Thursday, December 17, 2015

Once Upon A Mattress @ The Abrons Arts Center

Everyone knows the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea. Or at least, they think that they do… The outrageous and hilarious retelling of the classic fairy tale, Once Upon a Mattress, is currently raking in the laughs at the Abron Arts Center.

This fractured fairy tale tells the story of a kingdom where no one get married until the Prince Dauntless (Jason SweetTooth Williams) does. Except his overbearing mother Queen Aggravain (John “Lypsinka” Epperson) is determined that no one will ever be perfect enough for her son, or to replace her as Queen. But she may have met her match in your not so typical Princess Winnifred (Jackie Hoffman).

As Winnifred, Jackie Hoffman is a tour de force of broad physical comedy that seems off-the-cuff and natural, but is obviously the hard work and experience of a Broadway comedy veteran. Hoffman stops the show with her side-splitting songs and Ethel Merman-esque belt, particularly in her introductory number “Shy.” John Epperson is almost the exact opposite, exhibiting careful control as the Tyne Daly crossed with Ru Paul Queen. This control is part of the character and makes her a great foil for Winnifred.

The supporting cast is equally as wonderful. Zak Resnick as Sir Harry and Jessica Fontana as Lady Larken have exquisite classical voices and really shine at playing what would normally be the traditional leads in a romance. The Minstrel (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), the Jester (Cory Lingner) and the King (David Greenspan) provide wonderful, heartfelt comedic relief in a show already bursting with comedy. The ensemble are a collective of funny quirky individuals that each get a moment to shine.

The direction and artistic design of the show really highlights the idea of simple and specific. The scenery is just line drawings of backgrounds that are seemingly tweaked in real time, adding the genuine nature of the production. Director and Transport Group Artistic Director Jack Cummings III really knows when to just let the actors, story and music speak for themselves and knows exactly when to be bombastic and when to just pull back.

In short, Once Upon a Mattress presented by the Transport Group Theatre Company is a hilarious and smart production that has the audience rolling in the aisles. Do not miss out! Once Upon a Mattress will be playing at the Abrons Arts Center until January 3rd.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

These Paper Bullets @ The Linda Gross Theater

I may come off as a snob in this review, but when I heard “Billie Joe Armstrong has a new musical coming out and its based off of Shakespeare!” I kind of turned up my nose and thought “it won’t be the end of the world if I miss it.” MAN WAS I WRONG! These Paper Bullets just became my new favorite play! If you enjoy music, if you enjoy Shakespeare, if you enjoy a classic farce, make your way to the Atlantic Theater Company!

The setting is in London, 1964 and the world is going crazy for the boy group, The Quartos, which have a severer resemblance to the Beatles. We meet the band backstage in their dressing room (naturally) after they give a rock star opening! We meet the girls Higgy and Bea, one the model, the other her fashion designer. Then the door opens are we see flying bras and underwear, and the boys make their appearance: Pedro the Drummer, Claude the lead singer, Ben on guitar, and dark mysterious Balth on Bass.

Like any great farce we have rumors, lies, and false identities, which comes to life from this brilliant ensemble! We follow the struggle to marriage for Higgy and Claude who fall in love at first sight, and the commitment issues Ben and Bea experience because both are to stubborn to express their feelings. Ariana Venturi portrays Higgy who does an amazing job at capturing an over dramatic drama queen and yet making her lovable, and polar opposite Claude, played by Bryan Fenkart, who manages to make “straight lace/ average/ boring” type, fun and hilarious. Once we finally get Higgy and Claude on the same page, we have Ben and Bea’s “relationship” hit the fan. Bea played by Nicole Parker is a standout STAR! Her comedic timing was perfection, she commanded the stage, and I couldn’t stop watching her. And then we have her partner Ben, played by the talented Justin Kirk, who had the audience eating out of his hand. He’s the “guys, guy” that all the men want to be friends with, and the sexy man all the ladies want to marry. The cast has so many great comedic actors that you must see this show to see it yourself.

Jackson Gay does a fantastic job directing this piece. The staging was wonderfully done, and the show has so many great stage pictures that if I couldn’t hear I would know what exactly was going on. The show had an amazing balance between Shakespeare and rock n roll, that it helped modernize the piece and honestly made it easier to follow the story line. Everyone should take a note from Rollin Jones, because this is how you successfully modernize Shakespeare and make it a hit!

