Thursday, December 29, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Jackie Beat: The Ghost Of Christmas Trash at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jackie Beat: The Ghost Of Christmas Trash  at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Jackie Beat: The Ghost Of Christmas Trash
Written & Performed by Kent Fuher
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/16/16  

Jackie Beat has been coming to town with her outrageous Christmas shows for the past 19 years. A self-described "bitter clown" who is "self-centered" and "full of herself," Jackie welcomes all the "sodomites, fag hags, and carpet munchers" who came to see her show. She even welcomed Middle Eastern "friends" who were in the audience, defining "friends" as "people who are faking it until they blow something up." She acknowledged the "people of color" who were present but bitched that if you "switch the words and call them 'colored people' - you'll never hear the end of it." Jackie asked if there were any Jews in the audience and upon hearing a minor audible response, she told them, "We're in a basement, not an attic; you can make some noise!" She also recognized that "not everyone celebrates Christmas & Jesus" acknowledging that "there were people who killed him; maybe they celebrate that." After hearing some boos, she reminded everyone that the theater should be "a safe place" for artistic expression. However, she did apologize saying she "forgot how seriously people take Jesus Christ - a fictional character - like Jackie Beat."

Jackie Beat: The Ghost Of Christmas Trash was almost named Jackie Beat: Green Legs & Ham because she wore green leotards and looked like a Christmas Ham all wrapped up in a Christmas Tree Dress. With increasing competition from newly minted Drag Queens (coming to us courtesy of Ru Paul's Drag Race), Jackie needs to work harder to maintain her edge. She needs to change her gown halfway through the show and get off-book. Her comments and parody songs about Trump and Melania weren't smart, witty, or entertaining. She also identified people in the audience who voted for Trump and called them "stupid" to their face. She appeared nasty, angry and insulting as if she were suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome. There are many ways to make fun of someone so everyone laughs. In Paige Turner's Holiday Show, she and the girls were taking Trump World Airlines for the holidays only to find out that all flights to tropical and gay-friendly destinations had been indefinitely suspended. That is intelligent entertainment! Calling Melania a tramp and a whore is not funny! She did a little better blasting Vice-President-elect Mike Pence by saying he once believed in Gay Conversion Therapy. Jackie brought a gay audience member on stage and placed an Electric Shock Therapy contraption on his head telling him, "We're going to shock you off that cock tonight." When it didn't work and his favorite movie remained Mame, she told him "sometimes it takes more than one session." 

Jackie described a number of sexual acts in one of her parody songs and then told the audience, "No matter who you voted for, I'll do any of those things for money. I'm a whore at Christmas. You can cum on me. Turning tricks on Christmas so I can pay the bills and get a few cheap thrills. I'll lick your balls for just one dollar in a wig and a dog collar. I'll even let you put that thing in my ass. But wash it first. I've got class." Jackie Beat described her Holiday Treat as a Broadway show without any talented people in it. Her "rules of entertainment" are "1) get the money up front; and 2) if something goes wrong, always blame the audience." She also expressed her belief that "drugs and alcohol work: you're no fun if you're not drinking." 

Many of Jackie's parody Christmas songs were performed all to the delight of the appreciative, sold-out audience, who will no doubt be back next year to catch her 20th Anniversary Holiday Show. Politically incorrect to the max, she told her audience that "without stereotypes, there's no fucking show!" Jackie Beat performed "Bossa Nova Christmas In Outer Space" which contained the following lyrics: "Loosen your Van Allen belt and shove some fruitcake in your face. The food on Jupiter blows. That's why everyone knows the best place for a party is Uranus. Shoot your rocket in my crater. Let's cut to the chase. Put it in my asteroid and then blast off on my face. Cause it's a Bossa Nova Christmas here in Outer Space." With the information I have provided, you now know whether you are committed to never seeing Jackie Beat perform live or whether you intend to visit her website to buy her CDs and make reservations for her next show.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: Christmas Mourning at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: Christmas Mourning at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: Christmas Mourning
Starring Jinkx Monsoon (Jerick Hoffer) 
& Major Scales (Richard Andriessen)
Musical Director: Major Scales
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/16/16  

Jinkx Monsoon made it very clear she doesn't like Christmas, Santa Claus, Christmas songs, or Christmas presents. Hence the name of her holiday show with Major Scales entitled Christmas Mourning. Part of the reason is because she's Jewish and the Christians have claimed Santa Claus as theirs even though Santa has as much to do with Jesus as does Scooby Doo. She believes there should be a Jewish alternative version of Santa maintaining "naughty" and "nice" lists. She believes if she could talk to Jesus, he would say, "Give the Jewish children toys. After all, they're used to being on lists (e.g. Schindler)." Another problem was that due to Jinkx's Gender Fluidity, she always received gender neutral gifts such as having a star named after her or a tree planted in her honor in Nicaragua (which she can't even visit). Caitlyn Jenner's potential new lipstick line called Manslaughter sounds promising. Jinkx said the bottom line is, "That while there are many things I enjoy having shoved down my throat, Christmas traditions are not one of them." Not to say she likes Jewish Holiday Traditions either. She reports that in her home during Hanukkah "we get drunk and tell each other why we're a disappointment." Jinkx even questioned why she was doing this Holiday Show. She asked Major Scales, "Why do I do this? What's in it for me?" to which he reminded her the answer was "a paycheck."

Christmas gives people permission to overeat and get drunk. Jinkx Monsoon needs no such permission. She reports she's been in the Holiday Spirit for 14 years. She also encouraged the audience to drink. She said, "That way, no matter how bad the show is, all you will remember is my last song." She sang "Santa Baby" and reported that being a drag queen, liking that song made famous by Eartha Kitt was in her contract. She showed a video of the moon circling the earth and explained they had blown their entire special effects budget making it so we shouldn't expect anything more. A good amount of money was spent on the beautiful purple gown and red wig Jinkx wore. After a delightful, witty solo of Major Scales singing "Let's Have A Passive-Aggressive Christmas," Jinkx returned wearing a stunning white gown. Jinkx Monsoon was named "America's Next Drag Superstar" in Season 5 of Ru Paul's Drag Race.

Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales are both very talented. The show could have been better written and a bit more organized but, overall, everyone seemed to have a good time. On an inspirational note, Jinkx Monsoon told the audience the holidays are a time to be with your Chosen Family - "those who share our beliefs and values so much that we invite them to be part of our family." On a depressing note, in her closing message, she shared her view that "each and every person here is going to die someday - senile and decrepit - thus completing the Circle of Life. Happy Holidays!" For more information on Jinkx Monsoon, visit her website at  

Applause! Applause! Review of Latrice Royale: Why It Gotta Be White Christmas? at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Latrice Royale: Why It Gotta Be White Christmas? at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Latrice Royale: Why It Gotta Be White Christmas?
Written & Performed by Latrice Royale (Timothy K. Wilcots)
Musical Director: Christopher Hamblin
Special Guest: Kennedy Davenport
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/9/16  

Latrice Royale's fame and fan base are a result of her winning Miss Congeniality in Season 4 of Ru Paul's Drag Race. She was invited back to participate as a contestant in Ru Paul's Drag Race All-Stars and as a Professor in Ru Paul's Drag U. Big, Black, Bold & Beautiful, Latrice Royale hails from Compton, California where in her community, socks and underwear (practical gifts) were usually what was wrapped under the Christmas tree. The dearth of expensive presents was made up for by the volume of food prepared and served at the home of her aunt, who would "cook the house down." She says her family would "Eat, Nap, Eat & Eat Some More." Latrice Royale, an African-American brought up in a poor family headed by a single mom, said she has been accustomed to celebrating Black Christmases (she never saw snow until she moved to Wisconsin). However, she observed, "I grew up in Compton but looking at this audience, I can see I'm going to have a White Christmas this year!" Taking the stage wearing a stunning, shimmering Chocolate Sparkled Gown, Latrice Royale made the usual announcement regarding the taking of pictures during her show. She said, "You can take as many pictures as you like. I didn't get all dressed up for nothing!"

Explaining the importance of families we are born into and those we create, Latrice Royale shares her love, warmth, and unconditional acceptance of all who are in her life. After Wisconsin, she moved to South Florida "to be around people who accept your individuality and respect you for who you are - a true family who looks out for each other." She credited her Special Guest Star, Kennedy Davenport ("the epitome of never give up and never give in") for raising money for her when she got out of prison. Ms. Davenport finished in 4th Place in Season 7 of Ru Paul's Drag Race. She was absolutely hilarious playing the character of Sister Merlene Watkins (The Church Lady who wore white athletic socks and Crocs and kept the tags on her clothing so she can return the items after wearing them). Besides singing "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire," Sister Merlene reported, "I had to lay hands on someone in the bathroom. As a Christian lady, my work is never done." I was very impressed with her talent and comedic abilities. 

I think the show could have used a few more Christmas songs, a better script, and a little less background music, which incessantly played whenever Latrice Royale spoke. Nevertheless, Latrice Royale: Why It Gotta Be White Christmas was entertaining and enjoyable. Instead of trashing Trump, I would have liked to have seen Latrice express her love for the President-elect and offer to perform her show for him and his family. That would have been more in tune with her message of unconditional love. At the end of the show, Latrice Royale tells the audience, "Go home and do whatever the hell you like. Because this is your life!" She expressed her belief in a higher power and said, "Don't be discouraged. It's going to be alright." She closed her show with her signature line, "Remember that I love you and  there ain't nothing you can do about it!" 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Paige Turner: She Came Upon A Midnight Clear at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Paige Turner: She Came Upon A Midnight Clear at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Paige Turner: She Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Written & Directed by Paige Turner (Daniel Frank Kelley)
Starring Paige Turner
Special Guests: Sutton Lee Seymour (Prescott Seymour),
Jackie Cox & James Mills as Carol Channing
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/9/16  

Paige Turner, the Showbiz Spitfire and the best new thing to come into the Drag Scene in quite a few years, is back with a high-energy, upbeat, funny, entertaining Holiday Show with talented special guest stars, impressive costumes, crisp choreography, and witty political commentary. Finished for the season, The Three Queens intend to take off from Newark Liberty International Airport for a vacation: Paige is heading to Palm Springs while her two misfit sidekicks, Sutton Lee and Jackie, plan to spend their vacation in Honolulu so they can hang out with Don Ho (good luck with that!).  They were able to purchase very inexpensive airline tickets on TWA (Trump World Airlines) ("They were practically giving them away!") but due to inclement weather, the airline has indefinitely suspended all flights to anywhere tropical, or gay-friendly. One of the ladies observed, "You could hardly tell a storms-a-coming." While stuck at the airport, they meet Carol Channing (impersonated by James Mills), who is still quite upset about the upcoming revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler. They try to pass the time while waiting for the storm to pass. TWA Flight 666 to Honolulu doesn't appear ready to fly anytime soon. TWA Flight 1313 (Mockingbird Lane) seems to offer more promise.

An eclectic mix of Christmas songs are performed including Step Into Christmas, California Winter, Mele Kalikimaka, Never Fall In Love (With An Elf), Hard Candy Christmas, My Favorite Things, The Little Drummer Boy, We're A Couple Of Misfits, Momma Who Bore Me, All I Want For Christmas Is You, and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. Shopping for her Elf, Paige discovered there was a Junior Department at Hudson News. Sutton Lee Seymour sang parody lyrics for a number of songs and Jackie Cox explained why she doesn't like Trump. She's opposed to building a wall because she's done without a 4th wall for years, and she's opposed to a Muslim ban because she is concerned about where she will be able to get her Halal Meat. Sutton Lee and Jackie are looking forward to getting laid in Hawaii. Sutton Lee is considering "paying someone to make him mine" while Paige uses an app to hook up with someone at the airport. As reported, "she came upon a Midnight Clear in the lower-level bathroom." 

Paige Turner: She Came Upon A Midnight Clear is a fast-paced, enjoyable musical sleigh ride with hilarious parodies and relevant, funny videos. The gowns that were worn were particularly impressive and color-coordinated. It's a tight, well-constructed show guaranteed to entertain you. While the Divas of the Night didn't all end up where they intended to go, at least the audience appreciated the fact that on this cold winter's night, they were where they should be. Tickets cost $22.00 (with a $20.00 per person food/drink minimum at all performances). For reservations, call 212-352-3101 or visit  

Applause! Applause! Review of Three Pints Shy: A Very Merry Holiday Celebration at Under St. Mark's Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Three Pints Shy: A Very Merry Holiday Celebration at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Three Pints Shy: A Very Merry Holiday Celebration
With David Anthony Wayne Anderson, 
David Mikofsky & Jonathan Siregar
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 12/4/16

If you are interested in celebrating the holidays with Pickle Fights (the abbreviated version of a sword fight), Pint Glass Prophets ("Give him 15 pints of lager or ale and he becomes a wise old sage."), Beggarmen ("I've got the sky. The world is my home."), Galway Girls ("Hair was black. Eyes were blue. I lost my heart to a Galway Girl.") and a new perspective on how God punishes Naughty Children ("When you're being naughty, the least of your problems is Santa Claus."), this show might be the one you want to see this holiday season. Three Pints Shy, an upbeat, talented Irish pub band, even includes Sevivon Sov Sov Sov (Spinning Top) sung in Hebrew for those observing Hanukkah. Using an expanded text of "The Night Before Christmas" as a loose storyline to introduce us to the various characters that will inhabit the stage, we meet Grandpa ("Give Grandpa more of his sleeping juice." "Yeah! Grandpa is fun again.") and poor Paddy Murphy, who is now deceased (memorialized in the song The Night That Paddy Murphy Died).

