Thursday, February 22, 2018

Drag365: Show #43- Wabbit Hole Wednesdays at ICON

Gilda Wabbit // photo by Michael Block
Day: Wednesday, February 14th         

Show: Wabbit Hole Wednesdays

Location: ICON

Queens Seen: Gilda Wabbit (@gildawabbit), Aria Derci (@ariadercibaby)












Aria Derci // photo by Michael Block
If you don’t have a Valentine, don’t worry, spend Valentine’s Day with your Palentines! Wednesdays at Icon is Wabbit Hole Wednesdays with the illustrious Gilda Wabbit. Looking pretty in pink, Gilda celebrated the holiday of love with an intimate crowd of lovers and singles alike. The night was an exhilarating blend of genres, spanning love and fun. Gilda showcased her pipes with live sung “Sweet Transvestite” and a parody of “Defying Gravity” about double penetration. When it came to lip syncs, she gave us a little “Into You” by Paramore and a mix that included Dolly Parton’s classic “Baby I’m Burning.” As a theater lover herself, Gilda paid homage to the recently passed theater icon Jan Maxwell, a dear friend of mine, with a tribute to her Follies performance. The DJ of the night was the enchanting Aria Derci. Aria delivered a fabulous rendition of “Somebody to Love” by Queen, featuring a wig reveal and a rose petal reveal from her gloves. Sasha Velour is a true trendsetter! My palentines, David and Cole, played a round of Shots for Thots with the hostess, and boy was that fun to watch! Toward the end of the night, Gilda and Aria engaged in quite possibly the most tragic drag suicide ever, with a setlist of songs neither of them knew. The twist here was Gilda took a shot when she didn’t know a number. Let’s just say she was feeling good when the curtain closed.
Gilda Wabbit is quickly becoming one of the most prominent staples of the Astoria nightlife scene. And her stock is rising in the Manhattan drag scene as well. Just watch her take over, it’s bound to happen.

Drag365: Show #42- Good Judy at ICON

Gloria Swansong // photo by Michael Block
Day: Tuesday, February 13th         

Show: Good Judy 

Location: ICON

Queens Seen: Gloria Swansong (@gloria_swansong)

She has two degrees so she can cross dress on the fly! Gloria Swansong returned to ICON for her monthly show Good Judy. With Valentine’s Day just a day away, she made the night “Love on Top” themed, with that song of course being a part of the set list. Since she is a vintage queen, of course she gets an overture. And from there, it’s off to the races. The evening includes two pretty long pauses to create a three-act night, where she took the time to talk to the crowd. Face time is important! Gloria showcased a new look for each act. If you’re coming to Good Judy expecting all Judy, all the time, you’ll be disappointed. While she is known for her impeccable Judy illusion, this is a bar show so she has to deliver to the masses. But don’t fret, a night with Judy Garland is in the cards. Gloria Swansong has the versatility most queens strive to find. She gives you classics, pop, showtunes, and all that jazz. Good Judy is a nice night to socialize with your good Judy, Gloria Swansong.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Missed Connections in the Forest

By Michael Block 

It’s the season of love and what better play to celebrate the season than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Produced by Frog & Peach Theatre Company at the Sheen Center, this romantic comedy about missed connections was colorful but needed a bit more direction so the connection wasn’t missed. .
Directed by Lynnea Benson, this production of the Shakespeare classic follows Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander as they journey into the woods as fairies play games with the mismatched lovers. In this day and age, it’s smart common practice to streamline and cut down the text for the attention deficit, click bait social media generation. Even with an intermission, the play clipped along swiftly, but felt slightly disjointed, perhaps due to cuts. In a way, it was a highlight reel of the Shakespeare classic.. Regardless of the feeling that the acting troupe at the center of the show, Benson’s production was simply safe that allowed the words to be present rather than a forced concept. To differentiate the classes in the world, Benson played with color. The performers were dressed in blues and oranges while the regal black and white was saved for the lovers and royals. When it came to the fairies, Benson went with the rainbow. Every other character in the play were dressed with a purpose, the fairies were given a little freedom and looseness. In a sense, they looked like failed “Drag Race” outfits made of plastic pieces thrown together at last minute. The minimal set, in a way, mirrored the fairies with black and white plastic and garbage bags. Perhaps this pairing of materials could give reason for the aesthetic of the fairy costumes.
Regardless, it seemed the strongest focus was on the Rude Mechanicals. Bottom, the “ass” of the troupe, seemed like the starring character of this production. A Midsummer Night’s Dream tends to allow the lovers or Puck to be the story’s focus, but they seemed like the minor players here. Played by Kevin Hauver, Bottom was on top of the fun. His ability to take the character and highlight further speaks volumes to his performance. When it came to the lovers, Eden Jacob Levy as Lysander, Kyle Primack, Alyssa Diamond as Hermia, and Bess Miller as Helena played into the missed connections as their chemistry didn’t quite seem to ever match. Somehow, they each seemed to be presenting a different version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Possibly the most understated character in this presentation was Puck. That being said, Marcus Watson made the best of his time on stage, physically embodying the fairy to the fullest.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic. The story is almost universally revered, but there still needs to be some sort of draw to keep the audience engaged and have a reason to present the story. Benson’s version of the Shakespeare play would be something that would be great to tour to schools as it is accessible to a younger audience. But this version needed something a little more.

