Saturday, March 12, 2016

Smokefall @ The Lucille Lorte Theater

“Time past and time future allow but a little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time. But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, the moment in the arbour where the rain beat, the moment in the draughty church at smokefall. Be remembered; involved with past and future. Only through time time is conquered.” This T.S. Eliot poem from The Four Quartets sets the scene and provides the title for MCC Theater’s Smokefall. What follows is an existential night of theatre moving through life and time while merging realism, fantasy, magic, and even a little bit of vaudeville. 

            At first glance, Smokefall shows a wooden house, a normal family home one has when growing up. The daily routine commences- pregnant mother Violet assembles breakfast, father Daniel gets ready for work, daughter Beauty and grandfather Colonel prepare for their days. What looks like the quintessential “normal” family is quickly struck away, as Footnote, played by Zachary Quinto (The Glass Menagerie, Angels in America American Horror Story, Heroes) narrates the inner workers of each character, including the two unborn twins. What seems happy on the outside harbors some deeper darker secrets.

            The morning unfolds throughout Act 1, as we learn how each family member’s life is about to change forever and the consequences it has on the others. Finally, Violet goes into labor, and we dive into the world of the twins, who exchange views on the world they are about to enter into, leading to hard questions and difficult decisions. Act 2 jumps into the future, as one of the twins has grown and has a son of his own. It is here that Eliot’s poem truly becomes realized, as time constantly shifts back and forth, showing the audience how the past and future coexist and everything comes together. Events from the past play out alongside the characters in the present, and they all interact with one another, showcasing how fragile and simply symbolic time really is.

            The entire cast was moving and provocative, many doubling as several different characters or in various stages of life. The women particularly stood out. Taylor Richardson’s (Annie) Beauty, at 14-years-old shows a tremendous amount of maturity in her performance, specifically in the second act. Robin Tuney (The Craft, The Mentalist, Prison Break) is captivating in her theatrical debut as Violet, as we see her shifting between a hopeful expectant mother, an optimistic young lover, and a woman who has been crushed. Zachary Quinto conquers the most roles, tripling as Footnote, Fetus Two, and Samuel- each distinct in their mannerisms and philosophers. Quinto was particularly enrapturing when he was simply watching the action developing in front or around him; he was constantly engaged and reactive.

            The show runs at 1 hour 40 minutes (including intermission) and the pace is perfect. You are constantly absorbed in what is happening, nothing ever felt slow or dragging. If you’re interested in a show that will warm your heart but also gasp as you’re on the edge of your seat- especially one that will make you think about time and life- check out Smokefall at the MCC Theater’s Lucille Lortel Theatre (231 W 29th St.) before it blows away March 20th

Review By: April Sigler
Photos By:Tina Fineberg 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Straight @ The Acorn Theater @ Theater Row

If you want to see a play with an epic love triangle in only ninety minutes you need to see Straight the play. Now, do not automatically assume it’s a generic predictable love rom- com because it is the complete opposite! Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola have written a great play that pushes the audience to see beyond a label and raise awareness that basically we all judge people way to much.

The play focuses around Ben, who in a simple sense is struggling to figure out who he is as a person. As the play progresses we see he has feelings for a man named Chris. But hold on, Ben also has a long time girlfriend, Emily. A pretty simple plotline but oh does it take you on a roller coaster of emotions.  The entire play is set in Ben’s living room. You see how he morphs almost to a different person around Emily and Chris. We only see all three characters in one scene together and it is honestly the most awkward and intense feeling I have ever felt!

Watching the story I couldn’t figure out whom I was rooting for. We have Ben (Jake Epstein) who is struggling with his sexuality, is he bi sexual, straight, gay?! Then we have Emily (Jenna Gavigan) who is the loyal and supportive girlfriend who loves Ben unconditionally, despite his willingness to move in with her and take their five-year relationship to the next level. And Lastly, Chris (Thomas E Sullivan) the younger college student who seems to be the smartest person in the room despite he’s only a sophomore in College.  

Since the entire story takes place in Ben’s living room the space seemed so intimate, I felt like the stereotypical fly on the wall. But I can’t seem to get the scenes between Ben and Chris out of my head. Thomas E Sullivan gave an amazing performance that ultimately made me watch him the entire show and wanted to see how he would react to everything. Jake Epstein really pulled at my heartstrings, but also made me want to slap him. (Which I mean in the nicest way.) The chemistry between Sullivan and Epstein was undeniable and not going to lie… very hot! Overall this cast was a lot of fun to watch and they took me on an amazing journey with them.

This show has such an important message to share with everyone. I never really thought about how labels can affect someone’s life. I never really thought about what I would label myself as. Would I just say straight, female, person? People are so much more than just their sexuality, yet we obsess to try to find what category we fall under. This play really has me thinking and talking about this subject, which is a reflection of great theater! If you want to challenge your mind and take part of this discussion, head down to The Acorn Theatre and see Straight.  Plus you really need to see how all these relationships turn out, it will leave you wanting more.

Review By: Briana Burnside

Photos By: Matthew Murphy