Review: India Pale Ale at MTC

The Company of  Indian Pale Ale

India Pale Ale written by Jaclyn Backhaus with a cast of nine South Asian actors already warmed my heart as I read the names on the wall walking to MTC’s Stage 1 theatre. As I settled into my seat and took in the view, I was thrilled to see a diverse audience (many of Indian descent) energized to see the play. Then the show started.

A simple story presented itself in the opening moments of the play. Boz, played by Shazi Raja, tells the family story of their ancestor, the pirate Brownbeard. Brownbeard’s employment was for the Dutch East Company transporting ale on a ship from Calcutta to Essex. The story is told in verse through the protagonist, a device used many times throughout the play…in pirate speak.  As the scene shifts, we are introduced to her mother, Deepa (Purva Bedi) and her mother’s cousin, Simran (Angel Desai). We learn that there are generations of Sikhs living in Wisconsin and that the community is tight knit. However, we soon learn at the engagement party of Boz’ brother, Iggy (Shathya Sridharan) that though the traditions are continuing, Boz is unhappy. She is ready to get out of town and start her own life. Similar to her ancestor, the pirate Brownbeard. By the way, there is an obligatory Bollywood dance break that I loved but is unnecessary.

She leaves the town her family has lived for generations and moves to another town an hour away to open a bar. Of course,  Boz has to explain to bar patron, Tim (Nate Miller) who she is because yours truly has spent her life answering the dreaded question “What are you?”  A New Yorker, that’s what I am but I digress. That’s where the play changes course again. As we are enticed by Boz’ heroine journey, the structure of the play transitions. Something terrible has happened. A shooting by a white supremacist results in the murder of her father. The Prodigal Daughter returns home. As the family is in the hospital, Boz is visited by her father in a dream sequence on a ship; with actors in beautiful, rich colored costumes; and another style change. As the family and community comes together after the shooting at langar, the grief is evident. Iggy’s engagement broken, old passions reignited, a community reunited and unified. And then as the play ends, the fourth wall is broken and the audience is subjected to rousing and didactic speech on equality and samosas.

The play employs many style structures that made the simple plot confusing. Is the play about a young woman going on her hero’s journey or is it about race relations? Is this a serious commentary on racism in this country? Is the play a sitcom? Is this a play in verse? Is this a play with Bollywood elements? Any of these devices would work in choosing one of them, the feeling of being pulled out of the play so many times would have been avoided. Especially with the talent of the cast who loyally invested in the words of the play. The set and lighting design is thoughtful and subtle, enhancing the actors performances. India Pale Ale is the 2018 winner of the Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play which it is true. I’d be interested in seeing it’s further development as the Indo-American experience is one that isn’t told within and beyond our own segregated communities.

Manhattan Theatre Club’s world premiere of India Pale Ale, written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Will Davis, runs through November 18th at MTC at New York City Center – Stage I (131 West 55th Street). India Pale Ale is the 2018 winner of the Horton Foote Prize for Promising New American Play . Starring Purva Bedi (MTC’s East is East), Angel Desai (An Ordinary Muslim), Sophia Mahmud (“The Blacklist”), Nate Miller (MTC’s Ripcord), Shazi Raja (“High Maintenance”), Nik Sadhnani (The Invisible Hand), Lipica Shah (Bunty Berman Presents… ), Sathya Sridharan (An Ordinary Muslim) and Alok Tewari (The Band’s Visit). The design team includes Neil Patel (Scenic Design), Arnulfo Maldonado (Costume Design), Ben Stanton (Lighting Design), Elisheba Ittoop (Original Music & Sound Design), Dave Bova (Hair & Makeup Design) and Will Davis (Choreography).

