Theater Review

Buckminster Fuller in Brooklyn

God is a Verb
Written by Gavin Broady Directed by Chad Lindsey
Hook & Eye Theater, The Actors Fund Art Center, NYC
November 4-November 21, 2015

Gavin Broady and the Hook and Eye Theater company’s outstanding new play God is a Verb invites audiences to step out of the box and into the geodesic dome. This bold, visually and intellectually exciting production revolves around quirky theorist, designer, and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), but it is assertively not, as the program reminds us, a biographical piece. Instead, billed as an absurdist comedy, it takes place within its subject's mind, focusing on his decades-long World Game Project but skillfully interweaving the personal and the political, the individual and the global, throughout its 100 compelling minutes. Read more »

Because Me

Because Me
Written and directed by Max Baker
Stable Cable Lab Co. at The Wild Project, NYC
October 29-November 7, 2015

After last spring's excellent Live from the Surface of the Moon, writer-director Max Baker returns to The Wild Project in the East Village with his new play, Because Me. Live from the Surface of the Moon focused on a small group of friends navigating America’' transition from the '60s into the '70s, and Because Me similarly examines a small network of individuals in the context of their historical moment; but here that moment is our present. Whereas Baker's previous play included a significant New Year's Eve, its counterpart threshold here is more personal: protagonist Else's looming 30th birthday. Read more »

Macbeth (Of The Oppressed)

Macbeth (of the Oppressed)
Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Tom Slot
Fab Marquee Productions The Theater at the 14th Street NYC
October 8-October 24, 2015

Shakespeare is one of the most frequently adapted playwrights in the English language, to the point that Shakespearean adaptation studies has become its own academic sub-field, and Macbeth, with its gothic elements and relatively streamlined tragedy of ambition, is a strong contender for his most frequently adapted play. Aside from more straightforward versions like the upcoming Michael Fassbender movie, the film Scotland PA, for instance, reimagined it as the story of a ruthless fast-food entrepreneur, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood transposed it into feudal Japan, Mickey B filtered it through the experiences and language of Northern Irish inmates, and no fewer than two heavy metal bands have turned it into concept albums. Tom Slot’s adaptation, Macbeth (of the Oppressed) is less radical in its changes than some of these, but the changes it does make produce some radical effects. Read more »

Mr. Gray, I Presume?

The Gray Man
Written by Andrew Farmer
Directed by Andrew Neisler
Pipeline Theatre Company
Walker Space, NYC
September 24 - October 18, 2015

Andrew Farmer's The Gray Man sets the pre-show mood with the sound of a desolate wind, which is eventually broken by a child's voice singing about a "poor babe" stolen away and killed in the woods. Creepy little girls singing creepy songs may not be a new element of horror, but here, as throughout The Gray Man, it feels fresh and immediate. Like much good horror, Farmer's play roots itself in the familiar -- the fairy tale, the ghost story, the bedtime story -- and renders it strange and estranging. As two of the characters say, "It's many, many stories," "But it’s all one story in the end." The story of the Gray Man is framed as a story of good mothers and bad mothers, of the dangers of the world beyond a mother’s immediate reach, of the illusion of safety. It is also, to an extent, a story about storytelling, stories of and by good and bad mothers and of and by children, obedient and disobedient, safe and not so safe. Read more »

Old Man In The Tub

The Quare Land 
Written by John McManus
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Irish Repertory Theatre
DR2 Theatre, NYC
9/22 - 11/15, 2015

Our final review from this year's 1st Irish Festival in New York City brings us another strong production: The Quare Land, by County Cavan playwright John McManus. McManus’s two-man comedy takes place entirely within the upstairs room of Hugh Pugh's rural Cavan farmhouse (a superb set by Charlie Corcoran). The room's single naked lightbulb illuminates a chimney, record player, toilet, and, most importantly, a clawfoot bathtub. Under a thick layer of bubbles in that tub, 90 year-old bachelor and Enya fan Hugh (actor and writer Peter Maloney) is taking his first bath in 4 years in anticipation of a visit by his alcoholic brother when receives an unexpected visit from Rob McNulty (Rufus Collins). Hugh checks his mail far less often than he bathes, so hotel and construction company owner Rob has had to seek out Hugh in person to propose purchasing one of Hugh's fields. Unfortunately for Rob -- but very fortunately for the audience -- this conversation turns out to be more complicated than he expected. Read more »

