Review: Roughly Speaking

Homelessness is not an easy subject to discuss. There’s an assumption made about the homeless: they are lazy and they don’t want to work. This untruth unfolds through the 200 interviews collated to create Roughly Speaking. The play introduces the chaos that mental illness, addiction, loss, and economic hardship creates in the lives of people who don’t have a place to call their own as well as the means to access the right care

Set on vast stage with crates, planks and flats that allow for different looks, director Celine Rosenthal beautifully executes the touching and raw reality that we see day-to-day in New York City. The play breaks the fourth wall with narrator/rapper, Lightning.Bolt (Steven J. Michel) who keeps us in check between set changes. Alicia (Madeline McCray) and Tiny (Danny Bolero) passionately play the “parents” of the soup kitchen they run where the play is set. We see that through their own stories and their service to their community that also have hopes and dreams. The talented ensemble support the harrowing stories by playing multiple characters with difficult circumstances and weaknesses. Kudos to Christopher Michael McLamb who flawlessly transforms into two characters, Richie and W,   through his entrances and exit and at times right in front of the audience.

Roughly Speaking featured talk-backs with members of various entities includimg Coalition for the Homeless, Xavier Mission, New York Cares, Convenant House  and visual artist Willie Baronet who created the We Are All Homeless Art Installation. This is their closing weekend so do be sure to support the show and it’s worthy cause.

Roughly Speaking directed by Celine Rosenthal (Broadway’s Leap of Faith & Seminar)
with Franz Jones* (Broadway’s Big River), Danny Bolero* (Broadway’s In The Heights & Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat), Christopher Michael McLamb*, Steven J. Michel*, Michael Twaine*, Madeline McCray*, Troy Valjean Rucker*, Shara Ashley Zeiger*, Joanie Anderson

*members of Actors Equity Association

Through 11/20 Thurs-Sat 8pm,

Sundays 11/20, 2pm

Tada Theater 15 w. 28th st, NYC

Tickets on Smarttix through http://www.theplatformgroup.org

 

 

 

Review: The Other Mozart with Jody Christopherson

“I’m only my brother’s pupil.”

Once upon time before my foray into theatre, I was a singer who studied music and eventually majored in music for 2 years before I realized that it wasn’t my calling. My inspiration: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He’s my favorite composer. He’s brilliant.

I was sad that I missed The Other Mozart when it premiered last year especially since I was in the audience when the creator and performer, Sylvia Milo, and her team, won two New York Innovative Theatre Awards. So when I learned that it was being reprised with fellow indie theatre artist, Jody Christopherson, I was getting to The Players!

I wasn’t disappointed. It was worth the wait. The Other Mozart is about the sister of Amadeus, Nannerl Mozart, a virtuoso and accomplished composer in her own right whose story was lost to the annals of time. The solo performance art piece is set in and on a majestic and imperial 18-foot dress which fills the stage. It is on and in this dress, that Jody Christopherson beautifully and poignantly engages the audience with this haunting story of Nannerl’s life: the talented sister who accompanied her genius brother on tour throughout Western Europe; the daughter who was both praised and subjugated as well as touted and urged to be domesticated by her parents; the wife who became a baroness to raise his children and then hers in the wilderness.

Under the flawless direction of Isaac Byrne, the music created by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen supported the narrative laid out by Christopherson. The costume designs by Magdalena Dabrowaka and Miodrag Guberinic are art pieces and will inspire any artist who sees this show.

For me, I wish I knew about Nannerl when I was growing up. Instead of writing an essay on Mozart, I wrote a 20 page poem based on his life when I was in high school. My recollection of her being mentioned all those years ago are vague. And how apropos and timely this piece is in the climate we are enduring. A feminist manifesto of how it was for women and how fortunate we are today.


