del Rosso’s Reviews: The Belle of Belfast

There’s some fine acting in quite a good play, “The Belle of Belfast” at the DR2 Theatre, New York’s Irish Rep’s temporary home off Union Square. “The Belle of Belfast,” by Nate Rufus Edelman, takes place in 1985 Belfast, at the height of “the Troubles.” At the center is Anne Malloy (Kate Lydic, fantastic) a half-tortured, half-brat of a 17 year-old, whose parents were killed in a bomb blast when she was 10 years old, leaving her in the care of her nutty great-aunt Emma Malloy (Patricia Conolly, delightful first-rate), a situation she resents bitterly. Because of the way her parents died, they have been extolled as “heroes,” which Anne hates. If she had a choice between a united Ireland and her parents, she confides, she would take her parents. This dia-logue is relayed to her 35 year-old local parish priest Anne is in love with, Father Ben Reilly (Hamish Allan-Headley, stoic and droll); he is the only one she believes listens to her, it is late at night, in the rectory, and they are alone in a room together. read more —>

del Rosso review: Blessed Unrest’s LYING

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On 52nd Street in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, The Interart Theatre Development Series is presenting Blessed Unrest’s production of “Lying,” a stage adaptation by Matt Opatmy of Lauren Slater’s metaphorical memoir of the same title.  Going in, I knew Blessed Unrest to be an exuberant, adventurous company. I also knew Director Jessica Burr was a Lucille Lortel Award winner in 2011.

“Lying” is the coming-of-age of Lauren (Jessica Ranville)  – wait, the fourth wall is broken, so it’s really a meta-metaphorical adaptation of a metaphorical memoir.  Jessica the actress plays Lauren the writer though Matt did the adapting. Jessica playing Lauren’s coming of age is told through the prism of epilepsy – wait, but the real Lauren may not have had epilepsy; she may be “Lying.” Then again, the details about the auras and regarding the ground as a crash pad are spot-on, and I should know, because I have epilepsy, and I am not lying. So if the real Lauren did not have epilepsy, then she did an inordinate amount of research, including but not limited to what it feels like to be conscious during a brain operation.

My question is: Why?

Published in 2000, the book “Lying” was Lauren Slater’s fourth memoir; perhaps the words “fourth memoir” should give one pause.

Out of the mouth of Jesus, beautifully played by actor Nathan Richard Wagner, comes this: “Patients with Munchausen’s Syndrome use fake illness as a conduit for conveying real pain. They pretend or exaggerate not for money but for things beyond weight, beyond measure.

Many choose epilepsy.”

Near the end of the performance, Jessica the actress playing Lauren says, “I am not an epileptic. I am really really not an epileptic. I have had many serious psychiatric and neurological problems in my life, but epilepsy has not been one of them. I have a fitful, restless brain, I feel I have several selves. I have had auras all my life and I take anticonvulsant medication daily. The metaphorical world and the material world blend and blur, become each other; believe me, I have suffered seizures.

Jessica Burr is a fascinating director: endlessly inventive, visually exciting. She is an innovator when it comes to combining music and choreography, and the results can be transformative.

Why choose this material?

If Lauren’s truth as well as her journey is mercurial, Burr can go meta-crazy: she can break the fourth wall at will; she can tease as much humor and fun out of the script without sacrificing poignancy. She can cast brilliantly -Charise Green, Nathan Richard Wagner, Sonia Villani, Rich Brown- who play up to eleven roles each, including Lauren’s three-headed mother, her small father, nuns, Jesus, a neurosurgeon, a therapist, AA members, and a sexually-addicted famous writer. And that’s not even half. Jessica Ranville is equally adept at the various incarnations of Lauren. Burr can evoke emotions through the use of music and employ an industrial-sized fan in a witty, olfactory way. In short, she has a lot of room, and knows how to use every inch.

It’s interesting to like “Lying” yet find the source material for this devised work distasteful. Then again, that could be my epilepsy talking. I thought Act I was superb and Act II less successful. On the long but pleasant walk home from Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper West Side, I tried to figure out why. There was less humor. It seemed to be full of desperate people. Or maybe, instead of running out of ideas (not something Blessed Unrest could ever be accused of), it had too many all at once.

