Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review - 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night (Creative Concept Productions and Adam Weinstock)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Spencer Quest, director David Drake and Scott Cunningham
Photo from Creative Concept Productions

Considering its reputation as a haven for artists of all kinds, it comes as no surprise that theatre is thriving in Provincetown, especially during the summer season. Also not surprisingly, much of the theatre is geared toward the LGBT community, either overtly as with Varla Jean Merman’s camp parody Shut Up Sweet Charlotte, or less so with the Provincetown Theater’s production of Terrance McNally and David Yazbek’s The Full Monty. Given the title of James Edwin Parker’s play 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night and the warnings in its publicity materials about its nudity and sexual situations, this play clearly falls into the former category. Those looking for a light comedy or an opportunity for some voyeurism may be surprised to find that they’re attending a thoughtful play about love, desire and relationships, and while both performers are certainly attractive, they are also remarkably good actors.

The title of the play sets the stage rather nicely. Daryl (Scott Douglas Cunningham) and Peter (Spencer Quest) are enjoying some post-coital napping in bed on a cold winter’s night. Having just met that evening at a bar, neither really knows anything about the other, except that they share an attraction and that they had some great sex. Peter, rugged and taciturn, wants to sleep, but Daryl is chatty. He wants to discuss relationships, jobs, and generally try to determine if he and Peter are compatible. Daryl is looking for a boyfriend; Peter is just looking for a good time. Though it seems this will be a play about two opposites who may or may not make a lasting connection, Parker’s play is more complex. Neither character is quite what he seems and it’s this unveiling and discovery that gives the play its most interesting moments.

Cunningham makes a very believable Daryl. As a “pretty” gay man nearing 40, Daryl has seen the writing on the wall. Having not had a relationship lasting more than a few dates in years, he desperately wants some sort of human connection. Lost in nostalgia for his youth and his last somewhat successful relationship, he has trouble connecting in the here and now. His need for intimacy comes across as desperation, especially when he blurts out the “L word” at an inopportune moment. At times like a friendly puppy, at others shrewdly calculating and bitter, Daryl allows Cunningham to show some good range.

Despite his lack of theatre credits – his only other one is the NYC production of Naked Boys Singing - Quest is remarkably strong as philosopher/construction worker Peter. Quiet and sexy, Peter seems as self-assured at Daryl is needy. It isn’t until the end of the play that Peter allows this façade to slip and the audience glimpses some of the pain that his cocky manner hides. Quest excels in these quieter, more vulnerable moments.

Like many plays from the early ‘90s, 2 Boys deals with AIDS, but it is not an AIDS play, per se. AIDS is more of a metaphor for Daryl’s general fear of life and love and what drives Peter’s hedonism. And though it deals with a couple of gay men, it’s not really a gay play. The issues that are being discussed, the fear that both characters deal with, and the yearning for love and intimacy that everyone craves are universal, and that is the strength of this play.

Ably directed by David Drake, who brings out the humor and poignancy in Parker’s script, 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night is a strong production of an interesting and thought-provoking play.

Written by James Edwin Parker
Directed by David Drake

Featuring: Scott Cunningham (Daryl) and Spencer Quest (Peter)

The Art House Theater
214 Commercial Street
Provincetown, MA

Through Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 PM through August 27th
For tickets visit OvationTix.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Review – Lonely Planet (Redd Tale Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Will LeVasseur and James Stewart
Photo by Ben Strothmann

As we move further from those days, it's worth remembering the human toll that the AIDS crisis took in the '80s and '90s. Not just with the deaths, though those were certainly horrifying, but in the lives of the people who were left behind as their friends, lovers, and neighbors died around them. To some of these survivors, living with the burden of memory and fear may have seemed worse that succumbing to the illness.

Two of these battered survivors are at the center of Steven Dietz' touching and funny Lonely Planet. Jody (James Stewart) runs Jody's Maps and is so frightened by what's going on around him that he can no longer bring himself to go outside. His best friend, the puckish Carl (Will LeVasseur), deals with it in his own way – he collects chairs and brings them to Jody's store. Though Jody protests, the chairs grow in number, blocking the aisles, stacking up in corners, filling the shop.

Jody is a broken man. Horrified by the world around him, he retreats into his store and himself. Maps make sense to him; they are fixed in time and space, unchanging. But even maps have issues. Like the Mercator distortion that makes Greenland look as big as South America, we accept those distortions in order to move from Point A to Point B. But as Jody realizes, eventually, those distortions can get you. Carl reacts in a different way. To Jody, he seems to be an enigma. One day he claims to restore art. Another, he's a reporter or a cop. Fluid and ever-changing, he seems to be a pathological liar. But his lies, like the chairs he collects from his friends who have died, have a purpose, and in a particularly moving monologue late in the play, Carl explains all.