Show Info:

Little Matchstick Factory presents:
The Other Mozart: the forgotten story of Mozart’s genius sister
Written by Sylvia Milo
Directed by Isaac Byrne

Performances Sept 23 – Nov 13 and Jan 6 – 9 at the Players Theatre

Performed (in rotation) by Sylvia Milo, Samantha Hoefer, Daniela Galli and introducing Jody Christopherson*
Location:
The Players Theater is located at 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd floor, no elevator (b/w Bleecker and West 3rd Streets). A/B/C/D/E/F/M trains to West 4th Street stop.

Tickets: $45-$65 available online at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/277 or by calling866-811-4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theatre’s box office 1⁄2 hour prior to performance. Student tickets $15 available at the door.

More info at: http://www.theOtherMozart.com

Review: Such Nice Shoes

such nice shoes-9.jpgThere are times when I walk into a theatre not really wanting to see my own life on stage. However, watching a day in the life of Christine Renee Miller, actually made me feel grateful for the life I have and how important it is for us to use this platform to share our stories. Miller is known in the theatre circles as Emmy winner, Matt Hoverman’s collaborator for their Go-Solo Classes. The solo shows that have been produced from their classes have been moving and successful. This show is no different. Miller magnificently and smoothly transitions through no less than 10 characters that she encounters in one day. We meet the sassy homeless woman who kicks off Miller’s day in the early morning to the Indian palm reader to the sexist yoga client. Staged in Theater Lab’s white space with Lianne Arnold’s projections and Kia Rogers’ lighting design to support locations, director Andrea Dantas creatively and poignantly questions us: “Does New York chew us up and spits us out and how do we handle the outcome?”

Performances:

Monday Oct 17 at 7pm *talkback post show
Thurs Oct 20 at 8pm
Fri Oct 21 at 8pm
Sat Oct 22 at 8pm

Location:
TheaterLab is located at 357 W 36th Street 3rd floor (b/w 8th and 9th Aves). A/C/E to 34th Street / Penn Station.

More info at:
http://www.theaterlabnyc.com/; http://www.suchniceshoes.com/

Tickets: $20

fringeNYC 2016 Recap #3

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Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan by Dipti Mehta; Directed by Mark Cirnigliaro

I recently saw Born into Brothels about on the red light district in the the slums of India and was completely taken aback. I wasn’t surprised that there was prostitution because that would be naive, but there was a part of me that hoped that this issue wouldn’t be a part of my culture. For a culture that created the Kama Sutra and tantric sex, tonight’s performance reminded me that many a girl/woman/matriarch has to be a queen to many kings in one night especially if that is your destiny.

Dipti Mehta bravely writes and performs Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan which tells the story of a young girl, Rani, who dreams of a life beyond the sex industry and her mother who has secured her next station in life for a good price. Mehta seamlessly moves through her characters to  tell us the story through her mother, her father, a pundit, the neighbor, and a pimp (amongst others). In typical Indian fashion, Mehta incorporates traditional and Bollywood dancing as part of the narrative through her many characters.

Though I loved the bilingual aspect, the mix of Hindi and English pulled me out of the show at times. My own Hindi is rudimentary and very basic. Actually, I should just admit I don’t speak Hindi at all. I also yearned for a set to transport us to the “Fuck Lane” so we could grasp a sense of location and poverty.

That being said, I enjoyed the performance and seeing an Indian actress on the stage. I appreciated Mehta bringing attention to the sex industry. To learn more about her efforts with Apne Aap, an international aid organization dedicated to the saving of young girls from sex trade, visit www.apneaap.org.

Show Info:

FRI 8/26 @ 2
SAT 827 @ 5

VENUE #8: WOW Cafe
59-61 East 4th Street, #4
(between Bowery and 2nd Avenue)

Click HERE for more info.

fringeNYC 2016 Recap #2

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Houseless in Paradise by Dr. Mark Tjarks; Directed by Dennis Gleason

Houseless in Paradise exposes the homelessness problem in tropical Hawaii. The Aloha  State has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the United States. The playwright, Dr. Mark Tjarks compiled more than 60 stories from the “houseless” community as well as city and state officials to create a play about hope.

