Theater Review

The Old Soft Shoe Shuffle

FRED
Written by Christopher Ford and Dakota Rose
Directed by Dakota Rose
Presented by On the Rocks Theatre Company at Dixon Place, NYC
March 17-April 1, 2017

Dixon Place is a reliable venue for offbeat theater. If you're looking for, say, an earnest examination of twentysomethings trying to make it in the city, then it's probably best to look elsewhere. If, however, you're in the mood for sci-fi puppets or dance-filled reimaginings of Carroll's Wonderland, then Dixon Place has you covered. The latest of these unconventional offerings is FRED, a buoyant new comedy by Christopher Ford and Dakota Rose, creators of the recent The White Stag Quadrilogy. Read more »

Treading On Borrowed Time

Kyle
Written by Hollis James, Directed by Emily Owens
Presented by Hot Tramp Productions at UNDER St. Marks, NYC
March 11-25, 2017

Kyle is the first play from Hot Tramp Productions, which promises "darkly comic" shows as part of its mission to create "pre-apocalyptic theatre for a post-Bowie world." Written by Queens native Hollis James, Kyle mines comedy from the depths of addiction and marks an impressive debut both for James as a playwright and for his and director Emily Owens' newly-founded production company. Read more »

A Man Needs A Maid

Les Bonnes/The Maids
Written by Jean Genet
Directed by Oliver Henzler
Presented by La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club
In association with L'Atelier Théâtre Productions at First Floor Theatre, NYC

Writer and activist Jean Genet's early play Les Bonnes (The Maids) was inspired in part by the real-life 1933 murder by two sisters, employed as maids, of their employer and her daughter. In his play, Genet transforms his sensationalistic inspiration into a stylized psychodrama that comments on forms of servitude and dependency, and the result has remained popular since its debut in 1947. Les Bonnes is the first professional production by L'Atelier Théâtre Productions, which "aims at presenting bold and inspiring European plays to a New York audience in the original language" and at creating a community of theater artists in New York who will blend American and European traditions. This production is performed in the original French, with English subtitles (by Lucy O'Brien, Mariam Mustafa, and Ellen Thome, undergraduates studying French at Fordham University) available on video screens at either end of the room, above and behind the audience, which is seated on the two short sides of the rectangular theater. Read more »

It's Even Frostier In Here - FRIGID, Part 2

We're back for the second week of the 19-day FRIGID NY Festival, which is in the midst of an artistic occupation of the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks, to discuss two more of its 30 plays. In total, we are reviewing a mere four, or 13%, of this year's FRIGID shows, but information and tickets for all of the offerings can be found at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info. As every year, all proceeds from tickets sales go directly to the artists. Read more »

Frosty & FRIGID

It's that time of year again: the FRIGID NY Festival is taking over the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks for 19 days, with 30 plays ranging from personal narratives to parodies to science comedy to the avant-garde. We will be discussing a mere four of the productions in our two dispatches from the festival, but information and tickets for all of this year's shows can be found at www.FRIGIDnewyork.info. As every year, all proceeds from tickets sales go directly to the artists. Read more »

Ring Twice For Miranda

Ring Twice for Miranda
Stage II at New York City Center
Through April 16, 2017

During Ring Twice for Miranda, while witnessing the frequent long and drawn-out arguments scenes that pepper this play’s landscape, I was reminded of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. What kept your attention during that film’s interminable arguments among Warhol’s characters was hope of some kind of satisfying resolution. Playwright Alan Hruska is by trade a litigation lawyer, so he knows how to argue. Unfortunately his characters do not share his real life expertise. I kept saying to myself “come on, get on with it!” My impatience had me physically squirming much as I did when, eons ago, I first viewed Chelsea Girls! In addition, specters of the post-apocalyptic Spike Milligan/Richard Lester film collaboration The Bed Sitting Room floated about me. Absent from Miranda’s world was the clear social satire and whimsy which sustained Mr. Milligan’s long career. Read more »

The Love that Keeps on Taking...

