Theater

 

 

 

 


Rick Crom's
NEWSICAL
Mon & Wed - Sat @ 8 PM
Wed & Sats @ 2 PM and Sun @ 3 PM
Upstairs at Studio 54

Reviewed by Dinika Amaral

I salute the times we live in, times when cornerstone companies like Arthur Andersen close down in a matter of weeks, and celebrity success stories (Winona Ryder, Martha Stewart) turn into sob stories overnight. NEWSICAL, by Rick Crom, is a musical satire of our times.

We see spoofs of political figures like John Kerry and George W. Bush. And we learn that straight men, in flannel shirts no less, would like gays to experience the hellishness of married life. Actor Todd Alan Johnson pleads, "Please let them marry!" My personal favorite among the zingers is one on the entertainment world, where we hear testimony of the tiger that nipped, to put it lightly, the neck of Roy Horn of Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy fame.

The material in NEWSICAL is constantly changing, which makes it "uber" cool. Seriously, I have no bones to pick. Donna Drake's direction is flawless-and while the best direction is futile with a badly written script, this is not the case with NEWSICAL. Rick Crom, I hope you're reading this because the music and lyrics were, to borrow from Austin Powers, very groovy, baby. In comedy timing is the key, and NEWSICAL'S timing is impeccable, earning more kudos for Crom and Drake.

While the cast has immense stage presence and are all excellent performers, I thought two spoofs were particularly well done. Stephanie Kurtzuba had the audience in stitches with her portrayal of the dominating, "I want it all," child wonder and adult media mogul, Martha Stewart. And when Jeff Skowron donned a wig to play former President Clinton, complete with black pinstripe suit and blue tie, I held my breath. His flashing baby blues and enigmatic pearly whites were almost too real, sort of like a figure at Madame Tussauds.

Similar to THE DAILY SHOW, the exciting spin of NEWSICAL is that the news we see and hear everyday is magically transformed into an entertaining musical. I'm certain that all current events junkies as well as anyone seeking a good laugh will appreciate this play.

Cast: Kim Cea, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Todd Alan Johnson, Jeff Skowron, Peter P. Allburn, David Kaley, Michael Flink, Jason Hayes, Gary Maffei, Jacki Florin, Barry Fisher, Jesse Adelaar, Ed Goldschneider.

Performances are Mondays, as well as Wednesdays through Saturdays, at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets range from $20-$60 and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 212.307.4100 or by going to www.ticketmaster.com. For more information, please visit www.newsicalthemusical.com.

Upstairs at Studio|54 254 West 54th Street


 



THE AWESOME 80S PROM
Friday and Saturday Nights @ 8PM
Opens September 10th - Open Run
Webster Hall

Reviewed by Tara Koppel

Lace up your Puma’s and give Boy George a call, we’re moon-walking our way back into the 80’s! The Awesome 80s Prom, written and directed by Ken Davenport, is a high-energy, interactive experience set in the school gymnasium at Wanna Get High. All of your favorite classmates from 1989 are there competing for Prom King and Queen: Whitley Whitiker; (Jenna Pace) head cheerleader with attitude, Blake Williams; (Brandon Williams) captain of the football team, and Kerrie Kowalski; (Kathy Searle) everybody’s favorite spaz, just to name a few, and the audience decides who will be crowned! If you dig turtle racing, watching mold grow, and any given episode of The Facts of Life, than this play is too hip and fun for you. But if you’d rather “Walk Like an Egytian,” figure out a rubix cube, and harm the Ozone with aerosol hairspray, then come to the prom!

You will be transformed from audience member to class member, and I promise you’ll have a blast “Wang Chunging” the entire night. The nerd, Louis Fensterspock (Noah Weisberg) nervously admitted that he’s had a crush on me all year and asked me to dance. In true 80s fashion, we were flailing our arms side to side to “Karma Chameleon”

“Where’d you get that sexy pocket protector,” I asked him.
“My dad gave it to me.”
Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma-Chameeeleoooooon.
“Cool.” I smiled.
“He’s dead now.”
You cooome and gooo. You cooooome and gooooO-O-O.

I had more fun at this prom than I did at my own. (Maybe because this time my date wasn’t inflatable…do you even know how difficult it is to slow dance with plastic?!) The Awesome 80s Prom includes all the nuances of what you remember from your own high school years: Principal Snelgrove (Edward Kelly) yelling on the microphone at students with alcohol, recently “outed” gay guy, Dickie Harrington (Stephen Guarino) pleading for your vote for Prom Queen, and my head getting flushed in the toilet bowl by an experimental Science Team (Their hypothesis was correct: apparently my head is too dense to stay afloat.) Flush Face or not, you will absolutely adore this play. I’ll be going again. I’ve told every single one of my friends about it and she really wants to go too.

