Theater Review http://culturecatch.com/theater en Seattle Opera's Yardbird Saved by Solid Talent http://culturecatch.com/node/3925 <span>Seattle Opera&#039;s Yardbird Saved by Solid Talent</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/lorithom" lang="" about="/users/lorithom" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Lori Thom</a></span> <span>February 25, 2020 - 21:58</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/868" hreflang="en">regional theater</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1xvZfGe14w8?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><i>Charlie Parker's Yardbird</i></p> <p>Seattle Opera</p> <p>On February 22, 2020, the Seattle Opera debuted <i>Charlie Parker's Yardbird</i>. While I have been an avid theater fan since a pre-teen, I am surprised to realize that this was the first full opera I have ever seen. I feel I must disclose this because it so heavily informs my opinion. But if this art form is to survive, it needs to continue finding new audiences. From that angle, I am the target audience of this original piece created in 2015 for the Opera Philadelphia by Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder and American Librettist Bridgette A. Wimberly.</p> <p>The storyline plays with time, jumping between moments in the life of Charlie Parker, King of the Saxophone. The stories of those moments are told through the eyes of the prominent women in his life. The feminine lens these stories are told through highlights Parker's failures and sickness rather than celebrates his music. Characters are flat and one-dimensional, given little chance for development in this structure of vignettes.</p> <p>I didn't know what to expect from an opera -- much less one based on an American jazz legend. But one glaringly obvious omission was what this opera celebrates -- Parker’s contributions to jazz and bebop. Perhaps a better-trained ear than my own would be able to wade through the cacophony of the score and appreciate the marriage of classical and jazz, but the result for me was tense, manic music for too much of the show, leaving me mildly anxious and uncomfortable during moments which should have been tender or touching.</p> <p>That's not to say this piece does not have triumphs. The orchestra performed deftly under conductor Kelly Kuo. I just didn't happen to want to like what was written on the page in front of them. The singers were masterful in creating melodic line with vocal character and beauty. It just didn't necessarily always fit with what the orchestra played. More often than not I felt a wild disconnect between vocals and orchestra, somewhat reminiscent of jazz musicians like John Coltrane, whose later pieces were often purposefully chaotic and disjointed, lacking in melody and structure. Perhaps this marriage of jazz and classical is simply one I do not have the musical maturity it takes to enjoy. Perhaps it means the marriage is contrived, and the two were never meant to be.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="857" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-02/200219_yardbird_dr1_77-x3.jpg?itok=th8xN7Ls" title="200219_yardbird_dr1_77-x3.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Philip Newton</figcaption></figure><p>Due credit must be given to Joshua Stewart's performance of Charlie Parker. I’m sure it was zero percent accurate, considering the mannerisms and vernacular of jazz musicians of the time, but suspending disbelief I enjoyed his performance. Stewart remained on stage for 92.5 minutes of this 93-minute intermission-less show. He made it look easy, and his vocals sustained throughout the entire show. If Stewart was ever fatigued, his voice did not betray so. A solid performer, Stewart is the anchor of this show.</p> <p>Jorell Williams plays trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie so masterfully it seems the part that was written for him. The energy Williams brings on stage is electric. The chemistry between Stewart and Williams is magnetic and elevates Stewart's already apt performance. Their duet "Bebop's Gonna Change the World" came closest to audibly honoring Charlie Parker's contribution to the genre. Jorell brought the cool, and the music followed him. This debut performance at the Seattle Opera is no doubt the first of many.</p> <p>Established Soprano Angela Brown plays the role of Charlie's mother, Addie Parker. Her professional performance and perfected technique did not mask the richness of soul and depth of passion that resides at the core of her talent. Miss Brown’s performance makes it clear that the stage was always her destiny.  With a plethora of vocal styles to pursue, opera owes Miss Brown a debt of gratitude as she inspires the new generation opera fans and performers to keep the genre alive.</p> <p>The piece de resistance in this performance of <i>Yardbird</i> belongs to Donald Byrd and Mikhail Calliste, choreographer and principle dancer, respectively. Byrd constructs a modern dance, capturing the violence and sickness of a heroin withdrawal with staccato movements, and takes us on a journey of healing as Parker sobers up in a mental hospital. Byrd's vision is captured and performed masterfully by Calliste, whose passion and skill captivates, mesmerizes, and then releases. Byrd can be nothing less than elated at the prodigy’s performance, which alone is worth enduring the whole show. The piece's accompanying vocals by Jennifer Cross only served to lift the emotion, finally providing that feeling of losing myself to the muse. Miss Cross' exceptional vocal performance was the cause of titters from surrounding theater-goers, and a topic of conversation post-performance amongst my viewing guests.</p> <p>Upon curtain call applause was verdant for all performances, but the audience erupted upon the appearance of Mr. Mikhail Calliste, the obvious breakout star. He received the first wave of well-deserved standing ovations, which continued sporadically for the remaining cast, who performed first-rate despite the little they were given to work with.</p> <p>While <i>Yardbird</i> may fail to make the charts of history, it is a noble effort, only quelled by the constraints of expectations. If opera is to live, it must evolve. And in the evolution, risks must be taken. Not every risk will pay off, but lessons will be learned. While I hoped for a fusion of both jazz and opera out of this performance, I understand that it can't be easy to preserve the tradition of opera while reaching to incorporate the inevitable progress of society.</p> <p>In a way, the struggle to find balance is the story of jazz. And jazz is the story of America. It's the marriage of different cultures, different generations, different ideas, which come together to create something altogether original, yet familiar enough to feel safe. But much like the traditional idea of what it means to be American must yield to the progress of the new generations, I suspect this search for a new balance in opera is the birth of what will become a new art form, a sort of neo-opera, different enough to be something new, but familiar enough to still be called opera.</p> <p>While I didn't love <i>Charlie Parker's Yardbird</i>, it did not discourage me from continuing my own evolution as a theater fan. I look forward to the Seattle Opera's upcoming performance of<em> La Boheme</em>, coming this spring.     </p> <p><b>Performers to watch: Mikhail Calliste &amp; Jorell Williams</b></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3925&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="pUaVQR41sMk59yFSRFgd424wP7Bvwn8Bix-9teVxyHA"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 26 Feb 2020 02:58:06 +0000 Lori Thom 3925 at http://culturecatch.com On The Road To Somewhere http://culturecatch.com/node/3921 <span>On The Road To Somewhere</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>February 12, 2020 - 10:47</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/852" hreflang="en">Broadway musical</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="695" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-02/american-utopia-byrne.jpg?itok=lz6xuf6X" title="american-utopia-byrne.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: d. Bindi</figcaption></figure><p><em>David Byrne's American Utopia</em></p> <p>Hudson Theatre, NY</p> <p>According to David Byrne during the encore we are all on a "road to nowhere" even if that message is delivered from the stage of the fabulously intimate and historic Hudson Theatre on West 44th Street in Times Square. This is not a musical, it is a full blown pop concert. It started as a tour for his 2018 solo album <em>American Utopia</em>. Many of the same musicians who graced the stage of that tour have migrated and morphed his vision onto a Broadway stage. And while it may be performed with grand theatrical gestures and choreographed movements, it is still an extraordinary theatrical performance, albeit one with intricate movements and 12 wireless musicians weaving in and out and around each other with each song. While there are songs from that aforementioned album there are plenty of crowd-pleasing songs from Talking Heads and his solo work, too. Those  songs were met by clapping and yelling and standing ovations after each number -- "Slippery People," "Once In A Lifetime," "Burning Down The House," "This Must Be The Place," to name but a few.</p> <p>Although this run is winding down and finally ending on February 16th, it was truly a "once in a lifetime" musical experience. Clearly it was as exciting and exhilarating as my first live encounter with Mr. Byrne's Talking Heads 40 years ago -- in full bloom and rock majesty -- played at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Oct. 31st (Halloween) 1980. (The Psychedelic Furs opened for them!) Mr. Byrne has carefully curated a celebration of his catalog while framing his favorite music with his new musical comrades. </p> <p>I have always been drawn to Mr. Byrne's existentially poetic and cerebral music from the moment I head the Talking Heads' debut album <em>77</em>. They were always a cut above the rest of their contemporary rock peers. Always with one foot into the future. So one should not be surprised at how forward thinking this thoughtful and artistic statement might be presented on the Great White Way.</p> <p>Some of the "tai chi" soft and flowing movements have been seen on stage before both in filmmaker Jonathan Demme's iconic <em>Stop Making Sense </em>rock concert doc and Byrne's dance/music collaboration with choreographer/dancer Twyla Tharp for <em>The Catherine Wheel</em>. Regardless, the movement during the various songs was never indulgent nor redundant unless purposely redundant to make a point. With his crack 11- piece band providing all the live/wireless instrumentation, this is music performed without incident in the age of bluetooth technology. In fact, Mr. Byrne even made a point of their "music" when he introduced every cast member and their place of origin before they shared their instrument's sound with the audience. It was a very clever sequence that put to rest that they were performing to tracks!</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ga97sIZlr1c?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>There was also a wonderful story about the song "Everybody's Coming to My House" that was recorded by a group of teenagers from Detroit -- Detroit School of Arts featuring the Vocal Jazz Ensemble -- who completely remade the song into a more positive and uplifting version of his brooding exploration of loneliness. The version above is so far removed from his staging that both need to be seen to fully appreciate their converse relationship. </p> <p>If Byrne continues to tour this pop art masterpiece, do not miss it. He will not stop making sense.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3921&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="PVz6UJ-WA5UJQaW2ltH-cixAqsovl573nDGtgadb5TM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 12 Feb 2020 15:47:43 +0000 Dusty Wright 3921 at http://culturecatch.com Take The Plunge http://culturecatch.com/node/3920 <span>Take The Plunge</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 10, 2020 - 11:22</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/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/2020/2020-02/christina_elise_perry_as_kat_and_david_rey_as_sam_in_chain_theatres_chasing_the_river_photo_by_matt_wells.jpg?itok=tOeEDgJb" title="christina_elise_perry_as_kat_and_david_rey_as_sam_in_chain_theatres_chasing_the_river_photo_by_matt_wells.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Matt Wells</figcaption></figure><p><i>Chasing the River</i></p> <p>Written by Jean Dobie Giebel</p> <p>Directed by Ella Jane New</p> <p>Presented at the Chain Theatre</p> <p>February 7-29, 2020</p> <p>The title of Jean Dobie Giebel's play <i>Chasing the River</i>, making its world premiere as a production of the Chain Theatre, alludes to the act in poker of staying in the game against the odds until the final card is dealt in hopes of hitting a hand such as a flush or straight. However, given the play's concern with the past, and especially its traumas, the title also evokes the fruitlessness of trying to capture, or recapture, something that is always changing and always moving forward. How, the play asks, does one chase that winning hand when the effects of abuse make it a struggle to simply stay in the game?</p> <p><i>Chasing the River </i>introduces us to Kat (Christina Elise Perry). Most recently, Kat has been living in Philadelphia. Prior to Philadelphia, Kat was living in prison. And before prison, Kat lived in the small Pennsylvania town to which she has just returned when the play opens, a return occasioned by the need to deal with her family home now that her aunt, poker-aficionado Adelaide (Sara Thigpen), is no longer living. Kat's return brings her face to face with her high-school boyfriend, Sam (David Rey), who has remained in the town and taken over his father's small business, and her mother, Maggie (Robyne Parrish), who took Kat's younger sister, Beth (Caroline Orlando), but not Kat with her when she left their father and with whom Kat's relationship remains strained. Aside from these flesh-and-blood figures of bygone days, however, Kat is also confronted with the memories that are inextricable from the place, both of her beloved aunt Addie and, more painfully, those involving her abusive, alcoholic father, Nate (David Wenzel). In this unenviable position, the central question is whether Kat can -- or even wants to -- fashion from her fraught homecoming a true second chance in order not to be borne back ceaselessly into the past.