Theater Review http://culturecatch.com/index.php/theater en I Know the Difference Between Cantaloupe and Watermelon http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3895 <span>I Know the Difference Between Cantaloupe and Watermelon</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/6781" lang="" about="/index.php/user/6781" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Cearia Scipio</a></span> <span>November 14, 2019 - 09:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/235" hreflang="en">Broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-11/slave-play-image_0.jpg?itok=3kE1aCRv" title="slave-play-image.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy</figcaption></figure><p>Last month a couple of my black friends told me they were going to see a new Broadway show called <i>Slave Play.</i> I asked them why they would want to go see a play about slaves. The response I got was "I heard it's really good." Then I thought to myself, "Ain't nothing good about slavery." My friends came back to me after the show and told me that I'd like it. I had the opportunity to see the play myself this weekend. I needed to see what all the hype was about.</p> <p><i>Slave Play</i> was written by Jeremy O. Harris, a black, male playwright. Walking into the theater, I was silently judging every white person in there. And there were A LOT of white people in the theater. To me it felt like "Dang. They couldn't wait to get in here to see a play about slaves." As a black woman, I'm just a little tired of the "slave narrative." I'm tired of us revisiting a time when black people were seen as property. When the show began with a sweeping black woman dressed in "slave attire," I sank into my seat. Watching her interact with her white scene partner made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I just wanted to get this over with.</p> <p>Then I caught interest in the other two couples. I was surprised by the comedy in the dialogue and the nudity that was shown on stage. Now they had my interest. So I thought, "Cool. This is going to be some sexy slavery tale. I can dig that." Then the play flips everything on its head! The couples were all participating in some sort of interracial couple group therapy. That whole plot is so very clever. I thought the play had a perfect blend of comedic and serious moments. I was paying extra attention now. The two therapists' comedic timing complimented each other well as they tried to navigate what their attendees were feeling.</p> <p>Listening to the stories of the couples was both hilarious and heartbreaking. For example, there was one story that stood out to me. The biracial man, Phillip, is going on about how he went to a white school. He said he never saw himself as a color. He says he was just "Phillip." It wasn't until his white schoolmates pointed out his blackness that he started to see it as well. I've been black my whole life and I've never thought of myself as just "Cearia." I have always thought of myself as "Black Cearia." I think this way because I know that my skin color is the first thing people see. They don't see my personality. They don't see my bank account. They see my skin.</p> <p>My skin color affects how I see the world. I am always inclined to point out differences of race wherever I go. During the previous semester, I performed in City College's production of <i>Dry Land</i>. I wasn't originally cast. I took the spot of a girl who couldn't do the play. During our first table read, the whole cast was present. I looked around the room and I was the only black person in there. Yes, we did have two Latina women but they were white passing. Later on in the semester I found out the identity of whom I was replacing. She was white. I still think about how white that show would have been had I not been in it. Our director was white as well. Maybe it's not her fault that I ended up being the darkest person there, maybe she didn't notice. I noticed. I always notice.</p> <p>Overall, <i>Slave Play</i> empowered me. It was refreshing to see a black woman who was taking control of her life. On stage there was a black woman, who wasn't going to submit to her man, a white man. I silently cheered her on. I stared at her with so much intensity, hoping she could feel the power and respect that I was transferring to her telekinetically from somewhere in the sea of audience members. This play made me feel desirable. It somehow turned on a switch that made me appreciate and love the black body that I walked in with even more.</p> <p><em>Miss Scipio is a 22 year-old aspiring actress who is currently attending City College. Her instagram is @Rotiprincess.</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3895&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="fgloxnRGpuAYTLBV7sqEJXlEFXRkjKARnjAkk2UxgqY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 14 Nov 2019 14:03:05 +0000 Cearia Scipio 3895 at http://culturecatch.com Food For Thought http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3874 <span>Food For Thought</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>September 12, 2019 - 09:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-09/dining_with_ploetz_-_photo_3_by_kate_gaffney.jpg?itok=c804oRXh" title="dining_with_ploetz_-_photo_3_by_kate_gaffney.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Kate Gaffney</figcaption></figure><p><i>Dining With Ploetz</i></p> <p>Written by Richard Ploetz</p> <p>Directed by Richard Ploetz and Steven Hauck</p> <p>Presented by Theater for the New City and Nedworks, Inc.</p> <p>at Theater for the New City, NYC</p> <p>September 5-22, 2019</p> <p>Aside from some connection to food, the trio of one-act plays that comprise <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> all feature people coming together around some significant milestone: a birthday, an (almost) anniversary, and the hashing out of plans for an unusual dinner party that will fulfill one man's intensely desired dream. From the pen of Richard Ploetz, a multidisciplinary author, voiceover artist, director, and professor who has written for the page, stage, and screen, <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> serves up three courses of comedy spiced with "food for thought," to borrow a description from the program, and garnished with delectable performances. To top things off, five percent of net profits from the show will be donated to World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit NGO founded by chef José Andrés to function as "Food First Responders" for communities affected by disasters.