Monday, August 21, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Disney's The Little Mermaid
Original Book by Doug Wright
Modified Book by Glenn Casale
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Additional Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Directed by Stearns Matthews
Musical Direction by Greg Matteson
Choreography by Katie Rose McLaughlin
Assistant Choreography by Emily Missud
Stage Managed by Eric Braunstein
Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater
403 General Robert E. Lee Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11209
Reviewed 8/19/17

The Little Mermaid is an enchanting musical that transports one to a land and sea of make-believe. Good as the cartoon feature was, the stage musical puts legs (or fins) on the original concept. Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid was magical. The chorus and backup dancers, consisting of children of all ages, were well choreographed. They were wonderful, whether performing as a school of fish, backup cooks, or party guests at a feast. Katie Rose McLaughlin and Emily Missud are brilliant choreographers. Rita Donohue and Marla Gotay, assisted by many parents, outdid themselves in creating brilliant costumes for over 50 actors! 

Caitlyn Schmidt stole the show as Ursula, the evil, wicked Sea Witch. Ariel, played by Abigail Summa, was amazing whether acting, singing, dancing, or pantomiming. Andrew Gonzalez acted well in the role of Prince Eric but unfortunately, he could not carry a tune. Flounder, performed by Amanda Summa had a good voice and a strong stage presence. Liam Sprecht's character Sebastian acted so gay I suspect he may have been directed by Ru Paul instead of Stearns Matthews. At times, I was afraid he was going to fly right off the stage. Brian Mansell as King Triton successfully came across as a caring father. Steven Fazzolari did more with the part of Scuttle than the actor who played the part on Broadway. Many of the remaining cast members are very talented. You will be impressed.

The people behind the stage also deserve credit. I was impressed with the Lighting Design by Duane Pagano, helped by Osvaldo Gratereaux, Michael Fasano, Jerry Lam, and Robert Faicco. The Sound Design by Steve Jacobs, helped by Kendi King, Kirsa Danis, and Elaine Pollock was of professional quality. I was really impressed by the Set Design by Patrick Nash and Tara Perry, and the Props by Margaret McMahon and Maryjo Tipaldo. The scenes and set furniture were quickly and effortlessly changed. The projections suggesting various scenes were a nice addition and skillfully handled by Adam Olkin. Greg Matteson, the Musical Director, ably conducted the orchestra, which played well.

The Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater is one of the most comfortable I have been to. Refreshments were sold at a reasonable price. The bathrooms are also conveniently located nearby. Marla Gotay, the Producer, and Stearns Matthews, the Director, are to be congratulated for giving us a stage production worthy of Broadway. Remaining performances are on Saturday, August 26th at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, August 27th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $25.00 for adults, $20.00 for seniors and students, and $15.00 for children 12 years of age and under. For ticket reservations and information, call NCT at 718-482-3173, or e-mail 

Don't miss a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a Broadway-quality show!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Disney's The Little Mermaid
Original Book by Doug Wright
Modified Book by Glenn Casale
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Additional Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Directed by Stearns Matthews
Musical Direction by Greg Matteson
Choreography by Katie Rose McLaughlin
Assistant Choreography by Emily Missud
Stage Managed by Eric Braunstein
Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater
403 General Robert E. Lee Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11209
Reviewed 8/19/17

The Little Mermaid is a stage musical about Ariel, a mermaid who trades her beautiful voice for the opportunity to become human for three days during which she must win the love of Prince Eric, that must be evidenced by his kissing her by sunset of the third day. If she gets the kiss, she will remain human. If she fails, her eternal soul will belong to her Aunt Ursula, who is in a struggle with her brother King Triton for control of the seas. The Little Mermaid is based on the 1989 Disney film, which in turn was based on the classic story by Hans Christian Andersen. The musical began previews on November 3, 2007, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, officially opening on January 10, 2008, and closing on August 30, 2009, after 685 performances and 50 previews. A modified version of the musical with a new book and direction by Glenn Casale was developed in 2012, and this version has been the basis for subsequent productions. 

This presentation of Disney's The Little Mermaid is great fun! It features over fifty outstanding young actors many of whom definitely have a future in the theater. Nine talented musicians, led by Greg Matteson, provided the score. There were five standout performers - Abigail Summa, Steven Fazzolari, Amanda Summa, Anthony Berini, and Caitlyn Schmidt. Abigail Summa, who played Ariel, captivated the attention of the audience with her singing. Even though she gives up her voice, she continues to sing to the audience outside the earshot of her fellow actors on stage. Unfortunately, many of those songs were duets with Andrew Gonzalez, who played Prince Eric. Although he looked the part of a Prince, his singing voice was pitch-imperfect and cringe-worthy as reflected by the poor response of the audience. Steven Fazzolari was absolutely hilarious as Scuttle, the Seagull, who is supposed to have knowledge of human ways. The script has him making up words and stories. You'll never forget his rendition of "Positoovity." When he suggests Ariel must learn to "perambulate" if she wants to win the Prince's attention. Sebastian, the crab, misunderstands the meaning of the word "perambulate" and says Ariel "would never do that to win Prince Eric's love." In a very questionable decision by Stearns Matthews, the Director, Liam Specht performs Sebastian with the hand-gestures and voice inflections of a flamboyant gay man and ghetto-raised black woman. Amanda Summa was amazing as Flounder. She has a very strong stage presence and an excellent voice. Anthony Berini brought the house down as Chef Louis singing and acting during the song "Les Poissons." He nailed it! Finally, Caitlyn Schmidt was delightfully evil as the Sea Witch, Aunt Ursula. Even though she was wronged by her brother, it was hard to feel sympathy for her in light of the fact she is a mass murderer. Still, she was far more believable than was Brian Mansell, who played King Triton. His voice was far too high to come across as an authoritative King. The two big production numbers were "Under The Sea" and "Kiss The Girl." They were both magical!  

