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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Muscles in Our Toes, A Dark Comedy that Dazzles

Stephen Belber's new play, The Muscles in Our Toes, is an affecting dark comedy that stirs the muscle between the ears.  The Labyrinth Theater, tucked away on Bank Street, is a jewel of playhouse, especially for those who like to be up close & personal with its actors.  The play is about a 25 year h.s. reunion that drudges up life's disappointments, bitterness & past animosities.  A look back at the past staged in real time on the evening of the big reunion.  The one act, one set is the music room where 5 former  friends meet, greet & deplete us with their exhaustive, overblown dramas.  The play churns steadily from affectionate bonding & reminiscing to a diatribe of life's harsh realities.  Together they hatch an outrageous plan to bomb a building in a futile attempt at rescuing their classmate.  The rallying battle cry to action takes more convincing from the alpha male Dante over Les, Phil (Matthew Maher) and his old rival Reg.  Carrie (Jeanine Serrales) the only female in the mix has a past history with Dante & Reg and hopes for a future with - whomever.  Carrie's is played with ferocious energy that is hilarious & a melancholy that is moving.  Phil, played by Matthew Maher, as the only openly gay male delivers comedic wit & biting cynicism.   As friction turns up the heat, the outlandish plot spirals out of control.  You'll leave the theatre scratching your head.  But this ebullient dark comedy will keep you on your toes.    

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Of MICE & MEN-They Shoot Horses Don't They?

Playwright/author John Steinbeck,  is one of America's greatest writers.  His novel The Grapes of Wrath, was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize & Nat'l Book Award.  Steinbeck also received the Nobel Prize for literature.  The revival Of Mice & Men starring Acad. Award winning actor James Franco as George, companion & caregiver to simpleminded Lenny.  Lenny is played empathetically by Chris O'Dowd (of  Bridesmaids fame.)  Together, George & Lenny form an impregnable bond of trust & companionship.  Their connection emphasizes the desperation that arises from isolation & cruelty.  "A guy needs somebody to be near him.  A guy hoes nuts if he ain't got nobody." This first-class production is painfully poignant and thought provoking.  Steinbeck's brilliant writing portends the dire outcome but it is the deep understanding & tenderness between George & Lenny that causes great suffering.  "Try to understand men.  If you understand each other you will be kind to each other.  Knowing a man well never leads to hate."  Living without caring for another is a hallow life.  Caring for another can lead to sorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME, Tupack Shakur's Poetic Legacy Lives On

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME is an original, new musical at the Palace Theatre that gives rise to the elegiac lyrics & music by Tupack Shakur.  Shupack lyrics, rap & music speak in a stentorian voice of racism, violence, oppression, dreams, love & hopes for change.  HOLLER is a visionary work of genius dealing with contemporary oppressive issues.  It grabs you & moves you to tears, rage, empathy & awe.  It's a travesty this social & politically potent voice has been quelled by a shooting; a plight he spoke of frequently.  This is a groundbreaking musical.  It defies any one genre.  It's a seamless amalgamation of the best in music: rap, hip hop, rock, soul, gospel & folk.  It possesses a creative montage of movements & dance. The show's poetry & prose are as stirring as Maya Angelou's & Dr. King's.  The enormous compilation of talent in every aspect of this production are by Tony winning artists:  dir.  Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) musical/staging by Wayne Cilento (Wicked) music supervision by Daryl Waters (After Midnight) book by Todd Kreidler (Guess Whose Coming to Dinner) and lyrics by Amer. poet/rapper/actor Tuapc Shakur (1971-96.)  The entire cast is sensational but I must give a huge shout out to Saul Williams.  Williams' lead performance is unforgettable.  Homage is bestowed on the shoulders of a multitude of influential legends: Marvin Gaye (What's Going On? There's too many of us dying) Sam Cooke (Change is Gonna Come, Billie Holiday (God Bless the Child) to name but a few.  Nonetheless, it's Tupac's expressive strengths that cry out to be heard.  "Hear me - no need to fear me.  Long live the rose that grew from concrete."  