</p> <p><i>Goldfish</i>, the first of the triad and directed by Ploetz, has some of the feel of a grittier, more eclectic New York City that is increasingly vanishing today (and, relatedly, some of the feel too of a strain of NYC plays represented by playwrights such as Edward Albee). When the play opens, following a piano rendition of "Happy Birthday" merged with Beethoven's "Für Elise," only a single guest has shown up for the birthday party held for six year-old Sabrina (Claudia Fabella) by her parents George (Christopher Borg) and Cindy (Elizabeth A. Bell). The fête is in what they call their loft (reasonable rent; no heat on nights or weekends), located in the rug district and containing an amalgamation of painting supplies, rolled-up rugs, mismatched furniture, a piano, the titular goldfish, and other heterogeneous items. The single guest is Cindy's former coworker turned business partner, Beth (Wynne Anders). Just when it seems that they will have to declare the night finished, however, a stone sails neatly through the glass-less window, announcing the arrival of Rick (Steven Hauck) and Susan (Jamie Heinlein), both invited by Beth, both dressed for a cocktail party (George, in contrast, is sporting a track suit, partly unzipped to reveal his white undershirt; and Cindy is still wearing her waitressing uniform), and trailing an impressively bearded, overalls-and-bandanna-wearing poet, Bill (Ryan Hilliard), whom they met on a street corner on the way over. What follows includes some relatively inappropriate flirting, questionable table manners, and class-inflected masculine posturing—this last allowing Hauck, whose Rick once upon a time fenced, to render the words "thrust and parry" much funnier than they have any right to be. Fabella, even with almost no dialogue, gets a few big laughs herself, including one involving a toy truck and some bones (bones, come to think of it, are another motif uniting all three plays in<i> Dining</i>, even if they only enter the second play through a waiter's enthusiastic mispronunciation). Intermingled with all of the strangeness and even silliness are unrealized ambitions and unfinished thoughts and sentences, an underlying lack of fulfillment such that Susan gives unexpectedly serious consideration to a proposal from George just because, she says, it would be something different.</p> <p>After a brief intermission, the strong second half of <i>Dining</i> starts with <i>Memory Like a Pale Green Clock</i>,<i> </i>directed by Hauck, which takes us to a different kind of fishbowl, an upscale restaurant, and offers a different take on not remembering. <i>Memory</i> sees Christopher Borg and Jamie Heinlein as English professor Robert and his wife, Louise. Louise is suspicious of the roses that she was sent and this fancy night out, but Robert assures her that, thanks to a little inspiration from James Joyce's "The Dead," he has just decided to celebrate their sixteenth anniversary a little early. "The Dead" is a story, ultimately, of personal and national paralysis, which should perhaps worry Louise a bit, but the meal is going well and plans for later seduction are being described, until, when a woman in dark glasses (Elizabeth A. Bell, who also does some great work in <i>Goldfish</i>) sits at a nearby table, Robert's conviction that he knows her derails the evening. It leads, for example, Louise to question why he always "inspects" other women and Robert to ask why she doesn't look at men, and, while there are some highs and lows for the couple, the questions don't get any less fraught from there. Borg and Heinlein, both excellent in<i> Goldfish</i>, here create a terrific portrayal of the teasing, charged, intimate dynamics of long-term couples. We discover that the couple completely misreads Helen, as they do the waiter, Walter (a very funny Ryan Hilliard, trading in poet Bill's free spirit for reserve and exasperation), in a moment that occasions a breathtaking shift in tone. These misunderstandings speak to our tendency to empty out or project onto others, since others effectively cease to exist for us when we aren't with them. Further, as Louise says, we even create a nostalgia for what never was, so that when our sense of our own memory is disrupted, we feel betrayed, reminded, unwished-for, of our mortality.</p> <p>The plays that make up <i>Dining with Ploetz</i> are successively more stripped down—leaner, if you prefer—and <i>Bone Appetite</i>, the final play, directed again by Ploetz and loosely based on events that took place between Bernd Brandes and Rotenburg resident Armin Meiwes,<i> </i>features just two chairs and a pair of men meeting for the first time. These men are Arny (Christopher Borg), an enthusiastically salt-of-the-earth guitarist for a band called The Cruds, who were involved in a Great White-style nightclub fire; and Matthew (Steven Hauck), a rather more refined man with a particular culinary predilection. Arny dreams of being an orgasmically spectacular roast. In pursuit of this dream, Arny has answered Matthew's ad. When someone responds to one of his ads, Matthew likes to get to know the whole person, and the conversation between this odd couple touches on pleasure, acceptance, and, again, memory. Borg is superb as the kind of guy you might run into in a dive bar with unsigned bands playing in the back room, and Hauck plays off him in terrific fashion, as Matthew's cultured exterior is penetrated by Arny's weirdly pure ardor.</p> <p>Juxtaposing the three plays of <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> allows them to speak to one another in interesting ways, much as the melancholy notes in all three stand out the more for being set against the predominant comedy. Entertainingly executed by a splendid ensemble, <i>Dining With Ploetz </i>is worth making a reservation for. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3874&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="T3Cx_HV6rQ4C6Bd4wkFX48Y5P2zptjTTHqhTGoE1di0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 13:28:00 +0000 Leah Richards 3874 at http://culturecatch.com A Simpler Fiddler http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3872 <span>A Simpler Fiddler</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/index.php/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>September 3, 2019 - 09:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GWTM3KDttDY?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><em>Fiddler on the Roof</em></p> <p>National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, NYC</p> <p>After months of resistance, my wife finally wore me down and I got us last minute tickets to see the "Yiddish" <em>Fiddler On The Roof</em> over Labor Day weekend. I've seen <em>Fiddler</em> so many times I figured was it really THAT important that I see it once more.</p> <p>In a word -- yes. It is unlike any production of <em>Fiddler</em> I've ever seen and as though I've seen it for the very first time. And not because it is all in Yiddish with (projected) English subtitles. In fact, this essay will largely ignore the fact that this production is in Yiddish.</p> <p>It is the most simple of stagings on a bare stage with a few pieces of wooden furniture, but blessed with a gorgeous ensemble that feels more like a true tight-knit community than a collection of Broadway actors. For instance, the cast completely lacks the polish of trained Broadway dancers -- but looks and feels like the family and friends dancing at my wife's son's Modern Orthodox wedding last December.</p> <p>And it is in those moments and virtually every other that this <em>Fiddler</em> captures an authenticity that had me weeping from the very first thrilling moment. Because authenticity is what is lacking in every other stage production I've seen (and so beautifully captured in the sweeping Norman Jewison film).</p> <p><em>Fiddler On The Roof</em> says it is about "tradition" but it is also about family -- immediate family, extended family and community family. I'm not sure whether this production's sense of family on stage stems from the fact that the Folksbiene Theatre is a tightly knit ensemble that has been performing "in Yiddish" plays for decades, from Joel Grey's astute and sensitive direction or - most likely - both. But it is this sense of family that permeates every moment of the story - to deeply comic, joyous and, ultimately, heart-breaking affect. And by eschewing "Broadway" stagecraft for this authenticity of family, the musical achieves a universality that goes well beyond the confines of Anatevka or the Jewish experience.</p> <p>Alongside Topol, Steven Skybell is the best Tevye I've ever seen, a human, decent Everyman that is never flashy, never showy, never a "star." When he dances the signature arms above his head it is not a gym exercise, it is an ebullient joy that is half ecstasy and half knocking on heaven's door.