Friday, March 4, 2011

FRIGID New York Festival Round Up: Part 1

By Byrne Harrison

Unfortunately, I was unable to see as much of the FRIGID Festival as I would have liked, especially given the great interviews that the participants gave. Here is a brief round up of the first FRIGID shows that I was able to see. I hope that this encourages you to check out this year's terrific offerings.

Fate, Fury, and Musical Theatre: A Kind of Cabaret
Written and Performed by Liz Wasser
Directed by Amanda Thompson
Choreographer: Chanda Calentine
Stage Manager: Laura Hirschberg
Producer: Matt Franzetti
Pianist & Musical Director: Kristin Sgarro
Featuring: Liz Wasser, Michael Hull, Kennedy Kanagawa, Ryan David LaMont

This inventive show follows Liz, an actress pushed to the breaking point by a bad Equity open call, who after running to Montauk meets the incarnation of the ancient Greek gods, the Fates/Furies (Michael Hull, Kennedy Kanagawa, Ryan David LaMont). The three Fates, who know everything about human destiny, are unable to directly affect it, though they can give it a little nudge from time to time. In a game of cat and mouse, Liz tries to figure out where her life is going, and what she should be doing with it.

The show is terrific, and features some talented actors. Wasser is a strong playwright and performer. Fate, Fury, and Musical Theatre features clever, snappy dialogue (especially for the Fates, portrayed here not as women, but as flamboyant, fabulous gay men). The music is well done (both in terms of Music Director Kristin Sgarro's work and the strong voices of the actors), and featured some very clever mash-ups (my favorite being one that mixed Lady Gaga and Sweeney Todd). Chanda Calentine's choreography was terrific and made good use of the limited space. Amanda Thompson's direction was outstanding. All in all a very good production.

Hi, How Can I Help You?
Written and Performed by Scout Durwood
Directed by Lucile Baker Scott

Sometimes one-man shows have a tendency to get a little self-indulgent. This is most certainly not the case in Scout Durwood's play about the ladies (and customers) at a local "house of domination." Set on the eve of the 2008 election, everyone has different reactions to the brash upstart, Barack Obama, who is bringing a message of hope to the country, but like him or not, everyone is affected by the new energy that is sweeping the nation.

The play gives a slice-of-life view of a night at the house. Jane, one of the girls who left to get a legitimate job, has returned after failing in the outside work world. Most of the girls welcome her back, but not Genevieve, her younger, prettier rival. The most interesting scenes of the play feature interactions between the two. Also part of the mix are Charlotte, a flighty English girl, Darcy, the receptionist and Jane-of-all-trades at the house, and Lisa, the seen-it-all owner of the house. Durwood does an exceptional job bringing these women (and a couple of their customers) to life in this play that features music, comedy, hula hoops, recorders, and a host of other props (trust me, it's cool).

One conceit of the play didn't always work for me. At times, the audience is put in the role of the "new girl," someone who is trying to get a job at the house, and at others, the audience is acknowledged as the audience and the play is acknowledged to be just a play. I think it would have been stronger if the audience had had one role only. Personally, I liked the audience as "new girl."

Overall however, this was an excellent production. Durwood is an amazingly versatile actor. It was easy to forget as she moved from character to character that she was only one person.

Paradise Lost
By John Milton
Adapted, Directed and Performed by Paul Van Dyck
Lighting design by Jody Burkholder
Puppet designer: Lyne Paquette
CGI artist: Jeremy Eliosoff

Van Dyck's Paradise Lost celebrates theatricality. Featuring CGI projections, puppetry, masks, and music, this retelling of Satan's fall and the corruption of Adam and Eve is outstanding and one of the highlights of the festival. Van Dyck is an engaging performer with good vocal range that he uses to great effect as he plays brings to life Satan, Sin, Death, Adam and Eve, and God. Jeremy Eliosoff's CGI work is excellent and adds many dimensions to an already strong show.

For me, however, the real surprise was Lyne Paquette's Adam and Eve puppets and the excellent job that Van Dyck did in animating them. It was wonderful to watch.

I highly recommend that you see this play while you can, and I hope we will be seeing more of Paul Van Dyck and this inspired show.

Saving Tania's Privates
Written and Performed by Tania Kattan
Directed by Carys Kresny
Stage Manager: Emily Reitman
Lighting Design: AJ Epstein
Sound Design: Rob Witmer
Dramaturg/Associate Producer: Liza Comtois
Marketing/PR: Stephanie Schroeder
Additional Marketing: Kirsten Berkman Winikoff
Shirt Design:

It's odd to think that a play about breast cancer and breakups can be a comedy, but Tania Kattan's riotously funny Saving Tania's Privates is just that. Dealing with her family issues, dating life, and her two bouts of breast cancer and the mastectomies that followed each bout, this could have been a really dark play. Kattan went the other route, and created a wildly funny, but remarkably moving play about her life and struggles. Through humor, Kattan finds strength, and that comes out clearly in this show.

Kattan is both a good storyteller and actress, expertly bringing her friends, lovers and family to life onstage. Featuring outstanding direction by Carys Kresny, this funny and powerful play is not to be missed.

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