Monday, April 23, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 58- RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10 RuCap Episode 5

Bijoux and I are here to break down everything that happened on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10, episode 5!

To listen to the episode, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And leave us a review while you're there!

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: A Classically Fun Story of Doing the Right Thing

By Ed Malin

Spicy Witch Productions (Rebecca Weiss, Artistic Director), a feminist theater company, is presenting a new translation of a classic play (Life Is A Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, translated by Shawn Morgenlander) and a new play on similar themes (Merrily Merrily by Iris Dauterman)
I had the pleasure of seeing Life Is A Dream, the 17th Century Spanish play joyously brought to life by director Anaïs Koivisto. How to make this play "feminist"?  For starters, there is already a young woman disguised as a man. This production changes a King into a Queen and casts a woman as the charming jester, makes the tale of violent jockeying for power even funnier, and vive la difference.  Rosaura (Isabelle Russo) is headed towards a castle in Poland, stoked to right an unspecified wrong, when she meets the whimsical Clarion (Dani Martineck). Together they stumble upon a castle in the depths of whose dungeon wails the enchained Sigmund (Stephen Zuccaro). Why is he there, the newcomers ask. Because I was born, says he. That's actually close to the truth, as Queen Clorilene (Dominique Jeanmarie) recounts: Sigmund is heir to the throne of Poland but a prophecy predicts he will be a royal pain in the ass, should be ever be crowned. Yet, after seeing the squabble between Estella (Katie Rose Krueger) and Astolfo (Patrick Chang), next-in-line noble cousins who consider getting married so they can reign together, the Queen decides it's worth taking Sigmund out of the bullpen. If he is a shoddy monarch, they will give him the royal flush, put him back in the basement, and tell him he imagined it all. Thus is the title elucidated. Except, from a sight of Rosaura's rapier, Sigmund's jailer Clotaldo (Nick Bombicino) deduces Rosaura's secret identity and the part he will play in her future.
The plot doesn't really need to be complicated, and, like a Spicy Witch getting hold of a Calderón, it comes off quite enchanting.  Like Sigmund himself, it quickly becomes a no-brainer that the vicious young man must needs be incarcerated. Within a minute of his elevation, he throws a servant out the window (distant shrieks and thuds relay this to the audience).  Yet, going back to no-brainers, the Slavic peasants decide (years before Dostoyevsky) that their idiot should be in charge. The Queen takes arms against a sea of peasants and by opposing them nearly ends herself. And yet, through some mysterious revelations, the parties come to an accord and happiness and a new Golden Age (Spain was in need of one at that point) are proclaimed. The only character to die is handsome jester Clarion, perhaps as a quick note of thanks to Shakespeare.
Spicy Witch took the ultimate play about free will and made it fresh and delightful.  Shawn Morgenlander's translation is edgy, full of life, in iambic pentameter and full color.  On Caitlyn Barrett's colorful set wherein Spain imagined the luxuries of medieval Poland, in the round, the action proceeds at a brisk clip for 90 minutes.  Under Anaïs Koivisto's direction, the stakes are always high and human nature is put under the microscope.  Swashbuckling Isabelle Russo as Rosauro and Dani Martineck as sarcastic Clarion make an adrenaline-fueled team.  Stephen Zuccaro makes the imprisoned Sigmund's rages quite believable and sympathetic.  Veronique Jeanmarie gives Queen Clorilene the effortlessly haughty royal unconcern which Calderón seems to have opposed.  Patrick Chang's scheming Astolfo and Katie Rose Krueger's poetic Estella are adept at finding opportunity in a world of shifting allegiances. Nick Bombicino plays Clotaldo as a man of honor who won't stop until he has made amends for his past.   Noelle Quanci's costumes are radiant and also easy to fight and run in. Yi-Chung Chen's lighting design helps with the central themes about dreams.  Scene changes are marked by the orbit of a mini earth around a glowing sun. Hats and diadems off to Cristina Ramos for her energized fight choreography.

Spotlight On...Eric Sirota

Name:  Eric Sirota

Hometown:  Brooklyn, New York; Living in Flemington, NJ for the past 32 years.

Education:  Stuyvesant High School, NYC (Frank McCourt was my homeroom teacher throughout high school);  Brown University ScB '80; Harvard University; PhD (Physics) 1986.

Favorite Credits:  Frankenstein (currently playing Off-Broadway at St. Luke's Theatre).  Your Name on My Lips, showcase production at Theater for the New City (March 2017).

