Del Rosso Review: Stoopdreamer by Pat Fenton

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September in New York City ushers in a new theatrical season, and what better way to begin than with the annual Origin’s 1st Irish 2015? Now in its eighth year, this festival of Irish Theater, running from September 2-October 4, welcomes companies from Dublin, Limerick, Belfast and across NYC. Performed in different locations around the city, no two plays or venues are alike.

“Stoopdreamer,” by Pat Fenton, directed by Kira Simring and staged at The Cell in Chelsea on West 23rd Street, is a nostalgic triptych: three characters in search of a neighborhood that for the most part has disappeared.

Set in Farrell’s, one of the last Irish saloons in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, the amiable, elder bartender Jimmy (Jack O’Connell) begins by speaking to the audience about unwelcome changes in the neighborhood; and no villain was more great than Robert Moses, his Prospect Expressway bulldozing 400 homes, countless businesses and displacing 1,215 people. This is illustrated with projected visuals behind him (and throughout the play), to show exactly what kind of damage Moses wrought. Jimmy scoffs at the fancy bars setting up business in the neighborhood, with their “50 different kinds of craft beer. Here, we serve Budweiser. Cold.” As for the demise of old-style pubs, he says of Pete Hamill, when he was young, “There were so many Irish saloons with their doors wide open he could listen to the whole Brooklyn Dodgers game by just walking around.”

Billy Coffey (Bill Cwikowski), retired police officer, sits at the bar writing in his notebook. He is next to speak to the audience, with stories, anecdotes, and some nice phrases, like “Rockaway Beach – the Irish Riviera.” Frustrated in his ambitions to become a writer, he followed the “thin blue line”; now, instead of taking a job as a doorman on Park Avenue, he will write instead. And he never married (leading to…).

A lot of this talk is historical, with many names, dates, numbers. Because interaction between the characters comes late in the play, the format lends itself more to reading than listening. Until, that is, Janice Joyce (Robin Leslie Brown) walks into the bar.

Someone please write Ms. Brown a one-woman show. Please. It doesn’t hurt that Janice is the only three-dimensional character, with wants and needs, who is after something more than nostalgia. But Brown brings a lived-in, regretful, vibrant, authenticity to Janice, so she conversed with the audience, rather than talking to us.

And the faces! The faces of these wonderful actors are glorious: not Hollywood, not immobile, but real. Faces you would want to spend time with. Faces that have stories to tell, lives they have lived, adventures they have had. Got an hour? See “Stoop dreamers,” presented by nancy manocherian’s the cell collaborative. Then afterwards, find an Irish pub and get yourself a beer. You’ll want one. You will.

 

Del Rosso Review: VINEGAR TOM

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2015 is the 29th season for the PTP (Potomac Theater Project), and their 9th year in New York City. They are an exciting, adventurous company to watch for in future, currently running in rep Howard Barker’s play “Scenes from an Execution” (also reviewed in ONE Magazine) and an evening of two little-known and not often produced one-acts: Howard Barker’s“Judith: A Separation from the Body” and Caryl Churchill’s “Vinegar Tom.”

“Judith” is strange kettle of fish. The Book of Judith is not intended as factual history; it is more symbolic in the vein of David and Goliath. Judith (Pamela J. Gray) , a beautiful Jewish widow and The Servant (Patricia Buckley) pass through the enemy lines of the Assyrian Army and into the tent of the General, Holofernes (Alex Draper). There, with her cunning and feminine wiles, Judith seduces the general with lies and artifice but does not sleep with him; instead, he drinks too much, passes out and she beheads him, saving Israel from destruction.

But this is not what Barker had in mind, nor the story he tells, at all. A woman committing murder to save Israel is thrown out in lieu of a battle of the sexes, and is only mentioned at the very end of the play. Beginning on a spare set with Holofernes playing chess by himself (get it? He needs a worthy opponent?) Judith and her servant appear at his tent. Let the games begin.

The general claims he “cannot be loved.” Judith says, “Only politics keep us apart.” Ultimately, Judith comes to care for the general but still beheads him: we kill the things we love? And then in classic Barker fashion, Judith mounts the headless corpse, to frustrated effect. Men: can’t live with them, can’t live without them? And Judith exhibits the exact same cruelty to her servant that the general does when alive. She becomes him. So…women are just as bad as their counterparts?

