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Joe John Battista

A 2019 Ten Best List

December 19, 2019

These superior revivals, bold new plays and a terrific solo show were the most fascinating and memorable productions I experienced this year. [more]

A Life in the Rye

November 9, 2019

A seated actor dressed all in black wearing a beret beats a conga drum on a confined playing area.  Other actors in period costumes sit at small cabaret tables and chairs as thick wafts of smoke envelop the stage. On the back wall is a white screen and from behind it is the shadow of a woman dancing. Such is the arresting 1950’s classic beat coffee house imagery director Joe John Battista conjures up for playwright Claude Solnik’s fascinating fantasia derived from the life of J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), "A Life in the Rye." [more]

Lone Star

June 11, 2019

Such lukewarm response may be attributable, at least in part, to the changing times. Lone Star focuses on a not-so-old Good Ol’ Boy from rural Texas named Roy (de Rogatis). He’s a Vietnam veteran who drunkenly bullies his younger brother, Ray (Chris Loupos), outside the back of a local bar called Angel’s. Roy also bedevils a former high school classmate named Cletis, aka “Skeeter” (Michael Villastrigo), a nerdy nincompoop who has long envied Roy for his swagger and alleged popularity with women. At one point in the show, Roy enumerates for Ray the ugly atrocities against Vietnamese citizens that he saw during the war, in essence bragging about his capacity to endure it all. In a culture that has become increasingly sensitive about the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, there’s little room now for humor surrounding such content. Perhaps, too, audiences are simply less amused than they used to be by depictions of rural Texans as dung-kicking buffoons, which is probably a good thing. [more]

Women Behind Bars

March 31, 2019

Referencing the 1950 women’s prison drama "Caged" and synthesizing all of the conventions of that cinematic genre, the late playwright Tom Eyen crafted the 1975 camp classic "Women Behind Bars." It’s been hilariously revived at the historic 13th Street Repertory Theatre in a punchy production lovingly directed by Joe John Battista. [more]

Before We’re Gone

July 24, 2018

Its maddening structure, extraneous scenes and superfluous characters diminish but do not totally obliterate the potency of playwright Jerry Small’s romantic drama, "Before We’re Gone." What could have been a focused and poignant work in the manner of William Gibson’s duologue "Two for the Seesaw" is instead an erratic jumble. [more]