Ariel is a young girl who dreams "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence." She collects items from the human world and places them in her grotto ("look at this trove, treasures untold"). She saves Prince Eric, who falls overboard, and quickly falls in love with him. As Ursula ("ugly as a slug, hideous to hug") says, "The only thing more powerful than my magic is teenage hormones." Sebastian warns Ariel "to get your head out of the clouds and into the water where it belongs" and tells her "you're swimming in dangerous waters," but she is committed to giving up her family and friends to live in a foreign environment where humans eat the very fish who were once her friends. For dinner, Chef Louis was serving Lobster Bisque and Tuna Tartar. Without her voice, Ariel only has her attractive body and feminine mannerisms to get Prince Eric to love her. She succeeds and the Prince eventually chooses Ariel even over "the mysterious young woman with the beautiful voice" he has been searching for. As Prince Eric says, "We have much in common. You are a quiet girl in a noisy world and I am a Prince who would rather be a sailor." Even though her father thinks all humans are barbarians, Ariel "doesn't get cold fins" and defends them by saying, "You can't blame all humans for a few wicked ones." Eventually, Ursula is defeated and King Triton grants Ariel's wish and with the help of the audience waving lit Tridents they bought for $7.00 during intermission, the King turns Ariel into a human permanently. Prince Eric asks King Triton for Ariel's hand in marriage but the King says "Ariel can speak for herself." She consents and supposedly lives "happily ever after" remaining "a bright light in a dark world." Two other bad directorial decisions included how Prince Eric was depicted as having fallen overboard (he basically ran off the stage) and the manner in which Ariel destroyed Ursula's "magic nautilus shell" and took back her father's Trident (all of which took place off-stage). 

This production of Disney's The Little Mermaid is a great success. Despite the minor problems mentioned, I guarantee you will have a good time and be inspired by all the young talent who will be entertaining audiences for decades to come. Remaining performances are on Saturday, August 26th at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, August 27th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $25.00 for adults, $20.00 for seniors and students, and $15.00 for children 12 years of age and under. For ticket reservations and information, call NCT at 718-482-3173, or e-mail 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Lucky at Dixon Place by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Lucky at Dixon Place was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Presented by Atlas Circus Company
Created & Directed by Henry Evans & Tommy McCarthy
Production coordinated by Cody Johnson
Stage managed by Annie Corrao
Lighting designed by Alex Womer
Choreography by Tyler Holoboski
Dixon Place
161-A Chrystie Street
New York, New York 10002
Reviewed 8/15/17

Lucky surprised me with a combination of good, old-fashioned slapstick fun and a modern storyline. The mixture provided a family-friendly atmosphere punctuated by excellent commentary delivered by one five-year-old girl in the audience who had other guests laughing in hysterics when she said things like "It's so funny!" and "Is he going to eat it?" Thankfully, the timely remarks of a five-year-old are not necessary to enjoy Lucky. It is performed silently in the classic style of an early motion picture film. David Evans accompanied the action on the piano, which took place in front of a cartoon animation displayed on a big screen. Black cutouts with white chalk introduced each scene and inside each of these, the Atlas Circus crew impressed continuously with acrobatic stunts and good choreography. Even without a line of dialogue, Lucky communicated a deeper critique of modern society than almost all of the contemporary plays I've seen in the last year. There were scenes about the office 9-5, waiting tables, and chasing after a dream to be an actor all while being ever so close to finding love in this great city of New York. The modern conundrum, indeed, punctuated by stunning routines filled with daring flips!

The structure and characterization of this play done by Henry Evans felt like something ripped out of time. Yet, somehow Lucky managed to touch on so many aspects of life in the city today. From hunger to the struggle for mythical success to finding time for love. It was funny and made comical use of old Saturday Cartoon style cliches such as banana peels and whipped cream-pies. Lucky starts off with a pictorial sequence where Lucky, the character (Henry Evans), is sent off on his way to New York. At first, he has trouble adjusting to city life. His things are stolen (by Leo Abel's character), and he has a "good time" trying to get them back running around after Leo. Leo and Russell keep eating food in front of him in various roles including a funny sequence where Russell approaches him as a hot dog man. For the remainder of the play, these other three actors (Leo Abel, Russell Norris & Avery Deutsch) take turns targeting the young man, Lucky.

Leo typically plays a thief who ends up sneaking off with all of Lucky's belongings except for his briefcase which Lucky somehow hangs onto in a fun circus sequence. Following the opening scene mentioned earlier, Lucky attempts to peacefully spend the night in a park. Once asleep, Leo appears and after making off with everything but Lucky's shoes, he goes after Lucky's briefcase. Through many complex acrobatic maneuvers and back and forth with the muscular Leo, Henry Evans remains "asleep" with his head cocked slightly and the snooze button on. He snores loudly and somehow the two (Henry & Leo) make feats of balance and strength look easy whether the briefcase is in Henry's mouth or in his hands. Eventually, Leo is able to open the briefcase and reveal to the audience that there is nothing remaining within. Lucky wakes up to find that all he has left are his stinky shoes and his briefcase.

The other two play somewhat more "helpful roles." Russell Norris is every boss. Sometimes sauntering in. Other times running in with high knees and waving his arms. He made hilarious noises while Leo's character littered in the park or Henry's character disappointed him in some new way. With each job Lucky took, Russell's tall and lanky frame would end up tapping Lucky or Henry on the head and sending him away. That is until finally Russell, as a construction foreman, bursts into laughter after Henry attempts to acrobatically reach for a sandwich he's dropped from a swaying beam at a construction site.