You can't attend a performance of a Celtic Band without alcohol being a main topic of discussion. Audience members are encouraged to purchase drinks from the bar, but every bottle was outrageously expensive (at least, in my opinion). My hard cider cost me $7.00. Three Pints Shy performs a Traditional Irish Drinking Song containing the lyric, "We have no head or hands but we continue to drink," as well as Raise A Glass and One Last Drink. We are told that when you drink, there are Irish wherever you go! There was a hilarious parody of Music Of The Night (from "Phantom Of The Opera") written by Chant Macleod entitled The Things I Drank Last Night ("I can feel the vomit ascending like a comet. I blame it on the things I drank last night"). Another Chant Macleod parody was sung to the tune of Silver Bells entitled Meat and Cheese (where you can get "Dairy from a Fairy"). During All The Best Irish Songs (an improv song written by the band), audience members were asked which countries all the best Irish songs come from and then the band took off creating lyrics for the country selected (Albania, Guatemala & Equestria - from My Little Pony where everything is made of rainbows and hugs- on the evening I attended). The band also performed Rocky Road To Dublin, Hal-an-TowChristmas In Killarney, Pint Glass Prophet (written by Jonathan Siregar), and God & The Little Children (written by David Anthony Wayne Anderson), which is a true story drawn directly from the Bible!

Only three of the four main band members were available to make this gig (Jonathan Siregar playing the Bodhran, David Mikofsky on Mandolin & Guitar; David Anthony Wayne Anderson on Penny Whistle & Guitar - Robbie Taylor was absent). However, they were more than able to proficiently perform the various song arrangements. In addition, with three people on stage, they were able to add the joke, "I love it when you're between him and me." to which the response goes, "That's what she said." An important takeaway line is "May We Never Get What We Deserve!" The show ended with a surprise warning. We were told, "Remember, if your parents don't come up with the ransom money, you're all dead by tomorrow morning." I snuck out of the theater before dawn but I am pleased to report that the band members hung out after the show speaking to the audience and that everyone was offered prizes and cookies! If this Irish band continues to gain in popularity, Christmas may one day be renamed Three Pints Day but even if it is not, you should at least buy a few of the band's CDs and drink three pints in celebration of the good times you have had listening to their music. For more information, visit 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Claude Solnik's Victoria Woodhull at Theater For The New City by Dr. Thomas G. Jacoby

This review of Claude Solnik's Victoria Woodhull at Theater For The New City was written by Dr. Thomas G. Jacoby and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Victoria Woodhull
Written by Claude Solnik
Directed by Donna Mejia
Theater For The New City
155 First Avenue
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 12/2/16 

Victoria Woodhull, who is considered by some to be the first female candidate for President of the United States (1872) was born Victoria California Claflin on September 22, 1838 in the rural frontier town of Homer, Ohio. Her mother, Roxanna "Roxy" Hummel Claflin, was illegitimate and illiterate. She had become a follower of the Austrian mystic Franz Mesmer and the new spiritualist movement. Her father, Reuben "Old Buck" Buckman Claflin, was a con man and snake oil salesman. Victoria had only three formal years of education. At age 15, she married 28-year-old Dr. Canning Woodhull, who turned out to be an alcoholic and womanizer. She and Dr. Woodhull had two children, Byron (who had a mental disability), and Zulu (who was later called Zula). After their children were born, Victoria divorced her husband and kept his surname. Woodhull later married Colonel James Harvey Blood, who was also entering into matrimony for a second time.

In New York City, Victoria and her sister Tennessee Celeste Claflin ("Tennie") practiced spiritualism and held a seance for Cornelius Vanderbilt, where they "contacted" his deceased wife. It is speculated they obtained insider information from a network of prostitutes and spiritualists and then passed the information on to Vanderbilt, who made a fortune off it. Vanderbilt also had a romantic interest in Tennie and with his financial backing, the two sisters became the first female stockbrokers in 1870 opening Woodhull, Claflin & Company, the first female run brokerage firm on Wall Street. Woodhull made a fortune on Wall Street advising clients like Vanderbilt. On May 14, 1870, Woodhull & Claflin used the money they made from their brokerage to found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, which at its height had a national circulation of 20,000. Its primary purpose was to support Victoria Claflin Woodhull's candidacy for President of the United States in 1872 even though she was ineligible to run for that office since she would not be 35 years of age at the time of the inauguration. Her newspaper became notorious for publishing controversial opinions and advocated for sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, and licensed prostitution. 

Her run for office as the Presidential Nominee of the Equal Rights Party cannot be regarded as a candidacy that entertained any hope of success but Victoria Woodhull used it to call attention to issues of importance to her such as women's rights and equal rights for African-Americans, which is reflected in her choice of Frederick Douglass as her running mate (even though he never acknowledged or accepted the nomination). She also favored the eight-hour workday and the concept of social welfare programs. During the campaign, Henry Ward Beecher, a renowned preacher at Brooklyn's Plymouth Church, had condemned Woodhull's free love philosophy in his sermons. When it was discovered Beecher was engaging in adultery, this hypocrisy led Victoria Woodhull to expose the affair in her newspaper. On the eve of the election, Woodhull, Claflin & Col. Blood were arrested and charged with publishing an obscene newspaper and circulating it through the United States Postal Service. Victoria Woodhull was ultimately acquitted but the entire episode set off a national scandal that occupied the public for months.