</p> <p>I've heard that he has grown into his performance and I think I was lucky enough to see the most mature result of his long run. His Tevye fairly easily relents to the choices of Tzeitel and Hodel. He puts up minor resistance to their falling in love with Motel the Tailor and Perchik the Revolutionary. A smile crosses his face that is the akin to a shrug. Not joyful, but more of a "what can I do about it." So his moment with Chava -- a bridge too far in her love for a non-Jewish Russian -- is more wrenching and more real and -- yes -- authentic than I've ever seen. That moment will stay with me for a long time.</p> <p>The last production of <em>Fiddler</em> I saw on Broadway was visually sumptuous -- a Chagall painting come to life. It was gorgeous to look at, but life in Anatevka wasn't gorgeous, was it? What it gained in Broadway stagecraft it lost in credibility.</p> <p>Go and see this Yiddish <em>Fiddler</em>. Revel in it. It is not to be missed.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3872&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="BjUBE4Y2ARIkgX4viEsT5a2KwUNd26XfHgLJ7bmB_OM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 03 Sep 2019 13:52:04 +0000 Mark Weston 3872 at http://culturecatch.com When Did They Arrive? http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3866 <span>When Did They Arrive?</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>August 15, 2019 - 09:19</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="960" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-08/those_before_us_play.jpg?itok=j9jAlgtG" title="those_before_us_play.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Mike Esperanza</figcaption></figure><p><i>Those Before Us</i></p> <p>Written by Stephen Carrey-Chan, Jesse Carrey, Kimberly Dodson, Alex Spieth, and Katya Stepanov</p> <p>Directed by Jesse Carrey</p> <p>Presented by Rebis at Nolan Park, Governors Island, NYC</p> <p>August 1-11, 2019</p> <p>Typically, audiences are asked to turn their cell phones off at the beginning of a performance. That is very much not the case with Rebis's <i>Those Before Us</i>. Rebis, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on August 11, takes as its mission, according to its website, to "create interactive, immersive, story-driven content which integrates the audience into the heart of the narrative." With the free production <i>Those Before Us</i>, Rebis plunges audience members into a network of historical narratives wrapped in a science-fiction conceit and allows them to find their own paths through the experience.</p> <p>Designed for public spaces, <i>Those Before Us </i>was staged outdoors in Nolan Park on New York City's Governors Island. Audiences are asked to arrive equipped with a fully charged smartphone (and, for Android users, a QR scanner app) and to either bring headphones or reserve one of a limited number of Bose AR glasses (basically, wearable blue-tooth speakers that interface with your phone via the Bose Connect app). Upon checking in, audience members scan a QR code leading to a short "onboarding" audio file and are given a small map (which also includes a QR code linking to the show's program). The map details the starting and ending points of the show, as well as four color-coded circuits and a few other points of interest. At each point on the map, there are corresponding QR codes mounted on a tree that link to further audio files, and each of the color-coded and numbered points on the map contributes a narrative set in a specific year: 1637 (voiced by Jesse Carrey), 1878 (voiced by Grace Rao), 1917 (voiced by Ashton Muniz), and 1964 (Zach Fifer). In addition, selections from Native American music and songs by Loretta Lynn, Morton Harvey, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, and others are incorporated into these narratives at various points. There is also a live dancer associated with each narrative path, and a dash of color on these primarily white-clad dancers—Daan Bootsma (1637), Mallory Galarza (1878), Ashton Muniz (1917), and Kerime Konur (1964)—helps you to follow the dancer along a particular narrative thread (the dancers also helpfully incorporate touching the next significant tree into their performances). Of course, one doesn't have to follow any kind of linear path, either overall (on the day that we attended, it didn't take very long for the large group that began the show all together to fragment) or within any individual story.</p> <p>As a title, <i>Those Before Us</i> can be read in two ways, both as referring to the layers of history that the production draws attention to and to the way in which the combination of dancers and voiceovers bring characters linked to this history literally before us. These persons range from a Dutch settler unhappily aligned with a capital-based concern intent on exploiting the indigenous residents of the city to a white woman becoming a nineteenth-century military wife, a black man going to fight in WWI, and a man born into a military family facing displacement and the razing of everything on the island, including the nature that he has heretofore resented. Racism, sexism, and exploitation of course figure in these individual stories, and the fact that the costumes of the dancers, whose movements express the general emotion of each narrative fragment rather than directly corresponding to the unfolding plot, accumulate dirt and natural debris—especially in the case of Bootsma and Muniz—might be seen as symbolizing not only the struggles of life and history but also the way that grains of history accumulate and its rootedness in location and the land.    </p> <p>The quartet of personal, historical stories sits within a clever dystopian frame. At the outset, audiences are welcomed to the Terrarium Museum of Natural History, a place that has reconstructed life as it was before the "Great Explosion." This pre-recorded message (voiced by Katya Stepanov) is interrupted by the voice of "Maya" (Vincent Lidie), to whom you are connected via the trees. Maya talks about a future on a planet that has undergone extensive damage and in which a "High Council" disappears people, has erased history, and controls what we know. He thus asks for your help in finding memories as a means to restore truth and knowledge. As records for heat and glacier melting are continually broken and drafts of executive orders by the U.S. government to censor the internet are leaked, Maya's future seems barely speculative, but in <i>Those Before Us</i>, the atemporal final act, "Convergence," is ultimately hopeful, arranging everyone in a circle and focusing on unity, peace, and restoration.</p> <p>We admit to having a bit of trouble with our 4G at the start, which caused playback issues, but once we successfully logged into the Governors Island wi-fi, everything came together smoothly for an enjoyable and unique experience that was simultaneously individual and communal. Rebis is hoping to bring <i>Those Before Us</i> to other locations in the future, and we look forward to what this innovative group of artists creates next. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3866&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Jb_NY56U1JDocdVPvX1GIjwG8S1XN7nb7sWOBxZZjaE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:19:08 +0000 Leah Richards 3866 at http://culturecatch.com Cutting Up Space and Time http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3856 <span>Cutting Up Space and Time</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>July 10, 2019 - 13:09</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/317" hreflang="en">avant garde</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="799" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-07/decoder_photo_credit_maria_baranova.jpg?itok=3DXtAP4f" title="decoder_photo_credit_maria_baranova.