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Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Her Opponent

In today's political environment, I'm surprised this show is not getting more airtime and exposure.  Part experiment, part theatrical experience, Her Opponent seeks to open eyes and get you thinking about gender and your biases.

Joe Salvatore and Maria Guadalupe reverse the gender of the actual candidates and reenact select debate dialogue verbatim.  Sounds like a snooze fest? Or does it sound like you'd throw your shoes at the stage?  Well, I think you might be fairly engaged mostly because a woman is saying the things Mr. Trump said. Equally, you may be unpleasantly surprised at a man acting the way Hillary Clinton did.  I warn you now, you may still agree or disagree with WHAT the candidates said but you will see the message from an entirely different perspective.

Rachel Tuggle Whorton tackles quite accurately of Mr. Trump.  Daryl Embry equally aptly tackles the persona of Mrs. Clinton - both nailing certain mannerisms, patterns of speech and general stature. Only the pronouns (he/she) were changed to make sense in this environment and the names were changed but maintained the same rhythm - Brenda King and Jonathan Gordon. Andy Wagner plays the moderators who in all honesty were not really mentioned or identified, except for a passing mention of Anderson Cooper that I can recall.

For a mild jolt and passing identification of your own biases, head over to the Jerry Orbach theatre at the Snapple Center today.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation

I just had to see the first preview of John Guare's theatrical classic, Six Degrees of Separation on Broadway. After all, I never saw the movie and knew almost nothing about it except the vague notion we all know about everyone being connected and somehow that connection being approx 6 people.

Aside from the few very minor late entrances and missed queues which are inevitable at a first preview, this unexpectedly large cast performed like a well oiled machine.  The modern set (kudos Mark Wendland) was intriguing especially when i sat off to the side at the end.  The two sided Kandinsky painting was a magical centerpiece, rotating high above.

Allison Janey (Ouisa) mastered the script with aplomb and seemed to be the perfect fit for the intelligent, slightly overbearing, and confidently funny and sarcastic wife.  John Benjamin Hickey (Flan) seemed to exude art-dealer and all the eccentricities that go along with that job. Corey Hawkins (Paul) seemed to be born to play the role of con-man - devilishly handsome and debonair, intelligent, well spoken, and slick as all heck.  What I didn't really expect were the neighbors, the neighbors children and a few others like a doorman, and a police officer to fill the cast to such a degree.  For a 3 person play, the cast of 18 filled the stage occasionally.

Trip Cullman's direction seemed to embrace the large stage and use it effectively - keeping the back area a bit fuzzy and unclear which fit the mood perfectly.  Deconstructed in a large Broadway house but not too deconstructed as to be barren.

So what did I think?  It was a bit confusing to follow at times - dialogue is snappy and crisp and if the actors speak over a laugh you might miss a few lines.  This will resolve over time for sure. The full frontal nudity may turn a few people off (certainly not me in any way) - I don't know what the script requires vs what the director interprets.  I was mostly surprised that I really wasn't going to experience a direct "Six Degrees of Separation" - like a trail of person 1 connected to person 2 connected to person 3 etc.... but more the general concept about strangers and how they can be inter-twined in our lives and connected to our friends and we don't even know it- or them - sometimes until it's too late - or sometimes we never really know what happens at all.  I was struck that the central lines of the play fit the concept but not exactly what was happening on the stage.  I guess I am a very linear thinker.

"I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice. fill in the names. I find that A) tremendously comforting that we're so close and B) like Chinese water torture that we're so close. Because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. It's not just big names. It's anyone. A native in a rain forest. A Tierra del Fuegan. An Eskimo. I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It's a profound thought. How Paul found us. How to find the man whose son he pretends to be. Or perhaps is his son, although I doubt it. How every person is a new door, opening up into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between me and everyone else on this planet. But to find the right six people...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lilian Hellman's The Little Foxes

The only thing I did not like about this production was its title.  I hate it when an author feels that their name needs to be attached to the title - ala Edward Albee.  Now, onto all the good stuff.

Daniel Sullivan's directorial job could not have been more different from the last time I saw this show at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2010 with Ivo Van Hove at the helm.  This time, with Mr. Sullivan's fine vision, I really felt I was in the South.  The set (kudos Scott Pask) was a magnificent reproduction of a fine southern home.  (Boy those stairs seemed very steep!). Completely contrary to Mr. Van Hove's bare set and modern costumes - context really does make the story come alive in a way Mr. Van Hove could not replicate although his production certainly succeeded in many aspects that I won't go into now.

