Theater Review

Not My Baggage To Bare

You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase
Written by Mando Alvarado, Jenny Lyn Bader, Barbara Cassidy, Les Hunter, Joy Tomasko, Gary Winter, and Stefanie Zadravec
Conceived and Directed by Ari Laura
Kreith Theatre 167 West End Theatre, NYC
April 9-May 1, 2016

The instantly recognizable blue logo for the A train provides the “a” in the sign reading "Once Upon A Time" that hangs high above the stage upon which You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase is performed. It alerts spectators that what they will see is not your typical take on New York City; and the creative force behind it, Theatre 167, is not your usual theater company. The company takes its name from the 167 languages spoken in its birthplace of Jackson Heights, Queens, and describes its mission as bringing together voices from a multiplicity of backgrounds in an intensely collaborative process of theatrical creation. You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase is the middle play in The Jackson Heights Trilogy, which also includes 167 Tongues and Jackson Heights 3AM and was written collaboratively by a total of 18 playwrights. Audiences do not, however, need to be familiar with the other plays in the trilogy to thoroughly enjoy this magical realist tale of hope, love, diversity, and community in New York City. Read more »

Allegorically Speaking

I Am Not An Allegory (these are people i know)
Written by Libby Emmons
Directed by Ali Ayala
Horse Trade Theater Group, UNDER St. Marks, NYC
March 10-26, 2016

I Am Not an Allegory (these are people i know) jumps into the big questions right from the start, with a conversation between café coworkers Ames (Natalya Krimgold) and Severin (Conor Daniel Bartram) in which she puzzles over whether identity is intrinsic or constructed and what would happen if she switched lives with the people she passes when she is running, and he wonders whether there is any meaning that isn’t manufactured. Ames and Severin are two nodes in the network of characters who populate Libby Emmons's play, in which a dance class run by Danesha (Masonya Berry), forced to retreat home after a failed attempt at a professional dance career in New York City, is the hub of their intersection. Danesha is best friends with Ruby (Olivia Nice), whose feelings of emptiness are not alleviated by her relationship with Dan (Mateo D’Amato) and his concerns with power. Rounding out the class are Jess (Lindsay Perry), a single mother supporting herself with some unexpected stay-at-home work; Marcia (KL Thomas), who is afraid of accidentally revealing what she sees as her weirdness at a job interview; and Mary Ellen (Kyra Sims), who criticizes the lack of ambition shown by her boyfriend, Lando (Clifford Ray Berry), and his dreams of a music career while herself subsisting on red wine and selling jewelry. Read more »

FRIGID Festival 2016 - Part Deux

The tenth annual FRIGID Festival continues apace in New York City's East Village, and in our second of two dispatches from it, we discuss comedies by three solo performers, whose exploits take the audience to places including Canada's "best city," a Mormon mission to Argentina, and one of the least relaxing mudbaths ever. We are touching on only a fraction of the 30 shows in this year's festival, but more information can be found on the FRIGID New York website, where there is also a deal available that gets you into three shows for just $30. FRIGID is proud to be the only NYC festival that gives all proceeds for ticket sales to the actors and creative team behind each show. The show with the highest box office will receive an encore performance at the end of the festival, and audiences are encouraged to vote for their favorite shows. Read more »

FRIGID Festival 2016 - Baby, It's Warm Inside

The tenth annual FRIGID Festival is underway in New York City's East Village, and in our first of two dispatches from it; our first trio of plays under discussion includes a twelve year-old pornographer-for-hire, an irreverent grandfather, and a cabin in the woods. We will touch on only a fraction of the 30 shows in this year's festival, but more information can be found on the FRIGID New York website (http://www.frigidnewyork.info/), where there is also a deal available that gets you into three shows for just $30. The show with the highest box office will receive an encore performance at the end of the festival, and audiences are encouraged to vote for their favorite shows. Read more »

These Events Will Not Be Televised

Due to Events
Written and directed by Jean Ann Douglass and Eric John Meyer
Human Head Performance Group
The Brick, Brooklyn, NY
February 5-27, 2016

For much of Due to Events, the terrific and very funny new play by Jean Ann Douglass and Eric John Meyer, the conversational partners available to protagonist Hero (Anne Gridley) are one living animal and one dead one. Hero, a writer whose work concerns "the future," has been arrested and confined by order of the authorities to her one-room apartment while she awaits a trial with no set date, allowed to communicate with representatives of those authorities only by speaking into a taxidermies squirrel. Upon its arrival, this squirrel catches the interest of Hero's Cat (Laura Campbell), the only living thing that she has contact with aside from her dedicated if unconventional Lawyer (Ben Beckley). Read more »

Theban Plays

Theban Plays
Created by Ryan Pater, Eliza McKelway and Deidrea Hamid
Directed by Asa Horvitz
The Brick, Brooklyn, NY
January 22-30, 2016

Anyone expecting from Theban Plays a straightforward modernized retelling of Sophoclean tragedies should abandon that idea. This highly experimental work, conceived and directed by Asa Horvitz and created by its performers, uses its ancient Greek antecedents, short pieces of which are read at several points, as a jumping-off point for a tapestry of monologues, video, audio and music, and even painting. Taken together, these elements bring lines of thought inspired by its sources to bear on an interrogation of aspects of the modern condition. Read more »

Gimme 10-Minutes

The Fire This Time 10-Minute Play Festival (2016)
Krainer Theater, NYC
January 21-February 6, 2016
 

The Obie Award-winning The Fire This Time Festival, a showcase of "early-career playwrights of African and African American descent," has returned to the East Village for its seventh iteration. Its 10-minute play festival features a strong slate of seven new short plays that demonstrate the festival's mission statement, that "[t]he African American experience is not represented...by one voice or one style," with tremendous impact. Read more »