The talented classmates of 1989 also included: Phil Burke, Nicole Cicchella, Tom
Dooley, Jeff Hiller, CP Lacey, Sarah Katherine Mason, Emily McNamara, Troy Metcalf, Regina Peluso, Brian Peterson, Jessica West Regan, Jennifer Winegardner, and Simon Wong. Marty Postma’s lighting had the perfect balance; flashy enough for a prom, yet subdued to avoid capturing all that bad teenage skin, while Drew Geraci’s choreography was so energetic that it made even Richard Simmons look tame.

My walk back to the subway felt like detention. There I was on the 2004 sidewalk, knowing that exciting 1989 was just a few blocks away. Who could have been prepared for life after the 80s? Not even Miss Cleo could have predicted the future would hold a Monica Lewinsky, a Chia pet, and a white Michael Jackson. Similar to New Jersey Governor McGreevey, things really have changed.

The Awesome 80s Prom is like the first time you had sex, except the play lasts longer and actually feels good. If you were one of the cool kids in high school, it is a chance to relive those memories, and if you were one of the dorks, The Awesome 80s Prom is the party that you were never invited to. So fish out those leg warmers, cuddle up in a letter jacket, and drive your Camaro straight to the prom!

Tickets : $59.75 PROM COMMITTEE; $69.75 PRINCE/PRINCESS;
$99.75 KING/QUEEN: www.theatermania.com or phone: 212-352-0255

Webster Hall |125 East 11th Street






David Nehls and Betsy Kelso's
Great American Trailer Park
The Run is Over

Reviewed by Dinika Amaral

You know the feeling you get when you walk out of a thrift store with a Prada bag in top condition? “Great American Trailer Park” is the Prada of off-Broadway shows. Part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, “Great American Trailer Park” is the best show I have seen this year.

The story revolves around an agoraphobic housewife Jeannie, (Carter Calvert) in the “Armadillo Acres” Trailer Park of Starke, Florida. Jeannie is married to Norbert (Dan Sharkey) who is having an affair with the sexy new stripper neighbor, Pippi (Jenn Colella). Jeannie’s challenge is to tear herself away from Oprah and Dr. Phil long enough to leave her trailer and save her marriage.

The story of “Great American Trailer Park” is told by three narrators, Betty (Robin Baxter), Pickles (Amanda Paige) and Lin (Marya Grandy). To make things a little more exciting, Pippi’s head case, overly possessive, marker-sniffing, psycho-with-a-loaded-gun boyfriend Duke (Geoffrey Scheer) is on the prowl to get Pippi back.

All the craziness, madness, twists and turns that life can take are in this play. The cast is extraordinary. Writer Betsy Kelso has mastered the art of sassy humor. “Great American Trailer Park” is peppered with sarcasm, wit and biting jokes. David Nehls uses blues music that can melt your heart, and ‘80s music that leaves your feet tapping. Nehls’ lyrics are amazing too. My favorite number was “But He’s Mine” sung by Pippi and Jeannie. Ms. Calvert’s voice is very powerful, reminding me of Whitney Houston. The title song, “This Side of the Tracks,” sung by the three Greek style narrators - Betty, Pickles and Lin - was a lot of fun too.

“Great American Trailer Park” belongs on Broadway. So when this gem of a play eventually does move to Broadway (as it should), go see it. You won’t be disappointed (reviewer’s guarantee). Oh, and if the sound track gets released on CD, grab it!

Cast: Jerry Lame, Steven Jones, Julie Rose, Caroline Liadakis, David McGee, Stephen Tucker, Phil Monat, Roberta Knowles, Todd Johnson, Dan Sharkey, Carter Calvert, Jenn Colella
Band: David Nehls, David Matos, Paul Ranieri, Roman Storch.

