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"The Prince and the Showboy" at the Rrazz Room in New Hope, PA with Faith Prince and Jason Graae

"The Prince and the Showboy" at the Rrazz Room in New Hope, PA
With Faith Prince and Jason Graae
Saturday October 4, 2014
Preview by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The Prince and the Showboy” unites Tony® Award Winner Faith Prince and L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award Winner Jason Graae in a delightful evening of song. Veterans of 13 Broadway shows between them, this pair takes to the concert stage singing their most requested and memorable Broadway numbers for one night only, this Saturday, October 4 at the RRazz Room in New Hope, PA. Showtime is 8:00 p.m.

The show features a heartfelt tribute to Broadway legend Jerry Herman, who has been a significant influence on each of them, both personally and professionally. Join Prince and Graae, two of Broadway's finest (and funniest) performers, for an evening you won't soon forget.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently called them "the Steve and Edie of the 21st Century"!

Tony® Award winner Faith Prince dazzles audiences as she moves effortlessly between theatre, concerts, television and movies. Her latest concert, Have A Little Faith, is a “smorgasbord” of Faith Prince: past, present and future. From her memorable Broadway triumphs to tales and songs from her early Off-Broadway gems to her latest Broadway roles, the evening sparkles with doses of Faith’s quirky trademark humor as well as touching moments filled with pathos. As hostess of this musical evening, Faith Prince guarantees that the best is yet to come!

Faith Prince has been dazzling Broadway audiences since winning the Tony®, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance as “Ms. Adelaide” in Guys and Dolls. As one of Broadway’s best loved leading ladies, Faith can currently be seen as the scheming, irascible “Miss Hannigan” in the revival of Annie.

Jason Graae has starred on Broadway in "A Grand Night For Singing," "Falsettos," "Stardust," "Snoopy," and "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" Off-Broadway shows include "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" (Drama Desk Nomination-Best Actor in a Musical), "Forever Plaid," "Olympus On My Mind," and "All in the Timing." He made his Metropolitan Opera House debut as vocal soloist in Twyla Tharp's Everlast with ABT, and has toured the U.S. with his one man show, winning the N.Y. Nightlife Award and 4 Bistro Awards. He recently made his debut at 54 Below in NYC with Faith Prince in "The Prince and the Showboy," winning another Nightlife Award for best duo. He won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre. He hung upside down for a year as Houdini in "Ragtime," was featured in "Forbidden Hollywood/Broadway" (Ovation Award), and has been in many shows at the Hollywood Bowl, Reprise, The Colony and more. TV/Film - Six Feet Under, Rude Awakening, Friends, Frasier and many more. For 5 and 1/2 years Jason was the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms cereal. Over 45 CDs recorded, including his 3rd solo CD- "Perfect Hermany, Jason Graae sings Jerry Herman." 
Mr. Graae emerges as an irresistible cut-up whose splendid voice is matched by Mischievous charisma." 
- New York Times

Tickets are $40.00 with limited VIP seating available for $50.00. The Rrazz Room is located at 6426 Lower York Road in New Hope, PA 18938. Free parking is available. For tickets to this performance and more information about the RRazz Room, please visit http://www.therrazzroom.com.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Lennon: Through A Glass Onion" Starring John R. Waters At The Union Square Theatre

Opening at the Union Square Theatre in New York City, "Lennon: Through a Glass Onion" is the internationally acclaimed theatrical event celebrating the genius, music and phenomenon of John Lennon. Created and performed by renowned Australian actor/musician John R. Waters and esteemed singer/pianist Stewart D'Arrietta, "Lennon: Through a Glass Onion" fuses monologues with Lennon's music from both his Beatles and solo recordings to create a portrait of a man that many only thought they knew.

Lennon: Through a Glass Onion features 31 songs including "Imagine," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Revolution," "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds," "All You Need is Love," "Come Together," "Help," "Working Class Hero," "Mother," "Jealous Guy," and more.

Show times will be Tuesday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Sunday at 7:00 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

The Union Square Theater is located at 100 East 17th Street. Tickets are available at TicketMaster.com, (800) 982-2787. Visit www.LennonOnStage.com for additional information. Running time is 90 minutes without an intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, September 15, 2014

“Juarez: A Documentary Mythology” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Photo provided by and copyrighted by Theater Mitu
“Juarez: A Documentary Mythology” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
Conceived and Created by Theater Mitu
Directed by Ruben Polendo
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The purpose of Theater Mitu’s documentary mythology piece is clear and certainly commendable. Addressing how Juarez, Mexico could have become “The Murder Capital of the World” and to rediscover director Ruben Polendo’s hometown, the company members “began traveling to Ciudad Juarez/El Paso, meeting with anyone who would sit down and talk to [them] to create a piece with and about its citizens; in exploration of and collaboration with these experiences, memories, and hopes.”

The resulting documentary also serves as a mythology of just how Juarez deteriorated and how its landscape is now a living landscape, “a city that is growing, changing, and surviving. “Juarez” is a complicated piece and is constructed with a variety of real and virtual interviews along with home movies made by Mr. Polendo’s father over an extended period of time. Company members wear ear buds ostensibly “listening to the actual interviews” and delivering the content of the interview as the particular Juarez/El Paso resident “speaks.” The identity of the resident is flashed on a relatively small monitor located audience right: Activist, Writer, Political Scientist, Professor of Rhetoric, Hip-Hop Artist, etc. as each relates her or his socio-mythic story of survival and hope.

This methodology is complex and not always audience friendly: some of the digitalization tends to distance the audience from the horrors visited on Juarez by the violent cartel factions. Often it seems it would have been better to play the actual interviews (in the style of Studs Terkel) than listen to actors “perform” the interviews. Even if fewer interviews were included and those in Spanish translated by the actors. There is an extended interview (narrated by Justin Nestor) that takes place with an actor behind a small back-lighted screen that seems pointless – yes the person experienced a horrific event but walked away in the end. What is the point?

The fall and rise of Juarez is an important story. Unfortunately, nothing new is presented in this documentary mythology – everything has been covered by the news and activist organizations and humanitarian organizations over the years. And the methodology does not allow the audience to make any connection – emotional or otherwise – to the people in Juarez/El Paso sharing their important stories.

JUAREZ: A DOCUMENTARY MYTHOLOGY

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Artistic Director David Van Asselt and Managing Director Brian Long have announced the opening of JUÁREZ: A Documentary Mythology, conceived and created by Theater Mitu and directed by Rubén Polendo; the closing night is Sunday, October 5, 2014. JUÁREZ: A Documentary Mythology is a co-production with Theater Mitu.

The cast is Kayla Asbel, Denis Butkus, Inés García, Michael Littig, Justin Nestor, and Alejandro Rodriguez.

The associate director is Scott Spahr; lead projection design is by Adam Cochran and Justin Nestor; sound design is by Alex Hawthorn; composer is Adam Cochran; stage management is Gina Ferraro; and the Associate Producer of Theater Mitu is Tyler Penfield. All production photos are provided by and copyrighted by Theater Mitu.

“Juarez: A Documentary Mythology” plays Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Individual tickets for “Juarez: A Documentary Mythology” can be purchased at www.rattlestick.org or by calling OvationTix at (866)-811-4111. Individual tickets are $25.00, Premium tickets are $30.00, Student tickets are $5.00, and Theater Artist and Under-30 tickets are $10.00. (Prices are subject to change. Please refer to the Rattlestick website for up-to-date information.) Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is located at 224 Waverly Place, west of Seventh Avenue South.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, September 11, 2014

“Bauer” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes on Sunday October 12, 2014)

Sherman Howard and Stacy Ross - Photo by Carol Rosegg
“Bauer” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes on Sunday October 12, 2014)
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Bill English
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Lauren Gunderson’s “Bauer,” currently playing at 59E59 as part of the 5A Series, transforms the rhythm, the form, the line, and the order of Rudolph Bauer’s life and work into sheer unbridled magic. The events of Bauer’s life - from his arrival in the United States in 1939 to his death in 1953 - are well known and accurately rehearsed in Ms. Gunderson’s succinct and brilliant ninety minute play which was commissioned by the San Francisco Playhouse in January 2014. What cannot be well known is the meeting of Bauer, his wife Louise and Hilla von Rebay shortly before his death in the Bauer’s Deal, NJ home: it cannot be well known because it never took place.

Addressing the oft asked question, “Why did the prolific non-objective artist Rudolf Bauer stop painting,” “Bauer’ tackles the important and often elusive components of the creative process through the meeting between the Bauers and Hilla Rebay. The play also tackles the essence and meaning of true love: Louise Bauer (Susi Damilano) hatches a plan to get Hilla (Stacy Ross) to visit Ruddi (Sherman Howard) because she knows her husband and Hilla are still very much in love and if anyone has a chance to reignite Ruddi’s artistic fire it would be Hilla – or perhaps (without revealing too much) it would be the combination of Hilla and Louise.

After a scene-chewing beginning – during which Bauer and Hilla are able to provide the exposition needed to understand the heart of the play – the play comfortably transitions into a delicious cat-and-mouse game which results in freedom overpowering the fear of the past and rekindling Rudolph Bauer’s indomitable creative spirit. Hilla and Bauer had been fellow artists and lovers and it was a contract Hilla convinced Bauer to sign when he was “straight off the boat from a war zone” that lost Bauer his control of his corpus of work which was intended to be displayed at the new Guggenheim Museum but – due to a falling out between Guggenheim heirs and Hilla – ended up not on the walls of the museum but in a vault in the museum’s basement. Here is Hilla’s gauntlet delivered without mercy to the intractable Rudolf Bauer:

“No. We have a fight. So let’s fight. That’s why I came here today. I thought that’s what we were going to talk about – your future – without [the Guggenheim foundation]. You can survive this … if you paint. What are they going to do, come up here and take your new work and out it in their basement? No. They’d get run out of town for doing that to any artist much less you. So paint. Dare them to come here and take it from you.”

Under Bill English’s precise and invigorating direction, the ensemble cast delivers a transformative triptych of performances. Sherman Howard is flawless as the brooding, angry, and depressed Rudolf Bauer who “stopped himself, gave up, and gave in.” Mr. Howard makes no meaningless movements and spares no inflection, no pause to authentically convey the depth of despair his character has experienced. Susi Damilano makes it clear that her character knows she is the default lover, the former maid turned spouse. Her Lousie Bauer is as indomitable of spirit as her husband and is determined to not allow him to “go gently into that good night.” And Stacy Ross is unstoppable as Hilla Rebay whose steely exterior magically transforms into a palate of redemptive love. These three performances are among the best of the best and they use Lauren Gunderson’s script to create their dynamic, authentic, and believable characters.

Bill English’s stark white set design provides the perfect backdrop for the projections – real and imagined – that gloriously catalog the play’s progression from beginning to end. Micah J. Stieglitz’s projection design is nothing short of brilliant and the final projection is something the audience will never forget. In partnership with Theodore J. H. Hulsker’s sound design and Mary Louise Geiger’s lighting design, Mr. Stieglitz’s projection design provides a triumvirate of remarkable creativity that teases the human imagination and the human id with provocative prowess. Abra Berman’s costume design not only captures the period but subtly assists in the definition of character and mood.

What Louise and Hilla manage to provide for Ruddi, they equally transmit to the audience with a catharsis rarely experienced in contemporary theatre. Hilla’s promise to Rudolf Bauer is a promise proffered to each audience member yearning for freedom: “The cosmic order, the crack into nature that we find in art, you will trust it again.” See “Bauer” and risk trusting the crack into nature the play’s cast and creative team provide with sheer unfathomable grace and beauty.

BAUER

“Bauer,” produced by San Francisco Playhouse, is part of the inaugural 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues).

The cast features Sherman Howard as Rudolf Bauer; Susi Damilano as Louise Bauer; and Stacy Ross as Hilla Rebay.

The design team includes Bill English (set design); ML Geiger (lighting design); Abra Berman (costume design); Theodore J.H. Hulsker (sound design); and Micah J. Stieglitz (projection design). The original score is by Savannah Jo Lack. The Production Stage Manager is Tatjana Genser. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

“Bauer” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, October 12. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single tickets are $70.00 ($49.00 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. The running time is 90 minutes without an intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, September 09, 2014

“Boys and Girls” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes Sunday September 28, 2014)

“Boys and Girls” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes Sunday September 28, 2014)
Written and Directed By Dylan Coburn Gray
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The boys and girls in Dylan Coburn Gray’s extended prose-poem performance piece are Irish and their particular rant is about life and times in Dublin, which is a specific matrix of cultural fundamentals. Although “Boys and Girls” features four narratives (chapters), the speakers are identified only as A, B, C, and D and therefore these are universal stories that connect not only to all Irish youth, but to all boys and girls finding their way through the often difficult corridors of individuation and separation.

The boys’ and girls’ narratives ramble in rhyme about dating, language, intimacy, porn, love, lust, anger, and loyalty. They each chat themselves up and recount trysts gone well or gone not so well. They share their expectations about themselves and about others, their hopes often dashed, and what is expected of them culturally, socially, and personally. Boy A (Ronan Carey) shares, “No illusions, me, about being a virile Rambo.” Boy B (Sean Doyle) is “Uncomfortable with wild sex, speech acts that betray internalized misogyny.” Girl C (Maeve O’Mahoney) talks about her transgender friend Jen whose “make-up is awful.” And Girl D (Claire O’Reilly) admits that love just might be “someone who’ll aloe vera your sunburn when it’s peeling.”

Their sonorous beats belie the same despair of metaphysical nihilism that often plagued young W. B. Yeats in his attempts to hold together the center of his life. Other girls and boys named Laura, Ali, Jamie, and Marky” tear at the fabric of hopefulness in bedrooms and in the bars frequented by the Boys and Girls. There are only so many drinks (and counting) one can endure till dawn when Boy B for example realizes, “Maybe this contact’s an unspoiled affirmation.” Or “maybe it’s more of an ending. A full stop.” Girl D reflects, “Jamie’s idea of happiness ends where mine begins.”

In the end, like Voltaire, Boy A transcends the ennui and boasts, “I make the most of it, chill in my garden in the brittle chill as dew forms and sun rises, and soon enough two forms pass, surprised to see me. Jogger and his dog catch my eye, nod a greeting. ‘howye.” That is not bad. That gets as close to hope as perhaps we humans can expect in a world where humans videotape the beheading of other humans and share their horrific deeds on social media.

The piece ends as it begins with tight unaccompanied harmonies: at the beginning, these doo-wop harmonies are up-tempo and upbeat four-part harmonies that seem to celebrate youthfulness and hopefulness; at the end – reflecting the change in mood - the harmonies are monochromatic and severe and introduce each character’s final “confession.” Throughout, the prose-poetry is compelling and accessible. “Boys and Girls” is not for the weak of heart or of spirit and certainly not for those uncomfortable with “language.” This piece is gripping and gritty with a cathartic close that challenges even the stoniest of heart.

BOYS AND GIRLS

“Boys and Girls” is part of Origin's 1st Irish at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues) and is written and directed by Dylan Coburn Gray.

The cast of “Boys and Girls” includes Ronan Carey, Sean Doyle, Maeve O’Mahony, and Claire O’Reilly. Ilo Tarrant is the Designer and Jess Johnston the AEA Stage Manager. Production photos are by Carol Rosegg.

The performance schedule for “Boys and Girls” is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM and 7:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, September 08, 2014

“3Christs” at the Judson Memorial Church (Closes on Sunday September 28, 2014)

“3Christs” at the Judson Memorial Church (Closes on Sunday September 28, 2014)
Written by S. M. Dale and Barry Rowell
Directed by Kelly O’Donnell
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Something goes terribly wrong after the opening scene of “3Christs” the site-specific play about three delusional patients at a state psychiatric hospital each who believes he is the “one and only Christ.” As each of the three patients enters the stage constructed in the sanctuary of the Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan, each actor quickly defines his character with precision and creates a persona that is believable and identifiable.

Donald Warfield’s Clyde Benson is wiry, wily, and reeks of insecurity and cynicism: his Christ, however, is confident and crafty. Arthur Aulisi’s Joseph Cassel is fraught with tics that tighten his face and body: his Christ, however, is confident and witty. Daryl Lathon’s Leon Gabor is a delusional delight who paces about and marks his territory carefully: his Christ, however, is cautious and often confused.
As each enters, he interacts with Nurse Parker (Catherine Porter) whose activities skillfully elucidate further the peculiar attributes of each Christ.

