Thursday, October 19, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Syncing Ink at The Flea by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Syncing Ink at The Flea was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Syncing Ink
Written & Directed by NSangou Njikam
Artistic Director: Niegel Smith
Producing Director: Carol Ostrow
Wardrobe Supervisor: Sarah Lawrence
Director of Dance Programming: Lisa Reilly
Director of Music Programming: Lauren Alfano-Ishida
Hip Hop Choreography: Gabriel Dionisio (a/k/a Kwikstep)
Music by DJ Reborn
The Flea
20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10007
Reviewed 10/9/17

Syncing Ink is legit. This play or musical-esque crossover of hip-hop expands on the stylistic innovations of Hamilton to demonstrate the power of this uniquely American subculture (Hip Hop) to create personal, emotional impact. Njikam's play features love, rivalry, failure, and redemption on a modern Hero's journey taught through the motions and emotions of those tales that have dominated both our times and all times. He expertly weaves in modern references to Dragonball Z and Jedi Knights while his character, Gordon, follows in his father's footsteps using their family's ancient power of the sacred Ase (pronounced Ashay) from Yoruba spirituality.


The absolutely fantastic meter soars in this play due to the accomplishments of the actors. Their combined ability to dance in complex break dancing moves as well as to change character brought the whole thing together seamlessly. For example, one moment, Adesola Osakalumi is alliterating adroitly as Mr. Wright ("You must make pupils of your pupils so you can teach your eyes to see. You must activate and integrate your hidden linguistic capacity, for you are all born with allocations from your ancestors to advance the atoms in the minds of men...and women...and the first way we will resuscitate and rejuvenate your precious gift is through the powerful paradigm we call poetry.") and the next, he is serving up laughs as Gordon's father. Example - "School has the 3Bs. Study the Books...use your Brains...and when the ladies see that, they might just shake their Butts."

It is in Mr. Wright's Advanced Placement English Class at Langston Hughes High School where the story begins. Gordon (NSangou Njikam) enters on Day One and meets his opposition, Sweet Tea (Kara Young), Ice Cold (Elisha Lawson), and the reigning M.C. champion of the school, Jamal (Nuri Hazzard). Each of them can throw down rhymes while Gordon sits tight unable to speak his mind. Finally, in walks Mona Lisa, a new student at the school, played by the wonderful McKenzie Frye. In an effort to win Mona Lisa's affection, Gordon engages Ice Cold to help get her attention. To do this he must learn how to become the most powerful M.C. and out-rap Jamal.

This opens up one of the best sequences I think I've seen in modern playwriting. Knowing that the audience surrounded the stage on four sides, the actors create a "demonstrative walk through" that swirls around other actors frozen in the middle. Ice Cold mocks video game tutorials by guiding Gordon on the first stages of his journey as if he is a cross between C-3PO and a Disney automation while Mr. Wright busts out some more chops imitating a Japanese karate master as he teaches Gordon how to "dance." 

Just when you think you have a handle on each character and each actor, everything changes. Gordon stands up to Jamal, a tough looking kid in beat up clothes with face paint and a thick beard, only to be defeated. End Act 1. Gordon then grows up to study poetry and writing at Mecca University where he meets two of the most dynamic characters: Professor Brown (Hazzard), who is impressed with the Harlem Renaissance and the Standard English Canon disdaining his student's interest in "Little Wayne or Little Yachty or anyone else who is little." and Professor Black (Osakalumi), whose classes are "100% freestyle" and who sees white paper as a plot against young black minds." Jamal attends Georgetown University where he creates "a blend of conscious and trap music called 'crap'." All this sets up an epic confrontation where Gordon and Jamal compete against one another at The Cypher, an invitation-only, underground, Hip Hop competition "where the illest M.C.s go to battle." On the line are love and family honor.

Go see this. Tickets are available for $35.00 online at www.theflea.org or via the Box Office extension at 212-352-3101. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of It's Getting Tired Mildred at Under St. Mark's Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of It's Getting Tired Mildred at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

It's Getting Tired Mildred
Written, Directed & Produced by Roger Nasser
Lighting Design & Board Operation by Berit Johnson
Costume Design by Karle J. Meyers, Kaitlyn Day & Holly Pocket McCaffrey
Theme & Score by Stephen Sabaugh
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 10/7/17

Welcome to the town of Mildred Springs or should I say "Welcome Back." This show's premiere episode this season at Under St. Mark's Theater is also the 24th episode of It's Getting Tired Mildred. Most of the cast returns as well marking this particularly interesting and unique drama (at least as far as theater in New York is concerned) as a bit of a celebration for the myriad of regulars (in attendance) who have enjoyed the series over the past three years. Roger Nasser, the writer, director, and producer of It's Getting Tired Mildred (under the name Six of Six Productions) is to be credited for bringing variety to the New York theater scene with this "soap opera for the stage."


Set in the town of Mildred Springs in 1985, this farcical dramedy relies on cliches and hijinks to satisfy and enamor the audience. It does a good job too by consistently varying the delivery and timing of punchlines during short bits that showcase characters with obvious history, chemistry, and rivalry. Like any good soap opera, there are affairs, personality clashes, emotional traumas, and hidden secrets. Each of which the writer ramped up on overdrive as the cast features 22 performers and everything seems to need to be achieved in five minutes or less. Often lovers are traded in from nearby scene to scene or covert affairs are revealed just as one unwitting lover leaves the stage. After the bare minimum of witty banter, social niceties and norms are cast aside for a raucous turn on the community couch with the lights fading to black just as the actors lock in an overly passionate embrace. You'd feel bad for one dame only to find she's screwing someone else behind her lover's back too.