Review: Pericles: Born in a Tempest

Photo by Al Foote III Theatrical Photography

Honoring the Past and Present

Pericles is one of Shakespeare’s plays I haven’t read so Hunger & Thirst Theatre (with The Guerilla Shakespeare Project) presentation Pericles: Born in a Tempest was ideal storytelling for me. A play within a play, Pericles is stripped to the essentials with a reimagining of a seafarer’s adventure. Upon returning to the home of her late father on a stormy night, a young mother, her husband and friends, stumble upon a diary. Her father, John Gower writes the story of Pericles. Jacques Roy’s portrayal of both characters  are skillful and stellar as he steps into the lives of both men. The journal of his life and times including meeting his beloved Thaisa and the birth of Marina during a tempest. As his story unfolds, Marina shares her own story of life beyond Tarsus where her father leaves her. In typical fairy tale fashion, the beautiful fair maiden, played innocently by Patricia Lynn, goes through trials and tribulations until meeting her true love (played by the dashing Jordan Kaplan).
A production like this needs a strong ensemble who trust each other. Kathryn Metzer, Jordan Kaplan and Tom Schwans create memorable characters, flawlessly flowing easily into and out of each other. However Jordan Reeves’ concept and direction, along with the design team, was thoughtful, creative and respectful of the space. The angled flats create a room, a ship, a brothel, and a home under the 3 story dome of this space. Together, all the elements of the production (sound, projection, lighting, costumes) created a subtext that allowed the story to unfold. This was a well-crafted production with talented cast to support it.

The performance schedule is Thursday at 7 PM; Friday & Saturday at 8 PM; Sunday at 2 PM. There are added performances on Wednesday, November 15 at 7 PM and Saturday, November 18 at 2 PM. Performances are at The West End Theatre (263 West 86th Street, between West End Avenue and Broadway; 1 train to 86th Street). Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. For tickets and more information, visit

Review: Synching Ink

Dancing and Spitting Rhymes to Find Your Voice

By Irene Hernandez

Before entering The Sam Theater, to see the play Synching Ink at The Flea Theater, I, along with the other audience members, had to pay the bouncer (Elisha Lawson) with participation – responding to his calls to clap, stomp and complete his chants with enthusiasm. Once the bouncer was greased, he allowed us inside with a warning: we are about to enter a party. Once I entered the theater, I realized the guy wasn’t kidding: the stage in the round was a club lit dance floor, vibrating from the remixed 90s hip hop/R&B hits expertly spinned by DJ Reborn. As I sat down, I felt like the lame chick sitting out from dancing in a club. If I wasn’t writing notes for this review, I would have been out on that stage, dancing shamelessly.

This world of visceral rhythm was created by director (and Artistic Director of The Flea Theater) Niegel Smith to illuminate the mouthwatering hip hop poetry of Nsangou Njikam’s Synching Ink.

The play opens with old school hip hop dancing from the street clad ensemble of impressive nimble actor/dancers, each representing a color and an earthly element. These talented and versatile artists dance at several important moments in the play to help tell the story of Gordon (Njikam), an insecure young man we first meet in high school, where he first aspires to be a hip hop wordsmith, as good as his classmates and to win the affection of class siren Mona Lisa (McKenzie Frye). As Gordon breaks the 4th wall to tell his story (based on Njikam himself) and confide in the audience, Njikam deftly suggests each stage of his hip hop creative journey as he ages, subtly using his physicality, vast vocal range, wardrobe, and spacial distance from everyone else on stage. Not only is Njikam a strong, original playwright, he is a genuinely talented actor as well.

In Gordon’s world, he is helped by various classmates and teachers along the way, as well as his father, to help him find his artistic voice. The ensemble (Lawson, Frye, Adesola Osakalumi, Kara Young, Nuri Hazzard) is absolutely adept with spoken word dexterity, wonderfully surprising versatility in the various characters they played, fantastic range in their dancing, fluent in every language of rap and worked phenomenally off of one another. Though the entire cast is fantastic in their artistry in their own right, the standout is Adesola Osakalumi, who played an English teacher with elegant physicality, a hilariously dubbed martial artist expert, Gordon’s aging father, a black power college professor, the MC of the final hip hop battle and a hip hop dancer. Having seen him only have moments and a costume piece to switch characters is even more impressive.

