Theater Review

Fly On, Dutchman!

{Flying} Dutchman Written by Amiri Baraka
Directed by Christopher-Rashee Stevenson
Presented by Theatre of War at The Tank, NYC
February 9-25, 2018

The 1964 play Dutchman was born from the pen of the prolific, impassioned, and often controversial Amiri Baraka, who died in 2014 after a nearly 50-year career as a playwright, poet, essayist, and activist. When Baraka wrote the play, he was still known as LeRoi Jones, but he would later change his name, hardening his commitment to revolutionary black nationalism. The 1970s would see his politics shift again, this time to Marxism, and he made forays into academia beginning in the 1980s and continued to publish new work right up until his death. Dutchman won an Obie award the year that it premiered, at New York City's Cherry Lane Theatre, and Theatre of War has revived this militant classic at the relocated and expanded The Tank, which serves emerging artists. This version incorporates some text from Jean Genet's Les Nègres, clownerie (The Blacks: A Clown Show), the 1,408-performance NYC run of which from 1961-1964 overlapped with Dutchman's original run, and which also deals with racial identity and anger in blunt, provocative terms. The result, re-christened {Flying} Dutchman, is a taut 45-minute explosion of a play. Read more »

Stoking The Fire!

The Fire This Time: Season 9: 10-Minute Play Festival
Directed by Candis C. Jones
Presented by FRIGID New York and Horse Trade Theater at the Kraine Theater, NYC
January 15-28, 2018

The consistently excellent The Fire This Time Festival, which features new plays from artists of African descent, is in its ninth season. Among its schedule of readings and performances, the 10-Minute Play Festival is a consistent highlight, and this year's is no exception. Showcasing the work of six playwrights and directed by Candis C. Jones, the festival, performed by a skillful cast to an enthusiastic packed house on the night that we attended, engages a range of topics and tones that nonetheless echo and resonate with one another, creating a whole that is intriguing, affecting, and entertaining right through the curtain call. Read more »

Coital Exchanges

Pillowtalk
Written and directed by Kyoung H. Park P
resented by Kyoung's Pacific Beat at The Tank, NYC
January 11-27, 2018

"Radical" may not the first descriptor that most people would instinctively assign to the word "love," but it is precisely that pairing, in its multiplicity of meanings, that lies at the heart of Pillowtalk, by Chilean-born Korean playwright Kyoung H. Park, whose company Kyoung's Pacific Beat dedicates itself to promoting a culture of peace and serving as a conduit for marginalized voices. Pillowtalk, making its world premiere at the recently relocated and expanded The Tank as part of the Exponential festival, which showcases NY-based artists, delves deeply, fearlessly, and often hilariously into the marital life of crusading Asian-American journalist Buck (JP Moraga) and his African-American ex-athlete husband, Sam (Basit Shittu). Park, who also directs, provides the audience with a dramatic look at the specific relationship between two incisively drawn individuals while reminding us that the personal is even more political for some couples. Read more »

Bless The Weather

The Snow Queen
Written by Matt Opatrny
Directed by Jessica Burr
Presented by Blessed Unrest at New Ohio Theatre, NYC
December 31, 2017-January 14, 2018

It seems fitting that The Snow Queen opened against the backdrop of New York's most frigid New Year's Eve in decades. Luckily, it deserves a very warm reception. Developed with the aid of a residency at the New Victory Theater and the advice of a class of fourth-graders, The Snow Queen entertainingly adapts Hans Christian Andersen's 19th-century tale, to which it adheres fairly closely in its major events while refocusing a few of its key elements, including the symbolic subtext of its central characters' journeys. The final product is a delightful balance of comedy, adventure, and just a tinge of melancholy. Read more »

Getting AMPed!

