Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spotlight On...Joshua De Jesus

Name: Joshua De Jesus

Hometown: I’ve moved around a lot during the recent years so I don’t have one set hometown. Born in Washington Heights, raised in Bushwick, moved out to Bay Shore, Long Island, currently in Dix Hills, Long Island.

Education: Bay Shore High School (Freshman year) Half Hollow Hills West High school (Sophomore-Senior Year) Long Island High School for the Arts (Senior Year)

Select Credits: Runaways (Encores! City Center); Guest star season 5 of "Chicago Fire"

Why theater?: It was the most accessible form of art to me growing up. Theatre is a way to find yourself. Even if it isn't for you, it can open you up to various other opportunities as well.

Who do you play in Wink?: Wink!

Tell us about Wink: Wink is a timely piece of theater revolving a homeless and traumatized gender questioning teenager, and Dario Villanova, an ex-A list actor doing B movies, both down on their luck in Los Angeles. Their kindred spirits bond over doo-wop music and an effort to forge a heartfelt and unconventional love story of surrogate father and child.

What is it like being a part of Wink?: It’s been a rollercoaster of an experience. Definitely the biggest challenge I’ve faced thus far as an actor trying to tell the story of this fragile being with complete authenticity.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Unconventional theater. Theater that doesn’t hesitate to provide a new experience for audience members that are both avid theater goers and newcomers alike. As an artist, names like Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Oscar Isaac are all huge inspirations to me, all whom are hispanic and began at the theater. They really set the bar for me.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: ANY role in a Stephen Adly Gurgis play. He’s my favorite.

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: That’s a hard one, there’s so many! I’ve always wanted to work with Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s an all around talent.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Either Jay Hernandez or Rami Malek. I don’t think I’ve experienced enough of life to come up with a title yet.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Al Pacino in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Lynn Nottage’s new play Sweat.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Taking really long hot showers.

What’s up next?: Something very very exciting!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: A Sensitive Story About A Traumatized Child

By Ed Malin

Rising Sun Performance Company begins its 16th season with Child’s Play, written by Kevin D. Ferguson and directed by Brock Harris Hill. Vera, a child psychologist (Crystal Edn) frames the story with a TED Talk which she is delivering after the events we see on stage.  Vera has worked with a ten year-old girl named Cindy (Raiane Cantisano) who suddenly stopped using words to communicate.  Saddened by their daughter’s silence, Cindy’s strong-willed mother (Mercedes Vasquez) and gentle step-father (Michael Pichardo) have sought out Vera’s help.  Vera is able to talk to Cindy and get nods and other non-verbal responses.  Also, Cindy uses action toys to tell the story of a princess whose parents stifle her ambition of fighting a dragon; that is, until she gets help from a warrior.  These clue-filled episodes are performed on a human scale by Christian Victoria Allen, Ashleigh Herndon, Katie Lynn Esswein and Ronald Kitts.   Vera has some meeting with Cindy’s mother and step-father, where she learns that Cindy’s mother keeps insisting that everything was fine in their house up until Cindy stopped talking.  However, Cindy’s step-father has a different point of view.  He says that, during the years he spent living with Cindy’s mother before they got married, his bride’s parents were cold to him.  What happened when Cindy went to her grandparents’ house for the duration of her mother and step-father’s honeymoon?  Who is the dragon who has caused so much suffering to several of the characters?  When Cindy tells you, you may find yourself crying.
photo by N-K Photography
Raiane Cantisano’s performance as Cindy and her transformation from tortured girl to triumphant young person in control of herself is worth watching.  Mercedes Vasquez gives a dynamite performance as a very strong woman who is shutting out her family while she continues to overcome much bad karma.  It is really a triumph to see the patient, nurturing Crystal Edn and the empowered Cindy finally get Cindy’s mother to listen to them.  Director Brock Harris Hill helps us get into the characters’ heads so we can confront the sensitive, unpleasant truth.   This happens at a decent pace, never boring, always making me want to embrace the evolving complexity of the story.  I am still not clear whether events such as these could be discussed in such identifying detail in a TED Talk, nor whether a young person in shock can recover quite so quickly, but the rest of the story is very moving and well-acted.

