#TenthPlanet: Pregnant Pause

This summer, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (PCTF), the brainchild of arts professional Glory Kadigan, turns 10 years old. In that decade, PCTF has successfully changed the landscape of the theatre festival and all of New York independent theatre. The multi-award-winning theatre festival will celebrate in a big way by premiering more than 50 timely and topical plays and musicals written by the next generation of playwrights. Each play contains a powerful message serving as a parable of various world themes. The Tenth Planet: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will run fromJuly 9 through August 5, 2018 at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC.www.planetconnections.org. Artists presenting works from all across America, including Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Providence and New York City; and from all over the planet, including Japan, Yugoslavia, Russia, Peru, France, Belarus, & Haiti are part of this years festivity.

Good Pilgrim presents Kathleen Jones’ one-woman exploration featuring Amie Cazel

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Pregnant Pause – It’s not always a “blessed event.”

Part of the 10th anniversary season of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at the Theaters at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, New York City, running
Friday 7/20 @7:30pm-9:00pm, Sunday 7/22 @9:30pm-11:00pm, Saturday 7/28 @11:15am-12:45pm, Wednesday 8/1 @9:15pm-10:45pm, and Saturday 8/4 @2:30pm-4pm

Playwright Kathleen Jones has woven a fascinating one-woman show featuring her college-pal, Amie Cazel:

Essie has two due dates on the horizon: opening her first Broadway show, and the birth of her first baby. Her complicated decision is made more so by the news that her baby has a genetic disorder. Haunted by her past, Essie stands at a crossroads between her life’s work and the future of her family. Pregnant Pause premiered at United Solo Theatre Festival in 2016.

Follow playwright Kathleen Jones on her blog: www.hellokathleenjones.com and Good Pilgrim @goodpilgrimnyc.

OK, so for those who are not ardent followers of your blog (www.hellokathleenjones.com), tell us about yourself as an artist

Amie (Cazel) and I met in grad school at Catholic University– I was an MFA playwright, she was an MFA actor. I’ve basically been writing plays for her since day one when Professor Gary Sloan assigned us together! 

That’s great. I love hearing things like that. Thank you for sharing, now share with us a little something about the play that we WON’T see in the press release.

This play is about women in theatre who get pregnant and deal with that situation– and about this one actress in particular, Essie, and her decision between a disabled pregnancy or a career on Broadway. I wrote this play specifically for Amie. Essie’s story is not my story or Amie’s story (it’s not biographical!). But it is “our story” in the sense that we’re women with children (in Amie’s case) or thinking about children (in my case) and we have an equal, burning desire for professional creative fulfillment. Where do you go with that? Who lets you have both? Also, our director is currently seven months pregnant. 

WOW! OK, talk about art imitating life – or maybe life intimidating art. I think you answered this already but how does your play resonate today? Feel free to be blunt. 

At one moment, Essie laments in the play to her husband: “You know, if you had a job offer on Broadway… You could… send your understudy on when I go into labor and be back the next day. But that’s not the way it is for women. And you say we’ll split care, but we can’t, like, split my body.” As much as things change for women and equality (and we hope they keep doing so!), pregnancy remains the same. It’s the woman’s body that goes through the pain, the joy, the abortion, the labor, the suffering, the nourishing. The journey happens in and through and with her body and that doesn’t change, no matter what her journey is. And I want to talk about it. 

I’m learning that Planet Connections Theatre Festivity is -like- the BEST place to tell such a story. Right?   

We loved that Planet Connections cares deeply about the community coming to see the plays, as well as the community that each play addresses (in our case, women in theatre). 

Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?  

I’d love for communities (colleges, community centers, churches, women’s groups) to use this play as a jumping off point for hard discussions about working women and the challenges we face. I would love for actresses in their thirties and forties all over the country to just pick up this play, memorize it and self-produce it as a showcase piece for themselves. I’d love this play to become something people turn to when they think of handling tough topics onstage with grace, and I hope lots of people want to produce it after us! 

 Final thoughts? 

