INOLA’S VIEW of the Midtown International Theatre Festival Part III

REVIEWS BY Inola M. McGuire

Body“The Body is a Legal Drug” by Daniel McNeill, directed by Albert Baker; starring MacKenzie Nehne, David C. Neal, Allison Threadgold, Mdivani Monroe, Chaz McCormack, Hank Fandel, Charlie Jhaye, and the actress known only as Harriet.

This play takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride. It covers a few issues in life that most people refuse to deal with on a regular basis. For starters, the audience sees a couple on stage and through their dialogues, it surmises that they are no longer together. Yet, Maureen wants to be rescued by her ex-husband, Nick, for two reasons. Of course, he refuses to become a father to her unborn child with more excuses than the law allowed as both of them drink heavily.

Maureen tells Nick all about her employment status, her living arrangement, and her roommate. After Maureen explains each detail of her current problems, Nick continues with his drinking as he reflects on his life at college and the people he encountered. By this time, Carleton enters and Maureen informs him about her guest. Shortly after, Jerry visits the apartment and she congratulates her brother on his upcoming nuptial. With total curiosity the audience finds out who will become an untraditional bride.

Before the apartment becomes too crowded, Nick receives a package from his friend. Murphy visits eventually and brings a gift, a rosary in a box, for Maureen. He explains his quest for God and his reason for not drinking. The audience’s emotional level moves closer to its highest climb, and before you know it, the other visitors are all on stage. Murphy signs over his property and money to Nick. Carleton’s fiancé, Nathan, shows up and Maureen reveals who is her baby’s daddy. Murphy’s girlfriend, Barbara, tries to persuade him to be with her without any luck. Jerry tries to comfort Barbara in the only way she know how.

Now, the last house guest shows up. She is Jerry and Carleton’s mother, Olivia. She has some explaining of her own to do. Her revelation throws a monkey wrench into the mix of things. The audience focuses on Olivia’s every word in her dialogue as she prepares to let the cat out of the bag. What do you know? Olivia questions Nathan about the places he has been and his favorite catch phrase, “The Body is a Legal Drug” before the audience realizes that Nathan and Carleton are father and son.
Nathan’s one-night stand surely came back to haunt him. Carleton on the other hand feels betrayed. He is beside himself. Jerry, Barbara and Nick decide to take a road trip. Murphy goes on his way to become a man of the cloth. Maureen and Nathan agree to become a couple for the sake of the unborn baby. It is a great play for theatre goers to see and they’re going to enjoy the ride of a life time from their seats before the conclusion of the festival on August 2, 2015.

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Six-actors“6 Actors in Search of a Character” by Edward Eriksson directed by Edward Eriksson; starring Nick Zale, Kimberly Pogorelis, Katrina Clairvoyant, Jonathan Palmiotti, Ceyoung Lee, Risa Del Angele, and Nolan Charles.

This play conveys the political intrigue that goes on throughout the rehearsal stage of a production. The audience sees actors on stage rehearsing their lines with the director, and the writer disrupts the run through on purpose. This disturbance changes the momentum of the practice. Despite the temporary annoyance, the actors continue to define their characters.

After the rehearsal on stage, the audience sees two actors in discussion why Asians actors are not getting more roles. Personal relationships within the cast impede on the group’s overall dynamics. The actors realize that they have to search within themselves for the character. The character has to come alive from the inner being of the person in the role of a particular character. A voice-over character sheds some light on the possibilities of finding a character by the performer.

The setting reminds the audience of the in-fighting and the power play with the creative personnel involved in a production. The director’s interpretation of the writer’s work may differ and this can create a certain amount of tension that jeopardizes the entire production. The writer’s message shows the audience the pitfalls of rehearsals in a production. A character’s role may be at the mercy of the director. The play highlights all of the elements of a production with its problems during rehearsal.
It is my opinion that the writer’s makes his point known to the audience from the performances of the actors through their dialogues. How or why one person can determine if a specific role should be typecast? This is a legitimate question, but the audience cannot tell the writer who should be the perfect character, person, for the role unless the plot is driven by a character of a specific race. Typecasting prevails for many reasons, and this is in the control of the writer if he or she directs his or her own work.