Spotlight On...Katie Goodman

Name: Katie Goodman

Hometown: Boston

Education: U. Penn

Why theater?: I’m starting to think it’s the only thing that can save the world. Besides kale. And pharmaceudicals like post-election anti-anxiety meds. In that order. Or star with the kale. Get a good jump on the day.

Who do you play in Broad Comedy?: We all play about ten parts. Ya know, from talking vaginas to MILF’s to rats in a maze. Just the usual Off-Broadway parts.

Tell us about Broad Comedy: Ever wonder what would happen if “Inside Amy Schumer” & “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” had a child and hired Tim Minchin as the manny? That’s pretty much us.

What is it like being a part of Broad Comedy?:  It’s really the joy of my life. The camaraderie is endless and we get to evolve as the world changes.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Comedy has always challenged me more than drama so I love doing comedy and I love watching drama. I am inspired by other writers who are trying to figure out what we all want to say in this trying time. I love seeing other artists create their own work from scratch. It’s freaking exhausting but satisfying.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I have already done all of the ones I was dying to do because I spent 15 years running my own theater. (It’s good to be the King…er, queen.) Faves were the Nanny in Baby With The Bathwater, and the title role in Edwin Drood.

What’s your favorite showtune?:  I’d be a real schmuck to name one of my own, so I guess I’d have to say anything by my buddy Lawrence O’Keefe (Batboy), and there are a few from Altar Boys (particularly "Epiphany") and Book of Mormon ("Turn It Off"… hmmm… noticing a theme here) that are faves. I also am still a fangirl of In The Heights ("96,000"), and, yeah, I love some of the greats like "America", and "Suddenly Seymour."

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Tim Minchin and Samantha Bee. Together. In a musical we’d call Trumped. I have no idea what the story would be but it would be glorious. And it would get panned. But we wouldn’t care.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Sarah Silverman. “All Fucked Up.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’d like to see Tom Lehrer and Victor Borge live. There are so few musical comics and they are my heroes.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon.

What’s up next?: This! I can’t think past it!

For more on Katie, visit

Spotlight On...Brian Mulay

Name: Brian Mulay

Hometown:  Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Been in NYC since 1999.

Education:  BFA in Musical Theatre from The University of Michigan

Favorite Credits: Falsettoland, 42nd Street, Godspell 

Why theater?: It has the power to transform the way a person thinks.

Tell us about The Love Curriculum: One day I realized that my love life has been the reverse of what many people experience.  Then it occurred to me that we're all learning the same lessons, but they just occur in a different order for everyone.  I wanted to put together a show that explored these lessons by relating my experience and allowing others to reflect on theirs.

What inspired you to write The Love Curriculum?:  Situations I've experienced in my life seem to be reflected in the musical theatre songs I've listened to over the years.  We've all heard songs that make us say "that's my life!"  I wanted to do something with the songs that have shaped my life in hopes that others will relate as well.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  My favorite kind of theater is the kind that forces you to think and question what you already know.  It was always stars and legends of the musical theater who seemed to be able to do everything: Ben Vereen, Gene Kelley, Chita Rivera, and Judy Garland, just to name a few.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  I adore Patti LuPone.  I'd be content just to have dinner with her!

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  Next To Normal, Title Of Show, Waitress, Avenue Q, so many....

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh, it's already been done.  Amy Adams played me.  It was a little movie called "Enchanted".  Lol

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Who wouldn't want to time travel to see Barbra Streisand play Fanny Brice in the original Funny Girl on Broadway.  That had to have been thrilling to see a star be born.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  RuPaul's Drag Race and everything on the Food Network or Cooking Channel.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  I have a wonderful job outside of theater working for Nespresso as a training specialist.  My Nespresso family is very special to me and I'm so grateful for their support of my theatrical ventures.

What’s up next?:  Brainstorming on an idea about exploring the four elements of fire, water, earth and air from a musical perspective.

