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Articles by Tony Marinelli

About Tony Marinelli (54 Articles)
Tony Marinelli is an actor, playwright, director, arts administrator, and now critic. He received his B.A. and almost finished an MFA from Brooklyn College in the golden era when Benito Ortolani, Howard Becknell, Rebecca Cunningham, Gordon Rogoff, Marge Linney, Bill Prosser, Sam Leiter, Elinor Renfield, and Glenn Loney numbered amongst his esteemed professors. His plays I find myself here, Be That Guy (A Cat and Two Men), and …and then I meowed have been produced by Ryan Repertory Company, one of Brooklyn’s few resident theatre companies.
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Staff Meal

May 11, 2024

Koogler began writing "Staff Meal" in January 2020 and completed the first draft in April 2020…well, he certainly had time on his hands, but so did a lot of people. It’s a wonder we didn’t have a great outpouring of “the great American novels” during Covid, or at least as we were being released from our lockdowns so we’d have something to read as we made our way back into the subway. What is striking about "Staff Meal" is that we begin with what passes for so much normalcy – two people begin conversation, even if it’s minimal Millennial-bleats, and graduate towards commiserating about the coffee in this particular café finally leading up to finding lunch somewhere…but this won’t be a quick run into a (low-end) McDonald’s or (slightly better than low end) Pret a Manger…this will be a foray into Ruth Reichl territory. They land in a high-end perhaps Michelin-starred restaurant where the staff gathers to eat gourmet cuisine before the dinner crowd comes in. [more]

Exagoge

May 7, 2024

As we are instructed early on, the meal and the service are divided into 15 sections. The Seder is held in the midst, or as a significant part, of the whole of the play. It is then complemented by the opera portions. Einhorn gets a big assist from composer Avner Finberg’s exotic score and musical director Mila Henry as she leads the chamber sextet from the piano. Tenor James Benjamin Rodgers as Moses, soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke as Tzippora, one of the God voices, and a messenger, and lyric bass Matthew Curran as the Pharaoh, Reuel, and the other God voice are exemplary. [more]

Orlando

April 30, 2024

While the ensemble cast is excellent throughout, we do feel Taylor Mac’s absence when he goes offstage to change costumes (and that is quite a few times, one more sumptuous than the other – though not rivalling what goes on at a Cher concert). Most importantly the “new gender reveal” in Constantinople also occurs offstage. Inhabiting Orlando as a woman, Mac gives us one of the most heartfelt realizations, “How odd. When I was a young man, I insisted that women be obedient, chaste and scented. Now I shall have to pay in my own person for those desires. For women are not…obedient, chaste and scented by nature. They can only attain these graces by tedious discipline. There’s the hairdressing…that alone will take at least an hour of my morning…there’s looking in the looking glass…there’s being chaste year in and year out…Christ Jesus.” [more]

Still

April 25, 2024

The performances are quite stellar. Jayne Atkinson’s Helen is simply gorgeous. We do see that woman who 30 years ago wore a red dress to a party…and that was enough for Mark and Lorraine to have a fight, as Mark “not to hurt Lorraine” had described Helen as plain. Thirty years later she is still anything but plain. Atkinson is that woman who could have broken up a marriage if Mark and Helen continued communicating over those 30 years. She is vibrant, earthy and quick-witted, all the things Lorraine may not have been. Tim Daly finds that illusive charm in Mark that may or may not allow the audience to forgive that this meeting reeks of the premeditated. He too provides us with an easy glance at what it must have been like for them to be together. He is more prepared for this meeting…the stops and starts and even Helen’s unintentional changes of subject. Daly, despite his character’s references to a heart attack and arthritis, gives us that glimpse of the youthful Mark that Helen fell in love with years ago, and could fall in love with once again. [more]

House of Telescopes

April 19, 2024

Playwright Kairos Looney has given us a gift in these painfully beautiful moments. We explore a family’s various ways of approaching love for and duty to each other with the result that we are all human coming as no surprise. Where sometimes there are breaks in communication, it is not about who gets “to be the better person,” but more about how we find that way to erect that bridge that brings us all together again. [more]

Teeth

April 13, 2024

Sarah Benson’s direction is spot-on, but we find ourselves wishing the closing scene was more than just a plethora of bloody penises. This is where the creatives needed to say, “Okay, this is probably not what we wanted to say”. Adam Rigg’s scenic design though spare, is perfect for a mid-America room that can pass as a small church, or AA meeting. The neon cross is a great touch and Jane Cox and Stacey Derosier’s changing colors do not go unnoticed…particularly when the cross is pink amidst a lavender wash when Ryan is in the scene. Enver Chakartash’s costume design is appropriate across the board, although the women’s outfits in the closing scene are a mélange of Tina Turner’s castoffs from "Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome." Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly provides fine ensemble suites for the Promise Keeper Girls. [more]