Why theater?: I definitely came to theatre first from the music side, having studied composition.  I wanted to take people on emotional journeys, and I know I could do that with the music.  But there are also stories I wanted to tell.  Music can stir the soul and is a universal language.  But when you find the words that join the music as equal partners, and in service to the story, propelling it forward in both plot and emotional arc, nothing is more creatively fulfilling.   I just had to learn how to do that - which took me a few decades.

Tell us about Frankenstein: For many of your readers whose knowledge of Frankenstein might be the Boris Karloff movie, or more likely the Mel Brooks parody of it, let me first say that this is not that.  No flat head.  No bolts.  And no Igor! This Frankenstein is a sweeping romantic musical based on Mary Shelley's novel, which happens to be celebrating the bicentennial of its publication this year. This work attempts to honor that source material, while adapting it into a compelling work of musical theatre. The plot:  Having lost his mother at a young age, Victor Frankenstein seeks to end human mortality and arrogantly enters territory beyond his control. While he enjoys unconditional love from Elizabeth, he grants none to his creation.  Some people have used the Frankenstein story to stoke fear of science and technology.  But Frankenstein's Creature was not a piece of technology, rather, a living being, and the musical I wrote is about the human need for love and companionship.

What inspired you to write Frankenstein?: During winter break of my first year in grad school in 1981, my mother took me to a preview of the infamously short-lived Broadway production of the Gialanella play, based on Mary Shelley's novel.  I thought, "Why AREN'T they singing?!"  I re-read the book and heard the story sing in my head as a musical.  Like Victor Frankenstein, I was a scientist working towards my degree, far from home and far from the girl I loved, and the story spoke to me both intellectually and emotionally. 

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: For me, it is mostly material driven emotionally and intended to elicit an emotional response, more so than an intellectual one: thus, my interest in musicals rather than plays.  Through my school years, I had a Beethoven poster on my wall, where I had appended to his famous quote "Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman. . . And visa versa." After seeing Massenet's Werther as a 12 year old, I developed a love for opera, even in languages I did not understand.  It was Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar which inspired me and taught me that such an emotional musically-driven score could live in the contemporary world of musical theater.  Later, I became equally inspired by Stephen Sondheim, his work and his discussions of the importance of the lyrics.  On developing the "book" for a musical theatre piece, my inspiration came from Stephen Schwartz and his co-panelists at the ASCAP musical theatre workshops.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: As far as in creating the work, a lyricist/co-bookwriter on a new project.  Book, music and lyrics myself is overwhelming!  I will have to find the right collaborator and the right project.  As far as performers, I would like to work with the actor Rodney Ingram (currently in Phantom). But I'm not sure if it counts, since he was in a 15-minute workshop presentation at the West Village Musical Theatre Festival when he was a student. But in terms of developing my next project in the works, his favorite quote (according to Facebook) happens to be the basis of that musical.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Band's Visit;  The Book of Mormon.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  "Arts and Sciences" or "The Hopeless Romantic".  I'd be played by Omar Sharif, from the past.  I had a mustache my first year of college, and my classmates said I looked like him; and for the next 4 years, I answered to the name 'Omar'.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:   The original Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar; and Hamilton, early on when you could get tickets.

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: A rich creamy pasta with salmon.

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: If I wasn't working in theatre, I would be a scientist.  But even though I am working in theatre, I am also a scientist.   Specifically a condensed matter physicist, studying the properties of soft materials such as waxes and polymers.  I am very fortunate that my "day job" is something that I am equally passionate about.  Even though my research is highly cited, I think more people have seen my theatre work than have actually read my specialized papers.

What's up next?: Staged reading of Go, My Child, a new musical about the untold story of biblical Sarah, Abraham and their parents: Infertility, xenophobia and the search for truth.  (My daughter, Julia London Sirota is my co-bookwriter/co-lyricist on this.) Starting a new musical based on a specific novel, if we can get the rights.   Expanding A Day at the Whitehouse, (book and lyrics by Vin Morreale, music by me) into a full length musical.  We did a 15-minute workshop version in the West Village Musical Theatre Festival in 2012.   The story, according to Matt Mitchell's interview with you last year (Block Talk- Episode 11) "predicted Donald Trump."