The Black Book

The Black Book
Written and directed by Phil Blechman
IJB Productions, Sargent Theater, NYC
September 5 - November 22, 2015

As part of Bronx Community College's opening convocation this year, school officials commemorated the death in June of 22-year-old student Kalief Browder, who had enrolled after spending 3 years in Riker's without being convicted, a period that included beatings and hundreds of days of solitary confinement. Though Browder's situation may appear extreme, its eventual outcome is not unusual. The playbill for Phil Blechman's The Black Book notes that eleven percent of all deaths of persons between the ages of 15 and 24 are suicides, which works out to one suicide just under every two hours. Blechman began working on the play, which debuted professionally in New York City in 2012, in response to a college classmate's suicide in 2007 and with the aim of finding reason within the experience. Read more »

The Doctor Is In!

Hotsy Totsy Burlesque Tribute: Doctor Who
The Slipper Room, NYC
Upcoming Events: October 8th, November 12th, December 10th, 2015

Despite Doctor Who's history of using its Time Lord protagonist's companions to double as viewer eye candy, it still seems difficult to think that anyone would have guessed that over fifty years after its 1963 debut, an entire burlesque production would pay tribute to a children’s sci-fi show. However, Hotsy Totsy Burlesque's Tribute: Doctor Who, presented by Cherry Pitz and Joe the Shark (dressed for the night as Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor) does seem perfectly of a piece with the era of internet fan-fiction and character "shipping," and the new BBC series (beginning from its 2005 revival) has, to greater and lesser degrees, acknowledged and even encouraged the interest of its fandom in its characters’ sexualities. Read more »

The French Lesson

Pondling
Written by Genevieve Hulme-Beaman
Directed by Paul Meade Gúna Nua and Ramblinman
59E59 Theaters, NYC
September 8-October 4, 2015

Of all the chores on her grandfather's farm, Madeleine particularly loves crushing cans. She especially enjoys those cans that put up a bit of resistance right at the end, admiring how they fight the inevitable. Her satisfaction in dispatching cans contrasts with those times when she must hold the flashlight while her brother and grandfather feed the cows: at these times, she knows that her task is essentially a ploy to keep her from feeling useless, an insight that speaks to her relative isolation in Genevieve Hulme-Beaman's Pondling, part of New York City's annual 1st Irish Festival. Read more »

It's Not Just The Little Things

Little Thing, Big Thing
Written by Donal O’Kelly
Directed by Jim Culleton
Fishamble: The New Play Company
59E59 Theaters, NYC
September 2-27, 2015

A thief and a nun duck into a closet under the stairs: this is not the setup for a joke but for Little Thing, Big Thing, the newest work from award-winning playwright and performer Donal O’Kelly, having made its way to the United States as part of New York City’s annual 1st Irish Festival. Ex-con Larry O’Donnell ends up in that closet with Sister Martha McCann, who is returning from Nigeria to oversee the sale of the thematically evocative Lazarus Convent, when their paths cross by chance in the midst of his pulling off one last job. Larry’s final heist, a valuable statue of the Virgin, is interrupted because Martha has a second task in Ireland: to fulfil a death-bed request to hand-deliver a mysterious roll of film, one of the titular little things, to the Nigerian Henry Barr; but Barr is far from the only person who wants to get his hands what it contains. As in so many mismatched-buddy narratives, they head off on a cross-country road trip, but the unexpected and compelling discoveries that they make about themselves and their mission along the way resurrect a sense of moral purpose for both characters. Read more »

Beware the Chupacabra!

