Many Happy Returns of IRTE!

reviewed by Turan Koyuncu

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Happy Birthday, Stupid Kid directed by, Robert Baumgardner, IRTE’s latest interactive arts piece – lots of improv with swathes of fine acting mixed in, allowing we, the audience, to have a chance to come up to the stage and celebrate a birthday party.

I myself went up to the stage and joined the fun.

20664849_1632156593469188_9216800486649938445_n (1)Impressive acting, quick thinking, on-the-spot staging, and brilliant improvisation made this one of the better presentations at the festival. You are greeted at the door with birthday hats and leave with cake in your hand.

20770304_1632156596802521_1122562444961830092_n (1)In between, the cast is joined by balloons to play with and also face paint! Also, some of the audience were having a conversation with the actors about how did you know the aforementioned stupid kid, Jamie, and – there you have it – we are now actors and characters, and even plot devices.

20664657_1632156650135849_4683008464882262619_n (1)Imagine the ACTUAL parties this amazing group can do!

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Two Gents get Four-Stars

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Reviewed by Ashley Khan

Verona-900x675Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of his more clever and powerful comedies, made even more engaging by some excellent work by director Ariel Leigh and stage combat master, Michael Hagins.

When Valentine arrives to Milan he meets Silvia and automatically falls in love with her. Proteus, as well, travels to Milan leaving his partner Julia behind. Proteus then realizes he’s in love with Silvia. Knowing that he’s betraying best-friend, Valentine’s trust, he still continues to fall in love with her more. Julia being the best partner that she is visits Proteus realizing that he’s in love with Silvia. Both Valentine and Julia are angry and confronts Proteus. Proteus than realizes that he loves Julia and forgets about Silvia. Valentine as well forgets and continues his love for Silvia. The simplicity of the temptation and infatuation make this relatable and enjoyable without a glossary.

The terrific ensemble of actors made for an energetic and enjoyably evening with particular praise to the “two gentlemen,” Daniel Pascale and Dylan J. Sampson, for clever word play and perfect sword play as staged by Michael Hagins. Kudos to Beth Devlin, Erin Patrick Miller, Isaac Allen Miller, Noah Parks, Annika Gullahorn,  Vanessa Schanen, Vanessa Wendt, and Michael Whitten.

The C.A.G.E. Theatre should be praised in general and particularly noted for their powerful attention to character and stage detail.

 

Love and Nothing was really something!

Love and Nothing
Rachel Ricano reviews

mitf17-summer3 (1)Love and Nothing, written by Kacie Devaney, featuring Julie Voshell, Will Marks, and Ms. Devaney under the excellent direction of Stephen Singer, is a play within a play about a love triangle. Kaitlin and Jeb are in love and their friend Julie loves them both. The three of them rehearse a part of their play with questions of love, nothing, and religion. Love and Nothing questions life and what you do in your lives. They have their own original dances to a good choice of music.

This play was funny and entertaining in every day, it was dramedy … mastering both serious and silly with even strokes. Their choice of music was great and was good for setting the mood of the play. The dancing was a good touch to the play because it was very random in a funny way. Love and Nothing was casual and relative to today, as it dealt with religion and love for all people and questions life.

In the end, Kaitlin and Jeb admit their love for each other and want to marry one another and Julie decides to marry them and be their “child” because they all love each other very much and want to be close like family. there’s a twist!

They had a love triangle (in a certain way) they wouldn’t live and love without each other because they’d have nothing or feel like nothing without love.

Dorian Palumbo reviews “An Energy Tale”

In the trailer for the sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore explains that one of the most incendiary things postulated in the original documentary was the potential flooding of the World Trade Center Memorial.  In 2006, people reacted negatively to that idea more than to any other idea explored in the original film.  During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the World Trade Center Memorial was, indeed, flooded, just as predicted.  There’s no pleasure in that kind of “I told you so”, and Anthony J. Piccione, the writer of the children’s play “An Energy Tale”, seems to know that, but how do you feel inconvenient truths to children in around an hour without scaring them to death?  Chocolate.

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As Dr. Science (Ciara McGovern) explains, the kids in the audience will be asked to answer questions about what they’re watching, but the sweet surprise is that the audience participation is rewarded with Hershey’s kisses, flung out of McGovern’s pockets when she hears the answer that she, and Ciccione, are looking for.  I don’t know if other children’s plays do this – I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know – but it seemed like a genius move to me.

“An Energy Tale” is a fable about catastrophic climate change as a flashback from a dystopian future, so it’s not exactly the most likely way to give little ones a rollicking good time.  It seems, in fact, more designed to get their parents to vote left, even including a scene where the ensemble play DC politicians.  It’s hard enough to get some 20 year olds to understand what politicians do, let alone kids, but it’s noble to try.  And I’m not sure if an actress portraying “Oil” as a slick, obnoxious fat cat would go over well with parents in Texas or the Bakken.  That said, Piccione does manage to make the hard lesson fun and entertaining.