The ride becomes bumpy when visiting psychologist Dr. Milton (Christopher Hurt) enters to begin his study of the three Christs to “see what happens when a person’s belief in his identity is challenged by someone claiming the same identity.” In a series of 25 scenes covering 775 days of interaction with the three delusional patients, Dr. Milton and his cohorts Dr. Yoder (Mick Hilgers) and Dr. Anderson (Jennifer Tsay) perform a battery of “magic tricks” for/on the patients in the attempt to coerce them to divest themselves of their delusional behavior. They interview, medicate (over and under and with placebo), manipulate and trick their clients without mercy. Dr. Milton tells Nurse Parker:

“I can’t do it to [Clyde]…. and perhaps… well, maybe a control will be useful for us. I’ve considered the ethics of our approach and I believe the men’s defenses are powerful enough to counter any potential threat. Plus, our impersonations of their delusional referents will be emotionally gratifying and supportive.” And the good doctor confesses, “Human beings? One thinks he’s a penniless millionaire, one calls himself [explicative deleted], and the third works in the cause of an empire that no longer exists. They’re unhappy caricatures of human beings.”

Christopher Hurt seems uncomfortable in his role as Dr. Milton – a role pivotal to the success of S. M. Dale’s and Barry Rowell’s script. Is does not seem Mr. Hurt has been able to find his character and apparently director Kelly O’Donnell has not assisted him in that process. Ms. O’Donnell also allows her three Christs to fall into and out of their characters: their identities falter throughout and only Mr. Warfield seems able to maintain a reasonable semblance of his character.

Kia Rogers’s lighting design is adequate given the constraints on the performance space. Rebecca Phillips set design is problematic: the main entrance/exit to/from the stage is a working door that is too narrow to accommodate the wheeled cart that moves in and out carrying a variety of props and players. When actors attempt to move the cart through the door the entire stage left wall of the meeting room shakes; and at one point it appears the wall will come tumbling down. This visual and auditory intrusion makes the suspension of disbelief difficult. Angela Harner’s costumes are appropriate and she does her best to create the unnecessary magician and magician’s assistant costumes.

So what is learned here? What should have been clear from the beginning, that “Unlike the atomic physicist, we cannot control the reactions of others. I think we learned that psychotics, having good reason to flee human companionship, actually crave it.” Also, according to Bertrand Russell (via Dr. Milton the 4th Christ), “Every man would like to be God, if it were possible; some few find it difficult to
admit the impossibility.” It took the playwrights, the director, and the actors far too long to get to those realizations.

3CHRISTS

Peculiar Works Project presents the world premiere of the site-specific theatrical event “3Christs,” written by S. M. Dale and Barry Rowell and directed by Kelly O'Donnell. The event is based on “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti,” the psychological study by Milton Rokeach.

The cast features Christopher Hurt, Catherine Porter, Donald Warfield, Arthur Aulisi, Daryl Lathon, and Mick Hilgers.

The design team includes Angela Harner (costumes), Kia Rogers (lighting), Rebecca Phillips (sets), and Harrison Adams (sound). Heather Olmstead is the production stage manager. Production photos by Jim R. Moore / Vaudevisuals.

“3Christs” will be performed in the sanctuary of Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, at Thompson St.) The performance schedule is Thursday - Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Tickets, which are $18.00, are available by calling 866-811-4111 or online www.peculiarworks.org.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, September 07, 2014

“Journey’s End” at Sutton Arts Theatre in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, United Kingdom (Closes on September 6, 2014)

“Journey’s End” at Sutton Arts Theatre in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, United Kingdom (Closes on September 6, 2014)
Written by R. C. Sheriff
Directed by Emily Armstrong
Reviewed by George Caulton
Theratre Reviews Limited

From the flicker of the candle on entrance to the final bows to conclude, Emily Armstrong skillfully directs R. C. Sheriff’s Tony Award winning play “Journey’s End.” With a combination of light comedy to passionate duologues, the auditorium was left without a dry eye. Notably, 2014 marks 96 years since 38,000 British soldiers were killed in the largest artillery barrage the Great War had seen, which only adds to the sentimentality of Emily Armstrong’s terrific execution of the play. A solid cast, authentic scenery and outstanding acting all allows R.C. Sheriff's ground-breaking play to take the audience on an emotional and intellectual roller-coaster.

Alan Lowe firmly captures the innate decency of the reliable Lieutenant Osbourne or ‘Uncle’ with moving sequences of dialogue and extremely poignant scenes with new arrival Raleigh, fantastically played by Jon Flood. The scenes with both Uncle and Raleigh were specifically heartfelt as both actors exceed in portraying two different generations of soldier. The innocence and naivety reflected in Jon Flood’s “topping” performance merely leaves the dénouement with further legitimacy, allowing the audience to grasp the situations thousands were stranded in during the course of WW1 fully.

Robbie Newton exceeds with his portrayal of world-weary bitter, Stanhope with simply outstanding acting and faultless authenticity. The final scene with Stanhope and Raleigh captured the audience to the extent that you could hear a penny drop- an obvious sign of the tense atmosphere created by cast and director. Fantastic contributions too from Tom Frater (Hibbert) who clearly understood his characters positions due to heartfelt emotion of “neuralgia” in his eye which again reflects the outstanding acting and realistic attributes throughout the play.

JOURNEY’S END

Journey’s End runs until September 6, 2014. For further performance and ticket information, please visit http://www.suttonartstheatre.co.uk/
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, September 05, 2014

“Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” at Minetta Lane Theatre

Cady Huffman (Manuela) and Marrick Smith (Peter) - Photo by Carol Rosegg
“Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” at Minetta Lane Theatre
Book, Music and Lyrics by Ivar Pall Jonsson
Story by Ivar Pall Jonsson and Gunnlaugur Jonsson
Directed by Bergur Ingólfsson
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“If you act like you know what you are doing, people will believe you know what you are doing.”

What do you call a nation-state that seeks prosperity for its citizens, encourages personal responsibility, prefers not to be dependent on other nation-states for its needs, and supports a deep and abiding faith in an all-powerful deity? The United States? England? Saudi Arabia? Try “Elbowville,” located somewhere in Ragnar Arnarsson’s elbow where the residents depend upon Lobster trapping for income. Ivar Pall Jonsson’s “Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” (hereafter “Revolution”) is the story of the rise and fall and rebirth of this small but determined elbow-based town.

“Revolution” is not just about a 2008 subprime mortgage crisis or yet another recession: it is about all those “bubbles” that burst, all those “prosperities“ that fail to provide redemption and release from life’s often traumatic vicissitudes. This new musical is a trope – here an extended metaphor - for the underbelly of prosperity, the flip-side of success, and the hypocrisy of systems-based autocracies. Elbowville’s economy is on the downside and Peter (Marrick Smith) continues to pitch new ideas to Mayor Manuela (Cady Huffman) and sidekick Kolbein (Patrick Boll): finally his promissory note generator wins their approval and a shaky prosperity rises over Elbowville’s horizon.

Prosperity quickly turns to financial ruin for the residents who cannot repay the useless promissory notes downgraded by Mandrake (Rick Faugno) and Peter has a difficult time restoring faith in himself. He has lost his girlfriend Brynja (Jesse Wildman) to his brother Alex (Graydon Long) who gets exiled from town through a coin-toss bet. Alone and depressed and without hope, Peter takes his own life. We see this suicide within the opening moments of the musical which itself is an extended flashback explaining the cause of the suicide. Elbowville’s residents revolt; however, the revolution ultimately re-seats the same corrupt leaders in office and the cycle repeats.

“Revolution” is replete with rich imagery and thoughtful tropes – many of them biblical and mythological. Mr. Smith (Peter) and Mr. Long (Alex) are the consummate Cain and Abel and it is Peter’s inability to survive wearing the mark of his curse that leads to his self-destruction. Their songs together - “Let’s Make An Oath” and “Heads or Lobster” require exquisite vocal control and range and both young men display the necessary craft. Their performances are honest and profoundly authentic. Further, Mr. Smith’s Peter serves as a trope for redemption: he does not want to drag his peers “to the cross” with him. He is willing to take the fall.

Mr. Long’s scene with Ms. Wildman (Brynja) at the musical’s end is also a touching scene. As a new Adam and Eve, they escape from the not-quite-idyllic Eden-ville to attempt a new start. Their “Our Revolution” with the ensemble is riveting and provides the necessary cathartic release for the audience. Cady Huffman’s Manuela is just perfect: this well-rounded character blames all problems on people not taking responsibility (recurring theme) and is as much Maleficent as she is manipulative. Ms. Huffman’s styling of her plaintive prayer to Elbowville’s Hollywood deity – “Oh Bob” – is spot on and provides one of the musical’s moments of sheer perfection.

Bergur Ingolfsson directs “Revolution’s” energetic and talented cast with precision and depth. The cast creates authentic characters – not caricatures – and Mr. Ingolfsson provides convincing staging throughout. Although there is some delicious tapping, the choreography needs some attention: this talented cast needs to be pirouetting and sliding across the stage much more often and not just standing still. This is an easy fix: Lee Proud is clearly up to this challenge.

Petr Hlousek‘s expansive set encompasses the entire space of the Minetta Lane Theatre: the side walls are lined with lymphatic system tubing that connect Elbowville to the rest of Ragnar’s body parts and his projection design is brilliant. During Brynja and Peter’s powerful duet, “Love Weighs 200 Tons,” their push-pull movements appear as silhouettes on the back wall. At first, the audience assumes these are the actual shadows of the actors; however, they are independent projections which the actors imitate precisely until the silhouettes take on a life of their own and reflect the inner feelings of the characters. Jeff Croiter’s lighting design makes all that the cast and creative team attempt become a dazzling reality. His nuanced and subtle lighting makes “Elbowville” a “pretty how town with up so floating many bells down” (E. E. Cummings).

This new musical deserves a broad-based audience. There are enough musical styles and allusions to satisfy the musical novice and the sophisticated musical aficionado (“Evita,” “Spring Awakening,” The Rocky Horror Show,” “Urinetown,” “Tommy” and more). Bravo, “Revolution!”

REVOLUTION IN THE ELBOW OF RAGNAR AGNARSSON

Under the direction of Bergur Ingólfsson, the cast features Cady Huffman, Kate Shindle, Michael Biren, Patrick Boll, Zach Cossman, Karli DiNardo, Danielle, Graydon, Brad Nacht, Josh Sassanella, Marrick Smith, and Jesse Wildman. Choreography for “Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” is by Lee Proud, with music direction by Stefán Örn Gunnlaugsson.

Set and projection design for “Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” are by Petr Hloušek, with lighting design by Jeff Croiter and Cory Pattak, and sound design by Carl Casella. Costume design is by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir and Edda Gudmundsdottir.

“Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” is being produced Off-Broadway by Karl Pétur Jónsson/Revolution Productions and Theater Mogul. The playing schedule is Tuesday through Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 - $69.50 and are available by calling Ticketmaster 800-745-3000 or through www.RevolutionElbow.com. The running time is 2 hours.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, September 01, 2014

FringeNYC – Past, Present, and Future of New York City's Annual Fringe Festival

FringeNYC – Past, Present, and Future of New York City's Annual Fringe Festival
Written by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Theatre Reviews Limited was there at the beginning eighteen years ago when “the scrappy few” founded FringeNYC: Aaron Beall, John Clancy, Jonathan Harris, and (current Artistic Director) Elena K. Holy recognized the need for a Fringe Festival in New York City. John Clancy and Elena K. Holy were the founders of FringeNYC’s producing organization The Present Company. This is part of that 1997 manifesto:

“We need a place where the artists who do all the hard work, the early work, can incite and excite each other. We need a time set aside to look at all the exploration, a time for the front-line soldiers in our endless Cultural War to report back from their patrols.”

And so it began. Joseph and I crammed ourselves into little theatres dotting the landscape of the Lower East Side and opened our notebooks and our hearts to the efforts of artists committed to “the power of live human interaction – PERFORMANCE!” There was the Collective Unconscious, The Piano Room (now simply “Pianos”), and the Pink Pony among others. Most of these gems have closed in the recent past as rents have escalated and the splendor and grittiness of the Lower East Side have given way to gentrification, trendy boutiques, and a barrage of seemingly endless construction.

We saw the first production of “Urinetown” in 1999 staged with painted cardboard boxes. We sat on folding chairs that might have collapsed before the curtain went up on the performance we wanted to see; wires hung from the ceiling connecting overloaded sockets to a variety of lighting instruments from work lights to tin-cans filled with bulbs. Second-hand air conditioners buzzed and scraped belching cool air making the seating more bearable – until they were turned off just seconds before curtain. The early performances were edgy, provocative, mind-stretching, and memorable. When we pass those old venues in the present, we can name the performers who shared their vision inside.

FringeNYC 2014 – which closed on Sunday September 24 - continues to fulfill the original vision of the 1996 founders. Only one of those founders remains Elena K. Holy and she is now the Producing Artistic Director of the Present Company the not-for-profit theatre producing organization dedicated to inciting art, cultivating community and creating new American theatre.

Of the two-hundred shows in this year’s lineup, we saw forty shows and reviewed all forty of them – a remarkable feat for just two reviewers. We visited fifteen of the eighteen venues. We found a broad range of quality in this year’s shows from the excellent to the truly awful – par for the course for most Fringe Festivals. However, there were far more “bad” shows than “good” and this might signal the need for a more aggressive adjudicating process. It is difficult to adjudicate shows with a volunteer staff; however, it might be beneficial to explore other ways to assemble teams that can screen potential shows more thoroughly. Although AEA (Actors Equity Association) does not permit artists to videotape their work, there might be additional screening platforms that can be put in place.

FringeNYC 2014 introduced a new reservation and ticketing system utilizing the Eventbrite platform (http://www.eventbrite.com/). This “green” system allows patrons to purchase tickets to shows right up to thirty minutes before curtain. All confirmations and tickets are displayed on the patron’s smart phone or Eventbrite account online where tickets can be printed out if the patron does not have a smart phone. This is a wonderful addition to FringeNYC and will also expedite the administrative staff’s ability to determine what shows and what venues were visited most often immediately. The days of counting ticket stubs is over.

And what of the future of FringeNYC? This priceless contribution to the culture of New York City continues to need monetary support beyond the reasonable ticket price of $18.00. Sponsorships and donations of all sizes are required to ensure the future of this important Festival. The founding four said it best in 1997: “There is no map. The compass slowly spins, pointing to all directions. But if we walk together, eyes open, a step at a time, we’ll find our way.” Here’s to another eighteen years, FringeNYC, and more thereafter. Thank you, Elena K. Holy, for your gift of “doing the job that must be done” and continuing this place where “new artists have a chance of staying in the theater and a new energy and spirit can infuse our theater.”

FRINGENYC – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

For more information on FringeNYC, including its history, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For reviews from this year’s FringeNYC, please visit http://david.ceoexpress.com and http://www.theatrereviews.com.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“FORTUNA FANTASIA” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios (Closed on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“FORTUNA FANTASIA” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios (Closed on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written by Jesse Schreck
Directed by Nailah Harper-Malveaux
Reviewed by David Robets and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Men at some time are masters of their fates: /The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, /
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Cassius, “Julius Caesar” (1.2.9)

“Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer /The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune /
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.” “Hamlet” (3.1.1750)

Cassius weighs in on the side of free will in his conversation with Brutus and Hamlet claims humankind can oppose the fates or succumb to their capriciousness. Are we maters of our fates (free will) or subjects (puppets) of Fortuna goddess of both fortune and fate?

Jesse Schreck tackles this debate in his “FORTUNA FANTASIA” which ran as part of FringeNYC 2014. The Ringmaster (Jeremy Weiss) serves as narrator in Mr. Schreck’s new play and the puppeteer par excellence. Mr. Weiss springs onto the stage, twirls and whirls and twists the fate of the unsuspecting couple in the midst of a nasty breakup. Claire (Chandler Rosenthal) and Jeffrey (Paul Hinkes), like Hamlet, have to decide what to do about their future when ringmaster/goddess of fortune decides to intervene in their troubled lives. What happens is not logical or reasonable and not possible to predict.

Somewhere caught between absurdity and actuality is this fantasia - somewhat similar to the work of Craig Lucas - where characters are caught in a mystical realm, where the improbable reigns, but also where life lessons are served up when once again the characters regain control. The cast wins the audience over by being completely committed to the script, inventing and interacting with characters that walk a fine line between ludicrous and rational. Ms. Rosenthal gives Claire a clear perspective, weak enough to bend under pressure, persistent enough to hold her beliefs and vulnerable enough to fall prey to circumstance. Mr. Hinkes portrays Jeffrey with nerdy intelligence, a warm heart, honest intentions and great physical comedy. Kathleen, played by Juliana Canfield, is pleasantly psychotic, dangerously deliberate, and cautiously calculative and yet still is able to show a quirky lovable side. Jacob Osborne creates a hysterically comical Thomas, complete with Russian accent, uninspiring poetry, facial expressions that seem to be molded from silly putty and some deadpan reactions that garner great laughter.

