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Jimmy Tingle: Humor and Hope for Humanity

May 21, 2024

Watching Jimmy Tingle is like encountering a fascinating guy at a bar :  you listen, you're engaged, you're just enjoying the ride. Tingle has been at it a long time, and he has stories to tell as well as political takes on events past and present. In his 60 Minutes II segment, he discusses the possibility of a presidential candidate Donald Trump, sounding prescient since this is many years before it actually happened. [more]

Fingers & Spoons: The Ins and Outs of an Open Marriage

May 5, 2024

"Fingers & Spoons" does have its titillating moments, with descriptions of sex and even mild simulations. (The show is sexual enough that it would probably be a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.) You will leave knowing that Pascale Roger-McKeever, the author and star, likes to be called a slut, at least under the right circumstances. You will not, however, leave with a greater understanding of open marriage. [more]

Eddie Izzard: Hamlet

March 30, 2024

In this tour de force, Izzard has come up with a different voice and stance for each character: King Claudius is a baritone, Lord Polonius has a limp, Lady Ophelia has a somewhat breathy speech pattern while Queen Gertrude is very emotional. The gravediggers are given two different lower class accents and the humor in the scene is still very vivid. The courtier Osric, who is usually played as somewhat fey, waves his hands around a great deal. The duel scene between Hamlet and Laertes in the last act is mostly successful but eventually it becomes difficult to figure out who is winning and who is losing. [more]

The Life & Slimes of Marc Summers

February 26, 2024

Christopher Rhoton's Double Dare-inspired set belies these weightier autobiographical details, offering enough of a time-warping simulacrum to help middle-aged members of the audience shed a few decades when Summers interrupts his fraught remembering to twice become a kid's game show host again. Those who legibly scribble their names on a piece of paper dropped into a fishbowl before the performance, eventually get the chance to head onstage (not sure if mezzanine ticket buyers are eligible), answer trivia questions, and launch pies on a catapult (a warning for the first few rows). Amid all the cheers, laughter, and chaotic fun, there's also an opportunity for the quick-witted Summers to go off-script, asking the theatergoers-turned-contestants trite questions like "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" to set up a slightly mischievous back-and-forth. [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]

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]

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]

Make Me Gorgeous!

November 25, 2023

As Kenneth/Kate Marlowe, Wade McCollum not only becomes the character but inhabits it. Required to act as narrator as well as performer in both male and female attire, McCollum is totally convincing. His personal charm and rapport with the audience also makes this a pleasurable experience. Make Me Gorgeous! is an unusual biographical show as the details of Kenneth Marlowe’s story will likely be unfamiliar to most theatergoers who will also be entertained by the musical portions of the evening. [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]

A Good Day to Me Not to You

November 18, 2023

As a work of writing, "A Good Day to Me Not to You" is blisteringly funny and seems deceptively shapeless, almost like a meandering evening of stand-up comedy, until it comes together to a fine point--that of the story of a woman who’s lost so much of herself she doesn’t know where to begin to find what’s left. Will she even be able to do so? Will Meecie leave the women’s shelter within the suggested year’s time, or will she remain until the end of her days, hoarding forks and fading into the canary yellow walls, another lost soul whose “RIP” is posted on the community corkboard in the dining hall? [more]

#UglyCry

November 2, 2023

What is remarkable about Mack's performance is that she is reliving the grieving process with every performance. It is not a fictional story with an actor taking on a role; this is a powerful emotional connection within her life. Using regular references to the audience's use of cell phones, she guides us to her discovery of what it means to talk with the dead. This show encourages using cell phones to take pictures, make recordings, and, most importantly, scan QR codes posted on the theater walls or that may appear on an upstage screen during the show. They contain information that will enhance understanding of the show or will guide to articles that will expand on some of the ideas being presented. These QR codes are designed to be a visceral engagement with grief as Mack experienced the loss of her ex-boyfriend and long-time friend Eric Anthamatten in 2011. [more]

The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey

November 1, 2023

Mikel Murfi skillfully brings to life a handful of colorful characters in a rural town where Farnon is the cobbler. The transitions from one character to the next are done with shifts in posture and tone of voice that imbues each transition with the physical and verbal nuances that define the character. It is an interesting tale, rough in places and a bit too long in exposition, but well told by a seasoned actor whose performance is worth spending time on. [more]