Claude Solnik has woven many of the above-referenced facts into an engaging and well-paced drama. We are presented with two sisters, Victoria and Tennie, who are engaged in spiritualist practice and promotion, while being watched over by their aging, jolly, con-man father, Buck (believably portrayed by Chaz McCormack), and Victoria's second husband, Colonel Blood, played by Henrick Sawczak as a paradoxical character who, on the one hand is a former military commander but who, on the other hand, also gives in to his wife's wishes, under protest, at every turn. We watch them get close to Vanderbilt (played by Ed Altman) with a seance. This small section of an early scene demonstrates really good technique on the part of Elena Kritter, playing Victoria, as well as Juliette Monaco, who plays Tennie (as an opportunist with a talent for getting what she wants). They are actors, acting the part of spiritualists, who are also acting to promote an agenda. There are many levels of deception depicted, each beautifully executed. Using the insider information they get from Josie Mansfield, the girlfriend of financier Jim Fisk, the relationship with Vanderbilt quickly turns into opportunities to get involved with the stock market and the Wall Street investment culture, as well as the founding of Woodhull's newspaper. Ed Altman's Vanderbilt portrays a decent emotional range: gullibility, cynicism, passion, and rage.

It is at this point that Victoria's first husband, the alcoholic Dr. Canning, played by Adam Reilly as a charming drunkard with hidden demons, shows up, and at Victoria's insistence, the effectively emasculated Col. Blood, her current husband, agrees to allow Dr. Canning to stay in the same household. Vanderbilt's closeness to Tennie continues to develop. As her prominence in society grows, we witness Victoria meeting with Susan B. Anthony, played by Monica Bell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, played by Collette Campbell, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, played by Larissa Kruesi. The result of that meeting, we are led to believe, is Victoria and Tennie approaching Vanderbilt and asking him to set up a meeting for them with John Armor Bingham, one of the framer's of the 14th Amendment. Victoria is promoted by the suffrage movement, embodied by Anthony, Stanton, and Stowe, and after an intense meeting with Bingham, played by Ed McGlynn, makes the decision to run for President. McGlynn's Bingham is brilliantly portrayed radiating power, charisma, and villainy in equal parts.

The second act opens with the revelation of dark secrets from Victoria's past: the confidence games that grew into seances and Canning's perpetual drunkenness having led to his dropping their son Byron, on his head, causing permanent brain damage (which may or may not be historically accurate; all we know is that Byron was a special needs individual). There is conflict between the sisters and Vanderbilt stemming from an unflattering article they published in their newspaper regarding Vanderbilt's business practices. We are given to understand that there is controversy regarding whether Victoria is legally married to Col. Blood since no marriage certificate can be found. Bingham meets with Vanderbilt, entreating him to put an end to Victoria's political aspirations. Conflict with the pillars of the Suffrage Movement leads Victoria's paper to publish the infamous article attacking Stowe's husband, Henry Ward Beecher, for his extra-marital affair. This leads to the Suffrage Movement withdrawing support for Victoria's candidacy as she has become a liability due to her shady past. Victoria continues to expound on her views regarding "free love" and is arrested on obscenity charges stemming from the controversial newspaper article. Vanderbilt breaks up with Tennie, Woodhull loses the election to Grant, Victoria separates from Col. Blood, Vanderbilt dies, and his estate offers the sisters $100,000.00 if they agree to move to London and never return to the United States. They accept the offer.

Claude Solnik takes established facts from Woodhull's life and spins them into a believable narrative that is complex and fascinating. The greatest weakness of the play is that we never get a clear impression regarding Victoria Woodhull's character. It's never quite evident if she is a true believer in the paranormal given her childhood experiences or whether her life conducting seances and making a living with spiritualism is all just another con game used to enable her to make a living. A hint to the answer may be that we are told Victoria used to copy names from tombstones when entering a new town in order to lend greater credence to what was revealed during the seances. We see Victoria hammering the suffragettes as hypocrites for not going far enough with their demands for equality but we are uncertain whether her passion is based in idealism, narcissism, or just a financial strategy to be shocking in order to sell more newspapers. In terms of the production, Victoria Woodhull does not use period costumes or sets and the dialogue doesn't seem to have been written in period speech or idiom. In addition, none of the characters affect period accents or mannerisms, which is a major distraction. Some of the exchanges with the suffragettes, indeed, have rhythms more like modern-day reality television than a period drama.

Victoria Woodhull is profoundly flawed but still worth seeing. I feel a much more interesting play could have been written given the substantive nature of the source material. Whether it is up to the audience to lower its expectations, or up to the playwright to write a better play remains the question. However, at $18.00 a ticket for adults ($15.00 for students), you can't go wrong checking this play out for yourself. For reservations, call 212-254-1109 or visit   

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Lynne Charnay: Still Going On at Don't Tell Mama by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Lynne Charnay: Still Going On at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Lynne Charnay: Still Going On
Starring Queen Lynne Charnay
Musical Director: Rolf Barnes
Special Guests: Frank Basile & John Gabriel
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/18/16  

At 91 years of age, Lynne Charnay is still celebrating life and love. Despite being in agony, this veteran Broadway actress and Cabaret singer performed once more in front of an enthusiastic audience and a large number of devoted fans and personal friends. Elegantly dressed and easily recognizable given her blazing red hair and captivating green eyes, this charming and delightful woman, a protege of Jerry Herman and a personal friend of many stars including Dom DeLuise, has many stories to tell. As Rex Reed once said, "You learn something valuable in her presence." Her outstanding choice of song selections will impress you as will the extraordinary talent of Rolf Barnes, her musical director. As if being in the presence of Lynne Charnay were not enough, attendees were also treated to the warm, seductive and powerful voice of Frank Basile (Celeste Holm's widower), who sang "I Fell In Love With You In Paris" as a duet with her. John Gabriel, the original Professor on Gilligan's Island (and he has the pilot tape to prove it) also appeared to lend his considerable talent to the evening's program. Frank spontaneously told Lynne she was "wonderful" and "sang beautifully." When John took the stage, he told Lynne "you're magic up here" and that "every moment rings true with you." 

Lynne Charnay had roles in five Broadway shows, including Julia, Jake & Uncle Joe (1961), A Family Affair (1962), The Sunday Man (1964), The Inspector General (1978), and The Grand Tour (1979).  She has appeared in more off-Broadway and regional productions and revues over the decades than can be listed here and has been performing in cabaret rooms in New York City for over thirty years. In fact, one of her previous directors was Jan Wallman, who was coronated Queen of the Beaux Arts Society's annual Beaux Arts Ball in the year 2000. Lynne Charnay was coronated Queen at the 110th Annual Beaux Arts Ball, which was held this year on November 5, 2016 at Terrace On The Park. Queen Lynne Charnay was selected to be coronated Queen because she is gracious, kind, generous, even-tempered, accomplished, charming, beautiful, friendly, appreciative, and compassionate. It is easy to understand why she is held in such great esteem by those who love and respect her.

