Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Bronx Tale @ The Longacre Theater

I feel like I have said this in many shows I review, but I honestly did not know what to expect when I sat down in the Longacre Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. I did not know it was originally a one man show, and a movie, I am late to the party!  It is safe to assume that you are going to watch someone’s tale in the Bronx, Belmont Avenue to be exact.

We follow the story of Calogero. The year is 1960 and we are in a stereotypical Italian “neighborhood.” And what’s a classic neighborhood without some grown men carrying baseball bats and handling some “business”.  The young Calogero, played beautifully by Hudson Loverro, witnesses a murder and the show takes off and doesn’t slow down. Calogero decides he’s not a rat and the neighborhoods leader, Sunny, decides he’s one of the guys. Instantly we have a struggle between Sunny, and Calogero’s father. What kind of man will he become?

Did I forget to mention that this show is actually a musical! It’s hard to believe because the show is filled with so much drama, information, and yet the music doesn’t feel forced at all. Some stand out numbers were, Roll em, where we see how Sunny makes a lot of his money, and meet (for lack of a better world) the rest of the mob. Another song I just can’t get out of my head is “I like it” which gives young Calogero a chance to shine and shows us he’s ok with being one of the guys.

We see Calogero grow into a man. And that’s when things get real difficult. The world is changing and so is the neighborhood.  Calogero, played by Bobby Conte Thornton does a fantastic job moving this show along, and makes the whole audience fall in love with him.  So, it’s obvious he needs a love interest. Enter Jane, a girl from the other side of the neighborhood, Webster Avenue to be exact. Racial tensions rise, fights between the neighborhoods occur, a real Romeo and Juliette vibe.

My only problem with this show was a lot of things we glossed over. I wanted to see more of the love story between Calogero and Jane. I wanted more struggles between Sunny and Lorenzo. I wanted more of Rosina, his mother. I think there might have been too many side plots.

The cast was absolutely amazing. Lorenzo, played by Richard H Blake will absolutely tear your heart out and break it to a million pieces and blow you away with his voice. Lucia Giannetta (Rosina) and Ariana Debose (Jane) both had amazing solos but again, wish I got to see them more! Nick Cordero (Sunny) makes me remember why I will always have a crush on an Italian man. He has such a charm you can’t help but love him and root for him the entire show.

A Bronx Tale has something for everyone. It’s filled with lovely little comedic gems such as a ‘girlfriend test’ and just good ole neighborhood charm that will make anyone reminisce on their youth. This could be… One of the great ones.

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Joan Marcus

THIS DAY FORWARD @ The Vineyard Theater

The Vineyard Theatre’s newest installation, This Day Forward, is one show that certainly makes you think. Written by Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, The Lyons) it is not your typical love story; in fact, it is the lack of love that really is the star of this show.

Set in both 1958 and 2004, the story centers around Irene’s (Holley Fain) love life. The play begins in 1958, in a swank hotel (with trimmings that seriously make me consider hiring scenic designer, Allen Moyer, to re-do my place), on Irene and Martin’s (Michael Crane) wedding night.  We immediately are drawn in by Fain’s excellent portrayal of a nervous, fidgety and distressed newlywed.  After skirting around for awhile, she finally admits to Martin that she is not in love with him, but instead, is in love with Emil (Joe Tippett), a loud-mouth, brash, gas station attendant she has been forbidden from dating by her mother.  Martin, in obvious disbelief, begins to question her about the relationship and why she decided to wait until AFTER their wedding to share this information.  Irene explains how the two became acquainted, their subsequent break-up and how Emil was on his way over to pick up Irene after she had seen him earlier that morning.  Emil arrives and the three hash it out in the hotel room. The men decide to fight for the right for Irene.  While they “take it outside,” Irene is given love advice from Melka (June Gable), the polish immigrant hotel maid, who was in a similar situation.  She cautions her from following her heart, as it did not work out in her favor, and urges her to stay with a man who can take care of her and give her the material things she desires.  Martin finally returns and with her mind made up, Irene chooses to forgo Melka’s advice and go with love over material wealth and leaves to meet up with Emil.

The second act begins in a totally redesigned space (and again, Moyer’s design of a chic New York apartment makes me question if I could pull that off in suburbia).  Major kudos to the run crew who successfully took apart an entire stage in the time it took to check my Facebook.  The story begins with Crane, now playing Noah, with his boyfriend, Leo (Andrew Burnap) in a beautiful NYC apartment in 2004.  Leo is stressed out because his estranged mother is coming after being picked up by the police at JFK Airport after seemingly having an Alzheimer’s episode.  We then meet Noah’s sister, Sheila (Francesca Faridany) who explains just how bad it is living with her mother.  When their mother arrives, we realize it is Irene (now played by June Gable), many years later.  We learn that even though we saw her exit to follow her heart to be with Emil in Act I, she still wound up with Martin, lived a miserable life with all of the amenities a 20th-century woman could want.  This misery trickled down into her children, who both have sabotaged relationships, unstable lives and an affinity for feeling like they were generally unwanted.  The play closes with Irene seemingly talking to a ghostly Emil, in which we learn he never met with her that night.  Feeling like he was unable to provide her the life she wanted, he decided it was best to let her stay with Martin.  

