Friday, November 27, 2015

Spotlight On...Matt Pilieci

Name: Matt Pilieci

Hometown: Ronkonkoma, NY

Education: American Academy of Dramatic Arts

Select Credits: Rantoul and Die (Cherry Lane Theater), The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side (PS122), Happy in the Poorhouse (Theater 80)

Why theater?: When I grew up the great actors and most of my favorite actors came from a theater backround. I wanted to be like the people I admired.

Who do you play in The Eternal Space?: Paul Abbot, an aspiring photographer and construction worker.

Tell us about The Eternal Space: The Eternal Space is a play that brings the old Penn Station 2 life. But at its heart it is a relationship play about 2 people finding something they both need. In a person they would least expect.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Fast moving comedies with emotional substance. I love characters with human flaws and a lot of heart. The hooker with a heart of gold, Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places so to speak. Ha. Blue collar families and the everyday struggle is what inspires me.

Any roles you're dying to play?: I want to play a monster, a literal monster. Like a Troll or Werewolf. Basically a "monster" character in anything Guillermo Del Toro has done or will do. I grew up on horror movies and I love the physical work behind those types of characters.

What's your favorite showtune?: “The Confrontation” from Jekyll and Hyde... It's pretty goddamn hilarious and awesome to sing alone to yourself.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: Bobby Canavale

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: “Uncle Franks House of Hunks, The Story of Sexual Chewbacca”. A musical, starring Hugh Jackman... because its the easiest way for him to get inside me... wink wink nudge nudge

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would go back and see the 1982 premier of Noises Off because it is my favorite play ever.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Humans

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?: Video Games

What's up next?: Well I am currently in a fight to save my apartment building, just like the plot to save the community center in "Breaking 2 Electric Boogaloo"... Other than that I am filming a commercial in Kentucky as soon as The Eternal Space ends. Nothing on my plate yet in terms of theater for the new year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: A Dream Come True

It's likely you may have never heard of Pedro Calderon de la Barca or his play la vida es seuno. His enthralling story is one of the defining dramas of the Spanish Golden Age. Exploring the lines of reality and dream, Eager Risk Theater's adaptation Life is a Dream is a haunting take on the classic that awakens the drama for a new audience.
Adapted by Annie R. Such, Life is a Dream is a multi-plot saga about an imprisoned prince, a vengeful young girl, and cousins seeking glory. Life is a Dream tells the tale of Segismundo, the son of King Basilio, who is locked away after a prophecy states that his son would cause disgrace to Poland and murder him so Basilio has Segismundo locked away. Rosaura, eager for vengeance on the man who left her at the alter, and her fool Clarin discover Segismundo and soon learn that Basilio wants to prove the oracle wrong. Meanwhile, Duke Astolfo encourages his cousin Princess Estrella that they should be wed for they would be next in line for the throne. Like many plays of the time, the stories intertwine and lead to a theatrical resolution. Playing with the theme of dreams and finding the lines of reality, Life is a Dream is an adaptation of the modern age. Playwright Annie R. Such does an impeccable job at storytelling. Such breathes life into her adaptation. It’s likely you may not know the story and Such does a strong job allowing the tale to flow naturally. For the most part, the heightened language feels natural off the modern tongue. Thankfully for Such, the characters of her play fit common archetypes with clear cut objectives. Still, she finds nuances that make them feel fresh. With a piece that spans multiple acts, Such is smart by condensing it in a brisk one act while maintaining Calderon de la Barca’s integrity.
photo by Delissa Santos
By playing with the lines of reality, director Christina Ashby creates a world of surrealism. The set by Lia Woertendyke is a conglomeration of items, fabrics, and textures that range from decimated to elegant. It evokes a place of ruin that could easily have been conjured up by the mind. Ashby also makes great use of the three draped white fabrics. With shadows created by lighting designer Kyle Kravette, Ashby’s three-piece ensemble spends the majority of time behind the cloth lending solely their voice. The trouble though was how the other characters interacted with them. For the most part, Ashby had her actors play out to the ensemble and it felt a tad awkward. With that being the biggest woe, Ashby did an incredible job imagining the world such and Calderon de la Barca crafted. To add to the drama, composer Thomas Burns Scully used incidental music and underscoring. The music that was present was likely something Calderon de la Barca would have enjoyed.  The Spanish guitar was fantastic at setting the mood despite feeling disjointed from the location of Poland.
The company that comprised Life is a Dream had a plethora of talent. With the language living in a classic world, there were some who were able to tackle it better than others. The leader of the pack was one who played a sidekick. Hugo Fowler as Clarin the clown was a star. Fowler was the light in the darkness of the play. There was an ease to Fowler’s comedy and ability to draw the audience into loving him. As wide eyed vengeance seeking Rosaura, Charlotte Vaughn Raines was quite strong. Raines transitioned from tomboy to princess to create a resilient woman. Raines and Fowler were a dynamite of a pair. The other duo of note was Michael Striano as Astolfo and Jeannine Scarpino as Estrella. They personified regality. Giacomo Rocchini as Segismundo had a difficult role and sadly it seemed to take a toll on him. Rocchini was like PTSD Huck on “Scandal.” His performance was scattered as the character called for but it greatly needed to be toned down.
By no means is Life is a Dream perfect. But the imperfections are endearing. There's no denying the artistry and detail in the production. Keep an eye out for future productions from Eager Risk Theater. You’ll be intrigued by what they have to offer.

