Some plays have an inner logic that defies linear story-telling. That doesn't mean they need be inaccessible or opaque. It merely means that the playwright's imagination sometimes takes over - for better or for worse.
Frantic Beauty, the third installment of multidisciplinary artists Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya’s five-part BECOMING Series, offers up a challenging piece of experimental dance theater. Choreographed with and performed by the LEIMAY Ensemble (Masanori Sahara, Krystel Copper, Derek DiMartini, Omer Ephron, and Mario Galeano), it takes as its theme what its creators describe as "beauty, frantically calling out from its captivity." In doing so, the production seeks to unsettle the boundaries of the beautiful.
Comedian and author Jen Kirkman is coming to NYC with brand new comedy shows on her "All New Material, Girl" Tour at the Highline Ballroom (September 21st) in Manhattan and The Bell House (September 22nd) in Brooklyn. She'll be sharing stories and jokes you haven’t seen on her Netflix specials. And for those of you who don't know this critically-lauded writer and comedian, Jen was a long time writer and round table guest on Chelsea Lately. Regardless, she is one funny person and not to be missed. In these scary times, we can all use some belly laughs to deal with world's insanity.
Making its American premiere after originally opening in Lisbon at the National Theatre D. Maria II in 2016 under the direction of its author, Mickaël de Oliveira, The Constitution marks the first production of Saudade Theatre, an organization dedicated to introducing Portuguese theater to an American audience. While saudade refers to a profound nostalgia or melancholic longing for something or someone absent, the company's challenging debut play represents the product of addition rather than absence: in Saudade's words, a "meeting between an European aesthetic and the American theatre culture." With The Constitution, this cross-cultural conjunction produces complex results from a simple premise.
The same day that we saw Friends Call Me Albert, Zachary Desmond's world premiere "bio-epic" of Albert Einstein, Gizmodo headlined a post about a new paper arguing that quantum entanglement is an inevitable feature of any fundamental physical theory, "Scientists Finally Prove Strange Quantum Physics Idea Einstein Hated." While the Gizmodo piece itself describes entanglement as "what allows particles that have once interacted to share a connection regardless of the separation between them," it also quotes Einstein's derisive description of it as "'spooky action at a distance.'" A century after his general theory of relativity was published and more than half a century after his death, Einstein remains, at least in the popular imagination, the central point of reference for modern physics. Desmond's play too takes this towering figure as its center, but it also illuminates an important woman historically obscured by the tower's shadow.
Weeks before it closes, I got a chance to catch up with Groundhog Day, The Musical.
[I'm tempted to simply repeat the above sentence 28 times but will fight the urge!]
To open Aliens Coming: The Musical, the disembodied head of an alien computer (Misha Brooks) provides one interpretive lens for the interspecies comedy to follow: high school students represent a microcosm of human beings' grievous overestimation of their own individual importance in the universe. Even before the titular extraterrestrials in Joe Kelly's play arrive, the particular place in the universe occupied by Clementine Tweedy (Alice Kors) is in a state of transition, placing her relationship with lifelong BFF Brandi Boudoir (Maia Scalia) into conflict with her recent integration into a crew of art kids (Rebecca Lampiasi, Ashley Hutchinson, and Tessa Stokes) led by Brooklyn (Ariana Raygoza), who signal their cool by pairing dresses with sneakers and cigarettes.
Recently, promoting his new movie The Big Sick on The Daily Show, Kumail Nanjiani talked about working with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, as a co-writer on a film based on the first year of their own relationship. He related an anecdote about composing a date scene to account for the fact that he remembered having a great time, and she remembered having a terrible time, if you imagine that same disjunction, but instead of a rom-com scenario, it is that of a conscious person being created, you will arrive at one of the central conflicts in Patrick Vermillion's Jessica. Jessica, crisply directed by Emily Jackson, is the 2017 winner of Sanguine Theatre's annual Project Playwright, an open-submission contest in which scenes from finalist plays are performed and the audience selects which work receives a full production. Vermillion's winning work joins a rich tradition of speculative fiction in exploring what artificial minds can tell us about our own.
Playwright Lasha Bugadze makes the idea of needing some direction in life very literal in Navigator in Love, part of the Georgian-American Theatrical Feast taking place now through early August in Manhattan. The world premiere of Navigator, which won the 2012 BCC World Drama Award for Best International Play, in a translation by Maya Kiasashvili is one of an array of events that make up the festival, the aim of which is to introduce American audiences to nine playwrights from Georgia, a country of four million that is described in the program as lying "at the crossroads of Europe and Asia." This celebration of Georgia and its venerable cultural history and vibrant contemporary theatrical community includes two full productions, free readings, and special events with wine and music. (See www.redlabproductions.org for a full schedule.)
When it comes to Broadway-caliber theatre productions, cities like Seattle get what New York is willing to give them. Very often this means local audiences only get a taste of the most mainstream, spectacular efforts the Great White Way has to offer, remaining unexposed to the more challenging and innovative works that do sometimes still happen there. As a result, theatre (particularly musical theatre) is relegated to its niche enclave of dedicated fans along with a wider audience of casual theatre goers who come knowing what to expect. While presenting an enjoyable way to pass a few evening hours this can also bear a disappointing stamp of mediocrity. Fun Home, currently playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, is a happy exception to this trend.