Posted in drama, drama based on real events, family drama, new work, New York City, The New Group

Washington Square

106-Morancy_Sovich_DeMeo_Levi_Sevigny
Moise Mordancy, Daniel Sovich, Cristian DeMeo, David Levi and Chloë Sevigny in Downtown Race Riot. For more, visit www.thenewgroup.org. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

Riots are inherently frightening incidents.

The New Group’s presentation of Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Downtown Race Riot, based on true events and running through December 23rd at the Pershing Square Signature Center, resonates with menace.

It’s us against them, even for Marcel “Massive” Baptiste (Moise Morancy), a kid born in Haiti, who feels it’s his neighborhood he’s defending from other blacks and ‘Ricans who come to the Park near his Greenwich Village home.

73-Morancy_Scott_Sevigny
Moise Morancy and Sadie Scott in Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Downtown Race Riot, directed by Scott Elliott. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

The boys Massive considers his friends are old-school, insular Italians, like his tagger buddy Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich) and  Tommy-Sick (Cristian DeMeo), whom his best friend Jimmy– aka Pnut– Shannon (David Levi) does not fully trust. Pnut does not share Massive’s community zeal, and his mother, Mary Shannon ( Chloë Sevigny) advocates for peace and love. Molly, strung out and living on welfare, maintains a kind of hippie sensibility. Her children, especially Pnut, look out for her. Mary’s daughter, Joyce (Sadie Scott) wants out of the life she sees around her and has a good chance to make it out.

Jay 114 and Tommy-Sick are among those who organized the riot meant to drive outsiders out of their stomping ground.

100-Pais_Levi_Sevigny
Josh Pais, David Levi and Chloë Sevigny in Downtown Race Riot. This Off-Broadway production by The New Group plays a limited engagement at The Pershing Square Signature Center, Nov 14 – Dec 23. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

Rounding out the cast of characters is Mary’s lawyer, Bob Gilman (Josh Pais. who is perfectly twitchy in this small role). Bob is there to help Mary out with one of the many schemes she dreams up to make the family rich.

The acting in this ensemble, under Scott Elliott’s direction, is excellent and natural. There is a leisurely pace to the piece that belies its undercurrent of tension. In its unhurried progression, Downtown Race Riot takes its time to develop the characters. Derek McLane has designed an expansive and sprawling set for Downtown Race Riot; the scene is Mary’s Section 8 home.

Don’t look for uplift in Downtown Race Riot.  This is not the genteel world of a Henry James pastiche.

For more information and tickets, please visit Downtown Race Riot

Posted in Daily Prompt, Hair the musical, Hamilton, Joe Papp, John Leguizamo, landmark, Lin-Manuel Miranda, New York City, real estate, The Public Theater, theater space

A theatrical intersection

via Daily Prompt: One-Way

There is a short street in the East Village which goes two-ways but is at its heart a one-way street. 425 Lafayette Street, formerly the Astor Library, was saved from demolition, and gained landmark status, when Joseph Papp turned it into The Public Theater.

A part of the theater’s mission statement says “THE PUBLIC is theater of, by, and for the people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today.” The Public began life in 1954 as the New York Shakespeare Festival, but moved into 425 Lafayette in 1967. Fittingly, the opening production was the innovative and “radically inclusive”  Hair, a musical that has had many revivals over time, including the one in 2011 at the St James Theatre in Times Square.

In honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Public, Lafayette at Astor Place will be co-named Joseph Papp Way on December 1 at 8:30a.m. The Public’s Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis will be at the ceremony along with Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs,  Rosie Mendez,  District 2 City Councilwoman, and Gail Papp, Public Theater Board Member. Gail Papp will unveil the commemorative sign, while Eustis will make a few remarks on the occasion.

The recent history of The Public has given us the 11 Tony winning Hamilton, which transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2015. This year, John Leguizamo brought his downtown show, Latin History for Morons,  to Broadway’s Studio 54. In addition to its free Shakespeare in the Park programs, The Public is also a recipient of countless awards and honors for its productions, which are represented not only on Broadway but on stages across the country and worldwide.

“Joe Papp changed the life of New Yorkers forever, creating a beloved institution devoted to making the life of our culture inclusive,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “It is thrilling that the city of New York will recognize him forever by co-naming this street for him.”

