Friday, August 26, 2016

Spotlight On...Dennis Williams

Name: Dennis Williams AKA Destiny Devine.

Hometown: Queens NYC

Education: High school Diploma | AMDA Graduate | Two-year, Theater Conservatory, Certificate Program.

Select Credits: Some of my favorite credits are, Ken in Smokey Joe's Cafe, and Jimmy Early in Dreamgirls.

Why theater?: I really feel like theater is a place that you can really express yourself, but also inspire others around you to follow their dreams.

Who do you play in the production?: My role is Young Miss Counterpoint. Young Miss Counterpoint is the younger and fiery side of older Miss Cunty Counterpoint.

What is it like being a part of That's MISS FITS, to YOU!?: To me, it's truly a lot of fun. I love to play a younger version of such a strong and seasoned character, in the script and real life.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Musical Theater really speaks to me. I really love how it all tells a story through music, dance and emotions. I love being able to inspire people through creative arts, so I love any type of theater that inspires people to love themselves and follow their dreams. Beyonce inspires me as an artist. Not just because she is amazingly talented. But because she is an artist and truly creates with all different things and parts of the world. Not just what people expect from her.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I am dying to play Lola in Kinky Boots, Richie in A Chorus Line and Seaweed in Hairspray.

What’s your favorite showtune?: One of my favorite show-tunes in "Being Alive" from Company.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would love to work with of course, my beloved Beyonce.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would play a successful artist and entrepreneur and it would be called "Simply Devine."

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The Jackie Robinson Musical called The First.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Of course one of my favorites right now, actually two, That's Miss Fits, to You!, and of course Kinky Boots.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Latino men :)

What’s up next?: I have a lot of things in store, but I don't like to kiss and tell, so if your interested you can learn more at www.destinydevine.com


Trolling Time with...Geovanny Fischetti

Name: Geovanny Fischetti

Hometown: Phillipsburg, NJ

Education: Performing Arts High School

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Actor 2: Solveig, Man in Green, Anitra, Nurse

Describe your character(s) in three words: Solveig: Sincere, Sweet, Loving; Man in Green: Confident, Strong, Self-Absorbed; Anitra: Playful, Submissive, Passionate

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: It’s a contemporary and fresh exploration of the adventures of Peer Gynt. Peer’s romantic/sexual interests come to the forefront in finding himself (along with a few other sexy characters).

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: Sex. Truth. Acceptance.

Who is the biggest liar?: Eddie for saying he is a human. Clearly he is too fab.

Who is the biggest troll?: Nick for his vivid sense of humor.

Who is the sexiest?: Molly. She is a fierce mother f*cker.

Who is the most mischievous?: Gerardo. Gives me a mischievous vibe.

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Scott, since he is always venturing through parks howling at the moon.

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: Maddie for super cute and sweet people.

Which bandana best describes you?: I’ll leave you all guessing.

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: Never been to a gay bar in NYC. I’m a bad gay lol

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Laughs 100 %

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: Sometimes ;)

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Definitely the super sexy dance.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: Working with such fun, talented actors and the creative team. Making memories through rehearsal and improving as a person/actor.

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: It’s extremely sexy, heartening, funny and relevant. To add to that, the show is well written and very well cast.

For more on Geovanny, visit geovannyfischetti.com  

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Review: Resurfacing Life

By Michael Block

Sometimes all it takes is a strong story and basic storytelling to make the perfect Fringe play. Those were the main ingredients of Sean-Patrick O’Brien's nearly flawless Zamboni. In this drama, a man searches for completeness while trying to be a somebody for everybody. Broken into mostly two-character scenes, Zamboni follows Jamie as he battles the world's perception of him as he tries to only give the goodness he knows. He makes new connections with an array of people, each asking him to be a somebody. Whether it's a caretaker, a lover, a daddy, a friend, or an employee, Jamie must be something different to everyone. And in the process, Jamie experiences a crisis of self. Zamboni is a fantastic script with smart writing by O’Brien. It's a heartbreaking story. It's heavy but not daunting. O’Brien has written a character that teeters on unassuming immaturity. Jamie, for whatever reason, has not grown up and developed normally causing him to have a bit of a simple, youthful mind where he can't see the bad things in his actions. Through each scene, we see these beautiful relationships form where the other party is unaware of the big picture. But when the puzzle is completed and Jamie's life spirals out of control, everyone suddenly sees the truth of the situation.
Zamboni featured exceptional direction by Leslie Kincaid Burby. She took an expressionistic approach to the storytelling. The play moved effortlessly with transitions from scene to scene blending into one another. This is an intimate play. And with the elements of the space playing a major factor, the volume from the company needed to be amped up overall. But it was nice to have the ice rink feel with the cold temperature of the theater. With four cubes and a rolling cart from scenic designer Duane Pagano,  Kincaid Burby was still able to define space and represent the world.
Zamboni featured an incredible ensemble. Though they rarely intertwined, everyone had immense chemistry with Joseph Franchini's Jamie. Franchini gave a heartbreaking performance. To avoid complete drama, Dawn McGee as Leeann was perfectly humorous. Her colorful take on the woman searching for love was filled with glimmer of hope and bouts of despair. A dead-ringer for Kesha, Mae Mitchell had vivacity as Chloe. Her spunky persona made the oddball pair stand out. Though there was one blaring question mark in his character, Nick DiLeonardi was a fun goof as Trip.
This is a play scout loneliness and solitude. This is a play about a person wanting to be something to somebody. Zamboni is a refreshing play. Who knew we needed a play about a zamboni driver.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: A Jersey Godot

By Michael Block

Two slacker types sit on a bench waiting for a bus back to Jersey. As they wait, they engage in an intellectual conversation about finding the meaning of their own lives. And they also spot a man that may or may not be Danny DeVito. Written by Alexander Janosek Doyle, Is That Danny DeVito? (and other questions from west of the Hudson) is a modern riff on Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot packed with stoner intellect. Doyle has written a play that is witty and intelligent, poised to ask the tough questions we all ponder. There is great substance in Doyle's text but the overlying question he poses is why utilize the Godot model in favor of a completely original story? No matter what, Doyle has a promising voice. He has a great ability to allow the recurring bits to appear subtly. Even with waiting being the name of the game, Is That Danny DeVito? was a ton of fun. That being said, it ironically ran ten to fifteen minutes too long. Perhaps even an act too long. While trying to mirror Beckett's arc, Doyle implemented the two acts that aren’t entirely warranted. Doyle easily justified his story to complete when Act I closes. There is one plot hole that he might want to clean up. The reason for Dusty and Geoff missing the bus in Act I needs finessing as it is currently feels too forced. There is little justification for Dusty to continue his scuffle with Ass-Biter. When Geoff calls for him, his eagerness to get home should immediately be recalled in his brain. Unfortunately that's not the case.
Amanda Levie's direction of Doyle's play was simple. The focus was on the words and the humor rather than the intellect. It allowed the depth of Doyle's text to speak for itself. Even with some lighting limitations, Levie tried to keep her company contained.
Like Godot, the character focus is on the main duo. Julian Blake Gordon and Finn Kilgore were a good balance for one another. Kilgore was subdued as Geoff. He had a slacker sage-ness to him that helped his jokes dribble out. Gordon as Dusty was a bit more high-strung. He kept his energy up as the situation unfolded around him. Natasha Edwards and Carlo Fiorletta made the best of their bit parts as Ghoul and Ass-Biter respectively.
Is That Danny DeVito? (and other questions from west of the Hudson) is more than just another Waiting For Godot adaptation. Alexander Janosek Doyle has written something for a modern audience to ponder.

Spotlight On...Jessica Kazamel

Name: Jessica Kazamel

Hometown: Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada

Education: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC

Favorite Credits: As an actor, Linda the Chicken from MilkMilkLemonade, and Peter Pan.

