Hey Man, Poe got Cooped? That’s Wild!

Makaela Shealy, Johnny Pozzi, Estelle Olivia, Dara Kramer, Brian J. Alford, Samantha Johnson, Aaron Latta-Morissette

Actors Makaela Shealy, Johnny Pozzi, Estelle Olivia, Dara Kramer, Brian J. Alford, Samantha Johnson, and Aaron Latta-Morissette

Reviewed by Anthony Arcidi

Who killed Edgar Allan Poe? The Cooping Theory 1969, an immersive theater experience at the club RPM Underground on West 54th Street, offers an alternative theory.of Poe’s mysterious parting on October 7th in 1849.

After initiation into the Poe Secret Society, audience and cast members alike gather in the bar where the Fab 4 are muraled on a wall, a backdrop for a small performance stage, lending a counter-cultural atmosphere.

After the first martini sinks in, the trippy mod look of the cast and saturated mood lighting in the dungeon-esque, gas-station themed club takes on an ethereal 60’s revival vibe with acoustic Beatles ballads and spontaneous speeches detailing historically accurate evidence of pre civil war corruption and the discovery of Poe’s body.  The stylish activist, and possibly a stewardess in a saturated orange outfit played by Samantha Johnson, easily transitions from prepared speech to answer impromptu queries from onlookers, deftly staying in character. The audience, drinks in hand, swarm around the actors and rove from room to room, gathering new facets of the puzzle, like Poe’s issue with alcohol and the clothes he was found wearing at his death.

Cooping, an apparent Shanghai abduction style of voting fraud, is introduced and adds to the revolutionary anti-government spirit with a group of gothic spooky characters, like the creepy couple played by Estelle Olivia and Brian Alford resembling a younger hip version of the Munsters, as your guides. The paranormal tone gets into high gear when Makaela Shealy’s seance medium reaches out to communicate with Poe himself, meanwhile other cast members, in trances, begin to spew revelations of their interactions or observances of the doomed poet.

The makeup and costumes are impeccably done, the flow of action across several rooms or simultaneously in different rooms give the curious audience members lots of options to watch and gather clues. The only drawback is there might be one or two critical links of information that were performed elsewhere from the viewer to make the connections to understand the theory. This problem is solved by the highly social atmosphere of the club and by design the production encourages social interaction to piece everything together and wonder if it’s all true.

The Cooping Theory should be popular for groups and couples alike as an antidote to the music club/karaoke scene. The first martini was the best I’ve had in five years, exactly like I wanted, but the second was a complete disappointment not worthy of a carnival boat bash. The wings were okay but never got to try the burgers and fries when the offer was strangely rescinded.

All audience members are required to set up a tab, I assume there is a minimum.

Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe? The Cooping Theory 1969

Running time 2 hours 45 minutes

RPM Underground 244 West 54th Street, Broadway/8th Avenue

‘Stay Mad, Make Art’ For A Great Cause


Actor Rachel McKinney

Audrey Weinbrecht

On Monday September 16th I had the pleasure of attending the Stay Mad, Make Art concert presented by The Three Angry Ladies to benefit Immigrant Families Together. The concert was held at the historic West Park Presbyterian Church on West 86th street which doubles as a performance venue. In keeping with their mission to promote diversity and the local artistic community, The Center donated their space for free. In addition to the performances there were also silent auctions for theater tickets, a raffle and an open bar.

The charity the evening was benefitting, Immigrant Families Together, is a network that raises money to reunify and support families separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. 100% of the money raised is going directly to the affected families. So far, they have reunited 82 families.

The Three Angry Ladies assembled a diverse group of performers for a memorable evening of poetry, opera, rap, musical theater, a little rock, and a drag show. The performances ranged from hilarious to intensely emotional, some with political messages and others just for fun. The evening was hosted by Jiggy Caliente, who was a contestant on season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her irreverent humor made the intimate gathering feel like a party with good friends.

The first performer, Nadia Quinn, opened the show by setting the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” to music. Later in the evening, in a beautiful but likely unintentional echo, Rachel McKinney, who used to work as a guide on the Statue of Liberty tour, took several family histories that she heard as a guide and turned them into poetry.

Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi performed an original poem called “A Black Trans-Woman Speaks to America,” though the word ‘performed’ doesn’t adequately describe the way she threw herself into the piece, trembling with emotion. The entire audience seemed to be holding its breath as she spoke and burst into applause when she finished.