Spotlight On...Stephan Amenta

Name: Stephan Amenta

Hometown: Ridgefield, CT

Education: NYU Tisch

Select Credits: A Great Wilderness (Williamstown Theatre Festival), "PLANT" (Pembroke Webseries), The Diary of Anne Frank (Anne Frank Center).

Why theater?: My mom enrolled me in an theatre class when I was in the fourth grade.  She thought I was too shy and needed to open up.  I've been doing it ever since.  It was a happy accident.

Who do you play in Good Boys and True?: I play Justin Simmons.  He's best friends with Brandon, the boy allegedly in the sex tape.

Tell us about Good Boys and True: The play is really fascinating.  It's set in 1988, but the events that take place are still happening today, all over the country.  The play deals with a sex tape scandal at a prestigious prep school.  It takes a look at the fallout from such an event.

What is it like being a part of Good Boys and True?: It's been really awesome!  Retro Productions has been an amazing company to work for.  They are incredibly professional, and have allowed the space, time, and resources to really explore this play.  It's been a dream.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind of theater that speaks to me, is the theater that takes very simple stories, and tells them in inventive ways.  I'm obsessed with Fun Home right now.  It's an incredible story told in a way that grips you from start to finish.  I could watch that show endlessly.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Christopher in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  That's been my dream role from the moment I found out they were making it into a play.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Right now it's "Ring of Keys" from Fun Home.  That song is everything.

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

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I'd want Andrew Garfield to play me, so I could play him in his biopic.  It would be called "It's Just Random"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  I'd see the original Broadway production of Chicago.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home!  Also, the Spring Awakening revival.  It's incredible.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Pop Music.  Although, I'm not guilty about it.

What’s up next?: Throughout December I'm also working on an educational theater show called Robot 4 Christmas.  Then in January it's back to the audition grind, so if you hear of anything hit me up!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: A Tale of Two Acts

