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Inanimate Review: Loving Objects at The Flea

 

“Inanimate,” a new play by Nick Robideau about a young woman who falls in love with a Dairy Queen sign, is most noteworthy for being the first play to be presented in the new building that houses The Flea, the Off-Off Broadway theater founded by Sigourney Weaver and her husband Jim Simpson 20 years ago, with the motto “Raising a Joyful Hell in a Small Space.” Now under the leadership of Niegel Smith, The Flea’s small space has gotten larger: “Inanimate” is playing in The Siggy (named after Sigourney Weaver) one of the three new theaters in the new complex on 20 Thomas Street, four blocks further downtown from its old digs.

“Inanimate” reflects The Flea’s tradition of being untraditional, its eagerness to experiment and explore the outrageous – in this case to dramatize an actual psychological phenomenon that’s been labeled Object sexuality or Objectophilia, which describes people who do not just obsess about an object, but have sexual feelings for it. An article in Psychology Today cited real-life case studies such as Erika LaBrie, “who ‘married’ the Eiffel Tower in 2007 and now calls herself Erika Eiffel.”

In “Inanimate,” Erica (Lacy Allen) is in love with Dee, which is what she calls the sign at the local Dairy Queen in her hometown. She also has the hots for a can opener, which gets her fired from her job as a grocery store clerk when a customer complains. Her behavior also jeopardizes the downtown renewal project planned by her politician sister Trish (Tressa Preston), who is so concerned with Erica’s behavior that she schemes to have Dee demolished.

“It’s not sanitary,” Trish says. “Think of how many dogs have

probably pissed on that sign.”

“So what, I should fuck a guy instead?” Erica holds her own. “Dicks are the literal source of pee. “

“Inanimate” is full of humor, but, much to his credit, playwright Robideau is never mocking. He makes Erica not just sympathetic and credible, but the winner of every argument; he even gives her an ally – Kevin (Maki Borden), an old high school classmate who works at the Dairy Queen. Like Erica, Kevin has just turned 30, and he too has a secret sexual attraction that is looked down upon by the people in their small Massachusetts town – he is attracted to both women and men. Erica is reluctant to confess to Kevin: “…we barely even know each other, no offense…”

“Do six months of daily Blizzards mean nothing to you?” he replies.

When she finally reveals her secret, Kevin is initially confused. If Erica is enamored of Dee because of the way his light hits her, it “hits, like, dozens of people on a nightly basis”

“Sure. And I touch lots of objects every day. Monogamy’s kind of impossible in a relationship like this, so we don’t really get hung up on it.”

Director Courtney Ulrich corrals three “chorus members” to portray the literal objects of Erica’s affection, with special attention to Dee (Philip Feldman) in spot-on multicolored jacket and neon green hair. (Costumes are by Sarah Lawrence.)

But if some of these object personifications are inspired (I was partial to the can opener dressed in sexy black lace and leather), the director also has to take the hit for the highly uneven seven-member cast, selected from the Bats, the resident company at the Flea that is mostly made up of recent graduates. The play could probably benefit from some trimming in any case, but the acting makes the 90 minute running time feel way too long.

Even so, “Inanimate,” intentionally or not, is a pitch perfect choice to inaugurate 30 Thomas Street, since I am surely not the only one who is turned on by the new Flea.

 

 

INANIMATE

The Flea Theater

Written by Nick Robideau and directed by Flea Associate Artist Courtney Ulrich.

Cast: The Bats, the resident acting company at The Flea, including Lacy Allen, Maki Borden, Philip Feldman, Artem Kreimer, Tressa Preston, Michael Oloyede, Nancy Tatiana Quintana, with understudies Marcus Antonio Jones and Alexandra Slater. Creative team: Yu-Hsuan Chen (Scenic Design), Sarah Lawrence (Costume Design), Becky Heisler (Lighting Design), Megan Culley (Sound Design) and Claire Edmonds (Assistant Director)

Inanimate runs through September 24, Thursday–Monday at 7pm, with Sunday matinees at 3pm. (Note: no performances Aug. 31 – Sept. 6 for the Labor Day holiday weekend). Tickets start at $15 with the lowest priced tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Update: Inanimate is now running through October 16, 2017.

