Friday, December 19, 2014

Theater in the Now's Best of 2014!

Another year, another whirlwind of great entertainment! 2014 brought a lot of daring and new theater as well as some great revivals of classic and modern texts. While some would say the year on Broadway was a bit lacking, the Off Broadway and Indie world greatly made up for it! Here's my list of the top 5 productions of the year!

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The cult classic finally found it's way to the Great White Way and in fabulous fashion. The Tony winning revival brought showman Neil Patrick Harris to don the infamous wig and rock out to an updated rockin' score. With Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, and John Cameron Mitchell following in the Tony winner's platforms, it was Lena Hall that gave one of the stand out performances of the year.



2. Fly By Night 
Quite possibly the most underrated production of the entire year, Playwrights Horizons enchanted audiences with this stunning musical by Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick, and Kim Rosenstock. The stunning intertwining love story brought some performances that pulled on your heartstrings. Allison Case and Henry Stram gave some beautiful performances but try not crying while watching Peter Friedman.







3. Propaganda! The Musical
Theater festivals rarely give you perfection, but in this year's New York Musical Theater Festival, there was perfection. And that perfection happened to be the future of theater. Written by Taylor Ferrera and Matt Webster, this musical comedy was a hilarious new piece that brought the laughs from start to finish. And it also showcased a star in the making, Dale Sampson. If the theater gods were watching, Propaganda! The Musical will have a new life soon.

4. Pentecost
Each summer, PTP/NYC comes to the city and spends a month in residence at Atlantic Theatre Company's Stage II. This year, they brought with them an incredible revival of David Edgar's Pentecost. Wonderfully directed by Cheryl Faraone and featuring a large ensemble of professional and student actors, Pentecost defined the brilliance of Edgar's story with a stunning commentary on art.








5. Powerhouse
Sinking Ship Productions brought the life of Raymond Scott to the stage in exquisite fashion. With a limited run at The New Ohio, Powerhouse was a color explosion about one man's love for creating art and the effect it has on his life. The bioplay featured some incredible moments of puppetry as we saw the creation of a cartoon and a mini cartoon live on stage.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: A Forgetful Modern Fairy Tale

Living the life of a fairy tale may seem like a dream, but when the fairy tale becomes a reality, the dream may turn into a nightmare. In Kristen Palmer’s haunting Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest, a young bride to be journeys to find the missing piece in her heart before she can marry the man of her dreams.
When Josie goes on adventure to find her father, she stumbles upon a mysterious mansion that houses a screaming child in search of a nanny. Josie poses as the nanny and discovers this place is also home to her father who disappeared. But what exactly is this place, well that’s the big question. Palmer’s Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest is a modern fairy tale with a horror spin. It’s also a tale of mystery and intrigue that creates rules and occurrences as the play progresses. The rules of the world that Palmer devises are quite confusing, conflicting, and, at times, implausible. Sometimes depending on happenstance, the way the plot unfolds makes you scratch your head and think, “wait, what?” The spell that is cast over the house somehow makes people forget. Josie’s father, Everett, and her fiancé, Warren, have no recollection of Josie when they see her. And we never really know why. Josie happens to forget to call Warren while she’s there. We never see this “vortex” that prevents this amnesia-like occurrence. The timeline of events that Palmer sets forth are also a bit questionable. It’s quite possible the world that Palmer has created is very specific, but the execution of the world needs to be much cleaner because her story is fairly beautiful and heartwarming.
photo courtesy of Isaiah Tanenbaum
The sextet portrays their modern inspired fairy tale counterparts with great fun and willingness to play. But the strength within the ensemble falls to the woman, though Brian Silliaman offers a solid portrayal as the Hitchcock-ian butler. The strongest performance on stage comes from Kristen Vaughan as Eugenia. Vaughan has a Victoria Grayson aura about her character. Vaughan’s witch-like persona makes her a loveable villain, carrying her character with wonderful entitlement. As her childlike daughter Belle, Becky Byers evokes a youthful and bratty naivety to the fiancé stealer. As a modern day princess, Rachael Hip-Flores brings an interesting strength to the role. Her character, which seems to be a remix of many iconic princess including Cinderella and Ariel, finds courage with and without her words. Though, it’s still a bit odd that not a single piece of paper exists for Josie to use. Arthur Aulisi and Chinaza Uche as Everett and Warren respectively struggled with their memory-losing counterparts. They seemed to have difficulty naturally easing into the heightened world Palmer created for them.
While Palmer’s rules may have been confusing, director Heather Cohn’s rules of the space were equally as blurred. The space that scenic designer Will Lowry created was a beautiful wood inspired set that created some interesting challenges. With no true boundaries, besides a door and a platform, Cohn’s physical world was never consistent as actors trotted around the stage haphazardly. The costumes designed by Stephnie Levin fit the characters’ personalities quiet well but the wedding dress, especially post reveal was absolutely stunning on Rachael Hip-Flores.
Despite the beauty of the story, Once Upon a Bride There Was a Forest was an underachieving piece that needed more time and care. The idea was something special, but the execution was a miss.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: An Ocean of Recovery

