Posted in 6 extremely short plays, absurdist, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012, Neil La Bute, politically inspired, serious, theatre with a lofty and worthy goal, tragi-comic, Victor Sloezak

Protesting on Stage in "Theatre Uncut"

250 groups in 17 countries have put on “Theatre Uncut” productions.

Moving, intelligent, tightly-written, politically-inspired and inspiring art is not commonly to be found.

In “Theatre Uncut,” in a Traverse Theatre Edinburgh production courtesy of The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation at the Clurman on Theatre Row through February 3rd, the emphasis is on art.

World-wide fiscal crises and budget cuts for social services are the impetus for “Theatre Uncut,” an international movement of stage professionals, dubbing themselves “Theatre Uncutters.”

“Theatre Uncut” are plays of protest.

The fantastic U.S. cast all volunteered their time, artistry and talent to perform the six short works on the program.

“In the Beginning” by Neil LaBute. Gia Crovatin and Victor Slezak  Photo by Allison Stock

As might be expected from Neil La Bute, his “In The Beginning” does not tow strictly to a line. He examines the Occupy Movement as it might play out in the living room of an occupier (Gia Crovatin and her well-heeled dad (Victor Slezak.) La Bute questions, and does not come up with any easy answers. “In The Beginning” is thought-provoking and not in the least polemical.

Not that any of the other excellent playlets are polemical.

In Clare Brennan’s “Spine,” Amy (Robyn Kerr) befriends a brilliantly dotty old lady whose library is appropriated from the stacks of all the closed libraries in the district.

“This situation,” says Jack (Brian Hastert) in “Fragile” by David Greig, “is all fucked up and it has to stop.” Greig addresses the financial issue in the prologue to his piece (read by Robyn Kerr.) For budgetary reasons, “Fragile,” under the direction of Catrin Evans, written for two characters– Jack and Caroline– is performed by only one. The audience will cue Jack by reading Caroline’s lines.

Tyler Moss in “The Birth of My Violence” by Marco Canale Photo by Allison Stock

“The Price” by Lena Kitsopoulou paints an absurdist tragi-comic picture from the Greek economic meltdown. A Man (Carter Gill) and his wife (Shannon Sullivan) argue over every drachma — now in Euros– of expenditure while shopping in a gulag-like supermarket.

The playbill suggests that one request the works for private reading but that would not be half as much fun as watching these superb actors.

Go see “Theatre Uncut” during its short stay. Enjoy the performances in these short offerings. Along with those actors already mentioned, there’s Tyler Moss as a disaffected writer in Spain in Marco Canale’s “The Birth of My Violence,” directed by Cressida Brown, as are both “The Price” and “Spine.” Lou (Ali Ewoldt) and Ama (Jessika Williams) are reluctant escapees in “The Breakout” by Anders Lustgarten, and directed by Emily Reutlinger, who also directed “In The Beginning.”

The run at the Clurman is a preamble for the “Theatre Uncut 2013 week of international action” scheduled for November. 250 groups in 17 countries have put on this show case of protest everywhere from stages to kitchens.

“The idea began in the U.K. in October 2010, as the Coalition government announced the worst cuts to public spending,” co-Artistic Directors Emma Callander and Hannah Price, say in the program notes,” since WW2. Fast forward to 2013. Austerity is a buzzword.”

To learn more about “Theatre Uncut” or to join the “Uncutters,” go to www.theatreuncut.com or email getinvolved@theatreuncut.com. Tickets are available at the Clurman box office at Theatre Row on 42nd Street.

Posted in dark comedy drama, love story, Valentine's Day

Love Goes Underground in "The Man Under"

L-R: Briana Pozner and Paul Bomba in THE MAN UNDER at 59E59 Theaters. 
Photo by Bitten By A Zebra Photography

Some of us need a jolt to come out of a deep funk.


In “Man Under,” presented by Athena Theatre at 59E59 Theaters through February 17th, a depressed young man is enlivened by an odd encounter.