While the production does rely on at times egregiously simple dialogue to drive narratives and heighten the drama, it compounds so quickly that you can't help but laugh. For example, one cast member was replaced by a new actor and the character had just gotten married, so when describing his marriage in the first scene, he triumphantly stated, "I'm a different man!" It's almost like an anti-joke where the lack of a punchline forces you to chuckle where you expected to anyway and then you laugh more in an attempt to justify your laughing. Part of this is because the actors are so serious about their roles strutting in or sulking or sauntering to take their simultaneously stereotypical and important roles from oversexualized hypnotherapist to the family patriarch. It's posh, camp, flamboyant and also extremely well-orchestrated. 

A number of the actors here are fun to watch like the lead woman in the "Milton" family who has dominated Mildred Springs, Charmaine Milton, played by the exquisitely dressed Morgan Zipf-Meister. She is about to confront her father, the lovably evil patriarch, Cornelius Milton, played by an equally talented Linus Gelber. A grave secret found within a file aptly labeled "secret" has been slowly spreading from character to character. It threatens to change everything we know about at least one character and perhaps two. Roger Nasser, the show's writer, understands that newcomers may not know all of the background and thankfully he has built some history into each little bit. Although for some reason it seems easier to figure out who's sleeping with whom than what each character's name is. There is a lot to look forward to in Episode 25 on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at 10:30 p.m. at Under St. Mark's Theater. Get advance tickets by visiting www.horsetrade.info 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Trump Lear at Under St. Mark's Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Trump Lear at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Trump Lear
Written & Performed by David Carl
Co-Created & Directed by Michole Biancosino
Sound Design & Voiceovers by David Carl
Videos by Mark Stetson & David Carl
Tech by Michael Montalbano
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 9/30/17

I walked into Trump Lear with two lingering questions/doubts revolving around the idea of how Lear relates to Trump because Lear is a much different character. These questions were: "How respectful is the story to King Lear as a play?" and "How exactly does this play relate to Donald Trump?" David Carl, playing the role of Carl David, answers those questions pretty quickly. The first bit of the play discusses the literary and theatrically important significance of King Lear, even listing off a bevy of iconic actors who have mantled the role over the years including Ian McClellan, to which Trump responds, "Gandalf?"


In fact, David seemed to get two things mainly right with this play which made for an entertaining spectacle filled with laughter - Lear and Trump. Pitted against himself with a slim chance of saving his own life. David must perform his one-man King Lear for a tyrant Trump under bright interrogation lights. Trump, a disembodied voice "attached to a camera," says things like "Do you think I'm losing my mind, Carl?" and uses it as an opportunity to garner internet fame by live streaming the performance on YouTube revealing this to David only after he has broken down crying. Trump also breaks for commercials which simply portray him as the richest, smartest man alive. So far, so good.

The funny thing really was that David didn't have to stretch the truth to make a great play. He won his right to live from Trump by telling the truth. At the same time, the fictional Trump presses a lot of David's buttons and even makes reference to the fact that David should be thanking him; the stark reality being that David has made a decent living off of impersonating Trump. David responds, "Art was doing just fine before you came along."

David did a fantastic job putting it all on the line for art. While Trump Lear may not deserve the same level of virtuoso praise the original garnered, David has captured lightning in a bottle with this brilliant comedy. Ultimately, you don't need to hate Donald Trump to enjoy the show. Loving King Lear will not negatively impact your opinion. Loving Donald Trump might, but I'm not sure. I don't think much and don't hate Donald Trump - and I love King Lear. I enjoyed this show. It's worth more than a few laughs for less than a few bucks. Better than expected. To see it, check out: www.trumplear.com 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! at Don't Tell Mama by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Tym Moss (A)live!!
Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!
Starring: Tym Moss
Director: Lennie Watts
Musical Director: Andrew David Sotomayor
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 10/1/17

Growing up in rural Indiana in the 1960s and 1970s, Tym Moss had the pleasure of being able to attach posters of Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, and Andy Gibb to the walls of his bedroom (I am sure he liked the way they sang). He never heard the word "gay" but, in school, he was often called a Homo, a Queer, and a Faggot, and had no idea what those words meant. His self-discovery began at his senior prom when he was more interested in dancing with a football player than he was with his own date. After graduation, he timidly started going out to gay bars and, as he put it, "It didn't take me long to figure out what those forbidden words meant. I pride myself on being a good student." Before long, it was "raining men" and it continued "to rain and rain and rain until he just threw away his umbrella! The Kraken had been released!"

Off to New York City in search of fame and fortune, his first job was dressing as Miss Piggy, and he later found work touring with a Christian singing group called "Sunshine Express." When Tym admitted he drank, smoked, and was gay, they literally dropped him off in the middle of a cornfield. It seemed no one knew he was "the greatest star" except for himself. He became a real estate salesman, then a broker, and at 25 years old, he owned the company. He was financially successful but was miserable - so what's a boy to do? He found solace in the sexy and seductive magic of "a beautiful white powder" that made him feel safe and secure. At first, just on the weekends but eventually, every day was a Happy Day! For two decades, he lived the High Life but it soon felt like his addiction was crushing every bone in his body. He would beg for mercy and seek help but eventually would put off rehab for another day. He invited an abusive felon to live with him (who Tym called "The Devil") and his life became a long string of stabbings, hospital stays, and break-ins. His functioning days had ended. He was just a shell of his old self - a creep who had no idea what day or month it was. He couldn't recognize the man in the mirror. Realizing he was on a fast track to a short life, he went to rehabilitation and with the help of doctors, therapists, and counselors, he got clean and decided to do what he always loved - be an entertainer.