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Neighborhood 3 Requisition of Doom Review: A Screaming Opportunity, Missed

It sounded like a good match: Batman and Lost Boy movie director Joel Schumacher, versatile master of action and suspense, in his New York stage debut directing a play by Jennifer Haley, a writer I’ve called the first major playwright of the digital age, whose The Nether, a play that depicts a near future in which people lose themselves in a virtual world, won awards and entranced critics in New York and London earlier this year.
But “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” at the Flea Theater, for all its promise, doesn’t have the requisite dread and is doomed to disappoint.

Click on any photograph by Hunter Canning to see it enlarged.

Haley calls her play, which received its world premiere at the Humana Festival in 2008, “a horror story about suburban video game addiction.” It cleverly depicts a role-playing game – or, more precisely, an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), such as World of Warcraft — that has captured the teenage population of a suburban neighborhood. The game creates a virtual reality based on the neighborhood and its inhabitants – the real parents are given video game avatars that turn them into menacing zombies – until the real and virtual neighbors literally bleed into one another.
A voiceover (by Justin Ahdoot) supplies the instructions for the game — e.g. “Enter the house…When you exit the bedroom and go back down the stairs you will notice a pool of blood on the carpet. You have just moved through a secret wormhole in the Neighborhood.” These instructions alternate with a series of two-character scenes, portrayed by 16 members of The Bats, the resident company of The Flea.
Haley can be spot-on in capturing the interaction of affluent teenagers, such as in the first scene between
Trevor (Alex Haynes) and Makaela (Adelind Horan):
Trevor: You think your dad will get you a Jag
Makaela Maybe. If I act like a giant jerk who’s totally circling the drain he’ll buy one to try to save me. Otherwise, it’ll probably be a Toyota
The script is threaded with moments of dark humor. When “zombiekllr14” (Connor Johnston) discovers that another avatar is actually his friend Cody’s mother Barbara (Sydney Blaxill), he says “Mrs. Whitestone, it’s me Blake,” but then adds if she doesn’t turn on her flashlight (some requirement of the game), “I’m sorry to say this Mrs. Whitestone but I will waste you and you know if you die in the Last Chapter you can no longer resurrect.”
The play is pointed – a sharp commentary on the dysfunction engendered both by sheltered suburban living and by the growing obsession with online life.
But, oddly, the director misses the (literally) screaming opportunity that Neighborhood 3 offers —  to transport us on stage to the wonder, terror and excitement of video gaming. Perhaps in part because of budget constraints, little horrifies and even less amazes.  The set and lighting are static and uninteresting. The pacing makes the show seem longer than its 70 minutes. The Bat cast, most in their early 20s, is more successful in portraying the teenagers than their parents. The enterprise as a whole feels like a workshop, an early career effort by two artists with impressive track records (for Schumacher an early second career) that would feel almost churlish to review, if the top ticket price wasn’t so high.

 

Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom

The Flea Theater
41 White Street
Written by Jennifer Haley
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Cast: The Bats: Justin Ahdoot, Sydney Blaxill, Alexandra Curran, Eric Folks, Adam Alexander Hamilton,Alex Haynes, Adelind Horan, Lindsley Howard, Kerry Ipema, Olivia Jampol, Connor Johnston, Hank Lin, Madeline Mahoney, Cristina Pitter, and Brendan Sokler.
Simon Harding (scenic design), Brian Aldous (lighting design), Jessica Pabst (costume design), Janie Bullard (sound design), Grace Interlichia (assistant costume design), John McKenna (assistant sound design), J. David Brimmer (fight choreography), David Monteagudo (assistant director), Zach Golden (assistant to the director), Abbey Bay (production stage manager), and Kaila Hill (assistant stage manager).
Tickets: $15 to $105
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission
Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom is scheduled to run through December 20, 2015

 

Happy Days Review: Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub Find The Droll in Beckett’s Bleakness

Happy Days The FleaIn “Happy Days,” Samuel Beckett’s bleak but compassionate 1961 play being given a witty, compelling production at The Flea, Brooke Adams as Winnie is buried in a mound of dirt, sometimes with a gun pointed at her head, while behind her, her husband Tony Shalhoub as Willie grunts, or groans, or flips through a browning newspaper, or — in a climactic moment of movement – crawls toward her.

