Review: Shakespeare & Company presents a delightful production of ‘The Tempest’ in their new outdoor theatre

Angelica Potter

Shakespeare and Company presents William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ in their new outdoor Roman Garden Theatre, located in the Shakespeare Garden adjacent to the Tina Packer Playhouse. Directed by Allyn Burrows, the Company’s newly appointed Artistic Director, it is the story of Prospero, a betrayed duke and magician, who is fixated on justice and revenge until he sees, through his daughter, the power of love and forgiveness. This play touches on many themes including envy, betrayal, redemption, forgiveness, freedom and love. Shakespeare’s writing beautifully encompasses the human spirit and the resiliency and ever-changing emotional and mental states of his characters.

All performances of this play are performed in-the-round at dusk and it is the perfect fit for the new, intimate outdoor venue. The atmosphere is woodsy with ample natural lighting. The set includes ropes that hang over the stage and above the heads of the audience. Well placed sails hang over one section of the audience to decrease some of the glare of the setting sun while also hinting at the storm that swells and wreaks a ship at the start of the play. The wooden stage is cut with jagged edges and is surrounded by large rocks, sand, shells and beach grass. The set, designed by Jim Youngerman, features multiple levels and locations throughout the space for the actors to utilize and fully immerse the audience in the world of this island and its inhabitants and visitors. The added musical elements and creative magical moments were unexpected, but enjoyed. They added humor, lightness and intrigue to the overall performance.

Taking on one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, Prospero is veteran actor Nigel Gore. He was commanding of the stage, and performed a believable and tender father-daughter relationship with Miranda, played by Ella Loudon. Gore has a fantastic grasp of the Shakespearian language and he seemed very comfortable in his character. Loudon, as Miranda, was innocent with youthful esperance. She was fully invested in her character and never broke from her character, staying fully present in each scene as it took place. She was very natural, with a sweet, yet strong demeanor. In an early scene where Miranda lashes out at Prospero’s savage servant Caliban, Loudon was boomingly infuriated. She exhibited fiery power and anger that once the scene was over we didn’t see come out of her again. It was a very powerful and riveting moment.

Caliban, the savage son of the witch Sycorax, was born on the island and cared for by Prospero and Miranda. He was perfectly portrayed by Jason Asprey who, in detailed costume and make-up, gave a horrifying, but at times humorous performance of the servant monster. He fully embodied his characters’ voice, physicality and quirks while also showing various emotional sides of his character. He didn’t just play the monstrous qualities; he portrayed a multi-faceted character, who experiences a variety of emotions, thoughts, impulses and temptations. His portrayal was impeccably well done and one of the strongest performances I’ve seen this summer.

A few stand-out scenes during the production include the multiple drinking scenes involving Stephano (Josh Aaron McCabe), Trinculo (Bella Merlin) and Caliban (Jason Asprey). Each was very funny with superb physical comedy elements and characterizations by the trio. The audience couldn’t help but smile and laugh aloud during most of the time this group was on stage. Another scene was when Ferdinand was carrying logs for Prospero, and Miranda joins him and easily takes the logs from him and adds them to the pile for him. Their interaction was full of sweet, falling in love moments that were performed genuinely by Deaon Griffin-Pressley, as Ferdinand, and Ella Loudon, as Miranda. The pair had wonderful chemistry. It was easy to believe they were falling love in at first sight and becoming completely infatuated with one another.

The cast is rounded out by a number of other Company favorites including Tamara Hickey as the airy sprite Ariel who is impatiently awaiting her freedom from serving Prospero. Thomas Brazzle as Sebastian, the brother to Alonso, King of Naples played by Josh Aaron McCabe who also played Stephano, and Mark Zeisler who played Prospero’s brother Antonio.

Shakespeare’s language is so melodic, that though you may not understand each word and phrase that is spoken you can understand the sentiment that’s there through the actor’s passionate portrayals and their wonderful story-telling ability. This play was very well done and I was captivated from start to finish. Looking around at the other audience members, it was clear they too were enthralled by these characters and the world they had brought us in to. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the production giving it an enthusiastic standing ovation. This show was definitely worth the long drive and traffic I experienced to attend and I encourage any Shakespeare lovers within a 3 hour drive to go see this production.©

 

‘The Tempest’ plays through September 3rd at the Shakespeare & Company campus located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information about this play as well as Shakespeare & Company’s full season can be found at www.shakespeare.org or by calling the box office at 413-637-3353.

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Promo Photo credit: Courtesy Shakespeare  & Company.

Review: 'Oklahoma' with the Prince William Little Theatre

Christian Jost

A short time ago I had the pleasure to seeing the Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Oklahoma. Sadly, the day after the performance I attended, I became very ill and had to delay my review for a time. I want to thank PWLT for their patience and understanding, caring for my health above all. Nevertheless, I promised PWLT a review and I shall give them, despite the run of the show being concluded.

As many know, Oklahoma was created by Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1943. This show follows several different relationships just inside the Oklahoma Territory. Most notable the show follows the relationship between Curly and Laurey, as they desire a relationship despite a seemingly dangerous man, Jud Fry, also having an interest in Laurey. There is also the relationship between Will Parker, a young country boy, and his love Ado Annie, who also has other suitors around town. Major conflict spurns from the competition between Jud and Curly for Laurey’s affection.

I’ll be the first to say that I usually try to avoid old Broadway as the shows and performances often seem dishonest and cheesy. However, I actually thoroughly enjoyed this show. It was entertaining and the direction added enough depth to really keep the audience engaged, despite some slows sections of the score. Aaron Verchot-Ware took on the role of Curly and did a fantastic job. The role of Laurey was played by Abbie Desrosiers, who had perfect chemistry with Aaron, making the audience really care for her struggles and conflicts throughout the show. Many people can sing Rodgers and Hammerstein, but few truly embody their old school style, Desrosiers is definitely the latter. His vocals were lovely and he truly seemed engaged in the story, despite a low energy matinee crown. Nick MacFarlane had enough energy for the whole cast, never delivering a dull moment. Whether singing, dancing, or just sauntering around on stage, he gave all he had to the role of Will parker. Ariel Friendly also gave a very entertaining performance as Ado Annie, delivering some of the biggest laughs of the day. I would have to say that the star of this production would be Jay Tilley as Jud Fry, delivering the best song and scenes of the show. He really was able to add so many layers and levels of depth to a character that could easily just be directed as “the bad guy”. “Lonely Room” really brought the house down and was easily the best part of the show.

This production was directed by Susy Moorstein, who really spent time developing these characters, which usually appear flat and static. Music from the band is always lovely with the PWLT, this time was no exception. Congrats to Veronica Sharpe on that. Choreography, delivered by Melanie Marie McGuin, was also subtle yet affective in advancing the show.

Once again, thanks to PWLT for their understanding of my situation and congrats to all on a fantastic run. All involved should be proud.

Photo creds - Mark Moorstein

Off-Broadway Review: “Small Town Confessions” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

Joseph Verlezza

Hearing the undisclosed “confessions” of nine peculiar residents from a small southern town, one may presume that the whole is the sum of its parts, and these offbeat characters provide a good representation of the core of the abstract community at hand in Anitola Parish. It is anchored on one end by gossip monger, quasi tour guide, JoBeth Maybelline, who owns the local nail salon. Her pastime may be described as extracting everyone’s secret business first hand or from a reliable liaison, and is completely happy remaining there among these “special people.” The other extremity, is held down or up, depending on how you look at it, by the reigning queen Doris Kitteridge. She was expelled from town to hide her unexpected pregnancy, then married Dr. Kitteridge and returned to Anitola to rule her unsophisticated subjects and drown her fear and loneliness with coffee cups of alcohol. The kooky characters that provide the link between these two motley matriarchs, each appear alone, to share their broken dreams and cynical stories.

The attempted southern gothic humor that lurks within each character’s story sporadically succeeds but more so then not, seems forced and unsettled, with no particular purpose in exposition or emotional investment. It merely floats on the surface never sinking deep enough to produce empathy. The only connective tissue is their failure to make their dreams come true, so they stay and survive by wallowing in despair. The low brow humor is not dark but bleak and gloomy, rather feigned and not balanced with enough irony. The monologues seem to carry a monotonous theme of delusions of grandeur, conquered by bitter reality which wears thin all too soon.

The cast assembled for “Small Town Confessions” penned by Phil Geoffrey Bond is stellar and all use their skilled craft to carve genuine characters and provide a glimpse of the ubiquitous population. Sharon McNight provides a staunch and controlled Doris Kitteridge, tastefully dressed in equal parts revenge and remorse. Her posture, expressions and delivery conceal her underlying vulnerability. Alice Ripley is afforded the arduous task of creating Juliet Monsignor, teetering on the brink of reality, as she prepares to marry the devil. She does this successfully with a dose of dire desperation, sultry submission always making honest and sincere choices.

The debacle of Shelley Cooper may be the preeminent monologue, well written and self-contained. It is elevated to another level by the keen and conscientious execution of Daisy Eagan. The balanced blend of gleeful enthusiasm and honest naivety undeniably captures the hearts of the audience.