Block Talk- Episode 36: Joshua Warr


In this episode of Block Talk, I sit down with director Johua Warr to talk about Brilliant Traces and so much more!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And rate us!

To support the podcast, visit patreon.com/theaterinthenow


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Block Talk- Episode 35: Tucker and Golden Delicious


In this episode, I sat down with Two Tuckers, Golden Delicious and Tucker to talk about their latest installment of Two Tuckers at The Duplex.

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And don't forget to hit subscribe!

And visit patreon.com/theaterinthenow to learn about becoming a patron!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Block Talk- Episode 34: RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3 RuCap Episode 4



It's time for the Snatch Game! I'm joined by special guest Didi Cumswell as we break down everything that happened in this wild episode!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And don't forget to leave us a 5 star review!

And then check out patreon.com/theaterinthenow to learn about becoming a patron.

Review: Family Tea Time

By Michael Block

Some stories seem just too good to be true. When you hear them you might just be blown away to the point you need to put it to paper and share it with a grander audience. Such is the case in Jennifer Fell Hayes’ Rosemary and Time.
Rosemary works in an infirmary in a local school. Hilda works under her, cleaning and doing odd jobs here and there. After a conversation about a traumatic experience, Rosemary discovers that the two happen to be long lost sisters separated after the accident. Rosemary and Time is inspired by a true story about a woman grappling with her past in her present. Jennifer Fell Hayes has written a piece that is deeply rooted in truth. While we may not know exactly where her imagination may have gone and what is pulled from the tale she was told, there is reality within. The drama unfolds slowly but surely. No matter what, Rosemary and Time is an interesting story, but it is severely lacking stakes. And it just may mean it could serve better in a different medium. There is an inherent cinematic quality to the story. The pacing is ripe for the screen. There’s an intimacy to this story, and it comes through by the way Rosemary keeps things to herself. We often see her protect herself by suppressing her memories and haunts. With the exposition being pushed away, it may be hard to relate and empathize without full knowledge of what we are witnessing Rosemary experience. There’s always a way to keep the audience on edge, but when everything floods in at the end, we’ve already been pushed aside. Perhaps the easiest of fix is incorporating the fire memory and Ruby’s monologue sooner. Sometimes it’s ok for the audience to know something before the other characters. Fell Hayes has meat to her text, but it often gets surrounded by fluff. Removing some of the excess and paring down could help perhaps heighten the stakes. And with a script so reliant on props, especially those tea time moments where nothing new emerges, the story can take on the focus it deserves.
photo by Gerry Goodstein
Director Kathy Gail MacGowen takes Rosemary and Time and focuses on the importance of relationships. And this is essential for this play to work. Whether they are strangers of present but blood of past, we need to believe it. We need to believe the struggle of mother and daughter, in the various versions we witness it. MacGowen has taken the time to pull out the nuances from the script and fully realize them with her company. The realistic quality to Fell Hayes’ writing allowed MacGowen to find truthful moments. When bits felt forced in the text, you could tell there was a struggle to make it work. The sets and costumes were designed by An-Lin Dauber. Dauber’s costumes had a timeless quality to it. Her set, featured two-sided seating which created a very linear direction for MacGowen. With various locations to portray, the scenic pieces served in various locales, which thankfully, was not too distracting once the conceit continued. Kia Rogers’ lighting design and Megan Culley’s sound design were integral to the memories for Rosemary. While it may have to due with the staging on this particular set, the memories wanted to be technically cleaner. At times, it was very jarring, but not necessarily a snap. The classical soundscape that swelled in occasionally from scene to scene was the right mood for this play. The Beatles? Sadly, not too much.
The character of Rosemary is challenging. She’s put through the emotional ringer. Kate Grimes does a sensational job. She finds levels of sensations to play. Her portrayal is honest and raw. Virginia Roncetti as Hilda often found herself playing the subservient role, but when she finally snaps back at Julie, Roncetti was at her finest. The tender moment Hilda and Julie share was quite a remarkable shift in the play, and Roncetti and Mary Katharine Harris, who played Julie, did well.
Rosemary and Time is a play of great potential. Jennifer Fell Hayes was right, there is a story. But it needs some time before Rosemary’s tale is ready again. A bit of finessing and a little less tea might do the trick.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Drag365: Show #41- Stonewall Invasion: Didi Cumswell

