"Addicted... a comedy of substance"
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
comedy of substance, written by Mark Lundholm
and directed by Bob Balaban, is a tall cool "drink" of
a show. Everything about it is cool, from the
first sight of the Zipper Theater to the fog
as you leave the lobby bar.
can be a harmonic convergence for a show and
a space and this is surely it. The Zipper with
it's ultra hip urban-junk-yard décor is
the perfect place to stage a one man show about
addiction. And Mr. Lundholm's story is about
addiction to everything booze, food, work,
coffee, dope, TV, phone, sex, money and even
shoes. But it is mostly the story of Mr. Lunkholm's
harrowing addiction to booze and dope and the
crazy journey he took to a stoner's Oz and back.
In Addicted, Mark Lundholm has used his own life
as his canvas to expose himself totally in a
darkly comic piece that is both horrifying and
The skillful direction
by Bob Ballaban was timed to a stop watch second.
The lighting by Paul Miller and sound by Randy
Hansen were cool and sexy, adding to the fun
of being in the theater. And whoever (Walt Spangler?)
thought to use a backdrop of hanging beer bottles
deserves some kind of award for design. So go
see Addicted, it's addicting.
ALL GOOD THINGS:
The Story of the Remains
The NYC Fringe Festival
They were magic.
They were how you told a stranger about rock'
n' roll." Jon Landau, Crawdaddy
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Things: The Story of the Remains" is a
play about a Boston "boy band" that
was popular in the sixties during the time of
the English invasion (aka The Beatles). Here
is a quote from their press release: "They
were signed by Columbia Records. They played
on Ed Sullivan. They opened for The Beatles!
They never had a hit. What went wrong?"
Good Things" is directed by David Roth,
with a book by Michael Eric Stein and music
and lyrics by The Remains. It stars Ryan Link,
Anthony Rand, Clayton Fletcher, Jay Greenberg,
Daniel Hall, Jay Strauss, Dorothy Abrahams,
Dina Drew, Melanie McCarthy, Michelle Pruett,
Elliott Mayer, Michael James Stamberg, Jason
Summers and Daryl Wein. Here is an interesting
note from their press materials: The original
members of the Remains were from Westport, Connecticut,
as is the director, David Roth.
The Remains were formed in the early sixties
at Boston College by Barry Tashian, William
Briggs and Vernon Miller. They then persuaded
Chip Damiani to join as their drummer. The band
became a hit in New England with their signature
"bottom heavy" rock, so much so that
they decided to quit college and move to New
York. This move was much to the chagrin of their
affluent Westport parents, who were expecting
much more from their sons. Once in New York,
they encountered repeated cycles of feast and
famine as exhibited by playing on the Ed Sullivan
Show. Playing Sullivan was a huge honor which
did not pay off in fame and fortune, because
the show's producers insisted that they mute
their heavy sound. They also had good luck in
getting a record contract, but bad luck when
another group recorded the same single at the
same time. All of this up-and-down cycle culminated
when after touring with the Beatles (minus drummer
Damiani), they were left in Los Angeles forced
to get minor gigs to earn enough money to fly
home. And soon afterwards, they disbanded.
the show, I could not help but think about fame
and fortune and wonder what would have happened
for The Remains if they had not quit and stayed
on to fight another day. I have a copy of their
CD and the music is great. But they were Boston
College boys (by way of Westport, Connecticut
Boston College boys), and a life of failure
and poverty must have been unthinkable.
When you see
a show at The Fringe, you see a skeleton, an
idea of what a show could be. "All Good
Things" is no different. It is a show about
a rock band, staged in a gymnasium without proper
sound or lighting - a first look for everyone,
including the writer, director, and cast. There
were some very talented actors and musicians
on stage (Ryan Link is always a favorite) and
a very poignant story of lost possibilities.
So I was left with the same question about the
show that bedeviled the Remains themselves.
Is there something here, something that should
go on, something worth investing more time,
money, energy? And the answer is yes, there
is something here, something that should go
on, a story worth telling, something that is
worth putting up again and again - seeing what
it looks like, making changes, allowing it to
grow, allowing it to Remain. Rock on!
Beyond The Horizon
"Beyond the Horizon
Reviewed by Dinika Amaral
What is destiny?
Is it that what happens to us or is it what
we create for ourselves? "Beyond The Horizon"
is about humankind's struggle with destiny.
This play was written by one of Americas' most
renowned playwrights, Eugene O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill
won a well deserved Pulitzer Prize for "Beyond"
Directed by Cailin
Hefferman, "Beyond the Horizon" is
about two brothers on a farm, Rob Mayo (Peter
O'Connor) and Andy Mayo (Justin Krauss). Rob
has always been a sickly child. During his sick
spells his mother, Kate Mayo (Margaret Flanagan)
would instruct him to sit by the window and
be quiet. He would stare beyond the horizon
and wonder what adventures awaited him yonder.
The play commences with Rob on the brink of
a voyage around the world aboard his uncle Captain
Dick Scott's (Peter Morr) ship. Rob and Andy
both have romantic feelings for their neighbor's
daughter, Ruth Atkins Mayo (Jennifer Larkin).
While saying goodbye to her, Rob confesses his
love for her. Much to his surprise, she returns
his affection and begs him to stay and marry
her. Her mother Mrs. Atkins (Dolores McDougal)
is an invalid and Ruth cannot leave her alone.
Rob agrees to stay and marry Ruth.
Stricken by Ruth's
choice, Andy decides to leave in his brother's
place. James Mayo (Ron Sanborn) has trouble
believing his son wishes to leave the beloved
farm. "You lie when you say you want to
go 'way - and see thin's!" James becomes
very angry, and despite his wife's efforts to
stop him, he disowns Andy and tells him to never
to come back to the farm. Andy leaves.
three years and James has passed away. Rob and
Ruth are not happy. The marriage was a mistake.
Rob is a failure as a farmer and Ruth now loathes
him. Stuck in a loveless marriage, Rob dotes
on his daughter Mary Mayo (Emma Warman). In
a heated argument, Ruth tells Rob that she still
has feelings for Andy. She tries to get the
visiting Andy, to stay on the farm. He tells
Ruth that his former passion for her was never
more than a "kid's idea that he was letting
rule him." Ruth is humiliated and Rob feels
sorry for her. Andy leaves for Buenos Aires.
For the next
five years Rob and Ruth do not live as man and
wife. Kate and Mary pass away and Rob becomes
ill. Andy returns with a specialist Dr. Fawcett
(John Fitzmaurice). Alas, it is too late. The
final scene brings Rob, Andy and Ruth back to
the same place the play commenced. Everything
has come full circle. In a very touching death
scene, Rob admits that he made the wrong decision
when he decided not to follow his dreams beyond
the horizon. And Andy admits to being a failure
for having left the thing that was most dear
to him - the farm.
of Ruth is the most interesting of the lot.
She starts-off as this bonny farm girl, dedicated
to her disabled mother, becomes a nagging wife
and ends up an apathetic shell of a woman. By
her own admission she is incapable of feeling,
having felt too much suffering over time. However,
the biggest evil she committed was to deliberately
leave her husband under the impression that
she loved his brother, when in truth she felt
nada. The beauty of O'Neill's play lies in her
resignation and in our incapability to hate
her. All she compels is our sorrow.
There were many times during this play when
the melodrama manifested itself in yelling making
it impossible to understand the dialogue. For
instance, in act one scene two when the fight
breaks between John and Andy Mayo, emotion and
anger run high, too high. It was not believable
and many of the words are incoherent. Ron Sanborn
and Margaret Flanagan have the best accents
in the play. Flanagan does an excellent portrayal
of a doting mother who mollycoddles her son
and cannot hold her husband in check. Justin
Krauss beautifully portrays his character's
love for his brother. This bond is shown throughout
the play, even when Rob steals his love from
was an excellent Rob Mayo. His monologues were
delivered with passion and in correct measure.
When he interacted with Ruth, he managed to
convey both his poetic hope and his devotion
to her, even after he learned that she was "mean
and small." In one particularly touching
moment, when he still hoped he could fight death,
he makes plans for their future. O'Connor is
a fine father figure to Emma Warman. His love
and affection for her brightens the play, showing
us that she is the only good thing that ever
happened to him. O'Conner's beautifully capped
off a great performance in the end, when he
gave his last speech, before moving on into
the next world.
The set for the
first half of the scene was good, but dwindles
away as the play moves on. O'Neill provided
very explicit guidelines for the set in his
playscript. The tablecloth in the second scene
was not hemmed. While this might be a small
factor, it demonstrates some lack of attention
to detail in the set design. People with limited
means and few things take very good care of
their belongings. The appearance indoors failed
to convey this from the onset. Therefore, as
things progressed, the squalor that time had
wrought was only apparent in the dulled lighting,
not in the set. During insightful monologues,
we heard poignant music that helped with the
mood of the production, hats off to composer
The marvel of
this play lies in the writing. Despite the limitations
of the production, for those interested in seeing
amazingly written plays take life, this show
is a must. We are left with a sense of foreboding.
God forbid we make the mistake of loving the
wrong things. Life is best lived by those that
learn not just to love, but to love the right
things most. Eugene O'Neill won a Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1936. No mean achievement,
"Beyond the Horizon" gives testimony
to a great writer because despite everything,
the power of the main trio holds you spellbound.
