Temerity Theatre - Roving Reporter page
Ed Malin, playwright and frequent contributor of theatrical reviews to www.nytheatre.com and www.nytheaternow.com, speaks out on interesting stage happenings:
August 11, 2016
Lynn Navarra’s new play “The Sandman” is playing at American Theatre of Actors through August 14th. Ken Coughlin directs this fast-paced story of crime in 1979 New York. Is anyone who they say they are?
Working without a contract, two New York beat cops named Paul (Michael Bordwell) and Sal (Ben Guralnik) dream of going into narcotics. That is, in an age of city budget disasters, they would love to be the cops who raid nightclubs, confiscate drugs, keep the people safe, and make a bit more money. For now, they are also inspecting establishments and doing some construction work. They visit a bar called “Sandman”, which for 27 years has been run by Tommy Cassidy (Ken Coughlin) and his wife Diane (Meredith Flood Rust). It is a world of Irish-American friendships that go back to Tommy’s days in Dublin. Donny Finn (Dan Lane Williams) is practically a brother to Tommy. Peggy (Valerie O’Hara) is a regular who is worried she will be laid off due to her drinking. The widowed Paul befriends Diane, who does not realize he is a patrolman. But when the aging Tommy stashes a shipment of cocaine (a.k.a. “blow”) in his basement, he finds himself caught between rival gangsters Ian O’Rourke (Greg Valiante) and Terry “Hounds Tooth” Nichols (AJ Converse). Nichols knows that O’Rourke fecked him over, and Donny may opt to save his own life by betraying Tommy.
By the way, the bar was named after a horse who won a big race, the winnings from which were used by Tommy and Diane to buy the bar. How much of life depends on luck? Does it matter whom you trust?
Tommy is charming to a fault. He frequently uses fecking odd malapropisms, such as “pull the sheep over someone’s eyes”. Paul is always trying to help people who can’t be saved, such as the suicidal Peggy and also his late wife, who died under suspicious circumstances. It would take a ballsy cop to knock over two kingpins, including their smug, polyester-wearing henchmen such as Liam (Jonathan Troise) and Mick (Shane Tunney).
This show provides enough excitement to move us through its plot twists. Ken Coughlin’s direction brings out many levels in the characters. Fight Choreography (AJ Converse and Shane Tunney) livens up the story, and provides many a shillelagh-biting moment. Oh, and the news radio updates: hilarious. Paul seems to think that Michael Jackson will never do as well as his brothers and that the situation in Iran will normalize soon.
November 28, 2015
Sometimes, it's emotionally cleansing to revisit the time when we were growing up. Like a memory mix-tape, the songs of the early 1990s infuse Chana Porter’s new play “First Suburb”, directed by Eric Powell Holm at the experimental space Cloud City.
In a peaceful, planned community, Miriam Greenberg (Lindsey Hope Pearlman) is a lovely pre-teen starting a new year of school. Her best friend, Cyndi (Kate Gunther) prepares her to flirt with boys. Sometimes, the two of them kiss. The times are changing; scrunchies just aren’t as cute as they were in the 80s. New fashions are coming, and new songs from R.E.M., Nirvana, The Cranberries, and Nine Inch Nails—and some poignant oldies from Bob Dylan—will be the soundtrack of their lives. (Note: parental supervision means that N.I.N. is not allowed in the house. Did this happen to you?) Miriam’s brother, Miccah (John Egan) is just a little bit dorky, too. Their mother is Jewish, so they go to Hebrew School at night and it counts. (Sounds familiar.) The most wonderful young man at school is Steve Hope (Equiano Mosieri), who is half African-American and half Caucasian. Steve and Miccah hang out, and everyone is strategizing about how to get with the opposite sex. It is not an easy time to face maturity though, since there is a constant fear that one might get AIDS and die. Andy (Benjamin Stuber) does not go to school with the rest of the characters, and he and his family, somewhat socially awkwardly, keep to themselves.
There is a very sweet scene where, during a study session, Miriam tries to kiss Steve but comes on a little too strong. After the end of the year, Steve wants to find his estranged father. Andy has to face his own inner demons. Eventually, he has a violent episode that is a kind of rude awakening for the sheltered suburb. The healing begins when Miccah trusts his feelings and learns how to fight back. And there is fake blood and an enormous teddy bear. It really does come together nicely. Kurt Cobain is still alive and the characters are free to keep growing, and, someday, to look back fondly on the events of the play.
This was a fun show to see in such an intimate setting. The nostalgia of Thanksgiving weekend made it even more special.
There is a boat sailing into the mist. Out of those mists of England, and through the mists of time, comes “Outward Bound,” a 1923 play by Sutton Vane.
This was my first encounter with the play—which was a success on both sides of the Atlantic and was filmed several times.—as well as with the Amateur Comedy Club. It makes sense that a vibrant play like this gets performed by the 131 year-strong oldest continually active theater company in the United States. Perhaps the invitation-only atmosphere of the A.C.C. and the big reveals of the 2 ½ hour, down-to-earth yet mystical show together created an even bigger mystery.