When Jessica the actress playing Lauren finally learns how to fall (in Act I), I was genuinely moved. That is a testament to Director Jessica Burr and her talented cast. “Lying” may actually be about a liar, a thief, a manipulator, a sociopath: Burr made me care about her. And that is no lie.

del Rosso Review: Gertrude — The Cry

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Gertrude – The Cry

In the first scene of “Gertrude – The Cry” (a reworking of “Hamlet” focusing instead on the complex Queen Gertrude and her appetites) presented by the PTP/NYC Theater Project in their 28th season down at the Atlantic Stage II, Claudius poisons Polonius, Gertrude (Pamela J. Gray) strips naked so Claudius  (Robert Emmet Lunney) can see what he’s getting for killing his brother, read more —>

del Rosso Review: The Clearing, by Jake Jeppson

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Let me tell you about the very fine, courageous acting going on in a play called “The Clearing” by Jake Jeppson at St. Clements Church on 46th Street in mid-town Manhattan. Spoiler alert: if you do not want to know the BIG EVENT of the play and other secrets, stop reading now.

For everyone else, I will begin with the mother, Ella Ellis, played by Allison Daughtery. Think of her as Everymother. At one point in the play, read more —>

review: RADIANCE • LAByrinth Theatre Co look into the mind of 1955

LAByrinth Theater is a company that has produced acclaimed productions and collaborations with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Glaudini (who are also the founders) as well as playwright Stephen Aldy Guirgis (“The Motherf**ker with the Hat). Since their move from The Public Theater across town to the new Bank Street location near the Hudson, LAByrinth’s mission has been to showcase new playwrights and new work, which in the current economic climate is both difficult and admirable.

“Radiance” an unwieldy play with good intentions, is set in 1955 in a wonderfully dilapidated bar (courtesy of scenic designer David Meyer) and begins with an unhappy, blowsy blonde, May (Ana Reeder ) an accountant who is having an affair with the proprietor, Artie (Kelly AuCoin). It takes a good thirty minutes for something to happen, and it does: a man named Rob (Kohl Sudduth) walks in. But he is not just any man. read more —>

‘The Exonerated’: Guilty as Charged ‘STUNNING’

If you did not see the multi-award-winning ‘The Exonerated’ ten years ago, now is your chance. Culture Project, on 45 Bleecker Street in the Village, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the play in special association with The Innocence Project. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Bob Balaban, ‘The Exonerated’ is a stunner.

To say the play is an epic is an understatement. Six characters, only connected by the fact that they were all wrongly convicted and sat on death row for years, and then exonerated. What they lost is irreplaceable. Irrevocable. Their youth, livelihood, family, husbands, brothers, children. And time. So much time.

But none of this epic is fictional; Blank and Jensen have used only the words, interviews, court transcripts of the people involved, and made up nothing. That is what makes this evening in the theater, listening to these stories, so compelling. The words. The truth of what happened.

This is not a re-enactment. The stage is bare, except for a row of chairs and black stands holding scripts. The words of the six are entrusted to a rotating cast of formidable actors: Stockard Channing, Brian Dennehy, Delroy Lindo, Chris Sarandon, JD Williams, Curtis McClarin.

The vagaries of the US judicial system are explained succinctly by Sarandon’s Kerry Max Cook, who spent twenty-two years on death row, was raped, sodomized and branded in prison, lost his brother and was then blamed for the death by his mother, and was not compensated (none of the exonerated in this play were) for any of Texas’s error: “I came from a good family. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.”

But perhaps the saddest story was Channing’s Sunny Jacobs, who was at the wrong place, wrong time, and only trying to protect her young children. Her husband, Jesse Joseph Tafero, also wrongly convicted, was executed in Florida, and made headlines because the electric chair malfunctioned and it took an inordinately long and painful time for him to die.

Exonerated? Yes. But the loss these people suffered is immeasurable.