I could not help being moved.
Wendy R. Williams
(Betty's Summer Vacation, Sister Mary Ignatius
Explain It All for You) is one of my favorite
playwrights and Durang's "Beyond Therapy"
is one of my favorite plays. "Therapy"
opened on Broadway in 1982 with Dianne Wiest
and John Lithgow in the roles of Prudence and
Bruce. Unfortunately I was unable to attend
due to an extended childhood. So on Saturday
August 14th, I happily went to see "Beyond
Therapy" performed by The Source Works
Theater Company. And all I can say is, "Wow!"
Cannistraro did an amazing job with this show.
First, he chose a wonderful cast: Kurt Bauccio
as Bruce, Tom Daddario as Dr. Stuart Framingham,
Matt Fraley as Andrew, Brad Letson as Bob, Forba
Shepherd as Mrs. Charlotte Wallace and Marlene
Wallace (also amazing in True West) as Prudence.
Most off-off-Broadway shows have a few good
actors and one or two so-so actors that the
good ones have to drag behind them to the very
end. That is certainly not the case with this
troupe. Everyone on stage was absolutely hysterical.
The actors were obviously having a blast, depicting
every bizarre personality disorder known to
The set was very
simple. Dillons is a supper club/cabaret space
and can only accommodate "suitcase"
plays. But nevertheless, I was totally taken
into the bizarre world of these crazy characters.
All the scenes were impeccably timed and I really
have absolutely no criticism of anything.
is a very funny absurdist playwright. I can
just imagine him writing his plays, sitting
in front of his computer, cracking himself up
as he comes up with this insanity. Saying to
himself, "Really should I? Will they be
oh, why not? Hee, hee, hee!"
There are only
supposed to be two more Therapy sessions, August
21st and 28th at 8PM, so everyone needs to rush
over to Dillons at 245 West 54th Street and
see the show before it closes. And if you miss
it, perhaps you can ask the cast to come to
your home and perform the show for you. I don't
know what the price would be, but whatever it
is, it would be worth it. After all, this is
New York and we can all use a little therapy.
- Fridays at 8 PM
The Barrow Street
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Tracy Lett's Bug is one bugged-out show. Filled with varmints
and crawling with vermin, it is one of the
best shows I have seen off Broadway.
As you enter the theater there is a wonderful advertisement in the
ticket office warning that the show contains
nudity, violence and cigarette smoking. And
the show certainly contains a lot of nudity
and violence, but it is so fast paced the
characters have little time to smoke until
the very end - but I don't want to give away
too much too soon.
The eerie theme is launched in the beginning when we see the drugged-out
Agnes (the wonderful Shannon Cochran) standing in the doorway of a seedy
Oklahoma City motel, casually smoking a cigarette, listening to the trucks
whizzing by as an ignored phone rings in the background. She then leaves
the door wide open while she looks for something to drink in the bathroom. This
directorial choice is a great metaphor for the rest of the story, for Agnes
is always forgetting to "shut the door."
Soon her lesbian
friend RC (the talented Amy Landecker) arrives
with Peter (the amazing Michael Shannon) in tow. When
RC leaves, she leaves Peter (as a present?),
and once Peter is in the door, he never leaves.
And with Peter come the bugs, with the bugs comes
the paranoia and with the paranoia comes the
Tracy Letts has
written a very provocative script that is both
scary and darkly funny. And Dexter Ballard has
done a great job directing; he really knows how
to use the space between the lines. The
lighting (Tyler Micoleau) and set (Lauren Helpern)
were right on the money; I have stayed in those
motels and they nailed it. The talented
cast also features Reed Birney, who does a clever
turn as the smiling Dr. Sweet (a clever choice
of a name) and Michael Cullen who portrays Agnes's
ex-husband Goss. Mr. Cullen does a fabulous
job playing the menacing and perplexed Goss. So
go see Bug, it's "buggin'."
is running a the new Off-Broadway 199-seat
Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street (at
7th Avenue), New York, NY 10014. (1/9 to Christopher
St./Sheridan Square, or A/C/E/F/V to West 4th
Street.) Tickets: tickets
are $35-$60 at Telecharge 212-239-6200
or www.telecharge.com or
Barrow Street Theatre box office two-hours
prior to every performance. Group sales
and box office at 212-243-6262. Websites: visit: www.Bugtheplay.com
Barrow Street Theater | 27 Barrow Street | West
Burning the Old Man
A Boomerang Theatre Company Production
September - October 2004
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.
The NYC Fringe Festival
"Don't say sad stuff like that when I'm buzzing," Lila Baggot
Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico
What a relief! I attended my first play at the Fringe Festival and it was delightful. I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by "Cane's Bayou," a play by Matthew Holtzclaw.
"Bayou" is a small production about the hardships of life in the rural south. It was a riot. Drinking,nudity, cursing and offensive one-liners makeup the entire play. Nonetheless, it also dealt with the harsh realities of autism. Gary Michael McElroy, who plays Cane, portrays an autistic adult. His performance was touching and spellbinding. Only six actors are actually in the play, but they all did a wonderful job. The redneck accents and jokes were impressive, believable and hilarious.
These cast members were tight-knit and worked extremely well together.
Their individual and ensemble performances proved their closeness as a cast. They had obviously worked together before and complemented each other on stage. The atmosphere was comfortable and confident, which made it seem authentic and real.
This play was not your normal play. "Cane's Bayou" offers an alternative to the norm and reveals an unusual experience for any audience. There were no big production scenes, minimal props, and no real costume changes. This allowed for some actual "acting," because it forced the actors to keep the audience's attention only through their characters. The set had a couch, a blanket, a table, and a phone. These same props served as the set for Luther and Cane's trailer, Gamey's truck, a bar, and Graceland Construction.
Luther, played by Matthew Holtzclaw, is a quiet, nervous, unsure character who takes care of his retarded brother, Cane. Luther can't catch a break and by the advice of his boss, Ol' Boot, played by Delano Dunn, goes to a bar to meet women. This is where he meets Lila Baggot.
Lila, played by Rachel Plotkin, is the blonde, skinny love interest of
Luther. She works at the bakery at Winn-Dixie and is a loud drunk. The play moves forward with ease and comedy, as the actors chug Natural Light and crack jokes about the lifestyles of rednecks.
Gamey, played by Tony Larkin, is Lila's hateful brother who is always
accompanied by his sidekick, Hunter, played by Matt Hobby. Gamey takes a liking to Cane, but continues to harass Lila about everything. Cane and Luther's complicated relationships are the main focus of this
play. Most of the drama occurs in the haunted swampy grounds of Cane's
Bayou. Cane's girlfriend is also retarded and her name is Bang-Bang, played by Betsy Winchester. She has also mastered the art of playing an autistic female.
"Cane's Bayou" is light and funny. The story and the string of events did not seem to matter as much as the humor and the characters. If you need a break from the hyped-up, extravagant and expensive Broadway plays, this is definitely the play to go see.
Malú Huacuja Del Toro's
Celebrities Shouldn't Have Children
"Jason Madera: The God of Celebrities Shouldn't Have Children"
Directed by : Leonard Zelig
Starring: Brad Thomason, Jason Madera, Tania Robles, Belen Cortizo and Buster the Poodle
Reviewed by Dinika Amaral
Like Milton's "Paradise Lost," writer Malu Huacuja del Toro uses "Celebrities Shouldn't Have Children" to showcase the idea of a fallible God. Brad Thomason, the comic hit of "Just Us Boys," stars as Caesar. The energy and enthusiasm Thomason fans have come to expect are evident in his performance. Caesar is the son of a celebrity who has been chosen by God (Jason Madera) to give a message to the world. Having been born on a heap of silver spoons has guilt-tripped Caesar into spending his adult life apologizing for his wealth. Of course in true superficial Hollywood style the remorse evaporates where lifestyle begins and he has no qualms about living it up.
Feelings of insecurity and unworthiness have shaped an indecisive Caesar that tries his level best to take no stand, like most gentlemen of leisure. Unfortunately for him, God is unwilling to let him off that easy. He dismisses freewill like a pesky footnote and then threatens him with being labeled as insane and thereby losing his wealth. God even uses the girlfriend Diane (Belen Cortizo) to manipulate him. Faced with the possibility of losing Diane, his wealth and having no alternatives, Caesar is on the brink of capitulating, when God is momentarily overpowered. Enter the Devil.
Tania Robles is the sly, conniving Devil in this play. She works very hard to dissuade Caesar from the task of starting a religion and using his inherited celebrity to gain a following. Her motivations are not revealed and the only rationale behind her behavior is that she is against God's will. Diane does most of the work of making Caesar famous for his witnessing God and she arranges for him to be on television. However, breaking away from Donald Trump's example, God wants Caesar to give up his fame and disgrace himself by professing to viewers that "no religion" is the true message. Diane and the devil plead, cajole and advice against this. But Caesar obeys God and gives the anti-message.
Most of the play is set in Caesar's closet, which typically is big enough for God, the devil, Diane and probably half the audience to fit in (maybe all the audience, once we get rid of the clothes). While, simplistic, the set is inventive and creative and allows for the actors to take control of the stage. The smaller size of the hosting Gene Frankel Theatre, further contributes to the vividness of off-beat productions it usually showcases. Workshops conducted here make it the perfect diving board for beginners.