What makes art so universal is the ability to tell a story. It’s a safe place for the artist to share something important. And it all starts with an idea. But what if that idea keeps on going and going and turns into something almost unrecognizable? Such is the case in Antu Yacob’s Mourning Sun presented by Theatre 167. What begins as a fascinating cultural case study turns into an unfortunate romantic drama.
With the first act set in Ethiopia and a second act set in New York, Mourning Sun follows young Biftu, a young Ethiopian girl, who fantasizes about American pop culture and Michael Jackson with her friend Abdi. But when Abdi leaves for America, Biftu is forced into an arranged marriage that not only breaks her soul but breaks her body. This portion of Yacob’s story is mesmerizing. It’s a horrid story of child brides forced into marriage and the aftermath of childbirth. But after a bizarre intermission position, the play takes a drastic turn where Biftu is brought to America by Abdi where a tumultuous and cliché love story appears. Yacob has everything going in her favor in the first act. There are certainly some questions that arise but they do not come close to the problems of Act II. The story within Act I is unique and something noteworthy. The questions in the first act may be a combination of textual and directorial. What prompts Abdi’s return to Ethiopia? And in four years, has Abdi really lost all semblance of his dialect? Especially when we discover that his aunt still has a hint of one. But then when we arrive in Act II, the woes that Yacob and director Ari Laura Kreith encounter alter all the momentum from the first act. With no room for exposition, we are thrust into the action of the unrest between husband and wife. We watch Biftu attempting to learn how to be an American while Abdi appears to regret his decision of marrying his former love. Rather than keep the conflict internal between two characters we’re familiar with, Yacob introduces love interests in the form of Abdi’s school and writing partner Kayleen and Abdi’s landlord True. This adds an unfortunate soap opera element to the story. It’s hard to care about the broken relationship when there is more time spent with Abdi and Kayleen and Biftu and True than Abdi and Biftu. It’s one thing transporting across continents but transporting it to a new genre and style was detrimental to the promise that Yacob truly has.
photo by Joel Weber
Antu Yacob’s play is not easy, especially when it comes to how she crafted Biftu. Biftu is a strong, independent woman and required an equally strong actress to portray her. Arlene Chico-Lugo offers a performance to remember. Even with the woes of the second act, Chico-Lugo is able to fight through. Chico-Lugo has a slight resemblance to "Scandal" star Kerry Washington and just so happens to have a stage presence to match. Arlene Chico-Lugo is a name to remember.  In dual roles, Fadoua Hanine easily proved her range. From the bubbly optimist Mawardi to the manipulative temptress Kayleen, Hanine was transformative. Though he mainly appeared in the second act, John P. Keller made his time worthwhile. As the sensitive stoner True, Keller avoided stereotype and created a character that was compassionate and generous. It would be easy to play True as someone who takes advantage of Biftu’s situation, but Keller allowed Biftu control, something that Biftu had never experienced. Though going commando may say otherwise. Kevin Hillocks struggled greatly as Adbi. He was at his best in his pre-America scenes but something drastically changed when his character made his way to the new continent. By Act II, Hillocks grappled finding truth with the groan-worthy dialogue his character spoke.
From a production standpoint, Mourning Sun had some very high highs and some mighty low lows. The West End Theatre is a very specific space that has been converted into a performance space within a church. Rather than hiding the architecture of the space, they kept it visible, highlighting it sparingly. It didn’t detract from the production but the high ceilings and minimal set caused some monstrous echoes. It took some time to warm up to but certainly altered the quietness of the intimate moments.  The structure created by scenic designer Jen Price Fick worked wonders in the space, especially when lighting designer Matthew Fick threw any color on it. The cohesiveness between the lights and the fabric is stunning. The other contribution Jen Price Fick offered were the advantageous structures that formed everything from doors to walls to buses. They may not be aesthetically pleasing but the structures sure did the trick. Director Ari Laura Kreith kept the piece moving from scene to scene. With a hefty amount of scenic shifts, sound designer Travis Wright would change up the scene changes with accompanying environmental sounds and music. Those moments when it wasn’t present was unfortunate. Kreith’s staging was a blend of realistic and theatrical. The moments of theatricality are interesting except for breaking out for the sake of breaking out, especially during Abdi’s monologue. Regardless, Kreith’s focus was telling a story and she did solid work in storytelling no matter what the script threw at her.
Mourning Sun will be a very important play once Antu Yacob does some necessary work. As it stands, Act II needs an immense amount of help. If Yacob can find a way to match the power her first act has, Mourning Sun will have a long life on stage. Maybe even beyond.

Spotlight On...Elena V. Levenson

Name: Elena V. Levenson

Hometown: Growing up: Oak Park, IL. Now: New York, NY

Education: University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign

Select Credits: Electra in Iphigenia and Other Daughters (Illinois Theatre); Grekova in Platonov (Columbia Stages). Directing: a very-staged reading of Lenin’s Embalmers (Davenport Black Box).

Why theater?: There’s nothing I like more than telling stories with other people, to other people, live. Theatremaking calls on you to use every aspect of yourself: emotional, physical, intellectual, social, personal. Each play is an opportunity to see the world in a new light, both for those making it and for those watching it — and there’s something wonderful about actors and audience sharing space, reflecting on the world together.

Who do you play in The King of Chelm?: I play Dina, one of the very few people in Chelm who thinks beyond the present moment. When she hears that her uncle Chaim-Bear wants to chop down the Tree of Wishes and declare himself King of Chelm, she tries to mobilize the rest of the town to stop him. Her sweetheart Shimmele is the only one who steps up— and Shimmele admits that he’s no hero. He goes off to find a hero to save Chelm— and that’s where our story begins.