The struggles of living through addiction while dealing life, love, and money take center stage in the fishing port of New Bedford, Massachusetts in Mike Gorman’s If Colorado Had An Ocean. A series of intertwining stories that eventually meet, If Colorado Had An Ocean brings the past to the present while attempting to alter the future.
In Mike Gorman’s fishing port inspired drama, one play of a trilogy, Steven and Big John, a pair of high school buddies reunite on a construction job and string along Steven’s artist girlfriend Michelle and writer brother Jim on an adventure they wish they never entered. What at first seems like an easy gig soon turns into a clashing of personalities and an entangled drug smuggling scheme that leads to reverting back to addiction. On the surface through synopsis, the play has an appealing and unique story to share but the truth is If Colorado Had an Ocean is a structural nightmare. Gorman throws a plentiful amount of ideas at the wall and uses whatever sticks. From a musical number to narration to thin secondary plot lines, the execution of a well built play is missing. To engage the audience to exposition, Gorman employs a musical montage that seemed incredibly out of place. The cast appears on stage together and sing the titular song while snippets of scenes are thrown in between the various choruses. The device is bizarre and never appears again. To allow campiness to enter this particular story seems iniquitous. The other campy moment of the piece comes in Act II with the incredibly presentational arrival of the client and distant relative of Moby Dick harpooner, Tashtego. The Tashtego sub plot is strange enough and only seems as the logical connection to tie the drug and harpooning themes into the play. The other large structural problem the play had was how Gorman used Jim. Jim was established as a narrator type but was sparsely utilized. His monologues were quite poetic, which was a jarring contrast from his dialogue with the other characters. The credibility of the character may be called into question due to the contrast. With so much going on and so much to track, it may be easy to lose focus and miss out on the importance of the story. With an abundance of cross relationships to cover, Gorman seemed unable to strengthen the core relationship of the motley trio.
photo courtesy of Ken Arcara
With a team of strong veteran Indie actors, finding cohesiveness as an ensemble unfortunately seemed like a difficult task. The trio of Matt Hurley, Nick Lawson, and Alan Barnes Netherton as Steven, Jim, and Big John respectively, lacked chemistry. Hurley, the cog and link of the trio, delivered a very centralized emotional performance. As the focal point of the story, Hurley was often overshadowed by his costars, especially those on the other side of the plot. Jeff Pagliano as Jason offers a wide range of emotion as the antagonist of the piece.
Director David Bennett, who has a deep history with Gorman’s trilogy, brought his previous experience to the piece but lacked an overall goal. With an striking set by Donald Eastman, Bennett was unable to utilize it properly. Yes, Eastman’s set was filled with challenges, including the primary playing space being thrust so far back in the space, but one of the more unfortunate recurring staging moments was the overhead project in relation to the wall it was projected on. Michelle, played by Melody Bates, spent much of her time creating art using the projector. With action and dialogue happening on the wall and by the projector, it was easy to get distracted by the images created and lose important dialogue. There was some beautiful theatricality though coming from lighting designer John Eckert and composer Rebecca Hart. The cohesiveness during the drug scenes with the tribal music and eerie lighting allowed for some striking moments on stage.
If Colorado Had an Ocean was an ambitious attempt at creating an important but ambition got in the way of execution. Perhaps before the other two parts of the trilogy are presented, another glance at the structure will be taken.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spotlight On...Laura Butler Rivera

Name: Laura Butler Rivera

Hometown: Ponce, Puerto Rico

Education: MFA in Acting from Columbia University; and BA in Drama from the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras

Favorite Credits: Teach, Teacher, Teachest (One-Eighth Theater at INTAR Theatre); UBU (One-Eighth Theater); so go the ghosts of México: Part 1 (La MaMa); Zoetrope (Caborca theatre).

Why theater?: The stem of it all? Wanting to learn as much of everything as possible, by doing. At age 8 I thought through acting I’d have the opportunity to ‘step into others shoes’ and be able to do and learn of the world and its ways.  Throughout the years I’ve come to appreciate the ritual and the uniqueness of theater even more. Theater is not only scary and exhilarating, it’s educational and social. I love meeting up with other artists and being silly, serious, frustrated, scared, sad, vulnerable, inspired, and joyful, all the many facets.  Then getting a drink and talking about the process; then sharing it with an audience and having a drink with them and talking about it.  The simplicity and complications of a theatrical event are fantastic. There is a quote I heard and love that says “I lose and find myself in Art.” This definitely applies to me.

Tell us about All That Dies And Rises?: All That Dies and Rises is a piece created out of a love of expression and dedication. The Ensemble, the heart, and the space were all there. What was needed was a common denominator to tell the story. A situation during the original planned process occurred that wasn’t expected and we were faced with two options: To stop or to create. We rose to the occasion and decided to create and share what James Rutherford calls “a hurricane of sweat and laughter, asking how we go on in the face of catastrophe.”

What inspired you to choreograph All That Dies And Rises?: I had met James working on Love’s Labour’s Lost, a Columbia thesis production directed by Andrei Serban in 2010; He was assistant director and I was a movement coach. Since then I respect his work. I admire the beautiful imagery in his plays and the way he talks about theater. When he approached me to work with him on his next project I loved how open to exploration he was. It would also give me the opportunity to work with Casey once again. When All That Dies and Rises emerged as an idea the opportunity to dive into the unknown with a great ensemble to create a piece from zero was an inspiration and an exciting challenge.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am attracted to pieces that take greater risks (because theater is a risk in itself). And I enjoy theatrical pieces that are unafraid of genres.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: This list is long and vast. I’d love to work with as many as possible. I’m a theater nerd. And film lover.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Flirting with food. I just ate at Chef Martin Picard’s Au pied de Cochon in Montréal, Quebec and tried his House-made Boudin with a great red wine and it was one of the guiltiest pleasurable experiences ever. Thanks to Chef Anthony Bourdain’s recommendation, he’s never let me down. And I never miss enjoying a delicious mofongo accompanied by a Medalla beer whenever I’m in PR.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Currently it’s “Sail” by Awolnation.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A Film director…or in dance...or a painter’s assistant…or a film editor…pretty much something to do with the Arts. haha.

What’s up next?: Zoetrope with Caborca Theatre at Pregones Theater in January 2015, Distant Star, an ART workshop of Roberto Bolaño’s Distant Star in Cambridge, MA in March 2015, "The Entitlement", a film by Javier Antonio González in the summer and Ankara, Turkey- Teaching at Bilkent University 2015-2016, starting in September

For more on Laura, visit www.laurabutlerrivera.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: A Silent Night of War

