Theater Review http://culturecatch.com/theater en Revolving Dervishes http://culturecatch.com/node/3821 <span>Revolving Dervishes </span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>February 13, 2019 - 09:58</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="/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="/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="857" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-02/medusa_volution.jpg?itok=hmrhen14" title="medusa_volution.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Caroline Mardok</figcaption></figure><p><i>Medusa Volution</i></p> <p>Written by Sophie Amieva and Susu Bagert</p> <p>Created and directed by Sophie Amieva</p> <p>Presented by Samieva Theater Company at happylucky no. 1, NYC</p> <p>February 8-24, 2019</p> <p>If the first word that you would use to describe Medusa, one of three Gorgon sisters, is monster, the conceptually ambitious <i>Medusa Volution</i> would like to change your mind. Created, co-written (with Susu Bagert), and directed by Sophie Amieva, <i>Medusa Volution</i> packs a millenia-spanning deconstruction of the Othering of women into the extremely intimate space of Brooklyn's happylucky no. 1. Carol S. Lashof's one-act <i>Medusa's Tale</i>, originally published in 1991, offers an interesting point of comparison. While it too works to rehabilitate Medusa in a feminist context, where it focuses on a primarily naturalistic recounting of Medusa's rape by the god Poseidon and reimagining of her encounter with demi-god Perseus, Amieva and Bagert's play employs Medusa as the fulcrum of a wide-ranging, polyvocal blurring of ancient and contemporary narratives performed by a diverse, all-female or non-binary cast. </p> <p>"Volution" denotes a revolving movement, here perhaps suggestive of the way in which the play and its concerns revolve around and return to the figure of Medusa, or perhaps, and more significantly, suggestive of the historical cycles of misogyny by which women, real and fictional, who step beyond any number of prescribed roles or behaviors are represented as monstrous. The play positions a forceful example of such policing early on, with reporter Maria Nazarine (Gabrielle Young) -- whose name evokes the closest thing that Christianity has to a goddess -- being constantly interrupted as she tries to introduce the story of Medusa's trial by criticisms from two Grotesques (Kayla Juntilla and Chandler Eliah Eason) whose maleness is signified by oversized stuffed genitals. Tellingly, while Maria keeps modifying her delivery in response to their gendered insults, critiques, and explicit jokes, the Grotesques respond aggressively when she makes a single dirty joke with a man as its butt. Medusa's trial itself echoes the imbalance of Maria's situation: in the midst of what is referred to as a #MeToo moment for the serial-sexual-assaulter classical gods, it is nevertheless and emblematically Medusa who is on trial for fornication rather than Poseidon for rape.</p> <p>Later, Portia (Kayla Juntilla) acts as Medusa's defense lawyer, presumably turning the courtroom experience gained in <i>The Merchant of Venice</i> towards new and better ends. The trial represents one part of the play's much larger mosaic. It looks back to ancient creation stories, for instance, outlining the initial dominance of matriarchal goddess figures and their later supersession by gods, a process that included the transformation of the serpents and serpent forms associated with the goddesses into monsters and enemies to be slain. This recasting of the serpent appears, of course, in the Christian creation story, and the play engages in its own reimagining of Adam (in a very funny performance by Julia Cavagna) as an oblivious bro who watches too much porn and of Eve's (Irina Varina) biting the apple as a bid for independence. Apples and a broom, in fact, are the play's only props, and one of these apples figures prominently in a series of vignettes (additionally, the floor-to-ceiling windows at the rear of the performance space look into what could be interpreted as an inaccessible garden). The vignettes, in which a variety of women recount experiences ranging from a first Catholic confession to a less-than-inspiring date to a divorcée's questioning of her pursuit of the default goals of the "girl dream," do an excellent job giving voice to the internalization of patriarchal norms by which women participate in their own oppression. Salome's (Chandler Eliah Eason) telling of her story renders John the Baptist's beheading as a sort of self-defensive mirror of Medusa's beheading. Earlier, the play has pointed out that Medusa's body, once she is cursed, becomes itself a weapon, and perhaps that idea carries over (along with an apple) into an extended final dance movement section. This wordless coda features a Medusa (Sophie Amieva) whose movements are redolent of struggle and resistance, the deliberate, almost dreamy pace of which contrasts with the rest of play.</p> <p><i>Medusa Volution </i>boasts impressive use of movement throughout, a number of evocatively written passages, and several striking images, including a climactic tableau and a use of plastic tarps that recalls (and inverts) the end of Julie Taymor's <i>Titus</i>. Everyone in the ensemble -- Amieva, Cavagna, Eason, Juntilla, Young, Julia Gu, and Irina Varina -- gets a chance at some point to be the focus, and all turn in strong performances, with Eason's one of the standouts, both as a Grotesque and as Salome. A patriarchal and patrilineal system requires control of women's agency and, more particularly, their sexuality, resulting in institutions set up to do just that. <i>Medusa Volution </i>limns a monstrous regiment of women both supernatural and mortal in order to unsettle perspectives normalized by that system, and you don't even need a mirrored shield to watch it. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-add"><a href="/node/3821#comment-form" title="Share your thoughts and opinions." hreflang="en">Add new comment</a></li></ul><section> <a id="comment-643"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1550428576"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/643#comment-643" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">&quot;Revolving Dervishes&quot;</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Sounds fascinating, very funny, provocative. Can it play in Philadelphia?</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=643&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="LxTm7r2u-N98SpPsBwBoCqQ_p_TWWHgvjEn2x0EwYyY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/index.php/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/index.php/user/0"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/default_images/avatar.png?itok=RF-fAyOX" width="50" height="50" alt="Generic Profile Avatar Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Sara Sobel</span> on February 16, 2019 - 12:15</p> </footer> </article> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3821&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Htsh7gzbZtOHcTVyTcs6sz9nmqDyBnurp73dQjN_Oik"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 13 Feb 2019 14:58:24 +0000 Leah Richards 3821 at http://culturecatch.com Wicked, Wicked Woman http://culturecatch.com/node/3816 <span>Wicked, Wicked Woman</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>January 23, 2019 - 21:30</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="/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="/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/2019/2019-01/wickedest-woman-play.jpg?itok=Cz2x8DJt" title="wickedest-woman-play.