Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review – La Ronde (New York International Fringe Festival, Big Signature Productions)

Review by Erin Winebark

The Director’s Note in the playbill for La Ronde states, “If La Ronde were just a play about sex, you’d all be watching Showtime right now and not watching a play written in the time of Freud and syphilis. In fact, if there’s one noticeable omission from this play, it’s the sex.” Given that, I would agree that Larry Biederman’s version was not at all about sex, however, it didn’t really seem to be even remotely about the story. Biederman’s vision of La Ronde, was all about experimental directorial choices.

I don’t mean the above statement to be as derogatory as it sounds. The production values in La Ronde were incredible. Biederman clearly had so many cutting-edge artistic ideas that he needed to try all out in one show, and they were successful much of the time. He employed everything from voiceovers with the actors speaking over filmed scenes to voiceunders, where the actors mouthed words that were prerecorded. He used the stunningly simple set, a large drape of white cloth with stitching resembling a spider’s web with a hole in the middle and a few chairs, in a number of creative and interesting ways. The aforementioned drape served as a backdrop for projections, as clothing, and even as bed sheets. In one particularly interesting scene, characters switched roles, even costume pieces, and each took turns in the other’s shoes.

While these were all truly innovative ideas, most of which I’d never seen before, I wasn’t always sure what purpose they served, other than to be interesting (though if that was the goal, then, goal achieved!). I like to see directorial choices enlighten the text or show the story in some new way, and some of Biederman’s direction did not accomplish that. In one case, namely, the first scene, the actors constantly moved chairs to create an ever-evolving set. While it was a great idea for the first two minutes, it quickly wore thin and even turned into a distraction. In the same scene, the actors frenetically walked around in circles, or back and forth across the stage, presumably to show the passage of time. As with the chairs, in moderation, this was a great idea, however after the 20th circle, I wondered what the point was other than to exhaust the poor actors.

John Eckert’s lighting was truly stunning, and was the highlight of the show. He did a fantastic job of making it both functional and artistic, and the special lighting effects were superb (one that jumps to mind is when an actor mimed lighting a match, a warm orange glow flooded the backdrop). The use of neon signs (controlled by the actors via foot pedals) to show which characters were in any given scene was both helpful and amazingly creative.

As actors, Alyson Weaver and Ken Barnett are clearly talented, however my impression is that most of the director’s energy in this production was spent on production values, not on noticing their acting. Both gave stylized performances, but they seemed to be of two different styles; Weaver seemed to be in 2009 Vienna, while Barnett was in 1900 Vienna--both valid, but it would have been nice to see a more unified cast. It’s a good thing that this was not a play about sex, because there was no chemistry between the two of them. That said, both had individual moments of greatness. Barnett’s performance felt truthful and convincing, especially in the Husband/Young Wife scene, and Weaver showed real vulnerability as the Parlor Maid. And both actors need to be applauded for the sheer physical demands of their roles — the energy they were able to sustain throughout the evening in a theater where the air conditioning wasn’t working up to par was incredible.

All said and done, this show is really more of an avant-garde adaptation of Schnitzler’s La Ronde than anything else. Even though I feel that the true intent of the story - showing the dark, seedy side of gilded fin-de-siècle society in Vienna - was lost, the show is worth seeing purely for the interesting direction and absolutely amazing lighting.

La Ronde
Written by Arthur Schnitzler
Translated by Carl R. Mueller
Directed by Larry Biederman
Associate Producers: Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger
Lighting Designer: John Eckert
Sound Designer, Original Score Composer: John Zalewski
Costume Designer: Soojin Lee
Stage Manager: Ashley K. Singh
Graphic Designer: Szimple Design
General Press Rep: Penny Landau/Maya PR

Featuring: Alyson Weaver (The Woman) and Ken Barnett (The Man)

HERE Arts Center
145 6th Ave.
Saturday, August 15th at 5:45 PM
Sunday, August 16th at 9:15 PM
Tuesday, August 18th at 4:45 PM
Thursday, August 20th at 6:15 PM
Friday, August 21st at 7:00 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more information.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who Had the . . . Guts

The boys of Puppetry of the Penis issued their Fringe Festival challenge - come to the show and get naked with them, and in return, you get to paper their audience with flyers for your Fringe show.

Luckily, some of the Fringe actors are just daring enough to do it. Last night's Puppetry of the Penis performance featured two Fringe shows - 666 and MoM: A Rock Concert Musical. Three of the four actors from 666, plus the son of one of their producers, not only took the challenge, but stayed around to entertain the audience during intermission. While the cast of MoM: A Rock Concert Musical lack the . . . necessary equipment to join in the challenge, they did provide a "surrogate" to take their place onstage.

All in all, the show provided some daring and fun publicity for the Fringe Festival.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review - For the Love of Christ! (New York International Fringe Festival, Knoxious Productions and imPULSE Theatre)

Review by Byrne Harrison

La Cage meets The Ritz. Well, not exactly, but that is the vibe that comes from Ben Knox's new musical For the Love of Christ!. A frothy, silly, funny show, it may not leave a permanent impression, but you will leave the theatre smiling.

Upon reflection, I should say that most people will leave the theatre smiling. If you have a thin skin about religious matters, this is not the show for you. If you regularly read things sent to you from James Dobson or Bill Donohue, this is not the show for you. If you think "South Park" is blasphemous, this is not the show for you.

Then again, if any of the above were true, I seriously doubt you'd be reading this review to begin with.

For the Love of Christ! follows Charlie (Ben Knox), a good, upstanding Christian man with a lovely wife, Angela (Kristy Cates), and two . . . well, let's say interesting children. His daughter Mary (Eryn Murman) is a hellion waiting to be let loose. His son Mikey (Jamaal Wilson) is fabulous, with a glittery capital F.

Charlie knows he is different than other men. That he has longings that his wife can't fulfil. These evil longings lead him to the Bottoms Up Bathhouse, owned by Pauly (Steven Strafford), the world-weary proprietor (and wannabe chanteuse), and his mustachioed Latin boyfriend, Dante (Eric Rubbe). Spotting Charlie's expensive suit and closeted demeanor, they see a chance to save the financially troubled bathhouse by robbing Charlie blind. All they need is a distraction. That comes in the form of the beautiful airline steward, Jésus (Dan Amboyer). And no, the name is not a coincidence. Turns out Jésus is more than what he appears to be.

But Angela won't let Charlie be seduced by sodomy without a fight. Assisted by the fiery Father Reverend (Marty Thomas), she's ready to do whatever it takes to whomever she must to save his soul.

What follows is the stuff of classic farce, with some terrific songs thrown in. Plots are hatched, people are chased, high heels are worn, songs are sung, and monkeys are let loose on the terrified denizens of the bathhouse. I'm not even going to try to explain the last one. Suffice it to say, the show is a riot.

The acting is terrific, with particular praise going to Marty Thomas, Kristy Cates, Steven Strafford, and Jamaal Wilson. Thomas and Cates work together especially well; their scenes are a high point.

Holly-Anne Ruggiero's direction is outstanding, keeping the play moving at a hilarious gallop, and Music Director Alexander Rovang does a great job with Knox's songs. Holly Cruz's choreography is great as well.

On the down side, Amboyer, who uses a nasal French-Canadian accent for this play, is often hard to understand in his songs, especially in those with loud accompaniment (the song "1, 2, 3" is a prime example; his voice simply doesn't carry). Also, there is an unnecessary and overused story line about pedophile priests. This has been done to death in recent years, and undercuts some of Father Reverend's growth at the end of the play. It's good for a cheap laugh, but nothing more.

Knox proves himself an adept songwriter and lyricist, and while the book could be fleshed out more (probably not possible given the time constraints of the Fringe Festival), For the Love of Christ! is a fun, campy show.

For the Love of Christ!
Book, Music and Lyrics by Ben Knox
Directed by Holly-Anne Ruggiero
Scenic Designer: Michael P. Kramer
Lead Carpenter: Ashanti Coombs-Ziths
Costume Designer: Emily DeAngelis
Lighting Designer: Christian M. DeAngelis
Lighting Programmer: Chris Connolly
Sound Designer: Alex Hawthorn
Sound Engineer: Chip Barrow
Props Designer: Christopher Ford
Stage Manager: Paul Brewster
Stage Manager: Bryan Rountree
Production Assistants: Rachel Claire, Olivia Gemelli
Program: Eric Scwartz
Choreographer: Holly Cruz
Music Director: Alexander Rovang
Co-Line Producers: Noah Himmelstein and Joey Oliva

Featuring: Marty Thomas (Father Reverend), Eric Rubbe (Dante), Steven Strafford (Pauly), Ben Knox (Charlie), Kristy Cates (Angela), Eryn Murman (Mary), Jamaal Wilson (Mikey), Dan Amboyer (Jésus), Zachary Denison (Ensemble), Jason Michael Miller (Ensemble), Jay Reynolds, Jr. (Ensemble), A.J. Wilson (Ensemble), Kale Clauson (Dream Charlie)

The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street

Sat 15 - 2:15 PM
Wed 19 - 10 PM
Fri 21 - 5 PM
Mon 24 - 3 PM
Fri 28 - 7 PM

Review - Forest Maiden (New York International Fringe Festival)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Forest Maiden should be a much better production than it is. Nina Morrison's play about the adventures of a Maiden (Sharla Meese) captured by a Knight (Brenda Crawley) who is forcing her to attend an annual Marriage Ball hosted by a gay Reality Show Host (Jamie Pizzorno) where the Prince may or may not choose a bride is quirky and whimsical, but also manages to provide thoughtful discussion on race, gender, and sexuality issues, and any number of other philosophical topics. Divorcing these issues from everyday life and putting them in a story that seems more suited to children's theatre (or mythology, since much of it takes place in the Underworld) only makes it that much more effective.

