Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Beware of Flying Ping Pong Balls

The folks at Three Day Hangover sure know how to have a good time. Combining Shakespeare and drinking is their staple and in their latest incarnation of boozy Bard brings the story of Henry V to the bar. With a war as a major theme, the ultimate frat house drinking activity gets the game spotlight in Hank V.
Beer pong sets the mood for this Henry V inspired two-hander that brings bros and best buddies Hank and Falstaff together for a night of beer, beer, and more beer. Oh, and a little whiskey. Hank V is a mostly fast-paced retelling of the history play and final part of the tetralogy. Though dead, Falstaff comes back to help Hank tell his story, playing an assortment of comical characters. The Three Day Hangover team employs “flying” plastic birds, red solo cups, and quick wit to keep the energy moving and the drinks flowing. Though it doesn’t contain as much audience participation as some of the other boozy theater shows, the laughs were just as plentiful. Directed by Beth Gardiner and Lori Wolter Hudson, the duo did an excellent job at finding comedy through the tragedy, maintaining the integrity of the source material. Shakespeare scholars know Henry V, but it’s not as insanely popular piece compared to their other pieces. The inclusion of a tetralogy recap at the start was a brilliant and essential addition to truly get the audience on the same page. Even if you had never read these histories, you were easily able to follow along. Three Day Hangover is known for bringing the fun and high-octane laughs but Hank V had a moment of drama that the others lacked. And interestingly enough, it was the least successful moment. Sticking to the text for a good portion, and putting the audience in the dark, literally, strayed from the fun mission and killed the brilliant momentum the duo had established. Of course it was a grand lead up for the all-involved ball in cup battle, still, another tactic may have been a cohesive choice.
As Falstaff and Hank, Christopher Ryan Grant and David Hudson respectively had an insane amount of chemistry, picking up on each other’s cues from start to finish. Their report was so strong that even the slightest mistake turned into a brilliant bit. Theater rarely forgives an actor for breaking, but watching Grant and Hudson lose it like Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz was just as fun and entertaining. Grant’s physical comedy was the highlight of the night. It’s easy to compare him to a Jack Black or Chris Farely, but you could tell he had his own brand of comedy. His comedic depth knows no bounds. Hudson put on a dopey persona to play Hank and it worked. Though he didn’t have as much opportunity to go wild like Grant, his moments outside the bar gave him room to be foolish.
Making the trek to the Upper East Side is a hassle sometimes, but yet again Three Day Hangover proves that classic texts, bars, and drinking games are the recipe for a good time and a reason to take the journey. Three Day Hangover continues to conquer the theatrical bar scene. Finding ways to top themselves will be their next challenge.

Spotlight On...Mary Spencer Knapp

Name: Mary Spencer Knapp

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

Education: Bard College B.A. in music

Select Credits: Collaborator in Mind The Art Entertainment's Dream Vault Cycle at La MaMa, founder and frontwoman of NYC-based cabaret soul group Toot Sweet, member of NYC's Main Squeeze Orchestra, the world's only all-female accordion orchestra

Why theater?: I'm primarily a musician by trade (singer, accordionist, pianist, composer), but theatricality has always been an important part of my musical performance.  I'd wanted to be a theater major when I first got to Bard, but was quickly discouraged when I wasn't cast in any of the big productions. I wound up majoring in classical voice and piano and for my senior project wrote a cabaret show featuring 19th French chansons and Kurt Weill show tunes arranged for an 8-piece band.  I had costumes, monologues, the whole shebang.  Upon moving to New York in late 2012 I started playing accordion, writing songs and building my band, Toot Sweet, currently a 4-6 piece cabaret soul group.  In the past 6 months, theater has somewhat unexpectedly crept back into my life.  I came into this show, Whiskey Pants, off the heels of Mind the Art's The Dream Vault Cycle at La MaMa, which involved me creating a short performance piece with original music.  It was the first theater project I was involved with since college (aside from playing in a Fringe show band).  It's really exciting and refreshing to come back into theater after having dedicated myself to writing and performing my own music the past two years.  I feel really free and present, not in my head or down on myself the way I use to be when approaching acting.  I think performing my own music on a regular basis is some of the best theater/acting training I'll ever have.

Who do you play in Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg?: I play Catherine, the accordion-playing "narrator" of the show - she has a dual role being both company and band member.  I use quotations because, while she does stand apart and narrate moments in the show, she also partakes in the culture.  I see her as someone who is full of regret, but hiding it well.  She's a kind of ghost in purgatory, searching for answers or clues in all of her habitual actions.  Stylistically she's like an anime, steampunk, burlesque mashup.

Tell us about Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg: Whiskey Pants is a two-act operetta written by Christian De Gre, Serrana Gay and Joseph Reese Anderson and produced by Mind The Art Entertainment for FRIGID NY.  It tells the story of a pseudo post-apocalyptic Williamsburg, in which a drinking competition is held each year to determine the new mayor.  Everyone is a lush and no one has a hope or a dream (or at least they don't let on that they do), save for the mayor's daughter and a mysterious young man who wanders into town on the day of the competition. There is plenty of debauchery and absurdity to go around, but the opera also achieves stunning moments of clarity, particularly in the Mayor's soliloquies.  These moments are beautiful and heartbreaking.  I don't believe most 45 minute shows can pull off such a contrast of expression... and that really speaks to the collective force of the music, libretto, cast and directing.  This is a show that operates on hyperbole, but its themes - addiction, apathy, crushed hopes  - are all too real.  Most of the musical numbers are in odd or constantly shifting meters which gives the music a simultaneously celebratory, manic and driving quality... an ideal setting for the show's themes.

What is it like being a part of Whiskey Pants?: This is a very exciting and challenging experience for me.  If you had asked me a year ago I never would have imagined I'd be involved in a theater project, much less one as prestigious as this!  It's inspiring to work with such creative professionals (or professional creatives).  We've had a scarily short amount of time to put this all together, but I have complete faith that we will rock it hard.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like musicals, but only certain ones.  I grew up watching all of the Rodgers & Hammerstein movies and still find those to be the most beautiful and perfectly written show tunes.  I discovered Kurt Weill in college.  That music hit me on a gut level... it was dissonant and nasty and supremely satisfying.  I love opera, particularly in an intimate setting.  After college, I worked in Philly as an administrator at Center City Opera Theater, a company that commissions new operas and produces intimate, site-specific performances.  My favorite show was a production of Donizetti's Elixir of Love that was staged outside in the Italian Market.  As the romantic leads sang their final lovers duet, the sun began to lower behind their heads. It was site-specific theater magic.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I'm not a trained dancer, but I would LOVE to play a difficult dancing role like Velma Kelly in Chicago.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I'm extremely moved by "Something Wonderful" from The King and I, in which Lady Thiang, the king's chief wife explains to Anna that she loves and stands behind the king unconditionally precisely because of his flawed and brutish nature.  It portrays her as someone who is practical and accepting of her circumstances, but full of love and strength.  The song is short, but packs a powerful punch.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'm a big admirer of David Byrne.  I recently read his book "How Music Works" and there's a whole segment about how he studied diverse theater cultures, particularly in the Far East, early in the career of Talking Heads and found ways to bring those elements into his own musical performances.  As a musical artist, I'm also striving to construct a well-rounded and theatrical show concept.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I'd like to pretend I grew up half a century ago and have Ann Margret playing me in a slightly campy and noirish 60s movie called "The Little Dreamer"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Lotte Lenya in Threepenny Opera