As you may know, The two leads, Regina Giddens (Laura Linney on my night) and Birdie Hubbard (Cynthia Nixon on my night) trade roles regularly!  I immediately thought that the casting as I saw it may have been the better combo - but these two actresses are masters of their craft and I left the theater thinking what a different person each one must inhabit as they trade roles.

And what a tremendous supporting cast these two marvelous actresses get the pleasure of working with.  Birdie's brothers, Michael McKean (Ben Hubbard) and Darren Goldstein (Ben Hubbard) are the perfect mix of evil and jocularity.  Richard Thomas (Horrace Giddens) doesn't appear until Act II and when he does it is evident he knows how to inhabit his deceptively revengeful character with aplomb.

Ms. Hellman really does bring this family to the brink and then back again.  What a pleasure it was to watch these fine actors take their evil and deceptive journey each night deep in the south way back in 1900.  Which cast did you see?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Daniel's Husband

Who on earth WOULDN'T want to marry (Ryan Spahn).... um... i mean Daniel Bixby?  In Michael McKeever's play now in previews at the Cherry Lane Theatre, that would be Daniel's partner, Mitchell Howard (Matthew Montelongo).  

Successful, drippingly boyish, handsome, confident - Daniel wants to marry his partner of 7 years.  They are in love, they live together, and they are just the "perfect" couple.   The trouble is, Mitchell, his partner, doesn't believe in marriage (gay or otherwise).  He's got that old-school view of the gay culture being a counter-culture - we are different, we do not want what they want - these are the themes of his argument against marriage - which he interjects into his un-ending commitment and love for Daniel.

Mr. McKeever starts laying out a rather entertaining story not atypical of many gay men - successful, big incomes, fun evenings, good wine.  Of course he is probably obliged to throw in an overbearing motherly character in Lydia Bixby (Anna Holbrook) who turns out to be more than the butt of several jokes. Daniel and Mitchell are devoted to each other and enjoying the good life together in today's world that is mostly accepting.  They are sticking with each other and there is no doubt about it.  Full stop.

However, when an unexpected event occurs that literally tears at the fibers of their relationship and beings, we learn the true colors of family and friends (kudos uber adorable Lealand Wheeler (Trip) and Barry Dylon (Lou Liberatore) and the tragic consequences of more than one action not taken whether for good reasons at the time or not.

Incredibly humorous turns devastatingly tragic in a mere 90 minutes.  Sometimes we argue about concepts and principles and forget there could be (as slight as the chance could be) some real world consequences to our actions.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Church & State

It's not often that a play grabs you and shakes you to the core. Church & State by Jason Odell Williams is one such play.  Presented 8 times a week over at New World Stages, Mr. Williams' new play is a wonderful amalgamation of politics and religion.  It may have a point of view, but it certainly treats all sides fairly.  Quite frankly it may go out of its way to give you a balanced look at the many issues in its hopper.

Rob Nagle aptly plays Senator Charles Whitmore of North Carolina with his southern charm and deeply held beliefs in God and Guns.  Or perhaps they do not run as deep as he thought.  His wife, Sara Whitmore (Nadia Bowers), is certainly the personification of a southern belle who loves Jesus more than her Manolos (well it is a close call).  Leading his senatorial reelection campaign is the uber-neurotic New York campaign manager, Alex Klein (Christa Scott-Reed).  Together these three form a triangle of tension, dialogue, and conflict.

Without giving anything away - be ready for something shocking to occur when u least expect it.  The exceptionally inclusive subject matter allows all sides of the characters, their beliefs, and doubts to be explored.  Make no mistake, the action unfolds in a deliberate manner to garner the highest dramatic effect - and by high i mean stratospheric.

This play is just in its infancy and the goal of the producers (we learned at the talk back after the show) is to present it all over the south and many other "RED" states.   While impact-ful the play is never preachy or extremely biased.  A great piece of theater at a very opportune time.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Profane

This one by Zayd Dohrn creeps up on you.  In the beginning you are quite sure there will be some cultural issues - but even up to intermission you are not entirely sure with whom they will be.  Turns out the playwright perhaps could have done a better job, at least earlier on, of identifying the beliefs and points of view of the characters.

