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BY ELIZABETH SIMMONS

As a first time producer, David’s RedHaired Death comes with many challenges. Only two characters are on stage the entire play, time is non-linear, not to mention the mysterious male ensemble that could have anywhere from 2-10 members.

I knew I had to find another woman to co-produce and co-star who was up to the challenge, someone who I could share this wonderful show with. I found her in Diana Beshara, who co-founded One Old Crow Productions, a New York Innovative Theatre Award nominated company. After seeing their first production, Cowboy Mouth, I knew David’s RedHaired Death, which I’d been wanting to work on for eight years, was a good fit.

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"Final Defenders": Nicole Lee Aiossa, Melissa Delancey, Lindsey Carter, Rachel Grundy, Adam Files, Tom O'connor, Amy Overman, David Hicks (photo by justin plowman)

“Final Defenders”: Nicole Lee Aiossa, Melissa Delancey, Lindsey Carter, Rachel Grundy, Adam Files, Tom O’connor, Amy Overman, David Hicks (photo by justin plowman)

By Samuel McCarthy

Sitting inside the furnace-like Brick theatre in Brooklyn’s uber-hip Williamsburg neighborhood, you’re watching a Victorian child, an 80s airhead, a tough 50s chick and a 2013 social outcast battling for the fate of a galaxy (“not the universe,” we are reminded) against an evil space queen named for a Super Mario character. Suffice it to say, Final Defenders is no humdrum production. Performed as part of The Brick’s Game Play festival – showcasing a series of plays based on video game culture – Patrick Storck’s satire/slapstick/sly-winking comedy provides as much nostalgia as hilarity, although it has both in abundance.

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Frankenstein Upstairs featuring Diana Oh and Kristen Vaughan Photo credit Deborah Alexander

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.

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Jonathan Hopkins as Florian the Bloody Prophet

Jonathan Hopkins as Florian the Bloody Prophet

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!

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Orchids and Polka Dots featuring Kistoffer Tonning and McKenzie A. Frye Photo credit Nathan Yungerberg

Kristofer Tonning and McKenzie Frye in “Orchids and Polka Dots”

The Fire This Time festival, now in its fourth year, features ten minute plays by young and emerging playwrights of color. (Check out my review for the 2010 season.) The founding producer Kelley Nicole Girod’s mission with The Fire This Time (the name of the festival is a play on the title of James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time) is to broaden the scope of the Theatre of Color to include not only African-Americans and the conventions of Baldwin’s generation of writers, but to “any play written by a black playwright . . . even if it is a play about two white people in love.” This is an expansive definition of what constitutes “black theatre,” and the playwrights whose works are featured this year explore many of its implications.
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Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican as Beane and Molly

Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican as Beane and Molly

Why do birds sing so gay? Because they’re fools. Besides, what else are you going to do? If the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven, then why not choose happiness over misery? Beane has been in a minimalist hell of his own creation his whole life. He owns one cup, one spoon, one jacket, one hoody, and an overcoat. He lives in a one room apartment with one lamp (bare bulb), one table, and one toilet. He works in a toll booth all day and has hallucinations induced by solitary confinement at night. He also has one sister, Joan, and one brother-in-law, Harry, who are cynical and world-weary, which is to say they don’t have much imagination, curiosity, or joie de vivre. They are his clueless caretakers, the sort who invite him over for dinner then give him a psychology test from the back of a magazine to show they care.

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Matthew Foster and Michael Poignard in Australian Made Entertainment's production of "Speaking In Tongues"

Matthew Foster and Michael Poignard in Australian Made Entertainment’s production of “Speaking In Tongues”

The first scene of Andrew Bovell’s 1996 play Speaking In Tongues features four characters — two men and two women — who share one dialogue about marital infidelity. All four, dissatisfied with their partners, pick up a stranger in a bar to consummate an adultery. It turns out that the four have randomly cheated on each other with each other, though the two couples are strangers to each other. The quartet share the same conversation, speaking the same speeches simultaneously. Chance — randomness, serendipity, long odds — only seemingly operates on these four; in fact, the rigid structure of the first act merely suggests coincidences that are relentlessly denied by the tight framework of dramatic irony.