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Maria Baranova</figcaption></figure><p><i>DECODER: Ticket that Exploded</i></p> <p>Text by WIlliam S. Burroughs</p> <p>Conceived and directed by Mallory Catlett</p> <p>Presented by Restless NYC at Pioneer Works, NYC</p> <p>July 8, 2019</p> <p>In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Beat Generation artist and writer William S. Burroughs popularized the "cut-up technique," a method dating to at least the Dada movement of cutting up a text or texts and rearranging the pieces to form a new composition. Burroughs employed a "fold-in" variation (reading across two vertically folded sheets placed side by side to create a new page) for his novel <i>The Ticket that Exploded</i>, first published in 1962 and in a revised and expanded version in 1967. This story of mind control and intergalactic conflict also describes Burroughs's theories about language, technology, and the cut-up technique, and it forms part of <i>The Nova Trilogy</i>, along with <i>The Soft Machine</i> (1961, revised 1966 and 1968) and <i>Nova Express</i> (1964). With <i>DECODER: The Ticket that Exploded</i>, creator and director Mallory Catlett, in collaboration with video designer Keith Skretch, associate video designed Simon Harding, interaction designer Ryan Holsopple, and scholar Alex Wermer-Colan, Burroughs's novel is reimagined, partly through his own techniques, as a psychedelic live enactment that assembles language, imagery, and sound into an engrossing experience somewhere between theater and performance art.</p> <p>Played out in this performance on a raised stage in the cavernous interior of Pioneer Works in Red Hook, <i>DECODER </i>is brought to fractured life by collaborators and performers G. Lucas Crane and Jim Findlay. Crane, the "tape DJ" and sound artist, acts as the primary operator of the onstage audiovisual equipment -- and provides an excellent lemur call -- while Findlay handles the spoken portions of the production. The spoken elements use Burroughs's own words, and audience members can catch indications of his influence on in phrases such as "well, that's like hypnotizing chickens," borrowed from <i>The Ticket That Exploded</i> by Iggy Pop in "Lust for Life," and "heavy metal," first appearing in print in <i>The Soft Machine</i>. The cassette tape recorders that Crane so skillfully manipulates are referred to in pre-recorded dialogue early on in the show as an "externalized part of the human nervous system," and they are positioned in relation to "the Word," what it is and what can be done with and to it, not least the assertion that cut-up offers a means of being one's own agent. While there is, unsurprisingly, no conventional narrative, <i>DECODER</i> does evince a loose thematic structure, with other sections with spoken and recorded text about, for example, sexuality (at some points as "flesh addiction" and at others as a kind of literal merging of bodies), war (as, in one memorable passage, an ongoing game the only possible end to which is the atomic destruction of all the players), and questions about topics including time, self, and embodiment.</p> <p>Juxtaposition represents an important aspect of the cut-up technique, creating and influencing meaning, and the various forms of "the Word" in the production are juxtaposed not only to one another but also to sound- and image-scapes throughout. The large trapezoidal screen at the back of the stage is filled with images that range from Crane's hands as he works or his face as we hear his amplified breathing to a distorted portion of Findlay's face as he declaims from beneath a welder's mask to insects, trees, tentacles, claws, and, in a visual metaphor for the "war game," the repetitive, mechanical stacking of logs. Often, when the projected images are distorted, it is along a vertical fold, much as Burroughs recommends for pages in the fold-in technique. At times, they also resolve into unexpected forms or accrue unexpected meaning, as when, through repetitive juxtaposition, a microphone held by Mike Pence becomes associated with a masturbated phallus, an oddly posed body shows up in a wooded landscape, or the bright whiteness, which juxtaposition with the dialogue leads one initially to think might represent outer space, is eventually clarified as snow through which a lone figure walks. Crane and Findlay themselves are central elements of some striking images, their bodies silhouetted, serving as canvases for flashing lights, or badly (on purpose) lip-syncing recorded questions. Crane is extremely impressive and has an engaging presence, and it would be easy to overlook how good Findlay's performance is because of the non-traditional part, but he adds energy and nuance to his role as primary conduit of the Word, as when he touches Crane during a particular speech or in the modulation that occurs when he sets aside the novel from which he has been reading directly and his delivery becomes subtly but clearly more hesitant, immediate, and, thus, seemingly authentic.</p> <p>Late in <i>DECODER</i> is a discussion of a giant mechanical brain used by enemy forces that works through aggregating images and words and sounds like what we now call A.I. The dialogue recommends guerilla war against it, in one of a couple of times when the "you" seems to deliberately include the audience. Burroughs held that the cut-up technique can militate against the way that word and image lock us in to conventional modes and patterns of thought and perception. <i>DECODER: Ticket that Exploded </i>provides an intriguingly avant garde, visually arresting, and even at some points funny volley in this crusade against conventionality. And this is just the start: the full <i>Nova Trilogy</i> will premiere at the Chocolate Factory in Queens in 2020, to further rearrange our expectations of what theater can be. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3856&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ti_vxT3tsOl0WGqSQKRbVO0YMWfzkslQww-ZgzlmTI4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 10 Jul 2019 17:09:02 +0000 Leah Richards 3856 at http://culturecatch.com One for All http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3851 <span>One for All</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>June 10, 2019 - 09:16</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-06/3m_1941_photo_credit_clintonbphotography.jpg?itok=Rv6ISZp8" title="3m_1941_photo_credit_clintonbphotography.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Clinton B Photograhpy</figcaption></figure><p><i>Three Musketeers 1941</i></p> <p>Written by Megan Monaghan Rivas</p> <p>Co-directed by Michole Biancosino and Andrew William Smith</p> <p>Presented by Project Y Theatre at A.R.T./New York Theatres, NYC</p> <p>June 5-29th, 2019</p> <p>Alexandre Dumas's 1844 <i>The Three Musketeers</i>, while a romantic novel of adventure, also includes critique of political corruption and abuses, as well as military violence between Protestants and Catholics. In <i>Three Musketeers 1941</i>, a world premiere commissioned for the fourth annual Project Y Women in Theatre Festival (the full program of shows for the WIT Festival can be found on Project Y Theatre's website), playwright Megan Monaghan Rivas transplants elements of Dumas's text to occupied Paris during World War II for a tightly written and skillfully staged thriller.