Block Talk- Episode 16- Daniel John Kelley

On this episode of Block Talk, I sit down with Daniel John Kelley, playwright of That True Phoenix! 

For more on That True Phoenix, visit!

To listen to the episode, visit iTunes or Soundcloud! And don't forget to subscribe to never miss an episode.

And visit to learn about how you can support the website and receive more content like this!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meet the Queens! Lady Liberty Semifinals Round 1!

Lady Liberty is in their FOURTH CYCLE! So who is competing to snatch the crown in the first semifinal round? It's time to meet the Queens. Check them out Friday, April 21st at the Ace Hotel. Doors Open at 7:00pm, Drag Race Viewing Party at 8:00pm, and the Lady Liberty Drag Competition, hosted by Brita Filter and Terra Hyman, at 9:00pm


 What is your drag name?: Egypt

What is the origin of your drag name?: For the longest time everywhere I would go people thought I was from Egypt so I said since they already saying I'm from their why not name myself Egypt.

How did you get involved in the drag community?: I started competing back in September of last year as an androgynous performer and this past January I entered my first pageant Ms. Barracuda.

What or who inspires you as a performer?: The people who inspired me to start coming out clammed up were grace Jones and Leigh Bowery.

If you had your own show, what would it be?: If I had my own show I would have it were the audience would get a chance to raise money for different organizations benefiting the LGBTQ community.

What is your go-to lip sync song?: My go to lip sync is "I Am Telling You" from Dreamgirls 

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: My instagram is Therealegypt

What is your drag name?: Jessie James

What is the origin of your drag name?: My favorite female vocalist is Jessie J! The name also ties in with the famous bank robber, Jessica Rabbit, and I love that the name Jessie is androgynous

How did you get involved in the drag community?: After having one experience with a drag queen, that was it! The amount of sole talent, passion, and tenacity it takes is unsurpassable and respectively admirable. Being able to utilize and strengthen multiple artistic outlets at once is invigorating!

What or who inspires you as a performer?: Strong, committed performers are my biggest inspiration. Artists that are 100% unapologetically and authentically themselves is fuel for my fire!

If you had your own show, what would it be?: A cabaret or a game show!

What is your go-to lip sync song?: "Mama Knows Best" - Jessie J

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: @JessieJamesNY everywhere!

What is your drag name?: Miss Carriage

What is the origin of your drag name?: The inability of a higher power to keep me from the current situation of "alive" that I am in.

How did you get involved in the drag community?: I've seen all to many shows and thought what the hell.

What or who inspires you as a performer?: Chameleons.

If you had your own show, what would it be?: I'd never have my own show because my hamstrings can't handle all the drop splits.

What is your go-to lip sync song?: Lucky

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: @datgirlmisscarriage @tayteehanson

What is your drag name?: Shirley U Jest

What is the origin of your drag name?: I got it from the movie Airplane!

How did you get involved in the drag community?: I played dress-up in preschool and I've never been the same since.

What or who inspires you as a performer?: Big theatre comedy divas like Carol Burnett

If you had your own show, what would it be?: Two hours of me lip syncing to "Mah Na Mah Na" by the Muppets

What is your go-to lip sync song?: "Rose's Turn" (the Bernadette Peters revival)

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: Facebook-Shirley U. Jest, Instagram @thinkoutleod, twitter Jest_a_girl

What is your drag name?: Sullivan

What is the origin of your drag name?: Somewhere in Ireland?

How did you get involved in the drag community?: As a little boy I would drape a towel down my head pretending it was beautiful luscious hair. The drag community is the closest thing to reliving my childhood fantasies

What or who inspires you as a performer?: Creating experiences with people through artistic expression and connection

If you had your own show, what would it be?: Two parts. First half: a choral and theatrical performance in a concert hall or church! During the intermission, the audience will head over to a nearby cabaret space or a bar to watch the second half. singing. vaudeville. dance. comedy. The works!