At the close of the play one learns that god was using the devil all along to test Caesar, but the nature of the test is unclear. While "Celebrities Shouldn't Have Children" touches on many interesting themes it falls short of the focus and cohesiveness necessary for clarity and great performances. Probably one of the most touching insights is when Caesar observes that it was the devil that did most of the talking and explaining to him, while Gods used a completely hands-off approach. If it wasn't for the efforts of the devil, Caesar would have been lost. In a very Miltonian fashion one is forced to ask where is God when Caesar needed him most?
That the devil is a woman and God a man would lead feminists to cringe. However, the devil and Diane do all the work and are still defeated by God in gaining control of Caesar, which is a subversive critique of the patriarchal world order.
Jason Madera gives a compelling performance as a twisted God who uses mortals and the devil for his amusement. His presence is similar to the legendary presence of Paul Robeson in Othello. From the onset he commands attention with a bold entrance and continues to hold his own throughout. Madera's previous exploits include "The Cook," which according to critics lays testimony to his skill and versatility. Celebrities Shouldn't Have Children serves as another feather in his cap, fortifying his acclaimed talent.
Summer of 2004
Blue Heron Arts Center
Bought, Commodified, and Sold Back to You
for Your Viewing Pleasure
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Timothy Haskell's "Road House" gang is at it again, but this time they are out of the bar into the board room and they are fighting about music. The "Rock" plot is as old as time, Cain-and-Abel time. It's your classic high school drama, transplanted to the world of Rolling Stone. There is the unappreciated, unpublished copyeditor/nerd, Dylan (played by Travis York), whose elitist but obscure musical taste is roundly snubbed by Marcus, the Editor-in-Chief of Rolling Stone (played by Dorian Missick). Marcus much prefers his fair-haired-boy Nathaniel, played by Jamie Benge, a total sellout who has the street smarts to put "the silicone on the cover".
William Bennett has written a clever script with a simple, funny plot. Nathaniel, who is in gambling debt to the French mob, is kidnapped by two French mobsters: Jean Francois (played by Nick Arens), and Andre (played by Aaron Haskell). Jean-Francois and Andre are henchmen/sons of a French drug dealer named Marcellus, also played by Dorian Missick. Dylan witnesses the abduction and decides to use Nathaniel's disappearance as an opportunity to publish his own articles under Nathaniel's name. And as in all good stories, the plot simmers, thickens and boils its way to the end.
The great fun of Corporate Rock is in the telling. The story is directed in a MTV video style with highly campy scenes, flanked by video and blasted with rock. The fourth or fifth wall is continually broken with even the stagehands marching onstage to deliver special effects. Everyone has amazing timing, and the show works like a clock. The cast and crew are obviously having a blast, and so will you.
The very talented cast consists of Travis York, Dorian Missick, Gerry Diamond, Charles Jang, Natalia Hernandez, Jamie Benge, Aaron Haskell, Kellie Arens and Nick Arens. The rest of the rocking artistic team includes Paul Smithyman (sets), Nick Hohn (lights), Sarah Iams (costumes), DeeAnn Weir (fight choreography), Vincent Olivieri (sound) and Rebeca Ramirez (dance choreography).
Corporate Rock is a hoot of a show - it f'ing rocks. So go see it! You'll laugh your a** off. And you heard it here first.
Tickets are $25 and can be reserved by calling Smarttix at 212.868.4444 or by going to www.smarttix.com
Blue Heron Arts Center | 123 East 24th Street
The Dead Sea
Written By Mark A. Robertson
The New York International Fringe Festival
Mikal Saint George
It is always
refreshing to find a drama that deals with men
and their relationships with one another that
is not the usual trivialized stereotype that
so much theatre –and mass media in general
- has become. Too often men are reduced to nothing
more than primitive lunk heads ruled entirely
by their genitals and job titles. Not that the
stereotype does not exist – that’s
why it is there. But anytime a playwright takes
more than a nanosecond to explore some of the
fundamentals of what makes men tick as well
as the bonds that can tie them together, I am
willing to buy a ticket. Mark A. Robertson’s
THE DEAD SEA, which premiered at the New York
Fringe Festival, does not merely delve but instead
goes bravely spelunking into just such relationships.
We are introduced
to the characters on the eve of Christmas Eve
when a sleeping Jake (Hayden Roush) is abruptly
awakened by a would-be intruder pilfering random
gifts and household items. After easily overpowering
the burglar, Jake is stunned to realize that
he has confronted his own brother Caleb (Mark
A. Robertson – a triple threat as writer/actor/producer)
who ran away 4 years earlier at age 16 and has
been M.I.A. ever since. The young men are quickly
joined by third sibling Corey (Nick Amick) and
their father Paul (Elias Stimac).
Once the family
gets over the initial shock of this impromptu
reunion they are then startled by the fact that
Caleb has apparently not showered nor changed
his clothes since leaving home in sophomore
high school. His tweaky state of inebriation
speaks for itself. This is family however, and
they seem relieved, if not particularly over-joyed,
to have him home. After all, much has changed
since Caleb’s less-than-grand exit. Jake
is single again as is brother Corey, who also
has the pleasure of a bitter custody battle.
Dad has seemingly come to (shakey) terms with
his alcoholism and, oh yeah, Mom died about
a year ago. You can practically smell the middle
There are a couple
more intriguing details regarding Caleb’s
absence, I won’t give them away but they
will definitely raise eyebrows. More importantly,
we are able to see the family dynamics that
hold this family together through estrangement,
addiction and death. While true “families”
very often don’t grow up under the same
roof, the ones that do – and live to tell
about it - often have the kind of bond that
simply can’t be broken. From the shared
childhood rituals that have spilled over into
adulthood to a simple afternoon of holiday shopping,
these guys really love each other and somehow,
astonishingly manage to find a way to like each
Mark A. Robertson
indicates promise as a playwright but clearly
displays himself as a gifted actor. There are
many good actors out there that could easily
take on this role and give a truly heart felt,
profound performance. Few – very few –
could display the kaleidoscope of emotion constantly
swirling just beneath the surface of Robertson’s
Caleb. He manages to portray the next to impossible
balance of wounded spirit, dark depression and
smothering narcissism that make this character
complex and compelling. Yes, he is repulsive
in the way that only homeless, compulsive drinking
speed freaks can be but there is something genuinely
endearing about him. East village bars are full
of these guys, there is a cult of the women
(and men) who love them, Oprah built her early
career talking to flotsam and jetsam they inevitably
leave in their wake.
as patriarch Paul is a man still dealing with
his own demons but willing to do anything (including
turning a conveniently blind eye) in order to
exorcise those of his offspring. Even in his
more joyous moments there is a sadness that
permeates his presence as only the pain of watching
a child self destruct can. Stimac brings a certain
elegance to this sadness that adds a subtle
poignance to the story unfolding. Hayden Roush’s
Jake maintains a boyish quality that belies
an explosive temper. Nick Amick as Corey brings
a stalwart reliability that is counter-balanced
by the tumultuous emotions surrounding his failed
marriage and estranged daughter.
Vesonder displays an acute sense of the sublime.
She is able to somehow see beauty in the decidedly
dowdy world of these four men and even at Caleb’s
most pathetic find a sort of dignity that could
easily be overlooked by a less astute director.
"DEFENSES OF PRAGUE
La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
of Prague written by Sophia Murashkovsky
and directed by Leslie Lee, is a loosely constructed
visual feast of a show based on the ancient Jewish
myth of the Golem. The Golem, according to Kaballah
legend, was formed from clay by the 17th century
Rabbi of Prague. This Golem, like the more familiar
Frankenstein, then rises up to betray the very
people he was created to save. The play is set
in 1968 Prague and the metaphor seems to be the
Warsaw Pact, which was formed in 1955 by the
Soviet Union and seven Eastern European countries
in a spirit of friendship, co-operation
and mutual assistance as a response to
a newly remilitarized West Germany. In Prague the
play, the Golem terrorizes a gypsy dancer like
the Warsaw Pact countries crushed the Czech people
in the spring of 1968.
The story is about
a gypsy girl named Prague who flees persecution
and takes refuge in a cabaret run by a MC who
personifies the Golem. This MC/Golem exploits
Prague as he did her mother before her, with
predictable sorrowful results. And this simple
thread of a story is the basis of a dazzling
abstract production, filled with music, dance
and poetry, the East Village at its very best.
The play is written and performed more in the
style of an opera or ballet, in which you cant
easily follow the story, but you are really glad
you are watching it.
interpretation of Ms. Murashkovsky play is beautifully
done, with gorgeous costumes, a fun set (great
cemetery stones) and charming music and dance
performed by an onstage gypsy band. The Director,
Leslie Lee, did a wonderful job creating this
show. Set design is by Dara Wishingrad, costumes
by Rosemary Ponzo. lighting by Russell Drapkin
and sound by Nick Moore. Stas Kmiec is the choreographer
and Susan Henle-Christiensen is the director
of movement. Props and special effects are by
Jacqueline Wade, who is also Assistant Director.
The flamenco and gypsy music are by Eugene Doga.