Avery Deutsch represented the many love interests of Lucky in New York. She works with him at every job and is always just that elusive. Russell Norris even duct taped Lucky to a chair so he wouldn't peek over into the next cubicle at her. The duct tape didn't stop the two from dancing together beautifully, but somehow just before they kiss, she always seems to be pulled away. Avery did give a striking performance lip syncing to Ella Fitzgerald's Hernando's Hideaway. "All [we] see are silhouettes" indeed. So much fun!

There was no dialogue to delve into, but there was great attention to detail. At one point, Lucky wanders down a street and the theaters say, "Not you," "Cancelled," and "Someone else" before flipping to Lucky for a brief moment and then back. I would recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a good time and an interesting theater performance. For the younger crowd, the play is just fun and engaging. For the refined theater-goer, there is enough there to think about while enjoying magic tricks and the athletic circus routine expertly performed by Atlas Circus. Shows ran Tuesdays and Wednesdays from August 1st through 16th at Dixon Place, so hopefully, they will bring it back. Do check out @AtlasCircus on Instagram to follow these performers and see what they are up to next and when.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger's AfterLife at The Secret Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger's AfterLife at The Secret Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Written by Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger
Directed by Joan Kane
Costume Designs by Lani Cerveris Cataldi
The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, Queens 11101
Reviewed 8/17/17

AfterLife turns the apocryphal Biblical story of Adam and Eve upside down and inside-out. Here, we are introduced to a dystopian society you might describe as being the opposite of the Garden of Eden. A post-apocalyptic encampment is trying to rebuild and restore order and repopulate the planet. The new administration is trying to encourage women to have children and works hard to train men so they can defend the settlement from raiders and plunderers. Criminals, dissenters, and "unfunctionaries" have been exiled from the community protected by guards. Talkers have been taught to look down on Tags, people who were "tagged" for criticizing the administration and punished by being forced to imbibe an elixir that dissolved (temporarily) their vocal cords. Music is forbidden and considered evil and the land is full of toxins. Even the toxins were made into an elixir and sold. Many find it intoxicating!

Two extremely talented actors are the main characters in this play. Stark Wilz plays the Talker, and Lani Cerveris Cataldi is the Tag. The Talker, a man later named Eve, is surprised the Tag, a woman later named Adam, can speak and tries to lure her to cross back over to where he is in order to be the lookout while he climbs a tree covered in toxic slime to get two apples for both of them to eat - one for him and one for her. I must confess that until I understood the Adam and Eve analogy, I thought the Talker was a creepy predator, who I fully expected had the intention of raping and killing the Tag. One can't really tell when it happened but, at some point, after they ate the apples, they become aware of the fact that the guards (also known as The New Guardians of Light because no one is allowed out in the light unless they pay for a pass) couldn't see them. Just as Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Eve and Adam from this alternate reality find they have been freed from the living hell they have been living in. Both conclude they are dead and no longer feel fear, pain, nor hunger. They are free to do as they please and to be happy together. Everybody sing! Kumbaya!

The costumes, designed by Lani Cerveris Cataldi, are absolutely stunning. Lindsay Shields put together an amazing set comprised of barb wire, plastic bottles, and what looked like animal skins. Some of the lighter animal skins doubled as quicksand. On the negative side, the Tag inexplicably seems to have retained knowledge of Chakras (i.e. Life-Force Energy Centers), to believe they may have met before in a prior life, and to think certain things were "meant to be." This New Age "we are all one" philosophy seemed out of place and written in only because the playwright might believe in such things, including an afterlife. The wounds each character had on their bodies were expertly done and very realistic. The funniest moment in the play came when the Talker climbed the tree to get the two apples and got "toxic slime" all over his face. He cried out "My God! The Slime. It's on my face. Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!". I would describe his hysterical reaction as "crying like a little girl." It was hilarious! 

AfterLife has great potential even if it does require a bit more work. Main themes in the play need to be clarified. I found AfterLife to be quite interesting and the acting is top-notch. Tickets cost $18.00 and can be purchased at Future performances are on Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, August 27th at 3:00 p.m.; and Friday, September 1st at 7:30 p.m. It is part of Unfringed 2017 at The Secret Theatre.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Irene Kapustina's Lost & Guided at Under St. Mark's Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Irene Kapustina's Lost & Guided 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!

Lost & Guided
Written & Directed by Irene Kapustina
Assistant Director: Alexandra Kattan
Costume, Set & Lighting Design by Wesley Cornwell
Sound Design by Adam Cuthbert
Stage Management by Sabrina Morabito
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/5/17

Lost & Guided has an intriguing concept for a play. Set amidst the onset of violence in Syria's Civil War, it follows the fates of two families connected through best friends Amina (Mischa Ipp) and Rima (Mouna R'miki). While relying perhaps too heavily on the classic idea of how civil war or war, in general, can tear apart families and ruin lives, the play does synthesize the emotions of the characters through good acting and an engaging script. These factors allowed the play to capture both the naive hope, in the early days, of positive changes being made to the government and the devastating effects the war would later have on the citizens of the country.

Despite a plethora of moments of clarity that created intense emotional drama, there were some aspects of the play that made it difficult to follow. One of the problems was a convoluted story arc. Most likely meant to draw attention to how lives are altered by the onset of war as mentioned earlier, I felt like none of the featured characters became an early focal point. This made it hard to catch the main storyline, but it did provide for interesting dialogue that was partially a guise for the delivery of a deluge of information. 

The first scene in the play shows a conversation between Rima and Amina discussing husbands. Mouna R'miki as Rima was an awesome ball of passion that dominated the opening wonderfully. "I do not love him!" Rima exclaimed before launching into a twister-like tirade across the exquisite stage with a delicate balance of grace and verve. "He's so quiet" she would say about her husband while being her loud and obnoxious self and describing her character as the worst part of her personality. It was pretty funny, but beside her, Amina seemed to be merely a sounding board for Rima to talk to. Even though this scene seemed like a big deal, most if it didn't really factor into the main elements of the story. The most important part was the return of Imad and Sami (Rima's brother) with news. Even though he just got engaged to Amina, Imad accepted a position in a hospital in New Orleans.