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Braddon Lee Murphy</figcaption></figure><p><i>Wickedest Woman</i></p> <p>Written by Jessica Bashline</p> <p>Directed by Melissa Crespo</p> <p>Presented by Strange Sun Theater at the WP Theater, NYC</p> <p>January 19-February 2, 2019</p> <p>January 19th witnessed the third annual day of Women's Marches throughout and beyond the United States. The same day saw the opening of Strange Sun Theater's production of <i>Wickedest Woman</i>, a play that reminds us why actions such as these marches continue to be necessary while it highlights the life of a woman who made significant contributions to women's health, particularly in New York City, in the 19th century. The engrossing <i>Wickedest Woman</i> is based on the true story of the rise and persecution of Ann Trow Lohman, the titular "Wickedest Woman in New York," according to her opponents; and playwright Jessica Bashline's presentation of Lohman's decades-long career as a midwife and contraception, adoption, and abortion provider suggests that draconian restrictions around sexuality and reproductive health are as much about broader questions of power as they are about the morality that they employ as a shield.</p> <p>After some framing that includes the assertion that a woman must, presumably like Lady Macbeth, un-sex herself in order to perform an abortion, the play shows us a 16 year-old Ann (Jessica O'Hara-Baker) whose impoverished mother (Jasmin Walker) has just discovered, to her dismay, that she is pregnant again. While her mother wants more for Ann than domestic duties and a family that she cannot afford to feed, Ann herself is soon enough headed from her native England to America as a wife and mother. After the loss of her tailor husband Henry Sommers (Evan Daves) leaves Ann and her infant daughter Caroline at loose ends, a chance conversation with a Dr. Evans (Dawn McGee) results in her becoming what amounts to his apprentice and sets her on a path that will both being her great personal and professional success and put her on a collision course with ideological enemies and tightening legal restrictions on not only abortion (legal until 1867 before what was termed "the quickening," when the woman could feel the fetus move, typically around four months) but also and even on matters such as the distribution of medical literature depicting the female anatomy (the movement of the line for what the characters consider "impossible" constitutes a sharp reminder for contemporary audiences, should they need one, of how changes in social norms are not always progressive, as does the complicity of the press). Another chance conversation leads to her second marriage, to fellow immigrant Charles Lohman (Jose-Maria Aguila), who pushes her to start her own practice and to adopt the pseudonym Madame Restell for marketing purposes. Charles becomes Ann's steadfast partner in business and in life, supporting her through not only her legal conflicts but also a falling out with Caroline (Emily Gardner Xu Hall) that echoes Ann's with her own mother.</p> <p><i>Wickedest Woman </i>deftly strikes these sorts of balances, whether it be in depicting Ann's personal and professional triumphs and struggles or demonstrating the relationship of her individual story to larger social currents. One might also detect a parallel between the repetitions in the stories of Ann, her mother, and her daughter and the cyclical elements of criminalizing women's health. For example, the newly-formed American Medical Association's role in criminalizing abortion represents part of a broader power grab by male physicians against midwives using basically the same strategy that in earlier centuries would have included accusations of witchcraft. As Ann angrily instructs Caroline, life is a continuous fight rather than some singular event followed by unchanging and unchallenged ease. Ann's admonishment in that moment is part of yet another balance, one which ensures that she remains a complex character rather than a symbol or a saint; her stubborn streak, for instance, serves her better in her vocation than in attempting to control Caroline.</p> <p>The production is replete with great details, from gender-blind doubling of the cast, to the semi-impressionistic set with its motifs of cubbyholes and round or rounded openings, the mix of accents in the play's NYC, and the effective snatches of traditional songs. A production of a biographical play is only as strong as the performer playing its protagonist, and O'Hara-Baker is superb. Her complex, deeply human, and dignified portrayal of Ann is enthralling right through its moving conclusion. Aguila's Charles is charming, strong-willed, and caring, while Gardner Xu Hall affectingly embodies the tensions between Caroline's desire for self-determination and love for her mother. The rest of the cast brings strong performances to a range of roles, with McGee notably generating some of the biggest laughs in comic relief parts before pivoting to an emotional turn in the late-stage trial scene (which, significantly, finds everyone except Ann extremely reluctant to speak plainly).</p> <p>A decade before Ann Lohman's death, Horatio Alger, Jr. found enormous success writing rags-to-riches novels centered on young males. Change the protagonist to a woman, however, and her work to women's health, and the public was less enamoured, especially when the story was a true one. Ann, in <i>Wickedest Woman</i>, not only courageously continues to practice even though she knows that the "tide is turning" but equally bravely refuses to allow her story to be reduced to its ending. This is one time that seeing the doctor is something to look forward to. - <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=3816&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ItXq8FpEyPzu8FN202alcSyx9RfAw2aRwMxDbGsUZjI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 24 Jan 2019 02:30:32 +0000 Leah Richards 3816 at http://culturecatch.com What Is Real? http://culturecatch.com/node/3813 <span>What Is Real?</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>January 14, 2019 - 11:30</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="/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="/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="1800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-01/off-broadway-real.jpg?itok=foC7xz9n" title="off-broadway-real.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Miguel de Oliveira</figcaption></figure><p><i>Real</i></p> <p>Written by Rodrigo Nogueira</p> <p>Directed by Erin Ortman</p> <p>Presented at The Tank, NYC</p> <p>January 3-20, 2019</p> <p><i>Real</i>, by New York City-based Brazilian writer and director Rodrigo Nogueira, begins by immediately throwing its own title into question, or, rather, by introducing the questions to which its title points. Dominique (Rebecca Gibel) falters as, standing in a spotlight, she delivers an impassioned, poetic monologue, and must step aside to consult a written copy. This moment, which draws attention to the interlacing of artifice and reality unfolding before the audience in this (or any) theatrical experience, is followed, after a wordless interlude set to a fugue, by a comment from Dominique's best friend (Gabriela Garcia) that also asks to be taken as metatheatrical, emphasizing, in connection with the fugue, the layered, musical manner in which <i>Real</i> approaches its concerns.