The history of war is filled with moments of horror, terror, and sorrow. The stories that are often spoken of are ones that memorialize the struggles and death of the people fighting. Rarely do the inspiring or heartwarming tales get spoken of. But through times of war there are glimpses of hope and peace. In Ricardo Perez Gonzalez’s heartwarming war drama In Fields Where They Lay, the stunning Christmas Truce of 1914, a moment of peace during World War I, is celebrated on stage in exquisite fashion.
Capturing a moment of fascinating possibility, In Fields Where They Lay follows a troop of British soldiers on the Western Front as a day they never imagine became reality. Written by Ricardo Perez Gonzalez, the drama takes inspiration from the “War to End All Wars” and the momentary truce that shocked the world. The specific story watches a young and optimistic solider, Teddy, and his comrades including Pfeirrer, a husband with hope, Dietrich, the token pessimist, Osbourne, a Jamaican, Sargent Woodward the comic relief, and the aways prim and proper Lieutenant Jeffries as they discover the atmosphere of war changing as the holiday season arrives. While the piece is very ensemble driven, Teddy truly becomes the focal point for the climax. Despite this, Ricardo Perez Gonzalez seems to give the theatrical focus to Pfieffer by including his wife Catherine, appearing through note. This device doesn’t carry through to any of the other characters which forces focus toward Pfeiffer despite him being less of a firestarter than Teddy. Even so, the device of using Catherine truly takes away from the beauty and intrigue of life behind the trenches as she adds little except for exposition. Ricardo Perez Gonzalez capitalizes on the hardship and camaraderie of wartime. The relationships he develops behind the trenches propel the story toward the heart of the piece as they, and their enemies, bond over their mutual adoration for Christmas.
photo courtesy of Hugh Mackey
With a fine group of actors assembled to portray the soliders, the shining star performance came from Spencer Davis Milford as Teddy. Bright eyed Milford brought confidence and a genuine hope to the role. Though Teddy may be the weakest of the lot, he is truly the strongest and Milford conveyed it brilliantly. Another strong showing came from Stephen James Anthony as Private Pfeiffer. Anthony had a subtle strength in his performance that resonated well for his character. Jeff Gonzalez as Private Dietrich took the unenthusiastic persona of his character and gave it great life, avoiding monotony. Zack Calhoon fulfilled a much needed comic relief role as Sargent Woodward. Calhoon hit his comedic marks effortlessly while still giving his character a realistic presence.
With a skilled and sharp mind to lift the characters off the page, director Brad Raimondo depicted this undesirable world with great ease and excitement. With an impressive scaffolding set by Clifton Chadick, Raimondo brought the trench world to the stage with great theatricality. Raimondo guided his actors to find the humanity of their characters and the situation that allowed for the final scene to resonate with the audience. Lighting designer Wilburn Bonnell offered some beautiful looks that allowed Raimondo to great equally beautiful stage pictures. With such a realistic moment of history to portray on stage, Chadick’s theatricality worked with the exception of the back wall piece. When it was revealed later in the show, it made sense but the sharp and jagged negative space image it created was a bit distracting at times, especially when Bonnell’s lights showcased it.
Perhaps with some trimming in the middle of excess material, In Fields Where They Lay may be a newfound Christmas tale you remember for years to come. The straight from the history books story is touching and still significant 100 years later.

Spotlight On...James Rutherford

Name: James Rutherford

Hometown: Downtown NYC

Education: BA Brown University, MFA Columbia University

Favorite Credits: Last year’s Oscar Wilde/Ernest Hemingway mashup The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway was a beautiful mess years in the making. I also recently assisted Peter Brook on his most recent production The Valley of Astonishment — a truly lifechanging experience that took me all the way to Paris.

Why theater?: While other children were taken to church or temple, I was taken to the MoMA to see my grandfather’s paintings. So art, family and religion have always been deeply connected for me. I think this must have been what drew me to the theater — a place where a community of artists can come together, channeling the energy of performers and audience alike into something resembling transcendence.

Tell us about All That Dies And Rises: All That Dies And Rises draws heavily on traditions of physical theater training — Grotowski and Russian biomechanics, among others — and on text from a wide variety of dramatic, poetic and academic sources (Fanny Howe, Anne Carson, Charles Bukowski, etc.), building compositions based on death and resurrection with an extremely tight ensemble. The result is a dream collage: part play, part ballet, part choir and part pantomime.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I feel that theater is a combination of the absolutely fake and the absolutely true, and I’m fascinated by the tension between the two. Dance tends to speak more directly to this than straight theater. Consider a choreographed dance: a group of people moving in unison is ludicrously artificial, but the physical exertion necessary to achieve it is undeniably real. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m attracted to extremely rich, dense texts, and most of my work thus far has lived in that sphere (Sarah Kane, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Goethe). Our current piece is an attempt to bring these two energies together — to sing with our bodies and move written words through space.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I recently got to direct the incomparable Kathryn Hunter for three glorious hours, and nothing has been the same since. I would love to work with her on a full production.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) at the Public. Vast, bold, open and devastating.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would be played by a young Gene Wilder in "The Golden Asshole".

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I find text kerning obsessively wonderful.

What’s up next?: Working with a team of playwrights to reconstitute Richard Wharfinger’s long-lost Jacobean opus The Courier’s Tragedy.

For more on All that Dies and Risies, visit M-34.org. For more on James, visit james-rutherford.com

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: The New Mean

Growing up, everyone seems to find their niche, the thing or friends that help them survive their tween years. In Jenny Rachel Weiner’s darkly funny comedy Horse Girls, an elite equestrian club comprised of twelve year olds experience the potential end of their life when the stable they so nearly and dearly love is potentially about to disappear on them.
Horse Girls follows queen bee and president and decider of all Ashleigh and her entourage of “friends” as they embark in an eventful meeting of the Lady Jean Ladies. What begins as a normal meeting of hierarchy, jealousy, and all around cattiness on the part of President Ashleigh soon turns into an afternoon of chaos as news breaks that the Lady Jean stables may soon be sold, forcing the horses to be sold for, not glue, but meat. When a mutiny arises and the girls turn on their leader, Ashleigh does what any sensible twelve year old does, a reign of terror. Weiner’s script is everything you wish for in a tween-centric comedy. Weiner captures the hilarity and gravity of every little thing in a twelve year-old’s simple life. Her dialogue is sharp and witty. The dichotomy of characters Weiner presents in this tight circle of friends is quiet interesting. Rather than have similar clones, she mixes the privileged with the odd ball with the sidekick. With a very short running time, Weiner has much room to continue to develop this eclectic mix of girls so the supporting roles have a bit more of a cleaner arc. The meat is there, and quite nice, and by adding more, the abrupt climax of Shakespearean proportions doesn’t come across as rushed.
photo courtesy of Hunter Canning
The ensemble of seven have a wonderful time portraying these whacky girls. Leading the team of girls is Olivia Macklin as the epitome of mean, Ashleigh. Macklin uses a delightful amount of resistance to portray her power. Her journey of entitlement to loss of power is wonderful to watch, keeping her composure. Macklin employs a dry sense of comedy to Ashleigh, something that is drastically different from the more caricature based performance by Kaley Ronayne. Ronayne offers a strong and transformative performance as odd duck Margaret. Ronayne channels her inner kid bringing out the awkwardness of Margaret. Rounding out the strong performances is Angeliea Stark as second in command Tiffany. Stark is well-rounded and sincere. Despite her character having a bit of a radical change after she discovers her best-friend-since-the-womb is about to kick her out, Stark brings out the pain and loyalty of her character.
Director Sarah Krohn does a magnificent job getting her ensemble to believably bring their characters to life. She keeps the action moving and allows the beats to be found. Her staging was quite calculated, even keeping a keen eye on minute details including the leveled seating arrangements of the girls. Krohn does struggle finding the cohesiveness of comedic styling among the girls. While they each find their own comedic style that fits their individual character, it occasionally doesn’t mesh as one. Scenic designer Daniel Geggatt does a wonderful job of using the space, incorporating the architecture into his design. The ambiance brings you into the bedroom, allowing you to feel like a fly on the wall. Geggatt too has a nice eye for detail with the pieces and décor in the room. Costume designer Siena Zoe Allen captures the essence and quirks of each of the girls.
Horse Girls is a wild comedy with room to expand. And I don't think the audience would complain to see more of these girls. Yet in it’s current state, Horse Girls is an exceptional glance at the mean girl culture and the struggles it brings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spotlight On...Joey Arias