 

SMALL TOWN CONFESSIONS

The cast “Small Town Confessions” includes Phil Geoffrey Bond, Daisy Eagan, George Kimmel, Sally Mayes, Sharon McNight, Kelli Rabke, Alice Ripley, Jeff Tuohy, and Tyler Whitaker. Stephen Nachamie directs, with stage management by Jason Richard.

The creative team for “Small Town Confessions” includes Matt Berman (sound design), Jason Courson (projection design), and Sam Gordon (lighting design). Jason Richard is the AEA stage manager.

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “Small Town Confessions” is 90 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Sally Mayes.

Review: ETC's 13: the musical is a truly impressive feat

Allyson Fournier

Featuring a cast, band, crew and creative team comprised entirely of 13-25 year olds, Eternal Theatre Collective's production of "13: The Musical" is full of catchy songs, surprising humour, and fantastic young talent. "13" follows Evan Goldman, a young boy from New York who is hoping to have the best bar mitzvah ever on his upcoming thirteenth birthday. However, his plans are derailed when his parents announce their divorce, and Evan is forced to move with his mother to Appleton, Indiana. Now Evan must navigate a new town, new school, and new peers, all while still planning his epic bar mitzvah.

Within his first month in Appleton, Evan meets Patrice, a friendly "geek" who everyone at school hates for an undisclosed reason, and Archie, an affable guy who suffers from a terminal degenerative muscle disease. Archie's crutches, however, don't deter him from cracking jokes and pursing the most popular girl in school, Kendra, who is also being pursued by the most popular guy in school, Brett, who is being pursued by Kendra's evil best friend, Lucy. Amid all this drama, Evan must choose between his friends and the popular kids, who refuse to attend Evan's party if Patrice is also going to attend. What's a self-absorbed thirteen-year-old new kid to do? Dump the geek, of course. The story is simple and touches on typical high-school tropes, so Jason Robert Brown's music and this production's strong cast are what makes the show entertaining. There's no shortage of talent on the Red Gate Revue Stage during this show.

Notable performances include Colette Richardson (Patrice) and Matthew Tucker (Archie), who respectively are like a young Mandy Moore and Robin Williams. Both have amazing stage presence and provide earnest performances as the most likeable characters. Richardson's voice is crystal clear and she belts out high notes with ease, especially during the heart-wrenching ballad "What It Means To Be A Friend". Speaking of voices, Jen Shannon's stands out. While her portrayal as the backstabbing Lucy is a bit too typical mean girl, she provides the most developed vocals and has obviously had some good training. Cameron Leong and Jeremy Cruz provide the comic relief for the evening as Brett's two clueless thugs, Eddie and Malcolm. Ryan Horton  (Brett) and Kendra Cordick (Kendra) round out the core cast and avoid archetyping their characters, which is refreshing. Elias Verheyen's performance as Evan is fine, though he seems to struggle with some of the higher notes in JRB's challenging vocal score. Technically the production is smooth enough, save for some awkward scene changes and mics cutting out at the beginning.

While her portrayal as the backstabbing Lucy is a bit too typical mean girl, she provides the most developed vocals and has obviously had some good training. Cameron Leong and Jeremy Cruz provide the comic relief for the evening as Brett's two clueless thugs, Eddie and Malcolm. Ryan Horton  (Brett) and Kendra Cordick (Kendra) round out the core cast and avoid archetyping their characters, which is refreshing. Elias Verheyen's performance as Evan is fine, though he seems to struggle with some of the higher notes in JRB's challenging vocal score. Technically the production is smooth enough, save for some awkward scene changes and mics cutting out at the beginning.

The energy of the young cast makes up for it in bounds, however, and it's worth reiterating that the production team and band are also all under 25 years old. A youth-driven, full-fledged production is a truly impressive feat, and overall the show is hilarious and entertaining.

"13" runs this weekend only at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. Tickets are available on the Brown Paper Tickets website.

Off-Broadway Review: “Sympathy in C” at the Broadway Bound Theatre

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

Suzanne Mernyk’s “Sympathy in C,” currently running at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre, is an engaging symphony for six actors and two musicians about the need for sympathy – sympathy in the diagnosis of cancer and sympathy in the world of politics. The cast is arranged in a semi-circle each seated behind a music stand. Audrey (Denise Collins) raises her arms and the symphony of vocal instruments, cello, and viola begins. “Sympathy in C” seems to be written in sonata-allegro form (introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda) with theme and variations.

Each character introduces himself or herself and begins to provide exposition about how they got to their present condition. Throughout the extended “readers’ theatre,” this exposition is carefully developed, and the stories recapitulated with new information. The interesting piece resolves with a satisfying catharsis and the hint that these stories – or stories like them – will continue to be told.

Josh (Russel E. Kohlmann) is on his third date with Julia (Tygar Hicks) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer – despite her perfect diet, exercise routine, and life style – and does not know how to break the news to Josh. Nancy (Rachel Marcus) has more advanced breast cancer and is growing weary of round after round of chemotherapy cocktails. Audrey (Denise Collins) is the physician who – like a conductor – interacts with all the characters either directly or indirectly. Ronald (Peter Levine) her husband has advanced prostate cancer and is a globetrotting diplomat whose mission is to put an end to terrorism. Abdul (Charles J. Ouda) is a displaced refugee who had to flee his country because of Ronald’s “collateral damage” and lack of sympathy. Abdul, whose mother is also a cancer victim, faces constant discrimination based on his race, religion, clothing, and national origin. Mr. Ouda delivers a powerful bravura performance and effectively remains engaged with every voice and every story being told.

Under Terry Hanson’s astute direction, the actors and musicians (Madeline Docimo and Sylvie Mae Baldwin) successfully counterpoint cancer and terrorism and their insidious destructive metastasis in the human body and the body politic. It would be good to see more interaction between the instruments/voices, the use of a fugue that runs throughout the play, and more modulation in volume and tempo. Ms. Mernyk is in a good position to augment her metaphor and the rich and enduring questions the trope raises.

The symphony metaphor is effective and explored successfully by playwright Suzanne Mernyk. There is room to expand the trope with more interactions – and interactions of differing kinds – between the instruments/voices. Although the playwright makes the connections between cancer and terrorism clear, it is not readily evident that the encounters between Abdul and Ronald are about terrorism or the global events that precipitated the perceived terrorism. Perhaps “terrorism” indigenous to the homeland (white nationalism, white supremacy) might more easily counterpoint with the diagnosis of cancer?

 

SYMPATHY IN C

The cast of “Sympathy in C” features actors Tygar Hicks, Russell Erik Kohlmann, Peter Levine, Denise Collins, Rachel Marcus, Charles Ouda and musicians Sylvie Mae Baldwin and Madeline Docimo.

The creative team includes Marialana Ardolino (stage manager, lighting and sound operator).  

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “Sympathy in C” is 90 minutes without intermission.

Off-Broadway Review: “Curvy Widow”

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

After Bobby’s (Nancy Opel) writer husband Jim (Ken Land) collapses dead on top of his typewriter, she begins to deal with her loss facing “half a life” and realizing Jim has been “all [she’s] ever known.” No longer “in control,” Bobby begins to ask important questions: “Is it time to make choices yet? Start again at my age?” Or is this the end of a chapter and time to “turn the page?” After a move from the upper eastside to downtown, Bobby makes a follow-up visit to her husband’s “shrink” (Alan Muraoka) who makes “getting laid a medical directive” and creating a profile on a dating site a requirement. “Curvy Widow,” currently running at the Westside Theatre, is the autobiographical story of the musical’s writer Bobby Goldman who gives her name to the protagonist and her Match-Dot-Com handle ‘curvy widow’ to the fictional grieving dowager.

Bobby’s gaggle of friends Caroline (Andrea Bianchi), Heidi (Elizabeth Ward Land), and Joan (Aisha De Haas) offer their support and reinforce their mutual friend with encouragement and champagne, especially – after Match-Dot-Com and internet sex-sites – Bobby meets Per Se (Christopher Shyer) who respects her entrepreneurship and might be “the one.” The three friends deliver “The One” with a convincing bravura. And Nancy Opel (Bobby) and Christopher Shyer (Per Se) deliver their duet “What More Do You Need” with a convincing pathos.

Depicting the stages of bereavement with conversations with the “ghost” of one’s spouse is not a new convention and Ms. Goldman uses Bobby’s conversations with the departed Jim effectively. However, these rendezvous could be used by the playwright to provide more information about Bobby and her relationship with her late husband and answer intriguing questions about her likes and dislikes, her motivations, her successes in her lucrative construction business. Was Bobby happy in her thirty-year marriage? What kind of sacrifices did she make? There are hints that Jim might have been overbearing. How did Bobby manage to keep everything under control – or did she?

Nancy Opel’s Bobby is everything the character should be. Bobby identifies herself as “a writer’s wife” who grows into the realization that she needs to separate and individuate from Jim and their marriage – much like the adolescent separates from parents and childhood. Ms. Opel successfully navigates that emotional journey with honesty and authenticity. Her vocals are delivered with passion and exhibit an impressive range and interpretive craft. She is a joy to watch and listen to. Her solos “Turn the Page” and “Lying on the Bathroom Floor” are remarkable insights into the inner life of a spouse enmeshed in the turmoil that is bereavement.

