Sunday, December 31, 2017

Latin History for Morons

Latin History for Morons
Studio 54
December 29, 2017

Photo courtesy of Latin History for Morons
John Leguizamo grabs your attention and does not let go for one hour and forty-five non-stop, energetic minutes in his latest Broadway show, Latin History for Morons.  After a successful run at Berkeley Rep and The Public Theater, John Leguizamo is selling out Studio 54, and has extended his Broadway engagement through February.  Mr. Leguizamo’s tell it like it is style is wickedly funny and full of moments that give you pause to ponder the truth and poignancy in the humor.

As in all John Leguizamo one-man shows, he reveals a slice of his life.  In this one, his fourteen year old son is being bullied at school.  John does some research in order to give his son pride in his Latin heritage.  This uncovers, for John, some of the source of his own “ghetto rage,” but does not give his son the courage to face his challenges at school.  It is not until his son makes a speech at his eighth grade graduation that John realizes the effect of his efforts.

Photo courtesy of Latin History for Morons
Mr. Leguizamo takes on the characterization of numerous roles, including his wife, his son, his daughter, his therapist, and countless figures from history.  He weaves together the historic facts about the Incas, the Aztecs, their European conquerors, and a Civil War transvestite General.  He carries these stories forward to illustrate their repeated 20th century patterns, and even further into the present day political situation.  Not only does he make a strong statement on the treatment of indigenous populations throughout history, he also makes a poignant point of how to create a deep sense of self-esteem in our younger population.

John Leguizamo is a truly master at his craft.  Latin History for Morons is playing at Studio 54 through February 25.  Get your tickets right away.  

Domenick Danza

Monday, December 25, 2017

John Lithgow: Stories By Heart

John Lithgow: Stories By Heart
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theatre
December 23, 2017

Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Why do we love to listen to and tell stories?  This is the questions John Lithgow asks during the opening section of his one man show presented by Roundabout Theatre Company.  In John Lithgow: Stories By Heart the well-known actor and storyteller reveals all the sides of his personality we have come to admire over the years.  He is warm, funny, tender, boisterous, genuine, and daring.

Mr. Lithgow shares with his audience the story of his father, an exuberant man, full of life.  His father produced and directed all of Shakespeare’s plays in the course of his career.  He founded Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland, OH.  Mr. Lithgow and his three siblings had a rough childhood, changing school often, yet it was full or stories, joy, and enthusiasm.  He shares two stories his father told during their childhood.  They are not age-appropriate bedtime stories, but when acted out with imagination and characterization, they become stunningly memorable.  The Haircut by Ring Lardner takes up most of the first act, and Uncle Fred Flits By by P.G. Wodehouse is performed during the second.  The poignant part of the performance is when Mr. Lithgow returns the recitation of the stories to his aging father during a period of poor health.

Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
John Lithgow’s skills are masterful.  His vocal and physical characterizations are distinct and change instantaneously.  His heart fills the American Airlines Theatre and touches everyone in it.  The show, directed by Daniel Sullivan, is simple and touching.  John Lithgow: Stories By Heart is playing through March 24.  It is a unique and personal experience.      

Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 17, 2017

M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly
Cort Theatre
December 16, 2017

Photo courtesy of M. Butterfly
I saw the original production of M. Butterfly in 1988 with B.D. Wong.  It was spellbinding.  When I read that Julie Taymor was directing it for a Broadway revival, I was intrigued.  I was interested in seeing how she would interpret it and bring David Henry Hwang’s script into the 21st century amid a different political environment.  I am very happy I got to see the production on its closing weekend.  It was different, a lot more stark and realistic.  It did not have the captivating flow of the premier production, yet it packed a potent social/political statement.

When French Diplomat, Rene Gallinard (played by Clive Owens) is stationed in China, he meets the “most perfect woman.”  A performer in the Chinese Opera, Song Liling (played by Jin Ha), is the Madam Butterfly of Rene’s idealistic dreams.  Renee is taken for a fool in many ways.  Not only is Song Liling a spy for the revolution, gathering top secret information from Rene, but she is also a man.