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I saw the concert version of the David Byrne/Fatboy Slim collabo Here Lies Love.  I thought the music was really interesting and recommended it to many friends.  I'd like to see D.B. write more musicals.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Driving my car into Manhattan at rush hour (it's also extremely masochistic... but often preferable to lugging my accordion onto a crowded subway train).

What’s up next?: More projects with Mind the Art, I hope!  And music all the time.  My band Toot Sweet is recording a new album and going on our first extended tour in August.  I'd love to write a show at some point...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spotlight On...Bejamin Bauman

Name: Benjamin Bauman

Hometown: Jenkintown, PA

Education: SUNY Purchase

Select Credits: Senator Claudius (Elsinore County), "Elliot Loves" (film), "Law and Order" (tv), Antonio (Twelfth Night)

Why theater?: So much attention I get!

Who do you play in Pretty Babies?: Martin

Tell us about Pretty Babies: Sex, Drugs and Violence!  From my character’s point of view, it’s a nightmare and he’ll, hopefully, never encounter this kind of shit again!

What is it like being a part of Pretty Babies?: Tony is an remarkable director.  He, somehow, has the ability to direct his own plays as if he didn’t write them.  There are times when – out of the blue - he comes up with something during rehearsal and it blows my mind because I think, “Did he not think of this when he wrote it?” This is what I love about Pretty Babies and, really, any show in which I’ve played with the EC crowd.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love Tennessee Williams plays the best.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: As per the previous question: Shannon in The Night of the Iguana

What’s your favorite showtune?: "I Won’t Grow Up"  (I think that may be my theme song)

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Paul Newman

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: "The Jew Who Could"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: That’s easy!  Waiting for Godot directed by Mike Nichols and starring – get this! – Robin Williams, BILL IRWIN, Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham.  Dreamy.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Pretty Babies, by Antony Raymond...of course.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  I don’t feel guilty about pleasure.  I’m an only child.

What’s up next?:  Something big!  I wish I could tell you what that something big is but I don’t know myself quite yet.

Go Go Time with...Tara Pacheco

Name: Tara Pacheco

Hometown: Jackson Heights, Queens. 
Also hometown to the inventor of scrabble and Lucy Liu!

Education: BAs in Theater and Psychology from Columbia University.

Who do you play in Kapow-i GoGo?: Twig - feisty forrest elf
, Fancy Dress Mary - optimistic gal with a congenital heart condition
, Dr. Gyro - not a food 
And more. There’s a lot going on in this show.

Describe your character(s) in three words: Matt Cox madness

Tell us about Kapow-i GoGo: Matt really created an amazing world that draws on so many beloved shows and games. It’s so funny and smart you’ll wish it never ends.

Describe Kapow-i GoGo in three words: Larger than life

What’s the wildest costume you wear in Kapow-i GoGo?: When you’re in this deep nothing seems all that strange.

What’s your favorite all-time after school cartoon?: “The Powerpuff Girls”.

If you could be a character from any anime or cartoon, who would you be?: Ryuk from “Death Note” . When I reread this I’m going to think… “Wow that was a random answer. You don’t really want that Tara.” But then I’ll look at this and it’ll all make sense again.
http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/30400000/Ryuk-ryuk-30413664-704-396.jpg

Which company member has the most larger than life personality?: Eliza Simposon

Which company member is most likely to get lost in this world?: Andy Miller. But only because she’d be going on crazy fun adventure.

Most likely to actually be a cartoon character in real life?: Evan Maltby

Most likely to be a super villain?: Absolutely Colin Waitt

Most likely to go on an epic journey?: Matt Cox

Who’s the best fighter?: Maddy really is pretty f*#$ing kick ass

Revenge or vengeance?: uhh…this feels like a trick question.
veengeancceee…?

What would be your victory song?: “Miracle Mile” by the Cold War Kids

What is your signature move?: Suuuperrr Alarm SNOOZE

What’s the biggest inside joke at Kapow-i GoGo?: When in doubt we’ll make it our of cardboard and duck tape later.

What is your favorite moment in Kapow-i GoGo?: ANYTIME Mike Axelrod walks out onstage. Dude has some amazing entrances and exits.

Why should we come see Kapow-i GoGo?: This crazy hodgepodge is so satisfyingly seamless. 
Just when you think ”on no they can’t…”
We will.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Go Go Time with...Andy Miller

Name: Andy Miller

Hometown: Troy, Mi

Education: BFA in Theatre from Michigan State University!

Who do you play in Kapow-i GoGo?: Gosh, who don't I play? I'm the Woogli, Treeleaf, all of the Police Officer Shellys, Thunderbot Salmon, Thunderbolt minion, Giggle Go Go and 1/3 of a mountain monster.

Describe your character(s) in three words: Well this is tricky, Quirky, Creative and Spunky

Tell us about Kapow-i GoGo: It’s a nonstop rollercoaster of emotion, colors, fighting and nostalgia!

Describe Kapow-i GoGo in three words: Kick Ass Chick!

What’s the wildest costume you wear in Kapow-i GoGo?: I get to be the embodiment of cute and float around on my own little cloud!

What’s your favorite all-time afterschool cartoon?: I was a big “Captain Planet” fan.

If you could be a character from any anime or cartoon, who would you be?: Kim Possible

Which company member has the most larger than life personality?: Karsten Otto, he has the best, worst ideas

Which company member is most likely to get lost in this world?: Matt Cox

Most likely to actually be a cartoon character in real life?: Probably Evan Maltby, his cartoon acting is on point

Most likely to be a super villain?: Eliza Simpson, she's so nice and beautiful, I bet its because she's secretly evil...

Most likely to go on an epic journey?: Mike Axelrod.  And he would make a lot of friends along the way!