If you are a fan of great music (thanks Billie) the 1960’s lifestyle, and a good ole farce, make your way to see these paper bullets! It will be a night of fun, and who knows, you might actually meet the Queen of England at a royal wedding.

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Walter McBride

Monday, December 14, 2015

Plaid Tidings @ York Theater Company

If you want a fun, warm, feel good musical that takes you back in time, you need to head over to The York Theater Company and see Plaid Tidings. This musical is a special holiday edition to Forever Plaid written and directed by Stuart Ross. Going into this show I was nervous that I haven’t seen the original musical, but the writing was so clever that I did not miss a beat.

Stuart Ross sets the musical in modern time, the Plaid Lads have been brought back to life and try to find the reasons why they have been brought back to earth, and they rely on the audience to help them discover their mission. The crazy plaid boys do a brilliant job of enticing the audience and bringing us along for the adventure.

The company consists of only four actors. We have Frankie portrayed by Bradley Beahen, who grounds the show, he’s the leader of the pack, and has a fantastic reality check with Rudolph the red nose reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Next, we have Sparky, who lives up to his name. Sparky is played by Jose Luaces who managed to light up the stage whether he was singing, or just crossing the stage. Then we have Jinx, who was the shy plaid, but man did he have a voice! Ciaran McCarty plays this role perfectly, and you can’t help but fall in love with him. And the last Plaid Lad, Smudge. John- Michael Zuerlein plays Smudge, and in my opinion is the heart of the group. He can’t seem to keep up with the choreography and has the best physical comedy bits, but he breaks down and tells us the “uber dream” for the group, which is to have a Christmas Special on broadcast and to make people feel warm and gooey inside. And lets not forget the wonderful pianist, James Followell, who is on stage the entire time and deals with the Plaid Lads, but never misses a beat!

Along with a fantastic cast, the set was very impressive. It took you back in time and you feel like you are in the audience for a live taping. You enter the theater and all you see are Christmas lights and four mics. Little did you know that throughout the show, pop out platforms, and revolving doors would surprise you the entire night. The costumes were classic. They capture the “old school feel” and there was plenty of plaid.

Smudge talks about the Plaids uber dream and making the audience feel warm and gooey, and I must say, mission accomplished! I could not stop smiling during this show. The only thing that would make it better is if I had a cup of hot chocolate, because this space was so intimate, you really feel like you are at home watching a Christmas special on TV. This show was an amazing time, everyone should see it this holiday season, and you are guaranteed a smile and lots of laughs!

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Gigantic @ The Acron Theatre @ Theatre Row

Beginning its journey in 2009 at the NYMPF as Fat CampGigantic has finally landed off-Broadway with the Vineyard Theatre at The Acorn, and it is a huge enjoyment. This musical about a group of teenagers at Southern Pennsylvania’s number 3 weight-loss camp is an absolute joy, that will have you laughing the entire night. 

            Robert (Max Wilcox) is sent off to fat camp, with only one goal in his sight- to get kicked out. That is, until he meets Taylor (Ryann Redmond), and there may be, just may be, a love connection. The two, along with their other fellow campers must work hard to meet Camp Overton’s weight-loss goal so they won’t be shut down and turned into storage units; but they have to face heartbreak, make-out sessions, a “candy ring”, and some hot-headed cheerleaders and new Junior Counselor Brent to get there.

            Scott Schwartz’s (Bat BoyThe Hunchback of Notre Dame) direction is nothing short of wonderful. He knows exactly how to extract as much whimsy out of each moment, while maintaining its soul and truthfulness. The music by Matthew roi Berger is pop/rock glory, reflecting the real music that these teens would be listening to, is huge and undeniably joyous, filling everyone with the urge to move and dance. Randy Blair and Tim Drucker’s book creates a colorful cast of characters, each with different quirks. While a show about overweight teenagers at a fat camp feels like it could be contrived or mean-spirited it is far from it. Each character is looked at with sincerity and it is absolutely endearing to see this group of misfits as they work together, learn to accept themselves, and love their individualities. 