Carl slowly readies Jody for his eventual return to the world, and the AIDS test that he has been avoiding for fear that it holds a death sentence. His humor, grace, and occasional tough love eventually save Jody from him self-imposed exile.

Dietz' play is well produced by Redd Tale Theatre Company. Director Stanley Brode takes a gentle approach to direction, allowing the actors and the situations to set the pace and providing a natural feel to the play. Designer Jessalyn Maguire does a good job with the set, though despite Jody's insistence that the store is getting overrun by chairs, the large space at the Spoon Theatre never really feels that full.

James Stewart does a good job showing both Jody's fear of life and broken spirit, as well as the friendship he has with Carl. LeVasseur is excellent as Carl. With his broad smile and his seeming enjoyment at playing Carl's quirks, he serves as an excellent counterpoint to Stewart's inhibited Jody. Watching the two men as their roles reverse, Jody's sternly parental relationship with Carl being slowly eclipsed by Carl's patiently and lovingly parental caring for Jody, is very moving.

Though Dietz' play does at times seem a little like a souvenir from another time and place, it is a hearfelt and well done production.

Written by Steven Dietz
Directed by Stanley Brode
Costume/Sets: Jessalyn Maguire
Stage Manager: Anastasia Zorin

Featuring: James Stewart (Jody) and Will LeVasseur (Carl)

The Spoon Theatre
38 W. 38th Street

August 1-16
Visit for tickets.

Review – Cake and Plays . . . But Without the Cake (At Hand Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Cake and Plays . . . But Without the Cake is an evening of one-act plays by emerging playwright Jono Hustis featuring Cow and Shakespeare, Monsoons, and In the Name of Bob. While the plays are not all of the same caliber, they do add up to a fun evening of theatre.

The first of the plays, Cow and Shakespeare, finds Will Shakespeare (Michael Hartney), a particularly untalented writer, trying desperately to start and finish a play that is due to be given to his theatre company the next day. Fortunately for him, a Cow (Michael Micalizzi) in nearby pasture overhears his cries of frustration, not to mention his extremely bad prose, and offers to help. Being a selfless cow with a sublime writing talent, he offers to supply young Shakespeare with 40 or so plays he's written himself – Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew, just to name a few. While the ultimate outcome of Shakespeare's interaction with this cow is fairly predictable - it centers around an invitation to dinner - it is nonetheless entertaining. Both Hartney and Micalizzi do a good job with their roles; Hartney with a decidedly tongue in cheek attitude and Micalizzi with a bovine insouciance. However, it's the little details, from Stephani Lewis' East Village inspired costumes, to the quill made from a Crayola marker with a feather taped to it, that add to the sense of whimsy in this play.

Monsoons, the second play of the evening, shows what might possibly be one of the most cringe-inducing blind dates on record. Jack (Craig Mungavin) and Theresa (Morgan Lindsey Tachco) are clearly not meant to be together. As they stand drinking their $4 coffees while Jack says one wrong thing after the next, the scene gets funnier and funnier. Though there isn't much to this play, it will resonate with anyone who has ever been on an uncomfortable date. Again, both actors do good jobs with their roles, but it is Mungavin who shines as the befuddled Jack as he tries to walk through the minefield that the date has turned into.

The final play of the evening, In the Name of Bob, is a genuinely sweet tale about Alicia (Darcy Fowler), a woman who was badly hurt in a relationship and has been unable to move on, and Marvin (Andy Gershenzon), a frenetic ball of energy who is either unbalanced or a guardian angel sent by Bob (God's real name) to help Alicia move on. The chemistry between Fowler and Gershenzon is marvelous and Fowler does a particularly good job moving from fear to bemusement to friendship to something more as Alicia opens herself up to the possibility that Marvin may indeed be her guardian angel. Gershenzon plays Marvin as a live wire, pulsing with a wild energy that is meant to shock Alicia from her dull routine and make her take a chance and truly appreciate the life she's been given. In the Name of Bob is delightful and certainly the high point of the evening.

Featuring Jono Hustis' amusing plays and snappy dialogue, good direction from Daniel Horrigan, and a talented cast, Cake and Plays . . . But Without the Cake puts another check in At Hand Theatre Company's win column.