Name: Joey Arias

Hometown: New York City… Via North Carolina &  L.A.

Education: Went to Catholic schools my whole life… into College…!!!

Favorite Credits: Capitol Records Contract as a kid..…  Many movies, Television..  Concerts around the world..  A Book.

Why theater?: Theatre, I Love it…  Grew up watching movies, musicals & plays…  Then I would do my versions of them for my friends at home…  I’m so inspired by the magic that’s on stage…

Who do you play in Christmas with the Crawfords?: I play Joan Crawford…

Tell us about Christmas with the Crawfords: Christmas With The Crawfords is based on a radio broadcast that Joan did in 1944 at her Brentwood home with Hedda Hopper and the writers used this to spring off and incorporate other films for script.  Joan is preparing for Christmas Eve and during the broadcast other movie & celebs keep interrupting this moment and the children start to act up..then Joan snaps in front of her guest and things get interesting.... don't want to give away to much!

What is it like being a part of Christmas with the Crawfords?: I LOVE working on this play directed by Donna Drake….  The cast is so much fun… There are a few originals actors from the beginning such as Connie Champagne & Chris March from S.F. production and I've done it 3 times in NYC. Sherry Vine has joined the cast and Flotilla deBarge too so you can imagine the INSANITY!  The others are new faces… and they are all so much fun and really push the bar.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The theatre that speaks to me is one that has all you need to make a show run smoothly  And who inspires me as an artist is someone who makes me dream…. and that is many… old movies and classic theatre inspire my work!

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I would Love to play Alister Crowley..The most evil man in the world... al that black magic etc.   Very curious!!!  I wanted to Play Lady Day but thats been done already.  Manfred Thierry Mugler has written a play / musical for me called.  Z CHROMOZOME so I'm working on that!

What is your favorite showtune?: My favorite showtune…is  “Let Me Entertain You”  from Gypsy.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with Helen Mirren - that would be a GREAT challenge. She saw me when I did ZUMANITY's Cirque Du Soleil and she said I was Brilliant!


Who would play you in a movie and what would it be called?: Jake Gyllenhaal.  I think it would be a challenge for him….and it would be called…..  “Z CHROMOZOME  the Next Adventure!!!”

What shows have you recommended to your friends?: I could recommend so many, but I'm still a sucker for Wicked.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: CREAM- Their first album & anything by BILLIE HOLIDAY.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: MY GULITY pleasure is watching Movies...I can watch Movies all day…

What’s up next?: Coming up is the Billie Holiday Centennial. She would have been 100 yrs Old…Touring thru Europe & The states.     Trying to finish a script about the story of Klaus Nomi and Alan Cumming would play him…  Working with my partner / Husband..Juano Diaz from Scotland on his Art Show…. and working with MAC Makeup on another project with my MAC Makeup wipes  - always creating ART  !!!  And some recordings… A New CD.  I think thats the big picture for now.   LOL

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: A Twelfth Night Mix Tape

If music be the food of love, play a kickin’ 80s soundtrack. Taking inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, among a few other titles, Pull Together Productions presents Sean Graney’s Twelve Nights, a jam-packed, high-energy, four person retelling of gender-bending love and miscommunications all with an obsession for mixtapes.
With an 80s inspired text, Twelve Nights takes a condensed look at The Duke and Viola and their pals in Illyria as a madcap love triangle causes a domino effect of slapstick. Written by Sean Graney, Twelve Nights is a grin-inducing comedy that is a nice spin on the classic. Graney uses only four actors, two guys and two girls, to take on the various parts, breaking the gender walls throughout. Though Viola is usually played by a girl playing a boy, Twelve Nights has a boy playing a girl playing a boy. Don’t worry, it will take you a moment to figure it out while you’re watching. Graney’s text is witty and fun, borrowing moments from the Bard and throwing in recurring gags throughout the piece. One bit that Graney uses is to have each actor blatantly announce who they are playing in the moment or announce their scene partner in bold form. While it helps the audience follow along, a great knowledge of the source material is incredibly necessary.
The foursome of actors do a great job at keeping the action moving and the comedy non-stop. David Andrew Laws and Robin Rightmyer have a natural comedic chemistry that exudes hilarity on the stage. As Viola and The Duke respectively, Laws and Rightmyer easily develop a fun relationship with one another. Laws, who also showcases his divine vocals, does an exquisite job honoring both the source and Graney’s world. Playing Olivia, among others, Amanda Tudor tackles spoiled brat head on. Tudor naturally eases into the love triangle just enough to hate her for getting in the way. Jane May’s track was filled with vulgarity through character, bringing a different style of comedy to the fold. Though funny, May seemed to have a more trouble fitting into the mix. Often playing an assortment of guys, her characters were more caricature than her counterparts.
Director Brian Gillespie does a nice job exploring the fun of Graney’s script. Though there were subtle clues through props, music, and references, knowing that the play was supposed to take place in the 80s was lost. It seemed more like a quartet of people who just happened to like the 80s. The colorful set against the blank white room of the Theaterlab allowed for a nice splash of interest, but lighting designer Samantha Davis rarely theatricalized the space to give it the extra spark it desired. The costumes the troop wore seemed very much like a uniform as each actor's costume included a different color polo top. Though it could have been a script thing, Gillespie did not have his troop had pieces to their costume to differentiate their characters, forcing you to pay close attention to those name announcements.
On the whole, Twelve Nights is a good old-fashioned fun night of theater with a little something missing. With an accompanying drinking game inspired by Christmas related phrases, Twelve Nights will surely make you smile from ear to ear.