Director Nailah Harper-Malveaux has made fine choices and moves the plot along at a quick pace, never pondering comical moments but relentlessly moving on to the next bit of business. It is a show that should be seen, if for no other reason, for the entertainment value that is created, especially if in the hands of a talented creative team such as this one. I am sure theatre audiences will be hearing more from the talented Jesse Schreck.

FORTUNA FANTASIA

“FORTUNA FANTASIA” is presented by Common Room in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Nailah Harper-Malveaux.

The cast of “FORTUNA FANTASIA” includes Juliana Canfield, Paul Hinkes, Jacob Osborne, Chandler Rosenthal, and Jeremy Weiss.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes with one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 25, 2014

“Quiet Peninsula” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Quiet Peninsula” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Brandon Ferraro
Directed by Samantha Tella
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Quiet Peninsula,” a new play by Brandon Ferraro presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival, is interesting, becomes increasingly compelling, and is full of little surprises that bind the three Acts together tightly – surprises that actually might not be fully realized until after the audience leaves the theatre. The play has a solid structure, a clever concealed dramatic arc and a story that provides many “ah-hah” moments because of the intricate construction. The phenomenal concept causes the audience to become part of the play, with an emotional investment in the characters because you know more than they do and react to situations the actors are unaware of, cultivating the response. It is indeed an enlightening plot. Director Samantha Tella pays careful attention and moves the parallel acts along with ease.

The cast all do fine work in defining their characters and do not fall prey to insensitive acting techniques but accept the depth of subtleness. In an incredibly current exploration, Jess (Lani Harms) and Lorraine (Lauren Hayes) police partners, sit in a bar after one has shot a teenager. Their ability to contain hysteria, find an inner strength, and examine consequences, then acting accordingly, provides the needed sense of reality.

Walter (Hank Offinger) a stroke victim confined to a wheelchair gives an incredible performance communicating clearly with the nuanced shift of his head, piercing focus of his sometimes angry, sometimes understanding eyes and tears of disappointment which gently roll down a worn, strong, dignified face. In contrast his son David (Brandon Ferraro) expels his stressful anger in an exuberant voice perhaps too desperate, but in essence exacerbates the power of his father’s silence. A bit more self awareness to place and situation might add to the suspension of disbelief in this act.

Kathy (Briana Pozner) breathes strength, anger, rage and power into her depiction of a college administrator prohibiting a basketball star (Ja-Ron Young) from playing because he is accused of an alleged rape. She is adamant in her decision and exhibits her feminist traits with conviction and concealed trepidation. Mr. Young presents a victimized African American with pride and dignity never being trapped in stereotype and allowing his emotion and intelligence to rule his performance. As the over confident coach, Derek (Sean McIntyre) is the right mix of anger and arrogance, as product of academia sports, supporting the player and battling the administrator.

The characters in the three Acts are all connected; however, their precise connection will not be revealed in this Review. Well, perhaps just one: the police officer in the first Act who shot the teenager is the significant other of the college administrator in the third Act.

Mr. Ferraro is a fresh new voice that should be noticed and recognized.

QUIET PENINSULA

“Quiet Peninsula” is presented by Producer in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Samantha Tella.

The cast of “Quiet Peninsula” includes Brandon Ferraro, Lani Harms, Lauren Hayes, Sean McIntyre, Hank Offinger, Briana Pozner, and Ja-Ron Young.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, August 24, 2014

“Chemistry” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)

Jonathan Hopkins and Lauren LaRocca in "Chemistry." Photo by Michelle Laird.
“Chemistry” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Jacob Marx Rice
Directed by Anna Strasser
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Chemistry is the key to understanding the complexities inherent in Jacob Marx Rice’s “Chemistry,” which completed a sold out FringeNYC 2014 run on Friday August 22 and will reopen for an extended run in mid-September (details below). On the surface, it is the gripping story of a relationship born of pharmacology: Steph (Lauren LaRocca) and Jamie (Jonathan Hopins) meet at the office of the psychiatrist they share for brief talk-therapy and prescribed psychotropic medication to treat her chronic depression and his unipolar mania. But there is more than the chemistry of their brains and the chemistry of the relationship that develops between them that make “Chemistry” a remarkable play.

It is the chemistry between Mr. Hopins and Ms. LaRocca that truly electrifies the stage and enlivens Mr. Rice’s script. In its current state, the writing – though compelling and thought provoking – is sometimes uneven. It would be good, for example, to have a clearer resolution of Jamie’s attempts to process Steph’s suicide. And Ms. Strasser’s direction – though concise and credible – often places the actors on opposite sides of the stage as they provide exposition directly to the audience. This creates a dizzying ping-pong effect, which although it mimics a “bipolar” effect – does not serve the play well.

However, despite these minor issues, the actors make it all work. They create remarkable chemistry between actors and audience and between story and audience. And that chemistry creates layer after layer of connections in the audience member and this is where perhaps the real power of the piece lies: each audience member knows someone who is suffering from mental illness; indeed, that someone might be the audience member herself or himself.

The inexhaustible craft of Ms. LaRocca and Mr. Hopins creates believable and authentic characters: their Jamie and Steph cajole one another to connect to their illnesses and to one another; they connive to convince themselves and one another that hope need not be abandoned; and they collude ultimately in succumbing to the same matrix of woe that compelled them to trust in another human once again.

Make it a point to see “Chemistry” when it reopens mid September at SoHo Playhouse.

CHEMISTRY

“Chemistry” is presented by Audra Arnaudon in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Anna Strasser.

The cast of “Chemistry” includes Jonathan Hopins and Lauren Larocca.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission. THE FRINGENYC ENCORE SERIES runs September 4 - October 5 at SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street between Varick and Avenue of the Americas). Tickets are $18, available at 212-352-3101 or online at OvationTix at www.fringenyc-encoreseries.com. For additional information on the extension of this show and other FringeNYC 2014 shows, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/off-off-broadway/article/FringeNYC-ENCORE-Series-Lineup-Announced-904-1005-20140822#.U_pb8mPp_a7.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, August 24, 2014

“Kiss Your Brutal Hands” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Kiss Your Brutal Hands” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written and Performed by Jim Shankman
Directed by Craig J. George
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

One’s religious heritage can be a heavy weight when one is a lonely addicted (to sex and to drugs) trader teetering on the brink of a short sale meltdown or a delusional homeless person in Tompkins Square Park bedecked with layers of pants and a pretty dress – particularly so if these are one and the same person.

Eschewing one’s faith, as Izzy and Danny attempt to do in Jim Shankman’s “Kiss Your Brutal Hands,” does not guarantee that one’s faith construct will not remain a haunting presence throughout one’s life. Rite and ritual - like those same constructs in stock trading, street theatre, and prison – fail to offer surcease. The need to believe, commit, and care continue to impinge on the conscious and unconscious self.

Jim Shankman’s “Kiss Your Brutal Hands” portrays Izzy and Danny facing the crisis of identity and sustainability. They rant, rave, and rage against all they perceive to distract them (God, Jews, agents, attorneys, former sex-mates, little and no-so-little girls who want to get them into trouble). Some of the ranting is tasteless and gratuitous but it serves to expose the angst and despair of Mr. Shankman’s characters.

It is not clear what the purpose of this solo performance might be. The character of Danny is shallow and nothing similar to a Tomkins Square Park homeless person. And Izzy’s frenetic series of phone calls does little to develop a character one easily cares for or identifies with. Mr. George’s direction is often distracting and contributes little to the advancement of the action.

KISS YOUR BRUTAL HANDS

“Kiss Your Brutal Hands” is presented by Michael Howard Studios in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Craig G. George.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, August 23, 2014

“Love At Home” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Love At Home” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closed on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written and Directed by Mary Matoula Webb
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Mary Matoula Webb’s play “Love At Home,” which is part of FringeNYC 2014, deals with the relationship between an LGBT Mormon teenager and her straight sister and parents. The action of the play moves between the present and several flashbacks. As they play begins, Becca (Cat Cabral) is with her father John (Richard Harrison Webb) preparing for the baby shower for her lesbian half-sister Diana (Tygar Hicks). Becca hopes her stepmother Claudia (Denise Hungerford) won’t embarrass her with Mormon homophobic platitudes. Becca’s father is more accepting and liberal – he even likes Leonard Cohen.

The scenes from the past center mostly on Becca’s discovery that Diana is a lesbian and focus on Becca’s struggles to understand her sister’s sexual status. Diana has refused to be baptized and dismisses Mormon teaching as “wisdom and not scripture.” Much of the dialog is stilted and reminiscent of all dramatic literature attempting to deal with the acceptance of the LGBT members of a straight (usually religious) family. There is nothing new here.

Ms. Webb’s direction is cumbersome and some of her staging choices are questionable. As the family prepares for the shower, for example, Becca and her mother keep filling mesh bags with candy and tying them with small cards. When the small basket is full they empty it into a larger basket. Are hundreds of Mormon guests coming to greet a lesbian and her pregnant lover? And why does the father have to sneak cupcakes from the box for the shower? And why is he always eating the candy from the filled bags?

Despite the cast’s attempts, the script falls flat and the core conflicts do not drive interesting plots. “Love At Home” seems like a lecture attempting to be a dramatic work. Of the performances, Tygar Hicks delivers a compelling performance as Diana and creates her character with an endearing honesty and a compelling authenticity. The rest of the performances are uneven and often not believable.

LOVE AT HOME

“Love At Home” is presented by Matoula Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Mary Matoula Webb.

The cast of “Love At Home” includes Cat Cabral, Tygar Hicks, Denise Hungerford, and Richard Harrison Webb.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, August 23, 2014

“The Mormon Bird Play” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios (Closed on Thursday August 21, 2014)

“The Mormon Bird Play” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios (Closed on Thursday August 21, 2014)
Written and Directed by Roger Benington
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

In 1938, on the precipice of events that led to World War II, Witold Gombrowicz wrote the tradicomedy “Iwona, księżniczka Burgunda” (“Ivona, Princess of Burgundia”). The play graphically describes what the enslavement of form, custom, and ceremony brings to a nation-state, a community, even an individual.

In Roger Benington’s allegorical retelling of Gombrowicz’s play, Princess Ivona arrives in Salt Lake City and is befriended by a group of Mormon children readying themselves for baptism into their faith community. Dubbed Princess of the Birds, Ivona proves to be an interesting distraction for the children but becomes an annoying presence: Ivona has a way of seeing into their souls and exposing much of the hypocrisy of the community. Playwright Roger Benington cleverly uses Ivona as a riveting extended metaphor (here an allegory) to expose not only the hypocrisies of religious constructs but also the commitment of such constructs to preserve their tenants and their control over their penitents.

The parallels between Ivona Princess of Burgundia and Ivona Princess of Birds (and all things ornithological) are intriguing. This “enotes” comment on Gombrowicz’a Ivona describes the matrix of religiosity that eventually compels playmates Brenda, Clifford, Pipa, and Evan to destroy Ivona. The fantasy sequence relating the burial of a stillborn baby on the Prairie at the beginnings of Mormonism is a chilling and startling precursor to Ivona’s death.

“At first, the prince finds her exhilarating for precisely this reason: Loving her releases him from a role. In the end, however, trying to live as one’s true self and not in some socially defined capacity is so alienating that it cannot be sustained. Therefore, a social event must be staged that removes Ivona from the scene. Society must find a way of protecting itself.”

As the prerecorded announcement at the beginning of the show asks the audience not to “tweet” during the performance - and” tweet” is used several times in the script to replace words that should not be spoken - it leads the audience to believe that certain things should go unsaid and be covered up, not to upset the accepted social or religious climate. In contrast to this concept, the actors involved in this production successfully expose themselves intellectually and emotionally, crossing lines, gender bending and possibly revealing the consequences of growing up as a gay Mormon. Whether with a nuanced expression from a deaf girl, a broad display of religious ceremony, a reenactment of Mormon pioneer women or the frivolity of contentious young girls, these actors are committed to telling a story in an unconventional manner, that mesmerizes and sweeps you into a dream.

It is difficult to assess the amount of information contained in this theatrical piece, but it is certainly food for thought long after you leave the theater. It contains some powerful moments. In the last scene a young closeted gay boy stretches out his arm and asks his friends to pinch him, something the bird princess repeatedly did to others when threatened by those who did not understand. Needing so much to be loved, connected, feel something, anything but they could not oblige, and reject him for the fear of being ostracized. The burden society, religion and politics places on young impressionable minds just may be the root of an evil evolution.

THE MORMON BIRD PLAY

“The Mormon Bird Play” is presented by The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Roger Benington.

The cast of “The Mormon Bird Play” includes Jose Dao, Billy Hutto, James Leach, Jordan Parente, Brennan Pickman-Thoon, and Thomas Sullivan.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, August 22, 2014

“Mother’s Day” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Players Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“Mother’s Day” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Players Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written by Colin Drucker
Directed by Reginald L. Douglas
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Perhaps the talented and perceptive young playwright Colin Drucker is elaborating on this observation, among others, in his new modern day family play “Mother’s Day” being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. Son Joey Pollack (Karl Gregory) wears strikingly fashionable women’s clothing as drag queen Helen Back when visiting his parents in New Jersey. Mom Liz Pollack (Renee Claire Bergeron) dons a colorful print top to visit her mother who explains it makes her look too round. Dad Talbott Pollack (Neal Lerner) sports an apron which neighbor Suzanne DeMarco (Rhonda Ayers) remarks on while on her visit to borrow a dress so she can look good when she goes out to dinner with her family. Slacker son Nicky Pollack (Brough Hansen) slouches around in tee shirts and sweat pants; while his father is hopeful he will come to dinner dressed decently. All these clothes may help build the characters and the way society accepts or rejects them, but it is when Mr. Drucker strips his characters naked that we see the reality and with a little coaxing from the bottle, that we feel the pain.

The plot is simple, the characters complex, the script is demanding, the dramatic arc climbs sky high, gets covered by a dark cloud, the storm begins and believe me - when it is over - there is no rainbow or pot of gold. The quick dialogue is witty, wise and engaging, as barbs are tossed and arrows flung, always piercing the hearts of the target, always drawing blood but never killing the victim, just leaving them to suffer.

The cast is led by the remarkable Mr. Gregory, strutting, striking, clawing through a persona that is fractured, trying to heal, hoping for help, looking for love and always separated and alone. He reaches deep into his pool of emotional response to produce a real, honest character never succumbing to the drowning effect of stereotype. He is riveting. Mr. Lerner gives a valid performance of the stoner dad, always mellow, with the delusion of being “Father Knows Best.” The remainder of the cast gives admirable performances but really never reach the level needed to support the script. Under the astute direction of Reginald L. Douglas, the pace is quick and the characters are clearly motivated.

Hopefully in this fully realized production Mr. Drucker can take a good look, clear away the clutter and make some adjustments. The play needs to be two acts or reduced to ninety minutes, which would be criminal if not done with care. The end needs to be revised. Something is left unsaid or is not transparent. The puzzle seems to be completed, but there are missing pieces. This is good if not a great living room drama and just needs some attention and fine tuning.

MOTHER’S DAY

“Mother’s Day” is presented by The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Reginald L. Douglas.

The cast of “Mother’s Day” includes Rhonda Ayers, Renee Claire Bergeron, Karl Gregory, Brough Hansen, and Neal Lerner.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours with no intermission or re-entry into the theatre.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 21, 2014

“Warm Enough for Swimming” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box Theatre (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Warm Enough for Swimming” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box Theatre (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Maggie Cino
Directed by Fred Backus
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The characters in Maggie Cino’s “Warm Enough for Swimming,” currently running at FringeNYC 2014, all need to make the commitment to participate in a twelve-step program in an attempt to end the cycles of self-recrimination and co-dependence that complicate their lives. Eddie (David J. Goldberg) and his sister Bridget (Phoebe Silva) are the grandchildren of their recently deceased maternal grandmother with whom Bridget has been living on the Jersey shore. Grandma apparently physically abused the siblings’ mother cracking her on the head with a skillet more than once – a series of attacks which caused Alzheimer’s like symptoms and the mother’s suicide. Eddie wonders if granny similarly abused his sister over the many years she lived with and cared for her. There is enough co-dependence here to flummox the best therapist.