Eugene Onegin

April 6, 2024

Enter young baritone Edwin Joseph. He has that dark curly hair and handsome face, yes, and the crucial understanding of the necessary swagger and selfishness that carries this character through the opera, yes. Mr. Joseph brings to mind the earthy and always sexy television star Shemar Moore, someone who has the confidence without even trying; it’s just there, and in spades. Joseph is helped with Mr. Wills’ ingenious staging. Tatyana’s letter scene is performed with Onegin perched on the top stairs of a stage ladder in full view just stage left of her bedroom space. The implication that he is well aware he is desired by Tatyana is there long before he reads the letter. He doesn’t need to read her outpouring of her soul to know he has that effect on her. In the birthday party scene, it’s not the flaunting of Onegin’s flirtations with Olga that sets the tone for Lensky’s challenge to a duel, it is a brazen handjob administered by Onegin to an already emasculated Lensky off in a corner where Lensky hopes no one sees that is the trigger for everything that follows. And throughout, particularly in his closing aria in Gremin’s palace, Joseph with his rich resonant baritone has this score in the palm of his hand. [more]

Existentialism

March 10, 2024

The text created by Bogart in collaboration with Maddow and Zimet is a collage of assembled passages from the works of Sartre and de Beauvoir, amongst others. Maddow and Zimet don’t often speak to each other in the piece, yet they are still very much “in dialogue.” The piece is designed as to keep them separate, though inseparable. The moments where they share stage action: putting away groceries, having sex (brief, then on to the next thought), and dancing is charming as comic relief in contrast to all the other serious content of the piece. One tongue-in-cheek moment that sheds light on how much history they share is their little jazz dance routine abruptly segueing into the Jim Carroll Band’s New Wave classic, “People Who Died.” The change is as abrupt as it is disconcerting, but it is seamlessly incorporated into the stage business. [more]

Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance

February 20, 2024

It is a rare author indeed that can take uncomfortable material, and by uncomfortable that is, to hear, digest, and process a subject no one likes as a subject of conversation, and then give an audience the opportunity to take away from the experience a profound enlightenment. But when that author is Dael Orlandersmith we have come to expect nothing else. The playwright’s new work, "Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance," is a contemplative meditation on mortality as much as it is an examination of how we choose to pass and live out our days until our own “conclusion.” [more]

White Rose: The Musical

February 1, 2024

While we are presented with characters who are doing a noble thing and can be touched by what they go through to accomplish their task, Brian Belding’s book and lyrics repeatedly take us out of 1942. In breaking up a fight between her brother and her old flame, Sophie blurts, “Are we seriously doing this?!”…Seriously? The tone is not “then” in 1942, it’s a university student of present day. When Willi walks in on the scene, he asks “What the f*@k is going on?!” We don’t doubt the impulse behind it, but was that really the vernacular in 1942? Natalie Brice’s score has its moments with some of the solos, but the full company songs sound like retreads of "Les Miserables" chorus numbers. “Munich” sounds like “Blind Eye” sounds like “Why Are You Here?” sounds like “The Mess They Made” sounds like “We Will Not Be Silent.” All are full throttle songs with the same sentiment, so why are there so many? [more]

Less Lonely

December 17, 2023

Jes succeeds where some other bio-storytellers fail. Jes’ secret is being comfortable in their own skin to relate intensely personal experiences yet create a sense of universality, or community, that envelops the entire audience. You may not always agree, but chances are good you will be laughing with Jes, and not at Jes. As Jes puts it, “Most of my material takes at least two semesters of gender studies to truly understand.” As with most other autobiographical journeys, we get a heavy dose of self-deprecating humor, “I like when people call me 'they,' it makes me feel less lonely. Like someone can be like, 'That’s Jes, they’re gonna go smoke a spliff' and it sounds like I had a friend.” Reflecting on early career choices, “I was doing non-binary comedy in straight bars and clubs that were ten straight guys and one woman, and the woman was me. And I was like 'I’m not sure I’m the guy for the job but I’ll do my best for the culture. ' ” [more]

