Posted in 2-hander, anger, bile, brutality, love story

Love Gone Drastically Awry in "Tender Napalm"

Explosive love affairs sometimes turn into even more explosive marriages.

In “Tender Napalm,” at 59E59 Theaters through September 9th, man and wife take turns abusing each other. Bombast and bragging rights are frank and fertile ground for the ugly wreckage of their marriage.

Ameila Workman and Blake Ellis in Philip Ridley’s “Tender Napalm”



They are embittered by the tragedy that has torn what love there may have been between them asunder. Their fighting and feuding goes well beyond the standard in its bile and brutality.

“Tender Napalm” is not an easy drama to watch or listen to, with its vituperations and imaginings. You don’t want to get caught in the crossfire between Amelia Workman’s and Blake Ellis’s angry characters. Their exchanges are toxically foul-mouthed, even in an era of shameless liguistic free-for-all.

For more information, visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in 2-hander, emerging playwright, family drama, LEED-certified theater space, mystery, Željko Ivanek

"Slowgirl" exhilirates

“Slowgirl” at Claire Tow

So often it happens that bad things come from the exercise of poor judgement.

In Greg Pierce’s “Slowgirl,” produced by LCT3 at the new Claire Tow Theaer, and in a twice-extended run through August 5th, there is plenty of anguish to go around.

A tragedy brings Becky (Sarah Steele) to seek haven with her uncle Sterling (Željko Ivanek).

Like Becky, Sterling is harboring a secret.  The fast-talking Becky and her near-silent uncle are each complicit and share a sense of guilt for very different incidents in their lives.

Sarah Steele and Željko Ivanek Photo © Erin Baiano.

The mystery that is buried in “Slowgirl”unravels over four scenes at Sterling’s Costa Rican jungle home.
Sterling’s affection for his niece eventually gives him the impetus to move ahead.

Sarah Steele’s privileged 17-year old hides her pain in bravado. Hers is a smooth and seamless performance. In the diminutive and lovely Claire Tow Theater, its easy to see Željko Ivanek’s every raised eyebrow. His dismay as Becky chatters, blurting every inappropriate thought, is beautifully nuanced and perfectly timed.  Anne Kaufman’s direction allows the plot to unfold unexpectedly, keeping the enigmaiic center of “Slowgirl” alive throughout.

The sets, by Rachel Hauck, and sound, by Leah Gelpe, imaginatively invoke the bucolic tropical forest.  Their designs add to the simple exoticism of “Slowgirl.”

To get tickets and find out more about “Slowgirl” visit http://www.lincolncentertheater.org/.

Željko Ivanek Photo © Erin Baiano.

A word about the theater at LCT3:

The Claire Tow Theater sits atop the Vivian Beaumont and Mitzi Newhouse Theaters on the Lincoln Center Campus at 63rd and Broadway. The newly-built LEED-certified strucure is really extremely beautiful. It features along with its expertly designed 112 seat interior, a green roof; insulated glass and recycled materials were used in its construction.

The Claire Tow is a breathtaking space in which to showcase the works of emerging playwrights.

Posted in 2-hander, absurdist, comedy, drama, Festival Fringe-bound, monologues, musical theater

A Pitstop On Route To The Venerable Edinburgh Festival Fringe

In 1947 eight theater groups turned up uninvited to the then brand-new Edinburgh International Festival. These pioneering 8 went ahead and staged their shows; in 1959 these “fringe” players were made official by the Festival Fringe Society. The policy The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society established at the start was that “anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them” could present on the annual programs.

59E59 Theaters offers some of those heading out to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe a place to tune up and refresh for the long trip. At “East to Edinburgh 2012,” there are sixteen new shows prepping for the competition at the Festival Fringe to delight and intrigue.

Catch up with some old favorites, or meet up with some completely new productions, as the pre-Festival starts on July 10th and runs through July 29th.

Sarah Ruhl’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” rings in from the 19th to the 21st with a young cast. Teen angst set to 1960’s Brit-pop rocks “MOD” in performances beginning on July 21st.