We produced Pregnant Pause in 2016 and it’s a privilege to be back with the same team now. With all the changes we’ve been through since then in our personal and professional lives, the joy of being in the room with these smart, talented, courageous women never goes away! 

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#TenthPlanet: The Year of the Solar Eclipse

Wanna see a great Poster? here it is…

mainposterTYOTSE.jpgWanna meet an interesting playwright …Aileen Kyoko

Tell us about yourself as an artist

As a half-Japanese and half-American artist, it is a priority for me to tell stories that reflect the diverse world we live in. I also find myself constantly exploring human relationships and dynamics – the messy and beautiful. I’m interested in asking the big questions through art and looking at why we behave the way we do. Art is so much about empathy and–especially as a writer, director and actor – you need to be able to see all sides to a story. I have to work with empathy for all my characters and ignore the labels of “good” and “bad”. I see each character as a full human coming into this imaginary world with their unique perspective. I am naturally drawn towards working in dramedy because to me, that’s what life is. I love going into the depth of life challenges but also being able to see it through the lens of comedy. Because trust me, there’s always something to laugh at. 

Share with us a little something about your play that we WON’T see in the press release.

There’s a text message conversation in there from a man named “River” that’s going to make your jaw drop. And I will just add- it’s based on a true story. I think there’s going to be a lot of scenes where the audience is going to be like “Oh I’ve been there”. You’ll be able to see parts of yourself in most characters. 

How does your play resonate today? Feel free to be blunt. 

This is a story about heartbreak, self-discovery and dating in our modern age. Society places pressure and expectations on where we are meant to be in our lives at a certain point. But what if our lives aren’t aligned with that? How do we listen to what is true for us? We have been taught from the beginning that one day we will find our life partner and then commit to them for forever. How realistic is that actually for humans?  

This play is about the truth and what lives underneath our lies and secrets. It also explores heartbreak and how we approach new relationships. We all do so much to protect our hearts, especially when our past wounds are still healing. We can all relate to the beauty as well as the noise and confusion that takes over when we fall in love. 

Why did you choose Planet Connections for your work?  

Art has the power to create change. It opens our eyes to different stories and ways of life. I felt completely aligned with Planet Connection’s mission to support non-profits. They are the only festival I know that really bridges philanthropy and performance art. In The Year of the Solar Eclipse I am spotlighting modern day women navigating relationships and dating. I am thrilled to be working with Planned Parenthood, an essential non-profit that is supporting women and girls. What is more important than taking care of our bodies and sexual health? Planned Parenthood’s affordable and quality services have changed women’s lives across the nation and I will always do what I can to support them. 

Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?  

We are aiming high! The dream is for The Year of the Solar Eclipse to be picked up for production at a major theatre. We are also open to producing versions of this play in other cities. We know there is so much potential for growth for this story. 

Final thoughts? 

We have cast an unbelievably talented group of actors who bring so much to their characters every rehearsal. All of them are special, brilliant and going places! They are so much fun to watch and we know people are going to be so moved and entertained by them! Please visit www.theyearofthesolareclipse.com for tickets and more information.

This summer, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (PCTF), the brainchild of arts professional Glory Kadigan, turns 10 years old. In that decade, PCTF has successfully changed the landscape of the theatre festival and all of New York independent theatre. The multi-award-winning theatre festival will celebrate in a big way by premiering more than 50 timely and topical plays and musicals written by the next generation of playwrights. Each play contains a powerful message serving as a parable of various world themes. The Tenth Planet: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will run fromJuly 9 through August 5, 2018 at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC.www.planetconnections.org. Artists presenting works from all across America, including Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Providence and New York City; and from all over the planet, including Japan, Yugoslavia, Russia, Peru, France, Belarus, & Haiti are part of this years festivity.

A defining facet of PCTF is its truly tangible connection to the world. Each artist within each season uses their work to shed light on causes that matter and inspire audiences to get involved. PCTF’s artists raise awareness – and funds – for a charity of their own selection. Furthering its message, PCTF is the country’s first eco-friendly arts festivity, providing green marketing and promotional materials and supporting sustainable design production practices.