Aptly, Gigantic is the epitome of a “campy” show- it has no problem with exploiting the ridiculousness of some of the situations or exaggerating obvious punch lines while adding a curveball. Some of the funniest moments come when the characters go meta, like acknowledging that they can’t sing after screeching in attempt or when getting to the titular song stopping all action to point out this fact. Its over-the-top nature is done in a way that it is nothing but pure fun. The show knows it’s campy and isn’t afraid to use that to its advantage, and it is done so with heart and a whole lot of humor, making for a great 2 and a half hours. Even when entering the theatre, you are greeted with a station to write cards to home as if you were at camp, complete with “Hello, my name is ___” nametags, putting you directly in the spirit of the show.

            The cast is truly what makes this piece so entertaining and sweet. Everyone plays their part expertly, each adding a different layer of fun. Ryann Redmond’s (If/ThenBring it On) Taylor is the heart of the show, as you cheer her along on her journey and revel in the beauty of her vocals. Comedic standouts come from Katie Ladner (Heathers) as Britta and Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde) as camp counselor Sandy. Kritzer’s timing and energy is positively infectious, with just the right amount of over-the-top for the kooky counselor. Ladner, as super douche Brent’s “loser” sister, steals the show every moment she is on stage. Her facial expressions and inflections (complete with a metal mouthpiece) were perfectly crafted to get as many laughs as possible and the audience ate every bit of it up.

            From the first moment the curtain dropped and the music blared to the last sweet seconds of bows a huge smile was plastered on my face. If you’re looking for a feel-good musical that will keep you laughing, run over to The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row before Gigantic ends its run on December 20. (You might get the last contraband Butterfinger!).

Review By: April Sigler
Photos By: Chad Batka

Friday, November 13, 2015

Allegiance @ The Longarce Theatre

Allegiance. A patriotic whirl.

George Takei put his soul into Allegiance. Known for being held in an internment camp in his youth, author’s Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione explain that his use of the word “Gaman” (meaning endurance and dignity) was inspiration for Allegiance. George’s deep-seated emotion regarding the 120,000 Japanese incarcerated during WWII was very evident in the play and Jay Kuo’s music and lyrics emulated it.

Directed by Stafford Arima, Allegiance began in 2001, where we meet a seasoned war veteran remembering Pearl Harbor in his old Army uniform. He is then approached by a knock at the door to reveal that his sister, one he has not seen in 50 years, has passed away. The performance then reels backward to Salinas, CA in 1941 where we meet the rest of the cast.

Portions of the play seemed out of order or misplaced until the very end, as its beginning brought the audience to the Kimura’s farm and the traditional Japanese celebration of the harvest. Setting the scene of a proud and boisterous Japanese family, costumes designed by Alejo Vietti and scenic design by Donyale Werle were complimentary and memorable. Lighting an sound by Howell Binkley and Kai Harada were also well matched and ushered in an artistic and historic atmosphere.

The Kimura family is a relatable bunch—a traditional Japanese father, Tatsuo (Christopheren Nomura), a sister forced to become a motherly figure, Kei (Lea Salonga), a brother trying to forge his way into manhood on his own terms, Sammy (Telly Leung) and a laughable and lovable Ojii-chan (grandfather, George Takei). The audience follows this family on their disheartening journey across the United States to their internment camp at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming.

Kei (Lea Salonga) is lead on a personal journey throughout her time at the camp. Struggling with the weight of placing herself into a motherly role and stepping into her own, Salonga’s performance matches Kei’s struggles. Kei embodies more than just a woman’s obstacles during war and internment, Salonga brings to life the value of family and duty and how it can be juxtaposed to country.

Sammy (Telly Leung) is on a different path. Furious to think that he is not considered an American, Sammy bursts with energy and drive to bring the camp together and find a way to serve his country. Sammy emerges a national hero and Leung depicts Sammy’s stages of maturity and growth with ease. Sammy is the personification of the thousands of Japanese men who volunteered for service in suicide battalions and fought bravely to try to prove to the government that the Japanese people can be trusted and their families can be released.

Tatsuo (Christopheren Nomura) stood for honor and other traditional Japanese values. Not content to bow to an American government that has placed him in an internment camp, Nomura symbolizes the mental and emotional struggle of the 120,000 around him that have suffered the same fate.

