Posted in 2001, academia, ambition, arts and events, award winning, ballet, balletic, boys, boys and girls, dance, dance making, dancing, Ellen Robbins, girls, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, lessons, music, narration, new work, performance works, teens, young cast, youth

Ah, youth

Photo © Lina Dahbou

Is it true that youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps not, at least this group of youngsters is making the most of their time and talents. And yes, I am a little jealous.

There is a good deal to be said for getting an early start. Youth is lithe and agile. It is a great season for dancing, Movement can be the lingua franca for the young; it is their body language as it were.

Ellen Robbins’ Dances By Very Young Choreographers at Live Arts, on January 26th and 27th, will be showcasing works by children as young as 8. The dance-makers, ranging in age from 8 to 18, study modern dance and choreography with Ms. Robbins.

The program ranges across the many styles of dance performance, from the humorous, narrative, to the lyrical. The music selections, chosen by the choreographers, include folk, jazz, classical, contemporary.

Ellen Robbins has been teaching dance sine 1966 and has received honors for her work with children. She has taught dance education at Sarah Lawrence and been on the faculties of Bennington College, the 92nd Street Y, and other distinguished institutions. In 2001, Dances By Very Young Choreographers was on the program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

After the matinee on January 26th, there will be an evening concert by the Alumni of Dances by Very Young Choreographers, which presents work by dancers who studied with Robbins from 1982 to 2016.  

Posted in academia, acting, drama, off Broadway, play, The Mint Theatre

(Relyin’ on) The Kindness of Women

Reading a script is a poor substitute for seeing a play in actu.  I need the actors, and their director to help guide me through the work. The written work supports my memory.

Unfortunately, on a recent occassion, when I was unable to attend Hazel Ellis’ Women Without Men, playing at City Center Stage II in a Mint Theater production through March 25th, I resorted to reading the text.

Women Without Men is not a lurid prison tale, but it may as well be. The all-female staff  in this all-girls’ boarding school are just as confined in their environment. Hemmed in in their study room, the teachers are at best unpleasant and mistrusting of one another.

Ellis brooks no nonsense about the gentler sex’s genteel interactions.

Photo: Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis Directed by Jenn Thompson presented by The Mint Theater Company; Dress rehearsal photographed: Friday, January 29, 2016; 7:30 PM at Stage II; New York City Center 131 W 55th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY; Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine. Seta by Vicki R. Davis
Photo: Women Without Men
By Hazel Ellis. Directed by Jenn Thompson, presented by The Mint Theater Company; Sets by Vicki R. Davis; Dress rehearsal photographed: Friday, January 29, 2016; 7:30 PM at Stage II; New York City Center, Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.

As for the staging, I have only the production photos from Richard Termine to help me envision how it is handled here. I had wondered how The Mint would fit into the new stage configuration that City Center’s Stage II provides. Its staging has always relied on a proscenium decorated with elaborate sets. What will they do with this little theater-in-the- round?

Take a look at the sets by Vicki R. Davis.

This play, with its claustrophobic theme, seems to be ideally suited as a first-in on the little Stage II for The Mint.

.Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis Directed by Jenn Thompson Cast: Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.
.Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis
Directed by Jenn Thompson
Cast:
Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White
Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.

I have no way from a reading of the play of evaluating the performances or the way the cast and their director, Jenn Thompson, interpreted the story of course, but Women Without Men is compelling.

The cast, by the way, includes the likes of Mary Bacon (The Tribute Artist; Happy Birthday), Kellie Overbey  (Lemon SkyDada Woof Papa Hot), and Emily Walton (The Shaggs) to name just a few.

As is the habit at The Mint, they are resuscitating a play that has not been performed since its originally staging at Dublin’s Gate Theatre in 1938. Women Without Men is a long-overdue revival. This production of the drama is not only its first in 77 years, but also its American premiere.

For more information, and tickets, please visit The Mint website.

Posted in academia, committment, feminism, Hannah Patterson, motherhood, Women

Having it all….

Trudi Jackson, Daisy Hughes, Alan Cox, and Mark Rice-Oxley  in “Playing With Grown Ups,” part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

“I am woman, hear me roar,” the radio blares. In the background a baby wails in distress as only babies can.
In Hannah Patterson’s drama, “Playing With Grown Ups.” at 59E59 Theaters through May 18th, the choices — have a family, enjoy a career– seem to be constricting. For Joanna (Trudi Jackson), at any rate, the ones she’s made are stifling. Her husband, Robert (Mark Rice-Oxley), pays lip service about wanting to be a care-at-home dad, while he’s wrapped up in his work. Robert has to worry about the possibility that as a film professor he may soon be redundant.

Daisy Hughes and Trudi Jackson in “Playing With Grown Ups,” part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Even Jake (Alan Cox), Robert’s head of department and Joanna’s ex, is on edge. Jake’s seventeen year old pick up, Stella (Daisy Hughes) is the only one wise beyond her years, as she calmly observes the “grown ups” in mid life crisis.

