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. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of In A Little Room at The Wild Project by Christopher M. Struck

This review of In A Little Room at The Wild Project was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

In A Little Room
Written by Pete McElligott
Directed by Patrick Vassel
Stage Managed by Emma C. Olson
Set & Graphic Design by Zachary Zirlin
Costume Design by Evan Prizant
Lighting Design by Katy Atwell
Technical Director: Thomas Romme
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 9/9/17

A phenomenal script by Pete McElligott was brought to life by the talented acting trio of Jeb Kreager, Luis-Daniel Morales, and David Triacca. Not since watching a performance of 'Night Mother have I felt a script had a better hold of character development and dialogue. Set in a hospital waiting room, the pair of Jeb Kreager and Luis-Daniel Morales weaved their way through the complexity of human relationships with dynamism and dark humor. They shined together in the roles of the seemingly hapless Manning (Jeb Kreager) and the suited-up and serious Charlie (Luis-Daniel Morales) as they meet due to an unlikely conversation starter amidst mysterious circumstances.


Manning walks in, peruses the magazines, crosses the entire room to take a seat, clears his throat and asks, "Would you like this coffee?"  As innocent a question as it may seem, it tips the dominoes leading us towards an intense conversation between two strangers about life, death, and the uncomfortable questions that may arise when we begin to talk about them. Charlie accepts the coffee, and as Manning, dressed in classic dad outfit (loved the costume design) goes to deliver it, he trips spilling the coffee on a sleeping guy (David Triacca). Manning and Charlie get to work deciding what to do about the spilled coffee and, of course, promptly do nothing about it. Thankfully, it was cold already. When the guy leaves to clean himself off, the two wonder if he will come back. Eventually, Triacca does return to the little room playing a doctor, the second of three characters - the third is an arsonist.

This is when the play begins to get darker and darker (or in other words - really good). Sometimes the audience is consumed with laughter while at other times, the material is serious enough to suspend the room in silence. Charlie just lost his wife, who, at 27 years of age, died after suffering two consecutive strokes. He pines for all the years that they might have spent together. He wonders about the triviality of her instant death. Manning attempts to comfort him by saying, "It could have been worse" and after a moment, Charlie whips around accusingly, "What do you mean it could have been worse?" Demanding an explanation, Manning eventually shares that his 5-year old daughter just died of a brain tumor after suffering months of agony. The two dive deep into what's worse, instant or prolonged death, and the question of whether they would warn someone who was potentially going to die. They are instead interrupted by hospital fires that are quickly consuming everything around them.

At one point, Manning describes how he views life - "Billions of people doggy-paddling in the middle of the ocean...Billions of folks. Surrounded by endless water. Doggy-paddling in place. Trying desperately to ignore the fact that eventually - they'll get tired, they'll get old, and they'll go under. All of them." This view is perhaps reflective of Manning's depression and is a foreshadowing of a decision he will make later in the play. 

Triacca returns as Keagan, who looks as if he has walked through the fire. He warns Charlie and Manning that they probably should leave the hospital and get out before the fire consumes the place. Manning and Charlie get into an argument again, but it's short. They are both faced with the decision of whether to leave or stay as the walls burn down around them. Charlie, the younger of the two and the one who has been talking about all the things he has to do, heads towards a stairwell Keagen pointed out. He tells Manning he'll be waiting for him with a car, but Manning waves him off. Manning can't bring himself to move, and then the lights go out.

Great job all around. The actors, especially Kreager and Morales were fantastic. The play was funny, deep, and disturbing. What more can you ask from a dark comedy? Nothing, I think. There is more to the play than what was referenced here, and I do hope that this taste convinces you to give In A Little Room a shot. It's filled with perceptive commentary. The play runs through September 24, 2017. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased at www.tenbones.org or by calling 866-811-4111.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Loveless Texas at The Sheen Center by Christopher M. Struck

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

Loveless Texas
Music & Lyrics by Henry Aronson
Libretto & Direction by Cailin Heffernan
Scenic Design by Evan Hill
Costume Design by Cheryl McCarron
Lighting Design by Michael O'Connor
Sound Design by Ian Wehrle
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick
The Sheen Center
18 Bleecker Street
New York, New York 10012
Reviewed 9/7/17

Loveless Texas took an interesting twist on Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost and made for a generally entertaining musical. For most of the first half of the play, the tension built and the songs, written and composed by Henry Aronson, were fun and often catchy. A few missteps in the script, however, kept this uplifting tale from reaching the level of a virtuoso.