</p> <p>The play interweaves Kat's memories with the present action not only through flashback scenes but also through the occasional ghost-like intrusion of characters or recorded voices into scenes set in the present. The non-linear progress of the narrative thought-provokingly evolves and complicates the audience's perspectives on characters and events. For example, Kat making the varsity high-school basketball squad as a freshman takes on slightly different cast when we learn later of her father's deep disappointment that neither of his children was a son. (A potential parallel also emerges between the way that the other players dislike Kat for being so good and the animosity that greets abuse or assault survivors who come forward.) Similarly, a scene of genuine happiness, brilliantly performed by Perry and Wenzel, in which Kat's face shines with love as she looks on a father who, overflowing with excitement, completely and sincerely believes, in the moment, his own promises of the most fun summer ever, cannot help but be heartbreaking because of everything else that we know. The characters themselves have clashing perspectives regarding both the events of the past and the shape of the future, on who was protecting whom, on what help looks like and on how and when one asks for it. The play highlights the guilt and misplaced blame that often accompany abuse and assault, the lack of understanding why someone didn't speak up or "just" leave, the way that abuse becomes a pattern passed from one generation to the next, and the way that suffering abuse leads women to prison -- a site of punishment rather than healing -- instead of to aid.</p> <p>The production is staged on and around a minimalist front porch with a couple of weathered metal chairs, a window, and a screen door in a mix of verisimilitude and suggestion that pairs well with the play's mix of memory and presence. While the entire cast brings an affecting emotional heft to their performances, Perry is particularly powerful, communicating so much with just Kat's body language: her closed-off wariness, for instance, is expressed in how much time she spends with her hands jammed in her hoodie pockets or pulling its sleeves down over her hands, or how she zips back into it like armor after one particular disappointment. Rey and Orlando both render relationships with Kat that feel authentically lived-in, and Rey not only lends Sam a sometimes thorny complexity but is also responsible for some of the funniest of the play's flashes of levity (although Orlando's small-child imitation is also pretty hilariously spot-on).</p> <p>Kat's very name functions as a symbol of potential self-determination. Others variously call her Katie, Katydid, and Chickadee, but Kat is the only name that she chose for herself (albeit when she went to prison). With the struggles of Kat and those around her, <i>Chasing the River</i> takes a plunge into the legacy of trauma and the possibilities that exist as long as one has, to paraphrase Adelaide, a single chip and a seat at the table.<i> </i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3920&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="pTGnzqK_jPcPcJ8E0Vr3NQjnmulNkagfJ7CbtdY0hC0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 10 Feb 2020 16:22:00 +0000 Leah Richards 3920 at http://culturecatch.com Fuhgeddaboutit http://culturecatch.com/node/3919 <span>Fuhgeddaboutit</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>February 8, 2020 - 11:07</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/2020/2020-02/romeobernadette.jpg?itok=dw5V9THG" width="1200" height="900" alt="Thumbnail" title="romeobernadette.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Off Broadway theater is a medium where creative people devote their time, talents and passion, often with little or no recompense. It's a great disappointment when creative people with talent in abundance devote themselves to a show that is undeserving. If only that were the case of the show <i>Romeo &amp; Bernadette </i>produced lavishly and professionally by AMAS Musical Theatre and Eric Krebs.</p> <p><i>Romeo &amp; Bernadette </i>isn't just undeserving of the production it is currently receiving, it calls into question why it was chosen for development over what must be dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of more deserving shows.  </p> <p><i>Romeo &amp; Bernadette </i>is a musical comedy of little substance and few laughs. It's premise seems to be to take music from Italian songs and light opera and graft "modern" lyrics on to them. By modern I don't mean anything close to contemporary. The putative setting is Brooklyn, 1960. We know this because the word <i>fuhgeddaboutit</i> is a prime source of the show's humor.</p> <p>You've probably already guessed that this tale places Shakespeare's Romeo in Bensonhurst where he pursues -- not Juliet, but <i>Bernadette. </i>If that premise makes you double up with laughter, than this is the show for you. To say the show's genre is cartoonish is to unfairly impugn cartoons.  Instead of Montagues and Capulets there are two warring "mafia" families.  Romeo speaks in a stilted version of flowery Elizabethan-speak but soon learns to speak as crudely as everyone else in the show, including the aforementioned </p> <p><i>fuhgeddaboutit -- </i>a joke that the show's writer never gets tired of repeating... and repeating.  The frame of the show's premise (i.e. how does Romeo wind up in 1960 Brooklyn?) revolves around a Brooklyn "Guido's" attempt to get into his girlfriend's pants. Why? Don't ask.</p> <p>And that's the biggest puzzlement here: Why? To create a new musical around old Italian melodies is, by definition, a study in being old-fashioned. Layering in unfunny Italian-American stereotypes with a third-grader's idea of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy and then playing it all for giggles (except for the songs which are floridly "romantic") is head-shaking.  </p> <p>To its credit AMAS has assembled a great deal of talent on the ART NY stage. The young lovers Romeo (Nikita Burshteyn) and Bernadette (Anna Kostakis) are making appealing NY stage debuts. They are winningly supported by their friends Dino (Michael Notardonato) and Donna (Ari Raskin). Much of the rest of the cast is made up of Broadway veterans including Carlos Lopez as crime boss Al Penza and the Drama Desk nominated Judy McLane who's Broadway credits include over 4000 performances of <i>Momma Mia. </i>The director Justin Ross Cohen has a raft of Broadway credits as a performer including the original <i>Pippin </i>and <i>A Chorus Line. </i>He has assembled a stellar design team including Tony Award winner Ken Billington (lights) and Broadway veteran Walt Spangler (scenery).</p> <p>If only their talents were in service to something more deserving.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3919&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="3MruXU2eK4PmmVAmJmpmoyCrq67-I0QbTMDpgknMtZs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 08 Feb 2020 16:07:43 +0000 Mark Weston 3919 at http://culturecatch.com A Very Wet Utopia http://culturecatch.com/node/3913 <span>A Very Wet Utopia</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 26, 2020 - 18:56</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"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-01/really-really-gorgeous-photo.jpg?itok=zhDYqyf-" title="really-really-gorgeous-photo.