- CHARITY BENEFIT
Sometimes as press we see plays right before they end or they have such a short run that by the time we review they are gone. For the playwrights’ sake we write the review up so they have it for their press clips. This is the case for the shows reviewed below.
The Works of Tennessee Williams Come to Life
The inaugural production for Pook’s Hill has Ken Schatz leading and directing his company into a South that comes to life and for the most part is well acted. Schatz is an acting teacher and the accents and all that embodies Tennessee’s women are there for display.
Picking three of Williams’one-act plays, that bring to the forefront the tragic heroines of Williams past, “27 Wagons Full of Cotton,” “Hello from Bertha” and “This Property is Condemned” become Something Wild.
“27 Wagons Full of Cotton,” brings to New York the presence of Samantha Steinmetz as Flora who gives a performance that is riveting. Her subtle sexuality as she manipulates and is manipulated is so layered that it started the afternoon on a high.
Andrus Nichols is a prostitute dying mentally and physically in “Hello from Bertha.” Her performance is heartbreaking.
The least successful is Tess Frazer in “This Property is Condemned.” As beautiful Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby,” her acting and tone is also the same and beauty does not an actress make.
The company used the small space well and brought to life works that are well known in a new light. Wild – maybe not, but definitely worth going to see.
Something Wild… plays at The Abingdon Theater Arts Complex, 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, until Oct 6th.
Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $18
Cock is a Strange Ringside Tour de Force
Cock is the new play making waves at the Duke on 42nd Street. What the title stands for is the fight that happens in the ring between two bloodthirsty roosters. Miriam Buether’s set is like a basement Roman coliseum, where the only question is who will survive this pit of destruction.
In this show it is the emotional carnage, which starts between lovers Jason Butler Harner and John (Cory Michael Smith). The relationship is already in turmoil. When the two break-up, John becomes attracted to a woman “W” (Amanda Quaid) for the very first time. As “M” and John get back together, John is torn between whom to choose. In the final round the circumstances come to a head as he invites both to a dinner party. “M” believes John is going to tell the woman that it’s over. The “W” comes to support John as she believes he will tell “M” it’s over. “M” has invited his father (Cotter Smith) to be in his corner and John, confronted on all sides, cannot choose the “W.” He ends up with “M” but not out of love but out of weakness and hate.
The play by Mike Bartlett is clever, with no scenery and no props, allowing only the actors themselves to fight to the death in this message. A lot of the problem lies with the central character’s only attribute being an emotional blackmail and because of his lack of choice he sets into motion damage. It is James Macdonald’s direction wherein the play makes the most sense as he allows his actors to draw on their talent. Some do better than others as do the characters they portray.
Cock: Duke on 42nd Street, 229 West 42nd Street, closed Oct 6th
Cosi is not Noises Off
Louis Nowra’s Cosi wanted to be an Australian “Noises Off,” but lacked humor and had one too many plots. In a nut shell, Lewis (Adam Zivkovic) a recent college graduate in theatre gets a job in an insane asylum. He is to direct mental patients in Mozart’s opera, Cosi Fan Tutte. Cosi takes the ideals of the opera fidelity and love and blends them into one of the story lines. Lewis’ girlfriend Lucy (Olivisa Etzine) is a left-wing political activist who is now spending time with his best friend and roommate Nick (Zach Bubolo) and the betrayal happens when Lewis becomes involved in the mental patients’ lives instead of the political politics of his friends. The rest of the plot includes the inmates (Duke Anderson, Kathleen Foster, Mathew Foster, Laura Iris Hill, Stuart Williams, and Clint Zugel) and Joseph Thornhill as Justin, the asylum administrator.
The idea of this play within a play is funny in theory but the script is long and non eventful. Jesse Michael Mothershed’s direction lacked the high voltage energy that this kind of piece needed and we were left wanting. Kudos to the inmates Cherry (Annie Worden) and Doug (Clint Zugel) who brought life to what was a terminal dreary production.
Urban Stages ended Sept 23rd.
Space Captain a 1930s Sci-fi On Stage
“Flash Gordon,” and “Buck Rogers” were brought to life in the campy “Space Captain: Captain of Space!” Sci-fi enthusiasts will love this loving tribute, which uses video effects to give the feeling that you just stepped into a black and white TV set.
Rocky Lazer (Matthew Wise) accompanied his sidekick Chip Skipper (Jeremy Mather), and love interest professor Jean Jarvis (Alicia Barnatchez), along with scientist Dr. Horst Karlock (Jared Warner) on a mission to planet Argor in their X-1 rocket to stop the malevolent King Xayno—who Sproul plays with delightful exasperation—from slamming the moon into the earth with an anti-gravity ray. Yet, Wise’s Rocky is really a jerk. He’s a cocky old-school Hollywood hero, complete with a singsong George Reeves affect, whose only ever been good at punching out alien villains and winning over girls. A rebuff from Jean sends Rocky into an uncharacteristic downward spiral of depression and self-doubt so overwhelming that he finds himself frequenting space oracle Lady Actulus (Sabrina Farhi) for counseling. When the sage Actulus says that Rocky needs to heed the insights of others, he petulantly replies, “I hate those things. Can’t I just be amazing?” Even Jean, ever the victim of era-appropriate misogyny, begins to unravel the purpose of her role as “the damsel,” and Barnatchez renders her journey into amusingly anachronistic feminism very well.
It’s a nifty trick to look back at the way we used to portray the distant future and find it quaint. Sproul’s feisty play, snappily directed by Lindsey Moore Sproul, divides its time well between stage and screen. The video segments, cunningly designed and produced by Mather, are all in black and white, as are the live-action components. Each cast member’s face has been caked with heavy white powder. If anything, the whimsical, very funny script commits itself too much to the conceits of the serial format. Each “Chapter” is preceded by a rolling-text introduction that will instantly call to mind the film “Star Wars” (“Star Wars” creator George Lucas has always admitted a stylistic debt to the sci-fi yarns of the 1930s). Unfortunately, the shtick wears itself out by the time “Chapter 5” rolls around.
The evening’s purest laughs come from the hobby-kit-spaceship battles enacted onstage with models Sproul designed himself and from the lively cast. Michelle McNally and Matt Sears are particularly hilarious as Astra, King Xayno’s moody daughter, and Klarff, the jittery prince of a race of squirrel men.
Space Captain: Captain of Space! Presented by No Tea Productions at the Kraine Theater, 85 E. Fourth St. Closed Sept. 15th
The Train Driver Goes No Where
With Athol Fugard’s plays you normally wait a long time but the wait is worth the pay off. In “The Train Driver,” playing at the Signature Theatre, all you do is yawn.
The play is inspired by a South African newspaper account of a Train Driver who loses it after a young South American Woman commits suicide with her baby in front of his train. The guilt he feels is unimaginable even though he is not at fault. Roelf Visagie (Ritchie Coster) is the white train driver who is haunted. The killing is supposed to represent apartheid and the white guilt, but for God’s sake the girl committed suicide. To relieve his nightmares, he travels to Port Elizabeth cemetery to search unmarked plots for the unnamed woman and infant. The no name cemetery is maintained by Simon Hanabe (Leon Addison Brown), a dirt-poor elderly black gravedigger.
For 75-minutes, Roelf is consumed with guilt until the last 15 minutes when he changes his tune and then he is killed.
Coster is hard to understand through the thickness of the accent but he is believable as the tortured driver. Brown is more low-key but through his performance we see the innocents of a country that is just trying to get through the day.
Train Driver: Signature Theatre 42nd Street Closed