Why theater?: Theatre is tangible, it requires disicpline, it forces an audience to react, and hopefully, think. I personally believe theatre teaches empathy, which is severly lacking in this world.

Tell us about Canuck Downunder: Canuck Downunder is a story about a small town Canadian girl in her early twenties, living in New York City, who has just lost her older brother to substance abuse. The story follows Jess as she works through her grief with the help and hinderence of the digital world. The process of grieving has changed significantly with the involvement of social media and easy access to communication, Canuck Downunder reflects on that change.

What inspired you to write Canuck Downunder?: This play is autobiographical, about my personal experience of losing my brother, Stephen Kazamel. Social media had an enourmous impact on me during that time. Some examples being articles posted about his death, using Skype and Facebook to contact my family up north, constant messages of condolences, and of course, Stephen’s Facebook account. Social media weighed a lot on me. Do I post something about his death? Will people think I’m being self indulgent? Will they think I don’t care if I don’t post? Who should I be updating on my grief? But this is not an attack on social media, yes there was a lot of negative, but I am the first to admit I completely rely on it. On a positive note, I had friends of my brothers from all around the world friending me, messaging me absolutely wonderful stories about him, and they continue to do so. It feels good. Social media is something we are all expected to understand now, and I want those who are grieving to know they are not alone, I want THEM to feel understood. That is why I am sharing this story.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Dark comedy, for sure. I hate it when theatre takes itself too seriously. As for subject matter, family dramas always get me, and anything written by or about minorities.  I owe a lot of thanks to Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, especially with my short films. These women have sparked change in the industry, and given me an outlet to express myself without asking permission from anybody. Thanks to them, I am bold and unapolagetic with my work.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: All of the ladies on SNL cause they are SLAYING, Mike Meyers, Bill Murray, Lena Dunham + Jenni Konner (basically, everyone at Lenny Letter), The Duplass brothers, Judd Apatow, the list goes on.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Dear Evan Hansen blew my mind and had me sobbing. I’m usually not one for musicals, but WOW. It brought all the feels.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be hilarious to see my best friend, Sarah Hodgson, play me. It would be called "Scarred for Life."

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I was so sad to miss this years Big Green Theatre at the Bushwick Starr. The Superhero Clubhouse collaborates with child playwrights and professional actors to produce a super “green” show. Meaning the entire set is made of recycled materials, and the content is about how to be eco friendly. It is so cool and creative.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Pretty Little Liars. They are just so nice to look at. More specifically, creeping Ashley Benson’s Instagram.

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

What’s up next?: More short films, specifically about street harassment and domestic violence. Also, the continuous of my web series, Loose Linda.

For more on Jessica, visit www.jessicakazamel.com

Review: Irreconcilable

Have we reached the point in theater that the only way to tell a generic story is to throw an outrageous structure into the fold that complicates the message and thusly hurting the credibility of the play? In Jenny King's overly complex Reconciling, three individual stories are thrust together on the same room as three pairs of people hope to patch up their past. What hurts King's play is the complete lack of clarity. Whether it was on her part or on the part of director Julia Hinson, Reconciling tried so hard to be something it could never be. The conceit begins with three pairs that share the same space, an apartment, and never intertwine story wise yet occasionally share lines. But then the world that was built gets destroyed when the characters begin to acknowledge one another. Why? It's not clear. For starters, there is dead air with when it comes to the dialogue structure. The forced pauses in these arguments allow the other pairs’ chat to be unnatural. In fact, trying to recover from continuation isn't seamless. But the bigger dramaturgical question Reconciling poses is why this play is set in the same room. Never once is it discussed or explained especially when three individuals say that it's theirs. If it is the history of the room over time, King must explain that clearly. As it stands now it reads as if King and Hinson wanted to avoid it feeling like an acting class exercise with rehearsal cubes. But the reality is that would have offered stronger justification.
King is already in over her head with the script. By also playing a role in the show, she doesn't get the opportunity to truly listen to the script. She must step back to playwright only to hear and grasp the problems of her script. By nature of the play, it's hard to truly look at the individual performances. With pauses deflating the acting, the company did what the script prescribed. But praise must be given to this cast for being in-tune with one another. Those shared lines did happen precisely.
As noted earlier, the concept hindered director Hinson's overall vision. The apartment setting was just far too cluttered for the sextet to work around easily. It wasn't until the world changed and the passing off of stories began before Hinson had the chance to make anything resembling a nice stage picture.
Reconciling is an example of complexity in intricacy. It's also an example of trying to be something grander than it could be. Perhaps Jenny King should go back to the drawing board.

Review: Rice Rice Baby

By Michael Block

Staged at the music bunker of the Lower East Side known as drom, Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show is music, sketches, and stand up as performed by Slanty Eyed Mama. Comprised of Kate Rigg and Lyris Hung, this show is effortlessly entertaining. Rigg provides an evening of crude humor, stereotypes, and uproariously comical songs with Hung on electric violin. Though the curation of the evening may not flow perfectly from point A to point B, the fun is at a high throughout. And that's why we're there. Though Rigg jokes that the show is just a friends and family tech press dress, the show is more polished than she thinks. Right now, Rigg's show is very general. It can improve by implementing a stronger through-line. Let there be more than just the referential jokes to tie it all together.
Even in a concert setting, it was more than just two seasoned performers. The stage was lined with Chinese food boxes, Hello Kitty, and the Lucky Cat. The ambiance only added to the fun. The projection design by Leda Razorikon Resurreccion enhanced the stories and songs but, intentional or not, watching the cursor call up and start the videos was not appealing at all.
In the end, Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show is pure enjoyment performed by veteran performers. It's guaranteed to make you laugh.

Spotlight On...Jesse LaVercombe

Name: Jesse LaVercombe

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Education: The National Theatre School of Canada, Canadian Film Centre

Favorite Credits: For the past two years, all of my acting work has been in new Canadian plays, which is what excites me most about the industry right now. Our Beautiful Sons by Christopher Morris, Seams by Polly Phokeev, Mistatim by Erin Shields, Hacked by Paul Kirby, and S H E E T S by Salvatore Antonio were some highlights.

Tell us about Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender: It’s a play for one actor about the three members of the Tender family: Billy H., a pop star in crisis; Stella, his theatre-theorist mother; and Hal, his adoring and distraught teenage brother - following them all through the fateful day of January 31st, 2021.

What inspired you to write Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender?: You know that textbook symptom of OCD in kids, where they get really anxious at dinner if their peas are touching their mashed potatoes? I feel that way about pop culture. It’s creeping out of its designated area and inserting entertainment where entertainment is actually profoundly unhelpful, and, like a child suffering from OCD, it makes me really anxious. I also think that I’m writing about insomnia.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theatre that is engaged with its own inherent and unavoidable liveness. I also like complicated structures that, as soon as I find my footing, start to shift out from under me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: 2b Theatre, based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. They’re badass.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: At the Fringe? Dad, from this company in Denmark. It’s heartbreaking and so smart, and the two performers are charismatic as hell and almost infuriatingly beautiful. https://thedadperformance.com - don’t miss it.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Heroin. Black. Tar. Heroin. #sorrynotsorry

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Maybe a teacher…? I like to think that I’d be a good english teacher, but now that I’ve written that I’m very self-conscious of the fact that there are probably at least seven egregious errors in this one interview.

What’s up next?: I’m working on some films in the fall, and then I’m in the Toronto premiere of a play called Sequence at the Tarragon Theatre in the winter.

For more on Jesse and Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender, visit www.jesselavercombe.com/billy

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Trolling Time with...Adam Razavi

Name: Adam Razavi

Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky (Yes, like the chicken. Yes, we wear shoes. [These are questions I’m asked on a VERY frequent basis])

Education: BFA in Musical Theatre from Northern Kentucky University; Graduate of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: Ensemble (a tree)

Describe your character(s) in three words: tree, gay, fierce

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: It’s this fantastical journey of a young man to find himself but it’s realllllllly gay and fun and outrageous.