Judith could have emerged morally compromised yet victorious, celebrated by her people, having to live out the rest of her life contemplating what her sacrifice cost. The sudden change to cruelty and her defiling of the corpse is cheap and too easy.

Holofernes’s “tent,” by Hallie Zieselman, is spare and contemporary, as are the costumes by Mira Veikley. They are almost sleek, with the diminutive general in gray trousers, shirt and black boots and tall, blonde Judith in a draped dress, then a black, sheer, long slip and thong. I am a huge fan of Alex Draper, perfectly cast as Holofernes (and unrecognizable from his role as the Doge of Venice in “Scenes from an Execution”) and Pamela J. Draper, mercurial as Judith. But the play as it stands discards the more interesting themes, and, written in 1992, seems anachronistic to this reviewer.

“Vinegar Tom,” by Caryl Churchill, is set in a small, northern England village in the 17th century. Between scenes, a female trio performs a sort of cabaret-type performance; those songs take place in the present.

Churchill wrote “Vinegar Tom” in 1976; she said in her research, she “discovered for the first time the extent of Christian teaching against women and saw the connections between medieval attitudes to witches and continuing attitudes to women in general.”

So there is slut-shamed Alice (Tara Giordano), who has sex out of wedlock and is a single mother. Next is Margery (Kathleen Wise) an abused farm wife, a workhorse, and in desperation to regain her husband’s love, she accuses Alice’s widowed mother, Joan (Nesba Crenshaw) of being a witch. Joan also owns a cat named Vinegar Tom, later accused as her “familiar.” There is young Betty (Caitlyn Meager) who bucks an arranged marriage and in turn is locked in her room, then bled and purged of her “illness.” Susan (Chelsea Melone) has three children and is pregnant with another; she is conflicted but takes a potion to rid herself of the child, and in later guilt, exposes Ellen (Lucy Faust), the herbalist (now one would call her a homeopath) to the charge of witchcraft.   The only ones who escape hanging are Margery, who is married, albeit unhappily; and Betty, who has no choice but to succumb to the arrangement of wedlock. This cast, including Bill Army as Jack, the brutish husband and Steven Dykes in various roles, was uniformly wonderful, with just a few slips of accent. This is a big play for a one act, and costumes, by Annie Ulrich, are evocative and spot-on for the period. The set looks more elaborate, and entirely different but that is clever camouflage by designer Hallie Zieselman.

You might think that the cabaret trio would add levity. Don’t. Churchill wrote the scathing lyrics to the songs, a nice contrast to the lilting melodies by Carol Christensen.

Churchill got it one act: as long as you are a woman who behaves and conforms within the confines of society, you will be fine. Has all that much changed?

 

If Barker had read “Vinegar Tom” before he had written “Judith…” perhaps Judith would have wowed Holofernes with her intellect, drank a few glasses of wine, had great sex, still beheaded the general, of course, to save Israel, and still emerged victorious but without the transformation and degradation.

If Churchill could have read “Judith,” before writing “Vinegar Tom…” I don’t think she would have changed a thing.

 

 

 

Folliet Poetry: Pips & Quips

1

DESIRING

we can’t govern our affections”

Washington Square-Henry James

hungry for the one thing everybody loses-

young loving”

Jazz-Toni Morrison

Which is it, Aphrodite?

What say you, John Keats?

Beauty & Truth?

Or

Beauty & Youth?

Just asking….

2

COPING

-for CAT-

a toke at 10 for one

a taste at 11 the other

cool libations at lunch for 2

together or alone

smart girls know what to do

3

YEARNING

Youthful yearning?

Or

Yearning for youth?

Which years are more fun?

4

POETRY

Attack the didactic

All right & yet

Who better than the poets

To light the way

Toward elusive

Beauty, truth, peace?