Review: The Art of Being Kind

By Ed Malin

Retro Productions has commissioned a new play about the 1980s from playwright Gina Femia. We Are A Masterpiece, directed by DeLisa M. White, indeed follows Retro's mission of bringing us back in time to retell neglected stories, in this case the effect on a small Midwestern city of the very start of the AIDS epidemic.
Joan (Heather Cunningham) is a nurse in Kalamazoo, Michigan, place of contrasts. While the city is culturally significant as home to a college and Bell's Brewery and many contemporary artists, the artists we meet, who are gay, have been disowned by their families. Traditional beliefs abound, and are taught to the young by Father Jerome (Matthew Trumbull), who happens to be Joan's older brother.  Joan lives with her teenage daughter Annie (Pilar Gonzalez); it took Joan some time to stop listening to those who wanted her to stay with her abusive ex-husband.  Joan and her nurse friend Shelly (Sarah Thigpen) have seen it all, until growing number of young gay men, such as Greg (Sam Heldt) get sick with pneumonia and other autoimmune issues. Greg's health rapidly deteriorates, and his partner John (Ben Schnickel) gets to know Joan in the hospital.  One night, Joan takes the unorthodox step of burying her deceased dog in her yard, when Annie confronts her about her compassionate attitude towards the gay men in her care. Many people, including other nurses like Shelly, are afraid that the new illness (soon to be named AIDS) is airborne and contagious. Joan, who has put her life back on track without help from "normal", "good" people, knows that there is no scientific evidence for discriminating against those suffer from AIDS.  Soon enough, Joan is seen burying the cremated remains of AIDS victims in her backyard.
photo by Ric Sechrest
The question of how to live an ethical life dovetails with the question of what makes good art. When the gentle hospital janitor, Tom, asks why some paintings are in museums, local art collector Ryan (Chad Anthony Miller) can only answer that there are no rules. John, who feared he got AIDS from his partner, is soon hospitalized. Joan invites John to come live with her. Joan's radical human kindness has townsfolk shunning her, but also attracts the good-hearted Tom.  Though sick, John tells Joan of his dream of going to New York to be an artist.  The play joyfully alludes to a quote from the Biblical Epistle to the Ephesians: "We are God 's Masterpiece", and perhaps asks us in the audience in 2018 if we have yet learned to treat each other with compassion.
Those who remember the 1980s in general and the preventable spread of AIDS in particular may be worried about those who don't.   Thank goodness for this play.  All aspects of this play will induce a sense of wonder.  Vivienne Galloway's costumes range from down-to-earth nurses to one rainbow priest priest; Galloway also did the makeup for the lesions that cover the many AIDS patients.  This brings me to DeLisa M. White's direction as another great force for revealing our common humanity.  I will never forget a scene in which John stops painting on a canvas to paint around the lesions on Greg's arm, and Greg takes up another brush and paints John's arm.   Rebecca Cunningham's very open sets include the art galleries we cannot see and the spaces where so many loved ones are buried.  All is subtly illuminated by the soft white and red tones of Asa Lipton's lighting.  There is great power in Heather Cunningham as Joan's rejection of the rules that never worked for her, just as there is great warmth in Ric Sechrest's Tom bringing a dying man a self-help book.  If some of these characters are inspired by real people, let's think of individuals we may have known who died of AIDS.  Who could have been saved if the government had treated the infected as people?  When will the cure for AIDS be available?  (See @rftca for some inspiring updates on this.)  In a world where ignorant politicians encourage hate groups, Gina Femia's writing gives us a great opportunity to see the world in a more cooperative light.  You might say that this is a universal story which all kinds of audiences could apply to a variety of situations.

Spotlight On...Toby Singer

Name: Toby Singer

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI (currently living in Brooklyn, NY)

Education: University of Michigan (degree in Music Theory from the School of Music)

Favorite Credits: Besides Wicked Frozen, co-writing with Jared Saltiel slasher musical at a summer music festival South By South Death, and writing the music for a trio of musical with Doppelskope, entitled Gruff, Grimm, and Growl.

Why theater?: As a composer, it's the place I've finally found that supports my particular melodic and harmonic vision, while allowing me the flexibility to tell stories through sound, in a way that I couldn't quite do playing in indie rock bands, or in my own singer/songwriter records. In other words, I can write a 90s-esque Weezer song for a show, and then flip into a jaunty big band romp, and then jump to some strange dance piece, without as much as flinching.

