What is the Straight Pride Parade, I ask myself as I read Jamie Benson’s email. Subject line: “Queer Comedy Duo Reacts to Straight Pride Parade with “The Straight Man Celebrates Gay Pride” on June 29th.”
I Googled the “Straight” part of this new meme and found that there are many protests to its offensiveness. It is the elitist equivalent to “White Lives Matter” as if the #BlackLivesMatter movement takes anything away from people not of color. As if it could? Power and privilege really do put some of us at an advantage.
Inclusiveness or inclusitivity needs more practitioners.
Save yourself the fare for the trip to Boston where you will be ridiculed for your life choices and poor behavior, and go instead to see Jamie Benson’s comedy duo, The Straight Man (TSM-Hannah Goldman and Benson) and others.
Their program The Straight Man Celebrates Gay Pride is at the PIT (People’s Improv Theatre) on June 29th at 9:30pm.
The comedy duo and friends perform throughout the year as well. Says Jamie Benson, co-producer of TSM: “Considering that NYC comedy is still dominated by straight males, our search for queer comedic sanctuary is still so damn relevant. It’s a sad need that we’re filling with joy.”
This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy. Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.
In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.
The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.
Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.
Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).
His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.
Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.
The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.
For more information and tickets, please visit the @PHnyc website.
History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.
For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.
Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.
Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.
The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.
For the most part,Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.
In other subscription house news from our household:
Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.
MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenbergis a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberghas an underlying ifsmall principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.
Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Bern Cohen as Feltenstein (seated), and Evan Thompson as Grossman in Richard Abrons’ “Every Day A Visitor.” Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.
Living to a ripe old age, as the somewhat unfortunate expression goes, has its drawbacks. In Richard Abrons’ new comedy, “Every Day A Visitor,” at The Clurman in Theatre Row through December 14th, those disadvantages include bickering, monotony, and a diet too dependent on lentils and cabbage.
Bob (Raphael Nash Thompson,) the orderly who oversees an old-age home in the Bronx, inspired by Figliozzo’s (Teddy Coluca) deciding to “be” Fiorello LaGuardia, finds a way to liberate those in his care. Play acting at politics is part of his scheme.
Henry Packer as Davidowitz, George Morfogen as Stoopak, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, Raphael Nash Thompson as Bob and Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus at a home for the aged in the Bronx in Richard Abrons’ “Every Day A Visitor,” at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre through December 14th.Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.
Bob appoints the melancholy Stoopak (George Morfogen) president in an effort to bring him closer to the other residents. Tilly Marcus (Janet Sarno), always game to play at anything, dons a hat and becomes Bella Abzug while Albert Grossman (Evan Thompson) eagerly takes on the persona of Alan Greenspan.
Even Feltenstein (Bern Cohen), the curmudgeon in residence, enjoys being Henry Kissinger.
Teddy Coluca and Joan Porter in a scene from “Every Day A Visitor.” Photo by Ronald L. Glassman
Thanks to this little scheme of let’s pretend, this home for the aging is no longer dull. Stoopak’s laws include “Joy” and that no one of them should die alone. “Every day a visitor,” he decrees so that each of them would have company during a hospital stay.
Richard Abrons has written a sweet play about hope and community. Even in an end of life setting, there can be fun and the Stoopak rule of “Joy.”
The cast of “Every Day A Visitor,” ably directed by Margaret Perry, form a fine ensemble. Standing a little bit ahead of the pack is Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, whose labor union duets with Davidowitz (Henry Packer) add a wonderful touch of harmony to “Every Day A Visitor.”
For more information about “Every Day A Visitor,” visit them at Telecharge.
Kid 1 and 2 ( Reynaldo Pinella and DeLance Minefee) approach Davis (Philip Callen) on a subway platform in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages. Photo by Ben Hider.
For Peter (Dave Droxler), being white is the major embarrassment. White guilt, straight-out racism, both white and black, all rear their ugly little heads in “Honky.” As each pops up, “Honky” blows it up and shoots it down.
Here is a comedy for the post-racial age. Until that comes to pass, “Honky” uses the tropes of advertising and marketing, in which profiling is professionally de rigueur. “Honky” explodes myths and slurs in a soft sell with a hard edge.
Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) counsels Peter (David Droxler) in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.
Advertisers target their markets by demographics of lifestyle, income, race, something many of us prefer not to have our police do. In “Honky,” the product is the SkyMax basketball shoe, designed by Thomas (Anthony Gaskins.) The SkyMax in it’s various iterations aims to sell to “urban” youth, “code for black,” the company’s president, Davis (Philip Callen) freely admits.
Andie (Danielle Faitelson) meets Thomas (Anthony Gaskins) at a SkyMax party in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.
While Peter goes to Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) for therapy to cure his guilt over an ad he created for the shoe, her brother Thomas beds Peter’s girlfriend, Andie (Danielle Faitelson) to cure his own guilt and rage. Davis goes to Dr. Driscoll (Scott Barrow) for a cure that will save his job.
Greg Kellares, the ex-ad man who wrote this intelligent and serious comedy, takes aim at some of our society’s most sensitive spots. Consumerism is another of his well-chosen targets in “Honky.” The cast, led by Anthony Gaskins’ conflicted hero, Thomas, and Peter Callen’s unapologetic Davis, as well as the superlative Arie Bianca Thompson, is all first rate. Luke Harlan’s gentle touch gives tribute to the subtle perspicacity of the script he’s directing. “Honky” is an amazingly insightful look at race, marketing, advertising, stereotyping and Dostoyevsky.