Jin Ha as Song Liling
Photo courtesy of M. Butterfly
Clive Owens portrayal of Rene Gallinard is honest and genuine.  He addresses the audience directly and tells his story with such a calm demeanor that we buy into his delusion.  We believe as he believes, and see what he tells us as his truth.  Jin Ha plays the feminine Butterfly flawlessly.  He interrupts Rene’s story a few times with the factual accounts of being blackmailed and tortured into gathering information for the communist party, then swiftly transitions back into his feminine mystique.  Together they create a highly intimate moment at the end of Act I.  Their confrontation scene near the end of Act II does not rise as much as it could, yet the final moment of the play is truly impactful.
  
Clive Owens & Jin Ha
Photo courtesy of M. Butterfly
The revival of M. Butterfly closed on December 17, earlier than anticipated.  Mr. Hwang's script is still relevant after nineteen years.  The production had a few flaws, yet I was well worth seeing.


Domenick Danza

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Children

The Children
Manhattan Theatre Club
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
December 9, 2017

Photo courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club
Lucy Kirkwood’s play The Children asserts a powerful message of responsibility.  Produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club in conjunction with Royal Court Theatre, this three character play asks a number of mind boggling “what if” questions.  Director James Macdonald builds the tension and suspense with subtle glances and shifts in timing and tone, which brings Ms. Kirkwood’s daring script to a shocking conclusion.

Rose (played by Francesca Annis) drops in on her old friends Hazel (played by Deborah Findlay) and her husband Robin (played by Ron Cook) for a surprise visit.  All three are retired nuclear physicists who worked together in the local power plant.  There was a recent nuclear explosion that has put the whole county in grave danger.  Since the disaster, Hazel and Robin have been living in a small cottage on the outskirts of the danger zone.  The purpose of Rose’s return is to gather the group of scientists who built the plant, knowing its weaknesses and impending dangers, and repair the damage in order to make it safe for the children and the future.

Ron Cook, Deborah Findlay, & Francesca Annis
Photo courtesy of Royal Court Theatre
All three actors are amazing.  They keep you on the edge of your seat by gradually revealing their characters’ wants and fears.  Francesca Annis’ character of Rose is a mysterious myriad of secrets.  Deborah Findlay’s Hazel is a stoic force, eager to speak her mind.  Ron Cook’s rendition of Robin is outgoing, charming, and quietly brave.  Their chemistry is genuine and their timing is spot on. 

Ms. Kirkwood’s play speaks to a generation.  It asks them to do what is needed in order to leave the world in as good, if not better, condition than it was given to them.  Isn’t it everyone’s responsibility to clean up after themselves?  How can you expect a different outcome from repeating the same behavior decade after decade?  The Children asks these questions on an individual as well as a global level.  This amazing play, direct from the Royal Court Theatre, will be running at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through February 4.  See it for yourself.   

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Illyria

Illyria
The Public Theater
November 25, 2017

Photo courtesy of The Public Theater
Illyria is an intimate look at the artistic yearnings and sense of community that motivated Joseph Papp and his friends to begin the Shakespeare Festival and later build what is now The Public Theater.  Playwright and Director Richard Nelson creates a captivating atmosphere where we, as an audience, gain access to personal conversations in rehearsal rooms, around the dinner table, and after a closing night performance.  The personal conflicts among the characters keeps the action flowing as we gain insight into the sensitivity, ambition, commitment, and vision of these men and women who shaped the New York City cultural landscape.