The absolute find here is tween actress Catherine Ashmore Bradley, who plays the lead role of Sally.  Sally is our future-kid tour guide through the environmental wreckage left by the adults in the “past” (our present day.)  Bradley navigates the stage with the self-assurance of a veteran, and her credits show that, in fact, she’s been performing since the age of four.  I sometimes find child performers hard to take if they’re too in love with themselves out there on the boards – Bradley falls into no such trap, coming off instead as charming, vivacious and smart without being a smartass.

I also want to give a shoutout to costume designer Samatha Lewis.  Low budget, indie theatre is a hard space to do imaginative and lovely work in, and the ensemble were given a lot of storytelling juice portraying nuclear power plants and the like as dressed by Lewis.

I’m not sure “An Energy Tale” is preaching outside the liberal choir, and I do rather think that the six- to ten-year-olds in the target audience are probably told about sustainable energy sources in school.  Like, a lot.  But teachers rarely get to illustrate their concepts with actual actresses dressed as hydroelectric power, or rolling around the floor playing a piece of coal.  And teachers don’t give out chocolate.

 

“Ashman” gets a C

Rachel Ricano discusses UNDER THE C at the Fresh Fruit Festival

download (1)Drag darling, Cacophony Daniels, (aka Jersey Boys‘ Courter Simmons) sings her tribute to Grammy and Oscar winning playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman. This show was directed by Jonathan Hadley with music direction by Kyle Branzel. Beautiful renditions of ditties from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Little Shop of Horrors, as well as lesser known gems from Smile, Babe, and Diamonds.

Ashman’s work was grand but the show itself seemed a bit like a lecture with a twist. The educational seemed to conquer the entertainment too quick and thoroughly. Even as a cabaret, a bit more spice to this souffle would have been helpful.

That said, if you are an Ashman fan, you WILL enjoy it.

Tour-de-Force with O’Hara and Sandman

The American Theatre of Actors concentrates on dark New York back stories for its summer cutting-edge series. THE SANDMAN, written by Lynn Navarra and directed by Ken Coughlin, tells the story of two beat cops, moonlighting in construction, caught up in a battle between a pub owner and the Irish mob… NYC circa 1979 … will be revived for a limited run, August 9 – 20 (Wed. – Sat. @ 8:00 pm and Sun. @ 3pm). Performances for this revival will be held at The John Cullum Theatre of the American Theatre of Actors. For reservations, call 212.581.3044. Tickets are $20 (cash at the door).

One of the stars of THE SANDMAN spent some time with us, discussing the production and the time period. Winning high-praise for her portrayal of a down-and-out actress is Valerie O’Hara. Let’s hear what a  leading actress things of playing the other end.

headshot 2015-6NY in the 70 was a tough place … is it better now?

I was living in the suburbs in New Jersey during the ’70s, so I don’t have a lot of first-and experience of what the city was like.  I do remember, though, that there were definitely areas you didn’t want to go into alone, and Times Square was rife with triple-X movie houses and questionable characters.  The transformation of midtown, especially the Times Square area, makes NYC seem like some kind of theme park, with chain restaurants, musical theater based on Disney cartoons, and pedestrian islands.  The city was grittier 40 years ago, but also more genuine.
This is an expansive play, would it make a good movie?
I tend to think of plays as driven by words and movies as driven by images.  I believe we do a good job of telling an interesting story with our production, but can see how it would also make a very good movie.  A translation to film would allow location shooting (especially out in the woods), mood music and lighting for the bar and pool hall, and POV and close-up reaction shots.  Plus, the transformation at the end could be more complete.

 

What is your role in the play and what is your creative process?

I have a thoroughly delicious supporting role as Peggy, who spends a good deal of her time at the Sandman.  Lynn graciously provided me with a lot of Peggy’s back story in the text of the play, which has made it easy for me to get inside her skin and her head.  If anything, I tend to approach a role intuitively rather than technically.  I have been told that it is important to find something to like about any character you play, even if the character is evil.  Well, Peggy is far from evil and I just LOVE her!  

 

Your are in an historic theater. There’s only about three or four of the “original” off-off Broadway spaces left, how is it to work there  

The first time I stepped on stage was right here, in 2006, when this was the Chernuchin Theatre.  It was a single performance of a one-act play in a play festival.  Since then, I’ve been in shows in all of the theaters at ATA, including two Shakespeare productions in this theater, and it feels like home.

 

What’s next?   

I don’t have any projects in the works after The Sandman, so I guess it’s a matter of what happens in auditions!

The Homeless at-home at MITF

GriotyWrda Hussain reviews Platform Griot

Pharah Jean-Philippes production of Platform Griot captures the essence of a life as a homeless person living in New York City. Baindu D. Kalokoh plays said-homeless woman in this solo show where the audience gets a sense of feel of how life is through the eyes of the destitute. The audience is taken through a vast journey to view her life before and after losing her home. We are told the things she experienced, the relationships that faded, the disputes that arose in the streets and her home and how she came to be where she is now. It truly gives us a new – and true – outlook and encouraged us to look at the homeless differently, not as something below us but as people of the same worth as us.

