The one-act play has long been a favorite form of both novice and seasoned playwrights. Tennessee Williams wrote 43 of them over the course of his 50 year career. Begun in 1977, this season is Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 36th Marathon of One-Act Plays. This year’s 15 selections are broken up into 3 evenings of 5 plays each, that are running in repertory from May 14th through June 30th. Reviews of Series A can be found here, and Series B can be found here.
Bella is billed as a Western musical adventure. Ms. Childs sets out to turn a modern day woman she glimpsed on the street (and how all the men who were passing by reacted to her), into her heroine, a big booty Tupelo gal named Bella (Ashley D. Kelley). And in a tradition as old as America itself, attempts to tell the forgotten tales of the haunted and the hunted, and all those who came from far off lands to build, populate and protect this country’s frontiers.
Playwright Chisa Hutchinson’s thing is exposing murky corners to the light of day. She does it with compassion and insight, but also with also with a firm finger on her funny bone. In her current show, Somebody’s Daughter, at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, I suspect the wise-cracking character of the guidance counselor Kate Wu (Jeena Yi) is somewhat autobiographical. Her boyfriend Reggie Ward (Rodney Richardson) says to her, near the end of the play as she’s standing in front of him crying and trying to crack a joke, “you only joke about things that matter.”
Political Comedy troupe Capitol Steps will be performing their new show “Orange is the New Barack” at Symphony Space in the New York City area for two performances only on June 18th at 3:30 and 7:30pm. In advance of this gig, our writer, Donna Herman, had the opportunity to put a few questions to Capitol Steps writer and performer Elaina Newport recently.
Let’s rip the bandaid off this puppy quickly and get it over with. Mary V, currently playing at Theater for the New City, is only worth seeing as a cautionary tale. For students of the theater, you can often learn more from something that doesn’t work than from something that is seamless. This is one of those. Fair enough, it is playwright Rebekah Carrow’s first play and rarely are masterpieces created first time out of the gate. In fact, David Mamet says in his online masterclass on dramatic writing, (www.masterclass.com) that if you want to write, you have to be willing to fail.
One of the reasons that I love the theater is that it often affords me the opportunity to immerse myself in a world I might not otherwise get to experience. In a very present and visceral way. It can be an uplifting or a disturbing occurrence, but widening my world view is always good. The Abingdon Theatre Company’s The Boy Who Danced On Air, the new musical with book and lyrics by Charlie Sohne and music by Tim Rosser, is a perfect case in point.
The biggest value in New York City theater right now is Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 36th Marathon of One-Act Plays. There are three evenings of one-acts, Series A, B & C. See one for $25, two for $40 or all three for $60. I’ve seen Series A which includes Showtime Blues by France-Luce Benson, Blue Handed by David Zellnick, The Fork by Emily Chadwick Weiss, El Grande by Maggie Diaz Bofill, and How My Grandparents Fell In Love by Cary Glitter. And I was so impressed with the consistent level of talent both on stage and behind the scenes, that I want to see Series B & C. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.
Don’t worry about knowing the classics, or pronouncing the name. Just go see Iphigenia in Splott by Welsh playwright Gary Owen. It’s currently playing at 59E59 Theatres’ Brits Off Broadway Festival that showcases new British theater. All you need to know is that Splott is a factory community in the town of Cardiff Wales, and Iphigenia’s name in Greek means “strong-born” or “born to strength.” Although you’ll figure out that last bit by yourself quickly enough.
There are things to love about The York Theatre Company’s new musical Marry Harry, but I’m not ready to put a ring on it. It needs a little polishing before I’d commit to a lifetime with it in its current form. The music by Dan Martin and lyrics by Michael Biello, longtime collaborators, was outstanding. The Greek chorus of Village Voices (Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian & Claire Saunders), while hardly an innovative device, was a delightful and refreshing way to impart information and set the scene. The talented and charismatic trio becomes almost a third character in the piece, and every time they enter you know it means fun. Where Marry Harry needs a little polishing is plot and character development.
Anastasia, is a perfectly crafted Broadway musical fairy-tale that is going to run forever. Family-friendly, romantic, glittery, great sets and costumes, show-stopping second banana (Caroline O’Connor I’m looking at you), and songs the audience already knows and loves. Wait, what? It’s billed as an original musical with book by noted playwright Terence McNally, and music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the duo who brought us “Ragtime”, and oh yes, the animated movie musical “Anastasia.”
You may not have seen the original, but you’ve played the game. Now’s your chance to see where it all started. John Guare didn’t make up the concept but his 1990 play Six Degrees of Separation, put the phrase on everyone’s lips and made Kevin Bacon a household name. Not that Bacon had anything to do with the play, mind you. The stunning revival now playing at the Barrymore Theater through July 16th is an uncomfortably funny reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I wanted to see Bamboo in Bushwick because of the topic – gentrification. I thought it was an interesting idea that Working Theater developed the play out of conversations and workshops with the residents of Bushwick. Unfathomably, Ed Cardona, Jr., the playwright, gets all artsy with it, and Bamboo in Bushwick winds up being a confusing, clichéd mess.
There are a lot of reasons to do a revival. Great writing, great stories, lessons learned. Sometimes, we want to see how far we’ve come. And sometimes we learn we haven’t come very far at all. Rosalee Pritchett and The Perry’s Mission, two one-acts being revived by the Negro Ensemble Company for its 50th Anniversary season, show us that we’ve lost ground, or haven’t come far enough.
G.K. Chesterton, the early 20th Century British man of letters said “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” I only wish the committee that wrote Who Would Be King, currently playing at Ars Nova through April 1st, had taken it to heart. Presented by the Cambridge, MA based group Liars & Believers, the program says the play is written by the LAB Ensemble and then lists 13 names. Three people can’t come to an agreement on what to eat for lunch, how can thirteen people write a cohesive script? Short version…they can’t.
The stars were twinkling brighter and more plentiful on stage than in the sky on Saturday night in The Appel Room. The star-studded event, American Songbook: An Evening with Kristen and Bobby Lopez, closed the 2017 season in that venue. Lopez? I’ll give you a hint, What do the Disney movie Frozen, and the Broadway musicals The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, and In Transit have in common? That’s right, one or both of the husband and wife team wrote the songs And Bobby is one of 12 people in history who is an “EGOT” – the recipient of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.