Archive | May, 2016

Spermhood: Diary of a Donor is Full of Surprises

21 May

(reviewed for TheaterScene)

Albo talks frankly and unapologetically about these topics, which makes his play funny and poignant.

 

It seems that in our society certain words are hard to talk about. Words like sperm, masturbation, in vitro fertilization, and fertility clinics are just a few that seem difficult to roll off the tongue. Yet these words are the very center of Mike Albo’s new, one man show, Spermhood. Albo talks frankly and unapologetically about these topics, which makes his play funny and poignant.

Albo’s work entitled; Spermhood: the Diary of a Donor, gives us a first-hand account of Mike. He is a gay male, in his forties. Caroline,a lesbian and her partner had have decided they want to conceive a child and have asked Mike to be the donor. For the next 80 minutes the audience gets a first-hand account of Mike’s journey to fatherhood. We receive a glimpse into the world of sperm donation and fertility processes. Surprisingly, the steps involved can be rather exhausting for everyone. There are strict and thorough testing requirements that everyone must undergo in order to become a donor and a recipient.

Albo’s play it’s not only funny, but very real. In one of his, comically awkward moments he describes what it’s like trying to get aroused from watching cheesy straight porn. He also talks about his dating life, his lack of a sex life, and his preoccupation with his cell phone. Two or three times throughout the play he stops the show to check his dating profiles on his phone. Not only are these funny moments, but they show us just how dependent we have all become on our devices. But when he is not making us laugh hysterically, which he does often, his quieter moments are vulnerable and sincere. These are the real moments, where we see that there is a person underneath all of the hoopla that the topic creates. Just when you think the process is all for nothing, they become pregnant

Director, David Schweizer does a good job telling the story. Albo and him get to the heart of the piece, which can be tricky in a a play that can seem very surface level and one-dimensional. The only issue with the play is the excessive movement of Albo. He never sits still, and at times his frequent movements seem like nervous energy exuded by the actor, rather than coming from the play itself. Sometimes you wish he would just sit still for a second, instead of feeling the need to run around the stage all the time.

Yes, the subject matter for this play is awkward and perhaps a little taboo. But if we really get honest with ourselves we can all relate.. And if Albo can become so honest on stage about his exploits as a sperm donor shouldn’t we have the courage to get honest with ourselves about our own lives?

 

Spermhood plays Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 pm. At Dixon Place 161A Chrystie St. through May 28th. www.dixonplace.org or by calling (866)-811-4111or Dixon Place at (212) 219-0736.

http://dixonplace.org/press-spermhood/

Murrow Shines!

14 May
 (reviewed for TheaterScene)

Joseph Vitale’s play about the life of Edward Murrow it’s not only interesting historically, but captivating to watch. Phoenix Theatre Ensemble does a great job bringing this play to life.

 

Performing a one-man show is quite a feat. Therefore, Murrow is a triumph of sorts. Joseph Menino grabs our attention from the very first moment and does not let go until the last line. Playwright Joseph Vitale’s work about the life of Edward Murrow it’s not only interesting historically, but captivating to watch. Phoenix Theatre Ensemble does a great job bringing this play to life.

Act 1 chronicles the beginnings of Murrow’s life from his humble beginnings in North Carolina to his coverage of World War II for CBS. We learn about his personal and professional life, his education, and his relationship with the owner of CBS Bill Paley. Surprisingly, Murrow was never supposed to be a newscaster, but a behind-the-scenes business administrator. But with the onset of World War II everything changed. Act 2 follows Murrow’s coverage of Joe McCarthy during the 1950’s and his controversial take down of the senator.

Menino is it a fine actor with depth and range. He has flushed out the nuances of his character well, and thus delivers a poignant performance. His subtlety on stage speaks volumes and his passion never wanes. We can watch him forever as he gives an honest performance. He is as captivating in his fiery moments as he is in his comical ones. .

Director Jeremy Williams does a fine job illuminating this play. However, there is a lot of movement on stage by Menino. It seems as if he’s trying to make up for being the only actor on stage. The frequent movement can distracting at times. It appears as if the actor has been given too much blocking and sometimes it feels forced. Also, the end of the play, the last 15 or 20 minutes gets a little preachy. Vitale, no doubt has a lot to say, and does it mostly well. But the latter part of the play becomes didactic. It seems as if the playwright is trying to say too much in too short of time. Vitale’s words shine best when he is giving voice to Murrow’s interesting life and lose power when he tries to pound messages into our brain.

But these qualms withstanding, Murrow makes for a good, thought-provoking production. We can easily become bored from listening to a single actor for nearly two hours. But to everyone’s credit that does not happen and we are treated to an educationally intriguing night at the theater.

Murrow plays now through May 22 at the Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St. www.ovationtix.com

The PeliCANT

7 May

Family politics can be a very tricky area, often without rules or boundaries. Such is the pressing topic of August Strindberg’s The Pelican. While I applaud Voyage Theater Companies interest in bringing this rarely done work to the stage, their production leaves much to be desired, I hate to be so negative, but this production has many flaws and leaves the audience disappointed.

What happens when the matriarch of the family seduces her son-in-law and convinces him to marry her daughter just so she can be near him? Surely, no mother can be so cruel. But, unfortunately for her and her children, the Mother is vicious. Her children are not deaf to their mother’s wickedness. And following the death of their father, they quickly wise up and hatch their plan for revenge. Surprisingly, the romance between the mother and son-in-law is short lived and we see the bastardy of everyone involved. Roles reverse and we are taken on roller-coaster of a ride through power, hatred, suffering, and deep pain.

This could make for a gripping 75 minute drama. Sadly, poor acting and bad direction make this play feel lost and empty. Mary Round plays the Mother/Elise. Unfortunately, she is lacking in emotional life, which makes her performance fall completely flat. Round seems overwhelmed on stage and delivers a rather bleak performance. Nicholas Westmeyer and Malka Wallick do a better job with their respective roles of the brother and sister. They add some depth and dimension to their scenes and thus, are more interesting to watch. Thomas Brazzle plays Axel, the son-in-law forcefully. While Round lacks emotion, Brazzle drives his full throttle and bombards us with emotional indulgences that make his character seem over-the-top and fake. Pauline Walsh plays a minor role as a servant, and it’s too bad because she is a bright spot in this troubled production. Walsh is alive and present, which makes her the most desirable one on stage.

Directors, Charles C. Bales and Wayne Maugans do not help matters much. All too often, the actors upstage themselves and constantly have their backs to the audience. I can not help but wonder whether a lot of the flaws could have been helped by stronger and clearer direction. No doubt Strindberg is hard to do well, but one can not blame the script in totality for the shortcomings of this production. I really hope the cast and crew can iron some of these kinks out in the coming shows because this could make for a great evening at the theater, but it needs a lot of work to get there.

The Pelican plays until May 14th at the Fourth St. Theater 83 E 4th St. www. Voyagetheatercompany.org