Posted in drama, family

Family=Drama Even Among Gurney’s Staid WASPs

The landscape of family can be a minefield, especially family steeped in a tradition of the “stiff upper lip” like the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. A.R. Gurney (more casually known as “Pete”) has been traversing this terrain, analyzing WASP culture and customs like a field anthropologist throughout his long career. In “Children,” his first play written in 1974, ARG launches his analysis from John Cheever’s short story, “Goodbye, My Brother.”

The WASPs in ARG’s world live in changing times. In “Children,” enjoying a revival in a TACT production at The Beckett Theatre through November 20th, a wealthy family gathers at their summer home on an island off the Massachusetts coast on the weekend of the 4th of July, 1970.

Margaret Nichols, Richard Thieriot and Darrie Lawrence. Photos © TACT  

These children of privilege each face the societal changes differently.

Mother (Darrie Lawrence), having lived by the rules, now hopes for more. She raised children who disappoint in their messy ordinariness and is finally ready to follow her passion by marrying “Uncle” Bill.

Her daughter, Barbara (Margaret Nichols) is recently divorced and would like to winterize the summer house so she could move out of her Boston apartment and spend time with an old flame on the island. Barbara’s hedonism is at odds with her sense of propriety. “We have rules,” she says. Later she adds, “We’re repressive. That’s what my therapist says.”

Margaret Nichols and Darrie Lawrence  

Brother Randy (Richard Thieriot), a jock and schoolteacher, plays competitively, if not fairly. Winning at tennis is his finest ambition, as if all his good breeding has degenerated into childish aggressiveness. He wants nothing more than to repave the neglected tennis courts at the house.

Like the unseen younger brother, Pokey, Randy’s wife Jane (Lynn Wright), thinks there should be more to life than the restrictive traditions, the country club dances, the games and score keeping.

Lynn Wright and Richard Thieriot prepare to go to the Country Club ball  

Pokey, the matriarch’s favorite and most troublesome child, aims to throw a wrench in all their plans.

TACT- The Actors Company Theatre- is a talented young company, formed in 1992. Richard Thieriot is a guest in this cast made up of old TACT hands. In “Children” under the direction of Scott Alan Evans and with the WASP-appropriate period costumes designed by Haley Leiberman, they have ably created a time capsule of a uneasy if very comfortably well-off family.

Darrie Lawrence, Lynn Wright, Margaret Nichols and Richard Thieriot  

Visit http://tactnyc.org/ to learn more about “Children”

Posted in Uncategorized

The Charm and Wit of Canal Park Playhouse

The artistic director, Jack Coates, is a dummy, sorry to say. The producer, Kipp Osborne, has had a varied career in theater as an actor on and off-Broadway and on the small screen. Kipp Osborne, Mr. Coates claims, is also a ventriloquist.

Messers Coates and Osborne are joined at Canal Park Playhouse by Sara Murphy as Managing Director.

Ms. Murphy is an advocate for young theater companies whose previous roles included programming at the Zipper Factory Theater. Their Technical Director is Vadim Ledvin, who has extensive experience in lighting and sound design.

Rounding out the production team is the Resident Playwright, Joe Roland, whose “On The Line,” opening for previews on October 27th, enjoyed an earlier run at the Cherry Lane Theater.

The Playhouse occupies the ground floor in a landmarked 1826 Canal House in Tribeca. The upper floors are a bed and breakfast, known as The Canal Park Inn. Patrons at the Playhouse, may enjoy a very reasonably priced brunch from 10:30am to 6:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

On our recent visit, we spoke to a couple from Birmingham, Al, who with their comrades from around the south, were enjoying their stay. The group of four couples each had one of the suite-like rooms upstairs, happily occupying the entire Inn for the week.

