Monday, April 16, 2012

“Happy Hour” - More than an hour, and not always happy

By Judd Hollander

Playwright Ethan Coen loves to study the human condition. Specifically man's foibles, follies, prejudices, preconceptions and carefully laid plans gone terribly askew. Unfortunately, sometimes Coen has a habit of leaving things unfinished. Such is the case with Happy Hour, the umbrella title of three of his one-act comedies recently presented by the Atlantic Theater Company.

The curtain-raiser, entitled End Days, begins with Hoffman (Gordon MacDonald), a disgruntled middle-aged sort, sitting on a bar stool complaining things have gone so hi-tech, it's impossible to keep up with the flow of information. So intent is Hoffman on making his point, he never lets his fellow barflies get a word in edgewise, if they're even listening to him in the first place.

Looking closely at Hoffman, it is clear he is a sort of dinosaur. He reads a newspaper instead of looking at news online and clips out articles instead of downloading them. He's also basically mad at the world, offering opinions on everything from global warming to the digital age, with assorted conspiracy theories on each. MacDonald does a nice job with the role, showing Hoffman to be at least partly at fault for his situation. The play both a cautionary tale about a person's unwillingness to change and a comic look at one individual standing alone while holding tightly to his convictions.

Second up is City Lights. Taking place in the late 1970s, it's the story of four closet dreamers each trying to find their way in a world wrought with cynicism. Ted (Joey Slotnick), a studio musician and pothead, is in major meltdown mode. Having accidentally left a demo tape of his music in a taxi cab, he finds himself trying to contact Kim (Aya Cash), the person at the "fake" phone number he gave the Cabbie (Rock Kohli), a struggling songwriter, in order to have her intercept the Cabbie's call. Kim meanwhile has just seen her relationship end, her boyfriend dumping her for being too suffocating. When Kim and the more volatile Ted meet, the two mix like fire and water. At the same time Kim's preppy friend Marci (Cassie Beck) finds herself becoming very attracted to the Cabbie, who happens to drop by after listening to Ted's tape, pronouncing it to be soulfully brilliant.

There is a tremendous amount of comic potential here, Coen doing a great job by peppering the story with funny bits throughout. Such as a stoned Ted reacting to a telephone ringing and his subsequently chowing down on a bag of Oreos; Kim's habit of eating ice cream whenever she's depressed; and the various touches by set designer Riccardo Hernandez which give life to the time period indicated. Cash is great as Kim, a woman looking for a new soul mate; Slotnick is both funny and somewhat tragic as Ted, a guy who unconsciously destroys every relationship he's in; Kohli is appealing in an earthy sort of way as the Cabbie, a working stiff with a passion for both life and music; and Beck works well as Cassie, a supporting character who offers a nice blend of realism and dreams.

Unfortunately Coen takes the play only so far, setting up all the pieces before stopping everything dead in its tracks. It's as he simply got tired of what he was writing and stopped midstream. As a result the audience is left hanging, having invested their time in these characters and then seeing everything switch off without warning. 

Last up is Wayfarer's Inn, an interesting tale of Buck (Clark Gregg) and Tony (Lenny Venito), two continually traveling businessmen. Buck, one of those married fellows with a girl in every town, is happily preparing for an evening of dinner and sex via a double date he has set up for himself and Tony.

Yet Tony, tired of the same routine in every place they visit, finds himself with a crisis of faith, trying to figure out what women want, how men can make them happy and what it all means. After a somewhat existential and soul-searching discussion, Buck heads out alone to meet Gretchen (Ana Reeder) and Lucy (Amanda Quaid), the trio ending up at a Japanese restaurant, with each often on separate pages of the conversation, especially when Gretchen tells of her ex-boyfriend's encounter with a blowfish. There's also a hilarious bit featuring a perennially screaming Japanese Waitress (Susan Hyon), who keeps entering the conversations at the most importune time.

Wayfarer's Inn is meant to be a sort of wake-up call for Buck about what's important in life and what he needs to do to become a better man; a conclusion Tony has apparently already reached. Yet because Buck is not all that likeable, as well as a bit perhaps smarmy and chauvinistic, the entire scenario doesn't really work. Acting is fine throughout, even though most of the characters are pretty-much one-dimensional.

Combining various elements of black humor with pathos and longing, Coen uses these one-acts to explore some intriguing ideas about what people are like underneath their protective exteriors and how insecurities can undermine any modicum of happiness one strives to attain. However, much of what Coen presents is somewhat incomplete, leaving each work unfinished to varying degrees. With End Days and Wayfarer's Inn he pretty much has the end goal in sight but with City Lights he leaves the entire play twisting in the wind. A valiant attempt by Coen and director Neil Pepe, but each of the individual works needs some serious polishing before they see the light of day again.

Happy Hour

End Days - Gordon MacDonald (Hoffman), Clark Gregg (Koch), Lenny Venito (Bartender), Ana Reeder (Female Voice), Rock Kohli (Slava), Joey Slotnick (Man in Parka)

City Lights - Joey Slotnick (Ted), Aya Case (Kim), Cassie Beck (Marci) Rock Kohli (Cabbie)

Wayfarer's Inn - Clark Gregg (Buck), Lenny Venito (Tony), Susan Hyon (Japanese Waitress), Ana Reeder (Gretchen), Amanda Quaid (Lucy)

Written by Ethan Coen
Directed by Neil Pepe
Sets: Riccardo Hernandez
Costumes: Sarah Edwards
Lights: Jason Lyons
Sound: David Van Tieghem
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Stage Manager: Alison DeSantis
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Manager; Michael Wade
Assistant Stage Manager: Lauren Kurinskas

Atlantic Theater Company
The Peter Norton Space
555 West 42nd Street
Running Time: Two Hours, 10 minutes
Closed: January 1, 2012

“Richard II” - A Timely Political Drama

By Judd Hollander

As seen through the eyes of director J.R. Sullivan, the Pearl Theatre Company delivers an illuminating production of William Shakespeare's Richard II; one filled with sarcasm, wit, and harsh political irony.

In late 14th century England, King Richard II (Sean McNall) rules with an iron hand and velvet glove. A bit of a fop and wastrel, he is perhaps too eager to listen to his ever-present flatterers, personified here by Bagot (Charlie Francis Murphy), Bushy (Simon Kendall), and Green (Robin Leslie Brown); persons who are more interested in advancing their own interests rather than doing what's good for the country. There is also the lingering suspicion Richard had a hand in the death of his uncle, the much-beloved Earl of Gloucester.

When Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford (Grant Goodman), and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (Chris Mixon), who are preparing to face off in a duel, refuse the King's request to put down their arms, they find themselves banished from the kingdom. However, Bolingbroke will not go into the gentle good night of lonely wondering, instead gathering an army of supporters to go up against the King. Bolingbroke quickly finds he has no lack of allies, especially after the King seizes Bolingbroke's lands in order to help pay for a war in Ireland; a fate other nobles fear may also happen to them.

The beginning of Shakespeare's history play cycle, (Bolingbroke will eventually become Henry VI), Richard II is one of the Bard's more overtly political works. It also helps that much of the circumstances presented are particularly timely today, given the current economic situation in the United States and much of Europe.

The play also contains an interesting commentary on how people manage to convince themselves of the righteousness of their actions. Such as Bolingbroke's attempt to reclaim his landed birthright, which then becomes a chance for him to seize control of the throne. This premise becomes even more evident via the Duke of York (Bill Christ) who, though he despises Richard's rule, remains steadfastly loyal to the King until Bolingbroke convinces him to switch sides. Yet when those sympathetic to Richard try to save him, York accuses those involved, includes his own son, of treason. All of which shows how the concept of loyalty can shift with the prevailing winds.

Fascinating as the story may be, there is no getting around the excess verbiage in the text, which tends to slow things down, especially in the introductory scenes. In addition, with such a strong emphasis placed on Richard, Bolingbroke and York in this production, others characters tend to fall by the wayside. It would have been nice for example to learn more about Bagot, Bushy and Green, not to mention better integrating Jolly Abraham into the proceedings as Richard's Queen. Ms. Abraham does get a chance to shine in her few brief scenes, but her efforts feel somewhat removed from the rest of the action. Additionally, having 12 actors play 30 characters is admirable, but with the same people playing multiple roles, things tend to get confusing at times - such as with Mixon playing both Mowbray and Northumberland.

McNall makes a wonderful Richard, a man wise beyond his years, playing the role with an inner peace, secure in the knowledge his motives are just and also getting in numerous biting and telling comments about political realities. Goodman is very good as the ambitious Bolingbroke, an embittered nobleman wanting to return from exile in triumph, but never quite counting on the strings that come attached to all he usurps. Other strong performances include Christ as York, Abraham as Queen Isabella and Carol Schultz as the sometimes hilariously hysteria-driven Duchess of York.

Sullivan's direction is a bit of a mixed bag, working better as the play moves forward, his efforts being especially strong in the scenes with Richard. While there is little humor present in the text, other than in Richard's irony-laden speeches, Sullivan does present an interesting take on one of the final scenes, effectively playing it for laughs and changing the feeling from utter seriousness to almost eye-rolling comedy.

Harry Feiner's set is strongly atmospheric and the various costumes by Martha Hally are nicely subdued, the darker garments most of the characters wear a marked contrast to a bright red robe and other ornamental trappings Richard dons. Sound design by Jane Shaw is quite good.

This production of Richard II doesn't hit on all cylinders, but it's still a very interesting and absorbing production, with McNall turning in one of the best performances of the title role in recent memory.

Richard II
By William Shakespeare
Directed by J.R. Sullivan
Scenic Design: Harry Feiner
Costume Design: Martha Hally
Lighting Design: Stephen Petrilli
Sound Design: Jane Shaw
Dramaturg: Kate Farrington
Voice & Text Direction: Dudley Knight
Fight Direction: Rob Kinter
Assistant to the Director: David Ian Lee
Movement Coach: Kali Quinn
Production Stage Manager: Dale Smallwood

Jolly Abraham (Queen, Harry Percy)
Robin Leslie Brown (Duchess of Gloucester, Green, Gardener's Assistant, Murderer 1) Wayne T. Carr (Duke of Aumerle, Lord Willoughby, Keeper of the Prison)
Bill Christ (Duke of York)
Dominic Cuskern (Lord Marshal, Lord Salisbury, Abbot of Westminster, Groom, York's Servant)
Grant Goodman (Henry Bolingbroke)
Simon Kendall (Bushy, Sir Stephen Scroop Lord Fitzwater, Murderer 2)
Dan Kremer (John of Gaunt, Gardener)
Sean McNall (Richard II)
Chris Mixon (Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland
Charlie Francis Murphy (Bagot, Lord Berkeley, Welsh Captain, Sir Pierce of Exton) Carol Schultz (Bishop of Carlisle, Lady Attending the Queen, Duchess of York)

Presented by the Pearl Theatre Company
New York City Center, Stage II

131 West 55th Street

Running time: 3 hours, with one intermission

Closed: December 24, 2011

“The Cherry Orchard” - An Interesting Take on a Classic

By Judd Hollander
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Anton Chekhov called his play The Cherry Orchard "a comedy", though it's usually been presented with heavily dramatic overtones. The Classic Stage Company's recent production of the work however took deliberate aim at the lighter side when telling this story of denial, changing times, class differences and broken hearts.

In early twentieth century Russia, matriarch Ranevskaya (Dianne Wiest) is returning to the family country estate after a five-year absence. Accompanying Ranevskaya is her daughter Anya (Katherine Waterston) and brother Gaev (Daniel Davis). While the returnees are welcomed quite warmly by Ranevskaya's adopted daughter Varya (Juliet Rylance), the manager of the estate, and Lopakhin (John Turturro), a local businessman, all is not well. Ranevskaya has just gotten out of a bad relationship with a man who went through most of her assets, and who now sends her daily telegrams imploring her to take him back. More importantly, she is seemingly incapable of curbing her extravagant spending habits, no matter how she tries to stop herself. Upon her return home she is informed that the estate is heavily in debt and if the family cannot come up a large amount of money, the entire property, which includes a magnificent cherry orchard, will be sold at auction.

As these events play out over the several summer weeks, other elements are introduced, most of them having to do with love and its proximity between the emotions of need and loneliness. It's these feelings which cause Ranevskaya to continually consider going back to a damaged relationship. There's also Epikhodov (Michael Urie), a lovable klutz who always seems to be doing the wrong thing and who's in love with the servant girl Dunyasha (Elisabeth Waterston). Dunyasha initially returns his advances, but when given a taste of possible alternatives, she begins to question that initial decision. Love, or the lack of it, also flourishes between Anya and Trofimov (Josh Hamilton), a professional student who feels people should be above such matters and instead focus on the problems of the world. As for Varya, she loves Lopakhin dearly and would marry him in an instant if only he asked.