Photo courtesy of The Public Theater
The year is 1958 and Stuart Vaughan (played by John Sanders) is auditioning actors for a production of Twelfth Night for the free Shakespeare Festival in Central Park.  His producer, Joe Papp (played by John Magaro) wants to cast his wife, Peggy (played by Kristen Connolly), in the role of Olivia.  Stuart wants to cast a young actress, Mary Bennett (played by Naian Gonzalez Norvind) in the role.  This opens a can of artistic conflict between the two men, which includes the fact that Joe feels betrayed because Stuart has accepted a job with Phoenix Theater and is hiring most of their friends and company members.  In the next scene the battle between the Parks Department is unraveled.  The concept of presenting free Shakespeare in the park becomes a negotiating issue for everyone except the artists committed to presenting it.  The final scene takes place in the Central Park at night, where we gain a visceral understanding of what it at stake for all involved, especially Joe Papp.

John Magaro as Joe Papp
Photo courtesy of The Public Theater
The cast is an amazing ensemble, subtly playing off one another’s breath and glances.  The play is calm, quiet, and wonderfully naturalistic.  The audience becomes fully absorbed in the intimacy of the relationships.  This is a very tight group of friends who are bonded by artistic and creative experiences.  Sitting in The Public Theater for this performance offers an astounding perspective.  You gain a renewed appreciation for the beliefs and ideals on which Joseph Papp built the institution that has become not only a cultural pillar in the City of New York, but a model for artistic excellence across the country.

Illyria is running at The Public Theater through December 10.  Go see it!
Domenick Danza

Describe the Night

Describe the Night
Atlantic Theater Company
Linda Gross Theater
November 24, 2017

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
The New York premier of Rajiv Joseph’s play Describe the Night is presently in previews at Atlantic Theater Company.  It explores the phenomenon of how perception can become reality, and how facts can easily be replaced by fabrications that become acceptable truths.  Mr. Joseph’s writing is luminous and engaging.  The action of the play spans the years from 1920 through 2010.  It follows the events connected by Isaac Babel, considered one of Russia’s greatest writers of his time, and Nicolai Yezhov, who was closely associated with Stalin and became the chief of the Soviet Police from 1936-38.  Their fabricated truths are linked to the plane crash in 2010 that killed the President, First Lady, and virtually every top member of Poland’s government and military.

Danny Burstein & Zach Grenier
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
In 1920 Isaac Babel (played by Danny Burstein) meets Nicolai Yezhov (played by Zach Grenier).  They are both Soviet Soldiers.  Isaac is writing in his journal, describing the night, and teaches Nikolai how easy it is to tell a believable lie.  Fast forward to the plane crash of 2010, where Mariya, a journalist (played by Nadia Bowers), urgently needs to rent a car to flee the Soviet Police investigation of the events leading up to the crash.  Feliks, the car rental agent (played by Stephen Stocking), gives her his truck to escape unnoticed.  He passes on to her an old journal that was given to him by one of the victims of the plane crash before she died.  This is the journal belonging to Isaac Babel.  The play goes back and forth in time and follows the hand to hand journey of this journal, covered in truth, lies, perceptions, and falsities, from its start in 1920 until it gets into the hands of Vova (played by Max Gordon Moore), the man from St. Petersburg, who is on his way to be one of the most powerful men in the world.

Max Gordon Moore & Nadia Bowers
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
The cast is superb in bringing clarity and life to the brilliant writing of Mr. Joseph’s play.  Every scene is driven by characters who are rich and real.  Danny Burstein and Zach Grenier juxtapose their characters with traits, physicality, and vocal rhythms that give visceral vigor to every scene they share.  Tina Benko is charming and heartbreaking as Yevgenia, the wife of Nicholai Yezhov.  The chemistry between her and Mr. Burstein is tangible.  Their connection is honest and genuine.  Nadia Bowers is powerful as Mariya.  She shows her range by also playing Mrs. Petrovna.  Max Gordon Moore’s character of Vova grows from an unassuming, eager government employee to a manipulative and aggressive official.

