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NYIT Award Nominees 2017: Off-Off Broadway’s Finest

NYIT logoBelow is the list of nominations for the 13th annual New York Innovative Theater Awards, which celebrates the best of the city’s independent theater  — aka Off-Off Broadway. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on September 25th, 2017.

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE

Matt Harrington, Suzy Jane Hunt, Chelsea Melone, Susan Neuffer, Jacob Perkins, Rob Karma Robinson
In the Room, Kelli Giddish with Slant Theatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Michael Broadhurst, Curzon Dobell, Ken Forman, Benim Foster, Allen McCullough
Men of Tortuga, Living Room theatre

Brittany Allen, Vinie Burrows, Ugo Chukwu, Constance Cooper, Milo Cramer, Fernando Gonzalez, Jonathan Gordon, David Greenspan, Tommy Heleringer, Chris Henry, Veronica Hunsinger-Loe, Hannah Mitchell, Caitlin Morris, Craig Mungavin, Jeanna Phillips, Madeline Wis
Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

Maia Bedford, Aaron Casey, Shabazz Green, Chris Gwynn, Marcie Henderson, Greg Horton, Brandi Knox, Billy Lowrimore, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Sarita Amani Nash, Warren Nolan, Jr., Chinua B. Payne, Tony Perry, Joi Danielle Price, Vanessa Robinson, Alicia Thomas, Cartreze Tucker
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Adam Baritot, Jefferson Behan, Amber Dewey, Samuel Floyd, David Fuller, John Jeffords, Zack Krajnyak, Samantha Kronenfeld, Lorinne Lampert, Tom McDonough, James Neufeld, Chrysten Peddie, Catherine Purcell, Mary Thorne, Tyler Whitaker
Sweeney Todd, Theater 2020

Raquel Chavez, Shannon Condon, Kate Eastman, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, John Hardin, Patrick Harvey, Brian Demar Jones, Joe Jung, Peter Molesworth, Catherine Mullins, Andrew L. Ricci, Sam Richardson, Nora Rickey, Kate Ross, Will Sarratt, Caroline Smith, JT Stocks, Corey Whelihan
The Tempest, Smith Street Stage

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE

Dandy Darkly  
Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth!, Dandy Darkly

William DeMeritt  
Origin Story, Old Sound Room

Mariah MacCarthy
Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People, Caps Lock Theatre

Christine Renee Miller  
Such Nice Shoes, FrokieCo.

Andrew W. Smith  
The Gun Show (part of the Women in Theatre Festival), Project Y Theatre Company

Liz Stanton
The Woman Who Was Me, Convergences Theatre Collective

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE

Jack Horton Gilbert
Marian, Or The True Tale of Robin Hood, Flux Theatre Ensemble

Nico Grelli
The Jamb, Hard Sparks

Michael Kingsbaker
The Red Room, The Shelter

Warren Nolan Jr.
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Jeremy Tardy
Dark Night Bright Stars, Yara Arts Group in association with La MaMa ETC

R. Scott Williams
Boys of a Certain Age, Willow Theatricals

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE

Carla Briscoe
Wine and Spirits, Red Shark Productions

Arlene Chico-Lugo
Evensong, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Ashley Griffin
Hamlet, A.N.O.N. Productions

Meghan E. Jones
The Red Room, The Shelter

Sarah K. Lippmann
Three Sisters, Obvious Volcano in association with Maggie Cino

Moira Stone
Three Sisters, Obvious Volcano in association with Maggie Cino

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE

Christopher Borg
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Retro Productions

Zachary Clark
King Lear, The Secret Theatre

Griffin Hennelly
Koalas are Dicks, Randomly Specific

Zack Krajnyak
Sweeney Todd, Theater 2020

Jacob Perkins
In the Room, Kelli Giddish with Slant Theatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Jason Pintar
The Underpants Godot, The Secret Theatre

Matthew Trumbull
Marian, Or The True Tale of Robin Hood, Flux Theatre Ensemble

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE

Ivanna Cullinan
Three Sisters, Obvious Volcano in association with Maggie Cino

Sharvari Deshpande
The Queen, Aman Soni in association with Juggernaut Theatre Co. and Theater for the New City

MarieLouise Guinier
Evensong, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Hannah Mitchell
Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

Samantha Schiffman
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Gallery Players

Kara Young
In the Event of My Death, Stable Cable Lab Co. in association with IRT Theater

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY / MOVEMENT

Hettie Barnhill
The Cabaret At The End Of The World, Hard Sparks

Tamrin Goldberg
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Lucia Knell
For Annie, The Hearth

Rocio Mendez
Marian, Or The True Tale of Robin Hood, Flux Theatre Ensemble

Sarah Sutliff
Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, Rebel Playhouse

Jeremy Williams
The Woman Who Was Me, Convergences Theatre Collective

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR

Dev Bondarin
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

David Drake
The Jamb, Hard Sparks

Morgan Green
Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

Ashley Griffin
Hamlet, A.N.O.N. Productions

Adam Knight
In the Room, Kelli Giddish with Slant Theatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Emma Miller
For Annie, The Hearth

Jeremy Williams
The Woman Who Was Me, Convergences Theatre Collective

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN

Russ Bockemhuel & Luther Frank
Titus, New York Deaf Theatre

Joe Cantalupo
The Red Room, The Shelter

Catherine Clark
Koalas are Dicks, Randomly Specific

Scot Gianelli
#liberated, The Living Room

Kate Jaworski
The Woman Who Was Me, Convergences Theatre Collective

Marika Kent
Now is the Time, Little Lord in association with Abrons Arts Center

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN

Joseph Blaha
The Queen, Aman Soni in association with Juggernaut Theatre Co. and Theater for the New City

Karen Boyer
Now is the Time, Little Lord in association with Abrons Arts Center

Izzy Fields
Anais Nin Goes to Hell, Manhattan Theatre Works (MTWorks) in association with Goode Productions

Jason E Frey
Hedda (Gabler), Wandering Bark Theatre Co.

Emily Oliveira
Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time,
New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

Jeannipher Pacheco
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Emily Rose Parman
Much Ado About Nothing, Hudson Warehouse

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN

Christopher Bowser
The Red Room, The Shelter

Jack and Rebecca Cunningham
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Retro Productions

Meg McGuigan
Koalas are Dicks, Randomly Specific

Lawrence E. Moten III
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Frank Oliva
#liberated, The Living Room

Reid Thompson
Empathitrax, Colt Coeur

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN

Aidan Meyer
The Red Room, The Shelter

Matt Otto
Empathitrax, Colt Coeur

John Salutz
The Cabaret At The End Of The World, Hard Sparks

Daniel Steffey
Titus, New York Deaf Theatre

Jeanne Travis
The City that Cried Wolf, State of Play Productions Inc

Emma Wilk
Raisin, Astoria Performing Arts Center

OUTSTANDING INNOVATIVE DESIGN

Lianne Arnold
for Projection Design
Such Nice Shoes, FrokieCo.

David Bengali, John Erickson, Reid Farrington, Jorge Garcia-Spitz, David Mauro, Dan Monceaux, Leegrid Stevens
for Video Design & Animation
The Dudleys!, Loading Dock Theatre Company

Samantha Blain, Kristopher Dean, Claron Hayden, Casey Scott Leach, Carli Rhoades, Mikayla Stanley
for Puppets
Whales, Hit The Lights! Theatre Co.