What exactly is going on?

Some have claimed Beckett’s play as a metaphor for marriage. Others see it as a vision of totalitarian or apocalyptic times. Recent readings associate it with climate change. I myself see a look at the process of aging.

There is enough in the text to justify any of these interpretations. Who, for example, is ringing the bell that wakes Winnie up every morning, facing another day stuck in a mound? And then Winnie is sometimes worn down — “So little to say, so little to do, and the fear so great.” Yet she is also often optimistic: “That is what I find so wonderful. The way man adapts himself. To changing conditions.”

Whatever metaphor the play awakens in the audience, the appeal rests in the two performers. Adams, carefully coifed, with a lovely white smile, prattles on to the unseen Willie and is determined to keep busy, with the help of her elegant parasol and the contents of her black handbag, containing the essentials of her existence – a toothbrush, a small mirror, a pair of glasses, lipstick, a bottle of medicine, a gun. Why a gun? Pick your metaphor.

As Willie, Shalhoub has a total of maybe ten minutes of activity in the two hours of the play; this is the Winnie show. Nevertheless, he manages to be hysterical, memorable, a spot-on impersonation of a member of your family.

The production, originally presented at the Boston Court theater in Pasadena, California, is the closest we’ll get to a sunny Beckett,

Happy Days
at the Flea
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Andrei Belgrader

TakeShi kata scenic design, tom oNtiveroS lighting design, melaNie watNiCk costume design, roBert oriol sound design, madiSoN rhoadeS prop design, miChal v. meNdelSoN stage manager, alySSa eSCalaNte production consultant

Cast: Brooke Adamas, Tony Shalhoub

Happy Days is scheduled to run through July 18

Kinky Controversy. Macbeth Cancelled. Gifts for Theater Lovers. The Week in New York Theater

KinkyControversyMiniMacbethLionKing

This has been an eventful holiday week, and not just because The Lion King celebrated another benchmark — as did, more oddly, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. (scroll to 27 and 30, below) There were surprises sprung on both Kinky Boots and Macbeth

There is more eventfulness to come, though I suspect less controversial.  There’s a live Sound of Music on NBC Thursday, then a documentary about Sondheim debuting next Monday – and there are plenty of shows to see before they close. The top ten lists for 2013 have already begun. See below.

Given the oddness of this week in New York theater, best to sing one of the melodies we’ll be hearing on Thursday:

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Week in New York Theater

Monday, November 25, 2013

SuttonFosterViolet

Sutton Foster will play a disfigured woman in the Roundabout Theater’s revival of Violet for 20 weeks starting March 24, 2014. The production was presented for one night as part of the new Encores Off-Center series.

These Seven Sicknesses was one of more than 100 new shows presented at The Flea, which is building three new theaters downtown.

These Seven Sicknesses was one of more than 100 new shows presented at The Flea, which is building three new theaters downtown.

Eighteen years and more than 100 plays after it began, The Flea Theater, started by a group including Sigourney Weaver and her husband Jim Simpson, will have a groundbreaking December 5 for a new building with three Off-Off Broadway theaters

BigFishwithKateBaldwinandNorbertLeoButz

Its Broadway run ends Dec. 29, but Big Fish will live on with an original cast album,its director Susan Stroman announced officially at an event at the 92nd Street Y.

Starting today:Nominate an artist or arts org for Fractured Atlas’s  First Annual Arts Entrepreneurship Awards

OneNightwithRutinaWesley

My review of One Night

As Tara Thornton in True Blood, Rutina Wesley has survived an abusive alcoholic fundamentalist mother, a murdered boyfriend, and a sadistic vampire. But Tara is scarcely worse off than the character Wesley is playing in Charles Fuller’s new play, One Night, at the Cherry Lane. Wesley is now portraying Alicia, a military veteran.
Three decades ago, playwright Charles Fuller won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his exploration of racism in the military, “A Soldier’s Play,” a murder mystery he adapted into one of Denzel Washington’s first movies, “A Soldier’s Story.”

So when Fuller now turns his attention to sexism in the military, and veteran neglect, attention must be paid – even though the result is disappointing.