</p> <p>Rivas's Musketeers are an all-woman cell of the French Resistance, all of whom are known only by codenames so that if any one of them is captured by the Nazis or their French collaborators, she cannot give up her fellows. Porthos (Kate Margalite) has an exceptional memory and hails from a family of coal miners; Aramis (Ashley Bufkin) and her family are Communists -- whom, she points out, were the first group to resist -- and she is the group's only mother; Athos (Ella Dershowitz) is a former law student; and Planchet (Christina Liang) is the cell’s 16 year-old courier, who uses her bicycle to the cell's advantage. The four are overseen by Madame Treville (Joleen Wilkinson), a Latin teacher, and have been publishing coded messages from the radio in a newsletter. As the play opens, Mme. Treville has invited a fifth young woman, D'Artagnan (Essence Stiggers), a farmgirl whose mother she knew as a child, to join the cell, an addition which Aramis is extremely reluctant to accept. The cell has been assigned to help a British agent, codenamed Buckingham, to escape Paris, but arrayed against them are collaborators police Inspector Richelieu (Zack Calhoon) and Lieutenant Rochefort (Javan Nelson), who support plans to make Paris "clean" by shipping its Jewish population to Germany. Richelieu accepts the proposition of a British woman known only as Milady (Helen Farmer) of her aid in exchange for German citizenship and transport to Berlin, which she believes will be the "only" city in the coming German supremacy. Compromised codes and a pair of arrests mean trouble for the quintet and their mentor, and courage and commitments are tested on the way to an explosive climax.</p> <p>The production creates a palpable sense of constant tension, danger, and surveillance, as soldiers or police patrol the stage with flashlights and historically accurate radio broadcasts mark the time with threats of retributive executions for attacks against the Germans. A curtain of chains along two sides of the stage space are simultaneously functional and symbolic, and excellent sound and lighting design, by Yiran Zhang and Hallie Zieselman, respectively, help both to set the atmosphere and drive the action. Wilkinson imbues Mme. Treville with a necessary stature and gravity, and Farmer is excellent as an equally glamorous and dangerous Milady, investing the character's dissimulations with just the right amount of believability: a scene between the two women just after they meet for the first time is stirringly tense. Calhoon expertly underplays Richelieu's villainy, and Margalite and Bufkin also distinguish themselves amidst a strong cast.</p> <p><i>Three Musketeers 1941 </i>wraps its big-picture questions -- If you could be disappeared at any time, what would you do until then? How much are you willing to risk to be part of something larger? --in exciting espionage action. While one could interpret moments like an officer randomly checking bags or themes like what women can accomplish when they work together for a cause as commentary on our current sociopolitical situation, the play is not primarily concerned with allegorizing. The play's central position, articulated by Athos, that collective action should be used to help others rather than to harm one's enemies (the women of the cell, contra Milady, are pointedly murder-averse) is anyway relatively timeless, and it delivers -- or rather, dead drops -- this message in a suspenseful and entertaining package. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3851&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="nBfgUJcSBOv0J4vrY49C1RBJU41DxCSJ9DMUbDTBZAM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 10 Jun 2019 13:16:56 +0000 Leah Richards 3851 at http://culturecatch.com Magical Realism http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3836 <span>Magical Realism</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>March 20, 2019 - 12:02</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><i>Miranda from Stormville</i></p> <p>Written by Adam Bertocci</p> <p>Directed by Jennifer Sandella</p> <p>Presented by Random Access Theatre at IRT Theater, NYC</p> <p>March 14-March 24, 2019</p> <p>New Jersey has certainly been compared to worse things than a magical island. In <i>Miranda from Stormville</i>, Adam Bertocci's new reimagining of William Shakespeare's <i>The Tempest</i>, a small town in the Garden State takes the place of the isle of Sycorax, and the ship carrying Prospero's enemies back from a wedding in Tunis becomes a car bearing two friends from Indiana back from a wedding in equally-exotic-to-them Manhattan.<i> </i>After a mishap involving said car on a stormy August day, Will Ferdinand (Gabe Templin)—whose name combines that of the Italian prince and romantic lead in <i>The Tempest</i> and, presumably, of Shakespeare himself, with the additional, thematically appropriate meanings for "will" as the mental faculty involved with taking action and, from Shakespeare’s own time, as sexual desire -- and Steve Trinker (James A. Pierce III) -- named for the Bard's comic and comically drunk Stephano and Trinculo -- end up stranded in the titular Stormville, and more particularly in the basement of Pops Milano (Richard Wayne) and his daughter, Miranda (Mackenzie Menter). Pops, whom Miranda describes as in the midst of mental and physical decline, employs Ariel (Anna Cain) as a sort of home health aide and, less frequently, Calvin (Brendan Cataldo) as a mechanic. The arrival of Will and Steve will precipitate decisions with the potential to forever change Miranda’s heretofore circumscribed life, in a compassionate, funny, and invigorating production that will appeal as much to die-hard fans of the upstart crow as to those who vaguely recall reading him in high school.</p> <p>When we first meet 19-year-old Miranda, she is doing her father's laundry in the jumbled basement, cluttered with books, furniture, hanging plants, and other detritus, that serves as the show's primary set. She is a self-described "weird girl" who deals with the isolation of taking care of her father in a small town that she has never left partly by reading, especially fantasy such as J.R.R. Tolkien and, more recently, she tells us, magical realism such as Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. Magical realism would aptly describe <i>Miranda from Stormville</i> itself, a play which is mostly but ambiguously realistic. Stormville, for example, may or may not exist (or both simultaneously) in its nominal location off exit 96 of the Garden State Parkway; and Ariel has some grounded moments of humanity but can also be self-consciously performative, and her doubling the parts of various townspeople of Stormville can be seen as theatrical and/or magical, to say nothing of Pops' role in all of this.</p> <p><i>The Tempest</i> itself is on the whole more interested in meta-theater than in nuancing the love-at-first-sight between the virtuous Miranda and at most slightly less virtuous Ferdinand, such that Prospero introduces artificial (and, given that he acts the tyrannical father, theatrical) obstacles to ensure that their union doesn’t seem too lightly achieved. <i>Miranda from Stormville</i> shifts the focus from the father to the daughter, and Will, Miranda, and the evolution of their relationship gain psychological and emotional depth. Miranda, while a distinct individual, can also stand in for any small-town teen dreaming of other places and other people, or any young adult on the uneasy cusp of independence. The slightly older Will argues that the “real worlds” about which parents always warn their children don't actually exist, that the reality is much messier; as he and Miranda first bond over the difficulties of having fathers with public lives and always having felt different than their peers and later quarrel over what comes next, the play addresses themes of honesty, sense of place, and need for and responsibilities towards others, as well as, in one memorable sequence, the colonial and literary heritage of the United States and the question of whether there is or might be an American Shakespeare (Ariel, at least, has a nominee). Ariel also raises the question of whether anyone needs "fixing" -- Calvin, for one, terms himself "broken" -- or merely "love," a question complicated perhaps by the inclusion of the willow song sung by both Desdemona and Emilia in<i> Othello</i>.