Last week I was invited to the opening night of Colt Coeur’s production of the original work “Recall” down at The Wild Project’s eco-friendly space in Alphabet City. I had no idea what to expect and I hadn’t had any time during the day to read a blurb online so I was clueless. 

Recall is a timeless tale of history repeating itself. Taking place in a dingy apartment in Nowhere, USA, Recall was a dark story about a woman and her violent daughter who are on the run from yet another town. They’ve taken up residence with friend-of-a-friend who is a little off from the beginning. Each character has their own mental demons and various twist plots and betrayals lead to yet another death at the end. Recall refers to what happens to child when they’re taken out of school (recalled) and never heard from again after some questionable behavior. 

The cast, Katya Campbell, Owen Campbell, Jordyn DiNatale, Caleb Scott, and Colleen Werthman, all have a heavy task of portraying mentally disturbed characters who aren’t contrived and each succeed. My favorite was probably Owen Campbell, who played Lucy’s friend at school who’s also afraid of being recalled Quinn. He was an incredibly talented young man who’d just graduated from LaGuardia HS earlier that day. I think that he has a bright future ahead of him in the business.

Recall is an eerie and interesting production. Definitely worth at least one look. 

I saw Suicide Incorporated at Roundabout’s black box theatre a few weeks ago right before it opened. It told the story of a group of men who worked for a company that would be hired to write eloquent suicide notes for people. Sounds like a romantic comedy, right?

I won’t say too much about it, but I did enjoy it a lot. The main character (Gabriel Ebert) was a former greeting card writer who was not shifting careers after his brother committed suicide (Jake O’Connor). As in Next to Normal, there’s an ah-ha moment where we are clued-in to the fact that the brother isn’t actually alive as we’ve been lead to believe from the beginning.  I’m a big fan of these moments for some reason.  O’Connor’s acting was fantastic making him my favorite of the ensemble. The set is also impressive, clean, and versatile as the scenes shift quite often in 20 seconds or less.

Suicide Inc. is playing through December 23rd.  Click here for more information.

(photo copyright Walter McBride)

In a tiny room at the back of The Gershwin Hotel in Grammercy, a group of 20 people are treated to one of the most intense and intimate theatrical experiences in New York.  The Amoralists have struck dramatic gold again with their new production, HotelMotel, featuring Pink Knees on Pale Skin by Derek Ahonen, and Animals and Plants by Adam Rapp.  We were given hotel room keys on our way in for re-entry after the 30-minute intermission between plays.  

The first play, Pale Knees on Pink Skin, took place in a 5-star expensive hotel room and followed the story of an orgy therapist (yup!), her husband, and two couples whom she is trying to help (while playing with their minds, of course).  The seven actors were incredibly committed to the integrity of the piece, especially when one scene called for the acting of a husband performing oral on her wife to the point of climax.  The end of Pink Knees is ultimately depressing, but I completely enjoyed the script because of it’s immensely interesting medical analyzations of the two couples delivered by Dr. Sarah Bauer (played expertly by Sarah Lemp).  

James Kautz and Vanessa Vache as the older, more professional couple Robert and Caroline Wyatt, stay true to the characters of a wife who’s been cheated on and a husband trying to regain her trust.  However Byron Anthony and Anna Stromberg are also compelling and heartbreaking simultaneously as the younger, more artsy couple Theordore and Allison Williams, who struggle their inabilities to achieve intimacy in bed.  Rounding out the cast are Jordan Tisdale as Leroy, Dr. Lemp’s hurting boyfriend, and Nick Lawson as Dr. Bauer’s confused and timid son Norman.

Animals and Plants, on the other hand, made very little sense but somehow still manages to be entertaining (as Rapp plays so often are).  Animals is about two drug mules, Dantly (William Apps) and Burris (Matthew Pilieci) who are holed up in a disgusting motel room in Boone, NC and waiting for a delivery of drugs.  The plot is murky but surrounds what transpires between Dantly and a stereotypical tree-hugger type character who he’d met that day, Cassandra (Kaite Broad) and the haunting ghost of Cassandra’s ex-husband Buck (played frightening by Brian Mendes).  Honestly, I didn’t understand Buck’s nonsensical interruption of the action and the play wouldn’t have been any worse off without his presence.  The end of Animals is also depressing, and bloody, with the suspicious of betrayal and the exit of Cassandra.  

