Review: Broadway Bound Theatre Festival’s “Basic Glitch”

Review: Broadway Bound Theatre Festival’s “Basic Glitch”

Part “Westworld” and part “The Office,” Ms. Salazar-Amaro’s play comedically dips into broad strokes of what it means for systems to not be working; whether reproductive, organizational, managerial, or even afterlife structure, each of the four characters faces an unsatisfactory system they seek to improve.

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Review: “Gemini” at Theatre Row NYC

Review: “Gemini” at Theatre Row NYC

Though, I feel “Gemini” doesn’t dig in to Francis’ struggles with his homosexuality as much as I would have liked to see, instead opting for the wacky antics of the people around him, and the ending feels sudden, the actors and director did a fine job with the text that they were given and put on a show that will be enjoyable for the audience.

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Review: “Hard Love” at TACT at The Beckett Theatre

David Roberts

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13

It is a hard kind of love that haunts Hannah (Victoria Mack) and Zvi (Ian Kahn) as they attempt to navigate through their fractured relationship twenty years after their divorce. It is an issue of faith that apparently contributed to the couple’s parting of ways and it has been their hope that someday they might reunite. This journey of faith, hope, and love is the engaging subject of Motti Lerner’s “Hard Love” currently running at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row.

Ian Kahn and Victoria Mack Photo: Clark Kim

Hannah lives in a secluded part of Israel inhabited by Jews with a deep and conservative faith. She and Zvi met and married young and Zvi’s commitment to Hannah’s type of faith dwindles. Zvi is an agnostic, perhaps an atheist and their disparate world views drives them apart and to their separation and divorce. Hannah calls Zvi back to deal with the relationship that has developed between their children and the same issue that eventually separated her and Zvi twenty years ago: faith. Hannah tells Zvi his son wants to marry her daughter and Zvi is concerned his son will lose his interest in music and submit to the same faith he fled two decades ago.

Hannah’s motivation for wanting to see her former husband is complex and it is the unfolding of her motivation that is at the heart of this wonderfully complicated play. Are Hannah’s motives pure? Has she been in love with Zvi all the time they were separated and does the near-death of her aging husband provide Hannah the opportunity to reunite with Zvi? At first Zvi seems willing to rekindle the spark of their love until Hannah’s apparent pregnancy and willingness to live with Zvi in Tal-Aviv raises suspicion and doubt about Hannah’s motives.

Under Scott Alan Evans steady hand and compelling direction, Ms. Mack and Mr. Kahn bring the hopes and dreams of their characters to an authentic and believable dramatic arc that keeps the audience wondering if this estranged couple can overcome old issues of faith and develop a new relationship based on transparency and unconditional love. It is unconditional love – not romantic love – that eventually leads Zvi to examine Hannah’s willingness to move in with him. And it is Zvi’s desire to delay the move to accommodate his new girlfriend that increases Hannah’s desire to move even more quickly into a re-marriage. 

“Hard Love” is a remarkable tale of the complications faith brings to the development of a loving relationship and how hope can transcend realism and create a fantasy of the most dangerous kind. Everything about the production contributes to the success of the telling of Hannah and Zvi’s interesting story. John McDermott’s set design and Aaron Copp’s lighting design are fitting complements to Mr. Lerner’s script as is Kim Krumm Sorenson’s costume design. “Hard Love” is definitely worth a look.

HARD LOVE

“Hard Love” is written by Motti Lerner and directed by Scott Alan Evans and is presented by TACT, The Actors Theatre. The creative team includes John McDermott (set design), Aaron Copp (light design), Kim Krumm Sorenson (costume design), Toby Jaguar Algya (sound design), Samantha Shoffner (props design), Kelly Burns (production stage manager), Libby Jensen (production manager), and Richard Hillman (publicist).  Production photos are by Clark Kim.

“Hard Love” is performed at The Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street in New York City on the following performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $62.50 and can be purchased at https://www.telecharge.com/ScheduleAndPricing.aspx?ProductId=11044. Running time is 2 hours including one intermission.

WITH: Ian Kahn and Victoria Mack

Review: “Heads” at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row

Nickolaus Hines

The lights dimmed briefly before the lights on stage left shot back on. Two men, gagged and blindfolded, were thrown onto the minimalist set on stage at the Beckett Theatre.