Retrospectively, this might have been given a more prominent position in the unfolding of the story. The news could have been broken at the beginning of the scene and then Rima could have consoled Amina while lambasting her own husband. However, it came at the end somewhat disguising the fact that Imad takes the central role in the story powered by Doga Celik's superb performance. While Imad is in New Orleans adapting and adjusting to American life (quite comically at points), the Syrian Civil War breaks out and begins to tear apart his family back home. All he can do is stay in contact through Whatsapp hearing intermittent news from Sami, who works as a star doctor in a hospital, and Amina, who plans to escape with Rima as a refugee to Jordan. Imad is left powerless complaining, "I'm a man. I should do something," but he can't even tell his fiancee he misses her because she starts to cry. His biggest issue is being able to sound surprised and enthusiastic when colleagues tell him interesting news while at home bombs begin to become a constant threat. At first, Sami, played by the solid Shayan Sobhian, joyously discussed the pro-Democracy marches, but quickly the news starts to sour when Rima's husband is taken off to fight for Assad's army.

The other major difficulty in following the storyline was in the structure of the cast. Three of the seven actors played strange bit roles that mostly didn't require talking. These roles came in between major talking parts like commercials between different segments of the show. For example, immediately after Imad delivers his news about going to America, Jarrod Zayas, as an officer, chases, and mimes the killing of Alexandra Kattan, who plays a student. By mimicking hand movements on one side of the stage while Alexandra twisted and turned on the other side of the stage, Jarrod could act out more violent gestures, but it seemed a little awkward as the audience had no context for the interaction. Sami explained later when he told Imad over Whatsapp that students had been delivered to their parents dead. I am not sure if these scenes were added to make the situation seem more dire and violent, but it may have required more building up for the sake of comprehension. Susan Cohen Destefano also joined these in between segues dressed in a nun's habit and usually appeared only when death struck.

Regardless of these factors, the narrative became engrossing as the toll of the war became more and more apparent. I was deeply moved by the ultimate fate of the main characters in the play. Amina walked to Jordan for 10 hours, and Rima, who didn't leave, died in a bombing raid. Amina rested on her backpack mid-stage while Rima's body crashed to the floor in the back. Meanwhile, Sami safely rested up against the wall having just told Imad he was hiding under a support beam. When he goes to help an injured rebel left for dead, she cries out and a guard (Jarrod Zayas) kills them both. The two actors lay side by side after Sami sends out one last message to be received by Imad in America. Safe in America, Imad goes to pray.

There were a lot of positive aspects to Lost & Guided, but the story arc and the silent segues did make it difficult to follow. I would recommend this play for its timeliness and gritty nature. Doga Celik and Mouna R'miki stood out for their passionate performances as Imad and Rima. The cast as a whole brought a human face to a faraway war that now resonates for me more emotionally than it did before watching the play. For that, Lost & Guided deserves praise as does writer-director Irene Kapustina for writing the script after conducting interviews with Syrian refugees living in the United States. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it while it is at Under St. Mark's Theater through August 25, 2017. Tickets for $20.00 can be found on or by calling 1-800-901-7173. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Jonathan Tolins' Twilight Of The Golds at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jonathan Tolins' Twilight Of The Golds 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!

Twilight Of The Golds
Written by Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Carol Prisamt
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 8/6/17

Twilight Of The Golds is a play written by Jonathan Tolins that premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse on January 17, 1993. After a stop at The Kennedy Center and fifteen previews, it opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on October 21, 1993, closing on November 14, 1993 after 29 performances. The Golds are an upper-middle-class Jewish family from New York. They perceive themselves as liberals and religiously read The New York Times for fear they will be caught lacking in conversations with their friends. Phyllis (Heidi Jean Weinrich) and Walter (Len DeLorenzo) have two children - David (Alex Rich), who is gay, and Suzanne (Meredith Johnson), who is a buyer for Bloomingdale's. Have their children disappointed them? Sure. They wish David had been straight and feel Suzanne could have been a surgeon. Still, they love them and accept them for who they are even though they are not pleased with some of the choices they have made.  Both David and Suzanne are coming up on the third anniversary of their current relationships. Suzanne, with her husband Rob (Avi Goldstein), and David (with Steven, who we never meet). The family tries to be accepting of David's lifestyle to the extent they can but they still worry about him (given the AIDS crisis) and continue to hold their own opinions regarding homosexuality. When David forces his father to tell him what he really thinks, Walter says, "I think you are sick and if there was a cure, I'd want you to have it." Still, David's father loves him with all his heart, loans him money and shares his love of Opera. David's mom still thinks his being gay is somehow her fault. She says, "If only I didn't take your temperature that way!"

Individual monologues are spoken by each character directly to the audience giving us an opportunity to get to know the perspectives of each. There are no villains in this play. Each has a legitimate viewpoint on a very controversial topic. Suzanne finds herself pregnant and due to advancements in the Human Genome Project and more accurate testing through amniocentesis,  she learns there is a 90% chance her newborn son will be gay (like her brother). Abortion is an option. Rob, her husband, stands by his wife and says he will support whatever decision she makes regarding whether to keep the baby. Suzanne's parents also feel the decision is hers to make and will support her either way. David, on the other hand, is outraged there is even a discussion about the issue. He takes the matter personally and engages in his own Operation Rescue to convince his sister to have the baby. Rob is rightfully upset. He feels the decision should be made privately between himself and his wife and that David should mind his own business. Suzanne is torn. On the one hand, she understands David's perspective. On the other hand, she questions why they should put themselves through the difficulties of having a gay son if they don't have to. 