Director Andrei Belgrader should be commended for guiding the actors through the proceedings with a light touch, and allowing both the humor and pathos of the various situations to come through. In a scene which could very easily be played as drama, Lopakhin comically bursts a gasket as he tries to convince Ranevskaya and Gaev to sell the cherry orchard, literally pummeling the ground in frustration as the two seem to be blissfully unaware of the direness of the situation. Other amusing moments include Gaev and his relationship with a bookcase, and Urie as the ever-hapless Epikhodov, who keeps getting into one mishap after another.

However, there is no denying the deeper underlying issues in the story, with Wiest becoming a sort of emotional chameleon throughout. Putting on an oblivious attitude when she chooses, while at other times dispensing harsh common sense to her daughters regarding their relationships. Wiest also has a tremendous stage presence, commanding the audience's attention whenever she appears and allowing those watching to see the tremendous loneliness Ranevskaya carries. So much so she is willing to settle for less than she deserves.

Turturro works well as the rather serious Lopakhin, never forgetting his peasant roots and knowing that, despite all he has accomplished, he will always be looked down on by certain people, being in a lower class than they. His delight at a successful business deal leads to a powerful yet almost malicious dance of victory and triumph.

Not faring as well is Hamilton, coming across as a would-be-radical giving lip service to his principles rather than actually having passion for what he proclaims. Elisabeth and Katherine Waterston are good as Epikhodov and Dunyasha, but they also feel more than a bit interchangeable here. A bit ironic as they both have the chance to overshadow their various male counterparts if given the opportunity. Rylance however does great job as the sister with a terminal case of unrequited love, a rather common theme in Chekhov's works; as is the idea of being responsible for one's own actions. Alvin Epstein is fine as the aging manservant Fiers, a relic of the estate's glory days and perhaps the ultimate survivor. Jan Maxwell has a few scene-stealing moments as Carlotta, another of the hired help, and Slate Holmgren does a delicious and smarmy turn as Yasha, a servant always looking to better his situation on the backs of others, usually women.

The text has been edited somewhat, the show clocking in at a quick two hours, fifteen minutes. Yet due to this streamlining, some of the characters don't get as much exposure as they need. This includes Yasha and his relationship with Dunyasha, as well as the interplay between Anya and Trofimov.

This particular production is staged quite strongly in the intimate venue of CSC, director Belgrader and the various performers placing the action literally right in front of the audience. Santo Loquasto's sets work especially well, ranging from an estate with a quiet quality of faded glory, to the wide-open feeling of the grounds outside. Costumes by Marco Piemontese are also quite good, especially the odd assortment of garments Urie wears, which include different colored and ill-fitting socks.

The Cherry Orchard remains a classic tale of a family in crisis, with the changing times threatening to pull them apart. This was not the best production of the play in recent memory, but there was still much to enjoy.

The Cherry Orchard
Featuring: John Turturro (Lopakhin), Elisabeth Waterston (Dunyasha), Michael Urie (Epikhodov), Katherine Waterston (Anya), Dianne Wiest (Ranevskaya), Juliet Rylance (Varya), Daniel Davis (Gaev), Roberta Maxwell (Carlotta), Ken Cheeseman (Pischik), Slate Holmgren (Yasha), Alvin Epstein (Fiers), Josh Hamilton (Trofimov), Michael Wieser (Station-Master/Servant), Ben Diskant (Post-office Clerk/Servant)

Written by Anton Chekhov
Translated by John Christopher Jones
Choreographed by Orlando Pabotoy
Directed by Andrei Belgrader
Scenic Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Marco Piemontese
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls
Original Music and Sound Design: Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery
Hair Design: Paul Huntley
General Manager: Jeff Griffin
Production Stage Manager: Joanne E. McInerney
Production Supervisor: Production Core
Casting: Calleri Casting
Press Representative: The Publicity Office
Assistant Stage Manager: Jamie Hill

Classic Stage Company

136 East 13th Street
Closed: January 8, 2012

“Brother Russia” -- Arlington’s Signature Theatre debuts another original musical

By Mark A. Newman
Photo by Scott Suchman

I have to admit to being somewhat hesitant about the new musical Brother Russia at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. It is another creation by the duo of John Dempsey (book and lyrics) and Dana Rowe (music), whose past efforts include The Fix and The Witches of Eastwick. While I never saw The Fix, I have been enamored of its score for over a decade; as for Eastwick…I saw it in London and utterly loathed it. So you can easily understand my wariness prior to dipping my toe into their new endeavor.

Fortunately I am glad to say that the duo’s latest creation, Brother Russia, is a stirring musical romp despite trotting out a few tired old theatrical chestnuts. The show begins with a traveling Russian acting troupe trying to decide which show to perform when the show’s makeshift narrator and title character (John Lescault) ascertains that tonight they will be performing a show about the Mad Monk himself, Rasputin. Brother Russia also purports to be Rasputin so you’ve got that going on too.

And speaking of tired old theatrical chestnuts, how often have we seen the “traveling troupe of actors performing a show within a show?” A lot, by my count. I’m still not convinced it’s the best way to tell a story and within the context of Brother Russia, it detracted from the onstage action more than it helped. The storytelling would be interrupted to change an actress or comment on the cheap-looking stage blood to varying degrees of success. For example, when the actress playing Anastasia was to be replaced, there was no reason given other than Brother Russia’s own personal whim.

Another one of these whims is when stage manager Sasha is commanded to take on the role of Rasputin “because he knows every line in the show.” Umm, okay. Thankfully Sasha is played with leading man star quality by Doug Kreeger, but there was no reason given for Brother Russia’s decision. Where was the regular leading man?

While framing the show within this context is not original at best and distracting at worst, I found myself categorizing the characters as those I’ve seen in other musicals: Sasha, the bearded everyman at the center of the show = JeanValjean; Brother Russia, the wheelchair-bound storyteller = The Man in Chair from Drowsy Chaperone; Felix, the flamboyant Russian emissary = Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror; Tsarina Alexandria = Norma Desmond with an entrance down a staircase with a funky headdress to boot; Anastasia, the ignored daughter who plods about an attic full of memories = Little Edie from Grey Gardens. Then again, think how cool a musical would be that incorporated all those characters. One number called “The Great War” actually reminded me of “War is a Science” from Pippin, a show I haven’t seen in three decades.

