Memories from Hurricane Katrina

The Play About My Dad at 59E59 is a rare gem masterfully guided by an incredible new voice in theater. Boo Killebrew’s beautiful play depicts several heartbreaking stories about the lives of people she knew and loved that were forever altered by Hurricane Katrina. The glue of the play is Boo Killebrew herself and her father Larry Hammond Killebrew, an emergency room doctor who was on duty in Pass Christian, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. The stories the play tells are recollections of Larry and Boo’s memories woven together by their own turmoil.

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Spark of Life

Now celebrating its fifth season, Redd Tale Theatre Company launches its “Summer of Creation” with two one-act plays that share a common theme. Pairing the enduring and immortal tale of Frankenstein with an original science fiction drama called Gabriel results in a fascinating juxtaposition for theatergoers.

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Three, Two, One. . .Unhappy New Year!

Walking into the theater for Eightythree Down at Under St. Mark’s is like going back in time. The eighties music provides a backdrop to the Duran Duran and Bowie posters, the VHS tapes on the bookshelves, and the level of electronic technology. The year is 1983, but it won’t be for long. Tonight is New Year’s Eve, and Martin thinks he is going to spend a quiet evening at home. The Horse Trade and Hard Sparks production of J. Stephen Brantley’s play is overdone at times, but is still a nice piece of theater.

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The Weather is Nice Here

The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions… Or the road to heaven is littered with landmines… Certainly, for the Weather Underground, the truth lies somewhere in between the fuzzy, yellow lines. home/sick by The Assembly, now playing at The Collapsable Hole in Williamsburg, examines that rugged terrain through their thought-provoking production.

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The Bard and the Bible

Shakespeare's plays have always been open to myriad interpretations: in what they are meant to say, in how they should rightly be performed, and even as to who their true author might have been. The Dark Lady Players’ new environmental work, entitled Shakespeare’s Gospel Parodies, is one possible take on the meaning of the oeuvre. This production highlights some subtle (and other not-so-obscure) Biblical and Christian references within the works of the Bard. Although the explanations for various elements are at times difficult to follow, the overall piece sheds some new light on the plays. In addition, the "living museum" performance, set as a walkthrough in West Park Church, is a delight to take in. This is a performance worth going on a journey both to and with. The performance is composed of nine scenes from disparate Shakespearean plays. These include both the comic and the tragic, ranging from Bottom's ridiculous performance in the Pyramus and Thisbe play to Shylock's conviction in the Venetian court to Desdemona's murder at the hands of her husband, Othello. In each scene, a specific Biblical allusion or reference is pointed out. Docents lead the patrons to each of the "paintings" and then give lengthy descriptions of what the viewers are about to see and what they should take away from it. The scenes themselves are played out in order to elucidate the theory that has just been expounded. At times, certain episodes are frozen in the middle to continue the explication and then resumed.

Although interesting and clearly extensively researched, the explanations of the Christian references in the plays feel at times too much like an academic lecture and not enough like a night's entertainment. When there is too much information to take in at once, it is easy to lose track of the meaning of the scenes being displayed. Also, some of these scenes, because taken out of context, might be difficult to place in terms of the original dramatic narratives from which they are derived, especially if one is not already familiar with Shakespeare's plays. In addition, some excerpts seem longer than necessary to prove the point that has been set out.

Some of the connections drawn here seem a tad far-fetched. Although an interesting contention to explore, the scene in which a human is eaten in the forest of As You Like It may be a little too ridiculous in this performance to be believed as a legitimate interpretation of the play. Despite this, there are a lot of compelling details that one can learn both about the plays and about the development of Christian myth from this performance. Much of the information is worth investigating further, as it could open up new angles from which to analyze these oft-performed and -studied texts.

The performances of each scene are delightful and the actors come to this material with enthusiasm and understanding. They vary each character that they play well (each performer being part of three scenes from three different plays) and make them all seem to be full-fledged people and not just symbols or metaphors.

The biggest thrill in this production is the clever usage of the fabulous performance location. The convention of making this performance into an art museum tour adds a fun flair to what might otherwise feel too much like an instructional lecture. West Park Church is a gem of New York architecture, worth visiting in its own right. The scenes are well-suited to the rooms in which they are placed. The Woodshed Collective has done a brilliant job of turning this environmental setting into a logical locale for these Shakespearean scenes. Each of these chambers is charming, filled with fascinating odds and ends of objects as well as embracing the overall decor of seemingly intentional decay.

All in all, this is a fun and unique theatre outing. There is something here for the uninitiated Shakespeare audience as well as for the Elizabethan aficionado. Each scene is like discovering a little hidden gem; it may be a tad rough around the edges, but what is discovered within has great beauty and value.

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Dreams Plus Action

A unicorn made of glass catches the light. Laura is holding it, but this is not The Glass Menagerie . Gone are Laura’s limp, Tom’s struggle with his identity, and several of the other tragic details that color Tennessee Williams’ touching dream play. In its place is The Pretty Trap . The streamlined one-act, penned prior to its better known cousin, replaces the melancholy with the comedic. Cause Célèbre’s production does a nice job of bringing this piece to life. We quickly locate ourselves in the Wingfield’s household through Ray Klausen’s realistic set. Tennessee Williams spends a great deal of time intricately explaining the physical locations of his plays, and though I value the creativity of scenic designers, I am always happy to see that someone has taken the time to respect the playwright’s wishes. David Toser’s costume design and Bernie Dove’s lighting and sound are also well tuned to the realistic and naturalistic demands of the script. The design supports this world, and the characters seem to belong to a pre-war New Orleans.

However, there is one obvious choice that Director Antony Marsellis has made that gives me pause. Though Katharine Houghton has the charm and the vivacity to play Amanda, she is unfortunately a bit too advanced in age to be undertaking this part. Amanda is an aging southern belle, but in order for us to understand how overbearing Amanda is, we need to be bowled over by her energy. Though Houghton does a fine job, I wish I had been able to see her play this role ten or fifteen years ago.

Whereas The Glass Menagerie is Tom’s play, told from his memory, The Pretty Trap is certainly Amanda’s play. She is the ultimate manipulator, the “witch,” which is something that Houghton cannot quite pull off, as her presence is too gentle. This is more a fault of casting than of anything else, and her performance is still strong.

