Archive | September, 2018

Fusion Bridges Some Great Moments with Unfortunate Cliches

29 Sep

 

Reviewed By Jara Jones

 

What happens when a Massachusetts couple (Allison and Daniel, dating for six months), are faced with the unexpected news that Daniel’s been offered an immediate screenwriting job in Los Angeles?  Do the two of them choose to accelerate their relationship, uproot their lives, and move in together? Is it possible to keep the playful, caring love they feel?

Fusion has a masterful pedigree; Brian Dudkiewicz’s set is inviting and carefully crafted.  He’s made that black box feel like a genuine home, combining his gift of layered, compassionate space with Jared M Silver’s detailed props, illuminating and complementing Allison’s life. Katie Honaker’s lovely direction celebrates that technical playing field, adding natural, sometimes microscopic touches to keep the characters kinetic and connected.

The acting in the production is a treat.  I’d watch a whole play devoted to just lead actress Madeleine Maby. Her work as Allison is engaging and generous.  She drives the soul of the play; every minute reaction, every vulnerable act is a joy.   She pushes Charlie Wilson (Daniel) to come to her level, and for a good portion of the production, their mutual gifts rise above the text.

Adam Parrish’s script, unfortunately, does not fully support the crafted roles of cast and crew. A play with three-dimensional issues is hampered by the playwright’s limited point of view. There’s a poignant line Allison delivers in the final scene: “I don’t want a little boy’s answer”.  And I’m with her. I don’t want anymore “little boy romantic comedies”, where we’re just supposed to buy into the fact that Allison loves Daniel, despite his many displayed flaws and on-again off-again commitment to love, and that, through informed ability only (not through action on stage) we need to take it on faith that that Daniel Goodman is a good man.

It has become harder and harder to fully invest in romantic comedies where a woman plays the role of the pseudo-mother, endlessly forgiving, able to soothe the man at the cost of her own aspirations.  We get too little information about Allison, an independent, strong- willed chef to the Cambridge, MA elite. We don’t truly discover why she’s connected to a man she just can’t quit and what all that we witness means to her.

The wit and banter between Allison and Daniel are by far the best parts the play. I truly wish that those heartfelt genuine moments outweighed the tropes and gimmicks so often seen in romantic comedy of today.  Ultimately, Fusion has a dynamic and extremely dedicated ensemble, and the chemistry between Maby and Wilson is compelling. Come see the show alone for how the two of them take all the show’s flaws and still deliver a memorable evening.

Fusion is produced by A 7th Sign Production and runs until October 14th at The Actors Theatre Workshop (145 West 28th St, 3rd Floor)

www.fusiontheplay.com

You Wouldn’t Expect is Good but Misses the Bigger Picture

22 Sep

Reviewed by Nicholad Linnehan

There was a time when seeing a piece of theater that’s great and historically accurate would have made me impressed. That, alone, would have been enough for me to write a completely praiseworthy review. You Wouldn’t Expect, produced by the American Bard Theater, is all of these noteworthy things. The cast is talented and it should be that simple, but it’s not the case for me anymore. I am an Actor with a Disability who struggles to find work in this industry, as many of us do who have disabilities. Thus, when you see a role written for a disabled character, you get excited as that should provide an opportunity for an Actor with a Disability to perform. But when this role is played by an able bodied actor (which happens all too often), as it is in this show, you become angry. This happens despite the fact that the actor in that role is clearly talented. There are few roles out there for us as it is, so when one comes along we NEED that opportunity. So while I love the script and the actors in the show, the production fails to reach its full impact, which could send a message that transcends mere production. I would be failing in my integrity, if I didn’t make this crucial point. This company is just one of the many ones out there that makes choices like this because they are not aware that by doing this, they are helping perpetuate the myth that it is okay to cast able-bodied actors in disabled roles. It is not okay. I am by no means trying to trash or demean this company, but trying to make others aware of the larger issue.

