We're back for the second week of the 19-day FRIGID NY Festival, which is in the midst of an artistic occupation of the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks, to discuss two more of its 30 plays. In total, we are reviewing a mere four, or 13%, of this year's FRIGID shows, but information and tickets for all of the offerings can be found at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info. As every year, all proceeds from tickets sales go directly to the artists.
It's that time of year again: the FRIGID NY Festival is taking over the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks for 19 days, with 30 plays ranging from personal narratives to parodies to science comedy to the avant-garde. We will be discussing a mere four of the productions in our two dispatches from the festival, but information and tickets for all of this year's shows can be found at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info. As every year, all proceeds from tickets sales go directly to the artists.
Stage II at New York City Center
During Ring Twice for Miranda, while witnessing the frequent long and drawn-out arguments scenes that pepper this play’s landscape, I was reminded of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. What kept your attention during that film’s interminable arguments among Warhol’s characters was hope of some kind of satisfying resolution. Playwright Alan Hruska is by trade a litigation lawyer, so he knows how to argue. Unfortunately his characters do not share his real life expertise. I kept saying to myself “come on, get on with it!” My impatience had me physically squirming much as I did when, eons ago, I first viewed Chelsea Girls! In addition, specters of the post-apocalyptic Spike Milligan/Richard Lester film collaboration The Bed Sitting Room floated about me. Absent from Miranda’s world was the clear social satire and whimsy which sustained Mr. Milligan’s long career.
Dripping from the Swedish page and screen onto American stages, The National Theatre of Scotland has adapted the celebrated horror film and novel Let The Right One In for theatrical production with an eerie success that echoes the story's previous manifestations. Wrapping up its run at Seattle's Moore Theatre before moving on to Houston, Texas, this production is spreading its paradoxically beautiful and yet starkly nihilistic brand of love story.
The annual The Fire This Time Festival was begun by artists, for artists, and its purpose is to showcase early-career playwrights of the African diaspora. Traditionally, The Fire This Time has been composed of a variety of events, with the 10 Minute Play Festival serving as the flagship, and this year, its eighth, TFTT has expanded those events beyond the strictly theatrical, including web series and readings by playwrights and sisters Kia and Kara Lee Corthron from their respective debut novels. As an anchor to the festivities (and the only event that isn't free to attend), the The 10 Minute Play Festival has consistently put forth collections of strong, exciting work, and this year's group of seven short plays, performed by a group of seven actors, is no exception.
It seems fitting that in order to get to and from Transcend, a meditation by Kilusan Bautista on his experiences with gentrification and what he identifies as America's housing war on the poor, we walked down a St. Mark's Street scrubbed almost entirely of its grimy counter-cultural past and reborn as a corridor of gleaming ramen restaurants and Mac repair shops. Having debuted this past August at the New York Fringe Festival, Transcend has returned to New York after a run in California's Bay Area, another, perhaps even worse, hotbed of skyrocketing housing costs. Bautista's one-man show, his second, is an eclectic mix of narrative, spoken word, dance, and multimedia elements that focuses on his own experience of temporary homelessness as an exemplar of systemic inequalities.
Margaret Atwood famously wrote that men fear that women will laugh at them, while women fear that men will kill them. For Annie, the new play by Beth Hyland, is presented as a campus outreach event put on by members of the Beta Tau Alpha sorority at SUNY Onondaga in memory of their murdered sister, Annie Lambert, a victim of male-on-female domestic violence. Directed by Emma Miller, For Annie is the inaugural production of The Hearth, a company whose mission is to "nurture and celebrate female-identifying artists" and "develop plays that represent the complex and vast spectrum of womanhood." Annie's story ultimately concludes at an all-too-common point on that spectrum.
Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There are mainstays of popular culture, having been reinvented in just about every medium imaginable. With Wonder/Through the Looking-Glass Houses, Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson and KineticArchitecture Dance Theatre add a new, all-female vision of Alice to that lineage. This reimagining is as much the White Rabbit's story as Alice's, and when we meet the Rabbit (Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson)--who is, of course, running late -- during an opening dance scored by David Bowie's "Time," she is something of a vixen with glittering ruby lipstick and nary a waistcoat nor a pocket watch in sight. In a bit of departure from the original novels, this Rabbit pauses occasionally for selfies with the audience, but soon we are off down the rabbit hole with Alice and back on familiar Wonderland terrain.
In a note in the program for Alligator, the world-premiere play opening New Georges' 25th season, Hilary Bettis describes writing it in "a fever dream of alcohol, death, violence, and poverty." Alligator, the first of a planned series of collaborations by The Sol Project with off-Broadway companies to produce new plays by Latinx playwrights, carries the audience into a similar space, embracing chaos in order to map the "pain and destruction," as Bettis's note puts it, caused by the unplanned, unpredictable intersections of people's lives. Against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades in 1999, Alligator's characters struggle, compellingly if often unsuccessfully, within and against this chaos for self-realization and human connection.
Given its focus on identity, race, and theatrical narratives, the new play No Man's Land could not be more timely, debuting as it did only a few days after Vice President-elect Mike Pence's, shall we say, controversial visit to Broadway's Hamilton. Created by theater company The Anthropologists and written and directed by Melissa Moschitto, the issues it interrogates have come increasingly to the fore of our national discourse over the past eighteen months and look to remain both pressingly and depressingly relevant for the foreseeable future. In the program, Moschitto discusses The Anthropologists' "unequivocal support" of the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on the company's work and personal realizations, but suddenly, police brutality seems just one means of oppression among many when officials are using segregation-era tactics on protesters outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and a neo-Nazi has been appointed as a top presidential adviser. Much to its credit, No Man's Land takes a wide perspective on the deeply entrenched systemic racism and the silencing of non-dominant voices that it examines. Select performances, listed on the show's website, further the dialogue after the play is over with "Re-Frame Your Reference," a series of events dedicated to "investigating privilege and systemic racism in the United States today by recognizing and challenging culturally embedded frames of reference."