</p> <p>Nogueira's play is filled with unsteady dualities, a litany of repetition with a difference and of disintegrating boundaries. Dominique, we learn, is an award-winning lawyer whose husband (Charlie Pollock) "saved" her from a potential life as a classical musician. She has been inspired to begin playing again by an "old play" concerning Dominic (Darwin del Fabro), a young, queer Latinx composer whose father (Charlie Pollock) considers him diseased and who is living in New York City during the mass deportation in the early 1930s of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans—as Dominique puts it, anyone who looks Mexican. Dominic's life in this play-within-a-play, which is just as real to the audience as Dominique's, intersects in increasingly "real" ways with Dominique's world. The characters in both halves of the narrative echo one another, sometimes in the dialogue itself and helped by the doubling by the actors in parts other than those of the two protagonists, and the more sympathetic among them demonstrate a duality or multiplicity within themselves. Dominic's professor (Keith Reddin) from the conservatory, for instance, calls himself a man both of science and of the arts, and the maid (Gabriela Garcia) who cleans the conservatory was also a doctor before coming to America for a better life for her child; further, she is knowledgeable about music, which, significantly, allows her to understand Dominic's fugue.</p> <p>The Professor defines a fugue as "two different voices built on the same subject" that sound and feel alike while remaining distinct and meeting in "the end of the piece." <i>Real </i>employs the formal, bounded structure of the fugue to think about perception and ambiguity. The husband of Dominique's best friend (Keith Reddin) argues, the notes in the two voices of a fugue eventually become so intertwined that it becomes impossible to distinguish between the original and the imitation, between which is real and which is not; thus, one thing can be two things simultaneously at the same time, not only in music but in the "real" more broadly, in the self, in culture, and in history. Attitudes towards LGBTQIA and Latinx communities, for example, can both have improved in Dominique's time (our present) compared to Dominic's and yet evince a troubling continuity, just as Dominque and Dominic can both be at once themselves and not themselves, and "themselves" itself can simultaneously hold multiple definitions.</p> <p>While the themes may embrace ambiguity, the performances are sharply drawn. Reddin projects low-key intelligence and humor in both of his roles, much as Pollock does confident close-mindedness in his. Garcia strikes a complicated balance in the reflection of her forthright, upstanding maid in the best friend whose composed cattiness wraps itself around a lovelorn loneliness, and vice versa; and Gibel and del Fabro skillfully embody the mix of confusion, pain, self-(re)discovery, and empowerment that marks the arcs of Dominique and Dominic as they bend towards convergence. The impact of these performances is supported by staging choices such as slowly stripping away the furniture from the set in a way that mirrors the protagonists' experiences of their selves and/in their realities.</p> <p><i>Real </i>is dense with symbolism and layering but doesn't belabor its meditations on the stories --  artistic, national, and personal, necessarily real and unreal at the same time -- that shape our lived realities. As the Professor notes, any color appears differently relative to what other color you put next to it. Dominique describes the fugue, which she says became Dominic's life, but which is also <i>Real</i> itself, as beautiful but sad, and who are we to disagree? - <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=3813&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="S4u2H0ah9lZ7uDgldL5sZdf5r6ZArLW8LEldREbCGO8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 14 Jan 2019 16:30:55 +0000 Leah Richards 3813 at http://culturecatch.com Short Play Fury http://culturecatch.com/node/3802 <span>Short Play Fury</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>December 12, 2018 - 16:56</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="/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="/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"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-12/bannerc10website.jpg?itok=hUTY4Mxx" width="1200" height="675" alt="Thumbnail" title="bannerc10website.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><i>Capture</i></p> <p>Written and directed by various artists</p> <p>Presented by The Collective NY at the Royal Family Performing Arts Space, NYC</p> <p>November 29-December 16, 2018</p> <p><i>Capture</i>, a collection of one twenty-minute and three ten-minute new plays that share concerns with gender and the ambiguities of morality, makes up one third of the sixth annual C:10 festival, running in rotation with two further programs of ten-minute plays: <i>Bound</i>, with works focusing on the NFL, madness, privilege, and gun control; and <i>Escape</i>, with works focusing on addiction, home, anxieties about government, and school shootings. C:10 is presented by not-for-profit theater company The Collective NY, a group of more than 60 artists that was created in 2007 and counts Amy Schumer among its founding members. As part of its mission to keep theater widely accessible, The Collective's No Empty Seats initiative makes seats available on a free or pay-what-you-can basis, and donations are accepted both after shows and through the group's website.</p> <p>The best short plays, like the best short stories, draw power from the distillation inherent to the form, maximizing their impact, and the quartet of selections composing <i>Capture</i> are certainly no exception. <i>Choked</i>, written by Antony Raymond in collaboration with Ava Paloma and directed by Bettina Bilger, provides a hilarious opening to the program. Or perhaps we should say darkly hilarious, since it begins with underdressed, tequila-soaked Dennis (Rock Kohli) having called his friend Clark (Swann Gruen) to come to his place because he is fairly sure that he has unintentionally killed Martina (Ava Paloma) during a sexual encounter following a discussion among bar regulars of kinks and fetishes. Dennis, of course, has not told Clark precisely why he needs his help, and the complications that ensue strain their friendship, expose ulterior motives, and touch on issues such as the messiness of consent. Throughout, Dennis primarily treats Martina as a problem to be gotten rid of, and Clark, the more apparently sympathetic of the pair, himself has a moment in which he seems to care much more about a perceived betrayal by Martina than about the fact that she is likely dead. Crisp direction and excellent performances propel <i>Choked</i> to a climax involving a second, ironic instance of its titular act.   </p> <p><i>Mrs. K</i>, written and directed by Brian Leider, contrasts the comic energy of <i>Choked</i>, but it is no less intense in its own, quieter way. Leider's play engages some of the same issues as <i>Choked</i> as well, as it imagines the private side of a ripped-from-the-headlines #metoo story in which rising politician Eddie (Dante Alexander) has been accused of a drunken rape 20 years in his past. He tells his wife, Sarah (Claire Ganshert), that he will need her televised support in order for his claims of innocence to be given credence, but, for various reasons that we discover, she is unsure that she can grant his request. Eddie steadfastly maintains his innocence and argues as well that the goals that they are on the cusp of achieving are not merely personal but for the good of wider communities (although Eddie's race doesn't seem to be part of the narrative itself, that he is played by a person of color lends an extra dimension and weight to these arguments). Even though he can't bring himself to say the word rapist, Sarah is not so sure that he is innocent just because he is telling what he remembers to be the truth; and, at the same time, she <i>is </i>sure that his accuser is not lying about what she remembers to be the truth. <i>Mrs. K </i>offers a sensitive look at how and how far we trust and can know others, even loved ones; at the misperceptions around why survivors keep silent about sexual assault; and the unfortunate difficulties of trying to establish objective truth through human memory. Alexander and Ganshert both bring compelling nuance to this brief study of a marriage in conflict, and Ganshert communicates as much with her body language as with her lines.