The program included a bonus feature called The Unsalable Thing also written by Dr. Tjarks about a bidding war for a storage locker with a twist.
After a short pause there’s a transition into Houseless in Paradise. However, the location of the piece was unclear at the beginning. The ensemble wonderfully shared the many stories that reflect painful childhoods, addiction, abuse, prostitution, economic downfall, and illness as a basis of the loss of homes. However, it was unclear to whom they were talking.
Though emotional and thought provoking, it was missing an element that would connect this audience to Hawaii. The piece began with the use of projection and wasn’t used again until the end. Since the play is performed in New York City, where homelessness is also a widespread issue, the lack of photos from Hawaii didn’t transport the audience to the locations mentioned in the script. It also didn’t give us the element needed to forget what’s right outside the theater. Therefore, if one hasn’t been to Hawaii (like me), it was hard to connect to being homeless in paradise. Regardless, I was able to hear the stories and be empathetic.
Show Info:
WED 8/17 @ 4:30
FRI 8/19 @ 4:45
SAT 8/20 @ NOON
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at The Clemente
107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington & Delancey)
Click HERE for more info.

 

fringeNYC 2016 Recap #1

200 shows. Hot Summer. The New York International Fringe Festival celebrates 20 years.

My journey with the Fringe began in 2001 supporting my friends’ plays. Then in 2006, my theatre company, Black Henna, produced Naughty Prep School Stories by Michael Quinones and for the last 3 years, I have been fortunate to be on the team for amazing shows.

One of the great perks is seeing shows and sharing it with you. I won’t be able to do all of them but here’s a taste:

img_7489HomoSapiens Interruptus by Carlos Dengler; Directed by Scott Wesley Slavin

If Soren Kierkegaard and Jane Goodall had a baby and that baby was raised by Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and spiritually directed by Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, he’d grow up to be Carlos Dengler.

It is so refreshing to see a show that simply tells the story. Carlos D sits at a table and tells his compelling story of growing up a headbanger, then a philosopher and then the co-founder of the New York-based band, Interpol using the evolution of man as thread and metaphor.

As a metalhead, I was easily transported to my youth. The time when I was one of few girls who loved Metallica and Megadeth, defending it at my all girls high school, and now the woman who goes to nostalgia concerts – except Metallica because the tickets are ridiculously expensive. What a beautiful trip down memory lane under the guise of intellect which I too experienced. Open, raw, concise under the direction of Scott Slavin with light design by Leslie Smith.

Show info:

MON 8/15 @ 7:15
FRI 8/19 @ 9:30
MON 8/22 @ 2:45
THU 8/25 @ 9:30

VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND 64 East 4th Street (Bowery & 2nd Avenue)

Click HERE for more info.


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The Illusory Adventures of a Dreamer by Michael Bradley;  Directed by
Chris Goodrich

Ask a dreamer the question “Who are you?” and the myriad of thoughts and feelings dance around the fine line of reality and fantasy. Michael Bradley’s clever and creative retelling of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt takes us through the maddening and sensual adventure of a young man wrestling with himself. I’ll be honest. I’m always on the fence when it comes to a retelling because it is hit or miss. This is a hit. An intense 90 minutes, this energetic and connected ensemble cast take us on Peer’s adventures. we see that sometimes wanting it all and experiencing it all is sensory overload; making a decision to want what you desire comes with rules and maybe you don’t want it; or saying you hold many values instead of living them causes disappointment to those who look up to you.

The story is told on a bare stage with movable set pieces and brilliantly choreographed by Geovanny Fischetti. The play keeps moving. Kudos to Taylor Turner for turning out a lovely portrayal of Peer Gynt, the whole cast for moving seamlessly through characters and sharing their talent on what felt like the hottest day in NYC history.

Show Info:

TUE 8/16 @ 5
MON 8/22 @ 4:45
WED 8/24 @ 7
SAT 8/27 @ 1:30

VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente 107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington & Delancey) New York, NY

Click HERE for more info.