For more information about Canal Park Playhouse and its upcoming productions, visit http://www.canalparkplayhouse.com/. For information on the newly opened Canal Park Inn, visit
http://www.thecanalparkinn.com/

Posted in absurdist, comedy, renowned playwright

That’s Absurd! The Surreal Worlds of Ionesco and Rapp

Legend has it that Eugene Ionesco was so taken by the phrase book when he tried to learn English that he decided to create a play, originally to be named L’anglais sans peine (or English without toil ), in honor of the strange dialogues the Assimil method offered.

“The Bald Soprano”, on stage at the Pearl Theatre Company’s home at City Center Stage II, through October 23rd, is a rare sighting in the United States. (Since 1957, it has been performed at the Théâtre de la Huchette so it has become one of the most frequently staged plays in France.)

As a playwright, Ionesco revels in the absurdity that comes out of (mis)communication. He is one of the premiere proponents of the theater of the absurd. The genre comes out of existentialism, and is meant to be nihilistic and gloomy. In Ionesco’s hands, it is genial and cheerfully good-natured.

The text in “The Bald Soprano” resembles more a conversation between Burns and Allen than one with Jean Paul Sartre or Camus.

The Smiths, an ordinary couple, enjoying an after dinner chat, talk at cross purposes as if everything they say is lost in translation. Mrs. Smith (Rachel Botchan) rattles on about what they had for dinner. She seems to be reciting the menu by rote. Mr. Smith (Bradford Cover) grunts and reads his paper.

Bradford Cover as Mr. Smith and Rachel Botchan as Mrs. Smith Photos by Jacob J. Goldberg 

The dynamic between words and meaning, and even identity and meaning, seems to be lost. Nothing and everything is what it seems. The Fire Chief (Dan Daily) is hunting fires, and invites Mrs. Smith to confide in him as if he were her confessor, as he puts it. The play, like its title, is judiciously absurd.

Jolly Abraham as Mrs. Martin and Rachel Botchan as Mrs. Smith Photos by Jacob J. Goldberg 

The Martins, (Brad Heberlee and Jolly Abraham) who come to visit the Smiths, recognize each other by all the coincidences of where they live, the child they each have, etc. but Mary (Robin Leslie Brown), the Smith’s meddlesome maid, interrupts to let us know that despite the coincidence of same domicile they are not who they think they are.

Dan Daily as The Fire Chief and Robin Leslie Brown as Mary Photos by Jacob J. Goldberg 

The production, directed by Hal Brooks, paces itself to savor all the incongruity in the text. “The Bald Soprano” offers a welcome touch of life and confusion to the Fall theater season.

Heir to Ionesco?

Adam Rapp has a much darker absurdist vision in his new play, “Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling”.

“Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling”, on stage at Classic Stage Company in an Atlantic Theater production through October 30th, skewers reality with subtle hints that everything is awry.

There are Canada geese falling like large hail from the skies, which are an unhealthy color. The predatory Sandra (Christine Lahti) flirts pornographically with her husband’s, Dr. Bertram Cabot’s (Reed Birney) old college chum, Dirk Von Stofenberg (Cotter Smith) even before her husband leaves the room.

Reed Birney as Bert, Christine Lahti as Sandra, Cotter Smith as Dirk, Betsy Aidem as Celeste, Shane McRae as James, and Katherine Waterston as Cora Photos by Kevin Thomas Garcia  

Dirk and his wife Celeste (Betsy Aidem) are at the Cabots to celebrate their son James’s (Shane McRae) release from a psychiatric institution.
The Cabots daughter, Cora (Katherine Waterston) flirts with James while the parents are touring the reconstructed basement.

Wilma (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), the family’s live in maid from Red Hook, walks in on James and Cora. Wilma takes it in her stride; nothing seems out of the ordinary in this household or in this play. For instance, it’s a kind of play on the concept of a French maid, that Wilma is expected to serve drinks and dinner in French, under the auspices of Sandra, who bullies everyone with equal joie de vivre.