Spotlight On...Chris March

Name: Chris March

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Select Credits: Chris March's Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer-Park Ballet (2012), Christmas with the Crawfords (2000, 2001, 2002)

Why theater?: Theater is a world where you can enjoy so many different facets of life--expression, creativity, learning, relationships, humor, the meaning of life, hard work, and just plain fun.

Who do you play in Christmas With The Crawfords?: Christina Crawford, the bad seed of Joan Crawford.

Tell us about Christmas With The Crawfords: It is a comedic musical play based on a real-life live radio broadcast that took place on Christmas Eve in 1949. It takes off from there into a madcap mix of "Mommie Dearest", "Mildred Pierce", wire hangers, Hollywood movie stars, Christmas Carols...all singing all dancing mayhem by men in dresses (and one woman!). Oh, and I'm also the costume designer (nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design).

What is it like being a part of Christmas With The Crawfords?: I have been a fan of or in the show in some way for almost 20 years. I have worked many places in many shows, but there is nothing quite like this show. It has it's own heart, and everyone who has been in in it, seen it, or worked on it cherishes it in their own way. It's very special.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Of course, I am attracted to the visual and the humorous--so this show is perfect for me! I am inspired by risk taking, daring, non-traditional, non-politically correct shows and performances. We have become too homogenized and afraid to break traditional barriers.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Oh boy--I would love to be Edna in Hairspray!!!

What’s your favorite show tune?: It's cruel to ask for only one...I'll say "Beautiful City" from Godspell (the first show I ever saw).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Baz Luhrman, He came to see my Butt-Cracker Suite! show and loved it. He is someone who is leading the way with new ideas and visuals to entertain and intrigue his audience.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: What a funny question...I guess I would have to play myself (!) and the title would be, "Laughing at My Expense".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently...Hedwig and the Angry Inch...just fantastic.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Lana Del Rey, "Ride". That song haunts me.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Thrift shopping!

What’s up next?: I have been planning to produce a certain theater show here in NYC for almost 15 years...and it looks like this coming year it might just happen! Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Spotlight On...Zack Calhoon

Name: Zack Calhoon

Hometown: Salem, Oregon

Education: New York University, Tisch School of the Arts

Select Credits: Hamlet in Hamlet (Boomerang Theatre)

Why theater?: I love the adrenaline rush that comes from working in the theatre. The feeling of walking on a high wire without a net.  It’s really addictive.

Who do you play in In Fields Where They Lay?:  I play Sgt. James Woodward, a cockney non-commissioned officer in the British Army.

Tell us about In Fields Where They Lay: In Fields Where They Lay is a beautiful play about the Christmas Truce of 1914.  It depicts a truly extraordinary moment in history.  A moment at the beginning of World War I, when British and German soldiers decided, without any preconditions, to set down their weapons for one day and treat each other like human beings.

What is it like being a part of In Fields Where They Lay?: It is a privilege and an honor to get the chance to tell this story on the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce.  I was in the 2009 production and believe that it was one of my all-time favorite acting experiences ever.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I loved the play, Black Watch. I love theatre that grabs you by the collar and takes you somewhere.  I would have to say I really inspired by actors like Mark Rylance, Sir Antony Sher, Simon Russell Beale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Harriet Walter, Janet McTeer. And that’s just the actors . . . Really I could go on for days.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I had the great fortune of playing the title role in Hamlet in two separate productions. For a long time, that was my dream role. If I’m honest, I’m dying to play role of Iago in Othello and Leonard in Susan Ferrara’s new play, BUZZ.

What’s your favorite showtune?: “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City of Angels

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: John Tiffany.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Martin Freeman. "Calhoon Unleashed: The Quickening".

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  The Country House. Blythe Danner and Eric Lange are wonderful in it.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: “Someone Like You,” by Adele

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  “SCANDAL”.

What’s up next?:  I am working on the next draft of a screenplay and also have two new plays that are waiting to be written.

Spotlight On...Equiano Mosieri

Name: Equiano Mosieri

Hometown: Born in London, Lives in New York. Arsenal fan for life.

Education: MFA from Brandeis University

Select Credits: The Parables Conference at B.A.M, The Shakespeare Forum's The Merchant of Venice at Church at Judson, LoudSol's Summer Blue at Theater For a New City...

Why theater?: Well life is theater, so I figured I would put my energy into being good at it for a living. That and from time to time I get to say lines that would have the average person locked up in a mental institution.

Who do you play in In Fields Where They Lay?: I am Private Philip Osbourne. A Jamaican soccer player and student of life who has joined the Allied Forces war efforts as a forced volunteer from one of the British Empire's many colonies of the early 20th century.

Tell us about In Fields Where They Lay: This is Ricardo Pérez González's forever timely take on one group of English soldiers' two month journey from wide-eyed thrill seekers to overly matured victims of World War I. The audience gets to engage with hindsight on their side, which means they come in understanding the ludicrous idea that in 1914 leaders of both sides were selling this war as a type of working vacation that would 'be over by Christmas'. That in itself could be a great absurdist play. Here though, we watch five boys leave loved ones back home to answer Lord Kitchener's now infamous "Your Country Needs You" call. How they return... well, you'll have to watch the show now, won't you?

What is it like being a part of In Fields Where They Lay?: Well firstly, it helps that it is very well written, so cheers Ricardo. Getting into character is the easy part, because each character has a very specific and natural way with language. I'm having a great time working with all the members of the cast. I'm inspired by their level of story telling, so it's easy to look forward to rehearsal after playing in the mean streets of New York. These actors are quick-witted, hard working and they have done their homework, plus they are doing the British accents, humor and slang justice. Working with director Brad Raimondo is a lot of fun, because not only is he a pez-dispenser of Great War knowledge, but he has this wicked sense of humor that always adds energy to whatever scenes we're working on, and that is a rare gift. Also, having an inside look into what the production team is cooking up is exciting; the sound designer, set designer and costume designer have something special for everyone. This ship is amibitious, but we wouldn't be having this many smiles if it wasn't for our stage manager Emily Roth who basically guides and arranges our creative-craziness. She. Is. The. Bomb. So yeah, being a part of this is an honor.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Pretty much all types of theater speaks to me if the story telling is tight. Experimental, movement based, absurd, straight, musicals, classic, anything whose architecture is sound. What inspires me are stories that transcend my imaginary boundaries. Those stories that remind me I haven't seen it all, and that magic can still exist for adults. Many people inspire me, especially my family and my wife.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Dying to play? Well that escalated quickly!

