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Showing posts from January, 2018

Unexploded Ordnances

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Photo by Theo Cote
The set for Unexploded Ordnances (produced by Split Britches at La MaMa) consists of seven tables arranged in a circle and three large video screens on the back wall. Several minutes into the show, one of the two actresses, Lois Weaver (who also directs), asks who in the audience was alive during World War II. The ten individuals who respond spend the rest of the show sitting at the tables with her as a sort of Council of Elders. It’s really cool. 
Ms. Weaver represents the President - no particular president. The second actress, Peggy Shaw, spends nearly all her time downstage right at a desk with a computer. She represents the General - no particular general.
The play’s concern is nuclear annihilation and it unabashedly borrows from the movie Dr. Strangelove. But in that movie the president and the general were specific fictional characters. In this play they’re archetypes, like the figures in Genet’s play The Balcony. Film can’t do this.
There’s not much structure to…

Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ

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There are seven performers in Ping Chong and Company’s play Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ They talk about their actual lives - what’s happened in the past - in the present tense, and what they talk about is the substance of growing up disadvantaged in New York City. When one is asked “What would you tell your younger self?” the reply is “Be patient.” And when another is asked “What would you say to other kids like you?” the answer is “You were put here for a reason.” What an enormous encouragement it must be to young people, to hear that from these articulate performers - aged 18 to 22 - whom we grow to like so quickly!
The performers - four actresses and three actors - tell us their stories both individually and communally - that is, they rotate among themselves speaking bits of their narratives, but it’s all in chronological order. We experience them growing up together although they grew up separately. It’s like hearing from a generation. Some are ethnic minority, some gende…

Brouhaha

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Photo by Paul Gillis
What we do without smart clown shows? “Smart clown show” describes Happenstance Theater’s show Brouhaha, appearing Off-off-Broadway at The Theater for the New City. The loose premise is that the six characters expect the world to end imminently (the script doesn’t explain why and we don’t care). There are a couple of off-stage sort-of explosions that throw them on the floor, and then this brief exchange:  “Was that it?” “Apparently not.” 
And then they resume gayly throwing themselves at life. They dance (it’s lovely with their accordion and their umbrella) and play a game tossing their hats around and jockey for position in lines for nothing at all. Even better, they talk to us. “Hello. This is a safe place,” is the first line. “Ladies and gentlemen, the world is ending tonight,” they announce later without a trace of regret. The line “Imagine the bombs exploding outside are far away,” gives the script’s only real suggestion of given circumstances.
The house lights ar…

Panorama

In Panorama (presented by La MaMa) characters morph into one another in defiance of actuality or stage convention. The show begins with 17 video clips of actors introducing themselves, and as the play proceeds we meet seven of them on stage. That upstage video projection is always active, and sometimes it’s the actor on stage whose image is projected - they're always being videoed onstage, and sometimes they take video selfies. They’re always talking directly to us, usually one at a time. There are smaller video screens on the sides of the wide, empty stage that sometimes echo the large, upstage screen and sometimes don’t.
The performers don’t act in the strict sense; they present their real selves to us. One met Charles Manson; one is from Turkey; one used to be on drugs. The script is made up fragments of narrative from their actual lives - that’s why it’s so extraordinary that they morph into one another. A black woman talks about the first time she was called a “chink”. Later s…