The very talented
cast includes: Walter Krochmal, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper,
Angelica Ayala, Nina Savinsky, Julie Saad, Vina
Less, Maria Hurdle, Chris Alonzo, Dan Kastoriano,
Maya Levy, Gary Andrews, Malia Miller, Channie
Waites, Robert Eggers, Meghan Andrews and Erin
The cast also
includes Svetlana Yankovskaya, Elena Raffloer,
Meline Mazmanyan, Olga Shumovych, Gabriel Yakubov,
Vasily Romany, and Serguei Riybtsev, who are
real Gypsies. And what a wonderful choice it
was to cast them.
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Theater Companys stated mission is to develop
funny, strange and provocative plays and they
have done just that with their new production
of Demon Baby. Written by Erin Courtney and directed
by Ken Rus Schmoll, Baby is the story of an American
woman, Wren, played by Heidi Schreck, who moves
to London when her husband Art, played by Patrick
McNulty, is transferred by his employer.
when she arrives in London is to write and illustrate
a childrens book for a relocation company.
This book is to tell the story of a child who
moves to a foreign land, initially feeling very
lonely and then adjusting, finding friends and
starting to feel at home. This is also the story
of Ms. Courtneys play, a simple story indeed,
but great fun in the telling.
Wren finds herself
paralyzed by the move, unable to leave home and
terrorized by her anxiety, which is embodied
in the Demon Baby, played by the very funny Glen
Fleshler, an English garden gnome who sits on
Wrens chest spouting self-absorbed nonsense.
This baby weighs her down, leaving her incapable
of adjusting to her new home, and she soon becomes
the object of pitying gossip among her new friends.
But then Wren,
in an on-the-mark performance by Heidi Schreck,
takes matters into her own hands and pulls herself
out of her malaise by making bizarre choices
in a desperate attempt to be seen as herself.
In one very funny scene, she strips naked and
tries to seduce her nebbish book editor Alan,
the very talented Gibson Frazier (also great
in La MaMAs Butt-Crack Bingo). In another
she invites everyone over for the evening and
only serves one choice of drink, gin and tonic,
and one food, biscuits. Just tell them
its an American custom, she tells
her perplexed husband. And her idea of entertainment
is to blindfold the guests and have them swing
at a piñata while running around on the
of this production is in the presentation. The
directing by Ken Russell Schmoll was right on
the money. The set by David Evans Morris and
lights by Garin Marschall were gorgeous. The
sound by Michael Newman was very skillfully done,
especially the sounds in the Sway scene. The
very talented cast consists of: Glen Fleshler,
Gibson Frazier, Nina Hellman, Leo Kittay, Polly
Lee, Patrick McNulty (also great in Red Bulls
Pericles), Heidi Schreck and Mark Shanahan. Of
special note was Nina Hellman as Cat - she was
March -April 2004
The Workshop Theater
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
John Morrison's "Divine Right" is a family tragedy with Shakespearean
proportions. Jack Keating, a widowed father (played by Robert Arcaro), has
been rejected by his younger daughter Kieren (Macha Ross), who has left Stanford
to join a fringe religious cult run by Ray Allman (Christopher Graham). As
the story begins, we are at a beach house in New Jersey and Mr. Keating is
planning a kidnapping and forced intervention. He has hired a security guard
named Phil (Sean O'Connor) to help with the "snatch". Mr. Keating
also attempts to enlist the aid of his other daughter Riley (Jeanne Hime)
who would rather skinny dip in the Atlantic Ocean than talk to her father
about family problems.
We then see the kidnapping and the intervention which takes us to the end
of Act I. When Act II opens, it is now a year later and the unmarried Riley
has a son whom she plans to leave with her father while she blithely pursues
her own life. But no one's life can go on. The Allman cult, with all of its
tabloid drama, still exists in the distance; there they are marching toward
their own apocalyptic end.
"Divine Right" has a fast-moving plot and is well directed. And it
has one humdinger of a tightly written final scene. "Divine" is also
blessed with a divine cast: Robert Arcaro, Christopher Graham, Jeanne Hime, Sean
O'Connor and Macha Ross. The set (designed by George Allison) was multidimensional
with many different playing areas and the lighting by Peter Hoerburger and ecclesiastical
music (uncredited) were very effective. Well done!
Tickets are $15
(Students $8) and can be obtained by calling
The Workshop at 212-695-4173.
Raw Impressions, Inc.
& Penney Seal Productions
Dreams This Way:
The Best of Raw Impressions Music Theatre
TADA! Theater Space
"Come on along and listen
to, the lullaby of Broadway"
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
in Association with Penney Seal Productions has
a winner in their show, Dreams This Way, directed
by Daniella Topol. Dreams is a "dream" of
a chance to see some of the best young talent
in New York. All eight of the pieces are great
musically and many of them are hysterically funny.
Dreams is comprised
of eight of the best pieces created in RIMT work
shopped presentation at LaMaMA, a process that
involved 38 artists who represent what musical
theatre looks and sounds like today. I especially
liked Fifty Million Dollars and My Gay Best Friend,
they were well written and very witty. And I
was simply blown away by the sick fun of How
Many Annas. So, if you are worried about the
future of Broadway, don't. There are some mega
talented composers, writers, and musical comedy
stars coming your way. So "sleep tight,
let's call it a day. Hey!
Lullaby of Broadway."
THE DOOMSDAY CLUB
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
production of The Doomsday Club, written by Terese
Pampellonne and directed by Chris Morran, is
a Five Women Wearing the Same Dress kind of story
about a group of women who have formed their
own support group so they can be free to wallow
in the dark side without being distracted by
unrealistic cheerful chatter.
There is a theory
that depressed people are only realistic and
the rest of us are suffering from some kind of
neuroses because we refuse to recognize how perfectly
dreadful most everything really is. This is the
mantra of the support group in The Doomsday Club.
They meet to discuss every possible pending disaster
so they can be prepared for the worst possible
case and perhaps in a very few instances, be
able to take evasive measures.
skillfully sets up her story by introducing each
of her damaged characters and telling enough
about the background of each so we can see why
they are so willing to meet in a house where
they are required to walk on plastic runners
and sit on sofas covered with plastic slipcovers.
But then the story bogs down. None of the women
wants anything from the other women in the room,
except an opportunity to tell her own story.
There are minor spats over cleanliness but that
alone does not supply the conflict necessary
to sustain a drama. Having people sitting around
talking about the past is a difficult writing
task for any playwright, unless he/she can channel
Noel Coward. And nothing much happens from the
beginning of Doomsday until the end, when one
of the characters, the new girl Myra (skillfully
played by Mercedes Casamayor), tells the group
that even though looking at life in such a realistic
fashion might be good for her and show her how
things really are, that is precisely why she
cant stay. She needs hope to stay alive.
The show was skillfully
directed by Chris Morran. The very talented cast
included Lynn Bowman as Celia, Chris McGinn as
Estelle, Coree Spencer as Sheila, Mercedes Casamayor
as Myra, Celia Bressack as Francine, and Jennifer
Lamberts as Elizabeth. Both Ms. McGinn and Ms.
Casamayor deserve special note. Ms. McGinn was
funny just sitting in her chair and Ms. Casamayor
gave a beautifully true performance as Myra
with no n.
GOLDEN PROSPECTS: A LOS ANGELES MELODRAMA
August 2004 , NYFringe Festival
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
family journeys west in 1901 in search of the
American Dream, but finds
Opium! Pornography! Prostitution! Disfigurement!
Asphyxiation! Apoplexy! Fun for the whole family."
Prospects is a classic melodrama complete with
stalwart heroes, damsels in distress and cape-wearing,
mustache-twirling villains. This show is a hoot,
and brilliant to boot. Colin Campbell is a very
good writer, but he is an even better director.
In theater, casting
is everything and Mr. Campbell chose an incredible
cast: Colin Campbell (himself), Max Faugno,
Dennis Fox, David Furr, Katie Firth, Karl Herlinger,
Suli Holum, Vin Knight, David Libby (original
music and piano), Rebecca Lowman, Trey Lyford
and Jordin Ruderman, Every one of these talented
actors totally got it. They skillfully used
their bodies and voices to depict the heightened
style demanded by melodrama. They didn't just
say their lines, they moved their lines.
One of my director
friends has a funny joke. He asks,"What
is the difference between a joke and a bus?"
The punch line is, "If a bus is late, it
is still a bus." Prospects has many funny
moments - some examples are their campy amputations,
cruel seductions and the hyper-pronunciation
of words like Los Angeles and cruel (cru-well).
In comedy, timing is everything, and Golden
Prospects is timed like a stopwatch. Comic timing
is a gift from the gods that can be developed
but not taught. It is an inborn talent, like
perfect pitch. Here they were, twelve actors
who had been blessed by the comic gods and goddesses,
not one but twelve. I review a lot of off-off-Broadway
shows, and I have never before seen this many
gifted comedic actors all on one stage.
(by Melissa Schlactmeyer) were beautiful and
appropriately period - a lot of fun capes, carnival
barker costumes, white period dresses, etc.
The show is hilarious in this bare bones presentation,
but would be even funnier if time and money
had allowed for a lighting designer, set designer
and sound designer who possessed the same campy,
outrageous sense of humor as Mr. Campbell. This
show could also use some beer as well as some
popcorn - so the audience has something to throw
as they hiss and boo.
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
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
play began and I took a sip.
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.
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
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
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
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 performances.