For more information see: (www.trailerparkmusical.com)


 

 


Marie Jones's
WOMEN ON THE VERGE
Tuesdays - Saturdays @ 8PM
Wednesday & Saturdays @ 2PM
Sundays at 3PM
Beginning Previews September 23rd
Opening September 30th
Irish Arts Center

 

Reviewed by Dinika Amaral


“Women on the Verge of HRT,” produced by Autumn Stages and written by Marie Jones, is a touching play about two Irish women, Vera (Joan Slavin) and Anna (Kelly Taylor). Vera and Anna are trying to cope with aging. Both women are afraid of ending up on the sexual scrap heap, unable to compete with younger women. Vera and Anna travel from Belfast to Donegal to see Daniel O’Donnell, a famous Irish singer, in concert. At their hotel in Donegal, Vera and Anna are served by a magical room service waiter, Fergal (Tom Souhrada).

In the second half of “Women on the Verge” Fergal changes into various people from Vera and Anna’s lives who have some “explaining to do.” The process of facing their fears leave Vera and Anna cleansed.

The play ends with a sunrise, demonstrating the empowerment that Vera and Anna have achieved. The inspiring message of “Women on the Verge of HRT” is that while we cannot physically be reborn like nature, we can achieve a spiritual resurrection.

Joan Slavin was outstanding as Vera. She was funny and flirtatious and said the most outrageous things with such wide-eyed innocence that she left the audience in stitches. Kelly Taylor was a fantastic Anna. She skillfully portrayed a character whose happiness had been ruined by an empty marriage and an uncaring husband. The versatile Tom Souhrada did a fantastic job of portraying the women and men that Anna and Vera confront. He also sang beautifully as Daniel O’Donnell. Music Director Doug Oberhamer did a great job producing fabulous music. And set designer Robert Monaco also deserves a commendation for his clever set.

I found the play refreshing and funny. Director Lynne Taylor-Corbett certainly deserves a feather in her cap for “Women on the Verge of HRT.”

Cast: Brant Murray, Christopher McGovern, Gregory Fletcher, Louis Salamone and Toy.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling Smarttix at 212.868.4444 or by going to www.smarttix.com.



Irish Arts Center |553 West 51st St.
( btwn. 10th and 11th)



 


Joseph Langham's
Crux
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8PM
Sundays September 26th and October 3rd @4PM
September 10th - October 3rd.
Under St. Marks

Reviewed by Jeffrey N. Gangemi

Crux is the story of three homeless, hungry, and altogether helpless folks contemplating the meaning of life in a world entrenched in mankind's final Great War. Amid the chaos of explosions and warfare, they live and continue to sell roses in the park, hovering on the brink of starvation. While the character of Slope finds solace in blissful reminiscences of times past, Cleep is hopelessly entrenched in the present state of things. Meanwhile, Nora, their beautiful female counterpart, is constantly prognosticating, launching into occasional and perfectly placed tirades on future death and destruction. It certainly doesn't sound like a comedy on the surface, but this was the funniest production I have seen in a long time.

The quality of the work is delivered via its simultaneous depiction of a humorously absurd slice of life alongside a commentary on the state of the world. It consciously perpetuates the tradition known as Absurdist Theatre that began in a similar world climate some fifty years ago, in post WWII Europe and America. According to Langham, authors like Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco believed that, "we as a species are very out of touch with the world in which we live, making life pointless and absurd." However, Langham's more modern approach seeks to infuse that absurd world of his predecessors with a breath of humor and purpose that festers on the underbelly of war and destruction. Although he claims to parallel the Absurdist tradition, he says, "I fervently believe life does have a rather divine purpose, a very distinct point." In The Crux, we are asked to discover what that purpose is, for the playwright and ourselves.

I believe that Langham was correct in choosing the one act format for this particular play. His wit and humor, coupled with the actors' timing and delivery, kept the pace at a perfect clip as to keep the audience smiling (and often out and out laughing) almost the entire time. And he left no issue unaddressed - greed, lust, war, love, revenge, marriage, and the meaning of life - the crux, the breaking point, and the anatomical and spiritual severity of a world caught in the clutches of leaders who don't even attempt to understand their enemies. All of these were given their due.

I can't here critique Langham's work or writing, as there were few, if any, inadequacies in the entire production; the timing and delivery of the script were especially impressive. I can, however, comment on the supreme quality of Matthew David Banton, Monica Cortez, and Alvin Lutspeich's performances, as well as their obvious and infectious chemistry and humor. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jamie Chandler's choreography, Erica Frank's humorously appropriate costume design, Anne Lee's simple yet effective set design, Lindsey Moore's direction and stage management, as well as Rik Sansone and Jenny Wilsen's contributions in making this a poignant and inventive piece of contemporary theatre.