Danny Burstein, Zach Grenier, & Tina Benko
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
Playwright Rajiv Joseph and director Giovanna Sardelli conquer a huge subject matter that is tightly interwoven with clear themes that are relative to every audience member.  The Atlantic Theater Company production of Describe the Night is running at the Linda Gross Theater through December 24.  The play has many layers that will keep you thinking.  See it with someone with whom you can have a deep, detailed discussion, or be prepared to do as I did and engage the person next to you during the two intermissions.   

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Man to Man

Man to Man
Brooklyn Academy of Music
2017 Next Wave Festival
BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
November 11, 2017

Photo courtesy of BAM 2017 Next Wave Festival
Man to Man is a one character play presented by Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the 2017 Next Wave Festival.  This German work, written by Manfred Karge, has been translated into English by Alexandra Wood.  Based on a true story, the play begins before the rise of the Nazi Party and ends after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Directed by Bruce Guthrie and Scott Graham, the production originated at the Wales Millennium Centre in 2015, transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and now can boast a sold out run at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Photo courtesy of BAM 2017 Next Wave Festival
Following the death of her husband, Ella (played by Maggie Bain) takes on his identity in order to earn a living as a crane operator.  She buries him with her own name on his headstone, and takes his job as a crane operator.  She is torn between her desire to become a mother and her need to survive independently.  With the outbreak of the war it becomes difficult to go undiscovered, so she joins the Nazi army.  After the war, she continues to live secretly as a man, yearning to connect to her true self.

Maggie Bain is remarkable in this powerful piece of theatre.  Her physical strength, dexterity, and intensity are captivating.  She climbs the walls of the set, suspends herself from the ceiling, and creates tender moments of deep, personal longing.  Her vocal skill shows great range as she portrays numerous characters who come in contact with Ella on her journey. 

Photo courtesy of MAN 2017 Next Wave Festival
The video design (by Andrzej Goulding) and lighting (by Rick Fisher) are  mesmerizing.  The shadows cast on the walls by the actor transform into images of people in Ella’s story as well as her private desires.  They blend synchronistical and give a clear understanding of the main character’s loneliness and isolation.  

Man to Man is a unique and moving experience.  Unfortunately, this production ran at BAM’s Next Wave Festival for a very limited (November 7 – 11).  Keep your eyes peeled for video showings or additional bookings.  

Domenick Danza

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide

Conquest of the Universe
or When Queens Collide
La Mama
Experimental Theatre Club
November 4, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of La Mama
Charles Ludlam’s Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide is now running in the East Village at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club.  Director Everett Quinton recreates this Ridiculous Theatrical Company production with bawdy humor and raucous sexual innuendo.  The play is structured with parallels to Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great and contains direct references to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Titus Andronicus

Everett Quinton & Geraldine Dulex
Photo courtesy of Theo Cote & La Mama
The play opens with Tamberlaine, President of the Earth (played by Grant Neale), conquering Mars and capturing Bajazeth, King of Mars (played by Lenys Sama), and Zabina, Queen of Mars (played by Everett Quinton).  Tamberlaine goes on to conquer Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn, enslaving their leaders.  When Zabina is murdered, her brother Cosroe (also played by Everett Quinton) unites with the imprisoned leaders of the universe to plot revenge.

Grant Neale as Tamberlaine
Photo courtesy of Theo Cote & La Mama
The cast is largely made up of veteran members of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company.  Everett Quinton embodies the timing and rhythm that makes Charles Ludlam’s work relevant and alive.  Grant Neale is broad and commanding as Tamberlaine.  Lenys Sama is bold as Bajazeth.  Geraldine Dulex is titillating as Venus.  Beth Dodye Bass is powerful as Natolia, Queen of Saturn.  Over the top performances are delivered by the entire cast, especially Shane Baker, John Gutierrez, and Sommer Carbuccia.

This production of Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide celebrates the cutting edge experimental theatre of Charles Ludlam and The Ridiculous Theatrical Company.  If you have not experienced it before, this is your chance.  It is running at La Mama through November 19. 