Here's to The Third New York
"A state of the art, one-act musical"
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
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.
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
there is the New York of the commuter
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.
The NYC Fringe Festival
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
produced by Meredith Lucio (Tex-in-the-City)
and directed by Joseph P. McDonnell (director
of the Fringe debut of Urinetown), has enjoyed
a great run at this years Fringe Festival, playing
to full appreciative houses. High in the Cotton
is the cast: Claire Alpern (Lurlene), Eric C.
Bailey (The Willets), Ivanna Cullinan (Cordelia),
Cole Kazdin (Jean), Roland Johnson (Grand Dandy/Grand
Mandy), Peter Maris (Flint), and Flotilla DeBarge
The plot is a
simple melodrama, a loose retelling of King
Lear with a twisted ending and lots of fluff
added just for the fun of it. There is the father,
Grand Dandy, and his three daughters Cordelia
(the drunk), Lurlene (the religious nut) and
Jean (the sexy bombshell). The other members
of the household are Flint (the hunky handyman)
and Partition (the saucy maid). All of these
characters are tossed together and soaked in
the home-made Southern hooch that is "High
The script is
pure camp and it is served up expertly by the
performances of the two veteran character actors:
Flotilla DeBarge (the black maid) and Eric C.
Bailey (several official-sounding men). They
both had amazing timing with all their lines
and could elicit laughs by simply walking on
The beauty of
the Fringe Festival is its function as an incubator,
giving many shows their first chance to play
in front of a live audience, a chance to "let
her rip." In any comedy, the audience is
a member of the cast and they have their own
lines, their laughs. Comedy cannot exist without
an audience. And High Cotton, with the help
of the Fringe Festival, is now well out of the
box and out there strutting its campy stuff
in front of full houses. So let the show go
on, cuz the Cotton is high and the living is
A Homage to Skater Culture
Tribeca Performing Arts Center
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
and Helen Milholland
the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, as part
of Tribeca's Artists in Residence Work and Show
Festival, are proud to present DOPE: a Dance
For Rebels. Dope can mean drugs, but it can
also mean hot, good - everything with a bag
of chips. Dope to the Saurez Dance Theater is
a hot street style of punk dancing as
their subtitle states "A Homage to Skater
Culture". And the Tribeca Performing Arts
Center is one cool venue to attack.
Christine Suarez, dancer and choreographer,
with Daniela Hoff, Aaron Haskell and Becky Pearl
capture the energetic movements and abrupt changes
of pace of a skateboarder as they swirl about
the huge stage and charge the stairs. Always
beautifully athletic, they were at their very
best when they interacted with each other and
showed the audience who they are as they aggressively
surfed the stage. Dope's hot dance style was
accompanied by Andy Miccolis's cool music and
was complimented by some really fly skate gear.
I Love Paris
August - October 2004.
Blue Heron Arts Center
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.
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
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.
Tickets are $20.00
and can be purchased by calling (212) 868-4444
or by going to www.smarttix.com.
I Have a Better
A Series of Solo Performances by Women
Safety In Numbers
Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico
I only saw a small segment of these women's
solo performances, Jan Rudd's "Safety in
Numbers," was delightful and funny. I laughed
so hard, I cried. Kef Productions presents the
first show in this series with a minimal set
and a woman who made typical standup comedians
look boring. The simplistic setup allowed for
the audience to focus in on the talent of the
actress and her bizarre jokes.
performs an amazing show of six women in group
therapy. She creates six different characters
and makes it amazingly believable. For a
moment, I even thought she might really be bipolar
and have six different
personalities. That's how good she was.
Nada, CT, Doris,
Urla, Cindy and the overly enthusiastic group
leader makeup the six diverse women in the show.
CT is a lesbian convict with a potty mouth.
Doris is an uptight mother figure who is sexually
frustrated. Cindy is the dimwitted, no brain
cheerleader type. Urla is the twitching, Gilligan-Island
obsessed woman. Nada represents the most normal
woman of the group, but still brokenhearted
in Numbers," was like "One Flew Over
the Cuckoo's Nest," except it portrayed
the experience from a woman's point of view,
instead of Jack Nicholson's.
Kef Productions aims to showcase some of New
York's strongest and most talented women, and
they're definitely on the right track.
I didn't get a chance to check out Peasant or
the other shows, but you should. If they are
anywhere as funny as this show, they are a guaranteed
good time. Laughter is contagious, good for
the soul, and makes you feel good. So, what
are you waiting for? Life is funny, especially
when it involves six crazy women in group therapy.
An (un)Jaded History
of Lesbian and Gay Icons, Volume 1
Jade Esteban Estrada
The Lesbian and Gay History of the world, Volume
Manhattan Theater Source
boy in a billowy, flowing, white gown informally
steps onto stage, casually saying hello, and
quickly becomes engaged with the audience. Jade
(half in costume) offers us sweet greetings
and warm welcomes before he asks us to state
who is an icon to us, living or dead, famous
or unknown, and to explain why. As each person
answered, I was racing through my heart and
mind, running through the few icons I feel were
powerful enough for me to call an "icon".
I dreaded giving my response, because I know
of no "icons" who are as obvious as
what other people were saying. While others
find Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Princess
Diana, and Miles Davis to be their icons, I
find Jane Roberts and Elizabeth Fraser to be
mine. See what I mean.
When I stated
who my icon was (I had chosen Elizabeth), there
was so much confusion and "what?"
and "who?" and gawking that I quickly
changed to the most recognizable name of inspiration
to me: Björk!
all nodded as if that explained everything.
segue into the performance as Jade begins to
transform, to complete his costume, by throwing
on a large, mass of golden, curly hair, and
altering his voice. His first icon is emerging
and the play has begun.
Jade takes us
through 6 major icons across time, seeming to
focus on their pivotal part in history, using
monologue, singing, and dancing. He begins with
Sappho, the famous lyrist from Lesbos, whose
wealth and aristocracy allowed her to explore
her sexuality, making her the first "lesbian"
in recorded history (the word "Lesbian"
is derived from "Lesbos", the island).
Though her freedoms were attributed to her status,
there is also strong evidence to support that
sexual exploration was not an issue in her time.
Nonetheless, Sappho created a world of poetry
and inspiration (Plato called her the 10th Muse!),
but time, culture, and ignorance have reduced
her to mere slang.
For the next
hour or so, Jade flips through the pages of
history, moving from one icon to the next, leaving
you more and more engrossed, inspired, and even
emotional. As he channels Michelangelo (sculptor,
painter, architect, and poet), Oscar Wilde (poet/playwright),
Gertrude Stein (poet, playwright, feminist),
Sylvia Rivera (transgender veteran of Stonewall),
and Ellen DeGeneres (modern day comedienne),
he does not mock them or make them into caricatures.
Although entertaining, Jade's icons are wrought
with insight and each one offers a profound
contribution to the overall message of the performance:
We've come a long way in learning to accept
each other, and we have a long way to go.
overshadow his characters with a perfected portrayal
of them, nor does he distract you with strained
efforts to actually perform impressively, instead
he seems to honor each icon with his casual
and playful approach. Bad wigs, adorable, fumbling
costume changes, random interactions with the
audience, big Broadway singing voices; these
make the play more like watching a magical child
playing dress-up, except with a complexity and
wisdom that is not lost in the fun. There are
moments you may be thoroughly surprised by your
lack of knowledge, (one woman stated that she
had never heard Oscar Wilde was gay!), other
times you may be moved to tears by the realization
of what has been contributed to the freedoms
we take for granted as a people. Gay, Straight
or in-between, adult, teen, parent or grandparent,
this performance is about PEOPLE, about our
freedom, and about accepting one another.
may be called "The Lesbian and Gay History
of the World", but it is not about gay
pride, politics, or power; it is about Humanity
and the overlooked contributors to the on-going
struggles for absolute freedom for all of us
to be who we are, no matter what we are.
Jade has been
featured on Graham Norton, and has an extensive
and notorious history of writing, acting, and
singing, boasting a powerful resume dotted with
several awards and praises. He is one of the
most famous people you may have never heard
but you will!
currently beginning his tour to promote the
sequel, Icons Volume 2, wherein he will invite
us to explore Alexander the Great, Queen Christina
of Sweden, Susan B. Anthony, Billie Jean King,
Harvey Milk and 9/11 hero Mark Bingham.
information on Jade: http://iconsvolume1.com
Century Center Theatre
A funny hot western for the
romantic feminist in us all!
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Oh, Johnny, youve
got my heart. Johnny Guitar, a musical comedy
based on the 1954 western classic of the same
name, has translated beautifully to the stage.
Johnny is a hoot of a show, campy enough to tickle
the most jaded fancy, but mainstream enough to
be fun for the entire family.
Here is the synopsis
from the press release: "Johnny Guitar,
the musical, is set in a small town in the New
Mexico mountains, circa 1885. The story centers
on Vienna, a sultry saloonkeeper who built a
booming business 'on her back'. Though Vienna
is the ultimate bad girl gone good, her nemesis,
the pent-up Emma, sees things differently. A
domineering cattle tycoon, Emma controls the
town with an iron fist but loses her grip when
she falls for the dangerously hot-headed Dancin'
Kid. By the time Johnny Guitar, a tall stranger
with a secret past, rolls into town, the stage
is set for an epic showdown."