</p> <p><i>Rear Ending</i>, written by Erin Mallon and directed by Sayra Player, steers the proceedings back towards the comic, perhaps even the whimsical. Mercedes-driving professional woman Dayanara (Katherine Wallach) is rear-ended by the much more Bohemian Imogen (JB Roté) in her much less impressive vehicle. Their exchange of insurance information turns out to be one-sided, and Imogen gets very personal very quickly, but the conversation does lead these two outwardly very different women to discover some bonds of similarity. While it briefly appears as though Mallon's entry will take a turn for the creepy, its direction is ultimately one of rather sweet mutual understanding; even a climactic near miss of connection leaves the door of possibility open.  </p> <p><i>Little Lights</i>, written by Lacy Marie Meyer and directed by Bianca Puorto, has humorous moments, mostly courtesy of performatively aggressive character Beezer (Karen Irwin), but it is. on balance, the heaviest play of the four, and furnishes a sobering though hopeful ending to <i>Capture</i>. <i>Little Lights</i> takes place in an overly air-conditioned abortion clinic in Muncie, Indiana (perhaps in a nod to the current, anti-women's-health Vice President Pence), although, in an echo of Eddie's inability to say "rapist" in<i> Mrs. K</i>, neither the word "abortion" nor any synonyms are ever spoken. In addition to Beezer, Luna (Nathaly DeLaCruz), Sarah (Kelly Touhy), and Shantal (Elizabeth Baker) occupy the waiting room overseen by no-nonsense Nurse Gertrude (Geany Masai). These characters, significantly and representatively, all have different reasons for and reactions to being there; much of the focus, though, falls on the intensifying conflict between Beezer and the assertively Christian Rita (Jeannine Kaspar), whom Beezer has known since at least her time in Catholic high school. Rita evinces no compunction about attempting to convince the other women that they can leave before their procedures even as she awaits her own. However, when the volley of insults traded with Beezer boils over into something more, it forces Rita forced to reconsider on the spot what compassion really means. Beezer herself, in conversation with Sarah, learns a different version of the same empathy with the perspectives and experiences of others. Supported by strong performances from the rest of the cast, Irwin and Kaspar bring real emotional resonance to Beezer and Rita and the posturing, anger, shock, and vulnerability of their shifting relations to one another.</p> <p>The four plays of C:10's <i>Capture </i>possess distinct voices and leave unique impressions even while some of their concerns reverberate with one another. <i>Capture's</i> smart, entertaining collection of short works is likely leave audience members wanting more; luckily for them, <i>Bound</i> and <i>Escape</i> can help to meet their needs. - <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=3802&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="vARohuScWHYP1I-xZJnD3ei3_G13ucVe-rR7f3XflYE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 12 Dec 2018 21:56:42 +0000 Leah Richards 3802 at http://culturecatch.com Do The Zombie! http://culturecatch.com/node/3797 <span>Do The Zombie!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>December 3, 2018 - 17:22</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="/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="/taxonomy/term/572" hreflang="en">Zombies</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/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="1799" src="/sites/default/files/2018/2018-12/zombie-asian-moms.jpg" title="zombie-asian-moms.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Helen Tansey</figcaption></figure><p><i>Zombie Asian Moms</i></p> <p>Created by Kate Siahaan-Rigg and Lyris Hung</p> <p>Songs by Slanty Eyed Mama</p> <p>Presented at The Downstairs at La MaMa, NYC</p> <p>November 29-December 9, 2018</p> <p>While the audience waits for <i>Zombie Asian Moms</i>, the new show by Kate Siahaan-Rigg and Lyris Hung, to begin, a slideshow cycles of memes and social media posts commenting humorously on life as the child of Asian parents. The title of the show derives from the conceit that the powerful voices of these mothers survive them, and Siahaan-Rigg and Hung, who also perform as musical duo Slanty Eyed Mama, delve into not only the manifestations of pressures typical of Asian, particularly immigrant, mothers around things such as clothing and appearance, food, and achievement but also larger issues of representation and internalized and external racism. Biting, heartfelt, and hilarious, <i>Zombie Asian Moms </i>offers a marvelously enjoyable evening of experimental theater.</p> <p>The show proper opens with violinist Hung, who handles the music while Siahaan-Rigg handles the singing and speaking parts, playing over a montage of clips and photos, both professional and non-professional, that is eventually interrupted by Siahaan-Rigg as her own mother, sporting rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses and freely dispensing criticism. This entrance kicks off a heady melange of storytelling, poetry, song, comedy, and clips of interviews with other Asian moms, drawn from a larger, in-progress documentary project. Early on, Siahaan-Rigg, as herself, comments that maybe audience members will make some connections among these elements, and maybe they won't, but the hope either way is to "move the needle" on xenophobia and internalized racism while having some fun doing it; and this fantastic performance less meets those goals than blows past them with aplomb. Hung uses looping and effects, strumming her instrument under lightly crunchy distortion, for example, or laying down a pitch-shifted bass line, to create the soundscapes for catchy, clever, satiric songs that touch on topics including ethnic erasure, Asian mom fashion, and, in the most caustic number, the internalized desire to be White. Siahaan-Rigg's anecdotes about her mother include her fondness for (White) princesses, her ever-present hope that her daughter will finally choose to attend medical school, and her and her father's humiliating decision to have her perform as a sort of culturally-themed international busker, while interludes in which she plays a mother laying out the rules of a sleepover and one whom her family sees as its "general" unfold like short solo plays in themselves, deftly sketching personalities and relationships. Taken as a whole,<i> Zombie Asian Moms</i> is consistently funny and increasingly moving, including a couple of moments that really shouldn't be given away, culminating in individual tributes to the performers' mothers.</p> <p><i>Zombie Asian Moms </i>makes clear an appreciation of its eponymous parents without discounting the hurt that they sometimes cause(d) their children or the (inter)cultural factors that impacted these dynamics. The result is simultaneously thought-provoking, poignant, and wildly entertaining. These are zombies that you should absolutely let inside your head. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> <p> </p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3797&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="u0uUsTAUnDzjNSH5YVN6OsxlsogawEUwZ9TD_w2P93Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 03 Dec 2018 22:22:42 +0000 Leah Richards 3797 at http://culturecatch.com Carving The Perfect Person http://culturecatch.com/node/3791 <span>Carving The Perfect Person</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>November 10, 2018 - 13:03</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="/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="/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/89" hreflang="en">theater</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="886" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-11/sycorax_credit_al_foote_iii.jpg?itok=TIxVH6mS" title="sycorax_credit_al_foote_iii.