Smith’s direction is seamless, from spoken word scenes to dance scenes, while finding the arc of Gordon’s journey to search deep inside himself to find his voice, and doing so with humor, dance and original devices, such as rewinding a brief scene, using sound effects and the talents of his actors. A special mention to the lighting designer, Kevin Rigdon, for finding interesting variety and original choices in telling this story, as well as the choreographer, Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio, for his incredible work in creating different dances to create the story arc and the work he did with the cast, sound designer Justin Ellington for his surprising and fun choices with the production sound and costume designer Claudia Brown for her subtle work in creating the story arch for Gordon and the color choices and pieces for the ensemble.

I cannot express enough how impressed I am with Nsangou Njikam’s writing with Synching Ink. Creating each spoken word/hip hop pieces for each character, the overall arc of the play for several characters and the original, interesting and funny characters he created while telling truths about his experience, makes Synching Ink an experience you have to see for yourself. I honestly hope you do.

Irene Hernandez is an actor, playwright/screenwriter, director, producer, singer, song writer, teaching artist, designing artisan, fine artist, art model and the artistic director of Dancing Frog Theater Company.

Where: The Flea complex (20 Thomas Street in Tribeca, between Church and Broadway, three blocks north of Chambers).

When: Performances run through October 29th

Tickets are available at Ovationtix.

Review: Village, My Home at the Community Theater

VillageMediumVillage, My Home Review: In The Chaos of New York City, Is This A Village We Can Search Our Home?

By Irene Hernandez

A sepia shaded, vintage silent film of tree roots, on a constant loop, is projected on a small screen above a simple set of a small stoop of stairs begins the 40 minute journey of Marcina Zaccaria’s Village, My Home at the Community Theater  at Theater For The New City for the Dream Up Festival in the East Village.

The silence and roots will elude the various characters cluttering the stage, especially the lead character, played by Frances McGarry. The sassy redhead’s claim of brilliance, beauty and basically knowing all is less self-confidence and more arrogant combativeness. Indeed, most of the characters in various vignettes in this production have an urgent need to be heard and yet aren’t paying much attention to those around them in a similar plight.

In other words, these characters are New Yorkers.

The archetypical characters, portrayed by an energetic ensemble, are the types of people you would come across on a subway platform or Union Square. The unnamed characters span generations and language but have a common strand: they all look outside themselves for meaning, identity, and a sense of home, filling the spaces in their lives with constant movement and sound to attempt avoiding their dissatisfaction.

One element of the show is how our digital era – fax machines, email, printers – can add to our frustration, while the use of laptops and cell phones – to text, or take pictures or video – detaches us from living in the moment and our sense of community and connection.

Consistently projected on the small screen is the statement: I built my home. Have these contemporary New Yorkers built a home or a prison of chronic dissatisfaction?

Offering perspective throughout the play is a Greek Chorus of mature hippies, played by Marjorie Conn, Madalyn McKay and Maile Souza. This elegant trio of actresses introduced rhythm, music and dance, suggesting that simplicity, creating with your body and building something from the ground up with those you care for, your village, can be the closest we get to building a home, even if it falls apart. This idea is easily relatable in our current times.

Special mention to Lindsay Shields for her varied video work that subtly underlined the story elements in the play’s opening and transitions as well as Maria Ortiz Proveda’s costume design, with the refreshing inclusion of Greek puppetry.  I  don’t think I’ll forget the giant puppet head of Sadaam Hussein anytime soon.

With so many themes and interesting elements within 40 minutes of the production, I’m curious if Zaccaria’s intent is to keep the show as a short flow of ideas or to expand and organize the hustle and bustle rhythms and refreshing earthy elements into a full length play. Either way, Marcina Zaccaria’s Village, My Home will make you consider to slow down and rethink what home really is.

Irene Hernandez is an actor, playwright, director, producer, singer, songwriter, designing artisan, poet, art model, teaching artist and artistic director of Dancing Frog Theater Company.

Where: Theater for the New City on 155 First Avenue

Friday, September 1 at 9PM
Saturday, September 2 at 2PM
Sunday, September 3 at 8PM

Tickets are available at SmartTix.


Review: The Other Plays

Theater Breaking Through Barriers (“TBTB”) is a theater company that for whatever reason was not on my radar. This company was founded in 1979 as Theater By The Blind with a mission of dedicating and advancing the work of artists with disabilities. Their production of The Other Plays: Short Play About Diversity and Otherness showcased that mission.

