2014)
By Anton Dudley and Stephanie DiMaggio
Directed by Stella Powell-Jones
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Right now, it's time for us to do something. If not now, then when. Will we see an end. To all this pain. It's not enough to do nothing. It's time for us to do something.” - “Do Something” by Matthew West

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Just ask the irrepressible Lydia Rauscher (Michele Pawk) come to visit her daughter Vera (Stephanie DiMaggio) for the baby shower for Lydia’s younger daughter Annie. Lydia flees Cleveland after the death of her husband and son Griffin, leaves Vera to manage the apartment building she owns, and hooks up with Stuart in Las Vegas where what happens remains a secret. But Lydia’s Vegas secrets are no match for the Pandora’s Box of punchy revelations awaiting her at 17 Orchard Point. Anton Dudley and Stephanie DiMaggio’s play – named after that apartment – is a chilling psychological thriller with all the necessary twists and turns to keep the audience gasping and guessing for an emotionally-laden seventy-five glorious minutes at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in Manhattan.

What happened at 17 Orchard Point some thirty years ago comes back to haunt Lydia and shake the very foundations of Vera’s ego strength. What happened swirls around two christening gowns that Vera retrieves at her sister’s request from the basement of the apartment – home of handyman Leonard. The mystery begins to unfold when Lydia discovers she has walked into a trap: Vera is not hosting a baby shower for Annie – that shower took place a week prior at Vera’s brother-in-law’s house. One gown is embroidered with Vera’s sister’s birth name: Annie Marie Rauscher. The other is embroidered with Vera’s birth name: Vera Elaine Thomason.

The “stuff” of “17 Orchard Point” revolves around Vera’s insistence that her mother disclose why Vera’s christening gown has a different last name than her father’s. That secret will be left to the audience to discover – and the reader should not assume too much by that different last name – the truth is far more devastating than one might imagine. Even after the truth is revealed, there are more secrets, more truths, to be disclosed – including Lydia’s decision to sell the apartment building and leave Vera virtually homeless and jobless. Those truths are uncovered in a rapid-fire “truth-or-dare” (without the dare) match between mother and daughter. Ms. DiMaggio and Ms. Pawk light the stage with fireworks in this and all scenes in the play. Their craft is remarkable and unswerving. It is a gift to see these two actors square off with one another in a duet of thrilling bravura performances.

When Lydia first enters the apartment, she announces to Vera, “Remember what Nana used to say? “Leave your baggage at the door or it’ll end up on your face! The little things!” Lydia repeats that mantra – the little things – at least seven times during the play and each time the phrase is a harbinger of quite “big things” to come. Both Lydia and Vera are repeatedly hit in the face with truths that should set them free but instead open a multitude of wounds in the process. The manner in which these characters handle the pain and move forward in their lives is stunning and manages to profoundly engage the audience and connect with the audience in powerful ways. Some of the truths in “17 Orchard Point” hit more than Lydia and Vera’s faces during this brilliantly acted and brilliantly directed play.

At least five religious symbols grace Vera’s apartment: three crucifixes, a statue, and a twisted bit of palm. With relatively few instruments, Daisy Long lights these and the rest of the interior and the exterior of 17 Orchard Point with satisfying believability. Her lighting and John McDermott’s multilevel, multi-room set provide the lived-in charming realism that belies the shadows that insist on becoming light. Vera’s faith and its accoutrements have managed to keep her demons at bay for a very long time and her encounter with Lydia is the beginning of an exorcism and a catharsis of epic proportions. The necessary catharsis works as well as it does in large part because of the Lydia brought to life by Michele Pawk. Her Lydia gives the audience a mother in the midst of a psych- dramatic meltdown as she attempts to keep truth at bay just a little longer.

“17 Orchard Point” is a play about honesty, motivation, self-esteem, disillusionment, love, and indifference. Who is the mysterious Thomason? Does Lydia really love Vera? What is Vera’s relationship with Leonard? These questions and many more are answered as daughter and mother unpack thirty years of secrets, thirty years of unspoken feelings, and thirty years of imprisonment in the past. It is a play ultimately about what happens when nothing is done when time and again it has been time to do something. It would be shame to miss this fascinating play and even more a shame if it does not enjoy a future beyond its current run.

17 ORCHARD POINT

The cast of “17 Orchard Point” features Stephanie DiMaggio and Michelle Pawk.

Scenic Design for “17 Orchard Point” is by John McDermott. Costume Design is by Tilly Grimes. Lighting Design is by Daisy Long. Sound Design is by Elisheba Ittoop. “17 Orchard Point” is produced by Justin Scribner. Production photos are by Matthew Murphy.

“17 Orchard Point” runs through May 24th at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues). The performance schedule is: Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesdays – Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets for “17 Orchard Point” are $45.00 and can be arranged online www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200, or at the Theatre available daily at the Theatre Row Box Office for that day’s performance(s) only. Valid student ID required. For more information, please visit www.17OrchardPoint.com.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, May 04, 2014

“Family Play” (1979 to Present) at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Friday May 16, 2014)

“Family Play” (1979 to Present) at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Friday May 16, 2014)
Written by Geoffrey Decas O’Donnell, Boo Killebrew, and Jordan Seavey
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

It is difficult to develop well-rounded and rich characterizations when one has not experienced directly or indirectly the significant conflicts and settings of the characters involved in a play or any other performance piece. Actors attempt that theatrical feat often with varying degrees of success. In the case of “Family Play (1979 to Present),” Collaboration Town’s ensemble-driven creative process does not give the young ensemble cast enough interesting content to be able to bring their somewhat lackluster characters to life. In four “sections” – each introduced by a different family “meal time event” – six talented actors spin around a large circular stage and hop on and off entering into a variety of “Readers Theatre” scenarios.

