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Monday, May 30, 2011

SLEEP NO MORE • The McKittrick Hotel

I'm not really sure where to even start with this one.

SLEEP NO MORE is currently being presented in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea by Punchdrunk, a British theatre company.  Their audiences don't sit and watch -- they roam.  Punchdrunk deals in the realm of site specific productions, and after running this show abroad, they've brought their latest to the Big Apple.  Even their website is cool.

Punchdrunk has claimed a couple of downtown warehouses and transformed them into a truly immersive theatre going experience.  This presentation combines the story of MACBETH, a little Alfred Hitchcock thrown in, and as far as I can tell (by googling the names from the program), the Paisley witches, supposed Scotland witches tried in Paisley, Renfrewshire, in 1697.  Who knows what else might have been in there that I missed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

THE BOOK OF MORMON • Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Okay, so there are gonna be some naughty words in here.

Nominated for about a dozen Tonys, this is one of those shows that I felt like I just had to check out.  Thank goodness I got a ticket before the Tony nominations came out.  Probably saved a few bucks. (Broadwaybox.com -- some sweet savings here…)  Created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, best known for their animated series "South Park", this show follows two Mormon Elders and their missionary trip to Uganda.

At intermission a couple of incredibly well preserved New Yorkers behind me complained about the irreverence of this show.  Seriously?  You're seeing a musical comedy written by the "South Park" guys called THE BOOK OF MORMON.  With songs like "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (that translates into something that I don't even want to jot down here), and a dictator called "Butt-fucking naked" (I'm not kidding), if you don't know what you're getting into when you walk in, you're in for a night of unashamed blasphemy.  If you're up for it, you're gonna see a very entertaining musical.

Friday, May 27, 2011

THE NORMAL HEART • Golden Theatre

This powerful 1985 off-Broadway play about the early days of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in NYC is receiving a striking Broadway revival at the Golden Theatre.  THE NORMAL HEART follows a group of men who form an organization in an effort to bring attention to this baffling disease that is rapidly claiming the lives of gay men.  The group's leader and main agitator is Ned Weeks (based on the playwright, Larry Kramer), an outspoken writer whose in-your-face tactics often rubbed others the wrong way, but were necessary during this time when many even in the gay community were pretty ambivalent about what was happening.

It's explosive, contentious, urgent and the weight of it makes your heart race.  The stark set was the first thing that stood out to me.  At first glance, it looks like plain white bricks, but upon closer inspection you can see embossed phrases like, "How come nobody is paying any attention to 'it'", "Everything, everything is too little too late", and "blood transfusions".  Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe's direction does try to make the most of the welcome humor in the show, but for the most part, it's pretty grueling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK • Second Stage Theatre


I love New York.  Particularly the area of Manhattan that falls within 7th and 9th Avenues between 40th and 54th, roughly.  Theatre District, baby!  That's why I've been coming here for the last 6 or so years and I'm grateful for the ability to do it.  That being said, this latest play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Lynn Nottage, was first up on the list.

Inspired by the struggles of actresses like Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen, MEET VERA STARK takes a look at film industry racism, but it does so in some fairly hilarious and unexpected ways.  With many black actresses of 1930's Hollywood being confined to playing the maid or the nanny, Nottage follows her fictitious title character's climb up the Hollywood food chain to modest celebrity through to the 1970's.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SUICIDE, INCORPORATED • R-S Theatrics

So, let's say you've found yourself at the end of your rope and suicide is seemingly your only option.  Well, nobody wants to leave behind a punk-ass note right?  You want to leave a suicide note of import.  A thorough explanation of your distress.  Something your loved ones will remember.  Enter Suicide, Incorporated.