What is your go-to lip sync song?: Anything by Babz

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: mike3sullivan

What is your drag name?: Tess Tickles

What is the origin of your drag name?: My friends were just throwing random names at me of things I liked and testickles just so happened to be number one.

How did you get involved in the drag community?: We have a super small drag community here in Westchester and I started going to their Thursday shows a few years ago at a young age, and a few years later I decided to give it a try and stuck to it.

What or who inspires you as a performer?: My drag inspirations are all the westchester queens starting with Gigi Cutina, dotty Spartans, Rhoda Rollin Stone and Bella Biscotti.They all taught me different things about drag and made me who i am today.

If you had your own show, what would it be?: If I could have my own show it would be a show where I could get new queens involved in because I don't feel like they have many opportunities and only get to perform in competitions where they don't really get to showcase who they are as a drag queen.

What is your go-to lip sync song?: "Voodoo Pussy" by Miss Prada

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: Instagram @whostesstickles Facebook: Dan Richards (Tess Tickles)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spotlight On...Molly Kelleher

Name: Molly Kelleher

Hometown: Guilderland, NY

Education: Emerson College

Select Credits: Broad Comedy member of the troupe for nearly a decade,  recently seen on “Hack My Life” on TruTV , her film “The Cat Callers”(finalist at the New York Downtown Short Film Festival), as well as this past summer’s NYCFRINGE festival with The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer written by the amazing Michael Bradley Block. You may also recognize her from teenVOGUE’S “Ask a Comedian” video series. Her upcoming project “BERT”, a web series she is co-creating will be hitting YouTube this fall. Throngs of internet trolls are anxiously awaiting the usage of their comment buttons.

Why theater?: I spent about five years performing for children as Helen Keller and this role was my most satisfying theatrical role to date. To tell the story of such an incredible woman is the gift theater gives the world. Before I step on stage I want to run away as fast as possible (every time), but once I’m out there I feel truly whole. That is the gift theater gives me. The gift to trust fall into the story and pleasure of the audience’s experiences.

Who do you play in Broad Comedy?:  I play over a dozen characters. We are a fast moving political-comedy-musical troupe (say that five times fast), so every 3-5 minutes I’m someone else!

Tell us about Broad Comedy: Broad Comedy is a musical comedy show. We are a very liberal, sex positive, empowering, feminist and we manage to make that really really funny! We are different from your usual sketch shows however. I think of our pieces more like 20 mini stories rather than sketches that are looking to just find the laugh. You will laugh, but you will also be asked to think. I hope it inspires our audiences to get involved in the movements that matter most to them!

What is it like being a part of Broad Comedy?: This show, the Soho Playhouse run, has been my dream for a decade. I started working with the company when the did a quick run in Boston ten years ago. I’ve since performed with them a Planned Parenthood fundraisers, colleges, the Triad Theater, and the PIT. The show is originally out of Bozeman MT where we have another amazing cast of actresses but now our NYC cast is taking this city by storm. And I’m just thrilled to be part of it!

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Telling stories that make you think. That leave you wanting to do more, learn more, feel deeper or stronger about a topic. I love working on conversation starters! I’m inspired by so many things all of the time. I’m a total nerd for learning and reading. I never feel full of knowledge or curiosity. NYC inspires me. My friends and fellow artists inspire me. I’m also a Yoga and Pilates teacher, I find movement inspires me greatly. I’m mad for magical realism and Gustav Klimt. I like my life sprinkled with a little bit of wonderment.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Yes! I can’t wait to play Berta in Pippin some day. Trina in Falsettos. I’d love to play Marisol in Jose Rivera’s Marisol (but I never will…for obvious reasons) still I love his writing so much!

What’s your favorite showtune?: This is an impossible question. But I’ll tell you I am looking to learn a few from the new Amelie (which I saw at Berkley Rep).

