Posted in 59E59, Short plays, theater

Keeping it short

Clea Alsip and J.J. Kandel in 10K written and directed by Neil LaBute, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Clea Alsip and J.J. Kandel in 10K written and directed by Neil LaBute, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Leave ’em wanting more is a mantra for many of us..

Looks like the folks, like producer J.J. Kandel of Throughline Artists at Summer Shorts, in rep as Series A and B at 59E59 Theaters each year, share that attitude, playing through August 29th.

In this year’s short program offerings, Series A features playlets from Neil LaBute, Vickie Ramirez and Matthew Lopez.

Interestingly enough, the elipses in a short play often tell a story too. Interesting, because there is so little time to convey the whole tale.

Neil LaBute, in 10K, definitely relies on the pauses to move along this story of fidelity and choices. The unsaid adds to the mystery and the tension, but it does not mystify, it clarifies in so many ways. Man (J.J. Kandel ) and Woman (Clea Alsip) meet while jogging out in the woods. How much can be learned about their lives? As acted by Kandel and Alsip, under LaBute’s directorial hand, 10K is amusing and tightly-wrought.

Tanis Parenteau and W. Tre Davis in Glenburn 12 WP by Vickie Ramirez, directed by Kel Haney, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Tanis Parenteau and W. Tre Davis in Glenburn 12 WP by Vickie Ramirez, directed by Kel Haney, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Vickie Ramirez’ Glenburn 12 WP, on the other hand, does mystify, and not with what it leaves out, but with the way in which its story unravels. It, too, is about choices.  Robrta (Tanis Parenteau) encounters Troy (W. Tre Davis) in an empty Irish bar near Grand Central. She asks him why he isn’t protesting police killings of black men. He says he’s tired and reminds her that you don’t have to be black to join in the demonstration.

Unfortunately, Glenburn 12 WP devolves from its promising beginning. Despite the best efforts of the two charming actors, under the direction of Kel Haney, the mystery in Glenburn 12 WP makes an uncompromising choice  that is less than credible.

Meg Gibson and Michelle Beck in The Sentinels by Matthew Lopez, directed by Stephen Brackett, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Meg Gibson and Michelle Beck in The Sentinels by Matthew Lopez, directed by Stephen Brackett, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Rounding out the program is Matthew Lopez’ excellent The Sentinels. In the opening scene, Alice (Meg Gibson) and Kelly (Michelle Beck) are sharing photos at a coffee house in 2011.
The Sentinels moves backwards in time. Here’s a spoiler alert, though it should be clear early on, these are the anniversaries of September 11th. Over the years, the missing Christa (Kellie Overbey)–dubbed the Whiskey Dragon by the waitress (Zuzanna Szadkowski)– is at one of the reunions, while Kelly is not. Alice’s husband, Charlie, was Steve’s and Peter’s boss at a financial firm in one of the Towers. The Sentinels is engaging, and extremely well-acted. Lopez’ play has a lot of power, and is actualized by Stephen Brackett’s adept direction.

For more information on Summer Shorts, please visit 59e59.org.

 

Posted in events, festival, party, theater

Festivals and celebrations: it’s summer in the city

South Street Seaport: Dock Rocks
South Street Seaport: Dock Rocls: CANCELLED

Free Shakespeare in the Park and the Mobile Theater Unit courtesy of our friends at The Public Theater is just the tip of the ice-cone for a great New York City summer. Please visit www.publictheater.org to learn more.

Hamish Linklater, Teagle F. Bougere, and Jacob Ming-Trent in rehearsal for The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Cymbeline, directed by Daniel Sullivan, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park July 23 through August 23. Photo credit: Tammy Shell.
Hamish Linklater, Teagle F. Bougere, and Jacob Ming-Trent in rehearsal for The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Cymbeline, directed by Daniel Sullivan, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park July 23 through August 23. Photo credit: Tammy Shell.

Of course, it’s not all free but it is all fun.

On August 4th, the first annual fundraising bash in support the South Street Seaport features Duran Duran and Wyclef Jean for a five hour celebration. Dock Rocks  – Party on the Piers begins at 5pm on Pier 15 and Pier 16 at South Street Seaport with tickets starting at $55.

Visit www.dockrocks.com and www.dockrocks.eventbrite.com for more information on how you can participate. Due to issues at the site, this event has been cancelled.