The men in the cast portray several roles, none requiring a great deal of differentiation in character – except for the roles of Jim and Per Se. Ken Land’s ghost of Jim hints at some discord in his marriage leaving the audience wondering what other skeletons might be in the fictional Goldman closet. It would have been interesting for Jim redivivus to have a musical number. And Christopher Shyer’s Per Se is as seductive as he is the perfect caring mate for Bobby. Mr. Shyer’s duet with Ms. Opel is perhaps the climax of the musical and the opportunity for catharsis.

Bobby Goldman’s book could easily be fortified with deeper levels of exposition. Because this is at heart an autobiographical musical, more about the fictional Bobby and what moves her from grieving to living would be welcomed. Drew Brody’s music and lyrics are pleasing and successfully complement Ms. Goldman’s book. Peter Flynn keeps the musical moving at the proper pace and his staging is visually delightful. Rob Bissinger’s scenic design is more interesting downtown that uptown. Brian Hemeseth’s costumes and Matthew Richards’s lighting are visually pleasurable.

“Curvy Widow” is a charming and engaging exploration of the balancing act performed when navigating bereavement and discovering one’s “groove” and choosing the health of “new beginnings” and continuing life’s journey without fear.

 

CURVY WIDOW

The Cast of “Curvy Widow” features Andrea Bianchi, Aisha de Haas, Elizabeth Ward Land, Ken Land, Alan Muraoka, Nancy Opel, and Christopher Shyer.

“Curvy Widow” features choreography by Marcos Santana, scenic design by Rob Bissinger, costume design by Brian Hemesath, lighting design by Matthew Richards, and sound design by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab. Andrew Sotomayor serves as musical director with orchestrations, arrangements and Music Supervision by Wayne Barker.  Casting is by Stewart/Whitley. Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

“Curvy Widow” plays at The Westside Theatre, Upstairs (407 West 43rd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues). Performances are Monday at 8:00 p.m., Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $79.00 - $99.00 (including a $1.50 facility fee). Premium seats are available. Call Telecharge.com at 212-239-6200. For more information, please visit www.CurvyWidow.com. Running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Alan Muraoka and Nancy Opel. Credit: Matthew Murphy.

Review: The HandleBard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Danté Lane

The all-male troupe are touring the UK exploring love, magic and theatre, with high socks, braces and plastic cups for bosoms. This unforgettable retelling of the tale, resonates with an audience from the young to the less young, with humour, fun and waddling at every turn. Even though they cycle over 1,500 miles over a course over a year, only a five year old theatre company, and the play itself is over 400 years old, the entertainment of theatre hasn’t been lost along the way.

The idea that there’s no stage never defeats Designer Nik Corrall. With what’s carried on their back and bike, they devise a contraption with delight and dandyism to whisk us away to the woods where our tale is set. The costume is simple, yet distinct and the multi-rolling was never lost within the heat of the scene, with a clear sound of a bell and a costume swap, who they were was clear. The use of props helps break the ice between audience and actor especially when it involves a water gun.

The relationship with the audience was the core of their piece, which Shakespeare would even be proud of. Their simple stride was full of zest and energy. The energy unlocked audience interaction, and then through the duration of the piece blossomed. There was audience participation for the roles of fairies such as “Peaseblossom” and, in our case, “David.” Moreover, when the fight for love arose, the fight of food emerged too as they stole baked goods, treats and, later in the show, even wine from the audience. This key bond with the audience was essential in Shakespeare’s day, which is why ad lib, soliloquies and entering the audience space are present in both performances. The Handlebards have learnt from the universal techniques of past, and employed them in a masterful manner, which is faithful to tradition as the best performers usually played the clowns.

The mechanics and clowns are usually at threat in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as many interpretations have to cut one of the three components of the tale for time and convenience; either the fairies, mechanics or romantic couples has to go. Director James Farrell did not come to such a shortcoming and encourages humour to lessen the blow of heavy Shakespearean poetry. Meanwhile the cast of five want to outdo each other and do so in style. The night was full of laughter, cheers and applause.

The night did end in drizzle, but that didn’t rain on their parade and Puck (played by Paul Moss) concludes with conviction. If you want a chic and intoxicating romantic tale, this isn’t a show for you. If you want show which is accessible and enjoyable by all, which leaves you with a smile at the end, this is a show for you. After all, it is a comedy.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” features Tom Dixon, Calum Hughes-McIntosh, Paul Moss, and Matthew Seager.

The creative team includes Nik Corrall as Designer, and James Farrell as Director.

There are performances all of the UK and The HandleBards are appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For further information about Shakespeare On Bikes, the schedule of performances, venues with “pay-what-you-feel performances,” and links to tickets (from £11.00 to £12.00 per person), please visit http://www.handlebards.com/.

Running time for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is 2 hours without interval.

Off-Broadway Review: “Bone on Bone” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

When the audience first meets Jonathan (Mark Coffin) and Linda (Geraldine Leer) in their New York residence, they are a couple together for thirty-five years whose marriage seems to be suffering from osteoarthritis: the “stuff” between them that would allow them to smoothly glide over one another has eroded over time through the wear and tear of the normal “ups and downs” of a long-term relationship. Without the cartilage, their individual lives – their “bones” – rub uncomfortably against one another and impede movement, particularly movement forward as individuals and as a couple. When the audience last sees Linda and Jonathan, their discontent is less osteopathic and more artistic: they are more like a painting whose frame has been damaged but by no means beyond repair.

The interesting transition from bone on bone to frame on painting is the engaging storyline of Marylou DiPietro’s “Bone on Bone,” currently running at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre. After debriefing Jonathan about her lunch with colleague Ernesto (not “Ernie”) on the day before, Linda launches into the revelation that Ernesto has offered her a job at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) which would necessitate her moving to Providence. Linda assumes Jonathan will leave his successful law practice and make the move with her, working as an attorney in Provincetown, or perhaps in a hardware store. Johnathan, not unexpectedly, pushes back and the “games” begin.

The game is one of cat-and-mouse: Linda accuses Jonathan of “holding her back” and Jonathan defends the claim with the counterclaim of having supported Linda in all her artistic endeavors; Linda accuses Jonathan of “never listening and Jonathan counters with challenging Linda’s “obsession” with Ernesto over the past twenty years. This intriguing blame game eventually strips bare the underbelly of the discontents that have existed within the marriage for thirty-five years including the mundane decision about owning a dog, to the more esoteric decision not to have children.

In three distinct settings – New York to Providence to Pawtucket – the playwright discloses some of the motivations for the choices each character makes and reveals that perhaps it is less about making choices and more about “just moving forward.” This discovery occurs during the couple’s exposition of Roberts Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and is both the climax of the play and the engine that drives the plot forward to resolution.

The conflicts that drive this plot are easily identified by the members of the audience who can make essential connections between Linda and Jonathan and their own discoveries about self and other. The struggle seems less than balanced and the characters’ levels of likeability are sometimes problematic. This might be a function of Misti B. Wills’s direction rather than something specific to the script. Ms. DiPietro has created two interesting characters. Both might need some further development, particularly regarding the motivations of each character as they “move forward,” surprising one another with their intentions and their newly discovered skill sets.

Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” seems to be an integral part of the staging of “Bone on Bone.” Although the song was written to address the crisis in race relations in 1960s America, the lyrics “Take these broken wings and learn to fly/All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise” seem here to relate to Linda’s need to “find herself outside marriage.” Clearly, both Jonathan and Linda have experienced brokenness as they have navigated the vicissitudes of life and Marylou DiPietro is to be commended for addressing the struggles to find identity and meaning in a committed relationship without sacrificing the integrity of the “tie that binds.”

 

BONE ON BONE

The cast of “Bone on Bone” features Mark Coffin and Geraldine Leer.

The creative team includes April Bartlett (scenic design, Dan Henry (lighting design), and Gina Solebello (stage manager).

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “Bone on Bone” is 75 minutes without intermission.

Off-Broadway Review: “Adam and Brian” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

Joseph Verlezza

One of many offerings at the inaugural Broadway Bound Festival is a slice of life drama about a couple engaged to be married who are physically injured in a violent anti-gay attack and broken by the emotional torment that contaminates their relationship. It is refreshing to see an LGBTQ play that is not sugar coated, melodramatic, or steeped in sorrow. Playwright Craig Donnelly uses a simple intelligent formula by beginning with an event, which soon after creates a situation, which in turn causes conflict because of the repercussions from the event, and then ends with a resolution. The dialogue is candid and natural, not forced and almost makes the audience feel as if they are eavesdropping.

Director Paul Edwards guides his cast with a calm and steady hand, never conceding to the pitfalls of stereotype or exaggeration. Daniel Yaiullo turns in a sensitive, convincing Brian who enlists his gay activist persona to assist him in the heated debates. It is in his therapy sessions where he lets all guards down, as honesty ever so slowly surrenders to emotion. Sal England provides a sturdy and intelligent Adam, more frightened of himself than his attackers. Even with heartfelt intentions, as he continues to protect himself he injures his partner. He is real but constantly in need of a reality check. Their relationship is uncompromising but their chemistry compelling.