It is in the final moments that this play really shines.  Taking on the concept of how failed love shapes people is not something many have done before.  Silver does a phenomenal job of making you think about following your heart without being cheesy.  Personally experiencing this show with someone who has been divorced was an added treat, as for her, it gave her some closure in her decisions.  You can never know what the future holds for you, but this play truly shows you that by playing it safe and not trusting your heart, you may be able to survive, but the life you lead will be riddled with misery, melancholy and general unhappiness that is felt by EVERYONE around you.  This will then affect the choices they make for the rest of their lives, causing this cycle to never end.  

Playing now through Dec. 18th, this is one show you do not want to miss.  Besides the kudos given above, a sincere salute to those cast members that played dual roles. Taking on the challenge of playing two completely different characters and making it believable can be difficult, but the cast makes it appear effortless.  For tickets and information, please visit and be sure to check out the lower lobby for added touches that make the play come alive.

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Julieta Cervantes 

CrediJulieta Cervantes

Monday, November 21, 2016

Othello: The Remix @ The Westside Theater (Upstairs)

In recent seasons where hip hop seems to be dominating musical theater, The Q Brothers’ Othello: the Remix fits right in. But these brothers are no strangers to infusing the style into their work.  In the past decade and a half, the production group has created several hip hop adaptations of Shakespeare’s most famous works: The Bomb-itty of Errors, Funk it Up About Nothing, Q Gents, and I <3 Juliet have been produced around the country and Off-Broadway. John Leguizamo’s presentation of Othello the Remix brings the Q Brothers back to New York.
The re-imagining presents Othello (Postell Pringle) as a hip hop mogul, about to embark on a cross country tour to promote the new album for pop-rapper Cassio (Jackson Doran). Fellow artist Iago (GQ) feels betrayed to be the “opener for the opener” on the tour, and sets out to get revenge by ruining Cassio’s career and Othello’s new marriage. Though the plot is modernized, Shakepeare’s themes of jealousy and betrayal are still very apparent.
The Q Brothers incorporate a unique style of comedy into their work. Like a sketch group, there are many characters played by the company of four actors. Wigs, shirt fronts, and hats are used to differentiate the characters. Like an improv troupe, the actors break the fourth wall and make out-there jokes that incite heavy laughs. But where they differ: they do all this in the middle of catchy beats and smart rhymes, just like a hip-hop crew. Move over Hamilton, looks like you have some competition.
JQ stands out as the character actor of the production. In 80 minutes, he becomes tennis-obsessed record producer Loco Vito, Rosie Perez-like groupie Bianca, and lovesick Dungeons & Dragons player Roderigo. Doran’s Cassio is an endearing comic relief: the guy you want to laugh at and feel bad for at the same time. GQ’s Iago is earnest and jealous; he’s the puppet master villain who you almost want to see succeed. Pringle carries the show as leading man Othello, and your hearts breaks right along with him.
Equal parts Shakespeare, Hip hop, and sketch comedy doesn’t sound like a formula that should work. Oh but it does. Even the elderly ladies in the front row were raising the roof.
Othello: The Remix performs at the Westside Theater.

Review By: Kelcie Kosberg
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A DOG STORY @ The Loft at the Davenport’s Black Box

A Dog Story, music and lyrics by Gayla D. Morgan is a new musical comedy about a career-driven lawyer and his quest to marry a woman in less than a month in order to secure a promotion. The plot left much to be desired and the character development was almost remiss throughout the show until its final moments.

The play was performed in the Loft at the Davenport’s Black Box theatre. The set was clever. Designed by Lauren Mills, it featured large white cabinets on either side of the stage whose cubbies were opened to reveal different signs to signify scene changes and storage for characters to interact with. A Dog Story was choreographed by Shannon Lewis and directed by Justin Baldridge.

Roland (David Perlman) is our career-driven lawyer that is unable to make partner at his firm. From faulty logic, Roland realizes that others have been promoted before him because of their recent marriages. The rest of Perlman’s performance was filled with his attempt to pull more depth out of an otherwise shallow character.

Roland’s best friend, Guy (Brian Ray Norris) is a womanizer that, despite being in his late thirties, acts as if he is scarcely eighteen. His lewd comments and aggressive nature toward women did not come across as endearing--his creepiness did not set well with the audience either. Norris was unable to harness many defining moments.

Guy and Roland make a trip out to the Hamptons where Guy believes Roland will find his wife, but he must “get a dog!” first. Shortly after his endeavor of obtaining his new companion, he is in pursuit of Blair (Stefanie Brown), a beautiful hedge fund manager that Roland believes is perfect for him. Brown was captivating when she was on stage.

Lastly, realizing that Blair will never love him if his dog misbehaves, Roland hires MIranda (Lindsie VanWinkle) to train his new puppy. VanWinkle is faced with a more developed character surrounded by thin ones and she does her best to compensate.

A Dog Story did what it could to win the audience with its imaginary dog and shaky premise. The cast lacked chemistry and some of their interactions came across as awkward. The show itself had some special moments, that, as a dog lover, I did appreciate.

Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Jeremy Daniel

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PARTY PEOPLE @ The Public Theater

Writing this review has been one of the hardest things I have had to do. Not because the show, but because what it stands for and how relevant it is today.  With that being said excuse me if this review is a little scattered.

Party People takes place now. We follow the Journey of Malik and Jimmy, two millennial’s who are putting on a show to celebrate the party. (The party meaning Black panthers and Young Lords) The opening scene we see Malik (Christopher Livingston) practicing a monologue expressing his anger of never being good enough to be a Black Panther like his father. Enter his right hand man Jimmy (William Ruiz) who has an alter ego Primo but we will get to that later. Jimmy gives Malik a pep talk on how they are prepared for this show and just like that we find ourselves back in the 60’s in the middle of the civil rights movements.

We see Black Panthers and Young Lords fighting together using slam poetry, jazz, hip hop to have their voices heard. It took everything in me to not chant with them. IT AINT JUST! Throughout these flash backs we come to see each revolutionary and all the struggles they went through with the corrupt world we live in and with each other in the party. By intermission we come back to the present and we see the revolutionaries enter the show, which is all about them. They make small talk, until deep secrets rise. 

Act two we learn about spies and betrayal in the party, but we mostly focus on our new generation. How are we fighting for what is just! Do we just hide behind a hashtag and a keyboard? The party calls us weak, lazy, because we use a Facebook status to voice our opinion. What will we DO! How will we make Black lives matter?  “They don’t want us truly free, that’s how a man like Donald Trump is elected president”.

Party People is the most honest, truthful, realistic show in New York right now. The cast is filled with an amazing talented ensemble. And is truly an ensemble piece. The use of multi media is used to perfection and helps show the difference between generations and how we are all evolving.

Leaving the show I was emotionally drained. Walking down the stairs at the Public I heard some people say, “it was good, but really long”. I don’t know why but that stuck with me. It was long, yes, but it was necessary. Just like how these next four years will be long. Just like how we are still fighting for people to be equal. When will it end? IT AINT JUST!

All my babbling aside, I encourage every human to see this show. It is so powerful, inspiring, and important! I promise you will leave the theatre fired up and ready to make a change, and not hide behind a hash tag.

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Taste of Things to Come @ The York Theater Company

A Taste of Things to Come has enjoyed its first New York debut at The York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s. Taste is a welcome adventure through time—exploring the dichotomy of a woman’s life in the 1950’s vs. the 1960’s. The book, music and lyrics by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin brought the pervasive experiences of women; friendship, desire, marriage, societal pressures, oppression and more—to life.

Director/choreographer Lorin Latarro utilized Steven C. Kemp’s fully stocked kitchen with moving blocks of counters mirroring the style of their respective decades. In Act I we are greeted with the 1957 kitchen, complete with a window/computer screen that accompanied the cast with television clips from the 50’s and more.

In Act II, the scene opens up to reveal the all-women band behind the counters (Gillian Berkowitz/Piano and Conductor, Ann Klein/Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Barbara Merjan/Drums and Percussion, Sue Williams/Upright and Electric Bass), a living room complete with a shag rug and other iconic 60’s pieces. Lighting Design by Nathan W. Scheuer and Costume Design by Dana Burkart was notable throughout the performance.

The play explores the lives of four women, Joan Smith, Agnes Crookshank, Dottie O’Farrell, and Connie Olsen. Each one represents different personas of the time periods. While Act I was quite whitewashed, Act II hit home with a touching exploration of the issues of women, race and status; creating a much deeper connection to the heart of the audience.

Joan Smith (Paige Faure) is the ring-leader—the organizer of the Winnetka women. Highly intelligent but limited as a woman—Faure does not struggle to personify her character’s growth into the age of feminism. It is Faure that is the glue of the performance.

One of Joan’s best friends (just don’t tell the others) is Connie Olsen (Autumn
Hurlber). Connie is blonde haired and blue eyed with the “perfect” marriage. Faced with the ultimate form of “limbo,” Hurlber explores interracial issues in the second act. Her connection with her character was as powerful as her chemistry with the cast.

Agnes Crookshank (Janet Dacal) is the forever-single woman of the group. Refusing to accept the overall zeitgeist of the 1950’s, Crookshank pushes all of the envelopes she encounters and Dacal encompasses the early dents in the glass ceiling in the form of defiance. This blossoms into success in finding her place in the world outside of Illinois and Dacal more than just “passes” in her role.

Dottie O’Farrell is the personification of feminine zeitgeist. A suburban mother of four (or was it six?), Allison Guinn hilariously pulls the proud mother almost left behind in the 1960’s to the forefront of the play. As an audience, we are reminded that motherhood is just as powerful as any other life path; and that the sexual revolution did wonders for everyone. Guinn was perfect for the role.

A Taste of Things to Come hit almost every major social and political event for women of 50’s and 60’s—from “Dear Abby” to the pill. It was an incredible journey that I was charmed to be a part of. Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin created a play that is not only reflective but inclusive.

Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Carol Rosegg