Unity (1918), written by Kevin Kerr and directed by KJ Sanchez. begins performances on Thursday, August 6 for a limited engagement through Sunday, August 23 at The Gene Frankel Theatre. Part Gothic tale, part romance, part pandemic horror story, Unity (1918) recounts a historic moment in WWI when the “Spanish flu” killed more people than had been cut down in battle.

The small town of Unity takes drastic action, sealing off its borders and even burning incoming mail.  For more information on Unity (1918), which won the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Drama in 2002, please visit www.projecttheater.org.

 

Not strictly speaking at the height of summer: join The Wild Project for the fifth annual Between the Seas festival beginning on September 8th. Between the Seas is the only festival in New York celebrating Mediterranean performance, and presenting some of the most acclaimed and innovative performers– both theatrical and dance– from the region. Highlights from Between the Seas includean absurdist exploration on the nature of tyranny in The Dictator by Lebanese playwright Issam Mahfouz; The Dictator is offered in its English language premiere during the festival. Catalan artist Borja Gonzales performs a piece based on puppetry and sand drawing; Esperimenti, the Italian dance company is inspired by Italian songs of the 60s and 90s for its presentation; and Rebecca Tomas dances a vibrant flamenco for the Between the Seas audience. For more information, please visit www.betweentheseas.org.

 The 27th Annual Festival Of New Musicals at New World Stages in October 15-16 is not yet ready for prime time.  NAMT’s goal is to expand the musical theatre repertoire, bringing new musical theatre to thousands of audience members around the world. In the meantime, the Festival connects producers with writers, so that their shows can continue their development trajectory. The 27th Annual Festival Of New Musicals, overseen by NAMT New Works Director and Festival Producing Director Branden Huldeen and Festival General Manager Lisa Dozier King, presents eight musicals in 45-minute presentations before an audience of over 600 industry professionals.

The general public is invited to join by making a donation to The National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

Visit www.namt.org/festival to see about ticket availablity; there is also a day-of stand-by line for the general public for free admission (based on availability).

Posted in Brevity, Short plays

In miniature at 59E59

Meg Gibson, Kellie Overbey and Michelle Beck in The Sentinels  by Matthew Lopez, directed by Stephen Brackett, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Meg Gibson, Kellie Overbey and Michelle Beck in The Sentinels by Matthew Lopez, directed by Stephen Brackett, part of Summer Shorts 2015 at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The same appeal found in miniatures– think dollhouse or architect’s models– applies in literary form. Think haiku or the one-act play, or Hemingway’s famous 6-word story.

The Summer Shorts, Series A and B, at 59 Theaters, magnify the allure. Each part offers up 3 extremely compact plays by the likes of Neil LaBute (a periennel contributor), Vickie Ramirez and Matthew Lopez. Produced by JJ Kandel, the six playlets are in rotating repertory through August 29th. Series B of the Summer Shorts features playwrights Robert O’Hara, Stella Fawn Ragsdale and Lucy Thurber.

For more information and tickets, visit 59e59.org, please.

 

 

Posted in 59E59, drama, love story, political drama, theater

Three’s a crowd: two plus one just doesn’t add up

Karan Oberoi, Alia Attallah and Quinn Franzen in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning
Karan Oberoi, Alia Attallah and Quinn Franzen in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning

Having  problems in your relationship? It’s pretty unlikely that bringing a third person into your bed will solve them.

In Threesome, written by Yussef El Guindi, and directed by Portland Center Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman, at 59E59 Theater A, through August 23rd, the discords between a couple are exacerbated when they try this awkward fix.

Leila (Alia Attallah) and Rashid (Karan Oberoi) choose to bring a relative stranger into their relationship, and not surprisingly this proves disruptive.

Quinn Franzen, Alia Attallah and Karan Oberoi in Threesome,/ part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning
Quinn Franzen, Alia Attallah and Karan Oberoi in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning

Leila and Rashid are Americans of Egyptian descent. Doug (Quinn Franzen) is intrigued by the exotic possibilities of the Arabian nights he envisions. Doug’s seeming insensitivity can be forgiven. He is no more clueless about the core issues between Leila and Rashid than they themselves are.

El Guindi’s cogent and often perceptive story is well-executed by the ensemble, who all premiered their roles in Portland and are under Coleman’s direction here as well.

The interactions between the characters create a cringe-worthy atmosphere that elevates this tale beyond the “funny” with which it starts, and carries us deeper into Leila’s life, which is not an open book.