I recommend this play to theatre goers and non-theatre goers alike before the end of the festival on August 2, 2015.
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James-Judd“A Minor Midcareer Retrospect” by James Judd and directed by Maddie Saidenburg.

James elates the audience with his definition of the title of his show, and the reflection of his life in the past decades. However, his awkward encounters with celebrities galvanize his talent to be hilarious. He dissects his experiences in three acts with some amazing moments. Later, his telling of his blow-by-blow experiences in the state of New Hampshire culminates his one-man show to another level.

It is a must-see show for those people who are interested in what James has to say.

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unnamed“Fool’s Life” by David Doiashivli and the actors spoke in Kurtvelian, the language of the Republic of Georgia.

During the act, the entire audience I assumed spoke the Kurtvelian language with the exception of me. However, I paid close attention to what happens on the stage. The insert in my position was helpful and I was able to follow each scene on stage. The performance was enormous with classical music and sound effect, and it was a different experience for me so far.

All of the scenes were on point and the gestures among the actors were breath taking. The costumes reminded me of the Japanese culture. It is a great play! I recommend theatre goers to capitalize on the opportunity and see it before the festival ends on August 2, 2015.

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11695805_10153039528288873_1636800867971390396_n“Messages” by Matthew Gasda, directed by Christopher Carter Sanderson; starring Hannah Wolf, Jonathan Reed Wexler, Chelsea LeSage, and Leajoto Robinson.

This play begins with an arguing couple on stage. The audience gathers that there is something beneath the surface between both of them. Maisie wants Max to be seen and not heard in her presence, but he wants her to read a poem from a book. She complies but not without voicing her frustration of his forceful attitude. He wants more than a one-night fling with her, but Maisie feels guilty for stepping out on her boyfriend, David.

Emily enters the room and the atmosphere changes immediately. Max manages to leave without incident. Emily and Maisie get into a meaningless debate as each of them tries to convince the other about who should do what without destroying their friendship. Emily behaves as though she knows what is going on in Maisie’s love life with Brian without saying too much. Poor Maisie thinks Emily tries to capitalize on her pain as she tries to understand her as a roommate. Maisie pours out her soul to Emily about her sexual encounter with Max and how she feels about him. Maisie wants to pass Max over to Emily.

Maisie’s lack of self-confidence allows her to be ignorant of the fact that her roommate and her boyfriend have an on-going sexual relationship right under her nose. The audience realizes this fact when David confesses his love to Emily. He wants to take their relationship to another level. Emily refuses to agree to what David has to say. She doesn’t want to hurt Maisie’s feelings if the truth comes out. David waits for Maisie in the apartment. After Maisie enters the apartment, he acts very distant to her despite here effort to get to the bottom of his coldness towards her. David gives off mixed messages to Maisie for his duplicity of her trust and the affair with her roommate.

The writer gets his message across to the audience that one never knows what is going on around him or her. Jealousy and betrayal are the core issues that surround the characters in the play. It is one for theatre goers to see and learn from the experience on the stage before the end of the festival.

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Fabulous!

Review by Ramona Pula

James-Judd“A Minor Mid-Career Retrospective” opening 7-22-15, MITF 16

Writer: James Judd
Director: Maddie Saidenburg
Starring: James Judd

Davenport Theatre, Black Box, 354 W. 45th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues)
16th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival
Remaining Performances: Fri 7/24, 8:00 pm; Sat 7/25, 4:00 pm
Running Time: 45 minutes
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To sum up James Judd’s one-man show “A Minor Mid-Career Retrospective” in one word, I say, “Fabulous!”

I loved this show. Mr. Judd is a seasoned performer and extremely funny. According to comedian and teacher Michael Delaney, “In comedy, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it that matters” – and Mr. Judd sure knows how to say it. His humorous personality shines through his performance.