As Tym put it, "In the first 1/2 of my life, I was a supporting role in everyone else's reality. Now, in the second 1/2 of my life, I'm starring in MY reality." He didn't escape unscathed. He has "scar tissue on his brain due to having suffered many light stokes" and is "a partial amnesiac due to brain swelling." However, he can finally see clearly now and can feel a brand new day! The rainbow he's been waiting for is here! Tym Moss appreciates his new life and is making the best of it. He has a successful internet radio show, has been cast in a number of plays, and is now in the process of filming a movie. Most of all, he appreciates his friends and fans whose love he credits for lifting him higher and higher - in a whole new way!

This show entitled Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! is a huge success and audience-pleaser. It is brilliantly and impressively directed by Lennie Watts with the talented and professional Andrew Sotomayor as Musical Director. Tym Moss appeared on stage wearing a black shirt and pants, with a red bow tie and beautiful red boa. His made-to-order red jacket featured real peacock feathers. He made it clear he was ready to show all his true colors with pride and with not a single body part left to gather dust in the closet. He fulfilled his promise to be fun, fabulous, and flamboyant! "Tym's Dream Medley" was particularly impressive and his other songs were perfectly selected to accompany his life's journey. Those songs included, "Creep," "Do You Wanna Dance," "He Touched Me," Bring On The Men," "It's Raining Men," "I'm The Greatest Star," "Mercy," "Hurt," "Man In The Mirror," "Help," "On A Clear Day," "I Can See Clearly Now," "A Brand New Day," "Your Love (Higher & Higher)," and "Put A Little Love In Your Heart." 

The person who deserves the most credit for this funny and inspirational show is Tym Moss. Back from being one of the Walking Dead, Tym Moss is indeed alive! He is a consummate entertainer and a joy to watch. During this show, his debut cabaret performance, he takes you on an emotional journey and comes across as being totally authentic giving us his all and holding back nothing. I was particularly impressed with how he depicted his frenetic search for drugs during one of his many binges. Tym Moss is larger than life. He is a charismatic presence and a force of nature dedicated to making up for lost time. His energy seems boundless and I am certain he will succeed in achieving all his goals especially since he has a wonderful voice and a great stage presence. 

I highly recommend you see Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! at Don't Tell Mama while you can. His next show is on Sunday, October 15, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. Call 212-757-0788 (after 4:00 p.m.) for information and reservations.  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! at Don't Tell Mama by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of Tym Moss (A)live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!! at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Tym Moss (A)live!!
Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!
Starring: Tym Moss
Director: Lennie Watts
Musical Director: Andrew David Sotomayor
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 10/1/17

It was my privilege to see Tym Moss perform as advertised at Don't Tell Mama. With Andrew David Sotomayor on piano (and providing backup vocals), and with Lennie Watts directing, Tym Moss triumphantly achieved a near perfect cabaret debut appearance by singing interesting songs and sharing a bit of his life story. Tym grew up in the Mid-West where there was virtually no knowledge or discussion of gay life. He moved to New York City where he became a successful, but unhappy, real estate agent after failing to make it in show business. With a lot of money in hand and needing an escape from his daily drudgery, he started using cocaine, the wonder drug. Cocaine took over his life after he started using it on a daily basis. The next two decades were not pretty as he invited a convicted felon to move in with him and was subjected to great emotional and physical abuse. Even his own mother's death was not enough to change his life. Eventually, he was visited by an old friend and realized the man in the mirror was not the person he wanted to be anymore. He became determined to reclaim his life and succeeded in doing so with the help of doctors, counselors, and therapists. Tym returned to his first love - entertainment. Now with a new state of mind, despite being middle-aged, he is making up for lost time and pursuing his dream.

All this is told through song, a little dance, and the movement of his body. He sang a variety of songs that expressed his mood and the stages of his life. To me, the only jarring note was at the very beginning when Tym Moss opened the show with "Life Of The Party" by Andrew Lippa. As opening numbers go, this was not the best choice since it was a bit of a downer. Other than that, the song selections were excellent and the sold-out crowd truly appreciated Tym's honesty and sincerity - not to mention his extraordinary talent. He received a protracted standing ovation from the audience, many of whom were entertainment professionals. 

Don't miss this cabaret show! It is one of the best you will ever see. Go enjoy yourself, be entertained, and become enlightened by hearing a life story that will inspire you to improve your own life for the better. Time is fleeting. Don't waste a precious moment. Do what you love and be the best person you can be. Tym Moss will repeat his first live cabaret show on Saturday, October 7, 2017, at 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, October 15, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. Call 212-757-0788 (after 4:00 p.m.) for reservations.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Christopher Durang's Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Christopher Durang's Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them
Written by Christopher Durang
Directed by David Dubin
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 9/29/17

Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them had its world premiere at The Public Theater in New York City on April 6, 2009. The play goes out of its way to portray men as testosterone-driven, violent, abusive, sexually deviant, porn-loving animals and women as bubble-headed, unintelligent, blind, naive idealists without the self-respect to stand up for themselves and seek greener pastures. Felicity (Janine Innamorato-Haire) wakes up in her apartment to discover that after a wild night at Hooters, she married Zamir (George Ghossn), who claims his name is Irish. Zamir shows her the Marriage Certificate but she doesn't recall the ceremony conducted by Rev. Mike (Eric Clavell) nor getting mugged during which her credit cards were stolen. As any reasonable person would, she brings up the issue of annulment but Zamir, who speaks of having taken jobs that suggest he might be a very shady character, perhaps even a terrorist, threatens her with serious violence (e.g. "I'll shove my fist down your throat"). Under pressure, Felicity brings Zamir from Manhattan to Maplewood, New Jersey to meet her parents, Leonard (Angelo DiBiase) and Luella (Lisa Frantzen Greene). While there, Zamir says he cut the telephone lines just in case Felicity decided to try to call someone about getting an annulment and reports that he wired the house with explosives, which he could set off with his cell phone. Leonard pulls a gun on Zamir and Luella defuses the situation by making French Toast, which Leonard calls Freedom Toast because of France's unwillingness to join the Coalition of the Willing in the Iraq War. (As a side note, there is no "second floor" in the picture of Felicity's parents home projected onto the wall at the back of the stage, which is referenced repeatedly throughout the show.)

As the play unfolds, we find out that Zamir drugged Felicity at Hooters and that Rev. Mike, a minister who also makes porn ("A Porn-Again Christian"), married them while she was drifting in and out of consciousness. We also learn that Zamir is a Pakistani who is out on parole for credit card fraud and it is likely he who stole Felicity's credit cards during the alleged mugging. He also drugged her again to have non-consensual sex and not only expects her to earn all the money but wants her father to buy them a house. She asks her father to help her out of this impossible situation and he agrees because what father wouldn't stand up and help his daughter when she is in trouble. But Leonard, who collects butterflies (i.e. guns) and is part of the American Shadow Government suspects Zamir may be a terrorist, in light of the explicit statements he has made. He calls upon Hildegarde (Dolores De Poto), also known as Scooby-Doo, to surveil Zamir to ascertain whether or not he is a terrorist. She overhears Rev. Mike and Zamir speaking about the upcoming "Big Bang" and the many "explosions" that will take place in a number of cities. Of course, they were talking about Rev. Mike's upcoming porn movie but Hildegarde thought she confirmed a terrorist attack that was going to take place in the next few days. Leonard tortures Zamir to discover where the attacks will take place. No time for rendition because time is of the essence.

Luella lives in la-la-land. She does nothing but speak of the theater and can't seem to answer a direct question. Having been subjected to Sadomasochistic Sex by her husband (what she calls "unmentionable"), she claims to go to the theater to try to discover "what normal is." Given her husband's violent nature (at one point, he threatens, for no reason, to kill the audience using his automatic weapons), his involvement with the Shadow Government, and his kinky sexual predilections, she would prefer to stay detached from reality. As the Announcer (Jeff Greene) says, "She free-associates and free associates until she's so far off, she doesn't have to think about anything." Hildegarde has a secret crush on Leonard (she likes violent, autocratic, strong men), second-guesses her involvement in the torture of Zamir (during which he loses three fingers and an ear), and in one of the funniest running bits of the show, continues to drop her panties. Felicity, after confirming Zamir date-raped her twice (in defense, Zamir said, "I'm used to arranged marriages.), stole her credit cards, repeatedly threatened her with violence, and is a criminal out on parole is still concerned for Zamir's well-being at the hands of her father. Furthermore, she thinks her dad's defects can be cured by teaching him to be more empathetic and that Zamir can be changed by simply focusing on different aspects of his own personality. Felicity simultaneously believes that "our present creates our future" and that, "I believe people can change - they just don't." In the end, Felicity is willing to give the date-raping thief a second chance perhaps under the mistaken belief that bad men can be changed with the love of a good woman.

The entire cast is top-notch and a joy to watch. Particularly impressive was Janine Innamorato-Haire who, as Felicity, really carried the show and drew the attention of the audience. Dolores DePoto was absolutely hilarious as Hildegarde. She brought comic relief just when it was needed most. Eric Clavell turned Reverend Mike into a believable and likable character - not an easy task. Lisa Frantzen Greene, who as Luella, changed her dress color to suit her mood, was a very convincing blithering idiot. Any defects in the Zamir and Leonard characters are not the fault of the actors who played those parts so much as the fault of Christopher Durang, the playwright. Durang is supposed to be suggesting we wrongly suspected Zamir to be a terrorist due to our hysteria and unrealistic fears when he had Zamir make explicit terroristic threats that would lead any reasonable person to assume he was. As for Leonard and his participation in a fictitious Shadow Government aided by outrageous cartoon characters, Durang crosses the line when portraying the patriotic American as having the secret urge to kill all the audience members. 

Christopher Durang suggests if we don't jump to conclusions and if everyone focuses on their better natures, we can all get along in peace. Rapers and thieves can become men worthy of dating. Those willing to torture terrorists can overcome this bad instinct by learning to be more empathetic. Deeply held conservative attitudes regarding the role of women in marriage and society can be altered if only properly and gingerly pointed out to the person who has reinforced those beliefs over a lifetime of indoctrination. The most naive person associated with this play is Christopher Durang, the playwright who seems to live in an alternate reality of his own creation. As I left the play, I felt reassured by the thought that Christopher Durang is not in a position to be responsible for keeping our country safe from attacks by ISIS and other terrorists. He should continue to focus his attention on what he does best - writing plays.

Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them plays at Studio Theatre Long Island through October 15, 2017. Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 631-226-8400 or by visiting www.StudioTheatreLI.com     

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of George Kelly's The Show-Off at Theatre At St. Clement's by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of George Kelly's The Show-Off at Theatre At St. Clement's was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Show-Off
Written by George Kelly
Directed by Dan Wackerman
Produced by The Peccadillo Theater Company
Scenic & Lighting Design by Harry Feiner
Costume Design by Barbara A. Bell
Sound Design by Quentin Chiappetta
Theatre At St. Clement's
423 West 46th 20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/24/17

The Show-Off originally opened on Broadway at The Playhouse Theatre where it ran from February 5, 1924 to June 20, 1925 for a total of 571 performances. There have been five Broadway Revivals, none of which matched the success of the original. They were at the Hudson Theatre (December 12, 1932 to March 4, 1933), the Lafayette Theatre (March 5, 1937 to May 8, 1937), the Arena Theatre (May 31, 1950 to June 17, 1950), the Lyceum Theatre (December 5, 1967 to June 22, 1968), and Criterion Center Stage Right (November 5, 1992 to December 13, 1992). The play is about a working-class Irish family living in North Philadelphia. It is set in late spring, 1924. Josie Fisher (Annette O'Toole) and Neil Fisher (Douglas Rees) have three children: Joey (Tirosh Schneider), who is an aspiring inventor; Clara (Elise Hudson), who lives with her well-to-do, but inattentive, husband Frank Hyland (Aaron Gaines); and Amy (Emma Orelove), who is hopelessly in love with Aubrey Piper (Ian Gould), an obnoxious, but ambitious, dandy from West Philadelphia, who spends money he doesn't have, absent-mindedly fails to renew his driver's license, constantly borrows money he is unable to pay back, gets into all sorts of trouble, and can't even afford to pay the rent. Amy remains oblivious to Aubrey's lies even when the reality of the situation smacks her in the face. Amy & Aubrey eventually marry but Mrs. Fisher still thinks Piper is "a fool and a blatherskite."


The success or failure of a production of The Show-Off depends, in my opinion, on who is cast as Mrs. Fisher and Aubrey Piper. It is their interaction that will make or break the show, and unfortunately, Annette O'Toole and Ian Gould fail to deliver the performances required to engage the audience. I found Ms. O'Toole came across as shrill when she got agitated and Mr. Gould just wasn't charming enough to carry off the role. The play wasn't particularly funny and the first act was an absolute bore. The action did pick up during the second act but you must keep in mind that Mrs. Fisher and Aubrey Piper are both unlikeable characters. Mrs. Fisher has a great prejudice towards the Italians. When asked if she would like to go to an opera, she says, "I have better things to do than to sit and listen to some Dago singer" and when demanding to get properly dressed when going down to the Good Samaritan Hospital after her husband had a stroke, she says, "I'm not going down there looking like a Dago woman." She also wrongly refers to the Samaritan Hospital as "the Jewish hospital." Audrey Piper is equally despicable. You can't believe a word that comes out of his mouth. He constantly lies and repeats lines like "Sign on the dotted line." He claims to be the head of the Freight Department at the Pennsylvania Railroad but is, in fact, only a clerk. One day, he is promoting socialism, talking about Capitalism & Labor, while the next day he is interjecting himself, without permission, into Joey's business to negotiate a better deal for him with those very capitalist overlords he previously despised, being more than willing to share in the monetary windfall of a big corporate deal. There is no promised "battle of wits" that took place between Mrs. Fisher and Aubrey Piper. Aubrey finally does something that has a positive outcome and says, "A little bit of bluff goes a long way."

The set is beautiful and the costumes are period appropriate. There are also some remarkable performances worthy of significant praise. Elise Hudson does a very fine job as Clara. It is a complex role requiring her to express a number of different emotions. In each scene, Ms. Hudson excels. Tirosh Schneider is perfectly cast as Joey. He has great charisma, energy, and enthusiasm. He was a pleasure to watch perform. Emma Orelove is very believable as Amy even though you can see the train wreck coming from a mile away and will certainly find it hard to believe anyone can be that naive. Aaron Gaines was a fine addition to the cast playing Frank Hyland. I definitely would like to see him in a more substantial role and I am pretty certain he would have made a better Aubrey Piper. The remaining cast members (Douglas Rees as Mr. Fisher; Marvin Bell as Mr. Gill; and Buzz Roddy as Mr. Rogers) are all extraordinary and talented actors. But the miscasting of Annette O'Toole as Mrs. Fisher, and Ian Gould as Aubrey Piper, doom this production to second-rate status. If Aaron Gaines was moved into the main role of Aubrey Piper and the Director worked more with the obviously talented Ms. O'Toole to get the tone right, then this production might have some promise. As it stands, Mrs. Fisher acts as if she is constantly annoyed at one thing or the other, which doesn't make this play a pleasant experience for anyone.  

This limited engagement of The Show-Off at Theatre at St. Clement's runs through Saturday, October 21, 2017. The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets cost $49.00 and can be purchased by calling Ovationtix at 866-811-4111 or by visiting www.thepeccadillo.com 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Annie at The Gallery Players by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Annie at The Gallery Players was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Annie
Written by Thomas Meehan
Music by Martin Charnin
Director: Mark Harborth
Director of Production: Scott Andrew Cally
Set Design: Joshua Barilla
Lighting Design: Christopher Chambers
Choreographer: Emily Clark
Tap Sequence Choreographer: Robin Rivers Friday
Costume Design: Barbara Erin Delo
Music Director: Paul Helm
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Reviewed 9/22/17

The Gallery Players' production of Annie was simply marvelous. Anchored by a strong cast, this classic story of the hard-knock orphan who miraculously becomes the adopted daughter of Oliver Warbucks, melted the hardest hearts while remaining accessible to the plethora of children in the audience. Of all the actors, the most important were the orphans and these kids were great. This started the show off on a strong note and as each stage change showcased the staff's attention to detail, the audience could only be more impressed by this touching tale of fortune favoring the luckless.