#TenthPlanet: The Island of NO Time

This summer, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (PCTF), the brainchild of arts professional Glory Kadigan, turns 10 years old. In that decade, PCTF has successfully changed the landscape of the theatre festival and all of New York independent theatre. The multi-award-winning theatre festival will celebrate in a big way by premiering more than 50 timely and topical plays and musicals written by the next generation of playwrights. Each play contains a powerful message serving as a parable of various world themes. The Tenth Planet: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will run fromJuly 9 through August 5, 2018 at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC.www.planetconnections.org. Artists presenting works from all across America, including Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Providence and New York City; and from all over the planet, including Japan, Yugoslavia, Russia, Peru, France, Belarus, & Haiti are part of this years festivity.

A defining facet of PCTF is its truly tangible connection to the world. Each artist within each season uses their work to shed light on causes that matter and inspire audiences to get involved. PCTF’s artists raise awareness – and funds – for a charity of their own selection. Furthering its message, PCTF is the country’s first eco-friendly arts festivity, providing green marketing and promotional materials and supporting sustainable design production practices.

 

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The Island of No Time (A Timeless Tale) by Kristen Lowman, directed by Sara Ravid

Part of the 10th anniversary season of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at the Theaters of the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, New York City will have a Special Presentation: Thursday 7/19 @3pm-5:15pm.

A little Lewis Carroll, a lotta David Lynch, and just a hint of George Lucas … Mother Time has stormed off leaving Father Time to his technology. Time has stopped on the Island. Hour, Minute & Second are unemployed. With time to control them, Deliadeath and Adamort – two Macbeth-style witches – can now wreak havoc for all eternity. But just in case, they are now trying to inhabit the souls of two shipwrecked children in case Mom & pop Time patch things up. With help from Badass, Natterjack, Nutty Tree, and the Queen of Stink, the race is on. Will the children be saved, along with mankind and the planet? Will Father Time and Mother Time be reunited? Only Time will tell.

You have an amazing back story, Kristen, tell us a little something about yourself as an artist.

I trained at the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and then went to NYC, where I became a touring member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company.  I u/s and performed on Broadway, did a National Tour, worked at The Barter, Geva, Cleveland Play House, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, South Coast Repertory Theatre (9 plays), Pasadena Playhouse, The Cast, The Odyssey…    And the John Drew theatre at The Guild Hall in East Hampton, EST NYC.  And I performed on TV, mostly sitcoms – Frasier (2 episodes), Murphy Brown, 227, Hearts Afire, Designing Women, Picket Fences (5 episodes), Angel, Nancy and Tonya (MOW). A few films – Problem Child , Don’t Mess with the Zohan, iMurders, and recently in Wanderland, written and directed by Josh Klausner.
But, it’s been writing that has preoccupied me for some years. My short story Sadiki was published last year in the thirtieth anniversary issue of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.  I have finished a novel, Arabian Eve.  My play Where We Are was one of ten semi-finalists at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Florida.  My play Time Will Tell had a concert reading at the John Drew Theatre in East Hampton with Cynthia Nixon, Elizabeth Wilson, Judith Ivey, Anna Reeder.  And its companion piece, Time on His Hands, has had two reading, one with Arliss Howard, Harris Yulin and Stephen Lang (playing two roles each) and another with Harris Yulin, Arliss Howard,David Rasche, Stacy Keach, Gordon Weiss and David Bischems.
I have also taught playwriting in middle and high schools through the East Los Angeles Classic Theatre and Stony Brook’s YAWP (Young American Writers Program).
Share with us a little something about the you or the play that we won’t be in the releases.
Hmm, well, it started when I was teaching drama to kids in Maui.  It came to the final presentation and I thought I’d go nuts if I had to do The Three Little Pigs…  So I wrote a scene with two witches.  And I had the kids do Shakespeare.  I had no idea I would drag scene out and turn it into a play. Also, I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and have always felt a bit ,well, out of it in the States.  But that has served me with the play; I think, I hope, I have an aerial view of our glorious planet and the many cultures inhabiting Mother Earth.
How does this fractured fairy tale resonate today?
Well, hmm, I feel I deliver, through character,  the politics of the United States and around the globe.  I address the destruction of the planet – and the destruction of people .  And the many ills of our western culture.  But – that is almost secondary – because there is fantasy and humor and a mix of the familiar within an unfamiliar world – a cast of characters with their relationships. It’s very funny (if I do say so myself).  So even if you don’t get some of the references, eh, the situations and characters are hilarious – and there is the balance of darkness.
Today’s politics huh? Do you feel Planet Connections is the right venue for it?
I had, as an actress, performed last summer in a fundraiser for the Neo-Political Cowgirls and I met Glory.  I then invited her to a reading of this play in February that had Kathy Chalfont, Harris Yulin.  She was unable to attend but kindly read the play and suggested I submit it – and I did!
What’s the wish for the future of the play? 
I know what I would like.  But where it goes…??  I’d love to see a production – it is very visual.  That said, it could be an animated film.  But who knows anything.  I’ll just keep on keepin’ on – as Bob Dylan sings.
Final Thought …  
Jeez, I hope I’m not kicking the bucket.  But final thoughts – I welcome this experience and dig that whatever proceeds made will go to a charity, the Retreat.  I’m really pleased, grateful.  And I hope people have a good time.