Guest Blogger Manny Rodriguez Reviews “Power!” Stokely Carmichael

 

On a humid summer night, Stokely Carmichael gathers us together and prepares us for what’s to come. He stands on a bench and rolls up a sign into a makeshift bullhorn and tells us we better get ready. The gravity of the situation can be heard in his voice. This is real and we have to take it seriously. White supremacy kills and we must understand that. Carmichael then jumps off the bench, puts the sign down, looks at the audience directly and asks with a wry smile, “You ok?”

Going into Meshaun Labrone’s one man show, “Power! Stokely Carmichael,” we’re automatically ready for the sober, hefty civil rights lesson that’s coming. But Meshaun Labrone’s brilliance is his awareness of the subject’s weight and ability to teach it with a level hand.

Like all great leaders, Carmichael was able to relate to his people by visualizing the struggle for us and bringing you to a place where you could deal with it mentally. But if Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were the prinicipals of the school, Carmichael was your favorite, down to earth teacher you loved. That teacher who told you entertaining stories of his mentors, the aforementioned King and X, and made you understand the importance of what they did and the greatness they possessed in them. His gift, so beautifully captured here by Mr. Labrone, was to make you see that those gifts were in you too.

Labrone first shows us the pain of living as a black man as he moves from Carmichael and takes the guise of a 74 year old man who has worked all his life for an abusive white man. Illuminating the torture of everyday life is then balanced by an examination of some of the joys in life, most notably the music of James Brown. Labrone wins us over with his charisma (and dancing skills—that split was awesome!) and never lets go. He expresses the love he has for Black women by pulling a lovely sister from the audience and bringing her onstage. This could have been awkward in another actor’s hands, but with Labrone it is sweet, funny and enlightening. All of this is made that much easier and entertaining by Jennifer Knight’s fluid direction. Each lighting change and transition is seamless and our attention is never lost.

But Labrone’s major achievement is drawing the parallel between 1960’s Black America and our 2016 version. Our hatred of Black skin, our fear of white supremacy, and our willingness to lose our selves for the fruitless prizes of American society still hold us back. And Labrone doesn’t hammer this point home. He respects our intelligence by allowing us to come to it naturally. The same way all the great teachers do.

Venue:

Lounge Theatre

6201 Santa Monica Boulevard

Perfomances:

Sunday, June 5th

Friday, June 10th

Saturday, June 11th

For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/POWERSTOKELYCARMICHAEL/?fref=ts and www.powerstokelycarmichael.com

UPCOMING DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED FOR CAPITAL FRINGE AND NY INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL

Power!

Guest Blogger Nick Radu Reviews Bedroom Farce

Bedroom Farce

If you’re looking for a good time, a good show and a few good laughs you need only go as far as the bedroom; or three bedrooms, as it is in Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce. Under the creative and talented eye of director Andrew Block, the title and the performances do not disappoint when it comes to comedic farce.  The entire play takes place in three separate bedrooms, owned by three of the four couples in the play.  Ian McDonald did a spectacular job of creating the space, with three full beds, as well as walls and doors and other nooks and crannies to differentiate the playing spaces. But it’s Block’s clever blocking that keeps this play moving, and from becoming a giant mess of beds vs people.

Trevor and Susannah, played by Simon Pearl and Alexandra O’Daly, respectively, are a couple whose marriage is on the rocks, and everyone else knows about it.  These two actors have great chemistry as they battle it out in the most awkward of places; other people’s bedrooms.

Trevor’s parents, played by Viki Boyle and Mitch Giannunzio, give us a wonderful insight into married life during middle age.  They seem to have the experience and the answers, but we are privileged to watch these playful actors as their true colors come out when they’re forced to deal with unmentionable topics.