Despite the lapses in originality and the hiccups in the storytelling, all is forgiven due to the able and hardworking cast. But the proof is in the pudding, or at least in terms of musical theater, in the score and on this count Brother Russia delivers handily. Not only is the rock-oriented score a nice entry into the musical theatre pantheon, the orchestrations by August Eriksmoen are, in a word, stellar. There are some very interesting choices in terms of instrumentation on a few tunes that will grab your attention.

The Signature Theatre is to be commended for presenting an exhilarating array of new musicals each season and Brother Russia is certainly worth seeing. Despite the above nitpicking, the show has much going for it, especially the winning cast, the rocking score, and Eric Schaeffer’s deft direction.

Brother Russia
Book & Lyrics by John Dempsey
Music by Dana Rowe
Scenic Design Misha Kachman
Costume Design Kathleen Geldard
Lighting Design Colin K. Bills
Sound Design Matt Rowe
Orchestrations August Eriksmoen
Music Direction Gabriel Mangiante
Choreography Jodi Moccia
Directed by Eric Schaeffer

Featuring: Natascia Diaz, Erin Driscoll, Doug Kreeger, John Lescault, Kevin McAllister, Amy McWilliams, Christopher Mueller, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Stephen Gregory Smith, Russell Sunday, and Rachel Zampelli.

Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA 22206

Tickets: 703 820 9771; ticketmaster: 703 573 SEAT

Closed April, 15th.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Massacre (Sing to Your Children)”

By Olivia Jane Smith
Photo by Sandra Coudert

Jose Rivera’s “Massacre (Sing to Your Children)” begins amid the shock and adrenaline rush of a group of newbie killers who’ve just perpetrated a bloodbath. One pukes and another hides numbly in a corner while others dance. One simulates sex with a body lying on the floor, living or dead, we’re not sure. They wield machetes and pitchforks and wear scary cartoonish animal masks as, one by one, they burst from the woods we can glimpse through a single door in the back wall, into the abandoned slaughter house where the entire play takes place. The women all wear dresses, as if they might be going to a dinner party, rather than an ambush followed by a murder.

Everyone is covered in blood. It’s pretty grisly and graphic, and for anyone (including me) who is horror-movie-averse, I can attest that it was effective (and by that I mean unpleasant). It’s tempting to write it off as gratuitous. (Later, there are a couple cheap scares that fall into that category.) But “Massacre (Sing to Your Children)” is not only about violence—on both a systemic, totalitarian-regime level and a personal one—but also about the imprint it leaves on its perpetrators, no matter how righteous. Can you go back home and sing to your children after killing someone, even if your victim was himself a murderous dictator?
So the blood and glee and exultation that opens the show is important, and Rivera shows us how, like Lady Macbeth’s spot, it doesn’t wash away so easily. “In my body, all his pain is stuck and it won’t come out,” Lila (Sona Tatoyan), says of their victim. Lila reads taro cards and has a vaunted intuition. She suspects her condition is temporary. She should know better.
Imagine Uganda under Idi Amin, or Cambodia under Pol Pot, or Argentina under Pinochet, and you have some idea of what Grandville, a town in some unnamed part of New England, is like under the reign of terror perpetrated by Joe (the terrifyingly quiet Anatol Yusef). We learn about Joe’s heinous crimes from the murderous tribe that has attempted to take him down, along with their own lives, and how each in turn was tragically impacted by Joe’s rise to power. Vivy (Dana Eskelson) is a school teacher who is involved mainly through her association with Panama (Jojo Gonzalez), the ringleader, who saw his wife, Mariana, brutally killed by Joe or his minions (he has the police snugly in his pocket). Lila is convinced Joe is slowly killing her mother, and Eliseo (William Jackson Harper) is mostly along for the ride with her. Janis (Jolly Abraham) and her husband Erik (Adrian Martinez) lost their child under Joe’s rule, as did Hector (Brendan Averett).
Joe’s effect is far more colorful than I’ve let on; in keeping with Rivera’s bent toward magical realism, Joe’s evil extends beyond the bounds of the possible and into the supernatural. Nothing grows in the formerly lush farmland around the town. Lila talks of finding a dead baby by the side of the road, covered in honey and flies. In a sickly paradox, the town’s children adore their civic leader, and sing something called “The Joe Song” (just the title makes you see why it drives the town’s adult population to the bring of insanity). When the characters talk of “little spies” that invade their homes and turn them in for trespasses against what could be called Joe’s Commandments—rules posted around the town in prominent spots—it’s their own spawn and those of their friends they seem to be speaking of. “It’s not a crime if you kill the devil, it’s a f---ing sacrament,” says Janis.
The play explores the ways in which the natural product of endemic violence is fear, and fear’s opponent is deep trust. The fact that the play’s central murders are enacted by three pairs of lovers—Vivy and Panama, Lila and Eliseo, and Erik and Janis—gives the playwright an opening. “We promised to kill each other’s monsters,” Janis says of their wedding vows, which is another way of keeping each other safe. “If you could see my dreams, would they scare you away, or draw you closer to me?” Lila demands of Eliseo. And Vivi talks about how “a kiss can be political”—to do it properly, you have to be brave enough to close your eyes.
Rivera’s language can be magical, and the beauty of his words goes a long way toward getting us through a grim, if thought-provoking, evening of theater (for some people the blood may help too). The characters, with the possible and surprising exception of Joe, never seem like real people who could be our neighbors. One suspects this is partly from the extreme circumstances we find them in, and partly from Rivera’s heightened language (which can be a strength and a weakness). We learn, mostly through monologues taken in turns, enough about these people to feel we should care about their fates and Joe’s. But my sympathies remained firmly at a distance, and the play’s pleasures were those of ideas brought to vivid dramatic life, rather than emotions. (That may indeed have been Rivera’s intention.) The one exception might have been Hector’s remembrance of his disappeared son, Richie. Otherwise the play can feel speechy, given as these characters are to storytelling and self-examination. It also felt long, but not tedious, and certainly not without rewards, as the conundrums of human behavior at the play’s center gradually take shape.
When Anatol’s Yusef’s Joe appears in the second act, back from the dead, he feels more alive than his shell-shocked attackers, who seem zombie-like by comparison. As he tortures each of his would-be killers with tales of his or her past misdeeds—whether true or not isn’t the point—he waters the seeds of fear and mistrust, in themselves and in each other, that their act of violence against him has planted. “How do you clean away bad faith?” someone asks. The play doesn’t give us any easy answers.
Director Brian Mertes oversaw a production whose elements came together impeccably, including most notably the set Andromache Chalfant; costumes by Cait O’Connor; lights by Austin Smith; sound by Broken Chord; Erin Kennedy Lunsford’s bloody makeup; Andrew Diaz’ props; masks by Julian Crouch and Cait O’Connor; and a sad sweet song written by Saskia Lane. Mertes shows a deft hand with the play’s surprises and stop-and-look moments (though the use of water, while pretty, feels trite, perhaps because the first performer to make use of it strikes such a statuesque pose). The performers’ takes to the audience, on the other hand, were perfectly hollow and haunted.
For a show that ran two-and-a-half hours with one intermission, Mertes sustains a remarkable level of tension. No wonder we feel wrung out by the end. As Lila says at one point, “Well, that was a lot of laughs.”
"Massacre (Sing to Your Children)"
Written by José Rivera
Directed by Brian Mertes
Featuring Jolly Abraham, Brendan Averett, Dana Eskelson, Jojo Gonzalez, William Jackson Harper, Adrian Martinez, Sona Tatoyan, Anatol Yusef
Sets by Andromache Chalfant
Costumes by Cait O’Connor
Lighting by Austin Smith
Sound by Daniel Baker
Props by Andrew Diaz
echnical Direction by Katie Takacs

