Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama
Henry Naylor has written two works that are not only complex, but compelling. Among the myriad subjects contained in both Echoes and Angel are many of the current issues we read about daily in the news: the Middle East, Islam, ISIS, radicalism, and jihadism. There is also strong focus given to the equality, or more accurately lack of equality, between women and men in the Middle East and the subsequent restriction and violence imposed on women.
Echoes is the story of two women living in Ipswich, England 175 years apart. Both leave their homes at the age of seventeen to marry and to fulfill their chosen missions in life. Tillie (Rachel Smyth) lives in the Victorian era. She is a Christian, and wants to produce children for the Empire. Samira (Serena Manteghi), a present day Islamist school girl, wants to build a Caliphate–a Muslim political-religious community as originally created following the death of the prophet Muhammad. The outcomes of their missions are remarkably similar and it is the events leading up to these outcomes which comprise the story of Echoes.
Anita Lvova in Angels
Angel is based on what were likely, to some extent, real events. According to legend, the Kurdish freedom fighter known as The Angel of Kobane shot and killed at least 100 ISIS fighters in Syria. Rehana’s (Avita Lvova) strength, determination, and fearlessness are testimony to the inherent power of all women.
The performances of the three actresses are superlative. The depth of research which clearly went into the creation of each role is remarkable. The honesty of each portrayal of present and past events, including the other characters involved, is without fault.
Rachel Smyth and Serena Manteghi
The role of Tillie as portrayed by Rachel Smyth is a challenging one. The character demands a restraint and quiet demeanor that make it difficult to counteract the more overt power of Samira. The actress remains true to her role.
Michael Cabot’s direction of Angel and Emma Butler’s direction of Echoes miss neither a beat nor a nuance. Reality is maintained without ever lapsing into melodrama or shock for the sake of shock.
Both works are filled with pathos, violence, and moments of humor and, perhaps most important, reality. They demand the complete focus and involvement of the viewer and, though sometimes disturbing, they should not be missed.
Angles & Echoes Produced by Redbeard Theatre in association with Gilded Balloon Productions 59 East 59th Theaters 59 East 59 between Park and Madison Running through May 7 with performances Tuesday through Friday at 7:15 p.m., Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3:15 p.m..
I do not want a sound to pretend that it’s a bucket or that it’s a president or that it’s in love with another sound, I just want it to be a sound. John Cage
Chess Match No. 5 should, by all accounts, be boring. It is, after all, an entire play comprised of two people playing a game of chess and discussing their perception of the reality of music. But it is definitely not boring.
The SITI Company has created a work based on the public conversations of John Page as arranged by Jocelyn Clarke. Born in 1912, the noted and controversial composer, writer, artist and philosopher, was among the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde and is often considered one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Taking the words of John Cage, the company has combined writing, direction, acting and the creativity of an entire ensemble to develop what can only be called a remarkable production.
Without question, the philosophy and techniques of the SITI Company are a large part of the successful outcome. SITI, founded in 1992 by Anne Bogart and Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki, evolved out of two very different systems, Suzuki and Viewpoints. The mission of Suzuki is to restore the actor’s innate expressive abilities through focus on physical movement drawn from Japanese and Greek theater, ballet and martial arts. Viewpoints was developed in 1970 by choreographer Mary Overlie as a method of movement improvisation. The six basic principles of Viewpoints, later adapted for stage by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau, include Space, the physical environment and relationship of objects; Shape, the contour of bodies related to space; Time, tempo, duration, reaction and repetition; Emotion, Movement and Story.
The procedures of the SITI Company serve the words of Cage well and result not in a structure that restricts, but rather in one that provides unlimited freedom. Once the boundaries of preconceived concepts are broken, choice is without limit.
Cage’s overriding philosophy, embodied in all of his works, is that music exists solely and simply for its own sake. One example, often discussed and passionately debated, is the three movement composition “4’33” which is performed in four minutes and 33 seconds. Before beginning, the musicians are requested to put down their instruments. What remains is the ambient sound, the music, of the surrounding environment. In a 1957 lecture Cage described music as “…an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”
Chess Match No.5 was conceived and directed by Anne Bogart, co-director of the SITI Company. She has directed it with careful attention to each moment, each nuance, and each in relationship to the whole.
The performances of the production’s two actors, Will Bond as John Cage and Ellen Lauren as his long-time friend and intellectual equal, are extraordinary. They have mastered incredibly challenging roles, totally embodying their characters and never allowing the attention of the audience to waver. They also manage to transition smoothly from the intellectual repartee to jokes that are delightful in their contrivance and dances that come out of nowhere (and are very well performed).
In a world in which falsely perceived reality and inflexible and biased opinions are often the norm, anything which opens the mind and provides a stimulus for thought is to be lauded, and when it provides entertainment as well, it is something not to be missed. Go see Chess Match No. 5. You will enjoy it and you will not forget it.
