The headlines can definitely leave one feeling helpless. Children incarcerated, separated from their parents, sit in cages near the southern boundary of the USA. It seems there is little we can do but post our outrage.
Latin Grammy-winning bilingual duo 123 Andrés returns to New York City on Sunday, September 1st to perform a concert is at the Marlene Meyerson JCC at 334 Amsterdam Avenue, beginning at 10:30 am.
Immigrant Families Together helps reunite migrant families that have been separated at the border by paying for release bonds, legal services, and ongoing support. All proceeds from this show will help support the effort to bring families, separated at the border, back together. Tickets are just $18. Click here for more information. 123 Andrés will also be in DC on Saturday, October 19th.
History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.
For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.
Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.
Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.
The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.
For the most part,Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.
In other subscription house news from our household:
Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.
MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenbergis a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberghas an underlying ifsmall principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.
Children’s theater tends to be colorful, and larger than life.
Stories That Dance: Shakespeare and his Legacy are presented in a workshop by the Manhattan Youth Ballet from March 13-15 at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. The MYB, founded by Ms. Rose Caiola 17 years ago, is based on European classical traditions. The faculty of this ballet academy have received their training in schools such as the The Kirov Ballet, School of American Ballet, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.
On Saturday, March 14 at 11 am, Symphony Space’s “Just Kidding” series presents Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band. The Grammy-winning artist and longtime bassist for They Might Be Giants, Danny Weinkauf is the man behind the wildly successful TMBG mega-hit, “I Am a Paleontologist.” Danny just released his first solo album for kids, No School Today on TMBG’s own label, Idlewild Recordings. His hit “Champion of the Spelling Bee” reached #1 on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live and was featured in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The series continues with Smithsonian Folkways artist Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower on Saturday, March 21 at 11 am: Two-time Grammy-nominated, Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Elizabeth Mitchell will be joined by husband Daniel Littleton, daughter Storey, and special guests.
Saturday, March 28th brings us the multiple award-winning, San Francisco-based singer-songwriter, Frances England, brings her full band and multimedia show to perform sweet songs expressing the joys and challenges of childhood.
Take your children to Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College where Enchantment Theatre Company’s present The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon on Sunday, March 29th. They are already no doubt familiar with the “Harold” books, which have captivated families for more than fifty years. The Philly-based Enchantment Theatre Company has adapted this wonderful story that celebrates the unique way in which children’s imaginations transform the world into a wild stage adventure.
On Sunday, April 19th, Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia returns to Brooklyn Center after last year’s highly successful engagement with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favourites. After a quest for food, Three beloved stories come to life through the magic of black light and large-scale puppets, and audiences familiar with Mermaid’s other adaptations of Eric Carle’s books can expect the same attention to detail that has won international acclaim for the company. The Very Hungry Caterpillar experiences an eventual metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly, Little Cloud‘s adventures high up in the sky as it transforms itself into various shapes of things it sees, and The Mixed-Up Chameleon‘s discovery of his own unique nature as he explores his ability to change color. Adapted, directed, and designed by one of Canada’s most esteemed puppetry creators, Jim Morrow, the production incorporates narration by storyteller Gordon Pinsent and original music by composer Steven Naylor.
Jim Henson’s legacy lives in the Muppets, Miss Piggy, Wilson & Ditch: Digging America, Fraggle Rock and the sci-fi cult series Farscape, to name just a few of the productions in which he was instrumental. Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train LIVE! — Buddy’s Big Adventure comes to Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, April 26th. Created by Craig Bartlett, the PBS KIDS animated television series Dinosaur Train embraces the fascination that preschoolers have with both dinosaurs and trains to help develop and encourage basic scientific thinking and skills
It is not unusual for Sam Shepard to baffle even the most intent or admiring observer of his work. The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright knows his way around troubled families.
In “Heartless,” his mystifying tale of a family at- home with its dysfunction, at the Pershing Square Signature Center extended through September 30th, nothing is permanent, not even death.
Betty Gilpin as Elizabeth and Julianne Nicholson as Sally in Sam Shepard’s “Heartless.” Photo (c) Joan Marcus.
There is the suggestion in “Heartless” that dysfunction is a natural state of affairs for families. That despite the fact that very little is normal in this household. Sally (Julianne Nicholson) has been saved by the implant of a murdered girl’s heart. Her sister, Lucy (Jenny Bacon) indulges in the futility of curing their mother, Mabel (Lois Smith) of imaginary pains. To complicate matters, Sally has brought Roscoe (Gary Cole), a man estranged from his wife and children, home with her.
Gary Cole as Roscoe, Betty Gilpin as Elizabeth, Lois Smith as Mabel, Jenny Bacon as Lucy (on roof), and Julianne Nicholson as Sally in “Heartless.” Photo (c) Joan Marcus.