James Judd displays comedy style in spades. He has excellent timing and is a natural ad-libber, which makes me think he must also be a wonderful improviser. He deals with situations in the moment as they happen; for example, when three audience members entered a minute after he’d started, he dealt with it in marvelous fashion by rewinding to the beginning, complimenting the lighting technician along the way for not missing a beat and for repeating the cues accurately.

The lighting, by the way, is terrific in design and execution. Direction by Maddie Saidenburg is on point.

Mr. Judd tells the audience stories from his life. They will be different for each performance at MITF 16, which makes me want to go again. Tonight’s offerings were “F**k You, Patty Lupone”, which included a funny description of a gay cruise, and “The Defense Rests”, in which the consummate storyteller regaled us with a tale of an early experience he had after he’d moved from LA to New Hampshire to attend law school. His mimicry of his first-ever client is hilarious.

My only criticism of this show is that it was too short. I would have loved to have heard a third story. The air conditioning in the Davenport Theatre Black Box is minimal, and I had to wonder if the heat from the lights onstage, not to mention the absence of water, contributed to the performer’s early departure. In the program, the running time is listed as 45 minutes, and I clocked it at 34 minutes. The show was well worth seeing regardless, and leaving the audience wanting more is something for which every performer strives.

Attend this show if you like to laugh! James Judd is a favorite on NPR’s “Snap Judgment” and, if you see “A Minor Mid-Career Retrospective”, you’ll understand why.

INOLA’S VIEW of the Midtown International Theatre Festival Part II

Review of
Good Company, Super, Dead for Breakfast, Sons of Johnny Johnson
16th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival
Davenport Theatre – Black Box Stage
354 West 45th Street, New York, NY
On Sunday, July 19, 2015

“Good Company” by S. Karlan, directed by Christian Andrews; starring Gregory Davis, Ruya Koman, and Brian Kelly.

Good Company resonated to the audience in many ways on stage. A middle-age man convinces a young and gorgeous woman to become his paid companion without thinking about what excess baggage my follow her. His one-track mind and his “slush” funds put a wrench in his short-lived fantasy after his companion’s pimp showed up at his home. He gets more than what he bargained for in his convoluted arrangement.

The writer’s message allows the audience to realize that money can’t buy us everything. Companionship is one of these things that money can’t buy. It’s not attainable on a long-term basis when it is all about a monetary incentive. In life, most people live the lives they know or familiar with. Branching out from their comfort zones can become hazardous to their well being in many ways. Good Company serves as a scared-straight play to help people with unlimited funds to stay in their lane and avoid the collisions of life.

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SUPER! “Super” by Aaron Michael Krueger, directed by Lexi Fennell Erare; starring Adam Keller, Derek Speedy, Jessica Dorcey, Keith Milke, Stephanie Estep, Paul Mitchell, Alex Arlotta, Adam Salazar, Dan Galyon, Triona O’Callaghan, Cynthia Whitman, and Amanda Wilson is a two-act play, giving the audience a feast to feed on in the
form of musical numbers. The audience was engaged and the writer’s message was well received by all. In reality, we all have a need to look up to someone and in this play the audience sees a hero. This hero lives up to the expectation of a young boy. There was a full house, and I will recommend this play to other theatre goers before the festival concludes on August 2, 2015.

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“The Dead For Breakfast” written by Doug DuBrin, directed by Dan Swern; starring Will Hardyman, Ricky Faust, Jeff Gorcyca, Ron Barba, Matt Saxton, James Crawley, and James McCloskey surely got my undivided attention because of the dialogue and the creativity in the writer’s message. As it is seen and known on the maps of the world, the continent of North America is divided into two countries, the USA and Canada. The audience sees on stage a number of men in military uniforms and by their dialogues, it surmises an impending danger of a disemboweled alliance. The performance takes the audience to higher levels of appreciation for an enormous vocabulary of the English Language.