Didi Cumswell // photo by Michael Block
Day: Sunday, February 11th        

Show: Stonewall Invasion: Didi Cumswell 

Location: Stonewall Inn

Queens Seen: Didi Cumswell (@didicumswell), Bijoux (@bijoux.xo), Golden Delicious (@msgoldendelicous), Haireola Grande (@haireolagrande), Vanna Deux (@vanndeux)

After an intense sudden lip sync at December’s So You Want an Invasion, Didi Cumswell won herself an Invasion. She brought along some of her favorite sisters to celebrate her for her debut solo show! Didi Cumswell, a rising vintage queen, started the night with a cover of “Get the Party Started,” and it sure did accomplish the job! After another cover, this time to “Anything Goes,” Didi shared some of her fabulous thematic mixes, some of which OCD cleaning, Broadway births, and a hot mix where she ate a jalapeƱo on stage. Didi’s fabulous friends brought some of their best stuff to the night. Bijoux, wearing leather and beret, did a little lusty number with “A Call from the Vatican. Haireola was all about touching and loving and brought out a dildo for her number. Continuing on the sex train, Golden’s classic blow job mix made a cameo in the night. And finally Vanna debuted a brand new number with “Breaking Down” from the musical Falsettos. Since it was her show, she could do whatever she wanted. And Didi did it with not one, not two, but three classic looks, including a brand new disco inferno 70s fantasy.
It’s always a joy watching someone you know do what they love. Didi Cumswell is an endearing force of happiness. There’s always a smile on that girl’s face. And that’s what makes us love her so. This debut won’t be the last you’ll see of her.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Drag365: Show #40- Just Jackie at New World Stages

Jackie Cox // photo by Michael Block
Day: Sunday, February 11th        

Show: Just Jackie and Friends 

Location: Greenroom at New World Stages

Queens Seen: Jackie Cox (@jackiecoxnyc), Chelsea Piers (@thechelseapiers)













Jackie Cox, Chelsea Piers // photo by Michael Block
Last time you saw Jackie Cox at New World Stages, she was triumphantly crowned the winner of So You Think You Can Drag All Stars! Part of her prize package included a weekly show at the Greenroom. The debut of Just Jackie and Friends was a fabulous night of live singing, special guests, and a celebration of a queen who deserves her moment in the spotlight. With a cute video package to start the show, Jackie came out and entertained the packed room there just for her. Early on she explained that she may have some Vicodin in her body due to a wisdom tooth surgery, thusly making loopy Jackie Cox the thing you never knew you needed in her life. With a parody of “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” as her audience cheers song, it set the theme of the night. The good thing about having a drag show exposed to the lobby of a bunch of theaters, stragglers and theater-leavers may pop in. And Jackie got a bunch of those, including an international couple who was not fun of Jersey Boys and a 16 year-old girl who tipped a whopping $14! The first special guest of the night was Jackie’s gal pal Chelsea Piers, who dazzled with a Post Modern Jukebox version of “Fancy” and “Gives You Hell” by All American Rejects. After a rousing game of $10,000 Pyramid, where my dear friend Matt botched who exactly hosts what drag competition, the first act ended with a parody of the only song from Hamilton I love, “You’ll Be Back.” Fitting. The big act two surprise was not Jackie’s dazzling gold additions to her look, it was the surprise appearance by Angela Lansbury! Well, in puppet form (as performed by puppeteer Mike Hull). The pair sang the classic duet “Bosom Buddies.” The night ultimately ended with a duet between Jackie and Chelsea singing “That’s Life.” And that was it! Like the other shows in the venue, it was time for curtain.
As Jackie said, “Why would you have one bubble when you can have a gazillion?” Why would you have one Jackie when…well no, let’s stick to the one and only. She’s perfect as she is. It’s about time that this dynamic performer gets her due.

Block Talk- Episode 33: Chelsea Piers


In today's podcast, I'm joined by the Rock n Roll Drag Princess herself, Chelsea Piers! We talk about her new show Are You There Ru, It's Me Chelsea, life as a NYC drag queen, "Shade: Queens of NYC," and so much more!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud. And leave that 5 star review!