Hedda the Class!

Hedda Gabler

Reviewed By Nicholas Linnehan

What is power? More interestingly, why are we so drawn to it, like a moth to flame? Interestingly, Ibsen’s work about a woman obsessed with controlling others is still compelling to watch, making it the timeless classic that it is. IRT Theater presents Wandering Dark Theater Company’s production of Hedda (Gabler), which fills the room with dramatic tension that has the audience hooked from the start.

Like most masterpieces, Ibsen’s play features deeply layered characters with complex relationships to one another. Hedda Gabler has just returned from her honeymoon to George Tesman. However, it is clear that Hedda didn’t marry George for love, but still longs for a former lover, who just happens to be George’s rival, Eilert Lovborg. But does Hedda want Lovborg’s love or to simply dominate him? Enter Thea Elvsted, distraught over Lovborg, as she’s having an affair with this successful writer. Thea and Hedda were bitter schoolmates. In the background is Judge Brack who lusts after Hedda and is seeking his own way in to Hedda’s bed. Every scene is a game of chess; a battle of wits and wills for power over one another.

The hard thing about works like this is the language. It can be so dense and heightened that it can hard to relate to. But this cast does a good job making it feel contemporary and relevant to today. Valerie Redd, is our leading lady as Hedda. Redd has so much inner life that drives her throughout the play, We hang on her every word. Often, it is what she doesn’t say that is the most interesting. Terence MacSweeny makes for an excellent Judge Brack. He is menacing and his desire for Hedda is palpable. There is a great seductive quality about him that is intriguing to watch. Redd and MacSweeny are electric together. George Tesman, played by the adorable Kyle Schaefer provides great contrast to the other scheming characters. He is like a young puppy, earnest, honest, and sincere. Clearly from a different world of his brooding comrades. He brings light and energy into this dark themed play.

As much as I liked the cast, I am indifferent about the choreographed scenes by Brad Landers. The symbolism and foreshadowing found in the opening number are delightful and make for a great entry point, but when the three men do a sequence in the middle of the play it seems jarring and disconnected from the rest of the story. This moment takes us out of the world that has been so beautifully created. Jason Frey’s costumes are stunning and help create the setting perfectly.

Unfortunately the show played its last performance, but it was great to see IRT bring back a classic and show us why it is deemed such a great play by many. Though Ibsen wrote it long ago, it captures the darkness of the human condition that plagues us all.

Hedda (Gabler) played through October 9th, 2016 at IRT Theater 154 Christopher St.

Cirque de Soleil will Blow you Away

Cirque de Soleil

Reviewed By Nicholas Linnehan

(reviewed for TheaterScene)

Captivating. Imaginative. This show soars to new heights with creativity beyond compare!

Every once in a while, you go to an event that truly makes you feel like a child again. Cirque de Soleil’s current production, Kurios, is so creative that one enters into its magical world and never wants to leave. From artistry to comedy, this show has it all and delivers an evening of pure delight.

Nuzzled under a big tent on Randall’s Island, hundreds of people journeyed to this remote location hoping to be taken on an odyssey. Well, our hopes didn’t go unfulfilled. In the first act, we were treated to dazzling acrobatics, and an array of other mystifying talents. But the highlight was the fabulous clown that took us to an “invisible circus”. The performers were indeed invisible and all the audience sees is the mechanics. We hear a lion and see him jump through a ring of fire by the props he uses and a spotlight. Then we see a unicycle driving across a tightrope, but the operator of this gadget is “invisible”. This whole act relied on the brilliant physicality of the jester. It is hilarious and mesmerizing to watch.

And just when you think it can’t get any better, here comes Act Two with more aerial acts and acrobatics. But the highlight is a rather simple act done purely by finger puppets. That is to say, a very talented man uses his fingers to become people, animals, and inanimate objects. Projected onto a hot air balloon this act dazzles us with its simple ingenuity. At one point, the “finger man” wanders onto an audience members shoulder and gets very friendly with the gentleman’s hair and ears. It is simply wonderful to witness.

Kurios is captivating, awe-inspiring and beyond belief. Complete with a performance by a 3 foot 2 inch tall woman, their imagination knows no limitation. The talent is stupendous as live music is played throughout the entire show. Many ephemeral moments permeate the evening, bringing out your true sense of wonder and joy. Vaudeville and circus acts are one of the oldest forms of entertainment, and when done as brilliantly as Cirque de Soleil, it’s no wonder that this art form has endured for as long as it has! Go see this show and peek the curiosity of your inner-child.

Kurios plays now through November 29, 2016 on Randalls Island.

KURIOS Downloadable Official Photos 

ChokeHold is Gripping


Reviewed By Nicholas Linnehan

BLACK lives matter! BLACK LIVES matter! BLACK LIVES MATTER! Wake up, America. This message is powerfully conveyed in Anthony P. Pennino’s emotionally charged play, ChokeHold. Produced by Core Creative Productions, this piece strikes many chords in the audience, often at the same time.

What is the best way to affect change? Do we follow in the steps of Martin Luther King Jr. or is a more radical approach needed? A group of ordinary citizens, mostly, African American, form together and arrest Carter; his crime being “excessively white”. The band has determined that the only way to draw attention to the thousands of African Americans victimized by police brutality, is to turn the tables. Enter innocent Carter, the sacrificial lamb. But in order for their plan to work, one of them must commit murder. This is where the conflict really heats up; it is one thing to mentally murder someone, but a much more complex issue to actually do it, especially when they are completely innocent. The majority of the electric drama centers around this do or die situation (pun intended).

The cast is stellar. Each delivers in their respective roles. Maija Juliette Abney is great as the strong-willed leader of the clan. She shows real leadership and her presence on stage is always felt. She commands our attention at every moment. Yet, when we see her vulnerable and beginn to question her motives it is magical. Thomaz Mussnich, as the innocent Carter is captivating to watch. His journey from a man fighting for his life to an empowered human being is alarmingly alluring. Mussnich adds a lot of depth and layers to his role which shows what a fine actor he is. Rokia Shearin adds some nice opposition to the rest of her comrades. Her empathy for Carter is palpable. Her physicality during her monologue seems out of place, but other than that she is equally as strong.

It is hard to watch this play, not because it lacks for talent, but because it is very real and hits home, maybe a little too close for comfort. In fact, we are supposed to be uncomfortable by the issue of police brutality against the African American community. How can be not be stirred into action after sitting through this tension packed piece of theater? How do we change the relationship and brutality between the cops and the African American community? How do we stop the murders of innocent black men by law enforcement? Well, I don’t have the answer anymore than anyone else does. But plays like this, that get at the very heart of the matter, seem like a good place to start.

ChokeHold plqys now through October, 8, 2016 at the 14th Street Y 344 East 14th St