Theater Review

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Bigfoot Is In The House

I Was a Sixth Grade Bigfoot
Written by Cyndi Freeman Directed by Sara Peters
Nefarious Laboratory UNDER St. Mark's, NY, July 27, 2015 
Backstage Theatre, Edmonton Fringe, August 14-23, 2015

To make a pom-pom poof toy, you take a vast quantity of yarn, wrap it around and around your hand without cutting off blood flow to your fingertips -- a very real danger -- and then knot the bundle around the middle, cut the looped edges, and shake until poofed up.

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.