All of the scenarios fail to develop past the improvisational theatre level of acting class theatre games – except obviously the actors have clearly memorized their lines flawlessly and have received some manner of direction from Lee Sunday Evans. The fault lies not with the actors but with the material they are given to grapple with and with the sparse direction they receive: one actor (whose name will not be mentioned) evidences the exact same body movement and speech pattern for every character he plays whether that character is a child, teen, or adult. It is difficult to understand how a director could allow that to happen.

The life events “acted out” for the audience run the gamut of family feuds, beak-ups, make-ups, straight marriages, gay marriages, pregnancies, divorces, coming-out, going out, abuse, suicide, addiction, progressive families, parents who never should have had children, surrogate mothers, gender dysphoria (DSM-5), coping with aging and Alzheimer’s – to name just a few. The list is both kaleidoscopic and sometimes exhausting.

This is Collaboration Town’s statement of purpose: CollaborationTown (“CTown”) creates ensemble-driven works that defy expectations of how stories can be told in the theater. CTown creates imaginative, emotional, aesthetically sophisticated productions with a commitment to make work that is relevant beyond traditional theater audiences and speaks to many of the most pressing contemporary social and political themes.”

Unfortunately, in the case of this first installment of their two-year Archive Residency at the New Ohio, Collaboration Town has not created any new stories, any new ways those stories can be told in the theatre, and has not produced a performance piece that is relevant beyond traditional theatre audiences. Finally, although the contemporary social and political themes addressed are indeed among the most pressing, all have been dealt with in other places and other times with more depth and more sensitivity.

The audience here cares little about the families portrayed short of the occasional burst of laughter evinced when someone briefly recognizes his or her own life experience being depicted on the stage. The jury remains out on the rest of Collaboration Town’s Residency.

FAMILY PLAY (1979 TO PRESENT)

The cast of “Family Play” includes Eboni Booth, Jorge Cordova, Geoffrey Decas O’Donnell, Mark Junek, Boo Killebrew and Therese Plaehn.

The creative team includes Geoffrey Decas O’Donnell (Scenic Design), Nick Houfek (Lighting Design), Beth Goldenberg (Costume Design), Brandon Wolcott (Sound Design), Stephanie Miller (Associate Director) and Sandy Yaklin (Associate Scenic Design and Technical Director). The production team includes Amanda Feldman (Producer) and Eric Marlin (Production Stage Manager). Production photos are by Hunter Canning.

CollaborationTown’s World Premiere of “Family Play (1979 To Present)” runs through Friday May 16, 2014. Performances are Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., and Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. There is no show on Monday, May 5. Performances take place at New Ohio Theatre, located at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in New York City. Tickets are $18.00 and $15.00 for students and seniors, and can be purchased online at http://www.NewOhioTheatre.org or by calling the Vendini ticket line at 1-888-596-1027. For info visit http://www.NewOhioTheatre.org, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/NewOhioTheatre and follow on Twitter at @NewOhioTheatre. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, May 02, 2014

“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)

“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)
By Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental
Music by Wilhelm Bros. & Co.
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Despite Ranger Steve Reynolds’ (Jeremy Wilhelm) welcoming words to the NYTW audience and his insistence that “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is “gonna have a lot of good information [and] some important dates,” there is not much Edgar Allan Poe aficionados do not already know about Poe, his marriage to his thirteen year old cousin Virginia Clemm, his attachment to his mother-in-law (and aunt) “Muddy,” and his life-long battles with the dissolution of his ego strength and his successive descent into madness.

But providing fresh information about Edgar Allan Poe is not the purpose of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental’s brilliant and evocative “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop. Rather, the success of this impressive theatre-dance/performance piece depends on it razor sharp focus on Poe’s final journey on the red-eye train from Philadelphia to Baltimore – the train Poe mistakenly boarded instead of the train to his home in New York City.

Thaddeus Phillips, Jeremy Wilhelm, David Wilhelm, Geoff Sobelle, Sophie Bortolussi with Ean Sheehy – creators of “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” – also reference “Eureka” which Poe “believed to be his greatest work, in which he offered the full explanation of the origin and annihilation of the universe.” Poe’s exploration of particle theory is not only an extraordinary and visionary treatise that “puts forth in rational terms the metaphysical phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘God;’ it is also a dignified and provocative trope for Edgar Allan Poe’s own self-destruction and demise and delving into deity.

The Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental is a theater creation team “that uses 'rough' media, documentary footage, transformational scenography, improvisation, and research to create theatrical epics that peer into not-often seen worlds.” “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is such an epic that peers with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel into the events surrounding Poe’s mysterious death on October 7, 1849. There have been several plausible theories of how Poe ended up in Washington College Hospital: the strength of “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is its commitment to exploring in detail one theory in chilling and exotic detail.

