Playwright Lasha Bugadze makes the idea of needing some direction in life very literal in Navigator in Love, part of the Georgian-American Theatrical Feast taking place now through early August in Manhattan. The world premiere of Navigator, which won the 2012 BCC World Drama Award for Best International Play, in a translation by Maya Kiasashvili is one of an array of events that make up the festival, the aim of which is to introduce American audiences to nine playwrights from Georgia, a country of four million that is described in the program as lying "at the crossroads of Europe and Asia." This celebration of Georgia and its venerable cultural history and vibrant contemporary theatrical community includes two full productions, free readings, and special events with wine and music. (See www.redlabproductions.org for a full schedule.)
When it comes to Broadway-caliber theatre productions, cities like Seattle get what New York is willing to give them. Very often this means local audiences only get a taste of the most mainstream, spectacular efforts the Great White Way has to offer, remaining unexposed to the more challenging and innovative works that do sometimes still happen there. As a result, theatre (particularly musical theatre) is relegated to its niche enclave of dedicated fans along with a wider audience of casual theatre goers who come knowing what to expect. While presenting an enjoyable way to pass a few evening hours this can also bear a disappointing stamp of mediocrity. Fun Home, currently playing at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, is a happy exception to this trend.
If you hate Trump like I hate Trump and you have the urge to smash your TV to smithereens every time you see his orange headed smirk, or hurl your phone into the river every time you read one of his tweets - DON'T DO IT!!!!!!! Go see Me The People instead!!!! Me The People is a laugh-out-loud-funny satirical revue at the Triad Theater on the Upper West Side and I guarantee it will turn your Trump loathing howls of presidential pain that have you hiding under the covers into Trump loathing howls of cathartic laughter that will have you rolling in the aisles. Four supremely talented cast members and one hard-working pianist skewer everything from shredding the Constitution (literally) to the Supremes to Russian Spies to Mar-a-Lago to Melania to Korea to Putin to chocolate cake to climate change to the prospect of post-impeachment president Mike Pence vowing to fix you if you're gay.
The Floor is Lava, the new play from Washington Heights playwright and screenwriter Alex Riad, is part of the 2017 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, a socially- and environmentally-conscious festival whose productions choose non-profit organizations to benefit. The Floor is Lava benefits Girls Who Code, an organization that is dedicated to closing the vast gender gap in the technology industry and that currently serves 40,000 girls nationwide.
The Floor is Lava (debuting, coincidentally, at the same time that the children's game for which it is named has become the most recent social media "challenge") takes place in the basement of Tom (Ian Poake), one of those seemingly ubiquitous young white males with a billion-dollar app startup at an incredibly young age and a Mark Zuckerberg-inspired fashion sense.
Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” is many things: an idiosyncratic mix of music, memory and theater magic; a female take on an infamous male intellectual; a Holocaust parable that manages to surprise; a lesbian love story both lyrical and consumed with lust; a provocative piece of found history that holds up an eerie mirror to our times. The Pulitzer-winning playwright, author of more than a dozen distinctive works, has been talking to countless audiences about her first show to land on Broadway human -- separately discovered the same censored story. Vogel spoke with me a few days before the Tonys, which she planned to attend as a Best Play nominee.
Is it strange to be where you are now? Are you surprised to be on Broadway?
I find it just a continuation of what I’ve been doing. It’s like going from Rhode Island to Texas -- the roads are the same, and the people are lovely, just everything’s a slightly larger scale.
Quickly: how many of you have heard of Sigmund Freud? Now, how many of you have heard of Lou Salomé? It might surprise many audience members to see Salomé using Freud’s own psychoanalytic techniques on him late in Haley Rice’s new play Lou, but that is part of the point. Directed with an all-female cast by Kate Moore Heaney, Lou operates, to a large degree, in the genre of feminist reclamation, bringing attention to significant women unfairly elided by history. Much like
Indecent is a strange play. It's like getting a gorgeously wrapped package and finding something insubstantial and vaguely disturbing inside the box.
The packaging of Indecent includes fantastic direction from Rebecca Taichman, engaging writing from Paula Vogel and a near-perfect ensemble of performers. But once you get past the seduction of the production, you have to wonder why so much talent was lavished on what is no more than a historical theatrical footnote.
Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Zindel's gynocentric drama in fact unfolds place over the course of a Friday evening in 1968, within the apartment of the Reardon sisters in Zindel's native Staten Island. Chemistry teacher Anna Reardon (Amanda Jones) has taken the death of the sisters' mother particularly hard and, when the play begins, is medicated and has missed several days of work, where she has committed a legally and ethically serious indiscretion. Assistant Principal Catherine Reardon (Heather E. Cunningham), who lives with Anna, is attempting to deal with her sister's fixation on death, including an insistent embrace of vegetarianism, with the aid of copious amounts of both sarcasm and alcohol. Catherine has invited the third and only married Reardon sister, Board of Education Superintendent Ceil (Sara Thigpen), to dinner, inviting also all of the sisters' old grudges and new tensions into an evening further complicated when Fleur (Rebecca Holt), a guidance counselor, and her businessman husband Bob (Christopher Borg) drop by on their way to a night out.
Max Baker's new play, The Conspiracists, happens to be making its debut alongside widespread media coverage of the custody trial of toxic conspiracy monger Alex Jones, during which a lawyer for Jones argued that his on-air persona is merely performance art (a claim later disputed by his on-air persona). Many took this defense as a clear admission that he knowingly spreads lies for profit, but at least one writer has claimed that performing a character does not necessarily mean that the performer does not believe what the character delivers. That observation could apply equally well to the array of avowed believers who assemble as a support group in Baker's latest effort. In fact, one character, Hilda (Lisa Jill Anderson), posits, to the displeasure of the others, that belief in conspiracy theories is a self-protective measure masking feelings of powerlessness. That she may be objectively correct is not meant to demean these characters or to diminish the complexity of their lived experience, a point that is underscored by the fact that Hilda herself behaves not a sage dispenser of wisdom so much as a cheerfully, obliviously condescending outsider to the group, as absorbed in her own faintly silly interests as the conspiracists are in theirs.
The average person probably has at least a passing familiarity with William Shakespeare's Hamlet. But how is it different to know the Western canon's arguably most famous tragedy from the inside, so to speak? And can that shift in perspective, even if observed rather than experienced directly, allow the audience to see the play afresh, with different eyes? In John Kurzynowski and Jon Riddleberger's metatheatrical comedy How to Hamlet, or Hamleting Hamlet, created and performed by Theater Reconstruction Ensemble (TRE), a quartet of people (Nathaniel Basch-Gould, Sam Corbin, Joshua William Gelb, and Emily Marro) find themselves unexpectedly performing Hamlet (a problem, one would imagine, that most of us are glad not to encounter). TRE is a collective that seeks to "reconstruct both classical and canonical forms of theatricality through the playful development of works over time," and How to Hamlet uses a play centered on revenge, madness, and an existential crisis as the basis for unpredictable fun. To borrow from Troilus and Cressida, "this is, and is not," Hamlet.