Jeff (Paul Bomba, also the author) walks around in a fog of grief, worrying his friends, Martin (Curran Connor) and Jennifer (Veronique Ory). Martin is thrilled to help Jeff find the girl he met on a subway platform and Jennifer wonders how exactly they are searching for this stranger. 

L-R: Briana Pozner, Paul Bomba and Curran Connor in THE MAN UNDER at 59E59 Theaters. 
Photo by Bitten By A Zebra Photography


When Jeff finds Lisa (Briana Pozner) standing next to him once again on a platform, she leads him on another merry chase through the subway tunnels. Lisa shares the art of dodging the third rail with Jeff. She is an adrenalin rush to Jeff. Her energy invigorates him and Lisa also inspires Jennifer to move on. Lisa is a troubled sprite. 

Exhilirated by the thrill ride Lisa takes him on, Jeff finds his lost peace.

A winsome cast perform with an easy naturalism in “Man Under.”
L-R: Curran Connor, Veronique Ory and Paul Bomba in THE MAN UNDER at 59E59 Theaters. 
Photo by Bitten By A Zebra Photography


The small proscenimum stage (scenic design by Julia Noulin-Mérat) doubles as a comfy Brooklyn apartment and expands to an underground labyrinth of graffitti and danger. Charles Foster (lighting) and Jeremy S. Bloom (sound) take us into the subterranean world of the MTA in their excellent designs.

In the end, it seems that love and good sense triumph in “Man Under.”

For more information about “Man Under,” visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in 2-hander, Canal Park Playhouse, juggling, play with music, romance, Singing in the rain, Valentine's Day

In The Mood for Love?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us turn our thoughts to couplehood– which includes love, of course, and often much more.

Cora Bissett as Helena with Matthew Pidgeon as Bob in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness. at the Clurman. Photo by Douglas Robertson 

Each year, Carol Tambor heads to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sample the unusual and find the play she deems to be “Best of Edinburgh.” The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation then presents the play thus designated to New York audiences. Last year the work was “Leo” (See review on these pages.)  This year, “Midsummer [a play with songs]”by David Grieg, who also directs, at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre through January 26th, shares the Award with “Mies Julie,” currently running at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Midsummer [a play with songs]” is an early Valentine’s gift from Ms Tambor to us. In Midsummer [a play with songs]” romance is a by-product of a quest.  

Searching for meaning in booze, sex and bondage (it’s a long story!), Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) find something far more valuable– friendship and 15,000.

When they meet, Bob is reading “Dostoyevsky… to cheer himself up.” Despite his overtly intellectual endeavors, Bob is “a f****** underachiever.” Their match-up is improbable. He is a low to mid level crook, and she’s a swanky divorce lawyer.

Photo by Douglas Robertson. Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness.


“Midsummer [a play with songs]” is not for everyone. Love and romance mingles with philosophical asides and silliness in this not strictly linear tale. Songs are interspersed with the narrative and dialogue. “And so– when you see them — the runners,” Helena says, “weaving and glistening through the crowds– you might think, ‘look at them, the fools, they’re trying to run away from death,’ — but they’re not– they’re honestly not– they’re running towards something….”

The central bed is the all-purpose set, cleverly designed by Georgia McGuiness, which also has convenient storage for some of the props the actors need.

Photo by Douglas Robertson of Matthew Pidgeon as Bob and Cora Bissett as Helena in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness. 


While you’re in a romantic mood, take your sweetie to see “Perfect Catch,” being reprised at Canal Park Playhouse on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 4pm through February.

Perfect Catch,” billed as “Throw-mantic Comedy”  takes mime and juggling to Hollywood. Just watching
Jen Slaw and Michael Karas toss umbrellas to the soundtrack of “Singing In The Rain” is worth the price of admission.

To get tickets for “Midsummer [a play with songs],” visit www.telecharge.com. To learn more about “Perfect Catch,” visit www.canalparkplayhouse.com

Posted in chronicle, memoir, one man show, Shakespeare, solo show

"In Acting Shakespeare"– Tales From A Life

James Da Vita in a photo by Jacob J. Goldberg from “In Acting Shakespeare.”