Entrenched in the American canon, Annie became a musical in 1976 and ran for nearly six years on Broadway starting in 1977. The trio of Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin based the original musical on a comic strip that debuted on August 5, 1924, in the New York Daily News. This, in turn, was based off a 1885 poem written by the American writer James Whitcomb Riley. Having entertained audiences around the world in various forms for almost a century and a half, the musical adaptation of Annie's story was no different and has seen a myriad of revivals, productions, and tours worldwide over the past 40 years. You can bet your bottom dollar that The Gallery Players gave Annie its due. A number of the actors and actresses truly impressed.

Among the highlights were the popular songs sung by Annie in the musical. The young Emma Grace Berardelli did a great job in the lead role, especially when she sang "It's A Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow." I still have the tunes in my head, and her positive attitude and outlook on life should be adopted by all (not just FDR and his senior cabinet.) Berardelli's ability and stage presence were remarkable alongside talented acting veterans many years her senior. This hard work and dedication will pay off for years to come.

One of the best performances amidst the spotlight on Annie was by Luisa Boyaggi as Miss Hannigan. Convincing as a drunk and frustrated orphan matron, she brought out the best in her character in solo songs and with Alex Domini as Rooster Hannigan, her brother, in a solid "Easy Street." Her ability to scold, wince, yell, and throw her arms up in surrender was a testament to the complexity of the role. She made the character stand out as a complex, multi-dimensional woman with desires and fears as she waited wistfully beside the radio for a wanting bachelor while tormenting and being tormented by the girls in her care.

Heather Gault as Grace Farrell also impressed me. She looked the part perfectly as Oliver Warbuck's personal assistant becoming ally and confidant to the young Annie while maintaining posture and presence in both the orphanage and beside Mr. Warbucks. She had a knack for delivering her lines in such a way that perfectly communicated underlying meanings which mark classic plays like Annie as some of the best.  

I would recommend Annie to anyone getting to know American culture as well as families. This absorbing story is both fluid and dynamic, and The Gallery Players did more than a solid job. The ensemble of actors even pulled off a notable dance number (thanks to Choreographer Robin Rivers Friday) that brought me back to videos of Fred Astaire at the 1970s Oscars show. Annie runs through October 8, 2017. Tickets - $30.00 for adults and $20.00 for seniors and children 12 & under - can be purchased by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101, or by visiting http://galleryplayers.com/box-office/  

Friday, September 22, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Quartermaine's Terms
Written by Simon Gray
Directed by David Dubin
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 9/9/17

British author Simon Gray wrote Quartermaine's Terms, which won The Cheltenham Prize in 1982. In January 1983, it opened at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre before being transferred to Playhouse 91 in Manhattan in February of that same year. The story takes place over a three-year period in the early 1960s at a small school in Cambridge that teaches English as a second language to foreign students. The play is exclusively set in that school's Staff Room, where we are introduced to seven teachers, including St. John Quartermaine, a bachelor who has been teaching at the school for many years. St. John (pronounced Sin Jin) is a good chap with a cheery disposition who exhibits all the good manners of a proper English gentleman. He is relied upon by his fellow workers as a dependable dinner companion and babysitter. Unfortunately, this overweight man who, for obvious reasons, is more comfortable sitting in the lounge's easy chair, has been having more "senior moments" lately and has been nodding off more regularly. He has even missed a class or two and the quality of his lectures has suffered accordingly. When the end is near, St. John tries on an old tuxedo he found in a stored trunk. It's quite tight and reflects the fact that his glory days have long past. Unfortunately, St. John will be fighting no more wars and will find there is no place for him in the new order of things.

Many have interpreted this story to be about loneliness but I see it as an analogy for the decline of the British Empire and the moral corruption that has accompanied that decline. St. John Quartermaine (Frank Tangredi) represents the best England has to offer - he is a good friend, a supportive employee with pride in the school, who is open-minded, always willing to lend a hand, and committed to living life to the fullest. As he says, "one must have a go with everything." However, St, John, just like England, has grown tired, fat and lethargic. British citizens, represented by characters on and off the stage, represent the moral and intellectual decline of British subjects, soon to be displaced by the Japanese and Germans, the prominent nationalities of the students at the school. Mark Sackling (Scott McIntyre) and Anita Manchip (Carolyn Popadin) are both having trouble with their marriages. Nigel, Anita's husband, fails to make a go of a new literary magazine. Melanie Garth (Staci Rosenberg-Simons) may have murdered her mother and unfairly blames Derek Meadle (Michael Cesarano) for having torn out the page of a precious book lend to her by Thomas, the partner of Eddie Loomis (Ralph Carideo), who is the principal of the school. Ironically, Henry Winscape (Timothy F. Smith), the Academic Tutor, has a daughter who eventually has a mental breakdown and commits suicide because of her failure to get the grades she had hoped for. Derek is the opposite of an English gentleman. He speaks ill of his fellow workers, is accident-prone, and is a chatter-box. Eddie, as the principal, tries to maintain standards and views every employee as "family." He has contemplated firing St. John Quartermaine, but decided against it because, as he says, "If we turned St. John out, where would he go." Henry, when he becomes principal, has no such loyalty to St. John and eventually tells him, quite bluntly, "There is no room for you here anymore." 

