Archive for the Indie Theatre Category
In case you missed our big social media push yesterday, our revival of the Marx Brother’s 1924 show I’ll Say She Is will be returning in spring of 2016, to the Connelly Theatre, bigger and better than ever. Here’s deets:
Here’s where and how to donate to help bring the show before the public again: https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=10812
And lastly but not leastly, the show’s star, script adapter and chief bottle washer Noah Diamond will be appearing in his role as Groucho tonight at the Jewish Museum at 6:30pm. Make your reservations now so you won’t lose out! Details here: http://thejewishmuseum.org/calendar/events/2015/06/11/wish-you-were-here-groucho-marx-061115
Our pal Cyndy Fujikawa’s play The Last Vaudevillian opens in previews in L.A. tonight. Cyndy guest blogged about her remarkable show business family in a six part series that starts here. I really belong there tonight and I’m bummed I can’t be. I only hope it’s a big success and comes to New York! West coast readers, here are the details:
Pacific Resident Theatre Co-op presents a workshop production of The Last Vaudevillian, a play by Cyndy Fujikawa.
Directed by Julia Fletcher. Produced by Sarah Zinsser. Cast: Robin Becker, Karen Benjamin Chapman Peggy Maltby Etra Brendan Farrell,Darren Kelley Matt McKenzie Wesley Mann Nell Murphy, Michael PrichardTro Shaw Sally Smythe, and Sarah Zinsser.
Pieviews: June 5-6; Opens June 11. Performances through June 21. Thursday-Satturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.
Pacific Resident THeatre Company is at 705 1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA. More details and tickets are here.
As we’ve written previously (here and here) I have been a major league fan of singer/songwriter/ actor Loudon Wainrwight III since I was a teenager. Hearing that he was workshopping a new theatre piece called Surviving Twin at SubCulture I wanted to be among the first to see it, and last night I was.
The show alternates Wainwright’s bittersweet autobiographical songs with the writings of his dad, the popular Life magazine editor and columnist. The significance of the show’s title is the realization that LW3 inherited his father’s gifts and preoccupations as a writer. LW3 fans admire his craftsmanship, his humor, his introspection, his (often painful, naked) honesty, and his ability to entertain. The same themes drive both men: birth, death, love of family, regret, loss, hope, and….appreciation for a fine dog. The songs and spoken bits are augmented with home movies and family photos. Those accustomed to the up-close and intimate nature of Loudon’s shows will be shocked at how much MORE intimate this one manages to be.
The younger Wainwright’s half of the dialogue amounts to a concert featuring some of his best songs from his (ye Gods!) 45+ year career. “White Winos” from the 2001 album “Last Man on Earth” is an especially dazzling piece of work, practically a magic trick both musically and lyrically. As was his closing number “In C” (off 2012’s Older Than My Old Man Now). (Much like Irving Berlin, the song references the fact that Loudon only plays the white keys at the piano). Yes — piano. The multi-talented Wainwright does play that instrument, along with a couple of guitars, a banjo, and (on 1974’s “Dilated to Meet You”, written for the newborn Rufus), ukulele. The acted bits reveal Loudon to be equally dexterous at this related but different craft; I’d not seen him do it live before. Directed by Daniel Stern (yes, that Daniel Stern, from Diner, City Slickers, etc) with maximum simplicity, he generously showcases his father’s word-wizardry, humbly implying in a way that his own gifts are an inheritance, that he is part of something greater than himself.)
That’s a rather cosmic conception, the sort of wisdom that usually dawns on one at twilight, when a lot of the strife is over and parents are buried in the grave. Loudon even looks the part these days — his white van dyke unavoidably conjuring the late Burl Ives, who was also both an actor and folksinger. This may make baby boomer Wainwright cringe, but I’d own it if I were him. It’s high time he play the “elder statesman/ American institution” role that belonged to Ives for decades. And lest ye fear that it’s all about age and dignity, Loudon did the whole show with his fly down (a happy accident. He was wearing his father’s old suit and the zipper broke. Keep it in the show, Loudon! It’s not just funny but it’s a nice metaphor for your life and art — and I mean that in the best way possible.)
There are three more pchances to see work-in-progress performances of Surviving Twin: June 10, 17 and 24 at SubCulture (45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012). All performances will begin at 7:30pm. Tickets ($30 in advance, $35 day of show) can be purchased at http://subculturenewyork.com/wainwright/ or 212.533.5470.
In 1904 the great Russian (and then proto-Soviet) writer Maxim Gorky, in exile from Tsarist Russia, undertook a fundraising tour of the U.S. for the Bolsheviks along with his lover the great actress Maria Andreyevna. The venture was almost immediately aborted when New York newspapers learned that he was living “in sin” with his traveling companion. Bookings were canceled and they were banned from hotels. So they hung fire in in New York for a time and even spent some time in Coney Island. Gorky wrote an essay about his experiences.
Coney Island USA’s Dick D. Zigun adapted Gorky’s observations into a charming theatre piece and is presenting it in the Coney Island Museum as a program of his theatre company Funhouse Philosophers. In the play, directed by James Rana, Gorky and Andreyevna (Chris DePierro and Atalanta Siegel), address a gathering of workers in a Coney Island union hall. Their observations hit us on couple of different levels.
