Clapping in [Hand]Cuffs!

Reviewed by Ashley Hutchinson

controlIn the last ten years, the dominatrix image has been gaining popularity in modern pop-culture. The dominatrix provides a cathartic submissive experience to the victim in which her prisoner is no longer in control of their faculties. This loss of control in turn frees the mind of the dominatrix’s prey. In the two-person one act show written and directed by Kevin Clancy, “Controlling Interest,” an unnamed man, played by Nic Anthony Calabro, seeks out this phenomenon.

Upon entering the room where he would presumably have intercourse with an irritable dominatrix played by Amber Bloom, Calabro appears ironically surprised when the dominatrix begins to take control of the situation. Bloom’s lines are entirely made up of orders and demands, lending to a very confused yet intrigued Calabro, and an appropriate lexicon for a dominatrix. Calabro’s reasons for becoming patron to this particular service is stated early on, when he confides that the demands for him to take charge of his hectic life are weighing him down considerably, however, Calabro’s laid-back slang and easygoing tone hardly seem to indicate a stressful lifestyle. Bloom’s character then goes on to disclose her story of getting into the business by tying Calabro up and forcing him to listen to the story of her formative high school years. This classic tale of teenage angst and woe seems rather predictable, until Bloom confesses that to become beautiful, she had to make a deal with the devil detailing that she would only be skinny if she ate human hearts; yet another example of the demand for modern women to be thin coming with a frustrating and rather torturous price.

When Bloom takes out a knife the situation becomes more serious, Calabro’s hopes and expectations for how the evening would go seem to be entirely dashed. Clancy’s lighthearted script has the potential for glib satire, the premise a clever and quirky tale only a tad hindered by Bloom’s unnatural periodic stutters in delivery and Calabro’s slightly predictable character choices. All in all, a charming story with only a few bumps along the way: nothing a good ‘whipping’ into shape can’t fix.

“Déjà Who?” Four Times the Fun

Reviewed by Mary Ann Randazzo

“Déjà  Who” is a four act play with the hopes and dreams of being with the one person we yearn for no matter where in the universe they may be hiding.

A funny, charming and witty play about Heaven, karma and soul mate relationships  — dead or alive — is just the ticket for those interested in the esoteric world. A topic of recent great interest.

dejaEdward Eriksson is a gifted actor as well as talented playwright leaving the audience questioning “is there a Heaven or something more mystical happening on this plane?”   Marc Gettis’ deadpan delivery was hilarious and if I didn’t know that Meg Ryan was still alive I would swear Gabrielle Brown was Ryan’s incarnate, not only does she resemble Ms. Ryan but has that sweet and bubbly manner about her.  Gabrielle is a natural on stage without trying to convince the audience she’s an actress.

 

Photo Credit: A.G. Liebowitz/WrightGroupNY

An Incompatible JULIA & BUDDY

jReview by Sander Gusinow

Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival

Julia & Buddy is a play incurably plagued by the author’s literary obsessions, lack of chemistry, and void of storytelling.

It saddens me to come down so hard on writer/director N.G. McClernan, who has dedicated countless admirable hours helping fellow writers on nycplaywrights.org. She’s not the kind of person I would peg for an infatuation with nihilistic German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer; McClernan’s play so relentlessly revolves around his writings that the story of an agoraphobic philosophy professor and a brain-damaged actor/handyman serves as mere lubricant to discuss the author’s topic du jour.

Lead actors Claire Warden and Matthew DeCapua have no time for romantic friction as they struggle through the stodgy script. Julia and Buddy begin a romance when Buddy tries to fix the front door to Julia’s apartment. Warden’s Julia must choose between her affection for the plainspoken Buddy and her intellectual superiority complex. DeCapua’s Buddy is not so much a character as a myriad of unrelated character quirks, making his pursuit of Julia vacant, terse, almost predatory.

The play gives no reason for Julia to actually like Buddy aside from his ‘cute butt.’ (mentioned ad-nauseum) McClernan is content to slap acting a few seizures onto Buddy’s backstory and call it a day, but what he and Julia actually do or want for one another (aside from very good sex) is non-existent. With no compelling reason for the pair to be together, McClernan gives us no desire to watch her lightly-camouflaged philosophy lesson unfold.

Julia & Buddy is practically Kantian in it’s mission, discussing Schopenhauer ‘though the world (of the play) burns.’ Julia even has hallucinatory discussion with Mr. Schopenhauer a la 33 Variations, but unlike 33 Variations in which a cancer-riddled character careens towards death, Julia & Buddy gives us no stakes to speak of, only forced relationship conflict, uninspired revelations, and bookish wheel-spinning.

Appropriate that a play about Schopenhauer would be a trivial hour of agony. A tragic misfire from an artist so deserving of respect. I can only hope this play has helped Ms. McClernan iron out her philosophical kinks, clearing the way for more cohesive work in the future.

