Or that should be fest, as in the 12th Annual Competition in the 2020 Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival which includes six mainstage productions across various venues across town. This is the only festival dedicated exclusively to producing the plays of contemporary Irish playwrights from around the globe.
The locales in which the productions from playwrights from from Belfast, Dublin, Wexford, Manhattan and Queen will be presented include the Irish Repertory Theatre, 59E59 Theaters, The NY Irish Center, The Secret Theatre, and The Alchemical Studios.
In addition to the competing productions, there are 9 special events during this festival–concerts, readings, talks, screenings. These out of competition events will take place at The American Irish Historical Society; Scandinavia House; A.R.T. New York; The National Arts Club; The Cutting Room; Symphony Space, Torn Page and The Irish Consulate. A total of 15 contemporary Irish writers are represented with work in the Festival.
Eva O’Connor’s acclaimed Maz and Bricks gets an American premiere and opens the festivities, running from January 7th through February the 2nd at 59E59. The provocative comedic drama is directed by Jim Culleton, and features Ciaran O’Brien and Eva O’Connor.
Also kicking off the Festival on January 7th is the he world premiere of The 8th, a new play written and directed by Seanie Sugre. Produced in New York by Locked in the Attic Productions with Five OHM Productions, the play stars Julia Nightingale (“The Ferryman” on Broadway), Una Clancy, and Gerard McNamee. The 8th, referring to Ireland’s 8th Amendment, since repealed, outlawing abortion, ran through January 18th at The Secret Theater.
The Irish Rep’s production of Dion Boucicault‘s London Assurance, directed by Charlotte Moore opened on December 6th and runs through January 26th. The classic farce, which premiered in London in 1841, is given a classy treatment at the Irish Repertory.
Another American premiere, The Scourge, is written and performed by Wexford native Michelle Dooley Mahon and directed by Ben Barnes, former artistic director of The Abbey. The solo show detailing her mother’s slide into Alzheimer’s is produced by the Wexford Arts Centre in association with the Irish Repertoy where it will run from January 22nd through February 2nd.
Honor Molloy’s Round Room, directed by Britt Berke, with music by the Grammy Award-winning Irish singer/songwriter Susan McKeown is a play in development. It will be presented in three performances on January 27-28 at The Alchemical Studios. The New York-based cast features Gina Costigan, Brenda Meaney, Rachel Pickup, Maeve Prive, Zoe Watkins, and Aoife Williamson.
On January 27th, Dublin’s Gúna Nua presents another American premiere with Sarah-Jane Scott’s dark comedy Appropriate at the NY Irish Center, running through February 1st. The story addresses the sports obsessive in a funny and timely manner.
T and B sit in aisle seats at our “in-house theater” where movies are the entertainment.
Here on our little island home, we let Showtime® or Movies!® or TMC® (among others) regale us with cinema past present and future.
A little tremor passed through me when I picked up the December 3rd issue of The New Yorker to find a reprint of a Nora Ephron piece from 2006. The shudder was the thrill of serendipity.
I had just seen Heartburn and here she was chatting about cooking and food. In the article, Serial Monogamy, she acknowledges that the roman à clef upon which the film is based is a thinly disguised version of her second marriage. The ups and downs and downs of this union are played out by Meryl Streep as Rachel Samstat and Jack Nicholson as her not so faithful husband, Mark Forman.
I never take serendipity lightly or for granted but frequently have no idea what to do with it. This is such a case, a reinforcement as it were of its very randomness.
Ephron’s story stirred another chord of memory for me. My mother had been working on a Meditterean cookbook for some time. Her manuscript sits in my closet and I wonder if I should try some of her recipes.
I wonder, but mostly I feel guilty because I know I won’t make any attempt to replicate her best-loved dishes. Then, perhaps, I should just acknowledge that I am too random a cook to follow anyone’s directions. And that I am better off not messing with her signature.
Leaving a bad taste
There are few scenes of cooking in a Woody Allen feature, notably the hilarious lobster bruhaha in Annie Hall and the feasts whipped up by the title character (portrayed by Mia Farrow) in Hannah and Her Sisters. Allen is a frequent guest in our home–not in person, of course, although I did run into him in the neighborhood once. We generally find his movies interesting, thought-provoking, and brilliant. We have admired his genius.
Unfortunately, Allen has had a substantial helping of problems of late, landing in the fire for alleged sexual misconduct of a heinous variety. His films are suggestive of a guilty verdict.
For instance, I found Play It Again, Sam funny, brilliant and moving upon a recent re-viewing. Then we came to a truly objectionable scene in which Allen and Diane Keaton appear to exalt the virtues of rape. Is there a point, beyond being outrageous to this? How does Keaton react to the impropriety of the script, I wonder?
In Manhattan, Allen’s man-child character is dating an underage, if extremely mature Mariel Hemingway. This has always made me cringe and turned me off this film, despite its many lovely images of the city, and some very smart dialogue.
Hot Water Indeed
Then there’s Hannah and Her Sisters, a wonderful study of love and relationships in their many permutations, marred by the introduction of pedophilia. It’s brought in as a small bit in which Allen’s Mickey, a comedy writer and show runner, is battling his network–and his assistant, played by Julie Kavner–over including a segment in which this taboo is prominent.
Really? The presence of this in this iconic movie has fuelled and given credence to the allegations against Woody Allen.
We are left with a few pictures we can whole-heartedly endorse in the backlist of Allen’s output. Broadway Danny Rose may be his most romantic venture of the earlier works.
It is a critical no-no for a critic to confuse the art with the artist, of course, but the crisis challenging Allen fans looms large. His early oevre seems to feed into the #MeToo-related issues that plague him. Thankfully, the more recent films are here for us to reaffirm his intense dedication to the art of the cinema and his astonishing talent.
The workplace can be a fraught setting for the battle of the sexes.
In the case of Theresa Rebeck’s What We’re Up Against, in its New York off-Broadway premiere at The Women’s Project through November 26th, the setting is a boutique architectural firm. The company’s prestige only adds to the cutthroat atmosphere in which its staff swims.
Ironically, the title crops up in a slightly drunken conversation that the “boys” in the office are having, complaining about Eliza (Krysta Rodriguez), a relatively new hire who has the absentee boss David on her side. Stu (Damian Young) manages the business as best he can; he finds Eliza an impediment and feels comfortable bitching about her to Ben (Jim Parrack) and to the other new hire, Weber (Skylar Astin.)
The irony, of course, is that it is Eliza who is up against the wall created by her craven male colleagues. The other woman architect they work with, Janice (Marg Helgenberger) is as antagonistic to Eliza as the men are; her hostility is more self-protective– Eliza stirs up trouble and Janice is eager to fit in and get along.
What We’re Up Against enjoys its ironies and has a quick-witted humor. Under Adrienne Campbell-Holt’s direction, the pace is brisk and to the point. The fact that the characters, except for Eliza and Ben, lack all charm shows its hand, making it clear who we’re supposed to root for.
The bi-level set for What We’re Up Against are designed by Narelle Sissons personalizes and expands on the space. We were told by patrons in the first row that they were not entirely content with the design, however.
What We’re Up Againstoriginally played at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco in February, 2011 under the direction of Loretta Greco and won the 2011 Rella Lossy Playwright’s Award. It is presented by WP Theater by special arrangement with Segal NYC Productions.
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.