Scrubby (Charlie Moss), the steward of a Roaring Twenties ocean liner, has seen it all. He knows that the passengers who have just boarded may need a drink and will have lots of questions. Tom Prior (Gregory Taft Gerard) is a typical, jolly, well-dressed gentleman of the upper crust. In the bar, he encounters his old acquaintance Mrs. Cliveden-Banks (Barbara D. Sullivan), who verbally fences with anyone who presumes to be her equal. Soon enough they discover that not all the "right" people are on board. Mrs. Midget (Jenny Green), a lively, voluble charwoman, presumes to mingle with the guests, who now include the all-business Mr. Lingley (Stephen Heiden) and the Reverend W. Duke (Samuel B. Fortenbaugh). Even though Mrs. Midget is escorted out, Scrubby confirms, to Mr. Cliveden-Banks's horror, that there is only one class aboard this ship. How will one know who one is, based on whom one must not address? There is also the enigmatic young couple Ann (Taylor D. Martin) and Henry (Frederic de Sibert), who, while the others become disorientated, seem to know a lot about where they are going and why.
One big detail won't necessarily ruin the suspense: everyone on the ship is dead. Scrubby knows that some passengers are more aware of it than others. Soon, an Inspector will board and decide how they will spend eternity. Reverend Duke is at first sad to have no spiritual job and no foreknowledge of everyone's fate. However, he is soon gleeful, and much freer than the industrialist and potentate, Mr. Lingley, to whom no one ever gave a second chance. Mrs. Cliveden-Banks, who was on her third marriage and lived in a way that may have scandalized 1920s audiences, sees the end of her intrigues and power-trips. Mrs. Midget reveals that she lost her wealth and worked as a charwoman to give her son a chance to be a gentleman. This son does not even know who she is. Who are Ann and Henry, the "halflings", and how did they die so young? Reverend Duke's old superior, Reverend Frank Thomson (Eric A. Kuzmuk ) enters, dressed for a day at the country club. He will judge the passengers, and perhaps those who are first now shall later be last.
The play, which inhabits an art-deco barroom of an ocean liner (beautifully designed by Casey Schwartz), does not feel stuck in any time period. In the aftermath of elections in the U.K., it seems pointless to ask how much the class system has changed in the last 80 years. Perhaps it takes the perspective of the ACC's 131 years to breathe and say "this, too, shall pass". The author had suffered in World War I and earned the right to share his disillusionment, which resonated on West End and Broadway stages. Constance George's direction brings us full circle to make the witty-sounding banter grow hollow and the sincerity shine through. No mean feat, that. Also, though I'm pretty sure only Jenny Green has such an accent in real life, the phrasings and expressions were delightful. Dialect coach Colleen Gleason, did a superb job. Stephen Heiden's harried Member of Parliament character's downward spiral was particular interesting to watch, while Barbara D. Sullivan just dominated the room with her laughter and her scorn. Janice O'Donell's costumes, the collars, the jewelry, the moustaches, all make one ask what true elegance is.
In New York, at Christmastime, you can go out to Dixon Place and see a wonderful, vibrant, and of course irreverent Panto.
But what's a Panto? An offshoot of pantomime, common in Britain and relevant to all, as the co-creator of this piece and "costumer to the stars", Jenny Green, explains in this fascinating article (pages 38 and 39):
But here's what it's like to experience it:
The audience watches a story about the battle of good and evil, with identifiable characters. Audience participation is encouraged (such as one side of the crowd shouting "He's behind you!" and the other side countering "No he isn't!")
Popular songs are brought into it, are adapted, and finally become funny enough to listen to. Oh yes, and the heroic country fellow Dick Whittington is traditionally played by a damsel, while the great dame character is wont to be portrayed by a stocky lad.
The likeable Dick Whittington (Aimee Whelan), full of country boy charm, arrives in New York City. Before he can achieve his dreams, he struggles to get a job as a busboy and find a place to live. Along the way, he meets Alice (Anwen Darcy), who is the lovely daughter of the Mayor, and the irrepressible street and subway performer--or Underground artist if you will--Cat (Mitchell Wayne). "Mayor Gloomberg" himself (Will Shaw) is working on ways to squeeze money out of the town, but is basically full of hot air, as the many fart gags demonstrate. His motivated but somewhat evil wife Sarah Pain (Jenny Green) is in league with the truly malevolent Kingrat (James Parks) and the dance-obsessed Subway Rats (Carol Sirugo, John DiSciascio, Matthew Donnell). Their battle comes to a head--both poetically and vogueishly--in the talent contest run by the aforementioned glitzy and male-portrayed Lady Goo-Goo (Matt Boruso).
The story is entertaining on many levels. The jokes and songs are nicely indecent. As an example, Mssr. Whittington marks his territory while crooning "You don't know Dick." Come to think of it, borrowing songs and transplanting them to the underworld is an old tradition that you can see in another perennial favorite "The Beggar's Opera". I definitely enjoyed the snazzy verbal sniping, the clash of rich and poor, the mockery of our beloved Ladies Gaga (Boruso) and Palin (Green). Choreographer Mitchell Wayne dances Cat better than "Cats", and Will Shaw, an uncanny Mayor Bloomberg look-alike, makes clowning look easy. Michael Hopewell's music is the key to a world where laughter keeps people from freezing. I must also thank Director Jenny Lee Mitchell, Videographer JiYe Kim and Projection Designer Lucia Lee for magnifying the classic conflict to its colossal form for all of us to enjoy.