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.

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