New York

Why I Can’t Accept “Amy And The Orphans”

What do you do with a disabled child you can’t emotionally support? While not the biggest question that Amy And The Orphans, by Lindsey Ferrentino, asks, it is certainly one of the more important ones. The short answer is: “put her in a state-run institution.” “Her” being Amy (Jamie Brewer), a woman with Down syndrome, the daughter of a young couple with two other children and a crumbling marriage. While it might be “refreshing” to talk about disability during the first five minutes of a play, one of the only things to come out of doing so is the...

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A Conversation With Gia Forakis, Theatre And Opera Director

My aesthetic as a stage director is built first on a desire to create an experience that captures the poetic nature of the human condition. It’s a desire to connect with something larger than our sense of self, something sacred. And that’s what I see as the beauty of the theatre. In terms of the expression of that desire, my process is to bring to life a very visual, theatrical, and specific life on stage that illuminates increments of thought as components of physical action, which is how I articulate the methodology of One-Thought-One-Action.

The beauty of OTOA is that if you want to, you can use it almost like the cinematic process of editing film where one can compose one frame of action at a time. It’s how the text supports the physical actions on stage so that even if you could turn off the sound of the actors, the viewer would still get the story being told through the visual embodiment of thought as physical action.

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“Amy And The Orphans”: Down Syndrome Psychodrama?

Lindsey Ferrentino has done a marvelous thing in conceiving a substantial and nuanced lead character with Down syndrome in her new play Amy And The Orphans and insisting that the role be played by an actor with that disability. The performer she cast, moreover, Jamie Brewer, is terrific. Brewer is destroying hardened prejudices and professional barriers with her acute and subtle performance in Scott Ellis’s production at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. All of that said, Amy And The Orphans is unfortunately not the play it needs to be to demolish such formidable walls for the better. In a program note, Ferrentino explains that...

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Martin McDonagh’s “Hangman” at The Atlantic Theatre

New Yorkers have split into factions on Martin McDonagh since his plays first showed up here two decades ago. The flippant relationship to violence, the motley assortment of cuddly killers, the casual, tongue-in-cheek racism and deep-baked cynicism, even his irritation at being compared to Quentin Tarantino: all this and more was held against him in countless reviews, essays, and blogs years before the Best Picture Oscar nomination for Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing, Missouri made him a household name. McDonagh’s fans have usually taken it all with a grain of salt. The callous, of course, just like brutality and horror, and...

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Praises To “Athena”

Yesterday I knew nothing about the playwright Gracie Gardner or The Hearth, a feminist theater company co-founded by Kenyon alums Julia Greer and Emma Miller. Today, after seeing Miller’s production of Gardner’s Athena at Jack in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, starring Greer and the equally awesome actress Abby Awe, I want to see everything all these young women do. Gardner recently won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award for a previous play, Pussy Sludge. Relentless is also an apt word for Athena, an 80-minute wolf-stare of a play that freezes you in its opening seconds and doesn’t really release you until the lights come up...

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“Dutchman” At Secret Theater

One of New York City’s most dynamic young theater companies makes a bold addition to its repertoire with its engaging production of Dutchman, Amiri Baraka’s provocative chamber drama. Dutchman is a companion piece to Albee’s The Zoo Story, another mid-1960’s urban-set dialogue between two strangers featuring a tragic ending. In this case, a Central Park bench is switched out for an MTA subway car. Where Albee’s characters are both white males, Baraka’s play features an African-American man and a white woman. A play so clearly aligned with the turbulent Civil Rights era requires contextural reconsideration; that’s precisely what this...

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Sadocapitalism From Berlin: Thomas Ostermeier’s “Returning To Reims”

Best known in the US for the stunning exemplars of the German Regietheater tradition he regularly brings to New York, Thomas Ostermeier is a master of making classic texts speak to urgent contemporary social and political questions. In his 2015 version of Shakespeare’s Richard III the deformed dictator is depicted as a crowd-pleasing, Trump-like raging id, a sick leader for a sick society. In his 2011 staging of Strindberg’s Miss Julie the dangerously unequal relationship between a wealthy woman and her ambitious servant becomes an elastic metaphor for the perils of growing income inequality in the twenty-first century. His...

