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 Playwrights Horizons, Sarah Ruhl, theater, theater about theater, theater folk, women playwrights

“I won’t grow up!”

Man, realizing that he could not remain forever young, bestowed immortality on his gods and let them frolic in their gardens. Then he became jealous of their frivolity, and searched for the fountain of youth, for his own opportunity to act with irresponsibility.

For J.M. Barrie, the hunt for that “Neverland” was led by Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up. Peter Pan was played by a number of actresses over the years– Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, among them– and spawned a psychiatric syndrome not listed in the DSM.

In For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday, at Playwrights Horizons previewing August 18th and running through October 1st, Sarah Ruhl examines issues of immortality.

Her titular Peter is Ann (Kathleen Chalfant), an actress in community theater who played the boy 50 years ago in her youth. Those seeking to find their youth along with Ann are the “lost boys,” Wendy (Lisa Emery), Michael (Keith Reddin), Jim (David Chandler), John (Daniel Jenkins) and a dog named Macy. The cast, under Les Waters direction, is rounded out by The Father (Ron Crawford.)

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is the first play of the season at @PHnyc on their mainstage. On September 6th, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commission, The Treasurer by Max Posner will begin at their Peter Jay Sharp space.

To learn more and find tickets for the Playwrights Horizons 2017-18 season, please visit
https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/

Table read of The Treasurer (photo from PHnyc website.)
Posted in historically-based musical, Kristen Childs, Playwright, musical, musical comedy, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals, Playwrights Horizons, Robert O'Hara, women playwrights

It’s a big story

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

Myth making is history’s fake news, but all good fictions share a grain of truth.

Kristen Childs’ Bella: An American Tall Tale, at Playwrights Horizons through July 2nd. Directed by Robert O’Hara (auteur and director of Bootycandy (Fall 2014) also @PHnyc) and choreographed by Camille A. Brown, is a big new exuberant musical in which the cowboy truths are told from the African-American perspective. Childs’ Bella is a legend-making story, relating history through fantasy.

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus

Bella (Ashley D. Kelley) is young and on the run. Her naiveté, like that of Voltaire’s Candide, is infectious as is her giggle. She leaves Tupelo after a confrontation with a plantation owner, Bonny Johnny (Kevin Massey) that has put a price on her head.

Bella, one of a long line of strong women, is sent off under an assumed name by her mother (Kenita R. Miller) and her aunt Dinah (Marinda Anderson); her grandmother (NaTasha Yvette Williams) urges her to remember who she is. She is also aided by the spirit of an ancestor her grandma (also played by Williams) invokes.

It’s nearly 1880, and Bella heads out to reunite with her Buffalo soldier, Aloysius (Britton Smith.) Kelley’s charm, by the way, is as big as Bella’s fabled behind.

Bella meets various larger-than-life characters on her way. As is her custom, Bella weaves ever taller fables about their fates. These include a Mexican caballero named Diego Moreno (Yurel Echezarreta) and a Chinese cowboy, Tommie Haw (Paolo Montalban).

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Members of The Company in one of many of Camille A. Brown’s specatcular dance sequences. Photo by Joan Marcus.

A Pullman Porter whom Bella calls Mr. Porter, and who is actually called Nathaniel Beckworth (Brendon Gill), is her protector and confidante on the train ride west.

The Western setting is a natural for the rough and tumble (and rugged) entertainment Bella: An American Tall Tale gives us.

The music  and lyrics (along with the book, all from Ms. Childs’ creative imagination) propel the plot, as they should in a well-ordered musical. Ms. Childs’ provides the vocal arrangements with orchestrations by Daryl Waters; the band is under the musical direction of Rona Siddiqui. Hoedown and hootenanny further serve to tell this whopping yarn. Ms. Childs’ songs range from funny/silly to interpretive to poignant.

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella, center) with members of The Company in tableaux. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Camille A. Brown’s terrific choreography, executed beautifully by the exceptional cast also furthers not just the plot but helps define the characterizations.

Kenita R. Miller as both Bella’s mother and the very proper Miss Cabbagestalk whom Bella meets on her journey, is outstanding. In all fairness, the entire cast, many in multiple roles, is superb. Olli Haaskivi does a nice turn as a stuttering circus announcer (and a bandit named Scooter). Jo’Nathan Michael and Gabrielle Reyes (as Mr. and Mrs. Dimwiddie respectively) do a wonderful bit when they step out of the chorus to play a couple who narrates in awe what they have just seen.

Robert O’Hara directs the spirited tale with vigor and originality. The actors give voice to Kristen Childs’ vision of the adventures of Bella Patterson, or is Johnson. The costumes by Dede M. Ayite are inspired and inspiring. The seemingly simple set (by Clint Ramos) gives color to the staging and is evocative.

Black history is an unacknowledged footnote to the history we’ve been taught in school. It’s good to see it be the main event as it is in Bella: An American Tall Tale.

For more information and tickets for Bella: An American Tall Tale, please visit the PHnyc website.

 

Posted in equality, gender equality, women directors, women playwrights

Women’s work

This “Seal of Approval” is being raised for equality.

from http://theatrewomen.org/
from http://theatrewomen.org/

In industry and big business, women are obliged to break the glass ceiling to reach the top ranks. In theater, the League of Professional Theatre Women is looking at not-for-profit companies who are helping women burst through the glass curtain.

On February 23rd, LPTW awarded theaters in which 50% of playwrights or directors are women with a Seal of Approval for promoting gender parity in their productions. 4 of the 12 New York theater companies honored have gotten the Gold Seal for their efforts and hiring practices over the past 5 seasons.

These include Playwrights Horizons for its hiring of women playwrights, Ensemble Studio Theatre (playwrights and directors parity), and Soho Rep and LAByrinth Theatre Company (directors).

The remaining 8 awards, simple Seals, are for equality in hiring practices for the 2014-15 season. Those being so honored are  Lincoln Center Theater (playwright and director parity); MCC Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club (playwrights); The Flea, The New Group, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; Roundabout Theatre Company, Signature Theatre Company (directors).

LPTW is a not-for-profit organization promoting visibility and increased opportunities for women in the field which celebrates and encourages the hiring of women in the theatre and the producing of work by women. LPTW’Seal of Approval is designed to be a recognizable symbol that its recipients may display in all their promotional materials and point to with pride for putting gender equality into practice.