Artistic director Randy Stinebaker discovered this play in Chicago where it premiered at the Gift Theatre.  Playwright Andrew Hinderaker, who wrote this play in memory of a friend, invited Randy to see it, then granted permission for RS Theatrics to present it as the first fully staged reading outside Chicago.  Lucky for us.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS • Max & Louie Productions

Esther Pauline "Eppie" Lederer, better know as Ann Landers, took over the Chicago Sun-Times's 'Ask Ann Landers' column in 1955 after the death of its creator, Ruth Crowley.  During the next 47 years, readers across the country wrote to Ann with questions about everything from sex and marriage, to how to properly hang toilet paper.  Questions you may not feel comfortable discussing with your priest, friends, or even your spouse could be shared with Ann Landers.  Lederer also weighed in on the more complex issues of the day, including politics, abortion and homosexuality.  She became a media celebrity, yet still answered every letter herself, as long as it had a return address, and her column was enjoyed by millions along with their morning cup of coffee.  This 2006 one-woman show, written by David Rambo, and fluently directed by Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, is set in 1975 and was based on Lederer's letters and life stories.

Monday, May 9, 2011

INTELLIGENT LIFE • HotCity Theatre

It's really been an extraterrestrial kind of week!

You guys remember Fox and Scully right?  That is, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the incredibly popular Fox network series, "The X-Files".  Well, much like that show, this play, written by Lauren Dusek Albonico, on the surface looks at the possibility of extraterrestrial life with a little subtext of religion and issues of blind faith thrown in.  This is the first professional production of this play that was a finalist in HotCity's GreenHouse New Plays Festival.

A basement "office" serves as headquarters for a motley crew of Utah alien chasers.  There's Robin (Aarya Sara Locker) -- a dedicated believer, Beau (Scott Schneider) -- her slacker ex-boyfriend, and Gary (Kevin Beyer) -- a recovering alcoholic who has been kicked out of his house, along for the ride.  They all think they may have just hit the mother lode.  Enter Aethan (Parker S. Donovan), a highly intelligent boy who has run away from home.  Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Beau and Gary kidnap this kid, convinced at the time that Aethan is not of this world.  They soon learn that he's not an alien, just a highly intelligent boy with a knack for telekinesis and his own version of pig latin.  These special qualities are more than enough to convince Robin that this kid is the real deal -- a bona fide alien.  The reality of the situation is kept from Robin though, and we're given a peek at just how far people are willing to extend a non-truth, and how little it takes for believers to believe.  Things get more complicated when the disappearance of Aethan hits the news.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

DARK MATTERS • Stray Dog Theatre

How far can "willing suspension of disbelief" take you?  Well, if you see Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's DARK MATTERS at Stray Dog (directed by Justin Been), trust me.  You will find out.

In the mountains of rural Virginia, where the Clearys moved about six months earlier from Washington D.C., Mom has gone missing.  Bridget Cleary (Sarah Cannon) hasn't returned home after going to get groceries, and her husband Michael (David Wassilak) and son Jeremy (Tyler Whiteman) are starting to freak out a little.  Bridget, a writer and amateur astronomer, has been known to wander off into the night to stargaze, but never before it gets dark, and now it's been a couple of days.  The local Sheriff (John Reidy) seems eager to help, and informs Michael that his wife has been seen, but the news of where she's been seen introduces another set of possibilities and questions for her husband.  Okay, I'll just tell you -- she's been seen at this local dive bar, and according to someone who works there, she's also been seen walking off with truckers into the parking lot, or to nearby motels.  There are some family details concerning Dad that also come to the surface after the Sheriff does a little poking around for clues, but they don't do much as far as advancing the story, and just seem to confuse the plot.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

AGNES OF GOD • Avalon Theatre Company

I had only seen the movie version of this play, so when I found out that Avalon was doing it, I couldn't wait to see it.

Okay, so you've got this young nun, Sister Agnes, who's been found passed out in her room at the convent with a dead baby in a wastepaper basket.  And lots of blood.  Psychiatrist Doctor Livingstone is called in to try to figure out whether Sister Agnes is mentally fit enough to stand trial for manslaughter.  The convent's Mother Superior seems to know more than she's willing to admit, but is fiercely protective of Sister Agnes, and insists that Agnes claims to have no memory of what's happened.  Mother Miriam Ruth also believes that the conception of the baby may have been the result of something miraculous.  Well, the cynical Doctor isn't buying it.  Flashbacks of the past events are replayed with a simple turning of a chair, and through scenes with the Doctor directly addressing the audience, we learn about her own issues with the Catholic Church.  We also find out about the turbulent past of Mother Miriam Ruth and Sister Agnes.

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