Monday, March 8, 2010

Review - Uncut 4 (Melissa E. Driscol and Stonewall Inn)

By Byrne Harrison

Melissa Driscol is back (not that she left) with her latest Uncut cabaret show at the Stonewall Inn. Uncut 4 - The Birthday Edition is, as the name implies, also an excuse for a big birthday party for Driscol.

Like her earlier 20 Years of Dating... much of Uncut 4 deals with Driscol's past relationships. In fact, her bevy of chorus boys each play one of her exes (with the exception of the terrific Matt Shofner who plays her gay best friend, Jeremy. Keep an eye out for Shofner, if this show is any indication he's a triple threat). As she takes the audience through her sexy, sordid past, she provides plenty of off-color humor at her own expense. Some of her stories will make you cringe in sympathy, and make you glad you're not doing a tell-all cabaret show of your own.

As in her previous shows, Driscol plays with some familiar pop songs by the Beatles, Christina Aguilera, and Kate Perry to name a few. She really shines, however, when she performs songs that she has written or arranged with her musical director and pianist Robby Stamper. Stamper and Driscol make a great team, bringing out the best in the other. This is certainly evident in two songs from this show, "Good Time Girl" and "Celebrate the Penis" (which also was a nice counterpoint to the earlier "Vagina" by Amanda Green). Other highlights of Uncut 4 included a spirited interpretation by Ariel Sinclair of Storm Large's "8 Miles Wide," and Driscol's take on Dickie Thompson's "13 Men and Me"

Although the boys are mostly there to help Driscol shine and provide some laughs, they do a particularly good job during a sex toy-enhanced dance number set to Mika's "Lollipop." Both this number and a very sexy "Fever" show off Jamie DelGosso's choreography very well.

The show is not without its faults, but it tends to embrace them. Prop and mic malfunctions, awkward entrances and exits (this is a bar, not a theatre, after all), and other mishaps are taken in stride. The show could use a little tightening up, the dialogue tends to drag at times, but overall Maria Gentile's direction is fine. Driscol herself says that the real purpose of the show is to make sure everyone has a good time. If the audience at Thursday's sold out performance is any indication, she has succeeded.

Uncut 4 - The Birthday Edition
Written by Melissa E. Driscol
Directed by Maria Gentile
Musical Direction by Robby Stamper
Choreography by Jamie DelGosso
Costume Design by Michael Plosky
Lights and Sound by Tony DeCicco
Featuring DJ Charles Rockhill

Featuring: Melissa E. Driscol, Brandon Cutrell (God), Chocolatina (as herself), Ariel Sinclair (Mom), Matthew Dean Fletcher (Ben), Charles Rockhill (Rob), Lawrence Baca (Jeff), Joshua Brooks (Alex), Matt Shofner (Jeremy), T.J. Fix (Mark)

Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher Street

To give you an idea of what to expect, here is the very NSFW video of Storm Large's "8 Miles Wide." While this isn't what we saw at Uncut 4, it does give a sense of the raunchy delights in Driscol's Uncut cabarets.

Review - Four Quarters (Agony Productions and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Carl Zetterstrom

Four Quarters is a good love story. Two people meet, learn to trust and open themselves up, fight, love, lose - all the usual things. The difference in Christopher Heath's play is that instead of presenting two halves trying to be made whole, he presents four quarters trying to become one.

The play centers on the relationship between Terry/Teri and Joe/Jo. As the names imply, each character is played by two actors - one male, one female. Heath eschews the obvious choice of having Teri (Tamar Pelzig) and Jo (Margo Brooke Pellmar) be the feminine side of the characters and Terry (Omer Barnea) and Joe (Solomon Shiv) be the masculine. Each half of each character is a fully developed person. While this may lead to some momentary confusion, especially when it comes to the sexual pairing (Terry and Jo, Teri and Jo, Terry and Joe, Teri and Joe, or all together depending on the scene), the payoff of watching these four actors work is worth it. Their chemistry, both in terms of the relationship between Joe/Jo and Terry/Teri and between Joe and Jo and Terry and Teri, is excellent. The actors work well together, and have a natural fluidity that assists in making it clear that each pair of actors is indeed part of the same person. The ensemble is a pleasure to watch.