Who’s the best fighter?: Keola Simpson. I mean look at him, he could for sure beat people up

Revenge or vengeance?: Vengeance sounds prettier

What would be your victory song?: Anything written by Brian Hoes, he's a genius

What is your signature move?: My characters usually get killed or hide, so I dont really have one.

What’s the biggest inside joke at Kapow-i GoGo?: probably how good everyone is at doing a Mr. Smiles (Karsten's part) impression.

What is your favorite moment in Kapow-i GoGo?: At the end of part 1 there is a really sad scene, and I just love how this funny show can also break your heart.

Why should we come see Kapow-i GoGo?: Its crazy!!!! Come for the comedy, come for the wonderful acting, come for the pretty costumes and props!! Just come see it!!!

Review: A Musical Journey Through Journals

Sending a message through art is almost every artist’s goal. To touch at least one person through it makes the journey with taking. In One Day, teenage journals inspire a pop rock score that touches upon a series of themes and issues that face teenagers today.
Written by Michael Sottile, One Day is a conversation starter on some of the toughest topics today. The way the piece is billed is as “the electrifying journey of eight teenagers.” The piece opens with the conceit of a writer’s club where teens can speak openly and freely. Marketing and calling One Day a book musical, makes it a failure that needs much work. Calling it a song cycle, it's a triumph. One Day is not a typical musical. There are no character arcs. There’s no beginning, middle, or end. It is a series of vignettes with a common theme. The opening conceit of a writer's club is quickly abandoned and randomly appears again in Act II. By eliminating it entirely and allowing the journals to speak for themselves allows for a nice flow and through line. Deciding what exactly this piece is will aid in its success. The production reads as a concert with the fantastic production value but it covers up the flaws. The journals are the theatrical glue of the piece and allowing it be a song cycle lets the themes land successfully. Abandoning the “scenes” and a reason for these people to be in the same room will strongly help this show. Concept aside, the score Sottile has written is absolutely beautiful. Though there may be a few numbers too many, each song is catchy and hits hard. He allows for the music and lyrics to speak for the topic and resonate with the audience. The post curtain call song “Everything That You Are” is a true anthem. It’s the “Seasons of Love” of One Day, hopeful and optimistic. Overall Sottile walks the fine job of treading the line of informing and glorifying. The most glaring one that may fall into the latter is “Tips & Tricks On How to Puke Your Guts Out”, or the bulimia song. The number is brilliant, well written, and a show-stopper. Though there is tiny line that questions the singer’s motive after the song is finished, it’s still a bit blurry.
The ensemble is comprised of "unknown" but they won't be unknown for long. The ensemble is filled with sensational voices. Some of the strongest voices and performances in the show come from Chase O’Donnell, Marco Ramos, Aaron Scheff, and Charlotte Mary Wen. O’Donnell’s vibrant personality shined throughout. Portraying the bullied gay teen, Ramos brought passion, heart, and perhaps the most transcendent performance to the audience. Scheff had an incredibly strong presence, both vocally and dramatically. His anger was genuine, yet you sympathized. Wen and her beautiful smile found humor in the darkness in her moments with fellow “weirdo”, Ben Shuman. Nyseli Vega portrayed the “DJ”. The hip mix master acted as the thread that wove the acts together. Despite being thrust behind a dj table throughout, she was an essential voice and personality to the ensemble.
The stage at 3 Legged Dog was the perfect venue for this piece. The blank space set by Ellen Rousseau allowed for a color spectacular that lighting designer Jason Lyons and video and projections designer Daniel Brodie crafted to be a genuine star. Using the Rousseau’s school inspired set to its max allowed for each moment to have its own unique impression. The one downfall in the design was the costume design by Shane Ballard. If this piece represents all teens, then high school today looks like an angsty Bohemia. Sadly, they felt like costumes as some of the actors seemed uncomfortable in their outfit. The choreography by Ray Leeper was fresh and organic. He put a style in each number and gave them life. He knew when to make it a production number and when to keep it simple. Leeper and Sottile shared the director credit but they could benefit from a new eye to remove the kinks. One being the 90s toned “afterschool special” transition music that felt out of place.
One Day is a musical that needs to be shared. There is an audience out there that it needs to reach. Once One Day knows what it is, it will be something special.

Spotlight On...Nannette Deasy

Name: Nannette Deasy

Hometown: Chatham Township, NJ

Education: Columbia College, Columbia University / BA, English

Select Credits: Currently the Artistic Director of IRTE, the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble (official selection Portland Improv Fest, New Orleans Comedy Arts Fest, Unscripted New York 2013 & 2014, Del Close Marathons 15 & 16, Tampa Improv Festival, NYC Improv Festival 2014, Boston Comedy Arts Festival 2014 and Philadelphia Improv Festival 2014).  She has also performed at The Public Theatre, LaMama Etc., Ensemble Studio Theatre, and New York Theatre Workshop.  She has been a cast member of numerous comedy groups and theatres, including Gotham City Improv and Double D.

Why theater?: I couldn't imagine my life without it. It makes me happy. I love theatre and comedy and believe that through the performing arts we can be more in tune with who we truly are and connect with others on a more meaningful level... Plus, it's soooo much fun!

Who do you play in Wow Wee! Adventures of a Little Girl Robot?: I play ANDIE, the Android. She's a "Little Girl Robot" - not too dissimilar to Vicki the Robot from the 80s sitcom classic, "Small Wonder". ANDIE stands for "Artificial Naturalistic Digital Intelligence Entity."

Tell us about Wow Wee! Adventures of a Little Girl Robot: It's a completely improvised, live 80s-style sitcom. Following is our promo blurb: "Wow wee! That little girl's a... ROBOT!!!"
Can an adorable mechanical moppet fit in with the Trumans, a normal, wholesome, suburban family? Or will she be dismantled in a lab? You decide! Follow the HILARIOUS adventures of Andie the Android in this classic (and completely improvised) 80s sitcom!"We have a few set characters - The Truman Family and, of course, Andie the Android. We'll ask the audience for a few suggestions - who the main character of the episode will be (it's not always Andie!) and what he or she wants. From there, we will follow the basic structure of a typical 80s sitcom, complete with commercials, sub-plots and nosey neighbors. We'll even have musical guests make an appearance. The Musical Guest break is a standard element of all IRTE shows. We have been very lucky to be able to feature some great up and coming Indie artists from the NYC music scene at each performance.