But it is the scene between The Gentleman Caller (Robert Eli) and Laura (Nisi Sturgis) that stands out in this production. As Sturgis overcomes her shy ways, drawn out of her shell by Eli’s friendly optimism, we watch as Laura has the first real emotionally intimate encounter of her life. But unlike the bittersweet conclusion that normally follows this scene, The Pretty Trap allows us to imagine a happier version of events.

Yet this aspect of The Pretty Trap is also, in my opinion, why the play has not had the lasting impact on audiences that The Glass Menagerie has. The happy version of events is nice to watch, but it does not have the emotional impact of the dramatic version. The arc of The Glass Menagerie tells the story of a family full of people who have convinced themselves that getting a suitor for Laura will solve all of their problems. By the time The Gentleman Caller comes, we are invested in this dream right along with the Wingfields. In The Pretty Trap we do not have time to get attached to Laura or Amanda, to know their hopes and dreams, to understand the stakes; not to mention the fact that Tom (Loren Dunn) is barely given a role in this family event.

We are happy at the end of this Williams play, something that cannot often be said. Perhaps this is because we like to see ending full of potentiality, or perhaps because we like to think of what it could have been like if things had been different from the Wingfield story in our heads. The play looks very much like dreams plus actions, just as The Gentleman Caller and then Amanda herself say. Whichever it is, this is a great chance to see a rarely seen Tennessee Williams work in a good production.

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What a Piece of Work is Hamlet

In the Drilling Company’s Hamlet, staged as their Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot offering this summer, there is great drama being presented. Not only are there the conflicts between Hamlet and the rest of the Danish court, but there is also the real world drama of the conflict between an actor’s voice and a car rushing by or a helicopter overhead. Watching this play from the comfort of a lawn chair in a municipal parking lot on the Lower East Side is a unique experience, to be sure. For those looking for a definitive production of the Bard’s text, this is probably not the production to see. It is at times difficult to understand (both to hear and to follow) and there are many odd choices made here. If, however, what you are after is an opportunity to experience the play and to enjoy the New York City summer night, then this production is well worth your time. It is very pleasurable to be confronted with Shakespeare as you watch the city move by around you. The classic revenge drama is staged in such a manner as to cleverly incorporate its parking lot surroundings. A street lamp is placed in the center of the action, both to illuminate the stage action once the sun has set and as a platform on which the actors may climb. The brief moment in which an actor takes advantage of this lamppost is one of the highlights of the production. In a piece with such a special setting, it is hard not to wish that director Hamilton Clancy had incorporated the surrounding environment more. What would it mean if Hamlet were taking place in a literal parking lot? What might that setting do to the meaning of the plot(s) unfolding?

Instead of attempting to answer these questions, the company seems to be using their locale as a forum for presenting Shakespeare at no cost to whoever wishes to stop by and hear it, which in and of itself is a very noble cause. Hamlet is one of the greatest plays in the English language and for those who may have no other chance to hear it performed live, this production is entirely worth taking advantage of. There is real heart in what the performers do here; it is clear that much effort has been put into this production and the actors perform the lengthy play with much zeal and zest.

There are many alterations to the text that are hard to justify. For instance, instead of opening the play with guards on watch, the play opens with a famous speech by Hamlet. By having the play start with Hamlet, the director is entirely reframing the context of the action. Although this is an acceptable choice–and similar to what many other contemporary directors have done with the play–these cuts and rearrangements detract from the overall impact of the play’s meaning. Rather than being a larger rumination on certain human issues, this production seemed much more concerned with the unfolding of the basic revenge plot.

In addition, many production choices are distracting. It is hard to place whether this production is meant to be a contemporary rendering of the play or a period piece; some actors wear what appears to be mid-twentieth century apparel while others are more casually attired in modern dress. There are also many unnecessary props on stage. Yet, at moments in which a prop would be useful, an actor would mime an object.

That being said, the stage design is fine overall, and the configuration of benches and sheet that create the grave is ingenious. The actors utilize the space well, making an effort to be seen on all sides of the audience. Unfortunately, I found the performers were often quite difficult to hear over the ambient noise of the city surrounding them. Some actors chose to shout over the sounds; this often took away from the larger impact of their performances. Hamlet, for example, played by Alessandro Colla, often seemed angry, as there was extensive effort put into projecting the voice above the din of city life. That being said, the Hamlet that he created was overall interesting to watch and sympathetic. The supporting cast, too, gave a laudable presentation of these oft-performed lines.

All in all, the joy of watching Shakespeare come to life in the unlikely location of a pay-to-park lot off of Delancey Street outweighs any possible flaws with this production. Witnessing this performance in this unlikely locale is a special occurrence and one worth taking advantage of before the transformative magic of the theater vanishes and the city goes back to its regularly scheduled business.

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Wall Street Scavenger Hunt

My interactive experience with RED CLOUD RISING began the day before the performance was scheduled to start. I received an email from Charlotte, Bydder Financial’s Director of Recruitment, preparing me for my upcoming recruitment session. “Oh God,” I thought, “I’m being recruited? I’m going to be tested?” I cursed myself for leaving The Inside Job off my Netflix queue. Luckily, no one asked me to crunch numbers or define “derivative.” Instead, my teammates and I were sent on an entertaining yet ultimately anti-climactic scavenger hunt through the financial district. Though it explored the relationship between technology and performance in some exciting ways, the creators of RED CLOUD RISING should perhaps also rent The Inside Job: I was underwhelmed by their attempts to thrill us. On the day of the performance, I find myself in an office building near Wall Street, sitting in a cushy swivel chair, chatting awkwardly with Charlotte about “the job” and watching a humorously vague and upbeat video about the joys of working for Bydder Financial. After taking our phone numbers, Charlotte sends us out into the streets, to be ‘tested.’ Our task is to deliver an envelope to another Bydder employee. To find the employee, we are sent on a scavenger hunt, led by text messages and phone calls. Things start to get interesting when an underground group, Red Cloud, contacts us, promising to divulge Bydder’s seedy underbelly. They start getting less interesting when Bydder’s dastardly plan (to privatize all the world’s resources) is revealed. “Hasn’t that already happened?” asked one of my teammates.

Despite the lack of intrigue and suspense, I had a great time running around lower Manhattan, problem solving and cracking jokes with a bunch of strangers I might never have met otherwise. And I see a ton of potential in what The Fifth Wall is trying to do, both in their attempt to imbue the game with real issues, and in their use of technology to extend the game beyond the event. The next day, I received an email from Charlotte, thanking me for my time and informing me that I did not get the job at Bydder. if I had been ‘hired,’ I wonder what would have happened next? The possibilities are many and thrilling. Though I wish The Fifth Wall had found a way to raise the stakes for its players, I applaud their exploration of the intersections between theater, gaming and technology, and hope they continue in this vein.