The playwright conflates gay culture with sexual orientation. No baby comes out "singing and dancing" and there is no guarantee a gay nephew will like opera and have, as David says, "that particular genetic aberration." Gay culture is a sub-culture any person is free to choose as their own. The clothing one wears and the speech patterns adopted usually reflect the degree to which a gay person wants their sexual orientation to be obvious. Phyllis and Walter Gold love their children and are not the kind of parents who would ever disown them for any reason. That is not enough for David, who is spoiled and always likes to get his own way. David buys opera CDs as gifts for his sister and her husband even though he knows they don't like them. This desire of his to want everyone to like what he likes has also gotten him into trouble with his partner. David can't accept his loving parents for who they are and respect their differing viewpoints nor can he respect the ultimate decision his sister makes about whether to have the baby unless her decision agrees with his. One day, parents may use genetic testing not only to screen for diseases but to also select various characteristics they may want for their children - such as a preferred eye color, height, etc. When that is possible, in my opinion, the decision should be made by the parents - not the government, not an ethics panel, not their doctors, and certainly not by a majority vote of the community. The result of David's meddling results in tragedy for the Gold family.

Twilight Of The Golds is a relevant and thought-provoking play. The actors in this production are all highly professional and extremely talented. The writing keeps the play moving at a good pace. You will be engaged and interested in the discussions that take place. Is it true, as Rob says, that "knowledge is neutral and it's what bad people do with the information that matters." And while David says to Suzanne, "you're rubbing me out," Suzanne argues back, "don't put the fate of the world on my shoulders. I couldn't finish pre-med and you want me to change the world." Walter is very philosophical about life commenting that while your children may disappoint you, "you find a way to love them even with all the crap." You may also identify with Walter's observation that "you have no idea how your heart breaks when the world doesn't meet your expectations." Suzanne said to David, "don't play the martyr - you know we love you." But in the end, David makes a decision that destroys the family and devastates his mother. You must see this play after which you will, no doubt, have many opinions and feelings you may want to share with others over dinner.

I highly recommend Twilight Of The Golds at Studio Theatre Long Island. Tickets cost $25.00 and can be purchased by visiting their website at The show runs through August 20, 2017. For more information, call 1-631-226-8400. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Antony Raymond's Apartment 301 at Access Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Antony Raymond's Apartment 301 at Access Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Apartment 301
Written & Directed by Antony Raymond
Access Theater
380 Broadway
New York, New York 10013
Reviewed 8/3/17

Elsinore County Theatre, the production company behind this play, advertised this run as "the world premiere of this comedy about a woman whose life is about to be radically altered." The show's publicist promoted it as a "New Comedy." As a result, I went to see Apartment 301 with the expectation of having a few laughs. However, as a comedy, it missed the mark on many levels. From the stilted script that lacked any depth to the dark lighting in the theater, a lot of pieces of the production negatively influenced the ability of the play to be funny. Most of the "jokes" were either making fun of millennial women or of a pathetic neighbor who otherwise seemed completely irrelevant as a character. The actresses had the hardest time breathing life into their dialogue and, for the most part, were unable to make the dramatic moments believable with good timing and realistic emotions. It was only the negative aspects of their lives that seemed to come forth strongly, which is why I kept wondering why the play was classified as a comedy. I'm not really sure how an unplanned pregnancy from a guy who lied about wearing a condom was supposed to be funny. 

The play's setting is limited to a single room of the apartment. The black door of the apartment featured on the program seemed a little creepier than I would have expected for a play that promised to be light-hearted and thought-provoking. The two girls, Morgan Scott as Brooke and Abbey Shaine Dubin as Lacey, begin by contemplating the color of a pregnancy test. It's a little confusing what they are talking about at first since the props and stage were sparse, but it becomes clear when Lacey states, "I'm late."

To give an example of the difficulties of the script, the two then launch into a winding discussion about what they should do that night. Brooke suggests they grab a bottle of wine and the first chuckle from the audience comes when Lacey says that "it will be an Ernest Hemingway evening." Only, apparently, it hadn't been decided at that point because Brooke gives some condescending advice to Lacey that she should have made sure her partner used a condom, while Lacey's response to most everything Brooke said was to question her motivations and intentions. Even before the bottle of wine has been opened, Lacey is saying to Brooke, "Hug me. I can't believe he did this to me." Finally, we get to the two of them commiserating about how much they hate their lives. Lacey straight out says, "I hate my life" while Brooke says, "There is nothing out there for me" as she apparently can't find work as an actress.

Jim, the neighbor (Eric Doviak) at some point interrupts this convoluted series of one-liners looking for a screwdriver to help put something together in his apartment. Easily the funniest aspect of the play is just how pathetic this 38-year old secretary at a law firm character is. After he gets the screwdriver, Jim returns it the next day and bonds with Lacey who is crying over being pregnant and having her dancing career as a ballerina suddenly placed in potential jeopardy. He insinuates himself into her life as a sounding board with this brief laugh getter, "You left the door open, so I didn't know if that was your silent way of saying it's O.K. to not leave yet." 

I felt the actresses handled this strange and awkward intruder situation with realism and measured emotion. However, the situation takes an unexpected twist when we learn Brooke, a Canadian, must figure out a way how to legally stay in the country. One night she is drinking alone when Jim appears with two sets of flowers, one for each of the roommates. Brooke gives this man, who has never been on a date, the run down on how to get a girl while he admits to having benefited from the services of a hooker on various birthdays courtesy of his brothers. Expectedly, the two sleep together and when Lacey finds out the next morning, deep emotional conflict erupts. Jim comes out of the bedroom and refuses to be sent away until they are all friends again. Jim accidentally pushes Brooke and she falls unconscious after hitting her head on a table. Frightened regarding the consequences of what he has done, Jim ties both roommates up but Brooke regains consciousness, escapes her bindings, and attacks Jim with the original screwdriver. During their fight, they happen to stab Lacey in the stomach. While Brooke calls for an ambulance, Jim stabs himself in the heart.