The main problem lies in Morrison's direction. She directs loosely, allowing the actors to set the pace of the piece. While these actors are good, left to their own devices this way, they have a tendency to insert too many pauses in their dialogue - not Pinteresque pauses that bubble with unspoken text, but pauses that interrupt the natural flow of the dialogue and sound like the actors are unsure of the next line, making the play seem longer than it is. This is most noticable when the main three actors (Crawley, Meese and Pizzorno) are conversing. It happens less when just two actors are interacting. It doesn't happen at all when Caroline Oster (playing Queen Mary May, the Prince's mother) is onstage. An actor with an amazing ability to be totally in the moment, her scenes with Crawley, Meese and Pizzorno are the most immediate and enjoyable of the play.

Meese is charming and funny in her role as the Maiden with the elf-dyke girlfriend. She has a fresh-faced charm that is undeniable. Crawley is good as the earthy, working-mother Knight. Pizzorno gets the most laughs of the evening as the Host of the Reality Show. Bitchier than Carson Kressley and Stacy London combined, he never strays into stereotype.

Rounding out the cast are Katherine Wessling and Melanie Girton Hewett as Scroll Turners 1 and 2, two puckish sprites who vex the other characters throughout the play. Their roles seem to consist almost entirely of improvisation and prop play (wax lips, candy cigarettes, and celery play a large part). While some of their improvisation is good, a little bit goes a long way, and a lot of it pulls focus from the other actors. It's worth noting that their improvisation ceased during Caroline Oster's monologue, and though they were still present in this scene, they allowed the focus to stay where it should. A little more of that, especially during expository scenes, would have been appreciated.

All that said, there are some excellent moments in Forest Maiden. Zöe Woodworth's video design for the animated/filmed sections of the play are terrific. Jimmy Helvin's costumes, especially Queen Mary May's gown, are outstanding, and assuming this production has the general financial issues that most festival/Off-Off Broadway productions have, he did amazing things on a shoestring budget. And speaking of Queen Mary May, Caroline Oster is making her NY debut in this production. I hope we will see her again.

Forest Maiden
Written and Directed by Nina Morrison
Art Direction and Video Design by Zöe Woodworth
Costume Designer: Jimmy Helvin
Lighting Designer: Paul Jones
Lyre Design & Construction: Nina Kyle
Lightboard Operator: Mark Hodgman
Fight Choreographer: Brian Morvant
Casting: Jamie Askew
Authorized Company Representative: Erin D. Coffey
Iowa Production Team: Carrol & George Woodworth

Featuring: Katherine Wessling (Scroll Turner 1), Melanie Girton Hewett (Scroll Turner 2), Brenda Crawley (Knight), Sharla Meese (Maiden), Jamie Pizzorno (Host of Reality Show), Caroline Oster (Queen Mary May)

HERE Arts Center - Mainstage Theater
145 6th Avenue

Sat 15 - 3 PM
Sun 16 - 6:30 PM
Wed 19 - 7:45 PM
Thu 20 - 4 PM
Sat 22 - 8:30 PM

Review - Flight (New York International Fringe Festival and No Hope Productions)

Review by Byrne Harrison

They say that confession is good for the soul. Clearly, they mean the soul of the person confessing. For the person who has to hear it, however, the confession could be a harrowing experience.

At first, Flight, Tim Aumiller's entry in this year's Fringe Festival, appears to be a harmless little play about two people thrown together by fate. Paula (Brandy Burre) is a woman who is reaching her breaking point. Two relationships tearing at her, stuck at O'Hare Airport due to bad weather, nowhere to sit, she is the epitome of stress. Hank (Todd Lawson) is the opposite. A country accent, comfortable clothes, and a charming smile that says butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, he promises good times and fun.

So naturally, this must be a romantic comedy, and the crowded airport provides the meet-cute where these two opposites can initially repel each another before realizing that they are perfect together, right? Not even close. For though on the surface, this looks like a friendly chat, the charming Hank slowly drops little hints of menace, usually laughing them off immediately. Constantly thrown off balance, Paula is unable to cope as Hank gets more and more intense, finally revealing something that Paula wishes she had never heard.

Both Burre and Lawson are fascinating to watch as their characters slowly morph - Paula from haughtiness and bluster to confusion and fear, Hank from "aw shucks" charm to burning malice. Aumiller's direction keeps the play moving at a good pace, slow enough to reel the audience in, but always interesting. He also manages to build the tension between the two characters naturally, with good ebb and flow. Though the ending of the play is a little ambiguous - I left wondering what happened next to the two characters - I'm sure this was Aumiller's intent. Sometimes nothing will be as satisfying as what the audience is left to imagine.

Written and Directed by Tim Aumiller
Resident Producer: James McNeel
Stage Manager: Audra Roberson
Casting: John Ort
Original Music: Scott Schneider
Costume Designer/Stylist: Deb Burton
Sound Design: Byron Estep
Graphic & Web Design: Robert Hébert/

Featuring: Brandy Burre (Paula) and Todd Lawson (Hank)

The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street

Fri 14 - 7 PM
Tue 18 - 9:30 PM
Wed 19 - 10:30 PM
Thu 20 - 2 PM
Sat 22 - 6:15 PM
Thu 27 - 5:15 PM

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hey Fringers, Are You Man Enough?

By Byrne Harrison

Puppetry of the Penis has a special challenge for all the Fringe Festival shows. If you want to promote your Fringe show at tomorrow night's performance of Puppetry of the Penis at the Bleecker Street Theatre (45 Bleecker Street), they will give you the opportunity to hand out your postcards and flyers to their entire audience.

The catch - you have to join the boys onstage, get naked, and join them in one of their "dick tricks." They've invited the press, so who knows what kind of publicity you could get.

Here's how it works. Send them an e-mail ( with the name of the cast member or members who want to promote your show (for shows with all female casts, writers, producers and/or husbands and boyfriends are welcome to promote the show instead). On Tuesday the 25th, be at the theatre before the 7:00 PM curtain, find the person with the Fringe sign held high, and get on the list. When called, strip naked, do a dick trick with the boys, then hand out your postcards and flyers to the entire audience as they exit the theatre.

Starting and end times vary so if you can't make it by 7:00 PM let them know your schedule and they will try to work with you.

Will anyone take them up on this offer? Rumor has it one of the more recognizable names from Far Out: The New Sci-Fi Musical Comedy has already agreed to be there, but we'll see.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nearly Naked Neos Part Deux

Review by Byrne Harrison

They promised gratuitous semi-nudity, and by God, they delivered. The seven Neo-Futurists presenting this weekend's Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Half-Nekkid Plays in 60 Half-Nekkid Minutes (Cara Francis, Adam Smith, Ryan Good, Rob Neill, Joey Rizzolo, Jill Beckman, and Erica Livingston) strip off when the show starts (or before, as the case may be) and stay that way until the end, unless a particular play calls for them being dressed.

As always, the plays run the gamut - comic, dramatic, confessional, dance, musical, creepy, silly. You name it, it was there.

My personal favorites of the evening: 5. MTV Generation Redux: Smells Like Layering Experiment; 7. waste not, want not; 10. Dueling Clichés; 17. Aluminum Foil (Choose Your Weapon); and 30. Hokey Pokey in Hell. There was a heavy dose of audience participation in this week's plays, more so than in weeks past, so go ready to be part of the show.

The surprise of the evening was how many audience members took advantage of the "strip to your underwear, get $10 off the ticket" deal. While a few tried to put their clothes back on surreptitiously in the theatre, most stayed in the skivvies the whole night.

Despite the weather, the show sold out (pizza for everyone!). Tonight's show promises to be even more popular due to last night's word of mouth, so if you want to see it, get your tickets online now, or get to the show early.