Tell us about Wicked Frozen: Wicked Frozen is a mash up of Wicked and Frozen, as told through the eyes of a young girl going through some troubled waters. It's zany and heartfelt, absurd and dark, and really gets at the heart of the universal human need of acceptance and friendship. Musically, it's a mix of genre homages to songs in Wicked and Frozen (for instance, Don't Hold On, and Chenoweth-inspired Social Success) and original stuff that runs the gamut from a comedic, jazzy ode to a favorite big box store, to a bizarre, whole-tone inflected deconstruction of...building a snowman.

What inspired you to write Wicked Frozen?: Zoe and I were discussing writing a show for the West Village Musical Theatre Festival, and this was right after "Let It Go" won best song at the Oscars. And we got to thinking about the parallels between Wicked and Frozen, and the fact at that time we had seen neither source materials--thus logically, it made complete sense for us to try and write a mash-up of the two. Only much, much later did we actually see Wicked or watch Frozen!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I'm always most inspired by musical theater that engages me in an honest way, song-wise. I don't often love songs that feel like dialogue-set-to-underscoring--I really am a bit of a throwback in appreciating songs that really rely on songcraft FIRST, commanding the words to first be elements of a song. In specific, I've been a huge fan of Dave Malloy's work--seeing Great Comet finally on Broadway this past summer was life changing. To hear compositional elements in a big commercial show, that reflect your approach to songwriting and theatre writing was inspiring to say the least.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: I'd like to work with people that are inspired by art that spans the chasm between light and dark. To say in less melodramatic terms, I want to work with artists that understand that the best art is art that spans the whole of human emotional experience.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: As I mentioned earlier, I was really into Great Comet, and totally bummed when it closed. I continue to tell people about it, even now.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Hah, I'm not sure who would play me (pick some awkward Jewish guy, there's a few) but it certainly be called Toby Singer and the Storm. My love of meteorology runs deep. And you don't write music the way I approach music without having to work through a few storms, yourself.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I mean, considering I still haven't been able to see Hamilton, I'd settle for just going back to when it was at the Public, and having the foreknowledge to buy a ticket...

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don't know if its a guilty pleasure exactly, but I'm a monstrous sports fan, particularly of Michigan college sports, and Detroit pro teams.

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: a cantor. I mean, yeah. I married a rabbi, so it wouldn't exactly be a wild digression.

What's up next?: My musical Gruff is being produced at the Long Island Children's Museum this spring, and I'm anticipating readings and workshops for several other shows in development.