Mr. Donnelly’s script is not perfect and certainly needs a bit of tightening if he wants to be as convincing and real as his characters. There are too many loopholes that are like dangling chads. It is clear that the violent attack is the catalyst for revelations but if these two men are getting married shouldn’t they know each other’s idiosyncrasies already? If Brian has attended all of Adam’s social events at his workplace wouldn’t Adam’s co-workers and boss know he was gay and has a partner? Arguments abound and outweigh any indication of a positive loving relationship. Also, the scales are tipped in Brian’s direction since he gets to reveal his feelings during therapy sessions. Perhaps Adam also needs an outlet of some sort that exposes his emotional intelligence.

What this young playwright has accomplished is revealing how complicated and difficult gay marriage may be, or any marriage for that matter. It is not to be taken lightly or as the thing to do just because a long-fought battle has been won. It is a serious commitment not to be controlled by social pressure and a legal bond that should be respected. Hopefully the gay community will not emulate the current divorce rate of hetero marriages in this country. Kudos to Mr. Connelly for a fresh and honest perspective on the battle for LGBTQ equal rights that does not try to conceal the bumps and bruises that may occur. It is an onerous slice of life. 

 

ADAM AND BRIAN

The cast of “Adam and Brian” features Sal England and Daniel Yaiullo.

The creative team for “Adam and Brian” includes Danielle Dube (Stage Manager).

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “Adam and Brian” is 90 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Dan Yaiullo and Sal England. Credit: Craig Donnelly.

Review: ‘The Producers- A Mel Brooks Musical’ at Peterborough Players

Angelica Potter

Mel Brooks’ Tony award winning musical farce, ‘The Producers’, tells the story of long-time Broadway Producer Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom who form a partnership to pull off, what they think, is a masterful scheme to make a few million dollars by producing the biggest musical flop Broadway has ever seen. With original direction and choreography recreated by Gus Kaikkonen and Bill Burns, the Peterborough Players’ production kept the audience laughing aloud despite the many technical nuisances that occurred.

Oy-vey with the sound issues! While this production was funny and featured talented performers, they were unfortunately over shadowed by the multiple sound problems that occurred throughout the production. The most notable being the muddled sound quality with a number of the individual microphones. There were many instances where I was unable to understand what the actors were singing because of a lack of clarity, crispness and, at times, balanced volume. In addition, there were multiple occasions when actors’ microphones were on while they were not on stage and their conversations could be clearly heard over the actors speaking on stage. You know things are not going well when the actors on stage are being distracted by hearing voices coming from the speakers that they shouldn’t be hearing and are trying to subtly motion to people off stage that their microphone is hot and to stop talking. Furthermore, while the orchestra, led by music director Michael Sebastian, adequately played the music, they often drowned out the actors.

However, even with the technical problems, the cast, led by Players favorites Kraig Swartz and Tom Frey as Max and Leo, kept the audience engaged in the story and laughing throughout almost every scene. Their voices blended nicely together and they had a fantastic, believable camaraderie. Elyse Collier, as Ulla, delivered a strong performance with consistent character choices and fantastic dancing skills. It was unfortunate that her microphone was one that continued to have problems making it difficult to hear and understand her consistently during the show. Strong and very funny performances were also given by Leon Axt, as Franz Liebkind, and Danny Vaccaro, as Roger DeBris. Both men had sharp comedic timing and powerful vocals that were nicely showcased in their solo numbers. Another highlight of this performance were the superbly danced production numbers including “I Wanna Be A Producer”, “Keep It Gay”, and “Springtime for Hitler”. The large cast shined in these numbers that allowed them to portray their unique characters and show off a few special tricks. The tap dancing sections were especially well done with crisp, clear and unified sounds.

 

‘The Producers’ runs about 2.5 hours including intermission and plays on the Peterborough Players stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, through August 13th. For tickets call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org.

Photo Credit: From L to R- Tom Frey as "Leo", Elyse Collier as "Ulla", and Kraig Swartz as "Max". Photo Courtesy Peterborough Players. 

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

 

Off-Broadway Review: “In Pursuit of Peace” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

The path to peace (if not successful), the pursuit of peace and serenity, is littered with an abundance of hurdles and pitfalls, some only causing minor contusions, others resulting in disaster. Dad (Terrence Montgomery) an alcoholic farmer somewhere in the Midwest has apparently been on a life-long quest for a surcease of discord and disharmony. His marriage to Mom (Susan Campanaro) and, eight years later, assuming his role as a father to Young Junior (Lachlan O’Day) has apparently done nothing to help Dad find peace. In fact, the only peace he experiences is drinking excessively while “rocking” in his favorite chair and listening to the soothing sounds of his mother’s windchimes – the only thing he wanted from her home after her death.

“In Pursuit of Peace,” currently running at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre, provides a brief window into Dad’s decline into despair and isolation and his inability to show love to his wife and child. Of course, Mom having an affair and Junior not always being the kind of boy Dad had hoped for both have contributed to Dad’s drunkenness and dearth of spirit.

Shane Howard’s play begins with an extended flashback that provides most of the exposition outlined earlier. It is the day – after Mom has ditched Dad for conservative Christian Jim (Neslon Avidon) – that she is on her way to pick up Young Junior and whisk him off to a new home where both will be well cared for by Jim. This is Young Junior’s last day with Dad who gives the boy the scrapbook his grandmother started and Dad has recently added to. Flash forward: Years later, Junior (Chris Bellant) returns to see his Dad, breaks into the house through an open screened window, drops off the scrapbook, and steals a set of golf clubs. They have a second opportunity to say good-bye.

The balance of the play centers on Junior and Dad trying to reconnect (through the scrapbook) despite Junior’s mother lode of anger and Dad’s unwavering desire for solitude and peace. Dad at some point was attending twelve-step meetings; Junior and Mom – both alcoholics – have attended the same type of meetings. This is a troubled and dysfunctional family. One wonders briefly whether Junior might not even be Dad’s son (remembering Mom’s trips across town to find love). It is not easy to understand what the playwright was trying to achieve with “In Pursuit of Peace.” Is the play an exploration of the reunion of a father and his estranged son? Is it something more?

Junior admonishes Dad for not attending Mom’s funeral but Mom reappears as a ghost adding more secrets to the already abundant bonanza of individual and family mysteries. The difficulty with the play is that the audience never is told what the secrets are. Why aren’t these secrets revealed, especially since these secrets motivate the actions of the characters? The audience should not have to work so hard to fill in these gaps in plot. Why is the character of Jim necessary? Why does he have to be a conservative Christian? Why does Junior start to drink again? The audience is writing the script.

Dad’s discomfit is obviously real and clearly for the playwright the discomfit of Everyman. The audience needs to know more about Mr. Howard’s characters, their conflicts, and how these conflicts drive the plot forward. Director Christopher Scott might need to assist his cast to find more passion in their characters as this project continues to move forward to its next stage.

 

IN PURSUIT OF PEACE

The cast of “In Pursuit of Peace” features Nelson Avidon, Chris Bellant, Susan Campanaro, Terrence Montgomery, and Lachlan O’Day.

The creative team includes Jason Fok (lighting design), Jared Sclar (sound design), and Kyle Conn (stage manager).

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “In Pursuit of Peace” is 80 minutes without intermission.

Off-Broadway Review: “MotherFreakingHood! (Maternal Discretion Advised)” at the New York Musical Festival

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

“MotherFreakingHood! (Maternal Discretion Advised),” currently finishing its run at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, celebrates “the mother you never thought you should be.” Apparently a riff on the sacred status of motherhood, the musical joins the ranks of movies that try to extol the virtues of the role by suggesting what it ought not to be. Whatever it was meant to be, the musical, which has been in the works since 2015, is a bawdy bunch of songs laced with an abundance of four-letter words, a dose or two of scatological language, and a curious interest in bodily fluids. If you find that sort of fare funny – as did most of the friends and family in the audience before, during, and after the performance I experienced – then this might be the musical for you. If not, stream “Bad Moms” once or twice.

The three mothers finding their way through the maze of mothering are all entitled, competitive, elitist, and straight. Squeaky beds got these three on their way (or back on their way) to parenting. A lesbian mother might have been interesting. Breast feeding is, of course, best: “babies who drink formula have to go to public school.” That is a real lyric. Honest.

There is nothing new in the musical. The scenes ramble through the ups and downs (mostly downs here) of motherhood – from the “Baby Phase” to “Graduation” and the “Last Freaking Song.” The music is engaging though unremarkable and sometimes derivative. Listening to “Friends to the End,” I thought I had somehow found myself in a performance of “Mame.” The book and lyrics are the stuff of television sitcom – cable, of course. The moms carp about post-partum depression (Ballad of the Post-Partum”), childhood conditions – ADD and allergies – and their own need for sedation (“Pharmacology”), tween and adolescent blues (“Prayer for a Late Bloomer” and “Hormones on Parade), midlife crises (Mama’s Midlife Crisis”), and – after prom and graduation – enjoying the empty nest.