Tell us about The King of Chelm: The wordplay and the journey remind me of one of my favorite children’s books, The Phantom Tollbooth. The ideas in Chelm-- especially about the importance of questioning your own assumptions-- are surprisingly poignant.

What it like being a part of The King of Chelm?: It’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure. We have a game, gifted cast, and rehearsals are a master class in commitment and specificity from my fellow actors and comedic timing and subtext from our director. It's my second time in Chelm and the story has only deepened and grown-- it's been a pleasure.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m drawn to plays about identity, intimacy, and ethics (that is, plays that deal with relationships between the self, the other, and the world)...plays with poetic, colorful language, a sense of humor (especially if it's dark or absurd), and a sense of the world (our world, or the world of the play outside of the characters' lives). I'm inspired by Marge Piercy's poetry. Honest, beautifully wrought writing in general, music, and watching other artists, especially ones who are both gifted & dedicated.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: All-time: Evita in Evita, Hamlet. Now: Medium Al in Fun Home.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Right now, the song I have on repeat is “Non-Stop” from Hamilton.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Mary Zimmerman, Rachel Axler, Tony Kushner, Madeleine George, Theatre du Complicite.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: "Léna". (I thought about it! and realized that some of the best biopics are titled with just the subject’s name. e.g. Frida, Chaplin.) I’d be played by a brilliant actor who no one’s heard of today. (How many years passed between Frida’s life and Taymor’s film!)

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: An early performance of Macbeth. It'd be amazing to see one of Shakespeare's plays performed by Shakespeare's company-- and particularly to watch this one with an audience of believers who are new subjects of a Scottish king...

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Theatre: currently running: Hamilton and Fun Home. Previously: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.. TV: "Les Revenants" on Netflix.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sleeping in.

What’s up next?: I’m currently writing an adaptation of Evgeny Shwartz’s Obyknovennoe Chudo. Acting? Auditioning. And you can see me every week on Broadway! (and 31st Ave) -- I host trivia at the Break Bar & Billiards in Astoria, Queens every Tuesday at 8:30 pm.

For more on Elenva, visit

Spotlight On...Lizzie Vieh

Name: Lizzie Vieh

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Education: B.A. Brown University, M.F.A. Brown/Trinity Graduate Program

Why theater?: I like story-telling, I like live performance, and I like to gather together with other people to experience art collectively.

Tell us about Barrier Islands: Barrier Islands is about a murder investigation that casts suspicion over a small island community. Two actors—one male, one female—portray three characters each. Over the course of nine scenes, each male character interacts with each female character, in a sort of twisted “La Ronde.” The play is about gender, power, violence, and fear – specifically, how these topics manifest in modern American sexual relationships between men and women.

What inspired you to write Barrier Islands?: I felt compelled to write this play because I am a high-strung, imaginative woman who lives with a lot of fear. Barrier Islands is a horror story for modern American women. Think of your deepest fears as you’re walking home alone late at night on an empty city street. That’s where the play begins – fear. Specifically, women’s fear of men. The play explores this in all of its manifestations – from the most directly physical and violent, to more subtle, psychological variations.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I like dark, weird stuff that uses powerful, concise language. Bonus if it’s funny too. Playwrights that inspire me include Caryl Churchill, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter, Sarah Kane, Paula Vogel, Erin Courtney, Maria Irene Fornes, Lanford Wilson, and Wallace Shawn.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Caryl Churchill and/or Les Waters

What show have you recommended to your friends?: 10 out of 12 by Anne Washburn, Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl, and Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Judith Light. It would be a Lifetime film entitled “I was Born 50: The Lizzie Vieh Story.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: John by Annie Baker

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching terrible TV and drinking craft beer in sweatpants with my dogs.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Wealthier

What’s up next?: I have a short play in Amios’s Shotz: Unity at the Kraine Theater on Monday, December 7th. My full-length play The Loneliest Number is being developed by Amios as part of their First Draughts series in March 2016.

For more on Lizzie, visit

Monday, November 23, 2015

Blog Hijack: An introduction to Heat Transfer at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe!


Alright, guys. Matisse, Haley, and Kaela here. Some truth bombs about to be thrown. First here are some gratuitous selfies of us:

To be frank, we had some undeveloped ideas about what a blog takeover would entail. We thought it’d be a little more badass, perhaps even like a ruthless overthrowing and infiltration of the system. Like the secret service but sexier and with tightly fitting blazers. We also were hoping to slander this website with the most profanity the internet has seen. It has been explained to us that we were wrong and we cannot do those things. But it’s okay, because being polite and considerate is also really cool.