Not all is lost, however.  Once you pick up on the family and cultural disconnects, you're fine.  Both families are Muslim, which, as stated is not clear up front.  You first meet Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) and his family Emina (Tala Ashe), Aisa/Dania (Francis Benhamou) and wife Naja (Heather Raffo).  His daughter is bringing home a boy Sam (Babak Tafti) for an unspecified reason. It is not until Act II that we meet Peter's family Peter (Ramsey Faragallah) and his wife Carmen (Lanna Joffrey).  Cleverly disguised as a mysterious member of the family is again Francis Benjamou.  This is where the plot thickens.

The gist of the plot is that two Muslim families really have two entirely different beliefs and outlooks on religion, culture, freedom, and America itself.  Yes - it turns out to be true that Islam is not a one-size-fits-all religion.   Worry not, religion is never even brought up - this entire conflict is brought up by placing the two children at the center of the family drama.

Without spoiling what goes on- suffice to say that the play explores many avenues and points of view and does not really take one - but rather plays out the inevitable clash between them.  There's definitely another play in here - as there were too many unexplored avenues and opportunities to explore characters more.  And I would certainly look forward to hearing the playwrights expounding on any number of the avenues he explored in this excellent family drama.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Performeteria

 A very interesting concept to promote off-off-Broadway. Multiple theatre companies perform skits and short performances in a large space where the audience roams around and sees different things throughout the night.

As long as the performances are good - you're hooked and it's a fun evening.  However one or two more than the usual unusual and you're having a not-so-good evening. I had a pretty decent time.  Don't worry, there are bound to be some interesting, off-beat things u will enjoy and discover.  There are more performances than you have time to see so study up in advance and research what you like. We saw dance, performance art, an excerpt from a creative show, and two short plays.  All good.  All unique.  All provided the opportunity to explore the theater company or author/performer in more detail later.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Michael Cerveris and his Accomplices

The larger story here is that the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, which is a remarkable organization on Bleecker Street in NoHo, is presenting a series called Convergences.   It's an Indie Artist Series - which showcases artists at the cross-roads of two or more careers (acting, singing, writing, performing, etc.).  Tonight's installment was the always-gracious and ever-talented Michael Cerveris.  Some might never even know the star of stage and screen (he was a regular on The Good Wife, among other things) had a band?   And that's exactly the point of this series.

For Mr. Cerveris it is the opportunity to grace us with his angelic voice and his incredible humility and talent.  His band is a big one - strings, woodwinds, piano, guitars and more!  And what a lush sound they produce backed by the potent vocals of a truly multi-talented leading man.

Mr. Cerveris has a prior album out there - Dog Eared from which he performed several numbers.  He now also has a second album, Piety, recorded at the famed Piety Street Studio in New Orleans with many of his New Orleans musician friends.  Boy oh boy, does Mr. Cerevis have musician friends too - among them Pete Townshend (he plays a guitar he received as a gift from Mr. Townshend).  He also frequents Joe's Pub and 54 Below right here in New York City.

Among my favorites from his 2 distinct sets were Evangeline and Tenth Grade (written by Michael Cerveris, as was everything from his first set) and Life on Mars (David Bowie), Pony Girl (Janine Tesori and Lisa Kron from Fun Home), and Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) from the 2nd set.  I could think of no better way to end the show in his encore with a rousing rendition of Pinball Wizard by the iconic Pete Townshend / The Who.

Truly multi-talented and not seen nearly enough on a Broadway stage, Mr. Cerevis is a pleasure to watch, enjoy, and appreciate in virtually any venue he appears.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Play That Goes Wrong

 What could possibly go wrong?  In Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields' new play, just about everything is the correct answer.  Costumes, props, sets, and lighting are safely in this category during the approximate 2 hour show.

It's slapstick.  It's physical comedy.  Doors slamming, pictures falling down, Sets falling down. Props switched, missing, and used incorrectly.  It's a mad-cap evening with this play within a play.  You're supposed to be there to watch a small fledgling theatre troupe put on a play entitled Murder at the Havesaham Manor.  What ensues is nothing short of complete mix ups and mayhem. Actors get knocked out.  Sets fall apart and literally collapse with actors atop them.  The elevator literally explodes and that damn front door just won't stay closed.