Russ Bockemhuel & Luther Frank
for Video Design
Titus, New York Deaf Theatre

Karen Boyer
for Puppets
Now is the Time, Little Lord in association with Abrons Arts Center

Sara Slagle
for properties
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Retro Productions

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC

Melody Bates & Rebecca Hart
The Cabaret At The End Of The World, Hard Sparks

Samantha Blain, Kristopher Dean, Claron Hayden, Casey Scott Leach, Carli Rhoades, Mikayla Stanley
Whales, Hit The Lights! Theatre Co.

Rachel Blumberg, Dandy Darkly, Bryce Edwards & Adam Tendler
Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth!, Dandy Darkly

Deepali Gupta
Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time, New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

Julian Kytasty
Dark Night Bright Stars, Yara Arts Group in association with La MaMa ETC

Daniel Steffey
Titus, New York Deaf Theatre

Clara Strauch
The Tempest, Smith Street Stage

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL SHORT SCRIPT

Ryan King
Antares Returning a part of The Spring Fling: Rebound, F*It Club

Dan Moyer
All Is Bright a part of The Spring Fling: Rebound, F*It Club

Charlie O’Leary
Precious Body a part of Landmarks & TRANSformations, Project Y Theatre Company

Junshin Soga
One Fine Day, Junshin Soga

Christopher G. Ulloth
Bi-Cycle a part of Landmarks & TRANSformations, Project Y Theatre Company

Kathleen Warnock
How to Get Married in 5 Steps Over 17 Years a part of
Landmarks & TRANSformations, Project Y Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL FULL-LENGTH SCRIPT

Melody Bates
The Cabaret At The End Of The World, Hard Sparks

William DeMeritt & Elia Monte-Brown
Origin Story, Old Sound Room

Lawrence Dial
In the Room, Kelli Giddish with Slant Theatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Mariah MacCarthy
Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People, Caps Lock Theatre

Morgan McGuire
The Red Room, The Shelter

Aditya Rawal
The Queen, Aman Soni in association with Juggernaut Theatre Co. and Theater for the New City

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ART PRODUCTION

Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth!
Dandy Darkly

The Infinite Wrench
New York Neo-Futurists

Kevin!!!!
Recent Cutbacks

Landmarks & TRANSformations
Project Y Theatre Company

Now is the Time
Little Lord in association with Abrons Arts Center

Rules
The New Stage Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
The Secret Theatre

The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit
The Workshop Theater

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth
Rebel Playhouse

Ragtime
The Gallery Players

Raisin
Astoria Performing Arts Center

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
The Gallery Players

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY

Hamlet
A.N.O.N. Productions

King Lear
The Secret Theatre

And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little
Retro Productions

Much Ado About Nothing
Hudson Warehouse

The Tempest
Smith Street Stage

Three Sisters
Obvious Volcano in association with Maggie Cino

OUTSTANDING PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

In the Room
Kelli Giddish with Slant Theatre Project, in association with Wheelhouse Theater Company

Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time
New Saloon Theater Co. in association with Emily Kaplan & Immediate Medium

The Red Room
The Shelter

The Underpants Godot
The Secret Theatre

The Woman Who Was Me
Convergences Theatre Collective

Whales
Hit The Lights! Theatre Co.

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And She Would Stand Like This Review: LGBTQ House of Euripides, Snap

“Greek tragedy meets Harlem ball scene. Fantastic,” RuPaul Tweeted succinctly after seeing “And She Would Stand Like This.” The Harlem-based Movement theater company’s adaptation of Euripides’ “The Trojan Women,” which has opened at A.R.T./NY, is inspired by “Paris is Burning,” the 1990 film documentary by Jennie Livingston that chronicled the elaborate culture of drag balls by LGBTQ+ people of color in the 1980s.

And so the show begins with the fierce members of the House of Hecuba bedecked in fabulous attire posing down a runway one by one to pulsating house music, flashing disco lights, and deafening whoops and applause from the audience.

After that prologue, the runway becomes a hospital waiting room and the dancers, characters in an updated tragedy. In Euripides’ play, the Greeks have conquered Troy, killed the men, and imprisoned the Trojan women, who await further atrocities. In playwright Harrison David Rivers’ adaptation, the Greek killers have been replaced by an unnamed disease.

In Euripides’ play, Talthybius is a herald informing the dethroned Queen Hecuba what the Greeks will do to her and her children – death or enslavement. In Rivers’ adaptation, Talthybius (Reggie D. White) is a doctor delivering unwanted diagnoses.

The Greek chorus are a group of LGBTQ+ people of color whom Hecuba (Julienne Brown), once queen of the ball, had taken under wing. They are given the names Baby, Miss Scott, and Grace. They tell stories of their childhood.

Each of the ten characters in “And She Would Stand Like This” correspond in more or less clever ways to the characters in “The Trojan Women,” some more of a stretch than others. Menelaus, King of Sparta, becomes Elena (Florencia Lozano), the hospital’s administrator – and a woman who knew Hecuba before she transitioned to a woman. In Euripides, Menalaus was the husband of Helen, the “face to launch a thousand ships.” Here, the high-heeled Elena is mother to Honesto (Michael-Anthony Souza) who has a second identity, unknown to his mother…as Helen.

In his adaptation, Rivers gives implicit respect to his characters — poor, queer New Yorkers of color – by placing them in a classic tragedy that for 2,500 years has been populated by gods and goddesses, kings and queens. Director David Mendizabal has assembled a cast that does justice to Rivers’ conceit; some of the performers are themselves trans, all are people of color. Stand-outs include the three members of the Greek chorus — Darby Davis, Tamara Williams and Cornelius Davidson — who werk it to Kia LeBeija’s vibrant choreography in the prologue and then tell Rivers’ stories with a simplicity that makes them all the more moving. The star of the show is Julienne “Mizz June” Brown, who persuasively carries the weight of Hecuba on her shoulders. It’s refreshing to see such characters, and such performers, on a New York stage.

The fusion of Ancient Greece with 1980s Harlem doesn’t always play well. It takes some adjustment to go from the high-energy prologue to the staid pace of the tragedy. And the mix of dictions can be jarring. One moment Hecuba proclaims: “I see the work of gods who pile tower-high the pride of those who were nothing, and dash present grandeur down.” Another moment, she says: “A bitch can’t catch a motherfucking break!”

There is too much of the high diction, which can sound like a bad translation, and at the same time too much shouting. The most striking moments are told quietly and plain. Baby (Cornelius Davidson) tells us he got his nickname from his mother, who would hold his head between her hands and say “Make sure you don’t lose this”; she would put her ears to his heart and say “Make sure you listen to it beat, because it’ll always tell you the truth.”; she would grab his penis in the tub and say “This ain’t no weapon. Your Daddy ain’t figured that out yet.”

And occasionally, the mix of the Ancient and modern, the Queens and queens, feels just right:

“Have you ever noticed how a word begins to lose all meaning when it is said over and over again?” all three members of the chorus say in unison.
Grace: “A word like grief.”

Baby: “Grief.”
Miss Scott: “Grief.”

All: “Grief.

Grief

Grief

What a funny sounding word.”