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Mari Uchida</figcaption></figure><p><i>Really Really Gorgeous</i></p> <p>Written by Nick Mecikalski</p> <p>Directed by Miranda Haymon</p> <p>Presented by The Tank in association with Lucy Powis and the Hodgepodge Group</p> <p>at The Tank, NYC</p> <p>January 23-February 9, 2020</p> <p>In Nick Mecikalski's <i>Really Really Gorgeous</i>, the United States is really, really wet. And by wet, we mean that there remains a single oasis of dry land to which the government has relocated, along with some surviving citizens privileged enough to be permitted inside its walls. Mecikalski's play approaches this continent-spanning catastrophe from a personal perspective, focusing, with a healthy dash of absurdism, on a single couple within this watery new world order to examine the clash between principles and self-preservation in the face of environmental apocalypse.</p> <p>When we meet protagonists Pen (Sophie Becker) and Mar (Amber Jaunai), the United States is into its fifth year of being flooded. The two of them, both poets, live in a shack where the television seems to be their primary connection to the outside world and where they subsist on deliveries of rations in whose composition they have no input. It tidily sums up their circumstances that the two women pine for the luxury of green beans. Meanwhile, it eventually becomes clear that the aggressively cheery (and sometimes just aggressive) Announcer (Giselle LeBleu Gant) dominates the television airwaves to the extent that she serves as a one-woman choke point of information. Early on, Becker and Jaunai effectively establish Pen and Mar's supportive and affectionate romantic relationship, and this foundation becomes quickly important when a government-sponsored talent contest that promises bring the winners to dry land threatens to drive a wedge between them (the name Mar, of course, has meanings other than "sea"). To say much more would be a disservice to the pleasures of watching this unpredictable production unfold.</p> <p>Among other concerns, <i>Really Really Gorgeous</i> explores how authoritarianism works, including its attractiveness during times of crisis or insecurity. The play<i> </i>highlights how, in the right situation, something as simple as a dry room can take on a corrupting allure. If one replaced "climate change" with "totalitarian dictatorship," the mechanics would look much the same. The world that Pen and Mar find themselves caught up in foregrounds that destructive feedback loop of environmental and political problems, a cycle in which the media is at best tacitly complicit. At worst, media outlets actively abet an unsustainable and oppressive status quo, as The Announcer demonstrates in referring to the many on the wrong side of the wall with the usefully dehumanizing term "intruders" (some of this should sound familiar from current U.S. politics). The sharp division between the privileged few and the sopping, struggling masses is starkly reflected in the set design, by Crushed Red, as well: Pen and Mar's living space, centered on a tv and couch, strewn with garbage, and stacked with cans of  SpaghettiOs, is juxtaposed with a bright, neat, and tasteful space, standing in for several dry locations, that resembles a display in a furniture showroom.</p> <p>Right up until the production's final moments, it keeps just the right amount of ambiguity as to the characters' true plans and motivations, which ethical choices they will make, and just what exactly is up with that finger gun, an engaging uncertainty helped enormously by a great cast. The good-heartedness of Becker's Pen is bound up with an iron determination. Juanai (who was also excellent as Jesus in racist small-town American in last year's production of Mac Wellman's <i>Sincerity Forever</i> at The Flea) shows a Mar who is herself increasingly performing while also making it easy to, like Pen, give her the benefit of the doubt. And while Gant gets a lot of the funniest moments as The Announcer, she also effortlessly pivots on a dime from, for example, stereotypically exuberant tv host to ominously businesslike power player.</p> <p><i>Really Really Gorgeous</i> invests audience members in the fate of a relationship alongside the fate of the nation but also leaves them questioning the trade-offs involved in both. Its off-kilter dystopia mixes humor and authenticity. We can only hope that it is more timely than prophetic. - <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=3913&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="XQlZFvHpP_gcabCo5xWnvhx7dTCfbQ6lHOtQNyzvyHA"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 26 Jan 2020 23:56:42 +0000 Leah Richards 3913 at http://culturecatch.com As Fiddler Wanders Its Way Across the U.S... http://culturecatch.com/node/3908 <span>As Fiddler Wanders Its Way Across the U.S...</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/c-jefferson-thom" lang="" about="/users/c-jefferson-thom" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">C. Jefferson Thom</a></span> <span>January 15, 2020 - 09:41</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/852" hreflang="en">Broadway musical</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/2020/2020-01/fiddlertour0011r.jpg?itok=w32Xz5JR" title="fiddlertour0011r.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Joan Marcus</figcaption></figure><p>Over four years after its opening date on Broadway, this touring production of  <em>Fiddler on the Roof</em> is presently making a brief sojourn here in Seattle. This iconic musical made its original debut in 1964 and is unlikely to ever fall from favor with audiences around the world. Between its memorable characters and unforgettable score (even if you've never set foot in a theatre in your life you know "If I Were a Rich Man"... even if only Gwen Stefani's gender altered version). But with such notoriety and familiarity comes the potential trap of phoning in what everyone expects. As I am personally a big fan of this classic I decided to check it out for myself and brought my niece along with me, who was seeing it for the first time.</p> <p>To start, as much as I appreciate Jerome Robbins and recognize his unquestionable significance, I was pleased to see that we would be privy to some new direction and choreography. Bartlett Sher's direction, as recreated by Sari Ketter, starts and ends with an odd trick, having a man in modern clothes look up at a sign reading "Anatevka" in Cyrillic, who then morphs into Tevye in period clothing as the opening chords of "Tradition" are struck. Spoiler alert: he then morphs back to the modern world for the last seconds of the production just before the curtain falls. This seems like a device intended to tie this story into the on-going life of the modern world but ultimately feels a bit tacked on. That quirk aside, the tone of the production takes on an interestingly casual quality and flows with a relaxed manner. Instead of hitting hard on many of the scripts most well known jokes and moments, it often lets them pass by, almost as throwaways instead of shoving in them in audience's faces with a painful nudge and wink. While some lines do get lost in this process it is also quite refreshing and helps to breath new life into the dialogue, allowing its humorous and touching exchanges some softer and more subtle landings. Sher's direction stands out most during the second act number "Chavaleh" and is greatly complimented by Hofesh Shechter's moving and guttural choreography. As Tevye sings this plaintive eulogy he is separated by a sheer screen from his daughter Chava. The metaphor is not subtle, but it is visually effective, particularly as Chava breaks through the divide to confront her mourning father. Shechter's unique movements are both captivating and uncanny and beautifully performed by the actors.