To correct an error made by John S. Wilson, in his February 11, 1985 review of Lynne Charnay's cabaret show at Panache, Ms. Charnay was not born in Odessa but was, in fact, born in New York City to parents who met in medical school in Russia and spoke Russian at home when she was a child. Her singing debut was in a summer camp production of The Mikado. Ms. Charnay attended the University of Wisconsin, Columbia University, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She had a son with her first husband and later remarried a Frenchman, who she told me was "tall, dark and handsome." She later also appeared in an Equity Library Theater production of Cole Porter's Nymph Errant.  Lynne Charnay uses her personal life and professional career to influence her song selections. She sings two songs in Russian and many songs mention Paris and the beautiful feeling you get when you are truly in love, even if those moments are fleeting. Particularly moving was her reading of the original French lyric to the very familiar "Autumn Leaves." Her song selections resonated with the older audience members. I saw more than a few of them singing along with her enjoying every moment of their time in her presence.

If I were Lynne Charnay's manager, I would put up a website detailing her accomplishments, hire a director to help her better organize her material and memorize all her lyrics, take on a publicist/agent to help her book new shows and obtain new roles, and most importantly, to maintain an e-mail distribution list of her fans so they can be told when and where she will be performing next. But perhaps that's asking too much at this point in her career. Not being tech savvy, Lynne Charnay will need to rely on friends and family to either handle those tasks themselves or to hire reliable professionals who will not take advantage of her good nature, and trusting personality. On the other hand, Lynne Charnay, with all her maturity and wisdom, has many interesting stories and insights to share. Future fans should not be denied the opportunity to experience her warmth and love. Lynne Charnay has gained perspective and, as drawn from the lyrics of some of her song selections, realizes we are only guaranteed this moment so we should live and laugh at it all. Just look at the squirrels - they save and save and what do they have in the end - nuts! So have a little fun while you can!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Narrows Community Theater's production of The Most Miserable Christmas Tree at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Narrows Community Theater's production of The Most Miserable Christmas Tree at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Most Miserable Christmas Tree
Book & Lyrics by Tim Sulka & Debra Barsha
Music by Debra Barsha
Directed & Choreographed by Michael Chase Gosselin
Costume Designer: Lina Sarrello
Costume Coordinators: Jennifer Hansen & Marla Gotay
Music Director: Paolo C. Perez
Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater
403 General Robert E. Lee Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11209
Reviewed 12/11/16  

"Decorate Me! Decorate Me! Exaggerate Me!" is what a tinsel and ornament addicted Christmas Tree might say once stripped naked and discarded after the Holiday Season. "Not to be a prude but I hate being nude" is what Douglas Fir said after facing the stark reality that those who loved and adored him, lit him up, opened presents around him, and crowned him with a star, have now thrown him out along with the trash. This Homeless Christmas Tree Addict, now begs for ornaments and "will work for tinsel." Douglas Fir refuses to accept this fate and with the help of Mother Nature makes his way back to Mistletoe Mountain, Slocum's Tree Farm and Miss Balsam's Finishing School For Christmas Trees to obtain a diploma and get a second opportunity to serve through one more Christmas season. Having taken on the new identity of Scotty Pine, he re-enrolls in the school he failed to get a diploma from last year, takes a new Oath to Santa Claus not to be decorated when its "Not Christmas" and reconnects with Filbert T. Squirrel, his Worst Best Friend. While there, he falls in love with Miss Willow, gets addicted in Tinseltown (requiring Bark Tea - a good detox), discovers Sprig is the son he had out of wedlock and learns that Ever Green, his former lover and Miss Balsam's daughter, became depressed and died of Root Rot (probably from spending too much time in the Irrigation Field). Before the show is over, in addition to the homelessness, addiction, out-of-wedlock arbor sex, depression, and death already mentioned, you will experience stealing, suicide and attempted murder. You will also get to see the negative consequences that result when you have an all-powerful Christmas Council with the power to enforce its draconian rulings. Filbert gets frozen, Miss Balsam's Finishing School For Christmas Trees is shut down because Douglas Fir/Scotty Pine fell off  the wagon ("a single strand of tinsel is all it takes"- thus, engaging in Treason against the dictatorial Santa Claus), and in the end Miss Balsam and Douglas Fir team up to destroy Christmas by conspiring to turn the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree into mulch.

Despite the more serious topics addressed throughout the show, the story is short on substance and doesn't contain any adult references or double entendre that might make this musical interesting to anyone over the age of thirteen (I was hoping that, at least, Filbert T. Squirrel had hidden his nuts in Douglas Fir during the winter). The first act is also tediously long and could easily be trimmed. In addition, for a Christmas Show, there was no reference to Jesus Christ. That is neither good nor bad but I thought it noteworthy to mention that the show is entirely secular and fanciful. On the plus side, there are some wonderful big production numbers, colorful costumes, fine acting, and impressive choreography. Josh Vidal, originating the role of Filbert T. Squirrel, is an extremely charismatic, talented, professional actor who was a pleasure to watch. Similarly, the show could not go on without the tireless Max Baudisch bringing depth to the character of Douglas Fir. In a less capable actor's hands, an unsympathetic Douglas Fir could have made this musical unwatchable but Mr. Baudisch rose to the occasion and succeeded in every way. The character of Miss "Weeping" Willow got on my nerves for crying too much ("I cry for everyone - it's in my nature to nurture." - despite a 'no crying clause' in her contract). Silver's costume was most impressive. Iravan Bhatacharyya has an excellent voice (especially evident when he sang "That Crazy Tree") although his character, Sprig (who tells people to "Got Mulched!") is not very likable. The most impressive standout in the remainder of the supporting cast was Brian Kilday, who played Dad, even beating out the local favorite, Bennett Silverstein, who appeared as Grandpa, Garbage Man, and the Man in Antlers.

Douglas Fir is a very angry tree. His needles are prickly and he is not just any old miserable Christmas Tree but The Most Miserable Christmas Tree! At times, he is prone to "defy the Christmas Council" and its restrictive rules ("I defy your rules!"). Instead of praying to God to give him a second Christmas to serve as a decorated tree and to save the life of his son Sprig, he prays to Mother Nature to grant those wishes. In addition, instead of focusing on becoming the very best Christmas Tree he possibly can (he has always had a problem with balance), he's looking to have sex with the lady trees on Mistletoe Mountain. His dalliance with Ever Green got him shipped off to Slocum's Tree Farm and sold to the first customer who showed any interest. This year, he's at it again, dating Miss Willow, breaking his Oath to Santa Claus, and becoming a tinsel addict, which gets him expelled from the school. His life only goes downhill from there but this is a Christmas show so the story must have a Happy Ending! What the writers conjure up here is that Douglas Fir gets to be the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree for 5 minutes, reconciles with his illegitimate son, and learns that even though he is naked, that's enough and that to be happy, he doesn't need decoration or adoration. 