 

And She Would Stand Like This

A.R.T./NY Theatres

Written by Harrison David Rivers

Directed by David Mendizabal

Choreographed by Kia LaBeija

 

Set Designer: Paul Tate DePoo III

Lighting Designer: Brian Tovar

Costume Designer: Anitra Michelle

Sound Designer: Sinan Refik Zafar

DJ/Prologue Composer: Byrell the Great

Cast: Julienne “Mizz June” Brown as Hecuba, Cornelius Davidson as Baby, Cherrye J. Davis as Andromache, Darby Davis as Miss Scott, Florencia Lozano as Elena, Ashton Muñiz as Cassandra, Michael-Anthony Souza as Honesto/Helen, Dasan Turner as Astyanax, Reggie D. White as Talythybius, and Tamara Williams as Grace.

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $20-$25. “A minimum of 15 tickets per performance will be pay-what-you-can.”

“And She Would Stand Like This” is on stage through  August 6th, 2017

 

To T or Not To T Review: D’Lo’s Tamil Transgender Adventure

In “To T or Not To T,” a fascinating and funny autobiographical monologue, the performer known as D’Lo impersonates his father giving a speech at D’Lo’s wedding ceremony:

“Even though I was sad that D’Lo didn’t become a doctor, I told him that I wanted him to do whatever he liked. I didn’t know becoming a man was part of his plan.”

D’Lo is a transgender Tamil Sri Lankan-American artist, and he explores each of those identities in “To T or Not to T” (the T in the title referring to the taking of testosterone), the 70-minute show at Dixon Place that opens the 26th annual Hot Festival , “the world’s longest-running LGBT festival.”

Entering the stage bouncing on a trampoline, then jumping on a pogo stick, he offers a whirlwind tour of a tomboy childhood spent among the Sri Lankan immigrant community of Lancaster, California; a lesbian adolescence as an undergraduate at UCLA; and adult life as a transitioning trans man and a performer.

Along the way, backed by numerous projections, he portrays some dozen characters, none more hilariously than his Appa, his father, and offers insights about both queer and Sri Lankan immigrant culture

At one point, he describes when as a child one of his “aunties” executed “the immigrant grab, where her fingers are pressed up on the fat of my inner arm and her thumb is piercing that muscle you don’t use but hurts like a bitch when you press it.”

Much later, a butch lesbian academic says to the transitioning D’Lo: “We’re losing all you young studs and butches. You all are becoming the worst thing – men.”

To which D’Lo replies: “We’re still feminists….And isn’t feminist men what you wished existed?”

D’Lo is an appealing performer and a deft humorist, and “To T or Not To T” is full of wonderful moments. But the show would have benefited from both a director and a dramaturge. When he re-enacts a conversation with a childhood friend, D’Lo cleverly uses a prop that in one character’s hands is a half-eaten sandwich, and in the other, turned upright, is a milk carton. But it’s easy to get lost in many of the other scenes involving dialogue between multiple characters.

In D’Lo’s urge to share the fullness of his life with us, he gives short shrift to some obviously important moments, and the show winds up feeling insufficiently focused. On some level, D’Lo seems aware of this, but makes it more exasperating by referring to a previous show of his that apparently told more about the death of his sister in an airplane crash, and to a future show that will apparently focus on his courtship and marriage to Anjana,which is only briefly mentioned in the current show.

judging by the wildly enthusiastic audience response at Dixon Place, D’Lo has enough fans to accept what one might call the transitional nature of “To T or Not To T.” As D’Lo astutely observes: “There is no such things as ‘transitioned.’ Trans or not trans, we’re all transitioning, just some of our transitions include surgeries.”

 

To T or Not To T will be on stage at Dixon Place Fridays and Saturdays through July 22, 2017

 

Seeing You Review: Immersive Theater About World War II and the Bomb

 

Near the end of “Seeing You,” a dance and theater piece about World War II written and co-directed by Randy Weiner (a producer of both Sleep No More  and Queen of the Night ), I learned first-hand the difference between this kind of immersive theater and a Broadway musical. Three star-spangled gals had just finished their rendition of the Andrew Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” as part of a USO show for the GIs, when one of the entertainers shot off a confetti cannon. In a Broadway musical, the confetti would have been shot above the orchestra seats, thus showering down on the theatergoers who had paid the most for their tickets. In “Seeing You,” it was shot straight at me, from just a few feet away. (It took hours to get rid of all the tiny gold and silver strips.)

This assault by confetti, I guess, counts as a uniquely personal experience, and thus fulfills Element 4 of the six essential elements in any good immersive theater. I should point out that I’m the only one who says good immersive theater requires six elements, a theory I developed after attending many such shows, and which I expressed in a couple of essays (Immersive Theater, Defined, and Rethinking Immersive Theater.) There are some indications that my theory still needs some work, but let’s apply the six elements to “Seeing You,” a show that may not be the top of the line in the genre, but that fans of immersive theater would surely find worthwhile.

  1. Immersive theater creates a physical environment that differs from a traditional theater. 

“Seeing You” takes over a huge warehouse-like space in a building that hugs the 14th Street entrance to the High Line, in the once-rough, now-chic Meatmarket District.

There is no seating. After we were given dog tags (mine was stamped with:”Heaven, Hell or Hoboken”), we were instructed to stay silent unless one of the 14 cast members speaks to us. Then we were let loose to move around for 90 minutes, at first individually on our own, visiting a choice of vignettes involving one or two characters, but as the show progressed, we were shepherded around as a group.

The closest to traditional theatrical experience were the brief, intermittent stage shows for the troops, and even then the troops had to stand.

  1. Immersive theater tends to stimulate all five senses—sight and sound, as with conventional theatre pieces, but also touch, and frequently taste, and even smell.

No food in this show, but definitely touch, and even, to a certain extent, smell – the smell of the smoke accompanying the atom bomb at the finale.

It’s worth noting that the underscoring for “Seeing You” was mostly gentle and tuneful, not the pounding rock and Cage-like repetition that accompanies many immersive theater. The title, after all, comes from the song of the period, “I’ll Be Seeing You (in all the old familiar places),” and there is a retro quality to the music and some of the dancing. The choreographer is co-director Ryan Heffington, who choreographed Sia’s “Chandelier” video, which has been viewed on Vimeo more than 1.6 billion times.

 

  1. The best of these immersive shows double as an art installation and hands-on museum.

 

This is not the case with “Seeing You.” There are no crowded desks to riffle through or cluttered bulletin boards, and only a few war-time posters on the wall. Set designer Desi Santiago’s approach is more minimal, focusing on mood, with the inestimable help of lighting designer Jamie Roderick. The vignettes are acted out in lit playing spaces surrounded by darkness and appointed with a table or a chair if anything at all. There are, however, a few vivid sets that pop up during climactic moments – including two in the photographs above: the red cross with the tubes descended from it represents a blood bank or nursing station. The backdrop of the barely clad young men is a blackboard that presumably is filled with plans for making the atom bomb.

 

  1. Immersive shows make individual audience members feel as if they have had a uniquely personal experience, that they are not just part of the crowd.

 

Long before the scene with the confetti blast, a nurse (Heather Lang) made me stick out my tongue, and then push down on her arms with my own, so that she could feel my “resistance.” (Resistance to being singled out was exactly what I was feeling.) Then, apparently satisfied that I was sufficiently healthy, she recruited me to stand in the middle of the entire group and catch all the large packets of blood being tossed my way, and flip them into a box held by another nurse.

 

  1. At the same time, there is always an aspect of an immersive show that emphasizes the social, through playful interaction or inexplicable tasks, often in small groups.

 

My interaction with the nurse was part of a group activity that engaged half of the theatergoers. While we were involved in the blood drive, the other half of the theatergoers had been drafted into basic training.

 

  1. For immersive theatre to work, in my view, a show has to have a story to tell—and it has to have respect for that story.