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: For TV: I have an actor crush on Walton Googins and Aaron Sorkin. For (recent) Theater: I fell in love with Taylor Louderman (Kinky Boots) this past week. She’s my favorite kind of actress….always busy, always in character. totally committed.  For “THE DREAM”: Meryl, Cate, Kate, Helen, Jane+Lili, Judi, Kathy, Julianne, Susan, Sissy, Francis, Maggie, Glenn, Tom, Jack, Morgan, Ed….I’m easily inspired.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: “French Bulldogs, Wine, and Ambition” starring Jade Jolie

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I recently missed out on The Color Purple and Bridges of Madison County. Tori Amos’ “The Light Princess” that played in the West End. I would have loved to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in anything he ever did.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Hamilton, have you seen it…the tickets are real easy to get.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: HGTV, give me Chip and Joanna with a side of Nicole any day

What’s up next?: I’m in the middle of writing a new web series and filming that this summer. We have a bunch more Broad Comedy shows coming up. And I’m taking a week off at the end of August for a much needed break away from America!

For more on Molly, visit!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spotlight On...Jenn Harris

Name:  Jenn Harris

Hometown:  Plano, IL.

Education:  BFA from Boston University, LAMDA, London, Second City, Chicago

Select Credits:  Modern Orthodox, Silence! The Musical, and the revival of All In The Timing.

Why theater?:  It's scary, and I like scary.

Who do you play in Pressing Matters?: Betty, Judy, Chole, Ticket Agent.

Tell us about Pressing Matters: A wonderful, clever collection of short plays about relating, loss, gain, and delight.

What is it like being a part of Pressing Matters?: Lovely is the first word that comes to mind. It's a blessing and refreshing to get to play 4 different characters in women centric stories. I needed this now...we all do.

What kind of theater speaks to you?  What or who inspires you as an artist?: The new kind. Or if it's a revival, I want to see a fresh take. I appreciate and lean towards different. Bold, kind people who don't apologize. And every single one of my friends who are still trying to make a living as an artist - THAT'S guts, THAT'S inspiring to the core.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I like creating them, so... yet to be written, but listen, if Leslie Kritzer isn't available, I could tackle Annie in Annie Get Your Gun for the next revival...I have a take on her.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Besides "Would you Fu*k Me" from Silence!, “Lily's Eyes” from The Secret Garden - I sing it with myself with barbies. Haven't found the right audition for it, but I have it. Also If I want to cry I put on "The Mirror-Blue Night" from Spring Awakening

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Sting. But also Carol Burnett and Brian d'Arcy James.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Pee Wee Herman in "Me In My Apartment"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  I would have lived to see the opening night of Merrily We Roll Along, right?!?!

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  Ice Man Comeith at BAM I LOVED and thought I was gonna hate. I haven't seen so much that I want to see that I bet i'de love, so go see Dolls House Part 2 and tell me about it cuz THAT CAST!!!!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Oh NO guilt in pleasure.

What’s up next?:  I created a Web Series called NEW YORK IS DEAD that I co wrote and star in with Matt Wilkas that is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this month.