The biggest issues with this modern restructuring of Shakespeare's classic were that it didn't take a big enough step away from the original in the over-arching plot. It became too predictable while creating too many subplots which became mired in unnecessary detail. Almost every character in the cast of twelve actors had their own arch. This not only limited the pace of the first act, but it bogged down the second act as well with corny serendipity. Long story short, all the characters fell in love with a counterpart from a competing ranch in 1930s Texas. One of the largest issues with this was the fact that almost every actor had a song to sing. While the lyrics, were in my opinion, clever, they were mostly songs about death and devils and love. Potentially quality subjects for a comedy, but even the cast members who could execute their material better than others heard only a little bit of laughter and appreciation from the audience. There are two possible reasons for this. The first being that it didn't seem like Loveless Texas focused on the comedy. It seemed to be much more focused on a tense relationship between the mature, "King Navarre," and his immature, younger brother, Berowne Navarre, and how the relationship between the two characters developed. The second was that the audience had to strain to hear many of the songs over a live band that performed in the corner. The live band was a welcome presence but it was a little too loud at times for the actors to overcome.

Despite these limitations, I still enjoyed this musical. I felt like Darren Ritchie as King and Joe Joseph as Berowne did a fabulous job. Their solid performances helped to create palpable tension as the two butted heads on life philosophy. King Navarre owned a ranch in Texas at the onset of the Great Depression and had promised to sell an oil-strike to a rancher in Louisiana named Leroy Beausoleil. Leroy had apparently come upon the information that the strike was about to hit pay-dirt while King Navarre believed it was about to run dry. Before the land was officially sold, the oil reserve boons and King Navarre refuses to sell. After tracking down his younger brother, Berowne, who had been gallivanting with his two buddies, Duke (Colin Barkell) and Bubba (Brett Benowitz), causing trouble all over the continent and parts of Europe, King coerces them to sign an agreement to work on his property under three conditions: no drinking, gambling, or womanizing. Berowne reluctantly agrees (since King threatened to cut off payments from his trust fund), but then suddenly takes the high road on the property issue arguing basically that all the moral authority in the world doesn't matter if King is not a man of his word. King points out that Berowne doesn't understand taking responsibility, and frankly, as a viewer, I was hooked.

King Navarre's plans are complicated when Leroy's daughter, LaReine Beausoleil (Trisha Jeffrey) arrives in Texas to attempt to claim her land accompanied by three women, friends of hers, who have some history with Berowne and his companions. Admittedly, things move a little too fast here as love is in the air. The characters on King's ranch are all men, and they quite quickly find counterparts on the Louisiana side to fall in love with including the stodgy, woman-scorned King Navarre, who falls for LaReine after barely a word passing between them. King (Darren Ritchie) sings an intriguing solo number about choosing between business and his heart, and as the first act closes, he makes his choice - business - by interrupting the other lovebirds during the most comedic sequence of the play, a local dance that Berowne and his companions sneaked off to in bad disguises so that they could check in on their women. As this confrontation comes to a close, LaReine learns her father has died. King attempts an apology, but LaReine and her party leave for Louisiana immediately.

The build-up went for naught as the remainder of the play becomes song after song wrapping up the subplots. The main important part of this second act comes when Berowne and King argue, in song, about a compromise Berowne suggests. It is unclear what King will choose, but later, at a wedding between Duke Dumaine (one of Berowne's companions, Colin Barkell) and Kathy Bridge (one of LaReine's, Annette Navarro), King surprises everyone by offering the full deal to Berowne. At the wedding, everyone finds their love except for Berowne and Rosaline. For some reason, Rosaline is miffed after not receiving a formal response to a letter she wrote pleading for Berowne to stand up to his brother. He stood up to his brother, but apparently, she needed it in writing. A year later, she holds up his poker game disguised as a seldom mentioned minor character who goes by the name of the Cowgirl Bandit. When she reveals her identity, the two sing to each other about their love in a lovely duet. Amanda Lea Lavergne as Rosaline was one of the brightest spots of the cast along with Bligh Voth as Maria Broussard.