Even the dim-witted Canadian corporal improves his vocabulary by the end of the play. The uppity Captain in his performance enables the audience to think about improving its own vocabulary. Despite being entertained, the audience sees how the rank and the educational level of each officer or soldier influence his feat. The play gives the audience an opportunity to think about the “what ifs” to engage the minds of many in the event of a war on the North American continent between these two nations.

In the American military contingent, the English language differs from the Canadian’s; and the writer allows the audience to compare and contrast the use of diction among military personnel from both nations. This is a must-see play, and I am suggesting that you must not miss the breath- taking performance of the cast before the festival ends on August 2.

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DSCF9188 300 DPI “Sons of Johnny Johnson” by Robert F. Bradford, directed by Jamil A. C. Mangan; starring Adeyinka Adedola, Lamar K. Cheston, Carol Copper, Brandon Mellette, Tomike Ogugua, Jarvis Smith, Omar M’Sai and Angela Trotter.

This play takes the audience into the realities of life in America in its reflection of the African-American experience of the Johnson family. However, the writer manages to get his message across through the return of the rebellious son from prison. It’s the prodigal son experience on a certain level within the family. His return sparks an avalanche of revelation among members of the Johnson clan. There are days of reflection in the household.
During the play, the son reminds his father about his unwillingness to be an advocate for him in the courtroom on a specific occasion. This indecision on the part of the father sends the son further into a life of crime and incarceration throughout his years as a teenager and beyond. A heart-to-heart conversation between father and son reveals the truth that forces another disclosure of family secrets. Another one-on-one exchange between brothers discloses the sibling rivalry and how it affected the choices of one brother to succeed in life when his defiant brother‘s troubles spiral out of control.

On stage, the husband and wife’s moment of disclosure clarifies the uncertainties that permeate the mind of the husband. The wife’s outpouring of her secret and other information forces the patriarch of the family to come to terms with his role as father and grandfather to all of his sons.

In the end, Mr. Johnson is able to show love and affection to his son without hesitation. Perhaps if Johnny Johnson had shown his son genuine love, he would not have become a bad seed in the first place. This is something for the audience to think about.

The family is able to move forward after all of the secrets are out and apologies are made to members of the family by the son. Son and grandson reveal their educational pursuits to the entire family as the well-off brother reaches out to help his sibling. I will recommend theatre goers to see this play before the festival ends on August 2, 2015. It will help to change the minds of those people who fuss unnecessarily while they have everything going good for them in their lives.

INOLA’S VIEW of the Midtown International Theatre Festival Part I

REVIEW BY Inola M. McGuire

Reviews of
LENALENALENA!, ROBOPOP, PUZZLE THE WILL, THE DINNER, RISE OF THE USHER, and PEARL
at the 16th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival
Davenport Theatre – Main Stage
354 West 45th Street, New York, NY
On Tuesday, July 14, 2015

puzzle-copy The first play of the evening I saw was “Puzzle the Will” by Shakespeare as adapted by Lauretta Pope, directed by Lauretta Pope; starring Keith Chandler, Stephen Hu, Caroline Gombe, Lyn Kagen, Zak Kamin, Arron Lloyd, Kate Shine, Lauretta Pope, and Brett Warnke. Fight Choreographer: Ben Kahre, Creative Advisor: Heddy Lahmann-Rosen, Production State Manager: Elizabeth Freeman Clark, Lighting Designer/Associate Producer: Dan Rousseau and Associate Producer: Karla Chee-a-tow.

This play gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on the works of Shakespeare. The performance of the cast was a great one. It was a treat to see a female actor in the role of Hamlet. The audience’s enjoyed the sword fight with its timing and movement on stage. It is different and I recommend theatre goers to see this it before the end of the festival.

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11539700_10153456002914116_8100931814246364765_n For “Robopop,” There were a total of eight actors on stage. The audience really enjoyed the hip-hop music, singing and dancing of the actors on stage. There was a message in each routine. My favorite routine was the mother on vacation. It confirms the notion that there is no break in motherhood. The break-up routine highlighted the flaws in relationships between the male and female species. It was definitely a physical workout for the actors and an emotional one for the audience.