Bridget’s co-dependence draws her to her organized crime boyfriend Alex (Derrick Peterson) whose accent would place him somewhere in the former Eastern Block. Eddie’s co-dependence draws him to uber-protector and organizer Viva (Lindsey Carter) who unexpectedly joins her husband at their childhood home after he left her mid post-wedding festivities in California to come to his sister’s side upon grandma’s inconveniently scheduled demise.

All of this occurs at the height of the financial meltdown in 2008: Eddie exposes the wrongdoing in his financial institution (losing his job) and Viva’s dad wants to dump his sizeable fortune on Eddie and Viva before the Feds prosecute him for his own mortgage malfeasance. If there is a point to Ms. Cino’s new play it is as elusive as the never-ending coffee making the cast engages in throughout the play. The audience understands that everyone is in a less than healthy relationship but the audience is not given well-rounded characters they can care about or conflicts that matter much. One just wants to scream, “Get over it and move on!”

Instead there is a lot of punching and arguing and eventually Bridget throws everyone out and prepares herself for a life-ending dip in the Atlantic. Is she following in her mother’s footsteps? Is she pregnant with Alex’s child (lot of belly-grabbing goes on)? The actors do their best to make sense of it all with or without Fred Backus’ direction and ultimately are unable to infuse “Warm Enough for Swimming” with enough energy to keep it afloat.

WARM ENOUGH FOR SWIMMING

“Warm Enough for Swimming” is presented by Obvious Volcano in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Fred Backus.

The cast of “Warm Enough for Swimming” includes Lindsey Carter, David J. Goldberg, Derrick Peterson, and Phoebe Silva.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 21, 2014

“All My Children” at FringeNYC 2014 at The White Box at 440 Studios (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“All My Children” at FringeNYC 2014 at The White Box at 440 Studios (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written and Performed by Courtenay Raia
Directed by Martha Demson
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

After being trampled by someone who had something to do with “All My Children” at the White Box at 440 Studios, we waited on line for an eternity to enter the theatre. Apparently, although this was not playwright-performer Courtenay Raia’s first FringeNYC2014 performance, she was experiencing technical problems. The woman who trampled us scampered about from theatre to rest room to theatre to lobby whimpering, “Just another minute.” Mystery solved – I think this was the director!

Although our instincts warned us to take flight down the same stairs upon which we were trampled, we stayed and entered the theatre where being trampled gave way to being abused by what is perhaps the worst piece of theatre we ever experienced. Ms. Raia’s endless rant - as lecturer Dr. Courtenay Grean - about the virtues of freezing ones babies is tasteless, offensive, and meaningless. The script is beyond awful, the performance more of the beyond awful, and the direction – well you have heard about her earlier. How this mess got into the FringeNYC 2014 lineup will remain a mystery.

After an hour of what was supposed to be a 52 minute performance, “3 months later” flashed on the screen and two patrons in front of us seized the day and ran from their seats. We followed and fled down the steps onto Lafayette Avenue hoping somehow to forget what we had just seen.

ALL MY CHILDREN

“All My Children” is presented by Mad Academy in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Martha Demson.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is posted at 52 minutes with no intermission.
3 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 21, 2014

“The Tunnel Play” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Kraine Theater (Closes on Thursday August 21, 2014)

“The Tunnel Play” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Kraine Theater (Closes on Thursday August 21, 2014)
Written by Ashley J. Jacobson
Directed by Courtney Laine Self
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Birdy (Dondrie Burnham) and Priddy (Chelsea Wolocko) choose to live in an underground tunnel, preferring its ambiance to the cluttered competitive world above. Birdy clips things from newspapers and Priddy feeds the rats and sings a bit. Colin (Ryan Guess) lives above ground quite comfortably (financially) working as a copywriter cajoled daily to work on the Nabisco account by his Boss (Brett Epstein). During the super storm of all super storms, these members of the one per cent and the ninety-nine percent collide in the Manhattan bar tended by Bartender (Laura Bogdanski). Ms. Bogdanski also plays the frenetic Meteorologist who warns of the impending doom.

These characters in Ashley J. Jacobson’s “The Tunnel Play,” currently running at the Kraine Theater as part of FringeNYC 2014, are not clearly defined and their problems or conflicts are not carefully developed so it is difficult to engage with them or with the plot that their conflicts drive. If there is a theme here it is not readily apparent. Yes, the audience knows Colin is miserable and bereft of girl friend/fiancé but the audience has no idea who Colin is and could care less about his weird flirtations with Priddy and the barkeep and his inability to hold on to his wallet in the subway.

Standing in a bar dripping wet and proclaiming that it would be nice to get along after the flood is not enough to make a play. “The Tunnel Play, despite the efforts of its cast, just does not work on any level.

THE TUNNEL PLAY

“The Tunnel Play” is presented by The Dirty Blondes in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Courtney Laine Self.

The cast of “The Tunnel Play” includes Laura Bogdanski, Dondrie Burnham, Brett Epstein, Ryan Guess, and Chelsea Wolocko.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 21, 2014

“Absolutely Filthy” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Player’s Theatre (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Absolutely Filthy” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Player’s Theatre (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Brendan Hunt
Directed by Jeremy Aldridge
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Once again, the gang is all here ( or what is left of them) in a new unauthorized parody of one of the most beloved comic strips. Entitled “Absolutely Filthy,” the play is presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. It has been ten years since we viewed this gang as teenagers in “Dog Sees God” (part of the Fringe NYC 2004) as they reunited for Snoopy’s funeral and now they have grown up and come together for the memorial service of “CB.” It is difficult to imagine the traits of these cartoon characters transferred to adults but as the script unfolds playwright Brendan Hunt makes no mistakes fleshing out each with their familiar attributes and threatening flaws. It is insightful, inspired and infused with life lessons that are to be learned by our faulty friends.

As the group slowly assembles with individual entrances, characters’ scars are a display of struggles, problems, and mishaps contributing to ironic situations within the cynical group. The cast is perfection, led by the tour de force performance of Mr. Hunt as he surrounds himself with the stench of failure, the filth of misfortune and the solitude of regret, while keeping old friends at bay with the swivel of his hip and a revolution of an impenetrable hula hoop. He is brave, uninhibited, secure and vulnerable as he mutters through his psychological meltdown to find peace. There are no disappointments here as each member of the ensemble clearly understands who they are, where they are, how they got here and the consequences that come with facing the past with old friends. They are deftly directed by Jeremy Aldridge who understands the fine line between reality and absurdity and keeps the momentum at a fast pace.

The play is full of laughs, lighthearted lessons, remarkable performances and characters, that no matter what their flaws, will capture your heart as you sit back and remember when. It may be sarcastic, but never preaches, yet somehow you will leave the theatre feeling good, a little smarter and maybe ready to pick up your phone and call an old friend.

ABSOLUTELY FILTHY

“Absolutely Filthy” is presented by The Wall of Sound in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Jeremy Aldridge.

The cast of “Absolutely Filthy” includes Jaime Andrews, Curt Bonnem, Anna Douglas, Rachel Germaine, Brendan Hunt, KJ Middlebrooks, Shannon Nelson, Kiff Scholl, and Robbie Winston.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours with one 12 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, August 20, 2014

“With A Shrug” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“With A Shrug” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written by Nicholas Priore
Directed by Robert Haufrecht
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Nicholas Priore’s “With A Shrug” is a complex script that raises as many rich questions as it answers. Full of intriguing connections and delicious sub texts, this expanded version of Mr. Priore’s one-act play of the same title captures intimate moments between unlikely characters and examines their motivations with shameless surgical exactitude.

Chris (Devin Doyle) strolls into his friend’s home in a deteriorating neighborhood to find the Old Man’s (Bob Adrian) daughter Shelley (Julie Hays) sorting through what is left of her father’s belongings after his recent death. Kids in the neighborhood have taken much of what he left behind. Chris has been coming to see Shelley’s father since grade school: Chris is a loner, emotionally abused by his military father (Walter Michael DeForest) and bullied at school. Chris is smart, gentle, a concrete thinker who does not always “put things together” easily, and focused: he might be suffering from an autism spectrum disorder, perhaps Asperger’s. Chris finds comfort and acceptance at the Old Man’s table and in the tree house they built together in the back yard.

Shelley is shocked to find Chris in her father’s house and threatens him with a baseball bat. Refusing to leave, Chris explains he has come to retrieve something he loaned Shelley’s father and which the Old Man promised to return after finishing with it. And, with a shrug, affirms he will not leave until Shelley turns it over. The item is the German luger Shelley’s father used to commit suicide: life had become increasingly difficult and he was experiencing a rapid increase in dementia. What follows is an explosive exchange of emotion: anger, regret, remorse, and denial. And all of these emotions lead to a place of redemption and release.

Past and present coexist in this play and energize one another with explosive force. Relationships are re-examined and old jealousies and “ruins” are revisited and explored from new perspectives. Identities overlap and those among the living inherit the names and characteristics of those among the dead. The ensemble cast is brilliant, each capturing the gritty essence or her or his character. Devin Doyle is splendid as Chris/Joe and never misses an opportunity to revel yet another layer of his complicated and intriguing character. Julie Hays exhibits a Shelley who understands how tempting suicide can be and displays her character with exactitude. Bob Adrian is brilliant as the Old Man and, with the wink of an eye or the quick turn of his head, embraces the soul of the aging father who sees in Chris not just the image of his son Joe (who committed suicide) but the years of sorrow and pain that clutter his soul, And Walter Michael DeForest gives the audience an unlikable Father who projects onto Chris his own solitude and loneliness and fear.

Robert Haufrecht directs with care and moves the cast into and out of the present with fluidity that serves the script well. After the scene between Chris, his father, and Shelley (at Chris’s house), the script begins to weaken just a bit; however, its merits outweigh its weaknesses. “With A Shrug” is a tightly woven fabric of surprises and catharses.

Ruins are rebuilt quickly and healing embraced without much hesitation. Shelley moves into her father’s house in the neighborhood she claims to hate, embraces Chris and even calls him Joe. They have soup together every day and embrace the future with hope. Chris’s father does a one eighty and softens up. And the gentle spirit of the Old Man hovers in the wings.

WITH A SHRUG

“With A Shrug” is presented by Prior Projections in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Robert Haufrecht.

The cast of “With A Shrug” includes Bob Adrian, Walter Michael DeForest, Devin Doyle, and Julie Hays.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, August 20, 2014

“Ryan Is Lost” at FringeNYC 2014 at the 64E4 Mainstage Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

David Haverty and Brittany Allen in "Ryan Is Lost"
“Ryan Is Lost” at FringeNYC 2014 at the 64E4 Mainstage Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written by Nathan Wellman
Directed by Michael Nankin
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The NY International Fringe Festival is presenting “Ryan Is Lost” a new play by Nathan Wellman which is an intriguing, interesting and brooding two character drama. If one could imagine, it would be the offspring of “Waiting for Godot” and “The Zoo Story.” It is absurdly provocative as it slowly retrieves simmering emotions to the surface, allowing a boiling pain and intense relief.

Waiting here are Avis and Frank – an odd couple if ever there was one. Claiming to be sister and brother with a (perhaps) abusive father and one with a parole officer, they wait on a bench in a shopping mall for their nephew Ryan who has wandered off and not yet returned to the designated meeting area. As they wait, they engage in a marvelous nihilistic rant whose tragicomic content would make Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee proud.

Whether they are related or whether Ryan is even real matters not. Avis and Frank are strangers in a strange land unable to reach out to traditional constructs of protection and surcease. What matters is that they have found a safe place (for now) to protect themselves from the slings and arrows of their outrageous fortunes. Ryan’s being found might only make that sweeter still.

The two actors (Brittany Allen and David Haverty) are a force to be reckoned with, creating invisible shackles that bind them together, sharing, hoping, wanting and waiting for a savior. When there is an emotional eruption it shakes their stability and causes tremors and aftershocks which after a while become comfortable and easily ignored forbearers of doom. They are intense, ever present and draw breath from each other, sometimes suffocating, other times liberating but most of the time creating a vacuous void where they are safe. Ms Allen is remarkable, never missing an opportunity to carve another facet into her complex character (Avis) and with every turn shows strength, vulnerability, fear and an undetermined faith that everything will be all right. Mr. Haverty is an equal match, with an unbridled performance, infusing his character (Frank) with fervor, subtle delusion, survival and impetuous emotional outbreaks.

Michael Nankin deftly directs this production keeping a tight rein, never allowing it to wander, confining all the energy in a bombshell waiting to explode.

RYAN IS LOST

“Ryan Is Lost” is presented by Awake Unafraid Theatre in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Michael Nankin.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“A Touch of Forever” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA at the Clememte (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“A Touch of Forever” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA at the Clememte (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Written by Josiah DeAndrea
Directed by Michael Tartaglia
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Gavin Blitz (Josiah DeAndrea) is on lithium. As he finishes his script for a pornographic film, he decides to stop taking his medication to clear his mind and allow him to complete his art-form contribution to the canon of online porn. The protagonist in his script Lucia appears throughout the play to assist, cajole, and warn her creator when he errs in judgment: this fiction “inside his head” ultimately finishes the script before Gavin’s untimely death. His sister Cassie’s “client” (yes, she is putting her way through college as a sex worker) enters the apartment and murders Gavin assuming he is Cassie’s favorite client. Once this is established in Mr. DeAndrea’s real life script for “A Touch of Forever,” it might have been a good idea to exit the theatre - audience right. Staying, however, with a nod to civility proved the wrong choice. There is nothing in this play worth an investment of one hundred precious minutes of one’s life.

“A Touch of Forever” is a depressing bit of theatre with a theme that happiness is not attainable and exists only as an elusive goal. Not a new theme and this play adds nothing new to the conversation.

This is not a reviewer’s attempt to be cruel; it is an authentic appeal to the playwright to reevaluate his script. Unfortunately, Mr. DeAndrea is a cast member and not able to have a proper perspective on his creation. Director Michael Tartaglia should have that perspective and is responsible for most of the bad choices made in this production. The cast – except for the playwright – remain blameless and unnamed in this review.

A TOUCH OF FOREVER

“A Touch of Forever” is presented by The Uncivilization Project in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Michael Tartaglia.

The cast of “A Touch of Forever” includes Brett Marcus Coady, Rory Allan Meditz, Pooya Mohseni, Niko Papastefanou, Connie Saltzman, Jason Stanley, and Maggie Jane Tatone.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“Behind Closed Doors” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“Behind Closed Doors” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Book by Peter Berube
Music and Lyrics by Aaron Beaumont
Directed by Peter Berube
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a new musical being presented at Theatre 80 as part of the NY International Fringe Festival with the billing “Behind Closed Doors.” It is appropriate to explain what occurred behind closed doors at a recent performance. There to review the show, we took our seats promptly in the back row to avoid disturbing the performers or audience members while quickly scratching notes on our programs or notebooks. As the lights dimmed on a sold out performance, someone approached us and and asked if the empty seat next to us was taken; the response was “No,” so she proceeded to sit down apologetically mumbling that she was somebody involved with the production and had to text during the performance. That she did incessantly, until mid act decided to leave the theatre, only to arrive back a few minutes later to stand next to the patron sitting next to me, who in five minutes decided to leave (reason unknown) and then she returned to her seat only to continue to text. Then two patrons climbed over their seats in the back row and exited the theatre and returned a few minutes later to climb back into their seats - this despite the strict “No Reentry” warning. Then the first act ended, the house lights came up and we left. There really was no point in staying, since we missed most of the content of the first act from the distractions, and what we did see seemed like bad burlesque and a “Cabaret” wannabe. This behavior is unacceptable from any patron nonetheless a company member. We are not too familiar with theater etiquette in L.A., but this is certainly frowned upon in a New York theater. Hopefully this critique will improve behavior for the remaining performances so audience members can focus on what is happening on the stage.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

“Behind Closed Doors” is presented by Traveling Muse Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Peter Berube.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“Poor Behavior” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Closes on Sunday September 7, 2014)

Katie Kreisler and Brian Avers - Photo by James Leynse
“Poor Behavior” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Closes on Sunday September 7, 2014)
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Evan Cabnet
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Theresa Rebeck asks an important and rich question in her new “Poor Behavior” currently running at the Duke on 42nd Street the new home of Primary Stages. This question might go unnoticed it is so intertwined with Ms. Rebeck’s rant about the state of marriage in contemporary “civilized” culture: and it is a good rant indeed. The real question though is not just whether the institution of marriage is sustainable, but whether the institution of America is sustainable. If there were a time when William Butler Yeats might have an attentive audience, it is at this maleficent moment of antinomian delight midway through the first decade of the twenty-first century.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, /
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned; /
The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” (“The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats)

In other words, poor behavior abounds and no one seems to care much. Playwright Theresa Rebeck seems to care in this challenging foray into finding a (perhaps) moral compass. Two couples share a weekend at one couple’s weekend country home and as wine flows to the bacchanalian brim, trendy muffins fail to sate hunger, and truth emerges in abundance: as does an abundance of histrionics and soul searching. Ms. Rebeck’s script is well structured and the opening argument between Ian (Brian Avers) and Ella (Katie Kreisler) transforms into an argument about morality – the old and the new.