What looks at first like a romp is more like an exorcism. Women may find Leila’s heavy-handed attempt to restore fun and equilibrium to her relationship with Rashid improbable. The excellent Attalah makes it credible.

Threesome is about giving voice to our realities not our fantasies. “Fantasies fuck things up,” Leila says.

The design team, which includes Erinn McGrew (scenic design), David McCrum and Seth Chandler, further the tenor of the play.

Be advised that there is full frontal nudity in Threesome. For more information, visit 59e59.org.

 

 

Posted in comedy, Vaudeville

Cat-titude to Spare

By Mari S. Gold

Well before David Hanbury makes his entrance as Mrs. Smith, the audience is pawsatively hysterical from the opening credits on the overhead movie screen including one announcing “Jewelry by Housing Works.”

Pictured L to R: Brandon Haagenson, David Hanbury, Ken Lear. Photo by Dan Norman.
Pictured L to R: Brandon Haagenson, David Hanbury, Ken Lear. Photo by Dan Norman.

Mrs. Smith sings and dances with her Broadway Boys, Brandon Haagenson and Ken Lear who also play musical instruments, handle puppets and wave flags. The premise of the show, Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular, at 47th Street Theater through September 20th,  is that Smith’s feline pal, a black-and-white tabby named Carlyle, went missing about two years ago. The result is a cat-induced breakdown that includes parodies of other songs (The Cat That Got Away); Skyped calls to a pet psychic and a re-enactment of Mrs. Smith’s life that includes her start in vaudeville, a world tour (well, sort of as she and Carlyle set their litter pan down in Paris, Bangkok and Poland) and fourteen husbands.

Pictured: David Hanbury. Photo by Dan Norman.
Pictured: David Hanbury. Photo by Dan Norman.

Throughout, the audience was eating (Fancy Feast) out of Mrs. Smith’s hands and would have pelted the stage with cat treats had Carlyle turned up. I wish I could be as enthusiastic about this performance as Mrs. Smith’s legions of fans. They loved every moment; me, not so much although I was very impressed with a (non-theatrical) woman summoned from her seat to join the Broadway Boys onstage who carried off her bit with great aplomb.

The show has played to delighted fans from Minneapolis to Boston and I had the feeling that for many it was a repeat visit.

David Hanbury is a New York-based writer and performer who has embodied Mrs. Smith in several other vehicles including Mrs. Smith Live! and Mrs. Smith Presents…A classically trained actor, he has done stints at the prestigious Guthrie Theater and the Actors Theater of Louisville and is also a virtuoso on the electric guitar. As Mrs. Smith, his wigs are cool, his costumes glittery and he’s full of cat-titude, much to the delight of his cheering audience who make it clear that to them he’s the cat’s pajamas.

Andrew Rasmussen, co-writer and director, has worked with numerous companies including Actors Theater of Minnesota and Laurie Bechman Theater in NYC. As an actor he has appeared on TV’s 30 Rock and Law & Order and currently working on the upcoming Broadway production of The Honeymooners.

For an evening like nothing else, Mrs. Smith and company are indeed the cat’s whiskers.

To learn more about Mrs. Smith’s Broadway Cat-Tacular, please visit  http://www.findcarlyle.com/

Posted in drama based on real events

War is truly hell, a review of “The International” by Mari S. Gold

Carey Van Driest as Irene and Ted Schneider as Dave in “The International.” Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly
Carey Van Driest as Irene and Ted Schneider as Dave in “The International.” Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly

War doesn’t discriminate and neither do those who wage it is one of the underlying messages of The International, an engaging play by Tim Ruddy, presented by Origin Theatre Company and co-produced by Urbanite at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater through August 2nd, that centers around an attack during an unnamed armed conflict that deliberately reminds us of the July 1995 genocide at Srebrenica.

The play opens in what resembles an art gallery as three characters enter: Irena, a Muslim woman, brilliantly played by Carey Van Driest; Hans, a member of the International forces supposed to protect the local villagers, (Timothy Carter, who, despite a tendency to drop his voice pulls off a competent performance), and Dave, (Ted Schneider) a young artist/truck driver in Los Angeles who is down on his luck and watches the conflict on television at home and in a nearby bar. The three each observe events from an entirely different point of view; in the end, not one is a winner.