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What scares you the most? Vampires? Zombies? Hurricanes? Horror may have a face — a hockey mask, a visor made of human skin, or the horrible burn scars produced by the fires of Hell — or it may be a place, like the Overlook Hotel or the Bermuda Triangle. UglyRhino’s production of “Gowanus ‘73” gives you an interactive tour of the terrifying underworld around the Brooklyn Lyceum thirty years ago: party girls and gangsters, prostitutes and pimps, and the ghosts of human flotsam and jetsam that beat softly against the wooden pilings of the canal’s embankment.

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Welcome guest reviewer Tom Jacobs!

We don’t really have a word for the ancient Greek arête — best translated as “virtue” — and it’s a damn shame.   The humble, ceaseless, and impossible but necessary pursuit to achieve something like earthly perfection or at least self-improvement.  This seems like a pre-modern term, but of course it isn’t.  A movie like Broke* provides a case study for thinking about it.  This is a story about the kind of virtue and grace necessary to avoid succumbing to the time-clocked, bottom-line, cut-to-the-quick efficiency that seems to be darkening the land at the moment.

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It is the season of the witch. Pumpkins are on sale at the farmer’s market, the days are crisp and sunny, and the nights are chilled. Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood. It’s time to get thrilled and scream like a little girl. Of course it’s always better to watch someone else experience madness and murder than to experience it yourself, and that’s why we go to the theater! We play a game of “what if” when we sit in the dark and watch as a little girl goes to Hell – literally. And that is why The Tragedy of Maria Macabre is so much fun.

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Nicole Beerman, Joe Varca, and Megan Hill in "Cut"

Welcome to the machine.

Cut by Crystal Skillman is a theatrical piece about TV, a play about the seriousness of the entertainment industry, a post-modern meditation on Post-modernism. If that sounds like a lot to chew on, it is. Cut is a theatrical essay on the socially constructed nature of “reality,” the brass ring to which all serious artists aspire. And Ms. Skillman has fostered a reputation as a downtown playwright who isn’t afraid to take on The Big Questions. Take, for instance, her play The Vigil or the Guided Cradle, a play about the universality and timelessness of torture in the human experience. The “cut” of the play’s title is its guiding metaphor. A “cut” is what an editor does to film to create a story; what your boss does to your job to save his own skin; and – the cruelest cut of all – what the critic does to put you in your place.

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When asked who is the greatest poet in the English language, most people will say “Shakespeare.” When asked who is the second greatest poet they might say “Keats.” But would anyone say “Milton?” These days it’s hard to find a college graduate who has read Animal Farm from cover to cover, much less Paradise Lost, written by a man who was once thought to be a greater poet than Shax himself.

But it was not always thus. John Dryden, himself a onetime contender for the title of greatest poet in the English language, friend and younger colleague to Milton, supposedly said after reading Paradise Lost, “This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too.” Though Milton was an old republican revolutionary and Dryden a loyal monarchist, Dryden liked Milton’s epic so much he adapted it for the stage by rewriting it in rhymed couplets and setting it to music.

Paul Van Dyck has done Dryden one better by keeping Milton’s sublime poetry unrhymed and using all the modern theatrical arts to make Paradise Lost come to life at the FRIGID Festival.  I can say without qualification that this is the best theater – the most relevant to our time, the most uplifting, the most artistic, simultaneously the most esoteric and exoteric, visually, aurally, and intellectually stimulating – that I have seen in a long time. And running under an hour, it makes getting some high culture as enjoyable as possible for those of us inflicted with ADD by the modern age.