For those of us smitten with it, the theater is an uplifting and enriching experience.

James Da Vita’s ” In Acting Shakespeare,” at The Pearl Theatre through February 3rd, stands on the shoulders of Sir Ian McKellan, on whose one man show his own is based, and Shakespeare, whose body of work inspired Da Vita to “a life in the theater.”*

“And that , I think,” Da Vita says, “was Shakespeare’s true gift. He wrote us. He includes all of us in the question of what it is to be human.” 
 
Da Vita, an undeniably smart man, wisely opens with Shakespeare’s great villain Richard III. Contorting his boy into the deformed figure of the would-be King, Da Vita recites his honeyed and poisonous lines with a clarity and deep understanding. James Da Vita knows his Shakespeare!

James Da Vita in “In Acting Sharkespeare” in a photo by Jacob J. Goldberg.

In fact, the excerpts he plays out from the Bard’s work, are the most entertaining sections of his memoire in tribute to his profession.Da Vita is a savvy theatrical technician.

Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg

 

Once a fisherman, the handsome and charismatic Da Vita went from gutting fish to hoisting petards. and writing plays and novels. He is now also the literary manager, and a core member, of American Players Theater in Wisconsin.

Shakespeare’s legacy is of course undeniable and it apparently includes James Da Vita. His stage is  peopled with characters from Hotspur to Polonius, John Shakespeare and young Will himself. “In Acting Shakespeare” is about Da Vita’s journey from unschooled Long Island boy to actor.

*“In Acting Shakespeare” borrows nothing from David Mamet.

To find out more about The Pearl Theatre Company, and “In Acting Shakespeare,” please visit http://www.pearltheatre.org/. Next up at The Pearl, “Henry IV, Part I.”

Posted in Daniel Stern, Laurie Metcalf, Metcalf is playing opposite her daugher, Sharr White, The Other Place, Zoe Perry

"The Other Place" Finds Itself On Broadway

For many productions these days, the transfer to Broadway seems to be accomplished with ease and run smoothly.

Helped by having some of the same crew on board, including director Joe Mantello, “The Other Place” made its move, with stops in the Nationaltheater Mannheim and on the West Coast along the way, to MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, where it will play through February 24th, with its staging intact. 

Laurie Metcalf as Juliana. Photo by  Joan Marcus


That’s more than can be said for award-winning playwright Sharr White’s main character, a scientist in emotional and physical free-fall.  

“Not knowing who I am is oddly who I’ve become,” Juliana Smithton (Laurie Metcalf, reprising her role off-Broadway) announces.

Her husband Ian’s (Daniel Stern) frustration as she unravels is understable. His patience is admirable. 


(For a review of the world premiere MCC production at the Lucille Lortel in 2011, visit http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/04/sorting-things-out-in-other-place.html.)

Metcalf is a fine dramatic actress, with celebrated comic timing. (Her three Emmys as Jackie in “Roseanne” attest to her comedic chops.) Juliana’s acerbic accusations of Ian’s infidelities, including one with her doctor who is also Ian’s colleague (Zoe Perry), are both funny and devastating.

Zoe Perry (Metcalf’s daughter) as her doctor with Laurie Metcalf
as Juliana. Photo by Joan Marcus.  


Ian and Juliana have suffered an unspeakable loss. In the throes of her illness, Juliana rubs salt in their wounds. Ian, as poignantly portrayed by Daniel Stern, exudes a measure of exasperation with his love for Juliana.

Zoe Perry stands out especially in her role as a stranger, (billed abstractly as The Woman), who comforts Juliana in the climatic scenes of “The Other Place.” Rounding out the cast is John Schiappa once again comfortably and naturally taking on several roles in support of Juliana’s story.



In the passion of the moment watching “The Other Place,” it is easy to overlook the melodramatic coincidence that the drug Juliana has researched and brought to market is the treatment administered to her. “The Other Place” is a heartbreaking and thoroughly engrossing experience.

For more information about “The Other Place,” visit http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/