Theater Review

Ring Twice For Miranda

Ring Twice for Miranda
Stage II at New York City Center
Through April 16, 2017

During Ring Twice for Miranda, while witnessing the frequent long and drawn-out arguments scenes that pepper this play’s landscape, I was reminded of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. What kept your attention during that film’s interminable arguments among Warhol’s characters was hope of some kind of satisfying resolution. Playwright Alan Hruska is by trade a litigation lawyer, so he knows how to argue. Unfortunately his characters do not share his real life expertise. I kept saying to myself “come on, get on with it!” My impatience had me physically squirming much as I did when, eons ago, I first viewed Chelsea Girls! In addition, specters of the post-apocalyptic Spike Milligan/Richard Lester film collaboration The Bed Sitting Room floated about me. Absent from Miranda’s world was the clear social satire and whimsy which sustained Mr. Milligan’s long career. Read more »

The Love that Keeps on Taking...

Let The Right One In
Moore Theatre, Seattle

Dripping from the Swedish page and screen onto American stages, The National Theatre of Scotland has adapted the celebrated horror film and novel Let The Right One In for theatrical production with an eerie success that echoes the story's previous manifestations. Wrapping up its run at Seattle's Moore Theatre before moving on to Houston, Texas, this production is spreading its paradoxically beautiful and yet starkly nihilistic brand of love story. Read more »

Fire! Fire!

The Fire This Time 10 Minute Play Festival 2017
Directed by Cezar Williams
Presented by FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade at the Kraine Theater, NYC
January 19-February 5, 2017

The annual The Fire This Time Festival was begun by artists, for artists, and its purpose is to showcase early-career playwrights of the African diaspora. Traditionally, The Fire This Time has been composed of a variety of events, with the 10 Minute Play Festival serving as the flagship, and this year, its eighth, TFTT has expanded those events beyond the strictly theatrical, including web series and readings by playwrights and sisters Kia and Kara Lee Corthron from their respective debut novels. As an anchor to the festivities (and the only event that isn't free to attend), the The 10 Minute Play Festival has consistently put forth collections of strong, exciting work, and this year's group of seven short plays, performed by a group of seven actors, is no exception. Read more »

Gentrified!

Transcend
Written and performed by Kilusan Bautista
Transmedia direction by Wi-Moto Nyoka
Presented by FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade at UNDER St. Mark's, NYC
January 9-February 6, 2017

It seems fitting that in order to get to and from Transcend, a meditation by Kilusan Bautista on his experiences with gentrification and what he identifies as America's housing war on the poor, we walked down a St. Mark's Street scrubbed almost entirely of its grimy counter-cultural past and reborn as a corridor of gleaming ramen restaurants and Mac repair shops. Having debuted this past August at the New York Fringe Festival, Transcend has returned to New York after a run in California's Bay Area, another, perhaps even worse, hotbed of skyrocketing housing costs. Bautista's one-man show, his second, is an eclectic mix of narrative, spoken word, dance, and multimedia elements that focuses on his own experience of temporary homelessness as an exemplar of systemic inequalities. Read more »

For The Love of Annie

For Annie
Written by Beth Hyland
Directed by Emma Miller
Presented by The Hearth
at Lucid Body House, NYC
December 9, 2016-January 15, 2017

Margaret Atwood famously wrote that men fear that women will laugh at them, while women fear that men will kill them. For Annie, the new play by Beth Hyland, is presented as a campus outreach event put on by members of the Beta Tau Alpha sorority at SUNY Onondaga in memory of their murdered sister, Annie Lambert, a victim of male-on-female domestic violence. Directed by Emma Miller, For Annie is the inaugural production of The Hearth, a company whose mission is to "nurture and celebrate female-identifying artists" and "develop plays that represent the complex and vast spectrum of womanhood." Annie's story ultimately concludes at an all-too-common point on that spectrum.  Read more »

Tea Time!

Wonder/Through the Looking-Glass Houses
Choreography by Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson 
Presented by Kinetic Architecture Dance Theatre at Dixon Place, NYC
December 2-17, 2016

Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There are mainstays of popular culture, having been reinvented in just about every medium imaginable. With Wonder/Through the Looking-Glass Houses, Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson and KineticArchitecture Dance Theatre add a new, all-female vision of Alice to that lineage. This reimagining is as much the White Rabbit's story as Alice's, and when we meet the Rabbit (Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson)--who is, of course, running late -- during an opening dance scored by David Bowie's "Time," she is something of a vixen with glittering ruby lipstick and nary a waistcoat nor a pocket watch in sight. In a bit of departure from the original novels, this Rabbit pauses occasionally for selfies with the audience, but soon we are off down the rabbit hole with Alice and back on familiar Wonderland terrain. Read more »

Gators!