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The Weather Is Nice Here

The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions… Or the road to heaven is littered with landmines… Certainly, for the Weather Underground, the truth lies somewhere in between the fuzzy, yellow lines. home/sick by The Assembly, now playing at The Collapsable Hole in Williamsburg, examines that rugged terrain through their thought-provoking production. The audience walks into a converted industrial space greeted by a man in a black suit and sunglasses. He politely offers us a beer and a button that reads, “My brain is a bomb.” As we take our seats- on chairs or benches or pillows- the lights shift, whirling us deep into a subversive world of young American idealists fighting for what they believe is the equality of all mankind. They are angry. They are fearless. They are brilliant. And they believe pacifism is a dead-end road.

Jess Chayes’s direction is daring and engrossing. The lines between actor and audience, play and reality, right and wrong, become so blurred it is hard not to get caught up in the fervor and passion of these romantics- even if you whole-heartedly disagree with their actions. Chayes intricately blends movement, dance, lighting and sound to capture not only the counterculture of the 70s but also the complex struggles and political questions these very real people were grappling with.

The talented ensemble delivers their performances with such empathy and honesty it is hard not to feel moments of compassion for a group of people who just blew up a building or robbed a truck. One of the most powerful moments for me was watching Edward Bauer fight back this child-like vulnerability when called out in front of the collective for confiding secrets and intimacy in one member over the others. And the rest of the cast is equally terrific! Their connection with one another, both as actors and characters, is palpable and powerful.

The Assembly does an impeccable job of presenting a fair, honest, and unapologetic look at who these people really were. I never once felt like I was watching a political play, but rather an honest depiction of real lives asking big questions about the nature of humanity. This is a group of brilliant artists who will, without question, make their mark in the world of theater for a long time to come.

It is hard to really understand the nature of a revolution when one has never suffered from oppression. Sure, there are plenty of battles worth fighting in this country. There is an abundance of greed and destruction and corruption worth questioning every waking moment of our lives.

But how does one really ignite a revolution when drugs, sex, food, and entertainment are so plentiful? When one has never watched his family starve or had his house burned to ash by ruthless armies? When one’s freedom of expression- the very freedom that allows us to put on theater in such abundance- has never been censored? Not that these are the only roots for a revolution, per se, but it has often been the case throughout history that society as a whole must hit rock bottom, people must truly have nothing left to lose, before they are willing to sacrifice their existence and beliefs to rise up against their own country.

The Weather Underground, in their haze of drugs, sex, and egos, seems to lose sight of this reality. Fortunately, The Assembly has retained the insight to question their actions… and ours.

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Summer of Lust

One of William Shakespeare’s most popular and frequently produced plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is also one of the Bard’s most flexible. The four lovers, amateur acting troupe, and supernatural fairies that make up the bulk of its cast are fine fodder for creative teams to stretch their artistic muscles in interpretations far and wide. As part of their Summer of Lust programming, The Hive Theatre Company teams with the cell (a self-described 21st century salon) for a gender-bending Midsummer that gleefully explores the idea of equality in marriage — a timely topic indeed.

Although trimmed and abridged, this version is still a bit too long at almost two hours and forty-five minutes and a bit too reliant on style over substance. But as minimally staged in the elegant Chelsea townhouse that acts as home base for the cell, there is still plenty to recommend in this lively and lusty variation on the classic tale.

Gender and power are at the forefront of Midsummer and as directed by Matthew A.J. Gregory, this Dream is no different. This time, however, Hermia and Lysander are lesbian lovers and Demetrius and Helena are a gay couple. Add to that, the husband and wife duo of Theseus (Duke of Athens) and Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons) take on the roles of the King and Queen of the Fairies, in reverse, with the man playing Titania and the woman playing Oberon.

If all this sounds confusing, it makes perfect sense on-stage. Credit the enthusiastic cast and inventive director for keeping things moving at a smart clip, although the last thirty minutes (especially the play-within-the-play, Pyramus and Thisbe) would definitely benefit from faster pacing. Hint: Don’t wait for the laughs — keep moving!

Starting off at the posh and proper wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, things get progressively sexier and more sinister when Titania's fairy servants, played as hard-bodied club kids, enter as if staging an all-night rave. Oberon as a Russell Brand-esque dandy and Titania as a glamorous drag queen up the ante even higher. Samuel T. Gaines and Meghan Grace O’Leary are excellent as both royal couples.

Chris Critelli is also a standout in the production, wholeheartedly embracing his characterization of Oberon’s mischievous jester Puck. Not all of his choices are completely successful, but Critelli is nonetheless compelling as the Cupid-like Robin Goodfellow. Michael Raver is superb as well, bringing multiple shades to the love-struck Helena and exhibiting the most believable chemistry of all the couples with Alan Winner as Demetrius.

While mostly enjoyable and at times quite funny with delightful modern touches and a thoroughly contemporary soundtrack and sound design by Justin Stasiw, this Midsummer tends to rely too much on tricks. Many of the characterizations seem born out of uncorralled improv with a “watch me!” mentality overshadowing the proceedings in a needless hodge-podge.

The members of the acting troupe, in particular, fall prey to much idiosyncrasy instead of meaningful elucidation. Just because something gets a laugh doesn’t necessarily mean it belongs. And the cell’s high-ceilinged interior has terrible acoustics. At times the cast members’ shouts were piercing and almost ear-shattering. Consistent volume of the actors’ voices was also a problem. Some players boomed while others whimpered.

Regardless, this Midsummer Night’s Dream is a sprightly and sensual bit of bare bones theater. As Lysander says to Hermia, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” With an attractive young cast and some intriguing explications of the text, it is easy to at least enjoy the bumpy ride with this clever production.

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A Severed Head, A Stepdaughter, and Slides

Black Moon Theatre Company’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome brings the character, Salome, to the center of the production as the victim of a morally corrupt society. Presented as a multi-media, poetic allegory for our times, the production, directed by René Migliaccio, plays like a slow moving reality show filled with temper tantrums, manipulation, and petty displays of power. Wilde’s tragic, one act play tells the Biblical story of Salome, performed by Karina Fernicola-Ikezoe, who requests the head of Iokanaan/John the Baptist, performed by Chris Ryan, on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils for her lustful step father, King Herod Antipas, by Alessio Bordoni. The request is made much to the delight of her mother Herodias, by Tatyana Kot, who has been enraged by the prophet’s slights against herself.