Review: A Silly, Goofy, Campy Easter

By Michael Block

Spring is here! And Paige Turner is here to welcome it! Throw your winter blues away as Paige Turner and her friends, Jackie Cox and Remy Germinario, fill your Easter basket with enough sweetness to last the whole year in Paige Turner’s Easter Egg-stravaganza.
Back at the Beechman, Paige Turner gives a revisionist Easter as she tries to share the joy of the holiday with her agnostic friend Jackie Cox. On the journey toward Easter understanding, they perform a show for kids thanks to a rapping bunny, learn from a blonde twink why spring is important for the gays, and of course take a lively trip to a gay church. It's right for Paige to joke that there used to be a plot because the story seems to fall to the wayside in return for more gay inside jokes, silly songs, and rousing comedy. Paige Turner’s Easter Egg-stravaganza isn't meant to be a well-made theatrical piece. It's a celebration of holiday fun. Filled with double-entendres and gay jokes out the wazoo, the show has that child-like aura, similar to Pee Wee’s Playhouse, that is simply made to entertain. Filled with some easy recurring jokes and hidden Easter eggs, Paige makes them obvious. And that’s part of the humor. For the theater lovers, you will get your fill of industry jabs as well. Since the trio have pipes for days, Paige Turner’s Easter Egg-stravaganza has a full basket of  musical numbers, many of which are riffs on showtunes. From “Little Known Facts” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to a couple of numbers for Godspell, some of the songs get the full parody treatment while others remained nearly in tact. And that’s not fun! But since this is drag, expect a lip sync for your salvation.
photo by Michael Block
This show is a dazzling character showcase. Paige Turner is a star among stars. Her comedic timing is on point, but it’s made brighter next to her co-star Jackie Cox. The pair is unstoppable. Paige Turner may look like a dumb blonde but it’s her zippy reads hurled at Jackie that prove she’s quite brilliant. And every jab toward Jackie makes you want to give her a sympathy aw. Jackie may be the sidekick but it’s time for her turn in the limelight. Thanks to silly costumes and ridiculous wigs, Remy Germinario was the scene-stealer of the night. Putting on goofy voices, Germinario held his own in-between the drag dynamos.
Paige Turner’s Easter Egg-stravaganza is nowhere near perfect but it’s perfectly endearing. You’re bound to leave with a full stomach thanks to all the sugar Paige and friends serve.

Review: Different But the Same, Just Like You and Me

By Ed Malin

The Tank, in association with Glass Bandits, is now presenting Charleses by Carl Holder at the Brick Theater.  Meghan Finn  directs.  Charleses is a play full of, well, men named Charles.  It has a striking, spacious set designed by Peiyi Wong, which serves as a humble cabinet-making workshop but also has a skeleton of a roof.  Similarly, the play is full of amazing silences and tableaux, just like real life with real men.
The elder Charles (Richard Toth) is discovered in his workshop, finishing a piece of furniture.  The rotary phone rings, presumably announcing the birth of his son.  (The play never shows us any women, instead allowing us to focus on the relationships of the XY chromosome people.)  Without missing a beat, Charles puts together a cradle.  When the lights come up again, he is rocking Charles 2 (Mike Shapiro), a grown actor who will go through an accelerated childhood before our eyes. Charles may be a self-made man of few words, but his smiles and gestures of victory make you want to smile, laugh and cry. Charles tries to teach Charles 2 how to say their name, with charmingly futile results.  A few minutes later, Charles 2 is learning to ride a bike. Next, a drum beat punctuates a scene where Charles and Charles 2 enter a deli, order sandwiches and wax metaphysical; it scans nicely and feels very ordered, the way our ancestors lived and thought of themselves. Soon, Charles 2 is learning to drive a car and gets a distant-feeling shaving lesson from Charles.  But is it Charles’s fault he doesn’t make small talk?  As they wipe off the shaving cream, Charles asks Charles 2, “What else would you like to talk about?”
Soon enough, the stork brings Charles and Charles 2 their very own Charles 3 (Fernando Gonzalez).  Charles 3 will also have to learn to say their name, ride a bike, try to pee against a tree and order a deli sandwich, but he is very much his own person. Charles 3 is sensitive and prone to question the existing order.  For example, Charles 3 does a school film on the history of logging and cabinetry work in his community.  Charles 3 sympathizes with those who, according to him, lived simply doing the only thing they knew how to do; Charles, in contrast, gets bored when Charles 3 has technical difficulties during the presentation.  Later, when Charles is not around, Charles 2 tells Charles 3 that their patriarch “grew up in a time when all men had to be bad. He even was made fun of for having a feminine job like cabinet making.”
photo by Josh Luxenberg
This play patiently and benevolently gives each generation its say.  We see the adolescent Charles 3 gay cruising on the internet. The elder Charles has a stroke but, no matter how long it takes him to articulate his thoughts, he is willful and dignified. Eventually, Charles 3 goes into medicine, at a time when people seem to have more difficulty connecting with each other. Charles 3 is seen somewhat listlessly telling a computer to read his email; 90% of the messages are marked “ignore”.  We also see a retrospective of each generation discovering the neighborhood sandwich shop (no menu, just order) and its specialties. Clearly, some things don’t change, and that’s OK, too.
Charleses is a well-written and exquisitely directed and performed play.  If you haven’t had a “show don’t tell experience” in a while, please go see it.  I’m sure you will be left with the pleasurable task of learning to like three nice but flawed people.  They are solid, and totally different from each other, and speak as often as not in facial expressions. Nevertheless, all of the family members, sandwich makers, the local barber, etc. are names Charles. Are YOU set in your ways?  Is being super-progressive a form of intolerance?  These producing organizations are always moving forwards, so it is a great joy to see them deliver this work.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: A Risky Affair