 

I had second thoughts about this element when I reviewed Inside the Wild Heart, an immersive piece about the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, which used her texts but didn’t really tell a story. This fit in with her writing, which is concerned with sensations, epiphanies, rather than conventional plots. I had thought that the success of Sleep No More and Then She Fell were in part because we knew the stories (Macbeth and Alice in Wonderland respectively) in advance, and so could follow what was happening no matter how mystical or mute the performers.

The broad outline of the story in “Seeing You” is clear enough: We are introduced to the anxious people of Hoboken, New Jersey, at the outset of World War II and then we follow them through the duration of the war until the decision to drop the atom bomb.   Some of the characters are recognizable throughout the piece, such as Grace (Eriko Jimbo), a Japanese-American artist who we learn is in a long-distance relationship with a GI (Aaron Dalla Villa) and who eventually experiences racial discrimination. Much of “Seeing You” though is a mosaic over time of isolated moments, most of them expressed primarily in dance, some memorably. There is a silent erotic dance, for example, between two soldiers (Jesse Kovarsky and Nicholas Ranauro.) A woman comes upon the scene, and one of the men sobs into her arms. Later, there is a shadow play showing men in combat, with some of these silhouettes turned into giants pinching off the heads of their adversaries, surreal and haunting.

There may be stretches of time during “Seeing You” that seem nothing more than a muddle, even for the most experienced theatergoer (my face-saving way of saying I got confused.)

But the beauty of immersive theater — from the point of view of its creators anyway — is that theatergoers have only themselves to blame for such lapses in clarity or momentum. If only I had followed a different character, or gotten into the other group, or had a greater understanding of modern dance

At one point, a Congressman (Ted Hannan) asks the assembled to write on a small slip of paper how many Japanese civilians would each of us be willing to sacrifice to save a million American lives? (That was reportedly the calculation that President Truman faced when he decided to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) It is the sort of moment not as easily accomplished in any other genre of theater. If there was no follow-through (we weren’t called on to state and defend our choices; there was no tally, etc.), it was still the kind of “audience participation” – involving not just our bodies but our minds – that holds great promise for the evolution of immersive theater.

Seeing You

450 West 14th Street

Created and directed by Randy Weiner and Ryan Heffington

Choreography by Ryan Heffington, production and costume design by Desi Santiago, lighting design by Jamie Roderick, sound design by Shannon Staton

Cast: Jesse Kovarsky, Heather Lang, Jodi McFadden, Zach McNally, Lauren Cox, Aaron Dalla Villa, Christopher Grant, Ted Hannan, Alison Ingelstrom, Eriko Jimbo, Maija Knapp, Nicholas Ranauro, Jay Stuart and Lauren Yalango-Grant

Running time: 90 minutes

Tickets: $55 to $100 General Admission

“Seeing You” is scheduled to run through August 31, 2017.

2017 Obie Awards: Oslo, Band’s Visit, Underground Railroad

Obies logo

Oslo and The Band’s Visit got lots of love at the 62nd Annual Obie Awards, as these two shows have gotten throughout the theater award season. But they had lots of company, with Underground Railroad Game at Are Nova sharing with Oslo the Best New American Theatre Work, a prize usually given just to one theater piece.

The complete list of 2017 Obie Awards below:

Best New American Theatre Work ($500 prize each) 

Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard, Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova)
J.T. Rogers, Oslo (Lincoln Center Theater)

Playwriting

Christopher Chen, Caught (The Play Company at La MaMa)
Lynn Nottage, Sweat (The Public Theater)

Musical Theater

Itamar Moses (book) and David Yazbek (music & lyrics), The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company)

Directing

Arin Arbus, The Skin of Our Teeth (Theatre for a New Audience)
Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Signature Theatre Company)
David Cromer, The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company)
Jack Cummings III, Picnic (Transport Group)
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent (Vineyard Theatre)

Ensemble

Bartlett Sher (director) and the cast of Oslo (Lincoln Center Theater) Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Jefferson Mays, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, Joseph Siravo, T. Ryder Smith

Lila Neugebauer (director) and the cast of The Wolves (The Playwrights Realm) Kate Arrington, Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, Susannah Perkins

Performance

Matthew Broderick, Evening at the Talk House (The New Group) and Shining City
(Irish Repertory Theatre)
Bobby Cannavale, The Hairy Ape (Park Avenue Armory)
Kevin Geer, Sustained Excellence [in memoriam]
Kecia Lewis, Marie and Rosetta (Atlantic Theater Company) and The Skin of Our Teeth (Theatre for a New Audience)
Heather MacRae, Come Back, Little Sheba (Transport Group)
Amy Ryan, Love, Love, Love (Roundabout Theatre Company)
Pete Simpson, Sustained Excellence
Michael Urie, Homos, or Everyone in America (Labyrinth Theater)

Design

Riccardo Hernandez, Sustained Excellence of Set Design
Dane Laffrey, Sustained Excellence of Set and Costume Design
Jared Mezzocchi, Projection Design, Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club)
Ryan Rumery, Sustained Excellence of Sound Design
Scott Zielinski, Sustained Excellence of Lighting Design

Special Citations

Anna Deavere Smith, Notes from the Field (Second Stage Theater)
Taylor Mac, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

Obie Grants ($4,000 prize each)

Irish Repertory Theatre
Pearl Theatre Company
The Playwrights Realm

Ross Wetzsteon Award ($3,000 prize)

Theatre for a New Audience

Lifetime Achievement Award

Paula Vogel

The Obie Award judges panel for this season include Village Voice columnist and
longtime Chair of the Obie Judges Michael Feingold, Obie and Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright Ayad Akhtar, Entertainment Weekly theater critic Melissa Rose Bernardo,
Obie-winning actor-singer Darius de Haas, Village Voice theater critic Miriam Felton Dansky, Obie-winning actress Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Obie-winning actress J.
Smith Cameron,

April 2017 NY Theater Openings

The 14 shows opening on Broadway in April — one-third of all the shows for the entire Broadway season — include seven musicals and seven plays. There are two hit plays Off-Broadway transferring to the Great White Way, four revivals, four musicals based on movies. and a sequel to a play written 138 years ago. The stars on stage include Bette Midler, Allison Janney, Kevin Kline, Phillipa Soo and Adam Chaler-Berat, Laurie Metcalf, Christian Borle, Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon.

And all that’s just on Broadway. There are almost a dozen more intriguing shows Off-Broadway and Off Off Broadway opening in the month of April.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: RedOff Broadway: Purple or BlueOff Off Broadway: Green.

To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

APRIL 2

The Play That Goes Wrong

play-that-goes-wrong-logoBroadway Theater: Lyceum
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Director: Mark Bell
Cast: Matthew Cavendish, Bryony Corrigan, Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Zamit.
Olivier Award-winning comedy about an amateur university production that goes hopelessly awry

Twitter: @BwayGoesWrong

Buy tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong

APRIL 3

Amelie

amelie-logoBroadway Theater: Walter Kerr
Written by Dan Messé (music), Nathan Tyson (lyrics), Craig Lucas (book)
Director: Pam MacKinnon
Cast: Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat
A musical adaptation of the  2001 film, which starred Audrey Tautou as a shy waitress with a wild imagination.