</p> <p>The cast takes a few numbers to warm up this half a century old musical and Yehezkel Lazarov, Tevye, is no exception. It wasn't until about half way through "Rich Man" that a promising glimmer began to shine through, but it grows gradually stronger from there on out. Lazarov most embodies the casual tone mentioned earlier and succeeds in landing his own, unique interpretation of this legendary role (even inching a little out of the looming shadow of the great, late Zero Mostel, the role's originator, is no small feat). Lazarov doesn't fill out all of Tevye's many dimensions, but he provides enough to carry the role with an interpretation which leans towards levity and in moments dips into the deeper sorrows and humanity of the complicated role. Nick Siccone offers a stand-out performance as "Motel" finding a very natural, comic approach which never sacrifices the genuine essence of the character to get a laugh, but rather comes by his comedy honestly and organically. Most of the production's actors manage to keep their characters human in this manner instead of easing into the preconceived notions held by anyone who has ever suffered through a bad high school or community theatre production of the piece. One unfortunate exception to this effort is Carol Beaugard's Yente. In opposition to the new and less-traveled paths everyone else is trying to take, Beaugard trods down an all-too-familiar one, delivering a Yente who assumes everyone prefers what they already know, "Right?  Of course right.". Fortunately the cliches are greatly out-numbered by those working to escape them, resulting in a largely fresh take on this established masterpiece.</p> <p>While this particular tour isn't going to leave much of a memorable mark on my own theatrical memory, my niece really enjoyed it and if you've never seen a professional production of Fiddler, this is probably one of the best you're going to see in a long time, so check it out before it leaves in Seattle... or catch a plane to Salt Lake City which is the tour's next stop as this cast begins their gradual migration eastward.</p> <p><em>Fiddler on the Roof</em> performs in Seattle through January 19th.  For more information, go to: <a href="http://fiddlermusical.com/" target="_blank">http://fiddlermusical.com/</a></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3908&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="frftU69BPcFMI_xQoJiFV30YuWw1CyVbZ1L41QV7ozI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 15 Jan 2020 14:41:18 +0000 C. Jefferson Thom 3908 at http://culturecatch.com Can Anyone Hear Me? http://culturecatch.com/node/3898 <span>Can Anyone Hear Me?</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 2, 2019 - 12:11</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/2019/2019-12/listening_room-al_foote_iii_photography.png?itok=XIFH648r" title="listening_room-al_foote_iii_photography.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Al Foote III</figcaption></figure><p><i>The Listening Room</i></p> <p>Written by Michaela Jeffery</p> <p>Directed by Ivette Dumeng and Lori Kee</p> <p>Presented by Nylon Fusion Theatre Company at The New Ohio Theatre, NYC</p> <p>November 30-December 21, 2019</p> <p>Characters in the work of Samuel Beckett often tell their stories as a way of proving or leaving a record that they existed. Michaela Jeffery's <i>The Listening Room </i>expands such concerns to an entire civilization, limning dystopia on an epic scale through the intense interactions of a handful of characters who occupy the titular, bunker-like room. Making its New York premiere in repertory with another science-fiction play, Steven Mark Tenney's <i>ray gun say0nara</i>, at The New Ohio Theatre, <i>The Listening Room </i>explores the weaponization of information, history, narrative, and memory alongside the potentiality of dissent, resistance, and revolution, resonating, as much good speculative fiction does, both with and beyond our present moment. </p> <p>Civilization in <i>The Listening Room</i> is concentrated in the Earie -- originally founded, according to its own origin myths and prior to "the Collapse," as a better alternative to a self-destructive society -- is surrounded by nothing but desert for, as one character claims, thousands of miles and is ruled by the Council. The Listening Room is located miles from the Earie, and the teenaged Listeners who live there are tasked with listening to and sending written reports to the Council on fragments of transmissions picked up by large dishes called "ears." While the Council no longer authorizes new Listeners, a young blind girl named Isobel (Sara Rahman) arrives at the Listening Room from the Earie, where she is discovered by Fayette (Matthew Carrasco), who tries to force her to leave. She claims to have been invited to become a Listener by Marcus (Tim Palmer), the most vocal anti-Council advocate among the group, which also includes Rouke (Taylor Petracek) and Lanolin (Alex Chernin), who acts as the Recorder (much of the population of the Earie is illiterate, the better, as Marcus tells it, to keep them subjugated). There is skepticism among the Listeners (and would-be Listener Isobel) that they are indeed living in an era of unprecedented freedom, as their government asserts. When Marcus is summoned to answer an accusation of criminality, it forces this group of young people into an accelerated decision about whether they will take action.</p> <p>The Listeners' conflicts, which occasionally turn physical in well-choreographed fights that also underscore the characters' youth, weave together a range of thematic considerations, from choice and self-determination (including the dispensation granted to Listeners to choose new names for themselves) to the manipulation of public perception and, thus, behavior, including in legal matters (exiling a minor, for instance, is more palatable than executing one) and particularly through the use of fear and the foregrounding of nebulous threats (this should all sound very familiar), as well as the preservation and significance of individual, social, and even cosmic histories. The set design, by Raye Lavine, is fantastic, with its ladder to the surface, wall of cubbies, and jumble of electronic equipment; and its atmosphere is augmented by excellent lighting that makes use of blues, oranges, and reds and sound design that includes a constant low background hum. Palmer and Chernin stand out among a strong cast, with Carrasco and Petracek providing contrasting foils to Palmer's cocky, idealistic Marcus and Rahman doing convincing work with both Isobel's visual impairment and her quietly fiery determination.