Finally, a word of advice. Beware of flying cheese. And no, I'm not going to explain that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review - Viral (New York International Fringe Festival and Gideon Productions)

Review by Byrne Harrison

Colin (Kent Meister) has a vision. He wants to create a work of art, something truly beautiful that can only be appreciated by people with his particular view of life and death. All he needs is someone like Meredith (Amy Lynn Stewart), a beautiful woman who is planning to kill herself.

Colin, along with his girlfriend Geena (Rebecca Comtois) and her brother Jarvis (Matthew Trumbull), has a particular fetish - he gets aroused by watching someone die. Not a violent or messy death like one would find in a snuff film, but that gentle transition from life to death - the relaxing of the facial muscles, a sigh, a chest that rises and falls, never to rise again. For this odd trio, nothing can be more erotic.

To feed their fetish, and in hopes of creating a film that will sell well enough to support them, they create a website that hints that they run a group that facilitates suicide. Meredith finds them while searching for "painless suicide," and starts chatting with Geena, who monitors the site.

She agrees to meet the trio and is offered a trade - they will provide her what she needs for a quick and painless death, if she will let them choreograph and film it.

Roger's dark comedy is eye-opening and thought-provoking. The most amazing thing about the production is all the laughter it provokes. Granted, there are some truly humorous lines and situations (most of which center around Trumbull's Jarvis). But so much of the laughter seems ripped from your throat by the shock of what has happened onstage. It's less a reaction to humor than a defense mechanism. That it can provoke that sort of reaction in an audience speaks very well of Rogers' abilities as a playwright and of the overall production values of this piece.

The acting is excellent, with particular praise going to the haunting Amy Lynn Stewart as Meredith, who seems fragile and deeply, deeply sad, but has a vein of iron running through her. This comes out in her almost protective treatment of Geena, who is more often than not treated badly by Colin. As Geena, Rebecca Comtois has an almost child-like quality, and a persistant need to please everyone around her. Comtois shines in this role. Meister does an excellent job as the obsessed Colin, and Trumbull gives depth to a character who in a lesser actor's hands could have been nothing more than comic relief. Jonathan Pereira, as the film distributor Snow, oozes violation and creepiness. An outstanding cast all around.

Jordana Williams' direction is taut and effective. From its opening moments, Viral pulls the audience in and doesn't let go. It is an immediate and fascinating production.

Having now seen several of Mac Rogers' plays, I think he is destined for great things. Catch this show if you want to be able to say you knew him when.

Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jordana Williams
Stage Manager/Sound Design: Dana Rossi
Set Design: Sandy Yaklin
Lighting Design: Dan Gallagher
Lead Producer/ACR: Sean Williams
Photographer/Publicity Design: Deborah Alexander Photography
Videographer - Viral Trailer: Brandon Cuicchi
Board Operator: Lex Friedman
Social Marketing Consultants: Tammy Oler & Ehren Gresehover
Web Designer: Pete Boisvert

Featuring: Rebecca Comtois (Geena), Amy Lynn Stewart (Meredith), Matthew Trumbull (Jarvis), Kent Meister (Colin), Jonathan Pereira (Snow)

The SoHo Playhouse
15 Vandam Street

August 15th at 7:30 PM
August 16th at 6 PM
August 19th at 3 PM
August 23rd at 10 PM
August 26th at 9:45 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more information.

Review - Maddy: A Modern Day Medea and The Swan Song (Redd Tale Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photos courtesy of

Medea in a trailer park. Among certain theatre-going crowds, this phrase alone would elicit a negative reaction akin to saying Romeo and Juliet in space or a musical comedy version of Oedipus. And yet, playwright Will Le Vasseur's one-act Maddy: A Modern Day Medea is so much more than that dismissive phrase implies.

Le Vasseur has stayed remarkably true to the original. Maddy (Lynn Kenny) is an outsider, brought to this Southern trailer park by her love for Billy-Jay (Blaine Pennington). For seven years they've lived together, raising children and having a good, though poor life. But Billy-Jay wants better for his children (and himself). He leaves Maddy to marry the porcine daughter of a wealthy businessman, Cleetus (Ben Strothmann). He promises to care for Maddy, but he wants the kids to live with him.

Stripped of her husband, children, and thanks to Cleetus' interference, her home, Maddy has no idea what to do next. But this is only part of her problem. Where Medea was a sorceress, Maddy is something even more supernatural. To explain more would give away too much of Le Vasseur's clever plot. Suffice it to say, she is a force to be reckoned with. The play ends, as the original does, with the death of the new bride and the children. But the reason for the deaths of these characters (and a lot of other people) is different. While Maddy's crime is great, it is no longer as vindictive as Medea's, and this adds an interesting new twist to the classic tale. Billy-Jay lives, but he learns that there are some forces of nature not to be toyed with.

Le Vasseur wears many hats in this production. In addition to writing and directing, he designed the set. Maddy's trailer is spot on (even given the budget constraints that most Off-Off Broadway companies face), from the sad looking patio to the planter made from an old toilet. The production makes good use of sound and effects. Taped dialogue between Flo (Heather Shields), Maddy's only friend in the park, and Edna (Rainbow Dickerson), the local busybody, is used to advance the plot, to show how looked down upon Maddy is, and give a sense of the claustrophobic nature of this park. Everyone can hear everyone else, and privacy is a luxury few have. Another clever element of the show is the use of fans that blow on the audience during a particularly bad storm. This small touch helps incorporate the audience into the show, and, along with a taped newscast, covers a scene change.

Lynn Kenny shines as the other-worldly Maddy. At first stilted delivery is disconcerting, but as we learn more about Maddy's background, it makes perfect sense for her character. Heather Shields shines as the earthy and sympathetic Flo. Blaine Pennington does a good job as the handsome and charming Billy-Jay. It's easy to see why Maddy would fall for him, but just as easy to see why he would leave. Ben Strothmann does well as the father of Billy-Jay's new bride. And as the mysterious Alan, about whom little can be said without giving away some interesting plot twists, James Stewart acquits himself well, though given the character's sangfroid, a little more vocal range could add a bit of interest to what is, by necessity, a rather cold delivery.

The second play of the evening is a short one-act by Anton Chekhov, The Swan Song. Vasili (Will Le Vasseur), an aging clown, awakens from a drunken stupor to find himself locked in his dark, empty theatre. The darkness turns his gaze inward as he examines lost time, lost loves, and lost opportunities. With Nikita (Ben Strothmann), the company's prompter, watching and helping him, he attempts to regain some of the fire and talent of his youth. The play is wonderfully acted by both Strothmann and Le Vasseur. Le Vasseur in particular excels playing a character who is easily more than double his age, no small feat from an actor still in his 20s.

This short play, written rather surprisingly in Chekhov's youth (he was about Le Vasseur's age when he wrote it), is a marvellous find.

Though different in theme and style, Maddy: A Modern Day Medea and The Swan Song make for an entertaining evening of theatre.

Maddy: A Modern Day Medea
Written and directed by Will Le Vasseur
Adapted from Euripedes' Medea

Featuring: Lynn Kenny (Maddy), Blaine Pennington (Billy-Jay), Heather Shields (Flo), James Stewart (Alan), Ben Strothmann (Cleetus), Rainbow Dickerson (Edna), Will Le Vasseur (Newscaster)

The Swan Song
Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Lynn Kenny

Featuring: Will Le Vasseur (Vasili Svietlovidoff), Ben Strothmann (Nikita Ivanitch)

Set Design: Will Le Vasseur
Stage Manager: Danny Morales
Poster Design: Graeme Offord
Sound Design & Recording: Matthew Pritchard
Production Photos & Website Design: Ben Strothmann
Set materials donated by Rebuilders Source
Artistic Director: Will Le Vasseur
Co-Artistic Director: James Stewart

Nicu's Spoon Theater
38 W. 38th Street, 5th Floor

Thursday-Saturday at 8 PM
Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM
Through August 29th

For information, visit the Redd Tale Theatre Company website.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fringe Q&A With Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg of I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Kristyn Pomranz & Katherine Steinberg
Show: I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!

How did you first get involved in theatre?
Pomranz: My first performance was in The Three Forgotten Words, which taught my elementary school peers how to use the card catalog and Dewey Decimal system. I played "The." Ahh, pre-internets.

Steinberg: My first shot at the page for the stage is in this festival. I saw a lot of theater with my mom and grandmother, who are avid fans.

Who are your biggest influences?
P: Creatively, Kate Steinberg and The Internets. Theatrically, I wouldn't say he's an influence, but I do love Jason Robert Brown.

S: Creatively, Kristyn (obvs!) because every time we speak we come up with a million new ideas. Literally. I also admire and aspire to be more like "Robot Chicken," "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Arrested Development" and "30 Rock." If I can ever write something as witty as "City of Angels" I will die happy.

What is your show about?
P: Well, the obvious answer is "a cat who wants a cheezburger." But really, our show is about making people laugh. This is not high art. It is 78 minutes of silly song and dance, coupled with the Lolcats meme. All it requires is a suspension of disbelief and a willingness to not take it seriously.