The play is strong and the direction solid. While most of the production works, lighting designer Mark Jeter's decision to use bursts of light, meant to be reminiscent of photographer Joe/Jo's camera flash is distracting, and the set up for this lighting style at the opening of the play goes on for too long.

Overall, Four Quarters is an intriguing, well-written play that is given a good production at FRIGID New York. With luck, this won't be the last we see of it.

Four Quarters
Written and directed by Christopher Heath
Stage Manager: Heather Olmstead
Assistant Stage Manager: Jeremy Paschall
Lighting Designer: Mark Jeter
Art Designer: Grant King
Production Photography: Carl Zetterstrom

Featuring: Omer Barnea (Terry), Margo Brooke Pellmar (Jo), Tamar Pelzig (Teri), Solomon Shiv (Joe)

The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street

Closed Saturday, March 6th

Review - Uncorseted (LaGoDi Productions and the Shark Tank Players and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison

I think I know what Uncorseted is meant to be. This gender-bending farce where women play men, men play women, women play women, men play men, and in one case, a man plays a woman playing a man, seems to be aiming for the wild romps of Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. While it has some of the right elements - raunchy humor, inappropriate sex toys, double entendre, drag, camp, slapstick, sex - the whole is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

Uncorseted follows a series of characters at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair for the fencing exhibition. This provides an opportunity to play with gender roles both by having actors of one gender playing the other, and in that few of the characters conform to their accepted gender type anyway (especially considering that this is set in the extremely straight-laced Victorian era). While this could lead to a wild, cross-dressing comedy, Uncorseted remains flat and fallow.

Some of this is in the presentation of the story - there is more narration and less action than needed - however, the main problem with Uncorseted is that there seems to be little if any direction provided. Farce needs a strong hand to make sure the timing is impeccable, the jokes hit, and the actors are all on the same page. Without this, the play drags (the death knell for any farce), the audience sits in silence, and the actors preen and mug. The want of a director is very obvious in this production. What could be high camp fails in its execution.

Written and Performed by LaGoDi and the Shark Tank Players

Featuring: Lobo Logodey (CORNELIA), Lacey Carriage (PENELOPE), Goober Cemetery (FELICITY), Missy Peyton (GEORGE SAND), Fanny Florida (RAPIST, VIXEN, LESBIAN SWORD-FIGHTER, FREDERICK ), Phoebe Virgin (Douglas), Mandy Twin Laurel (VIXEN and as needed), Mollie Harvest (VIXEN and as needed), Smoky Topaz (GERTRUDE STEIN and VIXEN), Tim (CREW)

The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street

Closed Saturday, March 6th

Review - No Traveler ((a)muse Collective and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Cathryn Lynne

Penny Pollak earns major points for her creativity in her dark and fascinating No Traveler. In this one-woman show, Pollak plays a woman who commits suicide, and trapped between Heaven and Hell, is sent to witness and perhaps save others who are in the act of taking their own lives.

Through Pollak we experience both the last moments of these desperate people and her frantic attempts to save them. It's this conceit that allows Pollak to really shine as she plays a number of characters, all of whom are at the worst moments of their lives. In addition to performing these monologues, there are times when we see both sides of the conversation - first from one character's point of view, then the other's. This is a fascinating technique, and Pollak handles it very well. It is particularly moving when Pollak's final suicide is talked out of it by her character in Purgatory. The audience never knows just what the Purgatory character says to convince this final person that life is worth living, and while I would love to know the secret, it makes much better theatre this way.

Dark and a little creepy, with a streak of gallows humor, No Traveler is an odd little play. But in the skilled hands of Penny Pollak and director Samantha Jones, it is a pleasure to watch.

No Traveler
Co-created by Penny Pollak and Samantha Jones
Performed by Penny Pollak
Directed by Samantha Jones
Lighting Design by luckydave
Music Direction by Mike Milazzo
Songs performed by Mike Milazzo and Lee Goffin-Bonefant
Sound Design by Nicole Jung
Stage Manager: Marsha Brown
Photos: Rebecca Chiappone

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Thu 2/25 - 10:30 PM
Sat 2/27 - 10:00 PM
Sun 2/28 - 7:00 PM
Wed 3/03 - 10:30 PM
Sat 3/06 - 5:30 PM

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review - tenderpits (sh+sh=gold and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo provided by FRIGID New York

Anthony Johnston and Nathan Schwartz, the team responsible for last year's quirky and charming, Art's Heart, at FringeNYC, return with the equally offbeat play, tenderpits.