</p> <p><i>The Listening Room </i>depicts a world in which a person's value corresponds to their contribution and their conformity, and in which an omnipresent sense of threat hinders mobilization for change. While Rouke may have a point when he argues that while anyone can smash things, it's also necessary to have a plan for what comes next, Marcus makes the equally valid point that it is far too easy to justify continued inaction, that masses of individuals going about their daily routines merely reinforces stasis in the end. In the play, stories are records of the past that can point the way to the future, and what we listen for and how we interpret and (re)present what we hear determines what kind of future that will be. <i>The Listening Room</i> itself is one such story, and it is well worth lending it your ears (and eyes). - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-add"><a href="/node/3898#comment-form" title="Share your thoughts and opinions." hreflang="en">Add new comment</a></li></ul><section> <a id="comment-1556"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1576846492"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1556#comment-1556" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">Set design</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Thank you for the review !! Pls credit only myself - raye levine - for set! Lili Jaxon did the props :) thank you!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1556&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="dTV9Snca9IuCUyBz37qGQLor3SUvssDbY3RyV9cVvps"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/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 <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.rayeclevine.com/set-design.html" lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">raye levine</a> on December 18, 2019 - 15:51</p> </footer> </article> <div class="indented"><a id="comment-1563"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="1" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1576846553"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1563#comment-1563" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">Set Design</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Thanks, Raye. Noted and fixed.</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1563&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="GExKltKyGP5nILt6b-IYcpEo3xWe_Ibh6w9pViMT2G0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/index.php/users/webmaster"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/index.php/users/webmaster"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/pictures/guitar_man.jpg?itok=RQMmZHMP" width="50" height="50" alt="Dusty Wright" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <a title="View user profile." href="/users/webmaster" lang="" about="/users/webmaster" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Webmaster</a> on December 20, 2019 - 07:55</p> <p class="visually-hidden">In reply to <a href="/comment/1556#comment-1556" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">Set design</a> by <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.rayeclevine.com/set-design.html" lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">raye levine</a></p> </footer> </article> </div> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3898&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="s_RNvXb-fz-v4uH1fuYYK735_mZ3NQUmbyAZSl_cc4E"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 02 Dec 2019 17:11:17 +0000 Leah Richards 3898 at http://culturecatch.com I Know the Difference Between Cantaloupe and Watermelon http://culturecatch.com/node/3895 <span>I Know the Difference Between Cantaloupe and Watermelon</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6781" lang="" about="/user/6781" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Cearia Scipio</a></span> <span>November 14, 2019 - 09:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/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"><p> </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-11/slave-play-image_0.jpg?itok=3kE1aCRv" title="slave-play-image.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy</figcaption></figure><p>Last month a couple of my black friends told me they were going to see a new Broadway show called <i>Slave Play.</i> I asked them why they would want to go see a play about slaves. The response I got was "I heard it's really good." Then I thought to myself, "Ain't nothing good about slavery." My friends came back to me after the show and told me that I'd like it. I had the opportunity to see the play myself this weekend. I needed to see what all the hype was about.</p> <p><i>Slave Play</i> was written by Jeremy O. Harris, a black, male playwright. Walking into the theater, I was silently judging every white person in there. And there were A LOT of white people in the theater. To me it felt like "Dang. They couldn't wait to get in here to see a play about slaves." As a black woman, I'm just a little tired of the "slave narrative." I'm tired of us revisiting a time when black people were seen as property. When the show began with a sweeping black woman dressed in "slave attire," I sank into my seat. Watching her interact with her white scene partner made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I just wanted to get this over with.</p> <p>Then I caught interest in the other two couples. I was surprised by the comedy in the dialogue and the nudity that was shown on stage. Now they had my interest. So I thought, "Cool. This is going to be some sexy slavery tale. I can dig that." Then the play flips everything on its head! The couples were all participating in some sort of interracial couple group therapy. That whole plot is so very clever. I thought the play had a perfect blend of comedic and serious moments. I was paying extra attention now. The two therapists' comedic timing complimented each other well as they tried to navigate what their attendees were feeling.</p> <p>Listening to the stories of the couples was both hilarious and heartbreaking. For example, there was one story that stood out to me. The biracial man, Phillip, is going on about how he went to a white school. He said he never saw himself as a color. He says he was just "Phillip." It wasn't until his white schoolmates pointed out his blackness that he started to see it as well. I've been black my whole life and I've never thought of myself as just "Cearia." I have always thought of myself as "Black Cearia." I think this way because I know that my skin color is the first thing people see. They don't see my personality. They don't see my bank account. They see my skin.</p> <p>My skin color affects how I see the world. I am always inclined to point out differences of race wherever I go. During the previous semester, I performed in City College's production of <i>Dry Land</i>. I wasn't originally cast. I took the spot of a girl who couldn't do the play. During our first table read, the whole cast was present. I looked around the room and I was the only black person in there. Yes, we did have two Latina women but they were white passing. Later on in the semester I found out the identity of whom I was replacing. She was white. I still think about how white that show would have been had I not been in it. Our director was white as well. Maybe it's not her fault that I ended up being the darkest person there, maybe she didn't notice. I noticed. I always notice.</p> <p>Overall, <i>Slave Play</i> empowered me. It was refreshing to see a black woman who was taking control of her life. On stage there was a black woman, who wasn't going to submit to her man, a white man. I silently cheered her on. I stared at her with so much intensity, hoping she could feel the power and respect that I was transferring to her telekinetically from somewhere in the sea of audience members. This play made me feel desirable. It somehow turned on a switch that made me appreciate and love the black body that I walked in with even more.