David Dean Bottrell: The Death of Me Yet

October 26, 2023

All eight stories are engagingly woven into a pattern that illustrates the things that help us understand what it is to encounter a fear of death or even a fear of living. David Dean Bottrell is a storyteller of great skill. He effortlessly gains the attention of his listeners and gently, lovingly carries them through 80 minutes of engaging and thoughtful moments in his adventurous life. [more]

All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain

October 25, 2023

The subtitle of Patrick Page’s absorbing and informative one-man show "All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain” is an actuate description of the content of his presentation. In a kind of lecture-performance it is Page’s credible contention that Shakespeare took the Vice character (the villain from the Middle Ages' Morality plays through Christopher Marlowe) and added psychological realism. Eventually in his last play, "The Tempest," Shakespeare was dealing with a character with a very worthy justification for revenge who finds compassion and empathy instead. [more]

The Great Divide

October 14, 2023

Does it matter how autobiographical Amy Crossman’s "The Great Divide" at the HERE Arts Center is?  A production of the Boomerang Theatre Company, "Divide" is Crossman’s one-person play about a relationship that proved to be as beautiful as it was problematical.  The situation is clichéd, but the presentation is first rate. [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]

“Dear Mr. Bottrell, I Cannot Possibly Accept This”

September 29, 2023

David Dean Bottrell is both a craftsman and an artist, as evidenced in his delightful and exquisitely entertaining show "Dear Mr. Bottrell, I Cannot Possibly Accept This." From his Prologue about the shape and size of a certain object to his adventures in New York and Los Angeles, and with his family in Kentucky, he takes us on a journey through the twist and turns of his life, and what a life it has been. [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]

The Creeps

September 8, 2023

Catherine Waller’s one person show, "The Creeps", has all the elements of a successful horror show: a macabre setting, dark lighting, off-beat characters, and strange unexplained going-ons. Unfortunately, several things get in the way of its registering. Created and starring Waller dressed entirely in form fitting black, the production has eschewed a director who is very much needed as there is too much dead time in this slightly less than one hour show. At this length it still seems long with too many undramatic pauses. Presented in the renovated four-sided Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s, the audience is also aware of each other throughout which makes the evening a great deal less scary than it ought to be. Scott Monnin’s lighting is never dark enough to make us feel that we are in some place other than the theater with other people. [more]

A Séance with Mom

August 23, 2023

Redman’s "A Séance with Mom" at the Chain Studio Theatre veers dizzyingly from one character to another, characters that include middle-aged Nadine who searches for her Mom; her mom, Gussie; an old Reformed Jewish Rabbi; several other Gussies; and, oh yes, Jesus and Gary Cooper, not to mention Shakespeare.  It has to be mentioned that Nadine is the only character who isn’t dead. [more]

Lightweight

August 1, 2023

Lightweight, the cleverly titled one-woman play currently being performed at the SoHo Playhouse, shines an important light on the subject of anorexia, and who better to tell her own story with this condition than the playwright herself, Amie Enriquez. Enriquez has taken her serious challenges with anorexia and put them into an engaging script. She, her character of “Amie,” a lone anorexic among drug addicts in a long stay rehabilitation center, regales the audience with stories of her behavioral obsessions about food, being watched through an open toilet stall to make sure she doesn’t throw up, powering up on laxatives and defecating in her clothes being some of them. She can so barely contain her excitement when Natalie, a bulimic, is admitted to the rehab, that Jayne, the head therapist (who “looks like a walking Barbie doll… how am I supposed to learn to love my body from a Bond Girl?”) insists she give up the talking stick to Natalie. [more]

Chanteuse

July 16, 2023

The Nazis persecuted not only Jews, political opponents and its own, but also homosexuals.  Jews were forced to wear the infamous yellow stars; gays, the pink triangle. Alan Palmer, in his one-man show "Chanteuse" at HERE Arts Center, gives an intimate, heartbreaking look at one victim—fictional or not—that turns impersonal facts into passionate theater. [more]