Production Stage Manager: Melissa Mae Gregus
Assistant Stage Manager: Sam Horwith
April 4 – May 12, 2012
Wed-Sat 8PM; Sun 3PM; Mon 8PM

Postshow Talkbacks 4/11, 4/25, 5/9

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
224 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10014

Miriam Kulick and her "Open Hearts"

By Byrne Harrison

Miriam Kulick, an actor, playwright, director and teacher, first performed "Open Hearts" at the 2011 Washington D.C. Fringe Festival where it was named Pick of The Fringe by DC Theatre Scene. Prior to that she co-founded Miami’s Square Peg Productions whose first production, "Three Angels Dancing on A Needle" received the 2007 New Times Best of Miami award for Best Ensemble Production and for which she was named Best Actress. "Three Angels" was also performed in New York at the Brick Theater. Her solo show "Full Circle" was performed at Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Octoberfest. She has appeared in numerous productions in both Florida and New York City, where she hails from. On television she’s been featured in America’s Most Wanted and in the Doris Wishman Documentary on HBO. She’s a member of Actor’s Equity, SAG and AFTRA.  She can be found at

Miriam, thank you for taking the time to talk about "Open Hearts."  I'll admit I was intrigued when I got the press release.  You seem to be packing a lot of material into this one-woman show.  Could you tell my readers what your Open Hearts is about?

That it's never too late to make positive changes in our life, no matter our age, to let go, as painful as that can be, whether it's saying goodbye to someone or givng up something that does not serve us well.  That once we take the leap to open our hearts, by loving, accepting, and forgiving ourselves and others as well, the foundation is then laid to allow ourselves the courage and fortitude to go forward in life, no matter, the fear or obstacles.

What inspired you to create this show and these characters?

One thing always leads us on to the next and next and so on. A few years back, I tried my hand at directing which also required writing with a group of fellow actors. I discovered my new found passion for writing, which lead to an evening of 6 short plays I wrote for 2 actresses, which lead to my current solo show. Many of my characters are carried over or pieces of former characters that I was not yet ready to put in a drawer and I worked very hard, along with a few dramaturgs, at coming to a streamlined theme. I kind of did it backwards, but although "Open Hearts" is not a pure autobiographical show at all, there is a lot of me or parts of people I know in there, especially the main thrust of loving ourselves and having the courgae to go forward in life no matter what. I wanted to share that, the oepning of our hearts with an audience.

Who else is involved in this production?

I am very fortunate to work with a wonderful dramaturg and director for this run; Gretchen Cryer. I always tell people, if you are of the older generation, she wrote and starred in, "I'm Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road", the younger set, John Cryer's real mom of "Two and a Half Men." Either way, they are impressed. I worked with another great director when I did this show last summer in DC, but I knew I wanted to take it to NY and it needed some reshaping and a close friend of mine recommended Gretchen and I am thrilled to work with her. Although I have written it all, she has helped to shape it, to make it a much more cohesive and stronger piece.

I understand you're a native New Yorker, so I imagine you had a lot of theatrical experiences as a kid.  Is there any particular one, either acting or seeing a particular show, that made you decide that theatre was what you wanted to do?

I actually didn't start out studying acting until I was much older. However, as a child I was a natural athlete and always filled with an energetic spirit, (my mom might have used another phrase). As a child, I took a bit of dancing and dramatic art classes, became a modern dancer as an older adult and it segued into acting. You can't fudge dancing, you need to have a solid technique and although that was my first love, I didn't start out training for it, so it was a difficult dream to fulfill. However, I still felt the need to have a creative outlet and acting seemed the next logical step.

In addition to being a working actor and writer, you're also a teacher, running workshops for actors and non-actors alike.  How did you get involved in teaching?  And what is it like working with the non-actors?

I moved to Miami from NY,as my husband was changing careers, and I was working as an actor in Florida, yet I felt limited and wanted to expand what I was doing as well as to make some more money. I reached out to a wonderful teacher who has run or owned his own acting school, where I ended up teaching for him for over 14 years or so. I love teaching, it is another creative outlet for me. My forte whether one is an actor or not, is in freeing up the individual physically, vocally, and most importantly, emotionally. To help them get out of their heads, trust themselves more, and in particular, to push them to take risks, which inevitably leads them to have more confidence and self-esteem. It is very heartening as a teacher to watch people come out of their shell and grow. I do feel more comfortable in pushing actors harder then non-actors, as I can go deeper with them because it is more of a commitment over time, yet it is wonderful to see non-actors open up in general, to get into their bodies and self-expression more.

What's next for you in 2012?

As my character Sadie would say, Oy! That is a loaded question. I am in my new phase of spreading my own wings. I am married, with one son, who just went off to college, so I am exploring all my options now, and doing my solo show in NY is my first step. My goal actually is to tour this show, preferably in colleges as I can offer master classes and having other theatre venues produce me, and move back to NY to work as an actor.

If you could say one thing to the people who are thinking of coming to see "Open Hearts," what would it be?

