Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Amios Delivers A Fresh Batch Of Brand New Musicals

By Ed Malin

Amios, the dynamic young theater company in residence at the Kraine, has a regularly monthly program of new work called Shotz.  Their two shows on the first Monday of the month are usually packed with fun-loving audiences.   I saw and enjoyed the June offering: Musical Shotz: One Night Only. Each new short musical was written to take place in New York City between 12 am and 6 am on Sunday, May 6, 2018, must have someone taking a picture, and must feature the line “We only have tonight”.   The freshly-written pieces cover a lot of ground in under ten minutes.  They are presented on a fairly bare stage which is the ground for an eruption of theatrical excitement.  By the way, Amios stands for Art and Music In Our Souls.
The program started with Kiz is Dead (Long Live Kiz) written by Liz Thaler with music composed by Ben Quinn, directed by Mario Gonzales featuring Annie Harper Branson, Kelly Chick, Cassandra Paras and Kia Sayyadi.  Here we have the coming together of a legendary punk band, known as Kiz, which is hitting the road again after 15 years.  All of the members have the first name Kiz.  As the band is about to begin what might be their reunion tour, they grant a backstage interview to a roving Rolling Stone Reporter.   Each Kiz is trying to overcome their demons (some question if there will be more than one show on this tour; they haven’t bothered to rehearse).  Cathartically, they play that one new song that isn’t really ready (most bands have one): “All is Forgiven”.
The next piece is Sonder by W Tré Davis, composed and directed by Richard Aven, featuring Meghan Grover, Emily Kitchens and Erin Roché.  Three women who have shuffled off this mortal coil find themselves together, ready to sing about the joyous things in life.  Sonder is defined as "the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it." Jo never lived when she was alive, although her great love was mathematics.  Rachel died young, and hears that her “guardian angel” friends have raised her daughter, who is now a grandmother.  Flower was named by a hippy mom and was a fortune teller.  Everything you like so much is right there. A chilled bottle of chardonnay magically appears.  And then the phone rings and it’s for you.
photo by Kara Overlein
The first half concludes with The Room written by Lisa Kitchens, composed by Therese Anderberg and Emily Casey, directed by Lindsey Wormser, featuring Khalia Davis, Lauren Hart, Katie Rose Krueger and Richard Sears.   This is the last night a young man is spending in the apartment he called home for nine years.  Home is a place where on a bad day you can have a glass of wine, and on a good day you can have a glass of wine. The Room itself—including fragments of memories —is played by three women.   As the night progresses, the human protagonist is pulled into a passionate dance with his Room.  As they do, random and beautiful occurrences float to the surface and elicit bemused reactions.  When you’re by yourself, you feel free.  You also feel empowered by what you have done and sad to leave it behind.  This was the most boldly experimental piece of the evening, and it succeeded admirably.
After the intermission, things take a turn for the dramatic with Deli Guys 3: Bodega Nights, written, composed and directed by Richard Thieriot, featuring Zach Evenson and Ashley Grombol as a bodega owner and his outrageous cat.  Richard Thieriot and Natalie Hegg provide narration, in Spanish and English, respectively.
The cat is loud and proud, baring her belly and then scratching her keeper when he tries to rub it   This is a tortured love.  And, like many tragic situations, there is a humorous communication gap. (Never has “carajo de mierdo” sounded more bewildering than in a straight-faced translation.)  This is a great play to ponder whether humans are superior to animals.  Also, Thieriot’s guitar is great background music for a sparring match.
Next is the engrossing Hoops written by Justin Yorio, composed by David Paarlberg, directed by Erik Saxvik, featuring Caitlin Diana Doyle, Philip Estrera, Michael Propster and Sarah Alice Shull.  We find ourselves in the middle of the basketball game that never ends.  At the stroke of midnight, the two two-player teams are evenly matched, tied at way over a hundred points each.  These are teenaged boys and girls who love the game.  The young men are in a bromance which started with their mutual love of feminist theorist bell hooks and continued when they realized they were wearing the same basketball jersey.  The young women are sisters who will never surrender.  It’s true the theme of the evening requires them to sing “we only have tonight”, but will they remain friends and chill out and see each other at the Bar Mitzvah on Saturday?
The show ends with a new beginning.   Metropolitan, written by Thomas J. Picasso, composed by Mikey Rosenbaum, directed by Emily Brown, featuring Fulvio, Dillon Heape and Leigh Williams shows us New York through the wide eyes of a visitor.  The setting appears to be the Metropolitan Bar, a gay-friendly hangout in Williamsburg.  As the new day technically begins, a young photographer from Iowa is checking out the great possibilities of the big city and hoping his hookup will call him back.  At last call, he says what used to be obvious before the neighborhood gentrified: $8 is a lot to pay for a Narragansett.  While he waits, he is privy to what goes on after hours in the bar, namely an artist salon.  The man and woman who run the place want him to share his photographs, and, just because, to share his body.  They do only have tonight since he is flying home in the morning.  Could they be lovers?  Don’t you like bars where you can hear your date?
While I heard that Shotz is on hiatus for the rest of 2018, Amios continues to produce full-length plays, many of which originate in Shotz.  Check out their upcoming shows.  This is a dedicated, large network of talented artists who always deliver an amazing show, with or without a glitzy set.