The argument between Ian and Ella appears to be a heated argument between husband and wife and that perception is the first clue to the conflict that drives the play’s intriguing plot where “Everything’s suddenly a question.” This from Ian, “And besides, let me tell you, everyone on the planet is talking about it. We’re crushed, honestly. Do you think we weren’t rooting for [America]? Because we were. You were our dream. And then you threw it away, you threw away the Enlightenment, for what? For marriage? I’m telling you, the entire planet is crushed.”

Brian Avers is the quintessential “diabolos:” that one whose essence is to tear apart, pull down, and separate that which only desires to be whole. His plan – since a kiss in a walk in closet years ago – has been to win Ella over despite the cost. And Ian does this to “save” Ella from her marriage with Peter (Jeff Biehl) that he considers unfulfilled. Ian even squirrels away Ella’s earrings she leaves on the counter-top to further prove to Peter and Ian’s wife Maureen (Heidi Ambruster) he is having an affair with Ella. This is not delusional behavior: this is the work of a human being seemingly bereft of a superego. Peter knows this well: “[Ian’s] just a liar, he’s a trickster, he destroys things, look at this, he’s destroyed three lives, without even, he’s a destroyer and you are letting him, why, why—.“

It is not easy, however, to dismiss Ian as a terrible person. His character is a trope for all those things that push humanity to question their own moral core and the moral core of their nation-state. In fact is this wonderfully morally ambiguous character who is able to assert, “Because the real indignity, finally, is that crashingly horrifying discovery that your soul was wrong. Was in fact just stupid, your soul, and how do you live with that, how do you live with the utter insult of cataclysmic personal mistakes?”

Katie Kreisler is the perfect Ella, caught in a marriage that has entrapped her (and Peter) and not sure how to escape. Heidi Armbruster is captivating as Ian’s wife Maureen who he describes as “completely raving bonkers, the women is an emotional lunatic from start to finish.” And Jeff Biehl’s Peter is convincing as Ella’s husband: although he refuses to admit that she is having an affair with Ian, he knows that she is and is unable to accept the drowning of “the ceremony of innocence” that admission would provoke. Under Evan Cabnet’s fluid direction, this gifted ensemble cast delivers a quartet of authentic and honest performances.

“Poor Behavior” raises the possibility that “the center is not holding.” But was that center ever meant to hold? Whose center is it? Plays about moral ambiguity are nothing new. This one by Theresa Rebeck is a welcomed addition to the canon of dramatic works that address the “good versus evil” conundrum. The behavior in this worthy play is neither good nor bad (whatever those constructs mean) but rather it is “poor,” wanting, not rich. Whether the answer to the inadequacy of marriage is to abandon all responsibility (as Ian does) is questionable. And it is this type of rich, deep question that the playwright asks in “Poor Behavior.”

Perhaps Ian says it best: “We’re talking about goodness, your favorite subject. Because it all comes back to that, darling. Why on earth are you trying so hard to be good, if goodness is death? Or not even that. What is it's just an anesthetic? Of goodness is just an anesthetic is it still goodness? Especially if anesthesia isn’t finally just an excuse to release the worst in us. Our own little excuse for poor behavior.”

POOR BEHAVIOR

The cast of “Poor Behavior” includes Heidi Armbruster, Brian Avers, Jeff Biehl, and Katie Kreisler.

“Poor Behavior” features a scenic design by Lauren Helpern, costume design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Jason Lyons, sound design by Jill BC Du Boff, and casting by Stephanie Klapper Casting. Production photos by James Leynse.

Poor Behavior plays a limited engagement July 29- September 7 at The Duke on 42nd Street – a NEW 42ND STREET® project. (229 West 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues). Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m. There is an added performance Wednesday, August 20 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for Poor Behavior are $70.00 and can be purchased online at PrimaryStages.org or at Dukeon42.org, by phone at 646-223-3010, or at the box office.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 18, 2014

“The Hurricane” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“The Hurricane” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Bjorn Berkhout
Directed by Taryn Turney
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a new musical (operetta) by Bjorn Berkhout entitled “The Hurricane” being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. It is an admirable attempt in a difficult genre and casts a light on a contemporary theme that shines with integrity. The plot, although complicated, is easy to understand and follow when viewing, and not at all necessary to reveal in detail. It deals with revenge, ostracism, greed, morality and love. It invents a situation that is melodramatic but contained by the human condition and controlled by characters that do not fall prey to becoming the victims of stereotype. The music is operatic and progressive (ala Britten) being somewhat successful but also periodically inconsistent as far as quality.

Mykel Vaughn does a fine job in capturing the nature and spirit of Madame Sparrow never being trapped or confined, reaching beyond the role’s limitations. Laura Sudduth exudes the youthful, lovelorn Miranda with a clear soprano and energetic charm. Spencer Glass creates a confused Ferdinand, doting and delusional. Jay Aubrey Jones brings a stable Alonso to the stage with truth and understanding. The remainder of the cast includes Warren G. Nolan Jr. (Caliban), Bryce Henry (Ariel), Robert Ackerman (Sebastian), and Ryan Rhue(Antonio) round out the ensemble competently. As Director, Taryn Turney keeps the action moving and the energy level high.

The show does not come without its problems, but most likely nothing that cannot be fixed, and it is worth a look, especially if the genre appeals to you. Even if the first act seems slow and a bit difficult to swallow, hold on the second act proves to redeem.

THE HURRICANE

“The Hurricane” is presented by Bjoto Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Taryn Turney.

The cast of “The Hurricane” includes Robert Ackerman, Spencer Glass, Bryce Henry, Jay Aubrey Jones, Warren G. Nolan, Jr., Ryan Rhue, Laura Sudduth, and Mykel Vaughn.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 10 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 18, 2014

“Sick City Blues” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Sick City Blues” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Jake Shore
Directed by Jake Shore
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Sick City Blues” Is a new play by Jake Shore being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival that has the ability to captivate an attentive audience. It is a crime drama with twists and turns laced with f… ing Mamet style vulgarity which at times seems gratuitous when not lending authenticity to character definition. The plot is clever and complicated relying on the audience fill in the blanks and think in order to have that “ah hah” moment, a novelty that rarely exists in today’s bombastic theatre world. It consists of short vignettes and long monologues that are sewn together with a strong thread and tight stitch, creating tight seams that connect the complex plot. It is interesting, intriguing, involved and produces characters with absolutely no integrity in the underground world of crime. In other words it appears to be real.

The cast buys into the material which helps create the reality and they effectuate their characters’ purposes with honest and vivid definition. Stephen Heskett (Martin) gives a bold performance, easily producing a commanding presence and mastering the vulgar cadence as if it were poetry. Adam Files (Ray) captures desperation and survival and turns them into an attractive attribute rather than an evil personification. Gavin Starr Kendall (Sal) is hard, raw and unpredictable which produces his dangerous and callous persona. Justin Colon (Vinny) is calm, calculating and frivolous in his attempts to play with the big boys. Cara Moretto (Mary) inflicts her own fear, unstable, vulnerable and searching for a safe place, riddled with wrong choices. This proves to be a good collaboration of talented artists.

SICK CITY BLUES

“Sick City Blues” is presented by Backyard Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Jake Shore.

The cast of “Sick City Blues” includes Justin Colon, Adam Files, Stephen Heskett, Gavin Starr Kendall, and Cara Moretto.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 18, 2014

“Fearless” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“Fearless” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Underground Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Written and Performed by John Del Vecchio
Directed by Sharon Counts
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

John Del Vecchio attempts to share with his audience what he has learned about moving beyond fear – fear of intimacy in relationships, fear of self-expression, and fear of self-discovery. Mr. Del Vecchio, who holds a Master in Educational Theatre from NYU, teaches elementary students the craft of drama and uses vignettes from his teaching experience to illustrate his overcoming of fear by illustrating how he teaches his students the same skill set.

Conversations with Rachel and other students – with the performer playing role of teacher and student – are at times quite funny and their authenticity clearly engages the audience. By the time Rachel and her cohort matriculate to middle school, they are confident, brave, and self-assured. The stories from Mr. Del Vecchio’s personal life, on the other hand, are not as funny (except to family and friends in attendance who insisted on laughing every time the performer opened his mouth) and ring with fabrication: most of them involve the performer’s impressive sexual conquests without and within the schools where he was serving as a Teaching Assistant.

The most questionable story was the longest of the already overlong sixty-five minute exercise in self-indulgence. Why Mr. Del Vecchio includes a story about a threesome he engaged in is puzzling. This drab story does nothing to drive the plot or support his theme. It has nothing to do with anything.

Unfortunately, the material Mr. Del Vecchio chooses to share detracts from the important stories about self-loathing and self destruction. Contemplating suicide – and once attempting to do so – is an important consideration. The audience longs to hear more about how the performer ultimately faced that extreme self-hatred. We know how John Del Vecchio enables Rachel to find her center and her fear-less self. How, Mr. Del Vecchio have you done that for yourself?

FEARLESS

“Fearless” is presented by Mutandi Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Sharon Counts.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is one hour with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 18, 2014

“Freaks: a legend about growing up” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA at the Clements (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Freaks: a legend about growing up” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA at the Clements (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Sam French
Directed by Kyle Wilson
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A new play being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival is penned by Sam French and is in collaboration with a cast all associated with Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. They are all “Freaks” of the “me generation” and so the play has adopted that specific term as the title, subtitled “a legend about growing up,” and rightfully so. The four characters fall far from the generational stereotype; instead, they are caring, careful, cautious, sharing contagious dreams and complex memories but never texting or taking selfies. They manage to engage each other without the help of an android. The script is spotty and at times vague, but the language is intelligent, lyrical and rich. The dialogue sometimes rolls off the tongue like fresh water rambling over smooth rocks in a bubbly stream. It is reminiscent of the poets of the sixties: this group of young friends who reunite, who search, save, sing and try to achieve some satisfaction.

The cast does a fine job in defining their characters even though the material somewhat lacks the necessary exposition that could add depth and substance. Sawyer Pierce (Carl) never leaves the past but raises from self pity with a contemplated hope for the future. Carl Lundstedt (Danny) harnesses the courage to change, the intelligence to accept that change and the vulnerability in the fear of losing his past. Cara Ronzetti (Flower) inhabits a free spirit with high energy and honest confusion, sharing her mystic beliefs and strumming a guitar to ease the tension. Colleen Pulawski (Jenny) is pensive, fearful and struggles as she tries to hold on to what she thinks she needs. Each actor gives sincere individual performances but their strength is exhibited as an ensemble.

It is a glimpse into the lives of four young adults reunited for an hour, to figure out a lifetime. They survive the coming of age storm, dancing in the turbulent waters, trusting destiny and letting their troubles blow away with the wind. It poses many questions and provides no answers but that may be the point. It is a refreshing new work by a promising new playwright infused with the fine performances of young actors practicing their well learned craft. The freaks in this sideshow rise up and show hope for the cavalcade of characters usually found in the carnival of the me generation.

FREAKS: A LEGEND ABOUT GROWING UP

“Freaks: a legend about growing up” is presented by The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Kyle Wilson.

The cast of “Freaks: a legend about growing up” includes Carl Lundstedt, Sawyer Pierce, Colleen Pulawski, and Cara Ronzetti.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 18, 2014

“Over” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box (Closes on Thursday August 21, 2014)

“Over” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center Black Box (Closes on Thursday August 21, 2014)
Written by Dave Chapman
Directed by Bryan Enk
Reviewed by
Theatre Reviews Limited

Dave Chapman’s “Over” would appear to be the obverse of M. Night Shyamaian’s “The Sixth Sense.” In the latter movie the boy played by Haley Joel Osment is able to see dead people. In “Over,” those among the living are able to see the deceased Tabitha (Becky Byers) who transports her spirit self – after committing suicide – to the side of her sister Nicole (Alisha Spielmann) to become her “guardian angel.” Tabitha appears in Nicole’s apartment right after Nicole is dumped by her boyfriend Jack (Adam Belvo) who is so codependent he never makes it out the door after the breakup. Of course he could not leave because the playwright needs him with Nicole to further his convoluted and unlikely plot.

Nicole and Jack are joined by Nicole’s neighbor and co-jogger Spence (Brian Siliman) who of course also is able to see Tabitha. By the way, the spritely Tabitha experiences hunger and pain – traits intended perhaps to keep the audience in suspense rather than falling into somnambulism and to keep Spence busy making pancakes in the kitchen. It takes Nicole almost the full overlong two hours and twenty minutes to figure out the Tabitha Code – Jack and Spencer somewhat less. During this time, Jack and Nicole continue to bicker and Tabitha continues to whine and Spence attempts to referee the melee. Spence and Jack leave Nicole and Tabitha alone in the apartment to begin the process of spiritual healing. As they leave, Tabitha tells sleep-deprived Jack he would make a great guardian angel and she tells overweight Spence he is in danger. Car accident and heart attack in the making?

“Over” is overlong and overwrought and provides little payoff. The characters, particularly Nicole, are uninteresting and Nicole is downright unlikeable. If Tabitha can help Nicole reach some level of adulthood and civility, she will earn her guardian angel wings.

OVER

“Over” is presented by KRM Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Bryan Enk.

The cast of “Over” includes Adam Belvo, Becky Byers, Brian Silliman, and Alisha Spielmann.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, August 16, 2014

“Dust Can’t Kill Me” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“Dust Can’t Kill Me” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Book by Abigail Carney
Music and Lyrics by Elliah Heifetz
Directed by Jacob Osborne
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “Dust Can’t Kill Me,” which is being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival, is a bit of folklore associated with the Dust Bowl in the Midwest during the depression. It is narrated by a storyteller who spins the tale of a motley group of farmers, wanderers, gamblers and outlaws drawn together by the promise of a prophet to guide them to a paradise, in the middle of the drought. They are strangers tied together by a dream to escape their catastrophic existence. It sounds interesting and viable but disintegrates when characters are not fully developed and do not move the plot forward. They lack drive and passion so the struggle seems inconsequential. When realizing that death is their salvation, one by one they give into the temptation and unfortunately that is what generates the plot. It is interspersed with plenty of musical numbers but they also fall short in contributing any information that would further the plot or define a character. There is no dramatic arc.

The music is mostly American folk and lends itself to the period and the location but quickly becomes superfluous, even though every effort is made instrumentally with acoustic guitar, an ample string section, and harmonica. The entire cast makes an admirable attempt to transcend the material and create a cohesive product; however this effort fails and the cast is left disjointed and unconnected. Perhaps one major problem is that the musical is bogged down with depression and hopelessness. There is absolutely nothing uplifting, bright, comedic or inspiring to invite the audience in. When there is no contrast the despair is not a catalyst but merely becomes the norm, producing no emotional connection.

DUST CAN’T KILL ME

“Dust Can’t Kill Me” is presented by Jonathan Lian in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Jacob Osborne. Music Directred, Arranged, and Orchestrated by Max Gordon. Choreographed by Claire Gassford.

The cast of “Dust Can’t Kill Me” includes Jamie Bogyo, Chris Camp, Paul Hinkes, Nathaniel Janis, Alyssa Miller, Michael Ruocco, and Lily Shoretz.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Saturday, August 16, 2014

“The Picture (of Dorian Gray)” at FringeNYC 2014 at Location (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“The Picture (of Dorian Gray)” at FringeNYC 2014 at Location (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written and Directed by Neal Utterback
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” ― Oscar Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

One could consider Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” to be a retelling of Goethe’s “Faust.” Both Dorian Gray and Faust sell their souls to the Devil in exchange for things they desire: they receive eternal youth and magical powers respectively. The plot of Wilde’s retelling is well known and need not be recounted here. There have been several retellings of Wilde’s novel including Will Self’s “Dorian” published in 2002. Neal Utterback has attempted a retelling with his “The Picture (of Dorian Gray)” currently running at FringeNYC 2014. Presumably the parentheses substitute for a more substantive title.