The children in the audience had a particularly good time and seemed to really enjoy The Most Miserable Christmas Tree. Many of the adults also seemed to like the world premiere of this musical because of its few big production numbers, well-coordinated choreography, and unique costumes. Tickets cost $25.00 for Adults; $20.00 for Seniors (60+) and Students (13-21); and $15.00 for Children (12 & under). Remaining shows are scheduled for Friday, December 16, 2016 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.. If you see this new musical, you will definitely get more than your money's worth in entertainment value. For more information and to make reservations, visit 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of A Few Good Men at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of A Few Good Men at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

A Few Good Men
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Mark Harborth
The Gallery Players 
199 14th Street
Park Slope, New York 11215
Reviewed 12/4/16

The story relayed in this play is loosely based on real-life events that took place at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in July 1986. Aaron Sorkin's sister, a JAG lawyer, worked on a case involving members of Rifle Security Company, Windward Side, 2nd Platoon, who believed one of their number was a malingerer who had informed about a Marine illegally firing across the fence into Cuba. In a retaliatory hazing (called a "Code Red"), ten Marines seized and blindfolded him, stuffed a rag in his mouth, beat him and shaved his head. The hazed Marine was injured but did not die. Seven of the ten Marines involved accepted "other than honorable discharges" as part of a plea bargain but three refused to accept a plea bargain and went to Court. The lead Marine in the hazing was found not guilty of aggravated battery but guilty of the misdemeanor charge of simple assault. He was sentenced to time served and was returned to active duty. In Aaron Sorkin's version of the story, the hazed Marine, Private First Class William T. Santiago, dies due to an undetected heart problem and the two Marines who choose to go to trial are found not guilty of murder but guilty of "conduct unbecoming of a United States Marine" for which they are sentenced to time served and given a dishonorable discharge. A Few Good Men had its world premiere at the Heritage Repertory Theatre at the University of Virginia's Department of Drama on September 19, 1989, before being transferred to the Kennedy Center, and ultimately opening on Broadway at The Music Box Theatre on November 15, 1989. It closed on January 26, 1991, after 15 previews and 497 performances. Aaron Sorkin adapted his work into a screenplay for a 1992 film starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore.

We expect our servicemen to follow orders. As Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep says, "We follow orders or people die." It is their duty and responsibility to do so. A failure to obey an order can get you court-martialed, or executed. You are not permitted to use your own judgment as to which orders you choose to follow. Yet, if later, someone determines the order was illegal, the precedent set by the Nuremberg Trials not only punishes the official who gave the illegal order but also punishes the soldier who followed it. This never seemed fair to me. In this play, Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson, arrested with Private First Class Louden Downey, claims Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick, his superior officer, gave him a direct order to "Code Red" Private First Class William T. Santiago for "breaking the chain of command, threatening to rat out a fellow Marine, and for being a Marine who can't run from here to there without claiming to be suffering from heat exhaustion." Dawson and Downey seized and blindfolded Santiago, stuffed a rag in his mouth, taped it, beat him, and started to shave his head when they noticed blood coming out of his nose. They stopped the Code Red and called an ambulance but it was too late. Santiago died from an acute pulmonary hemorrhage due to lactic acidosis. Dawson and Downey were good soldiers who followed orders and believed in Unit, Corps, God & Country. They initially signed a confession admitting they intentionally murdered Santiago but Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Special Counsel for Internal Affairs in the Naval Judge Advocate General's Corps, based at JAG Headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard) set the confessions aside, had counsel appointed,and moved the court martial from Guantanamo Bay to Washington, D.C.

A lot of the drama in this play involves how the three defense attorneys (Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee, Lieutenant Junior Grade Sam Weinberg & Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway) get Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep, the Base Commander, to admit he ordered the Code Red. Dawson & Downey are elated but as Sam Weinberg predicted, they were still found guilty of a lesser charge and dishonorably discharged. The military men who truly dishonored themselves in this play were Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep, Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick, Commander Walter Stone, and Captain Matthew A. Markinson. Jessep officially discouraged Code Reds but,off the record, felt they were an invaluable tool to be used when a Marine falls out of line. After ordering Kendrick to order Dawson to give the Code Red, both Jessep and Kendrick deny having given the order. Jessep lies again when he tells defense counsel the decision had been made to transfer Santiago and proceeds to alter records to back up this fabricated story. Since Dr. Stone may have missed an underlying heart condition Santiago may have had, he goes along with Jessep and reports the rag stuffed in Santiago's mouth was most likely laced with poison. Dawson & Downey are pressured to sign a murder confession and Jessep is content to frame them viewing their unjust punishment as "smothering a grenade by taking the fall." Captain Markinson goes off the grid, engages in armed robbery, and eventually kills himself. It would have been much easier and more honorable to stay on base and testify against Jessep and Kendrick. Finally, since we are identifying bad actors here, even Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kafee is a nasty alcoholic and asshole who punches his own client when he is alone in a cell with him. Galloway rightfully doesn't have much confidence in him as a trial lawyer but later claims he is the only attorney who can win this for them ("I know how to fight but you know how to win"). On a similar contradictory note, Dawson, who originally signed a murder confession, later refuses to sign a confession for simple assault, something he was clearly guilty of.

This is an outstanding production of A Few Good Men with extremely talented actors in all of the roles. There isn't a weak link in the chain of command. You will have your favorites based on whom you most identify with but I can assure you all the actors are professional and top-notch. As the only woman in the cast, Justine Campbell-Elliott, as Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway, more than holds her own, and Sam Parrott is outstanding as Lieutenant Junior Grade Sam Weinberg. While he plays a vile, insensitive, insecure, violent alcoholic, Joseph Cassese, as Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee, still makes you identify with him and root for his success. Robert Mueller is extremely charismatic as Captain Jack Ross, the Marine Judge Advocate, who is prosecuting the case, and Jake Alexander, making his Gallery Players debut, makes his presence known as Corporal Tom. The success of this production could only be guaranteed with a strong actor in the role of Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep and I am pleased to report Frank Lewallen, who served in the United States Marines for 3 years, handled the role quite well. Not missing from this play is Col. Jessep's famous response when LTJG Daniel A. Kaffee tells him he wants the truth. Col, Jessep says, "You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."