How best to describe tenderpits? A Canadian coming-of-age tale featuring a drunken moose. A show about a boy wizard who discovers that diapers and videogames make a useful combination. An opportunity for Johnston to sing a song from The Little Mermaid and set up a funny Jesus-related sight gag. A story about finding yourself and hopefully finding love. As the saying goes, it's all this and more.

Johnston's character in this one-man show, an awkward Canadian man-child who's trying to make it in New York, is sweetly endearing, but at the same time, you probably wouldn't want to sit next to him on the subway (the diaper being of primary concern). Put him onstage, however, and he becomes a fascinating character to watch and interact with (Johnston disregards the fourth wall quite often).

While tenderpits may be somewhat difficult to categorize, it is funny, strange (in a good way), and above all entertaining. Schwartz's direction is effective, keeping the somewhat disjointed play on the right path. Above all, it is an effective showcase for the extremely talented Anthony Johnston. Without a doubt, I am looking forward to the next production by this creative team.

Created by sh+sh=gold
Performed by Anthony Johnston
Directed by Nathan Schwartz
Video by Chmaj

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Wed 2/24 - 9:00 PM
Sat 2/27 - 5:30 PM
Tue 3/02 - 6:00 PM
Sat 3/06 - 1:00 PM
Sun 3/07 - 5:30 PM

Theatre Shorts

Dumbo: The Musical?

The Brick in Williamsburg is accepting applications for 2010 productions. Want to produce your play? Check out their site.

Boston's All the Kings Men to perform at the See You Next Tuesday festival in London.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Review - Late Nights with the Boys: confessions of a leather bar chanteuse (The Lopsided Company and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison

In an earlier interview with, Alex Bond pointed out that Late Nights with the Boys: confessions of a leather bar chanteuse is not a show, as such; it is a reading from Bond's novel of the same title, a fictionalized version of her days as a cabaret singer at a Dallas gay bar.

Fair enough. However, five minutes into Alex Bond and David Carson's performance, you may very well forget that they are reading.

Late Nights with the Boys follows a series of meetings between Anna Zander, former debutante and leather bar cabaret singer, and Craig Bauer, the eager young writer who is helping her write her memoirs. A proper Southern lady who nonetheless has a wild and adventurous side, Anna fascinates Craig, and he strives to create a masterpiece about the happiest time of her life, while satisfying his curiosity about this charming woman who seems so full of contradictions. Over the course of the performance, the audience gets to see Craig and Anna interact and hear Craig's preliminary chapters of Anna's memoirs.

Both Bond and Carson are engaging and entertaining actors. Carson excels at showing Craig's eagerness and his growing fascination with Anna. Bond is outstanding as Anna, capturing her down-home charm and the naughty twinkle in her eye. Using economical gestures - a sly smile here, a raised eyebrow there - Bond creates a fascinating, puckish character, and like Craig, it's impossible not to want to know more about her.

Therein lies the only flaw in this production, it made me wish they had time to read the whole book. If the rest of her work is anything like witty, well-crafted sample that was produced as part of the FRIGID New York festival, then Late Nights with the Boys: confessions of a leather bar chanteuse is a must-read.

If you miss Late Nights with the Boys, there is another opportunity to see Bond and Carson perform together. Maieutic Theatre Works has announced that they will be playing husband and wife in the world premiere of David Stallings' Barrier Island in May.

Late Nights with the Boys: confessions of a leather bar chanteuse
Written by Alex Bond
Directed by Steven Yuhasz

Featuring: Alex Bond and David Carson

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Wed 2/24 - 6:00 PM
Sat 2/27 - 7:00 PM
Mon 3/01 - 9:00 PM
Fri 3/05 - 6:00 PM
Sun 3/07 - 2:30 PM

Friday, March 5, 2010

From the Blogosphere

The latest Broadway Bullet features Signs of Life, Hangman School for Girls, +30 NYC, and Fearless Moral Inventory.

