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Articles by Cynthia Allen

Cynthia Allen
About Cynthia Allen (17 Articles)
Cynthia Allen is a professor at New York University, with teaching interests involving art and new media: how the role of new media impacts all aspects of culture and society. She has been involved in film production in various capacities since the 1980s -- film producer, arts archive consultant, and more -- working with such celebrated filmmakers as Joel and Ethan Coen, Sergio Leone and Martin Scorsese. She is actively involved in the audio book, radio drama and podcasting community, serving as the Festival Director of HEAR Now: The Audio Fiction & Arts Festival for over three years. For over 12 years, she has been the director and editor of Modern Theatre Online, a theater archive and critics website. Since 2006, she has been and continues to be the website director and editor for the theater critics organization, the Outer Critics Circle (OCC), as well as being a voting member.

Zora Neale Hurston: a Theatrical Biography

November 17, 2016

The actors make the characterless space come alive. Elizabeth Van Dyke (Zora Neale Hurston) shrouds Zora with the same purity and authority that she conveyed in the 1998 production. Zora never pandered to convention -- Harlem Renaissance beliefs (Langston Hughes or Richard Wright) or white America politics. Zora walked her own path and was unwaveringly true to who she was and her ideas about art, politics, men and women, academia, and Black culture. Van Dyke towering performance is one that depicts Zora's all these character traits, as well as having a vulnerability and zest for life. [more]

27

November 14, 2016

Gordon created the role of Gertrude Stein with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in mind. Blythe’s monumental presence, thanks to a towering, charismatic, forceful voice, is meant to arrest and command attention. Blythe captures Stein’s complicated personality – her genius, her stalwartness, her humor and her occasional, brutal judgments about the artistic quality of her bon mots. [more]

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

November 9, 2016

Josie Rourke, artisic director of the Donmar Warehouse, understands the game’s complexity and what adroit moves need to be made throughout to maintain a psychological cohesiveness. Her deft hand is evident in her light touch so that the production is not weighed down by nastiness. Where Rourke falls down is casting Schreiber, who is known for his charismatic masculinity and not for being a jocund bon vivant. Valmont needs to be more calculating, as well as, effete. [more]

Phantasmagoria; or, Let Us Seek Death!

October 31, 2016

Benjamin Stuber’s puppetry designs are a disappointment and should be more thoughtful and complementary to the play. Ghoulish puppets that are meant to disturb seem make-shift and thrown together. There is only one disturbing and appropriately quirky puppet effect – the appearance of a huge eye, set into a collage background of assorted textiles. [more]

Ship of Fools

October 20, 2016

Visual artist and puppeteer Jessica Scott navigates through a satiric and fascinating new media “seascape” with a dysfunctional ship’s crew, albeit all women. Scott’s "Ship of Fools" uses nightmare structure, intentionally drawing from Book VI of Plato’s "Republic" (from whence its title came), Bosch imagery and other surreal allegories, depicting the fine line between heroines and madness. [more]

The God Projekt

October 19, 2016

In "The God Projekt," the “Divine He” repeatedly tries to make reparations for his past destructive deeds, but to no avail. God is wrestling with dementia and in a time loop. Yet, he is determined to correct, well, his god-awful mistakes -- one of which is not only acknowledging the “Divine She” in his heavenly order, but atoning for a heinous crime against her. [more]

Underground Railroad Game

October 11, 2016

Sheppard recollected that in the Underground Railroad game his fifth grade classmates were designated to be either Union or Confederate soldiers. The Yankees (Union) tried to covertly run slaves (portrayed as “black dolls”) from a classroom “safe house” to another classroom “safe house.” The Rebels (Confederates) endeavored to prevent the Yanks from accomplishing their mission. The end goal was to secret slaves or dolls to Canada (a school lobby glass case filled with memorabilia served as Canada). [more]

