Posted in #classism, #dystopia, #PRIDE, Center for Performance Research, Chris Cragin-Day, Classic Stage Company, CPR, Earth Day, Emily Daly, environmental degradation, Lauren DiGiulio, Marc Blizstein, Orson Welles, racism, social media, The Cradle Will Rock, unions, workshops

Troubled times

Natalia Plaza and Zac Owens in The Rare Biosphere

Sometimes, we need a little CPR as a theriac for snakebitten times.

The CPR in question here is the Center for Performance Research which is presenting its New Voices in Live Performance programs for 2019. Their announcement appropriately crossed our desk on Earth Day today, April 22nd, so Walking with Water, which centers around environmental issues, questions of racism and justice, and restoring our planet sounds like the balm we need. It is what Aya Lane + Jess Jupiter are curating for June 1 -2. (Re)Patterning Performance is Lauren DiGiulio’s curation on June 7-9.

Workshops, explorations, multi-media performances all appear on the bill.
(We’ve sent you to the Center for Performance Research in the past.) Details can be found at the CPR website.

Photo by Gabriel Frye-Behar from #yourmemorial

The shock of our dystopias seems to be wearing us down with diurnal injustices. Artists among us continue to struggle to make sense of it all. And to help us make our way through.

Theater artists in particular are organizing tales for our edification. Their efforts are appreciated, if sometimes fraught.

The Rare Biosphere is a “ripped from the headlines” story about a teenager who comes home to find her parents have been deported. Playwright Chris Cragin-Day intends to give the political a personal face in this timely new work, playing from April 25th through May 19th at Calvary St. George’s.

Despite the fact that we consider ourselves a class-less society, classism is an enduring issue in American life. Classic Stage Company (CSC) is staging an endictment of capitalism’s greatest flaw, inequality, The Cradle Will Rock written in 1937 and originally produced by Orson Welles. Marc Blizstein’s play in music was shut down by federal authoriites who feared its pro-labor stance just prior to opening night . CSC’s Artistic Director, John Doyle is at the helm of this 10-person production.

The internet has no real precursor in our lives. #yourmemorial by Emily Daly reacts to issues that only arise from what we so laughably call social media. This world premiere is produced by Pigeonholed from May 9th through 26th.

A series of PRIDE events at the Educational Alliance in association with the 14th Street Y celebrate diversity as Live Free, Love Fierce from May 31 through July 1.

This is a short list of a very few upcoming shows meant to cure what ails us. The sideshow in government and performed by a parade of politicians continues. You can follow that mostly on CNN and other cable news outlets.

Posted in #dystopia, dysfunction, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012, Festival Fringe-bound and Festival Fringe-found, fringe worthy, off Broadway, offbeat work

What’s up?

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Boomerang Theatre Company’s playbill art.

Inspiration comes in serendipitous doses.

That at least is the case for The Mushroom Cure by Adam Strauss and developed and directed by Jonathan Libman. In his Fringe Fesitval winner (2016 Overall Excellence for a Solo Performance,) Strauss recounts his attempts to self-medicate his crippling OCD.  Fittingly for a solo show that explores the mental health benefits of hallucigenic fungi, The Mushroom Cure is simultaneously being performed in the East Village (at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s), and in Berkeley and (fleetingly) in LA. Sponsorship for the productions is provided by The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a psychedelic research and advocacy organization.

Smith Street Stage is putting on the greatest summer comedy in the repertoire at The Actors Fund Arts Center in Brooklyn.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as directed by Jonathan Hopkins, is transported to our New York, looking at the magic in our home town in the spirit of Shakespeare.

There is more Shakespeare on offer, of course, this summer; as is its custom. the Public gives us Shakespeare in the Park, but this year, Boomerang Theatre Company is puttng on Twelfth Night (or What You Will), directed by Sara Thigpen, on the lawn in Central Park. Be grateful to the Bard as Twelfth Night is a tonic for our times.

Posted in #dystopia, Bloom's day, Bloom's Tavern, Bloomsday, Daily Prompt, dysfunction, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Manhattan Theater Company, Origin Theatre Company, Origins Theatre Company, public performance in public spaces, Roundabout Theatre Company, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, Symphony Space, The Mint Theatre, The Public Theater, theatrical

In Retrospect

 

JamesJoycePula012
By Georges Jansoone (JoJan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Daily Prompt: Retrospective

“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.

Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.

George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.

The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.

 

 

Posted in #critique, #dystopia, #pointofview, #whatdoyouthink, ambition, Beau Willimon, Blair Brown, blog at wordpress.com, Derek McLane, drama, fictionalization_of_real_events, history, Hudson Theatre, intrigue, Jane Greenwood, Josh Lucas, Marton Csokas, one act play, Pam MacKinnon, Phillipa Soo

Matters political

5389Politics matters, of course, since it definitely affects our daily lives–especially as recent current events have revealed. You may understand when I say that I have felt undone by politics these past couple of years.

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And yet, here I go, voluntarily, to see The Parisian Woman, a tale of the DC Beltway playing at the Hudson Theatre through March 11th.

5189Initially, there were two things driving me to see this drama by Beau Willimon, the president of the Writers Guild of America East. The Parisian Woman stars Uma Thurman in her Broadway debut. Additionally, it is just the third production at the newly refurbished Hudson, following 1984 and Sundays in The Park with George. (By the by, both of these had star turns, the former Olivia Wilde and the latter starring Jake Gyllenhaal.)

