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“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” — Theodor Adorno
The Fallen by Yasmine Beverly Rana playing at the T. Schreiber Studio, directed by Terry Schreiber, starts as a bedroom-cum-courtroom drama. The lights come up on Sabine (Amanda Bena-Weber) and Andrej (Joshua Mark Sienkiewicz) in a hotel room in Trieste. The two are glowing post-coitally and ruminating on the wonderful strangeness of their random sexual encounter. Andrej admits there is something about Sabine that compelled him to talk to her when he saw her sitting at a table in his local cafe. “I remind you of home?” she says. Yes, that’s it — home. And where is home? The former Yugoslavia. Incipit the courtroom. Sabine (her name evokes the famous rape of early Roman lore) is also from there, though they were clearly on opposite sides of the conflict. Andrej is a Serb and Sabine saw what the Serb men did in Sarajevo. (Though it is implied that Sabine is a Bosnian Muslim, she doesn’t reveal her ethnic identity.) He protests his innocence; she denies his protests. He asks what she really wants; she says, “an apology.”
“Why, how now, ho! from whence ariseth this? / Are we turn’d Turks, and to ourselves do that / Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?”
Othello Act II, scene iii.
Daniel Spector’s version of Othello is compressed and concise, which is a blessing in the dog days of summer, in a black box theater that can’t run air conditioning and stage lights at the same time. Though the cuts to the script leave a couple of faint scars, the staging of what remains is coherent and convincing. The actors do their part too, reciting their lines with the modest truth, nor more, nor clipped, but so. Nothing ruins Shakespeare like languorous, rambling delivery that tries to get out of the poetry’s metrical straightjacket. And some clever stage and light design heighten the intimacy between the performers and the audience.
It was a dark and stormy night . . . . Actually, the meteorological disturbances weren’t that bad on opening night of Gideon Theater Ensemble’s new play Frankenstein Upstairs at The Secret Theater in Long Island City. Though it has been wet this month and not particularly hot (given global warming), it certainly has been no year without a summer. There was, however, a tempest raging in the minds and hearts of the cast and crew of Frankenstein Upstairs. Regular power in the theater was out due, I understand, to some faulty wiring in the basement. Even though this detracted not a jot from the production of the show, I think it would be hard to describe the bottomless pit of despair the Gideons must have felt being separated from the technology that creates and sustains modern theatrical illusion.
People may become obsolete before they become dead. Lear “but usurped his life,” and Willie Loman opined “you end up worth more dead than alive.” This is the problem facing Jim Cornelius (played with seductive charm by Alan Cox), the eponymous hero of J. B. Priestley’s 1935 play, Cornelius, on now at 59E59 Theatre. He is the junior partner in the aluminum import firm of Briggs and Murrison, which is facing hard times. Mr. Cornelius must hold the company’s creditors at bay until Bob Murrison (Jamie Newall) returns from a tour of northern England in hopes of scaring up more business. If Mr. Murrison fails to find more revenue, the small office of six people will go under, and what was once a sustaining enterprise will expire.
What do you get when you cross Sinophobic Occupy Wall St. with The Beverly Hillbillies and set it in the sunshine state? One hundred minutes of jokes that may or may not make you feel better about the end of our imperium Americanum. Occupation, a new play by Ken Ferrigni, imagines a not-too-distant world where the Chinese decide to cash in their US Treasury bonds. Because the US is broke, it offers to give our Chinese overlords creditors Florida. Did those imperial newcomers pay any attention to our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq? I guess not, because they took the deal! Now the Yellow Peril has to subjugate and civilize the dirty, addicted, and impoverished swamp dwellers in Alligator Alley. Talk about a quagmire!
The three women portrayed by Elaine Bromka in Tea for Three — Claudia A. T. Johnson (a.k.a. “Lady Bird”), Thelma C. R. “Pat” Nixon, and Elizabeth A. B. W. “Betty” Ford became first ladies during the a turbulent period of profound historical significance. All of them started as “second ladies” while their husbands shed blood, sweat and tears in obscurity as Vice President. Likewise, all them became wives of presidents under a shadow of national tragedy. Ms. Johnson watched her predecessor, covered in her husband’s blood, stand in front of the television cameras saying defiantly that she wanted the world to see what it had done to a great man. Ms. Nixon became first lady twenty-two years after Richard Nixon lost the White House to Kennedy and Vietnam broke LBJ. And Ms. Ford, who became first lady when her predecessor’s husband was forced from office in disgrace, served as first lady for a mere 896 days.
In the following guest post, Karen Hildebrand explains her experience writing a new play about sex, love and the cure for “happily ever after” (The Old In And Out, directed by Kat Georges, starring Holly Crane, Eloise Eonnet, Olivia Jampol and Rachel Ritacco) with her co-author Madeline Artenberg.