Mr. Utterback’s version of the iconic tale is, unfortunately, not remarkable. The seventy minute performance piece counterpoints the portrait of Dorian Gray (Phil Oberholzer) narrating the story from beginning to end with the “acting out” of that story on stage by four young energetic and committed actors who play all the roles with enthusiasm and authenticity. A variety of sunglasses defines each character and the actors pass these back and forth as they assume the character associated with the distinguishable pair of sunglasses. Dorian Gray sports classic Ray-Ban Aviators and these are mostly worn by the engaging and energetic Jamison Monella. Jessica Denison, Andrew Kilpatrick, and Alyssa Newberg play Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward, Sibyl Vane and others and complete the ensemble cast.

Despite their efforts, Mr. Utterback’s script fails to give new meaning to Mr. Wilde’s themes despite the attempt to reference contemporary song lyrics and “dens of iniquity.” Kudos to the cast for giving their all to this project. Such effort is commendable.

THE PICTURE (OF DORIAN GRAY)

“The Picture (of Dorian Gray)” is presented by The Gravity Partners in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Neal Utterback.

The cast of “The Picture (of Dorian Gray)” includes Jessica Denison, Jamison Monella, Andrew Kilpatrick, Phil Oberholzer, and Alyssa Newberg.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, August 15, 2014

“Breaking the Shakespeare Code” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closes on Wednesday August 20, 2014)

“Breaking the Shakespeare Code” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closes on Wednesday August 20, 2014)
Written by John Minigan
Directed by Stephen Brotebeck
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Marry, this is the short and the long of it; you have brought her into such a canaries as 'tis wonderful. The best courtier of them all, when the court lay at Windsor, could never have brought her to such a canary.” – Mistress Quickly in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (Act II, Scene 2)

There ought to be a warning posted above the entrance to the Mainstage Theatre at 64 East 4th Street Theatres on the days “Breaking the Shakespeare Code” is running. Something like, “Fasten your seat belts or prepare to be blown away!” It takes Martha and George years of angst-ridden and explosive off-campus confrontations to break the “kid” code in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” It takes Curt and Anna sixteen years of angst-ridden and explosive on-campus confrontations to break the Shakespeare code that has bound them together in John Minigan’s brilliant and demanding new play currently running at FringeNYC 2014.

Like George and Martha, Curt (Tim Weinert) and Anna (Miranda Jonte) bring each other to a point halfway between their characters and themselves and push each other to a point halfway between them. This is a hard game for Curt and Anna and one that keeps them asking, “What are we working on?” That question defines the powerful plot spun by two characters driven by deep-seated and dissociative conflicts.

John Minigan’s “Breaking the Shakespeare Code” is bold, brutal, brave, beguiling and brilliant. The structure is sturdy, the dramatic arc intriguing and it is a remarkable escape into reality. Stephen Brotebeck’s direction is fluid, sometimes frantic, and never frivolous: it always supports the script and the actor. The two actors attack their provocative roles with fierce commitment, each holding his or her
own territory whilst always sharing the same battleground. Mr. Weinert’s Curt is steady, strong, imperious and intelligent as a teacher, yet human, vulnerable, insecure and approachable as a man. He is a mentor and menacing, headstrong but harmless, aggressive and agitated. Miranda Jonte’s Anna is captivating, cautious, cunning and consistent as she develops her character. She is impressive as she walks a fine line between art and life willing to risk both for the chance to succeed. Both are generous actors, prepared to give and willing to receive, always present, and fearless. They drown in their emotion, never coming up for air. They know there is nothing for them on the surface and it makes them delve even deeper, rummaging through their souls to retrieve the passion needed to expose their character.

Shakespeare characters Portia and Brutus and Mistress Quickly and Falstaff do not prove worthy matches for Anna and Curt: these heroic yet ruthless protagonists are willing to hedge their bets again and again in order to discover the precise definition of their connection and how that “banding together” will determine their futures.

BREAKING THE SHAKESPEARE CODE

“Breaking the Shakespeare Code” is presented by Hey Jonte! Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director) and is directed by Stephen Brotebeck.

The cast of “Breaking the Shakespeare Code” includes Miranda Jonte and Tim Weinert.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, August 15, 2014

Three Solo Performances at FringeNYC 2014

Three Solo Performances at FringeNYC 2014
“The Death Monologues” Written and Performed by Giselle Suarez and Directed by Cathy Hartenstein
“Mining My Own Business” Written and Performed by Xavier Toby and Directed by Glenda Linscott
“No Static At All” Written and Performed by Alex Knox and Directed by Becca Wolff
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Three solo performances at FringeNYC highlight the difficulty of performing solo. All three actors were engaging; however, their stories were not. Here is TRL’s take on these shows.

THE DEATH MONOLOGUES

Giselle Suarez’s “The Death Monologues” gives death personified the opportunity to defend itself against popular notions about the famed harbinger of the life after life. Death is of course the master of ceremonies here and pops up between monologues to “clarify” what the audience might have missed in each. The audience hears from “Mortality” about the existential crisis of the first awareness a child has that those around her or him might not always be there. Death echoes, “I love you and you can trust me!” “Only Love” follows with the affirmation of life after death of Ms. Suarez’s father and that “love is the only thing that matters.” Death echoes, “I never make mistakes or cheat anybody.”

A character named Tristus and then Persephone, goddess of the Underworld make their case for death as does Ms. Suarez’s mother Betty in the final monologue making her case for “readiness for death” despite the efforts of others to keep her alive.

Throughout the monologues, Giselle Suarez relies heavily on magical thinking and concepts of death which offer nothing new on an age-old topic. The reappearance of “Death” becomes tiring and obtrusive. There is language in this performance not suitable for children.

MINING MY OWN BUSINESS

It is probably not best to listen to work mates when they suggest writing a one-act play about experiences on the job with them, particularly if they are the sort who put you in your bed in your drunken stupor and draw pornographic images on your face while you are passed out. But that’s exactly what Xavier Toby decides to do in his “Mining My Own Business” the sixty minute recounting of his stint in administrative duties at an Australian FIFO mining site where he worked to pay off the substantial credit card debt incurred while “following his dream” performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012.

Laced with more than a fair share of homoerotic humor (this from an ostensibly straight young man), and a smidgen of scatological humor, Mr. Toby’s story highlights the perks and pitfalls of being just a bit out of his element at the work place.

Although much of Xavier Toby’s humor is bland, he is an affable performer whose story has a modicum of interest despite its lack of comedic punch.

NO STATIC AT ALL

Alex Knox, juggling the trendy tenants of Judaism (Biblical and Rabbinic), humanism, and unabashed magical thinking, weaves a tale of friendship, self-discovery, and finding meaning and direction in one’s life.

Although these are admiral themes for a solo performance, they need tender care in composition and performance. There are times when Mr. Knox achieves a “perfect chord” in the delivery of his script (developed by Becca Wolff); there are other times when the performer seems to wobble off course and lose the thread of his story. It is not that past and present events are not clearly identifiable; the problem is that one often wonders why the story is being told. Is the listener supposed to reconnect with spiritual roots? Become a fan of Steely Dan? Look for sixth dimension connections between events stretched across continents?

Unfortunately, “No Static At All” creates more fuzziness than clarity. Mr. Knox is an affable and engaging young actor. There is something about his friendship with Joshua and his connection with Steely Dan (Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) that is honest and authentic and makes the piece a worthwhile effort on the journey to self-understanding.

THE DEATH MONOLOGUES, MINING MY OWN BUSINESS, NO STATIC AT ALL

“The Death Monologues,” “Mining My Own Business,” and “No Static At All” are presented by The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Cathy Hartenstein, Glenda Linscott, and Becca Wolff respectively.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running times are listed in the online FringeNYC Guide.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Friday, August 15, 2014

“Jump Man” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“Jump Man” at FringeNYC 2014 at Theatre 80 (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Written by Samuel Pitt Stoller
Directed by Myla Pitt
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a new musical being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival entitled “Jump Man” which is remotely based on the characters remembered in the popular video game The Mario Brothers. It really is not a parody but rather a reinvention or fantasy of who these characters might be if they appeared in the present as part of a normal neighborhood with regular people. The particular hood presented in this production seems to be a bit less than normal, more than vulgar, a bit too presumptuous, and lacking any sense of viability. For the most part the music is repetitive, flat and generic with little diversity but does make an attempt at rap though falling short. The lyrics are a bit on the vulgar side, used gratuitously. As messy and scattered as it is, there is a book, with a storyline, a beginning, middle and an end which serves up the ridiculous in a fashion of interconnected vignettes jumping from one scenario to another.

The cast seems to be enjoying themselves, at times a bit more than the audience. They do what they can with the material which is an admirable undertaking. This production might find a respectful audience or could be deemed as offensive and irreverent but no matter: the bottom line is that it certainly does not qualify as good musical theatre. The production has a sold out run at FringeNYC 2014 so most likely you will be able to catch it later on especially with the huge support of friends and family which gifted most of the accolades at the recently attended performance.

JUMP MAN

“Jump Man” is presented by Is A Door Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Myla Pitt.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 14, 2014

“NO HOMO” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 17, 2014)

“NO HOMO” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 17, 2014)
Written by Brandon Baruch
Directed by Jessica Hanna
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“NO HOMO,” a new play being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival, should first decide what it wants to be and then take a closer look at what it is trying to say. After viewing a recent performance, it is easy to discover what it is not and safe to assume it has no relevance whatsoever. It is not a comedy, drama, or a farce though it tries to be all. It is not invigorating, interesting, or intelligent and it is stuck in the pre-AIDS period of gay history replete with rampant promiscuity, unprotected sex, self loathing, and sexual identity crises. The characters are two dimensional stereotypes with no redeeming value and have no appeal. They are not likable, they are difficult to watch, and there is no reason why anyone would desire a relationship with any of them, which unfortunately is the premise of the play.

Some fellow audience members displayed signs of enjoyment and there were a few chuckles so there might be a target group attracted to the title, but do not be fooled: “NO HOMO” does not cast a very positive message for the LGBTQ community and desperately needs to address issues with more social consciousness.

NO HOMO

“NO HOMO” is presented by Be Flat Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Jessica Hanna.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 14, 2014

“No Provenance” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Kraine Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“No Provenance” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Kraine Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Written by Kate Holland and Caroline Prugh
Directed by Kate Holland
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Based loosely on the life of Parisian actress Josephine Mercier, “No Provenance” is a refreshing new play about the importance of where we come from - our unique “thread” - and honoring that time and place with unconditional and non-judgmental love. Narrated by Clotho, youngest of the three Greek Fates, the play relates the story of three sisters (all having the same father with three different mothers) who are summoned to their paternal great-grandmother’s apartment in Paris to come to agreement on how to divide her sizeable estate. If they fail to agree, the sisters will forfeit the estate entirely.

Orit (Stephanie Taylor), Marion (Sarah Eismann), and Ilana (Robyn Michele Frank) convene for this challenging task burdened with years of resentment toward one another, anger, denial, and bravado and their resulting disagreements almost cost them the contents of the estate.

Counterpointing their meeting in the present (2013) are flashbacks to 1926 through 1942 when great-grandmother Josephine Mercier (Libby Skala) lived in the apartment with her dresser and helpmate Suzanne Ducroix (Michelle Ramoni). Josephine leaves a substantial legacy of art and genteel accoutrement including the lost marble statue of Clotho by Camille Claudel. It is the beauty of this statue and its back story as narrated by Marcelle Ducroix (Renee Erikson) great-grandniece of Suzanne who serves as executor of the estate of Joseph Belitsa that enables the siblings to put their differences aside and decide to preserve the apartment and its contents – particularly “Clotho” – as a museum.

The talented ensemble cast, under the careful direction of co-writer Kate Holland, capably brings their characters to life. Although Carole Forman is an alluring Clotho, the playwrights (Kate Holland and Caroline Prugh) rely too heavily on her mythological character to guide the audience through their competent script. They can trust their work and its fascinating story to stand on their own.

NO PROVENANCE

“No Provenance” is presented by Vilde Chaya in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Kate Holland.

The cast of “No Provenance” includes Sarah Eismann, Renee Erikson, Robyn Michele Frank, Carole Forman, Michelle Ramoni, Libby Skala, and Stephanie Taylor.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Thursday, August 14, 2014

“The 8th Fold” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“The 8th Fold” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Music and Lyrics by Gianni Onori
Book by Gianni Onori and Ava Eldred
Directed by Gianni Onori
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a little bit of theatre magic, which is not an illusion, but steeped in reality and boiling over with the conflicts of human nature, and is generated by the new musical “The 8th Fold” being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. This coming of age tale deals with love, loss, tragedy, identity, strength and purpose as it follows the journey of four unique young men hoping to discover the solution that will finally bring them peace and closure. As Elijah slowly captures the trust of each new acquaintance, they listen, they follow, they find themselves surrendering their stories and opening their hearts, as they join together to mourn their heroes, taunted by shadows of the past, conflicts of the present and ambivalence of the future. They form a bond, experience the love that might have escaped their grasp, allow the wounds of sorrow to heal, recognize fear and move forward ever so gallantly. The book by Gianni Onori and Ava Eldred is beautiful, boundless and inspiring. The music is soothing, haunting, and assertive and strikes emotional chords solitarily or when joined by the astute and perceptive lyrics which are both provided by Mr. Onori.

The cast turns in an admirable performance led by Micah Cowher in the formidable role of Elijah capturing the spirit of a savior, selfless and all knowing, providing strength and understanding. Kyle Schliefer finds all the necessary elements to create the acquiescent Kane, searching for love and identity and proving that only the meek shall inherit the earth. Matthew Brown as Russ, builds a bold, defiant, angry façade that is slowly chipped away to reveal his quest for acceptance and his need of approval in order to survive. Thaddeus Kolwicz shows the caregiver Calum as a believer, calm, sincere and like a dove exhibiting innocence, tenderness and a peaceful (Holy) spirit. They attack the daunting vocals with fervent effort, not an easy task when confronted with incessant singing in such a wide range, frequently relying on falsetto to accomplish the task. It is challenging; they sometimes succeed and at times falter but it really does not matter for they transcend the inconsistency with pure honest emotion that allows them soar into your heart, grab your soul and take it with them to a safe place.

The young actors ply their craft offering truths that have the potential to set the viewer free on his or her own journey of learning and love. Learning about the ceremonial folding of the American flag has the potential to calm the waters of the troubled soul and to offer redemption through sacrifice ultimately revealing only the bright stars in the background of the dark sky. This is the greatest gift from the “8th Fold” and its brilliant band of honorable young men.

Do yourself a favor: make a point of seeing one of the remaining performances and savor the moment.

THE 8TH FOLD

“The 8th Fold” is presented by Onoray Ltd. in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Gianni Onori. Musical Direction by Andy Collopy.

The cast of “The 8th Fold” includes Matthew Brown, Micah Cowher, Andy Dubick, Thaddeus Kolwicz, Glen, North, and Kyle Schliefer.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes with one intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Wednesday, August 13, 2014

“Moses, The Author” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)

“Moses, The Author” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Written by Andrew R. Heinze
Directed by Amy Wright
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“You can’t launch new ideas on old thinking.” (Billboard message on the corner of Lafayette and Bleecker)

Andrew R. Heinze’s “Moses, The Author” is a new play currently running at Fringe NYC 2104 and is awarded Theatre Reviews Limited’s “Best Play of Opening Weekend” at Fringe NYC. This smart, funny, and provocative new comedy highlights the limitations of religious literature to adequately portray the essence of a people’s/nation’s faith. For all religions of “a book” (Judaism, Islam, Christianity), difficulty arises when the community, fearful of heresy and the death of reliable storytellers and mindful of the need for pedagogy, commits orally transmitted mythos to writing. The flexibility accepted in the oral tradition – as the needs of the community changed or new information required altered world views – became impossible to sustain: what was written was written and could not be changed. In fact, it became the word of the gods transmitted to humankind through special agents (priests, prophets, and kings) and infallible and incontrovertible. Moses (Mitch Tebo) was one of those special agents.

But according to the playwright, even Moses had difficulty writing down what his god shared in “waves of energy.” In this brilliant new play, Mr. Heinze portrays the iconic Moses as a fallible finite human being who is challenged by his family and his conscience to reconsider what he had written, reevaluate its provenance, and reimagine the possibility that future generations might need assistance in understanding the true meaning of his “five books.” In fact, he confesses to having to “settle for a book that is incomplete.”