In the Name of Bob's Darcy Fowler and Andy Gershenzon

Written by Jono Hustis
Directed by Daniel Horrigan
Scenic Designer: James Fenton
Sound Designer: Nathan Leigh
Costume Designer: Stephani Lewis
Lighting Designer: Aaron Spivey
Stage Manager: Kate Pressman
Rehearsal Stage Manager: Gary Slootskiy
Production Manager/Technical Director: Marty Strenczewilk
Assistant Technical Director: Lauren Madden
Assistant Set Designers: Lauren Madden and Samantha Bocchicchio
Assistant Costume Designer: Amanda Crommett
Assistant Lighting/Sound Designer: Gary Slootskiy
Production Assistant: Kaela Whitaker
Company Member: Liz Schurra
Press Representative: Emily Owens PR
Producers: Daniel Horrigan and Marty Strenczewilk
Graphic Designer: Sandra Salerno
Company Photographer: Salma T. Khalil

Featuring: Darcy Fowler (Alicia), Andy Gershenzon (Marvin), Michael Hartney (William), Michael Micalizzi (Cow/Doug), Craig Mungavin (Jack), and Morgan Lindsey Tachco (Theresa)

The Gene Frankel Theater
24 Bond Street

August 6-24
Wednesdays at 8 PM
Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 PM
Saturdays at 2 PM
Sundays at 6 PM

Visit for tickets or call 212-868-4444

Monday, August 11, 2008

Review - Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell (Maieutic Theatre Works and FringeNYC)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Shelly Feldman as Anaïs Nin

It turns out we were wrong about the afterlife. No golden gates. No heavenly choirs. Just a chain of islands in a sea guarded by a man-eating Hydra. On one of those little islands sit some of the greatest women in history: Andromeda, Cleopatra, Heloise, Joan of Arc and Queen Victoria. While they had little in common during their lives, they are now united in one pursuit - waiting for their men to return and rescue them. It is a wait that for some of them has gone on for millennia.

This is their afterlife. While they scan the seas, they quarrel, play pranks on one another, and occasionally self-immolate to pass the time. That is until Anaïs Nin arrives. Diarist, bohemian, writer of erotica, student of psychoanalysis, and above all a believer in the power of women, her presence will shake the illustrious figures to their foundations and force them to reevaluate their lives and afterlives. Are these women really defined by what they see, or think they see, in their lovers' eyes? And is the afterlife merely an extension of their lives on Earth, or an opportunity to transcend them and release the burdens they've carried for so long? Anaïs may hold the answer, if only she can make them understand.

David Stallings has written a fascinating and thought-provoking play, full of humor, smut, philosophy, and a smattering of Karen Carpenter. If there can be said to be one weakness, it is that Stallings broadcasts the ending. Not surprisingly, the characters in the play are forced to a final decision – search for their beloved men or let go. By not developing certain characters while lavishing time and attention on others, Stallings makes it perfectly clear which characters will choose to grow and which will stay the same. A little tension during those final moments would be welcomed.

The ensemble does a good job with Stallings' work. Of particular note are Shelly Feldman as Anaïs and Aly Wirth as Heloise. Feldman captures both Anaïs' cockiness and her hidden uncertainty; she is, after all, in uncharted waters. Wirth's Heloise is funny, vulgar and above all angry. Angry at a life she feels was wasted on both her lover Abelard and the God she served as an abbess. Wirth shows Heloise's anger and her childlike delight at what she learns from Anaïs and gives a wonderfully moving performance. Also notable is Maggie Benedict as the sinuous and sultry Cleopatra.

Set, lighting and sound design (Stephanie Tucci, Dan Gallagher and Martha Goode, respectively) are well done. David "DW" Withrow's costumes are outstanding, especially his costumes for Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, and Anaïs.

Maieutic Theatre Works has produced another winning play. Since this is a FringeNYC production, there aren't many chances to catch Anaïs Nin Goes to Hell. See it while you can.

Written by David Stallings
Directed by Cristina Alicea
Producer: Julie Griffith
Set Designer, Prop Master: Stephanie Tucci
Costume Designer: David "DW" Withrow
Lighting Designer: Dan Gallagher
Sound Designer: Martha Goode
Stage Manager: Stuart Shefter
Assistant Stage Manager: Jonathon Saia
Marketing/Audience Building Director: Antonio Miniño
Press Agent: Katie Rosin/Kampfire Films PR
Casting Director: Colleen Piquette
Graphic Designer: Lindsay Moore
Photographer: Erica Parise
Volunteers: Allison Ikin, Maureen O'Boyle, Robin Madel

Featuring: Maggie Benedict (Cleopatra), Shelly Feldman (Anaïs Nin), Jeremy King (Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas), Madalyn McKay (Queen Victoria), Colleen Piquette (Joan of Arc), Marnie Schulenburg (Andromeda), and Aly Wirth (Heloise),

Connolly Theatre
220 E. 4th Street

Aug. 8-24
For dates, times, and tickets visit