The production applies Migliaccio’s performance technique “Expressionistic Realism,” which according to their site <a href= “uses gesture, mask and movement to physically express emotions and thoughts” to find and express the emotional cores of the characters. At the same time, it attempts to shift the focus of the story away from the Judeo-Christian interpretation of women as evil seductresses to Salome as a victim and by-product of a decadent and sick society.

What emerges, however, is a stilted presentation of the rich and spoiled – Herod, Herodias, and Salome – who are contrasted to and obsessed with Iokanaan/John the Baptist, who seems to embody icon Jim Morrison from the Doors in his dress and physicality. The emotional pathos is lost in the frozen facial expressions and gestures and the very slow pacing of the production.

The costumes, by Hope Governali, are modern with clean lines and symbolic uses of color. The Chorus, clothed in uniforms of black suits and ties, contrasts with the rich dress of Herod, Herodias, and Salome, as well as the dirt colored rag worn by Iokanaan/John the Baptist. The Chorus is performed by Marc Thomas Engberg as Cappadocian, A Slave, Second Soldier, and Another Jew; John Graham as The Page of Herodias; Olgierd Minkiewicz as The Young Syrian and A Jew; and Kevin Whittinghill as The First Soldier and Nazareen. For those actors playing multiple roles, the character signifier – their tie changes – is not always clear, thus their characters are not always sufficiently distinct.

Billed as a multi-media adaptation with collages and set design by India Evans, the production, however, makes minimal use of slide projections as backdrops. The imagery projected on an upstage scrim and often interrupted by the performer’s bodies reads as a mix of symbolic ritualistic imagery and pulp novel book covers that mirror rather then illuminate each scene.

Although a dominant element in the design, the images offer little more than a lit upstage wall that divides the space between the primary playing area in the foreground and an upstage space revealed by backlighting the scrim. This upstage space alternately functions as a passageway for entrances and exits and as a window into the cistern where Iokanaan/John the Baptist is imprisoned. It is the effective use of lighting, designed by Jason Sturm, to define and create spaces as well as bring out different psychic locations that carries us through this story, not the slide show.

The make up design, by Satoko –Ichinose, contributes a Japanese Noh mask design element. The choreography, by Natasa Trifan and nicely performed by Fernicola-Ikezoe, references modern as well as traditional Indian and Persian traditions. The music, by Amaury Groc, only occasionally intrudes into the environment. It is used either as a dramatic element to foreshadow or build tension, or as a backdrop for the Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils.

Despite the commitment of the performers and some visually interesting stage moments resulting from Migliaccio’s performance technique, rather then a stylized production leading to an emotional truth, the production plods along. The tragedy and emotional tension is lost in static moments and juvenile tantrums. Neither the technique nor the visual elements is quite able to move Wilde’s play from its Biblical roots to something more pertinent to our times.

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Their Town

The Zombies are coming. Two years ago, they invaded Jane Austin (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Then, earlier this year, political scientist Daniel Drezner pontificated about a coming Zombie apocalypse (International Politics and Zombies) while The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provided America with helpful tips on how to prepare for Zombie attacks. Now, with the Nicu’s Spoon production How The Day Runs Down, they’ve entered the world of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. In keeping with the emerging Zombie literature genre, How the Day Runs Down, by John Langdon, is not exactly satire. Instead, it uses the conventions of low budget Zombie horror flicks to reexamine the cherished themes of an American classic. In the case of Our Town, it’s an inspired mash up.

Recall that in Our Town, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and favorite production of high school drama clubs across the country, the play’s third act is set in a graveyard, where the newly deceased protagonist finds herself surrounded by the community’s dead. Although she asks to relive a day, she quickly finds reanimation too painful, and joins the rest of the dead, who are patiently waiting out eternity. How the Day Runs Down intervenes to ask: what if they lost their patience?

Like the three act play on which it is based, the intermission-less How the Day Runs Down is divided into three segments. Under the direction of S. Barton-Farcas, the taut hour and a half production builds seamlessly from comedy to suspense to pathos. Set in the present day, in suburban upstate New York, the first main segment of the evening focuses on two rifle-toting teenagers tasked with guarding their great-grandma’s grave, in case she should rise from the dead. As the siblings, Rachel Lee Lerman and Erwin Falcon, ease the audience into the world of the play. The dead are on the attack, but teenage siblings still squabble, and Lerman and Falcon do so here with sitcom-ish glee.

The centerpiece of the play, and the heart of the Nicu’s Spoon production, consists of a lengthy monologue delivered by a suburban mother, describing a Zombie attack which decimated her subdivision. Elizabeth Bell nails this role with an affable conversational style, peppered with a traumatized fixation with detail. Her description of an NPR reporter’s on-air death by zombies, for example, is bleakly comic without ever soliciting an obvious audience laugh.

In the final segment of How the Day Runs Down, as in the final act of Our Town, a young person meets an untimely death and has an inspirational exchange with the Stage Manager. As part of the conceit of the play, the Stage Manager fulfills much the same role as the Stage Manager of Our Town. He begins the production by introducing the audience to the world of the production (in this case, that includes instructions on how to kill zombies), provides helpful exposition throughout the play, and ends the evening by guiding a character to accept death. As the heroic dead boy, Matt De Rogartis provides a focused, saddened counterpoint to the teens in the earlier part of the production. Mark Armstrong’s Stage Manager dispenses folksy wisdom with a steely grit that keeps the production on track and renders the threat of the zombies real, and threatening.

And then there are the zombies: an eleven member zombie ensemble, covered in gory makeup, stringy hair, and strange assortment of clothing. Their fixed gazes never changes as they stoop about the stage. Under Barton-Farca’s direction, the zombie crew is never merely hokey. This bunch is downright creepy, and the production is great fun.

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Hunger Pains

Playwright John Patrick Bray, whose one-act On Top, one of six short plays that comprise Rising Sun’s current production, must have been excited when he picked up last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The cover story, a feature on sex columnist and activist Dan Savage, championed the notion that a healthy marriage may require an occasional infidelity. On Top, among the production’s strongest offerings, serves as a near perfect illustration of that argument. As the cuckolded husband, Joe Beaudin strikes a delicate balance of depressed neurosis and sweet optimism. We see why his wife would seek pleasure elsewhere, and at the same time, we understand why she loves him. The other five plays of the evening follow a similar structure to On Top – one character convinces another to accept the unthinkable – but with more outlandish scenarios than a couple discussing betrayal in a grocery store. The fantastic situations, however, seldom yield fantastic results. In The Craving, David L. William’s play which inspires the evening’s title, a couple’s sexy role play reveals still kinkier desires. While EJ Assi infuses his performance with naturalism both in and out of his character’s role-play, Ashley Kyle Miller, as the fetishistic girlfriend, reveals her character’s secret fantasy with the same sense of playacting that she maintains during the much tamer, make believe scenario. Without that necessary shift, what could be a glib examination of desire and consent becomes, instead, a one-note joke.