AMP
Written and performed by Jody Christopherson
Directed by Isaac James Byrne
Presented by Goode Productions at HERE, NYC
December 5-19, 2017

Imagine, if you will, a frog’s legs, ending abruptly not in a frog but merely in its spine, carefully cleaned of the flesh that once held it. Next, multiply this image, and picture a chain of these macabre trinkets strung out in an elevated location. Finally, conjure in your mind’s eye a lightning strike that sets those legs twitching and jerking of their own accord. This is the one of the first images with which Jody Christopherson’s new play, AMP, confronts the audience, plunging us into a nineteenth-century stew of galvanism, resurrection men, and tragedy-tinged literary legends. Read more »

Pericles: Born in a Tempest

Pericles: Born in a Tempest
Conceived and directed by Jordan Reeves
Presented by Hunger and Thirst Theatre with the Guerrilla Shakespeare Project at the West End Theatre, NYC
November 2-18, 2017

If you have ever dreamed of watching Batman fight in the midst of a Shakespeare production, now is your chance to make that fantasy a reality. How fantasy in the form of storytelling (Batman included) intertwines with our lived realities partly drives Jordan Reeves' imaginative adaptation of Shakespeare's Pericles. Reeves' Pericles: Born in a Tempest both streamlines the sprawling original and weaves in a modern framing narrative in which the Shakespearean text becomes a book, The True Tales of Pericles, given to a woman by her recently deceased father. Of course, Shakespeare, arguably with a collaborator, was himself adapting a well-known medieval romance, the tale of Apollonius of Tyre, primarily the version set down by John Gower in his fourteenth-century Confessio Amantis; and this tale in turn likely derives from a classical Greek source. From this perspective, Reeves' version of Pericles acts as the latest example of how the same story can persist and change over centuries to meet the needs of its readers and audiences.  Read more »

From Mecca With Love

The Mecca Tales
Written by Rohina Malik
Directed by Kareem Famhy
Presented by Voyage Theater Company and Crossroads Theatre Company at The Sheen Center, NYC  
October 20-November 4, 2017

The Hajj, the pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca, is the largest yearly gathering of people in the world, attracting two to three million pilgrims. A pillar of Islam, the Hajj provides the setting and structure for Rohina Malik's The Mecca Tales, which premiered in Chicago in 2015 and is now making its debut in New York. Its tales are those of five women whose progress along the road to Mecca also marks their difficult progress towards self-determination.  Read more »

Free, Form, Five

Free, Form, Five
Curated by D. Dominick Lombardi
Olga Wimmer PCC, NYC
Oct. 7 - Nov. 18, 2017

Elga Wimmer PCC presents "Free, Form, Five," a group exhibition curated by D. Dominick Lombardi, which explores abstract and semi-abstract themes with human and natural references that extend into metaphoric terrain. The exhibition includes photographer Sandra Gottlieb, Sharon Kagan, Bobbie Moline-Kramer, Rebecca Calderón Pittman and Susan Sommer. The artists use with vigor and assurance platforms that incorporate complex processes and aggregate techniques. Pittman's works probe the oblique role of chance in consciousness; the psychological influences of attraction and aversion interest Moline-Kramer. Kagan explores the microcosmic roots of matter while Gottlieb brings the firmament into focus. Susan Sommer records the rhythms of desire in daily existence. While Moline-Kramer, Pittman and Kagan enhance their practices with distinctive procedures, Gottlieb uses specialized equipment, and Sommer mixes her motifs to achieve a sense of depth and relevance that is becoming the exception rather than the rule in contemporary art. Read more »

The Werewolf of Washington Heights!

The Werewolf of Washington Heights
Written by Christie Perfetti Williams
Directed by Charmaine Broad
Presented by Carnival Girls Productions at The Kraine Theater, NYC
October 11-22, 2017

Many readers these days probably know the feeling of anxiety about what appallingly reactionary new story will leap out at them every time that they set eyes or ears on a news source. To take just the latest in an interminable series of examples, as this review is being written, the head of the U.S. government is threatening to end aid to Puerto Rico, whose American citizens are denied governmental representation, a mere three weeks after an incredibly devastating natural disaster. As it happens, the production of Christie Perfetti Williams' new play, The Werewolf of Washington Heights, will donate one dollar of every online ticket sale to The Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico. It also focuses on the political effects (keeping in mind that the political is always also the personal and vice-versa) of fear and anxiety, especially as and where they intersect with gender. Beyond its narrative concerns, Werewolf extends the political consideration of gender to the material conditions of its own production: it is presented by Carnival Girls, a sponsored project of the non-profit arts service organization Fractured Atlas that dedicates itself to "creating and producing art by and about women," and it boasts an all-female cast and crew, including director Charmaine Broad, who also helmed Cougars, winner of the Estrogenius Festival's award for best show. Read more »