Monday, June 23, 2014

NORTE, no way - THE EXHIBITION, exit it

I'm condensing the reviews of 2 films, NORTE, the End of History, and THE EXHIBITION, because I walked out on both.  I lasted slightly longer in the BBC film, THE EXHIBITION than film NORTE by Filipino dir. Lav Davis where I lasted only 20 minutes. I found NORTE a pretentious plagiaristic version of Crime & Punishment.  It was pure punishment to sit & watch so I walked out prior to crime was committed.  It is a 4 hr. movie without interruptio. This was not a commitment I was willing to make.  I did  sneak into THE EXHIBTION by British dir. Joanna Hogg's which was about to start. Hogg's works have garnered her int'l film awards.  I thought this film might pan out to be artistic and intense.  The only interesting aspect was the contemporary home these married, artists lived & worked in together.  They seemed bound inside this hermetically sealed house but disconnected from each other.  The husband, a sought after artist refused to give interviews because "they are always asking me where I fit in & how I define myself."  I admired his refusal to conform to perceived conceptions.  Still, I  found this film pompous & confining; not worth my time.  I did a repeat & left my seat.  Let me save you your time & money.  Stay away from NORTE and don't bother showing up for THE EXHIBITION.  I am notorious for leaving before the endings.  I do endorse getting more value for your buck by going from one movie into the next on the same ticket.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jasper Johns' No Regrets @ MoMA

The Jasper John's No Regrets exhibit is soon to close at MoMA.  The 2 galleries contain 2 paintings, 2 watercolors, numerous prints & drawings based on a photograph taken of Lucien Freud.  In the photo, Freud is sitting on a bed, head in hand, indicating a feeling of remorse.  The overall mood is of despair but not without wit & pleasurable appeal.  No regrets references John's rubber stamp used to RSVP his regrets to the multitudes of invitations received.  The 2 oil paintings in the exhibit were the most  compelling. They are somewhat abstract, resembling a brain scan or rorshach image.  The image of Freud & the bed can be detected.  The vivid red, yellow & blue primary colors & black outlines provides a sharp contrast to the grey blurred tones & gloominess.  The 2 watercolors in the show are also quite stunning.  There persists a lightness to the oppressive images.  The majority of works are varying prints used for studies & experimentation in his work.  Johns maintains it is the process that is more significant than the work.  His philosophy was "To take an object, do something to it and then do something else to that."  A woman in the gallery kept harping "why is he doing the same thing over & over."  Hey lady, you missed the point completely.  Everything was unique.  Regrets often stem from not doing things differently.  See this intriguing show before it leaves or you'll regret it.    

9/11 Memorial Museum NEVER FORGET

The underground structure built at ground zero honors those who perished & provides audio tapes & tangible artifacts of the terrorist attack. There are timed entrance tickets ($25/adult.)  Upon entering, everyone goes through screening (a typical required procedure) since this notorious date which united our nation in tragedy  It is an impregnable date.   People will forever recall where they were when they first learned our nation was under attack.  It's also a timeline for those not able to recall 1st hand the events of this seismic date.  For everyone, the 9/11 Memorial Museum will serve as a solemn, signficant reminder to "Never Forget."  The museum is below ground.   Immediately you are confronted with the last remaining column removed in a dignified ceremony on 5/30/02.  There are emotionally charged symbols, writings & objects on this pillar placed there by recovery workers & victim's families.  News reports first mistook the 1st plane striking the North Tower as a tragic accident.  When the 2nd plane struck the South Tower the stunned comprehension of this heinous attack was apparent.  You'll hear poignant recordings of those trapped to their loved ones.  There are molten, crumpled structures that remained.  You'll see photos of those whose lives were destroyed.  And you'll pass a crypt bearing human remains that will never be identified.  The artifacts recovered are stupefying.  Iconic images from that day & the days that followed are imbedded throughout.  "What is going to happen next?"  There were heroic rescuers "going up to their deaths. And I was walking down to live." (evacuee of N. Tower)  The 9/11 Memorial Museum respectively serves as an eternal witness.  Many innocent victims lept to their deaths from the incineration imploding both Towers.  "You felt compelled to watch out of respect to them.  They were ending their life without a choice and to turn away from them would have been wrong."  (eye witness on 9/11)