Ojii-chan (George Takei) was my personal favorite. A light-hearted and deprecating Japanese grandfather, Takei brought Ojii-chan into the role of jokester and wise man. Coining the term “Gaman” when the town first arrives at Heart Mountain, Takei is the wayward spirit that brings order to his grandchildren and allows them to pursue the next levels of their lives.
Sammy’s lover, Hannah Campbell (Katie Rose Clarke) brought in the American people that were sympathetic to the interned Japanese while Kei’s lover, Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), showed the ability of the Japanese people to take a stand against the indecency of the American government.

Allegiance’s subject matter is seldom talked about and I appreciated that. Depicting historical events in a musical is always difficult and Allegiance struggled at points but triumphed at others. Truly I have not seen a much better interpretation of the dropping of the atomic bomb. However, the subject matter itself did not seem to leave a lot of room for artistic interpretation by the actors. Choreographer Andrew Palermo’s use of dance as an undercurrent was very well done. Although, costume designer Alejo Vietti did miss the mark on proper military uniform, a personal pet peeve of mine.

In closing, if you are a World War II history buff you may be disappointed. Allegiance was a work of art shedding light on a time of darkness, I enjoyed it but I would not see it a second time.

Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Comedy of Errors @ The Shiva Theater @ The Public Theater

Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? Have you ever gone looking for something? Have you ever been in love? These are the questions the audience is asked before the show begins. The Public Theatre’s production of The Comedy of Errors was a contemporary look at the Shakespearean classic filled with a lot of life, love, and as the title implies- comedy. 

Comedy of Errors follows two sets of identical twins who are separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse arrive in Ephesus where they are mistaken by the townspeople (including Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife Adriana and her sister Luciana) for their identical counterparts, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus. This is the ultimate case of mistaken identities, wrongful accusations, and slapstick humor. 

Each Antipholus is played by Bernardo Cubría, with Lucas Caleb Rooney taking on each Dromio. Baseball caps for the boys from Syracuse and cowboy hats for the two Ephesus twins were used to help the audience distinguish between the characters. These two actors are exquisite, able to effortlessly transform between each twin within seconds, making them distinct and captivating. While the entire cast is marvelous and hysterical, these leading men really stand out and are commendable for their portrayals of the twins.

The Shiva theatre is a small intimate space, and the show uses this to its full advantage. The actors interact with the audience, sitting next to them, delivering soliloquies to them, and sometimes even bringing them onto the “stage” to be a part of the action. Seating is general and in the round, but no seat is a bad seat- you are right there with the performers. The only set provided is a square of grass and dirt, with a border-line painted between Syracuse and Ephesus. This allows the audience to really focus on the superb acting and the poetry of the language.

            When faced with a Shakespeare show most worry over the long hours they are about to endure, but there is no need to worry here: Running at 90 minutes with no intermission and constantly filled with infectious energy and fun the show breezes by- You can’t help but have a smile on your face for the entire hour and half.

This unique production is part of the Public’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which travels the five boroughs (and more) providing free entertainment to those in prisons, homeless shelters, and community centers. Director Kwame Kwel-Armah’s version is filled with contemporary references (border patrol officers, cell phones, etc.) that make it relevant to today and destroy the notion that Shakespeare is something “superior” that not everyone can understand. As is their mission, this production proves that Shakespeare is for everyone, and makes it enjoyable along the way. Now done touring, it is playing at the Public Theatre on Lafayette Street until November 22. If you’re looking for an evening filled with laughs and merriment make your way to The Comedy of Errors!

Review By: April Sigler
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Lost Girls @ The Lucille Lortel Theater

One of the greatest things about NYC is how culturally diverse it is at any given moment.  The tourists, the many who have migrated here and those who were born and raised here, give NYC a feel like no other that often makes us forget there is any other place in the world.  However, we are starkly reminded that a world exists outside our stomping grounds in director, Jo Bonney’s hit, Lost Girls.

While some of the details were further from reality (like some of the accents), almost everything else transports you instantly to Manchester, NH.  Richard Hoover does an excellent job with the turntable set, complete with such subtle authentic touches like the framed picture of Tom Brady on the wall.  The vernacular used, while some may find offensive, was truthful with raw honesty.  John Pollono’s writing is modern, conversational and effortless; it is as if you are a fly on the wall in this New England home.