So, what did the production, directed by Pam McKinnon, and also featuring Josh Lucas, Blair Brown, Phillipa Soo and Marton Csokas say to my hyper-poiliticized self about the atmosphere of power and influence in 2016?

5393Intrigues, gossip, clandestine activities, affairs, rumors all churn up Washington’s social life in The Parisian Woman. Chloe (Thurman) is looking for powerful friends to help her husband Tom (Josh Lucas) further his ambitions. She has none of her own, it seems, so she lives through those she loves. Peter (Marton Csokas) is her lover but not among the people for whom she really cares.

Thurman and Csokas give overly theatrical performances, though in their defense I will say that the material is a hard sell. The script is rough; I think of it as Noel Coward on Red Bull®. Lucas’s Tom is charming if excessively idealized. Blair Brown as one of Chloe’s power circle, Jeanette, is natural and straightforward; her acting like her character has a certain spunk. Phillipa Soo as Jeanette’s daughter Rebecca holds the stage with an easy poise.

Rebecca also gets to wear the one most singularly impressive and stunning gown (costumes designed by Jane Greenwood.) Chloe’s many outfits are attractive in the understated way of a very expensive wardrobe. The men are chic in suits except in one scene where Tom bears his six-pack, (We can assume that the latter is not courtesy of Ms. Greenwood, although her work in the show is very appealing.) The elegant sets (by Derek McLane) move in a clever fashion and feature a kind of newsfeed which is monochromatic Mondrienesque.

Polemics–even when the politics echo my own– are not inherently dramatic
Willimon’s text is stiff with an elegance manqué. Actually, both ends of the register get short shrift– The Parisian Woman is neither vulgar nor haute. The play aims so hard to be insiderish that it fails to qualify as #resist(ance). This blend of fiction with fact in Willimon’s play, could be called a “faction” drama. Many in the audience at the performance I attended seem to have come there as fans of Beau Willimon’s streaming series, House of Cards, another foray into the inner workings of the life political.

I am not saying that we should not take the excursion, just that Willimon’s The Parisian Woman is not an entirely convincing trip down this path.

For tickets and information, please visit The Parisian Woman website, or the Hudson Theatre box office at 141 West 44th Street.

Take a look at my SidewalkSuperBlog to see what I found of interest inside the new old Hudson Theatre.

Posted in #dystopia, drama, Playwrights Horizons, Robert O'Hara

Hopeful

cropped-theater
from cafepress.com

We often expect uplift from our theater experiences. Playwrights are not always willing to give us exactly what we want. In these dystopian times, they are responding with different messages for us to digest.

Scott Organ’s new play, The Thing With Feathers, at the Barrow Group beginning January 13th (and running through February 10th), offers up a famous quote about hope for the title of his mystery play. Expect the story to unravel in unexpected ways when an underage teen is seduced by an older man on the internet.

The unexpected happens in Mankind, a new play by Robert O’Hara (who also directs) at Playwrights Horizons from December 15th through January 18th. The world of this drama has mistreated women so badly that they no longer exist. The play stars two time Tony nominee André De Shields, along with Anson Mount, Bobby Moreno, Stephen Schnetzer, Ariel Shafir and David Ryan Smith. Playwrights Horizons commissioned O’Hara, who has won two Obie Awards–one for Bootycandy which also played at PH– and also directs his play, to create this provocative drama for the 2017-18 season.

You could say that the genesis of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is a story about a young woman devoted to an explosive and abusive man. Michael Weller was inspired by the same Ferenc Molnár story to create Jericho, performed by The Attic Theater Company at Wild Project, from January 18th to February 10th. Weller’s version of Lilliom is set in Coney Island during the despair and hopelessness of the depression.

It often feels as if the ’60s were a more hope-filled era, this despite the assassinations that changed the landscape of hope. Malcolm X, a radical and polarizing figure, was one of the many strugglers we lost in those days. His activism is remembered in The Acting Company’s X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, which returns after a staging in 2017, to a full off-Broadway run from January 14th to February 18th to the Theatre at St. Clement’s. Marcus Gardley’s play, starring Obie-winner Roslyn Ruff, will be performed to coincide with Black History Month.

 

Posted in #dystopia, drama, moving musical drama, political drama

It’s a Crime

Fucking A

By Susan Lori Parks
Directed by Jo BonneyIs it crime to be poor?

In the dystopia Suzan-Lori Parks has created in Fucking A, extended through October 8th at the Signature Theatre along with her sister play In The Blood (through 10/15,)  poverty is in and of itself a criminal act.

The anguish of the impoverished and uneducated is fundamental. A trespass leads to delinquincy, then to ever greater villainies. With a stellar cast, under the expert direction of Jo Bonney, Fucking A cuts to the bone.

The actors play instruments during the musical numbers, also written by Parks. Standouts among the ensemble include Christine Lahti as Hester Smith, Raphael Nash Thompson as Butcher, and Joaquina Kalukango as Canary Mary. The staging is simple and stirringly stark.

Parks’ ultra-Brechtian musical drama has both blood and guts.

There is still time to see Fucking A. Tickets and info at the Signature website.