Freedom Tower & 9/11 Memorial

The Freedom Tower is an incredible structure built on ground zero.  The building honors those whose lives taken on 9/11/01& serve as an inspiration for the determination & resilience we represent as a nation.  The building has 8 facades; elongated triangular shapes.   The 8 sides combines both Towers into one united formation.  When staring upwards from its base, there is an eternal skywards vantage.  A tall antennae on the very top adds an exclamation point to the powerful statements declared by the building.  The glass panels create the illusion of movement & change.  The Freedom Tower stands proudly as a testament to our strength, courage & resourcefulness. Adjacent are 2 square memorials built on the sites of the Twin Towers.  The railings surrounding the cascading waters have the names etched in of the 2,983 people killed that day by terrorist attacks.  The waterfalls flow downwards into reflecting pools.  The cascading waters invoke the horrible images of the Towers falling with thousands of innocent people trapped inside.  There are surrounding trees for shade & square stone slabs for seating & reflection.  The trees are all swamp white oaks gathered from areas directly impacted:  500 mi. radius of the WTC, PA & Washington D.C.  The oaks were selected for their durabilty, their changing foliage & their varying, indivudal growth rates. The solemnity of the memorial is a respectful, serene outdoor space for reflection & rememberance.  The Freedom Tower & 9/11 Memorial are free public spaces that speak clearly of our country's high regard for life & liberty.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Riverside Park Along the Hudson

There is a lovely stretch of waterfront paths alongside trees & grass areas that stretch from the 60's - 155th Street.  The area is open for cyclists, pedestrians & recreation activities with plenty of room to share.  There are paths strictly for bikes.  Alongside the Hudson shore is a path designated for those who stroll, strollers, skateboarders, & cyclists.  Most people respectfully share the space, bikers at a slower pace (not all.)  Walkers staying to their side to avoid a fall (not all.)  Dogs on short leases are welcomed but not on the lawns or you'll be fined.  It's the law.  You've been warned.  I do recommend this walk for it's scenic views of the waterfront, NJ (whatever,) the GW Bridge,  promenades recreational areas & boats.  Many of the boats are docked.  Often times sailboats are out on the water.  The older docks & moors that are deteriorated & obsolete are left intact which is stunning.  The art installations are just tacky. The "Cherry Walk" lined with cherry trees is up around 100-125th. The area offers plenty of shade & benches and an oasis of serenity & activity in the city.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NYPhil World Premiere of Sean Shepherd's SONGS

Today's 2nd to last open rehearsal featured Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven's Piano Concertos 2 & 3.  A brilliant pianist playing works by one of the greatest composers of all times - enough said.  For something totally new & delightfully different, Sean Shepherd's (Amer. b. 1979) SONGS commissioned by NY Phil., was also on the program.  Shepherd is a Julliard alumni and served as composer fellow of the Cleveland Orch.  The symphonic work SONGS is a lyrical & enchanting pastiche of soft melodies with clarion intonations.   Perhaps, if Brahms were composing today incorporating available instrumentation, his symphonies may have had a similar quality to Sherpherd's alluring symphony.  Winds were predominantly featured in SONGS harmoniously with a broad scope  of percussion instruments:  vibraphone, timpani, cabasa, suspended cymbal, vibra-slap, ratchet, small egg shaker, tubular bells, cabasa and cow bells.  You can never have enough cow bells.  But, you can only catch 1 more rehearsal before the season ends.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alvin AIley's CAUGHT catch it while you can

CAUGHT a work by choreographer David Parsons premiered in 1982.  Alvin Ailey's Co. 1st premiered the piece in '04.  This was my 1st time seeing this magical, exciting work which has a futuristic aesthetic.  Parsons was a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Co.  He found Parsons Dance in 1985 & received numerous commissions from numerous companies:  NYC Ballet, Amer. Theatre Ballet & Alvin Ailey.  He received the Dance Masters of Amer. Award '11.  CAUGHT is a solo piece that incorporates clever lighting that captures the dancer suspended in motion like a photograph.  The work is vibrant and exciting.  The dancer navigates a blackout stage with bold energy.  Parson's choreography & lighting concept merge to capture a vibrant moment in time & space.  Seize the opportunity to see Ailey perform CAUGHT.      