The best part of the musical is the cast. Veronica Reyes-How (Rachael Nixon), Erin Leigh Peck (Angie Miller), and Harriet D. Foy (Marcia Burger) work extremely hard and manage to dig into their characters and make them as believable as possible. Their ability to interpret the lyrics and deliver their songs – from ballad to Broadway belt – is enjoyable and rescues the rest of the musical from the mundane and deplorable. Two of the mothers arrive at their child’s graduation drunk. It is difficult for this critic to find that – and other discretions – funny or enlightening. The wonderful Jimmy Brewer is assigned all the male roles and wrestles with them commendably despite the creators’ desire to portray men as buffoons. Antje Ellermann’s set is functional and Terry Berliner’s direction and choreography are adequate.

 

MOTHERFREAKINGHOOD! (MATERNAL DISCRETION ADVISED)

The cast of “MotherFreakingHood!” features Jimmy Brewer, Annie Dow, Harriett D. Foy, Erin Leigh Peck, and Veronica Reyes.

The creative team includes Antje Ellermann (Scenic Design), Theresa Snider-Stein (Costume Design), Kirk Fitzgerlad (Lighting Design), Scott Stauffer (Sound Design), Bernita Robinson (Production Stage Manager), and Sharon Fallon Productions (General Manager). Production photos by Jeremy Daniel Photography.

The production will run through Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. at The Peter Jay Sharp Theater, located at 416 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues on the south side of 42nd Street). General Admission tickets are $29.75. For reservations and information (including cast and creative team) visit http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/georama-american-panorama-told-3-miles-canvas or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission.

Photo (L to R): Annie Dow, Veronica Reyes-How, Harriett D. Foy, Erin Leigh Peck, Jimmy Brewer. Credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography.

Review: ‘The Graduate’ at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse

Angelica Potter

‘The Graduate’ is a play adapted by Terry Johnson based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Most people can recall the film version that launched Dustin Hoffman to super stardom fifty years ago and has since become a cinematic classic. This “coming of age” comedic drama is the story of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate, who is struggling with what he wants to do next, where he wants to go and who he really wants to become. Though he comes from an affluent family, and may appear to have everything going for him, he feels lost with no direction and no connection. His encounter with a family friend, the older Mrs. Robinson, starts him on a path of rebellion; rebellion against everything he has ever known, and in search of himself. In the end he may not have a clearer understanding of his career path, but he has a better understanding of himself, of other people, and how he wants his future life to be different from his past.

Under the sharp eye of director Samantha Tella, this eight-person cast, delves into their characters and brings to life a story most audience members may have previously only seen on screen. The result is a funny, realistic, and touching production that audience members clearly enjoyed. The design elements of the production were simple, with clean, sharp lines in both the architecture of the set, as well as the costumes, thus allowing for the humorous language of the script and performances of the actors to shine.

Outshining all the rest were the two young actors playing Benjamin Braddock and Elaine Robinson: John-Michael Breen and Kelley Davies. Together they were delightful to watch, fully engaging with one another with their eye contact and authentic character connection. Their rocky relationship was at times amusing, at times fierce, but always completely heartfelt. Their journey from two young people being set up on a date by their parents and dreading it, through Benjamin falling crazy in love with Elaine and following her back to school so he can propose, to Elaine making a difficult decision moments before saying “I do”, was wonderfully performed.

Breen’s comedic timing was spot on throughout the production. Even in the midst of changing costumes (many times) on stage while carrying on a conversation, his character never dropped. He was entirely believable as a college graduate finding his way and rebelling against what he believed everyone else expected his life to become. His interactions with his parents, played by Richard Brundage and Pam Schnatterly, were familiarly amusing to many in the audience. Breen was strong in portraying Benjamin’s ever-changing feelings about his dramatic affair with the seductive Mrs. Robinson, played by Molly Parker Myers, and he aptly showed the complexity and confusion of his characters’ emotional and mental state during much of the play.

As Elaine, Davies was stunning and displaying a wide range of confusing emotions as her character dealt with her mother’s affair, falling in love, trying to please other people, being a college student, and finding her own voice and ultimately, her own path. There were many moments when Davies captured the audiences’ attention; completely charming them by her performance. One instance that stands out was when she was fighting with Benjamin and let out a bloodcurdling scream. In this moment, it was as if the audience didn’t exist and Elaine and Benjamin were alone in the room arguing about getting married. In this role, Davies delivers not only one of the best performances in this production, but of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse Summer Season overall.

Needless to say, Breen and Davies were absolutely perfectly cast in these roles and their performances are not to be missed!

The cast is rounded out with more admirable performances including Ray Dudley, as Mr. Robinson, passionate about business and seemingly less so about his wife, yet after learning of his wife’s affair, comes across as a very realistic, poignantly sad and pitiful man. Also in the cast is Playhouse favorite Nicholas Wilder, playing multiple roles including, in a very funny scene, a desk clerk who is overly attached to his bell. Shanel Sparr, and the previously mentioned Pam Schnatterly, Richard Brundage and Molly Parker Myers complete the cast. ©

‘The Graduate’ plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until August 12th with performances Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and a 2pm Matinee on August 7th. There are no Sunday performances. Tickets range from $20-$34 and are selling quickly. Please note this production contains brief nudity in addition to its mature content. For additional information and tickets visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org

 

Special Events from the Education Department:

Tuesday, August 8th at
Join us for an enlightening conversation led by an expert in a field connected to the production.
6pm – Symposium

Wednesday, August 9th -
Following the performance, you’re invited for an informal discussion with the cast and creative team.
Talk-back

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: The Winnipesaukee Playhouse.

 

Review: Beautifully Poignant "FUN HOME" Tour Moves Into OC's Segerstrom Center

Michael L. Quintos

Riveting, powerful and beautifully poignant at every step, "FUN HOME"—the Tony Award-winning musical based on Alison Bechdel's 2006 autobiographical graphic memoir—is one of those rare, great stage musicals that represents an astonishingly unique point-of-view that is somehow miraculously universal and inclusive at the same time. Armed with a moving, deeply personal story that's filled with heartache and heartbreak, yet with still plenty of room to be profoundly heartwarming, the musical's truly excellent national tour production continues performances at Orange County's Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa through August 6.

If you haven't seen this musical yet, do yourself a favor and get tickets while it's here.

Featuring piercing book and lyrics from Lisa Kron and euphonious music from Jeanine Tesori, "FUN HOME" is inspired by real events that happened to cartoonist Bechdel—particularly two specific stages of her past that she feels may have helped shape the person that she is in the present, and perhaps have also had a significant impact in her family. In looking back at her life, she is hoping that with deeper recollection and examination of these specific moments, they will lead to answers to some burning questions she has about her tumultuous relationship with her father that still haunt her today.

As audience members file into the theater, they will notice that there is no curtain, just a barely furnished bi-level stage where the terrific-sounding in-house band led by musical director Micah Young is tucked away downstage. Suddenly, with just a few notes from the band, in scurries Adult Alison—played by current Actors' Equity Association president Kate Shindle—wearing the same hipster spectacles and closed-cropped hairstyle the real-life Bechdel also sports.

Now in her 40's, she is in the midst of writing (well, drawing) her life story, which time-jumps from her seemingly happy home life in suburban Beech Creek, Pennsylvania as a curious young 10-year-old (played by the adorable Carly Gold) living with her two brothers and her parents, to her later life as a still curious 19-year-old Oberlin College undergrad (played by the impressive Abby Corrigan) just discovering that she is, in fact, a lesbian.

But the biggest question mark Adult Alison can't seem to shake in her reminiscing is, of course, her mysterious father Bruce (the superb Robert Petkoff), the distant yet highly intimidating family patriarch who taught English part-time at the high school and also ran the family business: a funeral home, which the Bechdel kids endearingly refer to as the "fun home" for short (get it?). She reveals quite matter-of-factly early on that four months after "leaping out of the closet," her father—himself a not-so-secret homosexual—stepped in front of a truck and may have killed himself.

As young (Small) Alison, she observes a father who barely engages with her let alone indicate any affection for her, at least in the way most fathers do with their pre-teen. He is, however, quite demanding and very particular about appearances, and how he wants certain things to look… from the way Alison dresses and the way she spends her leisure time, to the way their family house—a painstakingly restored ornate Victorian house—needs to always be meticulously perfect. He actually gets more excited over antiquated objects rather than the actual people around him. He shows more affection to a piece of linen damask than he does his own family. I guess this makes him perfectly suited to working with silent corpses and making them look pristine.

For coed (Medium) Alison, Bruce sends her more grown-up daughter books on philosophy while having awkward phone conversations that span different intellectual subjects, still unable to fully engage on a personal level. Such trivial things are easier to converse about, one can guess. For her part, Medium Alison jots down banal notes about their relationship in her journal. And strangely, Bruce all but glazes over Medium Alison's brave confessional letter that says she is gay and in love with a fellow student, Joan (Victoria Janicki).

But… surprise (but, not really)! She soon learns of Bruce's double life.

It is, however, apparently not much of a secret to his wife Helen (a stirring Susan Moniz), Alison's distressed mom—a former actress now working on her dissertation—whose only recourse is to feign happiness by silencing her sadness. Partially checked out and forcing herself to stay in an unhappy marriage, she gets used to turning the other cheek, then going about her own chores while reluctantly observing her husband's flirtations with various man-boys that seem to always show up at the house—from a fit former student to a random guy that comes to "help out" around the house. Eventually, one of these flirtations gets him into real trouble, forcing him to go see a psychiatrist as punishment/treatment.