The Gallery Players has brought A Few Good Men back to life with all the excitement present in the original play and the movie. If you feel you can handle the intensity, catch it there sometime before December 18, 2017. Tickets are $25.00 ($20.00 for Children 12 & under and Senior Citizens). For reservations, call OvationTix at 212-352-3101 or visit To quote Col. Jessep, if you miss this production of A Few Good Men, you might say, "Don't I feel like the fucking asshole" but more seriously, if you don't see it, Col. Jessep may "rip the eyes out of your head and piss into your dead skull." You will not be disappointed!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Ginger Minj: Mary, Did You Know? at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Ginger Minj: Mary, Did You Know? at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Ginger Minj: Mary, Did You Know?
Written & Performed by Joshua Eads-Brown
Starring Michael Kirk Lane & Janine Klein
Special Guest: Chris Newcomer
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 12/3/16  

I have seen Ginger Minj shine, sparkle, and share in the past and have enjoyed a number of her shows. However, this one was an Epic Fail. The words lame and uninspired come to mind. People paid very good money (a modest entertainment charge and a food/drink minimum), to see this show and yet the most professional people in the room were the service staff. If the show was being performed as a free concert, I would still recommend you not waste your time seeing it. Ginger Minj: Mary, Did You Know? was extremely sloppy, as though it was slapped together at the last minute with little to no rehearsals. The two backup performers, Michael Kirk Lane and Janine Klein, had music stands on stage with scripts they read from, which I found extremely unprofessional. They spent much of the time taking long glances at their "cheat sheets," at least once literally correcting Ginger when she strayed from the written notes. I was in shock. Even the technical director screwed up royally over and over again. Ginger poked fun at these very careless lapses, making a joke out of repeated mistakes with dimming and blackouts of the lighting - even audience members started to recognize when dimming (and chimes) were called for but, conspicuously, didn't happen (or happened late), as though the techie was a trainee or an incompetent last-minute replacement (or a dreadfully slow learner).

The minimal amount of choreography was torture to watch. Nobody stepped together in unison or displayed any grace or style in their movements. This surprised me, as there was so little dancing that it wouldn't have been difficult in the slightest to rehearse out the kinks and supply some dance oomph to this otherwise lackluster show. Given Michael Kirk Lane's exaggerated movements and fairy-like flitting, I am surprised he didn't fly off the stage. The costumes were by no means special but Ginger Minj's gown was the absolute worst I have ever seen. It's as if she went to 99 cents store, bought half a red gown, and then wrapped leather-like black tar paper around her torso and down her right leg. Black is supposed to be slimming. Well not in Ginger Minj's case where she saw no need to tuck or to restrain the mounds of fat bulging and protruding all over the place. It was a monstrous sight! After Michael Kirk Lane sang "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas," he was asked if he ever got one. He responded, "Well, Ginger's here, does that count?" The answer is yes. In that hideous gown, she really did look like a human version of that beast. When she sat on a wooden stool to interview Chris Newcomer (Actor, Singer, Comedian, Gourmand), her Special Guest, I feared she might rip the fabric and burst forth in front of all of us. Ginger was a horrible interviewer revealing her ignorance on many levels and topics. For example, when she asked Mr. Newcomer to reveal something we might not know about him, he told her he was a Star Trek fan, to which she responded, "Does that mean you like Chewbacca? That's the Star Wars universe, honey, not Star Trek! Mr. Newcomer then sang "O Holy Night" to an overproduced, overly loud, track which completely drowned out his impressive voice. In the middle of the song, he had to awkwardly ask the technical director to lower the volume. Did Ginger use the opportunity to change into a new gown? Not at all. She and her fellow performers returned to their assigned spots in the exact same costumes - a missed opportunity to change things up and add some variety to this amateurish program.

Further to that point, the overall structure of the show was utterly boring. There were no changes of scenery. Just some colored lights came and went with no discernible purpose - or finesse in timing. The performers planted themselves in their designated spots on the stage and only extremely infrequently left them. The songs were each sung in a similar style, with scant connection to the incomprehensible story being told. There were little tidbits of Ginger's life around the holidays, but nothing deeply touching or even tragic. Ginger Minj does appear to have a very big heart, a good voice, and an abiding love of family and home despite her calling her father "Rick The Dick." However, she did admit, "I am probably a dick too since you are what you eat." After receiving a gift she wanted from her grandmother on her mother's side (no doubt suggested by her mom), Ginger said she then realized "my mom had my back, no matter how hairy it was." Every year during Christmas, she makes it a point to go back to her home in Lake County, Florida, which isn't that much of a burden since she lives in Orlando.

There were some funny jokes. When discussing how she lost her virginity, she recycled the old chestnut that she lost it playing football, where she went from "a tight end to a wide receiver." Michael Kirk Lane says he got herpes during his first sexual encounter - "herpes, the gift that keeps on giving!" Janine Klein says her family shops at Family Dollar because "we are all about family, but we're also cheap." Ginger said she had a second helping at Christmas Breakfast so now if asked what she got for Christmas, she can say, "Diabetes!" Janine sang a song about a dreidel. Michael says in his non-Jewish family, they called it a top. Ginger then responded that she always asks Santa for a top. Chris Newcomer said his favorite cereal is Fruity Pebbles, because "I like a cereal that reflects me in some way - fruity!" Ginger said she "has experienced every culture in the world - Dannon, Activia." After moving to New York, she says she never looked back "because I don't have a neck and my head wouldn't turn that way." 

