Last weekend I was invited to see No-Win Production’s staging of WOYZECK, FJF at the New Ohio Theatre on Christopher Street. It was a re-telling of a modern classic by Georg Büchner. The Amoralist’s James Kautz (second from the right above) was starring as Woyzeck so I was excited.

It was good. I think I understood most of what happened and it reminded me a lot of the movie Shutter Island. Woyzeck is a former soldier (I think he was a soldier) who has now been institutionalized and is trying to sort through his past to figure out how he got there. It reminded me of Shutter island because he gets part of his brain removed and then I think it starts (or would, if the lights didn’t fade to black) all over again (his journey to discovery, that is). 

Kautz was fantastic and moving. The rest of the ensemble cast is also great, including Evangeline Fontaine, Mackenzie Knapp, Alessandro Colla, Isael McKinney Scott, and Jason Wilson. Director Jeremy Pape does an excellent job making use of his very small space for many scenes and lighting designer Evan Roby designed some very effective lighting. 

Woyzeck, FJF is dark and compelling. It plays through March 21st. More information can be found here


Last night I was invited to see The Qualification of Douglas Evans, by Derek Ahonen, the second play currently playing in rep with Enter on Forest Lane, both produced by The Amoralists. I hadn’t noticed the tag line on their logo when I saw Forest Lane last weekend, but it says, “a two play repertory exploring man’s vicious cycles.” Well, Douglas Evans was definitely about a man in a vicious cycle of codependence and alcoholism.

Douglas starts out an innocent college freshmen in New York City who is soon corrupted by a harlot from his college and soon after he’s introduced to booze and everything is down hill from there. A wanna-be actor, he soon turns into a wanna-be playwright who jumps from one codependent relationship with a quirky female to the next.

To say it was depressing is an understatement. But it was also really interesting. I kind of want to see it again to analyze it a bit more.

Derek Ahonen, who starred as Douglas in addition to writing the piece, was impeccable and highly impressive. The girlfriends played by Kelley Swindall, Mandy Nicole Moore, Samantha Strelitz, and Agatha Nowicki, were each convincing and endearing. Penny Bittone and Barbara Weetman as Douglas’ father and mother, in addition to a few other characters each, were also impressive.  

Clocking in at two and a half hours, this is definitely not a RomCom, but it’s a worthy play nevertheless.  

I was super excited when I was invited to The Amoralists’ newest production, Enter at Forest Lawn recently. The Amoralists are amazing and even though they’re productions are weird, to say the least, I love them.

Enter at Forest Lawn, written by Mark Roberts and directed by Jay Stull, was about a stressed out Hollywood television producer and how he’s manipulated by the people in his life. Mark Roberts spouted off line after line effortlessly as Jack, the always-stressed producer. The always-amazing Sarah Lemp was Jessica, Jack’s on-edge and less-than-competent assistant. Then there was Matthew Pilieci, another Amoralists member, who is consistently amazing and probably the stand out in the cast. David Lanson and Anna Stromberg round out the cast as a nervous staff member and a devious Hollywood columnist.

As with most productions by The Amoralists, I highly recommend Enter on Forest Lawn. It’s playing through August 9th down at the Walkerspace at 46 Walker Street. Click here for more information. 

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of The Amoralists, an off-Broadway theatre company that I was first introduced to back in December 2010 with Adam Rapp’s Ghosts in the Cottonwoods. I’ve  seen four of their productions, each of which are unique and thought provoking. Their latest production, The Bad and The Better, is no different. 

For the first twenty minutes, we’re introduced to a number of characters in numerous settings and only when their connections are revealed could I truly start to appreciate the play. In an attempt to be commentary on stupidity in politics, the NYPD, anarchists, and protests such as Occupy Wall Street (there’s a ground which is similar to OWS, but not named as such), there’s a ton of action going on onstage. With plot twists abounding, it can oftentimes be confusing but it’s all wrapped up at the end so there are no lose ends (a lot of characters die, too). The name refers to the bad (the man, so-to-speak) and the better (the sometimes violent protesters). 

The cast is huge (26 people) and the set is an impressive mess of books, notebooks, a bar, and a desk. Amoralist’s alumni such as William Apps, Nick Lawson, and Sarah Lemp are impressive onstage as per usual. 

Sometimes confusing, always entertaining, and oftentimes brutal The Bad and The Better is an interesting and relevant piece. 

My Top Ten Moments of Theatre in 2011

It’s always hard to pick just five moments of New York theatre a to wrap up a year. But it’s especially difficult when you’ve seen and processed the most recent season so I thought I’d do a Top 10 list.

1. First on this list is obviously Sleep No More, presented by Punchdrunk. I’m glad I got in on this before people caught on to what was going on down in Chelsea. If you’ve gone to see Sleep No More, you know what it’s like and if you haven’t seen it, there’s really no way to explain it without sounding like a crazy person about why it was such an amazing experience. Save up your money and go buy yourself a ticket for 2012.

