Posted in 2001, academia, ambition, arts and events, award winning, ballet, balletic, boys, boys and girls, dance, dance making, dancing, Ellen Robbins, girls, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, lessons, music, narration, new work, performance works, teens, young cast, youth

Ah, youth

Photo © Lina Dahbou

Is it true that youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps not, at least this group of youngsters is making the most of their time and talents. And yes, I am a little jealous.

There is a good deal to be said for getting an early start. Youth is lithe and agile. It is a great season for dancing, Movement can be the lingua franca for the young; it is their body language as it were.

Ellen Robbins’ Dances By Very Young Choreographers at Live Arts, on January 26th and 27th, will be showcasing works by children as young as 8. The dance-makers, ranging in age from 8 to 18, study modern dance and choreography with Ms. Robbins.

The program ranges across the many styles of dance performance, from the humorous, narrative, to the lyrical. The music selections, chosen by the choreographers, include folk, jazz, classical, contemporary.

Ellen Robbins has been teaching dance sine 1966 and has received honors for her work with children. She has taught dance education at Sarah Lawrence and been on the faculties of Bennington College, the 92nd Street Y, and other distinguished institutions. In 2001, Dances By Very Young Choreographers was on the program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

After the matinee on January 26th, there will be an evening concert by the Alumni of Dances by Very Young Choreographers, which presents work by dancers who studied with Robbins from 1982 to 2016.  

Posted in Dallas in 1963, Dallas in 1992, JFK and the grassy knoll, love story, mixed race couples, teens, Years of Sky, young love

The Time’s They Are A-Changin’ or Are They?

There was a time, not so long ago, when being in an interracial relationship was actually dangerous.

Sheldon Best as David at 22 and Auden Thornton as Stace at 22 in “Years of Sky” at 59 E59. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

“Years of Sky,” directed by Christopher Scott at 59E59 Theaters through March 10th, follows the lives of a pair of star-crossed teens.

Amy Hargreaves as Stace at 45 and Gano Grills as David at 45 in “Years of Sky” at 59E59. Photo : Carol Rosegg.

Stace (Auden Thornton) stays true to the dream that she and David (Sheldon Best) can be together in JFK’s more-perfect world. David’s love for her is never completely derailed by other allegiances. By the time they reunite as adults in 1992, David (Gano Grills) is married, and Stace (Amy Hargreaves) is still idealistic.

Barbara Blatner’s bitter-sweet love story plays out over three decades of change and stasis in American society. When they meet again after thirty years, David asks Stace, “In the course a’ your day, ya ever find yourself thinkin’ – ‘I’m white?’

Auden Thornton (Stace at 22)., Tood Davis (Ben) and Sheldon Best  (David at 22).
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The cleverly executed sets, constructed by The Ken Larson Co. from Rebecca Phillips fine designs, make excellent use of the small space in 59E59’s Theater C.

Among the personable ensemble, Auden Thornton as Stace at 17 and 22, Amy Hargreaves as Stace grown-up and Sheldon Best as the younger David are standouts.  Todd Davis rounds out the cast as David’s dad, Ben.

For more information and tickets for “Years of Sky,” please visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in acceptance, adultery, boys in love, cheating, church, dalliance, family, football, friendship, good and evil, morality, philosophy, religion, teens, tennage boys

Unspeakable Acts?

In James Lantz’s “The Bus”, two teenage boys share a secret love in a small midwestern town.

“The Bus”, at 59E59 Theaters through October 30th, is kind of a protest play, broadly about “the love that dare not speak its name,” but with no polemics and plenty of heart.

Bryan Fitzgerald (back) withWill Roland . Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Ian (Will Roland) and Jordan (Bryan Fitzgerald) meet in an abandoned bus that serves as the landmark pointing to the Golden Rule Church looming at the top of the hill. Ian’s angry father, Harry (Travis Mitchell) owns the land on which the vehicle is parked, and its presence on his property begins to irk him.