</p> <p>In <i>Miranda from Stormville</i>, references to Andrew Marvell and T.S. Eliot sit comfortably alongside references to <i>Get Out</i> and <i>Ghostbusters</i>, and the short scenes and excellent use of space make for a lively pace. The cast delivers fantastic performances, from Pierce's eager-to-leave Steve and Cataldo's quietly intense Calvin to Wayne's pleasingly hard-to-pin-down Pops. Templin does excellent work with the move into ever deeper waters from Will's initial hesitance with Miranda; Menter artfully embodies the complex tensions between Miranda's strength and trauma, her longing for and fear of the wider world and of allowing herself to trust and be vulnerable to others; and Cain is a stand-out, bringing layers as well as laughs to Ariel and her various guises. Random Access Theatre describes its mission as reclaiming and reimagining "works of the past as a way to engage in modern issues." The best adaptations mold their inspiration into something truly new, opening its own avenues of interpretation, and Bertocci's play certainly falls into that category. Will's admonition to that you have to actively go out and find the world highlights the multiple senses inherent in Ariel’s repeated reminder that there's "magic in this universe." Will also wonders if storms shouldn't be seen as opportunities for revelation, connection, and new beginnings. The only way to know for yourself is to go forth into the world and let this tempest wash over you. - <em>Leah Richards and John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3836&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="jVrNN9DE8q3HS9H1DZ4wOsuM57Cban1zBOmrabJ122Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 16:02:51 +0000 Leah Richards 3836 at http://culturecatch.com The Angles of Life http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3832 <span>The Angles of Life</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>March 14, 2019 - 19:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><i>The Tallest Man in the World</i></p> <p>Written by Ailís Ní Ríain</p> <p>Directed by Ran Xia</p> <p>Presented at The Tank, NY</p> <p>March 6-17, 2019</p> <p><i>The Tallest Man in the World</i>, the new play by Irish writer and composer Ailís Ní Ríain, weaves a poetic and psychologically acute tale of love and loneliness. It central threads concern drink-addicted single parent Felim (Daniel Carlton), his daughter Erin (Beatriz Miranda), and the eponymous tallest man, Eamonn (Finn Kilgore), with the actors playing additional, minor characters as needed. What unites the three primary characters is a desperate longing for connection; to slightly oversimplify: Felim, long estranged from Erin, seeks companionship in alcohol and in female barflies; Erin has pursued a series of ill-advised sexual conquests culminating in an infraction that has landed her in psychiatric evaluation; and Eamonn, having become a closely guarded tourist attraction, pines in his cottage on the island of Culcheen for the return of a woman whom he met a single, memorable time. The events and decisions that have brought them to these points in their lives, as well as how their trajectories intersect, come into focus through a mixture of monologue and dialogue, the tragedy of which bears touches of the dream-like and even the mythic.</p> <p>These qualities are enhanced by Xia's decision to rarely have the actors deliver their lines to one another. They are often oriented along different axes, back-to-back, or separated by a significant distance throughout the theater, emphasizing the sense of disconnection and lending increased significance to the moments when the characters are speaking while looking one another in the eye (on a more practical level, this staging helps us to imaginatively match Eamonn's stature to his descriptions of it). The play's few props, sand poured from a bottle, a blue rose, a red umbrella, make simple, clean, bold impressions; and the production also succeeds in creating an underlying sense of claustrophobia appropriate thematically to Felim and Erin and both thematically and literally to Eamonn, such that when Eamonn describes smashing out a window like the overgrown Alice trapped in the White Rabbit's house or finally standing and walking fully straight and tall, the feeling of freedom is palpable. This impact is of course also down to Kilgore's excellent performance, and Carlton and Miranda do similarly commendable work. All three slip easily into distinct secondary characters, Kilgore imbues Eamonn with a kind of wounded nobility and innocence, Carlton brings Felim's inner turmoil to agonized life, and Miranda makes tangible the regret and need beneath Erin's assertions of control (though the play refuses too easy and straightforward an interpretation of this dynamic).</p> <p>For a play including rapes, suicides, gravely misdirected desire, and the anguish of the need to be loved, <i>The Tallest Man in the World </i>is funny as often as it is harsh or elegiac. This play is likely to stick with audiences like Eamonn's encounter with the one woman who ever made him feel blissfully small. Seeing <i>The Tallest Man in the World</i> should be high up on any theater fan's list. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3832&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="_3AC-Z2ovYbpj12e5e5fsUL99oxO9dJdH-NhWHT2y3Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 14 Mar 2019 23:05:34 +0000 Leah Richards 3832 at http://culturecatch.com FRIGID Festival 2019, Part 2 http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3829 <span>FRIGID Festival 2019, Part 2</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>March 5, 2019 - 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/368" hreflang="en">FRIGID festival</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p>Welcome to the second part of our coverage of the 13th annual FRIGID Festival, the only theater festival in New York City in which all of the proceeds go to the artists themselves. The 2019 FRIGID Festival runs from February 20th to March 10th at the Kraine and IATI Theaters and, as always, has 25 more shows on offer than the four that we discuss here and in our previous dispatch, so we encourage everyone to check out the full listing of productions on the FRIGID website, where you can also find the performance times and locations for all the shows. FRIGID faced the additional challenge this year of a last-minute relocation of a number of shows due to a burst pipe just before the festival opened, but, luckily for audiences, this formidable obstacle wasn't enough to stop these artists, and the show will, in fact, go on.</p> <p><i>CC: You in Hell!</i></p> <p>Written by Mark Levy</p> <p>Directed by Janet Bentley</p> <p>Presented by Hub Theatricals at the Kraine Theater, NYC</p> <p>February 20-March 10, 2019</p> <p>An early reference to the 1998 slasher film <i>Urban Legend</i> winkingly establishes the pop-cultural milieu that infuses Mark Levy's new play <i>CC: You in Hell!