Staged at A.R.T/New York Theatres, the bare stage with minimal set pieces allows the audience to focus on the stories written by Dennis A. Allen, Tatiana G. Rivera, Neil La Bute, Bekah Brunstetter, and Lamece Issaq and the monologues written and performed by Pamela Sabaugh, Steven Drabicki, Ryan Haddad, and Russell Barnes. Each piece tells the story of life: love, notions of gender roles, sex, stardom, age, race and standards of beauty.

The diverse group of actors invite us into their worlds as they deal with their “otherness” through humor, sass, and honesty. The 90 minute show warmed our souls on a very crisp New York City evening.

The Other Plays runs through Sunday, March 26th at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre (A.R.T/New York Theatres).

Visit for more information.

Review by Hayden Field: Performeteria

CaptureAt the bar, a bright yellow skirt, pink sash and wide eyes greet us. Next to them is a man giving off distinctly pirate vibes, with a scarf wrapped around his head, a gray vest and… black-and-white Vans. Nearby, a woman with a partly shaved head grips a plastic knife. These are off-duty artists participating in Performeteria, the Theatre Development Fund’s first-ever immersive festival — featuring Off-Off-Broadway theatre and dance companies and presented at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.

The evening kicks off with an immersive piece by Kinesis Project Dance Theatre, figures in orange moving in unison — creeping, flowing, shaking. A smiling guide beckons his group forward — everyone will be led through the building to see three different 10-minute pieces, and afterwards, they can depart, join another group or simply wander about.

Through a pair of double doors and down the stairs into a cavernous space, Rady & Bloom Collective Playmaking is performing in front of an audience that is seated on the stage. An actress approaches the piano, begins to play and sinks down in confusion and pain. Her company lines up to lean upon her, creating together an animal that sighs as one. Different parts of the beast call out about struggles their ancestors went through, like a grandfather who fought in World War II, and as they do, the piano continues to sing, and large paintings are unrolled and flashed to the audience. But these things don’t all go together — they’re a little unsettling, much like the stories they’re meant to illustrate. The piano’s music grows steadily louder, like a carnival ride you can’t retire from, before it fades away. One actor asks, “What do you wish for?”

Back by the bar, a man dressed in a Santa suit — complete with attached reindeer — and a brunette with a reluctant face are staring at their pizza in the midst of a millennial breakup that only gets realer as the minutes wear on. This is Lesser America, a pop theatre ensemble. The two ruminate over meeting at another, happier SantaCon — and the complications of breaking up, like the fact that they own things together and their parents are friends on Facebook. “I’m your person. You text me that all the time; how can it not be true?” he asks. She tells him that when she wakes up in the middle of the night and he’s not holding her, she can’t breathe, and “when you’re still holding me just as tight, it’s somehow even worse.”

Through two more sets of double doors and on the right — you could almost miss it — experimental physical theatre ensemble Blessed Unrest is moving through a dark, energetically charged space. Through their bodies, manmade sounds and select words, they seem to tell the story of a woman moving through the forest, looking for her friend, the one she loves. She’s sidetracked by a group of wild wanderers, one of whom saves her life by designating her her playmate. After a mad dance of abandon with their hands at each other’s throats in only the most intimate way, the two lie down to the sound of pigeons cooing. A revelation sparks the woman to leave her newfound friend in search of her old one — and to give the audience a childlike view of love in its simplicity but also its complications. Her friend tells her, “If you leave now, I can keep you just as you are.”

Performeteria runs through Friday, March 24 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center and features site-specific pieces from 15 Off-Off-Broadway companies.

Click HERE for tickets.

Review by Nick Radu: Deconstruction

The Storm Theatre Company kicked off its 20th season with the world premiere of Jonathan Leaf’s play, Deconstruction.

Upon stepping into The Theatre at Grand Hall at St. Mary’s Parish you couldn’t help but notice Scenic Designer Shannon Kavanagh’s intricate set.  With a wall of books as the backdrop, and many more strewn along the steps, you knew a play about ideas and academics was about to take place.  The stage was literally set for literary critic and theorist, Paul de Man (Jed Peterson) and novelist, Mary McCarthy (Fleur Alys Dobbins) to take the stage. Perhaps the story got lost in the ideas.