5

A SNAPPY APERÇU

A quippy girl is equipped

For life

&

Its assaults

Sexist or otherwise

EXIT 13 ENTER 14* — New Year Haiku by Mary Folliet

EXIT 13 ENTER 14*

 

Exit, pursued by a bear.” “The Winter’s Tale”

 

what is the word” Beckett

 

how shall we know it

tragicomic calendar

year of the sonnet

“Ingenius” Bekah Brunstetter in ‘Welthy Holliday’

The usage of Buddy Holly’s music by playwright Bekah Brunstetter in Welthy Holliday Productions beautifully realized version of “Be A Good Little Widow” is ingenious. The music is lively, happy, yet the listener knows Holly was doomed to die in a plane crash. So too is Craig (Matt Bittner), who is married to Melody (Aamira Welthy); Melody is destined to become a widow, which will link her, for better or worse, to Craig’s widowed mother, Hope (Chris Holliday).

These two women are wildly different people, separated by class, age and mores. Hope is an uptight, rigid Connecticut type, who sticks to “rules” of widowhood: mourning is to be done in private, with no tears or tantrums. Mourning should not be messy. Melody, at 26, was still trying read more —>

review: Barker’s “The Castle”

Manhattan in summertime is humid, sweaty and gross. Did I mention smelly? It’s that, too. To make yourself feel better, and smarter, you could take in one of the annual summer theater festivals: The NYC International Fringe, Under the Radar at The Public, or, you could avail yourself to the 27th season of PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) at The Atlantic 2 in Chelsea, where Caryl Churchill’s “Serious Money” and Howard Barker’s “The Castle” are playing in rep. 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 —>

ONE contributor Elliott Murphy to be awarded Medaille Vermil by the City of Paris

Congratulations to Elliot Murphy:
Mayor Bertrand Delanoë is bestowing the Médaille de Vermeil of the city of Paris to an accomplished musician and writer.
Mon 1 Oct 18:00
Salon Hotel de Ville

Excellence is still key.

-MLB

http://www.paristribune.info/agenda/1er-octobre-Elliott-Murphy-decore-de-la-Medaille-de-Vermeil-de-la-Ville-de-Paris_ae202480.html

‘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.

GORE VIDAL 1925—2012

The editors, contributors and friends of ONE Magazine join the literary world in mourning one of the greatest writers and essayists of the 20th century. It’s going to be very quiet without Gore Vidal, 1925—2012. May he invigorate the next world as well as he did ours.

 

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

CLOSER_THAN_EVER

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 —>

BELK: A Ballad of Reading in Gaol (full version of essay published in Scottish Review of Books)

A Ballad of Reading in Gaol

(Full version of Scottish Review of Books Essay.)

By Martin Belk

A young woman hangs back after my writing seminar at the new City of Glasgow College with a question: “What’s it like, ya’ know, in there?” For a second, I’m thrown, forgetting that in the preceding class I’d alluded several times to my prison writing workshops. Before I could respond, huge, heavy tears welled up and fell from her eyes, falling down to her denim jeans. She didn’t say anything more, she didn’t need to – she has a loved one on the ‘inside’. I didn’t quite know what to tell her: a ‘modern place of rehabilitation’, to reassure her, or, a ‘bona-fide prison’, to confirm and confront her worst fears? Neither is entirely true, there are problems in the narrative.

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 – JOHN CALDER – Culture Change And Intellectual Decline

When the last world war ended in 1945, Europe was gutted, short of all the means of maintaining a normal existence, except that, pre-war, the lower classes had rarely shared normality as the middle-classes knew it. Suddenly there was an equality of diet, dull but not unhealthy, a shortage of clothing, houses and all luxuries, but a general sharing of what there was, and only the rich, taxed to the hill, really complained. Anything was better than war and that had ended. At the same time there was a flowering of high culture. Concerts were packed. So was opera and ballet, new literature was eagerly discussed, art exhibitions were full, and the BBC had started the Third Programme, which enabled everyone to hear on the radio good music, interesting and educational discussions and talks for a small license fee, and generally there was an interest in education, the higher levels of which had become available to all who could pass exams. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOSHUA SPEARS – Circle Cafe Bar Open Mic Night Tonight! (06/4/09)

Hey guys and girls, how we all doing today?

Just a quick post to remind you all that the Open Mic Night at Circle Bar will be held tonight at the Circle Cafe Bar, from 20:00 til late. Be you a writer, poet, stand up comedian, we want you! If your not, we want you to come anyway and support this event. Its so important to Carlisle that things like this happen because of its arts-starved status and the venue itself is one of the few in Carlisle not dedicated to the all-night-loud-trance-music crowd. read more —>