We know very little about Moses’ sons Gershom and Eliezer except references in Rabbinic literature:
“Your sons sat and did not occupy themselves with Torah. Joshua, who served you, is fitting to serve Israel” (from Midrash Tanchuma, Pinchas 11). Mr. Heinze only includes Gershom (here Gershy) and portrays him as a gay young man quite happy spending time with his lover and painting. Hazen Cuyler is a brooding yet brash Gershy who challenges his father to examine his body of work from a new perspective:

GERSHY: “--Oh now you're making the argument from custom? I thought your whole project, Dad, was about stopping customs that are bad -- like human sacrifice – and inspiring people with new ideas, like All Men Are Made in the Image of God.”

It is this ongoing dialogue with Gershy, his wife Zippy (Judy Rosenblatt), his mother Yoheved (Janine Hegarty), and his amanuensis Thusie (Ramzi Khalaf) that makes Moses’ last day on earth a worthy testament to his body of work which he comes to realize, as Gershy reminds him, is from God, “but his words.” The engaging ensemble cast brings authenticity to the playwright’s script and enlivens the debate about infallibility with often phrenetic humor. Theologians have grappled with the role of women and the status of the LGBTQ community in scripture for centuries: “Moses, The Author” manages to put that quest into perspective with the affirmation Gershy teases out of his father in the play’s emotional climax: “We're all made in the image of God, Thusie.”

Mitch Tebo delivers a bravura performance as the aging Moses faced with mortality, banned from entering the Promised Land, and bereft of his beloved bromance with his Creator God.

Let the people say, Amen!”

MOSES, THE AUTHOR

“Moses, The Author” is presented by Who Knew! Productions in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Amy Wright.

The cast of “Moses, The Author” includes Hazen Cuyler, Janine Hegarty, Ramzi Khalaf, Jusy Rosenblatt, and Mitch Tebo.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is one hour and forty minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“Skyline” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)

“Skyline” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Maureen FitzGerald
Music by Maureen FitzGerald and Taylor Williams
Directed by Jason Blitman
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Skyline” the new musical, which delves into the historical events surrounding the protests ignited by the demolition of the iconic Penn Station in 1963, is both heartfelt and interesting and is presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. It has all the elements of good old fashioned musical theatre and accentuates its appellation by producing a vivid view of the varying effects the decision to demolish Penn Station had on a multitude of New Yorkers and the City’s viable landscape. The book by Maureen FitzGerald provides a clear insight into the dilemma, never losing focus while also providing provocative romantic subplots that create interest and support the action. Although characters may appear stereotypical at times, it may be condoned since the musical is set mid century when these types might have even been considered progressive. The music by Taylor Williams and Ms. FitzGerald is standard Broadway but diverse and interesting, seasoned with strong solos and pleasant ensemble harmony.

The entire cast is seasoned and multi talented as they keep pace with the quick moving musical theatre plot providing well defined characters and well crafted vocals. Joseph Spieldenner turns in a passionate protester as Paul with leading man charisma and a strong baritone to support his crusade. Katie Lee Hill is determined as the career orientated Allison with an intellectual drive, confused by her emotionally romantic heart. Peter Gosik portrays a cynical Henry that finally redeems himself for the sake of love and displays his exceptional musicality in the song “Just Like You.”

There is certainly room for improvement here but even at this stage there is enough good material to entertain an audience for the intermission less hour and forty five minutes. It is filled with good performances, new music and a little bit of New York history; what more can you hope for as you partake in this annual New York Theatre Festival.

SKYLINE

“Skyline” is presented by The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Jason Blitman. Musical Direction by Taylor Williams.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is one hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 12, 2014



“Held Momentarily” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Sheen Canter (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Oliver Houser
Additional Material by James Zebooker
Directed by Hunter Bird
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a fresh new voice speaking to a new generation of American musical theatre with an interesting production entitled “Held Momentarily” being produced as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. Oliver Houser, creator of this new work, has assembled a group of diverse commuters in a subway car that has stopped mid tunnel due to technical difficulties and tests the power of the human condition. The book is utilitarian in providing enough plot and interest to keep the action moving at a steady pace and serves the actors well in discovering a definition of character. The music is complex, at times melodic, diverse, and for the most part produces a good marriage for the astute lyrics; but in certain respects it lacks the force and drive to infuse the situations that develop.

The entire cast is capable and digs deeply to unearth non stereotypical characters that create the kaleidoscope of everyday New Yorkers. Their vocal ability though inconsistent never falters below acceptable; however, it is difficult to single out performances with the lack of a song list in the program. All manage to delineate characters that are real and constantly develop as the plot progresses.

There are however a few problems that might be addressed when dissecting this incarnation in order to improve this promising new work. In the opening sequence, frivolous movement attempts to create the force and drive, inadvertently overpowering the sophisticated lyric and diminishing the music, which instead should be the catalyst. Back stories are always presented as an aside to educate the audience rather than revealed in conversation to develop relationships with other characters, creating a tighter weave in this colorful tapestry of humanity. With this modification the ending would become more powerful, emotional and better represent the quintessential rebirth of each character. Examine the symptoms of pain, loneliness, disappointment, fear and anxiety more carefully to find the cure. The homeless subway rider needs a song explanation as to how she ends up riding the subways with all her possessions in tow; she is a person not a representative object. Commit to trusting the material and curtail the Durang absurdity which switches on too quickly providing laughter but also confusion. It is a daunting task to create book, music and lyrics while also performing in the production. Hopefully when viewing the video some of this constructive criticism will appear valid.

In the mean time, try to catch one of the remaining performances of “Held Momentarily.” You will not be disappointed. The young Mr. Houser will in time become a recognizable voice in the musical theatre scene. This indeed is a welcome addition to the FringeNYC.

HELD MOMENTARILY

“Held Momentarily” is presented by Lionel A. Christian and Marielle Young in Association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Hunter Bird. Musical Direction by Jeremy Lyons. Choreographed by Katie Palmer.

The cast of “Held Momentarily” includes Jordan Barrow, India Carney, Elliot Greer, Oliver Houser, Andrea Nevil, Geena Quintos, Yael Rizowy, and James Zebooker.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is one hour with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 11, 2014

“Well Adjusted” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“Well Adjusted” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Sheen Center (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Phil Horst
Directed by Marty Moore
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

After his two year (well, just over a year) breakup with ex-girlfriend Abby (Lora Lee Jones), Ben (Phil Horst) is still not well adjusted to the single life despite his protestations to the contrary. When he shows up in sweat pants and a white tee shirt at Kate’s (Sarah Elizabeth Edwards) apartment for a “bring your own wine” party, Kate knows he is not doing well. To make things worse, Ben’s friend Mark (Robert Rydland) decides Ben needs to move on and invites Ben’s ex to the party. This scenario is the delicious fodder for Phil Horst’s “Well Adjusted” currently running at the Sheen Center’s new Black Box Theatre as part of Fringe NYC 2014.

“Well Adjusted” is a fantastic farce waiting to happen. With pants on, pants off, shirt on, shirt off, door-slamming energy, this play should be very funny – and often it is. Despite his anger at Mark, Ben needs Mark’s clothes to wear so Abby will not think he is still pining for her. Despite Mark’s assumption, no one likes Abby who is indeed unlikable. Attempting to protect Ben from embarrassment, his friends construct a matrix of mistaken identities and gender-bending antics that drive a pleasing plot. Mr. Horst has endowed his characters with believability and the actors portray these characters with honesty and authenticity.

Director Marty Moore seems to shift her focus from the farcical underbelly of the play near the end of the first act and often allows the actors to settle into reverie and repose. When this happens, the energy on stage drops and the momentum of Mr. Horst’s script needs to re-discover its core of comedic power. Reminiscent of the best of 1990s sit-coms, “Well Adjusted” just needs some tweaking to keep the farce alive. Claire Chandler’s Beth, Kelsey Boggs’s Betsy and Deandra Irving’s Natasha reignite the second act and they conspire with the ensemble cast to recapture the audience’s interest and trust.

WELL ADJUSTED

“Well Adjusted” is presented by The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Marty Moore.

The cast of “Well Adjusted” includes Kelsey Boggs, Claire Chandler, Sarah Elizabeth Edwards, Phil Horst, Deandra Irving, Lora Lee Jones, and Robert Rydland.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is one hour and forty minutes with intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 11, 2014

“Generation ME: the Musical” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Sheen Center (Closes on Sunday August 17, 2014)

Photo by Colleen O'Donnell
“Generation ME: the Musical” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Sheen Center (Closes on Sunday August 17, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Julie Soto
Music by Will Finan
Directed by Ryan Warren
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Generation ME” a new musical presented by Flying Monkey Productions as part of the NY International Fringe Festival might have been conceived with admirable intent but the result is less than what should be expected when dealing with such fragile subject matter. Unfamiliar with this west coast company, a note in the executive director Ryan Warren’s bio (also the director and contributing story writer) states the principles of the company create an environment where students and young adults can practice their art in a safe constructive space, and this should be commended. However the accolades stop there unless credit is given to an audience for enduring the insipid two hour and forty five minute performance plagued with faulty mikes and feedback eruptions.

The musical takes place in high school utopia, where there are absolutely no authoritative figures visible to enforce any type of consequence for disruptive behavior. No wonder this group of forlorn youth is in despair and thinks that a typical fist fight brawl in a school hallway is acceptable and a good way to release some pent up anger and energy. Or perhaps the absolutely ridiculously staged food fight at the end of the first act could supplement their need for indulgent activity, with the only consequence afforded is a twenty minute intermission to mop and clean the stage.

The music is unremarkable but could at least be heard, unlike most of the dialogue and lyrics which were lost either from poor projection or faulty mikes. The subject matter was more than valid but less than executed. It was put on exhibition for the audience to view, but there was no resolution. Not only were characters undeveloped they did not progress or grow from the situations they incurred. Everyone expresses grief at a memorial service but that does in no way constitute change or resolution. This production needs to dig a little deeper in order to nurture the “Me Generation.” This generation is certainly crying out for help and they need to be given hope, not just a reminder of who they are.

GENERATION ME: THE MUSICAL

“Generation ME: the Musical” is presented by Julie Soto, Will Finan, and Ryan Warren in Association with Flying Monkey Productions and The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Ryan Warren. Choreographed by Monika Joyce Neal. Production Photos by Colleen O’Donnell.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
2 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Monday, August 11, 2014

“The Van Meder Trust” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closes on Friday August 15, 2014)

“The Van Meder Trust” at FringeNYC 2014 at the Connelly Theater (Closes on Friday August 15, 2014)
Written by Beth Danesco
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Any play about personal identity is a welcomed addition to the contemporary body of new dramatic work. In addition to discovering who murdered his presumed father turned ghost, Hamlet needed to sort out who he was and who his real father was. Charlotte Van Meder (Alexandria Danielle King) is a suburban Boston high school student who, like Hamlet, is confused about her cultural, racial, and social identity: Charlotte has South African (Afrikaner) and African American roots and is the daughter of a dysfunctional drug-addicted mother and an emotionally absent father (Kevin Tobias Brown) who holds the keys to her substantial fortune. Playwright Beth Danesco attempts to focus on Charlotte’s dilemma in her new “The Van Meder Trust” currently running at the Connelly Theater as part of FringeNYC’s eighteenth season. Unfortunately, a variety of sub plots (mostly driven by dysfunctional characters with dysfunctional conflicts) drain the energy from the main story of Charlotte’s need to take charge of her own present and future, free herself from debilitating fear, and move forward in her process of self identity and self acceptance.

Ms. Danesco has created an extremely complicated bi-coastal, bi-continental story with more conflicts than necessary. At the opening performance on August 8, this complexity was exacerbated by actors who simply could not be heard. Essential exposition was missing for the audience. For example, someone’s father (or grandfather?) fathered children with two women who are in some fashion related to Charlotte. Obviously, clarity about Charlotte’s lineage is essential; however, that clarity never makes it past the proscenium.

What is clear is that Charlotte’s aunt Afton (Liz Adams) is the catalyst for her niece’s escape from fear and her concomitant journey to wholeness. Ms. Adams and Ms. King endow their characters with authenticity and deliver honest and transparent performances. The remainder of the ensemble cast performs adequately and each does his or her best to elucidate Ms. Danesco’s dense and sometimes elusive script. There is no mention of a director in the creative team and this absence could explain some of the problems exhibited in the performance.

Clear in addition is that “The Van Meder Trust” has a core of significance that deserves additional attention by the playwright and an expanded creative team.

THE VAN MEDER TRUST

“The Van Meder Trust” is presented by The All Stories Theater Company and The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director).

The August 8, 2014 cast of “The Van Meder Trust” includes Liz Adams, Jose Guns Alves, Kevin Tobias Brown, Kathy-Ann Hart, Sarah M. Jackson, Alexandria Danielle King, John Trent, Dayenne C. Byron Walters, and Alan R. White.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours with one five minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, August 10, 2014

“I Am Not I” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)

“I Am Not I” at FringeNYC 2014 at Teatro SEA (Closes on Friday August 22, 2014)
Written by Laura Abbot
Directed by Laura Abbott and Jordan Reiff
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“I Am Not I,” a new play being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival at Teatro SEA, is about gender identity, righteous religious beliefs, dysfunctional families, heritage, ethnic customs, and overall idiosyncratic delusion. That is just one of the problems; the play has no focus and provides no resolution. It is a protracted two hours with a scattered script that does not fully flesh out characters but merely puts them in situations that somewhat move the plot along. When you throw in a dancer as a tempting alter ego it only creates an annoying sideshow that detracts from whatever the play might be about at that certain time. The cast tries in earnest to provide some substance and continuity but rarely succeeds in transcending the material. Robyn Unger is able to draw from within to create a real and conflicted Jane. Morgan Lavenstein provides a tough exterior for Dawn and in a turn cuts through her hard façade to find a sensitive and caring persona.

Perhaps the mounting of this world premiere will provide influential insight that will articulate the flaws and pitfalls of the script so “I Am Not I” might have further development. Dissection of this incarnation could provide enough fodder to develop several shorter one act plays around the important themes inherent in the script.

I AM NOT I

“I Am Not I” is presented by Maureen Keleher and Christopher Marsh in association with The Present Company (Elena K Holy, Producing Artistic Director). Directed by Laura Abbott and Jordan Reiff. Choreographed by Kendra Slack.

The cast of “I Am Not I” includes Claire Cuny (Dancer), Morgan Lavenstein, Sam Lowenstein (Guitar), Elise Rovinsky, Izzy Ruiz, and Robyn Unger.

For performance schedule, ticketing information and more information about the presenting company, please visit www.FringeNYC.org. For mobile ticketing, please visit www.FringeonTheFly.com. The running time is 2 hours with one ten minute intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Sunday, August 10, 2014

“AROUSAL”/”The Lover” at The Flea Theater (Closed on Saturday August 2, 2014)

Laura Lundy-Paine and Dan Fagan in "The Lover" - Photo by Luis A. Solarzano
“AROUSAL”/”The Lover” at The Flea Theater (Closed on Saturday August 2, 2014)
Written by George Pfirrmann/Harold Pinter
Directed by Chloe Bronzan
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

A felicitous pairing of George Pfirrmann’s “AROUSAL” and Harold Pinter’s “The Lover” recently closed at The Flea Theater in Manhattan. Both short plays deal with themes of loneliness, passion, motivation, and human need: each short play addresses these important themes in quite different ways.

Mr. Pfirrmann’s “AROUSAL” pairs two star-crossed lovers: Albena (Laura Lundy-Paine) a committed scrabble-playing sex worker from the Ukraine and Clifford (Dan Fagan) a lonely twenty-something with Asperger’s Syndrome. Clifford has been unable to connect well with other people because of his disorder and, until her death, spent his entire life inside with his mother. Clifford is computer savvy and, deciding he needs to restart his life, searches Craig’s List for companionship and discovers that Albena has an ad offering to be “a special friend.” Clifford meets Albena in her apartment and when he discovers she is a sex worker he begins to discover the work he needs to do: Clifford needs to rediscover how to relate to another human being without fear and anxiety. Despite Albena’s efforts to remain professional (“No kissing!”) and Clifford’s superego (“My mother told me that …”) the two manage to break down barriers of pity and pain and find in each other redemption and release – at least with each other and only one moment at a time. Ms. Lundy-Paine is exceptional in the role of Albena: she captures the broken soul of a woman trying to escape from a difficult past and gives her character a high-octane dose of realism and honesty. And Mr. Fagan delivers his character Clifford with a sympathetic yet tortured authenticity: his Clifford is a young man desperate to touch and be touched in so many significant ways.