#TenthPlanet: Yokko of SHINKA

This summer, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (PCTF), the brainchild of arts professional Glory Kadigan, turns 10 years old. In that decade, PCTF has successfully changed the landscape of the theatre festival and all of New York independent theatre. The multi-award-winning theatre festival will celebrate in a big way by premiering more than 50 timely and topical plays and musicals written by the next generation of playwrights. Each play contains a powerful message serving as a parable of various world themes. The Tenth Planet: Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will run fromJuly 9 through August 5, 2018 at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC.www.planetconnections.org. Artists presenting works from all across America, including Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Providence and New York City; and from all over the planet, including Japan, Yugoslavia, Russia, Peru, France, Belarus, & Haiti are part of this years festivity.

workshop-ad-2018_orig (1).jpgMulti-Awards winning choreographer YOKKO comes to the 10th anniversary season of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity with SHINKA

Part of the 10th anniversary season of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at the Theaters at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, New York City, this visiually stunning event runs Tuesday 7/17 @9pm-10:15pm, Friday 7/20 @ 8pm-9:15pm, Sunday 7/22 @1:15pm-2:30pm, Friday 7/27 @9:45pm-11pm, Sunday 7/29 @1pm-2:15pm, Saturday 8/4 @7:45pm-9pm.

shinka-5.jpgThrough stunning movement, SHINKA explores the mystery of living beings. Mankind has developed a complicated mechanized and sprawling society … rapidly. We have been destroying it and developing it repeatedly throughout history. What do we really want? And where are we going? Can we create a world that we want to live? Without destroying one another? SHINKA explains that we are all part of this eco-system and one with conscious energy, evolving every single day, every single moment… together. By using Japanese Butoh, Trish Arnold Movement, contemporary dance, and other theatrical elements, SHINKA explores and expresses life itself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Yokko is an actress, Butoh & Theatre Artist, Movement & yoga instructor from Nagoya, Japan. She has acted in, devised and choreographed a variety of local and international shows, having won several awards, including “Best One-Woman Show” for her Butoh Medea (United Solo 2014 at Theatre Row). Butoh Medea was selected to perform at *United Solo Europe in Warsaw, Poland in June, 2015, then toured to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015, and selected for the short list of The Asian Arts Award. Butoh Medea has been touring USA & Europe since 2015.

shinka-4.jpgYour work truly plugs into the futuristic and is so powerful. Tell us about yourself as an artist:

I am interested in being a cultural bridge. I- myself am Japanese, and come from a different culture. And I am always interested in collaborating with other artists who come from a different background (culture, age, gender, race) and creating new work together. It is very exciting to see and discover something I had not expected. Also I have been focusing on creating an increased awareness of ecology through performing arts these past few years. I have been producing with other artists an annual festival called ‘UNFIX NYC’ since 2016. Also I have been doing workshops of “Social Action Project” in NYC and Turin, Italy to bring an awareness of social issues, and I would like to continue this. Also, I am passionately interested in bringing forward hidden voices from society and our history. I would like to carry these into  my work. I have been blessed to work with many amazing artists each with their own hidden voice.