Mark Rice-Oxley and Trudi Jackson in “Playing With Grown Ups,” part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Stella’s role as confidante, muse, or siren is a bit tenuous, although Daisy Hughes is extremely winsome. Just as Robert and Joanna have the off-stage Lily crying over the baby monitor, Stella’s oft-quoted mother bolsters her character.  When Joanna asks if she’s read Sylvia Plath, Stella says, “Please. My mum’s a psychotherapist. I grew up on Sylvia Plath.”

Daisy Hughes and Alan Cox in “Playing With Grown Ups,” part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Somewhere midway through, “Playing With Grown Ups” loses some steam, whether because of the script or the direction by Hannah Eidinow is unclear. It soon picks up plenty of emotion and energy as it draws to its inevitable conclusion.

The acting is excellent. Not a misstep from any of them: Trudi Jackson’s steady meltdown; Mark Rice-Oxley’s cluelessness; Alan Cox’s detached bonhomie, and Daisy Hughes’ sweet knowing innocence are all spot on.

As a sample of the proto-feminism in  “Playing With Grown Ups,” let us submit this favorite dialog exchange: (Stella says) “There’s so much going on with women at the same time…..” (Joanna inserts) “One seamless, endless state of doing.” (Stella) “Men make a song and dance of doing one thing. Really loudly….”

To learn more about “Playing With Grown Ups,” please visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in academia, director Adam Fitzgerald, Kevin Cristaldi, literary subjects, love and loss, love story, Margot White, Rachel Reiner Productions, Victor L. Cahn

Love and regrets in "A Dish For The Gods"

“The Portrait of Dorian Grey” comes to mind, in which Dorian’s youthfulness is dependent on his portrait’s aging.

Kevin Cristaldi as Greg and Margot White as Julia in Victor L. Cahn’s “A Dish For The Gods” in a Rachel Reiner Production at Theatre Row’s Lion through October 5th. Photo by Jon Kandel.

In Victor L. Cahn’s new play “A Dish For The Gods,” at The Lion in Theatre Row through  October 5th, the balance of success is scaled so that the acolyte’s career soars while her mentor’s fails.

Julia (Margot White), invited to lecture on women writers, reminisces about her one great love, Greg (Kevin Cristaldi,) who nurtured her growing ambitions and interests as a writer and academic.

Remembering her first encounters with the charismatic Greg, she says “A lot of people assumed that his manic energy manifested some demon inside. Young women were especially prone to this judgment. Our pipeline also clarified that he was single and … how can I put this … energetic. As at least three women in our offices could testify personally.”

Julia found with time that she blossomed into a world-renowned writer and lecturer under Greg’s inspiration. But as she flourished, Greg floundered.

Margot White as Julia with Kevin Cristaldi as Greg in “A Dish For The Gods.” Photo by Jon Kandel.

Director Adam Fitzgerald does Cahn’s excellent play credit, seamlessly bringing the past into the present as Julia winds her tale of  love and loss. A simple set, designed by David Arsenault, serves the many venues “A Dish For The Gods” inhabits.

Margot White and Kevin Cristaldi are both excellent in this two hander. She tells her story so naturally that it feels as if it were ex-tempore. He gracefully swings from mood to mood, first the manic popular professor then the defeated drunk.

You will have no regrets seeing “A Dish For The Gods.”

For more information about “A Dish For The Gods,” visit www.RachelReiner.com, or www.theatrerow.org/. For tickets, go to www.Telecharge.com. At the box office, you may purchase the tickets for the bargain rate of $19.25.

Posted in academia, drama, parents and children

In "Poetic License," Truth Is Given Some Leeway

It takes a great deal of work to scale an ivory tower.

In “Poetic License,” in its New York City premiere at 59E59 Theaters through March 4th, poet and academe, John Greer (Geraint Wyn Davies) is on the verge of reaching the apex of a distinguished career.

He’s had a lot of help from his ambitious wife, Diane (Liza Vann). Liza Vann’s Dianne is a suburban, good-hearted Lady MacBeth-with a mordant sense of humor. Most recently, Diane has orchestrated a PBS special about John Greer, which pleases him because it means he won’t have to go on a book tour.

Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund and Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg

The TV crews have been held at bay for this weekend, however, so that John
can quietly celebrate his birthday with his daughter Katherine (Nathalie Kuhn) and her new boyfriend, Edmund (Ari Butler).

Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund in a photo by Carol Rosegg

Just how things fall apart for this family is playwright Jack Canfora’s well-told secret. His taut script, which won a 2011 Abingdon Theatre award, majestically weaves a web of betrayals.

Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg

In an expert cast, Ari Butler stands out with a nuanced performance as a troubled and troubling young man. “Jesus, John.” Diane says, “our daughter is sleeping with a Dickens character.”

Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg. “Anything is palatable,” she says, “if you’ve got the right sauce….”

Geraint Wyn Davies’ John and Natalie Kuhn as his admiring daughter may have the most to lose in “Poetic License” since their trust and affection are at the center of this drama.

For more information and a schedule of performances for “Poetic License,” please go to www.59e59.org.