S: A cat pursuing his cheezburger! It's really about having good time, getting in a few LOLs and chasing a dream. We billed it as a fun, musical romp through the site and I think that's what it is.

What inspired you to write it?
P: I sang a song about a Lolcat and Kate was all, "Genius, let's make this a musical." Honestly, it was a lark, so it's truly amazing that it's come this far.

S: I knew that Kristyn and I wanted to write something together and when I heard this idea, my heart leaped for joy.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
P: We've known Mike Gillespie (our arranger and musical collaborator) since the beginning of the year, and we found our director, Karina Bennett (co-founder of Magic Bullet Media), through Mandy a few months ago. Magically, we all just gelled. While it hasn't been long, we've grown into a very solid, collaborative, and
fun-loving team and we want nothing more than to work with them in the future.

S: Mike Gillespie has very closely collaborated with us on music. He's arranged and composed for us and is now an indispensable member of our team. Our director, Karina Bennett we met through an ad on Mandy (like Kristyn says above) and even though she was the first person we met, we clicked immediately. She's brought so much to this musical and has made it so much stronger than I could have imagined. Our Choreographer, Erin Stutland, I met in a class at the PIT and she's quite multi-talented -- a dancer, writer and actress with great comic timing. Lastly, Caroline O'Connor, our stage manager and assistant director has been an organization pillar. I would work with them all again in a heartbeat. It's been a great, supportive group.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
P: Surprisingly painless. The show is short and we don't really have a set, so it was all song, dance, and scene work. Our cast was extremely dedicated and really delved into the minds of their macros -- everyone involved takes the show very seriously, which, honestly, makes it funnier.

S: Fun, hectic, hilarious. I think we picked an amazing cast who made the process really easy and smooth.

What's next for you after Fringe?
P: Grad school (in a program that involves neither musicals nor Lolcats), but I plan to also work on a new show with Kate and Mike. We can't disclose what it's about, but we can reveal this much: it won't be based on an Internet meme. Our next show won't have such a hard expiration date (although it is yet again about food).

S: Working with Mike and Kristyn on our new musical, writing an original TV pilot with my friend Heidi and also keeping up with the blog that Heidi, Kristyn and I run: Rob Pattinson Loves Me. We like to keep busy :)

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
Pomranz: A cheeseburger lunch with Ben Huh.

Steinberg: I would say dinner -- Ben Huh, Burgers, Pomz and cloth napkins. (oooh, keeping it classy).

I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!
Sauce and Co.
Written by Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg
Additional Music by Mike Gillespie
Director: Karina Bennett

The Cherry Lane Theatre
Fri 14 - 9:30 PM
Sat 15 - 12 PM
Tue 18 - 6:15 PM
Wed 26 - 9:15 PM
Fri 28 - 4:45 PM

Review – Jack and the Soy Beanstalk (New York International Fringe Festival, Wide Eyed Productions)

Review by Erin Winebark
Photos by Matt Bresler

Once upon a time, in a land not that far away, a young man named Jack was charged with selling “Old Smoky,” the family pickup truck, in order to get some money, because the cost of a gas was “a hundred gabillion dollars” a gallon. He tried to sell it to a big corporate farm, but it turned out that they already had a clunker truck to fit their every need. Luckily the next farm he went to was a small organic farm, and the kindly farmer traded Jack’s truck for seventeen magical soybeans. Not realizing how truly magical the soybeans were, Jack flushed them down the toilet, and awoke to find a magical soy beanstalk growing out of the bowl. Naturally, he climbed up the beanstalk and met Mrs. Big, Mr. Big (who had a giant job), and his golden iHarp, but when Mr. Big tried to turn Jack into his favorite food, “canned servant,” he quickly climbed back down the beanstalk and chopped it down with a conveniently-located axe.

Such is the stuff of Jack and the Soy Beanstalk, a modern-day adaptation of the classic children’s tale. Jerrod Bogard (Book, Lyrics, Direction, Set, and Puppets) is just a tad too artistically brilliant for my tastes. His clear abundance of creativity, talent, and fantastic humor makes the rest of us look like we’re not really trying. Throughout the whole show, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the same person wrote the book/lyrics, directed, AND came up with the terrifically simple-yet-creative set, complete with shadow puppets.

Similar sentiments come to mind in regards to Sky Seals, the Composer/Guitarist/Actor/Musical Director. The absolutely delightful music goes far beyond traditional kid’s fare, incorporating many styles from melodramatic show-tunes to rap. I truly admire people who can “do it all,” with regards to the theater, and the pair of Bogard/Seals certainly fit the bill. I’m not sure which one came up with the vocal sound effects to accompany the shadow puppets, but they are one of the most original ideas I’ve ever seen (or heard).

The cast bursts with energy and amazing voices. While no member was weak, Laura Hall’s (Momma) performance stands out, as does Jake Paque (Golden i-Harp), whose white-guy rapping made me laugh uncontrollably' and his costume, designed by Sabrina Khan, made it that much better. Even the dancing was great, thanks to Nam Holtz’s choreography, and one of the funniest moments was an homage to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video.

What makes this kid’s show unique is that it was wonderfully entertaining for both the kids and the adults who came with them. Having seen children’s shows as an adult in the past, I came into it expecting very little (how enjoyable can a children’s musical be, after all?), and came out wildly impressed. And even more than the entertainment factor, it’s message of environmental awareness is one that we can all appreciate. As Momma says, “Imagination is a renewable resource,” and this show’s got plenty to spare.

Jack and the Soy Beanstalk
Book and Lyrics by Jerrod Bogard
Music by Sky Seals
Directed by Jerrod Bogard
Stage Manager: Matt Bresler
Musical Direction by Sky Seals
Musical Arrangements, Additional Composition & Assistant Music Director: Emily Fellner
Choreography by Nam Holtz
Scene Painting by Jen Mcabee
i-Harp and Goose design by Sabrina Kahn
Set and Puppets by Jerrod Bogard

Featuring: Carlos Avilas (Jack), Laura Hall (Momma), Brianne Mai (Mrs. Big), Okieriete Onaodowan (The Guard/Mr. Big), Jake Paque (Golden i-Harp), Sky Seals (the Minstrel/Farmer)

Dixon Place
161 Chrystie Street
Saturday, August 15 at 12 PM
Sunday, August 16 at 4:15 PM
Tuesday, August 18 at 5:30 PM
Wednesday, August 19 at 7:15 PM
Friday, August 21 at 7:30 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more information.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review – I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! (New York International Fringe Festival and Sauce and Co.)

Review by Erin Winebark


If the above paragraph doesn’t make sense to you, then you might be a bit confused by I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! now playing at the Cherry Lane Theater as part of FringeNYC 2009. If, however, you are a gigantic nerd like me (and most of the audience, it seemed), you should run to get tickets--and I do mean run, because a large crowd of latecomers were turned away at the door. That said, even those unfamiliar with lolspeak can enjoy the campy entertainment Cheezburger provides, and with a handy gLOLssary included in the program, n00bs will quickly learn the difference between Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat.

Full of non-sequitors, the show itself feels a bit like an episode of "Family Guy." The only scenery is a white drop onto which images are projected. These images consist of well-timed lolcats straight from the website or scenic visuals to suggest setting. The book, written by Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg, is exceptionally witty, laden with pop-culture references and jokes which irreverently parody modern musical theater. The simple orchestrations, also by Pomranz and Steinberg, allow the talented voices of the cast and the hilarious lyrics to shine. A few memorable tunes include "Someone to Eat Cheese With," "Bucket of Love," "Ur Doin’ It Wrong" and "Tasty Taste of Love." Karina Bennett’s direction is presentational, with moments of audience interaction and plenty of sight gags (if you’re simply listening, you’ll miss a lot of the humor). She brings the best out of the cast and fully uses the space to create interesting focal points despite the lack of set. Though the entire ensemble is strong, Carter (as Mr. Wrong) and Bryan Welnicki (Drop) give especially entertaining performances, and Welnicki, in particular is a scene-stealer, waiting for “the cheese to drop.” Erin Strutland’s choreography is the stuff of stereotypical high school musicals (and thus, perfect for this show’s humor); jazz hands, grapevines, and box steps abound.

All said and done, I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! is incredibly entertaining, and has real potential to be a stand-alone off-Broadway musical (with a few tweaks and reworks, of course). The final musical number and accompanying photo montage had me literally laughing out loud…er, LOL-ing…and by the end, I had to wipe tears of laughter from my face. DIS HOOMAN THINKZ DAT Cheezburger IS FTW!!! KTHXBAI.