Share with us a little something about your play that we WON’T see in the press release.

“We — all of us — can stand and think about the society we live [in] and not repeat the same thing in the past,” she says.’ -Sadie Dingfelder (The Washington Post)


shinka-11.jpgFuture-Shock is omnipresent. Looking at today’s climate. How does your play resonate now? Feel free to be blunt.

The world is collapsing. Many people do not care about the result of what we are doing. We use plastic bags regularly. But plastic is made of oil. Countries fight for oil. When we love someone, we do nice thing for them. Why don’t we take care of the world? Why do we just see the now and own selfish needs, egos? If we think of our future generation, will we do the same thing we do now? I can not speak for all countries, but modern societies are made of capitalism and materialism in order to fulfill own desires. We do not realize the precious things we receive from nature until we lose them. If every country, which holds nuclear weapons, pushed the button to use them, the earth would be destroyed 5 times. It is meaningless to have them. But still they do. And they do not want to release the nuclear weapon technology. Why? they want to keep their power over others?  I understand they have a responsibility to protect their countries and people. But is it really necessary to have nuclear weapons to accomplish this?

In modern society, we want to have the things we desire. Sometimes ego drives us. We somehow think others will take care of our mistakes. We see over use of plastic bags everywhere (except for some European countries).  Many of us just follow what we want and so do not care that someone will get damaged- in this case the earth.

When we turn off the TV or Radio or Computer, we can forget there are wars in other areas in this planet. But the reality is that there are wars. There are issues. Some children are crying because of their suffering. Some children in the world never have a roof to sleep under. It is real. Mountains are destroyed, fishes are poisoned. Many of us do not recycle- but the earth, this planet is not just for humans. There are more living beings on this planet. I think this play is very related to today. (especially when we can see who the world leaders are today- people chose them- )

Well, that’s blunt! Do you think Planet Connections is a venue to do your work justice?  

Ecology, social action and connections are my center theme as an artist. And I am so excited to participate this festival!

Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?  

I would like to bring this show to schools in the USA. So if I can do a school tour, it would be wonderful. Also If I can bring this outside of the USA, that would be great!

Final thoughts?

I would like to share this show  as much as possible, and would like to have more discussion about this theme.

Dorian Palumbo reviews “The Lady in Black”

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“I Remember You” – Reverend Mary and Granny’s Blue-Mers present “The Lady in Black”

New York musical theatre has a ton of traditions.  One of my favorites goes something like this; a great diva takes time out from her other work, think Lupone or Midler, and crafts a cabaret act dear to her enormous heart, which she then uses to belt out across a range of emotions to create an unforgettable experience for the audience.  Following this tradition to the letter is Mary Elizabeth Micari, or Reverend Mary as she’s known to her fans. 

 

As you might be able to glean from the title, the new show is really kind of a memory play with music, but unlike other cabaret acts who may approach the past with nostalgia and wistfulness, Mary carves up her memory book, quite literally, with a sharp wit, dozens of post-its, and an “oh, screw it”, attitude that causes the audience to laugh, sigh, and nod with recognition at each resurrected tale.  Yes, our stories make us who we are.  Yes, life sometimes sucks.  And, no, we don’t enjoy taking the hits, but we learn how to bounce back from them, and maybe even belt our brains out in the recollection.

 

34963121_2096549370616195_1904255664297869312_n.jpgThe first thing you need in putting together a show like this one is a star with an amazing voice, and Mary does not disappoint.  The strength and control she demonstrates allows the audience to sit back and relax, while the lyrics of the songs she chooses to sing are put over with care, finesse, and, when necessary, a good hearty holler and a wry smile.