What’s your favorite showtune?:  "The Impossible Dream" and "Z.O.M.B.I.E"

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: David Oyelowo.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Bobby McFarren in "Don't Happy, Be Worry: No Rehearsals For Life"

What show have you recommended to your friends?: In Fields Where They Lay December 5th to December 27th

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Stromae's "Papaoutai"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: There should be no guilt if it brings pleasure.

What’s up next?: Right now I'm working on mounting a multidisciplinary piece called HummingBird. It is a play set on the edge of a ficticious distopia that's been achieved with good intentions. We hope to have it up and running in the Spring of 2015.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spotlight On...Brad Raimondo

Name: Brad Raimondo

Hometown: Tenafly, NJ

Education: Undergrad NYU: Tisch Drama (Playwrights Horizons Theater School), MFA in Directing from the New School for Drama

Select Credits: In addition to the 2009 production of In Fields Where They Lay, my favorite recent projects include a sold-out FringeNYC run of a wonderful play called Whale Song or Learning To Live With Mobyphobia written by my friend and grad school classmate Claire Kiechel. I was also privileged to direct the premiere of her play Some Dark Places of the Earth at the New School. Last year in New York I directed Mark William Lindberg in an adaptation of "The Waste Land" for the United Solo Festival and assisted Davis McCallum on Sam Hunter's wonderful The Few at Rattlestick.

Why theater?: I've never wanted to be anything but a storyteller. And theater -- even at its slickest and most polished--has a kind of rough and tumble primeval purity as a way of telling stories.  When it's done well, theater has this ability that no other narrative form has to give us this collective experience of the transcendent, to draw them forward in their seats and create the spine-tingling intimacy between story, tellers and listeners evoked by stories told around a campfire.  I think that's the feeling we're all chasing as theater makers.  I know that's what I'm always hoping for when I go to a play.

Tell us about In Fields Where They Lay: In Fields Where They Lay tells the story of the World War I Christmas Truce -- this small shining moment of hope when for just about 24 hours the frontline troops in two opposing armies found a way to lay down their arms and greet each other in solidarity.  I co-developed the play, along with Ricardo Pérez González (the playwright) and an ensemble of actors back in 2009.  It's very exciting to be bringing this play back to the stage.A lot of the play is adapted directly from letters, diaries and firsthand accounts of soldiers who witnessed and participated in the Truce -- those primary sources have been adapted and mixed in with other soldiers' accounts and with a healthy does of creative invention to create a wonderfully intimate character drama that still manages to tell this really epic story. At bottom, this is a story about a small group of men struggling to maintain their humanity and individuality in the face of the monstrous, implacable momentum of war.  For all its rich characters and finely drawn details, the heart of the story is as simple as that -- how can these men do what needs to be done to survive and come home while still holding onto the men they were before they went to war?  I believe that was the very simple impulse that led not just to the Christmas Truce but to lots of small moments of decency, humanity and mercy that our research turned up, shining out from within the larger darkness of the incredible destruction and barbarism of World War I.

What is it like being a part of In Fields Where They Lay?: This is without a doubt the most significant project I've ever been a part of, both in terms of what it's meant for me and how it has been embraced by audiences and collaborators. It started as this conversation that Ricardo and I had at the Gramercy Diner just before Christmas 2008. We had both just read a pair of books on the truce and were really inspired and were just figuring out how to begin to tell this story. We wrote up a little outline that day to give ourselves some kind of shape -- and actually the ending we sketched out in that diner is still the ending of the play. Then we just spent months workshopping with actors, doing a lot of improv, a lot of letter writing, a lot of taking these historical documents and asking "okay, so this is what these guys sound like in their diaries or when they're writing letters to mum, what would they be talking to each other about? What do they really sound like?" How do you stay sane when you're basically standing in an open grave, covered in mud, listening to guys all around you get smashed by mortar shells all day? So much of the challenge in developing the play was breathing the life into the history. I've said before that there's something Shakespearean about this play and now, coming back to it after a few years (and having spent a year working on Hamlet in grad school and learning firsthand what Shakespearean really means), I feel that more strongly than ever. Because it never becomes a pageant or a synopsis --"first this happened, then this happened, then voila: history!". Rather, it weaves a tapestry of all of these human moments -- at this point I can't even remember what came right from the research and what Ricardo dreamed up and what the original actors invented in the workshop in terms of the tiny personal details and behaviors -- and all those moments add up to the story of men living through and making history, rather than presenting history as something flat and settled. The play is also a roller coaster. Some of our funniest moments come right before a mortar shell goes off and totally changes the mood. The whole thing is built around this one beautiful hopeful moment, and yet we never want to ignore the darkness of the war before and after the truce. That's another way this play rings true, I hope -- our characters live the ups and downs in an extreme way. As a director it's a wonderful challenge to balance all the play's elements and flavors, the lyricism, the bluntness, the hope, the fear, the tragedy and comedy of it all. Fortunately, this cast is so well attuned to those shifts and so determined to honor the lives of the men whose stories we've adapted. It really promises to be an incredibly special event. And, of course, the fact of the 100th anniversary gives it all an added resonance.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I will always make time to see anything directed by either Emma Rice (Artistic Director of Cornwall's Kneehigh Theatre) or John Tiffany.  I feel like they are both doing some of the most vital, brilliantly, boldly theatrical work that's happening right now.  I am especially inspired by Kneehigh's dedication to building work through an ensemble process while still maintaining a very strong central vision.  Anything that helps connect audiences to a transcendent, mythic sense of what it is to be a live is inspiring to me.  Those campfire stories -- plays and productions that have a real depth of imagery or mythology underpinning them.

