Posted in comedy-drama, dark comedy drama, premieres, serious comedy, The Women's Project, Theresa Rebeck, Women, women playwrights

Glass ceilings

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26 Off-Broadway Premiere written by Theresa Rebeck directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
The cast of What We’re Up Against: Damian Young, Marg Helgenberger, Skylar Astin, Krysta Rodriguez and Jim Parrack take a meeting. Photo © Joan Marcus

The workplace can be a fraught setting for the battle of the sexes.

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

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.)

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

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.

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

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 Against originally 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.

For tickets and more information, please visit WPtheater.org.

Posted in #critique, #pointofview, Coen Brothers, comedy, dark comedy drama, film, James Brooks, Mel Brooks, movie, Noah Baumbach, serious comedy, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen

Parallel Universes

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.

Runaway funny

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.

Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, dysfunction, family, family comedy drama, family drama, mothers and sons, new dramatists, new work, Playwrights Horizons, serious comedy, spendthrift

Mom

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Pun Bandhu & Peter Friedman in a scene from The Treasurer. Photo © Joan Marcus. Note the modern industrial sets by Laura Jellinek.

Family often cuts to the heart of who we are.

Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.

Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).

His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Deanna Dunagan & Marinda Anderson. Photo © Joan Marcus

Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.

The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.

For more information and tickets, please visit the @PHnyc website.

Posted in acceptance, adultery, aspiration, comedy-drama, committment, couples, dalliance, dramedy, infedility, love, love story, loyalty, premieres, romance, serious comedy, The Mint Theatre

Monogamy

Is it really cheating if your spouse approves your infidelity?

Creatives    Directing Jonathan Bank     Sets Carolyn Mraz     Costumes Hunter Kaczorowski     Lights Xavier Pierce     Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw     Projections Katherine Freer     Props Joshua Yocom     Casting Stephanie Klapper, CSA     Product
Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson. Photo © Richard Termine.

Exploring the conventions of marriage and the humbug of monogamy, Miles Malleson wrote and published Yours Unfaithfully in 1933. Mint Theater Company is giving this charming and disarming comedy/drama a premiere showing through February 18th, under the direction of Jonathon Bank. For this discovery, we owe them a great thanks.

Creatives    Directing Jonathan Bank     Sets Carolyn Mraz     Costumes Hunter Kaczorowski     Lights Xavier Pierce     Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw     Projections Katherine Freer     Props Joshua Yocom     Casting Stephanie Klapper, CSA     Product
Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson. Photo © Richard Termine

 

 

Stephen Meredith (Max von Essen) is blissfully enjoying his wife’s beneficence. Anne (Elisabeth Gray) has given her blessing for him to “get into some mischief” with Diana Streathfield (Mikaela Izquierdo) in the hope that an affair would rejuvenate Stephen and end his writer’s block.

Neither she nor Stephen imagine any other consequence. They are acting on their convictions that a strong marriage can withstand other and lesser alliances, just as Stephen’s father, the Rev. Meredith (Stephen Schnetzer) acts on his principles when he is shocked to learn of Stephen and Diana’s dalliance. Anne’s confidant and the Merediths’ friend, Dr. Alan Kirby (Todd Cerveris) preaches the counterbalance of the head to the heart.

The brilliantly deft production of Yours Unfaithfully is a welcome addition to the Mint archive. As is customary in a Mint production, sets and costumes have a panache as well. The scenic (by Carolyn Mraz) and costume (by Hunter Kaczorowski) design are admirable. The top-notch ensemble brings Malleson’s smart vision to life with an easy flair. It’s a tribute to all involved that one can’t peg Yours Unfaithfully as  drama, or drawing-room comedy; it transcends labels and stands on its own.

For more information and tickets, please visit the Mint website.

 

Posted in 2-hander, air force, also a film, army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble acting, family, fathers and sons, holiday show, memoir, memories, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, narration, new work, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, parents and children, play, play with music, Roundabout Theatre Company, serious comedy, storytelling, stylistic, the damaged and hurting, theater, Vietnam background, war

Legacies of war

bycarolrosegg
Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson (center), Jennifer Ikeda, and Samantha Quan. Photo © Carol Rosegg

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:

Roundabout’s Love, Love, Love (reviewed earlier and playing through 12/18) can make us feel guilty first for Brexit and now Trump as it portrays boomers resting in reactionary comfort.

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.

Heisenberg Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex-- Denis Arndt; Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass; Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith; Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus
Heisenberg
Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex– Denis Arndt;
Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass;
Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith;
Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus

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. Heisenberg is 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: Heisenberg has an underlying if small principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.

Posted in a pill to end racism, advertising, comedy, comedy about a serious subject, crises of the soul, Greg Kellares, honky, marketing, profiling, racial profile, racism, serious comedy

The Incidental Racist: "Honky" at Urban Stages

Existential crises come in varied forms.

There may be medical cures for many of them.

Kid 1 and 2 ( Reynaldo Pinella and DeLance Minefee) approach Davis (Philip Callen) on a subway platform in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages. Photo by Ben Hider.

For Peter (Dave Droxler), being white is the major embarrassment. White guilt, straight-out racism, both white and black, all rear their ugly little heads in “Honky.” As each pops up, “Honky” blows it up and shoots it down.

Here is a comedy for the post-racial age. Until that comes to pass, “Honky” uses the tropes of advertising and marketing, in which profiling is professionally de rigueur. “Honky” explodes myths and slurs in a soft sell with a hard edge.

Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) counsels Peter (David Droxler) in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.

Advertisers target their markets by demographics of lifestyle, income, race, something many of us prefer not to have our police do. In “Honky,” the product is the SkyMax basketball shoe, designed by Thomas (Anthony Gaskins.) The SkyMax in it’s various iterations aims to sell to “urban” youth, “code for black,” the company’s president, Davis (Philip Callen) freely admits.

Andie (Danielle Faitelson) meets Thomas (Anthony Gaskins) at a SkyMax party in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.

While Peter goes to Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) for therapy to cure his guilt over an ad he created for the shoe, her brother Thomas beds Peter’s girlfriend, Andie (Danielle Faitelson) to cure his own guilt and rage. Davis goes to Dr. Driscoll (Scott Barrow) for a cure that will save his job.

Greg Kellares, the ex-ad man who wrote this intelligent and serious comedy, takes aim at some of our society’s most sensitive spots. Consumerism is another of his well-chosen targets in “Honky.” The cast, led by Anthony Gaskins’ conflicted hero, Thomas, and Peter Callen’s unapologetic Davis, as well as the superlative Arie Bianca Thompson, is all first rate. Luke Harlan’s gentle touch gives tribute to the subtle perspicacity of the script he’s directing.

“Honky” is an amazingly insightful look at race, marketing, advertising, stereotyping and Dostoyevsky.

The 80 seat theater will fill up fast, so please go to http://urbanstages.org/honky to learn more about “Honky.”