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: Drama, drama, ~*dRaMa*~

Who is the biggest liar?: Probably Taylor honestly.

Who is the biggest troll?: Gerardo. Seriously don’t trust him.

Who is the sexiest?: Our director, Chris, has some seriously 90’s teen-star Max Dennison from
"Hocus Pocus" looks going on so like I’m gonna go with that.

Who is the most mischievous?: Me… ;)

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Scott for sure. Don’t trust him either.

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: MADDIE HAHA

Which bandana best describes you?: I honestly don’t know what this means…

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: They all have their qualities, you know? But I don’t go out very often.

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Laughs. Hehe.

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: Not in a mirror, per se…

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: The scene with the troll king and The Man in Green. It’s silly and fun and a true ensemble moment.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: Meeting wonderful people in the theatre community in NYC and getting to act like a total fool.

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: I heard Solange will be there.

For more on Adam, visit www.adamrazavi.com

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Review: A Great Bite

By Michael Block 

Through brilliant storytelling, The Vampire’s Last Bite tells the fantastical tale of a young boy who sets out on an adventure to discover the truth about his family. Written and performed by the astonishing Martin J. Flowers, The Vampire’s Last Bite is a whimsical narrative that subtly incorporates LGBTQ themes in beautiful fashion. Imagine a Harry Potter world surrounded by gnomes, vampires, and gay uncles. That's the world of Flowers’ story. The play has classic fairy tale charm with modern themes that are married perfectly. From stage to page, Flowers is a wondrous storyteller. With fun alliteration and captivating sensibility, he sells his story. If you gave him the phone book to read, it would be mesmerizing.
This story isn't always the easiest to grasp with the plethora of characters, many of who have fantastical names. At times it hurts when you're trying to keep track of the fast-paced action. In this format, it's simply not enough. We want more! Puppets or ensemble movement, something to accompany Flowers and his story would elevate it to great heights. It's already in a great place and can be even better.
Where Flowers did step up the solo act was through the musical accompaniment from C. David Morrow. The soundtrack was evocative, allowing the mood to be set. Director Joseph Hayward helped Flower on his journey, navigating the five tree stump set. Though you wouldn't be alone if you worried Flowers would fall as he sat on the stacked stumps.
The Vampire’s Last Bite is a diamond in the rough at FringeNYC. It's exquisitely unassuming. You'll be pleasantly surprised with this one.

Spotlight On...Justin Phillips

Name: Justin Phillips

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Education: William Esper Studio, St. John's University

Select Credits: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Macbeth, The Christians, Dreamgirls, The Laramie Project, Sweeney Todd, A Raisin In The Sun, but I cd only whisper.

Why theater?: Why NOT theater? A good quote would work nicely here but I only know the over used ones. To me theater is the one and only art form that I can truly say changes me.

Who do you play in The Curse of the Babywoman?: Nimrod Rodham Rodman

Tell us about The Curse of the Babywoman: The Curse of the Babywoman is kind of exactly what it sounds like. Without giving anything away, it’s a story about a town shrouded in secrets and peril. It's up to the town's newest and unexpected visitor to solve its deadly mystery. A classic tale of horror, humor, and fantasy. Heavy on the humor. Nimrod is the big bad villain of the story! It's his mission to save the town from more death and destroy all Babywomen. Obviously in a hilarious way.

What is it like being a part of The Curse of the Babywoman?: Non-stop laughing. We can't stop laughing at each other. This play is truly an ensemble piece and the characters really demand a certain level of fearlessness.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that dares to push any and all buttons, that crosses the boundaries of what traditional theater has given us. The biggest source of my inspiration is a culmination of all the playwrights, directors and actors I've admired over the years. The characters they've brought to life and all the stories that were told are huge influences. Finding a little bit of myself in all of those characters and stories inspires me to be a little more honest with each role I have the opportunity to play. Plus all my teachers and fellow students from the Esper Studio.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Belize or Louis in Angels In America. Eventually MLK Jr. in The Mountaintop. I would also love a shot at Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon. I think it would be hilarious to have a black Cunningham.

What’s your favorite showtune?: Speaking of The Book of Mormon, "Man Up". God knows I love a good mash up of tunes already sung into one huge exciting act one finale!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Brandon Jacob-Jenkins

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Kenan Thompson. "When's It My Turn??"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Caroline or Change/Angels In America/ the original cast of Ragtime.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Shuffle Along! "Stranger Things" on Netflix!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A social media app called Peach. It's only the newest, hottest app out right now…

What’s up next?: Finishing the run of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee here in NYC!

Review: Losing Faith

By Michael Block

In Zoe Kamil's weighty #blessed, the discussion of rape is brought to light through the lens of faith. Despite being an important topic, the play doesn't offer anything we haven't already heard in similar themed plays.  That being said, examining the story structure of Kamil's play is what sets #blessed apart. Kamil infused some stylized moments through foreshadowing testimonial flanked by a robed chorus. While it did make the endgame predictable, simply having the characters alone would have been more powerful, keeping the focus solely on the words rather than the stage picture. With the story being about an impressionable young girl being tempted by a bad boy masquerading as the embodiment of persuasion, Kamil prescribed your feelings for the character and situation. Michael is a despicable character with no redeeming qualities. In the end, you'd likely side with Liana anyway, but the story lacks interest if everything is already spelled out for you.
Overall, #blessed felt like an unfocused after school special. But that is how the material reads. Director Miranda Cornell attempted to combat this and bring some intrigue into the world but it simply wasn't enough. With the play jumping from location to location, Cornell asked her company to move the giant rehearsal cubes to create various locales. It hurt the overall pacing by having so many moving parts. Though the idea of using removable push lights to create the car was a clever touch.
This is not an easy play to act. They are thin characters tackling a difficult topic. Marcus Shacknow was the only person on the stage who knew how to create a character to care about. Shacknow gave a well-rounded performance.
The last scene between Jesus and Liana is a ten-minute play that we'd want to see. It was Zoe Kamil's strongest writing. It just came too late. #blessed is a play very much in progress.

Review: Once Upon a Time...