</i>, making its debt at the FRIGID Festival. Levy himself plays the professor who brings up <i>Urban Legend</i>, a man who teaches a class on 90s pop culture and its impact. He is also the one responsible for forwarding an email chain letter to a group of other characters. The problem with this is not so much that the chain email has basically been rendered extinct in today's internet ecosystem as it is that, when this email says that recipients must forward it to seven other people or else die, it makes good on that threat. This mechanic, reminiscent, of course, of <i>Ringu</i>, another 1998 film, and its haunted VHS tape, introduces us to the unfortunates who will have to make (or in some cases be affected by) the choice to press "forward" or "delete." There is Nicholas (John Racioppo), recent college grad and aspiring writer who works at Optimum (not the one you think) in telemarketing under a boss (James B. Kennedy) who is something of an armpit-stained <i>Glengarry Glen Ross</i> type (he has a line about how a knife is a tool and using it invariably changes things that is memorably creepy). Charlie (Sara Detrik) and Jordan (Caroline Burke), the former flannel-clad and unemployed and the latter a poised workaholic, are having some relationship issues, though not because of Charlie's admission that she has had Crispin Glover on her mind a lot lately. Stu (Sam Mercer) is seventeen and primarily interested in playing MMOs with his online friend Candee@$$69 (Stevie Roetzel in voiceover) under the concerned watch of his single mother, Claudia (Taylor Graves). Kara (Sara Detrik) is a vapid streamer promoting "KaraCon," an event dedicated to herself, and Irene (Taylor Graves), the professor's ex-wife, has very recently moved in with young, attractive, and sex-obsessed Hank (John Racioppo). Finally, after having been in a cult and missed 18 years of social and cultural change while in prison, Ryan (Mark Levy) is back home and living with his hilariously similarly-mannered father (James B. Kennedy). Besides the professor himself, the common thread uniting these characters is an apartment-warming party hosted by Jess (Kayla Mason) in Greenpoint, Brooklyn—but not all of the invitees will make it.</p> <p>One could perhaps interpret the deadly chain letter as a metaphor for the internet-enabled circulation of toxic negativity or, like some of the horror movies it implicitly or explicitly alludes to, as an expression of anxieties about technology; but <i>CC: You in Hell! </i>functions primarily as a comedic and affectionate spin on its points of reference, sprinkled with Blink-182 cues and including a fun little coda. That is not to say that there isn't some genuine pathos, particularly once the survivors converge at the party (complete with some very realistic door buzzer and shoe removal action) and their interpersonal relationships come more to the fore. Graves in particular invests her characters with authenticity; meanwhile, Kennedy is extremely funny in two very different roles, bordering on scene-stealing in tandem with Levy as the flat-affected father-son pair. Detrik too embodies two wildly different characters, and the silent Death (performer redacted) provides some good physical comedy. Whether your reaction to the idea of a killer chain email is, like ours, "Wow; I remember getting those and therefore feel old" or, like Stu's, "What's a chain email?," <i>CC: You in Hell!</i> is a great time. Now forward this review to seven people, or else.             </p> <p><i>River of Fire</i></p> <p>Written and performed by David Lee Morgan</p> <p>Presented at IATI Theater, NYC</p> <p>February 23-March 9, 2019</p> <p>David Lee Morgan's <i>River of Fire</i> was written for four performers playing seven characters but is being presented at FRIGID entirely by Morgan himself, an American expat and U.K. and BBC Slam Poetry Champion. The third of a trilogy published as <i>The River Was a God</i>, <i>River of Fire </i>imagines a war-torn near future in which a human consciousness can be uploaded onto the World Wide Web, effectively allowing the purchase of immortality (of a sort, anyway), while a roiling globe rockets towards a socialist revolution. Despite the cast of one, Morgan makes the narrative easy to follow, both with his performance and by cannily dividing the stage into three areas, one to signify Bangladesh, home to South Asian Socialist Alliance leader Hamida and her daughter Sulthana; one to signify the Los Angeles Commune, home to orphan and war veteran Jesse; and the third to signify the "beehive brain" of the globally networked computer. We may not always know precisely who the different characters in the digital realm are, but such identification is not essential for absorbing the plot and themes, and it arguably helps to represent the disorienting plenitude of voices that Jesse experiences after he volunteers to upload his own consciousness into the network in service of the Socialist Alliance cause. Jesse, who had enlisted in the military at 16, wishes now to take his chance to fight for the right side, and the story of his sacrifice unfolds alongside one of cross-cultural romance, the U.S. government attacking its own citizens, and the push towards far-reaching rebellion.</p> <p><i>River of Fire </i>bills itself as a spoken word musical, and it boasts an enjoyable formal hybridity, including traditional singing, spoken dialogue, and sections delivered in a more typical poetry slam cadence, these last most commonly associated with the computer setting and some of the most energizing. The score makes effective use of sampling and recurring motifs (and, appropriately, employs lots of synth). Stand-out songs include one that reiterates the maxim "Gotta be normal" in discussing flooding surveillance with useless information and is paired with a very physical performance, and a later example within the computer that schizophrenically incorporates snatches of other bits of other songs. The show puts forward some interesting concepts, such as its juxtaposition of the inability to engage in physical intimacy as a digitized consciousness with the fact that these consciousnesses feel like they can feel, the proposition that a person basically comprises a web of connected stories, and the observation that people swear "never again" after every war. While the Alliance wonders why anyone should starve in twenty-first century, much less millions, some in the digital realm see humankind as an enemy, a danger to be eliminated rather than, as others see it, a part of the environment, to be preserved and protected. <i>River of Fire </i>itself comes down on the side of the Alliance and its philosophy of care for others -- the show's thesis statement, found in the climactic number: "Love is a fighting word," which is certainly an ideology that we could use more of these days. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3829&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="6STxe6790CZYCleNzNVOwi-0RmgmfQm9AyGQZBaemfc"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 05 Mar 2019 15:00:00 +0000 Leah Richards 3829 at http://culturecatch.com FRIGID Festival 2019 http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3828 <span>FRIGID Festival 2019</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/index.php/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>March 3, 2019 - 11:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/368" hreflang="en">FRIGID festival</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p>It's time again for the annual FRIGID Festival, in its 13th year and the only theater festival in New York City in which all of the proceeds go to the artists themselves. The 2019 FRIGID Festival runs from February 20th to March 10th at the Kraine and IATI Theaters and, as always, has many more shows on offer than the small sampling that we will discuss here, so we encourage everyone to check out the full listing of productions on the FRIGID website, where you can also find the performance times and locations for all the shows. FRIGID faced the additional challenge this year of a last-minute relocation of a number of shows due to a burst pipe just before the festival opened, but, luckily for audiences, this formidable obstacle wasn't enough to stop these artists and the show will, in fact, go on.