UNDER St. Marks | 94 St. Marks Place
(Between 1st Ave. and Ave. A)


 


Ophira Eisenberg's
"The Gray Area"
and
"Hindsight"
Wednesdays @ 8PM
September 22nd.
Under St. Marks


Reviewed by Tara Koppel

Who can forget their first love? And do we ever completely get over them? These first loves are the guests who randomly invite themselves (unannounced) into our Memory Scrapbook. Sometimes the melody of a song or the scent of soap allows us to briefly stumble upon their page. Other times, however, that page seems to be a permanent fixture in our thoughts and we find ourselves writing and starring in a one woman play about them, so is the case of Ophira Eisenberg, who will be featured on Comedy Central's Premium Blend this season.

I walked into the small downtown playhouse, Under St. Marks, excited about being an addition to the New York Cool Cool crew, and being here, in the heart of undomesticated New York City. Yes, I confess… I am a newyorkcool.com virgin. And when we're through, please feel free to
light a cigarette.

Under St. Marks is a cozy, intimate theater, resembling an underground basement. It seemed hidden, like a secret that I'm letting you all in on. It feels as though you're about to watch a show in the comfort of your own home, but where the performers are much more talented than your brothers and sisters. They offered the audience wine. Have you ever heard of anyone passing up free alcohol? Me neither. And who am I to break tradition…the play began and I took a sip.

If listening to sagas of love is like a roller coaster; then I should have come prepared with a full case of Dramamine. In this hilarious and all too realistic performance of "Hindsight," Ophira invites us into the highs and lows of her first relationship: the fighting, the making up, the intense love, the pissing off, the hating, the crying, the incredible sex, the needing, and finally, the knowing when it's time to let go. Sound freakishly familiar? If this is foreign to you, that's o.k. Surveys suggest that one out of every twenty psychos never have a first love. So don't sweat it! You're in good company.

Instantaneously, Ophira accomplishes what many performers have difficulty doing, capturing her audience and taking us along for the ride. The show did not include what we as an audience have come accustomed to: special effects; murders; or people dramatically dying. The only actress in this play is a single woman; extending me an invite to her intriguing story, and I RSVP'd, ASAP!

Ophira's "Hindsight" details how a person falls "hard" and "messy" into love. To paraphrase her, the first time you fall in love you wear a set of window blinds over your eyes. Every now and then they lift up and you notice questionable behavior, so you lower the blinds again right before intuition and reality sets in. For a moment I thought that the entire performance was a hoax. Was Ophira a private investigator that had been following me for years? How else could she understand my past so well? Thank God for the lessons of "hindsight," right? (I am now proud to say that my eyes are clear of all window treatments.)

Our Memory Scrapbook, similar to a bank account, ages and matures, even if our relationships always do not. This guides us into what is commonly known as "The Gray Area," the second comedy of the night, written by and starring Neil Potter and Bethel Caram. This real life couple have been "committed to non-commitment," existing in the gray area, the locale where a relationship is ambiguously defined.

Receiving bad directions reminds me of this gray area that Neil and Bethel speak of. You're lost: possibly in the vicinity, but still don't exactly know where you are. In a relationship, the gray area means that you are a couple, although not completely established, nor do you always want to be. The only problem lies in that the rules are flexible and often unclear, you don't know what direction the relationship is headed, and you can't turn to an atlas for guidance.

Neil and Bethel have been in this noncommittal relationship for eight years. (No, that is not a typo; I did in fact say eight.) They admit that being in the gray area is a possible outcome from being "afraid to grow up." They can't figure out their relationship because they haven't figured out themselves yet. This probably accounts for the hours of soul searching they invest their time in. Neil is a groupie to motivational speaker guru, Tony Robins, while Bethel reads self-help books like The Power of Now, which made most of the audience laugh at the pitiful ness of it all. (I didn't feel pathetic when I read that book…twice…and bought two copies; one for reading and for decoration.)

Within its dialect, "The Gray Area" comedic ally captures the essence and confusion of the differences between men and women. For example, Bethel suggests that they each say something nice about one another. She begins this exercise by saying she enjoys his wonderful "zesty" personality. Neil replies by telling her he likes her apartment…(enough said.)

The "Gray Area" provokes my curiosity about men and women and if we're truly bred from separate species: belonging to two different animal kingdoms. If so, this certainly explains a great deal. (Now it makes sense why when I communicate with men, they respond by swinging from tree branches while scratching their arm pits and pulling gnats out of their hair.)