@AmelieBroadway

Buy tickets to Amelie

APRIL 4

Daniel’s Husband (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

In this play by Michael McKeever, Daniel longs to be married and Mitchell does not.  A turn of events forces both men to face the consequences of their opposing views, and they learn that they are living in a world where fundamental rights aren’t always so fundamental

The Lightning Thief (MCC at Lortel)

A stage adaptation of the best-selling novel by Rick Riordan. The Greek gods are real, and they’re ruining Percy Jackson’s life. As a son of Poseidon, Percy has newly discovered powers he can’t control, monsters on his trail, and he is on an epic quest to find Zeus’s lightning bolt and prevent a war between the gods

APRIL 5

Present Laughter

present-laughter-logoBroadway Theater: St. James

Playwright: Noël Coward
Director: Moritz von Suelpnagel
Cast: Kevin Kline

Revival of the 1940s comedy about the tribulations of a popular matinee idol.

@laughteronbway

Buy tickets to Present Laughter

 

Gently Down The Stream (Public Theater)

In this play by Martin Sherman (Bent, The Boy From Oz), Harvey Fierstein portray Beau, an expatriate pianist living in London, who meets the younger Rufus, an eccentric young lawyer, at the dawn of the Internet dating revolution.

 

APRIL 6

War Paint

war-paint-logo
Theater: Nederlander
Writers: Book by Doug Wright; music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie
Director: Michael Grief; choreographer: Christopher Gattelli
Cast: Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole
Musical based on the rivalry of cosmetics titans Helena Rubenstein (LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Ebersole)

 

@warpaintmusical

Buy tickets to War Paint

APRIL 9

The Profane (Playwrights Horizons)

In this play by Zayd Dohrn, Raif Almedin is a first-generation immigrant who prides himself on his modern, enlightened views. But when his daughter falls for the son of a conservative Muslim family in White Plains, he discovers the threshold of his tolerance.

APRIL 12

In and Of Itself (Daryl Roth Theater)

Created and performed by magician Derek DelGaudio: ” a modern allegory that explores new ways of seeing the unseeable, as memories from yesterday are blended with inexplicable events witnessed today and secrets imagined for tomorrow…”

oslo-logo

APRIL 13

Oslo

Broadway Theater: Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center
Playwright: J.T. Rogers
Director: Bartlett Sher
Cast: Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Jefferson Mays and Daniel Oreskes
Transfer of Lincoln Center Theater’s Off-Broadway production of the play about the top-secret, high-level meetings between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that culminated in the signing of the historic 1993 Oslo Accords.

My review of “Oslo” Off-Broadway

 

@LCTheater

Buy tickets to Oslo

APRIL 17

 Groundhog Day

groundhog-day-logoBroadway Theater: August Wilson
Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, book by Danny Rubin
Director: Matthew Warchus
Cast: Andy Karl
A musical adaptation of the 1993 Bill Murray film about a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. Will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?

 

@Groundhogdaybwy

Buy tickets to Groundhog Day

APRIL 18

Indecent


Playwright: Paula Vogel
Director: Rebecca Taichman

A behind-the-scenes look at the true story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” — “a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel,” in part because of its lesbian lovers.

My review of Indecent Off-Broadway

 

@IndecentBway

Buy tickets to Indecent

Rebel in the Soul (Irish Rep)

Larry Kirwan’s play examines the opposition by the Irish party leader and the Archbishop of Dublin to Dr. Noel Browne, who was elected to the Irish Parliament in 1948 with the aim of ridding Ireland of tuberculosis. “The ensuing crisis  brought down the government and changed Irish life forever.”

APRIL 19

The Little Foxes

Theater: MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman
Playwright: Lillian Hellman
Director: Daniel Sullivan
Cast: Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon

The fifth Broadway production of the 1930 drama about a ruthless Southern belle.

Buy tickets to The Little Foxes

 APRIL 20

Hello, Dolly

Hello Dolly logoBroadway Theater: Shubert
Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart
Director: Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle
Cast: Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce

Tweeter feed: @HelloDollyBway

The fifth Broadway production of the 1964 musical about a matchmaker who sets out to find a match for herself at the turn of the 20th century.

Buy tickets to Hello, Dolly

Pressing Matters (Theatre Row)

Six quirky stories by Jennifer Jasper

APRIL 22

The Assignment (ART/NY)

A play by Camilo Almonacid based on the friendship between a woman who founded a youth violence prevention program after her teenage son was murdered by street violence, and a man who found education and rehabilitation while serving 17 years in prison for manslaughter.

 APRIL 23

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory logoBroadway Theater: Lunt-Fontanne
Written by David Greig (book), Marc Shaiman (music & lyrics), Scott Wittman (lyrics), Roald Dahl (novel)
Director: Jack O’Brien
Cast: Christian Borle as Willy Wonka
When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he’s always dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.

 

Buy tickets to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

APRIL 24

Anastasia

Broadway Theater: Broadhurst
Music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Terrence McNally
Director: Darko Tresnjak
Cast: Christy Altomare, Derek Klana, Ramin Karimloo, Mary Beth Peil, John Bolton, and Caroline O’Connor
Inspired by the 1997 film about a young woman who may be the last surviving member of the Russian royal family. The score includes songs from the movie, including the Oscar- nominated “Journey to the Past,” plus an entirely new score from the Tony Award-winning team.

@AnastasiaBway

Buy tickets to Anastasia

APRIL 25

Six Degrees of Separation

Broadway Theater: Barrymore
Playwright: John Guare
Director: Trip Cullman
Cast: Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey,   Corey Hawkins
Revival of the 1990 drama about a young con man who is embraced by wealthy New Yorkers after passing himself off as Sidney Poitier’s son.

@SixDegreesBway

Buy tickets to Six Degrees of Separation

APRIL 26

Bandstand

bandstand-logoTheater: Bernard Jacobs
Music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker
Director/Choreographer: Andy Blankenbuhler
Cast: Laura Osnes and Corey Cott
This “big-band musical” chronicles a mismatched band of WWII veterans who join forces to compete in a radio contest.

@BandstandBway

Buy tickets to Bandstand

 

Her Opponent (Jerry Orbach)

A re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 presidential
debates with gender-reversed casting.

April 27

A Doll’s House, Part 2

a-dolls-house-logoTheater: Golden
First Preview: April 1, 2017
Opening: April 27, 2017
Playwright: Lucas Hnath
Director: Sam Gold
Cast: Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad.
Sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s play, following up after Nora has left her husband and children.

Buy tickets to A Doll’s House, Part 2

@DollsHousePart2

February 2017 NY Theater Openings

Broadway this month will see the opening of two starry musical  revivals by two of the reigning composers of musical theater — Stephen Sondheim (86) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (68) — while Off-Broadway pays tribute to Jerry Herman (85) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950), and presents a new musical by John Kander (89.)

Meanwhile, Off-Off Broadway is showcasing the work of one of New York’s hottest musical composers, Dave Malloy (41), best-known for the hit Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812., which also started Off-Off-Broadway.

The month will also see the opening of new plays by (among others) Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, David Mamet,  Tanya Saracho,and  Will Eno, and new productions of plays by Tracy Letts and Wallace Shawn.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

February 1

georgie-for-calendar

Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose (Davenport)

Ed Dixon recounts how he came to know and admire character actor George Rose, who acted with such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn and Noel Coward.

February 8

jonah-and-otto

Jonah and Otto (Lost Tribe at Theater Row)

Over the course of a single day, two men  – one 26, the other 62; different in every way – share their solitude and unfold their secrets.

fade-for-calendar

Fade (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

A comedy by Tanya Saracho about the burgeoning friendship between Lucia and Abel, two Latinos of Mexican descent working at a ruthless Hollywood studio

big-river-poster-2

Big River (Encores at City Center)

The Encores concert version of the Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s novel “Huck Finn.”