The actors in this play within a play are true hams.  It doesn't hurt that the book writers also star in their own madcap comedy.   Sound guy Trevor (Rob Falconer) could care less about his job and it shows.  Jonathan Sayer (book) takes a role as Max the butler with hysterical results. Henry Lewis (book) takes on a role as the outrageous brother Robert.  Henry Shields (book) takes on the role of Chris.  Nancy Zamit (Annie) a backstage gal does battle with Charlie Russell (Sandra) the onstage actress to see who will be standing to play the role of the heroine.  There are a few other cast members but if there was ever the case that an ensemble needed to hang it all together, this is the one.

All in all it's a Noises Off kind of comedy - extremely physical where timing is key.  On the first public performance here in the USA, this British sensation was banging on all cylinders. When the curtain comes down (along with the set) you'll find yourself just as exhausted as the actors from all the hilarity and laughter.

For some it may be a bit over the top but I'm going to guess if you don't like this kind of play you won't be buying a ticket anyway.  There's an audience for this kind of play and I suspect they will show up at the theater to see what could possibly go wrong.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Man From Nebraska

Powerhouse Tracy Letts penned a killer show several years ago - August Osage County - family drama - intense - drug fueled.  Wowza.  His latest installment off-Broadway, Man From Nebraska, is far from that prior mark. Intentional, I'm pretty sure.  This show is brooding, show, vacuous, empty, hopeless, and depressing.  This is not all necessarily bad, it just leaves you quite a different taste in your mouth than the prior installment. Sometimes life throws you curve balls.  Some people swerve to avoid them, others get beamed directly in the head.  Such is life.

Probably the hardest working actor on and off Broadway, Reed Birney, (Ken) helms this production and is basically whom the entire show revolves around Ken and his mid-life religious crisis.  Kathleen Peirce (Cammie Carpenter) is his devoutly religious wife who is left to deal with the fallout.  It was not lost on me that Ken was from dead-center America where religion is much more central to the lives of people.  Ken meets Harry Brown , the brilliant Max Gordon Moore and Tamyra, the lovely Nana Mensah.  It also did not get lost on me that in his mid-life crisis he flew the coop to London - a city that could not be more different than Nebraska.  Mr. Letts seemed to be hinting at these disparities in quite a bit of the dialogue - (Ken: "I lost my faith", Tamyra: "They throw you Yanks out for that these days?").

Part blistering critique of religion and America, part human condition, Mr. Letts shows us what happens when man questions long held beliefs as provincial and narrow as they might seem.  He may or may not find something more satisfying out there.  He may come back. Or maybe he won't.  Despite the rather hum-drum and depressing Nebraska life that Ken leads, we do find that he is able to expand his horizons if even for a brief period.

Frankly Mr. Letts' play doesn't really answer the question it merely scratches the surface and explores the topic.  If you are looking for definitive answers you won't find them here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Object Lesson

It seems the entire season at New York Theater Workshop is one full of "alternate theater".  In the latest installment - once again - we have a non-theater "experience" rather than standard drama.  NYTW - it's getting a little old - and it became literally uncomfortable 2 shows ago.

Geoff Sobelle is indeed a unique individual.  He wrote and stars in his one man show, The Object Lesson.  It is not so much a show as it is performance art.  There is only a vague reference to what I understand is the message behind the play - memories, keeping things, packing them up and where they end up.  The entire evening seems to be a metaphor for the concept.  The only thing is - nobody bothered to tell us.  The audience is in the dark watching Sobelle ramble on about France and a traffic light, make salad for an audience member with ice skates, and have a conversation with himself (this was clever) and have a non-verbal performance pulling endless items out of a bottomless box.

If that were not bad enough, we all sat on wooden/cardboard boxes for 100 minutes of this torture.  Enough is enough NYTW.  Did you forget how to put on a normal play where the actor is on stage and the audience is in a comfortable seat?  I get it - you're Avant-Garde.  Well if you continue down this path you will be nothing more than a traveling circus.  Maybe that's a good idea since Ringling Brothers is no longer in business.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Penitent

A classic David Mamet subject without his signature style of endless cursing.  Mr. Mamet has penned a moral and ethical dilemma that really has no answer but leaves lots of questions.  It's done in an ingenious style of giving you only some of the facts, making you guess at others and revealing a key element right at the end - which only serves to make you reflect back upon the entire play, who said what and how it fits with this new-found nugget of knowledge.  Mr. Mamet cleverly weaves a legal issue (murder) with homosexuality (a murder committed by a gay boy) and religion (his doctor seems to have some opinions on both matters).