Lost Girls tells the story of Maggie (Piper Perabo), the single mom who lives with her mother, Linda (Tasha Lawrence) who is struggling to make ends meet and Lou (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), her recovering alcoholic ex-husband, and their search for their missing daughter during a winter snowstorm.  Maggie awakes to go to work and finds that her car has been stolen.  She calls the police to report the car stolen and Lou, who is a police-officer, comes by to take down the police report.  He brings his all forgiving, very devout, almost annoyingly perfect new wife, Penny (Meghann Fahy).  This quartet proves to be a great source of laughs, as you witness the completely uncomfortable situation of the four of them trying to make the best of this incredible awkwardness.  Ms. Lawrence has some great crass moments, and when combined with Ms. Fahy’s holier than thou responses, you cannot stop snickering.  When the group realizes that Maggie and Lou’s daughter has actually taken the car, the tone becomes more serious.  As the group struggles to figure out the whereabouts of their (grand) daughter, we learn about Maggie and Lou’s rocky past and how they are dealing with the difficulties of co-parenting with a new step-mom in the picture.  

The story turns as you meet the young girl (Lizzy DeClement) (who you suspect is the daughter of Maggie and Lou) and boy (Josh Green) who have runaway from their homes.  The unnamed duo have run away in an attempt to get the girl down to Florida to meet her significantly older boyfriend (who turns out to be her mom’s ex).  They get into some trouble when the boy stands up to a local guy who tries to get too handsy with the girl at a local bar.  They hurriedly return to their hotel room where while they are hiding from this tough guy,  the boy professes his long time love for the girl.  The girl decides to be with the boy and they have sex.  They

These two storylines are intermingled together as the set literally revolves to show each story as it unfolds.  You learn about Lou’s troubled past, including rough nights on the job and how they translated to his personal life and contributed to his failed marriage.  The story unfolds so naturally, with the actors doing a spectacular job of being totally present in the moment, you forget they are just acting.  While some of the bigger names might bring you in the door, there was spectacular performances throughout the cast; most notably through Mr. Green’s and Ms. DeClement’s candid performances playing angsty, irrational teenagers who make lifelong decisions about love, even going so far as creating a blood oath.  Ms. Fahy and Ms. Lawrence are spectacular as polar opposites that really shine when they come together.  And Ms. Perabo and Mr. Moss-Bachrach play excellent parents who are dealing with the fact that they are still in love with one another after all this time.  This is definitely one not to miss, so catch it at the MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theater now playing through Nov. 29!

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Thursday, November 5, 2015

On Your Feet! @ The Marquis Theater

You don’t need to go to Madison Square Garden to hear great music this fall. Just head over to the Marquis Theatre and hear the amazing music of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, woven together with an incredible heartfelt story.
The plot of On Your Feet! is explained right in its subtitle: it’s “the story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan.” Stylistically, it’s as if Beautiful and In the Heights had a baby who was raised surrounded by a lot of glitter. There’s the biographical element of singing the songs of the show’s main character while the singer is performing, a la Beautiful and Jersey Boys. But some songs follow the more traditional musical theatre element of just telling the story with a popular song like Mamma Mia or All Shook Up. On Your Feet shines because it brings in the heartwarming aspect with an emphasis on family and following your dreams.
Ana Villafañe makes her Broadway debut as Gloria, and even though she’s only 19, she packs a lot of punch. Her voice is absolutely incredible and she does a wonderful job approaching the role as an actress just playing a person instead of just giving a great Gloria Estefan impression. She’s full of fire and love and passion and you can’t help but smile when she sings. The one downside of her youth is that visually it was sometimes hard to see her as an older woman, just because she looks so fresh faced. She seems stuck at the same age, even though Gloria ages a fair amount in the show. Josh Segarra is a much more subtle creature as Emilio, with a rough and soft-spoken vocal quality that was a wonderful constrast to Villafañe. Their chemistry together was white-hot and really helped sell the relationship.
As great as Villafañe and Segarra were – and they were excellent – Andréa Burns playing Gloria Fajardo walked away with the show. Every time she was onstage, I couldn’t pay attention to anyone else. She is a force to be reckoned with. Commanding, sarcastic, heartbreaking, she can do no wrong. Alma Cuervo as Consuelo also brings a lot of fun and warmth to her role as Gloria’s bombastic grandmother Consuelo.
The music of the show supported by the choreography by Sergio Trujillo is vibrant and fun. It is very much like going to a concert with the energy of the performers and bright lights on the stage that frequently go out and over the audience. The orchestra performs visibly onstage much of the time, and since many members of the orchestra were original members of the Miami Sound Machine (Gloria Estefan’s band) there’s an extra element of passion and adrenaline that accompanies any moment they are onstage.
Director Jerry Mitchell deftly helmed the production, keeping with the bright colors and sequins grounded with the heart-warming aspect of the importance of family. The audience was with the story every step of the way. Every laugh landed, lines got applause in the middle of the show, and there was plenty of cheering throughout. You could particularly see the joy in the Act I finale of “Conga” when the audience got directly pulled into the action, literally.
In short, On Your Feet! is a bombastic, feel god story with an amazing cast and fantastic music pulling everyone along for the ride. Do not miss out! On Your Feet! is playing at the Marquis Theatre for an open ended run.

Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Matthew Murphy

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

That Bachelorette Show @ The Copacabana

That Bachelorette Show is a highly entertaining 90 minute experience that takes you back to your glory days as you dance the night away with your girlfriends. Although, it is much more of an excuse to dress up, have some drinks, dance in a circle (in shoes that hurt after 10 minutes) and see some good looking men vying for your vote than it is is a piece of theater.

While you dance the night away at the famous Copacabana, you meet our bachelorette, Adriana Orlando, your typical gum smacking stereotype from Long Island, who has just broken up with her boyfriend, Giovanni Giovanni.  They have been together for 23 years, having apparently met on the playground. When their most recent anniversary ended in Giovanni going to “AC with the boyz”, Adriana finally called it off.  She decides to be a contestant on the show in order to find her forever husband with the help of the 200 plus women in the audience.  We learn all of this in the first 10 minutes and that is about as much talking as the show has throughout the night.

During the pre-show the guys are already out on the dance floor, chatting up the ladies. Once it begins, we are introduced to the 10 contestants.  They are a mix of race, wealth, intelligence and even, gender. Each are a very clear-cut archetype of what women apparently think are the ideal man. You meet the dumb but sexy surfer dude, the successful hedge fund banker, an Indian prince, a cardiologist, an English rocker, the awkward nerd (complete with fanny pack) and so on.
You are instructed to use your cell phones to vote by logging onto their live site and choosing your favorite so that can make it to the next round. The music begins and the cast heads out into the crowd trying to win your vote by chatting you up, dancing with you and in the case of the highly inebriated  (and desperate) lady, grind up on you to the point where I'm surprised there isn't a weekly medical exam for the actors. After about 10 minutes or so, the guys are called back up on stage and the results are tallied.  This happens about 3 times until there are only 2 contestants left.  

Although, the technology they use for the live voting is actually really impressive, the problem I had was that you didn’t get to learn anything about these guys unless you sought them out.  It really then became a competition of looks or what quality the women deemed was the most important when looking for a husband.  While most audience members weren’t looking for a full on spectacle, I was hoping to learn more about these characters through scripted events throughout the night.  The possibility was there, as Giovanni makes an attempt to woo Adriana by signing up as one of the contestants, but the conflict never came.  There was no attempt made by any of the guys to woo Adriana, instead they were sent out on the dance floor to woo you.  Kudos goes to the gentlemen however, as they spend the entire night holding conversations as their characters with women who can hardly string two words together.  

Overall, the show is a great excuse to have a great time.  Even if you have no interest in the actual show, the DJs, Andrew Andrew, keep you pumped to classic 80s, 90s and 00s hits.  It is highly recommended for the precursor to your bachelorette party and you can easily head upstairs to the dance floor when it is done to continue dancing until your heart’s content (admission is included in your ticket).  That Bachelorette Show is currently running open-ended on Saturday nights only.

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Jeremy Daniel

Saturday, October 24, 2015

*mark @ The Sheen Center

*mark: a trip to Sunday school.