Photos by Maria Baranova
Chess Match No. 5 Created by the SITI Company and Presented by the Abingdon Theatre Company Choreography, Barney O’Hanlon; Scenic and Costume Design, James Schuette; Lighting Design, Brian H. Scott; Sound Design, Darron L. West June Havoc Theatre 312 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue) Through April 2nd Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. George Burns
Based on real life situations and events, Marshall Goldberg has managed to seamlessly incorporate reality, caricature, humor (including one-liners like “the annoying never die”), and shtick in writing Daddy Issues. Add to that the perceptive and impeccable direction of David Goldyn and you have an exceptionally enjoyable production.
Matt Koplik as Donald Moscowitz does a terrific job portraying a twenty-something gay actor (he’s up for a cat food commercial) who is doing his best to be his own individual self, all of which is unacceptable to his very Jewish and overbearing parents. All they want in life is for their son to marry a good girl and give them a grandchild. Is it any wonder that he is driven to make up a story (as in lie)? There is also, admittedly, the added incentive of a double inheritance.
His parents, Sid (Tony Rossi) and Marion (Kate Katcher) somehow escape being caricatures of Jewish parents and present themselves as real, though admittedly difficult, people. Completing the family unit, Deb Armelino makes Grandma, who has a serious obsession with circumcision, not only irritating, but also loveable.
The plot thickens when Donald, reaching his breaking point, tells his family that he has indeed provided them with a son, albeit ten years ago. But how to provide a ten year old “son.” The solution is in ten year old Johnny Walker (yes, that is his real name) who lives upstairs with his mother. Alex Ammerman plays Johnny with all the finesse of a seasoned actor. He is very real and very funny and never misses a beat.
Shua Potter, Alex Ammerman and Matt Koplik
But then Johnny needs a mother, an ex-girlfriend from Donald’s college days, to introduce to the family. Vying for the role of Johnny’s mother, Mary Ellen, are Levi and Henrietta, two of Donald’s best friends. Shua Potter as Levi is an extreme, but oddly believable, effeminate fellow who is also a drag queen. He is incredibly funny and wears his drag getup with ease and flair. As Henrietta, Elizabeth Klein is very sincere, inventive, a bit quirky, and totally endearing. Allyson Haley, who portrays Johnny’s real life mother, a woman with a serious drinking problem, manages to walk a fine line between reality and caricature with her performance.
The production team has done an effective job. Lighting Designer Mitchell Ost, Scenic Designer Kevin Klakouski, and Costume Designer Antonio Consuegra each contribute their own excellence to the production.
As to the outcome of all the chaos, you’ll have to discover that for yourselves. Daddy Issues is the perfect antidote for the weariness and concern of an approaching election and the approaching holiday season. It has two more days of a very limited run, Saturday, November 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 6, at 3 p.m. at Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues). Do your best to see it, but if you can’t, rest assured that it will definitely be heard from again.
Photos by Stephen M. Cyr Top photo: Deb Armelino, Kate Katcher, Matt Koplik, and Shua Potter
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…Martha Graham
When boundless energy combines with incredible talent the result is Gustavo Pace and Naked Brazilian. The ability to convincingly portray a wide range of characters is rare, and to do it this well is truly remarkable. The show is fast paced and there is not a moment’s pause or flicker of confusion in the performance. The apparent ease with which this is accomplished is amazing and can only get better with the added confidence of each performance.
We first meet Gustavo as himself, as the narrator, and as his ill-tempered and often irrational father (who later is the proud father who insists upon taking endless pictures of Gustavo as he gets his degree from Harvard). During the first few minutes there’s a lot of conversation between father and son in Spanish with brief explanations by Gustavo as the Narrator; for the most part this works well, though perhaps slowing down the initial scenes a bit.
Leaving his home in Brazil and his life as a law student, Gustavo moves to New York to pursue his dream of being an actor, encountering numerous characters along the way; among them a sex therapist, a crazed gunman, and a homicidal producer. Shortly after arriving he begins studying with an acting coach, later shares an apartment with him and finally is taken home to meet his family where an enthusiastic mother tells Gustavo, to his dismay, ”We are happy that you are our son-in-law.” That was the end of that relationship.
At last, applying for his Green Card, he is told by the lawyer he doesn’t have sufficient credentials. He has three months to figure something out. He begins to recall all the events of his life since arriving in New York and realizes that they would make a good one man show. He writes it, performs it to excellent reviews and now has the required credentials.
It’s an endless adventure about pursuing a dream and the many individuals and situations incurred in the process, and the audience is carried along with every moment. Be forewarned that once you see it you may find yourself humming “Girl from Ipanema” for days.