Full review of One Night

26

JamesFrancoonSuperman

These pictures of James Franco have nothing to do with Of Mice and Men, the play that will mark his Broadway debut. But, you know, it’s cool

James Franco and  Chris O’Dowd will make their Broadway debuts in a revival of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” at the Longacre March 19-July 27, 2014

Norma ‏@normajeanesays Stage door must!
Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris

Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris

Fun Home will get a cast recording, released by PS Classics, in February

A few weeks ago, Wicked was the first-ever Broadway show with an entire category on Jeopardy! Here is the second-ever: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Current Hot American Playwrights Who Have Never Been on Broadway

playwrightsnotonBroadway

J. Kelly Nestruck ‏‪@nestruck I’d like another list – playwrights who have been on Bdwy, but with their worst plays.
Jason Zinoman@zinoman No Kenneth Lonergan? Come on.
Wendy Rosenfield@WendyRosenfield Right. And wow.
Jason Zinoman: He’s top of the list, as far as im concerned. Even if it is alphabetical.
Wendy Rosenfield: Agreed. It’s a strange world when LaBute makes it there before Lonergan.
Taylor Mac ‏‪@TaylorMacNYC it’s clear from this list how young the decider is. Work has happened outside of the last five years — the point being best doesn’t mean most successful in the last five years.
Jonathan Mandell@NewYorkTheater  Who would you include that’s omitted from the list?
Taylor Mac Len Jenkins, Karen Hartman, Naomi Wallace, Carson Kreitzer, Victor Lodato, & divine David Grimm r a few that pop in my head.
To be clear, your picks are all worthy (I love them) but want to give love to playwrights who aren’t on the “now” list.
Elizabeth Vincentelli ‏‪@EVincentelli  Can we include Maria Irene Fornes? ‘The Office’ had previews in 1966 but didn’t open. It’s a technicality!

27

To celebrate the third anniversary of the first performance of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, we are rolling out a series of videos of dramatic readings of selections from Glen Berger’s new tome, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

Macbeth 1

Mini-Macbeth

The performance I attended of the Lincoln Center production of Macbeth  tonight (the first night of Hanukkah) was canceled after 20 minutes because the automatic scenery failed to function. Ethan Hawke came out to play guitar for a couple of minutes, as “a Thanksgiving bonus.”

28

Theater Thanksgiving

10 Shows to Be Grateful For in 2013

TopTenNYCTheater2013

(My reasoning for top 10 list)

kinkybootsatThanksgivingparade

Performance of Kinky Boots at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Shocks Viewers?!

I’m baffled parents feel need to explain performers wearing red boots, but not a 100-ft Pillsbury Doughboy

29

Kinkybootstshirt

Holiday Gifts For Theater Lovers

30

The Lion King played its 6,681st performance this evening, becoming the fourth-longest-running show on Broadway.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ethan Hawke in Macbeth, Mamma Mia, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen and Spider-Man are all in the New York Theater November 2013 Quiz.

Ethan Hawke in Macbeth, Mamma Mia, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen and Spider-Man are all in the New York Theater November 2013 Quiz.

New York Theater November 2013 Quiz

These Seven Sicknesses Returns

ImageThese Seven Sicknesses, which I loved when it opened in January (my review) returns to The Flea Theater, June 6 to July 1.

Like no dinner theater you’ve seen before, the marathon evening is playwright Sean Graney’s adaptation of all seven of Sophocles’ surviving plays—Oedipus, In Trachis, Philoktetes, In Colonus, Ajax, Elektra and Antigone — performed by the Bats, the resident company of The Flea made up of energetic, young, and let’s face it, sexy actors, who, in-between the gore and the emotions, act as our hosts and waiters, surviving first dinner and then dessert from local eateries.

ImageAttention has been unusual for an Off-Off Broadway show; its director, Ed Sylvanus Iskandar,has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award — along with Mike Nichols for Death of A Salesman, Sam Mendes for Richard III, David Cromer for Tribes, etc.

At a reception for the nominees, I asked Iskander when he knew he would make a life in the theater. His teacher assigned him to see “A Doll’s House” on The West End when he was about 12 years old, and it showed him the possibilities. “Before that, I was going to be a lawyer.”