I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!
Book, Music and Lyrics by Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg
Directed by Karina Bennett
Additional Music by Mike Gillespie
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Caroline O’Connor
Choreography by Erin Strutland
Produced by Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg
Costume Design by Matthew Wilson and Cathy Carrey-Aquino
Lighting Design by Paul Sawyier

Featuring: Seth Grugle (Lolcat), Vincent DiGeronimo (Lolrus), Clint Carter (Mr. Wrong), Carly Zein (Jodie), Lauren Kampf (Sumz), Danielle Ryan (Epic Win), Melissa Bayern (Epic Fail), Bryan Welnicki (Drop), and Liana Jessop (Orly Owl)

Cherry Lane Theater
38 Commerce St.
Friday, August 14 at 9:30 PM
Saturday, August 15 at 12:00 PM
Tuesday, August 18 at 6:15 PM
Wednesday, August 26 at 9:15 PM
Friday, August 28 at 4:45 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more information.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review - The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side (The Amoralists and Performance Space 122)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo by Larry Cobra

"I really care about these characters. I hope you really care about them too." - Derek Ahonen

The thing that strikes me, several days after having seen The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, is that I do still care about the characters that Derek Ahonen has created and that The Amoralists have brought to life at P.S. 122. This small tribe of outsiders - Wyatt (Mathew Pilieci), full of bluster and simmering anger, but crippled by a fear of death; Dear (Sarah Lemp), the pro bono attorney turned vegan entrepreneur and mother-figure; Billy (James Kautz), the drug-addicted editor of a revolutionary newspaper, who is too scared to join the revolution when it happens; and Dawn (Mandy Nicole Moore), the fragile runaway - live together in a spacious apartment on the Lower East Side, above their vegan restaurant (the titular Pied Piper). Free love, anti-establishment prose, and meatless meals abound. It is, at least to Wyatt, Billy, Dear and Dawn, utopia.

Their peace is jeopardized when Billy finds out his younger brother, Evan (Nick Lawson), is coming for a visit. All frat boy bravado and condescension, it seems that his arrival, and Dawn's subsequent interest in him, will be what threatens to tear this unusual family apart. But that is just one of Ahonen's red herrings. The real threat comes with a visit from Donovan, their landlord and benefactor (played with a smarmy intensity by Charles Meola). He arrives bearing gifts . . . never a good sign.

The acting in The Pied Pipers is outstanding, though Kautz has a tendency to go into a Shanter-as-Kirk cadence when his character gets serious. This can be forgiven in that, even at its choppiest, Kautz is fully committed to his role, and unlike Shatner, he never appears to be "acting"; he is simply being Billy. The same is true of the rest of the actors. Despite the nearly three-hour run time, there is rarely a false note, and the time flies by. These actors clearly know their characters so well that you will likely forget that you are watching actors on a stage; at times, it feels more like being a guest in their living room.

Set designer Alfred Schatz does an amazing job of creating a home for this unusual foursome. His design features so many little details - graffiti, posters, masks - the flotsam and jetsam of four unusual lives, all of which give subtle depth to the characters and create a truly lived-in home.

Ahonen's excellent ear for dialogue, his realistic script, and the phenomenal work on the part of the actors make this a production not to be missed.

The play features nudity . . . very shocking, but wildly amusing nudity, so no one under 17 will be admitted.

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side has once again been extended (through Sunday, August 23rd). Perhaps it will be again, but just in case, you should see as soon as you can.

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
Written by Derek Ahonen
Directed by Derek Ahonen
Produced by Meghan Ritchie
The Pipers Crew Spiritual Advisor: Larry Cobra
Stage Manager: Judy Merrick
Assistant Director: Matthew Fraley
Lighting Designer: Jeremy Pape
Sound Engineer: Bart Lucas
Set Designer: Alfred Schatz
Costume Designer: Ricky Lang

Featuring: Mathew Pilieci (Wyatt), James Kautz (Billy), Mandy Nicole Moore (Dawn), Sarah Lemp (Dear), Nick Lawson (Evan), Charles Meola (Donovan)

P.S. 122
150 1st Avenue (at East 9th Street)

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 5:30 PM
Extended through August 23rd

Nearly Naked Neos

By Byrne Harrison

Billing the event as 30 Half-Nekkid Plays in 60 Half-Nekkid Minutes, the New York Neo-Futurists, the collective of wildly productive performers who create art that fuses sport, poetry, and personal experience, will be performing their popular Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind with slightly more skin than normal. Let's face it, it's hot. It's humid. And even in an air-conditioned theatre like the Kraine, it can be a bit too much. So who can blame the Neos for letting it all hang out? And if the audience wants to join in, why not?

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Half-Nekkid Plays in 60 Half-Nekkid Minutes will be performed on August 21st and 22nd at 10:30 p.m. at the Kraine Theater (85 E. 4thSt., btw. 2nd & Bowery). As an added bonus (or perhaps a really good dare that they think no audience member will take them up on), the Neos are offering a $10 discount (off a ticket normally priced from $11-16) to anyone who shows up at the show in only their underwear. Given the crowd that normally attends TMLMTBGB, this could be a really good weekend to see the show.

TMLMTBGB often plays to sold-out houses. Make your plans early.

Review - The Boys Upstairs (New York International Fringe Festival and Justin Allen Pifer, in association with The Present Company)

Review by Bryan Stryker
Photo by Samantha Souza

"Sex, dating, friendship, and all the blurry lines in between."

You have to love when plays can be summed up in ten words or less. It's even better when it's true and when the production is well-done. Jason Mitchell's world premiere of The Boys Upstairs presented as part of the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival is both true and well-done.

Welcome to the world of Seth, Josh, and Ashley - three friends who have definitely gone through the roller coaster ride of life together. Seth (Joel T. Bauer) and Josh (Nic Cory) reside together in a stylish Hell's Kitchen apartment. Their friend, Ashley (Kristen-Alexander Griffith) and his many one-night stands (all played by David A. Rudd) are frequent overnight guests. Throw in the sexually ambiguous, but nonetheless incredibly hot new neighbor downstairs, Eric (Josh Segarra), and the new "Boys in the Band" morphs into "Friends" to "Sex in the City" and back again.

In eleven tightly-crafted, well-written scenes, we are allowed into these characters lives. Josh is a budding writer for the Village Voice who longs to be a gay Carrie Bradshaw. Seth is entering the "serious" stage of his relationship with his new boyfriend Matt. Ashley is returning from Paris to reunite with his two best friends . . . and every man he has yet to bed in the Big Apple.

Nic Cory gives a great performance as the neurotic, high strung, intense Josh. Joel T. Bauer's Seth is definitely the boy next door type, one that's not easily flustered, though that may due to his pot smoking. Cory and Bauer play off of each other very well, and Josh and Seth's friendship is very believable as a result. One slight criticism is that Josh, although only an intern at the Village Voice, appears too old to hold such a position, even if we do learn within the course of the show that he is a trust fund baby.

Josh Segarra's Eric is portrayed as the ripped muscle guy you're more likely to find working out on the bench press and drinking beer at the sports bar, than dancing on the bar at Splash. The ambiguity that Segarra infuses in Eric makes the characters (and, of course, the audience) wonder "is he, or isn't he?". You'll have to watch the show to find out.

The scene stealers of The Boys Upstairs are David A. Rudd with his multiple personas and Kristen-Alexzander Griffith as Ashley. They take full advantage of their stage time and make each moment shine. Rudd has the more difficult task of making each of his six characters unique and distinguishable - a New Jersey "guido" type, the doting boyfriend of Seth, a leather daddy from the Eagle, an aspiring chorus boy, and more. As he's paired with Griffith in several scenes, their chemistry must be solid through the various incarnations that Rudd must portray. And, thankfully, it is.

Any moment Griffith is on the stage assures a laugh. From his dramatic entrance, to the random sexual situations he wakes up to in the morning, he makes the most of his time on stage. Even when a stray fly threatened to interrupt his performance, he stayed fully in character as he swatted it away. Ashley has a way of taking any other character's moment away from them, and bringing the attention full circle back to him - Griffith stays absolutely true to Ashley's self-absorbed nature.

Jason Mitchell has crafted a fine script that is very tight with very little fat. The characters are well developed and not cookie cutter representations of the LGBT community. The script requires an intense amount of pacing and timing that can only be successful with a good director and cast. Thankfully, he has both. Some scenes would not achieve the laughs they received if it weren't for the solid direction from Matthew Corozine. The only production criticism is that a few light cues were missed in this performance leaving Nic Cory to delivery his transition scene monologue on Justin Couchara's well-appointed, but dimly lit stage.

The Boys Upstairs is definitely one of the highlights of this year's festival and should not be missed.