It’s Sept. 11, 14 years to the day after the attack on the Twin Towers that quickly led to the start of America’s War on Terror in the Middle East. Hostage situations have splayed across TV screens on a regular basis since the start of the war, but something about seeing two American men dressed as hostages in an intimate theater makes the emotions of war real again. 

“Heads,” a 90–minute slice of hostage life written by E. M. Lewis and directed by Laura Savia, came back to New York for a second time on the anniversary of the event that changed America. 

The play has been running since 2007. Since then, the Boko Haram insurgency began, Osama bin Laden was killed, the Iraq War ended, the Islamic State replaced Al Qaeda, the beheading of multiple journalists was put online and the War in Afghanistan continues to rage on. Yet “Heads” still resonates as a play that appears to be ripped from the headlines.

“Heads” sticks with a cast of four hostages: a freelance photojournalist, a network journalist, a British Embassy worker and an American engineer.  There is limited action in the play. Time passes primarily through smooth transitions between two adjacent cells as intense, and at times darkly comical, dialogue gives insight into gradual acceptance of full vulnerability and a total loss of control.

On stage left, the first men introduced are a stark contrast of personalities and goals. Freelance photojournalist Jack Velazquez, played by José Leon, is a hardened soul without a family to fall back on. Connecticut network journalist Michael Aprés, played by Michael Turner, is new to war, and recites journalistic principles of objectivity as if he just passed a college journalism course. 

On stage right, Harold Wolfe, a long–term American engineer hostage played by David Dotterer, is the epitome of calm acceptance. His methodology of keeping an ounce of sanity is the opposite of the emotionally complex character of Caroline Conway, the British Embassy worker played by Kim Martin–Cotten. 

Each character has clearly defined motivations and remarkably fleshed–out back stories. The audience is exposed to the harsh realities of being a hostage, but also the role of the war–time press, PTSD and the limits of the human mind and body.

Martin–Cotten’s range of emotions steals the show. The small theater puts the audience essentially in the cell, and the tension is heart–racing as Martin–Cotten trembles in fear from her hand to her cheek. She also gets the audience laughing at (with?) the dark British humor of someone who has lost all hope, but finds solace in Elton John’s rendition of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” The audience is there, emotionally and physically, with the help of Martin–Cotten and the rest of the cast’s full commitment to the characters, even if it is the last place one would want to be.

The minimalist set plays a vital role as well. Careful lighting puts the dialogue front and center, while most of the physical action happens off stage. Audio and a brief projected video make the off–stage action come alive.

Political and shock–value statements of a hostage situation would have been the easy route for E. M. Lewis. Those dramas unfold on the 24–hour news cycle. Instead, Lewis tells a human story of anger, fear, friendship and mental collapse. 

“Heads” will be at the Beckett Theatre until Sept. 20

Sacred Heart University’s Theatre Arts Program has teamed with its in-residence professional company, Connecticut Children’s Theatre, Inc. (CCT, Inc.) to fund and produce a limited run of “Heads,” in New York at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row. 

The production will allow students at Sacred Heart University majoring in Theatre Arts, to take part in all creative and technical areas, and to work with a professional director on staging the show in an Off-Broadway venue. Students will be tasked with taking on all production positions including designers, stage management, assistant director, running crew, house crew, graphics, as well as marketing and social media.

Review: “In Bed With Roy Cohn" at the Lion Theatre

David Roberts

The life and times of the notorious Roy Cohn have been chronicled in fiction and non-fiction and perhaps most notable in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” where Ethel Rosenberg “appears” at Cohn’s deathbed in a series of over-the-top conversations about her trial and execution. In a 2006 article in “The New York Times,” Adam Liptak wrote, “Mr. Kushner said he did not use historical figures for instruction or verisimilitude. ‘There is a power that you access that doesn't have to do with credibility but with a shared understanding,’ he said, adding that there was a transgressive thrill to it, too.”

The Cast of "In Bed with Roy Cohn”

Playwright Joan Beber seems to enjoy that same “transgressive thrill” in her “In Bed With Roy Cohn” currently running at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row through October 3, 2015. Her play – which has been produced since 2012 – does not address the same issues as “Angels in America” and is rather a more comedic look at the iconic character and is staged with the fractured finesse of a fairy tale mingled with the somewhat hallucinatory trappings of an extended dream ballet. This is a good thing and meets with limited success.