“Captain Ferguson’s School for Baloon Warfare” makes another appearance at 59E59 before going across the pond to Scotland. (See our review from the eccentric Captain’s earlier visit to 59E59.)

From monologues and standup to serious drama, East to Edinburgh showcases a taste of what the big Festival offers.

To find out more about East to Edinburgh and the other productions at 59E59 Theaters, visit, http://www.59e59.org/.

Posted in 2-hander, A Chamber Opera, absurdist, chamber music, funny-sad, music, singing, The Hunchback Variations

The intersection of Beethoven and Quasimodo is Chekhov

Is it only the idealists among us who search for the unattainable? Can the melancholic also pursue it?

The premise in “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera,” at 59E59 Theaters through July 1st, is a doomed collaboration between Ludwig von Beethoven (George Andrew Wolff) and Quasimodo (Larry Adams) to find a sound that will fulfill a stage direction in Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

Quasimodo and Beethoven, both deaf and more than a touch ornery, are holding a series of panel discussions on the inevitable failure of their project. The attempt to create “the Impossible, Mysterious Sound” and “the Effects on Love and Friendship of Rehearsing the Creation of the Impossible and Mysterious Sound” are the subject for “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera.” The sound is “impossible” because it is one of nostalgia for something lost or missing or not existent. Beethoven and Quasimodo are trying to find something that eludes the senses.

Mickle Maher, an original member of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck which brought the musical play east, adapted the chamber opera from his eccentric little play “The Hunchback Variations.” His libretto is set to Mark Messing’s score for cello (played by Paul Ghica) and piano (Christopher Sargent.)

Adams and Wolff both have a wry demeanor and pleasant voices. They tell the tale well, revealing the details of the relationship between Quasimodo and Beethoven over the course of eleven “variations.”

Quasimodo asks, “Where do we put the happiness that has not been forged?… Where is the room for keeping all the nothings?” Beethoven responds “I would like to think that such a room exists.”

For a schedule of performances, visit www.59e59.org To learn more about the producing company, Theater Oobleck, visit http://theateroobleck.com

Posted in 2-hander, drama, family drama, siblngs

Year of Creative Scotland 2012: A Festival

Gerda Stevenson, playwright, director, actor (as Flo) and-Dave Anderson (as Jimmy) in “Murray Versus Federer.” Photo courtesy Communicado Theatre Company

Who doesn’t like a festival? Embedded int he word is the possibilty of a happy– okay, festive– occasion. Everybody enjoys a celebration. What we are celebrating at 59E59 Theaters’ “Scotland Week” are a couple of Scotland’s fine playwrights and their supporting casts. The plays, “A Slow Air” by David Harrower, running through April 29th, and Gerda Stevenson’s “Murray Versus Federer,” on stage through April 22nd, are serious, even grim affairs. The latter about a couple, grieving over the loss of a son in war, and at war with each other. The former about a pair of siblings that have been estranged for the past fourteen years.

That is not to say that there is not plenty to celebrate here.

While “Murray Versus Federer” is written in short-hand, like the radio plays Stevenson scripts for the BBC, it is an intelligent and moving tale. It needs more time to pursue its subject in depth and allow its characters their full development, but what it gives us is subtle and well-written.

Gerda Stevenson, (as Flo) and Dave Anderson (as Jimmy) in “Murray vs Federer.” Photo © Jessica Brettle.

Grief is personal even when it’s shared. In “Murray Versus Federer,” Flo (Gerda Stevenson, also the writer and director), and Jimmy (Dave Anderson) are rent asunder in their bereavement. Their differences in temperament are underscored by their loss. Resentments lead them to blame each other.

“Well, tell me this, Mr. Expert,” Flo says, “how come you kept yer mooth shut when Joe joined up? How come ye didnae dae yer schoolboy homework then, eh?” Jimmy explodes back at her “I’ll no keep ma mooth shut just to keep a phoney fuckin peace in this hoose, a phoney fuckin peace that’s packed wi lies. My son died fur lies, lies!” In “Murray Versus Federer,” Flo and Jimmy share the stage with the memory of Joe, a Saxophonist (Ben Bryden), who alternately plays sad, soulful and jazzy tunes between the five short scenes.