That pronouncement is quite accurate. Given the academic and moral decline of England, there is no more room for a proper gentleman. As mentioned earlier, the tuxedo has long since been stored away and it no longer fits anyway. Old, senile, overweight and tired, the glory of the British Empire is just a memory. When finally recognizing this, St. John Quartermaine's restrained response is simply to say, "Oh Lord, I say, Oh Lord." The sun has set on the Empire and nothing will ever be the same.

All of the actors in this play are highly professional and perfectly cast for the roles they play. The writing is crisp and the characters are all well-developed. There are a few laughs here and there but Quartermaine's Terms is primarily a drama. It is interesting and engrossing. What appears to be a "slice-of-life" play actually can be viewed and analyzed on a number of levels and from various perspectives. I highly recommend you see it. For more information about Studio Theatre Long Island, visit www.StudioTheatreLI.com or call 631-226-8400. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of The Baroness: Isak Dinesen's Final Affair at The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row by Christopher M. Struck

This review of The Baroness: Isak Dinesen's Final Affair at The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row was written by written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Baroness: Isak Dinesen's Final Affair
Written by Thor Bjorn Krebs
Translated by Kim Damboek
Directed by Henning Hegland
Music by Aleksi Ranta
Set Design by Akiko Nishijima Rotch
Lighting Design by Miriam Crowe
Sound Design by Amy Altadonna
Costume Design by Stine Martinsen
The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/13/17

The Baroness captures an eerie intensity through the strange relationship between the young, Thorkild Bjornvig, and the famous, Baroness Karen Blixen (known in the United States by the pseudonym Isak Dinesen), who takes a special interest in his "career." The tale takes place in Denmark where the young doctor, Thorkild, has just garnered national fame as the country's latest acclaimed writer. Upon hearing of the young man, The Baroness swoops in "to claim him." The two had a prolonged relationship between 1948 and 1955 that the playwright, Thor Bjorn Krebs, reconstructed for dramatic appeal using notes from the time period.


Just off the publication of Stjoernen bag Gavlen, a collection of poems, in 1947, Thorkild (played by Conrad Ardelius) was living a life that seemed perfect. He has financial support from a benefactor, has just married, and has a young child. There is just one major problem. He can't write. This is incredibly common. As a writer, I've read or come across accounts of other writers who have to learn to overcome the new struggle to create. When once they might have relied on the "wind in their sails," many writers find it difficult to hunker down and repeat their performance especially under the pressure of expectations. In comes Karen Blixen using this opportunity to insert herself in the young doctor's life. Sometimes I felt that this wasn't very relatable and that the structure of the dialogue did not work to draw you in, but there were a number of positives to the performance including Dee Pelletier who made an astounding Karen Blixen.

Blixen (at 62) approaches the much younger Thorkild (29) with an enticing offer. She will help him to write. The offer does not seem at all innocent. Blixen requires Thorkild to join her at her home, Rumgstedlund, alone, leaving behind his young family. Thorkild accepts, hoping the isolation will prove helpful. As the "affair" commences, Thorkild treads through it with so much naivete (or perhaps hesitancy) that the relationship is never consummated. Blixen requires him to swear a pact to her in friendship by giving him a ceremonial African dagger. With every scene change, she questions his loyalty, and he listens and listens. He goes through all the motions, but he fails to write little more than one sexually-laced poem about lust.

It's not really a surprise that sex is the subject matter. Blixen describes things like putting a record on as if it is a sensual caress. She also often claims she will find the gorgeous young doctor a harem to unleash the desire that led him to write Gavlen. She'll present them in a bouquet, she says. The closest she comes, however, is giving him an actual bouquet of flowers in the colors of the women she describes. Complicating things is the young wife of Thorkild's benefactor, Benedicte (Vanessa Johansson). Benedicte fits the mold of the women Thorkild is interested in, and when Blixen eventually pushes Thorkild away to Bonn, Germany for a literary escapade, Benedicte goes to see him. Passion envelopes them, and Thorkild begins to sever the ties of his old relationships, including his wife. He takes refuge in a summer home his benefactor had bought before the affair.

This time it is Blixen who follows the young Thorkild who has finally succeeded in writing again. Blixen confronts him about the pact, and at first, Thorkild seems like he has been won over by Blixen's statements of passion, loyalty, and friendship. When she claims they must seal their pact in blood, Thorkild finally rejects her. Blixen, entranced by voodoo, sees a black adder on the threshold of the door. She takes it as a token of esteem, but Thorkild writes that it is an ill omen. The two break their bond, and Thorkild would go on to write multiple collections of poems throughout the rest of his life. Blixen would publish Last Tales in 1957, which include four stories that seem to relate to their friendship.