Christopher Daftsios is a convincing and very funny Roy Cohn. If only Ms. Beber had given the actor the expansive vocabulary of the real Roy. There are additional solid performances by Serge Thony who portrays Roy’s lover with a mixture of passionate charm and sincere disinterest. Broadway veteran Marilyn Sokol does a successful turn as Roy’s mother Dora and one wishes the playwright had given the actor a bit more to work with. Perhaps the best performance is that of newcomer Andy Reinhardt who exercises the craft he practiced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Acting Apprentice Program. Mr. Reinhardt is a convincing and affable young Roy Cohn who shadows his elder self with curiosity mixed with remorse.

The remainder of the cast delivers serviceable performances, again doing the best they can with the character development they are given by the playwright and the rather free reign given by director Katrin Hilbe. Rebeca Fong could have used more solid direction in her role as Roy Cohn’s housekeeper. Most of her scenes as Lisette seem extraneous and repetitive. Lee Roy Rogers’ performance as Barbara Walters could have been stronger and, again, the issue might be one of weak direction. And Ian Gould is a wonderfully mocking Julius Rosenberg who uses his return to Roy’s side to badger the prosecutor mercilessly. If the entire theater is going to be a playing area and a back stage and a props storage area, the director must give exacting and careful direction to the ensemble cast so they do not appear sometimes to be ambling about with no direction home.

The character of Barbara Walters is quite important however, and it is this characters soliloquies (delivered quite nicely by Ms. Rogers) that provide what might be the point of the play. When all else fails, give the title a try! Ms. Walters repeatedly addresses the rest of the imaginary characters (and the audience) asking enduring questions about complicity and culpability. When people like Roy Cohn behave badly and those “standing by” do nothing to interfere, are not all somehow culpable, somehow “in bed” with the perpetrator of minor and major crimes against humanity?

"In Bed With Roy Cohn" needs considerable tightening but provides a smorgasbord of light fare that will satisfy the palate of theatregoers not familiar with the antics of Roy Cohn and entertain those who enjoy a quick dose of comedy and farce.

IN BED WITH ROY COHN

The cast of “In Bed With Roy Cohn” includes Nelson Avidon, Christopher Daftsios, Rebeca Fong, Ian Gould, Andy Reinhardt, Lee Roy Rogers, Marilyn Sokol, and Serge Thony. The creative team includes Sarah Edkins (Set Design), Gertjan Houben (Lighting and Projection Design), Karen Ledger (Costume Design), Andy Evan Cohen (Sound Design), Lisa Shriver (Choreographer), Stephanie Klapper (Casting), Katie Kavett (Production Stage Manager) and Perry Street Theatricals (General Management). The production photos are by Russ Rowland.

“In Bed With Roy Cohn” is written by Joan Beber and directed by Katrin Hilbe and runs through October 3, 2015 and will play Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesday - Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday matinee at 2:00 p.m.; and Sunday matinee at 3:00 p.m. at Theater Row’s Lion Theatre, located at 410 West 42nd Street. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission

Review: 'THE FAIRER SEX' at Theatre Row

Brooke Clariday

Imagine a world where women are free of sexual violence, oppression, and make the same, if not more, money than men. Finally, in a stunning humanistic dark comedy, “The Fairer Sex” presented by Between Us Productions, and written by Sander Gusinow, this women-run reality is featured. Following the aftermath of a rebellion, in which women fought back against men, and won, “The Fairer Sex” takes the audience on a journey of a society called the New World Order, in which women elect a queen, enforce the law, eliminate sexism, and take on a whole new meaning of the women’s title “fairer sex.” In other words: women rejoice! 

The idea of “The Fairer Sex” came to Sander as he puts it, "with the whole Ariel Castro situation," in which three women were abducted, abused, and repeatedly raped. Taking that into consideration, the script and its characters provide a perspective on the world where women are no longer subjects to the brutal abuse every day, simply because of their sex.

The play begins in the New World Order as two (Lena and Kristen) apprehend Elam, who was being smuggled out of a hospital by Sean, a known worker of the resistance. Kristen is shown with Gwen, the commander, proudly wearing her New World Order uniform, showcasing the female sex symbol encased by a fist punching the air. Gwen instructs Kristen, with the help of Lena, to question the men and eventually, “put them down.” From there, the play unravels as Elam’s true identity is revealed, and Lena and Kristen fight a line between doing their duty and doing what is right.