For more on Toby, visit For more on Wicked Frozen, visit

Review :Amazing Freedom Fighters of Amsterdam

By Ed Malin

Barbara Kahn's new historical play Verzet Amsterdam is running through April 22nd at Theater for the New City.  Roberto Gonzales Jr. and Barbara Kahn direct this exciting tale of ordinary people acting heroically. The title means "Resistance Amsterdam" and refers to a discreet group of anti-Fascists, some part-Jewish, some homosexual, some Communist, who did their best to help others and delay Nazi oppression circa 1943. Getting to see this show on Holocaust Remembrance Day only made it more poignant.
We are watching Frieda Belinfante (Steph Van Vlack),  a renowned cellist and proud lesbian,  forge identity cards.  She does this as much as she can, day and night, to give a chance to escape to Jews and other victims of the invading German racists and their Dutch police collaborators.  (The Belinfante family were of Jewish extraction; they extracted themselves from Portugal at the height of the Catholic oppression of the Jews and came to tolerant, Protestant Amsterdam.)   Following a secret knock, Frieda opens the door for her friend, artist and author Willi Arondeus (Robert Gonzales, Jr.) and for their associates, museum curator Willem Sandberg (Jared Johnston), composer Jan van Gilse (Steve Barkman) and Afro-Dutch Communist organizer Anton de Kom (Carl Ellis Grant).  The brave resistance fighters are afraid of betrayal and reluctant to let new people into their circle, so tonight will test their resolve.  Not only is sculptor Gerrit van der Veen (Christopher Lowe) invited to the meeting, but Frieda finds herself forging papers for a young, beautiful Jewess named Lina (Anya Krawcheck) who remembers being enchanted by Frieda's concerts.  Music written by Jan van Gilse features in the show.
photo by Joe Bly
Since early 1942, the Dutch police have been helping to enforce the second-class status of Jews.  Jews must wear a yellow star, may not take public transportation, cannot drive cars, can only shop at certain hours, must obey a curfew, etc.  Willi Arondeus, a defiant homosexual, is seen seducing a police officer (Paolo Solis) and, while they consume a choice bottle of wine that once belonged to a Jew, Willi discovers that the police will soon crack down on refugees with forged identity cards.  Amsterdam created a population registry just a few years before the Nazi invasion, and a thorough search of this registry will soon reveal who is living with fake papers.
The ring of resistance fighters each have their own reasons for risking their lives.  Anton de Kom, whose family is from the then-Dutch colony of Suriname, has lived through racial discrimination.  Lina stayed in Amsterdam to care for her sick grandmother, who has unfortunately passed away.  Lina wants to rejoin her family in London, but she is also romantically drawn to Frieda.  Frieda initially dismisses Lina's advances as compensating for the loneliness and horrors of war.  Lina answers with some of the most beautiful moments in the play. Is it worth living in hiding when there is a chance of helping others?  Those of the group who are able set out to bomb the Amsterdam registry.  This true story terrifying comes to life onstage.  Who among the main characters will survive?  Who will tell their stories?
If you've seen Barbara Kahn's work, you most certainly have learned something about the past and had fun doing so.  Gonzales and Kahn take a lot of risks with their direction, and the result is an engrossing show. The cast of Verzet Amsterdam features several "repeat offenders" who are very skilled at asking the important questions.  Right now, would you blow up a building to help innocent people from being deported?  It's startling that our country has to reckon with public displays of fascism, so I take inspiration from these characters.  The University of Suriname has been renamed in honor of Anton de Kom; Carl Ellis Grant gives an earnest performance that may show you why Communists took great risks to fight back. Robert Gonzales, Jr. is flamboyantly unforgettable as Willi Arondeus, and though I hadn't heard of him I am thrilled to hear he told his captors "Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards." Steph Van Vlack is a tough, vivacious Frieda.  When her resolve is pushed to the limit, it is joyous to see her dance to the popular 1932 song "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" with the lovely Anya Krawcheck as Lina. The more that Willi and Frieda assert their LGBT identities, the freer they feel.  They even laughingly tell each other "oh what a splendid couple we would have made, I weren't a homosexual and you weren't a lesbian." I'm sure anyone can take a few pointers from these people who lived their best lives under such adversity.  Marc Marcante's set is big enough to allow for multiple locations; all show us the privations of war and the great joys of working together.  The lighting, also designed by Marc Marcante, often made me feel like I was in hiding, facing overwhelming odds.  Everett Clark's costumes help emphasize the dignity of these characters; there are a lot of nice bowties.  Joy Linscheid's sound design definitely enhances the play.  Like the Gestapo, I was not prepared to hear that explosion.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 57- Blake Zolfo

He's here! The amazing Blake Zolfo joined me for an incredible episode of Block Talk where we talk about his incredible journey from midwest kid to big city dreamer!

To listen to the episode, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And make sure to subscribe and leave a 5 star review!

And check out to learn how you can help the podcast grow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 56- RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10 RuCap Episode 4

Allura Borealis and I break down the Last Ball on Earth, the latest episode of RuPaul's Drag Race!

To listen, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And leave us a 5 star review!

Plus, check out our Patreon at and become a patron today!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 55- FiFi DuBois

In this episode of Block Talk, I sit down with NYC drag staple and pageant queen FiFi DuBois!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud. And leave us a five star review while you're there!

And visit to become a patron of the website today!