Israeli Film The Policeman - Whose Shooting Who?

THE POLICEMAN is a contemporary Israeli film by Dir./screenwriter Nadav Lipid who has his pulse on what is stirring amongst Israel's Jewish young, beautiful & armed militants.  Lipid overlaps the story lines of an Israeli Defense Anti-Terrorist Police Unit and a group of young political activisits.  The dominant, narcicistic leader of the Israeli Defense Unit is Yaron.  Yaron is handsome, brave, virile & lacks compunction.  Married with a wife whose expecting their 1st child, a girl, is pragmatic about what they will not be able to afford. Yaron sways a terminally ill member of their unit to take the fall for the Unit's furtive mission.  Their targeted terrorist was killed and so were Palestinian civilians.  Yaron is seen admiring himself & seducing a 15 year old girl.  The members of the Defense Unit attend a funeral of a fellow Israeli soldier.  As they are leaving, they turn vicious & beat a young man for taking the flowers they had left.  The radical Israeli group's goal is a redistribution of the wealth in Israel. They are spear headed by the handsome, magnetic Nathaniel.  Also in the group is the beautiful, befuddled Shira who is entranced by Nathaniel.  The group convenes a luxury apartment belonging to Shira's parents; "they're pigs."  Walking to her car, Shira sees a band of teens vandalizing several cars including her's.  The leftist group takes a wedding party of an Israeli billionaire hostage, killing a photographer.   Nathaniel calls the news media demanding they arrive quickly from them to air their grievances or threatens more will be killed.  Yaron's unit is called in to rescue the hostages.  Shira uses her bullhorn: "Policemen, you are not our enemies.  You too are oppressed."  After the climatic shootout, Yaron is somber & perplexed that Jews are killing Jews.  Just who are the enemy is the underlying & overpowering message of this unsettling film.

Monday, June 16, 2014

22 JUMP STREET- Grand Slam Hit with Poetry Slam Wit

                                OMG-LOL
        Do the same thing as last time, every time
Ying Yang BANG BANG -Twins Rule - Basic College Tools
                Wham, Slam, Batman, Batman
                    Lamborghini Wear Bikinis
       Laurel Hardy Party Party Parody - Is it Me?
    Spring Break, Break Your Face, In my Space
 Silly Willy, Dildos, Bing Bong, Ping Pong, Frat Rat,
  Knock Knock Narc, Fake, Snake, Octopus, Pussy
   Alone Together, Need my Space Up in Your Face
You're my Bro, You're my Bitch - Hooked Up Uncoupled
          Dude Feud, Bromance, Dance Dance Dance
Holding me Down, Lifting me Up, Yo Bro, Maya Angelou
  22 JUMP STREET scores a 10, I'd see this movie over
         again,
                again,
                              again & again

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Forbidden B'wy Takes a Bigger Broader Bite out of B'wy

