Sunday, September 25, 2016


Oh the Public Theatre has done it again!

The other night I had the privilege to witness greatness, which was the second installment to; The Gabriel’s: Election year in the life of one family. Now you might think, “I can’t see it because I didn’t see the first play.” FALSE! I didn’t see the first play and I wasn’t lost at all. The play takes place 6 months after the first play, Hungry. We are all sat in the kitchen with the Gabriel family as they prepare dinner.

How can you keep an audience entertained for 90 minutes with no intermission with a setting of just a kitchen? Well, playwright and director, Richard Nelson, delivers such a flavorful and natural script that you feel like you are almost intruding on this family, but you can’t look away! By the end of the show I felt like I was a part of this family.

Now what is a family diner without a little drama? We discover that the Gabriel’s are short on money and have to help bail out their 82-year-old mother who has been scammed. This results in the family going through Thomas’ novels seeing if any will sell, and selling the family piano. Tension runs high and we see fights between siblings but ultimately we are just witnessing a family in grief after their brother/ husband/ sons death.
Mary Ann Plunkett (Mary Gabriel, Thomas’ wife) really drives the show. She brings up stories and old work and delivers each line with such ease. She was hauntingly beautiful. Her last line of the show will leave you in tears and speechless.  Next we have Lynn Hawley (Hannah, sister in law) who is quite the opposite. She brings a zest to the mix and will have you on the floor laughing with her jabs.  And good ole George, the brother everyone wishes they had, played by Jay O Sanders. You can’t help but love George and all his wild stories. We can’t forget about spunky sister Joyce portrayed by Amy Warren, who consistently plays devil advocate but in the kindest way that doesn’t make you hate her. And to add a little more drama, Thomas’ first wife, Karen (Meg Gibson) moves in. And lastly, Patricia Gabriel (mom) played by Roberta Maxwell, who may be silent most of the show but she speaks volumes!

This show will sweep you off your feet. It’s witty, relevant to what’s going on in our world without forcing it down your throats, and over all heart warming. And for the love of god, please Hilary, BE HUMAN! Run to the Public Theatre and see, What did you expect!

Review: Briana Burnside
Photos: Joan Marcus

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


What a wonderful journey. Marie and Rosetta, starring Kecia Lewis and Rebecca Naomi Jones was an authentic and soul-warming trip to 1946 Mississippi’s gospel scene.

SCK Sound Design left nothing to be desired of both Lewis and Jones--whose voices were not the only elements of the performance that were memorable. Guitarist Felicia Collins and pianist Deah Harriott played coyly in the backdrop.

Set in a funeral home, this gospel musical begins with Marie Knight (Rebecca Naomi Jones) playing with Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Kecia Lewis) for the first time. A gospel sensation but falling down the rankings, Tharpe is trying to recapture a more “old church” vibe with Knight. The ensuing 90 minute journey explores multiple facets of young black women in gospel music during the late 40’s.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Kecia Lewis) is a surefire and connivingly sultry gospel singer whose gifts on guitar go unhidden in her career. Lewis captures Tharpe’s spunk and “hips” with gusto, bringing the entire audience with her in each musical number. The house shook on every 2 and 4.

Marie Knight (Rebecca Naomi Jones) pulled the audience into her seemingly innocent spirit and healthy fear of God. Afraid of “hips” and “swing,” Jones walks through Knight’s development into a gospel sensation as it’s woven into the story. Her voice alone pulled everyone in, but Jones and Lewis together had almost every head bopping to the beat.

Both Jones and Lewis were adept at “playing” their instruments (guitar and piano, respectively) but by the end of the performance they couldn’t keep up with Felicia Collins and Deah Harriott’s keying and strumming. Together, all four women made the performance gallop across the room, the audience clapping and stomping by its completion.

