Theater Review

Step Right Up!

Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic: More Tales of Sex and Death
Written and Performed by Dandy Darkly
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Hot! Festival 2014: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture
Dixon Place, NYC
July 11, 2014

Describing this deeply hypnotic, often horrifying, sometimes sentimental -- and in the end -- wildly entertaining performance piece is indeed a toughie. This task brings to mind what an academic might have been faced with if assigned to write a critique of T.S. Eliot, himself, doing a live recitation of The Wasteland. What could a scholar have written as a review of such a reading? Perhaps she/he might say “I was totally engaged and mesmerized by the presentation,” or “the listeners sat transfixed in pin-drop silence while Mr. Eliot discharged his words.” Later, our academic’s copiously annotated and footnoted analysis will appear in a university press journal, leaving those who see it only as dry “assigned reading” wondering what the big deal was. Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic is a totally engaging and mesmerizing show. The audience was in silence, pitched forward to catch every word. But if I were to quote the script out of the context of the whole work, you’d probably wonder why I was impressed too. 

Get Me A Guy!

Get Me a Guy
Directed by John Clancy
Written by Israela Margalit
Horse Trade Theater Group, in association with Moonlight Theatre Productions
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, NYC
July 26 - August 4, 2014

A random, pheromone-induced hook-up at a gas station. A date arranged through a website cataloguing personal dislikes. An elderly couple debating whether cigarettes and sex can be fairly equated. Get Me a Guy , the new comic play by writer and concert pianist Israela Margalit, ranges through 80 minutes of vignettes exploring the nuances and neuroses of romantic relationships, not conceptually unlike the recent, longer, and more rapid-fire Love and Information. The discrete moments here form a loose progression from the parties and bars of youth, through jealous or baby-starved spouses and reunions of old lovers, to connections lost and (re)made in old age. The cast of seven actors, three women and four men led by Wei Yi Lin, Elizabeth Galalis, Brennan Lowey, and Paul Romano, are adept at the quick shifts required in a play that does not intend to develop their characters, variously performing and subverting stereotypes ranging from the women seeking “good husbands” to the men who think that they’re good husband material if only a woman could meet their requirements.

Get Yer Red Hots!

Dixon Place
161A Christie Street, NYC
July 5 through August 2, 2014

Presented with the enormous variety that the creative arts in New York City offer me, I find myself, from time to time, concluding that self-expression is rather highly overrated. Then I encounter something that reverses that whimsical declaration. One such event was a recent press preview of several segments from Hot! Festival 2014: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture. If the five thrilling, outrageous, poignant, and all-in-all utterly engaging presentations I experienced that afternoon is any indication of what this nearly one month festival includes, it behooves you to attend as many of the varied performances as you are able!

The Greatest Show On Earth...

Carnival Kids
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Lesser America at TBG Theatre
312 West 36th Street, NYC
June 5th - 28th, 2014

Carnival Kids, by Lucas Kavner, offers a compelling snapshot of five people whose lives intersect via one New York City apartment. Mark (Jake Choi) is a law student whose father, Dale (Randall Newsome), formerly a keyboardist in a touring rock band, moves from Texas to stay with his son while he ostensibly looks for work; Dale’s entanglements with Mark’s roommate, Eckland (Max Jenkins), and a young woman, Kalina (Danelle Eliav), soon disturb the sediment of the family history. Mark’s past makes a second reappearance when he reconnects with Marisa (Laura Ramadei), who had a crush on him in high school. How Mark attempts to navigate these relationships drives this funny and affecting new play.

The Killer

The Killer
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Theater for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center
262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY
May 17 - June 29, 2014

Theater for a New Audience closes its inaugural season in its new home at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn with an outstanding production of Eugène Ionesco’s 1957 dark comedy, The Killer. Presented here in a new translation by Michael Feingold, The Killer follows Berenger, Ionesco’s multi-play Everyman, from his discovery of a utopian “radiant city,” a place that returns to him a long-lost feeling of being truly alive, through the consequences of his further discovery that his utopia boasts a resident murderer.  When a young woman named Dennie, with whom Berenger immediately falls in love, makes herself vulnerable to the murderer by leaving the employ of the city, Berenger’s quest for justice leads him into encounters with a sickly friend who may or may not be involved, attendees at a political rally, and the police who violently suppress them, culminating in an extended face-to-shadowy-face with the titular antagonist.

Life Is Just One Delicious...

Cabaret has always been a groundbreaking musical, dating back to Harold Prince’s original production in 1966.  When Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s production opened at Studio 54 in 1998, it built upon what Prince started and pushed the limits even further, creating a much raunchier, seedier, darker, and more dangerous trip to the cabaret.  Mendes and Marshall have once again brought their Cabaret back to Studio 54, and it remains a brilliant production of a great musical, one that manages to be hugely entertaining, funny, charming, and moving, while at the same time threatening in its depiction of the growing storm created by the rise of the Nazis in Berlin in 1930.  Dominated once again by the exceptional performance of Alan Cumming as the Emcee, Cabaret is a welcomed addition to any Broadway season, and it was great to have the chance to revisit this bold production.

The Contender!

Rocky
Winter Garden Theatre, NYC

Turning successful motion pictures into Broadway musicals has become the norm in recent years.  Whether the iconic 1976 Sylvester Stallone film, Rocky, was a movie that cried out for a musical adaptation is open to question.  But, Rocky has arrived on Broadway and, somewhat like its title character, the musical has a bit of a bumpy road but is triumphant in the end.  Rocky, of course, tells the story of the small time, well meaning Philadelphia boxer, Rocky Balboa, his romance with meek girl friend Adrian, and his improbable chance to fight for the heavyweight championship.

Not The Busch Leagues!

The Tribute Artist
 by Charles Busch

Directed by Carl Andress
59E59 Theaters, NYC
Through March 29, 2014

 
Towards the end of this uproarious farce by veteran playwright and actor Charles Busch, Mr. Busch--as Jimmy Nichols, a long-in-the-tooth “female impressionist tribute artist” (a/k/a unemployed drag performer)--delivers a line that in any other play, comedy or otherwise, would befuddle the audience due to its complete nonsense. Proclaimed in tones of voice that would, in an era long gone by, indicate the pronouncement of a grand life-transforming revelation, Jimmy declares “The more honest you are, the more people believe you.” Without a doubt, only Charles Busch could make such an utterance not only appear reasonable, but in the process bring the house down shrieking with laughter.

I Feel The Earth Move, Almost

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC

Describing Beautiful by comparing it to Jersey Boys seems unfair. Jersey Boys, of course, is a long running smash hit musical, and holding any new musical to the high standard of a major hit is asking a lot. But, while watching Beautiful, it is difficult not to think of the new Carole King musical as Jersey Boys Lite. That does not mean Beautiful is lacking in assets -- it has a terrific performance by Jessie Mueller as King and is filled with great songs, written by King and Gerry Goffin, as well as some from the team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The result is an entertaining musical, but one that does not rise to the dramatic or emotional heights desired in a great show.