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1053" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Al Foote III</figcaption></figure><p><i>Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara</i></p> <p>Written by Fengar Gael</p> <p>Directed by Joan Kane</p> <p>Presented by Ego Actus at HERE Arts Center, NYC</p> <p>November 1-18, 2018</p> <p>Over time, Caliban, enslaved by the magician Prospero in Shakespeare's final single-authored play, <i>The Tempest</i>, has undergone a transformation for scholars, writers, and theater artists from some sort of fishy monster and sexual assault perpetrator to a representation of the colonized subject, often particularly Afro-Caribbean. In telling the story of Caliban's mother, who appears in <i>The Tempest</i> only through Prospero's none-too-flattering descriptions of her as a bent and ancient crone and a devilish witch, <i>Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara </i>joins a tradition of "writing back" to canonical texts that includes works such as Jean Rhys’s novel <i>Wide Sargasso Sea</i>, which recounts how the Jamaican first wife of <i>Jane Eyre</i>'s Mr. Rochester came to end her days locked in an attic in England, and Aimé Césaire's <i>A Tempest</i>, which rewrites Shakespeare's play in sympathy with the subjugated islander and inserts Yoruban trickster Eshu into Prospero's stately nuptial masque of Greek goddesses. With <i>Sycorax</i>, playwright Fengar Gael creates a sympathetic backstory for her titular Algerian witch, but she also complicates the straightforward rehabilitation that audiences might expect.</p> <p>The play opens with present-day Sycorax (Sandra Bargman), now part of the 500-year old sorceress demographic, explaining that she has waited hundreds of years to tell her side of her own story and is now live-streaming it to as close as the internet can get to literally everyone in the world. We watch her younger self (Lauren Capkanis) pour her energies into carving small wooden animals as her religious family pushes her away from reading and towards marriage, while her brother, Rachid (Nick Giedris) is allowed to continue his education. In Algiers, she is set apart not only by her literacy but also by her blue eyes, which put her under suspicion of being a witch -- rightly, of course, but this Sycorax is someone who wants to use her budding skills to remake the world in ways that will help others. She retains that desire to help others even through an unhappy stint as one of the multiple wives of an older man, but she is nevertheless eventually exiled for using magic, despite her magic having helped the very men who exile her and despite her being pregnant.</p> <p>She lands up, of course on the deserted island on which <i>The Tempest</i> takes place, here identified as Qamara (and widely thought in Shakespeare's play to have been at least partly inspired by the Bermudas). There, she surrounds herself, and eventually Caliban (Michael Pichardo) as well, with a small menagerie that she creates with the help of the pagan god Setebos and her grandmother's cloak, a symbol of female community and power. They all live in pastoral happiness until Sycorax attempts to carve the perfect man from a tree as a companion for her lonely son and a helpmate for both of them. This man turns out to be Ariel (Nick Giedris), and Ariel turns out to be a bit of a problem.</p> <p>All of this eventually brings us to the arrival of a certain exiled Duke of Milan with his daughter and his boatful of books, but there is another layer to <i>Sycorax </i>as well. She is, after all, the Cyber Queen of Qamara, and the characters who populate the flashbacks are actually fully functioning avatars complete with downloaded memories magically harvested from the past.  This adds a dash of <i>Black Mirror </i>to the proceedings as it emerges that Sycorax is treating these avatars as her own USS Callister crew. In doing so, even if her behavior stems from the traumas of her early life, she is reproducing the very oppression and enslavement for which Prospero is criticized. Prospero may be far from a paragon of virtue, but by the end of <i>The Tempest</i>, he at least doles out forgiveness all around, rejoins his family, and renounces his power. Will Sycorax choose such rapprochement?</p> <p>The unvarnished criticism of gender roles in the earlier part of the play, then, evolves into something more a bit thornier by the end, but its cheeky sense of humor is constant, and it combines that sense of playfulness with an almost storybook aesthetic and feel. Capkanis is spirited as Young Sycorax; Pichardo’s Caliban is suitably wide-eyed; Kelly D. Cooper and Taylor Graves make a great comic double act as a blustering Prospero and vapidly teenaged Miranda; and Giedris, as the singing, rhyming, lustful, resentful, rebellious Ariel, delivers a funny, physical, scene-stealing performance.   </p> <p><i>Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara </i>and its long-lived protagonist take on issues from patriarchal oppression to self-aware AIs and still leave room for some solid laughs from a semi-anthropomorphic hen (Brianna Fernandez). For anyone who has ever wanted to know more about Shakespeare’s mysterious "blue-eyed hag," Setebos has at long last answered your prayers. - <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=3791&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="z_6dRPwM6TkJIPmXpLJ40X7ZHmDq5F4ZXvYVKMYFsiU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 10 Nov 2018 18:03:01 +0000 Leah Richards 3791 at http://culturecatch.com Three's Company http://culturecatch.com/node/3785 <span>Three&#039;s Company</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>October 26, 2018 - 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="/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="/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/89" hreflang="en">theater</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/597" hreflang="en">Musical Chairs</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="976" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-10/musical_chairs_credit_dan_r_winters.jpg?itok=Y_s-3ibo" title="musical_chairs_credit_dan_r_winters.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Dan R. Winters</figcaption></figure><p><i>Musical Chairs</i></p> <p>Written by Mac Rogers</p> <p>Directed by Jordana Williams</p> <p>Presented by Gideon Productions at The Brick, NYC</p> <p>October 19-27, 2018</p> <p>Have you ever had one of those conversations as a couple in which neither party wants to be the one to choose a restaurant? Now imagine that three people are involved instead of two and the decision is not where to have dinner but who is going to have sex with whom that night. This is just one of the negotiations that the characters in playwright and audio dramatist Mac Rogers's marvelous <i>Musical Chairs </i>must navigate as they enter into a committed polyamorous relationship.