As corny as it may sound: come for one hour to hopefully have your heart opened- to realize we can all make positive changes, no matter our age- to allow live theatre to heighten your senses, your heart and your imagination.

Open Hearts begins at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row (412 W. 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues) on Thursday, April 19th.  Performances are Thursday, April 19th, Friday April 20th, Friday, April 27th and Saturday April 28th at 7:30PM. For tickets go to or call (212) 239-6200. For more information go to

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Lost in Yonkers" - Wonderfully Found Again

By Judd Hollander
Photo by Stephen Kunken

Neil Simon's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-wining play Lost in Yonkers makes a triumphant return to New York City in this lovely and intimate revival presented by The Actors Company Theatre at the Off-Broadway Theatre Row Studios.

In 1942, newly widowed Eddie (Dominic Comperatore) must go on the road to earn enough money to pay off the medical bills from his wife's final illness. As a result, he is forced to leave his sons, thirteen-and-a-half year-old Arty (Russell Posner) and fifteen and a-half year-old Jay (Matthew Gumley), at the home of his mother, Grandma Kurnitz (Cynthia Harris), in Yonkers, New York. A tough woman, hardened by life, she and her family fled Germany at the onset of World War I. Since then, Grandma has buried her husband and two of her six children and now lives with her daughter Bella (Finnerty Steeves), a 35 year-old woman with the mind of a child. Grandma has also pushed her own children to become just as tough as she is and, as a result, wound up alienating all of them to varying degrees. This is why Eddie rarely brought Jay and Arty over to see her, not wanting them to be exposed to what he went through as a child. As for her other kids, Grandma has a caustic relationship with Bella; Gert (Stephanie Cozart) grew up with a breathing impediment, which seems to get worse whenever she's around her mother; and Louie (Alec Beard) learned his mom's lessons so well, he wound up becoming a gangster.

Grandma also has absolutely no desire take in Eddie's kids; certainly not relishing the thought of having children underfoot once again. However Eddie and Bella eventually bring her around her to accepting the idea. This decision paves the way for numerous heat-tugging moments, ones both comic and tearful, as everyone struggles to make the best of a difficult situation.

Given her background, the character of Grandma could easily have been a tyrannical woman, but in Simon's hands and Harris' presentation the character quickly becomes one with multiple shades of grey. Morphing into someone who can hear through walls; knowing what everyone in her family is thinking; and almost, but not quite, having a twinkle in her eye at times. This skillful blend of comedy and drama is the heart of what Lost in Yonkers is all about, showing a family dealing with the changing times around them while the text hops from one generational perspective to another. To his credit, Simon doesn't try to show which of the characters are in the right at any particular moment. Rather, he presents these vastly different people, all sharing a common heritage, and mixes their lives together to form a fascinating mulligan stew of family relationships.

The company also made a significant change in regards to how the play was originally presented, by removing Arty's various narrative explanations which were sprinkled throughout the script. This alteration, made with Simon's consent, results in bringing new life to the work, shifting it from a memory play to one with a more intimate connection and which also moves the story's focus away from Arty and places it on Grandma and Bella.

Harris wonderfully succeeds in making Grandma much more than a caricature, showing her to be full of passion and pain, and a woman who stopped caring simply because it hurt too much to do so. Despite her wish to withdraw from everything and everyone around her, she is still the lynchpin around which her family revolves, and who they're all is drawn to in times of need. Grandma's actions can also evoke a feeling of nostalgia with the audience, they perhaps seeing in her a persona recognizable from their own pasts and histories.

Just as powerful is Steeves' performance as Bella. A woman trapped by a physically maturing body and a limited metal faculty, Bella is someone who gets confused easily, especially when things don't go as planned. Such a family gathering where she tries to get everything arranged just so before she can deliver an important message. Since Bella doesn't have that much of an adult sense of tact, her emotional outbursts and little-girl-lost feelings cut deeper and resonate all the more strongly. Especially when she confronts her mother about the way her life is turning out.

Beard brings a menacing comic relief to the role of Louie. A mobster on the run, armed with a gun and mysterious black satchel containing his "dirty laundry," he enlists Jay and Arty in his plans to stay one step ahead of those chasing him. Louie also gets the best lines in the play, as he is more stereotypical than the rest of the cast and thus can get away with more over the top moments. He also does a wonderfully slow burn in the afore-mentioned family meeting, while still being able to turn into quite a menacing figure when circumstances warrant.

Gumley and Posner, their characters stands-ins for Simon and his brother Danny, work well here as kids thrust into a situation beyond their control while trying to make the best of things. Posner gets the funnier lines of the two, while Gumley, who tries to work every angle he can for someone his age, is more on the receiving end of Grandma's gaze and wrath, though he will stand up to her when circumstances warrant.

Comperatore works well as Eddie, a father trying to balance the pain of his past with the need to care for his children. Cozart does a nice turn as Gert in her few brief scenes ones which help to illustrate the far-reaching consequences of Grandma's actions, regardless of how noble or misguided they may have been.

Jenn Thompson's direction is excellent, keeping the play moving smoothly and the focus tightly fixed on the different aspects of the family. Thompson's touch is also evident in her working with the various actors to make Simon's words and situations come alive with maximum effect, thus making the audience care about the characters and their fates.

John McDermott's set is wonderful, filled with nice touches of a bygone era, especially the doilies on the furniture, which make for a running gag in the show. Costumes by David Toser are very nicely designed. Especially striking is the dress Bella "made herself" and the clothes Jay and Arty are wearing in the opening and closing scenes. Sound design by Toby Jaguar Algya nicely fits the period depicted.

Funny, tearful and nostalgic, Lost in Yonkers is one of the crown jewels in the Neil Simon canon and with the wonderful care taken in this production, it is definitely not to be missed – for any reason!

Lost in Yonkers
Written by Neil Simon

Featuring Matthew Gumley (Jay), Russell Posner (Arty), Dominic Comperatore (Eddie), Finnerty Steeves (Bella), Cynthia Harris (Grandma Kurtz), Alec Beard (Louie), Stephanie Cozart (Gert)

Production Stage Manager: Jack Gianino
Assistant Stage Manager: Michael Friedlander
Dramaturge: Rachel Merrill Moss
Casting: Kelly Gillespie
Assistant Director; Lauren Miller
TACT General Manager: Cathy Bencivenga
Props: Lauren Madden
Press & Publicity: O&M Co.
Sound Design: Toby Jaguar Algya
Costume Design: David Toser
Lighting Design: Martin E. Vreeland
Scenic Design: John McDermott
Director: Jenn Thompson
Presented by The Actors Company Theatre

Beckett Theatre
Theatre Row Studios

410 West 42nd Street
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or
Running Time: Two Hours, 10 Minutes
Closes: April 14, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Elephant Room" - Exactly What You Expect, and More!