What is it like being a part of IRTE?: It's been a blast! IRTE stands for Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble and that is exactly what we've been developing. Our Mission is to create a tight ensemble of performers who work collaboratively to develop, produce and perform original themed, theatrically-staged, and character-driven improvisational shows, following the basic model of seasonal repertory theatre. We want to bring together the best elements of both theatrical mediums - the creativity, humor and spontaneity of live comedy improvisation; and the traditions, values and professionalism of American repertory theatre. Together, we are working on creating a professional improvisational theatre, progressing beyond the standard "student"  productions regularly offered by improvisational training programs. It's very exciting!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: As have countless of my contemporaries, I grew up watching the "Carol Burnett Show" and fantasizing about being just like her. Her huge character work and the "anything-can-happen" energy from filming live in front of an audience was mesmerizing to me as a kid. Today, I also love a lot of non-realistic, raw aesthetic theatre. I recently saw Nevermore: the Imaginary Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe at New World Stages. I loved its look - a dark, ghoulish feel with over-the-top bricolage costuming and clown-like performances.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Hmm.. I'd have to think about that a bit more. If there are, I could just make them up in an improvised show, couldn't I?

What’s your favorite showtune?: Just one? Um, “Not a Day Goes By” by Stephen Sondheim. Such a lovely song.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Carol Burnett... or Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Oh, you just said one, didn't you..? Hmmm...I'd also love to be on "The Walking Dead". Who wouldn't?

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Rowan Atkinson in a wig. The movie would be called "Summertime and the Living is Deasy"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Just one? Follies with Elaine Stritch

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Anything by IRTE.- I'm very self-centered. Just kidding. I love any time Scott Adsit or Susan Messing comes to town and performs improv. I also really liked The Last Ship. It didn't get very strong reviews, but I thought it was great.  I also recommend anything by the Ivy Theatre. They're producing some really good stuff lately.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Chipotle. That stuff is DELICIOUS!

What’s up next?: IRTE's next show is Adrift.

Review: An Important Voice and View

Struggling to find the words to speak out and share your story can take time. But when the story is shared, it can be something special. And Antonia Lassar has created something special with Post Traumatic Super Delightful.
photo courtesy of Kati Frazier
Post Traumatic Super Delightful, or PTSD for short, is a solo show that talks about sexual assault, finding laughter in the healing process. With a mix of storytelling and clowning, writer and performer Antonia Lassar has found a brilliant way to share an important topic. Lassar has created a piece that threads the perspectives of survivors, perpetrators, and the public view that offers a unique viewpoint of the sexual assault crisis on college campuses. To unload on the heavy material, Lassar has brought in bits of clowning to allow the audience to laugh and heal as one. Lassar has a knack for performance. She gets into character and brings that character to life. She gives voice to a very important topic. The only thing that could use improvement is the cohesiveness between the monologue piece and the clown piece. While they both confronted the same important topic, they didn’t seem to inform one another and unite on a theatrical front. From a structural standpoint, the clowning felt a bit too much as a transition rather than a purpose. Director Angela Dumlao did her best to tie the two worlds together. Dumlao brought a great vision to Lassar’s work. Dumlao guided Lassar through the trio of characters she created, helping her transform seamlessly from character to character without the aid of additional costume or prop. The physicality that Lassar provided helped you see just who these people are. Even though the stage was large, Lassar and scenic designer Sam Garcia filled it. Using a clothing rack with an iconic red curtain was a perfect backdrop for the theatrical nature of the clowning. Lassar and Dumlao used the mobility to their advantage.
Post Traumatic Super Delightful takes an important topic and allows conversations to be had. Antonia Lassar is a powerhouse artist that makes her voice heard in all the right ways. Put Lassar and PTSD on your radar as the piece continues to develop and grow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fundraising Spotlight!: Rhapsody Collective Cycle 3


Rhapsody Collective is fundraising for the new cycle of plays! For cycle 3, Rhapsody Collective will be exploring the theme The Common Room: Heroes vs Villains. Six plays will share the same exact space!

For fans of Theater in the Now, the first FIVE donors who contribute $10 or more by 11:59pm on February 25th and mention Theater in the Now will receive a Rhapsody Collective Tote Bag!

Visit the link below:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rhapsody-collective-cycle-3/x/187288

For more on Rhapsody Collective, visit rhapsodycollective.com and like us at facebook.com/rhapsodycollective.


Review: I Love the 90s!

The decade you grew up in is automatically the best. It had the best music, the best tv shows, the best clothing. It's just the best! We love our decades so much we always try to pay homage to everything that made it so sweet. In Hey 90s Kids, You're Old, a bunch of 90s kids bring 90s infused sketch comedy to life in a mixed bag of funny.
Created by Taryn Parrish, the Canadian sextet that comprise Hey 90s Kids offer a series of sketches that bring the audience back to a time before social media and iPhones ruined lives. To set up the evening, musical nostalgia was the preshow ambiance, with a range of infamous 90s theme songs. Once the action gets started, that’s when some of the funny begins. Sketch comedy is a hit or miss type of thing. It comes with the territory. With a specific generation to draw from, Hey 90s Kids gets the best of both worlds. The strongest sketch was an online conversation that occurred between the notorious personas that are frequently being searched for, Waldo and Carmen San Diego. The conceit was hilarious and quite inventive. The other strong showing was a sketch surrounding Pinky and the Brain AFTER they’ve taken over the world. The one recurring sketch surrounded a date between a modern girl and a guy who’s stuck in the 90s. Unfortunately it fell flat as it was a sketch that relied to heavily on references, many of which were unseen. It was a gag that went on too long.
Like the sketches, the cast was filled with some good, some bad. The standout of the bunch was the chameleon-like, larger-than-life Alex Steele Zonjic. Appearing in the strongest sketches as well as being the focal point in the opening music montage, Steele Zonjic went big and his choices paid off. Hana Holubec was another strong player, jumping from the more “straight guy” role in the Power Rangers sketch to the big character in the 90s party sketch. Holubec had quite some range. Simon Lee as the new gay hipster intern fit the witty punch line well.
For the most part, the actors lived in a black base costume. For some of the characters, Where’s Waldo, Carmen San Diego, Pinky, the Brain and Mario to be exact, their iconic costumes were used. And that’s when the funny landed best. The same goes for the lack of props and scenery. In the recurring sketch of the date gone badly, there is reference after reference of 90s item yet it’s all mostly mimed, sans car phone. Without props, the actors are forced to namedrop which loses the punchline, the items themselves. Sure a magic drawer of Beanie Babies could be hard to recreate but seeing them and not saying anything would draw a much bigger laugh.
While the comedy was funny, it definitely reaches a certain demographic best. Those of us who knew the reference laughed, or groaned depending on what it was. Those who didn’t may not have felt “in” on the jokes. Nevertheless, like all sketch shows, highs and lows are inevitable. It comes with the territory. But when Hey 90s Kids, You’re Old does hit those highs, they deserve all the laughs.