There is no gray area about it: both plays were creatively written and had impeccable comedic timing. And in hindsight, I have learned two things about love: the first is that, although love can seem torturous at times, it is vital to us like water, air, food, and porn. Actually, that's not accurate…we can survive a while without food. And the second is that, although our Memory Scrapbook may look messy and unorganized, time and growth will eventually make our future scrapbook into a fine piece of artwork, as are these two performan
ces.

Under St. Marks |94 St. Marks (8th Street)
(between Ave A and 1st Ave)




Here's to The Third New York
" A state of the art, one-act musical"
Saturdays & Sundays @ 8PM
September 18th through October 3rd
Tada! Theatre
15 West 28th Street, 2nd Floor

Cast: Michael Ashford, Daniella Galli, Elissa Goldstein, Jamal Green, Ryan Greer & James Robinson

With live funk music performed by: Stephanie Wells, Christopher Heinz and Nathan You

 

Reviewed by Diedre Kilgore

I attended Tada! Theatre's opening weekend of Here's to The Third New York with my friend Hana. Tada! Theatre provides a fantastic venue for an Off-Broadway show. When we entered the lobby, we were welcomed by a bohemian world of candlelight, and then were ushered into a spacious yet cozy warehouse-type space, with a large, well-constructed stage.

The production's program had an introductory quote taken from E.B. White, which seemed to aptly explain the title of the show we were about to see. "There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted…….Second, there is the New York of the commuter…….Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last-the city of final destination, the city that is a goal." Well now. That certainly got our attention. This show celebrates a dying breed of New York artists, which simply do not have the outlets they used to. Be it lack of funding, complacency, bureaucracy, you can pretty much name your culprit. However you slice it, its tough being a New York City artist.

Here's to The Third New York realistically illustrates this lifestyle quite well, and brings up and pushes out what it's truly like to be a part of the third New York. The opening scene shows a poet on a soap box, with an accompanying tap number screaming of an impending revolution as a necessary action needed for artists to combat the growing commercialism of the city. I would have loved to see a revolution unfold, but it seems the solution was less the point of the show than to simply portray an ever-dying subculture of New York. Having said that, the show does a fantastic job at entertaining and the cast has explosive moments of well-honed talent. Standout performances come from Elissa Goldstein, her acting and signing were both soulful and heart wrenching. Michael Ashford and James Robinson were both excellent dancers that just seemed to glide across the stage. The music was fun and upbeat, and the tap numbers, which were utilized as a kinetic backdrop to anarchistic poetry, were well composed both at the opening and closing of the show. The audience is taken through an entertaining and realistic ride through a day in the life of struggling artists trying to get by in New York City.

Once the show was over, Hana and I left the theatre and went down the street to the Blue Smoke, and with two double shots of Jack Daniels in hand, we made a toast.

Here's to an inspirational story of survival, in the struggle to keep alive the creative spirit.

Here's to the Third New York!

Tada! Theatre |15 West 28th Street, 2nd Floor


 


Kelly McAllister's
Burning the Old Man
A Boomerang Theatre Company Production
Center Stage

 

Reviewed By Jeff Gangemi

I begin by asking an age-old question: Is the glass half empty or half full? And further, is that a big hole in the wall or just a convenient bit of extra ventilation? Is an inconsistent and not altogether believable character really just struggling to tell us something about ourselves?

Ah, the questions of life - the same questions I ask myself after a production of Boomerang Theatre Company's "Burning the Old Man." It's a story of sibling rivalry, adultery, intrigue, and travel. Or, if you prefer, it's the story of two bickering brothers stranded in the middle of the desert who meet two hopeless hippies and demean the hotel owner's wife.

First, a synopsis: Two brothers, Marty and Bobby, are carrying their recently-deceased father's ashes through the desert to put him to rest at the Burning Man Festival in fulfillment of his dying wish. On the way, their car blows up and they meet Josephine, a hotel desk clerk with a penchant for Thai food. Two hippies, Candy and Earth, join the party and provide some comic relief from the endless slinging of obscenity between Marty and Bobby. Later, Jo's husband, Eddie, gets home after being fired from "his sixth Reno casino in as many months," at which point all hell breaks loose.

Here I must concede that the production of this play was near flawless - one single, unchanging set, a few props, and really solid acting on all parts. I especially liked the younger brother, Bobby, played by Brett Christiansen, a reverently irreverent young man who holds the distinction of being the only character in the play who undergoes any positive transformation. Jo and Eddie are walking stereotypes of a bad marriage and why people stay (but we could've tuned into Lifetime for that), while Candy and Earth flit out as they flit into the action.