The being said, we are extremely excited to tell you about our new play, An Introduction to Heat Transfer! We are equally excited to tell you THERE WILL BE A BAR!

After sold-out runs in Boston and Los Angeles (shameless plug), An Introduction to Heat Transfer premieres in NYC at the Nuyorican Poets Café. THERE WILL BE A BAR!

Roommates Lila Albright and Emma Perkins have very different ideas about how they’ll get through their twenties. Emma has a plan; Lila’s plan is…she has none. An Introduction to Heat Transfer explores the confusion of being a twenty-something and the fundamentals of true friendship. THERE WILL BE A BAR!

Here are some nice quotes from reviews because we really want you to come:

Total Theater LA praised the “warmth and humanity of the play” as well as its “raunchy humor”, adding that “Jakobson, Rose, and Shaw have injected a fresh burst of enegery and creativity into the L.A. theater scene.”

An Introduciton to Heat Transfer showcases the superlatively talented trio of young theater artists whose work has already captured the imagination of audiences in Boston and LA,” says Daniel Gallant, Executive Director of the Nuyorican Poets Café.

We also will be distributing cleverly packaged/free condoms because we promote safe sex but also my mom thinks they are very “hip and totally of our generation.”

An Introduction to Heat Transfer opens Tuesday, December 1st and runs for 7 performances at the Nuyorican Poets Café (236 East 3rd Street, between Avenues B and C in Manhattan). House opens at 7:30pm every night, except on the 9th- we open the house at 7:15pm!

Admission is $20 online and $25 at the door ($12 for sutdents); tickets and directions are available at or by calling 212-780-9386.

Performance Schedule:

Tuesday, December 1st 7:30pm
Thursday, December 3rd 7:30pm
Friday, December 4th 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 8th 7:30pm
Wednesday, December 9th 7:30pm
Thursday, December 10th 7:30pm
Sunday, December 13th 7:30pm

Bring a hot date, or meet a hot person who you can take on a hot date later. Bring you mom! Introduce her to our moms. Please don’t ask our mom’s on dates because our dads will probably feel weird. And remember: THERE WILL BE A BAR!

Check out our website, or our Facebook event, or both!


Matisse, Kaela, Haley
………………………….(fuck, penis)