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Harry Clarke

Harry Clarke
Vineyard Theater
October 28, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of Vineyard Theatre
Billy Crudup is starring in a one character play at Vineyard Theatre.  Written by David Cale, Harry Clarke is a psychological exploration of one man’s quest for acceptance and struggle with identity.  Director Leigh Silverman finds the significant moments of this ninety minute piece that allow the audience to laugh with the main character, empathize with his flaws, and feel shocked by his bold, threatening behavior.

Philip Brugglestein (played by Billy Crudup) was born in Evanston, IL and grew up in South Bend, IN.  He discovers at an early age that he is more comfortable with himself when speaking in a British accent.  After an abusive outburst by his father during his adolescence, an alter-ego emerges.  Harry Clarke is a bold Cockney who is not afraid to take risks and speak his mind.  A number of years later, while living in New York City, Harry Clarke re-emerges during a low period in Philip’s life.  This time he makes a deal with Philip.  Harry wants Philip to give over to him 100% for a three month trial period.  Philip agrees and embarks on the journey of no return.

Billy Crudup, Director Leigh Silverman, and Playwright David Cale
Photos courtesy of Vineyard Theatre
Billy Crudup is magnificent in this role.  He embodies numerous characters as he tells this alarming story.  The accent and vocal rhythm of each character is so distinct that you recognize them immediately.  The characters of Philip Brugglestein and Harry Clarke also have a distinguishing physicalization that visibly identifies them.  Mr. Crudup’s transitions are smooth and clear.  He is absorbing and engaging.  It is an enthralling performance.

Playwright David Cale has written an intriguing character.  He skillfully structures the telling of this story with unexpected reveals that hook the audience’s attention and peak their curiosity. 

Harry Clarke is playing at Vineyard Theatre through December 10.  If you are a Billy Crudup fan, you will love this show.  If you are not, you will definitely become one after seeing it.  

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Junk

Junk
Lincoln Center Theater
at The Vivian Beaumont
October 21, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Ayad Akhtar’s new play Junk, produced by Lincoln Center Theater, tells the story of corporate buy outs, greed, and the loss of work ethic and professional integrity.  The powerhouse cast of twenty-three ignites Mr. Akhtar’s skillfully crafted dialogue with a fiery passion that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The characters are so honest, flawed, cunning, and charming that you will find yourself buying what they are selling and, as with Mr. Akhtar’s other plays, find yourself questioning your own judgement and motivations.

The year is 1985.  Robert Merkin (played by Steven Pasquale) is in the business of taking over large corporations by creating debt and raising money to buy them out.  He sells junk bonds and makes millions for his clients, keeping a high percentage for himself.  Sometimes he bends the rules, sometimes he breaks the law.  When he decides to buy Everson Steel, the third generation owner, Thomas Everson Jr. (played by Rick Holmes), puts up a larger resistance than expected.  It becomes a fight of ethic vs. greed, and it is not until the very end that it becomes clear who suffers the greatest loss.

Steven Pasquale as Steven Merkin
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
Steven Pasquale is driven as Robert Merkin.  He has a powerful presence that keeps the action moving, even when he is not on stage.  Rick Holmes portrays Thomas Everson Jr. as a determined fighter.  He has a lot at stake, both personally and financially.  Playwright Ayad Akhtar has masterfully crafted these two characters.  They are each compelled by selfish motives, yet compassionate and aware of the effect their actions have on those around them.  The consequences of their conflict are always in question.  The balance of egotism and empathy keeps the struggle between them riveting. 

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater
The brilliance of this play is the way Mr. Akhtar develops all the characters so that the audience gets to know their many sides.  From the Lincoln Center Theater program: “Junk is a fictionalize account suggested by events in the historical public record.  The characters in this play are dramatic concoctions, stitched together – at times – with details pulled from history but these characters are never anything other than fiction.”  Amazing performances are delivered by the entire cast, especially Teresa Avia Lim, Matthew Rauch, Henry Stram, Michael Siberry, Ito Aghayere, Miriam Silverman, and Joey Slotnick.