Marty is another story altogether, with a sordid past and a hopeless future. He goes from "Mr. Responsibility" to "I hate my life, I want to die" about six times in the course of the action. Furthermore, his immoral sexual escapades leave me questioning the realism of the script. Where has he been for the past three years, under house arrest? Somehow, Timothy McCracken's acting trumps the playwright's inadequate character development to keep the glass half full.

I love Candy and Earth because they simultaneously add humor and levity to the situation. Candy's clairvoyance is performed through her prodigal olfactory capabilities, while Earth is at once a humorous hippie stereotype and a realistic, contemplative young loser. Two of Earth's lines really sum up this play for me: "Love is just evil spelled backwards and wrong," and "Just when life gets to be worth living, it becomes this long, sad road to certain death."

Judge for yourself the tone of this play and the state of mind of the playwright. On my glass half full side, I laughed at the funny parts of this play as if my glass contained brackish water spiked with tequila, while my glass half empty side cried its eyes out, lamenting all the pathetic souls out there roaming the desert in search of a way to get a fresh start at their worn out lives. All things being unequal, I recommend it.

Directed by Tim Errickson; Featuring: Brett Christiansen, Philip Emeott, John C. Fitzmaurice, Christine Goodman*, Timothy McCracken*, Sara Thigpen*

Sets: Harlan Penn; Costumes: Cheryl McCarron; Lights: Carrie Wood

 

on the web | www.boomerangtheatre.org

Center Stage | 48 West 21st Street 4th Floor
(between 5th & 6th Avenues)


 


Guantanamo
Tuesday - Saturday @ 8PM
Matinees Wednesday & Saturday at 3PM
September 23 - November 14th
Culture Project

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom', written by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo (from spoken evidence) and directed by Nicolas Kent and Sacha Wares is a devastating "documentary" drama about the prisoners from the war in Afghanistan that we are holding in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These so called "unlawful combatants" have been held for up to three years with no right of judicial review. The play raises extremely uncomfortable questions about what we have become as a people that we have not risen up in outrage over how these prisoners are being held, without the basic rights spelled out in the Geneva Convention. And by the way, what is an "unlawful combatant?" Is it a soldier from a country so poor they can't afford uniforms? And were they all "combatants?" Or were some of them bystanders picked up under the rational of, "They all look alike, who can tell?"


The United States has a long nasty history of forgoing the basic human rights of the weak. We imprisoned the slaves, incarcerated the Japanese, executed Ethel Rosenberg etc. etc. And here we go again. We are afraid, so we quickly forget about the very values that made our nations great - the reasons the United States is worth fighting and dying for. We are simply supposed to be better than that and we aren't.

Guantanmo, the play, is beautifully written and acted. The night I was there, the audience collectively sat on the edge of their seats for the entire show. And I bet many left with the same thought I did. How could this happen in the supposed land of the free? And how did we forget who we supposed to be again?

The very talented cast included: Jeffrey Brick, Kathleen Chalfant, Gerald Cosgrove, Steven Crossley, Ramsey Faragallah, Robert Langdon Lloyd, Aasif Mandvi, Harsh Nayyar, Maulik Pancholy, Andrew Stewart-Jones, Joris Stuyck, Waleed Zuaiter.

The beautiful minimalist prison set and simple costume design was by Miriam Buether. Light design was by Johanna Town and sound design was by Bill Grady. The production stage Manager was Bonnie Brady.

www.45bleecker.com/guantanamo.html


The Culture Project | 45 Bleeker


ORPHEUS
Wed – Sat @ 9pm
Runs through Oct 9th
FREE Boru Vodka drink with every ticket!

Reviewed By Troy Tolley

If you are of the ilk who enjoys the dream-like depths of David Lynch, the sheer giddiness of symbolism from Peter Greenaway, and the emotional ponderings of Hal Hartley, you should run, not walk, to see ORPHEUS, HERE’s latest theatrical production. ORPHEUS is described as an “alt-rock, multi-media experience”, but it is so much more than that.

ORPHEUS is a modern, retelling of an ancient myth about loss, dependency, and distrust, reconceived by Juliet Chia (lighting), Kristin Marting (director), and David Morris (set); written by Stephanie Fleischmann with music by Nikos Brisco.

