Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Daddy Long Legs @ The Davenport Theatre

Looking to resuscitate long lost feelings of love? Step into the Davenport Theatre, transformed into an intimate parlor, and a postcard will fall out of your program and attached will be a matching pen. After you write a postcard, to your true love of course, it will be stamped and mailed for you at the box office, then the show will begin.

And just like all the great, timeless love stories, Daddy Long Legs begins with a letter.

Megan McGinnis brilliantly portrays Jerusha Abbott, the oldest orphan girl at the John Grier Home. One day, she receives a letter from a cryptic man who came into the orphanage, who she described as tall and lanky like a Daddy Long Legs (get it?). In this letter, he states that he will send her to college but in return, she must write him once a month. Jerusha channels these letters into a personal diary, accounting + itemizing every thing that happens to her at school. Daddy Long Legs, played by Paul Alexander Nolan, begins to fall in love with her and throughout the play, tried to muster the confidence to expose his true identity- her roommate’s uncle. And as you can imagine, his identity is exposed at long last and they are to be wed, as all great, timeless love stories end.

Nolan’s performance is ever so notable because his role is so reactionary to all of Jerusha’s letters. We always know how he is feeling when he is silent, upstage at his desk. And McGinnis? Well, she really WAS Jerusha Abbott. The tears and truth to her each and every letter is reason alone to pick up a ticket.

John Caird’s staging was so simplistically charming- huge trunks all over the downstage playing area that transformed into a bed, a mountain, and storage area for lots and lots of books and letters. You used your imagination just as Jerusha did to muse about what her Daddy Long Legs looked like. 

If you are in search of a charming evening, look no further than the Davenport Theatre and this production of Daddy Long Legs. Not only is it endearing and syrupy sweet, it is a lovely break from the modern world of texts and tweets and may inspire you to write a letter of your own. 

Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Jeremy Daniel

Spring Awakening @ The Brooks Atkinson Theatre

The beautiful thing about theatre is that it gives you the freedom to push limits, bring up important issues in the world, and get conversations started. This revival of spring awakening takes a huge step in artist freedom and brings deaf actors and hearing actors on the same stage to tell an amazing story. Michael Arden and the entire creative team manage to take a story that is set in the 1890’s and make it so relevant to our lives.

As you enter Brooks Atkinson Theatre there is silence and as it gets closer to curtain you start hearing vibrations and a humming noise. The set is dimly lit and gives a presence of darkness and loneliness. Slowly the actors start to appear on stage dress only in their white undergarments. The actors continue to warm up, greet each other, living life, as they had no problems in the world. We see center stage a mirror and actress Sandra Mae Frank who plays Wendla makes her first inter action with her ‘voice” actress Katie Boeck. They have a beautiful moment seeing each other in the mirror and helping each other dress. We quickly understand their relationship, the “voice’ actors seem to resemble their voice inside their heads and almost represent how they wish they could be.

This cast is beyond amazing! There is so much talent on stage that you don’t know where to look! Austin P. McKenzie does a fantastic job carrying this show; he brings this energy on stage that you can’t take your eyes off him. Katie Boeck who voices Wendla has such a unique voice and it was so refreshing to hear her make it her own. Daniel N Durant who plays Moritz gave a haunting performance. Watching him sign in his last scene repeating “so dark” over and over in silence will forever leave an image in my mind, truly a powerful moment. Again, I can’t stress how talent this cast is; seriously they are all rock stars!

Visually this show was stunning, from the lights, costumes, to choreography. The lighting went from realistic to a rock concert to magical romantic, to absolutely haunting. I loved how the costumes for the voices symbolized how they would like to dress if they weren’t stuck in such a regimented world. And I loved the choreography; the actors signing basically took over their body and made a beautiful dance. The entire show moved so well that I wasn’t ready for it to end. There were so many great stage pictures that if I only saw pictures in order of the show I would understand what was going on and again I need to give Michael Arden credit for directing this wonderful piece of theatre.

Everyone needs to see this show, you will leave the theatre feeling so many emotions but hopefully you will leave feeling inspired as I did. This production is an exciting step for Theatre, giving more artists opportunity to share their gift, it is an exciting time!

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Legend of Georgia McBride @ The Lucille Lortel Theatre

Mike Donahue and the MCC Theater have given New York a romp of a good time in their current production of The Legend of Georgia McBride.  Matthew Lopez’s script is hilarious in its brazen honesty.  It is a wonderful and positive story about finding your inner strength to follow your own destiny.  Mike Donahue’s direction helps us smoothly move through the story with carefree ease and laughter, setting up the heartfelt moments for greater impact.
The cast is simply dynamite.  Dave Thomas (Casey/Georgia) plays a perfectly humanized hero.  His innocence and charisma on stage are the perfect combination for the struggling Elvis turned drag queen. He is a joy to watch transform and you will fall in love with his every persona.  Thomas’ chemistry with Afton Williamson (Jo) is stellar.  Williamson is perfectly cast as the loving and nagging wife of Dave.  She is lovely with an air of Zoe Saldana about her.  Wayne Duvall (Eddie) plays the club owner (who is always looking to make a buck) with ease. We should want to hate him, but you just can’t help loving every moment he is on stage.  Keith Nobbs (Rexy/Jason) is hilarious as both characters - showcasing his deadpan humor as Jason and countering it with Rexy’s alcoholic, shade induced comebacks.  Last and certainly not least is Matt McGrath (Tracy).  McGrath plays to the audience akin to Charles Bush, laying out quips, puns and movie homages like it is Christmas.  The ease which McGrath lands each line and gesture is perfection.
The production team for The Legend of Georgia McBride stepped up to match the brilliance of the cast.  The lighting design, delivered by Ben Stanton, would do any rock band proud.  Donyale Werle’s set was so well designed, I spent the first ten minutes sitting in the theater before the show started wondering what the actual space looked like and what was the set.  This set is as detailed as Disney themes its attractions. The sound by Jill B C Du Boff was had just the right balance.  Top that off with a diverse and eccentric costume design from Anita Yavich complimented by makeup and wig design by Jason Hayes and you have yourself one of the best shows in New York City.
There are only a few shows that I would say you will be sorry you missed and this one is right up there at the top. It also features some of the best lip-syncing you will ever see.  Go.  It is fun with a soul.  More theater should be like this.