Johnny is a jewel
with a great set, music and book. The Director
(Joel Higgins), Choreographer (Jane Lanier),
and the marvelous cast exhibit wonderful comic
timing. In fact the timing is so amazing, theater
students should see this show to study it alone.
Steve Blanchard is wonderful as Johnny, and Judy
McLane is marvelous as Vienna, the role created
in the movie by Joan Crawford. She brought down
the house every time she said, Oh, Johnny. The
night I attended there were two understudies,
Kristie Dale Sanders as Emma (the role created
by Mercedes McCambridge in the movie) and Grant
Norman as the Dancin Kid. The only way
I could have told that Ms. Sanders and Mr. Norman
were understudies was via the program insert.
They rocked and looked born to their roles.
One more thing:
Everyone needs to go out and buy a replica of
Viennas red peignoir set. And I do mean
everyone. Trust me, you will definitely want
one after you see this show.
Jollyship the Whiz-Bang: Sleepless Fishes
(An electro-accordion pyrate puppet sea odysse
Tudley's Reef: Whiz-Bang Variety Night
First Thursday of the month @ 10PM Starting June 3rd
Bowery Poetry Club
Reviewed by Jennifer Miranda Holmes
Whiz-Bang: Sleepless Fishes is a zany trip on
a pirate ship with a rock opera soundtrack and
some crazy crass little puppets. Sound like fun?
You bet! The creators and collaborators are a
team of adorable, fun-loving and witty guys that
will win you over from the sound-check to the
final song. This is a punk show mixed with a
little Punch and Judy puppet on puppet action.
The story revolves around Tommy a young clown who is rescued from a carnival
slave ship by pirates. He becomes the favorite of the ship's captain, a crazy
pirate with a green face who educates little Tommy with a hilarious song
entitled "Kill it if it don't got feet" where he suggests that
creatures that are "different" ought to be destroyed. Tommy doesn't
want a life of killing and cruelty so he befriends a mollusk called Glenn
who also happens to be a movie producer for an "experimental romance".
Glenn introduces Tommy to Dudley, the film's star, a drooling reef with wiggly
eyes brought to life brilliantly by Raja Azar the show's co-creator. It turns
out that the pirate is secretly in love with Tommy, but to find out what
happens you will have to see the show. The dialogue is hysterical and this,
combined with fabulous comic timing on the part of the performers, left the
audience screaming with laughter .
The music is infectious with catchy and creative lyrics such as "Dirty
dirty dirty, scurvy scurvy scurvy: Pirates love" and "You can't
sleep with the fishes, because the fishes don't sleep". The songs had
people literally dancing in their seats and were performed with incredible
charismatic energy by the group, led by the show's co-creator Nick Jones.
The puppets are fantastic and full of personality and the set is casually
effective and fun.
The show is so inventive and such a good time; it is the epitome of what
good off-the-wall New York theater ought to be. Sail as fast as you can to
the Bowery Poetry Club and bring lots of friends, this event is not to be
Tickets are $10
and can be purchased at the door or at http://www.virtuous.com. There
will be weekly drink specials sponsored by Michter's
Straight Rye Whiskey.
Starting June 3rd, Whiz Bang will host a monthly variety show, Tudley's Reef:
Whiz-Bang Variety Night Every first Thursday of the month starting
June 3rd at 10:00 PM also at the Bowery Poetry Club. Acts will range from
acrobats, aerialists, puppets, out of town musical guests, and other boisterous
performances. Events will also include record releases, video debuts and
many special guest appearances.
to Tudley's Reef are $5.00 and can be purchased
at the door or at http://www.virtuous.com.
For more information on the above events, please
call 212-614-1224 (no reservations), or visit http://www.bowerypoetry.com and http://oojamadome.org/pirates.html
Bowery Poetry | Club 308 Bowery
MOTHER'S LITTLE HELPER
Thursdays - Saturday at 8 PM
Sunday at 5 PM
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Soho Think Tanks
production of Mothers Little Helper, written
and performed by Lenora Champagne and directed
by STT Artistic Director Robert Lyons, is a charming,
entertaining evening with just enough detours
into the dark side to keep the audience thinking.
And it is always great to see anything at the
Ohio Theater, with their consistently cool productions
and great lighting (accolades to Tyler Micoleau).
Artistic Director Robert Lyons really has his
New York has always
been populated by self selected transplants,
people who in infancy took one look at their
crib and their parents and thought oops, how
long is it going to be before I can find out
about New York and get the hell out of here?
Ms. Champagne is one of these immigrants; raised
in a Cajun Catholic Louisiana family, she adds
a unique spice to New Yorks cultural soup.
Little Helper in the title is a reference to
a booklet Ms. Champagne's mother was given to
explain the mysteries of life to her daughter
Lenora. Ms. Champagne skillfully weaves snippets
from this unintentionally funny book into her
stories about living in New York after 9/11,
and her attempts to educate her own pre-adolescent
daughter into the new and horrifying mysteries
of life. She also delivers a cultural weather
report on the chilling effect that the present
Republican administration is having on the rights
of women everywhere. But even though she is addressing
very serious subject matter, Ms. Champagne is
a very funny storyteller with great comic timing
and the generosity of spirit to see the humor
in her own eccentricity. Ms. Champagne also tells
great Cajun jokes.
The York's Theatre Company's
The Musical of Musicals - The Musical!
Summer of 2004
St. Peter's Theatre
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
of Musicals - The Musical! is a hysterically
funny musical satire depicting a simple story,
about an ingénue who cannot pay her rent, told
in the style of five musical comedy greats:
Rodgers and Hammerstein ("Corn"); Stephen Sondheim
("A Little Complex"); Jerry Herman
("Dear Abby"); Andrew Lloyd Webber
("Aspects of Junita"); and Kander
and Ebb ("Speakeasy"). All of this
fun was written by Eric Rockwell (Music and
Co-Writer Book) and Joanne Bogart (Lyrics and
Co-Writer Book), who also appear in the show. The
very talented Pamela Hunt is both the director
and the choreographer of the show.
The show works on many
levels. First there is a marvelous cast:
Lovette George (the ingénue who can't pay her
rent); Craig Fols (the slightly foolish hero
who will pay her rent); Joanne Bogart (the
wise older woman); and Eric Rockwell (the villain/piano
player). They all have great voices and
to-the-nanosecond comic timing. They
were also great fun to look at. Their
costumes were simple, variations on black cabaret-type
attire, but their faces were amazing. Lovette
George, in particular, could give Jim Carrey
a run for his money in a "Who's got the best
rubber face?" competition.
Then there are the jokes - total howlers for audience members familiar with
the various composers, but still funny enough to elicit a laugh from a musical
comedy novice. After I saw the show I was talking about it with a relative
who has performed in musical comedies since she was a child. I told
her she had to see it, because she would probably like it even more than
I did because she would get some of the more obscure musical comedy references. She
then asked me if her six year old daughter would like it. I thought
for a moment and said, "Yes, she would. She would not get the insider
jokes, but the performers are so funny and the musical numbers are so wonderful
that she would like it anyway." But before you make reservations for
a first grade class, let me add one caveat: I know this kid and she
adored Phantom and Little Shop.
All the different
segments work. The show starts with a dead-on
send up of Rodgers and Hammerstein set amid the
corn fields of August, then moves on to a cynically
twisted scene set in an apartment house in the
dark world of Sondheim. Next it was time
to idolize-a-diva in the Jerry Herman scene.
I have seen many middle-aged-community-theater
divas ham it up as Mame, so those jokes killed
me. A total Phantom junkie, I loved the
Andrew Lloyd Webber piece. The night I
attended, when it was time for the Webber piece,
someone in the audience groaned and said, "He
deserves to be skewered." But they sure did laugh
during the scene and all the Weberesque songs
were beautiful. The show ends with a very
witty Kander and Ebb segment, with the final
bits sung in many different languages. Life
is so very Cabaret!
The York Theater
has an excellent road show on their hands. "Musical" has
a simple set and most of the music is supplied
by an on-stage piano. This show could easily
be performed in a large cabaret space. Throughout
the country there are people who cut their theatrical
teeth on musicals and they will be a perfect
audience for this show. I only hope that
if it tours, it tours with this cast. Bravo!
Tickets are $55.
Students tickets are available on the day of
the performance for $20, subject to availability. Tickets
are available by calling Smarttix at (212) 212-868-4444,
Saint Peter's Theatre |
619 Lexington Avenue
August 2004 NYFringe Festival
(Run is over)
Reviewed by Jeffrey
winding down its 6th year, the New York Fringe
Festival has quickly grown into the largest
multi-arts festival in North America. With more
than 200 companies from all over the world performing
for sixteen days in more than twenty venues,
its website proudly declares that this gala
of the arts attracts a "young, educated,
culturally adventurous audience." An estimated
60% of attendants fall between the ages of 18
and 35. Investigating further, I am beginning
to feel like I'm onto something here. I find
myself shouting, "This isn't just any demographic!
This is my demographic!" I begin to wonder
what this play called "Never Tell,"
a collaboration of father-son team James Christy
Jr. (Playwright) and James Christy Sr. (Director),
might offer a person of my demographic.
I sweat my way to the 4th floor of 380 Broadway,
the name Access Theatre starts to seem a misnomer.