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Interview With Rob Rokicki, Composer And Lyricist Of “The Lightning Thief”

Rob Rokicki is a Drama Desk, Lortel, and Off-Broadway alliance-nominated composer/lyricist. His musicals include Love, NY, Relativity, Strange Tails, Martha & Me, Monstersongs, and The Lightning Thief, and have been performed at New World Stages, Theatre Row, Lucille Lortel Theatre, and NY Fringe. Rob is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Actor’s Equity, and is an alum of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing workshop. He is currently on the musical theatre faculty for CAP21 Conservatory and Pace University. Rob began working on The Lightning Thief in 2013, originally as an hour-long adaption that was nominated for a...

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Movie Star-Crossed: Adrienne Kennedy’s “He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box”

The explosively feminine theater of Adrienne Kennedy breaks many of the fundamental “rules” of drama, beginning with Aristotle’s assertion that tragedy is “the imitation of an action.” Kennedy’s plays are cradled by an exquisitely receptive intelligence; hers is a not a dramaturgy of action but of punishing passivity. Major works like Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964), Lesson in Dead Language (1970), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976), and now He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box absorb and reflect received images, attitudes, and templates of violence. Kennedy’s characters are paralyzed, caught in the...

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“Black Inscription” – A New Multimedia Love Song Cycle Premieres at Prototype

“To dive we must forget the surface fuss… Ignore all surface fuss.. Ignore the surface…” –From Jump Blue, text by Hannah Silva Black Inscription, a new multimedia love song cycle to the ocean composed by the talented team of Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi, and Jeremy Flower that had its NYC premiere at the HERE Arts Center January 11, is an immersive experience of the undersea world that plunges the audience into the beauty and desolation found in the depths of our oceans. Part documentary and part rock opera, it uses videos, music, sound, and imagery to evoke a world...

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“Acquanetta” – A New Film Noire Opera at Prototype Festival

Of the two reviewers, Waters saw Captive Wild Woman, the movie the opera is based on, the morning before the performance. LaFever went into the performance without seeing Captive Wild Woman. The result is two profoundly different audience experiences. WATERS: Michael Gordon, the composer, and Deborah Artman, the librettist of Acquanetta, based the opera on a three-minute scene from Captive Wild Woman, a 1940s horror movie. The potential for fun and camp of Captive Wild Woman is ruined due to the shocking way the circus animals on the set are treated. One example of many scenes of animal mistreatment...

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“Iyov” Premieres At The Prototype Festival

When a show begins I find it difficult for me to be present. Almost, as if, I’m like entertain me, peasants! Iyov, the Hebrew word for Job, described as an opera-requiem, played four shows at HERE Arts Center. I admit I was not engaged, but then the lights turned red, and the sounds got louder, it grated my ears. Actually, not just my ears, but the two audience members in front of me also covered their ears during that loudness that resembled nails scratching on a chalkboard or the screams of the dead in the underworld? It was actually traumatic....

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“The Pursuit Of Happiness” At Under The Radar Festival

New York-based experimental troupe Nature Theater of Oklahoma (NTO) teams up with Slovenia’s EnKnapGroup dance company in Pursuit Of Happiness, an uneven performance presented as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival. Pursuit offers a deconstruction of the Hollywood cowboy mythos in all its John Ford glory, as well as a deconstruction of Vietnam era war pics. Concept, text, and directing credits are shared by Pavol Liška and Kelly Copper, in a co-production by Théâtre de la Ville and steirischer herbst. The current political climate highlighting transgressions by powerful men towards mostly female victims seems a ripe time...

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Robert O’Hara’s “Mankind”: Desperately Trying to Get in Trouble

I want the experience for the audience to be a sort of speeding train that gets completely and totally out of hand. –Robert O’Hara (New York Times interview, Dec. 20, 2017) Robert O’Hara’s Mankind, directed by the author at Playwrights Horizons, is a play desperately trying to get in trouble. It satirizes religion, men, feminism, social conservatism, and hookup culture, all with the same sassy irreverence. The trouble is, effective satire works through precision strikes, not cluster-bombing. The only sure way to get people good and outraged is to settle on a target and demonstrate that you know it better than...