Ultimately, the happy ending and the positive messages in the songs made for an enjoyable show. The expectations seemed to be very high based on the subject matter, and the high quality of the set design and costumes. Not to mention the inclusion of a live band. However, even from the third row, the difficulty in making out all the lines in each song became a serious concern. I'd suggest focusing the plot on the four main characters and cutting solo numbers by side characters that didn't greatly affect the dynamic of the play. Regardless, the show remained a pleasure to watch. For tickets ($30 for September 6-10 and $40 for September 12-24), go to https://sheencenter.org/shows/loveless/ or call 212-925-2812. 

Applause! Applause! Review of Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off! at The Kraine Theater by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off! at The Kraine Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off!
Various Performers
Produced by Jillaine Gill & Kerryn Feehan
Music by DJ Stevie C
Stage Kitten was Flora Carnivora
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 9/3/17

Jillaine Gill and Divina Gransparkle (filling in for Kerryn Feehan) co-hosted and curated an excellent lineup of comedy and burlesque at the historic Kraine Theater in the East Village. Their comedy accentuated a night of laughs and sexy strip teases that kept viewers engaged and left them wanting more. Typically, this monthly variety show is co-hosted by Jillaine Gill and Kerryn Feehan, who will be back next month, but the chemistry between Jillaine and Divina was a pleasure to watch. For example, Divina dropped that she was coaching Jillaine to win the "Miss Coney Island" title this year and there happened to be a challenger in the crowd. It was a fun sequence which Divina followed up later by prompting Jillaine to read a prepared monologue. She read the part of the Judge's wife in Thinner. Jillaine got deep into character for the read with some campy retorts followed by a thrilling and conclusive shouting match. The audience responded enthusiastically. The duo also introduced the acts which included the female comics, Joyelle Nicole Johnson, Jen Mutascio, and Amber Rollo, as well as the burlesque performances of Sweet Lorraine, Miss Frankie Eleanor, and Clara Coquette.


Joyelle Nicole Johnson did a clever bit that combined political angst and sexual shock appeal revolving around a date with a white Trump supporter. He told her, "Black Lives Matter was a terrorist organization," and she decided that she has to do the deed as her part to help bring the nation back together. I'm loosely paraphrasing that because she also joked that the only reason she brought him home was "because he had weed." The funniest part, however, was her take on white privilege which culminated in, "he's mad because he didn't do anything with his whiteness." It had me laughing the next day too as I reflected on the performance. She also reminded us "you're about to see some titties, loosen up."

Sweet Lorraine, the founder of Shades of Burlesque, followed her and was easily my favorite act of the night. She strutted in wearing a wire mesh dress with a black corset to the song, "I Will Take That Ride" by Bette Davis. She had a classy, vintage hairstyle which hung just above her eyes which were painted to look like little almonds. As the song sensually chanted, "Lord have mercy...I'm mighty thirsty," Lorraine pulled off her opera gloves and shimmied out of her layers revealing her voluptuous figure. At one point she leaned over one of the audience members and began pulling off a glove with her teeth. She teased both guys and girls with sensual and sexual hand gestures.

Jen Mutascio came next and earned a lot of laughs. She made a number of self-deprecating jokes such as "I did grow up in Jersey. That is why I am so feminine" as well as one involving the guy in the front row who was sitting alone. She addressed him saying, "Hey, I'm a female comic. I'm not picky." Another highlight of her set was a joke about her mom finding her brother's gay porn in her closet. Her mom was appalled and Jen responded that is indeed what got her hot "because you can't get pregnant taking it in the back."

Miss Frankie Eleanor strutted on stage next in a beautiful golden dress with flowing, long, black hair. She moved smoothly to the Latino beat of Desatre by Pilon. She showed a lot of leg as she sensually removed various shimmering gold garments to reveal sheer underwear. She had incredible confidence and didn't even bat an eyelash when her bra caught as she removed it. In one deft swoop of her wrists, she snapped it off and tossed it aside to laughs, claps, and whoops from the women in the crowd.