 Jason Michael Webb’s musical direction makes Marie and Rosetta a must-hear. Director Neil Pepe captured George Brant’s work expertly. If you are looking for a night of music and a story that will bring you to tears as you remember the important friendships in your life then take the time to see Marie and Rosetta.


Monday, September 19, 2016


Hmmm- this is a tough one.

As a reviewer, I owe it to you all to speak of the quality, aesthetic, and pathos of the stories we are invited to see. And I do sit there, vigilantly, as if at a news site, absorbing all I can for you. But sometimes, things hit so close to home, your pen detaches from your psyche and you’re left alone.

Justin Moriarty’s “The Rounds” is a simple script. A simple story touching on the war on drugs and the soldiers who fight for their own survival. But an incredible young gentleman, Jonathan Schwolsky, took this story and devised a horrifyingly accurate world. And I would know, because I’ve lived in it.

With its origins in Maine, the troupe has traveled to Alchemical THEATRE LABto deliver a chilling production of soundscape, chilling movement and words that don’t leave you. The ensemble of three explore the exchangeability between patient and doctor; who is administering the drugs and who is taking them. And these are true stories from a real place, Spring Harbor Mental Facility, south Portland, Maine, you’d never think you’d ever hear.

I sat down with John for a bit after the show and he reminisced about the first time they performed this piece for the patients at the facility. “Someone after the show said to me ‘You hit this right on the head. Its interesting to see a doctor character suffering. He’s not a lowlife’ and all I could say was ‘neither are you.’”  

Schwolsky did tremendous amounts of field work for this piece. “It was an extremely immersive project. I lived alone for a long while and only surrounded myself with addicts.” This was more than evident in his genius traffic patterns and heavy movement pieces. It seemed to me that this wasn’t a director blocking, this was a therapist or friend telling a story, so streamlined, so nuanced and absolutely chilling.

The ensemble of three worked very well together, but the stand out performance of the evening was by Liz Carlin. Carlin had a lengthy monologue that concluded the show, which, while surveying my row, left people physically stiff while being completely engaged by her self examination and shifting essence.

Mike Deering’s compositions propelled the piece and kept it flowing. Deering sat in the corner and did it all live, punctuating every vignette and shift, and let me tell you- it was brilliant. Ashley Petix’s design was so damned smart and served the piece so well. Everything about the set was colorful yet sterile, a perfect mirror to a pediatrics office, catering to infantile wants and needs.

I leave you with this: just yesterday, another member of my circle has passed from an overdose. Can we please start allowing art to heal us? Schwolsky suggests that theatre now a days should be a social commentary and accessible to all. Go. Start with The Rounds. It may save a life.

Review: Brittany Goodwin
Photos: Jonathan Schwolsky

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Everyone loves food. How can you not? You need it to survive. But what happens when you think about food? You start to have a certain relationship with it, a relationship which turns to stories, those stories then turn into memories, those memories comprise the wonderful story that is your life.

It’s hard to picture, but think about it. What is your favorite food? When I was five years old I was living in Washington, I was just playing tetherball with my brother and he hit the ball so hard I had no time to block my face and suddenly I tasted blood. The ball knocked out my front tooth. I ran into the house crying and my Dad gave me some salt water and calmed me down, but my mom, she made me mac n cheese with the swiggly noodles and alfredo sauce.  I remember playing with the noodles in my gap and hearing my family all laugh. All of these memories flood in my mind from a simple box of mac n cheese. Julia Cho manages to write a beautiful story about love, loss, and the beauty that comes after. Aubergine is a play that everyone must see!

Lights fade up on a woman who shares a touching story about her love for the perfect pastrami sandwich that she will never taste because her father was the only one who could make it. He passed away from cancer. This monologue sets up the entire story.