“The Fairer Sex” is deeply hysterical from beginning to end as Gusinow’s script expands its themes, characters, and revelations. Gusinow lifts the characters up, with lines allowing the actors to make choices, understand their characters, and give stunning performances. Featuring three women, Gwen, Kristen and Lena, the use of femininity is highly different from what would be expected in today’s world. Instead of writing strictly overbearing characters, much like what is found in current productions and television shows, the women are portrayed as strong without being crazy. Yes, they still have guns, and occasionally blow a few balls off, but they are able to show strength through their minds, more than their physicality. 

Showing some teeth, and some pure ass-kicking, is the performance of Kristen, played by Josephine Wheelwright. Fighting a few bullet wounds, her emotional state, and a few mishaps with her best friend Lena, Kristen is the vital centerpiece to the production. Wheelwright brilliantly delivers Kristen with as much strength as a nail, but also showcases her vulnerability. In the most tragic hair-raising scene, Gwen reminds Kristen of why she joined the movement, Wheelwright leaves the audience stunned and shaking with anger, as they witness Kristen relive the tragic, vile act that was placed upon her.

With a blinged out version of femininity, Lena is the female opposition of Kristen. Lena is portrayed as the perfect combination of southern ditz meets city class. Wearing bright red cowboy boots that fit just right, a giant bedazzled ‘L’ on her shirt, and a high pony tail that sways back and forth as she walks, Lena embraces her policing efforts with her own personal style. With a stunning performance given by Erica Becker, Lena’s so called “stupidity” by Gwen, played by Michelle Liu Coughlin, is deeply disproved, as Lena forces the resistance and Kristen to find common ground through her relationship with Elam. Erica Becker handles her role fearlessly, allowing for both the hilarious use of Lena’s physically and written lines, but still producing the undeniable nurturing quality of Lena, that leaves the audience both rolling in their seats and holding back a few tears of joy. 

Lena also gives the play a look into sexual desire. Her loneliness is discussed frequently, and her libido is put to the test when she is left alone with Elam after his interrogation. Elam’s performance by Billy Giacci compliments Lena well, and their encounter is both sexy and sweet, and gives insight to a woman’s ability to be sexually enlightened and in command.

Elam is the voice for the more common, softer side of mankind. The two other male characters Mark, played by Michael Markham, and Sean, played by Chauncey Johnson, commonly describe women as “cum-bucket sluts,” and prove why the New World Order refers to men as animals. Their performances, though you may hate them at the end, are overly physical and brutal, allowing for Elam’s revelation to be effective. Michael Markham is present on stage, and Chauncey Johnson gives spit-hitting lines that hit that back wall every time he barks “Princess” at Elam. Billy’s portray of Elam’s tenderness towards women perfectly reminds the audience and the New World Order that not all men are animalistic rapists.

“The Fairer Sex” isn’t just a play on feminism. The cast all work in sync with one another to provide a full picture that the world needs both men and women to coexist, and not just for reproduction. Men and women depend on each other for guidance, mental wellbeing, and friendship. Without coexistence, both sides fall further away from embracing what makes each sex great. “The Fairer Sex” is a must see at Theatre Row, and triumphs in its ability to create a cathartic, hysterical, mind-changing theatre experience. 

THE FARIER SEX

Written by Sander Gusinow and directed by Samantha Lee Manas

FEATURING Josephine Wheelwright (Kristen), Erica Becker (Lena), Billy Giacci (Elam), Michelle Liu Coughlin (Gwen), Michael Markham (Mark), Chauncey Johnson (Sean/Solider).

WITH Paul Kennedy (Lighting Design), Samantha Lee Manas (Costume and Set Design) Mickey Lee Nelson (Graphic Design), Jasmine Brown, Graydon Gund, and Karl Custer (Producing Company Members). 

THE FAIRER SEX is performed July 29-31st at 8 PM, August 1 at 2 PM and 8 PM; August 2 at 3 PM at Theatre Row Studio Theatre, located at 410 West 42nd Street. Tickets are $18 and available at www.Telecharge.com. For more information about Between Us Productions, go to betweenusproductions.wix.com/betweenusprod.