Monday, June 15, 2015

Gloria @ The Vineyard Theater

Are you a recent college graduate trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life? Or are you in your late twenties working for a company not sure about the career path you are taking? Or are you in your forties well into your career and realize this isn’t the life you want? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need to make your way to The Vineyard Theatre and see, Gloria.
If you answered no to any of these questions, still go see this play, its THAT good!
Before I praise the actors I must praise the playwright, Branden Jacobs- Jenkins. What seems like a typical story about a couple twenty somethings trying to figure out life turns into so much more. From the effortless banter, and quick pace wit, I was taken on an emotional roller coaster.  Branden Jacobs- Jenkins’ script at first makes you feel like its ok to be lost and not sure about where life is taking you and then takes a brutal turn and makes you question if you would be able to live with your choices.

Direction by Evan Cabnet was simplistic and near perfection. The staging of this production was fantastic, and that’s hard to do when most of the set is cubicles. It seems like basic theatre knowledge that directors would use levels, but in this production it seemed so naturalistic and creative. It also helps that the sets were absolutely stunning, and so detailed, that it would have been like a playground working in that space.

Now lets talk about the amazing cast. This production really is an ensemble piece, and it was so entertaining to watch how everyone played of each other and how their relationships developed. Again I can’t stress enough how simplistic this production was. It was so refreshing to watch actors listen and react to each other. Everything was raw and realistic.

Ryan Spahn, who played Dean, gave such a moving performance. I went from believing this guy is a jerk; to he’s just a slacker, to rooting for him. He gave such a balanced performance with his comedic timing, to his powerful and saddening aftermath in act two. Catherine Combs, who portrayed Ani, is effortless. She has a presences that is unforgettable. I found myself watching her when she was just listening to her fellow actors. Jennifer Kim gives so much life to her character Kendra. Her comedic timing is perfection, and her bantering and rants are hysterical, and hit home because most of what she says is the sad truth. Kyle Beltran who plays the quiet intern Miles, is anything but quiet. He might have not said much in the first act, but I was always aware of where he was. He also shows impressive character work in the second act. Jeanine Serralles plays Gloria, and she managed to make me laugh, scream, and so scared I had to close my eyes for a second. Michael Crane played the sad character Lorin. He managed to give a hysterical performance but it turn into one of the saddest story lines.

This show will make you feel almost every emotion possible. It makes you think, ask questions, and truly figure out what you want out of life. I didn’t want it to end, and with that, I will see it again because… its THAT good!

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Tempest @ The Delacorte Theater w/ The Publice Theater

Shakespeare in the Park’s production of The Tempest certainly took us by storm. It was imaginative and sensory, brought to life by fantastical masters of the language. The actors were superb and wonderfully showcased a large skill set, creating a fascinating environment provided by Michael Greif’s direction.

From moment one, the production captures your focus and places you into the shipwreck- no longer in Central Park, New York, New York. Being outdoors allows you to experience the elements as the characters are, and truly elevates the sensibility.

The scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez was beautifully simplistic, and offered a fresh change in locale as the play goes on, married to David Lander’s gorgeous lighting design. The Public withheld its amazing standards even in the outdoor elements. Emily Rebholz designed costumes that mirrored the surrealistic, timeless quality of the adaptation of the piece, thus further allowing the story to feel contemporary and relevant to our modern audience. Arthur Solari’s percussion underscored the action beautifully, giving the piece a heart beat. 

Sam Waterston leads the show as Prospero, the exiled ex-duke of Milan, in a brilliantly captivating manner. He embodies a man driven by both passion and logic, and the audience is able to see his pain and triumphs with every character he meets. The star vehicle, Jesse Tyler Fergusen as Trinculo, certainly does not disappoint. He injected comedy and whimsy into the scene, forcing the audience to be fixated on his hilarious reactions and commentary to the given circumstances. Other standout performances include Louis Cancelmi as Caliban, who tells his story not only verbally, but also giving a chilling and utterly compelling physicality to his tale. Chris Perfetti’s attention to the language and essence of a spirit was irresistible as Ariel.  His focus and movements were ethereal, enrapturing the audience’s eye as he moved across the stage. Ensemble troupe members were able to showcase their various talents, whether it be silk dancing, contortion, or glorious and haunting harmonies. Everyone’s talent and mastery of the Shakespearean language were demonstrated through the fact that it flowed effortlessly and felt like you were watching a modern tale.

The Public Theatre provides a unique thought-provoking free experience for the general public to enjoy and appreciate. The crowd rose to its feet at the conclusion of the show and voiced their endless appreciation for the actors’, designers’ and directors’ work. So pack up your picnic basket and head on down to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park! May only an actual tempest deter you from running to see this production.

Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Be More Chill @ Two Rivers Theater Company

The World Premier of Be More Chill, opened at the Two River’s Theatre this June. An inventive musical with a fantastic cast of Broadway’s young finest, Be More Chill deserves to be seen and appreciated!

Young Jeremy is a loser, he’s barely able to get through high school, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, and his father wanders the house without his pants on. Enter in “The Squib,” a super computer that enters in your bloodstream and invades your consciousness to give you all the tools to succeed at life, but as we all know, there is always a price.

Will Connolly(Once) stars as Jeremy. With poignancy and teenage innocence, we see him transformed from the lovable nerd to the kid at the top of the food chain. Eric William Morris(Mamma Mia) plays his squib, bent on world domination. Oozing sex appeal, he commands the stage and is the epitome of chill. Stephanie Hsu(Girl Code) demonstrates the vivacity that high school drama geeks are known for with flair and kick-ass converse. Also starring: Jake Boyd, Gerard Canonico, Katlyn Carlson, Katie Ladner, Lauren Marcus, George Salazar, and Paul Whitty.

Be More Chill is full of choreography and music reminiscent of Green Day’s’ American Idiot, with just enough musical theatre to paint it’s tonality. But the one number that stood out was “Michael in the Bathroom,” performed by the incredibly talented George Salazar. If, and I hope this is the case, Be More Chill continues its climb to the Broadway stage, I hope they do not change one iota of this ballad. It was perfect.
Do yourself a favor and make your way down to the Jersey Shore for this piece of theatre conceived by Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz and directed by Stephen Brackett. It’s a misfist’s dream and captures high school, friendship, and what it means to be an individual with laser definition. Be More Chill runs until June 21st.

Review By: Aziza Seven
Photos By: T. Charles Erickson