Review: Ghosts Before Bros

The ghosts of our past will haunt us no matter how near or far in our lives they happened. In Lesser America's presentation of the gripping The Bachelors by Caroline V. McGraw, a trio of men are forced to face their demons inside and the ghosts that are still alive.
With themes of misogyny, objectification, and a tinge of the super natural, The Bachelors is a dark dramedy that follows three men in drastically different places in their lives who all find themselves battling their internal worst and their handling of the opposite sex. Kevlar drinks himself to inebriation after his girlfriend breaks up with him after she discovers she has cancer. Laurie returns home early from a rough business trip after an incident at a strip club. Henry is living the life in medicine all while being a womanizer of local sorority girls. The three man-child bros range in maturity but each have a skewed vision have how to treat women. McGraw's script blends comedy and the supernatural to dissect some dark themes on gender that dares the audience to join in on the ride. The recipe for success for McGraw is by mixing the simple complexity of Annie Baker and gritty tenacity of Adam Rapp. The story is daring and engaging but when the play ends, it's possible you may be shocked that it wasn't intermission. McGraw sets up many plot points but never resolves them. I suppose it's a good thing when you're left wanting more. Ambiguity is in full force in this play, but sometimes when there’s too much unanswered you can’t help be feel unsatisfied. Regardless, what is present in the script is interesting. It’s evident that McGraw’s story is one for the feminists proving the age-old saga of how men don’t see woman as human is still very much present. There’s no transparency in McGraw’s text. The subtext is clear. Whether the characters and situations are a generalization, the fact of the matter is its sadly still true. When it comes to her writing, McGraw has some stunning passages. Coming back to the Adam Rapp comparison, the stripper monologue from Laurie is McGraw at her finest, though some would say the slurppy monologue takes the cake. Laurie’s monologue had shades of the red dress monologue from Rapp’s Red Light Winter. The imagery that McGraw painted in this monologue was so visceral, it left you on the edge of your seat. Writers like to use devices to help open up doors in stories. One such devise is drugs and alcohol. In theater, and life, drugs and alcohol are like truth serum. It lowers the inhibitions of the characters to freely talk about the things that may be hidden deep inside. To say that incorporating the extensive amount of drinking in this play was safe is easy. But it also served as a crutch. There’s nothing wrong with it in the context of the play, but it opens up the door of "would everything be coming to light in this very moment had there been no drugs or alcohol?" The other bit of theatrical disbelief that comes into question is when the news breaks of the girl in the attic, Laurie pounces at the opportunity to discover leaving a free moment for Henry and Kevlar. In reality, Laurie spent an exuberant amount of time in that attic to do next to nothing making you begin to question Laurie has a character. But that is very likely the first clue to the dark side of the straight-laced Laurie.
When you have captivating writing, it gets infinitely elevated with a strong ensemble. The three men that comprised The Bachelors had an incredible connection on stage. While they may have fitting into a specific type box, they did so with ease. Blake DeLong as the lovesick drunk Kevlar physically melted into his character. DeLong easily played the self-destructive inebriated Kevlar, willingly throwing himself around the stage like a ragdoll. Playing wasted can be hard as it could easily feel forced but DeLong’s performance was anything but. Quincy Dunn-Baker looked like the guy you could trust but Henry is a dark individual. Until Henry’s true colors were revealed, Dunn-Baker kept it cool but as the truths began to unravel, Dunn-Baker exploded with energy. Each character has something deep and dark repressed but Dunn-Baker’s Henry is a true villain. And a fascinating one at that. Babak Tafti as Laurie played into the hysterical nature of his character’s situation without coming off as cartoonish. Tafti was able to entice you with his secret until he was ready to bare all. The only time he seemed to struggle is making his character swift feel natural. It was a bit rushed in the scope of his arc.
Ambiance is everything and Portia Krieger and her design team pulled off the unthinkable. The Bachelors could easily be played in a black box studio with a minimal design but by going the distance, it heightened McGraw’s script greatly. The messy bachelor pad designed by Carolyn Mraz was so intricate and detail-oriented that you discovered something new every time you looked. It was a mess but a well-designed mess. The bachelor pad was set in or around Boston but perhaps setting the play in “Anytown, USA” would hammer in McGraw’s message a bit stronger. Krieger’s use of Mraz’s space was quite wonderful. Krieger had her actors explore unsafe places on stage that created some dynamic stage pictures. The costume design by Sydney Maresca perfectly captured the essence of each character. Lights and sounds played an integral role in The Bachelors. Lighting designer Masha Tsimring and sound designer Elisheba Ittoop worked cohesively when it came to creating moods. With the play living in a fantastical realism world, Tsimring may have gone a bit too far at times, dimming the lights during monologues to a severely noticeable place. Ittoop’s use of reverberation was an essential player and well executed.
The Bachelors is a daring and polarizing production and that’s what makes it so great. No matter how the play makes you feel, you’re eager to discuss what you just saw and that’s a win in my book. Lesser America is never afraid to swing for the fences and yet again, they hit a homerun.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Dating Woes of a Solo Star

Dating in the gay world is no easy feat. Just ask Ryan J. Haddad. In his perfectly timed solo show Hi, Are You Single?, Haddad takes the audience on a journey through of his gay club exploits and the close-minded people he met along the way.
photo by Sally Cade Holmes
Hi, Are You Single? follows Ryan through the highs and lows of dating as a gay man with cerebral palsy. The script is pretty basic. Gay boy talks about dating with a twist. Haddad explores gay bars hoping to make a meaningful connection with a future someone and finds himself turning away the ones that could be that special someone. All this happens while Haddad dares the men to look beyond his walker. What sets Hi, Are You Single? apart is Haddad's showmanship and ability to work an audience. Haddad has an incredible prowess for storytelling. The rapport Haddad has with the audience is unmatchable. He's smart and able to interact in a quick manner. And even when the audience hoots, hollers, and whistles, Haddad is able to take it in and maintain momentum. While the story may resonate with many in one way or another, Haddad digs deep into his personal life and is willing to share his saga with a room of friends and strangers alike. He's not afraid to be vulnerable and that should be greatly rewarded. Rather than fall into the multi-character trap of some solo shows, Haddad sticks to himself. When he does expand and recount dialogue he had, it’s through him. It allows the story to remain personal and not try to go beyond truth.
It takes great talent to lift an average text and turn it into something wonderful. Director Laura Savia did just that. Savia guided Haddad through his script, helping him dive into a range of emotions. The trust between the two was evident on stage. It was clear that Savia challenged Haddad, pulling out a winning performance. From a production standpoint, Savia and lighting designer Isabella F. Byrd easily jumped from story to story, gay bar to gay bar in a manner that suited Haddad. With the gay bar music extravaganza as the soundtrack, the world of Haddad’s play was present with just a table, futon, flashy lights, and thumping bass.
No matter who you are or where you are in your life, Hi, Are You Single? Will most certainly hit you. Ryan J. Haddad’s performance is something special and something you should seek out. And don’t worry if you missed it, Haddad and Hi, Are You Single? will be back. It’s necessary.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: A Bad Spin On a Classic