Lone Star

December 7, 2023

Probably only David Rabe’s "Sticks and Bones" (part of his Vietnam trilogy that included "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" and "Streamers") is as demonstrative as "Lone Star" in its depiction of a soldier’s inability to easily pick up from where he left off upon returning from a tour of duty. For this production, Ruth Stage, in an adaptation by director Joe Rosario and actor Matt de Rogatis, has been given the rights to append the character of Elizabeth to the original "Lone Star" cast. Her character is from a companion McLure play, "Laundry and Bourbon," which has a history of being performed in repertory with "Lone Star." Elizabeth is Roy’s wife, therefore Ray’s sister-in-law. [more]

Amusements

November 27, 2023

There are frequent breaks in thought such as “I forgot to mention at the top that I will be injecting my jokes with a bit of humor tonight as a way to keep them both engaging and fun.” Thanks for clarifying the job description. This is just one of many exclamations to the obvious. Director Nemuna Ceesay keeps us guessing. Are we watching an actor portraying a comedian/lounge performer? Does the comedian/lounge performer think he’s funny? What if no one laughs? A bit later there’s a recitation that goes on longer than it needs to. We start waiting for a punchline that never comes. And then it does…As it was introduced as a voice-over, “That was the opening paragraph of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, sold wherever Moby Dick by Herman Melville is sold. [more]

Sad Boys in Harpy Land

November 18, 2023

Tatarsky uses language in a fresh way, ultimately giving the sensation of having created her own. There are so many thoughts overlapping, and there are accompanying unintelligible sounds and gurgling (some of that happens during her coffee “breaks” and those coffee cups seem to be hidden absolutely everywhere), yet we follow her. When she references a new text, she will nonchalantly drop “I assume everyone here has read the book, yah? Great.” Of course, hasn’t everyone read "Die Ausbildung und Reisen von Wilhelm Meister"??? Her spontaneous body language may very well be choreographed but even there we have a very approachable and comforting whimsy throughout. [more]

Stereophonic

November 7, 2023

Not since Stephen Sondheim’s "Sunday in the Park with George" have “civilians” gotten so close to the creative individual’s “process” when attending a theater piece. David Adjmi’s "Stereophonic" is an intensely personal work that examines the creation of a rock album, a group’s follow-up to a late-blooming debut, in the very competitive music scene of the 1970’s. As the characters in the play have been compared to the celebrated Fleetwood Mac members in many articles appearing before the opening of this production, it’s safe to say this is an exquisite fantasia on the creation of the now-legendary rock masterpiece known as "Rumours," an album firmly in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 10 of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” [more]

Redwood

October 31, 2023

If an audience can willingly get past the contrivance that the distant relative Stevie meets over coffee, a young white man whose family generations ago once owned (and fathered!) slaves in Stevie’s family, and who just so happens to be the live-in boyfriend of Stevie’s niece Meg, then the audience will have a good time. The four leads of Meg, her boyfriend Drew, her mom Beverly, and Beverly’s twin brother Stevie are written so well. We care so much about each of them that the revelation that they are intertwined by the horrific tale of a plantation owner that loved his slave but was not above slashing her tendons when she tried to run away sets a tone that should be devoid of all humor. [more]

The Refuge Plays

October 21, 2023

Nathan Alan Davis’ "The Refuge Plays," if one pays attention, is exactly about refuge: growing up with it (because someone else has lovingly created it for you), seeking it (if you feel you must create your own), and coming back to the refuge you have always known (once you come to terms with the realization you’ve had no success trying to create it somewhere else). Davis, for the most part, has given us characters that we can easily fall in love with, each with their own path to refuge. [more]

Big Trip: Part 2 – Three Love Stories Near a Railroad

October 18, 2023

To say that Krymov works like no other director is an understatement not to be taken lightly. He is known for his inventive Russian adaptations, but he has also been earning a reputation for tackling American literature with the same whimsical and sometimes fourth wall-smashing approach that emphasizes the pure act of theater making. It is at first quite disarming in its playfulness, yet never loses sight of sincere treatment of works of literature. Here we find two Ernest Hemingway short stories, "Hills Like White Elephants" and "A Canary for One," both written in the late 1920’s, matched with two scenes that serve as dense character portraits from Eugene O’Neill’s "Desire Under the Elms," circa 1924. They are not your normal fare when you consider the expectations of the term “love story.” [more]

(pray)