The Boys Upstairs
Written by Jason Mitchell
Directed by Matthew Corozine
Lighting/Sound Designer: Nick Gonsman
Scenic/Costume Designer: Justin Couchara

Featuring: Nic Cory (Josh), Joel T. Bauer (Seth), Josh Segarra (Eric), Kristen-Alexander Griffith (Ashley), David A. Rudd (All their boyfriends, dates, & tricks)

SoHo Playhouse
15 Vandam Street
Saturday, August 15 at 2:30 PM
Sunday, August 16 at 12:30 PM
Tuesday, August 18 at 7 PM
Thursday August 27 at 5 PM
Friday, August 28 at 7 PM

Review - George and Laura Bush Perform ... Our Favorite Sitcom Episodes (New York International Fringe Festival and The Present Company)

Review by Bryan Stryker
Photo by Kevin Lambert

"Wondering what Laura and I have been up to since leaving the Oval Office?" George W. Bush asks. "We certainly have not been sitting on our duffs like another former first couple (*cough* The Carters *cough*)."

In playwright Ryan Gajewski's warped world, George (Peter Zerneck) and Laura (Jennifer Tullock) have taken up reenacting their favorite sitcom episodes in their Crawford ranch, and are bringing their show to the New York Fringe Festival. It's a premise that holds much promise given the number of classic sitcoms they could lampoon (with my personal preference and immediate thought being "All in the Family"). However, that premise goes to waste in this production.

While the idea of a bumbling President Bush has been played for laughs for the past eight years in many a Saturday Night Live sketch, that joke alone cannot sustain itself for a full 90-minute production. Though the play's website details multiple episodes that the Bushes have under their belt (including the infamous "The Contest" episode of "Seinfeld"), the audience is only treated to one reenacted episode from "I Love Lucy" - the one where Lucy goes to work in the chocolate factory. This somehow morphs into a time travel story where George Bush goes to the future to warn Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to change his ways and work with the United States. Unsurprisingly, this wasn't as funny as the image of Laura Bush shoving chocolates in mouth would have been. It doesn't get any funnier when a network executive, Diamond Steal-Second (Robert Micheli), signs the duo to a TV contract and brings in Emmy nominee Matt LeBlanc (John J. Isgro) as their costar. In fact, at this point the show seems as interminable as the eight-year Bush administration.

Do not, however, blame the actors. Peter Zerneck gives a strong performance of the former president with Jennifer Tullock playing his dutiful wife, Laura. Tullock's portrayal of the former first lady, including her presumed stilted acting style, and impersonation of Lucille Ball's comedic crying garnered the most laughs from the audience. Throw in some spot on costuming from Irma Escobar, and they do embody the Bushes. John J. Isgro's Matt LeBlanc, however, is depicted as though he never stopped playing Joey Tribbiani from "Friends," and his Joey-shtick, like the buffoonery of this production's President Bush, wore thin within minutes. Robert Micheli's bipolar network executive was energetically portrayed by Robert Micheli, but never seems to connect with the audience.

Playwright Ryan Gajewski is clearly counting on anti-Bush sentiment. It can only be assumed that the reason the network executive was named Diamond Steal-Second was to allow President Bush to muddle his name with other baseball terms such as Diamond Round-Third. Funny the first time, not so much afterwards.

Kevin Lambert's direction was decent, but the timing of the piece felt off. Perhaps if the pace had been quicker, the audience wouldn't have been wondering if some of the longer pauses onstage were the actors having forgotten their lines and wondering what to do next.

I have thought about giving George and Laura Bush Perform ... a second viewing; but when the most memorable part of the show is the impromptu audience sing-a-long of theme songs playing prior to the show, it's probably not worth a repeat visit.

George and Laura Bush perform ... Our Favorite Sitcom Episodes
Written by Ryan Gajewski
Directed by Kevin Lambert
Sound/Lighting Designer: Elliot Lanes
Costume Design: Irma Escobar
Graphic Design: Miriam Hiersteiner
Fight Choreography: Michael G. Chin

Featuring: Peter Zerneck (George W. Bush), Jennifer Tullock (Laura Bush), Robert Micheli (Diamond Steal-Second), John J. Isgro (Matt LeBlanc)

Players Theatre
115 Macdougal Street
Saturday 8/15 at 3:30 PM
Sunday 8/23 at 6 PM
Monday 8/24 at 2 PM
Wednesday 8/26 at 8 PM
Friday 8/28 at 10:15 PM

Fringe Q&A With Jay Sefton of The Most Mediocre Story Never Told!

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Ed Krieger

Name: Jay Sefton
Show: The Most Mediocre Story Never Told!

How did you first get involved in theatre?
I played Jesus in an eighth grade passion play and remember not being nervous in front of people and I normally was doing anything else. It would take me 10 years to gather the courage to try it again at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

Who are your biggest influences?
Anyone who uses the idea of their own death as motivation to do something frightening.

What is The Most Mediocre Story Never Told! about?
It is a comedic deconstruction of the typical "hey, here is my story" solo show. So this show kind of turns it upside down and puts forth the notion that the stories I tell about myself keep me from experiencing anything new in life. The show gets hijacked by my hardcore Philadelphia alter ego and becomes a tug of war about which stories get told and how they get told.

What inspired you to write it?
I had a friend who had a good bit of success with her solo show and she taught a workshop, and I thought maybe I could do the same and start working as an actor. However I didn't feel like I had a story to tell, so I started from there and then came across some bits of philosophy about story versus event and the truth of how we create our personal narratives. I tried to create a theatre piece that gets those messages across in a humorous way.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with

Debra De Liso is the director and we have been working together for about 2 years, and there would be no play without her.

Dave Ashman is the managing producer, and he has been on board for a year and produced the run in LA, which would not have happened if not for Dave.

For the fringe run, we have Chris Massimine as producer, David Rambo (writer/producer CSI) as executive producer, and Shane Marshall Brown as the press agent. They have all been on board since May and have been hugely helpful and fun to put this together with.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has
the rehearsal process been?

We are lucky. We have next to no set, one actor, Dave Ashman in the booth and a show that ran for 10 weeks in the fall and at a few Universities since then. So we have gotten a chance to spend more time at Malachy's on 72nd street than some companies. Not sure if that is a good thing.

What's next for you after Fringe?
I would love to extend the show here if at all possible. There is another run planned for the winter in LA and a tour of colleges in Ohio, PA and Michigan for the show in the fall.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish

Sold out houses for the next 5 shows here in New York and um . . . lots of nice things for nice people cause the first wish sounded a little selfish.

The Most Mediocre Story Never Told!
Written by Jay Sefton
Directed by Debra De Liso

The Actors' Playhouse
Sat 15 - 2:15 PM
Sun 16 - 10 PM
Fri 21 - 7 PM
Sun 23 - 7:15 PM
Wed 26 - 6:15 PM

Visit FringeNYC for more information.

Review – Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City (New York International Fringe Festival, Tall Hispanic-Short Hispanic Productions)

Review by Erin Winebark

Two drunk white girls, a couple of old Jewish ladies, and a tranny prostitute walk into a bar . . . though this would make a great set-up for a joke, it’s really a small sampling of the characters found in Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City. This two-woman show features twenty different characters in twelve interrelated scenes and monologues written and played by Lorena Diaz (“the tall one”) and Wendy Mateo (“the short one”). Both actresses are Hispanic women, but the characters they portray span all ages, genders, and ethnic stereotypes, and their writing pokes fun at every race equally.

In the opening scene, we meet two old Jewish ladies at a restaurant, interrogating their waitress in an attempt to get some Splenda since one left her baggie full of it at home.

“You speak Mexican?” she asks the waitress with “exotic-looking features.”

“No, they speak SPAINISH in Mexico,” corrects her friend. “Do you speak Spainish?”

Though, I, personally, do not speak Spainish, my favorite line of the whole show was spoken of a certain blonde socialite in a scene where two Latina housekeepers seemed to be discussing American celebrities: “Ella es una puta!” Una puta, indeed.

Both Diaz and Mateo give strong, funny performances. Diaz, in particular, transitions seamlessly through widely diverse characters - from a homeless man, to an aging Hispanic man, to a vibrant Latina single mom. Her physicalizations are dead-on, and she fully transforms into the gender and race she portrays at any given time — no easy feat given the minimal production values and lack of any kind of costume or set change. Mateo easily inhabits the worlds of the scenes, and fully commits to each action. In one of the funniest moments, her drunken stupor is so convincing that it elicited more than a few laughs from the audience.

Renata Sheppard’s choreography, along with an upbeat soundtrack and slight changes in lighting, serve as transitions. Though some of these transitions last a bit longer than necessary, they allow the viewer to see the relationships which exist from scene to scene. In one scene, we meet a tranny prostitute talking to a “white girl” on her corner, and as the scene progresses we realize that the white girl is actually one of the drunk girls from an earlier scene. This happens multiple times throughout the show, and is a rather brilliant way to show each side to the story. Though it’s clear that the show originated out of improvisation, Charna Halpern’s direction focuses the characters and action and gives the scripted show a casual, off-the-cuff feel.

People in the City is a comedy, but by the end, it turns into comedy with a message: everyone has a story, and we’re all connected through common experience, even when we think we have nothing in common. Or at least, that’s what I got out of it, though admittedly, my Mexican is a little rusty.

Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City
Written by Lorena Diaz & Wendy Mateo
Directed by Charna Halpern
Choreography by Renata Sheppard
Production Manager: Stephanie Acosta

Featuring: Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fringe Q&A With Aaron Loeb of Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Aaron Loeb
Show: Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party

How did you first get involved in theatre?
I first started writing plays in high school and ended up moving from central Illinois at the age of 17 to study Dramatic Writing at NYU. It’s great to come back to New York with Abe.

I've always loved theater. My sister is an actor and I grew up watching her perform.

Who are your biggest influences?
Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen and Samuel Beckett. More recent inspirations are Charles Mee and Mary Zimmerman.

What is your show about?
It's broadly about a "trial of the century" where a teacher is prosecuted for telling her 4th-grade class that Abraham Lincoln was gay. It's very loosely based on "Inherit the Wind," telling the story of the trial through the eyes of the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the reporter from the big city sent to cover it.

What inspired you to write it?
I was fascinated by the controversy surrounding Lincoln's sexuality. It seems to provoke genuine furor from some and complete befuddlement from others. As I thought of our current national division over issues of sexuality, I became very interested in examining our current "house divided" with Lincoln as the entry point. That, and I thought there were lots of opportunities for cheap laughs and splashy dance numbers.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Our Fringe production is being produced by many organizations and individuals from the Bay Area who have been involved in the play's creation from its beginning: BlueRare, PlayGround, San Francisco Playhouse and Tom Swift.

BlueRare is a multimedia production company that made the entire Fringe production possible by bringing all the players together. Jill Matichak, their principal, has been our champion and hero in getting the show on the road.

PlayGround originally commissioned the play. They're the Bay Area's leading incubator of emerging playwrights, and we've been working together since 2001. They gave the play its first workshops and dramaturgical support. There would be no Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party were it not for Playground and Jim Kleinmann, their Artistic Director, who selected the work for a commission.

SF Playhouse produced the world premiere, and it's their production we're bringing to New York. I had collaborated with SF Playhouse on the world premiere of my play, First Person Shooter (also commissioned by, and co-produced with PlayGround), in 2007, so we have a terrific and lasting working relationship. Bill English, the Artistic Director of the Playhouse, designed our ingenious set and helped me shape the play from its earliest drafts.

Tom Swift, one of our producers, is an old friend who inspired some key aspects of the play and helped me hone the work with key bits of advice.

In terms of the creative staff, we've all been working together now for at least a year.

I met Chris Smith, our director, through PlayGround several years ago. He directed the world premiere and has been our leader and organizer in getting this play to New York.

Finally, six of the seven actors were in the original world premiere production and stepped up to make the journey out East. We developed a tight bond putting the show up in the first place, and we're all delighted to be working together again. Our seventh actor, Kate Castillo, actually appeared in the world premiere of First Person Shooter, so we've collaborated together before and she's fit right into our team.

So, as you can tell, it's a rather closely knit band of Bay Area players bringing the show to the Fringe.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
Well, it's been short, but we're bringing the original production. There were over 40 performances at SF Playhouse, so mostly it's been "refreshing" rather than creating something ex nihilo.

What's next for you after Fringe?
While I lack the ability to read the future, I'm going to guess there will be sleep and rampant intoxication.

If you mean theatrically, I'm working on an adaptation of Euripides' Alcestis with SF Playhouse and a new play called Blastosphere! that I'm co-writing with fellow Bay Area playwright, Geetha Reddy. Blastosphere! will world premiere at Central Works in Berkeley later this year. But first, sleep and booze.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
I would wish for the genie not to grant me the wish. Because if he doesn't grant me the wish, he's granted me the wish, which means he can't grant me the wish. In your face, genie! Try working your way out of that one!

I positively loathe genies.

Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party
BlueRare Productions, San Francisco Playhouse, PlayGround
Writer: Aaron Loeb
Director: Chris Smith

HERE Arts Center - Mainstage Theater
Tue 18 - 9:30 PM
Wed 19 - 4 PM
Sat 22 - 12 PM
Sun 23 - 3:45 PM
Sat 29 @ 7:15 PM

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Fringe Q&A With Tim Watts of The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Michelle Robin Anderson

Name: Tim Watts
Show: The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorerer

How did you first get involved in theatre?
When I was 7 years old I was in some community theatre musical. It was rubbish, but I loved the attention.

Who are your biggest influences?
Jim Henson, Robert Lepage, Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson, Tim Burton, Carl Sagan, Alan Moore, and

What is The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer about?
Well, its set in a post-apocalyptic environmental water-world, and Alvin Sputnik joins a last-ditch effort to find a new place for humanity to live at the bottom of the ocean. However its more about the power of enduring love even in the face of such a bleak future. It's got puppets, animation, ukulele and bubbles.

What inspired you to write it?
A few things. Firstly I had made this puppet (Alvin Sputnik) which was a deep sea diver, and I really liked him, and other people did too. I love the ocean, and deep sea exploration; the ocean is very important to me where I am from in Perth. I also really wanted to make a solo show, and have it tour-able, and fun, poignant and not pretentious. Finally I was becoming (and still am) overwhelmed with the environmental situation, and felt like I had to make a piece that at least acknowledged it. But I didn't want to make it a preachy piece about picking up trash, cause I am just as flawed as everybody else when it comes to this stuff, but what I wanted to embody was the goodness in humanity. That means that there is always hope, that we will endure, and love will endure (but its going to take a lot of work). I was getting sick of the apathetic existential bleak stuff, and wanted some inspiring joy.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
I worked with numerous people along the way, mainly Arielle Gray, who I have worked with for many years, and I feel understands my vision more than anyone else, and was able to contribute ideas, as well as mainly help me self-direct the piece. My father Anthony Watts, built the set and all the gadgets; he isn't a theatre guy, but is a whiz kid with the soldering iron, and any whacked-out electric gizmo idea I come up with, he can usually find a way to make it happen. Most of the show runs on batteries, even the lights.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
This show has actually been in the works for a while. Since March this year, I have been plugging way with ideas, and showings to various people. I did a season in Perth (Australia, my home town) before I came out here and it went really well, and gave me a chance to get the show nice and slick.

What's next for you after Fringe?
I'll be going home. Back to the other side of the world (literally), and doing a dark, violent musical (rare for Perth, not for here), and doing some development for some other shows. In terms of Alvin Sputnik, I am currently organising some more touring around Australia, and the world (I'm going to translate it into different languages).

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
The ability to breathe underwater. Oh so awesome.

The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer
Weeping Spoon Productions
Written by Tim Watts

HERE Arts Center - Dorothy B. Williams Theater
Fri 14 - 5 PM
Sat 15 - 7:15 PM
Tue 18 - 8:30 PM
Sat 22 - 2:15 PM
Sun 23 - 8:15 PM
Thu 27 - 7:30 PM

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fringe Q&A With Brian Golden of 6 Seconds in Charlack

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Brian Golden
Show: 6 Seconds in Charlack

How did you first get involved in theatre?
I performed in a few shows in high school - and did a little professional improv with ComedySportz Quad-Cities - but those were fun and games, nothing I took seriously, or even knew how to take seriously. I went to Washington University in St. Louis intent on studying political science and becoming President of the United States. After a semester and a half of constitutional construction classes, I realized that I really wanted to be a campaign manager, not a political scientist. I took Acting 1 with Anna Pileggi. I was on the wait list. I stuck it out. It was an epic challenge - real work. I was hooked.

Who are your biggest influences?
Tough question because I wouldn't consider someone an influence if I didn't think they were way, way better than me at writing. And I don't want to put myself in the same breath as some of those people. How about this: I'll tell you some of my favorite writers, plays or otherwise - Michael Lewis, David Mamet, Marisa Wegrzyn, Carter Lewis, Lanford Wilson, Bridget Carpenter, Jay-Z, Michael Schur, James McManus, Adam Duritz, Matt Nathanson, Howard Zinn.

What is 6 Seconds in Charlack about?
The pain and excitement of being young. Love and its consequences. The human need to fit square pegs in to round holes.

What inspired you to write it?
Heartbreak and deadlines.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Patrick Mills is the director of this production, and he has been a huge advocate of the play since it played for a weekend at American Theatre of Actors three years ago. Christena Doggrell plays Candy in this production, and she played the role in the academic premiere of the play - at Washington University in St. Louis in 2005 - I really wrote a great deal of that role for Christena's insane talents. I don't know the other actors - Ned Cray, Allison Walton and a gentleman's name i can't remember playing bard. I've heard they're all fabulous!

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
Great - I've been in Chicago!

