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 The 8th, referring to Ireland’s 8th Amendment, since repealed, outlawing abortion, ran through January 18th at The Secret Theater.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.
Love may be the antidote to death, or it may be its side dish.
For Edgar (Richard Topol) and Alice (Cassie Beck) in Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark, it is the cruellest of emotions.
The couple, on the verge of their 25th anniversary, have never stopped torturing each other.
Alice invites her hapless, if not so innocent, cousin Kurt (Christopher Innvar) to visit in their remote island home. He is readily drawn into their lies and deceptions, deceits and insinuatons.
Watching Alice and Edgar in their exquisite mutual torment is like the proverbial trainwreck: you are horrified yet cannot look away.
The acting of all three principles is so seamless that the escalations of the hurt are palpable, subtly-defined and well-choreographed. We are enthralled by the fiendish wiles and messy tangle in Edgar and Alice’s marriage, and riveted by Kurt’s engagement with them. Victoria Clark directs with a deft, light hand that allows us to see under the surface.
Strindberg is seldom on stage. If you have not seen him, let Conor McPherson introduce you to him. Dance of Death is a must-see production.
Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, durected by Victoria Clark, plays in repertory with Yael Farber’s Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.
Everything has an origin story, and Chicago, The Musical, has one in this 1926 play. Maurine Dallas Watkins provided the inspiration for the show that’s been running on Broadway since forever. Like it’s lead characters, Chicago had a rocky start, opening June 3, 1975 and closing two years later on August 27, 1977; it reopened in revival in November of that year in the West End and then hit Broadway with a flair. Ann Reinking, using the Fosse style, choreographed the revival under Walter Bobbie’s direction to resounding success.
Watkins wrote Chicago for a class assignment at the Yale School of Drama. It, too, went on to have a resounding success, not least because it provided the story for the musical. The story of Roxie Hart and her fellow inmates also inspired a 1927 film named Chicago and in 1942 one named after our anti-heroine. Watkins’ version of her the tale was based on her coverage on the crime beat of the Chicago Tribune, and opened on Broadway in 1926, where it lasted for just 172 performances, under the direction of George Abbott. It’s after-life is a matter of record.
The Gingold Theatrical Group (GTG) will perform the play that spurred the famous Broadway hit on Monday, July 23rd at Symphony Space at 7pm.
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.
Comedy is not a continuum. It is a universe onto itself; that is each comedy is unique. Buster Keaton, for instance, created a character, a type, who functioned according to his own rules. Charlie Chaplin did much the same with his sad little tramp.
At home at the cineplex
I am not a movie-goer, per se, but a movie-stayer. Put it on my tv screen and I will gladly watch. Laurel Canyon, Urban Cowboy, a few minutes of Life, all get my attention. Hidden Figures, A League of Their Own, and The Help grab my heart.
However, it is comedies that keep me most engaged. In fact, what hubby and I love best is a smart and funny film. That’s not to exclude the stupid ones, which we consume in considerable quantities as well; you know movies like Animal House or even Dude, Where’s My Car? The low-brow, like Bad Moms, can be very high on wisdom. Comedy is an escape.
How far can escapism go with comedians like Woody Allen, or Noah Baumbach, or the Coens as your guide? Mel Brooks, a smart and funny movie-maker, can take you further down the silly than these other guys.
There are some parallels we can make between Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, like the films A Serious Man and Irrational Man, which may have more in common in than just the similarily in title. There is a tone in both films that connects their styles and content, even if the plot lines are independent of each other.
Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale tends to have more of a feel of dark whimsy, like a Wes Anderson production. It is not laugh-out-loud funny like Annie Hall or Broadway Danny Rose. It has none of the robust ridiculousness of High Anxiety, for instance, although it is definitely a tremblingly anxious work.
The Law and Order franchise, SVU, has liberalized a significant cultural taboo. Rape victims are told in each crime episode that the dignity brutally wrested from them is theirs to reclaim. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, Michael Yates Crowley’s play, presented in a world premiere by The Playwrights Realm at the Duke through September 23rd, is also about empowering the victim. Crowley, however, does not feel that our cultural conversation about rape has the frankness and openness we like to think it does.
“R-a-p-e” is not treated with the solemnity it is given by Lt. Olivia Benson in Crowley’s play. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias sets a light, almost farcical tone as Grace (Susannah Perkins) recounts the assault. It begins as a sweet and rather awkward love story between two shy youngsters. Jeff (Doug Harris) is a football star with little poise off the field. Grace is an oddball 14-year old, thrilled that Jeff knows her name from class. The team quarterback, Bobby (Alex Breaux) (and Jeff’s closest friend) is jealous of the pair’s developing friendship.
It is also in that class that The Teacher (Andy Lucien) introduces an artwork by Jacques Louis David, technically called The Intervention of the Sabine Womenthat inspires Grace and circumscribes her experience.
The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is about meeting outrage with humor. Grace’s world is not torn apart after she is raped. The Guidance Counselor (Eva Kaminsky) and Grace’s best friend Monica (Jeena Yi) both seem disappointed at how composed Grace seems. The Lawyer (Jeff Biehl) is only concerned that she deliver a coherent narrative to the Grand Jury.
Some of the storyline in The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is delivered by The News (Chas Carey) who periodically announces the day’s events in the town of Springfield.
Under Tyne Rafaeli’s direction, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias moves quickly; the cast smoothly characters portrays a townful of people. Andy Lucien is particularly vivid as a charismatic “preacher.” one of the many roles he undertakes. In fact, the ensemble’s ability to shift and adopt a new persona gives The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias almost the feel of improv.
There is humor and wit in Michael Yates Crowley’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, which by no means undermines the seriousness of its subject matter.
For more information and tickets for The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, please visit the Playwrights Realm website.