Experiencing this play will give you a new perspective on how greed is a driving force in the American economy, and how our own personal desires are a contributing factor in its downfall.  Junk is presently in previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and runs through January 7.     

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Jesus Hopped the A Train

Jesus Hopped the A Train
Signature Theatre
The Pershing Square Signature Center
October 14, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
“People think everything is replaceable.  Everything is not replaceable.  People believe they go through life accumulating things.  That is incorrect.  People go through life discarding things, tangible and intangible, replaceable and priceless,” says Corrections Officer Valdez (played by Ricardo Chavira) in Act I of Jesus Hopped the A Train.  Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’ brilliantly relates that statement to the value we put on not only human life, but our own existence.  This Signature Theatre production is spellbinding from the moment it begins, and intensely accelerates to a dramatic conclusion.

Edi Gathegi & Ricardo Chavira
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
When Angel Cruz (played by Sean Carvajal) is arrested for shooting a preacher in the ass, Mary Jane Hanrahan (played by Stephanie DiMaggio) is appointed his legal aid attorney.  He is verbally abusive to her at their first meeting.  When he openly admits doing the shooting, she explains it is in his best interest that she not represent him and that he not confess to his next appointed lawyer.  She is personally moved by the righteousness of his confession, and returns to visit him for the details of his story.  She decides to take his case when he reveals that the preacher he shot is a cult leader who brainwashed and stole his best friend.  When the preacher dies due to complications during surgery, Angel is charged with murder.  It is when Angel befriends serial killer Lucius Jenkins (played by Edi Gathegi) at Rikers that he begins to question his actions and sense of right and wrong.

Sean Carvajal
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
Before the play started there was an announcement that Sean Carvajal stepped into the role of Angel Cruz earlier in the week and will carry a script in his hand for a few scenes.  Script or no script, he is truly remarkable.  He is fully present in every moment.  He emotionally engages the audience with the plight of his character, pulling them into the dramatic action of the play.  The most powerful scene is between him and Stephanie DiMaggio during Act I.  They go head to head, both passionately seeking truth to believe in. Ms. DiMaggio is riveting.  She grabs your attention even before her scenes begin when she walks into place in the dark with a sever determination that skillfully drives the scene the minute the lights come up.  Edi Gathegi smoothly
Stephanie DiMaggio
Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre
charms his way into your heart, as every serial murderer should, blurring the line between good and evil, then clearly defining it as he entraps Angel Cruz in Act II.  

Each actor portrays the many layers of their characters with clarity and honestly.  They create moments that explode with urgency.  Mr. Guirgis’ dialogue is zealous and masterfully woven.  You MUST see this play.  Jesus Hopped the A Train is playing at The Pershing Square Signature Center through November 12.  Don’t miss it!

Domenick Danza

Monday, October 9, 2017

Crossing

Crossing
2017 BAM Next Wave Festival
October 8, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of 2017 BAM Next Wave Festival
The American Repertory Theater production of Crossing was part of the 2017 BAM Next Wave Festival.  This new opera, composed, written, and conducted by Matthew Aucoin, was inspired by Walt Whitman’s diary entries during the time he volunteered at a Civil War hospital.  It explores Whitman’s essential question, “What is it, then, between us?”  The production is majestic and relevant.  Director Diane Paulus keeps everything simple and concise, allowing the music to envelope the audience and the moments to be true and personal.