Apartment 301 is like an episode of Friends with half the cast and the plot of a short horror story. I am not sure if the ending was supposed to appear slapstick, but for me, the funniest moment was when Jim pulled away from the accidental stabbing of Lacey looking at bloody hands that had no blood on them. He changed this cleverly by getting blood on his hands while trying to "stop" the bleeding with a paper towel. But back to the point, the play's comedy didn't translate to the majority of the audience for a number of reasons I have already mentioned. The setting, the ambiance, and the script made it difficult for the acting to create the right recipe for laughter. I am not sure what would have helped but not relying on a single character for most of the comic relief would have been a step in the right direction. Tickets at $25.00 and are available on the theater company's website at 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Mark's Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Ten Foot Rat Cabaret 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!

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret
Jillian Thomas - Master of Ceremonies
Produced by Gregory Levine & Rob Dub
Featuring Various Performers
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/2/17

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret is an entertaining and worthwhile experience for anyone interested in a taste of the New York Cabaret Scene. In a small black-box theater on St. Mark's Place, this variety show has been running for four years now. As far as cabarets go, this extravaganza features older, experienced performers as well as newcomers. With a rotating roster combining the classic single singer, comedy, and burlesque routines from month to month, there is an opportunity to immerse yourself in New York Culture and get an idea of what types of shows might interest you. Additionally, you may see one or more of these performers returning, and perhaps also get a surprise visit by Neil Diamond - if only. The following six performers were featured at the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret on August 2nd:  She She Dance, Kevin Michael Smith, Gregor of Berlin, Galatea Stone, Shayna Bliss and the JJs, and artist-in-residence Bill Chambers as Neil Diamond. The comedian, Jillian Thomas, was the Master of Ceremonies. I am told the name Ten Foot Rat Cabaret was inspired "by those giant inflatable union-local on-strike Rat balloons seen throughout New York City and, of course, our durable hometown critters themselves."

She She Dance opened and closed the night. Introduced by Jillian Thomas as one of their returning performers, she opened us up with a bang. Blues singer She She Dance, a pseudonym for Azusa Dance, has a strong voice, a positive attitude, and solid dance moves. Putting those together in the intimate, grungy atmosphere at Under St. Mark's Theater was like putting an energizer bunny into your living room if your living room looked and smelled like a basement with a bar. She sang Dancing In The Street and Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog with the verve of a Red Bull. At times, her deep voice was a little scratchy, but she really packed a lot of power into each line which made for a good opening.

Kevin Michael Smith was next up. An Air Force Man, Kevin's jokes tended to revolve around his time as both a reserve and deployed member of the USAF in Afghanistan. Some of the references that might have drawn a few cheers from a different crowd didn't get the same reaction from this Lower East Side audience. Still, he earned a few good laughs and was able to adjust his routine to the audience as he went including the gem that he probably set the record for "most condoms on (him) at one time while having unprotected sex." He performs a weekly show, Polished Comedy, at Beauty Bar in Manhattan.

He was followed by Gregor of Berlin (Gregory Levine) who was "contractually obligated" to appear. First, he pontificated on the trials of being relegated to a lower status of a comedian by his agent who wanted him to hone his craft. It was a clever sequence of self-effacing jokes which appeared within grander statements. He would remark on his frustrations on being sent to rooms with comedians who actually needed the help as if he was unaware that his comedy wasn't quite up to snuff. One of these destinations was Disney World where Gregor entertained children. With a stalwart set of stout anti-jokes, Gregor was able to deliver jokes in the form of advice and mockery of American children. He'll be at 54 Below on September 8th. He also hosts and co-directs Guilty Pleasures Cabaret.

Gregor also got the best job of the night according to him, introducing the burlesque dancer, Galatea Stone. Galatea strutted in dressed in blue with a feathery turquoise scarf that draped to the floor on what looked like 9-inch heels. Somewhere 7 or above at least. Talent. She danced for the song Sex & Candy by Marcy Playground, gradually pulling articles of clothing off and enticing the crowd to follow her hand gestures. It seemed like she would bare it all only to reveal a pair of stickers covering up her nipples. If you are interested, she'll be at Legion in Brooklyn for her monthly show, We Are Legion, at 8 p.m. on August 9th.

Shayna Bliss followed Galatea and disarmed the crowd with her voice rather than her legs although she did dance a little to the music as well. Accompanied by the JJs, a pair of brothers on the drums and piano, she sang Patsy Cline's Strange and The Beatles' The Fool On The Hill. She brought a lot of emotion to her performance which struck me as she seemed to pour her soul into her music. She wasn't quite able to coax the same volume out of the PA system that She She Dance did, but she obviously dug deep. An enticing performer, I look forward to seeing her again.

Neil Diamond came last. The impersonation portrayed an astute parody of the pop-culture giant, but I must confess to having never seen Neil Diamond live. A crowd more familiar with the hallmarks of a Diamond performance might have gotten more out of the solid Bill Chambers' performance. Still, his jokes about weed and old New York hit a few members in the audience, and his singing of one of Neil Diamond's classics while gyrating violently was a nice touch.

Very fun stuff. That's what you can expect from Ten Foot Rat Cabaret. Tickets for $10.00 can be purchased online at or at the door. Starting next month, the show will be on a Saturday night. The next show will mark their 4th Anniversary! 

