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A woman dressed in a black silk robe that shows off her black-stockinged, gartered legs and bare thighs strides around a small stage outfitted like a fancy lady’s boudior. “His was first,” she says. “In my ass.”
Our interlocutor for the evening is The Woman (played with penetrating erotic intensity by Laura Campbell), a former ballet dancer whose “pelvic floor” has been wound up “like a corkscrew” after a lifetime of practice at the ballet barre. “Now it’s being unworked. His cock, my ass, unwinding. Divine.”
Christmas miracles are an end-of-December entertainment staple. Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life has been jerking tears since 1946, and similar fare is available from perennial animated specials to well-roasted theatrical holiday chestnuts. It’s not just about the winter solstice or snow, nor is it simply about the birth of Jesus. (As devout Christians will tell you, Christmas is a minor holiday – Easter is the real deal for miracles.) The Christmas miracle is about feeling miserable until some seemingly supernatural event makes you run out into the street and the snow shouting “I want to live!”
A phlegmatic, curmudgeonly old woman in a small Irish village some hundred years ago complains bitterly about the horribleness of life as she makes her way to the train station to meet her husband who is returning on the afternoon train. Along the way she meets other villagers: the dung monger, a buffoonish neighbor on a bicycle, a man in a motorcar with whom she had a flirtation ages ago, Miss Fitt whose name denotes her awkwardness, and the train station manager who has the unpleasant duty of telling her the train is delayed. Her husband arrives, not on time but soon enough, and together wife and husband walk slowly back to their house, stopping now and again to share a laugh and a cry.
Some people will do anything for love.
Eileen stole a man’s wallet to pay for her ticket to London. Ali stole Eileen’s heart to repay his parents. Dov is a secret agent who poaches strangers’ secrets.
The English Bride, a new play by Lucile Lichtblau making its New York debut at 59E59 Theatre, is based on the true story of the “Hindawi affair,” a failed attempt to blow up an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv in 1986. Nezar Hindawi, a Jordanian national, convinced his five-months-pregnant Irish girlfriend Anne-Marie Murphy to fly to Israel to meet his parents in preparation for their marriage. She didn’t know that he’d packed plastic explosive into the lining of her wedding dress.
Metaphor is a dramatist’s stock-in-trade, and geography, memory and nostalgia are the fabric with which he weaves his magic. The Downtown Loop, a new play written by Ben Gassman, directed by Meghan Finn, with video design by Jared Mezzocchi, takes the driving metaphor (and the metaphor of driving) as far as it can go through the streets of Manhattan, where memory and loss appear around every corner.
Elliot Leeds is on a plane to Osaka. As his body streaks through the stratosphere at nearly supersonic speed, he is rehearsing a speech via satellite video link to his wife Melanie, who is at home, her feet firmly planted on the ground, her mind on her “fertile window” which will open the day Elliot returns. Elliot is a tech billionaire. Melanie wants to start a family.
A month after Elliot and his plane are lost in the ocean on the way to Osaka — a fitting “tech FAIL” to introduce this tech fable — his best friend and business partner Ben pays Melanie a friendly visit. She is inconsolable. He is disconsolate. She is now a majority stockholder in Paradigm, the tech company Elliot and Ben founded, but she would trade it all — the billions of dollars, the super high-tech house Elliot built just before his death — to hear his voice again. Ben expresses his sympathy, but his overtures are spurned.
After Ben leaves, Melanie finds a package from a lawyer. Inside is a disk, and on the disk is a post-it note in Elliot’s handwriting. “Play me,” it says to her, and like Alice staring down the rabbit hole, she follows it to the unknown. We soon find out that Elliot had been planning the ultimate exit strategy for years. All his thoughts and feelings, all his gestures and expressions, have been saved on servers around the world, and when Melanie presses “play” their super high-tech house becomes inspired with its designer’s invisible spirit. Elliot becomes the ghost in the machine.