Go Go Time with...Madeleine Bundy

Name: Madeleine Bundy

Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska

Education: NYU

Who do you play in Kapow-i GoGo?: Kapow-i GoGo

Describe your character(s) in three words: I think of her as : impish and stubborn, but a total sweetheart.  But I also think Jack Smart from Backstage said it best: "Hyperactive Lesbian Cyborg"

Tell us about Kapow-i GoGo: This was probably meant for the show but I'll tell you about the character. Kapow-i's drive comes from her determination to feel valued and to prove that she has a purpose. I think she woke up one day and was tired of feeling nerdy or gawky, tired of being picked on and bullied and so she just decided she was going to be AWESOME. Like many super heros that we know and love and grew up with like Spider-man or Superman, Kapow-i longs to understand where she came from and feel acceptance and appreciation from her parents. She decides that she needs to become the World's Greatest fighter, a title her dad once held (In an effort to get his attention). Kapow-i reminds me a lot of Woody from "Toy Story" or Tom Cruise from "Top Gun". These are heros who start out on their journeys basically....wrong about how they think about the world. They have to learn what the right values are and what it means to "do the right thing" and be the hero. Kapow-i, like these other heros, discovers the sacrifices that come along with giving yourself up to the World to be the superhero. I think Kapow-i starts her journey for herself but she learns that what actually drives her and what really gives her heart joy is her love for her family and friends. And she will fight for them with every fiber muscle and drop of blood in her being.

Describe Kapow-i GoGo in three words: Heartfelt. Unpredicatable. Nostalgic.

What’s the wildest costume you wear in Kapow-i GoGo?: I love my wigs and my shoes and my arm cannons (very Mega Man).

What’s your favorite all-time afterschool cartoon?: I grew up on lots of cartoons. I loved everything Marvel (X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic 4). I was a huge Animanics fan. But I was also constantly watching animated movies and I considered going to animation school instead of theatre school.

If you could be a character from any anime or cartoon, who would you be?: Gambit was my favorite X-Men growing up....But, I also recall wishing to be Jean Grey (maybe around age 4) so I could date Cyclops. We had a wedding in my closet and yes, it was very romantic. He said he would love me always.

Which company member has the most larger than life personality?: Mike Axelrod as my brother Hiccup. I break a lot in rehearsal but I think I have the hardest time around him. I have to work very hard to keep up with his amazing acting, energy, and dedication.

Which company member is most likely to get lost in this world?: Evan Maltby is our dramaturg. He KNOWS EVERYTHING!!!

Most likely to actually be a cartoon character in real life?: Matt Cox and Karsten Otto as Team Trouble. These two are incredible. Their physicality and their timing are impeccable. They are hilarious but you actually feel for them. They have one of my favorite story arcs in the saga. And just as actors and people to work with they mean a lot to me.

Most likely to be a super villain?: Stephen Stout, Christina Pitter, and Colin Waitts are some of our villains. I'd be proud to fight them any day of the week! Probably with my fists...

Most likely to go on an epic journey?: Eliza Simpson and Andrea Miller because of their adventurous spirits.

Who’s the best fighter?: Alex Gould is our amazing fight choreographer. As someone who is really just starting to do fight choreography for the first time I'm always learning from him and aspiring to be move more like him. He's a dancer when is comes to that stuff.

Revenge or vengeance?: Revengeance?

What would be your victory song?: Kapow-i's victory song would be a score from an amazing action movie with lots of explosions.....mine would probably be from something like "Hello Dolly".

What is your signature move?: Punches but also....leaning against walls casually.

What’s the biggest inside joke at Kapow-i GoGo?: Karsten Otto is someone we absolutely do not like at all.

What is your favorite moment in Kapow-i GoGo?: All my scenes with Keola Simpson as Glenn my manager.

Why should we come see Kapow-i GoGo?: It's funny.

Spotlight On...Nicholas Connolly

Name: Nicholas Connolly

Hometown: Little Silver, NJ

Education: Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts, Master of Music in Voice Performance from the Manhattan School of Music

Select Credits: Marcello (La boheme), Dandini (Cenerentola), Marco (Gianni Schicchi), Silvio (Pagliacci), Papageno (The Magic Flute), Musiklehrer (Ariadne auf Naxos)

Why theater?: It seemed more fun than law school.  So far, that has proven true.  I was a shy kid who liked making loud noises.  I started out playing trumpet and singing in choir.  From there I was recruited into the musicals in high school and discovered I really enjoyed performing and connecting with audiences.  Then my choir director (who was my first voice teacher) gave me my first classical songs, and it all snowballed from there.

Who do you play in Whiskey Pants?: Charles, aka Whiskey Pants, the eponymous Mayor of Williamsburg

Tell us about Whiskey Pants: Whiskey Pants is a dark fantasy set in a post-apocalypse Williamsburg, where Williamsburg has become an insular community of drunks who are collectively forgetting the pain of their former lives by staying perpetually wasted.  They're about to hold the annual drinking contest to determine who will be the mayor (Charles has never lost), when a stranger wanders into town.

What is it like being a part of Whiskey Pants?: It's been a whirlwind.  I've been part of a few world premieres before, but none of them have felt as truly collaborative as this project has been.  It's been a privilege every night to get to play with such insanely talented people.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Almost everything, so long as it's done with sincerity and skill.  I love dark, morally murky and unsettling pieces as much as light-hearted romps and heart rending dramas.  Theater can speak to every part of the human experience.  I love it when a production leaves me wanting to go home and practice because I'm so inspired by what I just saw onstage.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I'm primarily an opera singer, so my dream roles are mostly in that world: Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Tonio in Pagliacci, Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic.  But I would jump at any chance to play Sweeney Todd.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I'm a huge fan of all things Sondheim, but my favorite showtune has to be "Some Enchanted Evening", as Emile was my first big role.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Peter Sellars

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: "A Voice in the Crowd", and let's go with Ed Norton

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would have loved to be in the house for the premiere of Madama Butterfly, because it was a trainwreck start to finish.  Also, the Broadway premiere of Sweeney Todd, or the 2005 revival which I'm still kicking myself for not seeing.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Currently running?  Hedwig. I saw it with Michael C Hall and I'm going to try to see John Cameron Mitchell before the end of the run.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Bad television sci-fi.  And we are in a golden age of it.

What’s up next?: I'll be going down to the Natchez Festival of Music in Mississippi, where I'm singing the Bonze in Madama Butterfly and covering Sam in The Pirates of Penzance.