</p> <p>Cohabiting couple Jess (Rebecca Comtois) and Owen (Mac Rogers) have separate bedrooms, and, when the play begins, they have just discovered that they have separately been sleeping with Ruth (Kristen Vaughan). Neither Owen, a columnist, nor Jess, a political activist and community organizer, makes much money, and neither has previously been in a poly relationship. Ruth is both more established in her career and more experienced, having had a serious relationship with a couple. As a result, she acts, to a degree, as a guide as the triad grows more serious, encouraging honest (self-)reflection at each step. Recognizing the gravity of some of the decisions involved, she also insists on certain "assurances" as part of this progression. Despite this carefully cultivated awareness, challenges of course arise, and <i>Musical Chairs</i> perceptively examines both the rewards and the difficulties, the work required, in moving beyond the heteronormative model of the monogamous couple. As Ruth says of "sensual connection," this sort of thing is not "self-explanatory" (she similarly observes that, even within a triad, infidelity can be more exciting, but it is ultimately not fulfilling in the way that a poly relationship is, even with its demands). When, for example, trouble for Jess in her life outside the household affects the goings-on within it, a conversation over a grocery list takes on symbolic resonance, with Ruth telling Jess that she will send the list again although she has already sent it because Jess claims that she didn't get it. </p> <p>Jess's political challenges function as more than just a vehicle for metaphors about the persistence necessary for effective communication. Her work, especially against a piece of nightmarish near-future dystopian snowballing legislation, is also integral to the play's concern with how politics affects these characters' domestic and romantic life (which is true for any configuration of partners). Jess's fervent commitment to improving the world through protest and political action raises the tricky question of whether or how much we should focus on our personal happiness when the forces of oppression are constantly on the offensive. Even if one is not an activist, politics intrudes deeply into the most private parts of people's lives. Because of legal roadblocks to alternative expressions of partnership, for instance, only two of our three protagonists could marry one another, and it would be more beneficial for one of the women to marry Owen. Later, when the three debate whether fewer people will donate towards the costs of a grave health issue that has arisen for one of them if they know that that person is part of a triad, Jess angrily points out that the problem is not them but the system, not least because widespread crowdfunding of healthcare is seen in any way as an acceptable state of affairs. The tension inherent in any attempt to balance the struggle for change with the struggle for a fulfilling personal life is put into even starker relief in the context of their polyamory.   </p> <p>As Rogers says in a program note, many "'threesome' stories are all about sex and jealousy" (and, in mainstream television, three-or-moresomes are represented primarily in religious polygamy). <i>Musical Chairs</i>, though, is about good people doing their best; these are thoroughly likable and recognizable characters whom you want to succeed, and the play grants them scenes of touching openness and vulnerability. So, for example, when a significant promise is broken at one point, the moment lands with heartbreaking weight. When they are threatened with the pressure to compromise their principles, their situation has a similar effect (probably enhanced for some in the audience by a depressing familiarity). The production's power is anchored in excellent, naturalistic performances by the cast, who both embody their characters as complex, relatable individuals and create palpable chemistry and, at other times, strain among them. Vaughan, in particular, is absolutely sensational as Ruth, by turns self-possessed, sultry, harried, and resigned, but always resilient.</p> <p><i>Musical Chairs</i> examines what it takes in a relationship to stick together through its problems, and what happens if one doesn't leave when that might be the easiest option, as well as, on a larger scale, what makes a life meaningful.  By the end, it has also established that a triad is a unique entity unto itself, not reducible to any to pairings, and, perhaps more importantly, that our choices need not be binary. When it comes to the production itself, however, there is only one reasonable choice: intimate in multiple senses, and funny and honest right from its first minutes, <i>Musical Chairs</i> is a must-see. - <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=3785&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Y5f9ZJm0MGnrskA8MggdNLsft2koanN-PBYB8AXoalQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 26 Oct 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Leah Richards 3785 at http://culturecatch.com More Than Your Blood http://culturecatch.com/node/3781 <span>More Than Your Blood</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>October 19, 2018 - 11:13</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="/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="/taxonomy/term/88" hreflang="en">off broadway</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/585" hreflang="en">Patricia Lynn</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/586" hreflang="en">Jacob Titus</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/587" hreflang="en">Dracula</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/2018/2018-10/your-invisible-corset-patricia_lyn.jpg?itok=cnjpfxtx" title="your-invisible-corset-patricia_lyn.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Al Foote III</figcaption></figure><p><i>Your Invisible Corset</i></p> <p>Written by Patricia Lynn</p> <p>Directed by Jacob Titus</p> <p>Presented by Hunger &amp; Thirst Theatre at the Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente</p> <p>October 12-27, 2018</p> <p>Nearly a century and a quarter after its publication, Bram Stoker's 1897 novel <i>Dracula</i> continues to be one of the most adapted texts in the canon of Western horror. With <i>Your Invisible Corset</i>, Patricia Lynn adds to that tradition, as well as to the tradition of interrogating vampires and sexuality, in a "female-focused" stage version of Stoker's narrative. Shifting the action to Rhode Island and (pointedly) to October 2016, on a set made up of human-sized wooden crates whose import any reader of the original <i>Dracula</i> will recognize, <i>Your</i> <i>Invisible</i> <i>Corset</i> is a perfect fit for those who like their scares to have something to say.</p> <p><i>Corset </i>throws the audience into events <i>in</i> <i>medias</i> <i>res</i> (which also means that it wisely skips the standard part where everyone has to be convinced that vampires exist and so on). It begins with a disoriented Mina (Patricia Lynn) trying to remember what happened and why she is wearing her husband John's (Patrick T. Horn) shirt (itself at least in part a plaid corset, later disagreements suggest)—besides that she was kidnapped by a vampire. Under the watchful eyes of John and Susan (Elizabeth Anne Rimar), Mina attempts to recover from her ordeal and to piece together exactly what is happening. Lucy (Emily Kitchens), whose marriage to Susan has been failing and who, for awhile anyway, seems energized rather than terrified by whatever has occurred and exudes casual glamour in her ever-present sunglasses and scarf. She wants to compare her own strange, vivid dreams with Mina's, and draws from her friend a description of a nightmare in which she is being tied into the titular corset too tightly even to breathe. Mina, a former assistant schoolmistress in Stoker, is here a professor, up for tenure in a department with a mansplaining chair and fully onboard with being described as "headstrong." Her independence and drive bring her into conflict with John and Susan, whose methods for keeping Mina safe involve trying to keep her partly in the dark and who refer to Count Dracula (Nathan Reese Edmondson) as "it" while Mina and Lucy use "he." Mina believes that understanding Dracula's motivations would assist their cause, but John counters that he doesn't need to understand something in order to kill it, asserting that for once, he is the expert and not her, and all but telling her to know her place.