“Heartless” is a confounding dramatic piece with a majestic breadth reflected in the set. The sparse yet expansive scenic design by Eugene Lee creates a vast landscape on which the story is played out. Daniel Aukin’s able directing of the fine ensemble cast respects the disjunctive rhythms of “Heartless.”
Lois Smith stands out in this fantastic panoply of actors. “Heartless” is, after all, also about the kind of cruelty that is typical of mother-love. Mabel is fiercely protective of Sally, who needs saving from night terrors and bad memories, and maybe even the accident of living.
Now playing at Canal Park Playhouse, in a joint production with a new company called The TRUF, are two short productions meant to connect adult to child.
The adult-friendly children’s story, “Sarazad and the Monster-King,” playing through July 14th, pits Sarazad (Penny Middleton) against some schoolyard bullies (AJ Converse and Kelly Higgins.)
The imaginative nine-year old Sarazad finds a unique way to regain dominion over the swings. Her fantasies take her into a dream kingdom where the Monster-King (Dean Linnard) threatens to eat her. Just like the Scheherazade of the 1001 Nights, Sarazad weaves tales that are so diverting thatshe uses her skill at storytelling to save herself.
Written by EJC Calvert, “Sarazad and the Monster-King” will amuse both your children and their grandparents. “Sarazad and the Monster-King” is an update on the source material which is both funny and poignant.
To show how stories can save our lives, Frank McGuiness’s Tony-nominated play “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” running through July 15, explores the same theme. In it three men who are political prisoners in Beirut find storytelling as a way to survive.
The TRUF and CPP invite a multi-generational dialogue to come out of its paired offerings. “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” is not recommended for anyone younger than teenagers, however. “Sarazad and the Monster-King,” will please children as young as five or six.
So much of our lives play out around dining tables, often even at non-descript restaurants.
Dan LeFranc’s “The Big Meal,” at Playwrights Horizons in an extended run through April 22nd, has an unusual structure, without being in any way avant-garde or revolutionary. It simply stretches an extraordinary timeline, covering some eighty years in a family’s life. In “The Big Meal,” LeFranc chronicles a family over many seatings at a generically favorite restaurant.
The writing, the acting, the pace of the direction, all tell this engaging story that begins with Nicky (Phoebe Strole in this incarnation) and Sam (Cameron Scoggins) on their first dates. They meet, flirt, fight, and eventually reconnect, older (Jennifer Mudge is now Nicky with David Wilson Barnes playing Sam) and ready to commit. Sam and Nicky hang in over many more drinks and dinners, bringing their kids, Maddy and Robbie (Rachel Resheff and Griffin Birney) out to eat with Sam’s parents, Alice (Anita Gillette) and Robert (Tom Bloom.)
Carmeron Scoggins, Phoebe Strole. Photo by Joan Marcus
The actors rotate into the characters as they age, picking up the nuances from generation to generation. “We really started something,” Anita Gillette says late in “The Big Meal.”
Anita Gilette,Molly Ward, Tom Bloom. Photo by Joan Marcus
“The Big Meal” is delightful in its simplicity and authenticity. For tickets and information about “The Big Meal,” go to www.playwrightshorizons.org.
It takes a great deal of work to scale an ivory tower.
In “Poetic License,” in its New York City premiere at 59E59 Theaters through March 4th, poet and academe, John Greer (Geraint Wyn Davies) is on the verge of reaching the apex of a distinguished career.
He’s had a lot of help from his ambitious wife, Diane (Liza Vann). Liza Vann’s Dianne is a suburban, good-hearted Lady MacBeth-with a mordant sense of humor. Most recently, Diane has orchestrated a PBS special about John Greer, which pleases him because it means he won’t have to go on a book tour.
Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund and Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg
The TV crews have been held at bay for this weekend, however, so that John can quietly celebrate his birthday with his daughter Katherine (Nathalie Kuhn) and her new boyfriend, Edmund (Ari Butler).
Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund in a photo by Carol Rosegg
Just how things fall apart for this family is playwright Jack Canfora’s well-told secret. His taut script, which won a 2011 Abingdon Theatre award, majestically weaves a web of betrayals.
Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg
In an expert cast, Ari Butler stands out with a nuanced performance as a troubled and troubling young man. “Jesus, John.” Diane says, “our daughter is sleeping with a Dickens character.”
Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg. “Anything is palatable,” she says, “if you’ve got the right sauce….”
Geraint Wyn Davies’ John and Natalie Kuhn as his admiring daughter may have the most to lose in “Poetic License” since their trust and affection are at the center of this drama.
For more information and a schedule of performances for “Poetic License,” please go to www.59e59.org.