Review: An Animation Explosion for the Stage

In a world where colorful heroes and evil villains roam free in a pixelated landscape comes a champion like no other. And her name is Kapow-i GoGo. And the title character inspired a full-throttle episodic whirlwind of amusement. With an original run at The Flea’s Serials late night theater competition, Kapow-i GoGo is back and ready for battle at The PIT.
The wild mind of Matt Cox has concocted a colorful and whimsical world that is reminiscent of the anime, video games, and cartoons you grew up on. Cox’s Kapow-i GoGo could rival any of its influences and predecessors. In the first of three parts, Kapow-i’s epic adventure leads her to the Ultimate Warrior Tournament. On her journey, she encounters a wise yet blind drunken sage, a pair of bumbling trouble makers, her greatest foe and rival, a forest of emerald-loving creatures, a power thirsty commander, and most importantly, love. Borrowing inspiration and inside jokes from an assortment of sources, Kapow-i GoGo is a live action adventure you never knew you wanted but glad you experienced.
photo courtesy of Anya Gibian
To bring Cox’s world to life, an eager and gifted team of actors were up for the risk of going big or going home. Fortunately, the risk was well worth it. The cohesive ensemble was filled with strength and hilarity. As the titular character, Madeleine Bundy channeled her inner child and gave Kapow-i animation. From her brilliant voice work to her fine timing, Bundy was the living version of a cartoon character. As the sage and drunk Master Masterwhiskeys, Hank Lin made physical comedy look easy. Lin, who bounced and threw himself around like an animated animal, strategically made his character loveable and laughable. Michael Axelrod as Kapow-i’s youthful-but-not bratty brother Hicc-up was stellar at getting under everyone’s skin yet somehow managed to make you want more. The tandem that comprised Team Trouble, scribe Matt Cox and Karsten Otto, had amazing chemistry. They each gave their respective counterpart a unique silly voice and still managed to be unified. Their bits were some of the funniest, garnering the biggest laughs. On the other side of evil, Stephen Stout and Colin Waitt as General President Red and Colonel Vice President Thunderbolt defined dastardly villain. Stout and Waitt channeled the idiocy of Lord Dark Helmet and anxiety of Colonel Sandurz respectively (that’s a “Spaceballs” reference) as their inspiration and it worked. Keola Simpson as a trio of characters brought a different style to his approach yet his dead-pan comedy still fit in this over-the-top world. As Tuxedo Gary, Evan Maltby sported one of those ghastly tuxedo t-shirts and an effortlessly giant personality. His big character was Tuxedo Gary, but his appearances as an assortment of cardboard cutouts were well worth while. Tara Pacheco took on the damsel role and the object of Kapow-i’s newfound stirrings. Pacheco’s Twig was strong, but like Maltby, it was the cardboard cutout moments that brought the funny. Toward the end of the episode, Jeff Ronan played a small part as King Cloudberry but it was worth the wait. Ronan and his cloud and turtle shell brought sweetness to his aged rule keeper. With such a strong cast, finding room to shine can be difficult, yet Cristina Pitter and Andy Miller gave standout performances in their various roles. Pitter doubled as darling Aunt O’Wynn and the wickedly evil Xar Xar Zuu, two drastically polar characters. Pitter went all out with each character, one getting a blood bath and the other wearing very little. Andy Miller, the cast MVP, got to play in the cardboard cutout world as well but it was her mobile item store Woogli and speech-impediment Treeleaf that stole the show. Miller was versatile and made these minor characters major. Though I don’t know what will happen to Treeleaf, cross your fingers that Treeleaf gets a spinoff series.
photo courtesy of Anya Gibian
It was clear the team did an immense amount of research of cartoon-watching and video game-playing as the physicality of the actors was comparable and calculated. Co-directors Kristin McCarthy Parker and Joel Soren made the material explode on the stage in all the right ways. The staging was seamless. The overall design from lights, costumes, and props was colorful, simple, and outrageous. After seeing this show, don’t ever mock the wonders of cardboard and duct tape.
Kapow-i GoGo is all fun and games but hidden deep inside is insight, wisdom, and a great message. And that marks the sign of a true champion. Kapow-i GoGo has a long, bright future. If you missed Part 1, still go check out Parts 2 and 3. I’m sure if you ask Matt Cox nicely he’ll give you a one-man show version of Part 1 to catch you up.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Go Go Time with...Karsten Otto

Name: Karsten Otto

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Education: BFA: NYU- Atlantic Acting School

Who do you play in Kapow-i GoGo?: Mr. Smiiiiiles

Describe your character(s) in three words: Cute but dangerous

Tell us about Kapow-i GoGo: She's a bad ass chick who don't take no crap from no one.

Describe Kapow-i GoGo in three words: Cute but deadly

What’s the wildest costume you wear in Kapow-i GoGo?: A tear drop tattoo

What’s your favorite all-time afterschool cartoon?: After school? "Spongbob". Late night, however? "Full Metal Alchemist"

If you could be a character from any anime or cartoon, who would you be?: Princess Mononoke

Which company member has the most larger than life personality?: Hank

Which company member is most likely to get lost in this world?: Steve

Most likely to actually be a cartoon character in real life?: Colin

Most likely to be a super villain?: Maddie

Most likely to go on an epic journey?: Matt

Who’s the best fighter?: Mike Axelrod

Revenge or vengeance?: Vengeance

What would be your victory song?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKlq37KLVCQ Skip to 30 seconds for the song and the drama.

What is your signature move?: A subtle, demeaning Head Shake

What’s the biggest inside joke at Kapow-i GoGo?: Impressions of everyone else's character.

What is your favorite moment in Kapow-i GoGo?: KaPow-I's "heheheheheeheheehehe"

Why should we come see Kapow-i GoGo?: It's fresh and original. And funny. And makes you feel feeeeeeelings. You won't forget it. Duhhhhh.

Review: Dreaming is Dangerous, But Not Drinking!