Let The Right One In
Moore Theatre, Seattle

Dripping from the Swedish page and screen onto American stages, The National Theatre of Scotland has adapted the celebrated horror film and novel Let The Right One In for theatrical production with an eerie success that echoes the story's previous manifestations. Wrapping up its run at Seattle's Moore Theatre before moving on to Houston, Texas, this production is spreading its paradoxically beautiful and yet starkly nihilistic brand of love story. Read more »

Fire! Fire!

The Fire This Time 10 Minute Play Festival 2017
Directed by Cezar Williams
Presented by FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade at the Kraine Theater, NYC
January 19-February 5, 2017

The annual The Fire This Time Festival was begun by artists, for artists, and its purpose is to showcase early-career playwrights of the African diaspora. Traditionally, The Fire This Time has been composed of a variety of events, with the 10 Minute Play Festival serving as the flagship, and this year, its eighth, TFTT has expanded those events beyond the strictly theatrical, including web series and readings by playwrights and sisters Kia and Kara Lee Corthron from their respective debut novels. As an anchor to the festivities (and the only event that isn't free to attend), the The 10 Minute Play Festival has consistently put forth collections of strong, exciting work, and this year's group of seven short plays, performed by a group of seven actors, is no exception. Read more »

Gentrified!

Transcend
Written and performed by Kilusan Bautista
Transmedia direction by Wi-Moto Nyoka
Presented by FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade at UNDER St. Mark's, NYC
January 9-February 6, 2017

It seems fitting that in order to get to and from Transcend, a meditation by Kilusan Bautista on his experiences with gentrification and what he identifies as America's housing war on the poor, we walked down a St. Mark's Street scrubbed almost entirely of its grimy counter-cultural past and reborn as a corridor of gleaming ramen restaurants and Mac repair shops. Having debuted this past August at the New York Fringe Festival, Transcend has returned to New York after a run in California's Bay Area, another, perhaps even worse, hotbed of skyrocketing housing costs. Bautista's one-man show, his second, is an eclectic mix of narrative, spoken word, dance, and multimedia elements that focuses on his own experience of temporary homelessness as an exemplar of systemic inequalities. Read more »

For The Love of Annie

For Annie
Written by Beth Hyland
Directed by Emma Miller
Presented by The Hearth
at Lucid Body House, NYC
December 9, 2016-January 15, 2017

Margaret Atwood famously wrote that men fear that women will laugh at them, while women fear that men will kill them. For Annie, the new play by Beth Hyland, is presented as a campus outreach event put on by members of the Beta Tau Alpha sorority at SUNY Onondaga in memory of their murdered sister, Annie Lambert, a victim of male-on-female domestic violence. Directed by Emma Miller, For Annie is the inaugural production of The Hearth, a company whose mission is to "nurture and celebrate female-identifying artists" and "develop plays that represent the complex and vast spectrum of womanhood." Annie's story ultimately concludes at an all-too-common point on that spectrum.  Read more »

Tea Time!

Wonder/Through the Looking-Glass Houses
Choreography by Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson 
Presented by Kinetic Architecture Dance Theatre at Dixon Place, NYC
December 2-17, 2016

Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There are mainstays of popular culture, having been reinvented in just about every medium imaginable. With Wonder/Through the Looking-Glass Houses, Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson and KineticArchitecture Dance Theatre add a new, all-female vision of Alice to that lineage. This reimagining is as much the White Rabbit's story as Alice's, and when we meet the Rabbit (Arrie Fae Bronson-Davidson)--who is, of course, running late -- during an opening dance scored by David Bowie's "Time," she is something of a vixen with glittering ruby lipstick and nary a waistcoat nor a pocket watch in sight. In a bit of departure from the original novels, this Rabbit pauses occasionally for selfies with the audience, but soon we are off down the rabbit hole with Alice and back on familiar Wonderland terrain. Read more »

Gators!