There is a character called The Little Girl (Julia Lawler) in “The Bus” who is the scene-setter and narrator in this intentionally minimalist play. She paints vivid pictures of the surroundings as the story unfolds.
She is also Jordan’s little sister.

While Jordan is disdainful of religion, and open about who he is, Ian is conflicted. His sexuality is as much of concern to him as it is to both his parents.

Ian’s mother, Sarah (Kerry McGann), has substituted church for family since her divorce from Harry. Sarah drags an unwilling Ian to services on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Will Roland as Ian with Bryan Fitzgerald as Jordan in James Lantz’s “The Bus”. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

“The Bus” is heartfelt, intimate, and engrossing.
To learn more about and for performance schedules for “The Bus” go to www.59e59.org.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Good people, evil deeds?

You might not be comfortable setting your moral compass by this guy, but Mickey (Michael Mastro) is a great friend.

“Any Given Monday”, Bruce Graham’s award winning play, on stage at 59E59 Theaters through November 6th, explores issues of good and evil, which, in its scope, may be relative, with equal measure of insight and humor.

Paul Michael Valley as Lenny and Michael Mastro as Mickey in Bruce Graham’s “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Mickey and Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) have been buddies since boyhood. Mickey, it seems, will do anything for Lenny.

Michael Mastro has the physicality and delivery reminiscent of Art Carney. His sardonic manner is devastatingly funny.

When Lenny’s wife, Risa (Hilary B. Smith) leaves him for the excitement of an affair with the unseen Frank, Mickey shows up to watch Monday night football with his old pal. He is also there to assure himself that Lenny isn’t suicidal. Lenny’s daughter, Sarah (Lauren Ashley Carter)comes home from college with much the same purpose.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Hilary B. Smith as Risa in “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

The disimpassioned amorality in “Any Given Monday” is supported by a deep understanding of the philosophical both sides. Or as Mickey tells Sarah, all three sides– most people, he says, do neither the right thing nor the wrong, but rather do nothing.

“Any Given Monday” is good for any day of the week.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Michael Mastro as Mickey. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

To learn more about and for performance schedules for “Any Given Monday”, please go to www.59e59.org

Posted in comedy, dance, fairytale, festival of short plays, fox, known playwrights, monologues, politically incorrect, racism, stand up, stepfather, teens, vignettes

Squeeze out a little more of the season with "Summer Shorts 5" but we’re done with Mark Morris for now

What brings an award-winning seventeen year old playwright (Ruby Rae Spiegel), a famously controversial one (Neil LaBute), a long-established and much respected theater writer (Christopher Durang) and an up-and-coming voice of off-Broadway (Alexander Dinelaris) to the same stage?

It’s “Summer Shorts,” a festival of plays defined by their brevity, now in its fifth year at 59E59 Theaters through September 3rd! The challenge of “Summer Shorts” is to create a complete play within a time constraint of approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Each “short” is expected to have a full arc, but they need not be strictly speaking, and most of the selection presented by the authors above in the Series A repertory is not, one-act offerings. Some are comprised of several scenes, that shift in location, and introduce their characters. Some are monologues.

Since it is not easy to present a beginning, middle and end in such a short form, some of the plays succeed better than others.

Lydia Weintraub (left) and Louise Sullivan in Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine.” 

Each bill offers four little vignettes, and in “Summer Shorts 5– Series A” , the offerings included:

Neil LaBute’s “The New Testament” proves to be not just a very funny, well-paced work, it also tells its story cogently, under the direction of Dolores Rice, tantalizing out the details of its brilliantly simple plot. Jeff Binder, with foils in Mando Alvarado and James Chen, is particularly adept in this little tale of racism and self-righteousness.

“In This, Our Time…,” Alexander Dinelaris paints vivid portraits of a troubled modern
family. JJ Kandel directs the dynamic cast in a minimalist dramatic work that mystifies with an unsatisfactory ending.