By Kaila M. Stokes

Little Stories is a breath of fresh air in regards to comedic folklore in NYC. The plot was interesting from the description so one had high hopes. The show began with a mime/clown, played by Jack Herholdt. The clown interacted with the audience; making them laugh, scaring them in a playful way and even directing a few chosen audience members to open the show with a clink of a glass and a message in a bottle. Jack Herholdt’s work was so much fun; he seemed to enjoy himself every second. It was extremely entertaining to see him jump in and out of the stories – he broke the fourth wall throughout making it feel as if the audience was in the story too. The audience was always “in” on the secrets of what was about to take place. Little Stories is literally a bunch of “little stories” that have been lost or reinterpreted over the years all originally by The Brothers Grimm and adapted for this show by Jack Herholdt as well.
The story opened with "The Fisherman and His Wife". The fisherman catches a magic talking fish, but throws him back as a favor. His wife (who was fittingly a puppet) then wants to ask for all these favors until basically the world has come to an end because of her greed and the fisherman’s inability to say NO. Mark Woodard, the fisherman, was just darling onstage, he was quirky like the stories, but made you believe in each character he portrayed. He committed to each ridiculous idea, which made those the ridiculous reality.
The second tale was "Mother Holle," an enchanting story of good vs. not so good, where each will get us in the end. Garret Burreson hilariously played the “not so good” sister in this story. Garret was a hoot to watch. He had long hair that transformed him into sisters, kings, beggars and more throughout all the stories. Another actor that gave it his all and made the audience want to keep watching!
The third story, "The Stolen Pennies" is originally a ghost story. Actress Getchie Argetsinger plays a wanderer who is taking shelter from a storm in a generous families’ home. About midway through dinner she asks how old their son is as she is staring into a corner where no one is. The family looks at each other frightfully and the mother, played by Mickey Pantano, breaks down crying saying that her son died two weeks ago. Just as they were about to throw this crazy woman out she asks if these pennies under the floor boards mean anything. The mother immediately recognizes them and dives into detail. They are so thankful that this woman has actually brought closure to the family by being able to see the boy’s ghost. Both actresses Getchie and Mickey play those motherly roles throughout the stories, without them all would be lost since they are part of the merriment on stage.
The fourth and fifth stories, "King Thrushbeard" and "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering" featured actress, Summer Dawn Hortillosa. Summer played vastly different characters in each story, but non the less, went from an ungrateful princess to a murderous child seamlessly. The youngest in the troupe, Summer evoked a childlike play to each story that only she was able to do. Her theatrical enthusiasm kept the audience engaged each time.
This was an ensemble effort without a doubt, but one must commend the director, Michael Heitzler, and adapter, Jack Herholdt as well. Their vision was so clear which made it so easy for the audience to enjoy themselves. The time and effort spent on set and props also made the show. There were puppets (designed by Jan Leslie Harding), multiple costume changes (designed by Jennifer A. Jacob), props and scenic changes (designed by Scott Connor) that navigated each story. With so much to keep track of, it all was married together as one moving unit. Michael did a fantastic job connecting the audience, the troupe and our narrator clown. The one note that could have changed is that sometimes it was not clear when a story ended. I think a period put on each piece could have been used. The clown would have been a great source for this; either getting the audience to clap, maybe becoming an audience member or making the troupe bow perhaps. But guess what, doesn’t matter, go see Little Stories if it plays anywhere, an enjoyable evening with a talented group of performers, designers and more awaits you.

Spotlight On...Meghan Rose

Name: Meghan Rose

Hometown: LaCrescent, MN

Education: University of Wisconsin - Madison (Communications Arts)

Favorite Credits:  Music Director, Bare: A Pop Opera (I’ve never acted in a show before)

Why theater?: I think musical theatre in particular is my favorite way to tell a powerful story. There’s more freedom to break the rules in songwriting for theatre, and I love the collaborative aspect with the book writer/lyricist. It’s an album that’s able to connect the dots with more storytelling. I love all live performances because of the energy exchange between the audience and the performers. Every show is different.

Tell us about HELD: A Musical Fantasy: See Kelly’s answer

What inspired you to create HELD: A Musical Fantasy?: See Kelly’s answer

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The kind that tackles difficult emotions speaks to me the most. A piece that doesn’t shy away from intensity. I’m interested in real relationships and complex characters. I am someone who loves to cry at a performance because it means I’m relating and connecting. Any kind of theater that attempts to tell it’s own original truth is something I’m interested in seeing. What inspires me is constantly evolving, but usually it is the people I am working with. I’m still inspired by Kelly - the characters she created and the story she weaved and the language she uses still gets into my brain and makes me think about things and challenges me. I’ve also been inspired by Luci and the cast working on bringing this version to life. I am inspired by others’ passion for seeking the truth and what works and that is what we are all dedicated to doing with this show.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Sierra Boggess. I think she is the bees knees.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Currently running: The Color Purple.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jennifer Lawrence stars as Meghan Rose in "Learning To Unlearn", the movie critics are calling “a coming of age tale about effectively not giving a shit”,“bizarre in a relieving way”, and “militantly feminist”.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Ragtime. I hope they do another revival. The music is transcendent.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Kelly Clarkson. Whiskey.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Either a skilled tradesman like a welder or I’d be working at Renn Faires. Probably selling pickles out of a huge bucket.

What’s up next?: I’m in two bands where I write songs, sing, and shred: Revel and Damsel Trash. I plan on booking shows in NYC and rocking out. I have a new musical based on "Alice in Wonderland" called Alice that is a rock opera of sorts going up in Madison in October. We plan on submitting Held to NYMF, and possibly looking for investment for an Off-Broadway run. I will definitely write more musicals in the future but right now I’m more focused on writing for my bands. I would love to write with Kelly again someday, and I would love to write book, lyrics, and music for a show of my own someday too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trolling Time with...Chris Goodrich

Name: Chris Goodrich

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Education: University of Miami, BFA Musical TheatAH!

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: I direct these crazy people.

Describe your character(s) in three words: Hooker, heart, gold?

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: It’s a dream play, full of huge, hysterical, dramatic characters.  Also sex.

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: Gay Gay Gay

Who is the biggest liar?: Can I use a tape measure? TBD

Who is the biggest troll?: TBD, I am currently in contention

Who is the sexiest?: Austin’s Boykin Jenning’s right pinky.

Who is the most mischievous?: Maddie Sykes is plotting something, I know it.

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Geo Fischetti goes on an adventure just to get to rehearsal from Jersey, yet he’s ALWAYS early. He’s adventure-ready.

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: Scott Lilly could convincingly lead one. I’d believe!

Which bandana best describes you?: “Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?” –Pocahantas.

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: Metropolitan.

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Daily recommended value of each!

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: Only when I’m feeling reflective. BUH-DUMP-TSH!

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: The one and half pages when Taylor Turner’s not on stage. (JK Taylor, couldn’t resist.)

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: “We can learn to work and play, and get along with each other.” -Arthur

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: Because you need to get your LIFE from this one-of-a-kind, fabulous, gay, over-the-top rollercoaster of massive proportions this summer at FringeNYC!

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Review: The Friendship Burrito

By Michael Block

Sketch comedy is some of the hardest form of comedy to write and be funny. When you have a character that works and is loved, you might as well bring her back every opportunity you can. Molly "Equality" Dykeman makes a triumphant return in the hilarious new comedy A Microwaved Burrito Filled With E. coli. Written and performed by Andrea Alton and Allen Warnock, Molly visits Enchilada Shelly's for a wedding and ends up making a connection with waitress Angie Louise Angelone. Through foul-mouthed humor and poignant dialogue, a friendship is formed in beautiful fashion. What makes this play special is the writing. It starts off crazy but there is immense heart built right in. And it flows out naturally. Molly and Angie are endearing characters with a whole lot of depth. But it's Alton and Warnock’s remarkable ability to infuse important talking points seamlessly into a comedy that resonates. Molly just wants lasting love. Angie wants to find acceptance. And a best friend. These characters may appear big but their desires are pure. Being able to balance the two in the writing is a mark of comedic genius.
What’s undeniable is the immeasurable chemistry between Alton and Warnock. Even when something went off script, there was never a beat missed. Director Mark Finley helped the duo best navigate the small stage of the Huron Club. Even with the limitations of the space, a little restaurant was created. Finley focused on Molly and Angie’s story while allowing the writers-performers to have room to have fun.
A Microwaved Burrito Filled With E. coli is shameless fun that will make you smile. This is a great play to bring your best friend to as a reminder the beauty of friendship.

Spotlight On...Mike Schlitt

Name: Mike Schlitt

Hometown: Born and raised in NYC, been living in Los Angeles for decades (New Yorkers, please don't hold that against me).

Education: B.A. from UCLA

Favorite Credits: Directing the US premiere of George Tabori's Theological Farce, MEIN KAMPF - a comic meditation on Hitler's days as an artist living in a flophouse in Vienna.  The play got me out of serving Jury duty once. During Voir Dire, I simply mentioned the name of the play I was directing, and that was the end of that.  My second favorite project was developing, directing and performing in several productions of the Actors' Gang long-running hit musical, KLUB.  I describe it as A Chorus Line meets No Exit.  Klub is the place where old showfolk go to die. Washed up child stars, suicidal mimes, wanna-be vaudevillians and more, all forced by the director (me) to audition for the chance to escape from Klub (Spoiler alert--you can never get out. Ever).   It's funny and sad and a statement on our obsession with celebrity culture.