Under Thaddeus Phillips’ exacting and kaleidoscopic direction and counterpointing David and Jeremy Wilhelm’s haunting music, Alessandra L. Larson as Virginia Poe and Ean Sheehy as Edgar Allan Poe deliver what might easily be the most definitive and well-defined performances about this star-crossed couple to date. Part performance piece and part theatre-dance, “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is at once poignant, disturbing, electric, and discomforting. The audience connects in powerful ways to Poe’s struggles to stay connected to reality and sanity as he lives out his days mourning the loss of his “Annabel Lee” as the thumping of the “Tell-Tale Heart” reminds him of all that he has buried which is not yet forgotten.

Additionally, Poe’s battles with alcohol and laudanum connect in dramatic ways to our individual and corporate attempts to dull the pain and ennui of the twenty-first century and its sometimes hallucinogenic forays into false hopefulness and denial of reality. Humanity’s grasp on lucidity and sanity is at best tentative and seems often on the brink of dissolving into a sea of paranoia. Ranger Steve (why not Conductor Steve?) narrates Poe’s last hours before his death with skill and chilling humor and the powerful craft of Ms. Larson and Mr. Sheehy lead us to the glorious place where questioning our own sanity leads us gently to the very Valley of the Shadow just east of Eldorado.

RED-EYE TO HAVRE DE GRACE

New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) Artistic Director James C. Nicola and Managing Director Jeremy Blocker present the New York premiere of “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” at NYTW, 79 East 4 Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery. “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is by Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, created by Thaddeus Phillips, Jeremy Wilhelm, David Wilhelm, Geoff Sobelle, Sophie Bortolussi with Ean Sheehy, with music by Wilhelm Bros. & Co., and direction and stage design by Thaddeus Phillips.

The cast of “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” includes Ean Sheehy, Alessandra Larson, Jeremy Wilhelm and David Wilhelm.

“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” includes creative consultation by Teller, choreography by Sophie Bortulussi, lighting design by Drew Billiau, sound design by Rob Kaplowitz, and costume design by Rosemarie Mckelvey. Production photos are by Johanna Austin (http://www.austinart.org/).

“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” plays Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.; Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4 Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery. There will be a special student matinee on Tuesday, May 20. “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” runs through June 1, 2014. Tickets, starting at $75.00 may be purchased online at nytw.org, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by phoning Ticket Central at 212-279-4200. For exact dates and times of performances, visit nytw.org. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“Peddling” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday May 18, 2014)

Harry Melling stars in Peddling, part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Bill Knight.
“Peddling” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday May 18, 2014)
Written and Performed by Harry Melling
Directed by Steven Atkinson
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Words are inherently powerful tools, even more powerful when written and perhaps most powerful when spoken. This is the case with Harry Melling’s compelling script “Peddling” currently running at 59E59 Theater C and part of the presenting organization’s “2014 Brits Off-Broadway Series.” Mr. Melling’s script traces the often explosive day-in-the-life of Michael the nineteen-year-old “boy” peddling his “everyday essentials” as part of “Boris; young offender’s scheme.”

The boy’s story is somewhat universal: Michael – like so many others – “was born and didn’t grow.” “Something happened and [he] still don’t know quite what.” Having missed living in a happy family and enjoying a mother who liked him, Michael obviously took to the streets of London, fell in with the wrong crowd, and became a juvenile offender. Now in a residence with other offenders, his days are spent peddling wares to justify his room and board and – at least temporary – secure his escape from homelessness.

Like Don Quixote, Michael battles enemies real and imagined and attempts to ward off his own personal demons as he tries “to get back on track” without the “atomic meltdown” of low self esteem and rage at the establishment that consume his recovering mind, body, and spirit. Michael needs to discover his “point of turning – where one thing becomes the other.” When did innocence cease for Michael and when precisely did he “come to offend?” But Michael’s rage often overcomes reason and he retreats into his mantra “we gonna disturb the peace/we gonna make a noise so loud - that no one won’t know us./no one won’t know me.”

Michael’s important journey in Harry Milling’s script is unfortunately overshadowed by the somewhat pretentious production design meant to enhance his engaging prose-poem. “Peddling” is a spoken word event which does not need an elaborate (and obviously expensive) set. The four-sided scrim obfuscates the performer’s expressions and although it is meant to signify Michael’s imprisonment in his past, it prevents the audience from fully engaging in Michael’s cries to be recognized and accepted as “something made of flesh and blood!”

“Peddling” is about the importance of the journey to redemption and release from self-doubt. Michael wants a second chance; he wants to “take a first step,” he “wants a shot” at full personhood and the ability to experience the real “life’s essentials.” The play would have worked better as a pure performance piece. Without the trappings, Mr. Milling’s words could have become flesh and dwelt among the audience “full of grace and truth.” The playwright needs to trust his material and trust his audience’s ability to process that material. That said, it would be worth the trip to listen to Mr. Milling’s words. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen.

PEDDLING

59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer) welcomes HighTide Festival Theatre with the US premiere of PEDDLING, written and performed by Harry Melling, and directed by Steven Atkinson.

The design team includes Lily Arnold (set and costume design), Azusa Ono (lighting design), and George Dennis (sound design). Production photos are by Bill Knight.