Othello is one of Shakespeare's most fascinating relationship dramas. The dynamics between the characters bring out the best and worst in humanity. Love, betrayal, loyalty, and revenge, are at the forefront of the text. That may not be what was completely portrayed in The Brewing Dept.'s production of Othello.
While the title may say otherwise, Othello follows Iago, a jilted lieutenant who seeks vengeance on Othello, the man who passed him over for a pronation in favor of a feeble young man. The bond of these two men is put to the test when a series of events pulls them apart as Iago plots against him by dropping deceits in his ear. Directed by Thomas Kapusta, Kapusta's Othello is transported to a non-description time, place, and perhaps planet. If Kapusta's interpretation of Iago, who he plays in addition to directing, was a precursor to his direction, Othello was doomed from the start. In this modern age of Shakespearean revivals, productions need to stand out through concept. Kapusta implemented a, mostly, black and white visual conceit. While the set by Stephen Davan looked simple, the costumes by Ilana Breitman were so specific and intricate that you had to wonder where Kapusta's Othello was. The textures and styles made Breitman's look appear as Grecian Space. The majority of the characters were doned in black, with the exception of hipster Roderigo and Princess Leia inspired Desdemona. Desdemona’s white dress was understandable, then why exactly Roderigo was the only non-military man in white? It was a bit odd. With uniformity a key part of the overall design, any addition of color gets great attention called to it. With the costumes, aside from black and white, Breitman’s gleaming colorful belts and badges were jarring. As were the brown desk and tan stool top from Davan. They are small, subtle things, but it detracts from overall design. With the intricate simplicity as the focal design of the production, the text was the prime focus. With Kapusta playing director and a lead, juggling two hats was a bit problematic. When it came to staging, Kapusta did a fine job utilizing the space. But when it came aiding his company in character relationships and motivations, things became muddy. But that easily could be due to differing interpretations.
photo by Cody Holliday Haefner
When it came to the titular character, Ryan George exuded strength. That is until his world is turned upside down as he develops severe trust issues. George’s strength turned to hysteria. Through his hysterics, many of his lines are lost and unintelligible. George’s Othello against Jenny Vallancourt’s Desdemona was a bit strange. Vallancourt was a happily naïve Desdemona. Her innocence proved her youthfulness yet her believability against George’s Othello was minimal. In continuing odd combinations, Vallancourt also played Bianca. Sure, Bianca’s presence is minimal yet doubling her with Desdemona didn't quite work. Regardless, Vallancourt’s interpretation of Bianca was far more captivating. As the next doped causality, Jefferson Reardon’s Cassio is actually quite strong. Reardon may not be a typical Cassio but Reardon was authentic. Reardon was instantly affable and had a good grasp on the character. The other strong actor in the company was Raquel Chavez as Emilia. Chavez’s performance was exhilarating. Chavez had an immeasurable control as the handmaiden to Desdemona. Her character’s swift turn on her lover was one of the most honest moments in the entire production. Iago is the glue that holds Othello together. Iago is a master manipulator. Thomas Kapusta is anything but. Kapusta didn’t quite sell his spun truths. The key to Iago’s journey is he is referred to as honest. He is believed to be trusted. But Kapusta cowers in Othello's presence, lacking confidence. Rarely does he make eye contact when he speaks, especially to Othello. And no eye contact is detrimental to the arc and overall journey.
Creating a standout production of Shakespeare is no easy feat. Sadly, The Brewing Dept. production of Othello doesn’t quite hit the mark. It was a noble attempt but in the end, it fell short.