Theater Review

Object of Affection

The Changeling
Written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
Directed by Jesse Berger
Red Bull Theater at the Lucille Nortel Theatre, NYC
December 26, 2015-January 24, 2016

Ushering in the New Year, Red Bull Theater brings us a tragic tale of sex in payment for murder. Jesse Berger sure-handedly directs Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's 1622 tragicomedy The Changeling, the main plot of which introduces the noble Beatrice-Joanna (Sara Topham) as she finds a "giddy turning" in herself from Alonzo de Piracqo (John Skelley), to whom her father, Vermandero (Sam Tsoutsouvas), intends her to be married, towards Alsemero (Christian Coulson). In order to "change [her] saint," she eventually enlists the aid of her father's servant De Flores (Manoel Feliciano), whom she professes to abhor and whose skin condition suggests a spatter of blood across his face, to remove the obstacle that is Alonzo. Read more »

Take Another Hit!

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic
Written by Matt Cox
Directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker
The People’s Improv Theater, NYC
December 3, 2105-February 28, 2015

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premieres on stage in England in July, and Warner Brothers looks to extend its cinematic success with J.K. Rowling’s franchise with a trilogy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films beginning in November. For fans of a certain scarred wizard who can’t wait that long, or who can’t afford to fly to London for a play, there is another delightful option to be found right now: Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. From playwright Matt Cox and Kristin McCarthy Parker, director of this past summer’s Jurassic Park parody Hold on to Your Butts, Puffs follows the members of the perennially last-place house through their years at a well-known English school of magic as they exist on the margins of, and sometimes intersect with, chosen-one Harry’s story, a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead without the existential dread. Read more »

Fiddle This!

Fiddler on the Roof
Broadway Theatre, NYC

I was in my local supermarket when Gwen Stefani came on the speakers:

If I was a rich girl (na, na)
See, I'd have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl
No man could test me, impress me, my cash flow would never ever end
'Cause I'd have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl

And it made me wonder how many teenage music consumers around the world had any idea where that little tune came from. My conclusion? Not many. Read more »

Breaking and Entering

How to Get into Buildings
Written by Trish Harnetiaux
Directed by Katherine Brook
New Georges at The Brick, Brooklyn, NY
December 4-December 19, 2015

It may be reductive to say that Trish Harnetiaux's new postmodern comedy is about love and relationships, but it's the easiest way to begin. How to Get into Buildings is in some ways a play about itself, thick with meta-theatrical moments. In other ways, it is as if Samuel Beckett directed Magnolia. Harnetiaux cites her structural inspiration as exploded-view diagrams and their arrangement of parts in relationship but not in contact with each other, perhaps echoed in one character's predilection for bento boxes. Read more »

Dandy Going Darkly through America!

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy!
Written and performed by
Neil Arthur James
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Under St. Mark's Theater, NYC
October 29-31, 2015

Trigger Happy!, storytelling performance artist Dandy Darkly’s newest work, is a mesmerizingly entertaining, dark-toned foray into social criticism, a post-mortem on a still-living patient: America. The themes Mr. Darkly selected for his autopsy are in the media on a daily basis. The opinion page in The New York Times, Salon, and the Huffington Post supply daily missives about damaged U.S. soldiers returning from perversely unfocused wars, our cult of celebrity, gentrification neutering a once vibrantly inclusive social scene, and how political correctness police act to straightjacket open social discourse. Mr. Darkly's richly detailed, outrageous, and metaphoric tales examine these themes with an exactitude whose impact leaves our conventional media eating dust -- and his audience breathless with both awe and laughter. Read more »

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 »

Syndicate content