By Judd Hollander
Photo by Pavel Antonov

Many performers end up looking totally ridiculous on stage, but it takes that special blend of performance and personality to be able to do it with style. Such is the case with the absolutely hilarious Elephant Room, a magical comedy treat for children of all ages, starring those masters of prestidigitation, Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah, now at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

The story takes place at the Elephant Room Society, Chapter 13, Assembly 1009, in Patterson, New Jersey. A place loaded with secrets and wonder, built by little children, government organizations, gamblers, adulterers, and the dreams of the audience members, as Dennis, Louie and Daryl explain as they proceed to hold court, mixing simple magic tricks with ones much more astounding. In short order, the audience is treated to an array of demonstrations ranging from sleight of hand with ropes, playing cards and eggs, the latter appearing and disappearing in a comic line of perfect synchronization; to levitation; one of the group switching places with an audience volunteer; and the creation of a picture of the Dali Lama.

What makes the show really stand out are the completely over the top personalities of the trio, the group making their entrance to a burst of applause, at least that's what it says in the script, which they point out. There's Dennis, looking every bit like a wannabe lothario, one of those people you desperately want to avoid at parties; Louie, who reminds one of a roadie at a rock concert; and Daryl, who looks and sounds like a combination redneck and surfer dude. Although one must admit, they also call to mind the Lone Gunmen trio from the X-Files. Regardless of how they appear to the audience, their overall manner and oh so serious method of performing, playing everything perfectly straight even in the most outlandish of circumstances, only serve to add to the general hilarity of the entire spectacle.

The trio is also not above shameless self-promotion, offering an audience member memorabilia in the form of a baseball cap, numerous t-shirts, DVDs, a magic kit, etc. They also toss in various magical in-jokes (such as when one audience member receives a stuffed white tiger, a reference to the magic act of Siegfried and Roy). There are a few sequences that are perhaps a bit too risqué for the youngsters in the audience, though these are more titillating than naughty, such as a late night telephone call involving Dennis and the afore-mentioned Dali Lama, and Louie's recollections of his childhood magic shop mentor and the rope tricks the fellow taught him. Still, the tales are imparted in a way which will make the children laugh in wonder and adults laugh (or groan) in recognition of what's actually being said.
Dennis, Louie and Daryl perform together seamlessly; whether working as a unit or operating in different areas of the stage where one of the three may be reciting a rambling speech while the others are in the process of doing a trick or routine of some kind. The highlight of the show is extended sequence that starts as a first date between two members of the audience, chosen at random; which then segues into a country song moment about broken hearts, hilariously personified by Daryl; and finally evolves into a comic battle between good and evil, personified by a devil (Louie) and angel (Dennis) as they battle for a human soul. There is also a great amount of physical humor in the show, often presented with over-emphasized gestures, expressions and movement. A sequence where Dennis is struggling with a cinderblock is particularly amusing.

Paul Lazar's directorial style is loose enough to allow the performers to take the show where it needs to go for maximum effect, but at the same time keeps thing on an even keel so not only is it never boring for the adults in the audience, but it's also interesting enough to hold the attention of the younger set. Mimi Lien's set is nicely tacky, looking like one of those endless hotel rooms across America, but which in reality is so much more. Costumes worn by the group and designed by Christal Weatherly are nicely flamboyant, ranging from "man on the street" clothes to ones worn by a flamboyant Las Vegas lounge singer. Sound design by Nick Kourtides is very enjoyable and totally appropriate to the various sequences presented and moods suggested.

Fun, frivolous and fantastical to watch, Elephant Room is an enjoyable feast for the eyes with more than a few things that will tickle one’s funny bone quite severely.

Elephant Room
Performed by Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah
Created by Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford* and Geoff Sobelle*
Directed by: Paul Lazar
Set Designer: Mimi Lien
Costume Designer: Christal Weatherly
Lighting designer: Christopher Kuhl;
Sound Designer: Nick Kourtides
Stage Manager: Jill Beckman
General Manager: Dorit Avganim
Production Manager, Technical Director: Thomas Snyder
Loxodontics: The Puppet Kitchen
Assistant Technical Director: Ian Guzzone
Associated Set Designer: Amy Rubin
Assistant Stage Manger: Zane Johnston
Lighting Assistant: Adam Blumenthal
Sound Operator: Susan Adelizzi
Deck Hand: Sean Martin
Wardrobe: Becka Landau

St. Ann
’s Warehouse
38 Water Street

DUMBO, Brooklyn
Tickets: 718-254-8779 or

Running Time: 75 minutes, no intermission

Closes: April 8th

Mac Rogers Takes Us Into the Honeycomb

By Byrne Harrison

Mac Rogers is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, professional writer, and performer.

Mac’s recent works include the darkly comic horror play "Hail Satan" (winner of the Outstanding Playwriting Award at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival), "Universal Robots" (which won Best Off-Off Broadway Play from the New York Theatre Bloggers Association and earned four nominations from the New York Innovative Theater Awards), "Viral" (which won the Outstanding Play honor from the 2009 FringeNYC), and "Fleet Week: The Musical" (winner of the Outstanding Musical award from FringeNYC 2005). He also regularly appears as an actor in the independent theater scene in New York, and earned an NYIT nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in James Comtois’s "The Adventures of Nervous-Boy: A Penny Dreadful." As a producer, Mac is a co-founder of Gideon Productions, through which he has mounted a number of his plays to great acclaim.

As a professional writer, Mac has contributed columns to and New York Magazine’s Vulture site. His science fiction short story “Miss Emily’s Voyage” appears on At Length (

So we are in the second week of "Blast Radius," part two of your "Honeycomb Trilogy." For those people who might have missed part one, "Advance Man," tell me what the audience needs to know going into this.