While the playing space was set up well and interesting to look at, the echo and reverberation was a bit off-putting, especially when the actors were all the way upstag which took some getting used to.

Director Peter Dobbins’ wonderful staging took place on different levels, giving the actors options and the audience a much-needed variety in such an expository play.  The change between the Rhode Island set and the Greenwich Village set, however, could have been a little more pronounced and done in a timelier fashion.

Peterson’s portrayal of de Man was hard, calculated and guarded, while being friendly and charismatic when necessary.  He was captivating to watch, especially his last moments when no dialogue was needed.

Dobbins brought a youthful and whimsical attitude to Mary, while encompassing the aspect of “fighting the aging ingénue” her character possessed.  She did, however, seem to be trying a little too hard at times, playing at the truth rather than living in it, which robbed the audience of the endearing and comical moments that were few and far between.

Karoline Fischer, with her commanding stage presence, rounded out the cast playing Hannah Arendt.  Unfortunately, her voice did not match her stature, so dialogue was lost.

The play itself is very heady and wordy.  It is  difficult to connect to characters that cheat, lie and circumvent truths without really introducing endearing qualities and humanism.  Though, it could be argued that that is the purpose of a play titled: Deconstruction.  Deconstruction as a literary thought involves stories that intertwine with one another, are related, and yet are inherently opposite and contradictory to one another.  The play achieves this: stories that are intertwined, related and contradictory. Whether this concept in a play adds or detracts to the story is in the eye of each audience member.

Hannah states in the play that the one thing missing in Martin Heidegger’s theories is love.  There is no true connection in humanity; therefore, there are no real connections in the play?  Perhaps.

If anything, this play makes one think, or at least the very least, research these characters to understand their motivations, their connections and their end games.

Deconstruction runs through March 25th  

Grand Hall (at St. Mary’s Parish), 440 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

Visit for more info.


Review by Nick Radu: Broken Bone Bathtub

She’s naked. She’s in a bathtub. And she’s brilliant.

Siobhan O’Loughlin is the petite powerhouse in this one woman show, bringing humanity to more than just the surface of the water she sits in.

Per usual, Siobhan brings a group of people together, in an actual bathroom, where she sits in the tub and tells her story. On this occasion, host, Ron Brawer, Daytime Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for Another World, allowed his Manhattan apartment to be the stage for this particular installment. His giant loft allowed for a larger audience to be present this time around and he provided Siobhan with more than just a conventional tub. Brought in by a friend from Wisconsin when Brawer moved in, was a large copper vat for making cheese!

Siobhan’s adorable face popped up from inside the tub as the literal shower curtain was pulled aside. The large copper basin sat underneath a shower head, which would leak droplets of water every now and then, causing Siobhan to react appropriately.

She told her story of riding her bike through the streets of New York one rainy night. An accident with another cyclist left her on the pavement with a broken hand and a broken spirit.

What was so great about this experience wasn’t just the cute face with the beautiful voice who told the story, or the incredible spirit who picked herself up and delivered a heartfelt depiction of life on life’s terms. What made this incredibly worthwhile was the literal shared experience the audience received.

Siobhan took us through the narrative, but paused at many intervals to ask opinions, thoughts and personal experiences from the friends who gathered around her and her tub. As we got to know her and what happened to her, we also got to know others and what they went through in similar experiences.

She even allowed one of the audience members to wash her back and her hair.

Stipped down to nothing, sitting in water, and allowing us to just be there with her while we let our own guard and defenses down was such a breath of fresh air from the usual theater formula.

In this day and age of social media, and keeping others at text or Facebook-length away, it was so refreshing to make a human connection. She made eye contact. She spoke to numerous audience members about their personal lives. She made you feel at home, at ease, and like a close friend you could open up to.

If you’re looking for something different, something fresh and something to tell a friend about, then check out Broken Bone Bathtub. This artist and this experience are worth it!

Tickets: Available at for $35.00 each.


Performances: Manhattan: Greenwich Village – Feb 24 & 25
Queens: Astoria – Feb 26

Now EXTENDED through March 31st.