Any plays you’re dying to direct?: In grad school I got to direct a new play by my friend and classmate Claire Kiechel called Some Dark Places of the Earth -- Claire's thesis play, actually.  It's a really incredible piece of work and one that I'm sure is destined to have a long and illustrious future life.  I would love another crack at directing that play on a larger scale.  There's also an old play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee (the writers of Inherit the Wind) called The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail that I think is due for a revival.  I'd love to direct that one of these days.  And Hamlet -- which I directed for my grad school thesis.  I feel like now that I've done it once I have such a stronger idea of how I want to do it next time around.  Just waiting for the right opportunity.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Probably "Gold" from Once.  Which I realize isn't really a showtune, per se.  But it's a song from a show that's been on Broadway (even if it was in a film first) and it's just absurdly good.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: In terms of writers, I'd love to work with Sarah Ruhl or Anne Washburn.  I actually spent a semester in Grad School working on a staged reading and in-class workshop of Anne Washburn's play The Communist Dracula Pageant, which is insane in all the most wonderful ways.  It would be such a privilege to work with her for real.  In terms of companies, there are just so many.  I love what Rattlestick and Rising Phoneix Rep do.  Their dedication to new plays is very exciting to me both as a director and as an audience member.  New York Theatre Workshop is something of a dream for me too, because so much of what I see there feels genuinely new and always surprising and theatrical.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I had to ask my wife about this one.  According to her it would be a joint bio-pic about me and my father -- who was a great teacher and raconteur -- called "The Storytellers" and I'd be played by -- and I remind you, this is verbatim from my wife -- "a young Colin Farrell with an American accent."  So there.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: For a few years every time Black Watch toured through New York I would tell everyone I know who cares at all about theater that they absolutely had to see it (There I go on my John Tiffany kick again).  I just saw Generations at SoHo Rep, which they're co-producing with the Play Company.  It's pretty late in the run, so there isn't a lot of time left for people to see it, but I'm definitely recommending it to a ton of people.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Most of the top 25 are sound effects and music samples sent to me by designers, including some of Mark Van Hare's great work for In Fields Where They Lay.  Aside from that, though, there's the song "Breathe" by Alexi Murdoch.  Somehow for me it's a song that works both as an energizer and a de-stresser, depending on my need at any given moment.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Popcorn -- way too much popcorn.  That's a boring answer, right?  But honestly, if I thought I could get away with it, I think I would make popcorn something like 40% of my diet.  Sometimes I'll go to the movies just to have an excuse to buy the popcorn.  I have this hand-cranked stovetop popcorn maker that is probably my favorite thing that I own.  If I thought I could get away with it, I think I would make popcorn something like 40% of my diet.  Sometimes I'll go to the movies just to have an excuse to buy the popcorn.  One of the best jobs I ever had was assistant directing on a show in which the lead character made microwave popcorn onstage.  It came in a fairly tech-heavy portion of the show and the timing of the popping was very important, so every day of tech we would make between 3 and 6 bags of microwave popcorn as we kept going over and fine-tuning that section.  I got very strategic about making sure the excess popcorn ended up near my tech table.  Working on that show was a wonderful experience for lots of reasons.  But the popcorn was definitely a major bonus.

What’s up next?: I'm heading up to New Haven in January to direct Edwin Sanchez' play Icarus with an organization called the Yale Dramat -- it's this student/professional hybrid theater company run by Yale undergrads.  I'm very excited for it -- it's a terrific play and I'm bringing half the In Fields Where They Lay design team along for the ride.  And the Dramat has all this wonderful history as an organization.  I'm told Cole Porter was a member.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spotlight On...Kelsey Kurz

Name: Kelsey Kurz

Hometown: Roselle Park, NJ

Education: Juilliard BFA Acting

Favorite Credits: Merchant of Venice (NYSF), Sons of the Prophet (Huntington), Rocky Horror (The Old Globe)

Why theater?: Because stories connect us.

Tell us about What We Know: An American Retelling of Chekhov’s Three Sisters?: What We Know is a glimpse at the different and often bittersweet struggles for identity in a world flooded with information and distraction.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: All stories interest me. The expanse of experience, imagination and expression has always been exciting to me. I tend to like theater that follows along the lines of Charlie Chaplin: make 'em laugh, then smack 'em with some truth.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
 I love working with people who have a good story and the fire to tell it well.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Josh Hutcherson and it would be called "Verisimilitude".

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I’ve recommended anything by Lesser America, and anything by the Fault Line Theatre .

What’s the most played son on your iTunes?: 
"Heart of Gold" by Neil Young

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: 
Peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwiches

If you weren’t working in theater, you’d be___________?:
 A farmer hermit woodman with a guitar

What’s up next?:
 I’ll be teaching yoga and auditioning for the foreseeable future.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Spotlight On...Jenny Rachel Weiner

Name: Jenny Rachel Weiner

Hometown: Coral Springs, FL: where New Yorkers go to retire, and their children follow suit.

Education: BFA in Theatre Arts Performance from Boston University and MFA in Playwriting from Fordham/Primary Stages.

Favorite Credits: diventare (KCACTF National Student Playwriting Award), The Selfish Giant, Grow Wise (Northlight Theatre), Nina (Fordham/Primary Stages), Jason&Julia (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Horse Girls (Fordham/Primary Stages, Ars Nova, Collaboraction, Annex Theatre), Aunt Sylvia Is Dead (The Collective), Summer on the High Seas (Ugly Rhino).

Why theater?: When I was five years old I played the Ugly Stepsister at the Lollipop Theatre in an abandoned mall, and I haven't really looked back since.

Tell us about Horse Girls: Horse Girls is a play about pre-teens: their obsessions, their insecurities, their desperate need to find a place in the world. This is the "official" blurb: Twelve-year-old Ashleigh rules the Lady Jean Ladies, South Florida's most exclusive horse club. Rumor that her family's stables are being sold and their horses killed for meat throws the Ladies into crisis in this dark comedy of middle school deception and lies.

What inspired you to write Horse Girls?: I have a total fascination with this time period. I think the experiences we have in middle school shape us in a major way, and the kind of intensity and seriousness in which pre-teens move through the world is both incredibly funny and painfully sad to me. The horse preteen culture is a great example of obsessiveness in young girls, and diving into that highly specific world allowed me to find the universality of the deeper, human issues we face, horse-obsessed or not, that live in the play. It really could be about anything; mine was always theatre. I was President of my Thespian troupe and my world revolved around that sub-culture. This play is an exploration of how far one might go to protect the thing they feel is keeping them the safest.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The theatre that speaks to me is theatre that makes me feel. A sharp, nuanced, honest, belly laugh kind of play with heart is my favorite to experience. I love plays that incorporate highly theatrical moments in a smart, surprising way. I am also a huge fan of work that distills deeply human moments, shining a light on their hidden parts, so that we as audience can see our deepest selves, our darkest selves, see the questions we want to ask the world, see the things in the world that make us angry, that make us feel excited, that call us into action.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to hive mind with Annie Baker, Lisa Kron, Sheila Callaghan, and Jill Soloway--some major lady heroes of mine. I would love to work with an ensemble based group like The Civilians or Elevator Repair Service. I think it would be fun to write a play for Heather Matarazzo (of Welcome To The Dollhouse, one of my greatest joys in life).