2. The next thing that instantly came to mind was Once, currently showing at the New York Theatre Workshop. Based on the indie movie of the same name, it’s a touching story of how one girl helps a musician achieve his dreams (and they kinda-sorta fall in love too). This was such a unique piece of theatre because it starts an hour before “curtain” time. The cast, who doubles as the band, is playing, singing, and dancing onstage for an hour before the actually story starts (and don’t worry, you’ll know when the show starts). They announced their transfer to Broadway hours before they opened off-Broadway, which is pretty amazing. It’s Spring Awakening for adults and it’s theme is to not live your life without pursuing your dreams – which is a pretty important one, if you ask me.

3. Next up comes The Hallway Trilogy presented by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and written by my favorite, Adam Rapp, which I just realized I never actually wrote about and that’s probably because there was no way to translate the experience into words. This was a hundred year history of this one hallway from the time of Eugene O’Neil to a time 50 years in the future when New York was disease free and now financially strapped individuals could make money being injected with ‘old fashioned’ diseases in a museum for the rich to come and witness.

4. I still can’t believe that American Idiot closed only this year; it all seems like so much longer ago. Whenever I think back to one of the most ridiculously energetic performances I saw, I immediately think back to February 27th, 2011 – the night John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper, and Billie Joe Armstrong left the show. It felt like every single person in that theatre was there for those three guys and you could hear the love pouring out from them. It was just a ridiculous and amazing night, one that I will not soon forget.

5. An incredible moment that makes this list happened only last week. A benefit for Royal Family Productions, Anthony Rapp performed a reading of his brother Adam Rapp’s script Nocturne at Symphony Space, a few blocks from where I live on the Upper West Side in a night titled “Rapp Reads Rapp.” Nocturne was one of the few plays of Rapp’s that I had no familiarity with but oh boy is it amazing, and Anthony did an incredible job with it. By the end he was in tears.

6. I thought Thomas Sadowski was pretty good in 2009’s reasons to be pretty but he left me speechless in this season’s Broadway transfer of Other Desert Cities. His character was so complicated and went through so many emotions that I was absolutely exhausted and heart broken watching him from the front row. 

7. When you try to think of the most fantastic actress discovered out-of-the-blue in the last five years, you’d be hard pressed to think of someone more talented of Nina Arianda and her performance in Venus in Fur. Her performance is a tour-de-force and isn’t to be missed. I’m not sure how to use words to describe it actually. It has to be seen and not described. She crashes through the door ten minutes into the script and the whirlwind that she creates onstage never stops.

8. When I think of Norbert Leo Butz, I will always think of him as my first Roger in Rent in 1998. The next moment I’ll think of is his performance in this year’s Catch Me If You Can. Catch Me was a [mostly] bore of a show that had all the makings of what should’ve been a great musical, but the only reason I saw it twice was to watch Mr. Butz. He danced and moved in ways that I didn’t think he could during the song “Breaking All the Rules.” Watching him on the Tony’s, and then win his second Tony, it was a great thing.

9. I missed Boeing Boeing a few years ago and after seeing Mark Rylance in both La Bete and Jerusalem this year, that will forever be one of my great theatre-related regrets. I will still stand my ground that Mark Rylance was even better in La Bete than in Jerusalem, but for the purposes of doing a review of the year of 2011, I’ll talk about his performance in Jerusalem.  Playing a modern day pied piper in England, you loved him, you felt bad for him, you loved listening to his rambling. Like I said back in April, Rylance might be one of the great actors of our day.

10. I’ve been a fan of Jan Maxwell since I worked at Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang in 2005 and I’ve seen almost everything she’s done since. She’s never won a Tony but this just might be her year with her mouth-dropping turn in this season’s revival of Follies. She brings down the house in Act 2 like I’ve never seen her do. I never knew she could dance like she does, and she’s absolutely heartbreaking. Follies isn’t my cup of tea when it comes to musical theatre, but I’d see it again to watch her onstage.   

So, I think that’s it. Honorable mentions go to War Horse (breathtaking, just absolutely mind-blowing), The Normal Heart (after the 2010 reading, this production was magnificent), The Book of Mormon (I’m glad I saw this in previews), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Mr. Radcliffe blew me away with his moves, and after wanting to see this show revived again for so many years, this is a great production), and The Amoralists (a fantastic theatre company that produces really unique theatrical experiences such as this one and this one). 

I won’t deny the fact that there was a ton of crap produced on and off-Broadway this year, but it’d be silly to neglect to acknowledge the amazing moments that I was fortunate enough to see too. We’ll see what 2012 holds.

photo taken in April 2011

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.