Some of All Parts, by Mrinalini Kamath, more playfully examines the disjuncture between ego and id, with funnier results. The script’s inventive conceit is carried off with admirable dedication by Jerrod Luke, EJ Assi, and Lindsay Beecher, whose sense of decorum doesn’t quite match her spandexy, reptile print dress, however desirous the character is of sex.

Costuming choices in Len Cuthbert’s Delilah are similarly distracting. Dressed in bright pink pants, an aqua top, and pink hoop earrings, with her hair in a high ponytail and skinny silver bracelets clinking on her wrists, Andrea Cordaro’s outfit screams mall princess to an extent that belies the character’s obsession with quirky chicken jokes. As her dying-of-cancer-best-friend, Tedra Millan contrasts her scene partner’s glitz in a loose, fuzzy brown sweater. Although the script is no subtler than the costume choices, with teenage girls debating the merits of ceasing chemotherapy treatments, if published, Delilah could have a healthy life in high school drama competitions.

Still darker twists on the tensions between desire and death are Jae Kramisen’s Sit Still, a detective drama about a domestic violence victim, and Greg Abbott’s Vultures, a history-based drama that riffs on the emotional baggage of photojournalists. The former juxtaposes scenes of a horrific marriage and a detective office interview following the husband’s disappearance, but the structure grows repetitive and the closing revelation fails to justify the scene's suspense, which builds unevenly in any case. The latter play, which closes the evening, would also be strengthened by some textual trimming, however with themes of starvation and guilt, it provides an appropriate, shadowy bookend to an evening of plays about consumption and want.

The counterweight provided by Vultures is perhaps especially helpful given the fact that each play has a different director, which prevents the evening from cohering as nicely as it otherwise might. That provides a lot of opportunity for members of Rising Sun’s enormous ensemble, as well as for a plethora of guest artists, but the end result feels less like a fully formed evening of theater than it does a showcase of scripts, whose staging could use more time in development.

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Nobody's Dying Today!

Julius by Design by Kara Lee Corthron is the first production by the Fulcrum Theater Company, which “supports NY based writers of color to match the demographic reality of New York City.” The company stresses that their “playwrights are made the artistic directors of their own work.” This put me on alert because I wasn’t sure what this would mean in terms of collaboration with a director. The best thing about Julius by Design is the writing, so Corthron being the artistic director definitely worked. Talented director Debbie Saivetz creates a poignant, flowing, entertaining production with the story clearly told. The play begins with Laurel (Mike Hodge), a rather portly middle-aged black man, sitting in his favorite spot on the couch attempting a crossword puzzle. Hodge is not only an actor but the president of the Screen Actors Guild, which isn’t surprising. Hodge ‘s presence as an actor, particularly his voice, captures attention, and for a quick moment you may be reminded of James Earl Jones. His wife, Jo (Suzanne Douglas), sits near him drawing a face on a pumpkin as the couple banters back and forth. Though this seems like a typical day in the life of this family, there is something seriously wrong. We, the audience, don’t discover this completely because Corthron craftily reveals little bits of information about the plot throughout the play, keeping the feeling of tension and surprise.

It’s been seven years and Laurel and Jo are trying to recover from the death of their only teenage son due to a robbery gone bad. While Jo desperately and optimistically searches out new friends, therapy groups, and pen pals in an effort to fill her painful void, Laurel would rather not have the company or be subjected to unrealistic hope.

Every single character in this play is suffering from loneliness and despondency in their own, often amusing, way. All need to move on with their lives. Crystal Finn as George, the door-to-door knife saleswoman, is both hysterical and empathetic. I found myself at times feeling guilty for laughing at her incongruities of low self-esteem, science geeky-ness, and desperation, but I just couldn’t help it.

Another colorful couple, also dealing with a more recent loss of a child, adds to the feeling of family that this despondent bunch starts to form. Max, played by Curran Connnor, as the tech savvy, devoid of emotion husband, and her ultra-depressed, over-medicated wife, Casey, impeccably played by Christianna Nelson, are a hoot and complement each other nicely.

Ethan (Johnny Ramey), who plays their son’s incarcerated murderer, is a very strong actor. A secret letter writing relationship between Ethan and Jo soon becomes the focal point of the play. Lines blur as Jo starts to get maternal and aids in Ethan’s parole, causing almost fatal friction between Laurel and herself. Ramey also plays Julius, the dead son, in flashbacks and other scenes. His characterization of the two roles are so specific that at first I thought there were two actors. Kudos to Corthron again for giving a very interesting twist when Jo finally meets Ethan and sees what he’s really like as opposed to her impression of him through the letters.

What is missing a bit is the journey for the character Jo (Douglas). Douglas could dig a little deeper into the heart of the role, particularly in her connections to her husband Laurel. Throughout the play Jo is generally tormented and flutters about, but she seems to remain tormented in the same vein despite the changes she’s making throughout the play.

Sound design by Rodrigo Espinosa Lozano adds just the right effect to signify jail scenes in particular. On occasion the sound level is a little distracting, particularly when the TV runs during scenes. Lighting design by Scot Bolman is simple and effective for the three locations. The scenic designer Mikio Suzuki McAdams’s modest practical set works well, and I was glad to see that that no furniture was being moved on and off.

This play’s theme deals with an extremely painful situation, the loss of a child, but it’s also extremely funny and poignant. Saivetz and the talented cast keep energized and on track, so you won’t leave the theater feeling depressed.

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Ahoy, Mateys!

It’s not often that as a theatergoer you get to traipse around a deserted island, sail across the New York Harbor, or enter a real live fort when watching a play. Actually, make that two forts. New York Classical Theatre partners with the River To River Festival for a unique land-and-sea production of William Shakespeare’s Henry V that includes free ferry rides back and forth to Governors Island.