Review: Love Alone

My journey to Enfield, NH led me to the Shaker Bridge Theatre where they produced Deborah Salem-Smith’s Love Alone. Nestled in this quiet and sweet town, a story of death and grief and how the parties involved navigate their lives unfolds.

The play opens with Dr. Becca Neal, an anesthesiologist, breaking the news of the death of Helen’s partner of twenty years during a routine operation. The play delves into the lives of these two women and how they try to manage through the malpractice suit, their families, and moving forward. These two strong leads, Qurrat Kadwani, and Suzanne Dudley-Schon, open the play with high stakes but sadly never interact again. Regardless, they lead their story lines with command and emotional gravitas. Kadwani dances the fine line of balancing the loss of her first patient and the ramifications of that onto her personal interactions. Dudley-Schon’s performance is a truthful portrayal of the stages of grief allowing us to feel it with her. Supported by a strong ensemble, Jaime Schwarz’s Clementine (Helen’s daughter) brings light to a dark situation. Ben Roberts plays the distraught husband of Becca whose own needs aren’t being met. Leah Romano covers three roles – each with their own distinct character. Mike Blackman’s plays the attorney who rigorously fights for the deceased and her family.

Set in the thrust playing space, the action takes place in various locations (two living rooms, a waiting room, parking lot, etc.) which all encompass the space at the same time. A complicated play that was brilliantly staged by director, Richard Waterhouse, the scenes weave in out of each other and at times simultaneously occur. The transitions therefore were seamless allowing the story to move quickly and keep the audience’s focus.

The show has two more performances. If you’re in Enfield or in a neighboring town, be sure to see it before it closes.

Saturday, February 4th at 7:30pm; Sunday, February 5th at 2:30pm

23 Main Street, Enfield, NH




Review: Fringe of Humanity

As I got out of my seat, putting my sweater back on, it hit me that I just came off a roller coaster that just kept going up and doing spirals for 106 minutes. The play opens with high energy salsa in the background and a charged opening monologue by Calderon himself. That can at times be worrisome because the only place to go is higher and sometimes  a script doesn’t work out that way. That doesn’t happen here. The talented and giving ensemble pulls the audience into the hotel room and continues  to build the energy to a fever pitch as the story unfolds. Paul Calderon’s Fringe of Humanity is a high- octane, cocaine-fueled explosion of storytelling that keeps you glued to the next word, action, moment.

Fringe of Humanity tells the story of a director, Nick Valdez (played by Paul Calderon), finalizing his script before filming begins and the unredeemable  characters that contribute to the hour and forty-six minutes of mayhem. As they sort out their own defects of characters through the seven deadly sins,  the world outside is also violently crumbling.

I so enjoy watching actors enjoy their craft. Paul Calderon wears three hats as playwright, director and actor. Calderon’s strong and passionate writing lays the groundwork for his ensemble actors to embody his words.  His direction freed the ensemble to raise the stakes of their characters. The energy put forth by  David Zayas (Ross Gausmann), William Rothlein (Ken “Patch” Kelly), Rebecca Nyahay (Liz Gausmann), Luke Smith (Pierce), Alex Emanuel (Ryan), Jakob Von Eichel (Steve), Jessica Damouni (Vicky), and Feliz Ramirez (Crissy) is palpable in the space.

FRINGE OF HUMANITY stars David Zayas, Paul Calderon, William Rothlein, Rebecca Nyahay, Luke Smith, Alex Emanuel, Jakob Von Eichel, Jessica Damouni, Feliz Ramirez, Greg Prosser (understudy) and Nixon Cesar (understudy).  The production team includes Catherine Calderon (co-director, associate producer), Montgomery Mauro (lighting), Sebastian Mitre (assistant to the director, associate producer), Lindsey Hurly (stage manager), and Sarah Norris (producer).

FRINGE OF HUMANITY runs January 11 – 28, Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm with an additional 3pm matinee on Saturday, Jan. 21.  Access Theater is located at 380 Broadway on the 4th floor (at White Street) — accessible from the A/C/E/N/Q/R/6 trains at Canal Street or the 1 train at Franklin. Tickets are $18 at