Forbidden Broadway (FB) has become a beloved parody on NYC's revered Great White Way.  I'm a huge fan of B'wy musicals.  I also love irreverance aimed at cherished establishments.  FORBIDDEN BROADWAY COMES OUT SWINGING is the most recent rendition.  It's evolved into its most hilarious, clever & caustic parody to date.  And, for the sanctimonious musical lovers, get over yourselves and enjoy the jest.  Gerard Alessandrini, the creator, writer & dir. for all 25 editions over the past 3 decades, has been honored by Broadway's own.  He received the 2006 Tony for Excellence & the Drama League Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Thankfully, Alessandrini can't be subverted.  He still slings arrows that strike their mark.  Mounting a successful B'wy show has become extremely risky & cost prohibitive.  FB COMES OUT SWINGING  lands hard punches on the casualties ensued:  big corp. now control big productions {Disney cheese is easy to please,} revivals have overrun ground breaking new material (Les Miserables {one run more}) (Cabaret {what good is sitting through something new?}.)  Musicals alleged exploitation of children (Mathilda, Billy Elliot & Annie.)  Most detrimental of all are the compromises to quality.  Harvey Fierstein & Cyndi Lauper explain how simple & formulaic it is to create an inane hit. "Use a cookie cutter mold & don't aspire to take it higher."  The tentacles of Alessandrini's lashes out laughs at celebrities' expense:  Liza Minelli, Sylvester Stallone, Idina Menzel, Michelle Williams & Alan "coming" to name a few.  The audience is also fair game for its obnoxious cell phone use.  The show opens & closes with the cast thumbing their noses.  Revivals may come & go but FB is here to stay.
   

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kyra Walker's "A Subtlety" Sculpture will soon be Gone With the Wind

There is nothing subtle or delicate about Kyra Walker's nude, sphinx like sculpture of a black slave woman.  The large scale installation in the soon to be demolished Domino sugar factory in Brooklyn stands  more than 35 ' tall & 75' in length.  I can only guess at the tonnage of processed sugar used to construct  "The Marvelous Sugar Baby," which is entirely white.  My notions were of a black slave regardless of its' white entirety?  My political incorrect assumptions were based on her large lips, enlarged nostrils, an outlandishly large buttocks & humongous, protuding breasts.  The sole garment is her headscarf; knotted in the fashion of the old Aunt Jamima packaging & the slave who tended Scarlett in "Gone With the Wind."  Leading up to this large sculpture are 15 life-size shapes of African-Amer. boys used as slave labor on sugar cane plantations.  These molasses sculptures are in varying stages of disintegration & shades of dark skin tones.  The plant exposes the installation to natural elements of weather.  Last night's rain showed the smaller sculptures mired in their own concoctions.   They all bore  implements used in the sugar cane fields.   Perhaps the lighter toned sculptures alluded to the integration of children born to slaves of their white oppressors.  Sugar Baby's sightless eyes and supine sexual position evoked ambiguous & opposing emotional responses.  "A Subtlety" appears powerful yet subjugated, dignified yet insolent, majestic yet perverse.  Our heritage of slavery is offensive, yet we must acknowledge it.  "A Subtlety" stands as an Eygptian sphinx, as a monument againstthe ownership of one over another.   We are constantly evolving,  stil racist attitudes must melt away.  The exhibit is free to the public; no tickets required.  However, "A Subtlety" will be gone with the wind as of July 6th; just after our Independence Day.  Also gone will be the Domino plant which will be razed and a new Carpetbagger will be taking control over the beautiful river front property.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

ALVIN AILEY Takes Flight with OSTRICH

The always astonishing Alvin Ailey Amer. Dance Theatre added a premiere, OSTRICH, to their innovative & broad repertoire.  The work was choreographed by Asadata Dafora (1890-1965) in 1932.   Dafora (b. Sierra Leone in W. Africa) was a trailblazer, initiating black dance to the U.S.  Dafora traveled throughout Africa absorbing its indigenous culture & art.  He received his musical training in Europe.  In 1934, Dafore introduced his unique artistic style to American audiences with his dance/opera THE WITCH WOMEN which great fanfare & success.  OSTRICH was created by Dafora in 1932; chronologically Ailey's oldest work.  But, this solo piece is exotic & timeless.  The male dancer, adorned with richly colored plumage, delightfully shapeshifts into a large bird with every fleeting ripple of his arms & jut of his head.  The sensual pulsating drums & soft melodic winds added a fluidity and flourish to the birdlike movements.  OSTRICH is a vital & rousing piece that has laid the foundation for African-American dance.  The piece caws its connection with Ailey's programming.  

