Wednesday, March 9, 2011

FRIGID New York Festival Roundup: Part 2

By Byrne Harrison

The second part of my FRIGID New York Festival experience. Some of these shows are featured in the FRIGID Hangover, so there is still time to see a little of what the festival had to offer.

The Bitter Poet: Looking For Love In All The Wrong Black Box Performance Spaces
Written and Performed by Kevin Draine

The American West has its cowboy poets, lonely men of the plains. I think Kevin Draine's Bitter Poet is the New York equivalent. His poetry, which he accompanies on guitar, covers his numerous dating foibles. Featuring strippers, performance artists, and cheating girlfriends, Draine's poetry is moving and evocative, and it would be hard not to like his Bitter Poet persona.

Draine states at the beginning of the show that this isn't theatre, as such. No story. No moral. Just life. And The Bitter Poet has plenty to say about life.

Set aside your expectations for what a one-man show should be, and check out The Bitter Poet.

Boat Load
Written and Performed by Jayson McDonald
Directed by Jeff Culbert

Gary Bazman is an actor in need of a change. Stuck performing uninspiring (and humiliating) children's theatre, he finds out about a prestigious playwriting competition that could move him on to something bigger and better (or at least different). But how can an actor living hand-to-mouth come up with $1,000 for the entry fee? And what about his sick cat, Mr. Tangerine, whose surgery will also be $1,000? Isn't that too much money to spend on a cat?

Jayson McDonald, a charming and versatile actor, vividly brings Gary and his circle of friends and family to life. Seemlessly moving from his pompous vet, disapproving father, psycho girlfriend, stoner best friend, and even Mr. Tangerine, McDonald creates a tight and funny story about becoming "unstuck" and finding ways to move forward in life, even if you find yourself moving in an unexpected direction.

Featuring strong direction, a winkingly clever script, and an outstanding performance, I'd like to see Boat Load come back for a longer stay.

Wonder Woman: A How To Guide For Little Jewish Girls
Written and Performed by Cyndi Freeman
Directed by David Drake

Wonder Woman. Looking at her costume, it's hard to believe that she is a voice for female empowerment. She could quite easily be ignored as another example of unrealistic male fantasy.

Well, once you've seen Cyndi Freeman's one-woman show, featuring excellent direction by Obie Award-winner David Drake, you'll see Wonder Woman for what she is, an empowered woman and feminist icon who has helped generations of women, including Cyndi Freeman, become empowered themselves.

Part history lesson (did you know Wonder Woman's creator invented the polygraph?), part coming-of-age tale, with just a touch of burlesque to shake things up, Freeman's show is fun and inspirational. You might find yourself spinning in place (a la Lynda Carter) just to see if you can transform into a star-spangled Amazon.

There Is No Good News
Written and Performed by David Mogolov
Directed by Steve Kleinedler
Music by Ryan Walsh and Evan Sicuranza

It's a treat to see a good, old-fashioned monologuist at work. Especially one with a wry sense of humor. David Mogolov is a skilled storyteller, weaving together a story that deals with the financial crisis and the people behind it, growing up, and the terror of becoming a father.

Mogolov is at his best sitting at a table and talking to the audience. Sometimes quiet, sometimes explosive, his voice draws the audience in and captivates them.

Director Steve Kleinedler does a solid job, and the show is remarkably polished (notwithstanding the fact that Mogolov uses notes during the show).

Goodnight Lovin' Trail
By John Patrick Bray
Directed by Akia
Production Stage Manager: Lindsay Beecher
Music by C. Gibbs & the Cardia Brothers
Guitar Design & Fabrication by Elaine Jones
Run Crew: Samantha Cooper, Dan Dombroff, Rick Benson, and Jason Vinoles
Photography by David Anthony
Publicity: Emily Owens PR
Featuring Lindsay Beecher, Joe Beaudin, Nic Mevoli and Olivia Rorick

Featuring a rotating cast (Joe Beaudin and Olivia Rorick at the performance I saw), Goodnight Lovin' Trail tells the story of two lost souls. One, referred to as Coffee & Cigarettes (Joe Beaudin), is a guitar player working his way west. The other, Lee (Olivia Rorick), is a widow nearing the end of her rope. Brought together by the theft of Coffee's guitar, the two recognize a certain kinship.

Bray's play is well-written and remarkably concise (the performance is only 35 minutes long). However, it never really feels rushed. Director Akia keeps the action on track and moving forward. There is a feeling of economy in her style. Nothing overdone or out of place.

My only complaint about this play is that the actors simply look a little too bright and composed for people who are so run down. Lee is a young widow with an out-of-control child, forced to work at a road house. Rorick, though a capable actor, rarely comes across that frazzled or worn down. The same is true of Beaudin. I would like to have seen a little more age and wear (literal or metaphorical) on these characters.

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