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Paul Herbig and Richard Altmanshofer in "Donnie and the Monsters"

Kids live in a world full of problems. Who can help? Mom and dad have their own problems. Heck, sometimes they are the problem. Best friends are fickle, especially in those crucial years between the halcyon innocence of deep childhood and the flowering of full adolescence. Tell your friend a shameful secret in confidence, and when school starts again after summer break, your best friend has a new best friend, and the whole class is sniggering about you behind your back. You might as well tell your troubles to Mr. Chips, your fat, black lab, the soul of patience, or a sock puppet. At least Mr. Chips won’t talk back.

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Last Tuesday at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg was the 4th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll auction to benefit the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls, hosted by our CC fave Mr Murray Hill.

The Awkward Turtles

Sapphire

The auction was also a showcase for a couple of rock camp bands, The Awkward Turtles and Sapphire. (Did I mention Kaki King performed too?) Keep your eyes out for the young graduates of the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls. The Awkward Turtles played with a lot of heart and a lot of charm, and Sapphire — whoa boy! — these young ladies (their lead singer is in seventh grade) are ready for the big time now. Check out their website here. If there is any justice in the world they’ll be the next Jonas Brothers, cuz they are CUUUUTEE!!! omg. It’s like The Indigo Girls meet The Jackson 5.

Murray rocked the auction, which was supposed to be silent, but ended up being out loud. As Murray said, “What’s the big deal? I’ve got the biggest mouth in the room!” But like all good causes they could probably use an extra dollar or two. If you want to contribute, do so through the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls website.

The best case for giving was given by Sapphire in their song “More Who Have Less”. It was written just this month, a couple of days before the earthquake in Haiti, and the girls sang it for them. Check it out…

‘Tis the season of holiday parties, corporate and otherwise. On the longest night of the year my companion and I dropped in on the SPI Marketing holiday party at the Rootstein Mannequin Showroom on West 19th Street and 7th Ave in Chelsea.

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Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, Chicago, Photo ©2009 Melody Mudd

The big bean known as Cloud Gate at Millennium Park in Chicago is so much fun to play with, espesh if you have a camera. It weighs 110 tons. One Hundred and Ten TONS. In other words, it is very heavy. It measures 66 feet long and 33 feet high. British artist Anish Kapoor created this awesome thing out of super highly polished stainless steel. It’s like seeing the Chicago skyline through a giant drop of water.

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The Minsky Sisters ~ photo by Erin Patrice O'Brien

The Minsky Sisters have been on our radar for some time, so we asked them to tell us about themselves.

CC: We’re here with Jen and Kristen, the Minsky Sisters! Hello!

Jen: Hello!

Kristen: Hello!

CC: When did you guys get your act together, so to speak?

Jen: We’ve been performing together for several years but Minsky sisters became a thing July 2008. Our friend Shien Lee, the producer of Dances of Vice, asked us if we would do a tap number. Both of us have been dancing for most of our lives. And we didn’t have a name, we were just ourselves. We didn’t have an identity, and we performed just thinking we were gonna do just one dance and that was going to be it. But people really liked us and we started getting asked to perform at other venues, not just Dances of Vice, and we thought, OK, I guess we’re a thing now — an act. So we got a name.

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BB Heart as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop

Last Saturday night was the latest installment of Nelson Lugo and Shaffer the Dark Lord’s series of entertainments predicated on puerile pleasures. Last time around it was “Video Game Vixens.” This time it’s “Cartoons!” The genre of entertainment is burlesque, and the conceit is “Saturday morning when we were kids.” The tagline for the show ran thusly: “the boys and girls celebrate cartoons and the brightly-colored foxes that star in them. Pour a bowl of Cap’N Crunch and gather ’round the boob tube, because this month, EPIC WIN is gonna party like it’s Saturday morning!” Yes indeedy. Six lovely ladies did burlesque routines as six fairly well known Saturday morning cartoon females: Miss Mary Cyn as Bugs Bunny (dressed as a chick — natch), Lefty Lucy as Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls, Victoria Privates as the chick who sang “Unpack Your Adjectives” on Schoolhouse Rock (Blossom Dearie), Bonnie Voy’age as She-Ra, BB Heart as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop, Magdalena Fox as April O’Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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November 19, 2009

Oh the villainies of Facebook! It seems that when word gets out that you write for a blog as prestigious as Cultural Capitol you start getting invited to all kinds of parties. And so it was I was invited to the NCYFF film industry mixer at GStaad last night.