Beware the Chupacabra!
Directed by R. Patrick Alberty (book and lyrics) and Christian De Gré (music and orchestrations)
Mind the Art Entertainment
Lynn Redgrave Theater, NYC
August 26-30, 2015

Teddy Baskins (Vinnie Urdea) is a creative guy. Teddy designs and sews sought-after dresses. Teddy also invents sci-fi-worthy gadgets. An earnest, good-hearted, unassuming type, he works long hours in Jasper Sloan’s (Nicholas Connolly) dress shop and dreams of finding a woman who shares his enthusiasm for gadgets. A chance encounter with heiress Victoria “V” Warner (Caitlin Wees) on New Year’s Eve 1920 pulls Teddy out of his routine and his shop, ultimately steering his path to Mexico and a hunt for the eponymous creature of Beware the Chupacabra! Read more »

Hamilton!

Hamilton
Richard Rogers Theatre, NYC

Few shows have arrived on Broadway with the hype that accompanies Hamilton, the new musical inspired by author Ron Chernow's biography of one of America’s instrumental founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who immigrated from the West Indies as a teenager; the contribution of immigrants to the young country is a key theme in the musical, and one which obviously is still making headlines today. The musical begins in the 1770s, after Hamilton’s arrival in America, and the first act mostly revolves around Hamilton's role as a top aide to Washington in the Revolutionary War, while Act Two covers the early days of the American Republic, including the Washington administration, in which Hamilton was the first Treasure Secretary, and Hamilton’s death in 1804 as the result of his infamous duel with Aaron Burr. Read more »

Ready Player One!

Let's Play Play
Written by Ben Ferber
Directed by Todd Brian Backus
PowerOut, The Brick Theater, Brooklyn, NY
July 7-18, 2015

According to at least one survey, YouTube stars have greater name recognition than Hollywood A-listers with the under-18 set, who see them as more genuine and relatable: a more literal version of "Stars -- They’re Just Like Us!" Part of the seventh annual Game Play Festival at the Brick, which runs through July 25, Ben Ferber’s Let’s Play Play dives incisively into the corner of this web-based world that focuses on video gaming. It derives its title from a category of what are most commonly online videos in which players layer their own commentary over their video game play. The most well-known current example is 25-year-old Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, who is name-checked in the play's program and guest starred on the two-part 2014 season finale of South Park; otherwise known as PewDiePie, his YouTube channel boasts tens of millions of subscribers and billions of views. Read more »

A Theatrical Spectacle In Music

Thus Spoke the Spectacle
by Eric Goodman
Kraine Theater, NYC
March 29-August 30, 2015

Thus Spoke the Spectacle identifies itself as a "theatrical rock performance" and draws on writers such as Noam Chomsky, Marshall McLuhan, and, as the title suggests, Guy Debord and Friedrich Nietzsche. This multimedia performance brings those influences together with video and still imagery that is accompanied by creator Eric Goodman on guitar and vocals and Leo Friere on drums. Divided into ten songs, Goodman’s hourlong piece sets out to critique what Debord, in the title of one of his best-known works, calls the society of the spectacle, the elevation of the superficial that is presented by mass media and passively consumed by the audience. Read more »

Help, I'm Stuck In Jurassic Park!

Hold on to Your Butts
Directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker
Recent Cutbacks at the PIT (People’s Improv Theater), NYC
June 15 - July 27, 2015

Over the just the past three weekends, Jurassic World, fueled by CGI and nostalgia, has rocketed somewhat unexpectedly to over half a billion dollars in domestic box office (only the fifth film ever to do so) and double that worldwide. The timing seems auspicious, then, for the current run of Hold on to Your Butts, Recent Cutbacks’ comedic homage to the ur-text in the Jurassic series. Over the course of an hour, Nick Abeel and Kyle Schaefer frenetically re-enact Jurassic Park on a bare stage, impersonating the entire cast -- human and non-human alike -- and accompanied by a live soundtrack and foley effects from Kelsey Didion, stationed stage right. Read more »

What They're Serving Out in Seattle…

Don Nordo del Midwest
Cafe Nordo, Seattle

Dinner theatre is an experience that one might naturally associate with a mediocre meal accompanied by a tired production of some standard-bearer musical. Cafe Nordo challenges this preconception, doing the unthinkable by infusing creativity and sincerity into this otherwise basely novel tradition. Read more »

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