Posted in adaptation, anticipation, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, drama, feminism, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Ophelia Theatre Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Pearl Theatre Company

Classics anew

opheliaMankind has had the urge to tell its stories since time immemorial. The stories told in different voices all have universal themes. Theatrical history has a long time-line.

Warping that time-line is also a stage-borne tradition. Retelling Antigone’s
tale, as Ivo Van Hove did at BAM last year, for instance, is one way to honor
theatre’s lineage.

Stephen Karam has been charged with recharging Chekhov’s classic Cherry
Orchard for the Roundabout this season. David Harrower is reworking Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People into Public Enemy, currently playing through November 6th over at the Pearl.

Drama poses a problem, offers solutions and catharsis. To that end, Kelly

McCready, an actress and director we recently saw at the Mint in The New Morality has taken on Hedda Gabler. Ms McCready, who has re-imagined this Ibsen and is directing, at the Ophelia Theatre Group , starting on October 27th and running through November 19th, feels that Hedda is too often maligned. She has cut the play to 80 intermission-less minutes, and taken Hedda’s side, as an advocate and a friend. And why not? Hedda should be a feminist hero.

To quote Ms McCready, “This production seeks to throw out preconceptions of the play and the character herself. This Hedda is just a woman who tries to make her new life and relationship with Tesman work, but she can’t combat her circumstances and the expectations placed on her because she’s a woman.

She can’t change any of that.”

BTW, the Ophelia Theatre Group is in Astoria, and Ms McCready also

advocates for the “growing arts community” in this outer borough location.

She says, “Astoria has even earned the nickname “Actoria” in recent years, but it’s obviously difficult to get audiences to venture far from Manhattan. And that means people are missing out.”

The tickets for Hedda Gabler are available here; they are gently priced at $18 which should drag some of you from Manhattan to the wilds of, we might point out, nearby Astoria.

In another vein of adaptation altogether is David Stallings’ Anais Nin Goes to Hell, at The Theater at the 14th Street Y from October 14th through the 29th, which takes a comedic turn but looks at feminist icons. Imagine Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Ophelia, Karen Carpenter and of course Anaïs Nin, all trapped together in the afterlife. The play was a hit in the 2008 Fringe Festival, and is being re-staged here under the direction of Antonio Miniño.

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 drama, empowerment, feminism, girls, growing up, self-actualization, song and dance, The Vagina Monologues, young cast

Empowering The Young: "Emotional Creature"

We’re a long way from “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” 

Eve Ensler’s “Emotional Creature,” in an outside production imported from California’s Berkeley Repertory Theatre to The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, through January 13th, details the atrocities that so often rob girls of their childhood.
Molly Carden  in “Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
All over the globe, they are deprived of their girlhood by being abducted, beaten into prostitution, forced into factory labor, raped, denied an education. But it’s not just crimes, like genital mutilation, that keep girls from enjoying their youth. There is also peer pressure to be skinny, to be straight, to be popular, to be pretty that add hardship to the confusion that is part of growing up.  
Ashley Bryant in “Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
This panoply of obstacles to self-actualization is rendered in monologue, and in song and dance, in “Emotional Creature” by an enthusiastic cast of young women.
Joaquina Kalukango in “Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In her title, Ensler has co-opted the notion that conflates being female with having an excess of feeling, the diagnosis of which was once simply called hysteria. Unfortunately, even though Ensler’s earnest feminism is never in doubt, the passion in “Emotional Creature” feels like politically correct lip-service. The world-wide success of her earlier play,“The Vagina Monologues,” led to the creation of V-Girls, as a platform to empower the young  as Ensler’s foundation, V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women had empowered a generation of adult women.
Olivia Oguma in “Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Subtitled “the secret life of girls around the world,” “Emotional Creature” is just too ambitious in its scope. There is too much going on– some of it funny, some of it heartwrenching, some of it inconsequential — unless perhaps you are that teenage girl trying to fit in.  What we don’t get is to feel fully engaged with “Emotional Creature.” 

These girls stories are for the most part too dire to trivialize, but “Emotional Creature,” in aiming alll over the world glosses over and simplifies a world of troubles. In fact, some of the lighter and funnier moments are the best part of “Emotional Creature.”  Those include the cast in a chat room worrying over what not to eat. Ashley Bryant taking and critiquing pictures for her Facebook page and Sade Namei missing her pre-nose job face make for amusing insights into the secret lives of girls.

The cast also includes  Emily Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Molly Carden, and  Olivia Oguma. Running time is just under 90 minutes.
For more information please visit http://emotionalcreature.com