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Jude Law contemplates existence as Hamlet

“Don’t call it a comeback!” ~ LL Cool J

LL was all of twenty-two (22) years-old when he wrote that line. But consider that he had his first hit when he was seventeen, and that in Showbiz! time you can be on top of the world one moment and two celebrity-seconds later, shallow, unscrupulous producers are trying to cast you in a D-list celebrity reality show.

Now consider the case of Mr. Jude Law, who was considered one of the “10 most bankable stars” of 2006 (along with Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks), and who in 2009 tells Sarah Lyall of the New York Times, “to be honest, I don’t know what I’ll do after this. I have no films planned. I haven’t been hugely inspired by what’s come my way in the film industry lately, and this has opened up my eyes to how great roles can be, and how great acting can be.” Do I smell a whiff of desperation? (Did I mention that St. Jude is the patron of lost causes?)

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Tony Curtis takes a photo with a young fan

Celebrity sightings are fun, particularly when the celebrity in question is a World War II vet, bonafied Hollywood icon, and true hero of The Greatest Generation.

Tony Curtis, star of famous films like Sweet Smell of Success, Some Like It Hot, Sparticus, and The Great Race, was the Grand Marshal of today’s Veterans’ Day Parade in Manhattan. I snapped this picture of him just before shaking is hand — the same hand that shook Burt Lancaster and Stanley Kubrick’s hands. How’s that for six degrees of separation?

Curtis served in the Navy on the U. S. S. Proteus.

 
 

 

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James Tigger! Fergeson as The Great Longing and Taylor Mac as The Lily. Photo by Ves Pitts.

“Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.”  —Wittgenstein

For “The Lily’s Revenge,” Taylor Mac’s latest opus at HERE, he borrowed the 5-act structure of classical Noh theatre to construct this whopping five-hour piece—magical, intellectual, hysterical, and linguistically acrobatic.  The audience is led—by the divine, effervescent, and perpetually bubbly World Famous *BOB*—from lobby to theatre and back for each “recess,” during which the audience is entertained by short, punchy acts meant to reference Japanese Kyogen.  Now, forget about Noh because I won’t mention it again for another three hours.

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Dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, these days I get invited to more events than I could possibly attend, and occasionally wonder how I got invited in the first place or even why I went.  Take last Thursday’s book release party at Destination Bar in the East Village—celebrating the book the world has been waiting for, THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT

Cue existential crisis, mad envy, clueless drunkenness, and, yes, fear for the culture of a dying planet.  But before the chilluns deride my old-fashionedness—or just my oldness—let me first say:  I love the website.  The food alternately grosses me out and inspires cravings of the post-bong-hit variety, and above all, Richard Blakeley is a genius.  And a nice guy, alleged crimes aside.  Too bad the bar was packed with Twitterbots. 

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Halloween weekend 2009 was as Halloweenie as you can get. The night itself, when ghouls and ghosts walk the spooky streets of New York, fell on a Saturday. The moon was almost (but not quite) full, and by all accounts it was more debauched than a Night on Bald Mountain. November 1st — All Saints Day — fell respectfully on a gray, cold Sunday, perfect weather for nursing a hangover with comforting dim sum and a bloody mary.

Cold sobriety is the kind of thing you have to ease into though — as hostess-with-the-mostest Calamity Chang knows very well. Tasty eats and visual treats are necessary on Sunday eve to ease a soul back into the work-a-day Purgatory awaiting on Monday. That is why she put together Dim Sum Burlesque at Chow Bar, which will run every Sunday for the rest of the month, and possibly the rest of the year. Calamity Chang told me they are booked for the rest of November, but you might be able to score a table if you walk in. No-shows are held until 9:00. I for one would love to have dim sum burlesque at Chow Bar on Sunday January 3rd 2010.