Jason got a teaching job in Columbus Ohio, and his Brooklyn pals are not taking the news well. He and his wife Michelle have packed up most of their stuff, and tonight the gang is coming over to Park Slope for a going-away fête among cardboard boxes and makeshift tables. Three couples, two singles and the hosts make up a party of ten. All of them are white, with the exception of Sanjeet (Imran Sheikh), a random addition to this group of old friends who met his date a few days ago on Match.com. The conversation is stilted and twee: regular folks trying too hard to pretend they’re starring in a Wes Anderson film. Rituals of greeting and farewell, stylized insults and pro forma self-deprecation politely hide the serious emotions, feelings of resentment, abandonment and failure, tearing at the guests’ well-heeled, well-bred, bourgeois façade.
by KIMBERLY PAU
On Wednesday, August 14th, I had the pleasure of seeing Greencard Wedding’s The Skype Show or See You in August at the Fringe. The play is being presented at the White Box at 440 Studios, which feels less like a theater than a big beige institutional waiting room. I was pleased to find that director Aaron Simms utilized the room in a way that made it warm and welcoming and by the end of the show I had been transported from a Crown Height’s apartment to the white noise, static world of wifi-land where electronic transmissions yield emotion and the memories of these transactions linger in the air like a milky residue.
Slain in the Spirit, a new play written and directed by Lisa Milinazzo, is based on the life of Andrea Yates, the Huston, Texas woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Molly (played with conviction by Emily Meier) is a driven, overachieving and lonely woman. In high school she was captain of the swim team, after college she studies to become a nurse, and when she’s ready for love and marriage she introduces and ingratiates herself to Danny (Josh Alscher) her next-door neighbor.
Ask yourself a question and be honest. Why do you go to the theater? You can be entertained in a crowd at the movies. You can see live music and dancing at a club. You can get first rate dramas with name actors on your phone during your morning commute, if that’s what turns you on. On Broadway, you might shell out two hundred dollars to see a “name” actor in the flesh, but why spend twenty on a bunch of anonymous Millennials in a home grown production? You may visit one of New York City’s many “classical” theaters to see productions of historically important plays — if you’re a historian — but does anyone, anyone outside of the theater that is, think that plays are educational or politically influential?
The Father of Lies, Leviathan, Lucifer and The Old Enemy — these are names for the personification of evil in our Western, Judeo-Christian tradition. Lucifer (literally “light bearer,” a metaphor for “the morning star” that appears in Isaiah 14:12) refers to the demigod’s former status as the deity’s second in command before the elevation of Jesus. Leviathan is the “coiled serpent” of Isaiah 27 and Job 41: “Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering.” Advocate (in the sense of lawyer), accuser and prosecutor are translations of הַשָּׂטָן, the creature that appears in Job to tempt the eponymous hero to disavow his faith in God. This manifestation of Satan tempts the Young Man in Alexandra Devon’s play His Majesty, the Devil playing at 59E59 Theaters as part of their East to Edinburgh festival.
Al is dead. His survivors — his boyfriend, his best girl friend, his best guy friend and his sister — are bereaved. They feel life without Al is no life at all. They grieve, and their grief is a sickness that longs for Al’s state of perfection, a perfection they can never achieve.
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Can a house be evil? In Unbroken Circle the house where three generations of a poor, Texas family live appears to be the repository of and monument to an enduring evil. The house is in Galveston, and the time is 1970. Recently, the owner of the house died leaving a wife, sister-in-law, son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters behind. After his funeral, the survivors gather in the house to divide his possessions and honor his memory with as much duty as they can muster, which isn’t much because Grandpa Travis was an evil, evil man.
“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.
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.
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.
A group of friends have gathered to drink beers and smoke buds under the powerlines in suburban Massachusetts in remembrance of their friend Justin, who died under mysterious circumstances at the end of high school. Now, thirteen years later, they have made their anniversary pilgrimage to a spot by a cliff in the shadow of electrical transmission towers, to party in remembrance of him.
But tonight will be different.
Joey (Nat Cassidy), a successful Hollywood writer with a famous singer girlfriend Gretyl Barnes (Lori E. Parquet) and the only member to make it out, has returned as with a proposition. Joey wants to know how Justin really died, and he’s willing to give a brand new Porsche to the one who can tell him. But Stu (Matt Archambault) doesn’t want Joey to learn their innermost stories about Justin. Stu says Joey is a sellout who used his friends’ lives to get rich in Hollywood, and Stu is sick of having his life appropriated without getting the spoils.
Science has brought us many wonderful things, not least of which is an impenetrable set of technical metaphors we can use to describe the mystery of human love. Who (other than a killjoy feminist) doesn’t like to hear a Neo-Darwinist tell you with a straight face that men are attracted to a woman’s red lipstick because it’s an atavistic memory of her nether lips? Really?
