Thursday, October 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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