Set in a blackbox theater, this one person straight play attempted to reenact key passages in the New Testament. Beginning with a red/blue police light with George Drance entering and somewhat hiding from the police, the audience was brought along his one-person journey in the beginnings of A.C. times. The entire play was conceived and performed by Drance and is named *mark to evoke a question: how has the Gospel left its mark on you? The play is inspired by Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Reciting the Bible almost verbatim, Drance also used the floor and walls to draw pictures of Jesus’ journey and parables with chalk he had in a zip up hoodie he wore. The stage itself had bags of garbage, a lamp and coffee table nearby in an attempt to set the scene of a modern day alleyway. Drance used the coffee table and a bucket as props and would periodically check his “ancient” cell phone for messages that were never shared with the audience.

Drance did not preach and did convey the New Testament with a level of his own flair, however, I believe he wanted to stay very true to the words of the Bible and allow them to speak for themselves. This resulted in the performance feeling like a lecture you would find at CCD or other Sunday School with some laymen’s terms sporadically making the audience giggle.

Director Luann Jennings and George Drance produced a Biblical play and kept it very Biblical. If you are very religious I would suggest attending. However, if you are looking for an eye-catching play about Jesus and his vast journeys before he was crucified you will be disappointed.

Review By: Alexandra Lipari

Friday, October 23, 2015

Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War @ The Actor’s Temple

I typically do not read reviews or director’s notes before I see a show of any kind. I want to have an unadulterated opinion of what I see and hear- my own experience. Ironically, I happened to see “Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War” with two people I have done civil disobedience activism with for several years. None of us had any idea what to expect. I was simply told that the play is offensive. Well it’s about fucking time! Thank you Charlie Fink and Lee Seymour for adapting the screenplay by J.T. Allen and his gutsy and creative approach to the human errors that were at the root of a now fourteen year long war that has displaced millions of people with hundreds of thousands dead. Humans. Who cares within what arbitrary lines these people were born, they are human beings. Or they were. I mention the director’s review because, in this case, the note inside the playbill from Mr. Fink is spot-on in his criticism of how “we” got into this mess, intimating that there is culpability and responsibility by all of us to heal the world from the destruction we have caused.
Of the dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I’ve seen, this was one of my favorites. From the moment I walked into the Actor’s Temple Theatre, I was greeted by the sweetest doorman and theatre manager. The actors served wine and donuts to audience members as though we were guests, freeing us all up from any stuffiness so we could relax into their fun and amusement. It worked for me…I twirled back from the loo…and I am shy with an audience. But the eight actors disrupted any pretense of formality, so our voyeurism into their “group” therapy was transformed into a shared experience.
With the self-indulgent mantra “We deserve better” that has become embedded in the American narrative, the cast, made up of Brennan Caldwell, Jason Collins, Bob D’Haene, Brandon Espinoza, Nehal Joshi, Olli Haaskivi, Claire Neumann, and Larisa Oleynik gives a sardonic portrayal of the events brought about by a succession of wrong decisions made, not by governments, but by people, which led to the invasion of Iraq and subsequent devastation to millions of people. People’s whose lives were destroyed- the collateral damage of hubris and conceit run amok. Thank-you for engaging me with your singing and dancing while you carried me along the journey of selfishness that gave rise to self-loathing- not the self-satisfaction and praise sought after by each player.
Directed by Marshall Pailet, who also did the music and with lyrics by A.D. Penedo, this play, really should be performed in schools as a warning against unchecked ambition and the role of personal accountability; and in churches where worshipers have sadly foregone grace to pledge allegiance to their new god, the State, which has instilled within us all a fear of our fellow man. Yes, humor is often the best way to impart a difficult lesson that requires we look at ourselves. I really wish there had been a Q & A afterward in order to hear if and how others were impacted. As for my friends and I, we were moved and reinvigorated to be more humble and gracious and will think twice before acting on that lie we’ve accepted as a truism: We deserve better…even if it’s at the expense of others.
You can catch this must-see show at The Actor’s Temple on W 47th through November 22nd.  Although perfectly acceptable for all ages, I suggest over sixteen. It is quite a heady show. Definitely get dinner or dessert afterward and discuss and chew on how you can repair the world. If a succession of decisions can bring about devastation, change can and does begin with just one and we can end the trend together, one thought and choice at-a-time.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Jeremy Daniels