PEDDLING runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, May 18. The performance schedule is Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30 PM; Friday at 8:30 PM; Saturday at 2:30 PM & 8:30 PM; and Sunday at 3:30 PM & 7:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org. Running time is 50 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, April 29, 2014

“Inventing Mary Martin” at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)

Emily Skinner - Photo by Carol Rosegg
“Inventing Mary Martin” at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Through Sunday May 25, 2014)
Conceived, Written, and Directed by Stephen Cole
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Stephen Cole’s “Inventing Mary Martin” is ninety minutes of adrenaline driven high energy singing and dancing devoted to remembering, honoring, and celebrating the life and career of the indefatigable Mary Martin. Broadway veteran Jason Graae narrates and hosts the tribute and is joined on the York Theatre stage by a trio of delightful divas: Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, and Emily Skinner. After the opening monologue and medley of Mary Martin hits, the cast, under Mr. Cole’s direction, launches into a non-stop succession of solos, duets, trios, and quartets all highlighting Ms. Martin’s successful Hollywood and Broadway careers.

And as the title suggests, this quartet of skilled singers, actors, and dancers address the importance of Mary Martin’s remarkable ability to invent herself, reinvent herself, and know when to allow herself to be reimagined by others.

The inimitable Jason Graae, who seems to shine on all facets of a well cut entertainer as actor, comedian, singer and dancer, keeps the show moving at a very quick pace with inextinguishable energy which was so commonly found in the Broadway musical stars of the 40s and 50s. His rendition of “Alice Is At It Again” which was actually cut from the show “Pacific 1860” because Ms. Martin thought it too risqué to perform, is an amazing example of an actor/singer understanding the storytelling of the song, making every lyric clear and impeccably delivered. The hysterical pantomime about fashion through the years which was done by Martin on The Ford 50th Anniversary Show for television is reconstructed by Mr. Graae and is nothing less than brilliant, with finesse and comic flair reminding us of the great Sid Ceaser.

To single out any one of the three delectable divas seems implausible, as each shines in their own special way. Lynne Halliday with her clear soprano delivers a sublime rendition of ”I’m A Stranger Here Myself” which captivates the audience and interprets the dramatic turn Ms. Martin exhibited in “A Touch of Venus.” Cameron Adams pulls out all the stops in her spin on “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” which becomes one of the showstoppers and audience favorites, as she inexhaustibly bumps, grinds and kicks her way through a rigorous dance routine while still managing to belt out the song’s mantra. Emily Skinner never ceases to amaze as she delivers one of the best renditions of “I Got Lost In His Arms” these critics have heard, bringing a sensual sensitivity to the lyric with beautiful interpretation and then conquers “Flaming Agnes” with her competent musical comedy ability and Broadway belt.

This is nonstop entertainment that is sure to please. The only flaw would be too much histrionics in the first half of the show that sometimes reveals irrelevant information that has no connection to the musical number that will be performed. The second half seems to gain strength in providing a better ratio of narration and song at time providing an intriguing integration.

INVENTING MARY MARTIN

The York Theatre Company (James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director; Andrew Levine, Executive Director) continues the 2013-2014 season with the world premiere of the new musical, “Inventing Mary Martin,” conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole.

The four-member cast will feature Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, Jason Graae and Emily Skinner.

The creative team includes James Morgan (Set), Patricia McGourty (Costumes), Mary Jo Dondlinger (Lights), Janie Bullard (Sound), Justin West (Projections), James Maloof (Props), and Geoff Josselson (Casting). The Production Stage Manager is Bernita Robinson with Assistant Stage Manager Jackie Cookfair. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

“Inventing Mary Martin” will play the following performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday-Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for Inventing Mary Martin are priced at $67.50 and may be purchased by calling (212) 935-5820, or in person at the box office at the York Theatre at Saint Peter’s (Citicorp Building, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue), Monday through Friday (12:00 -6:00 p.m.). Running Time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, April 27, 2014

59E59 Theaters launches the 5A Season, a new season of five plays in Theater A

Click Link for Brochure: http://www.59e59.org/5a-brochure.php
59E59 Theaters launches the 5A Season, a new season of five plays in Theater A and a new membership option

59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer), now celebrating 10 years of presenting ground-breaking theater in New York, is thrilled to announce the creation of the 5A Season, a new Theater A season of five tremendous new plays for New York theater lovers. The 5A Season also includes a new membership option expanding on 59E59's popular membership program.

Presenting five new plays from celebrated theater makers across the US and around the world, 59E59's new 5A Season is an exciting addition to its already eclectic year-round programming. For $245, the 5A Season Bundle includes a ticket to each of the new 5A shows, including guaranteed same seating for all shows, plus the benefits of the regular 59E59 Membership (30% off all shows, discounts at partner dining establishments, $3 off drinks at the E:Bar, parking discounts, and more). The 59E59 Membership is included with the 5A Season Bundle.

The single ticket prices for the 5A Season will be $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets to the 5A Season go on sale on May 27, with a special pre-sale for current 59E59 Members beginning May 19. The 5A Season Bundle is on sale now. Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org.

"We are excited to now program Theater A year-round with the challenging, wonderful and sometimes funky shows that shore-up 59E59's reputation as an Off Broadway risk-taker," said Founder and Artistic Director Elysabeth Kleinhans. "We've assembled a season filled with exciting new voices telling extraordinary stories."