Amber Rollo rounded out the comedy for the evening. She was a little in-between the other two comics with a mix of self-deprecating jokes that had some clever build ups as well. For example, she reported that as a stripper, she made money by providing a "Girl Friend Experience." She listened, made eye contact, and didn't touch their dick." She also joked that she trades nanny service for a haircut and that the three-year-old was asking to be exclusive. She's "still got it," she laughed, and then dropped that improv (something she also does) was the lowest of the low as a performer because she could still be "booked as a stripper."

Clara Coquette upped the tension in the room coming out in full latex to the hard rock song "Feed My Frankenstein" by Alice Cooper. After pulling off her flowing cape, she caressed her curves and then turned up the intensity of her act. She made aggressive strikes into the air as she violently threw zippers and straps aside. Where only her eyes and lips had been revealed, she showed hand, arm, and leg until she went down to her bare chest. When she finally let her mask fall to the floor, the only thing remaining was her panties and high-heeled boots. Electric performance!

Ultimately, all the performers did a good job. The comedy was entertaining and included some very funny jokes. Props again need to go to Jillaine for delivering a solid monologue. The October show next month will be the show's six-year anniversary. Additionally, Divina will be back to her burlesque routine, which if it includes as much sass and attitude as her stand up, promises to be fun. Tickets can be found on The Kraine Theater's website for $10 (or $15 at the door). See link here: http://www.horsetrade.info/event/4e8273d0c379530633751cbc53de0221   

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Schoenberg Spotlight Review of Wonder Woman: Rise Of The Warrior (2017) by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of the movie Wonder Woman: Rise Of The Warrior (2017) was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in the online edition of The Schoenberg Spotlight.

Wonder Woman: Rise Of The Warrior (2017)
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Screenplay by Allan Heinberg
Story by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder & Jason Fuchs
Based on Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Gal Gadot as Diana
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Reviewed 6/18/17

I enjoyed watching Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins directed the stars in such a way that they worked as a team to give an ensemble to give performances of outstanding quality. The screenplay by Allan Heinberg based upon the story for this film written by Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder, and Jason Fuchs reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies in which there is some type of non-stop action every few minutes that draws the attention of the audience and advances the story line in a meaningful fashion. The origin story was well-done and prepared us for her launch into the world of men to rescue them from war and violence.


Gal Gadot, as Diana the Wonder Woman, demonstrated agility, wit, intelligence, and wisdom that showed she was a quick learner. She was also capable of exercising caution and taking decisive action. Chris Pine successfully played a macho, but sensitive man, who instructed Diana in the ways of the world while not taking advantage of her. There is good chemistry between them with increasing sexual tension. They are partners and each takes charge at different times to lead an expedition to stop General Erich Ludendorff's plan to use a new poison weapon to win World War I. Diana shows her courage, fortitude, gentility, and ability in fighting the enemy. The movie is set during World War I. The atmosphere of the era is successfully recreated. Some liberties with history are taken but they are used to advance the plot. All in all, it is a very entertaining movie.

Despite this, the illiberal lefties, political correctness zealots, the reactionary progressives, the over-the-top liberals, and feministas could not leave well-enough alone. Somehow, they felt Wonder Woman should have done even more (and the men can go to hell) instead of seeing how both sexes can work together for the benefit of humanity. They have even debated whether Diana should have had her armpit hair shaved. And more than a few objected to Gal Gadot, an Israeli Beauty Contest Winner, being cast as Diana. In real life, besides being a beauty contest winner, Gal Gadot proudly served two years in the Israeli military, is an Israeli patriot proud of her country, and is a happily married mother of two, which goes against the leftist and feminist grain that women are exploited by Western culture. Fortunately, the producers have not listed to the bad advice of these loony lefties whose influence has damaged the Star Wars franchise.