Enter Ray (Tim Kang), who we see in a hospital watching his father die. After the doctor told him to take his dad home we transition to his home, which surprisingly the only room where the hospital bed would fit is the dining room. We are introduced to Lucien (Michael Potts) the hospice nurse who is a breath of fresh air in a lifeless room. He grounds the show and even though he is always surround by death, he grabs the light of life and radiates. Once Lucien forces Ray out of the house we learned more about his personal life, as we are introduced to his ex girlfriend, Cornelia (Sue Jean Kim). Cornelia represents the wall around Ray, and his emotional state. He can’t let anyone in. But that wall slowly breaks down once Cornelia gets in touch with Ray’s uncle who lives in Korea. Uncle who only speaks Korean brings Rays culture back to his life, which also brings up bad memories. We relive in some flashbacks seeing that Rays father never supported his cooking career. His uncle is convinced his dying brother wants turtle soup, and forces Ray to cook one last meal.

Tim Kang delivers a flavorful performance. He never leaves the stage, its as we are watching a meal be prepared in front of us. We see the ingredients he uses and mixing all these different relationships together, and finally after watching the food bake, we see this beautiful result. Yes, it might be missing a piece, but the meal is savory and leaves you wanting more, or just makes you look forward to your next meal. Most people are trained to think death is the end, but really it’s another beginning.  

If you are in need of some type of closure, in need to feel some sense of home, or in need of some beautiful theatre, make your way to Playwrights Horizons and see, Aubergine. Guaranteed to resonate with every generation and leaving you full of… well... That’s up to you.

Review: Briana Burnside
Photos: Sara Krulwich


You know his name (or like, you’ve at least been to the airport named after him…) His name’s LaGuardia, L-A-G-U-A-R-D-I-A! And if you have no clue who this is,  change it! and make your way to the Berkshire Theatre and see Fiorello. This classical musical takes you back to the 1920’s in the prime of election season, providing a glimpse of political corruption and women’s rights at an all time low. (Wait, is this 2016?) Fiorello takes you on the life journey of New York City’s mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, and how he came to power. We get a glimpse of political corruption, and woman’s suffrage.

Seeing that we are in the prime of election season, it seems all too fitting that this show is up, and we, by default, are comparing it to the issues today. The show opens on women striking for better pay, and just about one minute into to the show, a woman is arrested for “soliciting” when she was protesting peacefully. (Again, a “period piece”) . This gives way to introduce LaGuardia, the little flower, who fights for New York. We see his passion in the love he has for this city and his fight to make the world a better place.

Throughout the performance, we somehow glaze over hard issues, and are distracted by musical numbers, such as “Politics and Poker” where we see a group of men searching for their next representative. Led by Rylan Morsbach playing Ben, LaGuardia’s political partner; he manages to find the comedy in the corruptness, and honestly was a highlight of the show.

The show itself lacks a narrative arc; I cant shake the fact that we simply glaze over so many important issues. One issue being the love story of Dora, a hardworking woman who was on strike, falling in love with a cop! Chelsea Cree Groen gives an amazing performance, especially in her big number, “I love a cop”, but I just wanted more. We get a small glimpse as her cop husband holds a party and witness a plan to hurt LaGuardia during his big speech. Does the cop do anything? Nope. Do we see a failing out between them? Nah. Just glaze over the dirtiness and move on. Much like today.

The cast is made up of mostly young actors who are making their debut. You can feel the energy bounce off them, which was refreshing, but that can’t save a script. Austin Scott Lombardi (LaGuardia) did a fine job bringing such a large political character to life, and I found myself rooting for him the entire time. Matt McLean (Miles) plays the right hand man to perfection, and has such a charm to him that I think I might have fallen in love. Rebecca Brudner (Thea) will break your heart in the most beautiful way. And Katie Birenboim (Marie) will relate to every person who has just wanted to find love and fight for it!

In the end, Fiorello is a nice musical that has beautiful choreography and catchy songs, but at the end of the day make you question if we are actually doing anything to make our world a better place. Maybe, that was the point of a lack of narrative arc, or maybe this is just another millennial complaining.

Review: Briana Burnside
Photos: Emma Rothenberg-Ware