Song choice is the second most important factor here, and though a good chunk of the dozen or so songs Mary presents have to do with longing, which young folk often confuse with love, the songs of near-miss and missing old loves give way eventually to songs of “Oh, well”, and “moving on”, and the themes a more mature lover uses to approach romance.  Not satisfied to limit herself by sticking to old standards, Mary brings out of the past (the 1910’s to the 1950’s, to be precise), incredible blues songs like the Stept and Castle “Comes Love”, sung famously by Billie Holiday, and Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying.”

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A cabaret act can also rise or fall on the efforts of its backup band.  Granny’s Blue-Mers, aka Dan Furman (piano/musical direction), John Dinello (bass/percussion), and Alan Lighty (guitar), are with Reverend Mary, and the audience, every step of the way, synching seamlessly with the patter, the stories, and even providing the occasional well-placed rimshot.  As is often the case when musicians add their professionalism and vibrancy to a singer they know and obviously love, this band is tightly coordinated and right on point, using their snap, crackle and pop and taking what was already an enjoyable evening straight up to the next level.

The evening ends on an upbeat of course, with the Lady in Black celebrating with a bit of lady happy – finding her good man, though he was hard to find, and zipping out into the audience for a little roving mic celebration (one wishes that the room at DTM had a follow-spot, but you can’t have, and sometimes you don’t need, everything).  At under an hour, Reverend Mary left the audience absolutely wanting more.

At this point, I would normally cite the next scheduled performance, but the next performance hasn’t been scheduled yet, so what I will do is provide the website address (https://grannysbluemers.com), and let you know that the show will likely be done at Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret a few more times in preparation for an album Reverend Mary and the group are working on.  Keep an eye on the website, sign up for their mailing list, and take the opportunity to have yourself a good time.

And of course you can visit Don’t Tell Mama (https://www.donttellmamanyc.com/) piano bar, cabaret and restaurant, any time, which is located at 343 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, NYC.

 

 

Dorian Palumbo reviews Atacama, part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival

The approach many playwrights take, when they write what you might call a “political play”, is to have characters stand around arguing the merits of this regime or that; whether it’s over scotch and cigars or truncheons and barricades, it’s a dry, intellectual exercise at heart.  Rarely does a playwright give us a visual marker for an explosively emotional political situation that intrigues and disturbs us into wanting to know more and more.

30741211_10214303936905123_6576781801438576640_n.jpg In his fascinating one-act play “Atacama”, Augusto Federico Amador gives us a way in – increasing our understanding of the despotic and twisted Pinochet regime that stands as one of Chile’s greatest tragedies by telling the tale through the eyes of a mother painstakingly sifting sand in the Atacama desert for the shattered bones of her disappeared son Benjamin.The mother, Ignacia, played with luminous intensity by Broadway actress Socorro Santiago, has been one of many mothers on this dismal archeological dig.  As she explains to Diego, newly arrived to search for his own loved one, there is a “trick to” finding what you’re searching for, and she seems to be the last one searching, all the others having given up or passed away.  Diego’s wife, Marta, was a member of the latter category, and he has arrived at the Atacama to take up her effort to find the remains of their daughter Laura, one handful of sand at a time.

As the new searcher, Diego needs coaching, at least in Ignacia’s mind.  But more than that, as the political discussion matures, it seems that Diego also needs his eyes opened to the despicable depths to which the torturous Pinochet regime took their country.  Yes, Diego has lost a daughter, but he is also a capitalista, and the feminist, communist Ignacia will not let her teaching moments pass.

Played with a feckless sincerity at first, Jose Febus’ characterization of Diego is compelling, and full of dark surprises.  In his interactions with Ignacia, Diego tries to pass himself off as a mundane owner of a car dealership, whose rebellious daughter never appreciated, perhaps even reviled, the privilege into which she was born.  But as the bones large and small are subsequently found, and the conversation gets more and more revelatory, both Ignacia and Diego both completely belie the first impressions playwright Amador has given us of them.

The direction, by Estefania Fadul, allows the actors to explore, to pull apart, the situation in which these characters find themselves, letting the dialogue amuse and entertain without undercutting it with overwrought action or intrusive stagecraft.

