Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review - Twenty Years of Dating . . . (The Duplex Cabaret Theatre)

Melissa Driscol is back at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre performing her second solo show, Twenty Years of Dating . . . . Weaving together an eclectic mix of songs, Driscol's latest show is a dating parade full of humor, embarrassment, love, broken hearts, and above all, hope.

Though appearing somewhat nervous during her first two numbers ('Walk Like a Man' and 'My Guy') and the stories that accompany them, Driscol quickly warmed up and hit her stride. Balancing humor (her take on Kate Perry's 'I Kissed a Girl' and an amusing seduction scene set to 'My Humps' by the Black Eyed Peas) with genuine emotion ('Hold On' from The Secret Garden and 'A Way Back to Then' from [title of show]) allow her to showcase both her creativity and her range. However, Driscol truly shines when performing songs by local cabaret stalwarts Maria Gentile and Scott Evan Davis (Gentile also directs, while Davis provides musical direction and backup vocals). Gentile's songs ('Friend of Mine' and 'Work in Progress') bring out a depth and maturity in Driscol's performance that is ultimately much more satisfying than the pop songs.

Featuring backup by a talented group of musicians and a fair number of guests, Twenty Years of Dating . . . is the latest feather in the cap of a this up-and-coming cabaret talent. Sadly, Twenty Years of Dating . . . has an extremely short run - February 20th and February 28th, but Driscol can be seen every Monday and Tuesday night downstairs at the Duplex Piano Bar.

Written by Melissa E. Driscol
Musical Direction by Scott Evan Davis
Directed by Maria Gentile
Featuring Jimmy Keaton

The Duplex Cabaret Theatre
61 Christopher Street

Friday, February 20th, 9:30 PM
Saturday, February 28th, 10 PM

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review - Raised in Captivity (Red Fern Theatre Company)

Review by Byrne Harrison

You think your life is bad? Chances are it's pretty good compared to those of the characters portrayed in Nicky Silver's Raised in Captivity. Silver's dark absurdist comedy is filled with damaged people, desperate need and longing, failed attempts to connect, and some good laughs.

Sebastian (Josh Lefkowitz) and Bernadette (Emilie Elizabeth Miller) are estranged twins brought together by the death of their mother. Bernadette is married to Kip (Bryant Mason), a dentist who hates teeth. Both long for an escape from their lives. Sebastian is still grieving his lover, Simon, who died from AIDS eleven years earlier. The closest he has come to a relationship in recent years is with Dylan (José Joaquín Pérez), a convicted murder on death row with whom he has become pen pals. Despite Bernadette's pleas for Sebastian to come stay with them, it's met with great relief on all sides when he doesn't.

Sebastian's only other significant relationship is with his clingy, needy therapist (Jennifer Dorr White). After four years without any growth or change, he fires her. Her abandonment issues lead her down a path of lunacy much greater than her clients likely ever faced. Blinded and homeless, she nevertheless jumps at the chance to help Sebastian when he is nearly killed by a hustler (Pérez) who slashes him in a pickup turned robbery. Moving in with Kip and Bernadette, who are helping Sebastian through his convalescence, her presence only makes Sebastian withdraw further, and drives a wedge between Kip and Bernadette, finally bringing everything to a head, and giving the characters the change the so desperately need.

Silver's dialogue is marvelous and witty, with a surprising depth. This is particularly true in a scene where Sebastian is describing Simon's death while Dylan describes the murder he committed. The humor is always laced with a little venom or a hint of the gallows. It's a pleasure to hear.

Jennifer Dorr White as Hillary steals the show. Though Hillary is unbalanced, and eventually unhygenic, White nonetheless imparts a certain dignity to her, without undercutting her basic desperation. Lefkowitz as Sebastian does well, though his chemistry with Pérez (either as Dylan or as Roger, the hustler) brings out the best in him. Both Mason and Miller as Kip and Bernadette acquit themselves well, but there is a flatness to their characters. Although they provide some of the laugh lines of the show (Bernadette in particular), their characters seem underdeveloped.

The Red Fern Theatre Company does an admirable job brining Raised in Captivity to life. Dominic D'Andrea's direction is strong, though a decision to have various monologues spoken into downstage microphones is awkward. Scenic and lighting designers Eliza Brown and Jessica Greenberg, respectively, do well with the Shell Theater's tiny space.

Raised in Captivity won't be for everyone. But for audience members looking for a challenge, it is well worth checking out.