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I just saw Sarah Ruhl's The Oldest Boy and I ugly-cried through most of the play. I think it's absolutely stunning.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Gaby Hoffman or Carl Reiner and it would be called "MOM, I'M FINE!"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Thai Food. And Netflix TV Binge Watching. Usually at the same time.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: Right now it's “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift. Horse Girls has taken over my life.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: This is an ACTUAL quote from my middle school journal: "The thing I most want to be is a famous actress. If I don't become that, some of the other choices would be: a child psychiatrist, a speech pathologist, but my real dream is to become a famous actress and win an oscar and an emmy and all that good stuff!!!!!"

What’s up next?: I am currently working on a few different projects with a few different collaborators, all of which I'm incredibly excited about: a pilot, a web series, a take on Waiting for Godot, but instead of Godot, it's Sutton Foster, and an exploration of my time at theatre camp. I'm also an actor and director with The Story Pirates--check us out at storypirates.org!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spotlight On...Dan Kitrosser

Name: Dan Kitrosser

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Education: MFA - New School for Drama in playwriting, BA - NYU

Favorite Credits: Tar Baby (Off-Bway w/Desiree Burch), The Mumblings (Fringe 2013)

Why theater?: There are few places I actually feel completely at home.  An old room, with a bunch of chairs, where a bunch of stories have been told, usually to and by a bunch of gays and jews, why, that to me is home.

Tell us about Dead Special Crabs: It's a road trip screwball comedy. Loomer has to drive the wedding present tan corolla from Maine to Florida to his sister's wedding because his Aunt Missy has CFC (Chronic Foot Condition).  Along the way, he meets emo poets, joins a cult, loses the car and gets in a heap of trouble, all while a serial killer is running up and down I-95.  I like to think of it as the most important play ever written.

What inspired you to write Dead Special Crabs?: I love comedy.  I think it's incredibly difficult to do successfully and a room full of people laughing is a room I want to be in.  I also love road trips and how in theatre, you can go anywhere.  Mashing those two together has been tremendous fun.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: A good story.  It doesn't matter if it's Shakespeare or Miller or Lisa Kron, watching characters with big desires have to wrestle others and themselves till the core of their humanity is exposed, that's the kind of theatre I adore.  I am also always entranced by people who break apart stories, show us the strings and then play them like a violin.  Theatre is fake, but I love fake things (at least half of my breasts are), and I get inspired by theatre that embraces its theatricality and lets every one play pretend.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Amy Sedaris.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I just saw CSC's Allegro.  It is very much a noble and enjoyable failure by Rogers and Hammerstein.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Gene Wilder in "Jumpin' Jehosephat!"

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Herr's Sour Cream and Onion potato chips on french bread.  Really folks, it's kind of amazing.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Cabaret", as sung by Liza Minello

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I always thought I'd be good at taxidermy, but maybe that's just the narcissism talking.

What’s up next?: My play Third Person is being workshopped in Terra Nova Collective's Groundbreakers Series and my screen adaption of Justin Torres' novel "We the Animals" will be shot in the summer, directed by my co-writer Jeremiah Zagar.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: An Odets Reawakening

The struggle to make ends meet and survive in any economic crisis is sadly a universal theme of the past, present, and future. What gets us through the hardship is the real story. In Clifford Odets classic Awake and Sing, the Berger family attempts to live together in harmony while barely making ends meet. The play is a staple in the classic American play canon, so reviving it takes great care. In NuAnce Theatre's immersive production, the Berger household is literally recreated allowing you to be a fly on the wall as Berger and friends attempt to maintain life.
What makes this production of Awake and Sing special is the atmosphere. Though not a site-specific production, this version transports the Berger apartment and drops it right into the black box studio. With a concept by John DeSotelle and scenic designer Brian McManimon, the tenement-style apartment that the Bergers may have actually lived in is recreated, skeleton walls and all, with the audience sitting all around it. The spirit of the time and class was present in grand fashion. Attention to detail was paid which is appreciated. On stage, the set truly captured the definitive no-escape feeling of Odets’ play. With so many bodies with very few places to be alone, the scenic concept worked wonders. The voyeuristic idea also allowed the audience to find new discoveries within the script, something a generic production may not allow you to do. With an extremely ambitious scenic design, let's be real, you may not be able to see everything from your vantage point. Having to poke your head around corners is not necessarily ideal for an audience, especially in a three-act play. The nuances in the various rooms may have been lost in certain seating sections. Perhaps if the set was pushed to the far wall and the audience was set up more in a proscenium or two sided setting, all would not be lost.
With the set being a newfound character, the ensemble had a new set of challenges to physically overcome. As a whole, each actor seemed to tap into a singular emotion of their respective character and play that the whole way through. Margo Singaliese as Bessie brought an always overwhelmed and overworked victim to the matriarch. Michael Citriniti as Myron played up the lackadaisical elements of the father. Spencer Carter as Ralph offered a very youthful performance, seemingly heightened and whiney at all times. Charles Dinstuhl as Jacob filled the room with wisdom. Bobby Kruger as tenant Moe Axelrod seemed to evoke an element of defeat within Moe at the start with the subtext of “I told you so” that translated into great strength by Act III.
Director John DeSotelle took great care and time into developing his concept for the play. While this was significantly important, it fell a bit short in his staging. As inevitable with a three-quarter set up, some audience members may lose action dependent on their placement in the theater. Despite knowing the script, there were some key moments that were completely lost due to actor blocking. While DeSotelle did do his best in minimizing this, it inevitably happened. Costume designer Jude Hinojosa blended the classic period into the costumes quite well. With the nice light versus shadow design by lighting designer Brian McManimon, the atmosphere of the time was present. Sound designer Annie R. Such created a wonderful musical and ambiance soundscape but it was quite difficult to establish the difference between door buzzer and phone ring.
For a small revival, NuAnce Theatre’s Awake and Sing was quite grand. There were flaws but overall it was a strong revival. John DeSotelle’s vision was clear and perhaps with a little more work on the acting side, this production could be something special.