Review: OurBar is Probably the Best Thing You Can Do In a Bar

By Ed Malin

OurBar is a monthly scripted comedy series which has been performing at bars in Manhattan since 2009.  I went to the April edition at Failte Irish Whiskey Bar, along with dozens of devotees. The theme was "Bare".  It was a constant stream of funny, interrelated scenes which touch on many unique current events, such as March Madness and Philadelphia Eagles super-fans.  Now, imagine you are holding a drink and follow me.
In Grizzly Snooze by Josh Black, Mia (Maria Maloney) thinks she has finally found a stable boyfriend in Dylan (Brian Henderson). Why does Dylan prefer hibernation naps to regular sleep? Why does he eat blueberries? Is true love enough for Mia to adjust to living with a bear?
In Tough Tattoo by Bimini Lee Wright, Alex (Chris Behan) and Tony (Brendan Butz) push the limits of the fierce animal tattoo. Unicorns and butterflies have their followers, but the cute mongoose can defeat the venomous cobra.
In Firewall of Love by Louis Gaudio, Fitzy (Lindsey Ashlen) and Gertrude (Alicia Dawn Bullen) are talking about how to retain a connection with an ex-boyfriend. One way is to keep logging in with his Netflix password, watching the same shows after he does, until he discovers the violation and changes his password.
The centerpiece of this show is March Hookup Madness by Joe Jung, Andrew McCleod, Karen Bray and Lauren Roth-Shaw. In four such sketches peppered throughout the performance, sportscasters give us some insight into this joyful part of human mating season. Is Eagles fandom attractive anywhere outside Philly? Is there any worse insult than being told your genitals are as deflated as one of Tom Brady's footballs?  Sad but true: a dad-friendly bar (full of people showing each other pictures of their young children) can be alienating. How can you talk to a man-hating man? In a world of crazy sloshed people, can you blame a cute bartender for waiting for her semi-mythical Tinder swipe, "Ethan", to show up?
photo by Lloyd Mulvey
Purell Doesn't Work by Lauren Schaeffer gives Nate (Benjamin Bunce) the chance to really listen to his girlfriend Meg's (Bimini Lee Wright) fears, hopes and dreams. She spends a lot of her time cleaning her hands, taking off her clothes, putting her purse in the fridge, insisting that we don't know there aren't bedbugs everywhere… Is there a way to love an O.C.D. person?  This sketch at least shows there is a method to the madness.
All Your Friends Are Terrible People by Peter Turo is a delightful intervention that could save friendships. April (Justine Salata) and Katie (Lauren Schaefer) meet on a regular basis to insult each other and express thoughts not always welcome in the workplace. For example: no one cares who cute to think your kids are, no one likes your PowerPoint presentations. Jen the Bartender (Jennifer Logue) rates the session as a success.
Amid the emotionally-vulnerable comedy is a nice piece of drama: Flashback by Adam Carpenter. Pete (Paulie Myers) expects his friend Demos (Mark Koenig) to be nervous on this night of a blind date. Even more oddly, Demos asks what year it is and is surprised that he has hair. Demos claims to have traveled back in time ten years. His date tonight, Kellyn (Justine Salata) is someone he loved enough to marry and was worth the concomitant hassles of moving to Westchester County and having a adorable son, Micah, now age 5.  Did Demos just die in a train accident somewhere near fatal Westchester? Are his tales from the future going to drive away his mate? Aren't the things we've done worth doing again?
And now for something completely egalitarian. Balls In Your Court by David Lanson allows John (Louis Gaudio), Gustave (Brendan Butz) and Sigmund (Casey Blake) to publicly discuss the many tactics for scratching itchy pubes. There is in fact a society for this, which has designated hundreds of official moves such as "the rake" and "the Louisiana filibuster". Deana (KL Thomas) overhears the men and reminds them that women have always known the ways to relieve their pubic itches. She cites "pancakes not waffles" among the obvious realignment solutions.  The rest of the bar chimes in. I guess man is smart but woman's smarter.
Chris-Crossed by Matt Haws lets a group of macho men explore a topic which women discuss 24/7, namely who is the cutest movie Chris? There is a lot of support for Chris Hemsworth (he who is Thor), some nerd love for Chris Evans (he who is synonymous with Captain America), some fanatical insistence that Chris Pine (latter day Captain Kirk) is the Chris, and some write-in votes for rapper Ludacris and others. We hear from Jack (Chris Behan), Bobby (Adam Carpenter), Scott (Matt Haws), Hank (David Lanson), Karl (Paulie Myers), Paula (Lindsey Ashlen) and Sally (KL Thomas).
OurBar is really funny.  OurBar shows no signs of slowing down. I came to the second show of the evening, which was quite well attended. I'm sure the audience's energy helped the ensemble, who had already performed these timely scenes a little while before. It is a time when some people don't have time to laugh at life, but the work of this committed group may be true best medicine.

Spotlight On...Zoe Farmingdale

Name: Zoe Farmingdale

Hometown:  St. Louis, MO

Education: Yes I have lots of this

Favorite Credits: As an actor: wow-I have loved so many of the shows I've been in.  A few notable ones: Christina in Red Light Winter; Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Nora in Coffee and Biscuit, a retelling of A Doll's House where all of my acting partners were puppets; a beautiful Viewpoints-y show I did in college called The Loveliest and Saddest Landscape where I played the wife of the author of "The Little Prince"; and Tzeitel in Fiddler in high school, which was a magical time for all of us involved.  Any show I get to do that I've been gunning for for years: Cabaret, Spelling Bee, The Importance of Being Earnest.  Also other ones!!  V v bad at narrowing it down.