Written by Nicky Silver
Directed by Dominic D'Andrea
Scenic Designer: Eliza Brown
Costume Designer: Emily DeAngelis
Lighting Designer: Jessica Greenberg
Sound Designer: Daniel Kluger
Fight Director: Qui Nguyen
Properties Designer: Ashton Giaume
Stage Manager: Erienne Wredt
Assistant Director: T.J. Clark
Illustrator: Chris Flecker

Featuring: Josh Lefkowitz (Sebastian), Bryant Mason (Kip), Emilie Elizabeth Miller (Bernadette), José Joaquín Pérez (Roger/Dylan), Jennifer Dorr White (Hillary/Miranda)

The Shell Theater
300 W. 43rd Street

January 29th-February 15th

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Announcement - 20 Years of Dating . . . (The Duplex Cabaret Theatre)

The Duplex Cabaret Theatre presents:



20 Years of Dating . . .

Friday, February 20th, at 9:30 pm
Saturday, February 28th, at 10:00 pm

Melissa E. Driscol will be returning to the Duplex stage for her second solo cabaret on Friday, February 20th, at 9:30pm, and Saturday, February 28th, at 10:00pm.

There is a $10 cover, as well as a two drink minimum. A $5 discount is available to members of the Actors’ Equity Association and the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC).

The Duplex Cabaret Theatre is located at 61 Christopher St., in the heart of New York's West Village. For reservations, please log on to:

20 Year of Dating . . . features an eclectic selection of songs and stories. Styles range from Motown to Broadway to Pop/Rock, and many of the songs were written by songwriters still living and writing in New York. Song choices include: 'Friend of Mine' by Maria Gentile, 'Tractor Song' by Robby Stamper, 'A Way Back to Then' from [title of show], 'Hold On' from Secret Garden, 'Three Little Birds' by Bob Marley, 'Candyman' by Christina Aguilera, and many more. The title song is 'Work in Progress,' written by Maria Gentile and Scott Evan Davis, who also direct the show.

Melissa E. Driscol’s cabaret debut was in 2005 with For a Good Time Call . . . , a show written by Driscol and Hannah Ingram. Melissa started writing 20 Years of Dating . . . while in Italy last year. Inspired by dating a young man from Naples, as well as all of the amazing scenery, she could not wait to get back to the Duplex to share these fun stories. Melissa is a 6-year member of the Duplex family and can be seen every week at The Duplex Piano Bar on Monday and Tuesday nights.

For more information, please visit:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Review - Sunday on the Rocks (Those Girls Productions)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo courtesy of Those Girls Productions

It's probably not a good sign when you wake up early on a Sunday only to find one of your roommates on the back porch pouring herself a scotch. But a day full of liquor, gossip, dark secrets, smoking, and snack food does more than just piss off your uptight, church-going roommate. In Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks these situations can cement and tear apart relationships, all the while shining a light on how women relate to themselves, each another and the men they date.

Elly (Marion Attal) has just found out she's pregnant. Shaken by the news, she has to decide what to do next. She has a man who loves her and wants to marry her, but this is not the life she wants for herself. On the other end of the spectrum is Jessica (Alexsandra Bailey). Uptight, moral and self-assured, what she wants most is a man who loves her and will start a family with her. Instead, she has a longtime boyfriend who seems perfectly happy with the status quo. Even though Jessica doesn't appear until Act 2, her shadow hangs over everything in this play. She chose the furniture on the back porch that Elly, Gayle (Rebecca Rose McCain), and Jen (Meagan Barno) all hate. She has rules about smoking, eating, cleaning, drinking and any other behavior that you can think of. Even when the other roommates are on their own, they are thinking about Jessica.

Gayle is sensible - the peacemaker of the group. She understands why Elly and Jessica are constantly fighting, but she tries to remain neutral. Jen is the flirt. While she doesn't mean anything by it, her flirtation with an unbalanced man and his violent reaction to it lead to the moment of reckoning between Jessica and Elly.

This inaugural production by Those Girls has several weaknesses. Among them are a certain predictability of Rebeck's script, flaccid directing by James Holland, slow pacing, and a general lack of tension on the part of the actors. Sunday on the Rocks is a play with definite highs and lows, but this production tends to take the middle road, flattening out some of the intense moments, and overplaying some of the others.

This is not to say that the show doesn't have its share of strengths as well. There is a certain silly, drunken glee in some of the early scenes that works very well. In addition, both Attal and Bailey have moments where they practically glow with anger at each other, their situations, and their lives in general. In these fleeting moments, especially when they are dealing with the frustrations of not having the lives they want, one can see what this company may be capable of in the future.

Although the production was not all that it could be, it is a decent start for a young company. They are clearly committed to bringing women's voices to the stage. Expect good things from them in the future.

Written by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by James Holland
Lighting Director: Amy Wowak
Artistic Director: Anne Attal
Graphic Design: Jay Clue
Stage Manager: Amy Wowak
House Manager: Emily Vick
Sound Designer: Nafeez Zawahir

Featuring: Marion Attal (Elly), Rebecca Rose McCain (Gayle), Meagan Barno (Jen), Alexsandra Bailey (Jessica)

The Theater at 30th Street
259 W. 30th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)

January 27th-February 8th
Tues.-Sat. at 8 PM, Sat. and Sun. at 2 PM.