Sadly, this was the one and only performance of Atacama programmed by the 2018 Downtown Urban Arts Festival, but if Atacama is indicative of the quality of the material being offered, I would say I’m very much looking forward to checking out more DUAF shows between now and May 12th.  You can access their website for more information athttps://theatre80.wordpress.com/downtown-urban-arts-festival/

Dorian Palumbo reviews Corporatesthenics

There are some things that a sketch can do that a one-act play can certainly do better, and I was delighted on Friday night to be introduced to the work of Baindu Kalokoh, whose biting and witty “Corporatesthenics” obviously demonstrates that she not only knows the difference between the two forms but can exploit the one act for all it’s worth to make her point.

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As part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival at Theatre 80 St. Marks, Corporatesthentics introduces us to fitness instructor Candy Dandy, a high-energy beam of light that shines brilliantly on the dark underside of corporate life as navigated by African American women.  Using the convention of a television broadcast, and playing the role of Candy herself, Kalokoh high-steps us through the denigration and frustration of the corporate experience by exhorting the audience to learn how to fake-smile through it all while seeking out mentors who “look like you” and simply knowing that others, like Candy, have been through it all before.

Particularly well-observed is a sequence where Candy walks the audience through a corporate evaluation process. An employee who has been given exemplary report cards for over a decade is suddenly found lacking due to nothing more than a desire for her employers to kick her to the proverbial curb.  Though the rest of the work has some funny moments that hit home, involving wigs and hula hoops, parts of the play show that Kalokoh knows her corporate stuff first hand, and this is where she truly shines.  These are the moments that really elevate the material above mere sketch comedy to the place where the audience can really relate, and have something to think about on the way home.

“Corporatesthenics” ran for only one performance as part of the festival, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from the talented and fearless Kalokoh.  Both as a playwright and as a performer.s

 

 

 

 

Dorian Palumbo reviews Strong Man … A Strong Work

It’s been said about playwright August Wilson that he wrote about ordinary people trying to survive in the struggle.  I was recently able to catch J.E. Robinson’s play “The Strong Man” at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival at Theatre 80 St. Marks this past Friday, and Robinson’s characters are as authentic and lively as Wilson’s, but the twist is Robinson hewing toward the darkness in life in his own, unique way.

“The Strong Man” begins in the Great Depression, and is set in a barber shop, where four old friends are gathered seemingly to shoot the breeze, get a haircut, and perhaps play some checkers.  But these are no ordinary friends.  This is the Crabtree gang, led back in the day by Pearl (Fulton Hodges), who once supplemented their income as entertainers by occasionally killing someone whom someone else wanted dead.

At first, the discussion seems to center around the gang being willing to pull off one last job, to eliminate a young man in the community who has been messing around with multiple women and drawing too much attention to himself.  However, as the haircuts progress, and the conversation turns to what happened to the money they made, and the gun they all used to jointly own, it becomes abundantly clear that the barber, Lawson, played with strength and earnestness by Jeffrey Butler, has something else in mind. Rounding out the cast is Victor Arnaz, adding a dash of panache as the dandified Victor.  Hodges’ Pearl personifies a man who is doing well for himself, relative to his old friends, yet keeps a streak of impatience on the surface that let’s us believe this is a man who could have killed another man without much difficulty.

Once Pearl (Hodges) becomes suspicious that there is a plot being hatched between Lawson and his mentally disabled brother Geech, played with subtlety at a slow simmer by Jay Ward, he manipulates Geech over a game of checkers to try and get the whole story out of him.  And once it’s revealed what Lawson requires from his old pal, Pearl, like the audience, is shocked.

“The Strong Man” is a strong work – playwright Robinson shows us the harsh realities of African Americans during the Depression without being preachy or melodramatic, and the direction, by Lawrence Floyd, was deft and masterful.

“The Strong Man” ran for only one performance as part of the festival, but it is available for future productions by accessing it online as part of the New Play Exchange, https://newplayexchange.org/plays/98715/strong-man

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Robert Viagas was on a “Coffee Date”

“45 Coffee Dates”

The Players Theater through April 29

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

 

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Writer/actress Antonia Kasper had to kiss a long line of frogs—44 to be exact—before she found her real-life Prince Charming. Using a semi-fictional alter-ego named Rachel Yardley in her new solo comedy, 45 Coffee Dates, author and star Kasper recounts how she staggered through an online dating death march of Mr. Wrongs.