"The amount we've grown over the past ten years is truly phenomenal," added Executive Producer Peter Tear. "We are thrilled to offer this new option to our members, many of whom have supported us since we first opened our doors. Being able to give them more Theater A shows that really represent the heart and soul of 59E59 Theaters is quite exhilarating."

The 5A Season:

Week commencing July 7 - August 24
THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE, adapted and directed by Hershey Felder is based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival (Grand Central Publishing, 2003) by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. With Mona Golabek. Produced by Geffen Playhouse in association with Eighty-Eight Entertainment and Berkeley Rep.

Set in Vienna in 1938 and in London during the Blitz, THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE tells the true story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish pianist who is dreaming about her concert debut at Vienna's storied Musikverein concert hall. But with the issuing of new ordinances under the Nazi regime, everything for Lisa changes, except for her love of music and the pursuit of her dream. Featuring some of the world's most beloved piano music played live, THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is performer Mona Golabek's true family story, a story of music, family survival, and hope. THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE makes its NYC premiere after critically acclaimed, sold out runs in Chicago, Boston, Berkeley, and Los Angeles.


Week commencing August 25 - October 12
BAUER by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Bill English. With Ron Guttman, Susi Damilano, and Stacy Ross. Produced by San Francisco Playhouse.

World-renowned artist Rudolf Bauer was so driven to create, he sketched on scraps in a Nazi prison. Yet he eventually stopped painting forever when a feud erupted amongst himself, his patron and benefactor Solomon Guggenheim, and Bauer’s lifetime love, Baroness Hilla Rebay – one of Guggenheim’s most trusted curators. The Guggenheim Museum, originally built to house Bauer’s works, opened without a single Bauer exhibited.

Commissioned by San Francisco Playhouse, BAUER is a compelling and controversial imagined face-off between Bauer and the two women he loved most as they each confront the passions of his life and art.

Rudolf Bauer is considered by many art historians and critics to have had a major impact on modern artists such as Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning, and yet his name and work mysteriously disappeared from the art world in the 1950s and many of his paintings remain banished to the basement of the Guggenheim Museum.

Week commencing October 20 - November 30
GHOST STORIES, written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, directed by Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman, and Sean Holmes. Cast to be announced. Produced by Ghost Stories NYC Joint Venture and originally presented by the Lyric Hammersmith, London and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

Direct from the West End, GHOST STORIES is the hit heart-stopping play by masters of the macabre Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman (of the BBC's cult show The League of Gentlemen). Three men gather, each with an uncanny tale to tell: their chilling stories bleed off the stage and into your dreams. Not for the faint hearted, Time Out London called GHOST STORIES "an immaculately crafted evening of entertainment. Play the game and you'll have a scream!"

Week commencing January 12 - February 22
Show to be announced

Week commencing March 2 - April 12
LONESOME TRAVELER, created and directed by Jim O’Neil. Cast to be announced. Produced by the Rubicon Theater (Ventura, California).

LONESOME TRAVELER celebrates the legacy of folk as the soundtrack of social change and moral revolution. Employing nine singer/musicians dramatizing some of the key moments in the history of the American folk revival, LONESOME TRAVELER features classic songs such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Maggie’s Farm." Weaving together a tapestry of the venues and historic circumstances that put folk at the core of the great changes that swept American society from 1958 through to the early 1970s, LONESOME TRAVELER celebrates the legacy of folk as the soundtrack of social change and moral revolution.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, April 25, 2014

Renowned French Playwright Mohamed Kacimi’s ‘Holy Land’ to Receive U.S. Premiere at HERE in April and May

Renowned French Playwright Mohamed Kacimi’s ‘Holy Land’ to Receive U.S. Premiere at HERE in April and May

The U.S. premiere of renowned French playwright Mohamed Kacimi’s acclaimed play Holy Land will be presented at HERE in NYC this spring, running from April 18-May 10.

What if the sound of bombs & gunfire was the daily soundtrack to your life? Welcome, to “Holy Land” the raw and evocative tale of two families in a war ravaged city, trying to find humor when all is lost. Holy Land has been presented to critical acclaim in Paris, Vienna, Prague, London, Milan, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm and Hamburg. The U.S. premiere production is translated by award-winning NYbased playwright Chantal Bilodeau and will be presented by 3rd Kulture Kids, featuring direction by Tracy Cameron Francis who has directed and developed work with NYTW, Williamstown Theatre Festival, LaMama Umbria (Italy), NY Arab American Comedy Festival, NY International Fringe and Falaki Theatre (Egypt). Based in Paris, Mohamed Kacimi was born in Algeria in a family of theologians; a poet, playwright, novelist, translator, journalist, he is also the president of Écritures du Monde - an organization that puts together international writing residencies.

Can we find humor and poetry in extreme situations? Mohamed Kacimi’s compelling and entertaining "Holy Land" answers this question as five contemporary characters face the devastation of war. A city under siege…the landscape is dusty, devastated. Carmen has disappeared at a checkpoint; her daughter, Imen, must face a soldier’s house search alone. In the house next door, Alia, a midwife, prepares her coffee as if nothing else matters while Yad, her husband, gets away from it all by smoking and drinking. The only hope seems to reside in Jesus: the cat. This dark and humorous story follows 5 characters hanging on to the banality of day-to-day life, at times to the point of insanity, as a way to transcend the atrocities of war.