The show opens with The Three Queens (i.e. The Drag, The Hag, and The Ho-Ho Homo) en route to visit the newborn King riding fake stuffed camels. We are told that "after the dinosaurs and before the original run of  The Golden Girls, Baby Jesus was born to The Virgin Mary." Ginger then says the story is as fake as the camels they rode in on. No parody. No satire. No subtlety. Just raw intolerance and insults. Ginger baits the audience into trying to get someone to admit they voted for Trump and then says, "There's a Trump supporter! Beat Him Up!" She then directly attacks Fox News insulting the many members of her audience who may hold political, and or religious, opinions that differ from hers. It was all a very distasteful spectacle and I could see many audience members were not at all pleased. The delightful, politically incorrect, jokes told during last year's Christmas show were all gone. Very little of worth remained. Ginger Minj did end the show on an up note by telling the audience, "When you care enough to give the very least, consider buying something off my website at"

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Arthur Miller's An Enemy Of The People at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Arthur Miller's An Enemy Of The People at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

An Enemy Of The People
Written by Arthur Miller
Book Adapted Based On A Play by Henrik Johan Ibsen
Directed by David Dubin
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 11/27/16

When Dr. Thomas Stockmann, Chief Medical Officer of the Municipal Baths (the town's main source of revenue and economic development), discovers serious bacterial contamination in the waters there caused by toxic waste coming from his father-in-law's tannery, he expects to be hailed as a hero having prevented people from getting sick and saving the town's reputation. However, when it is discovered that building a waste disposal plant and a new water filtration system to correct the problem will cost three hundred thousand dollars, the closure of the spa for two years, and the issuance of a new municipal bond that will raise taxes on the town's citizens, an array of powerful political forces conspire to silence him. Should Dr. Stockmann stand by his convictions and his knowledge of the truth whatever the consequences to himself and his family or should he listen to his brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann (Chairman of the Board of the Municipal Baths Health Institute), who is encouraging him to retract his original alarmist statement in favor of a more modest one and a promise that the Board will address the contamination issue over time? Here seemingly upright citizens are prepared to compromise their morals and look the other way when their economic well-being, livelihood, and reputations are threatened (especially when business is booming and there is no unemployment in the town). They are prepared to attack the whistleblower and his family by all means necessary to hide, dilute and alter the truth for the sake of the community's perceived short-term, economic welfare. 

This is the basic plot of Arthur Miller's play, modernized and adapted based on Henrik Johan Ibsen's 1882 drama about a man's lonely battle to defend the truth against a powerful, yet misguided, majority. Arthur Miller's An Enemy Of The People opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on December 28, 1950, closing on January 27, 1951 after 36 performances. In this production, the action takes place in 1925 in a town in Maine, as opposed to one in Norway. The audience had nothing but good things to say about this intriguing, timely, relevant play. The issues addressed here are universal and relevant. Especially given the recent revelation regarding the lead contaminated water that was being delivered to citizens in Flint, Michigan and the failure of municipal officials there to spend the money that would have been necessary to treat the pipes with an anti-corrosive agent. As David Dubin, the Director, said in his Program Note, "Whether it is water contamination or climate change or evolution or whether or not the earth revolves around the sun, science is often at the center of controversy, often vilified by those with their own agendas. The thing about science, though, is that it doesn't care if you believe in it or not." Scientific results cannot be denied by majority vote and are not invalid because you don't want them to be true. Emboldened by the knowledge he is preventing people from being poisoned, Dr. Thomas Stockmann refuses to be silenced despite losing his job, being physically attacked, and being threatened with jail on trumped up charges. He is committed to speaking truth to power! 

Angelo DiBiase does a fine job as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the idealistic, sometimes naive, medical doctor who believes in science. Dan Sheffield more than holds his own as Mayor Peter Stockmann. The two brothers engage in an epic battle in defense of what they think best. Dean Schildkraut is surprisingly effective as Aslaksen, the Chairman of the Property Owners Association, Publisher of The People's Daily Messenger (the local newspaper) and head of the local Temperance Society. Gail Merzer Behrens is quite believable as Mrs. Catherine Stockmann, the dutiful wife, and Ravi Tawney shines as Hovstad, an agitator who is Editor-in-Chief of the local newspaper and has an interest in seeing the current leaders of the town replaced with a more "liberal" administration. Unfortunately, I thought K.D. Guadagno engaged in a bit of theatrical overacting in her portrayal of Petra, Dr. Stockman's daughter, and Jules Jacobs, who played Morton Kiil (Dr. Stockman's father-in-law and owner of the tannery), forgot some of his lines causing long, awkward silences you could drive a truck through. 

Some of my favorite quotations from this play include: "Every performer goes for the audience that applauds him most." (Mayor Peter Stockmann); "The original idea (for the spa) was his (Dr. Stockmann) but when it comes time to put things into action, it takes a different kind of man." (Mayor Peter Stockmann); "The Doctor is never happy unless he's challenging authority. Yet, in the guise of reform and justice, he leaves in his wake revolution and chaos. Without credible authority, you can't have government." (Mayor Peter Stockmann); "The world doesn't revolve around conviction. It revolves around money." (Mayor Peter Stockmann); "Without power, what good is truth." (Mrs. Catherine Stockmann); "There is so much injustice in the world, you just have to learn to live with it." (Mrs. Catherine Stockmann); "I'm against the age old lie that the majority is always right. Was the majority right when Jesus was chosen to be crucified?" (Dr. Thomas Stockmann); "Before many can know something, one must know it!" (Dr. Thomas Stockmann); and, on a more humorous note, "If a man goes out to fight for truth and freedom, he shouldn't wear his best clothes." (Dr. Thomas Stockmann).

On one level, the play is about how one man's bravery and self-respect can survive despite overwhelming odds. On another level, it is a criticism of the tyranny of the majority. Not only because the crowd can be riled up and manipulated but also because community leaders, who should be making wise decisions for the sake of the common good, make poor decisions because of self-interest. For example, the local newspaper doesn't publish the doctor's story about the contamination of the baths for fear it will lose subscribers when it becomes known they will need to pay a new tax in order to fix the problem, and the Mayor cannot propose any changes to the baths because he is afraid the public may find out he made a mistake when building them, and thus, oust him from office. Every imaginable threat is lodged against Dr. Thomas Stockmann by his brother, the newspaper, and his father-in-law to pressure him into moderating his position for the sake of the town and his family's future financial well-being. However, Dr. Stockmann not only continues to fight but also decides to stay in town. He and his daughter are fired from their respective jobs, no one from the town will use him as their doctor, the glazier will not visit his home to fix the glass windows that have been broken when rocks were thrown through them, his two sons have gotten into fights and must now be home schooled, he is being threatened with jail for conspiring with his father-in-law to buy up shares in the municipal baths (built by a corporation) at a reduced price, and he has no way to earn a living. When given the option of working within the corrupt system supported by the majority or defending the truth, he avows he would rather be "An Enemy of the People," the title assigned to him by a motion that passed at the Town Meeting held in his own home. I understand that Dr. Stockmann is incredibly angry and wants to keep fighting at all costs but at some point, I have to wonder whether he has abandoned all reason and is making decisions based on the irrationality of his own stubborn, naturally defiant personality.

An Enemy Of The People will leave you with a lot to think about. It is very entertaining and will keep you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what will happen next. It represents theater at its best! It plays through December 11, 2016 at Studio Theatre Long Island. For tickets ($25.00), call 631-226-8400 or visit