Baindu D Kalokoh was very empowering. The switch between characters was accurate and her oration and demeanor suited each role. Costuming was accurate added realism to her role. She wore various layers of clothes that had rips and stains. The props added further starkness to each scene such as the bag full of empty plastic bottles, a cardboard sign asking for money and a small coffee cup used to collect change. The stories she told throughout the play were relatable and made her character come alive.

This production does a great job at displaying the homeless in a different manner. Usually when we look at the homeless we see people who’ve lost everything and we don’t think much of it but in reality they were once like us living regular lives, going to work, having a family and this play does an amazing job at displaying that.

In just forty-five minutes this production was able to give its audience a different outlook on the homeless.

Killing his mother well.

Wrda Hussain reviews Hanoch Reim’s production of Why I Killed My Mother

Theater photographyThis play follows a story about the harsh relationship between a teenage boy and his mother. Throughout the play we are shown the conflicts that arise in this mother-son relationship. This production captures the essence of the hardships faced by a child due to negligence of a parent. Dor Zweigenborn is able to incorporate his humor as well as portray resentment and hatred towards his own mother.

Dor Zweigenborn is able to mimic various roles to portray his father, mother and his little sister all the while keeping the storyline flowing. In this play he’s able to act out various roles through action only. I found his impersonation of a westerner to be accurate, humorous and well delivered to his audience. The playback music influenced each scene allowing the audience to acquire a profound sense of feeling of each act. The clothing was basic, a simple button down with jeans, which I believe added realism to his role. What I found very interesting about this play were the small little impersonations he did that in a sense, replicated Charlie Chaplin’s style, mirroring a silent film. I think that that was very fascinating to watch, just seeing the actor carry out various actions and being able to perceive what he’s doing without dialogue, I just found it to be very interesting and, in my opinion, was the best part of the production .

 

Dorian Palumbo reviews WHO ARE YOU at MITF

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It’s really hard to come up with an original premise for a musical.  It has to be compelling, relatively novel, yet universal in its appeal.  Simon Chouinard and T. Michael Vest, the writers behind “Who Are You?” have certainly found a story worth experiencing.

The show is quite small in scope.  Seven performers, three of whom pull Greek chorus duty, are participants in a reality show.  Three imposters, people who’ve either co-opted another’s identity or simply fabricated one, “catfish” style, vie for the prize – a brand new identity into which they will be allowed to disappear completely.  The show is named for “Kaspar Hauser”, the infamous perpetrator of a 19th century German identity hoax, and the host of the show identifies himself as the actual Kaspar Hauser, popped up shiny and new in our present day.  The show-within-a-show then uses the three imposters’ competition as a frame for Kasper’s own story, which is unsolved to this day.

In May of 1828, so the musical tells us, a 17 year old young man appeared in Nuremberg with two letters in his possession – one, a plea from his young mother who was forced to abandon him at his birth, and the other a letter written by the man who subsequently raised him, asking that he be taken into the military.  Both of these letters were written in the same hand, and from the time Hauser was discovered, until his death in 1833, the details he gave about his personal journey were never confirmed and, in fact, Hauser changed them over time. Werner Herzog explored this same story, albeit in a more (only slightly more) straightforward fashion, in his film “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser” in 1974, which was, itself, inspired by the novel “Inertia of the Heart”, written by Jakob Wassermann in 1908.  Thematically, all three of these works explore the same thing – are we who we say we are, no matter what we say we are, or are we merely what others expect?

Daniel Bender Stern gives a sweet and poignant performance as Kaspar, both in his present-day host persona and during the scenes meant to evoke the period.  Ed Rosini as Frederic, the contestant called “The Chameleon”, has an eminently castable voice and played his characters’ obnoxious entitlement with panache.  And I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from Noah Reece (“Piano Man”), whose lovely voice and acting chops make him suited for at least a dozen juicy roles in the musical theatre canon – I walked out of the theatre wondering what he would do with Sondheim’s “Johanna.”

SELF YELP might not get five stars on YELP

Wrda Husain reviews SELF YELP at the MITF

Video and FilmDoug Widick’s production of Self Yelp follows a series of Yelp reviews that showcase one’s opinion on various places. The first Yelp review is about a furniture store, the second, follows a golf course where an accident occurs, the third, is at a restaurant, the fourth is at a doctor’s office and the last and final one is on “Yelp heaven”. This production conveys a different outlook into the 21st century where one’s opinion affects our judgment on place and or things.

Helene Ellford and Emily Thomas both had great energy, powerful tone and effective meaning. They gave depth to the storyline. Unfortunately, the humor was stereotypical and predictable, making the play and the acting seem forced.  and became boring. The use of the phrases such as “say woke” and “hash tag” seemed out of place. The costumes were basic and casual.