I will always love everything Adam Rapp writes, but in this instance I think I enjoyed Pink Knees on Pale Skin more.  Regardless of which play is “better,” if you can swing the $50 ticket price, you won’t regret it (through August only).  Visit The Amoralists website for more information.

(Photo by Monica Simoes. (L-R): Sarah Lemp as Dr. Sarah Bauer, Nick Lawson as Norman and Jordan Tisdale as Leroy in Pink Knees on Pale Skin.)

Ticket was graciously provided gratis by DARR Publicity.

I’ve professed my adoration of Adam Rapp’s work many times and I will continue to do as long as he keeps writing plays that leave me speechless like last night’s Ghosts in the Cottonwoods, produced by The Amoralists at Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place.

Ghosts in the Cottonwoods takes place in a run-down cabin in the south.  Bean Scully (Sarah Lemp) lives in the one-room hovel with her 18 year old son Pointer (Nick Lawson), and on this stormy night, they are awaiting the arrival of Jeff (James Kautz), the older son who has recently escaped after 6 years in prison.  After a few unexpected arrivals, their night does not go as originally planned.

There was violence, blood, rape, and implied incest.  Just your typical Adam Rapp play.

Direction by Rapp was spot on, and the cast (also with William Apps, Mandy Nicole Moore, and Matthew Pileci in addition to those mentioned above) played these intense and difficult roles with ease.  Moore could have quite the career if she followed in the footsteps of Zoe Kazan, as that was who she reminded us of.  

Ghosts in the Cottonwood is not to be missed for fans of Rapp.  It plays at Theatre 80 through December 6th.  

(image via)

Spellbound

One Fringe Festival review is required, I think, before the festival ends tomorrow.  Considering I’ve only seen one show (besides my own), this is good.  

So, my friend revealed to me at Swift (East 4th and Cooper) on Thursday night that Spellbound was more of a kids show than our demographic.  Awesome.  He then bought me a glass of wine before we headed over to La Mama, also on East 4th Street.

Spellbound, part of the 2010 Fringe Festival, has two things going for it: the cast and the production quality.  The bad: the book, lyrics, and music. 

The production looked like it cost more than your average Fringe show (under $10k) with the lighting, props, and costumes (the costumes were especially pricey looking).  Every single person in the cast was extremely talented too.  If the right people see Spellbound, it could potentially be a career boost for Ashley C. Williams (as the main character, Herianne) and David Garry (the hilarious character actor who played the goblin, Egor).

The book, lyrics, and music were absolutely horrendous.  Trite lyrics paired with elementary melodies and a sub-par Harry Potter-esque book was just painful to sit through.  I laughed through half of it, and my date wouldn’t allow himself to look at me during the performance for fear that he’d begin laughing too. 

Spellbound is in need of massive rewrites and an overhaul.  Until then, wave your magic wand and go elsewhere with your Fringe Flex Pass.

Hinton Battle is a respected actor, director and choreographer with three Tony Awards. So why is he directing and choreographing the tiny-budget Fringe musical “Terms of Dismemberment,” about a woman who sells her daughters’ body parts to pay off her dead husband’s Mafia debts?

“It’s really out there,” he said with a laugh. “It’s roughing it. But what I like is that it forces you to be creative and come up with ways to use your imagination to suggest or reinvent things. I’m meeting new talent and new actors and hungry actors that are willing to do stuff.”

I’ve mentioned that I’ve worked on the Fringe Festival twice while in college, but after a four year hiatus, I am back and working on a hilarious new [dark] musical comedy entiteld Terms of Dismemberment: A Show with Heart and Other Body Parts. 

It’s a musical about a mother who is left with a heap of mortgage debt from the mafia by her late husband, and more or less has to decide whether or not she should sell her daughter’s body parts. 