The illiberal lefties, political correctness zealots, the reactionary progressives, the over-the-top liberals, and feministas have a canned narrative that minorities and women need extra help and set-asides to get ahead. In New York State, a legislator has proposed that the next State budget provides for $50,000.00 grants be offered to worthy minorities and women to encourage their participation in movie making. The government does not have a very good record in the creativity department. All this is an exercise in pork to reward ideologues who cannot find an audience for their stuff. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have a bright future because they are competent in what they do, bring joy to people, and make profits for movie producers. They prove if you are good, you will get ahead. You don't need to demonize any group, employ affirmative action, or have government bureaucrats on your side to advance your career. The success of this movie is a rebuke to the opponents of capitalism and the democratic principle of equal opportunity for all.

Applause! Applause! Review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea by Christopher M. Struck

This review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck 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
20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10007
Reviewed 8/27/17

This play aimed true in almost every facet. The dialogue was crisp; the set (scene, costume, lighting, and sound) design was on point; and the acting, phenomenal. Beyond that, Inanimate intrigued me with its oddities and left me wondering about the intricacies of the human mind. The main character, Erica, demonstrated a range of emotions including love and lust for inanimate objects. Lacy Allen shined in the lead role. Her eyes filled with sadness and desperation when confronted with the possible loss of these things she had become infatuated with. Yes, things! To us, we might view feelings toward material things as something akin to sentimental attachment, but apparently, this obsession with objects truly does exist.


It has been shown through psychological study that attachment to objects occurs normally at a very young age. Children prefer specific objects that have been given to them and are "theirs" over identical copies or replacements. While this can be considered a form of ownership, it does take on potentially new perspectives when viewed through the lens of this play. For example, Lacy's character, Erica, hears the voices of objects around her. While most of the lines are merely what the object is such as a fluffy bunny (Nancy Tatiana Quintana) calling herself "soft" or a lamp (Artem Kreimer) saying he "flickers and shines brighter," we could wonder that perhaps this object obsession is due to an actual "spirit of the object" such as an essence talking subliminally to us. Or perhaps her thoughts are merely constructions and hallucinations of normal emotional attachment to objects. Are the objects important because they have an actual voice, or because the objects are important for another reason - does a voice develop? So, in other words, does our sense of ownership come from an internal form of attachment unrelated metaphysically to the object in question or does the object itself also form an attachment to us?

Forming a conclusion on the reality or even the morality of those possibilities aside, I thought this made for an engaging story idea that kept me interested throughout. While the main conflict didn't have a lot of complex depth, it did subtly appear early. Erica has fallen in love with a Dairy Queen sign named "Dee," an artful character constructed by Philip Feldman. After allowing herself to awaken (in a sexual way) to the Dairy Queen sign, Erica begins to allow other objects to talk to her including a can opener who appears as BDSM gear-laden Michael Oloyede whispering "cold, metal, black." When she puts the can opener against her skin, someone complains and Erica loses her job at a supermarket. Her sister, Trish (Tressa Preston), a political activist promoting a referendum involving a downtown revitalization for small businesses is embarrassed by a caller to the show. So at first, it seems the main problem is Erica regaining a sense of normalcy so she doesn't hurt her sister's political ambitions. However, an astute viewer could pick up that the Dairy Queen is called old (it's on the edge of the downtown business district) and while Trish's bill is meant to help small businesses, it is conceivable she may use it to destroy Dee, which she does, causing a final rift between the sisters.

Mixed up in this, is an interesting human relationship that develops between Kevin, a manager at the DQ, and Erica. For six months, Erica has been coming to the DQ to get ice cream while Kevin just happens to have been working. Kevin has nursed a crush on her since high school. The two intermittently talk at night when Erica is trying to flirt with the DQ sign (yes, at times, this play is very funny). Erica even reveals her feelings for objects to Kevin at some point. At first, he is taken aback, but he eventually becomes extremely supportive. Erica suggests they could even get along harmoniously with her allowing him to have his way with her as well as other people if he is okay with her enjoying the occasional object. Too good to be true? Possibly. Maki Borden did a stellar job in the role, and he helped create many comedic moments.

Perhaps the infatuation with Dee was all just feelings for Kevin that couldn't be expressed another way? Or maybe Dee actually did exist and his climactic death will someday mean as much to us as the moment Jack floats away in Titanic. Regardless of what conclusions you may draw from your viewing of Inanimate, you will be entertained and have an interesting experience. Tickets are available for $35.00 online at www.theflea.org or via the Box Office extension at 212.353.3101.