Nick, played by John Gazzale, makes us all cringe as the bed-ridden character agonizing over a slipped disc.  We have the joy of watching his wife, Jan, played by Mel House, deal with her husband’s pleasantries during this crazy romp.  The two have the best moment in the play as these great physical actors give the audience their money’s worth!

In fact, the entire cast has wonderful comedic timing, but the scene stealers are clearly Joscelyne Wilmouth, playing Kate, and Toby MacDonald, playing her husband, Malcolm. These two have it all: chemistry, timing, physicality, you name it.  MacDonald has such a great take-charge way about him, while still being adorably funny.  Wilmouth shows the most range as she interacts with the other characters and deals with her own bedroom shenanigans.

Stop down to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and catch one of the remaining performances of Bedroom Farce. You’re in for a treat!

VENUE:
Jones Auditorium
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church
7 West 55th Street
(on the 3rd Floor)
PERFORMANCE DATES:
7 pm Saturday, April 16
2 pm Sunday, April 17
7 pm Tuesday, April 19
7 pm Wednesday, April 20
7 pm Thursday, April 21
7 pm Friday, April 22
7 pm Saturday, April 23
2 pm Sunday, April 24
Visit HERE for more info.

Review: Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig

CaptureOpening night for any performance is filled with excitement and anxiety. A play about the opening night of a performance is a beautiful insight to the crazy that surrounds it. Especially if it’s Verdi’s Otello, the tenor is an Italian superstar, and there’s a catastrophe. Set in 1934, Otello is the saving grace for the Cleveland Grand Opera. However, everything doesn’t turn out the way it should. How can it when there’s an angry wife, the starstruck girlfriend, the bombshell starlet, the nosey bellhop, the diva president of the Opera, and the anxious General Manager and his assistant – the true underdog and secret talent. That’s the perfect and delicious recipe for mayhem! And where there is mayhem, hilarity ensues.

Ken Ludwig’s comedy, under the skillful direction of Erik Niellsen, has three essential characteristics that makes this successful: precise comedic timing, physicality, and a talented ensemble. Also, what makes this show enjoyable is the comraderie and trust between the actors. It oozed off the stage and infected opening night’s audience.

Fun fact: Ludwig wrote a sequel called A Comedy of Tenors.

Running for two more weekends in the newly renovated parish hall:

Maggie’s Little Theatre

St. Margaret Parish Hall
66-05 79th Place
(between Metropolitan Ave. and Juniper Valley Rd.)
Middle Village, NY 11379

Performances:

Friday, March 4 at 8:00 pm;
Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 pm;
Saturday, March 12 at 8:00 pm;
Sunday, March 13 at 2:30 pm

Click HERE to reserve tickets.

 

 

Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

CaptureThe lights come up on an inviting bed/sitting room with French doors opening out to a view of a magnificent plantation. This sets the tone for those familiar with a Tennessee Williams play.  You are invited to observe the web of secrets, deception, and shame and they begin with the opening lines between Maggie and Brick. The performance of this play hinges on a Maggie who entices the audience with her sensuality and a Brick who commits to his lengthy silences; a Big Daddy who is foreboding and unforgiving in his machismo and a Big Mama who is manipulative in her damedom; and a Gooper and Mae who have their own story supported by children who add to the chaos. The other characters are either managing the chaos or unintentionally adding to it.

Under the flawless direction of Kevin Schwab, the Parkside Players produced this wordy and layered play to great success. Mendacity is reflected in the subtle glances, closing and opening of the doors, and the story told between pauses and proximity between the actors. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of Tennessee William’s best known plays. This strong ensemble cast unabashedly convey all aspects of dying, alcoholism, deceit, love, and sex. The winner takes it all but who is the winner?

 

 

Parkside Players
Grace Lutheran Church
103-15 Union Turnpike, Forest Hills, NY 11375

Performances
Fridays, February 26 & March 4 @ 8:00 PM
Saturdays, February 20, 27 & March 5 @ 8:00 PM
Sundays, Februaryr 21 & 28 @ 2:00 PM

Visit www.parksideplayers.com for more info.