October 15, 2023

nicHi douglas’ vision is one of evocative beauty, one that gives us stage pictures to treasure for some time. The seated women fanning themselves with beautiful white fans as they watch one of their own reading a passage or singing is a natural touch. Even the graphic for the show gives us pause – the word “pray” surrounded by two hands creating the parentheses denotes how personal the power of an individual’s prayer is. douglas’ church is almost utopian in its design in that it welcomes all with no judgment…even the “mixed company” of whites present at the service who might be startled by how genuinely euphoric the service is. Her choreography, like her direction, is empowered by a true spirit of celebration, reminiscent of the great Alvin Ailey masterwork, "Revelations." [more]

Communion

October 6, 2023

LaBanca’s performance in his own play defies superlatives. Including us in his choir at the beginning of the show says it all. We are relieved that he still finds joy in teaching. As he puts it, “I packed up my classroom and as God would have it, I was invited to move everything to a public school. Also in my neighborhood.” He takes comfort in an accidental meeting with a priest who was asked to step down and move to another parish. “It’s ok. Matthew, just remember. The church isn’t God.” [more]

Big Trip: Pushkin “Eugene Onegin” In Our Own Words

October 3, 2023

Krymov’s production is a rapturous love letter to the making of theater. He unearths how we really tell our stories by our emotions, what we hide, as much as what we reveal. He uses his stagecraft to develop new work from what has existed for decades but now through what must be the most meticulous, yet fresh, improvisatory stage vocabulary. His new company’s forthcoming seasons will be must-see events of the highest order. [more]

20 Seconds: A Play with Music

September 26, 2023

Sweitzer inhabits over a dozen characters in this play entitled "20 Seconds: A Play with Music," albeit two of them are him when young and him telling us the story now…two people he knows intimately. He is never so broad as to suggest caricature. His female characters are vibrant and flesh-and-blood enough for you to suspend disbelief that you aren’t actually seeing his mom Kathy, and Erdean, and Ms. Ruth, the fleabag hotel manager, and Denise, the girl next door, and finally his creation, Vivian Delgrosso, a drag homage to the Italian women his mom’s age. He brings the same depth to his male characters, with the masterpiece being his sadistic, yet eventually repentant father Tom. [more]

Prometheus Firebringer

September 22, 2023

Somewhere there are rules for what theatre is supposed to do: it should entertain, it should instruct, it should provoke. To say that Annie Dorsen’s "Prometheus Firebringer" checks all the boxes is an understatement of what she has done here. It is a brilliant reactionary, and yes, even cautionary, piece that takes a 2,500-year- old play that doesn’t really exist anymore (what is left of it is the title and a fragment or two – the rest has been lost over time) and thrusts it into an exercise for the unwitting specter of Artificial Intelligence. The results are fascinating, yet unremarkable; provocative, yet giddy. [more]

A Will to Live

September 2, 2023

Director Rick Hamilton effectively steers the sad tale away from an endless maudlin saga. After all, the “spoiler” is in the program. Helena Weinrauch is alive and well and in her late 90’s, living in New York City. She attended the opening night of this production. We are carried by Helena’s travails – some are ultimately uplifting, like her about-face on her relationship with Wladek, a Jewish guard. She takes him to task for his participation in the black market, but he steps in to save her from death more than once. Earlier, she leaves the safe haven of living with a German couple who think Helena is married to a German officer on the front so not to put them in harm’s way when she knows she will ultimately be found out to be a Jew masquerading as a young German bride. Hamilton is conscious of needing every scene to be driven by intense depictions of rapid change in what was once a beautiful place to live. [more]

I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire

July 17, 2023

Playwright Samantha Hurley does beautiful justice to the life and times (and the inner workings of the mind) of this early teen with not a lot going on but for her own fantasy world and self-importance in the face of neglect, emptiness and lack of love. Shelby kidnaps Tobey Maguire because she has figured out how to get it done. Trapped inside her house with the object of her affection she realizes “Be careful what you wish for” only too well. We watch her growing pains as we see the actor she traps come to terms with his own failure to make success bring him happiness.  In the end, they leave us with our own hearts full. [more]

Wet Brain

June 11, 2023

Caswell’s dialogue for and wry observation of a family this dysfunctional is quite compelling. Scenes where two of the siblings verbally gang up on the third are fraught with humor as much as real-life situations. Communication is “at your own risk,” with each goading the other about their addictions, instigating full-on relapses at every turn. It is no secret this is a very personal piece for the author. The dedication to the play reads: ”For my father if he’s out there. And for my siblings.” It is a play as much about love and loss (and grief) as it is about the addictions that create chasms in a family. And it is a play that deep down reveals a family with a lot of heart. [more]