Why theater? Why not theater?:  It is the most immediate and the most precarious of all art forms. When the curtain goes down on a performance, that's it, gone forever, lost in the ether.  No videotape can capture that intangible transfer of energy between performer and audience. This is also why I love doing solo performance; to me, it's the essence of theater distilled in the most powerful way imaginable.  Just me and an audience, getting down and funky...

Tell us about Patriot Act: I describe the show as everything you'll ever need to know about American Democracy in just 47 minutes...plus puppets!   It's essentially the story of how we, as a nation, have tried to put our aspirations into practice, how we've so often failed, and how we need to keep trying or perish.  Could that theme possibly be more timely, during the most insane presidential election cycle of our lifetime?   A large part of the show involves audience engagement, so it changes a lot with each performance.  The goal is the create a fun and thought-provoking forum about the state of our nation, to get people to step out of their pre-conceived political mind-sets and to start thinking about how they can engage the democratic process in new enjoyable, and productive ways.

What inspired you to write Patriot Act?: I'm a lifelong history geek and political junkie.  The original idea for Patriot Act was to see if I could tell the story of America onstage within a fixed time period.  So I started working with an audience and a timer.   I found that it's intrinsically entertaining for an audience to watch a performer fighting against time.  I decided to take the show on the road during the presidential campaign, and lucky for me (and you), stumbled into an election cycle for the ages.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that makes me laugh, but also asks big questions; plays that cut and and aren't afraid to open some wounds.  Beckett, Chekhov, Brecht and Shaw are all favorites.  I was incredibly inspired by Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of An Anarchist".   A few of my favorite artists working today are (running the gamut) Romeo Castellucci,  Tim Etchells of Forced Enterainment and Justin Vivian Bond of Kiki and Herb.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: George Sanders is not a theater artist, but I would looooove to develop a piece of theater with him.  His work is dark, hilarious, thought-provoking and aways infused with deep compassion--everything I aspire to create as an artist myself.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Not that I'm being original here, but I think The Book of Mormon is the best American Musical of the last 50 years.  It's so smart and subversive and incredibly warm-hearted.   That's quite a tough line to straddle, and they do it brilliantly.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  A movie about my life would be a total "sell-out" project, so it would have to star Brad Pitt, Matt Damon or someone else with serious box office mojo. The movie would probably be called "I CONFESS," since I am all about full disclosure all the time.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  Of course, I'd love to see the original performances of any Shakespeare play.  I also wish I'd been to the world premiere of Jarry's UBU ROI.  When the first words of the play were spoken "merdre", the audience went berserk, tore out the seats and general pandemonium ensued for nearly half an hour.  Things settled down and the second words were spoken, "merdre" again, and the audience went nuts again.  I'd like to be present at any theatre performance that elicits that powerful a response.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Religious television (I used to regularly record Jan and Paul Crouch's "Praise the Lord" on TBN.


If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Historian, journalist and/or politician.

What’s up next?: When I work on a project, I am "all in".  Period.   As this play is part of a larger advocacy project, I am very curious to see where it will go after election day.

For more on Mike, visit www.mikeschlitt.com

Review: What We'd Do For Love

By Michael Block

Written and directed by Ethan Ness, Die For Me is a stylized play of teen angst and the lengths one goes for the one they believe they love. Ness’ material is heavy. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl deal with the stresses of life. Boy and girl make a pact to die for each other and kill themselves. Die For Me is a promising premise that falters when it goes astray. Ness blends a poetic dialogue into a colloquial tale. Rather than making the sole focus on Allie and Reese's romance, we see the stresses of life and how it can take a toll on the human psyche. We watch as Reese handles the rejection after low grades. We watch as Allie deals with a neglectful father. For the most part, Ness incorporates voiceovers to act as occasional scene partners. But there is still one party present. By making Gerald, Allie’s dad, an actual character, the play and the style loses emphasis. Why is Allie's father scene and not Reece's parents? Ness must decide whether this play desires a complete adult presence through voiceover or have an actor or actors represent these voices physically.
Die For Me will also benefit from a fresh collaborator. It's clear that Ness is quite close to his script. An extra set of eyes is always helpful. There were inconsistencies in transition vocabulary. Some would feature a music cue; other transitions were completed in dead silence. And the latter was not ideal. That being said, simplifying the world with two chairs allowed the story to take main focus.
Teenagers make rash decisions. But that is not just what Die For Me is about. This play is about the lengths you go for your love and the bond between two people. The premise may not be fresh, but Ness’ voice sure is.

Spotlight On...Mark Edward Lang and Alison J. Murphy

Name:  Mark Edward Lang and Alison J. Murphy

Hometown:
MARK: Manhattan, New York City
ALISON: Cape May Court House, NJ

Education:  
MARK: B.A. Vassar College, Theater major
ALISON: B.A. Ramapo College, major in Literature, minor in Theater

Select Credits:
MARK: 35 states: Touring theater, including Shakespeare, Moliere and new plays; Regional theater, including The Asolo Theater (FL), Open Stage of Harrisburg (PA), Arts Center of Coastal Carolina (SC), the Clinton Presidential Center (AR), The Classic Theatre of San Antonio (TX) and many seasons with The East Lynne Theater Company (NJ).
ALISON: My favorite is the lead in Molnar’s The Guardsman at East Lynne Theater in Cape May, NJ.  Also with East Lynne: George S. Kaufman’s Dulcy and The Butter and Egg Man, The Dictator, The New York Idea, and The Late Christopher Bean.  New York credits include Mary of Shippensburg, The Wound of Love and Why Marry? at The Players Club.

Why theater?:
ALISON:  I was always drawn to reading books, watching plays and films; and at some point, knowing I could become those characters.  Acting to me was doing what Joseph Campbell said, “following my bliss.”
MARK:  I started making my own narrative videos (writing, directing, performing, graphics) in high school, but soon fell in love with the organic symbiotic relationship between a performer and a live audience.  Whether it’s getting that comedic bit to work just right (result: a big laugh) or feeling the audience intently listen and feel with your character in a dramatic moment… there’s nothing quite like it.  I love doing film and TV, but playing to a camera-lens and tech crew just isn’t the same.

Who do you play in Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway?:
MARK:  I play Alfred Lunt, half of the greatest married theater duo of the 20th Century, as well as additional cameo-characters, which include Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando… great fun to play!
ALISON:  I play Lynn Fontanne, one of the most famous leading ladies of the theater in the 20th Century.

Tell us about Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway:
ALISON:  It’s a play about the journey of two married actors: their ups and downs personally and professionally; and also a love letter to relationships and the theater.
MARK:  I wrote this piece for my wife Alison J. Murphy and myself, following many years of research (including a trip to Ten Chimneys, the Lunts’ Wisconsin summer home) and re-writes.  A Broadway theater was named after them… a VERY rare honor, but the Lunts made only one film, back in 1931, an adaptation of their stage comedy hit, The Guardsman, and then decided it wasn’t for them.  That decision, in a way, robbed them of their immortality… this play seeks to remedy that by telling their story.  We cover their lives and careers from the 1920s through 1958, in a fun, fast-moving format that will appeal to theater lovers of all ages and interests.