Soon after coming out, Alison—hoping, perhaps, that she now has something much more substantial in common to talk about with his dad—is still unable to share a heart-to-heart with her dad during a visit home from college (with girlfriend in tow). Her mom, on the other hand, confesses tearfully about having to put up with it all these years.

As Bruce's realities start to implode, we witness Alison's father and his sudden death, which may have been a suicide. Alison, naturally, can't help but wonder…is her coming out and his suicide interconnected somehow? Did her act of pride lead to his act of shame?

Emotionally complex and intriguingly layered, "FUN HOME" is a 100-minute metaphor-heavy musical that touches on surface facades—those who use them to shield truths in order to try achieving a fulfilling life, and those who shed them and actually come closer to living a more fulfilling one.

Bruce, of course, is the biggest practitioner of the former, a man caught in a time and place that told him not to reveal his true self. Instead, he surrounds himself with a house full of precious, artistically valuable objet d'arts that he is more attached to than to his own family. Alas, the family has a purpose, though: its an army of free and willing museum custodians, all helping to keep Bruce's show palace a good spit-and-shine at any given moment.

For their part, Helen and her kids are wary not to upset Dad, making sure that the Bechdel's museum-like home is kept up to his exacting standards.

"Like chaos never happens and is never seen," they sing. "A volume out of place could start a third world war!"

His attachment to such beautiful things is clearly his compensation for not being able to fully express himself outwardly in another, more visceral way. And yet, lookee there, he manages to satisfy his other hidden urge quite frequently anyway—so much so that his own oft neglected wife is willing to just tolerate it rather than admit she's in a loveless marriage and have wasted her life being ignored and being taken for granted, minimizing her own wants and needs for his sake. Ultimately though, no amount of lovely things can be enough for a man living a lie all his adult life.

It's certainly a fate Alison seems to be trying to avoid falling into herself. Unlike her father, Alison is able to express her feelings with a modicum of bravery, despite its surface awkwardness. We see this in her boastful, so-happy-she-could-scream-it-with-a-megaphone pride over her meet-cute turned one-night-stand with Joan (her coming home with Alison for a visit obviously signals that they have progressed later to an out-in-the-open relationship). Alison is living her authentic self, something her father felt he wasn't ever able to do.

Additionally, "FUN HOME" is also a stern cautionary tale about the harsh consequences of non-communication. In certain cases, we entrap ourselves in these cycles of not telling others how we feel in the most honest of ways. Bruce deceived everyone. Helen kept her feelings to herself that it made her finally blow up, much, much too late. Alison almost didn't get what she wanted from Joan at first. Alison didn't even get the closure she needed from her father, but instead settling to remember her father in a rare moment of "perfect balance."

Under the smartly purposeful direction of Sam Gold, "FUN HOME" whips through a swift, chronologically jumbled puzzle of moments and revelations and then organizes them into an emotional drama with fair amounts of very welcome, well-timed joy. While, sure, "FUN HOME" isn't exactly the happiest, most feel-good musical around, there are enough breaks in the sadness to keep the audience entertained.

Gold's Small Alison is clearly having a blast with her little bros Christian (Luké Barbara Smith) and John (Henry Boshart) during the too-cute "Come To The "FUN HOME"," while Corrigan's Medium Alison enjoys a moment of euphoria during "Changing My Major." The disco-sparkle of "Raincoat of Love" perfectly contrasts with the tumultuous nature of the story at the very moment it arrives. Even the show's signature ballad "Ring of Keys" has a layer of buoyant joy bursting from its belted notes.

But it's the heartbreaking songs laced with deep cuts of melancholy and subtext that keep the audience at the edge of their seat to make this one of the most stirring contemporary musicals today. "Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue," "Maps," and "Telephone Wire" revealed more to me during this recent visit to the musical than it did the first time I saw it. And I just about fell apart in sobs much more this time around hearing Moniz sing through the devastating "Days and Days" while Petkoff's "Edges of the World" was a shudder-inducing manic explosion of fear and sorrow.

And, yes, the cast is stupendous. I can listen to Corrigan's beautiful singing voice all day long, she was that good. Moniz and Petkoff offer strong, excellent musicality paired perfectly with their incredible acting prowess (even the subtlest of facial expressions from Moniz are overloaded with context). Pint-sized Gold sounds delightful in every song, particularly in "Ring of Keys," the show's signature "aha" moment. And finally, Shindle, blessed with impressive vocal control and a commanding presence both as an omniscient narrator and the vulnerable "girl" in an awkward car ride with her dad, is the show's beacon home. As she examines her life right before her eyes, she is also, in a way, the audience's calming guide and docent in this musical museum, taking the time to sort of tell us that everything will be okay in the end.

Without fanfare, fancy visuals or outlandish theatrical setups, "FUN HOME" also seems to be all about theatrical transparency, even though, in a not-so-subtle contrast, the characters in the show themselves are almost always hiding their true selves from outward exposure. Zinn's simple exposed brick-lined set, portable furniture pieces, and an always-seen terrific in-house band tucked in the back reiterates this openness, and also helps recreate the theater-in-the-round scenario it employed during its Broadway run. Later towards the end of the musical, a (SPOILER ALERT) stunningly opulent Victorian home set is revealed and—wow. So that's what Bruce was doing. Kudos also go to Ben Stanton for the fabulous lighting, and Zinn (again) for the contextually relevant costumes.

Overall, "FUN HOME" is utterly moving and achingly heartfelt with every scene—and feels genuinely authentic. While I understand that this is all told through Alison's filtered lenses, in the end, I actually feel like Bruce's story is given equal weight with Alison's... although she tries to find answers to the mystery of his father (which she never really gets completely wrapped up in a bow), the fact that Bruce remains a somewhat unsolved enigma and mystery is probably the best thing for her—in order to heal and to be well without her recovery hinging primarily on solving the riddle of his dad. In spite of a fairly dysfunctional upbringing, Alison turned out to be a pretty darn great adult.

But more than anything, "FUN HOME" can be a thoughtful reminder of how important it is for people to live their truth, no matter how hard it may be for others to take or to understand. Sure, it was much more difficult to do so back in Small Alison's days (or, well, Medium Alison's days, too)… but nothing is more fulfilling than living life authentically. In this instance, we are also reminded about how much more alike we all are as feeling, emotional human beings, than we are different from one another.

Thanks, Alison, for allowing us to peer briefly into your world.

** Follow this reviewer on Twitter: @cre8iveMLQ **

Photos from the National Tour of "FUN HOME" - A NEW MUSICAL by Joan Marcus, courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Review also published in BroadwayWorld.

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Performances of the National Tour of "FUN HOME" at Segerstrom Center for the Arts continue through Sunday, August 6, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SCFTA.org, by phone at 714-556-2787 or in person at the SCFTA box office (open daily at 10 am). Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For tickets or more information, visit SCFTA.org.

Off-Broadway Review: “Georama: An American Panorama on 3 Miles of Canvas” at the New York Musical Festival

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

The Authors’ Note in the program for “Georama: An American Panorama on 3 Miles of Canvas,” currently running at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, claims that John Banvard the subject of their musical “[has] been entirely obliterated by history.” Although that premise is not entirely accurate – articles about Banvard exist in numerous scholarly articles – the musical itself has merit. The musical itself is not new, having been produced at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre in 2016 and workshopped during a residence at The Drama League. Its revival at NYMF indicates the creative team continues to consider the musical to be in development and this review will assume that to be the case.

John Banvard (played with a charming naivete by P.J. Griffith) is a young (and, of course, starving) artist whose mantra might be “Who Needs People” one of the musical numbers. A gifted loner who enjoys making sketches of the land and seascape of the Mississippi River, he thrives on being “Our Across the Mississippi.” After collaborating with showboat owner Chapman (played with entrepreneurial bravado by Nick Sullivan) and “impresario” Taylor (played with an appropriate deplorable grandiosity by Randy Blair), Banvard envisions the panorama, a moving display of scenes along the Mississippi. Envisioned as a ‘georama’ by Taylor, Banvard enlists the help of musician Elizabeth Goodnow (played with an endearing sincerity and vulnerability by Jillian Louis), daughter of Pastor Goodnow (Nick Sullivan) who suggests Banvard “Make Things People Need” and not “abduct” his daughter from his conservative praxis.

“Georama” strives to give substance to John Banvard, to “fill in the blanks” about this elusive artist; however, the scenes provide little of essence about his life. The audience learns more about his love interest and wife Elizabeth than about the inner and outer struggles of the artist. The story jumps quickly from Banvard’s initial employment by Chapman and his collaboration with Taylor to his success, to his betrayal by Taylor (P.T. Barnum), to his travels to London and Egypt, to his ultimate realization that “Art Is a Lie” and his return home to Elizabeth.