</p> <p><em>Miss Scipio is a 22 year-old aspiring actress who is currently attending City College. Her instagram is @Rotiprincess.</em></p> </div> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-add"><a href="/node/3895#comment-form" title="Share your thoughts and opinions." hreflang="en">Add new comment</a></li></ul><section> <a id="comment-1434"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1574113948"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1434#comment-1434" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">AMAZING</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>I love this article so much, you have such a strong opinion and reading this just enforced that. Please write more!!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1434&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="hmX8U_VPXPuv9iLtJMyeD4LD8ZG7Jj0ehYabJtIgbt4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/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="">Shantel</span> on November 14, 2019 - 11:33</p> </footer> </article> <a id="comment-1435"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1574113933"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1435#comment-1435" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">This is perfectly said! As…</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>This is perfectly said! As someone who watched this play about a week ago, I completely understand your message and agree. Your passion is instilled in me and has given me another perspective of this eye-opening performance. Once again, well done!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1435&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="IuTJt8GV0jbn2efpJwVCSwPCq5SKJJXwvjc1xVg9Chw"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/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="">Dina Elhadidy</span> on November 14, 2019 - 11:36</p> </footer> </article> <a id="comment-1437"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1574113936"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/1437#comment-1437" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">Loved this article and what…</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Loved this article and what you had to say. Will for sure check it out!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1437&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="XiLxFoIPZnqbf__a8l3yywkOmytXAe4bbDNkqFLg_Gk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/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="">Anonymous</span> on November 15, 2019 - 08:36</p> </footer> </article> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3895&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="fgloxnRGpuAYTLBV7sqEJXlEFXRkjKARnjAkk2UxgqY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 14 Nov 2019 14:03:05 +0000 Cearia Scipio 3895 at http://culturecatch.com Food For Thought http://culturecatch.com/node/3874 <span>Food For Thought</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 12, 2019 - 09:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/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/2019/2019-09/dining_with_ploetz_-_photo_3_by_kate_gaffney.jpg?itok=c804oRXh" title="dining_with_ploetz_-_photo_3_by_kate_gaffney.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: Kate Gaffney</figcaption></figure><p><i>Dining With Ploetz</i></p> <p>Written by Richard Ploetz</p> <p>Directed by Richard Ploetz and Steven Hauck</p> <p>Presented by Theater for the New City and Nedworks, Inc.</p> <p>at Theater for the New City, NYC</p> <p>September 5-22, 2019</p> <p>Aside from some connection to food, the trio of one-act plays that comprise <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> all feature people coming together around some significant milestone: a birthday, an (almost) anniversary, and the hashing out of plans for an unusual dinner party that will fulfill one man's intensely desired dream. From the pen of Richard Ploetz, a multidisciplinary author, voiceover artist, director, and professor who has written for the page, stage, and screen, <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> serves up three courses of comedy spiced with "food for thought," to borrow a description from the program, and garnished with delectable performances. To top things off, five percent of net profits from the show will be donated to World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit NGO founded by chef José Andrés to function as "Food First Responders" for communities affected by disasters.</p> <p><i>Goldfish</i>, the first of the triad and directed by Ploetz, has some of the feel of a grittier, more eclectic New York City that is increasingly vanishing today (and, relatedly, some of the feel too of a strain of NYC plays represented by playwrights such as Edward Albee). When the play opens, following a piano rendition of "Happy Birthday" merged with Beethoven's "Für Elise," only a single guest has shown up for the birthday party held for six year-old Sabrina (Claudia Fabella) by her parents George (Christopher Borg) and Cindy (Elizabeth A. Bell). The fête is in what they call their loft (reasonable rent; no heat on nights or weekends), located in the rug district and containing an amalgamation of painting supplies, rolled-up rugs, mismatched furniture, a piano, the titular goldfish, and other heterogeneous items. The single guest is Cindy's former coworker turned business partner, Beth (Wynne Anders). Just when it seems that they will have to declare the night finished, however, a stone sails neatly through the glass-less window, announcing the arrival of Rick (Steven Hauck) and Susan (Jamie Heinlein), both invited by Beth, both dressed for a cocktail party (George, in contrast, is sporting a track suit, partly unzipped to reveal his white undershirt; and Cindy is still wearing her waitressing uniform), and trailing an impressively bearded, overalls-and-bandanna-wearing poet, Bill (Ryan Hilliard), whom they met on a street corner on the way over. What follows includes some relatively inappropriate flirting, questionable table manners, and class-inflected masculine posturing—this last allowing Hauck, whose Rick once upon a time fenced, to render the words "thrust and parry" much funnier than they have any right to be. Fabella, even with almost no dialogue, gets a few big laughs herself, including one involving a toy truck and some bones (bones, come to think of it, are another motif uniting all three plays in<i> Dining</i>, even if they only enter the second play through a waiter's enthusiastic mispronunciation). Intermingled with all of the strangeness and even silliness are unrealized ambitions and unfinished thoughts and sentences, an underlying lack of fulfillment such that Susan gives unexpectedly serious consideration to a proposal from George just because, she says, it would be something different.