Review By: Paul Morin

Photo By: Sara Krulwich

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hamlet in Bed @ The Rattlestick Theater

Tucked away in Greenwich Village, far, far away from the lights + noise of Times Square lives a beautifully intelligent and emotionally driven new work called Hamlet in Bed.

Written and starring the brilliant Michael Laurence, this play supersedes expectations of “yet another new interpretation of the classic.” 

The theatre is laid out in such a way that you feel a part of the set and story. Complete with exposed green room, set shop and yes, you even go visit the powder room on the stage if need be; one certainly feels at home in the atmosphere.

At the top of show, we are presented with a problem: Michael thinks he IS Hamlet. Silly, yes, but then we come to find out the thought process behind his rational. Michael, an adopted native New Yorker buys a diary at a thrift store penned by an the actress named Anna playing Ophelia. Through this journal, we find out that Anna gets pregnant by the actor playing Hamlet and after she delivers the baby and gives him up for adoption, the father kills himself. The date is Michael’s birthday. Michael believes that Anna must be his mother, finds her and casts her as Gertrude in his production of “Hamlet in Bed.” During the rehearsal process is a series of isolated vignettes that showcase their journeys culminating to their production. They agree that Michael must be Anna’s son and they both feel a little bit more complete than they have before.

This two character powerhouse really explores the inner mechanics of how the actor prepares while providing a fascinating story that everyone was so invested in. Michael Laurence is absolutely heartbreaking in his delivery and demeanor. We see how broken a person can be without a paternal figure and how it translates into their everyday choices. Annette O’Toole is equally as heartbreaking and chilling as a woman who let one choice ruin her entire path. She drips pathos and heart ache throughout all her solo moments and the strong woman she tries to be when she’s around Michael.

“I got all these beds because I think Hamlet would be in bed. So depressed he can’t get out so he does the whole play here” Michael explains. 

For a thought provoking night out, I strongly advise you to check out HAMLET IN BED. Special pieces such as these come around once every few seasons. You’ll never quite look at Hamlet the same way again.
Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Tristan Fuge

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Isolde @ The Polonsky Shakespeare Center @ The Theatre for New Audience

The ephemeral quality of memory and relationships are just a fact of life – memories shift and change, just as relationships grow over the course of time. And both memories and relationships can be lost – a quality that Isolde, a new play written and directed by Richard Maxwell displays beautifully.

Isolde tells the story of Isolde and Patrick, a married couple. He’s a contractor of a construction company and she’s a famous actress. But Isolde is having trouble remembering her lines recently. So Patrick tries to ease her troubles by letting her build her dream home, but things become shaky after Massimo, an award-winning architect becomes involved in the project.

Isolde was played very charmingly by Tory Vazquez, in a way the blended a mature woman with a very open and almost child-like outlook on the world. Her many wanderings around the room, as well as wandering thoughts always appeared to have some purpose, even if that purpose wasn’t clear to us. Jim Fletcher portrayed Patrick as a guy who clearly loves his wife, but is struggling to control the path in which his life appears to be wandering down.

As Massimo, Gary Wilmes alternates between dry commentary on life and then switching to grand sweeping soliloquies about the design for Isolde’s dream home. This duality shows why exactly Massimo is so intriguing for Isolde, as he captures the audience’s attention as well. Though the main scene stealer of the night was Brian Mendes as Uncle Jerry, a man of not too many words, but one who expertly knows how silence and the right facial expression can speak (hilarious) volumes.

The direction and writing of this play are both done by Richard Maxwell, which leads to a great melding of text and movement on the stage. The scenes blend seamlessly like memories do. Sometimes the dialogue can become stilted and very definitively staged, but the scenes and actions just keep rolling. Scenes change almost like dreams, you blink, and something else has shifted, someone has changed costumes, and a week in the play has gone by. It’s in this way that the show moves quicker than “realistic” life. Maxwell believes deeply in experimenting onstage and Isolde may not score a touchdown on everything, but no one can say it’s traditional.

The minimalism of the scenic/lighting design by Sascha Van Riel cooperates well with the costume designs by Romy Springsguth and Kaye Voce. Again, the simplicity speaks to how memories fade with time until only the most important and basic details remain.

Highly original and intriguing, Isolde leads its charmed existence only briefly, which is fitting considering the story itself. It will only be running until September 27 at Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shaekspeare Center in Brooklyn.

Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Gerry Goodstein