I am no Mamet expert.  Frankly I'm no expert, period.  However, upon reflections on the events in the play, for some reason, I am driven to conclude that Mr. Mamet's ultimate goal is to rip religion a new asshole for being used as a cover and an excuse all too often.  I could be wrong, but I really think the doctor may not have been a deeply religious man, but when he made a mistake with his patient (which involves a gun) he may have felt it OK to cover his mistake with an even bigger lie about his religious beliefs.  Like I said, I'm no expert, but If someone did what the doctor's wife reveals at the very end, I can't imagine how anyone could allow it to happen - sworn Hippocratic oath or not.

I will say that Chris Bauer (Charles) held court in most every scene with his own strong convictions and beliefs.  His wife (Kath) Rebecca Pidgeon was a bit stilted and awkward.  Not sure if that was intentional or it was just a lack of performances to master the Mamet style dialogue.  Lawrence Gilliard (The Attorney) provided a brilliant and impeccable performance poking holes in the doctor's statements during a remarkable deposition scene. Jordan Lage (Richard) was a stalwart defense attorney to Charles.

Head on over to the Atlantic Theatre on West 20th and catch a performance of a gripping and thought provoking drama.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Linda

She's a power player.  She's stunning at 50 - always was and will be for quite a while longer.  She's successful, strong, and confident.  She was on a mission when she started her career - change the world - one face at a time.  Beauty products - with a message and values.  In Penelope Skinner's new play, Linda appears to have it all - however behind the scenes cracks are beginning to show - with her husband, her daughters, and her career itself.

Janie Dee (Linda Wilde) takes the stage and wrings every last drop out of it.  She takes no prisoners.  Her daughters Jennifer Ikeda (Alice) and Molly Ranson (Bridget) bring both joy and angst to Linda's life.  As the show progresses we see how life is changing around her ideals and how they just might not work for her anymore.  Molly Griggs (Amy) throws quite possibly the biggest wrench in the works.

The play is a tour de force with only minor wrinkles and distractions.  Top notch directing by artistic director Lynne Meadow brings this show to a formidable life.  Linda has to look herself in the mirror every day.  Go see what she comes of it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tell Hector I Miss Him

This is a slice through and through of one small ally in Puerto Rico but represents so much more.  An entire ethnic cast with a uniquely ethnic subject.  The bowels of Puerto Rico - old San Juan it says, but frankly it could be the corner of 118th and Lexington too. A finer casting of purely ethnic actors is rare to be found.  At home in their accents and culture, these actors are free to explore the dialogue and the emotions translated from Playwright Paola Lazaro's head to the page and back onto the stage.  And a remarkable job they do.

Done in vignettes, the play has a large cast and many story lines some of which overlap, others do not.  Ideas of hope and despair, escape and entrapment, and love and family vs abandonment and homelessness abound.


The fine cast includes Victor Almanzar (Jeison), Sean Carvajal (Palito), Alexander Flores (Tono), Yadira Guevara-Prip (Isis), Juan Carlos Hernandez (Mostro), Selenis Leyva (Samira), Talene Monahon (La Gata), Flaco Navaja (Hugo), Dascha Polanco (Malena), Lisa Ramirez (Mami), Luis Vega (El Mago), Analisa Velez (Tati).  

Be warned this play leaves no topic un-touched.  when a play opens up with two people having sex - you know you're in for a bumpy ride - just how bumpy and who these two people are I will leave un-spoken in this review.  Plenty of smoking.  Drugs and alcohol abound.  There's even a gun.  Life on the bottom rung is a tough one and these fine actors do their best to show you just how tough it is to live here and even more so to leave.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

NEWSical

It's not really that good, but it's light hearted, silly, and delivers what it promises - entertainment.  It's not really a musical, nor is it a play - it's really just like an extended SNL skit.  If you remember the Forbidden Broadway properties - this is no different - scathing and silly riffs on popular culture, news and politics.  It's like they're making fun of Entertainment Tonight.