There is only one more performance in this very limited run: Sunday, August 21, 2016, at 8:30pm, but you can be certain Naked Brazilian will move forward with many more venues and performances and ever increasing success.
Written, and performed by Gustavo Pace Directed by Stephen Brown-Fried Sound Design by Julian Evans, Lighting Design by Ethan Steimel Photography by Jim R. Moore Part of the New York International Fringe Festival 64 East 4 Mainstage (64 East 4th Street)
Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little—Edna Ferber
The dichotomy of Like Money in the Bank lies in the fact that though it is well written by Jerry Polner, skillfully directed by Shana Solomon and performed by a talented group of actors, it is too much of a good thing. It is about the establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank, the plight of immigrant workers, the American Progressive Movement, the United Garment Workers, corruption within the banks, union conflicts, the suffragists, strikes, temperance, and even the advent of the radio.
While it is true that these were, indeed, all things which were occurring during the same era of our country’s history does not lessen the danger of the audience feeling it is being prepped for a mid-term exam.
Fortunately, despite this, the show fulfills its designated category of romantic comedy. Rachel Mewbron as Louisa and Michael Zlabinger as Sully play the requisite lovers with great charm. The remainder of the cast– Jack Utrata, Sarah Sirota, Annalisa Loeffler and Richard Vernon – play multiple characters with aplomb.
The pre-show music is a delight. Sound Designer Harrison Adams has put together music that seems to be coming out of a gramophone and sung in the style of the period. Joseph Blaha’s costumes are consistently well researched and appropriate.
Scene changes are announced with intertitles—a fixture of the silent films. In this case cards carried across the stage, opening with “A Small Bank Out West, 1907” and including “Chicago Steam Boiler Company,” “A Makeshift Union Hall” and “Smith’s Bar.”
Special mention to Andrew Sellon for his role of Lockett (also Socialist and Sidney); his innate talent for comedy is a joy to behold, not only in his characters but as he carries title cards across the stage.
There is so much good to be said for the production of Like Money in the Bank that one can only wish it hadn’t taken on quite so much history.
At Theatre Row Studio Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street Concluding a limited run through April 22, 2016 Photos by Jody Christopherson
Lonely people, in talking to each other, can make each other lonelier…Lillian Hellman
The venue is a high school and the story is about relationships in the present technological environment…but it is more. It is about the loneliness that appears to be a part of everyone’s life. But though thought provoking, Connected is also highly entertaining.
Comprised of a collection of vignettes, the work is wonderfully original, technically adept, and presented by an extremely talented cast. The eight cast members, Midori Francis, Dana Jacks, Joachim Boyle, Ella Dershowitz, Robby Clater, Thomas Muccioli, Gus Birney and Aria Shaoghasemi, each portray multiple characters. Given that challenge, each actor has very successfully fleshed out his or her individual characters.
Midori Francis and Ella Dershowitz
We first meet Meghan who has unintentionally become an instant celebrity when her video goes viral. It shows her doing a strip tease in the schoolyard and ends with her covered with body paint, a way she came up with for asking a long-time crush for a date to the prom. She is distraught, embarrassed and tearful at the unwanted publicity. Appearing on numerous talk shows, she ends up with Justin Bieber as her prom date.
There is a wide array of characters including (but not limited to) two partygirls whose sole purpose in life seems to be finding and being a part of “the perfect party,” a few individuals who consume vast amounts of vodka as a potential solution to life’s problems, and a teacher who, while on a dating website, unknowingly finds herself seduced by one of her students.
Robby Clater and Thomas Muccioli
There is also a girl who, though desperately needing a job, turns down an offer saying she can’t work evenings. The reason, which she does not disclose, is because that’s when she plays war craft games online. Some of the most ingenious scenes are these role-playing games portrayed on stage. Notable are the costumes designed by Jessa-Raye Court.
The predominant feeling expressed by everyone seems to be that “some people just have it all…I’ll never be like that.” The question posed is “Why are we all still so lonely?” At the end, there is no answer to the question, but simply hope offered with, “You keep trying.”
Midori Francis and Dana Jacks
Lia Romeo has written with a great deal of perception, and a talent for creating very believable dialogue. Director Michole Biancosino skillfully moves the production forward from one scene to another with ease. It is an ensemble work with all members of the creative and production teams working together successfully. Special mention goes to Set Design (Matthew J. Fick), Lighting Design (Ben Hagen) and Original Music and Sound Design (Amit Prakash).
Connected provides a thoroughly enjoyable, funny and thought provoking evening.
Photos by Hunter Canning
Opening: Thomas Muccioli, Midori Francis, Robby Clater, Gus Birney and Joachim Boyle
Connected, presented by Project Y Theatre Company, continues its run through March 26, Wednesday through Thursday at 7:30 and Friday and Saturday at 8:30 at 59E59 Theaters East 59th between Park and Madison.