By Michael Block

Harold Pinter' backwards timeline play, Betrayal, takes the stage at Mile Square Theater. The slightly autobiographically inspired play tracks the years-long affair of Jerry and Emma as Robert, Emma's husband and Jerry's best friend, watches from afar.
The year is 1977. Emma and Jerry meet up two years following the end of their affair. She reveals that after learning that her husband Robert has been betraying her with affairs of his own, she spills the beans on the nature of her relationship with Jerry. But rather than seeing the aftermath, playwright Harold Pinter goes backwards as we watch how it came to this. Regarded as one of Pinter's finest texts, Chris O’Connor directs this juicy drama of deceit, dishonesty, and, oh yeah, betrayal with great purpose and ease. There is a specificity in the tempo and cadence of Pinter's text. O’Connor approached it with immense care, finding the beats and exploring the necessity of silence. But the intimacy of the story seemed to be lost, perhaps due to the great expansive feel of the space. Designed by Matthew J. Fick, the set looked exquisite with the clean lines and rustic floor. Combined with the boldness of the white walls, the excessive negative space wasn't used to its advantage. O’Connor played into body language but not quite with spatial relationship. And there is a story of its own there. For example, how O’Connor sat Emma on in the middle bench, leaning toward Jerry, put her on his side in the trio's discussion. It was a stunning stage picture and a strong moment of story. These moments could have been played with even further throughout the play. Look at when Emma and Robert were in their hotel room. As soon as Robert figured out the truth of the affair, he needed to assert his power by creeping in closer to Emma, not stand stationary on the other side of the room in an almost cavalier manner. With limited furniture and architecture for the characters to utilize, it created some obstacles. There was a sense of nowhere to go. It's a slippery slope to fall into the realm of melodramatic soap opera. The soundtrack provided by Kari Bernson in the transitions pushed it in that direction. While the men were dressed properly dapper, the outfits Peter Fogel placed on Emma were simply exceptional. Not only did the rich color pallet fit her personality, the silhouettes and patterns lived in the period but also managed to reveal so much about the character.
photo by Joe Epstein
Betrayal is one of those plays where the content is seeping with potential in character. Pinter has painted a broad picture on who these three individuals are but the dynamics and chemistry makes the play tick. If there was ever a pair you wanted to see work, it was Jerry, played by Aidan Redmond, and Emma, played by Dena Tyler. They had a fervent magnetism that was transcendent. Tyler is remarkable, gravitating toward the danger of the affair. Redmond as Jerry had a genuine aura of amiability. It’s no wonder Emma was drawn toward him. But for this play to work completely, the casting of Robert is key. You must believe that there is something, aside from cultural, familiar, and class taboos, that would keep Emma from staying with Robert. Likewise, the friendship of Robert and Jerry is key. Unfortunately, Matthew Lawler as Robert seemed to be living in his own play. It's like he's in the Monty Python sketch version of Betrayal. Lawler has a natural comedic presence that didn’t quite match Redmond and Tyler's dramatic prowess. Cut Robert out of the equation, this Betrayal becomes infinitely more engaging. Some of Lawler's choices seemed to defy Pinter and O’Connor’s intent simply based on the actions of his scene partners.
At times, Mile Square Theatre’s production of Betrayal is ripe with intrigue. And then it seems to stumble, needing time to get back on track. You don’t think that the little things will hurt the big picture, but as the little things add up, the big picture doesn’t look so pristine. Put a filter on and you might see it that way.