French Film VIOLETTE-bio. of writer VIOLETTE LeDuc est blanc

The French film VIOLETTE is a biopic of French writer Violette LeDuc (1907-72) whose books were somewhat shocking,  heaven knows, and then au riguer in France.  This is an esoteric literary art film that is dull.  Dir/co-writer & actor Martin Provost (Seraphine) made a visually stunning film set in Paris & the French countryside about avante garde writers which sounds good on paper but as a film, it's as exciting as watching someone else write.  Violette is played by French actress Emmanuelle Devos (Coco Before Chanel) whose melodrama & psychosis are wearisome.  Simone deBevoir clandestinely financed LeDuc and was her staunchest support despite numerous publishers' refusals to print LeDuc's work without major editing and censorship. LeDuc was infamous for daring to write what no other woman had before regarding lesbian sex, abortion, women's sexuality & struggles.  Her writings were greatly admired by her famous peers: Sarte, Camus, Cocteau and Genet.  Albert Camus was first to publish "In the Prison of Her Skin."  It wasn't until her memoir La Batarde was published in '64 did she gain fame & financial security.  The compilation of this literary biopic is marde.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

THE TEST-Beautiful Dancers' AIDS Dilemma in the 80's

The beautifully shot film, THE TEST, is set in San Francisco (SF) in 1985.  The early '80's represents the deadly & horrifying epidemic of AIDS linked to the homosexual community.   Dir./screen writer & former prof. dancer, Chris Mason Johnson, films male modern dancers who are confronting their susceptibility to this deadly diseases & dealing with hateful stigmas.  The 1st identified case of AIDS was recognized in SF in '80.  The AIDS antibody screening test was first used in 1985 to screen blood donations. The test was also made available to the public.  This posed a major dilemma.   Should a person determine if they have AIDS & are the test results confidential?  The scenic beauty of SF & exceptional choreography by the multi-talented Sidra Bell, are the backdrop to this wondrous  film.  People were fearful of & unsure of how the virus was transmitted:  perspiration, saliva, insects? Rock Hudson died of AIDS in '85 & teenager Ryan White, was banned from school by hysterical parents.  The movie is bold in depicting gay lifestyles & sex.  It also asks significant questions.  What defines manliness?  What obligations are required of sexual partners?  And, is monogamy an irrational expectation in the homosexual community or for anyone?  THE TEST is a compelling movie and a strong representation of the casualties & maltreatment associated with this insidious disease.      

Monday, June 9, 2014

THE FAULT in OUR STARS-Star Crossed Lovers, Prepare to Cry

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings,"  (Shakespeare - J. Caesar.)   Hazel Grace (an endearing & formidable, Shailene Woodley) is your typical teen except that she's laden with an oxygen tank; her armament against cancer.  Augustus, (a heartthrob performance by Ansel Elgort) is your typical 18 yr. old with an amputated leg; his battle scar from cancer.  Coerced by her Mom (a faultless Laura Dern) to attend a support group of young cancer patients, Hazel & 'Gus' 1st lay lingering eyes on each other.  By the end of the movie, there will not be a dry eye in the house.   This is a poignant love story that philosophically confronts our mortality. "If the inevitability of human oblivion worries you.  I encourage you to ignore it."  Hazel, personifies her middle name, Grace.  Together, Hazel & Augustus ("Hasten slowly" A. Caesar, Shakespeare) blazon their omnipotent legacy of having loved profoundly & having been loved despite their infinitesimal years.  "Some infinities are bigger than others." Without pain, how could we know joy?  "Pain deserves to be felt."  THE FAULT in OUR STARS is more than a contemporary Romeo & Juliet story.  It is also a celestial film of familial love, friendship, kindness & hope.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"WE'RE the BEST" Winning Movie from Sweden