Trapped Inward

Petie
Written by Lori Fischer
Directed by Martha Banta
Presented by Theatre East at Urban Stages, NYC
September 23 - October 8, 2017

How many places have you gone in the past 10 days? Now what about in the past ten years? The matriarch at the center of Lori Fischer's world-premiere play Petie hasn't ventured beyond her Tennessee yard in the decade since her young son's death, an event that continues to bind the remaining family members' lives as surely as the property line bounds hers. Presented by Theatre East, a company that concentrates on new plays with socially relevant themes, Petie asks whether the family can become more than a prison and a site of fracture for these characters.    Read more »

A Real Find

The Treasurer
Playwright's Horizons, NYC
Through October 22nd, 2017

Some plays have an inner logic that defies linear story-telling. That doesn't mean they need be inaccessible or opaque. It merely means that the playwright's imagination sometimes takes over - for better or for worse. Read more »

What Is Beauty?

Frantic Beauty
Conceived and directed by Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya
Presented at BAM Fisher, NYC September 14-17, 2017

Frantic Beauty, the third installment of multidisciplinary artists Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya’s five-part BECOMING Series, offers up a challenging piece of experimental dance theater. Choreographed with and performed by the LEIMAY Ensemble (Masanori Sahara, Krystel Copper, Derek DiMartini, Omer Ephron, and Mario Galeano), it takes as its theme what its creators describe as "beauty, frantically calling out from its captivity." In doing so, the production seeks to unsettle the boundaries of the beautiful. Read more »

Show of the Week: Jen Kirkman

Comedian and author Jen Kirkman is coming to NYC with brand new comedy shows on her "All New Material, Girl" Tour at the Highline Ballroom (September 21st) in Manhattan and The Bell House (September 22nd) in Brooklyn. She'll be sharing stories and jokes you haven’t seen on her Netflix specials. And for those of you who don't know this critically-lauded writer and comedian, Jen was a long time writer and round table guest on Chelsea Lately. Regardless, she is one funny person and not to be missed. In these scary times, we can all use some belly laughs to deal with world's insanity.

 

We Hold These Words...

The Constitution
Written by Mickaël de Oliveira, translated by Maria Inês Marques
Directed by Jill DeArmon
Presented by FRIGID NY @ Horse Trade and Saudade Theatre at UNDER St. Marks
August 31-September 10, 2017

Making its American premiere after originally opening in Lisbon at the National Theatre D. Maria II in 2016 under the direction of its author, Mickaël de Oliveira, The Constitution marks the first production of Saudade Theatre, an organization dedicated to introducing Portuguese theater to an American audience. While saudade refers to a profound nostalgia or melancholic longing for something or someone absent, the company's challenging debut play represents the product of addition rather than absence: in Saudade's words, a "meeting between an European aesthetic and the American theatre culture." With The Constitution, this cross-cultural conjunction produces complex results from a simple premise. Read more »

Just Call Me, Al!

Friends Call Me Albert
Written by Zachary Desmond
Directed by Ryan Emmons
Presented by No. 11 Productions at Access Theater, NYC
August 23-September 10, 2017

The same day that we saw Friends Call Me Albert, Zachary Desmond's world premiere "bio-epic" of Albert Einstein, Gizmodo headlined a post about a new paper arguing that quantum entanglement is an inevitable feature of any fundamental physical theory, "Scientists Finally Prove Strange Quantum Physics Idea Einstein Hated." While the Gizmodo piece itself describes entanglement as "what allows particles that have once interacted to share a connection regardless of the separation between them," it also quotes Einstein's derisive description of it as "'spooky action at a distance.'" A century after his general theory of relativity was published and more than half a century after his death, Einstein remains, at least in the popular imagination, the central point of reference for modern physics. Desmond's play too takes this towering figure as its center, but it also illuminates an important woman historically obscured by the tower's shadow. Read more »

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