Shane McRae as James, and Katherine Waterston as Cora Photos by Kevin Thomas Garcia  

“Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling” adds a malignant twist to its comedy. The actors all acquit themselves well but Christine Lahti’s vicious Sandra, is a rare treat; she is deadly serious and very very funny. Her behavior surprises but does not shock even in this staid Connecticut setting.

“Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling” soars.

For performance schedule and to learn more about the Atlantic Theater Company, go to http://www.atlantictheater.org/

For more information on The Pearl Theater Company, visit http://www.pearltheatre.org/

Posted in comedy, connectivity, Craigs List, cyberspace, estranged father, fathers and sons, Google, hacker, hacking, love story, meds, techie, thriller, Twitter, video games

A Love Story for the Cyber Age: Extended to 29 October

There is so much new territory for the theater to cover in this super-connected, highly wired world–Google, Twitter, email, hackers, videogames– and a lot of it just doesn’t seem like it could be theatrical, does it? In Mangella, where a computer nerd meets a tech savvy prostitute via Craigslist, there is plenty of theatricality.

Connectivity takes on a whole new meaning in “Mangella,” a play billed as a cyber-thriller, and produced by Project:Theater at the Drilling Company extended through October 23rd 29th.

In “Mangella,” Gabriella (Ali Perlwitz) is a seductive temptress; her jealousy of Lilly (Hannah Louise Wilson)is only natural since she and Ned (Anthony Manna) have such an intimate relationship.

Gabriella is Ned’s outdated computer. Lilly is a prostitute Ned hires to visit his father, known to himself as Mangella St. James (Bob Austin McDonald), a black blues man.

Ned keeps Mangella, once a dentist named Stephen Frangipani, tethered to a wheelchair in his back room, in the hope that his father will recall memories of the mother Ned lost as a young boy.

Ali Perlwitz as Gabriella_with Anthony Manna as Ned in “Mangella.” Photo by Lee Wexler  

While all the actors are excellent, Ali Perlwitz handles a particularly Shakespearean fugue in the play with special finesse.

Ken Ferrigni has written well-observed love story.

Hannah Wilson as Lilly_with Bob Auston McDonald as MangellaSt James in “Mangella.” Photo by Lee Wexler  

Joe Jung directs the action at a lovingly fast-pace, balancing the energy and innocence of the characters with the absurdist storyline.

“Mangella” uses video to enhance its action and illustrate its plot in a very entertaining way.

Ali Perlwitz as Gabriella_with Anthony Manna as Ned in “Mangella” engage in videogaming. Photo by Lee Wexler  

For more information about and performance schedules for “Mangella” ,
go to www.projecttheater.org. Tickets may be purchased through SmartTix at www.smartix.com.

Posted in acceptance, adultery, boys in love, cheating, church, dalliance, family, football, friendship, good and evil, morality, philosophy, religion, teens, tennage boys

Unspeakable Acts?

In James Lantz’s “The Bus”, two teenage boys share a secret love in a small midwestern town.

“The Bus”, at 59E59 Theaters through October 30th, is kind of a protest play, broadly about “the love that dare not speak its name,” but with no polemics and plenty of heart.

Bryan Fitzgerald (back) withWill Roland . Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Ian (Will Roland) and Jordan (Bryan Fitzgerald) meet in an abandoned bus that serves as the landmark pointing to the Golden Rule Church looming at the top of the hill. Ian’s angry father, Harry (Travis Mitchell) owns the land on which the vehicle is parked, and its presence on his property begins to irk him.

There is a character called The Little Girl (Julia Lawler) in “The Bus” who is the scene-setter and narrator in this intentionally minimalist play. She paints vivid pictures of the surroundings as the story unfolds.
She is also Jordan’s little sister.

While Jordan is disdainful of religion, and open about who he is, Ian is conflicted. His sexuality is as much of concern to him as it is to both his parents.