February 9

The Mother of Invention (Abingdon at June Havoc)

James Lecesne’s unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Sunset Boulevard (Palace Theatre)

Glenn Close stars in a revival of the 1994 musical based on the 1950 Billy Wilder movie about a faded Hollywood silent film goddess who tries to make one last comeback. This production was seen in a spring 2016 revival in London.

object-lesson-for-calendar

The Object Lesson (New York Theatre Workshop)

In what’s becoming its signature activity, NYTW has physically transformed their theater once again, this time turning it into a giant storage facility.  allowing audiences to roam and poke through the clutter.

February 10

crackskull-row-for-calendar

Crackskull Row ( Irish Rep)

Rasher Moorigan has a secret that only his mother knows. Tonight  – for the first time in over thirty years – mother and son spend May Eve together in a wreck of a house down the backlanes of Dublin

February 12

kurt-weill

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: (York)

Kurt Weill’s theater songs are presented in the York’s “Musical in Muftis” series (a short run), in a blend of music and story, spanning twenty years, from Von Hindenburg and Hitler in Germany to Roosevelt and Truman in the U.S.

beardoscream

Beardo (Pipeline)

Beardo, which takes place in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint,  is a “Russian indie rock musical” with music by Dave Malloy ( Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.) “This New York premiere explodes the mad inner workings of Rasputin, the infamous mystic who sexed his way to the fall of the Russian monarchy.”

Ring Twice For Miranda (NY City Center Stage II)

A man known only as Sir rules with a vengeance, but it’s Miranda, a chambermaid, who adds intrigue to his life. When Elliot, the butler, is fired, she flees with him in defiance onto the frightening streets. All must soon make critical decisions with imperfect facts to guide them, since little in their world is as it appears.

February 15

man-from-nebraska-for-calendar

Man From Nebraska (Second Stage)

A revival of the play by Tracey Letts, directed by David Cromer, starring Reed Birney (The Humans) as Ken, a middle aged man from Nebraska, who suddenly finds he’s lost his faith, along with his sense of purpose. He goes on a wild adventure to find it. Along the way he encounters a world vastly different from his own, filled with chance meetings and romantic encounters that shake him to the core.

February 16

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Evening at the Talk House (New Group at  Signature)

The New Group at Signature) by Wallace Shawn with Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker.  Shawn takes on theater itself with this acerbic and stealth political comedy about theater artists who  have a reunion at their old hangout, the Talk House, to reminisce about the show they made a decade ago — except most are no longer theater artists. There’s been “a decline in the theatergoing impulse.”

February 19

On The Exhale (Roundabout)

A play by Martin Zimmerman (Netflix’s Narcos) starring Marin Ireland as a liberal college professor inexplicably drawn to a weapon used in a senseless act of violence.

February 21

everybody-for-calendar

Everybody (Signature)

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s new play is a modern version of Everyman, a famous morality play about Christian salvation from the 15th century. I have no idea what he’s doing with it, but he was very clever in a play called Octoroon, which was his take on an 19th century melodrama, and both provocative and thoughtful in his play Gloria

February 22

If I Forget (Roundabout)

A new play by Steven Levenson (“The Language of Trees,” “The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin”) that tells the story of the bickering reunion of liberal Jewish studies professor Michael Fischer with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday shortly before 9/11.

DC production of Kid Victory

DC production of Kid Victory

Kid Victory (Vineyard)

The latest collaboration between John Kander and Greg Pierce. “Seventeen-year-old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance.”

February 23

City Center

Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson Theater)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford star in this
transfer of the New York City Center‘s fall 2016 concert version of the Pulitzer-winning Sondheim and Lapine 1984 musical about pointillist painter George Seurat. It marks the re-launching of the Hudson Theater (built in 1903) as the 41st Broadway house.

Linda (MTC at City Center)

Penelope Skinner’s play is about a successful woman whose pitch to change the way the world looks at women of a certain age winds up making her fight for her own relevance.

February 24

theviewupstairsforcalendar

The View UpStairs (Lynn Redgrave Theater)

A young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space that was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ’70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

February 26

Dear World (York)

Tyne Daly stars in the York’s “Musical in Mufti” (short run) of Jerry Herman’s musical based on the Madwoman of Chaillot.

February 27

Wakey, Wakey (Signature)

Will Eno’s play “challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures.” The downtown playwright  who made his Broadway debut recently with the abstruse The Realistic Joneses has his admirers; I’m not yet one of them.

The Penitent (Atlantic)

A new play by David Mamet. “A renowned psychiatrist is asked to testify on behalf of a young patient. When he refuses, his career, ethics and faith are thrown into question.”

Nibbler (The Amoralists at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre)

A play by Ken Urban that takes place in the summer of 1992 in Medford, New Jersey, when Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school.  But then the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, and their lives are forever changed

bull_in-a-china-shop

Bull In A China Shop (LCT)

A comedy by Bryna Turner that follows Mary Woolley and her partner Jeannette Marks through 40 years in a New England seminary as they reform and revolutionize women’s education at the height of the suffrage movement.

February 28

A Gravediggger’s Lullaby (TACT at Theatre Row)

A new play by Jeff Talbott about the life of Baylen, an honest, hard-working gravedigger who sweats and bleeds to support his small family

Lula Del Ray Review: Manual Cinema Made on Stage Before Our Eyes

In this opening show at this year’s Under the Radar festival, a Chicago-based theater company with the completely apt name of Manual Cinema allows the audience at the Public Theater to watch a silent film about a lonely, star-gazing girl in the American Southwest of the 1950’s, and simultaneously to watch the making of that film.

The busy cast and crew of Manual Cinema employ the kind of overhead projectors familiar to anyone who has attended public school for a shadow puppet show that uses  cardboard cutouts, paper patterns, and two live actresses, to tell the story of Lula Del Ray. A teenager living alone with her mother in a trailer on a vast field of satellite dishes in the middle of the desert, Lula develops two obsessions – the possibility of space travel, and a country music duo she hears on her scratchy radio, the Baden Brothers.

 

After a fight with her mother, she runs away from home to the big city to find the Baden Brothers. There, she finds a telephone book in a phone booth (clear signs this is a fairy tale of olden times), and visits the address of every “Baden” in it, with no success. Finally, she sees a sign that they are performing at a concert venue. But the concert is sold out. So she goes to the roof, and enters the theater’s duct system, crawling through the tunnel until she spies her idols in their dressing room – discovering they are no more real than…the cardboard cutouts used to depict them. Despite the disappointment, “Lula Del Ray” ends happily, Lula’s other obsession paying off in the long run.

The story is in places lovely and funny and touching, but it is not the reason “Lula Del Ray” has traveled the festival circuit for five years. I’m not sure the story of “Lula Del Ray” would work as a regular film, surely not as a regular silent film, despite the delightful accompaniment by an array of sound effects, and an original score for guitar, cello, and percussion.

The essential charm of the show rests in the marvel of ingenuity on display, the rushing around of the actors and puppeteers and… overhead projector operators, to reproduce manually, on a simple screen placed on stage, the catalogue of modern film techniques – long shots of beautiful sunsets, extreme close-ups of Lula’s expressive face, panning, fade-outs, Dutch angles, tracking shots….Somebody at Manual Cinema clearly went to film school.

