Friday, May 16, 2014

Under My Skin @ The Little Shubert Theater

When first hearing the name Under My Skin for a current Off-Broadway production, one may be left to their imagination to wonder about what exactly this new production is all about. Have no fear! If you enjoyed Disney’s 2003 film Freaky Friday, which starred Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, you’re in for a fun night at the theatre with a much different spin on this classic tale.

Under My Skin, a new play written by Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser, takes a different spin on the classic tale of misunderstanding which leads to a physical switch in bodies with one character becoming the other and vice versa. In Under My Skin, we find ourselves at a health insurance company where the boss, Harrison Badish III, and part time worker, Melody Dent, find themselves switched after a near death experience. However, not longer after switching loves and seeing how the other half lives, they find themselves with very different perspectives of each other.

Broadway veteran Kerry Butler stars as Melody in the piece and really helps carry the production as a whole. Bulter not only delivers as herself but even more so as Badish when the two switch bodies. Her take on the male role in a relationship overall is one that had the audience laughing through most of the show. Matt Walton stars as Badish in the piece and manages to go from typical corporate boss to understanding co-worker by the end. He embraces his feminine side and manages to have the audience loving his take on the female gender.

The hilarious Dierdre Friel stars as Angel, who is quite literally an Angel, who sets up this situation from the very start. Friel is hilarious and consistently wins over the audience every time she steps onto the stage. From hilarious one-liners to jokes about life and the afterlife, she is hands down one of the best pieces of this entire production.

The other cast members weave their way in and out of the production taking on various roles in different situations and never repeating one once.  Special shout out to Andrew Polk who play the Dr. Hurtz among many other roles. He always appeared comically throughout the piece and really stole the multiple scenes he appeared in. Also, the beautiful Kate Loprest who starred as Victoria and others won the audience over many times. From the hilarious news reporter to Badish’s girlfriend, she had the audience wanting more from her each time she was on stage.

The show features some fun lighting, designed by Driscoll Otto, but overall the technical elements for Under My Skin are lackluster. The Little Shubert Theatre feels much too big for this intimate piece and it feels as though they have stretched out Stephen Dobay’s scenic design to fill the space.

All in all, Under My Skin is a good night at the theatre that is sure to be filled with laughs. While some jokes fall and occasionally the book is predictable, the show itself is fun and has a lot of talent on the stage. I would love to see this piece not only move a smaller space but a more centralized one so audiences can enjoy this delightful new comedy.

Review By: Chris Luner

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Drunk Shakespeare @ Quinn's Bar

 A night of debauchery, of olde English spoken in the way it twas meant to, with a lilting slur that delights the ears and tantalizes the senses. That is what awaits you at an upper floor bar in Hell's Kitchen - Drunk Shakespeare!

   Made up of a team of "professional drinkers with a Shakespeare problem," this show presents a delightful mix of Shakespeare's greatest works, comedic improv, and audience participation for a night that is sure to leave you gasping with laughter.

   An open tab for guests encourage the audience to get as "happy" as their leading player who at the start of the show is required to consume 4 shots of the liquor of their choice. Once the liquor has been consumed, all bets are off on how good ole Bill's works will be presented. 
 I had the particular pleasure of seeing Macbeth in a way I had never seen it before. Kristin Friedlander starred as Lady Macbeth/Witch and led as fool with tequila to hold her up. Playing her ill-fated husband, Macbeth, was Lou Sallan. Damyir Shuford and Kate Gunther filled in the necessary characters, a feat that both took with grace as they fluidly stumbled through genders, names, and lines. Lastly, Josh Hyman served as host/Ross/sound effects bringing this hilarious team to life with his comedic timing and spot on impersonations as famous comedic actors such as Chris Rock, Woody Allen, and Bill Cosby.

This show only runs through June 14th, so grab your best friends and go! So much fun you will leave wishing you could be in the show yourself.  Buy your tickets here!
18+ only

Review by Aziza Seven 

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Rivals @ The Pearl Theater Company

False identities, miscommunications, and misspoken words drive the hilarious production of The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan at the Pearl Theatre Company.