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“The Town Hall Affair” Brings Germaine Greer’s 1970s Feminist Debate Roaring Into The Present

The moment was 1971, Labour Day’s eve. The context: a biting critique of feminism published by journalist-novelist Norman Mailer in Harper’s magazine earlier that year. Mailer’s essay, The Prisoner Of Sex, sold more than any previous Harper’s edition. The event: a sell-out fundraiser billed as A Dialogue On Women’s Liberation promised an explosive line-up. Mailer was set to debate literary critic Diana Trilling, feminist-activist Jacqueline Ceballos, Village Voice author Jill Johnston and Germaine Greer. A raucous audience of New York’s intellectual elite crammed in to witness the fallout. The year is now 2018 and New York experimental theatre company...

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“Fellow Travelers”: A Prototype for Contemporary Opera

As the theatre world pushes boundaries and redefines genres, it has become exceedingly rare to find stories that justify the high art distinction of “Opera” and yet, Fellow Travelers which opened January 12th at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater as a part of the Prototype Festival does just that. With a score by composer Gregory Spears and libretto by Greg Pierce, this tragic Opera begins its story with two feet firmly on the ground and moves unapologetically forward through the final curtain. Fellow Travelers centers its story on the affair of Timothy Laughlin, a Reporter and Hawkins Fuller a...

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Behind the Scenes of “Uncommon Sense”: An Interview with John Coyne From Tectonic Theater Company

Tectonic Theater Company’s latest production at the Sheen Center in New York, Uncommon Sense, follows Moose, Dan, Jess, and Lali–four individuals living on the autism spectrum. Moose’s parents struggle to keep him safe. Jess must navigate through college, while Dan begins a new relationship. Lali’s mother takes her to yet another speech therapist, always hopeful that someday, she will be able to communicate with her daughter. As we watch the character’s face day to day challenges, the set itself seems to come to life with mesmerizing movements and projections, often revealing the characters’ points of view. Uncommon Sense had...

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How Butoh, The Japanese Dance Of Darkness, Helps Us Experience Compassion In A Suffering World

Butoh is now being taught to Zen students, prisoners, and others as a way to acknowledge difficult emotions. Butoh [bu-tō], often translated as “Dance of Darkness,” rose out of the ashes of post-World War II Japan as an extreme avant-garde dance form that shocked audiences with its grotesque movements and graphic sexual allusions when it was introduced in the 1950s. Indeed, many people are still disturbed by the intensity and rawness of Butoh. Performers move awkwardly and slowly with shuffling steps, looking more like zombies than dancers. Their faces twitch; their bodies shake with tension. The acknowledgment of Butoh...

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Subjects For Some Short Stories: Acting Character In Postdramatic Chekhov

Twenty years after the Wooster Group’s seminal Three Sisters-inspired Brace Up!, contemporary New York theatre ensembles Half Straddle and New Saloon put their own postmodern bent on Chekhov’s canonical plays in their respective works Seagull (Thinking Of You) (2013) and Minor Character (2017). These productions, like the Wooster Group’s, use Chekhov as their origin point but differ in dramatic form and performance style. They exist in the same ecosystem of downtown or “experimental” New York and were each developed and performed by a theatre company of at least three collaborators who have worked together extensively before their Chekhov explorations....

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Monster Mashup: Mabou Mines Takes On Tennessee Williams

The ghost of Mary Shelley keeps rudely interrupting Mabou Mines’s Glass Guignol: The Brother And Sister Play, an exquisitely overstuffed assemblage of Tennessee Williams’s texts about his troubled sister Rose. Shelley appears at the top of the piece as an empty dress, texting back and forth with her companion Lord Byron about misplaced playbills, initial impressions of the performers, and aesthetic theory. What we are about to see is an “essay play contrived of Readymades,” she writes, alluding to Duchamp, “The Brother And Sister Play pretends there are such things as ‘Literary Readymades.’” Her analysis is sound, instructive, and...

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