You should definitely like us on Facebook, and buy tickets while you’re at it.  Performances are Wed 18 @ 4:30  Thu 19 @ 2  Mon 23 @ 8:45  Fri 27 @ 7  Sat 28 @ 2:30.

For more information, click here.  For Fringe’s general website, click here.

Not my typical Thursday night // Notice Me

So, I don’t venture downtown often anymore [no, I’m not proud of this fact].  Especially not on a Thursday night.  Last Thursday night was different and though Matt and I were skeptical of what we were about to experience, we went into Notice Me, by Blair Singer, with open minds. 

When one ventures to Alphabet City you’re either going to end up in a recently renovated beautiful [although tiny] space or a complete dump.  We lucked out and the former was where we ended up after a relaxing dinner at The Life Cafe, feasting on shrimp, tacos, and a chicken sandwich (Matt, as always, chugged his third and last Stella).  We found ourselves inside The Wild Project, a 100% eco-friendly and recently renovated tiny theatre space.

Notice Me is about four attention starved teens in southern California (Tarzana, to be exact).  Think of it as the love child of American Idiot and subUrbia.  Starring as the four teens are Jason Shelton, Annabel LaLonde, Jake Green and Susan Spratt, with Sofia Alvarez directing.  An extremely sparse set was designed by James Bolenbaugh, and impressive lighting and sound were design by Eric Southern and Daniel Roland Tierney respectively. 

I was completely entertained for the first 45 minutes with the ever-present vulgar language of these high school seniors and their on-going name calling.  I loved watching two of the characters fall for one another, and one go insane after taking steroids.  The show fell flat for me towards the end when one of the two characters in love does something so completely ridiculous, it’s almost hard to believe that the character believes her reasons for justification of the act. 

In this quartet, the obvious stand-out was Jason Shelton as the super-stoner Harry.  His portrayal of Harry was believable and the audience was on his side from start until finish. 

All in all, it turned into an enjoyable evening.  Notice Me plays at The Wild Project through this Sunday, August 1st. 

Two weeks ago I helped my friend Michael out by house managing for the first two performances of The Gospel According to Josh and tonight I finally got to see it.  

The Gospel According to Josh, written and performed by Josh Rivedal and director by Josh Gaboian, was about the journey of one young man (Josh) raised with a semi-abusive and fanatical Christian father, who rises above his upbringing and pursues his passion (acting).

The show is full of laughs for the most part but hits a very somber note in the last five minutes.  Rivedal portrays dozens of characters flawlessly and his writing never lags and never makes you want to check the time or peruse your program.

The Gospel According to Josh has one more performance on 8/1 at 6pm, at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre at 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.  Click here for more info.  

Children of Eden

A friend and I ventured out to the Astoria Performing Arts Center on Thursday night to take in their production of much buzzed about “Children of Eden.”  I was unfamiliar with the show itself but being familiar with other Stephen Schwartz’s scores, I knew what I was in for.  The first act tells the story of Adam and Eve and the second is the story of Noah.  

The set was simplistic, yet impressive, by Michael P. Kramer; it was built through the audience so the audience was part of the show.  Aside from one or two voices, the cast was immensely talented, especially the “Adam” and “Eve,” played by Joseph Spieldenner and Emmy Raver-Lampman respectively.  

The biggest mention must be made for the director, Tom Wojtunik.  The smooth scene transitions and the easy flow of a twenty person cast in such a small space is not an easy feat, but Mr. Wojtunkik has made it appear just that.  I was most impressed with his transformation of the theatre into the Garden of Eden and from there onto the hill where the Tree of Knowledge was.  I was also perplexed as to how they were going to bring out multiple pairs of numerous animals for Noah’s Arc, but this company accomplished it in such a creative and simple way that it’s worth the trip to Astoria alone.

Children of Eden played through May 29th. For more information about APAC, please visit their website.  

(This production was so stellar, in fact, that I the two people in front of me at La Cage Aux Folles were gushing about it!)