Bears in Space

September 21, 2016

"Bears In Space" is a story-within-a- story. An interstellar archivist, who collects “every story in the universe,” enjoys having his sons (Bertram, Darcy and Lady Susan Vernon) regularly act out his favorite tales. The Story Keeper, as the archivist is known, invites the audience to “bear” witness to the telling of one of his prized narratives from his galactic library -- "Bears In Space." The celebrated Irish theatre company, Collapsing Horse, employ their adept puppetry, comedic talents, linguistic prowess (including the fine art of punning and utilizing malapropisms to artistic advantage), and clever music making "Bears In Space" a delightful farce for puppet, improv, Disney and Simpsons’ enthusiasts alike. [more]

Blossom

September 13, 2016

Lott employs skillful puppetry, complementary video projections, innovative lighting and novel sound design to show the transitions between the present and make-believe. Five puppeteers (Robert Stevenson, Jamie Agnello, Rowan Magee, Chelsea Fryer, and Sam Jay Gold) carefully and exactingly portray the slow but sure disintegration of Blossom's mind. Real-time and imaginary time are each given their own set pieces through which Blossom explores memories and in-the-moment relationships. [more]

To Protect the Poets (The New York International Fringe Festival 2016)

August 21, 2016

"To Protect the Poets" shows how readily lines can be crossed when “street justice” is employed, instead of the judicial system. This first-rate, timely and intelligent play is a just representation of how two people who love each other deal with violent crimes against women and police brutality. [more]

Alice in Black and White

August 9, 2016

"Alice in Black and White" is a play-within-a-play. Two parallel stories are told: one of Austen’s life and relationship with Gertrude Tate, her companion for over 40 years; and one in the early 1950’s involving a Staten Island Historical Society receptionist and journalist Oliver Jensen, who later published "The Revolt of the American Woman" (which included Austen photographs) and a Life magazine article on Austen. [more]

Paradiso: Chapter 1

August 6, 2016

A new media and sophisticated ticket booking system is brought into play even before the play begins. In order to buy tickets, a theatergoer has to give out his/her cell phone number for text follow-up information as to confirmation of time and the Midtown location. The immersive theater is kept secret until the day of booking the event. The address of where "Paradiso: Chapter 1" is being held is texted only four hours before the participant’s allotted time. [more]

Men on Boats

August 2, 2016

In this swashbuckling comedic play, 'Men on Boats" takes an innovative approach by casting ten women in the roles of the first “white” discovers of the Grand Canyon. However, this was not a nod to the current trend of casting cisgender or transgender actors. The use of “on boats,” instead of “in boats,” indicates the state of being in which the actresses find themselves — a history panorama where gender and race play little part. [more]

Oslo

July 26, 2016

Bartlett Sher complements Rogers by punctuating the play with visual puns that substantially add to the drama and importance of the enfolding events. A dinner party at Mona and Larsen’s home is disturbed by two phone calls, ringing at the same time. Larsen fields a call from Israel and Mona takes a call from the P.L.O. Phone cords or wires are crossed, as Larsen and Mona exchange mouthpieces and try to arrange meetings and facilitate a place and time for the negotiations in Norway. [more]

The Lost Ones: A New Musical

July 12, 2016

Karen Carpenter singing her song, We Have Only Just Begun (to live), sitting on a stool in the afterlife takes the meaning of ill-fated to a whole new level. However, Karen Carpenter, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain singing Karen and Richard Carpenter’s number one hit, Top of the World, brought the house down. The staging of whom sang what verse and when was priceless. And, Greg Schlotthauer’s musical direction is inspired. [more]

Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep

July 10, 2016

"Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep" takes place in two worlds: the New York CBGB punk scene of 1985, and a dark, Greek mythological other world of indeterminate time and place. In 1985, a high school social worker by the name of Grace mentors an after-school, trauma therapy session. In the other world, the Archetypal Mother/Storyteller presides over her “damaged souls” and reads from an ancient tome, the “Phoenix Book.” [more]

Himself and Nora

June 29, 2016

James Joyce most always put himself first, according to Jonathan Brielle, who wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Himself and Nora," (subtitled “The Greatest Love Story Never Told”), Minetta Lane Theatre’s new Off-Broadway musical. Brielle explores the narcissistic and codependent 37-year relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle (who later became Joyce’s wife). For a purported love story that defined a genius and mesmerized Joyce enthusiasts for ages, the two-act musical is lightweight with minimal literary biographical details. [more]