My expectations are high, but I don't know if
they're this high. Not three minutes inside
the lobby, the volunteer doorman is already
giving me rave second-hand reviews of the show.
Next, the playwright himself proudly tells me
that his production has been extended for two
more days beyond the end of the festival. "Wow!"
I think to myself, "I'm impressed already."
But, at the same time, I can't help wondering,
"If you continue beyond the fringe, where
exactly does that leave you?" I am hoping
I will soon be privy to that information.
to the playwright, "Never Tell" presents,
"in a vivid series of ironically comic
and emotionally explosive scenes, a contemporary
of friendship and betrayal." Ten minutes
into the action, it occurs to me that I'm experiencing
something more here; this play ventures even
deeper - into the depths of the human psyche
and its different methods of communicating truth.
From technology to art to verbal interaction,
extending to love and all the acts it entails,
the characters communicate with each other in
any number of ways. Through the action and dialogue,
Christy ponders how a person's concept of truth
and his modes of communication contribute to
his eventual happiness and success in sex and
in "Never Tell," I found an exceedingly
well-crafted sequence of monologues and dramatic
interchanges with just the right amount of humor
woven in. The work delves into the complex and
convoluted web of relationships between five
young New Yorkers. Manny, a mentally unstable
everyman, hopes to change his life (and the
world) with a computer program that can predict
human behavior. Will, an artist and curator,
gains notoriety through an art installation
that includes documentary style footage of a
rape. Will's wife, Anne, and her best friend,
Liz, engage in unhealthy relationships with
men for different reasons. And finally, the
enigmatic and improbable Hoover exposes all
of their problems, enabling a final resolution.
me, contemplating Hoover's actions and the motives
behind them is the highlight of the play. No
doubt, the ease and humor with which actor Josh
Weinstein delivers his performance are a major
factor. But moreover, Christy's writing easily
conveys the multiplicity of emotions at work
between the characters. Manny's desperation
and paranoia, Will's audacity, Liz's helplessness,
along with Hoover's wit and deceptiveness are
all given, through monologue and dialogue, appropriate
attention and background as to simplify an otherwise
complex series of interactions.
time I check in with myself, I find my brain
performing cartwheels. One moment I'm laughing.
The next I'm horrified. Through it all, I am
unmistakably enjoying myself, despite the darkness
that lurks just below the characters' skin,
eating away at them from the inside out.
I make my way home from the theatre, I feel
like I'm bringing a bit of the Fringe Festival
back to Brooklyn with me. And after regaining
my senses, they're all in agreement. This is
a great play. Congratulations to James Christy
Jr. on a very promising debut.
September -October 2004
59E59 St Theatre
by Dinika Amaral
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
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."
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.
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.
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?"
St Theatre |59 East 59th Street
Tuesday through Saturday at 8PM
Sunday at 3PM
Irish Arts Center
The Great American Smoke
by Wendy R. Williams
production of Quitters, written by Sergio Cacciotti
and directed by Chris McGinn is a hoot of a story
about two slackers who attempt to quit smoking.
What starts as a pot induced bet escalates into
an all out war as a withdrawal induced paranoia
played by the playwright Sergio Cacciotti, and
John, played by the equally talented Jon Hemingway,
spar, spat and spy on each other in a desperate
attempt to win the bet by forcing the other to
give in to the siren call of the killer weed.
They are totally believable as the suffering
combatants and exhibit great energy as they drive
the story to its bitter end.
cast consists of Jakes put-upon girlfriend
Maria, the talented and funny Michelle Marlowe
and the The Grim Reaper, played with a spirit
of fun by Karl Itzkowitz. Mr. Cacciotti has written
a very funny tight play and Chris McGinn did
a great job directing it.
Not the Musical... the Fightsical!
The Barrow Street Theater
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
Road House, directed
by Timothy Haskell, is a spoofy send-up of Road
House, the movie, a B-movie western from 1989
that has become a cult classic. Road House, the
play, is a hoot of a show out-camping
the campy original and filled with hysterically
funny fight scenes. The actors literally give
their all, flying through the air in barroom
brawl after brawl. The plot is the classic western
- a famous bouncer is hired to clean up a small
town honky-tonk. Our hero arrives in town only
to find out that the only way he can clean up
the dive he was hired to bounce is
to eliminate all the corruption in the town.
There is also a love story between the bouncer
and the local hottie doctor, whose sew-em
up services are in great demand.
But here is the
subtle brilliance. Road House was a bad movie,
with bad dialogue and poor acting and not much
of a plot. Road House, the play, is a wonderful
send up, keeping all the stilted dialogue and
the predictable plot structure but twisting it
all into a theatrical explosion. Taimak Guarriello,
who plays the lead role of the bouncer, does
a great imitation of Patrick Swayzes acting
in the movie. Mr. Guarriello is a very talented
stunt man and martial arts expert who looks hysterical
in his blond mullet wig. Mr. Guarriello, as you
will be sure to note, also has a great butt.
This show is fun,
like a musical presented by the WWF (they dont
sing). Timothy Haskell has every reason to be
very proud of his show - it rocks! The very talented
cast includes: AGO (the magic chef), Rachelle
Anthes, Nick Arens, Laura Baggett, Jamie Benge,
Lucia Burns, Christopher Joy, Brian Kantrowitz,
Harry Listig, Rachael Roberts and Rolando Zuniga.
That Is The
Summer of 2004
The Kraine Theatre
Reviewed By Mikal
Not for the faint
of heart, Dale Johnson’s searing THAT IS
THE QUESTION is pushing audience’s primal
buttons at the Kraine Theatre. Directed by Linda
Burson, playwright Johnson candidly explores
potential powder kegs such as sexuality (hetero,
bi, tri) the transient nature of so many big
city relationships, a woman’s right to
choose (her sexuality, her reproductive options)
and the level of almost casual violence that
is inflicted on women on a practically daily
Set in Manhattan’s
west village THAT IS THE QUESTION tells the story
of Kim (Marie Bedford), a vivacious, sexual explorer
and her new roommate Dani (Megan Minto), a wide-eyed,
new to the city neophyte. There is also Kim’s
boyfriend Spencer (Greg Thornsbury) a perpetually
erect Peter Pan fascinated by all things carnal.
Dani eventually begins dating David (Kyle Minshew).
In one of the play’s more inspired performances,
Minshew effectively portrays a vaguely nerdy,
timid computer geek who initially seems about
as intimidating as a station wagon full of nuns.
In the production’s more film noir moments
however, we are chillingly introduced to the
character’s truly psychotic side. The cast
is nicely rounded out by Dorcey Winant as Kim’s
yenta –ish mother and Alana Rose Abbott,
double cast as departing roommate Jenny and crisis
Make no mistakes;
this is a no-holds-barred look at very intimate
aspects of the character’s lives. The action
opens with the final orgasmic moments of a ménage-a-trois.
We are first introduced to the characters in
their post coital euphoria. It is not the nudity
however that intrigues the audience the most.
Due in large part to the free-spirited, youthful
nature of the two lead actresses and the school
boy horniness of Thornsbury’s Spencer,
the nudity does not come across as gratuitous – certain
death for most wannabe “downtown’ ‘cutting
edge” productions. Instead, it becomes
a logical, even charming element to the story.
Anyone who has ever danced naked in their living
room while blasting heavy metal will understand.
It is, in fact, the emotional intimacy - -the
naked psyche-- that will have you contemplating
this play long after you have left the theatre.
As the drama unfolds
each of the characters is faced with harsh and
ultimately life altering realities and grown-up
decisions – often a result of the frivolity
they so doggedly pursued. It is hard to explain
this production without giving too much away.
This would in fact be sinful as there are many
surprising twists and turns that should be experienced
without warning! As much action/suspense as drama,
Johnson and Burson have helmed this production
in such a way that the audience not only witnesses
the action but experiences it with the characters.
The piece often has the feeling of a quirky indie
film. Alan Baron’s artful lighting helps
to give Mark Hankla’s minimalist set an
intimate, at times surreal quality. In fact,
given more blood and a few really cool cars,
this could easily be a Quentin Tarantino property.
THAT IS THE QUESTION proves to be a roller coaster
that is not always comfortable but promises to
leave you wiser for daring to take a ride.
Tickets are $19,
discount for students, www.smarttix.com
J. B. Edwards
Sundays at 4PM & 8PM
Feb - March 2004
Blue Heron Theater
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
The Sanctuary, written
by J. B. Edwards and directed by Jeffrey Stocker,
is set in a seedy Caribbean dive called the
Sanctuary Café. Six people are forced
to seek sanctuary from a tropical
storm. Stranded by the weather, they confront
God and their inner demons as the storm rages
outside. Mr. Edward has set this ambitious
work in a sad world of loneliness and senseless
Having a group
of strangers thrown together by chance
is a device that has been used with good result
in many well-known plays. The Night of
the Iguana by Tennessee Williams is one
such notable play, with characters thrown together
on a tour bus. Sanctuary, like Iguana, features
a defrocked priest as the protagonist. In Sanctuary
the play, a defrocked priest fleeing a scandal
in New York goes to the Caribbean to hide. On
the night of the storm, he is recognized by a
stranded tourist and forced to defend himself
to a group of strangers.
In The Sanctuary,
J B Edwards has used the storm device to create
a claustrophobic world where everyone feels free
to talk openly about their innermost thoughts.