The night I saw “The Exonerated” the real Sunny Jacobs was in the audience. After the performance, Channing brought her onstage, supported by a cane and walking unsteadily. Jacobs thanked the cast, thanked Channing, and thanked the audience for listening. She thanked the playwrights for “giving a voice to those who have none.” Then she cried.

Bravo.

Theatrespace Review: De-boning Miss Lily • ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’

At the tail end of the fourth heat wave of this increasingly unbearable 2012 New York City summer, I was looking forward to a bit of relief at the 19th annual Ice Factory Festival down in the West Village. This is largely due to the talented Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, and the collaboration between Studio 42  (known for producing “unproducible” plays), Ice Factory and their new space, in the New Ohio Theatre.  With a juicy, provocative title like ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’ how could one go wrong?

Well, the message of the play is, we’re all animals, and we are all doomed.

Which is a little bit passé, and if you have observed the climbing crime rate here in conjunction with the heat (hit and runs, shootings, stabbings, overloaded boats capsizing, with children the victims) you already knew we were doomed.

But back to the play. read more —>

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso • Time to get CLOSER THAN EVER

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I went into the recent off-Broadway revival of Maltby and Shire’s musical “Closer Than Ever,” presented by The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s on the East Side of Manhattan, blind, as it were. I had little knowledge of their music, and did not see the 1989 original New York production. So I was ready for anything.

It was opening night. The crowd was supportive. The cast, Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, and Sal Viviano, were exceptional. Directed with assurance by Richard Maltby Jr., with musical direction by Andrew Gerle, they teased every bit of humor out of each and every Maltby and Shire song. Jenn channeled her inner feminist Dolly Parton for You Wanna Be My Friend; Christiane was moving and thoughtful for Life Story; Sal, a perfectly reasoned stalker in What Am I Doin’? and George, the picture of patience in I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning.

And yet… read more —>

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso gets MASSACRE(d) by Jose Rivera & Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

If you take seven bloodied murderers, four male and three female, and put them in a room together right after they have plotted and killed the town “devil” – a man who was a murderer and worse himself – one would think this set-up would yield interesting results, at the very least.

Yet, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater down in the Village, read more —>

THIS IS ‘IN’: TACT’S LOST IN YONKERS Theatre Review by Lisa Del Rosso’

I am not an enormous fan of Neil Simon, and this opinion is largely based on the recent, unsuccessful revivals he has had on Broadway and off. However, after watching the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lost in Yonkers,” in a beautifully rendered production presented by TACT (The Actors Company Theatre) on Theater Row 42nd Street, I am well on the way to changing my mind. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: Nina Raine’s TRIBES: Get your ticket! “You Might be Missing Something”

Tribes

“You’re not missing anything,” is repeated like a mantra throughout the first act of Nina Raine’s brilliant and provocative “Tribes” by various members of Billy’s upper-middle class British family. Born deaf into an intellectually rambunctious, argumentative hearing clan, Billy (Russell Harvard), was raised reading lips and not taught sign language on principle, “so he would not be part of a minority,” according to his stubborn, retired academic father Christopher (Jeff Perry). Also currently living under the same roof are Billy’s mother, Beth (Mare Winningham), a novelist; his college-age sister Ruth (Gayle Rankin), a singer; and the insecure, older brother Dan (Will Brill), who is not quite sure what he wants to be, other than a creative person like everyone else in the family. But in truth, the family argues at such a pace that it is impossible for Billy to keep up, leaving him in silence; until Billy falls for Sylvia (Susan Pourfar) who was born hearing into a deaf family, learned sign language and is going deaf herself. Sylvia introduces Billy to a new world where fits in. Now he wants to tell his own stories his way, and asks his family to learn how to sign, refusing to speak to them until they do. When they balk, he leaves them.

The North American premiere of “Tribes” is at the Barrow Street Theatre down in the Village in New York City; it has already had a successful run at The Royal Court in London, 2011, won an Offie Award and was nominated for both Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for best new play. “Tribes” is playing currently in Australia and productions in Germany and Hungary are in the works.