3rd Kulture Kids has assembled a multicultural team to work on this universal play and the cast will feature Obie Award-winner Jojo Gonzalez (White Collar, The Smurfs Movie, The Romance of Magno Rubio), Sean Carvajal, Ana Grosse, Gil Perez-Abraham and Pia Haddad. The creative team includes Charles Coes (Sound Designer), Lisa Renee Jordan (Costume Designer), Sheryl Liu (Set Designer), Miguel Valderrama (Lighting Designer) and Laura Perez (Stage Manager).

This production is an Equity Approved Showcase and is a part of SubletSeries@HERE, HERE’s curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as technical support.

"Holy Land" will run from April 18-May 10 at HERE (145 Avenue of the Americas) with performances Wednesday-Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 and can be purchased online at www.HERE.org.

3rd Kulture Kids is a theatre and film production company based in New York City, producing new/contemporary work created by the lost citizens of the world. 3K² will provide a home and a voice for multicultural artists, spreading its unique perspective on life. Precursors of the 22nd century, 3K² will generate stories that we can all call ours. www.3rdkulturekids.com
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Annapurna” Presented by the New Group at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)

Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally Photo by Monique Carboni
“Annapurna” Presented by the New Group at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Sunday June 1, 2014)
Written by Sharr White
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Annapurna” is a high-wire act with no safety net.

Homer recounts the epic ten-year journey of Ulysses after the fall of Troy and chronicles his adventures and misadventures as he attempts to reunite with his faithful wife Penelope and their son Telemachus. James Joyce recounts the epic day-long journey of Leopold Bloom and unfolds his adventures and misadventure in Dublin with corollary characters Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. And Sharr White recounts the epic day-long journey of his equally modernist Ulysses (Nick Offerman) and rehearses his adventures and (mostly) misadventures as he receives a visit from his ex-wife Emma (Megan Mullally) and the impending visit from their son Sam.

The epic journey of Sharr White’s character Ulysses is less of a sea event and more of a land excursion, specifically a dangerous dance with Emma as she leads him down the demon-laden memory ride to the night she left him - taking Sammy with her - never to return. Mr. White’s epic is entitled “Annapurna” and it is the final offering of the New Group in its home at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row. ‘Annapurna’ is also the title of Ulysses’ own epic poem written about Emma (and about him) in Emma’s absence on paper towels, tissues and other detritus extant in his Paonia, Colorado trailer home.

As Emma clears away that detritus, she clears a path through Ulysses’ layers of denial and addiction to a truth of epic proportion. Battling her own co-dependence and pain, she appears to return to Ulysses to care for him in his dying days: decades of alcohol and nicotine and sorrow have taken their toll on Ulysses and an oxygen backpack and a stash of emergency inhalers are not as effective as they used to be at prolonging his existence. In Mr. White’s retelling of “The Odyssey” Emma is the one who leaves home with her son; however, “Annapurna” is Ulysses’ journey. Emma and Sam have dodged co-dependence and pain for twenty years: mother and son have not cared for themselves by attending Al-Anon/Alateen Family Meetings. But Emma does not return to Ulysses to rescue him. She returns to exact revenge and redeem Sam’s pain.

“EMMA: Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you’re not…in…relationship. With them.
Somehow. For the rest of your life.” It is that ‘somehow’ that is at the heart of the well-written “Annapurna.” Emma and Ulysses are both captives to the past: Emma has decided to disengage from the suffering and massive binge of denial:

“ULYSSES: Almost; cowboy boots. (Small beat.)But I see ‘em up there sometimes, the unprepared ones; stuck. Scared. Little sick to think this way but it…makes me feel better.
EMMA: What, to know other people are stuck and scared? (Beat. Re: more ants.)—OK, where are they coming from, I just cleaned this.”

It would be remiss of this critic to disclose the truth Emma extracts from Ulysses. Her rescue mission is nothing like Marty McNeely’s rescue from Ulysses’ climb but the resentment resounds with familiarity:

“EMMA: (Rising to clean again.) He did, didn’t he. [Marty] rescued you and you’ve been pissed off about it ever since. Admit it.
ULYSSES: He…encouraged me. That’s all. To climb back down. With a rope around my waist.”

Emma’s “rope” tightens its grip on Ulysses’s anatomy in places other than his waist. And it is that ‘tightening’ that provides the gripping conflict in “Annapurna” and that is at the heart of the play’s excruciating but necessary catharsis.

It is a testament to these two skilled actors that they not only successfully navigate the treacherous terrain between their battered and bruised psyches and souls; they also successfully give breath and life to Sam the never-seen son of Ulysses and Emma. This is a remarkable feat borne of their formidable craft and commitment to excellence. Under Bart DeLorenzo’s meticulous direction, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman perform a well choreographed dance - often a waltz, sometimes a jazz routine, more than once a throbbing tango – whose final sumptuous steps trail off to a terrifying truth and a path to redemption and release.

Thomas A. Walsh’s claustrophobic trailer set and Michael Gend’s eerie lighting collude with Mr. DeLorenzo’s direction and the cast to make “Annapurna” a high-wire act with no safety net.