Leonard Jacobs takes neo-con John Podhoretz to task for trashing Signs of Life, the Holocaust musical he hasn't even bothered to see. He also interviews Joel Derfner, part of the creative team behind the show.

Patrick Lee interviews Heidi Blickenstaff, who will be performing in the upcoming Actors Fund benefit reading of Valley of the Dolls.

Kevin Daly reviews the new cast of God of Carnage.

There's a new episode of Stage Rush TV up.

Ryan J. Davis reminds everyone to buy their tickets to the Broadway Beauty Pageant.

A good Purim and a bad Purim.

Ken Davenport interviews his next Broadway Pro, Hugh Hysell and announces the first play in Davenport Development's Reading Series, Alex Webb's Amelia on Monday, March 15th.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Theatre Shorts

By Byrne Harrison

A good article about Broadway rush, lottery and standing-room only policies.

While in New York performing in the Met's production of the opera Hamlet, Natalie Dessay will participate in an evening of music, drama and commentary devoted to one of Shakespeare's most tragic and least understood heroines, Ophelia. Reading selections from Shakespeare's play will be Tony Award-winner Blair Brown (The Clean House, Copenhagen, Arcadia), Drama Desk Award-winner Lauren Ambrose (Exit the King, Hamlet, Awake and Sing), Jennifer Ikeda (Hamlet, Top Girls), Santino Fontana (Hamlet, Sunday in the Park with George, Billy Elliot), and others. Ms Dessay will be singing from Ambroise Thomas's opera Hamlet and soprano Julie Boulianne, about to make her New York City Opera debut in Chabrier's L'Etoile, will sing Berlioz's "La Mort d'Ophelie."

In a move that is causing quite a bit of debate, the producers of the revival of Promises, Promises have announced that they are adding the well-known Bacharach/David hit "I Say a Little Prayer" to the first act.

Marin Mazzie joins cast of Enron.

Singer Patti Page honored in Barnstable for her 1957 hit, "Old Cape Cod."

TCG discusses the pros and cons of texting in the theatre.

Billy Cruddup to star in the Vineyard Theatre's production of Adam Rapp's The Metal Children in May. The show is also being directed by Rapp.

This month's Project Shaw reading by the Gingold Theatrical Group is The Doctor's Dilemma. And don't forget their St. Patrick's Day celebration.

David Mamet's Race, starring James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington and Richard Thomas, will play its 100th performance tonight at 8:00.

For those who are looking for film opportunities, ACEFEST will be holding their annual networking party at Amnesia in Chelsea on March 25th. Guests are encouraged to bring business cards, headshots, postcards and other promotional materials to the party.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review - Vodka Shoes (Leslie Goshko and FRIGID New York)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Craig Ruttle

Leslie Goshko is perky. Fiercely, relentlessly perky. Think of a really perky person - Rachel Ray springs to mind. Well, Leslie Goshko makes her look like Eeyore.

Vodka Shoes, Goshko's show about her dysfunctional childhood, is entertaining, if for no other reason than it allows Goshko a chance to be in front of an audience, a place where she seems completely at home. But once you add in a series of funny, cringe-inducing stories about growing up with an alcoholic dad and a Charismatic Christian mom - the kind that believes that every day is a good day to go to church and that prayer doesn't count if you're not speaking in tongues, what you get is a funny, touching, and well-written one-woman show.

Director Kyle Erickson keeps the pacing fast - appropriate for this sort of comedy - and makes sure the small stage at UNDER St. Marks is fully utilized, but otherwise, lets Goshko and her stories take center stage. His touch is light, yet effective.

Vodka Shoes is one of the funnier shows at this year's FRIGID New York Festival. While living with her father's "wheel of crazy" and her mother's attempts at beating the devil out of her was probably no picnic, Goshko survived and turned it into art.

Vodka Shoes
Written and Performed by Leslie Goshko
Directed by Kyle Erickson

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Thu 2/25 - 7:30 PM
Sat 2/27 - 4:00 PM
Thu 3/04 - 9:00 PM
Fri 3/05 - 7:30 PM
Sun 3/07 - 1:00 PM