What is it like being a part of Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway?:
MARK:  Working with my real-life wife as a historical husband-and-wife team, at all different stages in their lives, is a very rich experience.  We have our history as a couple (fifteen years together), as well as a wonderful regional theater production of the Lunts’ signature play, The Guardsman, a play in which both of the characters are also married actors, so there are a lot of layers there.  We also play short scenes from Lunt productions such as The Guardsman and a fight-filled rehearsal of their Taming of the Shrew, which inspired Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me Kate.
ALISON:  It’s a dream that has become actualized, for me and my husband Mark.  It’s an extraordinary privilege to play this character… an amazing amount of joy.  Being married actors ourselves, it’s both fun and a challenge to portray this married actor couple.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
ALISON:  I love historical dramas, musicals, comedy, Shakespeare… the whole gamut.  I am inspired by observing toddlers and animals, because it’s pure behavior with no filter.
MARK:  I always have preferred plays to musicals, as an audience and as a performer (since I have no musical talent).  The energy of being in a big room of people sharing an extraordinary performance… nothing like it.  Historically, I have been inspired by those hybrid actors who also directed, on stage and film: Chaplin, Welles, Olivier.  There are also productions and live performances that I will always remember: James Earl Jones in Fences, the gorgeous original New York production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Patrick Stewart as Prospero in The Tempest in Central Park, etc.

Any roles you’re dying to play?:
ALISON:  The one that I’m in now; it’s a peach!
MARK:  I’ve done a lot of them, including both leads (Jack and Algernon) in different regional theater productions of The Importance of Being Earnest.  More Shakespeare would be awesome, such as another shot at Prospero in The Tempest or the lead in Macbeth.

What’s your favorite showtune?:
MARK:  I’m not a big musical guy, but “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz” is a timeless song (does a film song count?)  Or one of the great tunes in West Side Story, such as “Tonight.”
ALISON:  Anything from Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
ALISON:  Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance and Brian Cranston.
MARK:  I’d love to get into some quality film and TV work.  I respect folks like George Clooney and Tom Hanks, as gifted and versatile performers with integrity who have the great good luck to be able to initiate their own projects.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
MARK:  I’ll be vain and say Matt Damon is the guy… but he’d have to stop pumping up for a year or two.  The title would have to be my assessment as an actor by a casting person at a major network (who shall remain nameless): “Too Off-Beat.”
ALISON: I think it should be an unknown.  The movie would be called, “Alicat: The Musical.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
ALISON:  Seeing The Lunts in the original New York production of The Guardsman in 1924, because my husband and I played those roles together a few years ago.
MARK:  I’d love to go way way back and see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the original Globe Theater in London… I’m sure it was a colorful scene, and that the language sounded very different back then, but… as a Shakespeare buff (I did three tours with the National Shakespeare Company back in the day), how could you pass that up?

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
ALISON: The Curious Incident on Broadway.
MARK:  Alison and I recently saw and enjoyed the wacky Shakespearean musical Something Rotten!, which was even more fun to watch since my college friend Rick Louis and I penned (and produced) a wacky Shakepearean comedy called Cuthbert, Prince of Denmark when we were at Vassar College… it had a similar anything goes aesthetic.  Would of course love to see Hamilton, particularly knowing that Lin-Manuel Miranda and I are both proud grads of Hunter College High School in NYC…

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
MARK:  Two words: “Star Trek.”  Original Series preferred, other incarnations welcome.  William Shatner as Kirk impression upon request; yellow shirt optional.
ALISON:  Movie night at the local theater with chocolate and popcorn.

What’s up next?:
ALISON:  Touring our show, like the Lunts did their shows.
MARK:  I have a regional theater gig in the fall.  A play called Biography by S.N. Behrman (a good friend of the Lunts), with a political theme for this election year.  After that, we’re looking for more bookings for our Lunt and Fontanne play, so anyone who’s interested should find out more at www.luntandfontanne.com and then shoot us an email to check our availability!

Review: Not Game Over

By Michael Block

The video game worlds collide in this interactive adventure aptly named The Video Games. Though it may be hard to form a coherent semblance of plot, creators Jared Tyrel Pixler and David Evan Stolworthy mix genres by placing a bunch of your video game favorites in a fight to the death. Call The Video Games "Super Smash Brothers" meets "The Hunger Games." Continuing the surging geek theater trend, The Video Games is an exceptionally smart concept. It is desperately seeking guidance and a strong outside perspective to assist to bring in a stronger plot and character development. A script doctor if you will. This is a work of theater. Audiences need substance. With the crowd-pleasing element of feeling a part of the show, Pixler and Stolworthy put the power in the audiences' hands to chose the outcome.  By putting the outcome in the hands of the audience, the excitement factor is off the charts. That means it needs to feel unpredictable. It's clear that there were certain outcomes that were planned and thusly felt stage. Once the audience catches on, the game is over. Finding a way to combat this is incredibly hard but it is essential for this show to get an extra life.
With multiple tracks to memorize, this giant company was kept on their toes. Whether it was the Fringe experience it just telling of the material, there was an overall sense of discomfort from the cast. The play just needed to be tighter. From an acting standpoint, there were some duds but many standouts. Those who happened to pick up an accent got lost in fiction causing their performances to suffer. The star of this show was Amber Lawson. Lawson's Jigglypuff was a brilliant character execution. She created a unique persona of a well-established creature that you didn't actually hate. Her high-pitched screech stole the show. As Mario, JP Rapozo put a new spin on the little Italian hero. But if it took you a moment to identify who he was supposed to be, you're not alone. Of the competitors, Mega Man, played by Cody Jordan, Chloe Malaise's Yuna and our night's victor Pikachu, performed by Amanda Newman, were some of the highlights.
The Video Games desires a director. Those cues need to be picked up. From a design perspective, we merely saw what a bare bones production. The potential on a big budget is extraordinary. To start, the costumes from Courtney Lucas and Brandon Pugmire must go further. Being reminiscent of the human characters through color is not enough. And sporting brand logos is inexcusable. Where the costumes did succeed was the transformation with characters like Jigglypuff and Donkey Kong. They were perfectly creative. The soundtrack of video game scores, from "Tetris" to "Pacman" was a great touch. For the future, if you're going to go interactive, show it through projections. Let the audience see the live voting. Show us gamer stats. Video games are visual. The show must match.
The Video Games is one of those shows that if the creators were willing to improve on the product and you had the money to invest, you should write a check. There is great room for progress. With mostly fighting characters, maybe reevaluating the players may be useful. Dive into the world of well-known characters through history like Crash Bandicoot. Give more cameos and references. The Video Games deserves an extra life. It's marketable.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Meet the Sutherbys

By Michael Block

Sometimes all we need is a goofy comedy to wash away the woes of the world. In Kelly Barrett-Gibson’s The Sutherby Triplets, a day in the life of a has-been television star takes center stage as the Sutherby family reunites for a whacky weekend. As a silly inciting incident, mother Anne Sutherby lies to her triplets to get them to spend a weekend home where antics, hijinks, and a lot of overblown situations pervade the air. So why is the family all here? Well, the predictable punch line is Anne is trying to get her family to star on a reality TV program. The comedy of the show is about an overly-affected show biz family. But there’s something missing. And that may be due to the nature of the structure. It’s all about the lead up. Is it possible that perhaps the play is more plausible, and the antics are more rewarding if the play begins with a camera crew following the family where everyone is performing for the camera? As it stands now, the ridiculous factor is off the charts and much of the plot is dismissed. There is no reason for these people to be as outlandish as they are. If there is a reason, it gives more weight. Though it’s minimal, setting the play in 1997 doesn’t quite work as the reality television trend we know now didn’t really start yet. 2000 was the debut of "Survivor". A couple years later "The Osbournes" took over our television screens. There really wasn’t a defining reason for the year so giving it a more modern spin would be more rewarding as a commentary of today. Additionally with so many characters to take care of, it was hard to track individual story arcs and their overall purpose to the story. As it stands now, Tim and part of his arc could be removed and there is still the same outcome.
Taking on the role of director as well, Barrett-Gibson was the sole proprietor of comedy. When some of her jokes didn’t land, the momentum fell flat. With a sitcom sensibility, the overall pacing of the play needed to move much faster. When the jokes are there, they can’t land at the speed at which it’s being played. The colors and props used to create the world of The Sutherby Triplets was bright and child-like. And it worked. The angels at which the set was placed were nice but caused some staging snafus with limited playing space.
To plainly state, The Sutherby Triplets featured some whacky characters that are somehow justified through the nature of the family. Starting with the titular characters, Melissa Patterson, Anna Wallace-Deering, and Rich Wisneski as Sammie, Sally, and Susie respectively played well off of one another. We learned just enough about their rivalry to justify their childish behavior. The most well-rounded, natural actor in the bunch was James Oblak as Tyler, one of the sister’s gay boy toys. Oblak had an ease about him that allowed the comedy to flow smoothly.
The Sutherby Triplets is a fun premise with old-fashioned charm. It fits the nostalgia-seeking demographic. But there is room to improve to make this play feel of the times.