Posted in City Center, going to New York to be a writer, New York City, The Women's Project, writing about NYC

"The Architecture of Becoming" — Is It Too Many Chefs?

L-to-R Christopher Livingsont, Vanessa Kai, Jon Norman Schneider and Claudia Acosta. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Sarah Ruhl’s brilliant “Stage Kiss,” the character named He disparages a play that required more than
two collaborators– “Isn’t a bad sign when three people wrote a play? I mean if two people wrote it, it’s
one thing, but three, come on, three?”

So it’s probably not a good sign that there are five named playwrights on “The Architecture of Becoming,” at City Center Stage II through March 23rd. The enterprise, penned by Kara Lee Corthron, Sarah Gancher, Virginia Grise, Dipika Guha and Lauren Yee is represented by Siempre Norteada (Claudia Acosta), a writer who has a commission on the City Center.  By the way, not only are there 5 writers, there are 3 directors for this hour and a half interlude.

L-to-R Christopher Livingston, Danielle Skraastad, Vanessa Kai and Claudia Acosts. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

There are other storytellers enacted in the vignettes that comprise this “play,” including Vanessa Kai’s
Tomomi Nakamura, a 1940 Japanese housewife who wants only to tell her own story. “I only want to play
myself I only want to tell my story. I only want to tell my story. Does that mean I am not an actress?”
Siempre Norteada merely connects the pieces, or does her best to do so.

Vanessa Kai as Tomomi and Danielle Skraastad as Virginia, the fishmonger. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
“The Architecture…” is meant to be a paean to the building, in which the Women’s Project has found its 
home. There are references to the City Center’s rich history. It is also an ode to artists who come to New York to seek inspiration.
The actors, Danielle Skraastad, Jon Norman Schneider, Christopher Livingston, and the aforementioned
Vanessa Kai and Claudia Acosta, all fine, are ill-served by this hodgepodge. 
City Center, the glorious recently restored 90 year old landmark which started life as a Masonic Temple,
and now is home to theater and ballet from around the world, deserves better too.
To find out more about “The Architecture of Becoming,” visit http://wptheater.org/ 

Posted in Adam Rapp, allegory, Apocalypse, dark drama, New York City, strange, war

Apocalypse Now in "Through The Yellow Hour"

War is chaotic.

In “Through The Yellow Hour,” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through October 28th, playwright and directorAdam Rapp visits an apocalypse on New York City.

Rapp is no stranger to the odd and allegorical. (“Dreams of Flying , Dreams of Falling” is one that comes to mind as a for instance.)

Photo © Sandra Coudert.
Alok Tewari, Danielle Slavick,
Hani Furstenberg, Matt Pilieci,
Vladimir Versailles, Brian Mendes,
and Joanne Tucker 

Everything in “Through The Yellow Hour” is site specific. The city has been attacked by the Egg Heads, who are systematically killing off the populaton. Ellen (Hani Furstenberg) is holed up in her East Village apartment, waiting for her husband Paul to return. She is the ultimate survivor, trading for foodstuffs and drugs through a network outside her well-fortified door. The first of the nightmares from outside creeps in through a window and ends as the Dead man (Brian Mendes), slumped on the floor for the rest of the play.

There is safety in Pennsylvania, as Maude (Danielle Slavick) tells her when she drops off her baby girl in exchange for a fix.    “There are barges you can get on. They’re traveling south along the shallows of Lake Erie,” she says. When Ellen responds that her plans for escape are “risky,” Maude says  “No riskier than staying here.” Gunfire and the occasional explosion punctuate the dialogue, in “Through The Yellow Hour,” like a soundtrack of terror, designed by Christian Frederickson. 

Hani Furstenberg as Ellen and Vladimir Versailles as Darius in Adam Rapp’s “Through The Yellow Hour.”
Photo © Sandra Coudert.

The end of times vision  in “Through The Yellow Hour” is further accentuated by the elaborately derelect sets by Andromache  Chalfant, and moody lighting of Keith Parham. This is a mesmerizing and puzzling drama, with a superb cast led by Hani Furstenberg.

For more information about “Through The Yellow Hour” and tickets, visit Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.