In this retelling, Orpheus is now a superstar pop singer who has just started his catapult into fame and fortune when he suddenly loses his powerfully-loved newlywed, Euridice, as she falls beneath the wheels of a car. Orpheus, in his anguish, finds his way to Hades and into Club Asphodel, managed by Persephone and her Sirens. He begins negotiating the release of Euridice back into life using only the power of song. The play is ingeniously presented all around the audience as we sit along with other lost souls of Hades, sipping on our free cup of Woe, Forgetfulness, and other painful adjectives in vodka form. Costumes, lighting, set and music were incredibly impressive in creating an ambience at once sinister and comforting.

While Orpheus (Taylor Mac) and Euridice (Leeanne Hutchison) are the focus of the story, Persephone (played by Daphne Gaines) and her Sirens (Katy Cunningham, Nina Mankin, Arie Thompson) command and captivate the audience. Gaines et al are flawless in their performances, both as actors and singers, creating riveting sequences that force a serious and respectful eye on the play. Performing numbers to live music, Gaines makes you wish there was a soundtrack CD for sale immediately.

Mac and Hutchison are fairly strong in their performances, with creepy, emotional, and tragedy-induced vocals to help shape the dimensions of their characters. While one intellectually understands the connection between Euridice and Orpheus, the portrayal of the intensity of that connection is a bit lost in the theatrics. This, however, does not detract from the sum effect of the play, which is quite powerful.

The Shades (played by Scott Blumenthal, Kim Carpenter, Raquel Cion, James Ferguson, Corey Moosa, and Dax Valdes) are souls trapped in Hade’s Asphodel for various reasons, each eventually being a conduit of insight for Orpheus as he painstakingly negotiates with Persephone for Euridice’s release. Although peripheral characters throughout the play, The Shades are fascinating to watch as they continuously emote in “gestural vocabulary”; a symbolic choreography created by Marting. The choreography is mesmerizing with messages clearly being conveyed, but just out of reach from linear thinking. This level of the production made me want to see ORPHEUS more than once, simply to decipher these beautifully-portrayed messages.

Although it is assumed that many people already know the ancient myths and their lessons, morals, and outcomes, I will trust that some of you do not know the story of Orpheus, allowing you the thrill and anticipation of discovering just how Orpheus frees Euridice!

In the end, many of you will irresistibly want to look back [wink], bringing new friends to share in this potentially-addictive, rising cult classic! See it while you can! Run ends OCTOBER 9th.

Tickets: $15 at www.here.org/orpheus or SmartTix: 212 868-4444

HERE Arts Center | 145 Sixth Avenue



 


I Love Paris
Tuesdays @ 8PM Sept 7th - 28th
Mondays @ 8PM beginning October 4th.
Blue Heron Arts Center

Reviewed by Armistead Johnson

I Love Paris takes place backstage at the daytime talk show, The View, where Paris is waiting to audition for a slot as one of the show's co-hosts. The play is a stream of consciousness monologue of musings from America's favorite hotel heiress and B porn star, Paris Hilton.

"What's on Paris's mind," you ask? Everything from her hair to terrorism and thankfully, Doug Field's (Down South, An Enola Gay Christmas) script provides no segue from topic to topic, giving I Love Paris an authenticity that fans of Paris's The Simple Life have come to appreciate from Ms. Hilton.

Now, there are critics out there who claim that Paris Hilton is nothing more than a pretty face and hot body with millions of dollars. "How has I Love Paris dealt with such harsh remarks," you ask? By taking her hot body and pretty face out of the equation and having the reality TV star and Guess? model played by someone who no more resembles her than he does her dog Tinkerbell; veteran Broadway actor Kevin Shinick. The bold direction, by Timothy Haskell (one of the most talented directors in New York right now), has Kevin playing Paris as a man, so there is no pretty face or hot body (or horrid drag performance) to get in the way of Paris's intriguingly empty words.

"What should I be doing this weekend," you ask? Well, if you are interested in an intelligent take on one of the most seemingly unintelligent stars of this day and age, going to see I Love Paris would be a great option.

 


Blue Heron Arts Center | 123 E. 24th St. at Park Avenue South



 


Adriano Shaplin's
Pugilist Specialist
Tues - Fri @t 8:15 PM
Sat @ 2:15PM & 8:15 PM
Sundays @ 3:15PM & 7:15 PM.
Opening Sept 17th
Closing Oct 10th
59E59 St Theatre

"Pugilist Specialist" Begs The Question:
What The Hell Are We Doing?