Most Shakespeare aficionados know the earlier part of King Henry’s story, laid out in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, when the ruler was a wayward, affable young lad called Prince Hal. But Henry V is less known, so all attendees are encouraged to read the “If you’re just joining us…” section of the program for a brief synopsis, which sets up the main crux of the story — a war between the English and the French.

Utilizing their signature “panoramic theater” style, NYCT begins the production at the historic Castle Clinton in Battery Park, which stands in for King Henry’s England. Audience members are led from place to place and scene to scene about every five to ten minutes, with ensemble members directing the crowd of up to 500 spectators to the next location. The text has been substantially cut, with about one and half hours of the two-and-half-hour running time devoted to the play itself.

When Henry (called “Harry” at this point in his life) rallies the troops to engage in battle with France, the audience itself becomes his army, led onto an awaiting ferry that whisks cast, crew, and spectators to Governors Island, which stands in for France.

The scale of the production is both challenging and limiting. Utilizing locations in lower Manhattan, the ferry itself, and the former military base in the heart of New York Harbor, the evening is in all honesty a bit exhausting. The many children in the audience loved running to the next bit, but many of the older adults lagged behind, missing the start of many scenes.

The ferry ride transitions were particularly prolonged — calculate how much time it takes to load and unload hundreds of people. The scenes on the ferry each way were mostly lost to all but the few people who sat inside the boat itself. Most of the audience were clamoring for topside views of the downtown skyline.

Astute audience members may ascertain that Henry is actually a warmonger and imperialist, but the early scenes are so fast-paced that it is hard to tell what is going on. The realities of the story are washed over in the spectacle of the presentation, which, though impressive, dilutes the complexity of Shakespeare’s play.

Choosing Henry V is a risky choice that doesn’t really pay off. Many of the characters become lost in a haze of accents. And the accents, for the most part, are pretty awful. It is impossible to sift the Welsh from the English, the Scottish from the Irish. And the raucous trio of British brutes — Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph — are sadly interchangeable and a lot less humorous than the boisterous Falstaff from the middle two plays of the tetralogy (which started with Richard II).

The French accents, in particular, are overdone and cartoon-like, much like the characterizations of the French in general. The Dauphin in particular comes off as a foppish, villainous cross between Pepé le Pew and Inspector Clouseau.

Only Montjoy (the excellent Ian Antal) offers a proper French accent coupled with an honest and sympathetic portrayal of a Frenchmen. His scenes with King Henry (an outstanding Justin Blanchard) are the most memorable in an evening more memorable for the locations than the locution.

The intrigue and political machinations of Henry V may be lost in NYCT’s ambitious production, but audience members young and old eagerly joined in the patriotic spirit on the ferry ride to Governors Island and during the decisive battles.

Overall, Henry V is truly an enjoyable evening from the always clever New York Classical Theatre company. But as Hamlet, the Bard’s most iconic character, would emphasize, “the play’s the thing.” And NYCT’s Henry V is really more about the gorgeous twilight ferry ride to and from Governors Island and the novelty of site specific theater than the play itself.

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Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

As the Irish are known for the gift of gab, it should be no surprise that The Irish Repertory Theatre’s Tryst is full of smooth talking. As an audience member, I found myself so wooed by the characters’ words that I wondered how it would end right up until it in fact ended. Tryst deftly achieves something paradoxically difficult: a clear vision of mystery. Through excellent character work, direction, and design, this production is both beautiful and energized from start to finish. Though at The Irish Repertory Theatre, Tryst is actually the work of British playwright Karoline Leach. It might be set in London and Weston Super Mare, but the play has quite a lot of “Irishness” in it, if you will. I have long been interested in Irish theater, both as a result of my heritage and my theatrical training. So it is that I can tell you some of the characteristics that make Tryst fit in so well. The beautiful language of Irish playwrights is often expressed in monologue form, as is the case in Tryst . Adelaide Pinchin (Andrea Maulella) and George Love (Mark Shanahan) tell their individual stories directly to the audience when not engaged in dialogue. Also, the mixture of comic moments with dramatic content is something often noted in Irish theater. This is certainly present throughout Tryst in a delicate way. We laugh at the situations, but we never laugh at the characters.

Instead, we learn a great deal about the humanity of both Adelaide and George. The performances given by Andrea Maulella and Mark Shanahan are both quite powerful. Shanahan’s self-professed con-man is exceedingly charming, and a good actor himself. In spite of, or perhaps because of, his honesty about his profession, we feel sympathy for him as we watch him lie. As soon as he sees his mark, Maulella’s meek and self-conscious Adelaide, he transforms before our eyes into a distinguished gentleman, complete with an upper class accent.

Maulella is the perfect foil to Shanahan’s bravado, creating a off-centered version of the Laura and Gentleman Caller relationship from The Glass Menagerie . Adelaide is fragile, and George wants to build her up. Yet because the motivations are so different than in the wholesome Tennessee Williams relationship, the audience is relegated to a state of constant questioning of exactly how much each character really knows and cares about the other.

Here I must pause and give credit to director Joe Brancato. It is often hard to see a director’s hand in productions, because all of the positive credit usually is given to actors and designers. But if you look for it, you can see a good director’s subtle shaping of a production. That is the case here. Several times I was struck by the excellent dynamics of the staging. Granted, I was seated so that much of the action faced me. I do wonder how I would feel if I had been seated in the bank of seats to the side. But I cannot stress enough how impressed I am at the visual variety Brancato achieves through blocking only two actors. Also, Brancato is an expert at integrating his actors into the mise en scene, something that is a key to any truly great production.

All the complexities of plot and character are perfectly supplemented by the scenic elements, which fully participate in the juxtaposition of known and unknown elements. Michael Schweikardt’s set is a chameleon. It begins as a stylized series of panels, instantly transporting us to a cold London street. Later we are treated to a much more realistic set, again fully functioning and appropriate. This transformation also owes a great deal to Martin Vreeland’s lighting design, which first creeps through the fog and then brightly reveals what has been hidden. Alejo Vietti’s costume design and Johnna Doty’s sound design are the final key players in this greatly unified design team, and each individual artistic choice forms a coherent whole.

This can be said for every aspect of Tryst . It is rare that I see a production which is so well conceived and executed on all fronts. The play itself is well-written and brings a surprising new take to a type of story that has been told many times before. In short, The Irish Repertory Theatre’s production of Tryst is a fantastic piece of theater, not to be missed. And I’m not just putting you on.