Alligator
Written by Hilary Bettis
Directed by Elena Araoz
Presented by New Georges and The Sol Project
at A.R.T./New York Theatres, NYC
November 27-December 18, 2016

In a note in the program for Alligator, the world-premiere play opening New Georges' 25th season, Hilary Bettis describes writing it in "a fever dream of alcohol, death, violence, and poverty." Alligator, the first of a planned series of collaborations by The Sol Project with off-Broadway companies to produce new plays by Latinx playwrights, carries the audience into a similar space, embracing chaos in order to map the "pain and destruction," as Bettis's note puts it, caused by the unplanned, unpredictable intersections of people's lives. Against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades in 1999, Alligator's characters struggle, compellingly if often unsuccessfully, within and against this chaos for self-realization and human connection. Read more »

No Man's Land!

No Man's Land
Written and directed by Melissa Moschitto
Presented by The Anthropologists at TheaterLab, NYC
November 18-December 11, 2016

Given its focus on identity, race, and theatrical narratives, the new play No Man's Land could not be more timely, debuting as it did only a few days after Vice President-elect Mike Pence's, shall we say, controversial visit to Broadway's Hamilton. Created by theater company The Anthropologists and written and directed by Melissa Moschitto, the issues it interrogates have come increasingly to the fore of our national discourse over the past eighteen months and look to remain both pressingly and depressingly relevant for the foreseeable future. In the program, Moschitto discusses The Anthropologists' "unequivocal support" of the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on the company's work and personal realizations, but suddenly, police brutality seems just one means of oppression among many when officials are using segregation-era tactics on protesters outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and a neo-Nazi has been appointed as a top presidential adviser. Much to its credit, No Man's Land takes a wide perspective on the deeply entrenched systemic racism and the silencing of non-dominant voices that it examines. Select performances, listed on the show's website, further the dialogue after the play is over with "Re-Frame Your Reference," a series of events dedicated to "investigating privilege and systemic racism in the United States today by recognizing and challenging culturally embedded frames of reference." Read more »

Speak, Don't Speak

Don't You F**king Say a Word
Written by Andy Bragen
Directed by Lee Sunday Evans
Presented by Andy Bragen Theatre Projects 
at 59E59 Theaters, NYC
November 4-December 4, 2016

Tennis, like any individual sport, isolates two people in a contest of focus and will, a push and pull of competition against one another but also against themselves.  Andy Bragen's new comedy, Don't You F**king Say a Word, takes tennis as its structural conceit and thematic vehicle to great effect. Playing out on a white-lined, light blue set that evokes a tennis court folded up to create walls, Bragen's hilarious play creates a snapshot of two years in the friendship of a pair of New York City couples.  After Kate (Jennifer Lim) and Leslie (Jeanine Serralles), who knew each other in college, have a chance encounter on the streets of New York, it does not take long before their respective boyfriends, Russ (Michael Braun) and Brian (Bhavesh Patel) are indulging their shared tennis obsession and machismo on the court with one another. Don't You F**king Say a Word begins at the end of the two years it covers, and the two women are our guides, addressing us directly, slipping in and out of the scenes with the men, which take place mostly in flashback. Kate and Leslie start by saying that they hope to make some discoveries about what makes men tick, about their "secret spaces," but they end up revealing at least as much about their own "deep wells that drive" them forward as women and their similarities to the male behaviors that they wish to dissect.    Read more »

Shelter Me

Roughly Speaking
Written by Shara Ashley Zeiger
Directed by Celine Rosenthal
Presented by The Platform Group at TADA! Youth Theater, NYC
October 29-November 20, 2016

A recent article on Gothamist discussing strident local opposition to converting a hotel into a homeless shelter -- opposition based, according to one quoted resident, on the idea that shelters destroy communities with drugs, violence, and prostitution -- pointed out that New York City reached a record high in September of this year of 60,000 adults and children sleeping in shelters (a number, that article notes, that doesn't count certain kinds of specialized shelters). In the program for the new play Roughly Speaking, the playwright and founder of The Platform Group, Shara Ashley Geiger, admits that she herself regarded the homeless with a mixture of uneasiness and fear after first moving to the City. Volunteering at the Xavier Mission Welcome Table and hearing the stories of the other volunteers and the guests fostered a change in perspective, which in turn helped eventually to produce Roughly Speaking, a work born out of more than 200 interviews with homeless individuals.   Read more »

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