How to Find a Husband in 37 Years or Longer

July 12, 2023

Pyle is an engaging performer. However, not only does her story wander around but the interruptions by her father or rather her day dreams about past lovers become hard to follow due to all the disconnects. Her father follows an ex-wife to Texas from Indiana while Pyle ends up in Los Angeles from New York. The message is not clear until she explicitly states that she is “in the exact right spot.” When she removes her parka, she wears a t-shirt that states: “What if it all works out?” which appears to be the take away from the evening. [more]

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground

June 27, 2023

Based on a range of Eisenhower’s memoirs, speeches and letters, the play demonstrates without a doubt his belief in moderation and his liberal bent of which many people today are unaware. Set at his Gettysburg farm in 1962, two years after the end of his presidency at age 71, the premise is that while recording his memories for a book on his White House years, he is incensed by a New York Times poll of 75 historians which places him 22 out of 31 presidents, “a great American, not great president.” He then attempts to defend his life and work in the two acts that follow, with the first half taking us through W.W. II and the second half delineating his presidency. [more]

Wake Up

June 19, 2023

Spencer Aste in a scene from his one-man show “Wake Up” at the Axis Theatre (Photo credit: [more]

Sorry for Your Loss

May 23, 2023

As directed by the astute Josh Sharp, Kayne begins his show as a stand-up act, but warns us “This is a comedy show. BUT it is also sad. There will be long stretches where you will not be laughing. I don’t want to feel like I tricked you, so I’m telling you in advance.” However, Kayne is able to find the absurdity in things that are inherently sad so that there is much humor in his one-man show. After his stand-up comedy routine, he gives a short math lesson using a white board and a black board (set design by Brett Banakis) to demonstrate that things are often not what they seem. [more]

Samuel Clemens: Tales of Mark Twain

May 20, 2023

All of this is told by Baer in Twain’s humorous and inimitable style filled with anecdotes both true and untrue. As we are told from the author himself, “I have never been a man to allow the truth to stand in the way of a good lie.” The presentation also includes sections from travel letters in Twain’s own words besides a large section of Huckleberry Finn’s adventures down the Mississippi. The presentation also sets Twain’s life in the context of the growing America of those days, events like the Gold Rush, the transcontinental railroad, the election of Abraham Lincoln, the burgeoning of literacy and the press, etc. Even if you know a good deal about the life of Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain, Joe Baer’s one-man show fills in a great many gaps with fascinating adventures of a world traveler who had a keen eye for the ridiculous and the satiric. In "Samuel Clemens: Tales of Mark Twain," he remains good company throughout the evening. [more]

Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness

May 11, 2023

Under the direction of Chad Austin, Droxler uncannily becomes not only Williams (and all of Williams cinematic characters who each serve up different helpful advice), but also his father Ed; mother Mary; and other characters, all, of course, just facets of his own persona.  He even conjures the comic actor Jim Carrey who, for a short time replaces Robin Williams as an ad hoc advisor.  Even Jack Nicholson makes a guest appearance. [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]

*mark (A solo performance of the Gospel of Mark)

April 17, 2023

Fortunately for us, “Magisian” Drance is quite the storyteller. Under the reasonably succinct direction of Jackie Lucid, he spryly moves around the space, emphasizing parables with chalk drawings and applying subtle changes to his inflection, body language, and eye contact to make the various characters distinct. Intense and playful, somber and jubilant, he makes this story engaging yet simple, without the help of costumes, scores, and songs which allow shows like "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" to thrive in the contemporary theater canon. The Magis Theater Company endeavors to share this gospel as it might have been done in older times, from start to finish and on the backs of its storytellers alone. [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]

Drinking in America

March 26, 2023

Some critics would say Eric Bogosian’s "Drinking in America" is dated, but that’s very much up for argument. The script given to critics for the new production at the Minetta Lane Theatre is marked “Tweaked Drinking In America Script For Audible,” all in caps actually. In all fairness, some of the “current references” particularly with regard to in-demand actor names bandied about in the scene entitled “Wired” are names clearly from another age. That could have easily been “tweaked,” if they really wanted to do that. References to Quaaludes in the scene “Our Gang” reek of history rather than current usage, but then again, is there an easy 2023 replacement for Quaaludes, a drug that was taken off the market around the time the play was first produced? Aside from those references, the twelve scenes that comprise the play remain shockingly topical for our era. [more]
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