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Ashes of the World

MoLoRa, created and directed by Yael Farber and presented by Women Center Stage, a Culture Project initiative, re-imagines the Oresteia Trilogy through the lens of post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa. It is a riveting tale of violence, injustice, truth, grace, pain, and healing. Farber's play asks us to re-consider the larger questions about our humanity and the ways we, in this global community, are so often dominated by conflict, power, and vengeance. What is our truth? How do we react to violence and injustice? What do we do when faced with seemingly impossible decisions? Do replaying and continuing cycles of violence such as the curse of the House of Atreus serve any purpose? Can we choose a different path? Farber’s retelling of the Oresteia focuses on the first two plays in the cycle, Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers as well as texts by Sophocles and Jean Paul Sartre’s The Flies. The body of the show is the story of the three central characters Klytemnestra, Electra, and Orestes. Agamemnon, the king, is dead. For seventeen years Klytemnestra, played by Dorothy Ann Gould, and Electra, played by Jabulile Tshabalala, have been locked in a dysfunctional cycle of violence, grief, and pain. Mother and Daughter face off, waiting for the return of exiled son, Orestes, played by Sandile Matsheni, who is destined to take revenge against his mother for the killing of their father, Agamemnon. Orestes, when eye-to-eye with his mother, the embodiment of his hatred, is faced with a contradiction: his familial duty to his dead father versus that to his living mother.

The heart and pulse of this show is the chorus, performed by the internationally renowned singers and musicians of the Ngqoko Cultural Group – Tsolwana B Mpaxyipheli, Tandiwe Lungisa, Nofenishala Mvotyo, Nokhaya Mvotyo, Nopasile Mvotyo, Nosomething Ntese, Nogcinile Yekani. This group of performers is simultaneously participant, witness, and representative of everywoman/everyman.

Past and present members of the Ngqoko Cultural Group, founded in 1979 by the late NoFinish Dywili, provide vernacular text translations, the traditional instruments, and song arrangements. The show is driven by their voices, rhythms, wisdom, and experience. They set the stage and tone of the production and guide us on the journey through the characters' stories and testimonies. As noted in the production website, they also “reconstruct the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” and they represent the grace of choosing a different path out of a violent past.

The simplicity of the sets, by Larry Leroux and Leigh Colombick, belies the complexity of the emotional journey of the characters. Two desks with chairs and microphones surround a central platform with a dirt grave; a row of witness chairs is upstage for the chorus. The lighting, original concept by Michael Maxwell and designed by Caleb Wertenbaker, leads us into and out of the story and testimony in golden tones of everyday events contrasted by the harsh fluorescent lighting of giving evidence. The costuming, designed by Natalie Lundon and Johny Mathole, places us in a time between ancient Greece and rural South Africa.

MoLoRa, Farber tells us in her director’s note, is the SeSetho word for “ash.” It is the “handful of cremated remains that Orestes delivers to his mother’s door. From the ruins of Hiroshima, Bagdad, Palestine, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Bosnia, and the concentration camps of Europe.” It is what remains after the burning fires of hate and violence. MoLoRa, told through Greek tragedy, asks us to consider this question in our own world: do we continue these cycles in vengeance and displays of power, or can we find a new path through the pain to healing and understanding?

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Memories from Hurricane Katrinia

The Play About My Dad at 59E59 is a rare gem masterfully guided by an incredible new voice in theater. Boo Killebrew’s beautiful play depicts several heartbreaking stories about the lives of people she knew and loved that were forever altered by Hurricane Katrina. The glue of the play is Boo Killebrew herself and her father Larry Hammond Killebrew, an emergency room doctor who was on duty in Pass Christian, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. The stories the play tells are recollections of Larry and Boo’s memories woven together by their own turmoil. The play opens on a spare stage sprinkled with a few milk crates, old chairs and plywood boards. Larry (Jay Potter) and Boo (Anna Greenfield) enter with scripts in hand. Boo announces to the audience, “ We are going to play with magical realism and time travel and side stories and make the whole thing sort of like a tapestry.” After an awkward introduction from Larry, who reminds us he is not an actor, he and Boo introduce the other characters in the play. Kenny Tyson (Jordan Mahome) and Neil Plitt (TJ Witham) are two childhood friends of Boo’s who happen to be EMT workers on duty the day Hurricane Katrina hit. The scene opens with the two caught up in heated banter about whether or not Kenny, as he claims, can actually travel to other dimensions. Neil does not believe him, but his tone quietly changes when Kenny reveals a piece of news that sends a wave of fear through Neil.

Jay Thomas (Juan Francisco Villa), his wife Rena Thomas (Annie Henk) and their five-year-old son Michael (David Rosenblatt) are locals from Pass Christian. They are in the process of boarding up their windows before the storm hits. Michael is frightened by the loud thunder, but is quickly calmed by his parents who tell him they are going to have a hurricane party. Essie Watson (Geany Masai) is an elderly woman who helped raise Larry as a child. Larry stops by on his way to the hospital to check in on Essie. He tries to get her to go with him, but she refuses to leave her home. “You think I can’t take care of myself?” Essie remarks. “I taught you how to wipe your own backside.”

From there we watch the events of that all-too-familiar day unfold onstage. We watch as families and lives, just like memories and ghosts, are swirled up by nature. We watch as Boo and Larry, through the chaos of nature, gain the courage to finally confront their own memories and ghosts.

The entire cast is absolutely wonderful. Especially noteworthy are Anna Greenfield and Jay Potter. Both give nuanced and heartfelt performances, intimately capturing the complicated and universal relationship between a father and a daughter. During one of Greenfield’s monologues, the play was interrupted by a cellphone buzz. Without batting an eye, Greenfield paused the story and asked that the phone be shut off. It took me a moment to realize that this was not part of the play.

Lee Sunday Evans’s direction is subtle and effective. She creatively uses a somewhat awkward space to the play’s advantage through minimalistic choices. There are no sound effects or dramatic lighting or theatrical movements. She strips the play to its bare bones, allowing the audience to be swept up by the stories onstage mixed with our own memories of that event. Killebrew skillfully navigates a terrain that is full of very big landmines. How do you objectively write a play about yourself and your father? But she manages to do so while avoiding traps- such as sentimentality or self-indulgence or superficial dialogue- that a lesser writer could easily succumb to.

The Play About My Dad is about Boo and her father, sure, but it is also about much more. We waste so much time holding grudges against the people we love, but we never know when that devastating storm will hit in our own lives and never give us the chance to forgive. Luckily for Boo and Larry Killebrew, nature gave them a second chance that they tenderly share with the rest of us.