Williamsburg is filled with artists and dreamers and drinkers. It’s a utopian land where whiskey flows and the past is forgotten. Well, at least that’s how it’s described in the bizarro operetta Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg.
After “The Event”, a vague apocalyptic-like occurrence that forced dreamers to flea to the outskirts of the city, the citizens of Williamsburg live in whiskey bliss drinking their worries away under the rule of a mayor by the name of Whiskey Pants. In Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg by Serrana Gay, Joseph Reese Anderson, and Christian De Gre, the people of Williamsburg are brought to question their way of life after a mysterious dreamer named Thomas makes his way into the drunken city. To set the scene, an old-timey video establishes the backstory of this world. If you missed it or didn’t think you needed to pay attention, you are sorely mistaken. Likely shown as the audience walks in due to strict time restraints, it prevents the audience from understanding the full scope of this piece. Once the operetta gets underway, the introduction of the vibrant inhabitants leaves you questioning what exactly is about to happen. And until Thomas enters the picture, it’s a bit of a muddy mess. Clarity is essential in any piece with music, especially when the lyrics are the entire story. With no microphones and so many voices and instruments, clarity was out the window and thus, so was the story. The driving plot focused on the dreamers, Thomas and his long lost sister Abigail, who until it was revealed appeared as if they were going to be lovers, and their mission to change the world. But it takes so much time before they are brought into the picture that you’re focused on what exactly this place is. The other plot point that became clear due to repetition is beating the mayor in a drinking contest means you get the Whiskey Pants. With a thin plot, the stakes are low. The music by De Gre had shades of Sondheim, and when understood, the lyrics were clever and fun. There were bits and pieces that were exciting but it just wasn’t cohesive. Perhaps this story made sense to the creators, but it didn’t quite translate.
The Whiskey Pants ensemble did an incredible job with their restrictions. With a tight space and a large group of actors attempting choreography, it was clear that there was strong commitment to their work even if there was a body in the way of an arm move. Leading the pack was Isaac Harold as Thomas. Harold’s pure vocals and squeaky-clean performance was a true highpoint. Nicholas Connolly as the Mayor had a nice voice but his performance was a bit one note. The other two larger roles were played by Rachel Drayke and Bethany Geraghty, neither of whom have particularly strong vocals. The strong voices are forced to the ensemble, likely because they did sing the majority of the score as background. Of those strong performances in the ensemble came from the versatile Jessica Futran and the booming Jensen Clifford.
Dedication and commitment is something that truly should be rewarded in art. Whiskey Pants excelled with their costumes. The colorful and eclectic design was something that was a truly redeeming quality. It didn’t matter that period was nonexistent because it was stunning to look at. The costumes and make up fit the individual strikingly. Director De Gre played through the challenges of the space the best he could. With little places to go and the need to have the extra voices and musicians on stage, staging issues were inevitable.
Maybe in a different setting Whiskey Pants could be something special. But with the limitations placed upon them, the production didn’t quite reach its worth. Plus it’s very possible that the show would totally be enhanced by whiskey shots for all so we can truly understand this world. If there was a deep meaning hidden within the operetta, it was not easily accessible.

Spotlight On...Leslie Gauthier

Name: Leslie Gauthier

Hometown: West Hartford, CT (but I’ve been in NYC 7 1/2 years so, can we just say NYC, now?)

Education: Fordham University - Acting & Directing. I highly recommend it.

Select Credits: 23 Year Old Myth (playwright), "Stop the Virgens", "What Next" (web series), Turn of the Screw (twice as Flora), Melancholy Play (director). SHAMELESS PLUG: go to www.lesliergauthier.com for more info -- even a PDF of my resume ;)

Why theater?: I use the phrase “make new friends but keep the old” often. It’s kind of like that.

Who do you play in Heart of Oak?: Alvida

Tell us about Heart of Oak: A princess escapes an arranged marriage by putting together a rag-tag, but ultimately very proficient group of women. Ironically, her great lengths to escape marriage make her would-be husband fall so in love with her that he tracks her down and valiantly boards her ship. Chaos ensues. Hearts are broken. Swords are drawn.

What is it like being a part of Heart of Oak?: Informative. And vulnerable. Never have I played a role that made me so consistently aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a leader...and person. The dichotomy between socializing off-stage and acting onstage is always interesting and unique to each rehearsal process--this one especially so. I usually walk away saying “Did I really just say that like that? What an asshole!” [Side note: the stage combat is amazing and an art within itself. It’s posed so many new challenges and is really fun and satisfying when you finally get it.]

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The simplest theatre is most inspiring to me. With simplicity comes complexity. I don’t need to see how much money you spent. The older I get, the more of a minimalist I become. Unless you give me tickets to Fuerzabruta. I loved Fuerzabruta--and can indulge with a big ol’ fashioned musical once in a way. Artists who depend on their artistry and their trusted collaborators are most inspiring— Anna Deavere Smith, The Wooster Group, Mabou Mines. I just read The First Bad Man by Miranda July (Thank you, Dax/Hanna!) and was reminded of her fiercely unique voice. She doesn’t seem afraid of being misunderstood--a lesson I could learn. Sheila Heti & Lena Dunham are kind of like that too--under my “younger female writers I envy because they have something I need to find in myself” bracket. Also- My friends.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Classically speaking—Masha in The Seagull, Yelena in Uncle Vanya, Nora in A Doll’s House. I’d like to play Harper one day. When I’m old enough--Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Not playing nice, I imagine, will feel very satisfying. (Kind of like Alvida!--Alvida isn’t nice). I feel like I need to throw a wrench in here: Velma Kelly in Chicago and/or Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

What’s your favorite showtune?: "All that Jazz"—always a good one. Another one? 'The Wizard and I'. Listen to that and try not to get excited about life. It’s so innocent and hopeful and catchy!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: That’s difficult. Actor: Sam Rockwell. Actress: Cynthia Nixon (among many others) Director(s): Elizabeth LeCompte, Wes Anderson.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I’d like to play me in a movie. If not myself—I think Emma Watson. It would be called, "Days Like This" or "It’s the Little Things". It would be described as “funny-sad-sad-funny”. I might just be saying that because that seems to be the person people say I look like. If I could take the face of Emma Watson, the soul of Natasha Lyonne and the elegance of Audrey Hepburn and make them into a mega-actress then that’s who I would like to play me. Oh, I’m just brimming with indulgence right now!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The original Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Maybe the original Hair...seeing it now was kind of lost on me I think. Oh! Or Company...I wish I could have been in Elaine Stritch’s presence while telling me to ‘rise!’

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I hear Disgraced is mind-blowing. I can’t wait to see Hand to God. Mostly I’ve been telling people to listen to "The Heart" podcast (aka "Audio Smut"). Time and Money (the lack thereof) have made a serious effect on my theatre-going. Mostly, I try to get to everything my friends are in.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Cursing. Ben & Jerry’s. Cursing with joy while eating Ben & Jerry’s.

