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Austin Smith

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

March 30, 2017

Marisa Tomei excels as George, the narrator of "How to Transcend…" --and of her own story. Thanks to Tomei’s vocal and visual expressions, we constantly share in George’s ongoing surprise, as she graduates from naivety to knowledge. In the end, it is George who has the most “transcendent,” and religious, experience. (It is not insignificant that we’re told George is the only Catholic in the group.)“It seems like you have omniscience,” says George, in her closing monologue, “when you can talk to the audience in a play.” And talk to us, she does, in the playwright’s smart, yet snappy language. Consider George also telling us that Jenna, “over time forgave us,” after walking in on her parent’s participating in a sex orgy. And “the trauma of seeing her parents’ aberrant sex lives up close--it became an anecdote in a college application.” Or consider David’s saying: “I’m from everywhere. And nowhere. I moved constantly as a child…. as a result, I don’t really believe in nationality.” [more]

An Octoroon

March 3, 2015

In 2015, it’s a bold move to revive a century and a half-old play that bears a racially insensitive title, and it’s an even bolder move to refrain from apologizing for such source material. Nevertheless, playwright Branden JacobsJenkins does just that in" An Octoroon," his adaptation of Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama "The Octoroon." Back by popular demand from its previous Soho Rep mounting and recently extended at the Theatre for a New Audience through March 29, the production makes the risky decision to embrace an uncomfortable facet of our history and transform it into a contemporary piece. Thankfully, it paid off big time: the result is an entertaining, touching and illuminating theatrical experience that speaks to today’s audience. [more]