Photo courtesy of 2017 BAM Next Wave Festival
From the BAM program notes, written by Matthew Aucoin:  “So, in Crossing, the Walt Whitman who walks the stage is not that familiar poetic persona.  Rather, this is Whitman as I imagine he might have been to himself, starting from a midlife crisis which prompts his radical, heroic decision to drop everything and volunteer in the war hospitals.  Naturally, this Whitman is a fictional creation.  Crossing is a musical fantasia which imagines and realizes the many forces – generosity, insecurity, longing, selflessness, bravery, unfulfilled sexual desire, a need to escape his own life, a boundless kindness – that caused a man named Walter Whitman, Jr. to forge an indelible embodiment of the American spirit in his poetry.”

Ron Gilfry & Alexander Lewis
Photo courtesy of 2017 BAM Next Wave Festival
Ron Gilfry commands the stage as Walt Whitman.  Alexander Lewis creates intrigue in the character of John Wormley.  Davone Tines captures the audience’s attention when he tells the haunting background story of his character Freddie Stowes.

The projection design by Finn Ross brings depth and imagination to the emotional stories shared by the characters.  Jill Johnson’s choreography adds dimension to the realistic and somber hospital environment.

Crossing was presented at the BAM Next Wave Festival from October 3 – 8.  Keep your eyes peeled for additional live performances or video broadcasts.  It is well worth seeing. 

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg

Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg
Mind the Art Entertainment
HERE Arts Center
October 7, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of Mind the Art Entertainment
You know you are in for something different when you walk into the theatre and are offered a shot of whiskey with your program.  Hence starts the Mind the Arts Entertainment production of Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg.  Christian De Gre has composed an intense score that creates a distinctive and compelling environment.  Book by Serrana Gay and lyrics by Joseph Reese Anderson weave a simple and intoxicating story line.  The cast is a powerful ensemble with fervent singing voices.

Chloe Fox & Tony Mowatt
Photo courtesy of Mind the Art Entertainment
The story opens in Williamsburg after “the event” as the day of the competition approaches.  The event caused all dreams to die and the escape by excessive whiskey drinking to begin.  The competition is how the Mayor of Williamsburg is chosen.  After heavy drinking, the one who remains standing is hailed “Whisky Pants,” the Mayor.  The present Mayor (played by Tony Mowatt) has reigned since the event took place.  His daughter (played by Michelle Ireton) is celebrating her sixteenth birthday.  Her innocent dreams are considered a problem by her father.  It is the arrival of a stranger (played by Charlie Tingen) that challenges everyone’s understanding of the power of their dreams.

The Cast of Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg
Photo courtesy of Mind the Art Entertainment
The production design by Ashley Solliman, Kate Marley, Christian De Gre, Brian Freeland, Christian Watanabe, R. Patrick Alberty, and Wes Shippee draws the audience into an obscure time and location.  This, juxtaposed by film images that start and end the show, evokes the turmoil and pain of the characters who are trapped in a mindset of escape and lack of belief in themselves and their dreams.  The pacing and staging keep the action flowing as the character progress on their journey toward a different perspective of their reality.

Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg is playing at HERE Arts Center (145 6th Ave.) through October 28.  The concept is unique.  The performances are excellent.

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Time and the Conways

Time and the Conways
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theatre
September 30, 2017
 
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
The Roundabout Theatre Company production of Time and the Conways poignantly gives pause to contemplate the concept of time.  Director Rebecca Taichman masterfully creates distinctive atmospheres in the three scenes of the play by varying the tone and pace.  She pulls the closing of each act to a poetic and sentimental ending.  The cast fluently evokes the time period and setting.  The design of the production (sets: Neil Patel; costumes: Paloma Young; lighting: Christopher Akerlind; sound: Matt Hubbs; hair & wig: Leah J. Loukas) transports the audience to a realistic location, then swiftly moves through time and space, creating the illusion of infinite dimension.

The year is 1919 and World War I has just ended.  The Conway family of Great Britain is celebrating the twenty-first birthday of Kay (played by Charlotte Parry).  The family matriarch (played by Elizabeth McGovern) is excited because her son Robin (played by Matthew James Thomas) has just returned from the air force.  Everyone is overly cheerful and highly optimistic.  In the next moment it is 1937.  The family fortune is diminished and everyone seems jaded and worn down my time… or is time an illusion?