FALSE FACT: It has always been hard for performers to find audiences and fill theater seats. One day, a struggling comic saw one of those Ten Foot Rats and observed 15-20 union members just standing around talking to one another and holding signs. He thought to himself - there's an audience! He stopped off and did a 10-minute set that was well-appreciated. The next day, he brought more of his friends down to perform and entertain. As time went on, the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret moved from site to site earning for itself some press and a very positive reputation. Eventually, the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret moved indoors, got a following, and continues to entertain audiences who would otherwise just be standing around somewhere talking to one another.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Chesney Snow's The Unwritten Law at Dixon Place by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Chesney Snow's The Unwritten Law at Dixon Place was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Unwritten Law
Written & Performed by Chesney Snow
Direction & Choreography by Rebecca Arends
Co-Created by Chesney Snow & Rebecca Arends
Production Management by Joe Flowers
Visual Design by Emre Emirgil
Lighting Design by Ro-z Edelston
Dixon Place
161-A Chrystie Street
New York, New York 10002
Reviewed 7/31/17

"The Unwritten Law" are social norms you are expected to follow. If you disobey them, you can expect an extreme and potentially violent reaction by some members of your community. For every gender, ethnic, racial and/or religious group, the social norms differ. In a conservative Muslim country, the unwritten law might be that a woman should not dress too immodestly. An effeminate man in America might need to "butch it up" in some settings. For a black man in America fifty years ago, it might mean not walking down the street with a white woman, or in the case of Chesney Snow's relative Charles, the offense was for having the audacity to shoot back after being attacked by Klan members in the middle of the night. The punishment, of course, is death.

Chesney Snow, a well-spoken African-American young man, has overcome many obstacles in his life. His gutsy, visceral performance brought tears to his eyes as he relayed major turning points in his life. He discussed the trials and tribulations of his mother and how over decades of injustice and reconciliation, his family has made marginal socio-economic gains which have been achieved through hard work. That is especially evident in the life of Chesney Snow, which is told in this show through narration, poetry, dance, and live music. Before he starts to tell his own story, he takes a bit of a winding road approach I don't think was altogether necessary. But the stories he told were interesting and revealing. He was delightfully aided in that by the talented interpretive dancers Rebecca Arends and Winston Dynamite Brown with pianist A.J. Khaw, and cellist, Varuni Tiruchelvam.

The story of his mother was particularly moving. At age 17, his mom lies almost dying on the sidewalk but through an indomitable spirit that would characterize much of his and her life, she gets up and lives to have him three years later in 1979 when she is age 20. His mom is the true heroine of this story. Through near Herculean effort, she carried her family on her shoulders. She worked in a Nursing Home where she endured "endless days and nights of wiping asses, bathing and feeding elderly patients" including one old man who tormented her with egregious insults. When he realized she was pregnant, his mom told him it was her intention to name her son after him. He then broke down, cried and apologized to her for enduring years of his abusive behavior. Chesney relates having gone through "grade school hell" because of his name. Because his father was pursuing a career in radio, money was coming in slow, and when Mr. Swift refused to get "a real job," his mom took him to Chicago where she met "Michael, the Eiffel" (so nicknamed because he was tall). His little sister is born, and everything seems blissful until young Chesney realizes his mother is being beaten and that drugs are a constant curse. Chesney stands up to Michael one day during one of his mother's beatings by smashing him in the leg with a hammer. They leave temporarily for Mississippi, but after a brief return to Chicago, his mother decides enough is enough when she discovers Michael has touched Jackie, Chesney's six-year-old sister.

Chesney reflects that his mother must have endured those beatings for him and his sister, and it serves again to show how strong a woman she was. For the next five years, Chesney and Jackie live with GG, his grandmother, who he describes as being so tough and no nonsense that she once shot her own drunken sister in the ass. This is also when Chesney began to beatbox, an art form where the performer replicates the sound of percussion by using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. With his cousin Bobby, they began to perform publicly. Bobby may have had the voice of an angel, Chesney remarks, but he was also brought down by muscular dystrophy. The last steps he would take were to GG's house where she would love and feed him while they made music. Things pick up for a little while for Chesney and his family when his father finally earns some money and renown in Oklahoma City as a radio show host. Chesney spent some time with dad, and after five years, his mother returns with a new man, Jessie. Unfortunately, the good times did not last. Jessie pulls a gun on Chesney's mom, and thanks to a scream by Jackie, the family is able to escape. They end up living in a small town in Wisconsin, where they are the only black family in the neighborhood. 

Adjusting to that new life wasn't easy. At first the kids gave him a hard time, but eventually, the community welcomed him especially because of his musical skills. Perpetuating the patterns and choices that stand in the way of breaking out of one's socioeconomic class, at sixteen years old, Chesney gets his girlfriend pregnant and realizes he has failed his mom. He calls his dad for help only to learn that his dad has been arrested. Chesney does everything he can to get custody of his son Deron, but a couple of slip-ups with fighting at school and a failed marijuana test result in his son going to live with his baby momma's trailer park grandma. His argument that his own mother bought a house wasn't enough to sway the custody decision in his favor. He would spend the next seven years trying to rescue Deron from this hell but Deron would only disappear further into the abyss of Child Services after Chesney tried to take him, without permission, across state lines. After five more unsuccessful years, Chesney begins grinding with what he does best, beatboxing until he begins to make Off-Broadway performances in 2010 and receives a cryptic e-mail from someone claiming to be Deron.