But back to the show itself. During 1933 to 1973, North Carolina had a eugenics policy, that allowed them to sterilize the disabled to prevent them from spreading their “defective” genes to future generations. The highest attrition rate among those affected was impoverished African Americans. We meet Mary Tom Walker, a white woman, who is in charge of a sterilization sight. Her new assistant, Temperance is African American. During the 1960’s in the south, African Americans were treated horribly. For most of the play we witness the degradation and humiliation that Temperance faces at the hand of Mary Tom. Temperance is basically treated like a slave, and is expected to do everything Mary Tom asks. We side with Temperance as she endures her plight. I won’t give away the climax, but it is very satisfying and cathartic.

Erin Gilbreth plays Mary Todd perfectly. She looks and behaves like a sweet southern woman on the outside, but underneath this veneer lies a mean racist who will destroy anyone who stands in her way. Gilbreth plays this duality brilliantly and we love to hate her. Okema T. Moore plays Temperance extremely well. We witness her inner battle between asserting herself, while trying to cope with the prejudice she faces. Her frustration boils, as does ours, and when she reaches the crucible we jump out of our seats as her justified anger explodes. Ross Hewitt plays Richard Banor, a disgusting human being both on the outside and inside firmly. His brutality and nasty demeanor are as every bit believable as any great actor out there.

So, while I’m an advocate for change and will continue raising awareness about using disabled actors, I also applaud talent when I see it. On one hand this production educates us on eugenics, a notable horrific part of our history, yet they miss the chance to profoundly reach us through the casting choices they made. This cast definitely has great skill and commands the stage! Hopefully one day we’ll be able to say “you wouldn’t expect a disabled character to be played by an able-bodied person”. This discussion runs deep and its one we definitely need to have in the entertainment industry. If we don’t start the conversation, how will change happen?

You wouldn’t Expect plays now through October 7, 2018 at the Chain Theater, 312 W 36th St. 4th floor https://www.americanbard.org/

The Hoaxocaust Gives us Plenty to Think About

8 Sep

 

By Gregor Collins

In Hoaxocaust—the award-winning one-man show that frolics as it gaslights everything we think we know about the Holocaust—its writer/performer Barry Levey, in a format comparable to a Ted Talk or an episode of Who is America, leaves his nagging mother and sassy Dominican boyfriend behind to interview different Holocaust deniers throughout the world to get to the bottom of their theories and expose the dangers of what we all know as “fake news.”

But is it actually fake news? Levey wants us to believe it’s not, and though we know in our hearts the Holocaust happened, at every turn we’re convincingly tempted to keep our ears glued to every exchange.

Presenting the three main tenets of Holocaust deniers—contesting the number of Jews killed, denying Hitler’s intent to systematically kill Jews, and disputing the existence of gas chambers—Levey gets to the bottom of the debate by interviewing three real-life deniers that Levey plays himself: Arthur Butz, David Irving, and Robert Faurisson.

Every sentence out of Butz, Irving and Faurisson is based on actual quotes they’ve been spewing in the public arena for decades, and that Levey manipulates us into never being entirely sure that what we’ve always believed true is actually true, is a testament to his provocative script. Testing our belief systems to such an unsettling and at times farcical degree, the only thing left for us to do by the end is reassure ourselves that the playwright is merely peeing on our legs and telling us it’s raining. Of course the Holocaust happened. Saying otherwise would be certifiably ludicrous on so many levels. Right?

Right??

Be careful. Watching a play about a hoax might just be a hoax within a hoax.

I’ll leave you with this statement from Director of Arts and Culture at the 14th Street Y, Ronit Muszkatblit: “As the daughter of a holocaust survivor born in Germany, raised in Israel and now living here in NYC, my life and identity have been inseparable from this defining moment in history. Nothing is simple, nothing is one dimensional and the lasting markers of the past need to be examined and redefined constantly to become part of our story.”

 

The show runs from September 5 to September 30 at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. Tickets: https://www.14streety.org/nowplaying/