What’s up next?: Anything that might risk tremendous failure. It’s one thing to be rejected--it’s another to fail.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: The Legacy of Power

The story of Ray Lewis is a touchy one. The star Ravens linebacker had a Hall of Fame career on the field but a wall of shame history off the field. In Bloody Shakespeare's Richard the Third and Goal, or R3G, Richard III and Lewis are strategically mashed up, quite like the events of that tragic night that made Lewis the polarizing idol he is.
Written and directed by Neal J. Freeman, Richard the Third and Goal is a clever twist on the classic Shakespeare drama that combines the Bard’s words along with Ray Lewis’ that makes for a comic spin about idol worship and the thin line between hero and villain. With football as the backdrop, Richard III is put through the gauntlet and Freeman does a fantastic job combining the two worlds. Regardless of your opinion of Ray Lewis, the comparisons of the two men are strikingly similar. Bad guy or not, he pursued his mission of fulfilling his goal. Power and ambition are dangerous and when they are chased, inhibition is out the window. Freeman smartly pokes fun at Lewis’ history without forcing it to become farcical. With that being said, knowledge of Ray Lewis and his off field antics is necessary for the full affect. The world Freeman devised was filled with fanfare and fun. His direction was equally matched. Less is more and it was perfect for this production. Unlike a football game, he kept the momentum up and moving from scene to scene, helped greatly by the quick whistles and cheers. Freeman used very little props and the ones he did use were smart choices. There was not a single element that was overdone which was greatly appreciated, allowing for the concept to be the shining star. Well, besides the stellar cast.
The trio of actors were flawless, always ready and able to switch between texts and styles. Patrick Toon, who took on the Richard/Ray concoction, studied up on his Lewis-isms, emulating him to a T. He portrayed Lewis’ vocal inflections and tempo fascinatingly. He never appeared as caricature and yet he was hilarious.  If you know Lewis and his victory dance, you’ll be shocked at how well Toon rivals it. Toon’s performance is something not to be missed. Montgomery Sutton as a trio of rivals and adversaries nailed the comedy. He was a perfect opposite for Toon. Sutton brought in some of the biggest laughs of the evening. Minna Taylor, also getting a trio of characters to play, found the funny through her expressions. The chemistry that Toon, Sutton, and Taylor made Freeman’s job as a director quite easy.
Richard the Third and Goal is a story of legacy. Who knew finding humor in Richard III’s story was possible. But adding the element of Ray Lewis was a smart choice that made this piece stand out in the Shakespeare update world. If anything, this play will make you want to look into Lewis’ story further and decide whether he is a hero or villain.

Review: A New Kind of Pirate Adventure

Playing pretend is fun. But what's better than playing pretend while playing pretend? In Heart of Oak by Laura Hirschberg, a princess hijacks her ship and makes her launders and cooks become her crew. As their adventure is underway, the motley crew turns into pirates and the game no longer becomes fun.
Inspired by the Scandinavian legend of a ship of women, Heart of Oak follows Princess Alvida as she flees from social norms and the impending marriage to Prince Alfred. Alvida’s mates are her workers, all eager to go on an adventure until Captain-Princess Alvida’s power trip threatens the lives and stability of their ship, Heart of Oak. To set the scene, Hirschberg employs the dashing Prince Alfred to serve as a narrator of sorts. It helps establish his existence rather than blindsiding the audience when he does enter into action. His monologues are poetic and quite captivating, which goes against the more modern tongue of Alvida and her crew. On board the Heart of Oak, Hirschberg has a few key players including Johanna, the first mate, her sister Eva, and Liv, the rebel. The remaining few play very minor parts in the piece and the ship, serving mostly to add beautiful harmony. Since they don’t have much of an arc, combining characters may be useful to make the characters more complete. The heart of Heart of Oak comes through the fascinating thesis Hirschberg sets out to examine. Hirschberg allows the story to be the primary attraction, allowing the audience to develop their own opinions. By the end when the women do question their roles and identities, Hirschberg cleverly ties everything together. The final scene may be the strongest in the entire piece. There are missing pieces to the story puzzle but perhaps outside the constraints of a festival, Hirschberg can develop the script further.
photo courtesy of Kyle Rosenberg
This play is about strong and independent women on a journey. Ironically, the strongest player was the lone male, Jacob Owen. Owen is charming and the epitome of a prince. He could possibly even pass for a Disney prince. His urgency for his quest was playful and fun to watch. A Prince Alfred spinoff may be an exciting story to explore. Mariah Freda as Johanna was the strongest gal on the ship. Freda’s struggle for morality and the battle of love was stunning to watch. The Alvida and Johanna sexual tension was unexpected but an absolutely superb plot line that wants to be increased. Leslie Gauther as Captain-Princess Alvida lacked command but it's possible her character was only playing pretend. Her presence was small despite the ferocity of her character.
The true captain of this high seas adventure was director Anais Koivisto who steered the ship through the rough terrain that is the Kraine Theater. Transforming the space into the Heart of Oak is not an easy task but through simple ropes and fabric, and a little bit of imagination, the boat came to life. With a large ensemble and a truncated stage, there were occasional spacing issues but the creation of the cells below deck was an incredible highpoint.  The sea shanties that the women do sing fill the stage, enhancing the world and evoking the spirit of sea life. As beautiful as they were, there were moments where the ensemble overpowered key dialogue. The struggle of believability of location and the space weighed into these slight problematic moments. The Kraine is a sound eater of dialogue so facing the audience is a must.
With an interesting thesis of gender roles and freedom, Heart of Oak is a fantastic piece to set sail with. Minor tweaks can bring it to the great potential it has. This surely won’t be the last adventure Hirschberg’s script will take.

Go Go Time with...Alex J. Gould

Name: Alex J. Gould

Hometown: Brockton, MA

Education: AMDA

Who do you play in Kapow-i GoGo?: Koffley, the court Jester

Describe your character(s) in three words: It's. A. Surprise

Tell us about Kapow-i GoGo: A live action Anime full of wit, love, character, and fighting!

Describe Kapow-i GoGo in three words: Colorful, Imaginative, Kickass

What’s the wildest costume you wear in Kapow-i GoGo?: Currently being designed. So I'll just guess. A fully body squirrel suit?!

What’s your favorite all-time afterschool cartoon?: “Looney Tunes”

If you could be a character from any anime or cartoon, who would you be?: Any monkey!

Which company member has the most larger than life personality?: Matthew Cox

Which company member is most likely to get lost in this world?: Hank Lin.

Most likely to actually be a cartoon character in real life?: Mike Axelrod

Most likely to be a super villain?: Steve Stout

Most likely to go on an epic journey?: Cristina Pitter

Who’s the best fighter?: Chuck Norris

Revenge or vengeance?: Vengeance

What would be your victory song?: “Eye of the Tiger”

What is your signature move?: The Gould Eye Roll

What’s the biggest inside joke at Kapow-i GoGo?: Oh definitely Olives

What is your favorite moment in Kapow-i GoGo?: Any moment Amy Jo is onstage

Why should we come see Kapow-i GoGo?: Because of that little voice in your head that says, "Hey you. What are you doing on that third bag of Cheetos? Why not put them down? Come on, Sport....Good job. Now put some pants on and get yourself down to the Pit for Kapow-i Go Go" I think we've all been there. Am I right?