Emma and Max Review: Filmmaker Todd Solondz’s Jarring Theatrical Debut About Racism

Emma and Max are the toddlers in the care of a Barbadian nanny, Britney, who is fired by their parents in the awkward first scene of “Emma and Max,” a jarring play about racism written and directed by filmmaker Todd Solondz, making his theatrical debut.
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Nazis and Me Review: A Humorous Jew Riffs on Hate Group Encounters

David Lawson was sent an elaborate cartoon of Pepe the Frog, a symbol of the alt right, and told “anti fascists like you are oven ready.” This was via Twitter shortly after Election Day, 2016. Not much later, his hometown Jewish Community Center in suburban Virginia was spray painted with Nazi slogans. Lawson looked at the Facebook page of the person who had been arrested for the vandalism: The 20-year-old had gone to the same high school as he had. On Election Night 2016, the man had posted: “The White Man saves Western Civilization once more.”

There is little doubt in “Nazis and Me”  that Trump’s election gave organized haters a boost. But those acquainted with Lawson’s shows know to expect something different than just a Michael Moore-like screed connecting the current president to hate.

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Intractable Woman, A Play About Murdered Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on Vladimir Putin’s birthday in 2006, as if the assassins were giving him a present for getting rid of this woman deemed an “enemy” of the state — the 13th journalist to have been murdered in Russia since Putin had come to power.

Her story is now being told in “Intractable Woman: A Theatrical Memo on Anna Politkovskaya,” an unconventional drama that marks the New York debut of Italian playwright Stefano Massini. In the play, as I explain in my article on the show for TDF Stages, three actresses  share some of the horrors the journalist witnessed, and recreate a few of the shocking interviews she conducted while covering both sides of Russia’s war with the breakaway republic of Chechnya. “She is not portrayed as a noble hero,” says director Lee Sunday Evans. “But through the granular details of her journalism, we learn about her intellect and her incredible persistence.”

For her efforts to report the truth, Politkovskaya was interrogated by Russian security services, harassed, threatened, poisoned, and finally assassinated. A former police officer and five others were convicted of killing her, but her colleagues at Novaya gazeta are adamant: The case is not over until the person who ordered the killing is brought to justice.


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NYIT Award Winners 2018: Off-Off Broadway’s Finest

Follies at the Astoria Performing Arts Center was a big winner in the 14th annual New York Innovative Theater Awards, which celebrates the best of the city’s independent theater  — aka Off-Off Broadway. The New Ohio Theater got lots of love too. Below is the complete list of winners.

Follies at Astoria Performing Arts Center

Click here for a list of all the 2018 NYIT Award nominees

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Scraps Review: Black Pain After A Police Killing

Police in the United States shot and killed 36 unarmed black men in 2015; 18 in 2016; 19 in 2017, and 12 so far in 2018, according to the Washington Post.

In “Scraps,” Geraldine Inoa, making a memorable professional playwriting debut, imagines the deep and lasting after-effects on the people left behind when police kill somebody – telling the survivors’ stories through a theatrical filter that goes from lyrical to naturalistic to surreal.
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Remnant Review: Theater Mitu’s Inventive Tech Take on War, Loss and Death

“Remnant,” according to Theater Mitu’s director Ruben Polendo, is a meditation on war, death and loss. It is Mitu’s first piece in the first building that the 20-year-old company can call its own – a former glass recycling plant that Mitu has retrofitted as an “interdisciplinary art space” and rechristened Mitu580. (The building’s address is 580 Sackett Street, in Gowanus, Brooklyn.)
For “Remnant,” as Polendo informs us in a program note, the company spent three years interviewing people who have been directly affected by war, especially veterans, and people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses, along with their families and their caretakers; as well as spiritual leaders and artists and…many other people. Read more of this post

1969 The Second Man Review: Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, A Life in Song

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon (nine minutes after the first, Neil Armstrong), 50 years ago next summer.

“No one will think of them as ‘the first men on the moon.’ Neil will be remembered. Buzz will be forgotten,” say members of the cast of “1969 The Second Man.” On stage through September 8 at Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop, the show recounts some of the high and low points of the astronaut’s life – before, after and during the Apollo 11 mission.

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Shakespeare in the Theater at the Brick: “Dreamers Often Lie” and the Queering of Romeo and Juliet.

“Shakespeare in the Theater” is the not-quite-clever title of a festival at the Brick Theater that presents itself as an alternative to New York summer staples, Shakespeare in the Park and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot. It’s different because it takes place inside an air-conditioned theater, rather than outdoors, and, more importantly, because it offers new takes on the Bard’s plays.

To get a taste of the festival, which runs through August 27th (see schedule below) I attended the first performance of the first of the eight productions. The hour-long show, produced by the Neon Nature theater company, is entitled “Dreamers Often Lie,” which makes it different from any of the other adaptations in the festival: Writer Lukas Papenfusscline supplied his own title, rather than using Shakespeare’s. Given what I witnessed, this seems an honorable choice.

Click on any photograph by Walls Trimble to see it enlarged.

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Shame or the Doomsday Machine. TNC’s Free Street Theater

For the 42nd summer in a row, the Theater for the New City’s touring Street Theater Company is presenting an original show for free in the streets and parks throughout New York City. (see schedule below.)

This year’s hour-long musical, “Shame! or The Doomsday Machine,” presents a tuneful and anarchic mix of rock, rap, physics, politics, satire and vaudeville, featuring scenes as varied as a classroom in New York City, a Black Hole in the Universe, and Club Mad, 2000 feet below Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s Florida estate,) each presented in hand-painted scenes on a hand-cranked scrolling backdrop.

Click on any photograph by Jonathan Mandell or Jonathan Slaff to see it enlarged

Twenty-eight performers portray a dizzying array of characters, from a group of protesting students carrying picket signs to Melania in her “I Don’t Care Do U?” jacket. Trump makes multiple appearances, first in a bright orange wig, then transformed into a black man, a woman, and a Mexican.

Ok, so the show is not subtle. But it is fun, and entertaining, and there is even something of an arc, and a loud, clear and hopeful message.

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NYIT Award Nominees 2018: Off-Off Broadway’s Finest

Below is the list of nominations announced last night for the 14th 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 24th, 2018.

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