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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Be More Chill: pics, video and review

To outsiders, “Be More Chill” is a hyper-energetic pop-rock musical opening tonight Off-Broadway, starring Will Roland (“Dear Evan Hansen”) as a high school student named Jeremy Heere who sees himself as a loser but then swallows a pill containing a supercomputer and becomes cool.
Jeremy’s journey is of course a sci-fi fantasy. But thanks to its fans, the odyssey of the musical itself is also fairly far out…You don’t have to be 15 to be thrilled by the best moments in the Off-Broadway production of Be More Chill, a musical about high school, presented by a terrifically talented cast, that is too quirky and clever to be dismissed as the standard high school musical bestiary. But it might help to be a teenage fan in order to enjoy all two and a half hours of Be More Chill…

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

New song added to the Off Broadway production:

Click on any photograph by Maria Baranova to see it enlarged

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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NYMF Review Sonata 1962: A Lesbian Daughter, A Mother’s Mistake

Margaret, a widow and well-meaning mother, is dressed in pearls while making her special buttermilk biscuits for her daughter Laura, who’s back home listless with severe memory loss after her mother sent her away to be tortured.

That of course is not how Margaret sees it in “Sonata 1962,” one of the last of the shows in the 15th annual New York Musical Festival. Written by Patricia Loughrey and Thomas Hodges, the musical takes us back to an era when suburban housewives baked with Crisco, watched Jackie Kennedy give a White House tour on a black and white set, shopped at the Green Stamp store in town, and believed the family doctor that their daughter’s lesbianism was a mental illness, but one that could be cured.
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NYMF Review Between the Sea and Sky: Two Sisters Lured and Trapped by a Mystery

“I am tall when I’m young but short when I’m old. What am I?”
That’s the first of the three riddles that Sam (short for Samantha) poses to the mysterious woman in white in order to free her sister Emily from the woman’s clutches.
“A candle,” the woman answers in triumph.
What’s not as easily solved is the riddle of “Between the Sea and Sky,” a musical written by an Australian named Luke Byrne being presented in a competently directed (and lovingly lit) production as part of the New York Musical Festival. Byrne’s music is impressive in its variety and appeal – from a classical-sounding art song to 1930s song-and-dance number to funky jazz to sea shanty, many suggesting the mysteries and allure of the sea. His lyrics are largely straightforward if undistinguished, except when he tries for the lyrical; then they’re incoherent. But his book is all over the place — an over-flavored stew of young adult novel, mystery, Grimm’s Fairy Tale, satire, even a primer on Shakespeare’s The Tempest – and winds up making no sense at all.
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Mike Birbiglia’s The New One Review: Hating Kids, Having A Kid

When Mike Birbiglia announced that his fourth one-man show would be playing at the Cherry Lane, he wouldn’t say what it would be about; he simply called it “The New One.” (“I hate it when people tell me what anything is about or really any details at all,” he explained in a press release.)

How arrogant, I thought. Who does he think he is?
He’s someone who can sell out the entire run of a show at the Cherry Lane in a matter of hours.
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Twelfth Night Review: Shakespeare as a Popcorn Musical

I compared Shaina Taub’s musical adaptation of “Twelfth Night” to a party and to a variety show when the Public Theater presented it in Central Park over Labor Day weekend in 2016. The unusual production featured a cast of professional actors mixed with some 200 New Yorkers from community groups from all five boroughs, as part of what the theater calls its Public Works project.
The show was evidently pleasing enough to enough people that the Public has brought it back as one of the Delacorte’s two major summer offerings, running now through August 19th. Read more of this post

The House That Will Not Stand Review: Free women of color face female slavery in 1813 New Orleans

In “The House That Will Not Stand,” Marcus Gardley’s historically fascinating, lyrical and surprisingly funny play, nobody much cares for Beartrice Albans – not her three beautiful daughters, not her mad sister, not her slave, and certainly not her rival, Madame La Veuve, who accuses her of murder.

“You may be the wealthiest colored woman in New Orleans,” La Veuve says to Beartrice, “but you built this house on sand, lies and dead bodies.”

Beartrice’s slave Makeda tries to defend her: “I’d think I’d know if the Madame was a murderer,” Makeda says. “She may be crass, calculating, cunning and unkind, but the woman is still a Christian.”

Beartrice, a free woman of color, will need all her cunning in order to face what is about to befall the Albans household. Read more of this post

This Ain’t No Disco Review: Studio 54 Where are You?

For all its high-energy hedonism featuring handsome half-clad bodies, “This Ain’t No Disco,” the rock opera at the Atlantic Theater set in the New York City club scene of the 1970s, doesn’t elicit desire or delight or nostalgia so much as it does confusion.

The confusion starts with the title, which is a line taken from a 1979 Talking Heads song entitled “Life During Wartime,” about a post-apocalyptic landscape, that includes the verse:

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
This ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain’t got time for that now

But “This Ain’t No Disco” mostly takes place in a disco, the notorious Studio 54, and one of its characters is named Steve Rubell, after the actual co-owner of Studio 54 (portrayed as a fun-loving, coke-snorting sleaze by Theo Stockman.)  A few scenes are set in the downtown Mudd Club, where the Mudd Clubbers sing “we party all night long.”So life for the characters in this sing-through musical IS a disco; it IS a party; they DO fool around; and that’s what they mostly spend their time doing – even while they dream of stardom.

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NYMF Review ’68: A Musical about the 1968 Chicago Convention and the Limits of History


Before the musical “’68” begins, newspaper headlines are projected on the stage, marking some of the tumultuous events in the year 1968 — the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F Kennedy, campus protests and city riots across the United States….and the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

But, despite the title of their musical,  which is an entry in the New York Musical Theater festival, librettist/lyricist Jamie Leo and composer Paul Leschen focus on just one of those events; the NYMF program bills “’68” as “inspired by the volatile events of the 1968 Democratic Convention and their place in history and our future.”
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