Ted Schneider as Dave , Carey Van Driest as Irene and Timothy Carter as Hans in “The International.” Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly
Ted Schneider as Dave , Carey Van Driest as Irene and Timothy Carter as Hans in “The International.” Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly

Outgoing, charming Irena attends a wedding party that becomes mayhem when her village is attacked. She watches as her family is murdered and then gives herself to a soldier in hopes of sparing her son’s life. Hans, who would genuinely like to help, is forced to stands by unable to intervene as the Internationals are not permitted to engage in armed conflicts. Dave, glued to CNN, bets on the outcome, wins and with his dysfunctional extended family, heads off to Disneyland in a loose/loose move in which he parts with his integrity.

Carey Van Driest in "The International." Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly
Carey Van Driest in “The International.” Photo by Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly

This staging of The International is a revival of an Origin Theater Company’s showing in spring 2014 with the same actors. On certain nights of this production the audience is invited to participate in a talk-back about civil conflict and challenges faced by the international community in dealing with community issues sparked by racial and religious hatred.

The spare, effective set is by James Maloof, the costumes by Tristan Raines. Derek Van Heel is the lighting designer and Benjamin Furiga provided sound design. The play is under the aegis of the Urbanite Theater, a Florida-based non-profit that brings back a play from the previous season “that cries out for more time to be seen,” according to Urbanite’s founder and producer Harry Lipstein.

The International leaves room for plenty of disturbing thought—just what Ruddy seems to have had in mind. It’s worth the effort.

For tickets, please visit www.ticketcentral.com.

Posted in 1-hander, autobiographical, based on a true story or event, drama, drama based on real events

Growing Up Gay and Goth in Texas

Review by Mari S. Gold

BAD KID by David Crabbe, All photos by John Painz.
BAD KID by David Crabb, co-written with Josh Matthews, Performed by David Crabb. All photos by John Painz.

David Crabb grew up in the middle of Texas Goth and gay. You might anticipate that the adult Crabb be bitter or look, um, unusual, but you’d be wrong. Crabb, who co-wrote Bad Kid (playing at Axis Theater through August 1st) with Josh Matthews, comes across as an insightful guy –and a sweet one, at that–despite the trials of his teen years.

Crabb is a slightly-built, physical performer who begins by making easy contact with a few audience members before he brings his supportive mother, confused but stoic father and a host of friends to life. Surprisingly, much of the performance is funny, even though the overall premise is not. It’s been around before–kid starts out an outcast but comes to terms with his sexuality and in adulthood seems well-adjusted.

BAD KID by David Crabb, All photos by John Painz.
BAD KID by David Crabb, All photos by John Painz.

Crabb ends his show saying he hopes his parents never see it but I doubt if this is true. Sure, there are episodes involving drugs and debauchery, but Crabb’s intelligence enables him to get past that period in his life and become the performer and storyteller he is today. His parents obviously loved him all along and he’s grateful for their acceptance.

My biggest problem with the performance is that it’s too long by a good twenty minutes. After a while, we get it even as Crabb continues to wring big laughs from some of the audience. The last two “episodes” (announced by slides) before the final rounding out don’t add to the drama and seem repetative. Better for Crabb to end while he’s truly ahead.

“As Goth kids, we thought that everything honest was rooted in loneliness, even our sexual urges and our concept of ‘fun,’ says Crabb. Well, yes, but having largely non-critical parents and a strong enough sense of humor to look back at his earlier escapades enabled him to master his situation and grow up able to mock himself.

David Crabb is a Moth Story Slam host and three-time Moth Slam winner. This show premiered at the Axis Theater, where it’s now, running in 2012, earning kudos from The New York Times and praise from NYTheater.com that called Crabb’s performance a ‘tour- de- force.” Bad Kid also played in Washington, DC and Austin, TX. In May, 2015, Harper Collins Perennial published Crabb’s memoir, also titled Bad Kid that was hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “engaging” and by Kirkus as ‘upbeat, endearing and achingly funny.”

Crabb is indeed funny. His gestures and accents bring the people in his background to life but not as the stereotypes we think they will be. The diva who had him eat a Vick’s cylinder and the skinhead who becomes a good friend are real people although their lives didn’t end up as happily as Crabb’s. Cut to the chase (and cut some sections) and you have an evening that transcends the expected with warmth and humor.

To learn more, and for tickets, please visit http://axiscompany.org/index.php