Why theater?: You get the immediate feedback of laughter.  You get to cry in front of people.  Or you can go up and look them in the eyes and whisper in their ears, if you're in the right show.  Because of how it has always made me feel when I see an incredible show-delighted, awestruck, gutted.  I can't get away, really.  I love theatre even when sometimes it doesn't love me back.  It's a little cheesy but perhaps it's a language, like music or movement, and I learned to speak it very young and I just keep communicating through it both intentionally and accidentally.  And because when it's done right, you get a new family every show, which sometimes only lasts until closing but when you're lucky it lasts forever.

Tell us about Wicked Frozen: It's an absurd ridiculous parody mash-up of Wicked and Frozen, with many over-the-top satirical characters who do and say insane things.  But it's also the story of a girl who isn't able to be like everyone else, for better or worse, and whose existing fears are compounded when she is faced with a new obstacle.  We also follow a young woman, the girl's teacher, who is trying to make the best of a bad situation, but like all of us, doesn't always know exactly what to say or do.   Also there is stuff about Climate Change.

What inspired you to write Wicked Frozen?: Toby and I were brainstorming what kind of 15-minute musical to write for the West Village Musical Theatre Festival and our conversation progressed like this: "Let It Go" just won an Oscar à Idina Menzelà Check out her voice in "Defying Gravity" Oh funny, both of those things have I.M. and another female lead who is a blonde named Kristi(e)n What if we combined them?  But I haven't seen either one  Me neither! Let's do it anyway And call it "Wicked Frozen", like we're in Boston=DONE.  We thought it was a pretty stupid idea, so of course we made it, and it turned out really bonkers.  "Wow this is REALLY stupid" is basically how Toby and I know we're on the right track-usually because we can't stop laughing.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Beautiful, simple, sad, real.  Bittersweet.  I love things that are honest, because we are fed a lot of "happily ever after" and that makes you feel really lonely when it's not what you end up living.  The most recent example I saw is Indecent.  I saw Cock at the Duke, cried my way through it, and went back again. Humans are a MESS!!!  I guess a lot of my inspiration as an artist (as I twirl my mustache and puff on my cigar) comes from the need to escape the whatever-everyone-else-is-doing that I can't get into (Michael Jackson, Cilantro, Game of Thrones), or to validate my own little tiny existence and prove how intelligent, perceptive, beautiful, and hilarious I really am.  Super inspired by adult women who don't take sh*t and are funny and smart and keep doing what they're doing in the face of negativity or rejection, because they are all that gives me actual hope that I won't be taken out with the trash once my hair is gray.   Laurie Metcalfe in A Doll's House Part 2 like YAAAAASSSSSS.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: I geek out over Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  So… I mean if Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell want to give me a call, I won't be mad about it.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: GO SEE LOCAL THEATRE! Support local and indie theatre.  Doesn't matter what show, it matters that there are great actors and show-makers all over the country who don't want to or cannot live in NYC or LA or Chicago, or didn't get to THE BROADWAY for a number of reasons, but who are AMAZINGGGGG and worthy of your love and attention… and financial support in the form of ticket sales.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Obviously I would play me.  Or like seventeen different non-famous people of all different ethnicities and heights and ages and gender identities and socio-economic background etc etc.  We can't pick a title til I'm dead so title TBD.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  As soon as I read it I immediately regretted not seeing August: Osage County.

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: Does idling in my car looking at my phone count?

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: Working in music or dance so basically just as bad.  Or maybe I would be a Meteorologist. Or a lawyer, but an alcoholic lawyer because I would end up being good at it but that sh*t would kill me.  Or if there is a job that is learn to speak languages I would do that.

What's up next?:  I go back to LA and am finally going to work on finishing a lot of half-baked things (right Zoe? Right?).  I have two half-written plays that have been on the shelf-one about depression and one about people who are not good at dancing.  I have like FIFTY partially recorded songs that I have been too shy to release, but it's time to open those soul-baring floodgates and eventually play live with other people (which some people call "starting a band"). My comedy duo with Bethany Nicole Taylor, "Catmagic" (@wearecatmagic), has shot multiple unfinished videos, so that's on the docket.  I am also gonna dive back into sketch and character comedy, live or video, hopefully both.  After that, I will become very very rich and famous and you can come to my pet-cute-animals party. [If you're reading this a while after it comes out, please send me a message to make sure I'm not just dressing up in different outfits and checking Instagram.]