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1513738_10103415428031649_1888906201508972349_n The one-woman Variety show, “LenaLenaLena!” by Lena Moy-Borgen, directed by Katy Pfaffl; had star, Lena Moy-Borgen, transcend herself to the audience without too much difficulty while accompanied by a pianist on stage. Lean’s depiction of her life story to the audience through a chronically approach gave her performance an added bonus as she delivered her message.

Lena’s presentation took the audience back in time as she named the women who influenced her life as a child when she was growing up. These are the names of the women mentioned by Lena: Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Barbara Streisand. Each of these women contributed to Lena’s success as a performer through recordings of their work.

Lena informed the audience of her giving back to young people through training. After she showed the audience three musical instruments in her possession, she passed two of them to her pianist who sat at the piano. However, Lena played the small guitar to prove her point as she entertained the audience; and her pianist played the small drum and a small steel xylophone.

LenaLenaLena was an exceptional show for one night only. The audience surely got its money’s worth last Saturday night.

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11698567_10153077062074702_9214233006331890175_n I saw was “The Dinner” by Darryl Reuben Hall, directed by Darryl Reuben Hall; starring Darrel Blackburn, Darryl Reuben Hall, Mark Montague, Robert Sivers, Nicholas Tucci, and Bryant Wingfield. This play is a conversational piece that allows the audience to go back in time from their seats. An actual dinner took place in October of 1901 when the then president of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt, invited Booker T. Washington to dine with him at the White House. The dinner generated a controversy and there was an onslaught of criticism mostly from people in the southern states and throughout America.

As a member of the audience, I was moved by the play, and I took the opportunity to research the genesis of the play after I left the theatre. Black history and the American history came alive on stage for the audience to savor the realities of the two Americas. This play needs to be performed on a regular basis, and it must be seen by people of all ethnicities living in the United States of America.

To the writer’s credit and message, now is the time for the avid theatre goers to get a treat of a life time by seeing this play, “The Dinner” before the International Theatre Festival concludes on August 2, 2015. Non-theatre goers can benefit from seeing this play, too; as a way to embellish their consciousness about the way in which things were over one hundred years ago in this country.

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rise_of_the_usher “Rise of the Usher” by Jessica Elkin, directed by Mary Catherine Donnelly; and starring Jessica Elkin. This one-woman show captured the audience’s attention throughout the monologue because it has taken it on a tour of the venues that employ the usher in New York City. A trip from the Bronx to Manhattan leaves the audience to wonder if the usher’s commute was on the D train or another subway line to her place of employment.

The usher’s seeing of celebrities demonstrates a high point on the job and an eventful experience for the audience. In addition, the ascent of the usher on her job in the monologue paints a picture of survival for the fittest in the world of work. Without giving away too much of the story, I will encourage theatre and non-theatre goers to see this great performance and enjoy a spectacular trip of one of the best cities in the world from their seats in the theater before the end of the festival on August 2, 2015.

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Pearl

The Review of PEARL
16th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival
Davenport Theatre – Main Stage
354 West 45th Street, New York, NY
On Tuesday, July 14, 2015

“Pearl” written by CD Murray, directed by Ben Harney; musical direction by Charles Czarnecki; starring Jennie Harney, Stephen Dexter, DeWitt Fleming, Jr., Sean Gorski, and Thaddeus McCants.

Pearl with its musical numbers brings the audience back in time with the true essence of a woman who rises to fame despite a racially charged nation during the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights, and the Vietnam War. Pearl capitalized on the opportunities that came her way and she made the best of things although she was ridiculed by many. There was no room in her mind to feel sorry for herself.

However, after seeing the play, I was able to do further research on the life of Pearl Bailey. Without a doubt, I would encourage Theatre and non-theatre goers alike to see this wonderful play before the festival ends on August 2, 2015. Pearl is a must-see play and it will enable the audience to emulate her life and foster empowerment at a time when real courage is at an all-time low.