Under West Hyler’s direction, the talented cast grapples with their characters with care and considerable authenticity. P.J. Griffith’s and Jillian Louis’s duets are engaging: “Something so Great;” “Who Needs People/Try and Catch Me;” and the reprise of “Across the Mississippi” display their considerable vocal talents. Some of Matt Schatz’s music is derivative and his lyrics (with Jack Herrick) contain an abundance of repetitive rhyming. The musical numbers are, however, pleasing and heartfelt.  Scott Neale’s scenic design, Ann Wrightson’s lighting design, and Whitney Locher’s costume design are satisfying and Jason Thompson’s projection design is remarkable.

Three of the musical numbers could easily be eliminated and replaced by solid numbers that reveal more about the “forgotten” artist and serve to move the plot forward. “Something I’d Like to See,” sung by the musicians contributes nothing to the story line. “Perhaps,” sung by Polly (one of the musicians portraying a sex worker who attempts to lure John into a tryst) is puzzling and – even more puzzling – is “Just A Little,” the musical number sung by Nick Sullivan in drag as a Queen Victoria claiming to need sex. How this develops the mystery of Banvard’s obscurity is itself a mystery. The number is at best tasteless.

As a work in progress, “Georama” needs some attention by its creators; however, at its core, it is a fascinating story of the life of an artist whose vision and drive reflected a life that was “Something So Great.” The musical raises rich and enduring questions about creativity, truth and falsehood, and the quest for meaning and acceptance.

 

GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS

The cast of “Georama: An American Panorama on 3 Miles of Canvas” includes Randy Blair, PJ Griffith, Jillian Louis, Ana Marcu, and Nick Sullivan. Musicians: Jacob Yates (piano, cello) and Ana Marcu (piano, violin, guitar).
The creative team includes Scott Neale (Scenic Designer), Whitney Locher (Costume Designer), Ann G. Wrightson (Lighting Designer), Jason H. Thompson (Projection Designer), Merrick Williams (Stage Manager), and Mark McDaniels (General Manager). Production photos by Jagged Edge Arts.

The production will run through Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at The Peter Jay Sharp Theater, located at 416 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues on the south side of 42nd Street). General Admission tickets are $29.75. For reservations and information (including cast and creative team) visit http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/georama-american-panorama-told-3-miles-canvas or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Jacob Yates and Ana Marcu. Credit: Jagged Edge Arts.

Off-Broadway Review: “Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical” at the New York Musical Festival

Joseph Verlezza

Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington D.C., on May 4, 1961 and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. Theses pioneers in the non-violent civils rights movement suffered brutal attacks and several incarcerations, but their cry for equality was heard throughout the country and echoed through the halls of the Kennedy administration.

Richard Allen and Taran Gray tackle the complicated feat of retelling this monumental slice of American History for the stage, in the medium of musical theater. The stellar cast that was assembled to assist them on this journey is remarkable and faces the challenge with honest and authentic passion along with unsurpassed vocal ability. Anthony Chatmon II (John Lewis) gives a solid, intelligent and calculated performance. Brynn Williams (Diane Nash) fills the stage with enormous passion, tremendous vocals and an understanding of the significance of the message. Ciaran McCarthy (John Seigenthaler) packs his character with compassion as he navigates politics and protests with an impressive vocal range and powerful baritone. The power and strength of their voices, whether alone or with the entire company is the driving force of the production.

The main purpose of the book by Mr. Allen right now appears to exist merely as a bridge for the moving musical numbers which overshadow the facts. There is a need to flesh out the characters and the events of this monumental movement. Collaborating with Mr. Gray the music tends to be derivative with very little diversity and the lyrics are continually repetitious. For the most part, they integrate into the storyline but at times deflect from the principal objective. Direction by Whitney White is steady but too lighthearted, lacking the distress and jeopardy of the situations. “Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical” has a story that should to be told and it accomplishes that, but with some insightful comprehension, it will rise to a new level, with stronger emotional power. 

 

FREEDOM RIDERS: THE CIVIL RIGHTS MUSICAL

The cast includes Barry Anderson, Anthony Chatmon II, Meagan Flint, Deon’te L. Goodman, Guy Lockard, Ciarán McCarthy, Brandon Michael Nase, Michael Nigro, Scot Redmond, Don Rey, Nygel D. Robinson, Brynn Williams, Joy Yandell, and Toni Elizabeth White.

The creative team includes Steven Cuevas (Music Director), Raja Kelly (Choreographer), Niko Rabbitt (Set Design), Kate McGee (Lighting Design), Ken Goodwin (Sound Design), Kelly Hardy (Production Stage Manager), and Dailey-Monda Management (General Management).  

The production will run through Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 9:00 p.m. at The Acorn Theater at Theatre Row, located at 410 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues on the south side of 42nd Street). General Admission tickets are $29.75. For reservations and information (including cast and creative team) visit http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/freedom-riders-civil-rights-musical or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Photo: Michael Nigro, Meagan Flint, Deon’te L. Goodman, and Nygel D. Robin. Credit: Mia Winston.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Ahmanson Theatre

Erin Conley

The opening tableau of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which opened at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre on Thursday, is horribly upsetting and frankly makes you wonder what you’re walking into. In the middle of Bunny Christie’s versatile, simple set consisting of a black box covered in what looks like lit-up graph paper sits the corpse of a dog, impaled with a garden fork. The dog, Wellington, was murdered, and Christopher (Adam Langdon), a 15-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder, makes it his mission to solve the case. As an inciting incident, it is quite straightforward, but the twists and turns of the plot end up covering more ground than you would ever expect, and innovative staging makes for a truly dazzling production.

Curious Incident is based on the 2003 book of the same name by Mark Haddon. The stage version, adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott, premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2012 and won seven Olivier Awards. It later ran on Broadway for almost two years, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Play. The original National Theatre production is the same one that is now in Los Angeles, and this is exactly the type of show that will surely have a long, profitable life in theaters of all shapes and sizes. While the vivid central character and emotional journey evoke a feeling of intimacy, highly physical and inventive staging makes the show larger than life, combining a small, human story with theater spectacle in a rare and far-reaching way.

The grid the show takes place on has many uses—it is used for projections (Finn Ross), for displaying artwork Christopher draws in chalk on the ground, and as a blank slate of sorts on which the ensemble of ten can create magic. In addition to playing a variety of important characters and sometimes delivering narration, they also act as furniture and props—in one scene, where we see Christopher arriving to his home in Swindon, they create shapes with their bodies to mimic the doormat, a coat rack, a table, and even the bed Christopher eventually lies in to play video games. The ensemble also literally carries Christopher at times, notably in one scene in act two when they enable him to appear as if he is walking along the walls perpendicular to the stage, a sequence which drew rare mid-act applause from the audience.

While the book is told strictly from Christopher’s point of view and this is, for all intents and purposes, a rather loyal adaptation, the play uses a variety of storytelling techniques. There are so many, in fact, that it seems like it should not work—in addition to the many functions of the ensemble, you also have Christopher’s teacher and therapist, Siobhan (Maria Elena Ramirez) often acting as a narrator. In act one, she sometimes reads aloud from a book she has instructed Christopher to write about his experience investigating the dog murder, and in act two, the book is adapted into a play—see what they did there? Transitions between scenes are often abrupt and almost jarring with the action opting to move on once necessary information has been delivered. All of this combined should feel busy and overwhelming, but the emotional threads are so strong and the staging is so smart that somehow it never feels that way. Christopher’s beloved pet rat, Toby, is even played by an actual, live rat, because what is live theatre without as many variables as possible?

Nearly all of the aforementioned emotional threads have to do with Christopher as a character, who is beautifully portrayed by Langdon here. Christopher’s particular autism spectrum disorder, which is never addressed by name in the show, seems to be a rather severe one. He does not go to a mainstream school, he can recite every prime number into the thousands, he has a strong preference for the colors blue and red (and equally strong dislike for yellow and brown), he dislikes being touched, and he navigates the city in a very particular way, consisting of a specific system of right and left turns. During act one, as Christopher gets closer to an answer about who killed Wellington, an answer that shatters his perception of his own family more than he ever thought possible, we see him building a model train on stage with increasing franticness.

When the completed train is not only functional but provides a literal roadmap for the unprecedented adventure Christopher embarks on in act two, it is a stunning moment that brings everything we have seen up until that point together. While his mission changes multiple times throughout the show, his core personality and values never shift, and your heart will break for him as he discovers the secrets his family has kept from him and root for him as he fights his fears.

It feels worth mentioning that not all autism experts or people affected by autism find Christopher to be a good representation of the disorder. Haddon’s novel was marketed specifically as a book about a boy with Asperger’s, even though that word never appears in the text. Many of its critics feel Christopher’s condition is far too extreme to be truly indicative of Asperger’s, which no longer exists as a separate diagnosis but was generally associated with high-functioning cases. Others feel the portrayal of Christopher as a mathematical savant is stereotypical and damaging. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and others have written that the play helped them get a sense of what is happening inside the brains of their children with spectrum disorders in a way they never had previously. Also on a very positive note, in productions this coming fall at Indiana Repertory Theatre and Syracuse Stage, Mickey Rowe will become the first actor with an autism spectrum disorder to play the role of Christopher, a very necessary and exciting step towards better disability representation in the media.