Erin Darke and Ted Koch in a scene from In This, Our Time… by Alexander Dinelaris, directed By J.J. Kandel, part of SUMMER SHORTS 5 Series A.ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS Photo Credit: Rahav Segev 

“Triple Trouble with Love” is Christopher Durang’s entertaining stand up comedy of a play about the perils of relationship. It features Nick Choksi, Beth Hoyt, and Aidan Sullivan in a triptych to dysfunction.

Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine,” despite a complete plot line, manages to feel fragmental and, well, incomplete.
___________________________________________________________________________
No Mozart this time around from Mark Morris Dance Group at “Mostly Mozart Festival”

There was no Mozart in the Mostly Mozart Festival presentation by Mark Morris Dance Group at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre in the Time Warner Center from August 18th through 20th. The much-touted New York premiere of “Renard,” set to a score by Igor Stravinsky that was played by the skillful MMDG Musical Ensemble under the baton of Stefan Asbury, fell under the Sravinsky Too rubric, however.

(See a video of typical Morris dancing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeFyYFxTqtQ)

Also on the program was last year’s sensation– “Socrates,” a piece choreographed to music by Erik Satie– which is certainly dynamic, but the dance to celebrate on this program is “Festival Dances,” set to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Piano Trio in E Major, Opus 83. “Festival Dances” is a beautiful and gentle work in the spirit of Agnes DeMille with plenty of balletic influence.

Both “Renard,” which is a comedic piece, and “Socrates” make fine use of vocal accompaniments. Renard is adorable, acrobatic, and reminiscent of silent films. The costumes by Maira Kalman with labels naming each of the characters beginning on the front of their shirts and ending on the back and little headpieces of crowns or ears are imaginative and simple. The Cock’s Chics are dressed like 1960’s cheerleaders in crinolined skirts so when Cock breaks out into a little endzone dance it just feels right. The stylized violence also seems appropriate for the story.

Visit markmorrisdancegroup.org to find a schedule for future MMDG performances.

To find a schedule for Summer Shorts5, go to 59E59.org

Posted in athletes, comedy, family, love story, parenting, parents and children, politics, rock and roll, siblings, teens, young love

A Tall Order: Anna Kerrigans "The Talls"

Anna Kerrigan’s fine new play, “The Talls” would probably benefit from a more seductive title. Family in dysfunction can have so many iterations, but this one is fresh and beguiling.

Set in a small California town in the 1970’s, “The Talls” at 2econd Stage Theatre Uptown, through August 27th, focuses on the rudderless Clarke children.

Everything in “The Talls” encapsulates the 1970s. The actors are perfectly dressed by Jenny Mannis and the Clarke living room, in a set by Dane Laffrey, is evocative of “The Brady Bunch.”

Big sister, Isabelle (Shannon Esper) feels responsible for keeping her siblings on track. She makes sure they get their homework done, keeps Christian (Michael Oberholtzer) from picking on Catherine (Lauren Holmes) and makes sure that their youngest brother, Nicholas (Timothee Chalamet) gets ready for bed.

Gerard Canonico as Russell James with Shannon
Esper as Isabelle [Photo (c) Joan Marcus] 

The parents, John (Peter Rini) and Anne Clarke (Christa Scott-Reed) are pre-occupied– mostly with dad’s career and aspirations in politics, but also with Anne’s friendship with Sister Connie, one of the children’s teachers.

Christa Scott-Reed as Mrs. Anne Clarke and Peter Rini
as Mr. John Clarke [Photo (c) Joan Marcus] 

Anne, who has forgotten about Christian’s and Catherine’s ball games in the early afternoon, comes home to remind them, over an early cocktail, to get ready to meet their father’s political advisor, Russell James (Gerard Canonico).

Isabelle is not just the oldest in the family, she is also the smartest, and in some ways, despite her youth, the wisest. She is, also, the most daring. Isabelle longs for freedom from the straight and narrow. Her dreams of being a hippie are partly fulfilled as the comedy reaches a poignant outcome.

To find out more about Anna Kerrigan’s “The Talls,” please visit http://2st.com/