Secret Pain revealed in “Comfort”

Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival XV
by Rannie McCants

The cultural significance of Comfort is undeniable. This play is an imaginative form of docu-theater written and directed by Jung Han Kim about sex slaves kidnapped from Asian countries, like Korea and China, for the comfort of Japanese soldiers during World War II. These women were drugged and defiled 50 to 200 times a day, and then their pain was concealed from Japanese history books. The world has since remained ignorant, for so many years, to the suffering of hundreds of thousands. Now, there are nine known survivors living to tell their stories, which Kim shares openly and compassionately.

comfortThe play follows the frustrating circular conflict of the main character, Peter, a passion-crazed drug addict who dreams of a World War II sex slave named Roksun. He wants to tell her story through a documentary he’s spent 4 years making, but his producer, John, played by Lucio Fernandez doesn’t find it entertaining enough for television. Yet, Roksun still appears in his drug-induced dreams and haunts him to make the film his heart wants to be made.

Certain theater elements succeeded. The ensemble’s ribbons-for-chains that entrapped Roksun in a hazy, terrifying grip were an excellent visual connection between her and the pain of other victims. In the audience, I wanted to grant her the mercy she never received and free her from her experiences. On the other hand, I was incredibly disappointed to see that Asians were completely absent from the play. For a story so rich in Asian history, the story would have seemed more genuine if casted with Asian actors and dancers.

Additionally, the play told me about some extreme hardships, but did the minimal amount to show me. I wanted to see, not hear, about how the government is covering up the existence of sex slaves during the war. I wanted to see, not hear, the despairing moment when Roksun was forced to leave her country. I wanted Peter to leave his apartment and share his story with people on the street. If he’s really that desperate for people to know, why is he sitting at home taking drugs?

Despite the shortcomings in the script, the story is still pumping with young new blood and worth taking a look into due to its content. Performances will continue on July 26th @ 1:00 PM, July 27th @ 6:30 PM, and August 1st @ 7:30 PM at the Jewel Box Theater, 312 West 36th Street, 4th floor. Tickets are $18.00 and can be purchased at http://www.midtownfestival.org or call 866-811-4111. It will also have a special Gala performance in the Lincoln Center, The Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, on August 4th @ 7:00 and August 8th @ 7:00 where South Korean victims will join. These tickets are also $18.00 and can be purchased at http://www.smarttix.com/Show.aspx?ShowCode=COM94 or call 212-868-4444.

 

“I felt like an Alice transported to a very artsy wonderland.”

Article by Ashley Hutchinson On Sunday July 6th, the Midtown International Theatre Festival, a force to reckon with in the vast universe of New York theatre festivals, had its opening night. The festivities began with a short comical opener by Louis S. Salamone, the master of ceremonies detailing the top ten strangest emails received that day. Given that this is an event created entirely by avid theatre lovers, actors, directors and the like it was hardly surprising that this sort of bit would be well received based on the reality: theatre people are specific, and they like emails. The emails relayed to us included questions about the availability of bathrooms or if they would “have to provide jars to pee in” or if cannibalism was legal in the state of New York. I heard remarks around me asking if these questions were fabricated and I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Believe it or not, weird theatre-makers exist, and believe it or not, people would fabricate anything to get a laugh. Though I will say the question still haunts me. With this short introduction out of the way and with the passing of the microphone to the head of the festival, John Chatterton, we were given some background on this year’s festival. Chatterton boasted the festival’s new variety of acts (and rightfully so), as there will be a new cabaret division opening this year joining a commercial division, a short plays division, and so on. The festival will have roughly 212 performances this year, that being said Chatterton’s message to “get ready to see a lot of theatre” was extremely appropriate. JIM_120.PRThe ceremony then continued in an intimate way, the feel was that of theatre-makers performing for fellow theatre-makers and some avid theatre-appreciators, and the diversity of acts really was impressive: we were to get a taste of the different shows and performances happening within the festival. I felt like an Alice transported to a very artsy wonderland. The performances began with a jazzy cabaret act titled “An Evening with Rosemary” and continued on with a poetry recitation including various hats, the inner musings of a Stripper, and musical theatre songs about Star Trek. CAM00652 How these 23 performances landed in the same showcase is a feat that only a theatre festival can truly achieve, and is part of the joy and slight terror associated with seeing live theatre. I was surprised by the amount of the one-man shows in the evening, but with hits such as “Buyer and Cellar” (at the Barrow Street Theatre) and “Murder for Two” (just closed at New World Stages) coming to the forefront of New York Theatre culture the new motto seems to be less is more where casting is concerned. A lot of the work proved very experimental as well; a performance from “Pistrix: A Melancholy Fable” included well-timed choreography with flashlights and the shocking yet appropriate lack of clothing in “Chenel Star! My Journey Through the Strip Club” was bold and fiery.                                                                      10426709_10152109792016567_5515385414022325934_n        All in all, it was an affectionate and appreciative night. A small event, but the Festival will be achieving big things through August 8 at 312 West 36th Street.