Lula Del Ray 

Under the Radar at the Public Theater

Conceived by Julia Miller
Based on original text by Brendan Hill
Designed and Directed by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller
Original Sound Design by Kyle Vegter with Ben Kauffman
Original Score by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman with Maren Celest, Michael Hilger, and Jacob Winchester
Puppeteers Lizi Breit, Sam Deutsch, Sarah Fornace (Lula del Ray), and Julia Miller (Lula’s Mother)
Music Performed by Maren Celest (Sounds, Vocals), Michael Hilger (Guitar, Percussion, Vocals), Kyle Vegter (Cello, Vocals), and Jacob Winchester (Guitar, Bass)
Running time: 75 minutes
Tickets: $25
Lula Del Ray runs through Saturday, January 14

January 2017 Theater Openings Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Two Broadway shows are opening this month, and fewer than a half dozen Off-Broadway, but January is as usual one of the most robust months for theater in New York.

under-the-radar-poster

Billboards outside the Public Theater advertising Under the Radar, one of the winter theater festivals

That’s because there are more than 100 works of theater at some dozen winter theater festivals, although the shows, largely experimental, each run for only a handful of performances. (Check out my separate preview guide for Winter Theater Festivals in New York 2017)

This month also marks the debut of  the new theater complex at 53rd Street and Tenth Avenue run by the Alliance of Resident Theaters (A.R.T.), now home to a dozen acclaimed New York theater companies without buildings of their own. (See January 22 below for the theaters’ first two openings.)

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with each title linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.

To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide.

January 8

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

The Present (Ethel Barrymore)

Cate Blanchett makes her Broadway debut as (once) wealthy widow Anna Petrovna celebrating her 40th birthday in this new play based on Anton Chekhov’s first play Platonov, with the action transposed to the 1990s.

Mark Felt, Superstar (York)

mark-felt-at-yorkA jazzy musical about Mark Felt Deputy Director of the FBI, who revealed himself as Deep Throat, the secret source about Watergate who helped Woodward and Bernstein bring down President Richard Nixon.

 

January 14

mope-for-calendar

Mope (Ensemble Studio Theater) 

An examination of a country poisoned by toxic masculinity, hiding inside a comedy about guys who do porn.

January 15

made-in-china-for-calendar

Made in China (59E59)

A topical puppet musical inspired by true events (!): “An isolated woman finds solace in shopping. After one of her big-box sprees, she finds a cry-for-help note, written by a woman in a Chinese labor camp, stuffed in a box of Halloween lights. Inspired into activism, she embarks on an odyssey of global proportions.”

January 17

dork-night-for-calendar

The Dork Knight (Abingdon at Dorothy Strelsin Theatre)

Jason O’Connell’s solo show tracing the ups and downs of his life through the prism of his love/hate relationship with the ‘Batman’ movies.

 

January 18

The Tempest

The Tempest (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

Donmar Warehouse’s all female staging of Shakespeare’s play, set in a woman’s prison, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Harriet Walter. This is the last production of a splendidly theatrical trilogy by the same team, starting with Julius Caesar in 2013 and then Henry IV in 2015.

January 19

jitney-cast

Jitney (Samuel J. Friedman)

Broadway premiere of Wilson’s first play, the only work from his The American Century Cycle never previously seen on Broadway. Set in the early 1970’s, the story follows a group of men who drive unlicensed cabs or jitneys.

 

Born to Rise (Medicine Show Theater) 

A revival of the 1984 musical based on four 19th century novels by Horatio Alger, in which four poor but hopeful young New Yorkers make their way up the social ladder

 

January 22

peer-gynt

Peer Gynt & the Norwegian Hapa Band (Ma-Yi at ART/NY Mezzanine Theater)

A rock ‘n’ roll remake of Ibsen’s classic verse drama

 

 

great-american-drama

 

The Great American Drama (New York Neofuturists at A.R.T./NY Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre)

An ever-changing theatrical experiment to test the validity of the American Dream. Through interviews & surveys, you’ll tell us how you like your theater and what would make you buy a ticket, and four Neo-Futurists will strive to deliver everything demanded of them.

the-oregon-trail-poster

The Oregon Trail (Fault Line Theatre)

Jane and her family navigate the deadly perils of 1850s frontier life in a covered wagon as part of a game, while present day Jane navigates the different but all-too-real dangers of high school, college, and adulthood

January 23

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco Tell Hector I Miss Him,

Tell Hector I Miss Him (Atlantic)

The new play by Paolo Lazaro takes place in Puerto Rico,  and “unmasks a community built on the law of respect that keeps getting washed away but refuses to drown.” The cast includes Dascha Polanco and Selenis Leyva, who play Dayanara Diaz and Gloria Mendoza, respectively, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

 

January 26

the-liar-banner

The Liar (CSC)

David Ives adapts  Pierre Corneille’s 17th Century farce of mistaken identities and secrets, Le Menteur, directed by Michael Kahn. The charming Dorante cannot tell the truth and the manservant Cliton cannot tell a lie

January 31

yen-stars

Yen (MCC) 

In Anna Jordan’s play,  Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), and Justice Smith (The Get Down) portray two brothers ignored by their mother, who are drawn into a world beyond what they know when their animal-loving neighbor Jenny takes an interest in their dog Taliban.

Winter Theater Festivals in New York 2017

Broadway-style musicals commissioned during World War II by the U.S. Army and staged with current Broadway stars on an old aircraft carrier in the Hudson;  and a do-it-yourself spy thriller at the Brooklyn Museum.

An opera about Mata Hari; and a Latin disco multimedia dance piece about Medea.

An actual exercise class; and a Virtual Reality journey in which the theatergoer becomes the star on stage.

A play celebrating real-life heroines in a repressive European society, and several works signaling warning and resistance to the new U.S. president.

These are some of the theater pieces being presented at the New York theater festivals this month.

chicken2January became the month for theater festivals in the city — more than at any time other than the summer – because of the presence of thousands of members of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters here each year for their convention. But with some of the festivals going back a dozen years, and new ones springing up all the time, they are now welcomed each year anew by local theatergoers, who are more than fine with the experimental, mixed-genre, multimedia approach and international flavor of much of the work. The cheaper ticket prices are nice too: Most are $25 or under; some are free.
Below are a selection of shows from each festival. The festivals are listed chronologically by the date that they start. Click on festival titles and each individual show title for more information.

COIL
January 3 to 22

Twitter feed: @PS122

coil-2017-logo

Here is a pdf of the Coil brochure, which includes a calendar of performance times.

Now in its 12th year, the Performance Space 122 festival is offering 12 productions from Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom, but mostly New York City. Only four of the pieces are labeled theater, three of these hybrids with dance or film. But even the theater artists at this festival largely prefer the term performance art

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Cvrtain
Though not considered theater, this ten-minute “interactive experience” may be a glimpse into the future of theater (or one of its futures, anyway.) Theatergoers put on Virtual Reality headset which place them center stage in a theater before an audience of thousands: “Every action produces a different reaction in your audience: thunderous applause…maybe booing.”

real-magic-hugo-glendinning

Real Magic
To the sound of looped applause and canned laughter, a group of performers take part in an impossible illusion — part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, part chaotic game show — in which they are endlessly replaying the moment of defeat and the moment of hope.

ghettoblaster

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster

Australian Nicola Gunn’s story of a man, a woman, a duck and a moral dilemma presents text, rhythmic soundscape and intense physical choreography.