The Unwritten Law shares a heartfelt story of one person's life. It presents the challenges Chesney Snow faced in his struggle to rise up and achieve. The heroine of the story, his mom, played an ample role in the way the drama of his life played out and perhaps she deserves more credit than he gave her. Few people face such difficult circumstances and I think it's inspiring to see how hard Chesney has worked to make a name for himself. Has he found his son? He didn't say. Perhaps that is part of the purpose of this performance. There are a couple of times Chesney showed off not only his skills to rhyme and twist words but also to beatbox and rap. It was a unique performance and a definite treat. Chesney Snow is an entertaining storyteller and he raises plenty of issues for the audience to contemplate. You can catch The Unwritten Law at Dixon Place from July 30-August 14, 2017. To get tickets, call 212-219-0736 or go to 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Tamar Bartaia's A Toy Gun at Teatro Circulo by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Tamar Bartaia's A Toy Gun at Teatro Circulo was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

A Toy Gun
Written by Tamar Bartaia
Directed by Becky Baumwoll
Translated by Donald Rayfield
Teatro Circulo
64 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 7/29/17

A Toy Gun, a play by Tamar Bartaia, is part of the Georgian-American Theatrical Feast, a festival of new works written by playwrights from the Republic of Georgia. It begins in a small Georgian town but the country's setting and the sequence of events that affect it during the lifetimes of our two main characters, Medea (Tara Giordano) and Yoram (Luke Younger), could have happened anywhere else in the world. The writer and actors successfully present universal themes that resonate beyond the circumstances of any one country. One of the main plot points is how the two characters react to current events in their home country from their changing perspectives following a shared incident with a toy gun.

The two characters meet on an empty black stage when Medea (Mea) goes to an audition for a role in a play that her teen idol, Yoram (Yo) is putting on. The actors portray the emotions of the moment very well while they also begin spreading colored sand along the ground which accumulates as time passes. At the start, Mea is giddy with hope while Yo is cursing the fame that isolates him. He can't stand love letters or his adoring fans while Mea makes up having received even one. While she waits in line to audition, she catches Yo's attention, but not for the right reasons. She has had a drink of Brandy, and Yo notices that her eyes glisten. He asks her to audition, but while in her mind, she impresses, in reality, Yo can barely stand the sight of her. He sends her away saying, "You have no talent." Mea storms out, and when at home, she fumes. With excellent chemistry and rhythm, the two actors were able to make all this believable whether there were supposed to be two or twenty people in their fictional world.

At first, she plans to kill him with her dad's shot gun but then goes to grab her brother's toy gun. She intends to humiliate Yo in front of his audience by showing him what a great actress she is but when she arrives, he is alone working late. He hears her coming up the stairs and tries to calm himself down by telling himself it is probably just one of his fans looking for an autograph. Mea appears and threatens him with the toy gun. To her surprise, Yo breaks down crying. She loses all respect for him and tosses the gun on the floor beside the sniveling Yo. He grabs it after she's left and realizes instantly that it is only a toy. There are many emotional aspects portrayed in this scene but there was still a long way to go. The toy gun incident alters both characters' paths in life. Mea runs home to tell her family she no longer wants to be an actress - to their relief. Yo goes home to wallow in the misery of his realization of having broken down in front of this little girl. Mea suddenly has more confidence in school, and Yo begins to cancel shows so that no one sees him miserable. At one point, he throws the gun out the window only to look for it in the dark. When he finally does come out for a show, he is haunted by Mea's face and sees her everywhere in the crowd. But he does the performance and receives applause. 

Years go by. Yo stays an actor, and Mea gets married and has kids. One day, for her confidence and unique mezzo soprano voice, she is selected for a prestigious scholarship at the famous La Scala in Milan. Everyone is proud and Yo sees Mea on television saying how beautiful she is and not recognizing her as the child with the toy gun. The roles have now been reversed. While Mea once looked up to Yo as untouchable, now Yo looks at Mea the same way. Unfortunately, while she is gone, a civil war breaks out. Yo is brave and fights hard. He is one of two survivors from his battalion. Meanwhile, Mea watches helplessly from abroad and begins to feel the isolation, loneliness, and imprisonment of fame Yo once felt. Because of their fame, both were asked, "Which side are you on?", and both couldn't tell a difference between the sides. 

The remainder of the play deals with this dichotomy. The lives of the two characters are ruled more by their roles in society than by their own desires. Mea continues to succeed as a singer, and ultimately when offered a contract late in her career, she turns it down to return to buy her father's old house to reinvigorate the community. Although her search for purpose abroad had turned into homesickness, the aging Yo, inspired by the incomparable Mea, has begun to learn English and frets that he has wasted too much time. Even when a second civil war breaks out for a little over a week, he risks marching through the dangerous streets in order to study English at his tutor's house. He discovers that English is not as hard as he thought, and he falls in love with his tutor's twin children, who call him Grandpa. He begins to write plays in English, and one of his plays is accepted for production in England. On the same flight he takes into Heathrow, Mea leaves for home. In England, Yo realizes the plays there are pretty bad, saying the audiences "are bound to like (mine)." He plans to write plays at home so he can spend time with the twins. However, on the flight home, he has a stroke after writing his final play, A Toy Gun. Mea, now living in the same town as Yo, rushes to his bedside to confess that she was the girl from that day long ago. A week later, posted from the day before Yo's death, Mea receives a package and inside is her brother's toy gun and the words, "Thank you for everything dearest."

The solid structure and depth of this play are apparent from the start when society and class lines are insinuated by the briefest mention, but astounding detail lies just beneath the surface at every turn. For example, from London, Mea sees the civil war as lasting three days while in-country Yo and the tutor see a civil war that lasts almost two weeks. These are small things but they serve to create the perspective that details may change based on from whom and when the information is received. The actors brought out the level of depth that made this play well-worth seeing. They engaged the audience to create an intimate setting and deserve credit for solidly executing their lines. There were no complex fight scenes or dramatic dances but they talked easily and moved around the stage pouring different colored sand from envelopes and packing boxes. This seemed to represent the experiences that one accumulates in life because, in the end, each of them had their own large pile and the rings they had formed at the start of the play had become muddled and unclear. It was a cool image and helped to keep my attention.

I'd recommend this play. It is short and meaningful and shows that the search for meaning in life goes beyond finding a day to day purpose. Instead, it is about connecting and forming bonds between people even if by some strange incident involving a toy gun. This play runs from July 19th through August 3rd at Teatro Circulo (