“Tribes” explores notions of conforming or not, of love and possession, and of belonging. The profanity, intellectual arguments, sibling rivalry and egotism are all completely believable in a high-octane, competitive household. There are pithy one-liners, like when Ruth asks why no one in her family can’t say a word without shouting, and Christopher replies, “Because we love each other.” Ruth replies, “Yes, like a straight jacket.”

The production of “Tribes” at the Barrow Street Theatre is impeccably directed by David Cromer and beautifully acted by a first-rate ensemble. Raine’s moving, funny and shattering play demonstrates the limits and benefits of the tribe one comes from, and also, finding a new one. After Billy leaves and Dan is reduced to a gibbering wreck, he finally asks, “What is the sign for love?” The answer is both an affirmation, and an enormous step forward.

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: “imitation should be avoided at all costs”

Yosemite

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to the great, early plays of Sam Shepard,  read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: The Picture Box “Needs Some Gray”

Picture Box

If “The Picture Box,” a new play by Cate Ryan presented by The Negro Ensemble Company (celebrating their 45th season) at the 42nd Street Beckett Theater, were instead a painting, it would be only in the colors black and white. What it needs are shades of gray. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review DERBY DAY by Samuel Brett Williams

23 (L-R): Jared Culverhouse as Frank Ballard (sitting), Jake Silbermann as Johnny Ballard (standing), Beth Wittig as Becky and Malcolm Madera as Ned Ballard - photo: Paul Gagnon

Midway through world premier of “Derby Day” by Samuel Brett Williams in the 42nd Street Clurman Theater, I wrote in my notebook, “The waitress will get the winning ticket.” And she did.

The deserving waitress in question, Becky, played by the brilliant Beth Wittig, not only wins, she steals the show out from under the three volatile male characters. Becky is the only one not trapped, who knows who she is, who has any dignity. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO / MARY FOLLIET – Theatrespace Review & Panel Report – The Agony of The New Yorker: MIKE DAISEY TRIUMPHS!

Mike Daisey in The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, running at The Public Theater NYC. photo: Joan Marcus

There has been much press about Mike Daisey’s one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” down at The Public Theater on Lafayette Street in the Village. Much of it is good (a rave in The NY Times, and a three-week extension); bad (a rather poisonous, anonymous blurb in The New Yorker); and unwanted (Daisey has received both hate mail and death threats, apparently for his unwillingness to participate in the post-mortem deification of Steve Jobs).

But the anonymous blurb in The New Yorker interests me most, not because the writer was too much of a coward to sign his or her name to the objection, read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”) NY Theater Workshop

Kaddish

Less than halfway through “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”), a version of Allen Ginsburg’s poem at The New York Theater Workshop in the East Village, I had to put my pen down, so mesmerized was I by Donnie Mather’s extraordinary performance. That “Kaddish,” which was not only performed but also adapted by Mather himself, coincided with the Jewish holiday of Roshashana was total luck, according to Director Kim Weild, and opening night ended September while ushering in the melancholy of autumn. A perfect backdrop for “Kaddish.” read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: Tape

“Tape,” by Stephen Belber is playing at the June Havoc Theatre on 36th Street in mid-town Manhattan. “Tape” is a pitch-perfect study of the perpetual adolescence of the American male. I am not sure if there is a European male equivalent or even one a European will understand, other than the Scottish writer J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” and the “I won’t grow up” syndrome it inspired. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – review: Territories, Splatters and Victories: Potomac Theatre Project 2011

At the Atlantic II, in New York”s Chelsea, three plays ran in rep this summer, produced by the 25 year-old company PTP (Potomac Theatre Project, from Middlebury College, Vt.)/NYC. Three playwrights: Steven Dykes, Neil Bell, both Americans, and Howard Barker, English. Running in rep, while usual for many theatre companies in the UK and regionally here in the US, it is not done so much in New York City. read more —>

ONE 9 • TheatreSpace: 45 and a Half Miles

45 and a Half Miles
by Edward Neville
[excerpted and edited for ONE] read more —>

ONE 9 • Theatrespace

Samaritan
by Lisa del Rosso