Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fundraiser - St. Bart’s Players

Click the thumbnail above to find out about a cabaret fundraiser for the St. Bart’s Players on February 29th and March 1st, featuring Stage Buzz contributor David Pasteelnick.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Review - The Play About the Naked Guy (Emerging Artists Theatre)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Ars Gratia Artis. Art for art’s sake. Can there be a more noble goal, a loftier ambition? But can that sentiment support a theatre company today? In the case of the Integrity Players, the fictional company at the heart of David Bell’s The Play About the Naked Guy, produced by Emerging Artists Theatre and currently playing at Baruch Performing Arts Center, the answer is a resounding no.

Known more for staging obscure (in every sense of the word) dramas than for the size of their audiences, the Integrity Players are in dire straits. Most of their company has quit, leaving only artistic director Dan (Jason Schuchman), his pregnant wife Amanda (Stacy Mayer), and their token Equity actor Harold (Wayne Henry). They’re out of money. They’re about to lose their theatre space. Their only financial backer, Mrs. Anderson (Ellen Reilly), Amanda’s mother, is pulling the plug. While she was willing to humor her daughter, now she’s ready for the company to shut down, for Dan to disappear, and for her daughter to return to a life of privilege in Connecticut where she belongs.

All seems lost until a chance encounter between the closeted Harold and Eddie Russini (Christopher Borg), a slick and sleazy producer of extremely popular and extremely base shows catering to an audience less interested in live theatre than live nudes on stage. To give a sense, his most recent masterpieces are Naked Boys Running Around Naked and Drunk Frat Boys Making Porn. Eddie’s idea? To borrow the Integrity Players’ cavernous space at Baruch Performing Arts Center and stage his next big hit – a gay musical based on the life of Christ. Rather than reveal the title, I’ll let it be a surprise. Needless to say, the American Family Association would not approve.

Unsurprisingly, Dan is horrified by the idea. But egged on by her mother and the fact that she’s expecting a child, Amanda votes to give it a shot in hopes of a big payday. Harold, blinded by lust for Kit Swagger (Dan Amboyer) the porn star who is to play Jesus, votes in favor of Eddie’s scheme as well.

What follows is Dan’s nightmare and the audience’s delight.

Bell’s script is a hoot, full of peppy one-liners. There are plenty of hilarious jokes about the New York theatre scene; one about Marian Seldes in particular is awesome. The play, however, at nearly two hours is a little long for what should be a breezy farce, and despite Tom Wojtunik’s deft directing, drags from time to time.

Fortunately, the cast is excellent. In particular, Christopher Borg and Ellen Reilly own the stage when they are on it. Borg, even at his most sedate, plays Russini as a cross between Svengali and Norma Desmond. Reilly is Cruella De Vil wrapped in Martha Stewart. The two are wonderful to watch and their scenes together are terrific. Stacy Mayer, whose Amanda is a good girl just waiting to be corrupted, plays the wide-eyed innocent with great skill. Christopher Sloan and Chad Austin play Russini’s angertwink sidekicks, T. Scott and Edonis. T. Scott has built his gay persona around Jack McFarland, Sean Hayes’ character on Will & Grace (and it must be said that Sloan does one hell of Jack McFarland imitation) and Edonis is pretty, but shallow as a saucer and dumb as a bag of hair. Needless to say, both are pretty darn funny and do a wicked job skewering gay youth-obsessed culture.

After Borg and Reilly’s performances, my personal favorite is Wayne Henry’s uptight Harold, which Henry plays with a certain Tony Randall-like aplomb. His character is amusing, but heartbreakingly earnest about his love of acting. In one of the best scenes from the play, Harold passes that enthusiasm along to a suddenly serious Kit. Dan Amboyer has the snarly, strutting Kit Swagger (what a great name) down pat, but it’s at the end of the play when Kit, having been coached in the actor’s art by Harold, takes on Harold’s plummy speaking voice and cries out, “I have a new master! And his name is Uta Hagen!” that Amboyer really shines.

Jason Schuchman has the unfortunate job of playing straight man to a stage full of funny men. That’s not to say that he doesn’t do a good job at it, but in a farce the earnest characters are never the ones that stick in the mind. Despite that, Schuchman’s Dan does have some good zingers – he has one particularly funny joke about Actors’ Equity – but overall, he is the voice of reason and in a zany show like this, that leaves him the odd man out.

While Bell’s final judgment of artistic versus commercial success seems a little cynical at first, it’s worth noting that Naked Boys Singing continues to pack in the crowds, while stellar Off and Off-Off Broadway productions languish. If the Eddie Russinis of the world really are the future of theatre, at least Bell can make us laugh about it.