Other highlights were Abbey Immer’s touching song about her mother, Ciana Miceli’s stunning rendition of “Defying Gravity”, and Diana Oh’s wonderful rock set to close out the evening.

In the end, it all coalesced into a wonderful sample of what the New York performing arts community has to offer.

Visit https://immigrantfamiliestogether.com/ to find out how you can support the cause.

Spanish Absurdism at its Best and Worst

eeodla 1

Reviewed by Kenneth Laboy

The entirely-in-Spanish production of Ramiro Sandoval’s En el Ojo de la Aguja begins with a sense of unease as discordant notes punctuate the darkness where masked figures roam. They carry pieces of wooden wreckage that they use as furniture. They build things and unmake them only for someone else to take the pieces and build again. It is then that one realizes: the play has been woven with the absurd – characters who grapple with an incomprehensible world, the constant inability to effectively communicate, repetitive behavior that leads to the same results.

The playwright is clearly grappling with ideas of otherness, conflict and alienation within an existential framework. All of which are accentuated by the slow rising of a physical wall between the audience and the players on stage. Nothing they say or do will stop that wall from rising and so every action on stage is meaningless.

In this play the absurd is used as a tool to alienate. The characters highly stylized jokers who are in on the ruse. They speak to each other of staying on script, they constantly ask each other if they are bored, they quip that fun only exists in alienation. The audience is being entertained by senseless, though not depthless, dialogue. And the characters while away the time until their script ends.

These ideas are all exciting to engage with, and it is a production that creates many sorts of important conversations. In theory this should be enough, but as a performance piece it lacks stakes; worse yet, it is not engaging. And the text is self-aware enough to know this about itself. When the characters break the fourth wall and see the many eyes, they comment on those eyes being disengaged. When the characters ask each other if they are bored, it is hard not to sympathize if they are. And, while thematically engaging, the rising wall is only a too constant reminder of how much of the performance is left.

The play is smart and dense, with a sophisticated knowledge of both theater and language. The actors do well by the stylized demands of the production and the director skillfully uses the space to highlight the thematic through-line of the piece. But art can be successful without being satisfying.

En el Ojo de la Aguja plays now through Sunday, September 22nd at The Tank (312 West 36th Street, NYC)

Tickets can be bought at http://www.theTankNYC.org for $30

Chaos Theory: a Little Chaotic but Delivers in the End


chaos theory

featured: Jennifer Joy Pawlitschek

Reviewed by Anthony Arcidi

As part of The Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival, The Chaos Theory of Now, written and performed by Jennifer Joy Pawlitschek, relates how in life, as well in the world of quantum physics, that small forces and actions can have large consequences later in time. Though done with no major costume changes nor cosmic photography, with just three table and chair setups and simple lighting changes, Pawlitschek manages to convey an understanding of the chaos of matter by presenting varying possible outcomes of her personality.

Proudly espousing her present status as a Catholic lesbian nerd with Midwestern Minnesotan roots, Pawlitschek explores how she might have turned out had not key actualizing events within her own conscience or with formative figures in her life happened differently. The outcomes can be comic like how the Trumpist farm wife is always talking about Armageddon or the coming apocalypse, or tragic like the devastated widow possibly in denial that her husband’s death may have been her fault in an accidental overdose or possible suicide.  The major revelation for me compares how two objects can float away from each other until they are poles apart as a metaphor for her separation from her family and the loneliness that accompanies it in order to be true to herself.

The performance includes audio effects and queues that match her actions at varying points, and theme matching music, ranging from new age for the open and close to rock for the hilarious teen activist. While the science speak is performed in intimate lecture fashion, the dramatized conversations are one sided dialogue to an unseen speaker. The disadvantage of a one person show with no costume changes is the differing characters can become a hazy blend where you have to orient,  whether this character is a takeoff of a previous character or different. The dialogue pacing can take on a hypnotic rhythm and I found myself drifting a couple times at the two-thirds to three-quarter mark.

But the strings of logic are neatly tied up by the conclusion of the show and the audience walks out of the theater with an alternate perspective of how we all got to where we all are in the first place.

The Chaos Theory of Now plays from September 8th through September 15, 2019 at Theater For the New City 155 1st ave NY NY https://theaterforthenewcity.net