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Zig and Alex salute Rose in "The Tender Mercies"

Live theater aims for two things: truth and intensity. Oftentimes they are in a zero-sum relationship to one another. That is, the more you have of one, the less you can have of the other. On one hand, truth commonly understood is elusive, messy, and boring. Reading a thousand cotton-mouthed books might get you close to understanding why your pension is still in peril. Intensity, on the other hand, is crack cocaine or sugar coated choco-bombs: full of immediate high, it can’t be weighed down by buzz killing substances like facts. Take, for example, any speech by Sarah Palin. Occasionally, however, a play can convey a great truth and be intense at the same time. That is most definitely the case with The Tender Mercies playing this week at the Teatro Círculo on East 4th Street.
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Jeff Sproul and James Patrick Cronin in "Poppycock"

Just what did you expect for nothing? Rubber biscuit?

A guy walks into a bar and says “ouch!” No wait. I told that wrong. A man and a woman walk into a derelict bed and breakfast carrying the woman’s catatonic sister. This is the last night the bed and breakfast will be in business because an unscrupulous Richie Rich, a real Snidely Whiplash, is about to repossess it from its humble bumbling owner. And then they say “ouch.”

Poppycock: A Modern-Day Farce at Under St. Mark’s Theater from now until April 24th is roughly an hour and a half of non-stop gags, jokes, tom-foolery, one-liners, puns, witty repartee, and monkeyshines. It’s like Monkey Business meets Fawlty Towers envisioned as a live-action Tex Avery cartoon (like Malcolm in the Middle). I laughed through the whole thing.

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What does a world without hope look like? Is it a bleak moonscape — black sky, cold sun, gray hills? Or is it the too perfect world of American suburbia, where the sun — and the smiles — shine a little too bright; where too-green, cultivated lawns lead to soothing interiors, painted in shades named “Ocean Side”, “Interactive Cream”, and “Moderate White”; where real freedom is banished to the gritty, marginal, blind spots of ubiquitous surveillance cameras?

The Realm, running from now until April 18th at The Wild Project in the East Village, is a futuristic dystopia in the tradition of American post-apocalyptic dystopias like Logan’s Run, A Boy and His Dog (remember that one? Don Johnson starred in the movie!), and, closer to our time, Urinetown. The time is the not-too-distant future. After an unnamed cataclysm, humanity has been forced underground. Natural resources are scarce — especially water. Human beings have learned how to live spare, lean lives, stripped of all superfluity — and fun. And, for that matter, freedom. Water is rationed, life is rationed, even words are rationed.

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