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Fringe Review: At The Flash

David Leeper, who plays five characters in a gay bar over five decades in “At The Flash,” is an impressive mimic, the kind of quick-change artist that could surely do a credible job portraying the multiple characters of such solo shows as “Fully Committed” (recently performed on Broadway by Jesse Tyler Ferguson) or “I Am My Own Wife” (Jefferson Mays.)
In “At The Flash,” an 80-minute play he co-wrote with his husband Sean Chandler, Leeper portrays Rod, the current-day owner of the Flash, who is turning the old bar into a chi-chi restaurant with a gay clientele. Rod sees himself as a success in business and in love, but can’t get his parents to come to the opening. “No, I don’t understand it,” he says to them over the phone after they decline his invitation, “but I guess I’ll have to accept it. Does that sound familiar?”

Leeper also portrays Richard, a macho closeted gay man with a wife and kids who nervously visits the Flash when it is a dive that could at any minute be raided by police in 1965; Miss Sparkle, an aging Southern drag queen and make-up artist who mentors newcomers and entertains at the Flash in 1978; Derrick, a club kid recovering from a break-up, and worrying about the results of an AIDS test, in 1989; and Mona, a lesbian who is frustrated in her efforts to get signatures to stop the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Leeper gives each of his characters a distinctive voice (and some memorable lines), and provides each a different carriage. He even assigns specific physical business. Just watching him drink an imaginary beer or stir an unseen cocktail stick or apply non-existent makeup is to witness the benefits of good training.
The play moves back and forth among these characters in no discernible order, never spending more than a few minutes with each at a time. This shows off Leeper’s skills as a quick-change performer. But it doesn’t mask his limitations as a playwright. The characters do not just belong to a particular era; they seem stuck in time — these are static sketches rather than a drama about characters who grow or at least change.  And although there are some back-story revelations, we don’t learn all that much more about the characters over the course of “At The Flash” than is evident about them from their first moments on stage.  They are largely familiar character types to begin with. (The only reason we even know their names is because these are listed in the program.)
This would matter less if there were not so many plays about gay life and gay history — 43 in this year’s New York Fringe festival alone. Indeed, some of the best and most original work of theater over the past two decades (such as “Angels in America” and the aforementioned “I Am My Own Wife,” both winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama) have gay themes and characters.
If “At The Flash” aims to re-create an earlier era in gay life, it also in some ways presents an earlier era in gay plays.

AtTheFlash logoAt The Flash
Under St. Marks

Remaining show times

 

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New Sondheim at the Public. Fringe for Free. Black Lives Matter, On Stage. Week in New York Theater

Should a work of theater be an entertainment that allows us to escape from the world, or a piece of art that more or less forces us to engage in the world? Can it do both?
That’s the question I asked at the end of my piece about the recent revival of Runaways, and it’s especially timely now:

Peregrinus

Peregrinus

The Fringe begins on Friday, with its usual supply of silly titles (Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show!that’s all one show ) mixed with a trend that I noticed last year of more serious, political fare: This year it seems to have stepped up, with such shows as: Financial Slavery: College Debt Sentence, Zuccoti Park: A Musical About the Human Side of Economics,  Machine Gun America, and Black and Blue, a play about a black man trying to find common ground with a NYC police officer.

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Friday is also the last day to enter the contest to get a free pass to any and all of the some 200 shows at the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival.

 

Broadway for Black Lives Matters – The stars came out on Monday to support a  movement that began as a hashtag, in a combination concert and conference that Audra McDonald promised would only be the beginning.

New York Theater July 2016 Quiz

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Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

The musical by Stephen Sondheim and David Ives based on two Bunuel films has found a home at the Public Theater. The target is 2017.

MissSaigonUK

Miss Saigon is coming to the Broadway Theatre March 1, 2017 to January 14, 2018 (then on tour) It opens March 23

Disney has fired Alex Timbers as director of the Broadway adaptation of Frozen, putting its timeline into doubt.

Julie Taymor (Lion King, Spiderman), says she’s back on Broadway next year, but she won’t say in what.

The 92nd Street Y is launching a new series: In the Director’s Chair (tickets start at $29)

Pam MacKinnon and Michael Wilson
Mon, Nov 7, 7:30 pm,
Pam MacKinnon: Broadway credits include: China Doll; The Heidi Chronicles; A Delicate Balance; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Michael Wilson: Broadway credits include: The Trip to Bountiful; Dividing the Estate; Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

Leigh Silverman and Sutton Foster

Mon, Nov 21, 7 pm,
Leigh Silverman : Broadway credits include Violet (Tony nomination); Chinglish; Well.

Sutton Foster: Broadway credits include Violet; Anything Goes; The Drowsy Chaperone; Thoroughly Modern Millie. She stars in The New Group’s forthcoming 50th anniversary production of Sweet Charity and can be seen on TV in the hit TV Land series Younger.

Kwame Kwei-Armah and Liesl Tommy

Mon, Dec 12, 7 pm
Kwame Kwei-Armah: Artistic Director, Baltimore Center Stage. Credits include Marley, One Night in Miami, Amadeus, dance of the holy ghosts, The Mountaintop, An Enemy of the People. Off-Broadway credits include The Public Theater Mobile Unit: Comedy of Errors; Much Ado About Nothing. Forthcoming – The Public Theater Public Works: Twelfth Night; Donmar Warehouse: One Night in Miami.

Liesl Tommy: directed Eclipsed on and Off-Broadway. Other Off-Broadway credits include Appropriate; The Good Negro; The Antigone Project.

Harold Prince in Bloomberg

Harold Prince:

(As a kid) I didn’t have a lot of respect for musicals…I wanted them to be more serious.

(As a young producer) I raised all my money from dressers and stagehands. Now you have to have wealthy people

Q and A with producer and director Harold Prince

Tony Shalhoub is among cast in The Band’s Visit, musical by David Yazbek based on charming 2007 film. Opens Dec. 8 Atlantic Theater

HowlRound weekly chat: Podcasts and Performing

Also: Playwrights on Podcasts

CorbinBleuCheecktoCheeck

Watch performances from the casts of Beautiful, Avenue Q, An American in Paris, and Holiday Inn at the week’s Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concert.

 

James Houghton (Founding Artistic Director, Signature Theatre Company)

James Houghton September 4, 1958-August 2, 2016, founder of Signature Theater and director of the drama division at the Juilliard School

Obituary

Michael Feingold says goodbye