The play, written in 1775, concerns the doings of Captain Jack Absolute (Cary Donaldson) who is wooing Lydia Languish (Jessica Love) under the assumed name of Ensign Beverly, a poor man. Lydia loves the adventure of eloping with a poor man, so what will she do when she finds out that Beverly is really Jack Absolute, a rich noble who her aunt, Mrs. Malaprop (Carol Shultz) actually wants her to marry. At the same time, Lydia’s cousin Julia (Rachel Botchan) is in love with Faulkland (Brad Herberlee), but his jealousy and general misanthropy is driving a wrench into their romance. Add a couple of colorful supporting characters, a few challenges of duels, and you have a hilarious farce.

The main delight of this show was the acting of all the performers, particularly when it came to the physicality of all the characters. Every character was distinct and had a unique physicality associated with each. Lydia was frequently languishing around and moping, punctured by exciting bursts of energy. The maid, Lucy (Joey Parsons) bopped along with short little strides and hops until she revealed her true nature and then became much more sly and natural. Faulkland would mope around the stage, while the more outrageous characters like Mrs. Malaprop and Bob Acres (Chris Mixon) would glide and boisterously move around the stage. The distinct physicalities really helped reinforce who the characters were and helped the audience keep them all straight in their minds.

Much of the excitement and humor of the show came from the superb directing by Hal Brooks. The staging was fresh and dynamic and really helped the pacing of the show keep moving, particularly in the long first act. One particular standout was a dramatic mood shift in the second act between the beta couple of Julia and Faulkland. The tone shift was wonderfully subtle and beautifully acted as well.

Another standout from the production side of things came from the costume design by Sam Flemming. In any period piece, the costumes are always their own characters, and these costumes were no exception. They were appropriately lush and fitting to each character. One particular detail I really liked was how Julia and Faulkland’s clothes had a similar pattern to them, signifying their compatibility.

My one critique of the show is that the dialects, coached by Nissa Perrott, didn’t seem entirely natural or consistent. Some characters were certainly more comfortable than others. In particular, Sean McNall’s Irish accent as Lucius O’Trigger was delightfully natural and accurate. Others were not, like Fag (Kambi Gathesha), who sounded more Jamaican than British.
All in all, The Rivals is a hilarious production with superb acting and directing and an amusing storyline. What else could you want from theatre?

The Rivals will be running at The Pearl Theatre Company until May 25th, on 555 West 42nd Street.

Review By: Chrissy Cody

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Red-Eye to Harve de Grace @ The New York Theater Workshop

If you are a fan of modern dance paired with 20th Century inspired music and the works of Edgar Allen Poe, you will love Red-Eye to Harve de Grace.

NYTW Usual Suspect Thaddeus Phillips El Conquistador!) teams up with the Minneapolis-based musical duo Wilhelm Bros. & Co. to create a visually striking and sonically complex action-opera about Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious last days. Set in September of 1849Red-Eye to Havre de Grace follows Poe on his last lecture tour from Virginia to New York, focusing on a stop in Maryland when a train conductor saw Poe wearing a strangers clothes headed south, where he would die just days later. This new musical, informed by 19th Century train routes, historical accounts and Poe's own writing, creates a spellbinding sketch of a man you soon realize you know little about.

The ambiance and overall style of the show seems to be an eclectic blend of theatre of the absurd, minimalism and modern art. The scenic design and direction by Thaddeus Phillips embraces the imagination of the audience. With the sets’ simplistic and multi-purposed pieces, everything may not be what it appears.  A door may become a table; a table may become a staircase. Everything, including the actors, is perpetually shifting - keeping a sort of chaotic momentum with the story.  The writing keeps a dark Poe-like theme and incorporates many different works from Poe’s life.  However, it lacks the charm of romanticism and sentimentality that Poe classically partners with his darker musings.

Ean Sheehy gives a spirited performance as Edgar Allen Poe. His delivery is reminiscent of a young Gene Wilder. Alessandra L. Larson (Virginia Poe) is ethereal and eerie. Jeremy Wilhelm who performs as multiple characters is most enjoyable as “the ranger”. He flawlessly presents a dry humor that keeps the audience chuckling and looking forward to his return.

The highlight of the show goes to Wilhelm Bros.& Co. for their unique use of instrumentation cocktailed with Phillips direction. This is most prevalent in the last scene when Poe dies atop a baby grand while everyone else uses string inside the piano harp to create a resonating dissonance – all the while appearing as if they are trying to sew Poe together on an operating table.

Red-Eye to Harve de Grace may not be a show that everyone in the family will enjoy, but it offers an off-beat theatrical experience that some are certain to appreciate.

Review By: Paul Morin
Photos By: Sara Krulwich