</p> <p>Renfield (Lauren Lubow), however, a psychiatric patient under Susan's care, praises Mina's  curiosity and desire to know. Renfield has changed gender from the novel but retained her plan to evolve and become worthy of her master by consuming the blood of increasingly complex organisms, and she compares Mina to the curious creature currently at the top of her wish-list, calling her feline. Mina, like Susan in her own way, worries that she is perhaps too careful, and it isn't too difficult to see the way that John expresses his love for her—such as saying that he just wants to protect her, including from herself—as oppressive, so when Lucy argues that Dracula offers a path to female freedom and empowerment, Mina is tempted.</p> <p>But if it may seem obvious where things are headed, it's not; and the second half turns a lot of expectations on their heads. Saying much more would be a disservice, so suffice it to say that <i>Your Invisible Corset</i> is unabashedly a vampire story at the same time as it examines (gendered) trauma, false allyship, shame as a weapon, and the fact that love does not justify denial of agency. When Mina is confronted with the possibilities that killing her attacker will not kill the fear that he has inspired in her, and that she will only ever been seen by others <i>as</i> her trauma, these moments are surely as frightening and as powerful as any undead monster. The play also comments on and subverts or inverts genre tropes, such as the woman-in-peril or the (sexual) assault or murder of a woman as the motivation for male protagonists, conventions no less rooted in patriarchal assumptions and modes of thought.</p> <p>It is not easy to pull off horror onstage, but this production, aided by effective lighting and sound design, succeeds in maintaining an atmosphere of tension and intensity, as well as, significantly, in having the audience experience some of same sense of disorientation that Mina is feeling. Keeping Dracula himself mostly a shadowy but physically powerful figure also allows him to retain his menace, and Lubow's Renfield often stalks the stage with a lithe animalism that is powerful and threatening in its own way. Kitchens is terrific as contrasting versions of Lucy, one cooly, teasingly confident and one very much not, much as Horn ably embodies both Harker the caring husband and Harker the macho vampire hunter. Rimar brings conviction to Susan's development; and Lynn adeptly teases out the nuances of her Mina, as her intelligence, grit, and determination battle with her confusion, terror, and, of course, her unseen corset.</p> <p>Hunger &amp; Thirst Theatre is collecting donations of canned food items for The Bowery Mission and monetary donations for the New York Blood Center during the play's run. But those are only additional reasons to attend. The only reason that you need is that <i>Your Invisible Corset</i> is a creepy, clever, and intensely resonant re-envisioning of <i>Dracula</i> for our cultural moment. - <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=3781&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="-cI7So4-HOYuzKjmVxZqeXOpTShdJ9Q6PjlM8Zj3hGU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 15:13:07 +0000 Leah Richards 3781 at http://culturecatch.com The Silence of The Diary http://culturecatch.com/node/3774 <span>The Silence of The Diary</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>September 30, 2018 - 16:44</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="/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="/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"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-09/deardiarylol.jpg?itok=HFiK4dP3" width="1200" height="800" alt="Thumbnail" title="deardiarylol.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><i>Dear Diary LOL</i></p> <p>Lead Artist: Francesca Montanile Lyons</p> <p>Directed by Francesca Montanile Lyons and Michael T. Williams</p> <p>Presented by AntiGravity at the New Ohio Theatre</p> <p>September 26-29, 2018</p> <p>What is the state of the t(w)een diary today? While small books with even smaller locks or doodle-encrusted journals presumably still dot the bedrooms of the nation's youth, <i>Dear Diary LOL </i>takes us back to a time when our current age of web-fueled oversharing was in its infancy and the best repository and audience for one's adolescent turmoil was a crisp, blank, private page. Presently enjoying an encore run at the New Ohio under the lively direction of Francesca Montanile Lyons and Michael T. Williams, the comedic <i>Dear Diary LOL</i> was co-created by Lyons and the ensemble cast using the actual diaries of six 12-16 year-old young women writing in the late 90s and early 2000s, some of them performers in the show. The dialogue, directed primarily at the audience, comes verbatim from these diaries, with each performer speaking mostly from a single diary that is not her own. Constructing the play in this way neatly avoids offering the characters as types -- the nerd, the princess, and so on -- and instead provides intriguingly intimate and consistently funny snapshots of what it means (and feels like) to grow up as a woman in America.</p> <p><i>Dear Diary LOL </i>opens with some play on gendered expectations: a pair of women (Lyons and and Nikki Hudgins) in pink hard hats and equally pink moustaches end up tossing away their imaginary jackhammers to open an excavated box of secrets—a trove of diaries (the material lining the lid of the box is the same as that of the sparkly curtains across the back of the stage, placing us, perhaps, inside that box). Lines from the diary of Alexis (Kelly Conrad) quickly extend the emphasis on gender roles: she knows that, as a newly minted teen, she is "supposed to live and breathe boys, friends, and clothes" and then notes she has been doing that for years already. In addition to Alexis's musings, we are made privy to the self-explorations of Meg (Megan Thibodeaux), Tatiana (Jessica M. Johnson), Ella (Alicia Crosby), and Natasha (Jenna Strusowki). These young women are presented as classmates, and the play's progression is loosely organized around themes -- such as dreams, which here include both a wedding involving a celebrity and parentally approved sex play -- or events -- a school dance, a sleepover, a field trip -- while another framing device is literally a frame, fittingly at once mirror and window.</p> <p>As one might expect, the diarists express a lot of confusion, anxiety, and desire for love (variously conceived): one, for example, doesn't want to be labeled a slut when starting a new school but does want to experiment with boys. Another recites a poem about her loneliness in the midst of a scene at a school dance, a smart contrast to the giggly camaraderie that functions as the public face of such angst. Interestingly, the "LOL" of the title seems to acts in some cases as a distancing tactic (a rhetorical strategy with a storied literary pedigree), providing a degree of separation from less "acceptable" thoughts even in a text supposedly without an audience. Of course, there is a strain of argument that diaries typically aren't meant to be truly private; they are certainly written for at least an imagined audience, one that is often explicitly addressed or acknowledged, and we can observe the diarists trying on adult self-presentations and modes of expression.</p> <p>On the whole, <i>Dear Diary LOL </i>keeps things light -- after all, it's easy to laugh because wholly expected (and depending on your own youth, relatable) when a teen declares her sadness "infinite" -- but some darker patterns and subtexts do emerge. We witness how the young women have learned to play hard-to-get and not to reveal their romantic interest. We see them watch a famous queer film kiss but pointedly not express any potential queer desire. Tatiana, as a young woman of color, bumps up against racism, but she rationalizes one of these occurrences because she likes the boy involved, and Ella similarly makes excuses for bad male behavior, showing how early a patriarchal society inculcates the same attitudes that we are at this moment watching unfold around the Supreme Court nominee hearings.