Touch Me

Touch
Written by Toni Press-Coffman
Directed by James Masciovecchio
Cave Theatre Co. UNDER St. Marks, NYC
January 14-24, 2016

A chance meeting in a high school physics class kicks off the narrative of Bronx-born playwright Toni Press-Coffman’s Touch. Kyle (Josh Triplett) gets to know quirky free-spirit Zoë after she pokes her head into the wrong Arizona classroom. After graduation, they marry, and Kyle channels his lifelong love of science center into a career in astronomy. Aside from some of the usual marital disagreements, their relationship brings out the best in one another, until, on one Thanksgiving spent with Kyle's childhood friend Bennie (Alex Etling) and Zoë's sister Serena (Cassie Wood), a random act of violence alters the course of all of their lives. Read more »

Object of Affection

The Changeling
Written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
Directed by Jesse Berger
Red Bull Theater at the Lucille Nortel Theatre, NYC
December 26, 2015-January 24, 2016

Ushering in the New Year, Red Bull Theater brings us a tragic tale of sex in payment for murder. Jesse Berger sure-handedly directs Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's 1622 tragicomedy The Changeling, the main plot of which introduces the noble Beatrice-Joanna (Sara Topham) as she finds a "giddy turning" in herself from Alonzo de Piracqo (John Skelley), to whom her father, Vermandero (Sam Tsoutsouvas), intends her to be married, towards Alsemero (Christian Coulson). In order to "change [her] saint," she eventually enlists the aid of her father's servant De Flores (Manoel Feliciano), whom she professes to abhor and whose skin condition suggests a spatter of blood across his face, to remove the obstacle that is Alonzo. Read more »

Take Another Hit!

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic
Written by Matt Cox
Directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker
The People’s Improv Theater, NYC
December 3, 2105-February 28, 2015

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premieres on stage in England in July, and Warner Brothers looks to extend its cinematic success with J.K. Rowling’s franchise with a trilogy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films beginning in November. For fans of a certain scarred wizard who can’t wait that long, or who can’t afford to fly to London for a play, there is another delightful option to be found right now: Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. From playwright Matt Cox and Kristin McCarthy Parker, director of this past summer’s Jurassic Park parody Hold on to Your Butts, Puffs follows the members of the perennially last-place house through their years at a well-known English school of magic as they exist on the margins of, and sometimes intersect with, chosen-one Harry’s story, a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead without the existential dread. Read more »

Fiddle This!

Fiddler on the Roof
Broadway Theatre, NYC

I was in my local supermarket when Gwen Stefani came on the speakers:

If I was a rich girl (na, na)
See, I'd have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl
No man could test me, impress me, my cash flow would never ever end
'Cause I'd have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl

And it made me wonder how many teenage music consumers around the world had any idea where that little tune came from. My conclusion? Not many. Read more »

Breaking and Entering

How to Get into Buildings
Written by Trish Harnetiaux
Directed by Katherine Brook
New Georges at The Brick, Brooklyn, NY
December 4-December 19, 2015

It may be reductive to say that Trish Harnetiaux's new postmodern comedy is about love and relationships, but it's the easiest way to begin. How to Get into Buildings is in some ways a play about itself, thick with meta-theatrical moments. In other ways, it is as if Samuel Beckett directed Magnolia. Harnetiaux cites her structural inspiration as exploded-view diagrams and their arrangement of parts in relationship but not in contact with each other, perhaps echoed in one character's predilection for bento boxes. Read more »

Dandy Going Darkly through America!

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy!
Written and performed by
Neil Arthur James
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Under St. Mark's Theater, NYC
October 29-31, 2015

Trigger Happy!, storytelling performance artist Dandy Darkly’s newest work, is a mesmerizingly entertaining, dark-toned foray into social criticism, a post-mortem on a still-living patient: America. The themes Mr. Darkly selected for his autopsy are in the media on a daily basis. The opinion page in The New York Times, Salon, and the Huffington Post supply daily missives about damaged U.S. soldiers returning from perversely unfocused wars, our cult of celebrity, gentrification neutering a once vibrantly inclusive social scene, and how political correctness police act to straightjacket open social discourse. Mr. Darkly's richly detailed, outrageous, and metaphoric tales examine these themes with an exactitude whose impact leaves our conventional media eating dust -- and his audience breathless with both awe and laughter. Read more »

Buckminster Fuller in Brooklyn

God is a Verb
Written by Gavin Broady Directed by Chad Lindsey
Hook & Eye Theater, The Actors Fund Art Center, NYC
November 4-November 21, 2015

Gavin Broady and the Hook and Eye Theater company’s outstanding new play God is a Verb invites audiences to step out of the box and into the geodesic dome. This bold, visually and intellectually exciting production revolves around quirky theorist, designer, and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), but it is assertively not, as the program reminds us, a biographical piece. Instead, billed as an absurdist comedy, it takes place within its subject's mind, focusing on his decades-long World Game Project but skillfully interweaving the personal and the political, the individual and the global, throughout its 100 compelling minutes. Read more »

Because Me

Because Me
Written and directed by Max Baker
Stable Cable Lab Co. at The Wild Project, NYC
October 29-November 7, 2015

After last spring's excellent Live from the Surface of the Moon, writer-director Max Baker returns to The Wild Project in the East Village with his new play, Because Me. Live from the Surface of the Moon focused on a small group of friends navigating America’' transition from the '60s into the '70s, and Because Me similarly examines a small network of individuals in the context of their historical moment; but here that moment is our present. Whereas Baker's previous play included a significant New Year's Eve, its counterpart threshold here is more personal: protagonist Else's looming 30th birthday. Read more »

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