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Showing posts from December, 2017

Shadowlands

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Fellowship for Performing Arts produces theater from a Christian perspective. It’s currently touring with a solo show about C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert. Here in New York they’re presenting another play about Lewis, Shadowlands, Off-Broadway. It’s a larger production, with a cast of ten. Like The Reluctant Convert, it explores theology through the prism of Lewis’ life.
Shadowlands begins Lewis’ story from just before he meets the poet Joy Davidman - that is, Mrs. Gresham, as she is more often called in the script. Later she becomes Mrs. C.S. Lewis, but only after she breaks down the barriers that Lewis has created to shield himself from the female other.
We meet Lewis among his hyper-intellectual mates in the male sanctuary of Oxford. Mrs. Gresham, an American with whom he has been corresponding, visits, returns to America, and then shows up again, now divorced, announcing that she’s moved to - of all places! - Oxford. Lewis finds in her a platonic friend,…

Hold These Truths

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photo by Lia Chang
In 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which mandated the detention of Japanese-Americans in prison camps. A University of Washington student named Gordon Hirabayashi chose not to obey either the “order for evacuation” to a camp or the curfew that Japanese-Americans were subject to. With the help of the ACLU he fought his case as far as the Supreme Court, where the judges decided unanimously against him. Later, he declined to return an oath of allegiance that Japanese-Americans alone were required to return, and he was again convicted.
40 years later a college professor notified Hirabayashi that he had discovered evidence that the government had suppressed evidence in Hirabayashi’s case. Ultimately, a federal court reversed both convictions.
The Hang a Tale company has produced Hold These Truths, a solo show by Jeanne Sakata presenting these events in Hirabayashi’s life. The bulk of the extended (90 minutes) monologue is spoken by the charac…

Frankenstein

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photo by Adam Smith Jr.
How many works have been based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) lists 39 pages in its Works based on Frankenstein category - novels, films, comics, video games. Mary Shelley accessed an archetype in our collective unconscious like few other writers.
Needless to say, not all of these adaptations are masterpieces. But stage adaptations of the novel promise, at least, to be rewarding; there’s a real dramatic conflict between Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature. And the musical is particularly right for this epic, operatic story.   
Eric B. Sirota has written the book, music and lyrics to a musical based on the novel. It’s called, appropriately enough, Frankenstein, and it’s been playing at St. Luke’s Theatre, Off-Broadway. It’s really good, a lively and entertaining stage response to Ms. Shelley, produced by John Lant, Tamra Pica and Write Act Repertory.
Clint Hromsco has directed the show with a great, refined sense of fun. The show parod…

The Mushroom Cure

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photo by David Allen
The Mushroom Cure is an extended autobiographical monologue - 90 minutes - written and performed by Adam Strauss and directed by Jonathan Libman, currently playing at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s, Off-off-Broadway. It centers on Strauss’ attempts to treat his OCD through psychedelics, and his concurrent romance with a woman named Grace. The two stories are intertwined as Strauss explores psychedelics and the personal relationship. He meets Grace when he’s researching drugs, and she accompanies him to Martha’s Vineyard to take the magic mushrooms.
Libman understands the particular challenges of a solo show, and he deals with them with intelligence and precision. The performance has a nice variety, with clear differentiation between intimacy and humor, and there’s a living rhythm to the whole thing.
Strauss, who’s very talented, is at his best when expressing - and reliving - the experience of making a decision in the presence of OCD. He bounces violently between the one cho…

The Black Glove

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photo: Jonathan Slaff
August Strindberg wrote a children’s play? Strindberg? That great melancholic? So it would seem. August Strindberg Rep (Off-off-Broadway) has produced his final play, The Black Glove. It was written in 1909 and first produced in 1910. It was the fifth of his chamber plays, but not usually included in collections of those plays. It’s rarely produced and was indeed written, purportedly, for children.
Strindberg’s best known for his expressionism, but this play is set in an apartment building - seven floors and 21 units with heat, electricity and telephones. The Professor lives in the attic and The Caretaker lives in the basement. Among the tenants living between them is a bad-natured young Wife, who calls the building a “strange house where human destinies are piled one on the other side by side”. Also present are The Christmas Angel (the play is set on December 23rd and 24th) and an Elf.
The Wife, it seems, has lost a ring and a glove, and she blames one of the maids…

The Mad Ones

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Photo by Richard Termine

The Mad Ones, a musical by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk appearing at 59E59 Theaters, takes its title from a line from Jack Kerouac’s book On The Road: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live…”. In fact, its central character, a young woman named Sam, carries a copy of the book around with her. She’s just graduated from high school. Her mother, Beverly, expects her to go to Harvard; her best friend, Kelly, expects her to go to a state college with her. What Sam wants to do - sort of - is to take to the road, although she only has a learner’s permit. And Kelly encourages her. Kelly “believes in listening to the road” - that is, wandering. 
We meet Sam at the show’s opening trying to make the decision of what to with with her life - with her next year, actually - and her decision-making provides the substance of the play, such as it is. The script proceeds with flashbacks until the final scene. In the process we meet, in additio…