Alligator
Written by Hilary Bettis
Directed by Elena Araoz
Presented by New Georges and The Sol Project
at A.R.T./New York Theatres, NYC
November 27-December 18, 2016

In a note in the program for Alligator, the world-premiere play opening New Georges' 25th season, Hilary Bettis describes writing it in "a fever dream of alcohol, death, violence, and poverty." Alligator, the first of a planned series of collaborations by The Sol Project with off-Broadway companies to produce new plays by Latinx playwrights, carries the audience into a similar space, embracing chaos in order to map the "pain and destruction," as Bettis's note puts it, caused by the unplanned, unpredictable intersections of people's lives. Against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades in 1999, Alligator's characters struggle, compellingly if often unsuccessfully, within and against this chaos for self-realization and human connection. Read more »

No Man's Land!

No Man's Land
Written and directed by Melissa Moschitto
Presented by The Anthropologists at TheaterLab, NYC
November 18-December 11, 2016

Given its focus on identity, race, and theatrical narratives, the new play No Man's Land could not be more timely, debuting as it did only a few days after Vice President-elect Mike Pence's, shall we say, controversial visit to Broadway's Hamilton. Created by theater company The Anthropologists and written and directed by Melissa Moschitto, the issues it interrogates have come increasingly to the fore of our national discourse over the past eighteen months and look to remain both pressingly and depressingly relevant for the foreseeable future. In the program, Moschitto discusses The Anthropologists' "unequivocal support" of the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on the company's work and personal realizations, but suddenly, police brutality seems just one means of oppression among many when officials are using segregation-era tactics on protesters outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and a neo-Nazi has been appointed as a top presidential adviser. Much to its credit, No Man's Land takes a wide perspective on the deeply entrenched systemic racism and the silencing of non-dominant voices that it examines. Select performances, listed on the show's website, further the dialogue after the play is over with "Re-Frame Your Reference," a series of events dedicated to "investigating privilege and systemic racism in the United States today by recognizing and challenging culturally embedded frames of reference." Read more »

Speak, Don't Speak

Don't You F**king Say a Word
Written by Andy Bragen
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
Presented by Andy Bragen Theatre Projects 
at 59E59 Theaters, NYC
November 4-December 4, 2016

Tennis, like any individual sport, isolates two people in a contest of focus and will, a push and pull of competition against one another but also against themselves.  Andy Bragen's new comedy, Don't You F**king Say a Word, takes tennis as its structural conceit and thematic vehicle to great effect. Playing out on a white-lined, light blue set that evokes a tennis court folded up to create walls, Bragen's hilarious play creates a snapshot of two years in the friendship of a pair of New York City couples.  After Kate (Jennifer Lim) and Leslie (Jeanine Serralles), who knew each other in college, have a chance encounter on the streets of New York, it does not take long before their respective boyfriends, Russ (Michael Braun) and Brian (Bhavesh Patel) are indulging their shared tennis obsession and machismo on the court with one another. Don't You F**king Say a Word begins at the end of the two years it covers, and the two women are our guides, addressing us directly, slipping in and out of the scenes with the men, which take place mostly in flashback. Kate and Leslie start by saying that they hope to make some discoveries about what makes men tick, about their "secret spaces," but they end up revealing at least as much about their own "deep wells that drive" them forward as women and their similarities to the male behaviors that they wish to dissect.    Read more »

Shelter Me

Roughly Speaking
Written by Shara Ashley Zeiger
Directed by Celine Rosenthal
Presented by The Platform Group at TADA! Youth Theater, NYC
October 29-November 20, 2016

A recent article on Gothamist discussing strident local opposition to converting a hotel into a homeless shelter -- opposition based, according to one quoted resident, on the idea that shelters destroy communities with drugs, violence, and prostitution -- pointed out that New York City reached a record high in September of this year of 60,000 adults and children sleeping in shelters (a number, that article notes, that doesn't count certain kinds of specialized shelters). In the program for the new play Roughly Speaking, the playwright and founder of The Platform Group, Shara Ashley Geiger, admits that she herself regarded the homeless with a mixture of uneasiness and fear after first moving to the City. Volunteering at the Xavier Mission Welcome Table and hearing the stories of the other volunteers and the guests fostered a change in perspective, which in turn helped eventually to produce Roughly Speaking, a work born out of more than 200 interviews with homeless individuals.   Read more »

The Other Mozart

The Other Mozart
Written by Sylvia Milo
Directed by Isaac Byrne
Presented by Little Matchstick Factory at The Players Theatre, NYC
September 23-November 13, 2016 and January 6-9, 2017
 

Are You Looney Tonight?

