Theater Review

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.

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.   

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.

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.

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.

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.

Who Am I?

Aliens Coming: The Musical
Written by Joe Kelly
Directed by Griffin Osborne
Presented by Ashcat Productions at The People's Improv Theater, NYC
August 17-September 18, 2017

To open Aliens Coming: The Musical, the disembodied head of an alien computer (Misha Brooks) provides one interpretive lens for the interspecies comedy to follow: high school students represent a microcosm of human beings' grievous overestimation of their own individual importance in the universe. Even before the titular extraterrestrials in Joe Kelly's play arrive, the particular place in the universe occupied by Clementine Tweedy (Alice Kors) is in a state of transition, placing her relationship with lifelong BFF Brandi Boudoir (Maia Scalia) into conflict with her recent integration into a crew of art kids (Rebecca Lampiasi, Ashley Hutchinson, and Tessa Stokes) led by Brooklyn (Ariana Raygoza), who signal their cool by pairing dresses with sneakers and cigarettes.

I, Android!

Jessica
Written by Patrick Vermillion
Directed by Emily Jackson
Presented by Sanguine Theatre Company at IRT Theater, NYC
July 22-August 6, 2017

Recently, promoting his new movie The Big Sick on The Daily Show, Kumail Nanjiani talked about working with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, as a co-writer on a film based on the first year of their own relationship. He related an anecdote about composing a date scene to account for the fact that he remembered having a great time, and she remembered having a terrible time, if you imagine that same disjunction, but instead of a rom-com scenario, it is that of a conscious person being created, you will arrive at one of the central conflicts in Patrick Vermillion's Jessica. Jessica, crisply directed by Emily Jackson, is the 2017 winner of Sanguine Theatre's annual Project Playwright, an open-submission contest in which scenes from finalist plays are performed and the audience selects which work receives a full production. Vermillion's winning work joins a rich tradition of speculative fiction in exploring what artificial minds can tell us about our own.