Nina Conti: In Your Face, currently at The Barrow Street Theater, is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s also like nothing Nina Conti has ever seen – or done – before. Every night is different because it’s all improvised. And then there’s the monkey. The very cheeky monkey named, well…Monkey.
“The Band’s Visit” is a modern Middle-Eastern fairy tale of a musical. Based on the 2007 Israeli film by Eran Kolirin, the stage version has a book by Itamar Moses and music and lyrics by David Yazbak. Directed by the brilliant David Cromer, it’s being presented by The Atlantic Theater Company at their newly renovated Linda Gross Theater. These days it’s hard to find a quiet little spark of hope and humanity reflected at us from any direction, let alone the Middle East. So, I was delighted to find my tight muscles relaxing, and my smile growing as “The Band’s Visit” unfolded.
“This Day Forward” by Nicky Silver at The Vineyard Theater starts out more in “I Love Lucy” sitcom land, but winds up in dysfunctional family “August: Osage County” world. Which is a place most of his work at least visits, if not lodges in firmly. And it’s directed by Mark Brokaw who is a frequent navigator of the Silver waters.
I was intrigued by the premise of Paula J. Caplan’s play “Shades” currently making its NYC debut at The Cherry Lane Studio Theater. About a family with veterans from different wars, and non-veterans, the play asks the questions “how do people who love each other keep their differences from tearing them apart?” And “what does it mean to be a patriot, and can you be one if you don’t agree with what your government is doing?” The press release says it has been described as “a cross between Eugene O’Neill meets ‘All in the Family’ – because of its combination of drama and humor.” I know, I know, it’s a press release, It’s supposed to sell me.
“My Name is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die Eventually” is a charming and entertaining evening. It’s a solo show by, you guessed it, Gideon Irving, who invites us into what he claims is his home. Sure, I’ll play. I know it’s the stage of The Rattlestick Theater, but I believe that a lot of the stuff up there belongs to him personally. It’s looks like a crammed studio apartment, and Gideon plays the gracious host and shows us around. It’s clear from the beginning that he’s kooky and irreverent which is just what we’re here for. We’ve been promised music and laughter and a different take on the world from someone who has performed 504 shows in living rooms on 6 continents. No heavy lifting after the last couple of weeks sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
The Oregon Shakespeare Company has an exciting project they’ve been working on since 2008, a 32-play series they’re commissioning in association with various theaters around the country: “American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle.” UNIVERSES (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz aka Ninja), was commissioned by OSF to create “Party People” in collaboration with Director and Developer Liesl Tommy (Tony win for “Eclipsed”). It’s opening on November 15th and has been extended one week through December 11th. Another offering from this OSF cycle, “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage is also currently playing at The Public Theater. After seeing them both, I’m tempted to book a ticket to Oregon and see the rest.
I saw “Among the Dead” by Hansol Jung, a production of the Ma-Yi Theater Company performed at HERE Arts Center last night and it left me frustrated. I admit, my expectations were high. The play is billed as “a dark comedy about a family broken apart by betrayed promises, and finding each other through SPAM, journals, and Jesus. Mostly Jesus.” Which sounds promising, and the company has garnered quite a name for itself developing and presenting works by Asian-American artists.
The Labyrinth Theater Company is presenting a new play by Jordan Seavey at The Bank Street Theater “Homos, Or Everyone in America.” As the title suggests, more than a boy meets boy story, it’s a universal love story for our culture and times. Hey, if it’s two humans in a relationship, it’s SSDD.
I understand the Irish Repertory Theatre’s temptation to revive the classic 1947 musical “Finian’s Rainbow.” It has a lovely score with a couple of songs that have become standards like “Look to the Rainbow” and “Old Devil Moon.” And it deals with timely topics like racism and social and economic justice. However, sometimes temptation needs to be resisted. What looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily translate into stage magic, despite the inclusion of leprechauns and pots of gold.
Roundabout Underground supports and cultivates the work of emerging playwrights and directors, and is presenting “Kingdom Come” by Jenny Rachel Weiner as the first production of its tenth season. Unfortunately, I don’t think “Kingdom Come” is going to be her breakout vehicle. What she’s got is a good idea: two women who don’t believe they are ‘enough,’ go online looking for love while pretending to be someone else. They find each other and form a bond. Weiner also has a great tag line: “What happens when the feelings are real but the people are not?” Okay, but see, the playwright has to make the characters real. Or at least behave believably.
Look! Up on the Manhattan Theatre Club stage! It’s a love story! No, it’s a comedy! No, it’s a rap musical! No, It’s a live graphic novel! NO! It’s the New York premiere of “Vietgone” by playwright Qui Nguyen. Part playful, part dead serious, Qui Nguyen, born in America to two Vietnamese refugee parents, takes dead aim at both Baby Boomers and Millennials alike in his innovative new work and hits both targets.
Monica Piper who is performing a solo show about her life called “Not That Jewish,” at New World Stages, really is all that Jewish. Even though her childhood next door neighbor in the Bronx, Carol Bengelsdorf, accuses her of being “not that Jewish” not because of her name, but because she catches her in a little (ahem) fib, about having gone to temple on Rosh Hashanah. Oy. So, because she is authentically Jewish, despite Carol Bengelsdorf’s slanderous and unfounded accusations, at age 7, little Monica has an existential crisis about whether or not she’s Jewish. I’m laughing and relating, mostly. As is the rest of the audience who is about three-quarters alta cocker, and one-quarter able to wear lace-up shoes.
Kudos to Raelle Myrick-Hodges who makes her NYC directorial debut, and to Harrison David Rivers whose play “Sweet” is making it’s world premiere at the National Black Theater. And kudos also to the fine cast. Together they have created a pitch perfect world that is truthful, real, and obviously offered to us with thoughtfulness and love as a gift. Set in 1968, against an all-too-familiar backdrop of American life that includes intolerance, injustice, domestic violence and overseas war, we have a town out of time in fictional Juneervy, Kansas, where three young people have to decide whether the course of their lives will bring them into or out of the battleground. And will their choices make them happy?
The revival of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick…Boom!” by the Keen Company at the Theater Row Acorn Theater, is a charming, touching, relevant, well-performed piece of musical theater. An early autobiographical work by the late composer of the Pulitzer and Tony winning author of “Rent,” “Tick, Tick…Boom!” is the story of a struggling musical theater composer named, not coincidentally, Jonathan (Nick Blaemire). A constant ticking is both an opening sound effect and the sound he’s hearing in his head. Jon confesses in his opening monologue and song 30/90, that he’s beginning to fear the appellation “promising young composer” is about to become a misnomer. And with the advent of his 30th birthday the following week, the ticking is beginning to be followed by a distant “Boom!”
A mixture of classical dance, opera, theater, circus, and vaudeville, Company XIV’s “Paris” is all spectacle. And much more than the sum of its parts. If you are a purist, looking for an authentic classical experience, this mash-up isn’t for you. Conceived, directed and choreographed by company founder Austin McCormick, the production is a love letter to his signature style, which he’s dubbed “Baroque Burlesque.” His dream in starting Company XIV, named after the French monarch Louis XIV known for the Palace of Versailles, is to create a kind of modern Moulin Rouge in New York City. There is a ton of talent both on the stage and behind the scenes here, but it’s a very adult entertainment, presented in an unusual manner. It is a completely unique, dazzling, riveting, mash-up of entertainment genres. Don’t expect porn and strippers, but do expect exquisite classically trained dancers and internationally known opera singers, aerialists, acrobats, pop singers, and actors performing at the top of their game in gender-bending roles with very few clothes on. But don’t expect to be titillated, expect to be enchanted.