</p> <p>After a brief intermission, the strong second half of <i>Dining</i> starts with <i>Memory Like a Pale Green Clock</i>,<i> </i>directed by Hauck, which takes us to a different kind of fishbowl, an upscale restaurant, and offers a different take on not remembering. <i>Memory</i> sees Christopher Borg and Jamie Heinlein as English professor Robert and his wife, Louise. Louise is suspicious of the roses that she was sent and this fancy night out, but Robert assures her that, thanks to a little inspiration from James Joyce's "The Dead," he has just decided to celebrate their sixteenth anniversary a little early. "The Dead" is a story, ultimately, of personal and national paralysis, which should perhaps worry Louise a bit, but the meal is going well and plans for later seduction are being described, until, when a woman in dark glasses (Elizabeth A. Bell, who also does some great work in <i>Goldfish</i>) sits at a nearby table, Robert's conviction that he knows her derails the evening. It leads, for example, Louise to question why he always "inspects" other women and Robert to ask why she doesn't look at men, and, while there are some highs and lows for the couple, the questions don't get any less fraught from there. Borg and Heinlein, both excellent in<i> Goldfish</i>, here create a terrific portrayal of the teasing, charged, intimate dynamics of long-term couples. We discover that the couple completely misreads Helen, as they do the waiter, Walter (a very funny Ryan Hilliard, trading in poet Bill's free spirit for reserve and exasperation), in a moment that occasions a breathtaking shift in tone. These misunderstandings speak to our tendency to empty out or project onto others, since others effectively cease to exist for us when we aren't with them. Further, as Louise says, we even create a nostalgia for what never was, so that when our sense of our own memory is disrupted, we feel betrayed, reminded, unwished-for, of our mortality.</p> <p>The plays that make up <i>Dining with Ploetz</i> are successively more stripped down—leaner, if you prefer—and <i>Bone Appetite</i>, the final play, directed again by Ploetz and loosely based on events that took place between Bernd Brandes and Rotenburg resident Armin Meiwes,<i> </i>features just two chairs and a pair of men meeting for the first time. These men are Arny (Christopher Borg), an enthusiastically salt-of-the-earth guitarist for a band called The Cruds, who were involved in a Great White-style nightclub fire; and Matthew (Steven Hauck), a rather more refined man with a particular culinary predilection. Arny dreams of being an orgasmically spectacular roast. In pursuit of this dream, Arny has answered Matthew's ad. When someone responds to one of his ads, Matthew likes to get to know the whole person, and the conversation between this odd couple touches on pleasure, acceptance, and, again, memory. Borg is superb as the kind of guy you might run into in a dive bar with unsigned bands playing in the back room, and Hauck plays off him in terrific fashion, as Matthew's cultured exterior is penetrated by Arny's weirdly pure ardor.</p> <p>Juxtaposing the three plays of <i>Dining With Ploetz</i> allows them to speak to one another in interesting ways, much as the melancholy notes in all three stand out the more for being set against the predominant comedy. Entertainingly executed by a splendid ensemble, <i>Dining With Ploetz </i>is worth making a reservation for. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3874&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="T3Cx_HV6rQ4C6Bd4wkFX48Y5P2zptjTTHqhTGoE1di0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 12 Sep 2019 13:28:00 +0000 Leah Richards 3874 at http://culturecatch.com A Simpler Fiddler http://culturecatch.com/node/3872 <span>A Simpler Fiddler</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>September 3, 2019 - 09:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/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"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GWTM3KDttDY?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><em>Fiddler on the Roof</em></p> <p>National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, NYC</p> <p>After months of resistance, my wife finally wore me down and I got us last minute tickets to see the "Yiddish" <em>Fiddler On The Roof</em> over Labor Day weekend. I've seen <em>Fiddler</em> so many times I figured was it really THAT important that I see it once more.</p> <p>In a word -- yes. It is unlike any production of <em>Fiddler</em> I've ever seen and as though I've seen it for the very first time. And not because it is all in Yiddish with (projected) English subtitles. In fact, this essay will largely ignore the fact that this production is in Yiddish.</p> <p>It is the most simple of stagings on a bare stage with a few pieces of wooden furniture, but blessed with a gorgeous ensemble that feels more like a true tight-knit community than a collection of Broadway actors. For instance, the cast completely lacks the polish of trained Broadway dancers -- but looks and feels like the family and friends dancing at my wife's son's Modern Orthodox wedding last December.</p> <p>And it is in those moments and virtually every other that this <em>Fiddler</em> captures an authenticity that had me weeping from the very first thrilling moment. Because authenticity is what is lacking in every other stage production I've seen (and so beautifully captured in the sweeping Norman Jewison film).</p> <p><em>Fiddler On The Roof</em> says it is about "tradition" but it is also about family -- immediate family, extended family and community family. I'm not sure whether this production's sense of family on stage stems from the fact that the Folksbiene Theatre is a tightly knit ensemble that has been performing "in Yiddish" plays for decades, from Joel Grey's astute and sensitive direction or - most likely - both. But it is this sense of family that permeates every moment of the story - to deeply comic, joyous and, ultimately, heart-breaking affect. And by eschewing "Broadway" stagecraft for this authenticity of family, the musical achieves a universality that goes well beyond the confines of Anatevka or the Jewish experience.</p> <p>Alongside Topol, Steven Skybell is the best Tevye I've ever seen, a human, decent Everyman that is never flashy, never showy, never a "star." When he dances the signature arms above his head it is not a gym exercise, it is an ebullient joy that is half ecstasy and half knocking on heaven's door.</p> <p>I've heard that he has grown into his performance and I think I was lucky enough to see the most mature result of his long run. His Tevye fairly easily relents to the choices of Tzeitel and Hodel. He puts up minor resistance to their falling in love with Motel the Tailor and Perchik the Revolutionary. A smile crosses his face that is the akin to a shrug. Not joyful, but more of a "what can I do about it." So his moment with Chava -- a bridge too far in her love for a non-Jewish Russian -- is more wrenching and more real and -- yes -- authentic than I've ever seen. That moment will stay with me for a long time.</p> <p>The last production of <em>Fiddler</em> I saw on Broadway was visually sumptuous -- a Chagall painting come to life. It was gorgeous to look at, but life in Anatevka wasn't gorgeous, was it? What it gained in Broadway stagecraft it lost in credibility.</p> <p>Go and see this Yiddish <em>Fiddler</em>. Revel in it. It is not to be missed.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3872&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="BjUBE4Y2ARIkgX4viEsT5a2KwUNd26XfHgLJ7bmB_OM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 03 Sep 2019 13:52:04 +0000 Mark Weston 3872 at http://culturecatch.com