Her war stories are mostly horrifyingly funny—one guy who throws up on her, another brings his mother on the date, and then there is “the guy with OCD…who was an SOB.”

Some of her dates are rejected on what seem like purely “lookist” standards. There is the story of the “philanthrojock” who turns out to be much, much shorter in person than in his profile pic. “You lied to me, Napoleon!,” she snarls. But since Rachel becomes the target of plenty of the same treatment, it only seems fair.

Let’s just say that If this becomes a TV special, Match.com will not likely sponsor it.

What keep 45 Coffee Dates from being simply an elongated stand-up comedy routine are her stories that swerve into the heartbreaking, such as when she loses her father, her dog and her unborn child in the space of just a few weeks. She compares herself to older women to see how their various life choices worked out. At age 39, her quest for a life partner becomes just one facet of a genuine midlife crisis. The fact that she’s able to muster such a wry sense of humor about it all proves a testament to her tenacity.

And just when it seems as if her comic misery will go on forever, the play swerves again, this time into a happy world where her dreams actually do come true. She earns them.

Katherine Elliot directs the production, which continues through April 29 in the upstairs space at The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village.

The production is advertised as leading up to the release of the story in book form later this spring.

 

 

 

Great Theatre … with a Vengeance! Dorian Palumbo reviews “Vengeance Room”

One of the things that Beckett fans love about Beckett is the ability that he had of using the absurdist form to distill human emotional interactions down to their basics, without needing a lot of conventional expository writing.  Playwright Michael Hagins’ “The Vengeance Room” is not only an homage to Beckett, it’s actually a good one, which isn’t something we often see.  It’s also, in its own right, a fairly tense and quite fascinating approach to a genre we don’t often see onstage – horror.

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Into a dimly lit room, complete with an assortment of weapons, five characters arrive, in various states of anxiety, some stumbling and coughing, some simply disoriented.  They are strangers to one another.  They are, to an extent, strangers to themselves.  They don’t remember their names.  They are unclear as to how they arrived.  They discuss whether or not they have been kidnapped, but don’t recall anyone abducting them.

Eventually the weapons, a gun, a knife, a baseball bat, a sword, are spoken for, variously traded, and brandished with various degrees of success.  Alpha Male “D”, played with confidence and pragmatism by Michael Mena, goes for the gun before anyone else arrives, hedging his bets.  The bullying mean girl “X” comes in afterward, and chooses the sword, although her tongue is far sharper.  As played by Ariel Leigh, X is a consummate shit-stirrer and wickedly fun to watch.

Ashley Lauren Rogers “G” is a sweet soul who wishes to harm no one, yet is bullied into wielding first the bat and then, eventually, the gun, though she’s got no fight in her we can discern.  Rogers plays G with a sweetness and vulnerability that grounds the tension for the audience deftly, giving us someone we could potentially root for, though we don’t know why nor do we know what the circumstances around the tension quite are.  Rounding out the cast is an apparent couple, the henpecked “M”, played with a terrific comic haplessness by Michael Moreno, and the fired-up “O”, played alternately sweet and sarcastic by the wonderful Kat Moreno.

As the characters circle around each other, each knowing the game is for one to kill all the rest in order to escape, Director Janelle Zapata manages the dramatic tension in the small space with great skill and respect for the form.  And, most important, she never telegraphs any of the twists and turns, allowing the audience to go ahead and make assumptions that, I guarantee you, will turn out to have been false.

The Vengeance Room not only adds an exciting and interesting one-act piece to the canon of absurdist theatre pieces, it also provides something that contemporary theatre can often lack: fun.

The Vengeance Room will run at Kraine Theatre, 84 East 4th Street, on February 22nd at 10:30 PM, on February 24th at 8:20 PM, and on March 4th at 1:50 PM.  For tickets, please visit the Frigid New York Festival website at http://www.horsetrade.info/frigid-festival-df84