</p> <p>Ultimately, though, this is a hopeful show, complete with an earnest unifying musical moment that recalls <i>Sense8</i>'s use of "What's Up," another 90s staple. The cast members, who expertly execute some exasperated flops onto a bed, skillfully suggest the evolving individuality of the young women and display great comedic chemistry, including with Williams as "Brian," who stands in for various boyfriends and romantic interests as a sort of grinningly vapid universal male. The musical cues and recreation of late-night AIM chats lends the production a little extra nostalgia for those who grew up in the right period, but the show also reveals how much about being a young woman, especially the stressors, hasn't changed in very long time. So maybe we can see there a reminder, amidst the laughter, that we can work to make that change happen. <i>Dear Diary LOL</i>, like the formative years that it conjures, goes by all too quickly. - <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=3774&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="D5bb9oaiguuVVEqa6LoGV16U52gjBw4CW4vYS5SmKPs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 30 Sep 2018 20:44:05 +0000 Leah Richards 3774 at http://culturecatch.com Get Your Claws Out! http://culturecatch.com/node/3762 <span>Get Your Claws Out!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>September 5, 2018 - 11:16</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="/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="/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"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-09/worse_than_tigers_photo_courtesy_of_the_mill.jpg?itok=Gs-AVCrl" title="worse_than_tigers_photo_courtesy_of_the_mill.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: The Mill</figcaption></figure><p><i>Worse Than Tigers</i></p> <p>Written by Mark Chrisler</p> <p>Directed by Jaclyn Biskup</p> <p>Presented by The Mill Theatre and New Ohio Theatre at New Ohio Theatre, NYC</p> <p>August 24-September 8, 2018</p> <p>The opening tableau of Mark Chrisler's<i> Worse Than Tigers </i>neatly and economically establishes the state of the relationship between its married protagonists. When we see them first, Olivia (Shannon Marie Sullivan) and Humphry (Braeson Herold) are sitting side by side on a loveseat, physically together but otherwise disconnected, each individually absorbed in a smart phone (perhaps some of you are reading this review in such a situation right now). When they do begin to speak to each other, their conversation takes a Beckettian turn, with the couple asking if and how they can entertain themselves, like a Vladimir and Estragon whose outfits subtly coordinate with their tastefully if impersonally appointed surroundings; and when one tries to tell each other a joke, the other interrupts repeatedly in taking every element too literally. While for the audience this is a very funny production, for the characters, jokes often fall into the paradigm of humor as aggression. Humphry and Olivia's snappy, barbed exchanges, simmering repression, and psychosexual conflict results in a play that might be described as Noël Coward meets Edward Albee meets a ravenous tiger.</p> <p>In the opening of the play, Humphry and Olivia are waiting not for Godot but for Jeff, an old friend of Humphry's whose visit has been scheduled out of a desire to be reminded of happier times. Olivia bemoans the loss of surprise and the unknown in their lives, and as if response to her lament, their houseguest, seeking refuge from an escaped tiger, turns out to be not Jeff but police officer Kurt Patrick (Zach Wegner), who arrives with his flask, gun, and an unexpected connection to Olivia. Kurt could charitably be described as a bit manic and is imposingly uninhibited, but paradoxically, that dearth of inhibition functions as a means of evading the existential dread that creeps into his thoughts if he lacks "a bit of danger, a bit of blood in the water" to distract him. Kurt's contrast to the outwardly milquetoast Humphry is comedically crystallized in the way that Kurt pointedly pronounces "vase" as "vayse" to Humphry's "vahse" while they argue over the meaningfulness of the condo's décor. The minimalist aesthetic to which Kurt is reacting, composed almost entirely of grays and whites, reflects the repression and absences of feeling that have overtaken Humphry and Olivia's lives and relationship. Olivia, though, has some Hedda Gabler-ian DNA in her character, asking, for example, whether nostalgia is really an attempt at remembering what fear feels like,  and arguing that <i>not</i> feeling is <i>not</i> a form of bravery, while Humphry defaults to rationalization and therapy-speak. The clashing couple's reaction to early misfortune prepares narratively and thematically for the later, climactic hashing out of a part of their past that is neither desperate nostalgia nor yet truly relegated to the past.</p> <p>While the tiger remains an offstage presence, her voice, which we hear with impactful volume, functions as both a reaction to and an amplification of the human characters, especially Olivia, who shares a symbolic association with the big cat. Under different circumstances, she could be this powerful, keenly alive animal, not the purring kitten that Humphry recalls from their lost past, although even that would be preferable to her present state—although purring is also a mechanism by which, as Olivia points out, cats in pain soothe or comfort themselves. Humphry, meanwhile, a bit like <i>Rhinoceros</i>' Berenger bemusedly watching everyone around him choose to transform into horned ungulates, can't help but wonder why people are going towards the tiger, or even worse (if it is worse), letting her in.</p> <p>The play's tagline, a "comedy (until it's not)," elegantly sums up <i>Worse Than Tigers</i>, and a great final twist on the recurring joke "What is worse than tigers?" embodies the production's ability to pull off its tonal shifts. Wegner's performance invites us to laugh at Kurt's id-driven brashness, but he also brings a palpable sense of danger to the role. All three actors skillfully play off one another as fast-paced comic sparring partners, but Herold and Sullivan also effectively ground the more intimate, serious moments between their characters, building to a cathartically emotional monologue by Sullivan; and both find different ways to suggest what's roiling beneath their characters' self-imposed suppression.</p> <p>Olivia asks how we experience our own emotions in an era when relationships have adopted the pace of the social media that enables them and when a person's sustained engagement with significant life and emotional experiences is received by others, she posits, like telling an old joke. Luckily, we don't have to brave an enormous feline predator in order to find out how <i>Worse Than Tigers </i>answers. - <em>Leah Richards</em> and <em>John Ziegler</em></p> <p><em>Dr. Richards is an English professor in NYC, and spends her free time raising three cats and smashing the patriarchy. When not writing reviews, Dr. Ziegler spends a lot of his time being an Assistant Professor of English in NYC and playing guitar in a death metal band.</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3762&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="8tNr15D8ZTkNkb-ltRrEY6iODMJeIf4weqSuyUnqaXY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:16:30 +0000 Leah Richards 3762 at http://culturecatch.com