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Oona Curley

Blues for an Alabama Sky

February 26, 2020

Pearl Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky" gets a belated New York premiere courtesy of Keen Company in its 20th season. Although seen in many regional theaters since its 1995 premiere at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta with Phyllicia Rashad in the leading role, it has long been overdue in New York even though Cleage is also a successful and acclaimed novelist. Framed as a domestic drama, the play manages to take in the topics of racism, sexism, homophobia, birth control and abortion, poverty, alcoholism, and extreme religious points of view among the bohemians of Harlem, circa 1930. [more]

Dr. Ride’s American Beach House

November 7, 2019

Plays about lives of quiet desperation are difficult to pull off because you run the risk of boring the audience. Liza Birkenmeier’s “Dr. Ride’s American Beach House” has all the elements of a fascinating drama but as presented by Ars Nova at Greenwich House it is all about subtext and undercurrents which may go right over the heads of many audience members. Little happens but there is much tedious talk which is a cover-up for what goes unsaid. [more]

Notes on My Mother’s Decline

October 22, 2019

Knud Adams directs this one-set show which at times has moments of humor, but overall is a slow moving and usually depressing narrative. Ari Fliakos, who plays the son, gives a reserved performance. Too often I thought of  the somber tones of The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling. Fliakos  speaks directly to the audience while seldom having conversations with his mother, played convincingly by Caroline Lagerfelt. When they do interact, it’s via a call that usually describes her mundane days. [more]

runboyrun & In Old Age

October 9, 2019

Despite the fine writing and acting, these two plays do not stand alone: we are given no backstory to understand the context for these relationships in the longer saga; both plays dealing with a character’s depression, they are too similar in the theme of being haunted by the past; and thirdly, as they are basically two-character plays, both are too long for the limited story and plot lines they contain. Unlike the first two plays, these use two different directors (Loretta Greco for "runboyrun," and Awoye Timpo for "In Old Age"), ironically making them seem quite similar in style. [more]

Rinse, Repeat

August 10, 2019

Feraud’s scenario is structured as a series of taut precise scenes bursting with sharp dialogue and topical references including an Uber driver with a musical recording on Spotify. She drops well-timed details that advance her agenda of tackling the issue of the preoccupation with feminine physical perfection. We learn of Peter and Joan’s strained marriage that is characterized by resentfulness over financial inequity and past infidelity. Everything reaches a realistic and dramatically satisfying conclusion. [more]

The Appointment

April 22, 2019

chorus line of singing and dancing fetuses follows the eerily comical beginning of "The Appointment" where we first meet them posed as if they’re in wombs and babbling in baby talk. When one of them is going to be aborted a hook as from a talent show appears, encircles their necks and pulls them offstage. It’s made quite clear that this mesmerizing offbeat musical will be thoughtfully exploring the issue of abortion. There’s lightheartedness with serious overtones. The overall quality is that of a television variety special of the 1970’s with comedy sketches, musical numbers and dashes of drama. [more]

Bonnie’s Last Flight

February 15, 2019

"Bonnie’s Last Flight" peppers its character moments with humorous sketches and air travel anecdotes. Some don’t hit their mark, but most do. There’s an especially amusing and thoughtful moment where the audience is handed landing cards on which they’re invited to “lighten their emotional luggage upon arrival.” All “passengers” are asked to “write down whatever’s been weighing you down: a fear, a hurt, a grudge, anything you’re ready to let go of—anything to lessen the emotional kilos you carry around. When we do our trash collection shortly we will also take the emotional waste you wish to dispose of. Namaste.” I’m quite certain every person in the audience felt better after their card was taken out with the trash, present company included. [more]

Good Grief

October 31, 2018

"Good Grief" opens with a celestial sequence and continues with Nkechi’s narration. Sometimes incidents are replayed in order to get them closer to the truth since all are memories and not always totally accurate.  There’s an early fantasy boxing match that seems out of place. The slight plot involves the death of one of the characters and the profound effect it has on Nkechi. [more]

Salome

October 15, 2018

This M-34 production, under Rutherford’s direction, doesn’t rise to stratospheric heights.  Quite the opposite:  Rutherford’s direction and writing turns Salome into a fascinating domestic comedy/drama, an interesting interpretation, even a witty interpretation, but one that avoids piercing the audience’s minds.  He keeps the actors watchable with an in-your-face directing style.  Earnest and energetic as it is, he never squeezes fresh revelations from the text. [more]

1969: The Second Man

August 30, 2018

The mellow sound of Brandt’s score proves to be easy listening, but the individual musical numbers do not build to any dramatic climaxes so that the show seems tamer than material concerning depression and alcoholism suggests it should be. However, the ballad forms and guitar/violin instrumentation are pleasant to the ear. Some of Giles’ dialogue which is not part of Aldrin’s story seems extraneous and the show takes a while to get started. "1969: The Second Man" is entertaining enough in this concert form, but needs some work before going to the next level. Jacob Brandt, however, proves to be a talented new musical voice. [more]

ms. estrada

April 18, 2018

The Q Brothers Collective (made up of GQ, JQ, Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle) is best known in New York for their hip hop variations on Shakespeare: "Othello: The Remix" in 2016 and "The Bomb-itty of Errors" in 2000. As the entire show is in rhyme and rhythm, there are very few discrete songs, but the couplets come so fast that it is at times difficult to make out the clever lyrics. The upside of the new show has all the hijinks of a teen musical but with the unsophistication of a college parody (the downside). It is the latest musical version of Aristophanes’ most famous comedy, but unlike the 2011 "Lysistrata Jones," "ms. estrada" has eliminated all of the politics for an exploration into the social aspects instead. [more]

Breeders

September 28, 2017

There are plentiful comic one-liners and also sharp observations in Mr. Giles’ well-crafted dialogue.  Giles perfectly renders all four characters with personality details and traits.  The tensions, concerns and sensibilities of the long-term gay couple all ring true, but interspersing these with the mildly entertaining hamster story feels like a strategic theatrical device that undercuts the main plot to no great effect. [more]

In a Word

July 1, 2017

Told mainly in reenacted flashbacks, In a Word plays multiple language games. It also proves the limits of language. Can you really describe exactly what happens at any given moment? And if you misunderstand a word or take it to mean something else the whole meaning changes. After two years, Guy wants to know what Fiona didn’t tell him on the day Tristan disappeared. Fiona brings evidence to the detective but fails to be exact in her suspicions. Tristan misunderstands things he is not meant to hear and proceeds on his own explanations. [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]