The cast seems to ebb and flow and as a matter of principle I was not happy that there was no Playbill.  NO PLAYBILL?  How do I know who the actors are?  Well, I suspect it is partially because the producers are cheap and that the cast and material changes so frequently that they could never be able to keep up.  The songs are like little ditties - i assume adaptable to whatever the news (lyrics) of the day are.

The cast I saw included the surprisingly fit Mark West, and the devilishly handsome Taylor Crousore. Listed in the credits is Christine Pedi, whom I was looking forward to see but was no where to be found. I assume that Susan Mosher and Carly Sakolove were the other two women but really have no way to verify this BECAUSE I HAD NO PLAYBILL.  I suppose the skits and songs are flexible enough to re-arrange the show on a regular basis.

The ensemble is OK.  In various combinations they did their schtick, but I think even the performers know who their audience is and how utterly unimportant it is to be good.  For the price of a TDF ticket it was well worth the 75 minutes of humor.  Much more and even a tourist might be disappointed.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Othello

It's a hoity-toity theatre event.  The East Village.  New York Theatre Workshop.  Shakespeare reimagined.  Sam Gold directed.  Stars.  The audience physically contained in a plywood encased barracks crafted in what once was the theatre. Stark lighting.  Extremely uncomfortable wooden seating - especially for a daunting 3+ hour runtime.  A trend that is much like the "actors are musicians on stage the whole time" we experienced a few years back.

By any measure, this one is a limousine liberal's wet dream.  And if you really like Shakespeare, it is unclear if you will even appreciate this production.  I can only say this from reading reviews and blogs by people who both love and revere the man.   I, for one, do not like Shakespeare much.  At intermission I left.  There was no love lost - just 90 minutes of my life.

Clearly this is a serious work.  Clearly Shakespeare is powerful stuff.  Much of that was lost on me.  I was bored to tears.  Nobody talks like this.  Nobody speaks in research paper paragraph monologues. Throw in Daniel Craig (Lago) and David Oyelowo (Othello).  They sold out the run before they even spoke a word earlier this season.  The acting I saw was absolutely top notch.  Creatively, the juxtaposition of the language with the plywood barracks and modern military outfits and street clothes was mostly jarring.  This is not your grandfather's classic Shakespeare.  Most of those who were interested by just hearing about it will love it. I doubt this will turn any undecided voters into Shakespeare lovers.

Save your ass.  Save your evening.  Read about it in the Arts & Leisure section of the NY Times.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Love Love Love

One of the things I most enjoyed about Mike Bartlett's play is the ease at which he gets the audience just before he slides the knife in.  Biting, cunning, humorous, and genuinely quite an accurate indictment he makes of the Baby Boomer generation (with a dash of Millennial choke-on-this thrown in).


Three acts.  Three different times. One family.  Husband and wife meet at 19 yo kids in London in Act I.  Idealistic, free-thinking, oxford types -break the mold 60's is the time. We watch them rebel against authority, their parents, and ultimately themselves (the brothers).  When we slide into Act II, we are in the 80's.  Free thinkers all grown up - still smart, still entitled, and still thinking they are on top of the world - but now they have their own kids... their own problems... their own demons - yes - we see them generally neglect their children, fight, drink, smoke, and act exactly like the ME generation they were.  Clearly the family if affected.  We learn just how much at the end of Act II,   
As we glide into Act III we are now in the 90's - although they seem to have taken some liberties with an iPad and cell phones (i think that is the millennial mixture thrown in just to stir the pot even more). Parents are still assholes.  Funny, but assholes.  Kids are still damaged - some more than others although the parents wouldn't even notice because that would be admitting to something they don't want to deal with.  The younger generation drives this act - and we start to see the millennial whine and complain about their awful parents who have it all and they have none.
This ensemble cast is superb Richard Armitage (Kenneth, father), Alex Hurt (Henry, brother), Amy Ryan (Sandra, wife), Zoe Kazan (Rose, daughter), Ben Rosenfeld (Jamie, son),  Sets, divine and period appropriate (Derek McLane).  Michael Mayer must have had so much fun directing this one - letting some lines hang - and pounding others down our throats.