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by J.D. Oxblood

isabella

I know, I know, we’ve been bad little bloggers.  Between my out-of-country exploits in August and the proprietor’s impending nuptials, we’ve been a little slammed.  And my “Back to School” story is SO late my editor is threatening to dock my wages—which, being nonexistent, provides little leverage as threat.  So consider this notice:  We’re coming back, and we’re coming back in force.  Brace yourself for the New York Burlesque Festival.  And before I rave over Isabella, one WAY belated thanks—Brian Newman, for having us at Duane Park to celebrate the bachelor party.  Brian, you got class you ain’t even used yet.  Thanks a million for taking care of us—that was a night to remember.  (Too bad none of us do.)

So last night I went down to Tribeca to see the lovely, luscious, internet-lascivious Isabella Rosellini.  I’ve been in love with her for 20 years, natch, so the chance to see her in person was a draw in and of itself.  And yeah, she still looks fantastic.  But her latest claim to fame—as if being Ingrid Bergman’s daughter wasn’t enough, or as if anyone could ever forget that scene in “Blue Velvet”—is the runaway internet hit “Green Porno,” now a book, complete with DVD of all the episodes so far.  As Is put is so candidly, the internet has no business model, no way for the artists to get paid, “no way to bring the money back.”  Seeing how the Redford rubles (Sundance) only foots the production bill, releasing a book is a way for everyone to cash in.  And here I am in Tribeca watching “Green Porno” with a bunch of strangers.

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Rockaway taco 05

In honor of Summer’s last hurrah I went biking down to the Rockaways to sample the newly famous Rockaway Tacos. We had fish tacos topped with the spiciest sauce in the sauce rack, Mexican style corn on the cob, roasted with cheese, and some delicious home made lemonade.

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Jacob's Ladder

Playground in South Williamsburg. I think if you play long enough aliens talk to you out of a crackling cloud.

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Do you advocate equal rights for everyone? Of course you do. Who would say (in public) that they don’t want equal rights, a level playing field, and equal protection under the law? OK, we both know who would say such things (ahem, Limbaugh). But there are more of us than them, and it’s important that they know it. That’s why the National Equality March has been organized to take place in Washington D. C. on October 11th. It is of the utmost importance that the most people march for equality as possible to remind our elected representatives that their constituents support basic human dignity and the right to life, liberty, and happiness for men, women, and children, people of all races and creeds, monetary ability, and sexual and gender orientation.

In order to make sure that all New Yorkers who lack transportation but want to attend the march can, Christine Elmo and Kim Braun are throwing a fundraiser at Jimmy’s 43 in Manhattan. The fun includes performances by burlesque star Red Sonja, musical acts by Shani E. Manor and Siobhan O’Malley, and a cabaret act featuring Jay Paranada, Laura Nell Dubuisson, Megan Buzzard, Calvin Thompson and Roderick Borden with accompanist Rachel Kaufman.

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Trow paper towls

If this were in China one might call it “Chinglish.” But this sign is in a bathroom in Midtown Manhattan, in an upscale Indian deli. Those of us who claim English heritage can’t help but take a little pride in the fact that our oppressive, imperialist forebears spread our language and culture so far and wide that we don’t have to learn another language. English is the lingua franca of the world. Even though there are more than 1,500 languages spoken in India, I can travel the whole of the subcontinent without knowing a word of any of them. (Thank you T. B. Macaulay!) Sure, that means I can be a bit condescending and simultaneously ignorant, but what do you want? An ethno-linguistic anthropologist?

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Wits End Jambon 021

Summer’s almost gone — and where did it go? Seems like it didn’t even arrive until July, and starting next week it’s back-to-school, back-from-the-Hamptons, and back to the daily grind.

But let’s not dwell on the past. September marks the beginning of Autumn in New York, and Autumn in New York is always a magical time. When the air turns crisp, the leaves turn red and gold, and Bryant Park turns into a field of white tents housing an army of long, leggy ladies, parties, drinks and fashion flow together from the pent up stores of summer, and the great river of life rolls mightily on.

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