Review: A Couple Who Jokes Together, Stays Together

By Michael Block

We all love when the title of a show tells us exactly what we’re about to see. Such is the case in My White Wife, or So I Married a Black Man. Written by Vanessa Shealy, the white wife, and Rick Younger, the black man, this comedy is virtually a mash-up of two solo works to make for one funny evening. The comedy chronicles the love and marriage of the real-life couple as they dive into how their relationship opened their eyes to love, race, and the world around. Individually, Shealy provides the storytelling while Younger serves as the stand-up comedian. They are two different performers that mesh well. Thankfully. The structure of the night is an opening where the two set up the show. Then they each get a moment in the spotlight for their stories. But the reason we’re really there is to see the pair together. My White Wife, or So I Married a Black Man is missing more of the fun back and forth banter and chemistry. Even if that means keeping both Younger and Shealy on stage watching as the other is speaking, the reactions is what makes this piece tick. The visual aids that occasionally accompany the stories provide the night’s funniest gimmicks, which is a bit telling of the material. Co-directors Melissa Attebery and Carl Foreman, Jr. help guide the pair through the highs and lows of the comedy and drama, ensuring that the authenticity remains. Though the more somber moments aren’t as polished.
This is a play that will make you laugh. Even if the heat seems to be on in the Huron Club. My White Wife, or So I Married a Black Man is a perfect show for a date night.

Spotlight On...Paul Adams

photo by Hershey Miller
Name:  Paul Adams

Hometown: Seneca, Kansas

Education: BFA  - University of Minnesota-Duluth Performance Emphasis

Favorite Credits: Acting - The Cleaning Guy, Directing: Sister's Dance, Real Danger; Producing: every play we have done at Emerging Artists in the last 23 years.

Why theater?: My father wanted me to be lawyer, but I wanted something where I could reach people in a larger and more human way.

Tell us about The Cleaning Guy?: This is one man's journey from a job that started out to pay the bills but evolved into something more where the job became a social involvement to help people get their lives together.

What inspired you to write The Cleaning Guy?: I have been cleaning apartments in New York City for over 25 years and I thought that it would be unique to give an audience a voyeuristic view of what goes on behind people's doors and how significant the job can be to certain people's lives.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I love theatre that engages me and takes me on a journey where I forget about the rest of my life and am immersed in new situations that grab my attention and let's me ride it till the end.  I am inspired by the amazing creativity that lies in all artists and how they can bring that to the page to share with an audience.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:  Unknown gifted artists

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  I have been so busy working on my own I haven't seen much lately:)

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Don't know and "How Does He Have so Much Energy"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Homemade cinnamon rolls

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: An organic farmer

What’s up next?:  Working on writing a TV series based on The Cleaning Guy

Review: Sisters Do As Sisters Should

By Michael Block

There's nothing like the bond between siblings. Even if something happens, there is an undeniable connection where forgiveness is just a conversation away. Written by Meghan Gambling, Bonnie's Future Sisters is a captivating comedy that showcases the beauty of sisterhood. Bonnie is engaged, and to celebrate the occasion she brings all the sisters, well her sister and her soon-to-be sister-in-laws, together for a getting to know you night. But just as the liquor starts flowing, truths come out and mistakes are made as the true test of family is out to the test. Bonnie's Future Sisters is smart writing. Not only has Gambling penned great characters, she gives them immense depth. she has composed a genuinely great stage play. The situation is fun, the characters are relatable. It's one of those shows you could watch again and again. And what's so great is that Gambling has room to expand and add. We see the dynamics of all the characters but we're left wanting a scene between the "bad girls" of the respective families, Corey and Larissa. Nevertheless, Gambling's ability to bring effortless humor and moments of tenderness in a single moment showcases her talent as a writer. Gambling has a pulse on crafting strong characters.
As good as the writing is, it was elevated by the dynamite chemistry on stage. The skilled company was in-tune with one another, never dropping a beat. The mesmerizing Sascha Alexander encompassed the perky optimism of Bonnie. The self-gratifying Bonnie is intense yet Alexander made her enjoyable. As her sister Corey, Kristen Rozanski brought a dry wit and slight cynicism. Playing polar opposites, Alexander and Rozanski bounced their dialogue right off of one another. Emily Jordan’s youthful Larissa was bratty yet avoided playing the teen angst card. Sarah Greyson captured the go-with-the-flow aura of Kayleigh. She found the fun in playing the tease in the cat and mouse game that was Kayleigh and Corey. With four different spirits and personalities, the quartet exemplified the strength of a united ensemble.
Taking on the role of writer-director can be troublesome. Meghan Gambling seemed, for the most part, able to combat it. Gambling prescribed to the power of stillness, making the action of the evening real. There were no unnecessary crosses to change up the stage picture. It felt right.
Bonnie’s Future Sisters is a well-oiled machine. It moved while moving you. It’s a sweet play written by a promising scribe.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review: An Actor's Life

By Michael Block

In Daniel Reitz's shock-filled insider comedy Pucker Up and Blow, a young actor gets the opportunity of a lifetime by being cast in a Broadway show. The caveat? He will portray a retarded 16 year old who is sold as a sex slave to a man by his older brother who will use the money to fund a Neo-Nazi movement in a play written by the most inflammatory African-American playwright. But just when David thinks the show is the biggest of his worries, his girlfriend turned cast member begins an affair with their hip hop co-star all while David gets proverbially raped by the business. Pucker Up and Blow is unapologetically risqué. But where does shock value end and message begin? For those in the business, the overblown stereotypes are hilarious. The play within the play is so ridiculous your jaw will drop from laughter. But being as theatrical referential as it is, those not in the know may not grasp the message Reitz is trying to convey. If you start off offended, it's easy to dismay the entirety of Reitz's script. All that being said, this is a proactively daring script about sex, race, aged exploitation. Though the full frontal nudity in Pucker Up and Blow does diminish the message. In the end, this is an underdog story for David. But that underdog story loses credibility by extending beyond the opening night scene. David has received his redemption and validation. The play can end there. By extending it, we watch the sick cycle of fame on the psyche and the vicious person he has turned into. But perhaps that's the whole point.
Director Paul Schnee took the smart comedy and allowed Reitz's comedy to shine through. Schnee assisted the company in finding the conviction within the characters without making them cartoons. Though the staging was occasional flat, there was a good sense of variety in stage pictures. The hip-hop soundtrack of transition music sound designer Emma Wilk provided fit the mood of the play quite well.
When it comes to performances, Will Dagger as David went above and beyond the call of duty in a captivating performance. Dagger's raw emotional journey was one for the ages. As sex choreographer Micah, Shane Allen found the balance of ridiculous and authentic, teetering on the blurred lines if boundaries. The winner of the night was Chandra Thomas. Her small bit role as the deadpan stage manger brought some of the nights best laughs.
In the end, Pucker Up and Blow is an insider play that tackles sex and race within the industry. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Trolling Time with...Maddie Sykes

Name: Maddie Sykes

Hometown: Palo Alto, California

Education: BFA from NYU Tisch

Who do you play in The Illusory Adventures of a DreamerA little bit of everything!