If you don't think enough wine was poured in Act II and III - just top yourself off before you head over to the Laura Pels off-Broadway house for Roundabout Theatre Company.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ride The Cyclone

I did not see this show in Chicago  or elsewhere, however after reviewing the photos and old new articles and reviews, it is evident to me just how much a show grows as it steps through it's maturation process by moving from out of town to an off-Broadway theater.  Ride the Cyclone has done this by moving to MCC and the Lucile Lortel Theatre.

Ironically, the show is set in a carnival like atmosphere.  The soothsaying head in a booth, the roller coaster, the amusement park freak-show feel - all parts of the show that fit in the Lortel quite nicely - it's a total dump and has been for years.

Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond have penned quite the musical with a message and a heart.  I must admit, it seemed geared for adolescents.  It felt a little like a NYMF show.  However, the show was executed so well and so crisply, I could have imagined being in a Broadway theatre.  Moving cities, upgrading costumes, enhancing the set have all done this show a huge favor although I suspect the bones of this show were always solid.

The cast, as you would expect, is all kids.  Talented kids.  Very good looking kids dripping with pent up sexual and vocal energies.  You get to "meet" each one of them as they spin the dial of the slot machine of life - a clever expository device that fits nicely into the carney atmosphere.  Frankly the only "adult" (over 25) on the stage the entire time is The Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton) who is the illuminated head and hands in the booth with his crystal ball.  You only see his real face at the curtain call but his voice is one that could read you the phone book and you'd be mesmerized.

Being a show of teenage angst, relationships and friendships along with a twisted story of a purgatory-like experience for these kids, makes this show perfectly positioned to capture the hearts of a millennial audience.  Mischa Bachinski (Gus Halpert) and his Russian accent and crotch grabbing rap number drips with sexuality (shirt off doesn't hurt).  Noel Gruber (Kholby Wardell) is absolutely divine as an adorable gay student but even more so as his cheap french whore persona deep down inside. (Kholby is Canadian so now I want to marry him!) Ricky Potts (Alex Wyse) is cute, absolutely adorable and surprisingly powerful in his alternate (and sexy) persona too.

One would never think a show about 6 dead teenagers would be so fun, uplifting, and entertaining, but given the macabre nature of the material, one has to look beyond the obvious and dream a little along side these youngsters.  It doesn't help that the fortune teller (Karnak) has quite the dark sense of humor.  If you need an exhilarating experience in the theatre, head over to the Lortel and go for a wild ride with Cyclone!

Friday, November 25, 2016

In Transit

We have a new incarnation of a show I saw off-Broadway in 2010 at 59E59 Theater.  It really does take time to stew, to mature, and frankly to get the funds to mount an attack on Broadway.  Of course you have to be good, but there was never any doubt even when I saw this show back 6 years ago that it was a keeper.   Penned by a group of tremendously talented singers and artists - this a-capella musical  may not contain the solution to solving world hunger or climate change - but it does most assuredly entertain.  Are the stories fluffy, probably.  Are they stereotypical, likely.  But for sure, they are fun, they are mostly real, and definitely New York stories.


The subway.  The bowels all New Yorkers hate and equally need.  They're dirty, they're crowded, and they are what brings us all together gets us where we are going - both literally and figuratively.  This time around I am fairly sure the main components of the story have remained but without a video tape to watch the prior performance and only memory to go on, I'd say it was basically tightened, honed, and amp'd up just a bit for the Broadway.  There's still a gay couple, Trent (Justin Guarini) and Steven (Telly Leung) with a wedding problem, an actress, Jane (Margo Seibert) looking for her big break, a spot-on subway clerk, Althea, behind the glass (Moya Angela), a wall street guy , Nate, who made a little email mistake trying to make a change (James Snyder), and of course a beat-boxer extraordinaire, Boxman, (Steven "Heaven" Cantor).

All the sounds you hear come from someone's vocal cords - no instruments, all vocals.  Subway seats fly on and fly off - actors parade back and forth on a narrow stage close up to the audience to reveal their stories in the round and up a flight of stairs on a platform above the tracks. Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, the movements are brisk, crisp, and keep the show's train moving forward. Love is lost, then found again.  Friends and enemies are made and the zany antics of the subway are ever present.

This incarnation of the show is zippy, toe-tapping, touching, and upbeat with a heartwarming message.  Some might say sappy, others would just say fun.  Head over to Circle in the Square and head Deep Beneath the City in more ways than one.