The performance of the play was good and left little to be desired. The set design and lighting helped to showcase an intimate, reflective look at the creative process through this striking production about one of literature's key figures. Many aspects of this play were revealing and powerful, especially regarding the creative process which Blixen states, in the play, "takes courage." There did seem to be a minor disconnect between the audience and the play. I feel this was mainly due to an over-reliance on the audience having a prior understanding of who the two characters were, especially Baroness Blixen. As an internationally famous Dutch author who died in 1962, Blixen lived flamboyantly, often wearing lavish outfits. She was best known for Out Of Africa, written about her life in Kenya, which was made into an Academy-Award winning motion picture. I'd recommend this play to anyone interested in the creative process. Tickets can be purchased for $47.50 at https://www.satcnyc.org/thebaroness 

Applause! Applause! Review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Inanimate
Written by Nick Robideau
Directed by Courtney Ulrich
Scene Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen
Costume Design by Sarah Lawrence
Lighting Design by Becky Heisler McCarthy
Sound Design by Megan Culley
Production Stage Managed by Gina Solebello
The Flea Theater (Siggy)
20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10007
Reviewed 8/27/17

Objectophilia is a type of fetish. It is identified when a person is romantically and sexually attracted to an inanimate object. When Erica (Lacy Allen) was in 9th grade, she fell in love with a stapler on her teacher's desk. She eventually swiped it and kept it in her bed for two years. Later, she got into bigger things - like the gazebo in the park. She said, "It felt good to be surrounded." Erica decided not to go off to college since she couldn't bring the gazebo with her. Finally, six months ago, she fell in love with Dee - the Dairy Queen sign. As Inanimate opens, Erica is in the process of admitting that fact to herself. Dee's energy is male and Erica is sexually turned on by the way the light of the sign shines on her. It makes her feel safe. She also feels the buzz of electricity flowing through the sign's pole and while sexual intercourse is not possible in this instance, Erica gets off basically through touching and rubbing. Erica tells Dee (Philip Feldman), "The thing is - I love you." and then says to herself, "The whole world feels different now and nothing is ever going to be the same." 


The Dairy Queen sign is not the only object Erica has a relationship with. In her bedroom, located in her older sister's house, she speaks with a lamp (Artem Kreimer), a stuffed animal (Nancy Tatiana Quintana), and a leather can opener (Michael Oloyede), each brilliantly brought to life by the actor who becomes the personification of each object. These things are her friends but she also uses them to help her masturbate. Erica eventually tries to have sexual intercourse with Kevin (Maki Borden), a friend from High School who works at the Dairy Queen, but she finds she can only remain aroused if the objects in Kevin's apartment speak to her. She tells Trish (Tressa Preston), her sister, "Kevin doesn't make me feel like I want to turn into a statue so I guess that's good." Kevin initially had the same reaction to Erica's objectophilia as you probably had and suggests a good therapist that might be able to cure her but, in time, he accepts her peculiar inclinations because he likes her and doesn't want to stand in the way of her happiness. He even gives her a job at the Dairy Queen. Kevin identifies with the rejection and scorn Erica has experienced since he was treated in a similar manner when he first told his dad he rejected labels and was open to sleeping with both men and women. Kevin has had a crush on Erica ever since High School (they are both now 30 years old) and would like her to feel the same about him but the best she can offer is a non-exclusive relationship (after all, she is in love with Dee). Plus, ever since Kevin first slept with Tommy, a good glass-blower at the King Richard Renaissance Faire, he has been sleeping with a lot of other men but he says, "When I date a guy, that's between me and Dionysus."

Trish, Erica's older sister, is in the process of trying to get voters to pass a Downtown Renovation Bill and hopes to use the victory there as a stepping stone to run for State Senate. A caller to a local television show Trish is on reveals Erica was seen in a grocery store placing a can opener under her blouse for sexual pleasure. Erica eventually comes out to Trish telling her, "I met someone and his name is Dee - he's a sign." In one of the funniest lines in the play, Trish asks, "A sign of what?" Things don't go well after that. Erica is forced to move out and Trish uses her influence to have the Dairy Queen sign torn down as part of the Downtown Renovation. Out of work, Kevin and Erica move into the North Adams Motel, where the motel sign (with female energy) starts to flirt with her. But Erica is not ready for a new relationship. She preserved a piece of colored glass from the Dairy Queen sign. As she holds it up to the light, she tells Dee, "I still feel you. Light shining through glass. Look at you shine. You are glowing. You are radiant."

As humans, we develop sexual attractions primarily based on past experiences. Early childhood fantasies, pornographic magazines, photographs, and physical interactions with others provide the source material for masturbation and the reward that comes from that act is the reinforcement that makes those thoughts and experiences "lock-in" as stimulating elements of our sexuality. There are probably as many "sexualities" as there are people in the world - tops and bottoms, straight and gay, those turned on by leather, animals, big tits, small feet, fat asses, hairy bears, uniforms, etc. In a tolerant world, you would only want to make such behavior illegal if it directly harmed others. A psychiatrist might argue that a person only needs therapy if the sexual turn on has become an obsession that interferes with the ability of that person to lead a productive life. Erica is attracted here to objects and she believes they are speaking to her. Should we accept her "sexual orientation" as we do in the case of homosexuality, or is her aberration an abnormality suggestive of schizophrenia. Should there be any limits to our tolerance? Trish, Erica's older sister, promised their mom (who died 7 months earlier) she would take care of her. Erica clearly had mental problems and Trish observes, "you've regressed since mom died." Even Erica is concerned about her sanity. At one point in the play, she says, "Am I crazy? Please tell me I'm not crazy." She even justifies her object-frotteurism as being healthier than allowing a man to enter her with "a dick - a major source of unsanitary germs." The major challenge for audience members is to decide whether you think society and Erica's friends should accept and support her "sexuality" or whether Trish is right when she says that "part of taking care of someone is making the hard decisions you know are for the best."

Inanimate is a thought-provoking play with an extraordinary cast. If you can handle the subject matter, I highly recommend it as a must-see show of the season. Tickets are $35.00 and can be purchased online at www.theflea.org or via the Box Office extension at 212.353.3101.