The reason I have talked so little about the plot is because it is arguably the least special thing about this show. That is not to discredit it—it is an engaging story that keeps you invested even throughout a relatively lengthy two and a half hours. But when every other element feels exceptional, something has to be a bit ordinary. Oh, and don’t worry—they make up for the disturbing initial image with the crowd-pleasing appearance of a ridiculously adorable puppy towards the end.

 

The National Theatre Production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs through September 10th at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre. The running time is two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at www.centertheatregroup.org. You can also enter a daily lottery to win tickets for $19.67 through the TodayTix app. After LA, this production will proceed to Costa Mesa and Las Vegas. Photo: Joan Marcus

Off-Broadway Review: “Saving Stan” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

Joseph Verlezza

The sixty-minute one-act play “Saving Stan” is being presented as part of the inaugural season of the Broadway Bound Theater Festival at 14th Street Y Theater. Playwright Gary Morgenstein has penned a story with an interesting premise; however, at present the script is slightly scattered and confusing. Stan (Carlo Fiorletta) has suffered a severe stroke which leaves him incapacitated, unable to speak, and assisted by health care worker Patrice (Olivia Baseman). His almost bankrupt best friend Jack (Jordan Auslander) comes to visit and for some unknown reason he is the only one who can hear Stan speak. Stan asks Jack to help him commit suicide in exchange for inheriting a sizable amount of money from the estate. Patrice has her own intentions of marrying Stan, this would be his fourth wife, and woos him by singing, dancing with him in his wheelchair and trying to take him to her brother’s house for lunch. All this unfolds before the botched execution of the fatal act.

The numerous short encounters are punctuated by blackouts to indicate a time lapse or a different visit but consequently they interrupt the action, any emotional drive and dramatic arc. There are too many unanswered questions that undermine the plausibility of the plot. When did Stan write his will leaving Jack all his money in exchange for his aberrant help since he is incapacitated? Why is Jack the only one that hears Stan speak? Why does Patrice come back to Stan’s place after she has left and will no longer work there? How did Patrice get access to read Stan’s will?

The characters spend quite a bit of time arguing but there is very little exposition and occasional forced humor. They merely appear as pawns in a very bewildering game of intrigue. As with any mystery drama dealing with a death, the script must be fervid and tight with no loose ends causing doubt.

Perhaps if the device of short vignettes followed by a blackout needs to be incorporated, when the lights come up the audience should be faced with a shocking scene followed by the explanation. This way the audience will engage in anticipation of the next scene. For instance, the scene where Patrice is wooing Stan by singing and dancing ending with a kiss. If the lights came up and Patrice was kissing Stan the audience becomes immediately interested in what is happening and wants the explanation. It is a reverse strategy, shock then explain. It may help the pace of the piece. The end is a bit confusing mostly because of staging (and possibly a technical difficulty). Avoiding a spoiler alert, possibly it needs to be opened up so we can see Stan and his propped-up arm accidently falls which causes the following escapade.

Mr. Morgenstein has an absorbing one-act in the incubator that needs more attention to detail along with an infusion of desperation, motivation and exposition to the characters. It relies on unconventional devices within the plot and therefore requires unorthodox direction and staging.

 

SAVING STAN

The cast of “Saving Stan” features Jordan Auslander, Olivia Baseman, and Carlo Fiorletta.

Taylor Mankowski serves as lighting designer and stage manager for “Saving Stan.”

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14

th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “Saving Stan” is 60 minutes without intermission.

Off-Broadway Review: “The American Dream” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

Corina’s (Cristy Reynoso) dream is to reach New York City and start a new life. This American Dream begins in Guatemala and reaches a climax in Tucson, Arizona where the twenty-two-year-old illegal immigrant is being held in a “safe house” by her “coyotaje” Efren (Juan Ramirez, Jr.), the human smuggler who has illegally transported Corina from her crossing point into the United States. Corina’s husband is late with the final payment for Efren’s “work” and, unless he makes the Western Union transfer in a relatively short period of time, Efren threatens to kill his captive.

“The American Dream,” currently playing at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre, taps deeply into the realms of moral ambiguity to examine the encounter between Corina and her captor Efren as they play what appears to be a life-or-death cat and mouse game culminating in an ending skirting the outer edges of Magical Realism. Every time Efren raises the threat level for Corina, the illegal immigrant “plays” Efren by reminding him of his own journey from Guatemala, claiming she is two-weeks pregnant by proffering an ultrasound image from a woman who is in her second trimester, offering to move in with Efren and do his every bidding, and – finally – revealing that she knows his mother back in Central America.

Mr. Ramirez uses the conflicts of his two characters to address the nature of the American Dream, its promises and its disappointments. The promise of freedom and the new life with her husband appeals to Corina: the reality of his experience as an immigrant in America disappoints Efren. In their exchange, the audience can revisit the rich and enduring questions surrounding the quest for the American Dream: how is life in America better or worse than life in Central America or Mexico; what is an illegal immigrant; why do brave individuals continue to make the dangerous journey across borders to reach America?

Juan Ramirez, Jr.’s script is strong and, with feedback from the experience at the Broadway Bound Festival, the playwright will be able to continue to develop “The American Dream” successfully. He tackles important issues facing not only America but the entire global community. It would help the progression of the play if the audience felt more compassion for Corina, cared about her more. This would reinforce the tension between the characters and accentuate the difference in their world views. Both Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Reynoso address the conflicts of their characters with authenticity.

It is difficult to write, direct, and star in one’s own play. If any one of the roles suffers, it is usually the role of director. Mr. Ramirez’s direction is adequate but needs tightening up in the second act where the pace seems to slow a bit more than it should. Also, in the first act, Ms. Reynoso’s Corina is left for long periods of time standing, wringing her hands, and rocking back and forth from one leg to the other. Again, it is sometimes difficult to direct one’s own play. More physical interaction – including raw violence – between the characters might augment the staging. Efren needs to be far more ruthless and exhibit his ability to terrorize his captive.

“The American Dream” continues the fortuitous conversation about immigration, so-called immigration reform (“Merit-Based Immigration System), human trafficking, legal immigration, illegal immigration, discrimination, the role of ICE officials, and nationalism. There are two more opportunities to see Mr. Ramirez’s important new play: Sunday August 6 at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday August 10 at 4:00 p.m.

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

The cast of “The American Dream” features Juan Ramirez, Jr. and Cristy Reynoso.

The creative team includes Amira Mustapha (lighting design) and Angela Reynono (stage manager).

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “The American Dream” is 70 minutes without intermission.

Off-Broadway Review: “In the Room, Waiting” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

Joseph Verlezza

Several characters appear in “In A Room, Waiting,” particularly because the room in question is a hospital waiting room. These “visitors” have little else to occupy their time other than browsing outdated magazines or entering a conversation that might either ease their apprehension or perhaps escalate their level of anxiety. Malcolm (Thaddeus McCants) and Aisha (Jarielle Whitney), a young unmarried couple, happen to be at the center of this societal microcosm as they grapple with the issue of an unexpected pregnancy. They disagree on many topics including whether to bring a child into the world given their present dismal situation and precarious relationship. Among the vivid refugees that that infiltrate this isolated encampment from the socio-economic war raging outside its doors, is a mother with a sagacious child, a drug addict looking to steal prescription drugs, a man with a head wound injured by an exploding soup can and a college frat boy ailing from an STD. Then there is the astounding Octavious, (Justin Jorrell) a somewhat prophet that sees people’s lives when high on the drug of the present decade. Beaten, bedraggled and ostracized, a sort of evangelist there to announce the coming of a special child. They are all colorful and persons of color.

Playwright Thaddeus McCants has penned an interesting narrative and created a mélange of characters to support his clever script. As ingenious as it is, it lacks the dramatic arc needed to sustain the important messages that reflect the current social turmoil erupting in our country today. The choice of music in-between scenes, as relevant as it may be, weakens the power and drive of the dialogue by changing the mood. Also, there is a need to clarify the reality versus magical realism that exists. At present, it tempts the audience to think too much, which creates doubt and uncertainty about the characters and the situations presented. The two protagonists need to be fleshed out in order to attain more empathy from the audience. The last scenes after the passing of seven years seem rushed and feigned, prompted mostly by lack of information of what has transpired over that time period that changes the attitude and demeanor of the characters.

The cast is remarkable, tackling the script with honesty and authenticity. Mr. McCants is a welcomed new voice that needs to be nurtured so he does not become a stranger to the much-needed infusion of young playwrights into the network of American theater.

 

IN THE ROOM WAITING

The cast of “In the Room, Waiting” features Zahaira Curiel, Barry Gibbs, Justin Jorrell, Thaddeus McCants, Jarielle Whitney, and Tangela Wilson.

The creative team includes Jon Degaetano (lighting design) and Thaddeus McCants (sound design). Parker Pogue serves as assistant director.

All performances of the Broadway Bound Festival run at the 14th Street Y Theatre (344 East 14th Street). For further information about the BWB Festival, the schedule of performances, and to purchase tickets at $25.00 - $50.00 (VIP), please visit https://www.broadwayboundfestival.com/. Running time for “In the Room, Waiting” is 90 minutes without intermission.