What's next for you after Fringe?
My company, Theatre Seven of Chicago, will conclude its third season with Cooperstown, my next full length play, opening November 16th at the Greenhouse Theatre in Chicago. I'll keep working on Sex Signals, the presentation I direct which is the nation's leading program on sexual assault prevention at college campuses and military bases. And Christena, who plays Candy, is getting married like five days after the last show. Crazy times!

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
Maybe if I make it one long run-on sentence, the genie will count it as one wish. I wish for the end of murder, rape, violence, destruction, theft, warfare of all kinds, and I wish for the equal treatment of women, children, people of all races, creeds and appearances and I wish for the allowance of the peaceful pursuit of self-interest by every human being across the universe and I wish for a fresh pair of socks every day.

6 Seconds in Charlack
Golden & Mills
Written by Brian Golden
Directed by Patrick Mills

CSV Cultural and Educational Center Flamboyan
Fri 21 - 4 PM
Sun 23 - 3:45 PM
Mon 24 - 5 PM
Wed 26 - 10 PM
Fri 28 - 7:15 PM

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Fringe Q&A With Mary Adkins of The 49 Project

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Mary Adkins
Show: The 49 Project

How did you first get involved in theatre?
In sixth grade I played "Spinning Seaweed" in a community theater production of The Little Mermaid. I spun.

Who are your biggest influences?
I kind of pull ideas from everything I read. I am a huge fan of Tom Stoppard, Neil Simon, Wendy Wasserstein, David Auburn. I love Eugene O'Neill, Ibsen, Chekhov. I think Jean Genet is really great. Lately I'm enjoying reading through Neil LaBute's plays.

What is The 49 Project about?
In the world of the play, women - as 51 percent of the population - have successfully obtained majority representation in government and under power-corrupted female leadership, discriminatory policies against men have appeared. Nathan, the lead, directs a men's rights organization called The 49 Project (referring to the population stat for men). He is fed up with failure and desperate for some kind of visible change. He decides to recruit the organization's college intern, Christina, for a plan he believes will create such a change. The plan goes awry.

What inspired you to write it?
It occurred to me that if the gender distribution in a democratic government were to reflect the gender distribution in society, women would compose the majority. I thought it would be interesting to write a play about what might happen under that kind of regime.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
Marshall Pailet is the director and we've been working together since May. He's very talented and a lovely person, generally. Jack Thomas is producing and is an old friend and mentor. The cast includes Clayton Apgar, Dylan Moore, Bryan Russell, Zoey Martinson, Alexis McGuinness and Finerty Steeves. Stage manager is Michael John Carroll, also a wonderful person.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
I am actually working during the day so I've only been able to attend a couple of evening rehearsals. Both times I've been very impressed with what the cast has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.

What's next for you after Fringe?
The Fringe is home of the World Premiere of the play, and hopefully the play will have a life after the festival. That would be fantastic. As for me, I will keep writing. I have learned much through this process and started working on a new play this month. I'm also in law school, so that will be a priority as well.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
Eternal global peace. Just kidding, thicker hair.

The 49 Project
Jack Thomas / Bulldog Theatrical
Written by Mary Adkins
Directed by Marshall Pailet

The Studio at Cherry Lane
Tue 25 - 8:45 PM
Wed 26 - 2 PM
Thu 27 - 3 PM
Thu 27 - 7 PM
Fri 28 - 9:15 PM
Sat 29 - 5:30 PM

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Fringe Q&A With Alex DeFazio of 1-900-SELFPLEX

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Alex DeFazio
Show: 1-900-SELFPLEX

How did you first get involved in theatre?
In college. It was something I always wanted to do, and my high school had a wonderful theatre program, but I was so intimidated by the theatre kids and completely terrified of acting.

In college I began to sort of inch my way into theatre. I took several courses where I studied plays as texts. Gradually, though, I met students who wanted to perform, direct, and design actual shows. I experimented with acting and directing, but I’d been writing steadily since high school, so it wasn’t long before I tried my hand at playwriting.

Who are your biggest influences?
Most of my big influences come from literature – Lewis Carroll, Tom Robbins, Anais Nin, Anne Sexton, Hermann Hesse, William Blake, Erica Jong. It’s a real hodgepodge, but I love every one of these writers and learned so much from each of them.

Once I fell in love with writing plays, I also fell in love with Tennessee Williams, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and everything by Shakespeare.

I also had some very important personal influences: my high-school librarian, my senior-year English teacher, two high-school friends – Erica Kutcher (who passed away a few years ago) and Wendy Wisner (an amazing poet) – and Jody P. Person, the director of 1-900-SELFPLEX, with whom I’ve been collaborating for over ten years.

What is your show about?
1-900-SELFPLEX is about the power of storytelling, or storytelling as power.

The lead character, Alberta Lesalle, is an artist in her early forties who has never had professional success – as a writer, a singer, a "sexpert," or in any of the other careers she’s pursued. In the first scene of the play, there’s a boy in her apartment. Only she can see him; he’s like a piece of psychic furniture she isn’t sure where to place. However, once she starts talking with him, she realizes he’s a character from one of her unfinished stories. He’s HIV-positive, a hustler, the victim of many years of sexual abuse, and Alberta makes a very conscious choice not only to finish writing his story, but to write as him – to assume his identity and impersonate him over the phone. The boy becomes famous, and the play is about the lengths to which Alberta will go to sustain the deception.

What inspired you to write it?
Two things: Susan Blackmore’s essay, "Meme, Myself, I," and the unmasking of J.T. Leroy – who was supposedly an abused, transgendered, teenage boy – as the literary invention of a middle-aged female author.

Blackmore’s essay inspired the theme. Her idea is that none of us possess a "self" that is essentially or uniquely ours. Instead, she writes that our "self" is nothing more than a collection of stories or "memes" – a manufactured, artificial thing; a patchwork of fictions.

The J.T. Leroy scandal inspired some of the characters and circumstances of the play, but it’s not a play about J.T. Leroy any more than it’s a play about Susan Blackmore’s theories. It’s about a woman who consciously exploits this lack of "essence" in all of us – the fact that we are, all of us, forever playing characters. I find this idea intriguing, even freeing. At the same time, I also find it kind of frightening that I – or you, or all of us – may be nothing more than the sum of other people’s stories. I started writing the play because I wanted to see how this idea would play out in action, and the characters evolved from there.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
I already said something about my director, Jody P. Person. He’s been directing my plays for over ten years, from my first play in college to this one, and I am truly so lucky. We have very different tastes and approaches to the work we do – he’s a very physical person, for example, and trained for many years as a dancer, while I tend to be much more internal. I think we complement each other really well in this respect, and he’s instrumental in the development of all my work.

Two of our cast in 1-900-SELFPLEX – Deena Jiles and Michelle Wood – worked with us in 2007 on our FringeNYC production of my play, To Be Loved. They are both powerhouse actresses. Really, I’m so grateful they haven’t been swept up into the for-profit/commercial theatre or film industry – at least not yet – because it means they’ll work for us simply for the joy of it.

This is our first time working with Patrick Martin (who plays the boy) and Jennifer Joyce (Alberta’s partner, Max), and I’m equally grateful to have them. 1-900-SELFPLEX is Patrick’s first show in NYC. He has an astonishing presence – quiet and vulnerable, but tuned to such emotional rawness, it almost feels naked. Jennifer has been acting for many years. I have yet to get her to fess up to her full bio, but I know she’s acted with Christine Lahti and other established performers. She probably has the most experience of us all, but she’s gracious and wonderful, and the real emotional center of the play.

I should also say that everyone in the cast and crew of 1-900-SELFPLEX is somehow connected to Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ. Jody coordinates the Theatre and Dance Programs; I teach for the Theatre Program and English Department; Deena, Michelle, Pat, and Jennifer are all MCCC alumni (Jennifer also teaches there now); and Robert A. Terrano, our lighting designer, is the Coordinator of the Entertainment Technology Program. Jody, Robert, and I are colleagues at MCCC as well as collaborators outside of it, and everyone involved in the production shares a common experience of working as students or instructors to make theatre happen at the college.

Fringe shows are notorious for their short rehearsal schedule. How has the rehearsal process been?
Fantastic! Yes, it’s been short, but we made a decision this time around to limit rehearsal time. Obviously we want to be prepared – and we are – but there’s something about the energy of just enough rehearsal time that keeps everyone lively and on their toes. In the past we’ve over-rehearsed, and that can be simply deadly.

What's next for you after Fringe?
More writing. And teaching. And writing.

And finally, if a genie were to grant you one wish, what would you wish for?
That these kinds of opportunities to present my work and collaborate with people I trust will never end. Genie or no genie, I honestly can’t ask for more.

Elixir Productions Theatre Company
Written by Alex DeFazio
Directed by Jody P. Person

The Studio at Cherry Lane
Mon 17 - 2 PM
Tue 18 - 5 PM
Thu 20 - 8:15 PM
Sat 22 - 4:15 PM
Thu 27 - 9:15 PM
Fri 28 - 4:45 PM

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