The cast of Time and the Conways
Photos courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Elizabeth McGovern is stately as Mrs. Conway, layering heart, warmth, and humor into genuine moments.  Charlotte Parry creates the lense from which the audience views and relates to the action.  The insight of her character is truthful and her distress is heartfelt.  Gabriel Ebert portrays Alan Conway with an open sense of honesty and acceptance.  Steven Boyer is cunning and sharp as Earnest Beevers.  His character unwraps to reveal a cruel and consuming dark side that jolts the family’s sense of unity.  Anna Baryshnikov is effervescent as Carol Conway.  Brook Bloom and Anna Camp show a strong and intriguing range in the maturing of the characters of Madge and Hazel.

Elizabeth McGovern
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
In Act I the over the top optimism of the first scene is powerfully juxtaposed by the transparent harshness of the second.  Rebecca Taichman brilliantly changes the tone again in Act II as the characters are developed from a more realistic point of view.  This variation magnifies the theme of playwright J.B. Priestley by giving the audience a visceral understanding of how the dimension of time can overlap and recount an altered point of view.

Time and the Conways is running at the American Airlines Theatre through November 26.  It is a poignant period piece with a valuable message.  The performances are strong.  The production is poetic. 


Domenick Danza

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

Provincetown Tennessee Williams 12th Annual Theater Festival – Day 2
The Gnadiges Fraulein
Texas Tech University
Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
National Theatre of Ghana
Pericles
Die-Cast
September 23, 2017

Photo courtesy of Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
I was able to attend the Provincetown Tennessee Williams 12th Annual Theater Festival for only two of the four days.  During that time I was able to see five shows and a lecture on Tennessee Williams.  The experience was revitalizing and inspiring.  On my second day I encountered a broader variety of theatre companies from different points on the map.

The Gnadiges Fraulein
Photo courtesy of Texas Tech University
The Texas Tech University production of The Gnadiges Fraulein was absurd, fast paced, bawdy, and highly disturbing.  Director Jef Hall-Flavin found the pace, style, and timing to keep the audience amused, allowing Tennessee Williams’ darker themes of unrequited love and self-deprivation to creep in and change the tone for a potent ending.  Rachel Hirshorn and Anthea Thompson had great chemistry as Molly and Polly.  Francine Segal was haunting as Fraulein.  The production design was comical and over the top, while the color scheme of black, white, and shades of gray added a layer of seriousness that allowed for a smooth transitioned into the darker ending.

Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
Photo courtesy of The National Theatre of Ghana
Hurricane Jose lightened up so the National Theatre of Ghana’s production of Ten Blocks on the Camino Real was able to be played outdoors as scheduled.  Director David Kaplan’s rendition of this challenging Tennessee Williams play was grounded in the cultural colors and rhythms of Ghana, transforming the emotional challenges of the main character, Kilroy (played by Isaac Flagbor) into a mystical and spiritual journey.  The cast of eleven worked as a solid ensemble filling the open, outdoor space with energy, transporting the audience into the world of the play.

Pericles
Photo courtesy of Die-Cast
Shakespeare’s Pericles was presented by Die-Cast, a new company out of Philadelphia.  The show was staged on a life size model of a clipper ship on the second floor of the Provincetown Library.  Director Brena Geffers used striking ensemble movement and resilient breath work to weave the tale of this lesser known Shakespeare work.  The cast played multiple roles lead by Keith Conallen as Pericles, Chris Anthony as Gower, and Hannah Van Sciver as Marina.

This was my first time attending the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, and I am already looking forward to next year.  The variety of theatre professionals and artists presenting high quality work clearly defines the magnitude of vision and expertise of this organization.  If you have not attended in the past, I recommend checking out their website (http://twptown.org/) for upcoming news. 


Domenick Danza