Ian’s mother, Sarah (Kerry McGann), has substituted church for family since her divorce from Harry. Sarah drags an unwilling Ian to services on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Will Roland as Ian with Bryan Fitzgerald as Jordan in James Lantz’s “The Bus”. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

“The Bus” is heartfelt, intimate, and engrossing.
To learn more about and for performance schedules for “The Bus” go to www.59e59.org.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Good people, evil deeds?

You might not be comfortable setting your moral compass by this guy, but Mickey (Michael Mastro) is a great friend.

“Any Given Monday”, Bruce Graham’s award winning play, on stage at 59E59 Theaters through November 6th, explores issues of good and evil, which, in its scope, may be relative, with equal measure of insight and humor.

Paul Michael Valley as Lenny and Michael Mastro as Mickey in Bruce Graham’s “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Mickey and Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) have been buddies since boyhood. Mickey, it seems, will do anything for Lenny.

Michael Mastro has the physicality and delivery reminiscent of Art Carney. His sardonic manner is devastatingly funny.

When Lenny’s wife, Risa (Hilary B. Smith) leaves him for the excitement of an affair with the unseen Frank, Mickey shows up to watch Monday night football with his old pal. He is also there to assure himself that Lenny isn’t suicidal. Lenny’s daughter, Sarah (Lauren Ashley Carter)comes home from college with much the same purpose.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Hilary B. Smith as Risa in “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

The disimpassioned amorality in “Any Given Monday” is supported by a deep understanding of the philosophical both sides. Or as Mickey tells Sarah, all three sides– most people, he says, do neither the right thing nor the wrong, but rather do nothing.

“Any Given Monday” is good for any day of the week.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Michael Mastro as Mickey. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

To learn more about and for performance schedules for “Any Given Monday”, please go to www.59e59.org

Posted in adoption, autistic children, birth, birthing, dating, empty nest, gay parents, motherhood, mothering, parenthood, parenting, single parents, surrogate mother

A Mother’s Joys, A Mother’s Suffering, Parenthood 101

The concept behind “Motherhood Out Loud” is to have a tag team of writers, some playwrigts, some novelists, weave tales of the joy and pain of motherhood.

Created in the spirit of “Love, Loss and What I Wore” or “The Vagina Monologues” but using fourteen authors to voice the show and a permanent cast of four to give embody it, “Motherhood Out Loud”
, in a Primary Stage production at 59E59 Theaters through October 29th, is the brain child of producers Susan Rose and Joan Stein.

The episodes, divided into five “Chapters” each with four scenes, cover the ground from giving birth to finding an empty nest, or as Cheryl L. West puts it in her segment, “Squeeze, Hold, Release.”

(L to R) Mary Bacon, Randy Graff, and Saidah Arrika Ekulona. Photo credit: James Leynse. 

Michele Lowe, the most prolific of the contributors in “Motherhood Out Loud” frames the intros of each selection of scenes with things she calls “Fugues” as in “Fast Births Fugue” or “Graduation Day Fugue.” Ms. Lowe also wrote a couple of skits (“Bridal Shop” and “Queen Esther”) for the show.

.(L to R) Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Mary Bacon and Randy Graff Photo credit: James Leynse. 

The stories like the ones from Marco Pennett (“If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One with Morning Sickness”), David Cale (“Elizabeth”), Leslie Ayzavian (“Threesome”)or Claire LaZebnik (“Michael’s Date”) feel very personal.

Other monologues — for instance by Beth Henley (“Report On Motherhood”)
or Jessica Goldberg (“Stars and Stripes”) feel more imagined.

Some of the material just seems a bit generic, like Brooke Berman’s “Next to the Crib,” for example.

James Lecesne Photo credit: James Leynse. 

Mary Bacon (Actor A), Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Actor B), Randy Graff (Actor C), and James Lecesne (Actor D) willingly work back and forth through the copious bits and pieces that include adoption, senility, in-laws, and parents, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes misfiring.

Parts of “Motherhood Out Loud” are funny, or moving, or surprising, but it remains a pastiche, and somehow the parts just don’t add up to a whole play.