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Showing posts from February, 2018

Fusiform Gyrus

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photo: Suzanne Opton
The pre-show of Fusiform Gyrus consists of a grey-haired man at a desk, with his head lowered. There’s a black back wall, which turns out to be a scrim, with some scientific names for beasts written on it - thamnophis sirtalis, phengaris arion… Fusiform Gyrus, the program tells us, is “a region in the brain that lights up with activity during brain imaging when people describe, and give names to living things.”
At the show start, a second grey-haired man enters, and the two men, equally tall, laugh for no reason. It’s a fitting opening for Talking Band's good-natured, inscrutable production of this script by Ellen Maddow.
The company consist of the two actors and five musicians (trombone, tuba, trumpet and two saxophones). From time to time the brass band plays, merrily at first and cacophonously or whisperingly later in the show. Late in the show there are little lights round the bells of the instruments.
There’s no plot; these aren’t dramatic characters. They’re…

Prelude to the Apocalypse

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Prelude to the Apocalypse is an hour-long solo show written and performed by Blake Sugarman and presented by La MaMa. Mr Sugarman talks to us about the environmental crisis, and for the first half-hour or so, he remains seated behind a desk, speaking (and this is ill-advised) into a microphone. There’s an hourglass on the desk, and its live image is projected on the back wall. There’s a large, handsome pile of trash bags upstage as well.
“Once upon a time on a planet called Earth…” he opens, and proceeds to discuss the extinction of the dinosaurs, Jesus and Peter Pan, children at Dachau, mountain top removal and other issues that relate loosely, often poetically, to his subject. 
About halfway through the show he tells us that President Trump cited climate change in a request for legal permission to build a sea wall at his golf course in Ireland (!). The thought makes Mr. Sugarman jump to his feet and yell “What is going on?” It’s a genuine dramatic climax. Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin …

Or Current Resident

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photo by Jonathan Slaff
Naturalism isn’t my favorite style, but with theaters trying to outdo each other to be avant-garde, it’s refreshing to find a conventional, naturalistic production of a new script. I speak of Squeaky Bicycle Productions’ production of Or Current Resident, by Joan Bigwood, presented at The Theater for the New City. It’s squarely in the tradition of the American drama’s theme of family. From Eugene O’Neill, through Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, to Sam Shepard, American playwrights have been obsessed with family.
And naturalism this is, with a set with walls, presenting the common room - a combination living room and kitchen - of a lower middle class home, very nicely designed by Meg McGuin. 
The family in this play is the Finch’s. Mimi, the grandmother, lives with her two daughters and twin grandchildren in “a small and crowded space”. Her son, Ted, comes to live with them after a lengthy prison term. Granddad’s interred in the back yard, present but absent.…

Delta in the Sky with Diamonds

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photo: Carol Rosegg
A play by June Daniel White called Delta in the Sky with Diamonds or Maybe Not is playing at Theatre 54 at Shetler Studios, produced Off-off-Broadway by Boogla Nights Productions. It concerns a woman, Delta, recently deceased, who meets God and finds that for some inexplicable reason he has a plan to use her to save the world. It seems that she must get Lyle, a living former rock star, and Hollywood, a living waitress, together as partners. The future of the world depends on it. It’s not clear why this should be the case.
At any rate, Delta and God show up at Hollywood’s diner in Wabash, Indiana, with Lyle and Hollywood. It’s neat that they talk to one another but can’t be seen or heard by the living for a while. Then, to Hollywood’s bewilderment, Delta appears in the living world with her and Lyle.
There’s a second concern in the script: Delta’s boyfriend, whom she left standing at the church on their wedding day. She works to convince God to let her go back to Earth…