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Putting the Man in Manipulate

The beautiful but creepy opening tableau of Cherry Lane Theatre’s production of Manipulation sets the tone for this cerebral production. A woman is lying down. A slowly spreading spotlight on her face gradually reveals several marionettes invading her space. This artistic representation of the greater metaphors of the show is a perfect example of this production’s brave interpretation of Victoria E. Calderon’s American debut. If you are looking for a high-flying (or crashing) action epic, this is not your show. Calderon and Cherry Lane bring you an aesthetically pleasing production of a complex play, making it an exciting prospect for those of you who enjoy the rare delicacies of thought-provoking theater. Set in a place designated only as “Latin America,” Manipulation does an excellent job of literally setting the stage for a story specifically not set in the United States. I am far from an expert on the “Latin American” play, a term that is complicated by the lack of discrete boundaries for Latin America. Yet there are certain aesthetic sensibilities that stand out in all of the Latin American plays that I have read, and it is of vast importance that these themes are being exposed to US audiences in such a well organized production. The most notable of these themes is the palpable violence. Both physical and emotional violence are inflicted on characters in the show, while shadowy camouflaged figures are occasionally seen around the periphery of the action.

This leads me to the overall wonderful design of the show, which does a great deal to facilitate Director Will Pomerantz’s clear stage pictures. Bill Stabile’s towering wooden structure is comprised of sticks, making it seem both permanent and permeable. With the addition of Kirk Bookman’s delicate lighting design and Jeremy Lee’s operatic sound design, the scenic elements are able to play many roles. Sometimes they are as ambiguous as the plot itself.

I can’t pretend that this is an action packed show, so if you are looking for high flying stunts, you should go elsewhere. But if you are ready to be intellectually stimulated, then this is the show for you. Calderon’s protagonist Cristina, well played by Marina Squerciati, is constantly abused by the men around her. The misogynistic power order of this world is clearly established, yet things are not so simple. Despite Cristina’s complaining about her philandering, king-like husband Mauricio (Robert Bogue), Cristina herself has affairs and is free to take extravagant trips to Paris for two months. Nothing in Manipulation is how it seems at first. In the end we must ask ourselves who is being manipulated by whom. Is Cristina the victim?

These questions are posed more often than they are answered. Adding to the mystery are a series of choreographed moments throughout the show that hearken back to the puppets who opened the show. In the midst of realistic dialogue, the highly stylized moments lead us to question what we are seeing. At one time or another each and every actor channels the marionettes. At one point Mauricio is Cristina’s puppet-master, yet again we see that things are not that cut and dry. In a scene towards the end, all of the other people in Cristina’s life are puppets, and Cristina watches them. Is this meant to suggest that everyone else is a puppet, but Cristina is separate? In this instance, Cristina is the only one who can see that she is being manipulated. Or are we to infer that Cristina is actually controlling these people who she sees to have abused her? Characters are constantly telling Cristina that she is the only one who can save herself.

The uncertainty is not disconcerting. In fact, the twists and turns keep the audience engaged, as does some of the eloquent prose. The performance that I saw was peppered with murmurs of appreciation after particularly powerful lines. Every person who goes to the theater secretly hopes for a moment of illumination in the show, a line or a moment that reveals some fundamental truth articulated in a new way. This play delivers. Indeed, this play delivers overall. Combining a solid production with the kind of play too rarely offered to US audiences, Cherry Lane Theatre’s Manipulation is a great night at the theater.

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New York Classical Theatre’s Henry VTakes Place on Land and at Sea

Now celebrating its 12th season, New York Classical Theatre continues its mission of presenting free productions of classics of the theater in public spaces with their upcoming version of William Shakespeare's Henry V, opening Wednesday, July 6.

Partnering for the first time with the River To River Festival for that organization's 10th anniversary, NYCT will stage Shakespeare's seafaring, swashbuckling history play at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, on a boat ride across the harbor, and at the historic Fort Jay on Governors Island.

NYCT founder and artistic director Stephen Burdman calls Henry V "our most ambitious production ever, with a cast of 40, the company's largest ever," adding that "it's not often that theater artists and audiences get to enjoy a set that encompasses two islands and a waterway."

Previous NYCT programming has made use of Central Park (including the recent School for Husbands by Moliere), the World Financial Center (last spring's The Rover by Aphra Behn), and Battery Park (Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart in 2006).

NYCT's signature staging style, called Panoramic Theatre, literally makes "the venue a character in the play, much like an actor. The venue becomes an active member of the ensemble," according to Burdman. If someone or something interrupts or wanders into the staging area, the actors simply integrate them into the scene, bringing them into the play.

Because the audience follows the actors from place to place, the spectators become active participants in the drama itself. Burdman mentioned a particular instance when an audience member's dog barked wildly as Antigonus "exited pursued by a bear" in NYCT's 2002 Central Park production of Twelfth Night.

With Henry V, New York Classical Theatre will have produced 26 free plays in its 12-year history for over well over 100,000 spectators (which does not include those additional folks who watched the rehearsals that also took place in the public venues).

Burdman says that NYCT's hallmark is accessibility, offering open-air theater free of charge to people of all ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and income levels. "We want to make sure everyone is having a good time, but this is not dumbed-down Shakespeare," he adds. "This is a quality theater experience."

"At a recent show," says Burdman, "a young woman introduced herself to me and told me she had been coming to New York Classical Theatre productions since she was in the sixth grade. When I asked her what grade she was in now, she replied 'college.' So she has become a lifelong theatergoer."

Burdman typically cuts the texts of the plays so that NYCT shows run under 2 hours, but this special semi-maritime show will have a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, which includes the 10-15 minute ferry ride (each way) back and forth to Governors Island.

Special wristbands (limited to two per person) will be handed out from 5-6:30pm in front of Castle Clinton on the day of each performance. Only 500 will be available and are required for the free transportation to Governors Island, which has been generously donated by Statue Cruises. Performances begin promptly at 7pm.

With Henry V, audience members will journey with King Henry (the now mature young Prince Hal from Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) and his army from 15th century England (Battery Park) across the English Channel (New York Harbor) to France (Governors Island) where the famous Battle of Agincourt will be staged.

In addition, there will be dramatic scenes on both legs of the ferry ride, with the final set of scenes in Battery Park with the King of France traveling to England to deliver the peace treaty.

"I always look to challenge myself as a director and producer -- and to challenge the audience," says Burdman. Staging a classic William Shakespeare play on land and at sea is a challenge indeed.

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