See “Annapurna” as soon as you can so you have the opportunity to see it a second time before it closes on Sunday June 1, 2014. You will not regret it.

ANNAPURNA

The cast of “Annapurna” includes Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. This production includes Scenic Design by Thomas A. Walsh, Costume Design by Ann Closs-Farley, Lighting Design by Michael Gend, and Sound Design by John Ballinger. Production photos are by Monique Carboni.

“Annapurna” plays through Sunday June 1, 2014 at The New Group @ Theatre Row (The Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street). Schedule: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00pm.

Regular tickets $75.00. Premium tickets $95.00. Tickets available through www.telecharge.com or (212) 239-6200, or at the Theatre Row Box Office (12:00 Noon –8:00 p.m. daily). For more information, please visit www.thenewgroup.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, April 21, 2014

“A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” and “Clean” (Through Saturday April 26, 2014)

“A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” and “Clean” (Through Saturday April 26, 2014)
Traverse Theatre Double Bill at 59E59 Theater B
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Challenged by a chauvinistic comment after her 2011 Edinburgh Festival solo show, playwright Sabrina Mahfouz is determined to write “a tale of three females who could easily be the basis of crime-based computer games.” The result “Clean” is currently running at 59E59 Theater B as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series. The short play is paired with Douglas Maxwell’s “A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” both offerings by Edinburgh’s The Traverse Theater Company. But first, “Clean.”

Three very talented actors are determined to mine the meaning from Ms. Mahfouz’s forty-five minute prose-poem adventure into the female world of “clean crime” but come to the surface without emerald or diamond in tow. There is much movement about the stage standing and sitting atop three white boxes - all carefully orchestrated by director Orla O’Loughlin - but there is little depth to the story line. Unfortunately the characters have lackluster conflicts which spin rather uninteresting plots. The three adventurers risk life and limb to exact revenge on nemesis Kristof and collect a hefty reward from Caitlin; however, the script does not give the actors much to work with to empower their performances with authenticity and honesty. Ultimately, it is difficult to care about any of their stories.

Despite moving to Level Two in their Dream Play computer-based crime computer game, Chloe (Jade Anouka) and Katya (Chloe Massey) eschew any further involvement in “clean crime” capers. Chloe decides to “disappear into the countryside” and Katya “misses her family” and chooses to “help things in [her] country.” Only Zainab (Emma Dennis-Edwards) decides to stay the “clean crime” course: “A normal life is behind me now, has been for a while but now it’s cemented, solid, this is it for me.” The three “gamers” hug each other at play’s end looking like “they have not been so close to another soul in a while” but this on stage bonding does little to connect the play to the audience hungry for the same closeness.

Douglas Maxwell’s “A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” – the second short play in the Traverse Theater Double Bill – comes up the winner and engages the post-intermission audience with a brilliant script and riveting performances by Joanna Tope and Gavin Jon Wright. Ms. Tope plays Annabelle Love a grieving widow just after the “beautiful ceremony” for her deceased husband. At this point one sees a rather tightly wound wealthy woman willing to put grief aside to greet well-wishers, especially those employees from her husband’s company. Mr. Wright plays Jim Dick one of those employees who enjoys the time off work to come pay his respects to the former company owner. At this point one sees a rather loosely wound young man who while shaking hands in the reception line (non-consciously) refers to Annabelle’s dead husband with a particularly vulgar epithet.

Assuming he has been sacked, Jim Dick flees to his favorite Burger King where Annabelle joins him unexpectedly still holding her glass of wine. What follows is forty-five minutes of brilliant hilarity as Jim and Annabelle explore the meaning of language and relationships in non-conventional ways. Mr. Maxwell has created a conversation that gets at the very heart of language and its efficacy and at the very heart of what is significant in the matrix of human relationships. The script is spot on; the direction by Orla O’Loughlin is precise and punctilious; and the performances are riveting, authentic, honest, and engaging.

Jim Dick enables Annabelle to express herself in ways she had not considered in the past – through the words she chooses and the company she keeps. The content of this humorous play is as serious as it comes. Jim and Annabelle share these thoughts after Jim unpacks some vernacular for Annabelle:

“JIM: There’s a phrase, ‘come to grips,’ meaning, like, ‘get a grip.’ Over time folk must’ve changed their ‘grips’ to [expletive deleted].”

ANNABELLE: That’s what happens to language. It’s not erosion – as the didactical would have it – it grows.”

“A Respectable Widow” is a powerhouse of a play, the kind of product one has come to expect of The Traverse Theater. Audience members will review their cache of “small talk” and be challenged to communicate in the future with more honesty and more effectiveness. Language is power. Just ask any respectable widow gone vulgar.

A RESPECTABLE WIDOW TAKES TO VULGARITY AND CLEAN

59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer) launches the Scotland Week celebrations with US premiere of the double bill of A RESPECTABLE WIDOW TAKES TO VULGARITY by Douglas Maxwell and CLEAN by Sabrina Mahfouz, both directed by Orla O'Loughlin and both are produced by the Traverse Theatre. The Scotland Week kicks off Brits Off Broadway.

The cast for A RESPECTABLE WIDE TAKES TO VULGARITY features Joanna Tope and Gavin Jon Wright. The cast of CLEAN features Jade Anouka; Emma Dennis Edwards; and Chloe Massey.