For more on Zoe, visit and follow her on Instagram at @thezoeshow

Review: Exciting Cabaret With A Who's Who Of Famous Lesbians

By Ed Malin

Phoebe Legere, powerhouse musical theater performer, is back with a charming new show called Speed Queen. Lissa Moira directs and lights this energetic, boogie-woogie piano and accordion-filled true story about the dapper, butch, 20th Century boat racing woman professionally known as Joe Carstairs.
During World War I, the sixteen year-old Marion Barbara Carstairs (she dislikes this name) is an ambulance driver. She develops a taste for going fast, prefers to be called Joe, and after the war heads to "Gay Paree". There, he meets and falls in love with Dolly Wilde, niece of legendary author Oscar Wilde, who was jailed for homosexual behavior.  Dolly's gender expression tends the other way from Oscar's; she is very assertive and masculine.  Next, Joe heads to London, a place where, seeing as many young men were recently killed in battle, young women are cross-dressing in dinner jackets and going to cocktail parties.  Natalie Barney hosts a salon, in which she sings the " Hymn to Aphrodite" by Sappho. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love.  The poet Sappho is known for running a school for women on the island of Lesbos; more on that later. Radclyffe Hall, lesbian literary icon, is another of Joe's lovers. Legere portrays most of these characters, who surely deserve a greater mention in history. First, Joe runs an upscale chauffeur business in which he only employs female drivers.   Joe receives a Steiff doll named Lord Tod Wadley from his wildly partying girlfriend, Ruth Baldwin. Tod Wadley will remain with Joe for life. He gets a privileged perch inside the piano during the show. Joe also meets and dates the outlandish actress Tallulah Bankhead, who is as out lesbian as one could be in the 1920s. Tallulah, putting her foot on the piano keys, provides us with a "footnote": " Imitation is the sincerest form of flatterty that medicrity can pay to greatness." This quote comes from Oscar Wilde, and is used apropos of the women's fashion trends Tallulah has started. Tallulah explains much better (and hates on Bette Davis) as she sings us "Bitch Stole My Look".  In the world of entertainment, we now have "imitainment".
Joe, however, creates his own style.  Joe is the child of wealthy people who struggled with addiction (song: "Mummy Was a Junkie").  Upon his mother's death in 1925, now able to afford whatever he wants, Joe is a prominent speedboat racer.  The captain's hat and jacket Joe has been wearing and which endear him to so many ladies look amazing when he gets into his boat.  Onstage, a gorgeous wooden speedboat called the Estelle (boat design by Lytza Colon) is suspended from ropes (rigging by Janet Clancy) and triumphantly driven to victory.  Oddly enough, the sexist male judges rob Joe of victory (throwing the name " Betty" around as an added insult).  Joe is moved to buy an island in the Bahamas called Whale Cay and turn it into a lesbian paradise.  As German film actress Marlene Dietrich's yacht approaches, Joe sings "Welcome To Lesbian Island".  They enjoy life and reminisce about gay times in Weimar Germany, Greta Garbo and other lovers of women, but, in 1932, the world is becoming less tolerant.  Dietrich's sentiment, " you need to know when the party's over and get the @#%& out" are sadly echoed when Ruth Baldwin dies of an overdose in London in 1937.
Joe continues to enjoy his private, shotgun-controlled island. In a beautiful, cosmic finale, Death (David "Zen" Mansley) invites Joe and Lord Tod Warley into the Estelle to float once more around the audience.
When Phoebe Legere is dancing (choreography by Shawn Rawls) or otherwise not at the piano, additional music is played from the Speed Queen Band: Phoebe Legere on piano,  Sean Harkness on guitar, Rob Mitzner on drums, Skip Ward on bass. All of the songs are rousing.  I sat in the front row and could really feel Phoebe Legere's energy throughout.  She is a consummate preformer  whose work you simply  must experience. Hats off to Lissa Moira as well for bringing out so many unique, unapologetic female voices. Between them, they have done a lot of work which examines the nature of stardom.  Surprisingly, this is their first collaboration.  I will definitely be interested in seeing any future collaborations.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 54- RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10 RuCap Episode 3

Let's tap that app-isode! Me and Coco Taylor chatted about the latest episode of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10!

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