And in the world of this play, they talk at length
with no fear of interruption. Sanctuary is more
of a tone poem than an actual play because most
of the evening is spent with the characters telling
us (in almost monologue form) who they are and
what they want, rather than developing the story
through interaction. The conflict that ends the
story is supplied by the homophobic Rocky (very
ably played by Robert Scorrano). Rocky detests
everyone, and every time it is his turn to talk,
he spews venom everywhere. Mr. Edwards has created
a desolate world populated by strong characters.
Now he needs to release them to tell his story
of loneliness and the quest for redemption.
The set was simple
but effective. The sounds effects deftly portrayed
a Caribbean storm. The actors and director did
a very nice job. Of special note were Memory
Contento as Missy, Sharlene Hartman as Daisy
and Robert Scorrano as Rocky.
Tony & Tina's Wedding
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:00 pm
Saint Luke's Church
It's a party, and you're invited.
"I'm holding out for
Pigs in a Blanket"
- Valentina Vitale
Reviewed by Diedre Kilgore
A joining of a
union between Tony Nunzio and Valentina Vitale
Every Thursday through Saturday night at 7:00. The ceremony begins at St.
Luke's Church, 308 West 46th Street
The Cast of that
night: Joli Tribuzio, Johnny Tammaro (swing),
Laura Escalante (swing), Scott Voloshin, Danielle
Monteznos (swing), Craig Thomas Rivela, Amy Broder
(swing), Deno Vourderis, Cindy Kostello (swing),
Rhett Kalman, Daniella Gernoble (swing), Mark
Nassar, Janine Molinari (swing), Joe Leone (swing),
Abraham Sparer (swing), Henry Caplan, Susanna
Hairy (swing), Danny Bruckert, Ernie Curcio,
Matthew Knowland, Miriam Daly, Mike Lavelle,
James Kluz and Sam Solovey (who recently guest
starred in the Apprentice)
I had a little
time to kill before meeting up to see Tony & Tina's
Wedding with my fabulous clothing designer friend
Eric Landgren, so I ducked into Pomaire, my favorite
Chilean restaurant in Manhattan. Knowing I would
be fed during the show, I opted to just nibble
on a marvelous ceviche appetizer while sampling
various South American cocktails. What.
Hunger pains at
bay accompanied by a nice little buzz, I felt
rejuvenated. I met Eric outside of St. Lukes
Church where we were literally ushered inside.
Unsure whether we should sit on the Groom or
Bride's side, we were fortunately rescued by
the usher who realized that we were friends of
the Bride, huh? We took our places and were immediately
accosted by a nun with Touretes. Not the kind
of Tourettes people constantly accuse ME of having,
but the kind that makes one twitch uncontrollably.
Eric and I loved this nun, but unfortunately,
I didn't catch her name. Sorry about that, funniest
nun in the world. You see, here's the thing.
That night, there were about 10,000 understudies
performing, and it was a little difficult for
me to keep track of everyone, but I did my best.
My apologies to anyone I may have left out. Understudy
or not, they all did a fantastic job.
up a minute", you might be saying to yourself, "I
thought this show was cancelled?"
Well, it was,
until Big Apple Entertainment got a hold of it
and has brought it back to life. Back by popular
demand, the longest running show Off-Broadway,
Tony & Tina's Wedding is here again, and
for those of you finding yourselves in Las Vegas,
it's running there too. So get out there and
relish in the outlandish drama of an Italian
wedding gone nutso (I learned all of my Italian
American sayings from The Fonz).
Tony and Tina's
Wedding was just recently made into a movie,
starring Joseph McIntyre and Mila Kunis (That
70's Show) which screened this year at the Tribeca
Film Festival. From what I understand, the film
falls short in its attempt to re-create a story
that was originally intended as an audience-interaction
piece. I can understand why. The whole charm
(and point) of watching Tony & Tina's Wedding
is that you, as an audience member, are included
in the festivities. You get to know the characters
and they get to know you, and you don't really
feel like you're watching a play as much as finding
yourself thrown into the middle of a twilight
zone that features an extremely trashy, bizarre
There are two
locations, when you go to see this show. The
first is at St. Luke's Church, where the wedding
takes place, then everyone parades a block down
restaurant row with the cast to the reception
hall located under Sophia's Restaurant. The journey
alone between the two venues is loads of fun,
especially while watching the reactions from
the people on the street, who often times, seem
to truly believe that we are a giant group of
trashy wedding people. It's hilarious to watch
the actors scream inappropriate things to the
people on the street and witness the looks of
disdain on the passersby's faces. It certainly
puts you in a dimension outside of reality.
At the reception,
the fourth wall becomes completely non-existent,
melding dimensions, making you feel eerily comfortable
yet a bit out of your skin at the same time.
But just when Eric and I started to get a little
edgy and confused, alcohol was served. What a
great show! The characters not only include you
in their worlds but will even lean over at times
and tell you secrets. The production is truly
an ensemble piece with a circus of activity and
is therefore difficult to get the full experience
of the show from only one viewing. From where
I was sitting however, I was really taken with
the bridesmaids, played by Danielle Montezinos,
Laura Escalante and Amy Broder; one was very
pregnant, one was a complete slut, and the other
had a major attitude problem. Other standout
performances included the father of the groom,
played by Mark Nassarand who would blurt out
offensive things at the most inappropriate times,
accompanied by his sleazy girlfriend fabulously
played by Janine Molinari, who kind of reminded
me of a bizarre cross between Pat Benatar and
Joan Jett. After having said this, depending
on where you are, you get a completely different
experience than the people sitting across the
room from you. Not to mention that the majority
of what you're seeing is improvised, so the vibe
definitely changes with each production. At this
reception, you not only get liquored up, you
get fed. The food even tastes like wedding reception
food. Eric was all about the pasta smothered
in white sauce, until he saw an attractive man
sitting at another table that forced him to have
creative visions of other things one could smother
in a white sauce. The whole experience was like
an acid trip where you find yourself inside of
an eerie cartoon, but at the same time, everything
feels so very real.
Running Time: 2 hours 45 min - Price: $85 - $125
$125 VIP seating -- you will be seated in the best seats, and treated like
Luke's Church| 308 West 46th Street
Toxic Audio in LOUDMOUTH
Featuring Jeremy James, Shalisa James,
Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz & Paul Sperrazza
Summer of 2004
Visit www.toxicaudio.com for
times and dates
Review By Liberation Iannillo
Having seen this
show twice it’s still hard to definitively
describe what the Toxic Audio experience is like.
Of course being such an enigma works in their
favor. Using only their voices, Toxic Audio delivers
a show that is a unique combination of singing
and comical performance art. The five talented
vocalists that make up this group perform their
music and sound effects using nothing but their
voices. At first thought this may not sound all
that impressive, but after hearing vocalist Paul
Sperrazza flawlessly recreate a DJ booth, complete
with a scratching records and various song samples,
all created by his voice, all at the same time,
you’re left thinking, “Did I just
hear that?” That is Toxic Audio.
The group, comprised
of Jeremy James, Shalisa James, René Ruiz,
Paul Sperrazza and Michelle Mailhot Valines,
perform a number of songs varying from The Beatles’ ‘Paperback
Writer’ to Evanescence’s ‘Wake
Me Up Inside’. The latter, which Shalisa
James sang lead vocals, was so powerful that
I had to remind myself constantly that her flawless
voice was not accompanied by musical instruments,
that it was her fellow vocalists bringing the
house down. Toxic Audio opened with Til’ Tuesday’s ‘Voices
Carry’ which was performed with such heartfelt
emotion that you would think the song was their
own. One of the standout pieces in the show by
far is Paul Sperrazza’s performance of
Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.
In fact, Sperrazza’s surreal, fluid body
movements and near perfect comic timing unintentionally
make him the star of the show.
remember the last time I saw a show that I raved
about it to anyone who would listen to me. The
one and only problem I had with the show was
that at times it was so overly miked’ that
you couldn’t capture the clarity of the
Toxic Audio has
performed throughout the United States and recently
won the 2004 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical
Experience. This is definitely one of the best
shows running and my only regret is that it’s
Houseman Theater |
450 West 42nd Street | BTW 9th Ave & 10th
The Bernie West Theatre at Baruch College
Two Actresses take on
Sam Shepherds True West
Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams
There has been
some controversy in the press about this show.
It seems that Sam Shepherds agent, Judy Boals,
has notified the producers that Mr. Shepherd
intention was for this play for be cast with
two men as the brothers. And Indigo Productions
has instead cast two very talented women Marlene
Wallace as Lee and and Sarah Jackson as Austin.
Well, not to worry,
all is saved. Indigo Productions version
of True West is in no way a feminized version
of the story. Those girls have balls. In fact,
this being New York, it is possible to get married,
several times as a matter of fact, to men who
are far less masculine than the characters these
women are portraying. And you heard it here first.
Thomas G. Waites
has directed a very true version of True West
and once you are seated in the theater, the role-reversed
casting becomes unnoticeable. The actresses are
totally believable as two siblings, each of whom
wants what the other has. And Mr. Shepherd has
written a superb play, but we already knew that.
The talented cast also features Charlie Moss
as Saul and Mary A. Sarno as Mom. So go see True
West, not because its a controversial show,
but because its a good show.