The design team includes Patrick McGurn (sets); Claire Elliot (lighting); Tom Saunders and Kevin McCallum (sound for CLEAN); and Tom Saunders, Camilla O’ Neill and Kevin McCallum (sound for A RESPECTABLE WIDOW). Production photos by Jeremy Abrahams.

A RESPECTABLE WIDOW TAKES TO VULGARITY and CLEAN run for a limited engagement through Saturday, April 26. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM and 7:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $40 ($28 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, April 09, 2014

“The Most Deserving” at The Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday May 4, 2014)

“The Most Deserving” at The Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday May 4, 2014)
By Catherine Trieschmann
Directed by Shelley Butler
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Catherine Trieschmann’s new play “The Most Deserving” is a delicious and raucous mélange of six characters facing their own and others’ sexism, racism, and homophobia as they struggle to bestow a twenty thousand dollar award to a deserving local visual artist. “This artist,” Jolene Atkinson (Veanne Cox) informs her Arts Council, “must have lived in Ellis County for five years. He must demonstrate both artistic excellence and financial need and should preferably be an underrepresented American voice.”

The recipient of this grant, the visual artist most deserving, is the subject of the play currently running at the Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Center Stage II. It is revealed through the playwright’s skilled exploration of point of view and motivation: each character understands the grant from her or his specific viewpoint and their vote is mired in layers of motivation which, as these layers are exposed, provide the entertaining and very funny story lines of Ms. Trieschmann’s quite brilliant script. Add inventive direction by Shelley Butler and impeccable performances by the ensemble cast and the Women’s Project Theatre scores a hit in this final offering of its 2013/2014 Season.

Jolene wants the award to go to Rick Duffy and her choice is politically motivated – Rick’s father Bob is Chairman of the City Council which approves funding for the Arts Council. Council member Dwayne Dean (Adam Lefevre) wants to “throw his hat in the ring” with his Vice President Portrait Series and recuse himself from the voting process. Newcomer to the Council Liz Chang (Jennifer Lim) wants the Council to extend the deadline to include Everett Whiteside (Ray Anthony Thomas) who – as an African American - would be the only candidate to authentically meet all the Award’s criteria. Liz’s motivation? She’s writing a book about Everett which hopefully will get her out of rural Kansas and into a better teaching position. Up for grabs are the votes of Jolene’s husband Ted (Daniel Pearce) and the Award’s matching-grant donor the recently-widowed Edie Kelch (Kristin Griffith).

As Jolene and Liz scramble to win over Ted and Edie, “The Most Deserving” builds to a fevered pitch until the last frenzied scene brings the audience to “rolling-over-on-the-floor” hysteria. Ms. Trieschmann’s play is one of the funniest to appear Off-Broadway in a very long time. And it is one of the best written plays in the recent past. Although it would be a spoiler to expose just how the final scene plays out and to disclose whether or not Everett get the Award, it is important to share some of the most humorous dialogue and scenes.

One of the funniest scenes in “The Most Deserving” involves Dwayne’s explanation of why he is “a minority.” During two three-ways with his wife – one with another man – Dwayne discovers he is sexually attracted to men and proudly admits to being “one-sixteenth homosexual male.” In another scene, the audience learns Ted is having an affair with Liz to “spite his wife.” And in another scene, his wife Jolene purchases lingerie to snare her husband’s vote from Liz’s clutches. One cannot make up this stuff which the playwright has successfully made up with amazing craft. Here is some dialogue. The whole enterprise borders on dining room farce without the dining room.

As an African American, Everett meets the qualifications of the Award; however, during his interview with the Arts Council, he inadvertently reveals his own deep racism:

EVERETT: The Masons. They got Uncle Sam in their pocket.
JOLENE: They do?
LIZ: I could really use some tea, Everett?
EVERETT: And you know whose [sic] on top of them? The greedy muthafXXX running the whole shebang?
JOLENE: No, who?
EVERETT: The Jews.

And Edie exposes her own racism during a conversation with Jolene:

EDIE: Of course, Junior's also having the worst luck at work. He's selling office supplies at Maxwell's, and do you know they only work on commission?
JOLENE: I didn't know that.
EDIE: This economy is terribly hard on white men.

Despite her feelings of discrimination against whites, Edie is the consummate feminist – a fact confirmed in the following and even more profoundly in the closing scene in the Art Gallery:

EDIE: I married him just to spite Mother. She wouldn't let me wear pants. It was 1963. All the girls wore pants. But no, she said, that's not our way.

“The Most Deserving” is an important and complex play which uses humor to deal with a variety of important issues and needs to be seen to be fully appreciated and understood. The play celebrates our wholeness in our brokenness, our health in our state of disability, and our strength in our apparent weakness.

THE MOST DESERVING

The cast of “The Most Deserving” includes Veanne Cox, Kristin Griffith, Adam LeFevre, Jennifer Lim, Daniel Pearce, and Ray Anthony Thomas.
The scenery for The Most Deserving is by David Barber, costumes by Donald Sanders, lighting by Traci Klainer Polimeni, and sound by Leon Rothenberg. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

“The Most Deserving” performs at New York City Center Stage II Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.NYCityCenter.org, by calling CityTix® at 212-581-1212, or at the New York City Center Box Office at 131 West 55th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues). Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, April 08, 2014

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