The stage of Mike Bartlett’s new play Bull (subtitled “The Bullfight Play”), included in the Brits Off-Broadway festival at 59E59 Theater, might mislead you into thinking you are at a boxing match rather than a bullfight. But that is just a geometric trompe l’oeil of Soutra Gilmour’s spare, industrial set design. Though the stage is square, like a boxing ring, tricked out with grey office carpet, a water cooler, and clear plastic file holders, the interaction between the players follows the tripartite form of a bullfight.
As the audience finds their seats, a young woman reclines on a couch, listening to headphones.
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.
Rain lashes the window. This silent, melancholy scene is interrupted by a rap on the door. The young woman rises from the couch and limps over to it. An older woman in a not-so-fashionable pastel colored poncho enters and introduces herself as Elizabeth, Tracy’s mother. Three years after her daughter’s rape and murder in the jungles of Colombia, Elizabeth has travelled from Chicago to L. A. to find out exactly what happened from the last person to hear her daughter’s voice.
Ars Gratia Artis
The band plays an overture, and the lights rise on New York of the not-too-distant future. Mary, an MFA grad student studying painting is at a Catholic mass — to get inspiration, she tells her lover Françoise (for non-francophones that’s the female version of François), who is also an MFA student in sculpture. Kate, Mary’s sister and an aspiring art dealer, arrives to ask Mary for her signature on some documents related to their dead parents’ estate. Mary has been using her inheritance to fund her studies, which bothers both Kate and Mary’s conscience. But no matter, Mary hears a higher calling, and she feels she has no other choice: create art or die.
Adolescence is a special time, when boys and girls become men and women, and the inherent fantasy experience of childhood meets the brutal reality of adulthood. Less Than Rent (the name makes me think of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Less Than Zero and the musical Rent) theater company’s production of Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart at Under St. Mark’s Theater offers the connoisseur of teen angst a stage full of beautiful, young, white kids at the center of an adolescent vortex, gyrating to popular music, addicted to sex, drugs, and drama.
On November 23rd, 2007 Roger L. Dillon, 23, and Nicole D. Boyd, 25, liberated $8 million from the vault of AT Systems armored car company in Liberty Township, just outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Roger and Nikki hit the road with Roger’s mother and headed to the secluded mountains around Pipestem, West Virginia to hole up in a trailer and wait for the heat to blow over. Less than a week later the FBI showed up and brought the fugitives’ escapist fantasy crashing back to Earth.
Honky, playing through April 7th at Urban Stages, asks whether any word can be as offensive to white people as the “N-word” is to black people, and the answer is, “the R-word.” No one who is under fifty and lives north of Maryland wants to be called a racist. For that matter, not many folks south of the Mason-Dixon line like being called racists anymore. But as Mr. Kalleres’s characters discover, just saying you’re not a racist doesn’t mean you aren’t one deep inside.
We are caring creatures, you and I. We want to share, and we want to know, and we love to think that the object of our affections shares, and knows, and loves us right back. Horror movies and psychological thrillers are based on the fear that others don’t share our caring, or worse, they actively mislead us, pretending to care in order to take advantage. As a Scottish king once said, “there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Actors must be well aware of this phenomenon, actors, who are one step away from sociopathy anyway. Their job is to pretend to be someone who cares, someone you can empathize with. A good actor can make even a surly antihero or outright villain charismatic and appealing.
Sometimes working in the entertainment biz seems like a real fairytale. The people you meet are quite literally fantastic, and it only takes a little push for everyday experiences to take on an outrageous, otherworldly glow. Two shows that are a part of this year’s FRIGID festival shine brightly in the alien luminescence of the stage. Sisters Grimm: Fables of the Stage by Bricken Sparacino and Amy Witting and JonBenet: Murder Mystery Theater!!! by Medium Face Productions recreate the magic of childhood in order to smash it into a thousand glittering, glamorous pieces.
The Gershwin Hotel is a Gaudi-esque anomaly on 27th street. Its red facade and the frosted glass light sculptures that curl upward from the window tops contemplate a Flatiron inferno. As you walk through the front doors, a collection of characters that belong at the Algonquin round table sit at the hotel bar on the right. Past the reception desk on the left is a table with information on the trip you are about to take around the world. A lovely lady in a floor length dress leads you to the back of the building and a set of stairs. Two other people wait with you. Ushers appear through double doors and take you into a room with several laptops and headsets. you are about to visit three different countries to have three long distance affairs.