Reviewed by Dinika Amaral

Pugilist Specialist is produced by the Riot Group, which is known for its appetite for original plays. The play won many awards in Britain and in my opinion, is on a par with my favorite American army movie," Stripes." Released in the 80s, "Stripes" is the comic story of John Winger (Bill Murray), who joins the army to meet girls and then blunders his way to glory. While "Pugilist Specialist" is funny, the humor is ridden with sharp jabs of melancholy and frustration at the confusion in the United States Marine Corps. Specialist is a true political satire. Like the situation in "Stripes," pandemonium breaks lose when dimwitted officers unwittingly sabotage their own best laid plans, resulting in brouhaha. In a democracy, we have the right to hope that any decisions made affecting the lives of others will not be taken lightly. In "Specialist," the reality is shown to be far from this hopeful outcome.

The Marines are reputed to be one of the most hierarchal divisions in the American defense machine. And as in any other hierarchy where obeying orders is key, bad decisions from superiors go unquestioned. That absolute power corrupts is a well known fact. The Marines are certainly no exception to this rule.

The play has four main characters: Lieutenant Emma Stein (Stephanie Viola), Colonel Johns (Paul Schnabel), Lieutenant Travis Freud (Adriano Shaplin) and Lieutenant Studdard (Drew Friedman). Lieutenant Stein is the "hooker with a heart of gold" and she functions as the conscience of the group. Through the play, we learn that sometime in the past, when Stein felt the public good was not being served, she talked to the New York Times. This was a sacrilegious act, which cost her her career in the Marines. For all her earlier conscientious efforts, toward the latter half of the play, Stein is shown to be the most unrealistic about how to best serve the public. She reports to Colonel Johns (Paul Schnabel), a commanding officer who subscribes to a philosophy of empathy during combat. "Bring your heart, that's the muscle that pulls the trigger."

And as you would expect, the character of Lieutenant Travis Freud (Adriano Shaplin) was written with the goal of balancing-out the Colonel's so-called empathy. Freud exhibits unbridled joy when called to combat. He is also the quintessential video game junkie, but now his remote control has been replaced with an Uzi. Like some of the imbeciles in Xbox's popular videogame Halo, we learn that Freud has acquired a reputation within the marines as a bit of a loose canon. He does not adhere to the make-sure-mind-is-in-gear-principle before pressing the trigger. Freud is bent on human extermination and sees the world only in black and white. When the in-touch-with-his-feminine-side Colonel Johns asks him to agree with him he, responds, "Is it an order sir? Then it doesn't have to make sense."

The conflicts and squabbles between Stein and Freud provide a hilarious, sarcastic backdrop for the mind-numbing Lieutenant Studdard (Drew Friedman), who serves as the recorder for the unit. To Studdard, talk is cheap. He likes to focus on the facts and abstains from idle banter. While he could have represented the prudence we crave, he actually comes off devoid of conscience. He portrays the robot soldier that we all despise.

The four are drawn together in a secret mission to assassinate the "Bearded Lady" at his palace in the desert. From a political standpoint the mission makes no sense, as Stein quickly points out. She states that it is most unwise to assassinate the leader of a country under attack, as it will make him a martyr. She is, of course, unaware of the true nature of the mission, as are we.

The play has a surprise ending that explains very little. The motivation that leads the characters to this ending was obscure, at best. Ideally the surprise twist ending the play would leave us guessing. Alas, in this case we are merely bewildered.

The set is bare with three wooden benches forming the props. The music is minimalist with instrumental beats kicking in now and then, but disappearing during important conversations or moments of high conflict. With little else to add to the flavor, the dialogue has to be stellar to capture the attention of the audience. Stellar it is; writer Adriano Shaplin delivers. The words jump and grab you by the throat. You listen.

Another very interesting and unusual feature is that the characters always face the audience when speaking, never each other. This contributes significantly to the dramatic effect of the play, while drawing attention to facial expressions. The lion of the show is Stephanie Viola as Stein; she gives a very passionate performance. Shaplin and Friedman are stunning and draw many laughs from the audience. Schnabel is a steady act.

While "Pugilist Specialist" focuses on the current Iraq War, it raises timeless political questions regarding the actions of all superpowers. It is not often that we get to see good theater about the present in the present. Reminiscent of work by Harold Pinter, writer of "Betrayal" and also known for his unexpected twists, playwright Adriano Shaplin bitingly asks, "What is the truth and what the hell are we doing?"

59E59 St Theatre |59 East 59th Street


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