First, let me say, you don’t have to have seen part one to follow this. There is a more detailed catch-up synopsis with the program, but the basics are these: "The Honeycomb Trilogy" is about the Cookes, an American family in Florida that that plays an important role in both triggering and battling an extraterrestrial occupation of the Earth. The father, an astronaut named Bill, made a pact with a race of telepathic insect-like aliens he met on a mission to Mars. Bill’s daughter Ronnie and his son Abbie were once very close siblings, but are now on opposite sides of the occupation. Before the invasion, Bill’s wife Amelia devoted a lot of her time to “raising” the fifth member of the family, an astronaut colleague of Bill’s named Conor who seemed to have a stroke on the Mars mission. But there was no stroke: Conor’s mind was accidentally taken over by the aliens’ Ambassador, and over the years this former alien insect has been learning to live in a human body. When "Blast Radius" begins, the aliens have ruled the Earth for 12 years, Bill is dead, Amelia is sick, Abbie and Conor (who have fallen in love) are the main ambassadors for the aliens, and Ronnie is rising fast in the human insurgency.

And all this takes place in one living room.

This isn't your first sci-fi play; in fact, you've had quite a bit of success with sci-fi themes. What led to your interest in sci-fi?

I discovered "Doctor Who" as a kid, which led to a wider interest in anything with aliens or a space ship or an imaginary piece of technology or time travel, anything like that. For the longest time I kept my sci-fi interests and my theater interests separate. I somehow bought into the odd snobbery that science fiction doesn’t have a place in theater. But fortunately there was a point earlier this millennium when I set aside autobiographical drama in favor of writing the kind of exciting genre storytelling that I love as a reader or viewer. In writing my play "Universal Robots," a sci-fi epic inspired by Karel Capek’s "Rossum’s Universal Robots," I found a way to tell these sorts of stories using specifically theatrical language – with no attempt to compete with film or television.

Were there any specific writers/movies/etc. that inspired this trilogy?

My first encounter with a hive-minded insect race vying against humanity for survival was the classic "Doctor Who" episode “The Ark In Space.” That’s my real touchstone for "The Honeycomb Trilogy." Then of course, I discovered a deepening of those themes in Orson Scott Card’s "Ender’s Game" and "Speaker For The Dead." There’s definitely some "Quatermass and the Pit" in there, and honestly, a lot of the trilogy is drawn from plots I wished they would have done on the more recent version of "Battlestar Galactica" but didn’t. What all these have in common is that they use collisions (both physical and mental) between humanity and some form of all-consuming Other to closely examine what it is to be human. That fascinates me.

I should also note that I got the courage to write this from watching Johnna Adams’ amazing "Angel Eaters Trilogy," a work of incredible imagination and audacity that was produced by Flux Theatre Ensemble a few years back. I wouldn’t have had the guts to pull the trigger on "Honeycomb" if Johnna hadn’t gone there first.

What can the audience expect from "Blast Radius"?

It’s a pretty full plate in terms of an evening’s entertainment. 1) It’s exciting: the whole play is built on a gradually escalating thriller plot that demands more and more from the characters as the story reaches its conclusion. 2) It’s very emotional charged: characters have to make awful choices – under a lot of pressure – about themselves and their loved ones. It’s action-packed, and there’s one fight scene that’s likely not like any you’ve ever seen before. 3) It’s romantic and sexy. 4) While it’s a dark and intense play, there are several funny setpieces as well as more low-key humor threaded throughout. 5) There are a few good cries in there, for folks who like that (as I do, for example). 6) The director, my longtime colleague Jordana Williams, has integrated these tones masterfully. 7) The design team (including my wife Sandy Yaklin who is the set designer) and the cast have delivered stunning work.

What about part three, "Sovereign"? Can you tell me a little about that without too many spoilers?

Well I don’t want to go into too much detail because I don’t want to reveal which characters make it out of "Blast Radius" alive. But I can say this: if "Advance Man" was family-living-room-play-meets-aliens and "Blast Radius" is war/resistance-story-meets-aliens, "Sovereign" is kind of like "Twelve Angry Men"-meets-aliens. It brings what’s left of the Cooke family and the human race in general to a major moral reckoning.

Do the shows feature the same cast and crew?

We are fortunate that the returning characters from "Advance Man" (the first installment) are played in "Blast Radius" by the same four wonderful actors from part one: Kristen Vaughan (Amelia), Jason Howard (Conor), Becky Byers (Ronnie), and David Rosenblatt (Abbie). Getting to watch the four of them build on what they’d already achieved in Advance Man has been a privilege for Jordana and me, and I think it’s a great payoff for audience members who saw part one.

On to some of your other work. I understand East Chapel Hill high school recently did a production of "Universal Robots," and that you had a chance to attend. How was it and what was the post-show talkback like?

ECHHS’s production was so lovely. To see that a group of teenagers had mastered that whole insanely difficult text, to see that they had engaged with it at the same level of intellectual and emotional intensity that we did here in our 2007 and 2009 productions was just so moving to me. Hope Hynes Love directed it exquisitely, and it was fascinating to see it realized with such a different production design that what we did. The most striking thing about the post-show panel, for me, was the questions from the students. They’d given the play such a passionate level of consideration that their questions to me were actually pretty challenging. The other two panelists, Dr. Kylon Middleton and the bio-roboticist Dr. Alper Bozkurt, were so brilliant I actually kept my mouth shut as much as I could. of It was a tremendous experience for me.

Any other out-of-town productions coming up soon?

New City Stage in Philadelphia will be producing my espionage thriller "Asymmetric" in May, so I’ll be sort of hurtling back and forth between that and Sovereign in May. It’ll be crazy, but hopefully fun too.

What else is coming up for you this year?

After "Sovereign" I’ll need to go back to my desk for a while. I don’t have anything else finished. I’d like to write smaller plays for a little while, three or four character plays, as well as plays that follow dream logic more than plot mechanics.

I mean, any “plan” for one’s future writing is laughable, so I’ll probably end up writing a 20-character epic with mummies in it.

Mainly, I want to focus on seeing plays rather than writing them and presenting them.

And one question just for fun. If you could meet any sci-fi writer or actor, who would you choose?

Man, with James Tiptree and Robert Holmes both passed on, I’m afraid I’d have to say Tom Baker, the actor who played the peerless fourth incarnation of the Doctor on "Doctor Who." As a kid it greatly reassured me to see him maintain such mirth and wit in the face of frightening alien menaces. All "Doctor Who" fans have to grow up at some point and realize the Doctor isn’t real, but you don’t have to stop wishing he was.

"Blast Radius" runs through April 14th.

The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street, Long Island City
March 30, 2012 - April 14, 2012
For tickets call 212-352-3101