</p> <p><i>The Gay Card</i></p> <p>Written by Logan Martin-Arcand</p> <p>Directed by Ed Mendez</p> <p>Presented by SexualSpaceWalk Theatre at IATI Theater, NYC</p> <p>February 20-March 5, 2019</p> <p>The twentysomething whom we will know only by his screen name ColdPizzaSlice (Mitchell Kent Larsen) begins <i>The Gay Card</i>, written by Indigenous theater artist Logan Martin-Arcand,<i> </i>in a state of exposure, most of his clothing lying haphazardly on the stage. In a play that explores how its characters present themselves to others, especially online, why they put on particular personas, and how they more easily reveal flesh than feelings, his opening undress carries symbolic weight. ColdPizzaSlice, or CPS for short, as he himself suggests, describes himself as a longstanding hopeless romantic. CPS is finding it hard to date as a gay man and even harder to find love. Unexpected text messages from sometimes-date Fuck Boy (Torien Cafferata) after months of silence precipitate a "tipping point" for CPS, and he decides to download Grindr, which leads him to a date with Evan (Cafferata, doubling characters in another symbolically significant choice). Evan is younger and less experienced, and describes himself as "aggressively average"; he also explains that he is not on Grindr because he is a fan of the hook-up scene but because it is the only place that he feels he can be gay in his conservative small-town area, particularly since he doesn't enjoy bar culture. (Later, he and CPS discuss how many men only seem to be able to take pride in being gay in online contexts.) Unfortunately, while it seems like Evan and CPS should each be what the other is looking for, their date emphatically lacks a fairy-tale ending.</p> <p>SexualSpaceWalk Theatre, a company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was founded in 2016 with "an emphasis on sharing the stories of marginalized people," and with <i>The Gay Card</i>, it does so not only entertainingly but also empathetically. The play expertly conjures the repetitive wasteland of blind dates and familiar faces on dating apps, but it also wisely spends time with each character's perspective, and lending each one depth in this way simultaneously functions as a larger commentary on the dating and sexual culture with which they struggle. Fuck Boy possesses much more complexity than his moniker would suggest, and both he and CPS must deal with some honest self-realizations as the play unfolds. As a result of the shifts in perspective, we see an enlightening repeat of the same text conversation with a very different tone on both sides, and we can and should also re-interpret another earlier, in-person exchange. Throughout all of this, Larsen and Cafferata are charming and believable, equally at home with the light humor of text-speak or filling out a dating profile and the deeply-felt intensity of romantic frustrations and emotional pain. The play depicts cycles of narcissism and what boils down to abusive behavior, but it balances these with self-examination and the possibility of fresh starts. Funny, perceptive, sad, hopeful, and sweet, <i>The Gay Card </i>should be on any festival-goer's agenda.</p> <p><i>Sally, Hank, and Their Son Harry</i></p> <p>Written by Manning Jordan</p> <p>Directed by Daniella Caggiano</p> <p>Presented at The Kraine Theater, NYC</p> <p>February 20-March 10, 2019</p> <p>During the first part of Manning Jordan's new play <i>Sally, Hank, and Their Son Harry</i>, the back wall of the stage is dominated by a poster for the 1968 comedy film <i>Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows</i>, the central conflict of which is between an older, more traditional Mother Superior and a young, modern nun during a cross-country road trip with a bus full of Catholic schoolgirls. Although the play divides itself between 1968 and 2017, its examination of love and sex primarily undercuts simple binaries in which more modern automatically means more permissive. Such complexity is suggested almost from the beginning, when the titular Hank (Sam Lanier) and Sally (Manning Jordan) talk with their married friends Gwen (Iliana Paris) and Jackson (Cesar Muñoz) about how involved they are in the church and how they have invited a priest to dinner in the lead-up to the two couples (ironically?) getting to know each other more Biblically. This encounter hits some snags, including Hank's focus on Jackson and the unexpected and unexplained disappearance of Harry's wet nurse Isadora (brought to memorably odd life by Simone Leitner); and the play jumps forward several decades to a "Sex Summit" at the 92nd Street Y on September 27, 2017 -- the day of Hugh Hefner's death, as stagehand for the event Grape (Jordan) helpfully notes. The adult Harry (Lanier), now a professor of human sexuality, married and with children, shares the panel with widely-published Francesca Sponamenti (Paris), who has a show on Netflix and is assertively, almost overbearingly open and frank about sexuality; similarly self-promoting podcaster Dr. Patricia Gorn (Leitner); and host Michael Tyler (Muñoz), whose skills as a moderator are certainly tested. (Pro tip: make sure to read the program inserts!)</p> <p>The panel's Q&amp;A allows it, and thus the play, to address infidelity, monogamy, what makes a good date or a good marriage or a good erotic movie, whether porn is a positive, and much more. Throughout the play, the action freezes periodically for extended asides that give the audience glimpses of the characters' backstories and inner monologues. Grape's story of meeting a romantic interest during her internship at the airport is particularly funny in both its writing and delivery, and Michael's creates a similarly funny contrast with his even-keeled demeanor as host. As the only cast member to play related characters, Lanier creates continuities between Hank, with his sometimes forced laughter and his orgy-specific NDAs, and the awkwardly earnest Harry, who comes at his human sexuality from an extremely academic angle, while keeping each a distinct character. The rest of the cast deliver strong performances as well, and while the play is foremost a fun, entertaining comedy with a light touch, Manning (both as a writer and performer) concludes on a very genuine note. <i>Sally, Hank, and Their Son Harry</i> posits that sexuaity is impacted by many factors, including but far from limited to history and family, to which end, perhaps, and to its credit, it doesn't spell out lines of cause and effect between its two segments. Of course, putting that trust in the audience would mean less if <i>Sally, Hank, and Their Son Harry </i>weren't also a swinging good time. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3828&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="yKV2W-Mq8tqC_WR9ME1q8b32mCrHzHaHjUT0RHPxK7s"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 03 Mar 2019 16:55:41 +0000 Leah Richards 3828 at http://culturecatch.com