Evelyn Brown (A Diary)

May 27, 2023

While the painstaking entry upon entry yearn to be something of import, we can’t help but feel it takes a certain steadfastness and desperate commitment to make the banal seem so extraordinary. This is where the brilliant attack of performance by Ms. Lauren as Evelyn, and Violeta Picayo as Evelyn Brown, come into play. Ms. Picayo can be thought of as the younger Evelyn, but the fact is they are both the same person usually on the stage at the same time, experiencing the same ennui. Ms. Lauren is the human map of a sometime wordless exploration of isolation. There is nothing secretive about it. We are witnesses to every one of her emotions as it makes its way across her face and into her beaten down yet stalwart physical life. Ms. Picayo sometimes has that innocent wide-eyed wonder that gets her through to the end of a scene, making us pity her for her stiff upper lip and beatific smile in the face of a life not well-lived. [more]

Romeo and Juliet (NAATCO/Two River Theater)

May 20, 2023

And the production is loaded with action. Except for the tender love scenes, the play moves at almost breakneck speed. Where most modern productions of Shakespeare tend toward languor, this "Romeo & Juliet," skillfully directed by the playwright and her co-director Dustin Wills, fills the moments that traditionally let the mind wander.  A couple of back-to-back scenes that inform the audience, but with virtually the same content, are now played simultaneously. This makes the audience work more industriously to listen and separate out the conversations and Hansol Jung’s contemporary take on Shakespeare’s text make it that much easier to accomplish. [more]

Hong Kong Mississippi

May 5, 2023

From the moment he walks out with a stuffed “Disneyfied” dragon to tell us a fairy tale his mother told him when he was little, we are enraptured by Pinky, an 11-year-old Chinese boy growing up in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Written and performed by Wesley Du, "Hong Kong Mississippi" is a coming-of-age tale that speaks innocently, yet often in frank terms, of racism. And providing the real dose of irony, the only other character to experience a seismic shift in the play is the man who resents Pinky the most, a man who against his better judgment unknowingly becomes Pinky’s mentor and father figure he never had. [more]

Lady M (Heartbeat Opera)

April 22, 2023

Heartbeat Opera seems to have found the way to separate themselves from the rest of the pack of alternative opera companies here in New York. Their way is to inject the standard repertory of grand opera with fresh ways of presenting the rich beloved scores. Enter music director Daniel Schlosberg, a Brooklyn-based composer-pianist who is their ingenious arranger for both Puccini's "Tosca" and Verdi's renamed "Lady M," and conductor and pianist for "Lady M." He arranges "Tosca" for a band of eight, "Lady M" for a band of six. Consider both of these Herculean feats with sumptuous results. [more]

Tosca (Heartbeat Opera)

April 20, 2023

Just when you think you’ve seen an opera so many times you can’t imagine it being told anew along comes Heartbeat Opera with a riveting take on Puccini’s "Tosca."  Director Shadi G. sets it as a thriller in Teheran, Iran with a cast of singers trying to get through a performance in defiance of the censors. The opera "Tosca" has always been set under a dictatorship of an authoritarian regime. It is usually set 1800 with the Kingdom of Naples’s control of Rome threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. The Heartbeat production underlines the usual terror with Irani police officers in shadows, hidden in stairwells and behind stage entrances ready to arrest the performers if they do anything outside the strict code of ethics and behavior in the Irani culture. This added layer to the story provides a lot of exciting running exits into the audience to avoid capture by the authorities. [more]

Television

April 17, 2023

Bossert directs his own work here, thereby unfortunately removing any crucial distance from the material.  Where the story of the play and the relationships we see are engaging, the play-within-the-play enacted by Sandra and Barry is not. The narrative there is a sequence of conversations cut off by interruptions that neither add nor detract from the scene at hand.  The real-life interruptions by Wesli as the “director” unhappy with the way the scenes are moving are almost a relief from what the audience has just listened to. The fact that an entire town anxiously awaits each new episode is somewhat unbelievable unless they are truly desperate for diversion. [more]

Grief: A One Man ShitShow

April 6, 2023

For the audience, there is an ease of losing sight of the fact that what we are watching is a piece of theatre. Campbell is direct and warm and instructing and sensitive in this piece that he has written. He has the right amount of connection to the material, obviously, as this is a scene from his life, yet he creates the minimal distance from the piece so the audience doesn’t obsess over how maudlin the subject matter is. Instead, the audience can be enlightened by his path. [more]
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