The first is the plane of irony. The Bolshevik Gorky is relentlessly negative on the subject of Coney’s amusement parks, seeing them as strictly as elaborate smokescreens to blind the and fleece the proletariat. There is no ride or show or other seemingly innocuous element that Gorky doesn’t regard as a horrible joke and a lie. “Beneath those blazing lights,” he sneers, “are so much painted wood.” (Not a direct quote, but that’s the idea). What did he think American workers believed — that it was an actual fairyland? No — we all know it’s a brief illusion…but we think it’s still worth paying for. But there is no food for the soul there, Gorky argues, thus the ultimate takeaway from trip to Coney is not fun and excitement but “boredom”. His paint of view is quaint, antiquated and alien to the American sensibility, and it becomes one of the rewards of this theatre piece. Gorky is as much a freak to us as the Wild Boy or Zip the Pinhead.
The second reward for the audience is that Gorky’s writing (even more ironically) provides us with a window onto the place he’s lambasting: Coney Island at its very height, in 1906. He describes for us the reactions of people on the rides, families walking around, the experience of taking an early dark ride voyage to Hades. Both of these elements make it a perfect piece to present in this setting, and Rana and his animated actors bring it off well, suggesting a lot with a little, weaving elaborate dreamscapes with Gorky’s language and whimsical masks and props by Kate Dale. Fans of Coney Island (and CIUSA), of Maxim Gorky, and of well-acted indie theatre will all love this little piece — it’s the perfect way to kick off what promises to be a
You have two more chances to see it (and hear it — this would make an excellent radio play, btw). It plays through tomorrow. To get your tickets and more info, go to ConeyIsland.com.
What was the climax to my Memorial Day? I might say mourning or remembering a lost New York, but that’s only a half truth, for Penny Arcade’s new work-in-progress Longing Lasts Longer is only partially that…ultimately I’d call it a call to arms from a bona fide cultural warrior. We’re New Yorkers. We don’t just lay down and die!
If you’ve read my earlier interviews (here and here) you have some idea of the content of the new work. Live and in person, the piece is very much an elaboration on the things she spoke about when we talked, with lots more to boot. It’s kind of like a TED Talk for bohemians and anarchists, backed by a soundtrack of relevant tunes (the ones Scorsese might choose), and some kickass writing (when she gets rolling I hear echoes of Whitman and the Beats), plus evangelical style preaching. At certain points when the rapture takes over, she just dances. She dances — how do they say in West Side Story? “Like [they] gotta get rid of something.”
I won’t shut up about this show because I think she’s on to something. What she is saying strikes a chord. This is not just the right message for the right moment, but it’s brave — which means she’s the only one daring to send this message. And swimming against the tide is exhausting. This is America! Who DARES attack the young? To attack the young is to declare yourself old. Everyone in America is TERRIFIED to do this, to the point of absurdity, to the point of sickness. You think I’m kidding?
Look at Marlo Thomas, who will be turning 80 in two years:
And Marie Osmond, aged 55:
I don’t say these women ought to look like my teachers looked at those ages back in the 1970s, with mustaches and reeking of Lanacane. But they certainly oughtn’t to look like the STUDENTS looked back in Junior High School. And everyone knows this isn’t how these women actually look; it’s a triumph of the embalmers’ art. These ladies are obviously terrified anyone will get the idea they’re older than 24 years old.
Penny’s piece isn’t really about this, by the way. Nor is she afraid of her cleavage, either (see above). But my point is she also doesn’t pretend her career didn’t start in 1969… and (heresy of heresies) she says her actual age! Out loud! In public!
Anyway, at bottom, the conflict she describes isn’t really between old and young, but between urban and suburban. It’s just that young people just HAPPEN to be the ones dragging this culture and this city down into a morass of conservatism and proto-fascism.
Yeah, I said dat!
The takeaway thoughts she leaves you with at the end are Joy, Gratitude and Authenticity. But with authenticity she really gets at the crux of it. What is the famous New York “rudeness” but being honest to a fault? Saying what you think, and not sugar-coating it? People seem so terrified of this nowadays.
Do you know that the theatre critics of this town used to be a sort of platoon of berzerkers? They wrote to entertain and they also cared deeply about the theatre, so the newspaper critics of this town, oh, people like George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woolcott (I honestly don’t give a fuck how you spell it) brought their famous wits to bear and took no prisoners. That was another day at the office. When I get goin’ I try to emulate them, and on those occasions when I let ‘er rip, you can generally cut the atmosphere of terror and unease with a knife. Not because I wasn’t very nice, but because I had the effrontery to be a drag! And that simply isn’t done! It’s so unhip to be a “hater.”
Hey screw that. I just learned I ‘m related to John Adams, and I’m going to go with his famously brusque manner as a family trait. We don’t need any more cheerleaders for mediocrity in this town. It’s sinking to that level fast enough without encouragement. Let’s get back to telling the truth, shall we? Let’s do it precisely because it SUBVERTS the protocols of marketing. This is the point, I think. If you can free yourself from the cradle to grave drumbeat of pre-chewed marketing messages, only then will you have earned the ownership of that very unique organ you carry around behind your eyes and under your wig.
Its early days in the development of Longing Lasts Longer. There are two more performances at Joe’s Pub and Penny said last night she may add some New York performances before she heads off to Edinburgh and London and then she will probably bring it back here for a proper open-ended run. When she does, I’m telling ya — this piece merits a NY Times feature, above the fold, in the Arts section. Penny Arcade’s got her fingers on the pulse of this ailing town.