Directed by Tom Wojtunik
Stage Manager: Jennifer Marie Russo
Choreographer: Ryan Kasprzak
Costume Designer: David Withrow
Set Designer: Michael P. Kramer
Lighting Designer: Travis Walker
Composition Sound Designer: Ryan Homsey
Press Agent/Marketing Director: Katie Rosin
Properties Intern: Ellys R. Abrams
Stage Crew: Jamie Phelps, Terra Vetter, Julie Feltman
Sound Board Operator: Kevin Wilder

Featuring Christopher Borg (Eddie Russini), Christopher Sloan (T. Scott), Dan Amboyer (Kit), Ellen Reilly (Mrs. Anderson), Jason Schuchman (Dan), Stacy Mayer (Amanda), Wayne Henry (Harold), Chad Austin (Edonis).

Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Avenue

February 9 – March 2Mon. 7 PM; Friday 9:30 PM; Sat. 8 PM; Sun. 5 PM

Visit for tickets.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review - Claymont (Emerging Artists Theatre)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

The year is 1969. Vietnam is getting ugly. Students are rioting. Even in Claymont, a small town outside of Wilmington, change is in the air. For Dallas Hitchens, change means being kicked out of college, kicked out of his house, and moving in with his neighbors, the Greenglasses. For Neil Greenglass, it’s art, the possibility of attending Berkeley on a scholarship, and experiencing his first real crush . . . on the older, rebellious Dallas. Dallas encourages Neil’s artistic ability, he plays the big brother to him, and when his draft notice arrives, forces Neil to devise a drastic plan to keep Dallas close.

Written by Kevin Brofsky, Claymont could easily be dismissed as just another gay coming-of-age play. That would be a mistake, not only because it sells the play short, but also because Neil’s budding homosexuality is not the main point of the play. For Neil, that’s just one of many complications in his life – he’s unpopular, his father is an invalid, his family is poor, he’s artistic and misunderstood. His lesson is that life can be crushingly painful and unfair, but there is beauty, love and sacrifice – which might not sound like a good thing, but has rewards of its own.

The acting is generally good, though Wynne Anders as Dolores Hitchens, Dallas’ mom, and Rebecca Hoodwin as Neil’s Grandma, come dangerously close to caricature. Luckily, Hitchens and Hoodwin both know where to draw the line, and their characters- a Robert Harling-esque Southern chatterbox and an Old World bubbie, respectively- never quite go over-the-top. Jason Hare proves once again that he has a particular talent for playing teenagers. His Neil is almost so many things - gay, an artist, in love, free from high school – and Hare plays that sense of possibility so well. Stephen Sherman’s Dallas is an enigma. A young man who doesn’t want to go to war, he nonetheless sabotages every chance he has of staying out of it. Sherman does a fine job playing Dallas’ confusion at this self-destructive impulse and in keeping him from becoming just a charismatic rebel. Glory Gallo brings so much to the table as Shayna, Neil’s long-suffering mom. Her wonderfully nuanced performance is excellent and her scenes with Neil at the end of the play are at turns heartbreaking and amusing.

It is worth noting that this is Emerging Artists’ first production in Baruch Performing Arts Center. Now that the designers have a large, some might say cavernous, space in which to work, they are really getting an opportunity to show what they can do. Tim McMath’s set for Claymont doesn’t disappoint. It makes full use of the large space and captures the aesthetic of the late ‘60s suburbia without going overboard. It’s also a clever bit of staging having Dallas’ basement bedroom higher than the rest of the set. The actors make it work nicely by “descending” a flight of stairs then stepping up into the room. All in all, a nice effect.

While this production of Claymont seems to drag at times and generally feels overly long, it features good acting and a couple of really nice, touching moments.

Directed by Derek Jamison
Stage Manager: Jennifer Granrud
Set Designer: Tim McMath
Property Master: Stephanie Wiesner
Lighting Designer: Joyce Liao
Sound Designer: Ned Thorne
Costume Designer: Meredith Neal
Technical Director: Patrick T. Cecala II
Press Agent/Marketing Director: Katie Rosin
Properties Intern: Ellys R. Abrams
Stage Crew: Tera Vetter, Alison Carroll
Sound Board Operator: Jin Hamano

Featuring Aimee Howard (Sharon Letts), Glory Gallo (Shayna), Jason Hare (Neil), Rebecca Hoodwin (Grandma), Ron Bopst (Mr. Ramsey), Stephen Sherman (Dallas Hitchens), Wynne Anders (Dolores).

Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Avenue

February 9 – March 2Tues. and Fri. 7 PM; Sat. 2 PM; Sun. 8 PM

Visit for tickets.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Review - Providence (Maieutic Theatre Works)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Despite the prodigious amounts of Off-Off Broadway theatre produced in New York each year, it’s rare to find a genuinely strong production that features a compelling story and is both well-acted and well-directed. Fortunately for all of us, the Maieutic Theatre Works production of Cody Daigle’s Providence, currently playing a limited run at the View Theatre of the Roy Arias Theatre Center, is such a show. This taut, emotional play about love, guilt, and resilience is not to be missed.

Providence tells the story of two men brought together by a shared tragedy – a deadly plane crash. Mark (Douglas Scott Sorenson), a young gay schoolteacher, lost his best friend, Sara (Kathryn Ekblad). Neil (Anthony Crep) lost his wife, Jo (Ally Wirth). Drawn together by a pain they can’t share with even the most sympathetic friends, the two meet, trying to find some solace. Both have their moments of strength and of crippling guilt, but their unlikely friendship helps them move forward and heal.

This is not to imply that this play is only about the men. Both Sara and Jo have stories to tell. Most of their scenes are told in flashback, which thanks to some crisp directing on the part of Ian Crawford, moves seamlessly from present to past and back again.

Crisp could well be the unifying principle of this play. Daigle’s dialogue is tight and realistic. Crawford’s directing is strong and clear. Craig M. Napoliello’s spare, simple set is clean and bright. The sound, lighting, and costume design (Duncan Cutler, Rebecca Makus, and Angela Curcuru, respectively) reinforce the crisp feel of the production. The only thing that isn’t crisp, that is messy and oh so real, is the raw emotion and power provided by Sorenson, Crep, Ekblad, and Wirth. The Zen-like canvas on which these emotions are displayed, only serves to make them that much stronger.

The acting is excellent. Sorenson shows good range with his character and terrific chemistry with the talented Ekblad. Crep and Wirth are outstanding as the married couple. Their opening scene, clearly set after a particularly bad fight, is squirmingly realistic. Wirth in particular excels in showing Jo’s flinty strength, which makes the final scene, the only scene between Jo and Sara, so much more poignant. All four actors are to be commended for their splendid work. Every moment of this play feels immediate and real.

It’s sad to say, but plays like Providence don’t come around often. Even less common are productions of this caliber. Maieutic Theatre Works has created a beautiful and touching work of art. It is not to be missed.

Directed by Ian Crawford
Producers: M. Antonio MiniƱo and Julie Griffith
Associate Producers: Cristina Alicea and David Stallings
Set Designer: Craig M. Napoliello
Costume Designer: Angela Curcuru
Lighting Designer: Rebecca Makus
Sound Designer: Duncan Cutler
Stage Manager: Ashley Kosier
Sound Board Operator: Kevin Swanlund
Production Assistant: Carolina Almont
Press Agent: Katie Rosin/Kampfire Films PR
Poster/Postcard Designer: Felipe Leon

Featuring Douglas Scott Sorenson (Mark Langer), Anthony Crep (Neil Gray), Kathryn Ekblad (Sara Kass), and Aly Worth (Jo Gray).

The View Theatre, Roy Arias Theatre Center
300 W. 43rd Street, 5th Floor

February 7-24Thurs.-Sat. 8 PM; Sunday 3 and 7 PM.

Visit for tickets.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fundraiser - Ten Grand Productions

Ten Grand Productions hosts
a “Grand Night Out”
at The Grand Saloon

Ten Grand Productions invites the theatrical community to wet its whistle while meeting directors, actors, designers, producers, writers and a whole other mess of folk down at The Grand Saloon on February 15th from 7pm – 10pm.

All y’all are welcome, outlaws included. But don’t tell the sheriff.

The Grand Night Out will feature an open bar from 7pm -8pm so come early and drink often!

Admission is a $15 donation. An “artist’s discount” of a $10 donation will be offered if you bring a headshot/resume, performance flyer/postcard, original script, or business card.

The Grand Saloon is located at 158 East 23rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues.

All proceeds from the Grand Night Out will benefit Ten Grand’s upcoming theatrical projects.

Ten Grand is a company of theatre professionals driven by the creation and development of new work and innovative interpretations of classic texts. We share an investment in the community’s social consciousness by promoting charitable work that stands side by side with our artistic endeavors.

For more information, please visit