"WE'RE the BEST" is an ebullient foreign film on the warmths of friendships that melt your heart amidst the frigid, snowy Swedish landscape.  Bobo & Klara are 2 teens who march to a different beat than their peers.  They are remarkable in their non-conformity and close friendship.  The film is set in the 1980's a perplexing time for music & style.  Teen years are mostly awkward & confusing.  Both girls are considered freaks for their punk style.  The more sensitive Bobo voices her self-doubts to Klara "Tell me one good thing about my life."  Klara has an exuberant  personality.  She tells Bobo, "One good thing, you're in the world's best band and you have a friend who likes you."  The band consists of Bobo & Klara who are making things up as they go, including clever & rebellious lyrics.  At a school pageant they discover Hedvig, who plays the guitar & sings beautifully despite the hateful heckling.  Bobo & Klara convince Hedvig, also a loner to join their band.  Directed by Lukas Moodysen (Show Me Love) WE'RE the BEST captures the spirit of youth, camaraderie, and defiance.  Everything about this film is honest & endearing.  Klara questions Hedvig's religious convictions, "How can you believe in what you don't see?"  "Emotions can't be touched.  Faith is a choice," answers Hedvig.  This is a winning film that appeals to all ages to see.        

Sunday, June 1, 2014

AMERICAN HERO @ 2nd Stage Uptown-A Surprisingly Delicious Dark Comedy

American Hero is a 1 act, 4 actors, dark comedy garnished with life's frustrations.  A newly franchised subway shop piles together 3 employee misfits that combine for a seasoned ensemble.  Daily portions of tribulations are served.  This motley crew of workers form an unusual alliance.  The tiny 2nd Stage theatre contained major talent in this 1st rate cast.  The cast ingredients are Ted (Jerry O'Connell, B'wy in Seminar with Alan Rickman)  Jamie (Ari Graynor, B'wy veteran & comedy lead in CBS' "Bad Teacher") and Sheri (a pale Erin Wilhelmi who gives an illuminating performance.)  When the owner disappears & corporate fails to provide support, Ted, Jamie & Sheri turn to each other out of desperation.  It's a frenzy of unhappiness rants that makes for non-stop hysteria & philosophical contemplation.  "Rules keep people safe or the world wouldn't work."  This play works on all burners.  After a tyrannical customer meltdown, Jamie asks "What is wrong with people?  People get so upset when they don't get what they want."  AMERICAN HERO delivers a fresh comedy that leaves you wanting more.  For only $27, this is a special combo deal.

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG & UNAFRAID with Cherry Jones @ MTC

The dynamic play WHEN WE… is written by Sarah Treem, the writer/producer for the award winning series "Homeland" & "In Treatment."  Treem's play is set in the early '70s, just prior to the ruling on Roe v. Wade while feminism is taking hold.  Agnes (Cherry Jones, "Doubt") runs an isolated B&B which is a financial front for a safe-house for battered women.  Agnes lives with h.s. student Penny (Morgan Saylor, "Homeland".)  Penny a diligent student driven towards college is used to giving her bedroom to abused women seeking shelter.  A signal alerts Agnes of a run-away, hidden beneath a trap door.  Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan, actress playwrite & screenwriter, "Ruby Sparks") has escaped her husband.  She arrives severely beaten, fearing for her life.  Agnes was a trained nurse whose license was suspended for performing illegal abortions.  Agnes provides medical attention & a safe haven for these runaways. The refuge offered by Agnes is not unlike the underground railway.  Hannah, a bumptious, black woman bursts in unafraid to run interference & do "men's" work.  Hannah argues women succumb to men by having sex with them.  Marry Anne mentors Penny's in the wiles to beguile a guy.  Penny thought male/female relationships should be equal.  A fracas of revolutionary ideas & preconceived notions are scrutinized.  Set in the early 70's. WHEN WE... is a quick-witted, prescient play.  Thankfully, there are established shelters for battered women & their children.  Abortion has been legalized.  Hannah says "Times change."  Agnes responds by saying 'Times change back."  This is a tour de force drama of courage.  The courage that is needed to fight the never ending battle to maintain rights & equality.