“Murray Versus Federer,” despite its brevity and because of the excellent acting, is affecting and intimate. The set by Jessica Brettle turns the small space into an elaborate living room with the catty-corner walls providing both background and a scrim behind which the Saxophonist is introduced.

Dave Anderson (as Jimmy) in “Murray vs Federer.” Photo © Jessica Brettle.

In “A Slow Air,” the siblings long estrangement is temperamental as much as circumstantial. Athol (Lewis Howden)is a steady hard-working bloke whose built a business in construction and lives in the suburbs. His sister, Morna (Susan Vidler) is a free-spirited and rebellious single mother who cleans rich folks’ houses. Like the dimly lit stage it occupies, “A Slow Air” fails to illuminate any of the many themes on which it touches.

Susan Vidler as Morna and Lewis Howden as Athol, across a divide created by Jessica Brettle’s set design in “A Slow Air,” written and directed by David Harrower. Photo © John Johston.

“A Slow Air” is structured as a double monologue. On the darkened stage (lighting by Dave Shea), in “A Slow Air” Jessica Brettle has designed a simple set on a roughly tiled floor that divides the two monologists. There is a high window on the back wall, and two wooden armchairs to which Athol and Morna withdraw like boxers into their corners.

For more information about the nearly month-long Scotland Week at 59E59 Theaters, please visit their website at www.59E59.org.

Posted in 2-hander, drama, music

The Music of Violins

Sometimes the truth can seem so fantastic that it makes for a great story.

Mary Beth Peil as Erica in a photo by James Leynse

After a slightly slow start, “The Morini Strad,” in a New York premiere at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters through April 22nd, just begins to hum beautifully. Willy Holtzman’s play is based on truth but it is fantastic in all the best senses–odd and imaginative; the characters “The Morini Strad,” get a grip and hold on tight.

Michael Laurence as Brian with Mary Beth Peil as Erica in a photo by James Leynse

Erica (Mary Beth Peil), once a child prodigy, has only memories of her great performances (enacted by violinist Hanah Stuart) and her Davidoff violin. Age has diminished her capacities. No longer able to play, she is difficult, even unpleasant to everyone– especially to the students she takes on. She invites Brian (Michael Laurence), a luthier, to come to repair the violin.

Hanah Stuart, Mary Beth Peil and Michael Laurence in a photo by James Leynse

Exacting and embittered, Erica asks Brian to sell the Strad. Beguiled by the promise of a huge payday, Brian invests his hopes and time in what may prove to be a futile endeavor.

Mary Beth Peil and Michael Laurence (with Hanah Stuart top) in a photo by James Leynse

Peil and Laurence beautifully play out the improbably affectionate relationship that develops between Erica and Brian. They give utterly believable and very moving performances.

Michael Laurence as Brian in his workshop. Photo by James Leynse

For tickets and a schedule of performances, please visit www.primarystages.org.

Posted in 2-hander, dark comedy drama, Scots Festival

The Scottish Plays Open In April At 59E59

Not the one by Shakespeare whose name famously must not be spoken, but a new batch of plays coming directly from Scotland to kick off 2012—The Year of Creative Scotland are due at 59E59 Theaters beginning on April 4th. The celebrated playwright David Harrower will direct his “A Slow Air” which comes to NY from the Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, via a premiere at the Traverse Theatre at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “A Slow Air,” scheduled for a short run from April 4 through the 29th , examines the effect that the 2007 Glasgow Airport attacks have on an estranged family.

Allison Pill and Jeff Daniels in the MTC production of David Harrower’s “Blackbird.” Photo © Joan Marcus

(Find out more about David Harrower.)

“Federer Versus Murray,” a dark comedy about bereavement and war, was shortlisted for the London Fringe Theatre Writing Award in 2010 when it premiered at the Oran Mor in Glasgow. It subsequently went on the to 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it played the Assembly Hall. “Federer Versus Murray,” written and directed by Gerda Stevenson, will run from April 4th through the 22nd. The two-hander will be produced by Communicado Theatre Company and features Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson.

Here’s an interview with Gerda Stevenson about “Federer Versus Murray:” Click here.