Monday, April 19, 2010

A Week of Seeing Shows

I had a jam-packed week full of seeing shows. A few words on each:
  • Darius Homayoun's a joyous shot at how things ought to be: a fourth-year independent project at New York University's Experimental Theater Wing. Darius, who comes from Dubai, is a good friend of mine from the four years we've studied together, and I was bursting with pride over this work. Conceptually, he begins with a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm (The Twelve Brothers), presented by himself and a group of actors who, between segments, make no bones about being a group of actors. Between scenes they use each other's real names, ask each other the real time, and comment on how they think it is going. Then they hop into the story-telling, beautiful and imaginative. Soon the two world blends, and the narrative caves in on itself as Darius realizes why the story is important to him. A fantastic work, and one which I'm hoping to remount with him, possibly in the fall.

  • Alex Johnson's Staging Staging: The Historiographical Consequences of Post-Revolutionary Russian Avant-Garde Performance Aesthetics: also a fourth-year independent project at NYU:ETW. As you can see, we have a thing for long titles this year. Alex's project was a non-play -- a play which fails to happen. He begins by trying to give a lecture on the Russian Avant-Garde, but is then interrupted by a group of protesters, some of which are audience members who have volunteered beforehand and been trained in what to do. Vaguely. Again, a war breaks out between Alex Johnson, ostensibly trying to give his thesis lecture, and the protesters, who simply want to make known their demands. It begins as somewhat of a satire on the dull-headed Kimmel occupation from last year, but soon takes a more sympathetic ear, as you realize that these young people may not have a purpose or direction to their aimless protesting, but they are driven by very tangible desires and hopes. Pretty soon, the audience had a pretty strong urge to join in (I'm not making this up) and we basically interrupted Alex's show to have a conversation with him about his show -- which is basically what his show was ready to accept. In today's talk-back, Alex said "I made the show fail-proof, which obviously made it success-proof."

  • Lope de Vega's Fuente Ovejuna, directed by Chilean director Carlos Diaz. Diaz used the space he was given in an incredible way -- it was long and wide, and actors spent the entirety of the show running in and out of it, and exerting massive amounts of energy. Unfortunately, that meant that when the show wasn't working, it was (as one of my friends put it), just a bunch of people running and shouting. Some of the scenes were in Spanish with no translation, which at first I was irritated by, but then I realized wasn't really a problem -- I just wasn't the primary audience, being monolingual. After all, almost none of the theater in New York treats the blind or the deaf as part of the audience -- I, as someone who didn't learn Spanish, have a whole range of theater which is open to me, so it isn't particularly a problem if just this one had scenes that were inaccessible. Sometimes the running and shouting and the acoustics of the space drowned out the words of the actors, and sometimes the athleticism drowned out what could have been a subtle and moving tale and instead made it a passionate and exhausting play, but overall it was a play well directed, and sometimes it even worked for me.

  • Pipeline Theatre's Psycho Beach Party: earlier in the week, I was performing with Pipeline in their Brave New Works evening of emerging theater companies; then I was seeing their fantastic play. I haven't laughed so hard in a while; John Early as Chicklet was a virtuouso of hysterical energy for the entire evening. It was just a wild, fun romp, but I -- not familiar with the play previously -- was rather taken by the play's fun but incisive investigations into sexual and gender identity, which I hadn't really been expecting to be so forward while still being fun. Pipeline definitely holds fun to be the key virtue, and with their over-sold audience it's clear that it's working out for them.

  • A reading of an original musical Who's George: my friend Sydney Matthews dug this little chestnut out of the attic, written by her grandmother, and we just informally read it in the back of Bar 82 (nice folks, by the way, who are building a little venue in a back room). The play is hysterical in its adorable genuine spirit and strange ways of saying things. I laughed even harder than I laughed at Psycho Beach Party. We may be bringing this production to the stage as well this summer.

  • The Stella Adler Studio's production of Show & Tell: I very much dislike this play. It reads as though a television writer was trying to write an episode of CSI and then realized he could make it into a play so that he could get it made. There's also a lot of unwarranted romantic hoopla that just distracts from the part of it that works: a genuine reflection on what grief looks like when the catastrophic incident (a bombing of a classroom) is so horrific that it can't allow normal grieving processes (because the childrens' bodies can't be recovered). On the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, this had the potential to be particularly poignant. The technical aspects were also a huge failure. That being said, the actors did amazing work with what they were given, particularly my roommate and company-member Joel Fullerton. Who just found out I have a blog last night. Hi Joel!
I normally don't see this much theater, but I will keep trying to update you.

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