Describe your character(s) in three words: Fearless, Hungry, Desirous

Tell us about The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer: It's just like your every day existential crisis play but with way more leather.

Describe The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer in three words: gay, Gay, GAY. Just kidding. Also wild, silly, and unforgiving.

Who is the biggest liar?: On day one I told our choreographer that I could totally learn to drop into the splits by opening night and that was a complete lie. So me. Definitely me.

Who is the biggest troll?: Nick ;)

Who is the sexiest?: Adam's Eyebrows.

Who is the most mischievous?: Eddie, who is single handedly responsible for every time I break/crack up on stage.

Most likely to go on an adventure?: Austin. And it would be fully insane.

Most likely to get caught up in a cult?: Geo. 10000% Geo.

Which bandana best describes you?: I feel like this refers to something I know nothing about so I'll just say red so I can look like Rosie the Riveter?

Favorite (gay) bar in NYC: Haven't been to many. I was just at Hardware though and that was fun!

Fun, laughs, or good time?: Laughs.

Do you talk to yourself in a mirror?: Only every day of my life.

What is your favorite moment in The Illusory Adventures of a DreamerDefinitely the Troll Orgy

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of the Dreamer team?: Getting to work with so many awesome and creative people.

Why should we come see The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer?: Come to have fun and embrace your inner troll!

For more on Maddie, visit www.maddiesykes.com

The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer is part of the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival! Performances dates are Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm, Tuesday, August 16th at 5:00pm, Monday, August 22nd at 4:45pm, Wednesday, August 24th at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 27th at 1:30pm. All performances will be at Venue #1: Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street). For tickets, visit fringenyc.org

For more on The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer, visit dreamerplay.com. To support and donate to the project, please visit gofundme.com/dreamerplay


Review: Sex, Drugs, and Southern Grit

By Michael Block

Breaking out from stereotypical social constraints isn't always as easy as it seems. Such is the case for the characters in Britton Buttrill's Scratching. Trying to escape their desolate life, Christian and Brianna are on the way out of their hometown before the past catches up to them, drawing them right back into a life they've looking to run away from. Scratching is a play of cliché vices for the down-and-out. From pushing drugs to a life of stripping, in a sense, their ending is foreseeable. Yet Buttrill tries to conceive an innovative story that gets wrapped up in grit and language. The underdog-type story never quite takes off once the downward spiral begins. And that’s what sets Scratching back. Finding a way to, as they say, flip the script, will make Buttrill’s story worthwhile to tell. It’s a millennial tale with a timeless sensibility. And that’s interesting. But with the characters written as they are, there’s nothing unique about it.
The characters were based in stereotypes so the quartet brought out as much dimensionality as they could. And, at times, it worked. Tyler Gardella had an easy swagger to his character Adrian. But when the character retreated to the dark side, Gardella’s performance turned on a dime. And yet it felt uncharacteristic for Adrian. At least what we knew. The allure melted away to something villainous and unsavory. As the guy looking for an out, Karsten Otto’s Christian had a sense of trepidation that lacked intrigue and color. Andi Morrow was lucky to play Buttrill’s strongest character. As Brianna, Morrow had a great sense of resolve from start to finish. The character of Tracy is essentially the friend that was never really ever invited to the party. Though Alexandria Collins had great strength, the character seemed to just upset the overall arc of the play.
Scratching is an incredibly intimate play that happened to be performed on an unfortunately overbearing stage. Director Miles Mandwelle handled the task well, trying to find flexibility in his staging using just four chairs. He did run into some staging faux pas when it came to the duet scene. With the awkwardness of waiting for the other pair to finish saying lines, there were moments where Mandewelle had actors upstaging one another, creating some irregular stage pictures.
Scratching is a dark, Southern-fried drama. It’s not a play about hope. It’s a play about trying to change your path even when the path is not fordable. It may not seem tangible, but with some reworking, Scratching, unlike its characters, can find a new life.

Spotlight On...Jennifer Little

Name: Jennifer Little

Hometown: Okemos, Michigan (nope - no one's ever heard of it!)

Education: Masters in Applied Theatre from City University of New York; Bachelors in Music from San Jose State University

Favorite Credits: Performing? Johanna in Sweeney Todd; Emma in Emma; Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera. Directing? Financial Slavery, Project Katrina, Glennsdale

Why theater?: Wow. How much space do we have? I am in theatre because it is home. I love the inclusivity of it. I love the fact that it is about the craft and not the politics (usually). I love love love the process of digging inside stories and then figuring how to tell them in meaningful ways. I love the fact that theatre is us. Our society, our stories, good, bad, pretty, ugly, heroic and cowardly. It helps us to have hope and critically analyze what we can do better.

Tell us about Financial Slavery: The College Debt Sentence: This show came from the hearts of our artists. All of them are young (18-25) and have either recently graduated college or are in college. We started with a spoken word piece, entitled Financial Slavery by Alyea Pierce, our amazing playwright. It was so powerful, that it compelled us to talk more about what student loan debt FEELS like. What it LOOKS like. The stories that came pouring out from our community were devastating. And the language that accompanied those stories - "selling their souls" "hopeless" "nightmares" inspired us to take this journey. I am of a different generation and was ignorant of just how difficult the country has made the American Dream of college and a better future. We started doing research and some fundraising to create the piece and once that happened, stories started pouring in from across the country. Parents wrote us, grandparents, and of course students. So the piece follows three fictional students inspired by real stories. We watch them struggle with the college dream and different paths. We also get brief snapshots of stories from around the country. We then invite the audience directly into the storytelling in order to let them have an opportunity to tell their story or voice their opinion or offer their ideas. (Not to worry - no one is compelled to participate). The piece is comprised of spoken word, dance, and story.

What inspired you to direct Financial Slavery: The College Debt Sentence?: I am an adjunct professor at two colleges. Hearing these stories, gaining a better understanding of the challenges our young people face inspires me. These artists are some of the most committed that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They are talented, passionate and make me better by being part of the collaboration. And it is a collaboration. The piece is collaboratively written and directed. That environment speaks to me.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love socially important theatre. Something with a message. I saw Hamilton and was inspired. Not just by the writing, although obviously Lin Manual Miranda is a genius, but by the messages within. The power of immigrants, the question of "who writes our stories"? What is America? What does that mean? This is the type of theatre that speaks to me. Lin Manuel Miranda. Stephen Sondheim. Anna Devereaux.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Lin Manuel Miranda (in a heartbeat).

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  At the Fringe - I would recommend Zuccatti Park, a piece about economic disparity. Black and Blue, a play about the black community and police. And Akadina Project, a new reworking of Chekhov's The Seagull. In general, I would recommend Hamilton. I would also say The Humans.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would probably be played by Meredith Baxter Birney and the movie would be called "Love, Theater and the Search for Peace."

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 original Pippin.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I am a total bookaholic. When I say total - I am crazy, if I didn't own a Kindle, I'd be sleeping on books. My husband says I need a 12 step program for my reading compulsion.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I don't know. I have tried other choices throughout my life. Public Relations - I always return home - to theatre.

What’s up next?:  I will be next directing a musical for The College of New Jersey. We are collaborating with the School of Deaf and Hard of Hearing to do a musical with both deaf and hearing performers. We will be utilizing American Sign Language. I am really excited about this, as I have never attempted this collaboration before but as Spring Awakening just showed us, it can work brilliantly. That will play in November in New Jersey.

For more on Financial Slavery: The College Debt Sentence, visit www.strengthoutofshadows.org