La Medea

La Medea is a musical re-imagining of Euripides’ violent tragedy into a dance-theater performance and feature film á la Latin-disco-pop variety show. Directed, performed, filmed, edited and streamed in real time, the dark comedy comes to life not only as a live performance in Brooklyn but also as a feature film for audiences watching and interacting remotely around the world

UNDER THE RADAR
January 4 to 15

Twitter feed: @UTRFestival

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The 13th annual festival features 21 shows by artists from Belarus, France, Germany, Indonesia, Lebanon, and the UK, but mostly (16) from the U.S.
Five of these are works-in-progress that are part of the third annual “Incoming” festival-within-the-festival by the Public’s Devised Theater Working Group. Most of the shows take place at the Public Theater, the festival’s organizers, but a few are at NYU and the Brooklyn Museum.

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Time of Women
Jan 12-15
Belarus Free Theatre, acclaimed equally for their resistance to the authoritarian regime in their country and for stagecraft that is both cutting-edge and engrossing, presents the story of three women activists of Belarus who were all imprisoned at the time of the fraudulent presidential elections of 2010, celebrating their refusal to be silenced.

Blueprint Specials

Jan 6-11

Laura Osnes and Will Swenson will star in short musicals by the likes of composer Frank Loesser and choreographer José Limón that will be seen for the first time since World War II, when they were commissioned by the U.S. Army to boost morale. They will be presented on the hangar of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, a former aircraft carrier.

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Latin Standards
Jan 11-15
Marga Gomez’s new solo piece revisiting the triumphs and demons of her father Willy Chevalier: comedian, producer, songwriter, Cafe El Pico spokesperson, and prominent figure in the golden era of New York’s Latino variety shows. (Marga Gomez will also be performing in La MaMa’s Squirts; see below.)

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The Fever 

Performed in complete collaboration with the audience, this world-premiere production examines how we assemble, organize and care for the bodies around us

Lula Del Rey
Jan 4-14
Combining puppetry, cinematic techniques, and live country music, Manual Cinema tells the story of lonely adolescent girl living on the outskirts of a vast satellite field who runs away from home and into a world of danger, deception, and disappointment.

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Top Secret International (State 1)
“an immersive installation piece where audiences will explore the Brooklyn Museum’s Egyptian wing”

THE EXPONENTIAL FESTIVAL
January 4 to 31

Twitter feed: @exponentialfest

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The second year of this festival has grown…exponentially. Last year, there were seven shows in four venues in Brooklyn. This year, they are 25 shows in eight Brooklyn venues.

The Last Class: A Jazzercise Play

“Jazzercize is out. Zumba is in. But instructor Kelsea Wiggan is not going down without a fight.” An actual exercise class, but only a select few members of the audience get to exercise, if they want. The rest get to sit in seats (a treat in experimental theater these days.) Written and starring Megan Hill at Chez Bushwick.

[Porto]

A newcomer shakes things up at a neighborhood bar facing gentrification. A new play by Kate Benson (“A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes”) at Bushwick Starr

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Germany 1933
Inspired by the campaign season, the company named Saints of an Unnamed Country, the play “takes place inside a VR world where men chat endlessly with computer programs. These testers reveal their deepest desires to a naive chatbot eager to please. But once a bug at a virtual pizza party reveals the political affiliations of the testers, their digital haven succumbs to the noise of the outside world.” (I didn’t understand this description either.) Performance at The Glove.

 

The Loon

Witness Relocation’s “all new, evening length, knock-down-drag-out, dance/theatre show based in part on “Voices of the Loon” (an educational record released by the Audubon Society in 1980); the work of sociologist Erving Goffman; “At Home” – Bill Bryson’s study of the history of domestic life; party games; and what happens when the festivities go very late into the night/next morning.” Performances at Jack.

Blankland

Boom Bat Gesture performance group presents a mashup of kiddie shows and horror films,  “an immersive environment for an intimate audience of 15” at Vital Joint.

AMERICAN REALNESS
January 5 to 12

Twitter feed: @AmericanRealnes

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Fifteen works, primarily dance, although many are more accurately described as performance art. (Most are more productively sampled via video than described with words.)

Ghost Rings

 

The Planet Eaters: Seconds

This is a Musical

Adult Documentary

Five performers share their real and imagined histories.

 

 

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Carrying Capacity

Mx. Oops / Wendell Cooper performs a multimedia ritual using sound meditation, urban dance, video projection, and rap, within an installation by sculptor Jasmine Murrell;

PROTOTYPE FESTIVAL
January 5 to 15

Twitter feed: @PROTOTYPEfest

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The fifth annual festival presents seven new musicals/indie chamber opera, plus “Out of Bounds,” free performances of three short works in public spaces.

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anatomy theater

“Inspired by actual medical texts from the 17th and 18th century, anatomy theater follows the progression of a convicted murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection, including an anatomy lesson for curious onlookers”

Breaking the Waves

“Based on the film by Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess, a religious young woman deeply in love with her husband Jan. Bess’s marital vows are tested when Jan is paralyzed in an off-shore oil rig accident.”

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Mata Hari

“an exploration of love and survival of the famous woman whose exploits in espionage took her back and forth across WWI Europe and ultimately made her a scapegoat.”

Silent Voices

Brooklyn Youth Chorus has commissioned a diverse group of artists to create new music that “explores race and identity, inequity and social disparity.”

Funeral Doom Spiritual

Taking place a century in the future, this multimedia concert explores “apocalypse, end times, and rapture found in Negro Spirituals” as well as “futuristic longings for destruction of the white supremacist world order.”

Rev 23

the (newly created) last chapter of the Book of Revelation

Secondary Dominance

In 13 micro-movements in this multimedia concert, Sarah Small “synthesizes genres from Balkan folk to contemporary chamber, industrial, renaissance, rock, rap, and punk, while interweaving live and recorded electronics, Chinese sheng, strings, winds, and densely packed vocals.”

LA MAMA’S SQUIRTS

January 6 to 15

@LaMaMaETC

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Each night of La MaMa’s Squirts features a different inter-generational pairing–six nights of duets. January 6th, for example is Marga Gomez and Patti Harrison.

SPECIAL EFFECTS
January 6 to 8

@pformart

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Four productions (one of them an evening of new plays) by artists who are members of the Contemporary Performance Network and presented at The Wild Project

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What’s Your Problem/A Deep Space Lounge Act

 

I’m Very Into You

A free staged reading of a new play by Sara Lyons about the brief love affair and subsequent (e-mail) correspondence between punk feminist author Kathy Acker met Australian media theorist McKenzie Wark.

THE FIRE THIS TIME FESTIVAL
January 16-31

@firethistimenyc

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Now in its eighth year, this festival is a a platform for new work by rising playwrights of African and African American descent.

You Mine
January 17
Written and directed by Nia Witherspoon.

Set during a water crisis in the final year of Trump’s second term as president, Sayida, a black caregiver accused of murdering a white Alzheimer’s patient is thrust between the nursing home, a South Carolina plantation, and the Haitian Revolution, as she struggles to keep her child alive and her partner out of the custody of the state.

Sister to Sister reading

January 26

Kia and Kara Corthron, sisters who are both acclaimed playwrights, read from their debut novels “The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter,” and “The Truth of Right Now.” A moderated talkback follows.

FRIGID FESTIVAL
February 13 – March 5

Twitter: @FrigidNewYork

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The shows are not yet selected. (The artists are chosen by lottery.)