Chloe Bronzan’s fluid direction – although serving the actors well in “AROUSAL” – leaves them sometimes aimless in Harold Pinter’s “The Lover.” Pinter’s work often requires exacting and specific direction and without that “frame” the resulting portraits can seem unfinished. In “The Lover,” a well-to-do English couple sorts out their own matrices of loneliness, passion, motivation, and need. Sarah (Laura Lundy-Paine) ostensibly has – with her husband’s consent – an afternoon lover who visits while husband Richard (Dan Fagan) toils at work. And Richard ostensibly has – with his wife’s consent – regular trysts with a sex worker. Ms. Lundy-Paine and Mr. Fagan handle Pinter’s cat-and-mouse play with sometimes too tender mittens: more sparks need to fly between these two as they explore ways to deal with their ennui and sexual dissatisfaction. Director Bronzan seems to miss the opportunity the tam-tam drum offers the actors: both should be tapping the drum at the same time using it as a trope for the intriguing game they are playing. The director also allows the actors to deliver their lines at the same cadence throughout which is disappointing because the rhythms of the conversation are important to the relationship ruse the audience eventually solves. Still Harold Pinter’s script triumphs and supports every effort the actors make to bring it to life.

One wonders why Virago decided not to pair “The Lover” with its usual “mate” Harold Pinter’s “The Collection.” Despite that query, this current pairing is more than satisfactory and seems to have stood the test of time.

AROUSAL/THE LOVER

“AROUSAL”/”The Lover” is presented by Virago Theatre Company at The Flea Theater. Directed by Chloe Bronzan.

The cast of “AROUSAL”/”The Lover” includes Dan Fagan, Laura Lundy-Paine, and Michael Vega. The creative team includes Robert Lundy-Paine (Set Design); Sophie Spinelle (Costume Design); Brandon Stock (Lighting Design/Technical Design), Nikki Eggert (Sound Design); and Gary Quinn (Production Stage Manager). The publicist is Scotti Rhodes Publicity. Production photos by Luis A. Solarzano.

For more information about the Virago Theatre Company visit www.viragotheatre.com.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, August 05, 2014

“Eddie” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Sunday August 3, 2014)

“Eddie” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Sunday August 3, 2014)
Written by Matthew Ethan Davis
Directed by Brian Catton
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Greg (Jacob Banser) is an insecure teenager with problems at home and under a lot of stress in school. His hearing loss requires him to read lips in class – when possible – and when the noise level is high, he cannot hear the teacher’s instruction or questions. Greg joins a gang to deal with his issues. In Matthew Ethan Davis’s “Eddie,” currently running at the Midtown International Theatre festival, Greg bullies schoolmate Eddie (Yair Ben-Dor) who lives with similar issues: Eddie has serious hearing loss and lives with an addicted mother April (Nina Salza) who is also a sex-worker and a poor judge of character. Her relationship with James (Jay Rivera) often puts Eddie in compromising situations.

Counselor Kyle (Steve Carrieri) attempts to help Eddie cope with his codependent issues and perhaps transfer schools; however, Eddie is often not cooperative and fearful of trusting anyone. Eventually, Greg stops bullying Eddie and desperately seeks to befriend Eddie, confessing to him his own hearing loss and matrix of stress-related problems. In fact, Greg is in love with Eddie and wants nothing more than to run away and start a new life with him. This is the tender love story of two apparently very different young men. Mr. Ben-Dor and Mr. Banser are to be commended for their fine craft as actors: they bring authenticity and believability to their characters. Unfortunately, Mr. Davis’s script gives them little to work with.

With two characters so needing to “hear” the chords of love across empty spaces and with two talented actors portraying these characters, it is remarkable that experienced playwright Matthew Ethan Davis was not able to write a compelling story about their discovery of one another’s deep affection for each other despite their backgrounds of loneliness and abuse. Mr. Davis has constructed a needlessly complex script that is overwrought and overlong and includes extraneous (and distracting) characters and scenes that do nothing to advance the plot and serves only to prolong Eddie’s and Greg’s angst-filled need to belong and be loved. One wonders why the character of Linda is needed. Madison McGhee deserves credit for even trying to infuse believability into a distracting and extraneous character.

Although director Brian Catton’s frenetic direction moves the characters on an off the stage in what seems like an endless series of blackouts, two of those characters – Eddie and Greg – make magic when they have the opportunity to stand together and just discover they do not have to be “bosses of each other’s heads:” all they need to do is be themselves.

EDDIE

“Eddie” is presented by Ticket 2 Eternity Productions/7 Guild Productions in association with The Midtown International Theatre Festival. Director: Brian Catton. The creative team includes: Liz So (Lighting Design), Andy Cohen (Sound Design), and Jacqueline Filer (Stage Manager). Press Representative: Bunch of People Press and Publicity.

The cast includes Jacob Banser , Yair Ben-Dor , Steve Carrieri, Madison McGhee, Jay Rivera, and Nina Salza.

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF)'s fifeenth season will include a slate of full-length plays and musicals, as well as Cabaret MITF. The Festival will run from July 14th to August 10th 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre and the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (1st floor), the Jewel Box Theater (4th floor), and the TBG Theatre (Main Stage) all located at 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Tickets are $20.00 and are available at www.midtownfestival.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111.

“Eddie” continues its run at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (see above) on Wednesday July 30th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday August 3rd at 2:30 p.m. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, July 29, 2014

“Cover” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Tuesday July 29, 2014)

“Cover” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Tuesday July 29, 2014)
Written by Bill McMahon
Directed by Paul J. Michael
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

David and Zan, a young Westchester married couple and Peter and Beth, a married couple in their late 40s collide in a fragile foursome in Bill McMahon’s new “Cover” currently running in NYC at part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. What happens in this refreshing play might not “make sense” to any of the four characters; however, they each come to understand they “are in the middle of something” important – and that something has everything to do with love and becoming honest with themselves and their true identity and status.

All four characters are living under cover to some degree and it is in the careful maintenance of those covers that each preserves a center and each experiences a defining moment that jeopardizes their zones of safety and comfort. David (Max Rhyser) finds safety in Peter (Tony Travostino) the older man who serves as a healthy ersatz father (his own father was abusive and distant) and a fulfilling partner in love and sex. Their relationship provides cover for his disappointing and unfulfilled relationship with his "wound-as-tight-as-a-mummy" wife Zan (whose only surcease is a daily dose of Xanax and other prescription psychotropic drugs.

Peter’s cover is his strong professional exterior that shelters him from his fears of getting older and his disdain for his wife Beth. Beth’s (Karin de la Penha) cover is her successful career in acquisitions and divestments, a juicy trope for the way Beth deals with professional and relationship “clients” including her husband and sons. Zan’s (Olivia Mell) cover is her co-dependent behavior and her need to be cared for.

Bill McMahon’s script is disarmingly complex. The relatively accessible story of boy meets man, man leaves wife, and boy struggles with leaving girl is the softer side of the plot with an underbelly barnacled with intrigue, years of layered fear and disappointment, and a ground-breaking glimpse into the real meaning of falling in love. When they first meet at the train station, David and Peter have no idea what missing the 4:55 can unleash.

When they ask one another, “What if neither of us is what we thought we were,” they understand that “they will work it out.” Their relationship is a complicated and rich process and under Paul J. Michael’s careful and sensitive direction, David and Peter do attempt to understand their identities, sexual and ideological. After David realizes they have blown their cover and both Beth and Zan know of their affair, Peter wants David to live with him and announces he “would die for him.”

This is not a love story but a story about love. Who we love, why we love, how we love, when we love and the puzzling consequences love can inflict on the participants. The story is non-judgmental, places no stereotypical labels, holds no accusations, and realizes that authentic love might be involuntary and unintentional. One conclusion that is clear that when you acquiesce to love, everything will change and nothing can ever be the same.

Max Rhyser shows a precise, honest, assiduous David, who is young, confused and might just be in love with love. Tony Travostino creates a cautious, wounded, vulnerable Peter who is fully capable of battle when necessary and surrender when inherent. Karin de la Penha is ice cold as Beth but is so competent of melting away her frigid exterior with subtle warmth from within when needed. Olivia Mell is broken, delusional and paranoid as Zan but is quick to beguile to conquer her needs. These four actors are solely remarkable and as an ensemble they are fierce force that ignites the stage. Prepare to hear more about “Cover” in the not-so-distant future.

COVER

“Cover” is presented by Jim Kierstead in association with The Midtown International Theatre Festival. Director: Paul Michael. The creative team includes: Daniel Geggatt (Set Design), Alex deNevers (Lighting Design), LeeKinney (Sound Design), Andrew Medlin (Costume Design), and Sofia Montgomery (Production Stage Manager). Press Representative: Bunch of People Press and Publicity.

The cast includes Karin de la Penha, Olivia Mell, Max Rhyser, and Tony Travostino.

The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF)'s fifteenth season will include a slate of full-length plays and musicals, as well as Cabaret MITF. The Festival will run from July 14th to August 10th 2014, at the June Havoc Theatre and the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (1st floor), the Jewel Box Theater (4th floor), and the TBG Theatre (Main Stage) all located at 312 West 36th Street, NYC. Tickets are $18.00 to $20.00 and are available at www.midtownfestival.org or by phone at (866) 811-4111.

“Cover” continues its run at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (see above) on Tuesday July 29th at 6:00 p.m. This final performance is sold out. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Tuesday, July 29, 2014

“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Music and Lyrics by Christopher Anselmo
Book by H. S. Kaufman
Directed and Choreographed by Jen Wineman
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

All John (Dan Rosales) wants is to celebrate his 2014 high school graduation with close friends Chelsea (Gerianne Perez) and her brother Tucker (Alex Walton) and bound-for-Princeton Emmy (Marisa O’Donnell). Reading his post-graduation speech is all that is really on John’s agenda. Somehow college lacrosse star Richie (Michael Luwoye) is invited and interloper Amelia (Madison Micucci) breaks in through window and screen to add to the growing matrix of post-graduation melancholy. What begins as a simple celebration develops into group therapy spiced with an abundance of alcohol.

All this partying occurs in John’s parents’ New England suburban twentieth century colonial in the present. Unfortunately, the characters seem to have been transported from some earlier decade: they seem to lack the sophistication and weltanschauung of twenty-first century late teens. A necessary sense of worldliness is lacking in their characterizations and their conflicts – although identifiable – seem relatively simplistic. All they want is love and acceptance but appear not to have worked diligently to achieve those goals.

The book by H.S. Kaufman captures a bit of everything and too much of nothing, while exploring the thoughts and activities of six young adults at a graduation party, making it difficult to establish a cohesive structure. Characters rotate waiting to sing a song and tell their story. There is no form or arc so it tends to be flat and uninspired. The music however is inspired, although sometimes repetitious, and has a complicated rock feel, that should but fails to infuse the cast with the kinetic energy this piece needs. Part of this problem may be the direction and choreography by Jen Wineman. The lyrics are hit or miss, sometimes spot on for character delineation, but at other times miss the mark leaving cast members who are listening unsure and confused.

The cast is energetic and in fine vocal form. Characters unfortunately appear one dimensional, controlled by external circumstances rather than inner emotion, which may be induced by script and direction. The actors are young, talented and know their craft, but cannot transcend the inconsistent material.

Humankind – old and young alike – live by the mysteries of mythos and fable and cling to those constructs to order their lives and – clinging to their truth or falsehood – manage to separate and individuate and enter adulthood. “Fable” gives us a group of teens who seem to know what they want but do not quite know how to “get there.” This new musical is in its early stages of development and has the potential, with some judicious work, to serve as an authentic trope for the search for identity, love, and acceptance.

FABLE

“Fable” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival, Christopher Mirto, and Reed Ridgley. Jen Wineman is the director and choreographer. H. S. Kaufman has authored the Book. Christopher Anselmo has composed the Music and penned the Lyrics. Karen Dryer is the Musical Director. Orchestrations are by Asher Denburg. Scenery is by Deb O. Costumes are by Elizabeth Barrett Groth. Lighting is by Alan C. Edwards. Sound is by Jessica Paz. Judy Jacksina Company is the Press Representative.

The cast includes: Dan Rosales is John. Michael Luwoye is Richie. Alex Walton is Tucker. Gerianne Perkins is Chelsea. Marissa O’Donnell is Emmy. Madison Micucci is Amelia.

The band inckudes: Guitar – Jeff Barone. Bass – Don Lieber. Violin/Viola – Edward W. Hardy. Drums – RJ Raybin.

“Fable” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935947. Runtime: 90 minutes with no intermission.
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“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)

“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Book and Lyrics by Samuel Bernstein
Music by David Snyder
Directed and Choreographed by Stephen Nachamie
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Mr. Confidential” is the new musical currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With an outstanding book, lyrics that complement and successfully expand the scope of the book, and music pleasing to the ear and heart, this is a big brassy musical with a Broadway beat begging for attention. With a cast headed up by Kevin Spirtas, “Mr. Confidential” tackles the meteoric rise and softer fall of Robert Harrison the 1950s iconic journalistic purveyor of scandal, gossip, and the art of the expose.

American success stories have always chronicled those who win and those who get scarified in the process of “climbing the ladder.” Bob Harrison achieves success with “Confidential” by betraying confidences and outing members of Hollywood’s LGBT community. In one July issue of the magazine, under a photo of Liberace the tease line reads “Why Liberace’s theme song should be, ‘Mad About the Boy.’” Some objects of Harrison’s scathing attacks did not care; others could have been blacklisted and lost their Hollywood appeal.

It is at this point that “Mr. Confidential” the musical becomes most accessible to the audience. Few audience members have not climbed over fallen friends, family, and acquaintances to “make it to the top” of their game. There is a Bob Harrison deep in the heart of each of us. Mr. Harrison believed the magazine was successful because it was liberating for readers and icons; others thought “Confidential” was successful because readers delighted in seeing successful and prominent personages brought down to earth.

Stephen Nachamie’s clear-cut Broadway choreography and exacting direction serve the talented ensemble cast well. Kevin Spirtas (Bob Harrison), Amy Bodnar (Jeannie Douglas), Erin Leigh Peck (Marjorie Meade), and Paul Michael Valley (Howard Rushmore) anchor a superb cast of thirteen. Mr. Spirtas captures Bob Harrison’s character with the wink of an eye or the quick turn of the head and dazzles in the “Chicago” style “Bobby Is Back” where the chorus of fan dancers dons copies of “Confidential.” Amy Bodnar’s Jeannie is as deep as she is shallow and delivers “The Girl with the Yellow Hair” with show-stopping perfection. Erin Leigh Peck captures the soul of Bob’s niece Marjorie who leaves her husband Fred (Joshua Dixon) to head up the magazine’s west coast shenanigans. Her “Girl Next Door” is both a mantra of liberation and – reprised – an anthem of despair and defeat.

“Mr. Confidential” is still in its early stage of development. Most songs have clear placement and serve the plot well; others need editing or cutting. And most of the musical’s scenes handily drive the plot forward. A few, like the trial scene, need to be shortened and perhaps reimagined. Without such prudent pruning, the closing scenes in the second act might spin out of control. There is no need to bring every character onto the stage to resolve her or his particular conflict. To do so weakens the powerful ending.

Don’t breathe a word, but just between you and me, in strict confidence, with some judicious redaction, “Mr. Confidential’s” foray into the sustained prevalence and resilience of gossip and innuendo could easily find its way onto the Broadway stage. Remember, you didn’t hear it from me.

MR. CONFIDENTIAL

“Mr. Confidential” is presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival and Ronald Shore and Babyhead Productions. Director and Choreographer: Stephen Nachamie.

The cast for “Mr. Confidential” includes: Jane Blass, Amy Bodnar, Joshua Dixon, Badia Farha, Jamnes Larosa, Michael Marotta, Rachel Lee Norman, Erin Leigh Peck, Elyssa Samsel, Kevin Spirtas, Paul Michael Valley, and Alena Watters. The orchestra includes Kevin Cole (Conductor), Jack Morer (Guitarist), Gregory Landes (Drummer), Ben Ruben-Schnirman (Bass Player), and Brandon Sturiale (Keybaord 2).

The production team is comprised of: Vanessa Leuck (Costume Design), Alan C. Edwards (Set Design), Pete Bragg (Lighting Design), Matt Kraus (Sound Design), Kevin Cole (Music Director), Delores Duran-Cefalu (music supervisor) and Aislinn Curry (production stage manager).Casting by Cindy Rush Casting. Press Representative: The Publicity Office (Jeremy Shaffer).

“Mr. Confidential” continues performances on Sunday July 27th at 5:00 p.m. at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC 10036. Tickets: $25. For tickets, visit nymf.org. Direct ticketing link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/935942. Runtime: 2 hours plus one intermission.
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