The Loon
Featuring Robert M. Johanson
Directed and co-choreographed by Dan Safer
Presented by Witness RelocationAt Abrons Arts Center, NYC
October 13-29, 2016

Mixed in with the calm piano music that plays prior to the start of The Loon, a new play that advertises itself as based in part on a 1980 Audubon Society record,* are periodic voice-over GPS directions guiding the listener out of New York City and northwards. This seems like an appropriate prelude, because The Loon packs quite a journey into its running time, from the midnight lakes of Maine, to the outer reaches of the solar system, to the inner workings of the human heart.  Directed by Dan Safer, who co-created and co-choreographed the piece with the other members of Witness Relocation (Alexa Andreas, Kelly Bartnik, Sunny Hitt, Annie Hoeg, Eva Jaunzemis, Robert M. Johanson, Vanessa Koppel, and Trevor Salter), the play features Robert M. Johanson as the audience's guide on this journey, a well-dressed host for the evening who is, with a few exceptions, the sole speaking performer. Contrasting with his suit and earpiece, dancers in deconstructed, punk-inspired costumes perform behind, with, and around him. Read more »

Stop Trolling History!

NOW IS THE TIME. NOW IS THE BEST TIME. NOW IS THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE.
Written by Michael Levinton, Laura von Holt, and Little Lord
Directed by Michael Levinton
Presented by Little Lord At Abrons Arts Center, NYC
October 19-November 5, 2016

NOW IS THE TIME. NOW IS THE BEST TIME. NOW IS THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE., the world premiere play by Brooklyn's Little Lord theater company, takes its extensive title from "The Best Time of Your Life," written in 1974 as a new theme song for Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress attraction. The Disney portion of this allusion is, on the whole, less important to Now is the Time, which boasts a running time of 300 years, than is the contradiction inherent in the image of a historical progress that is also a circle, endlessly accumulating and endlessly vanishing. The accumulation is made concrete by the set, presided over at the beginning by soda jerks with pickles and slaw, the surfaces and cubbyholes of which are stuffed and stacked with papers, boxes, and other rubbish. Rubbish is history, and history is, or becomes, rubbish. Read more »

Laughing at Mental Illness

Maria Bamford
Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA
September 16, 2016

The last decade and a half has seen an interesting shift in popular stand up comedy styles. While all styles of stand up offer at least some representatives every decade, even the unfortunate genres of prop and insult comedy, there are particularly popular styles and tones that can define a generation. All through the nineteen seventies almost up to the end of the last millennium, many of our legendary comics like Richard Pryor, George Carlin, & Bill Hicks were filled with righteous indignation, poignantly attacking society's ills in an aggressive, outward manner from their own personal perspectives. Many of today's popular comics continue to speak out against those same human and societal flaws, but the manner of attack has shifted: instead of pointing the finger of blame outward, they partially point it at themselves.

They have been labeled Alternative Comedians but are so popular and prominent on today's stages and films that it's hard not to see them as potentially establishing a new normal. Read more »

Hedda Hedda Hey!

Hedda (Gabler)
Adapted by Matt Minnicino
Directed by Joseph Michael Parks
Presented by Wandering Bark Theatre Company
At IRT Theater, NYC
September 23-October 8, 2016

Henrik Ibsen's dramatic critique of bourgeois domesticity, Hedda Gabler, which premiered in 1891, remains probably his most often revived work. Hedda is still going strong 125 years later, now reincarnated in a fleet, fluid refresh written by Matt Minnicino and directed by Joseph Mitchell Parks, who played Lucius in 2015's inventive and memorable Titus Andronicus for the New York Shakespeare Exchange. In a play in which the name that someone is called signals ownership (or independence) and degrees of intimacy, Minnicino has rendered the protagonist's unmarried, titular name a parenthetical: Hedda (Gabler). When the play begins, Hedda (Valerie Redd) is more properly known (propriety being another of the play's thematic touchstones) as Hedda Tesman, having married ernest historian George Tesman (Kyle Schaefer), a "paragon of acceptability." George's rival, professional and otherwise, is Eilert Lovborg (Quinn Franzen), who is the Romantic genius to George's meticulous collator, including in his inclination towards alchoholism (a word no one in the play ever speaks). Hedda also has a rival, in Thea Elvsted (Susanna Stahlmann), the former, in this production, icily blonde and the latter a brunette with, in Hedda's words, wounded doe eyes who has helped Eilert conquer his demons and publish an acclaimed history of the world. During this process, Eilert and Thea have become "companions" under her husband's roof, much in defiance of social mores. While Thea actually has the courage and conviction to forge her own path in despite of propriety and patriarchy, Hedda, with a bit of a Madame Bovary complex, longs for the sublime, describing her desire to, just once, pull the strings of another person's fate. To this end, Hedda tries to meddle in Eilert's new work and new self, and ends up caught in a trap that is partly social and partly of her own making. Read more »

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