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After a summer’s worth of festivals, Downtown theater gets back to basics
BY TRAV S. D. | Hello, and welcome to our special “Back to School” edition of the Downtown Theater Column. Many bargains here, but more importantly: Expect to get schooled!
August 30 through September 15, No Tea Productions will be presenting “SPACE CAPTAIN: Captain of Space,” a multimedia spoof of 1930s science fiction serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Though it sounds more than a little like “Spacemen from Space” (a multimedia spoof of 1930s science fiction serials which I performed in a couple of years ago), my mind is open to the possibility that it could pass muster, or even jet into uncharted territory. For example, the current production claims that it is entirely “in black and white” — which would be quite a feat for a live stage show. Just how they accomplish that trick is enough to intrigue me! I don’t know this company’s work, so I can’t promise that this show will be up to my high standards for low entertainment. But at least it’s a chance to watch grown men run around in feety pajamas shooting toy ray guns at one another, and that’s not to be sneezed at. “Space Captain” will be playing at the Kraine Theater. More info can be found at noteaproductions.com.
August 31, the Bats (the resident company of The Flea Theater) will open “Job.” This version of the Old Testament story about the most put-upon man in history is written by controversial African-American playwright Thomas Bradshaw — who’s been raising the hackles of audiences and critics for years with provocative, politically incorrect plays like “Purity,” “Burning,” “Southern Promises” and “Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist.” While the marketing material promises that his take on “Job” is “honest” and “uncynical,” one still can’t help wondering what outrages he will commit upon it. And I mean that in a good way. “Job” will be playing through October 7. Info and tickets at theflea.org.
September 3 through October 1, the Origin Theatre Company will be presenting the fifth annual addition of First Irish, billed as the world’s only theater festival dedicated to Irish playwrights. The month-long festival features plays and musicals by 11 contemporary Irish playwrights (plus Eugene O’Neill), in productions from Belfast, Dublin, Boston and New York — as well as a number of scholarly panel discussions, readings and film screenings. First Irish will be taking place at several theaters throughout the city, including the Irish Rep, 59E59 Theaters, the Irish Arts Center, the National Arts Club and The Drilling Company Theatre. It runs through October 1. More info at 1stirish.org.
Here’s a bit of welcome news. Circus Amok — the radical anarchist circus run by “woman with a beard” (never “bearded lady”) Jennifer Miller — returns after a long hiatus, with a four-borough tour of their new show, “Moo.” The 12-member troupe of clowns, acrobats and musicians mixes traditional big top feats of derring-do with some kind of crazy narrative about cops, creditors and a cow on the loose (hence the title). The citywide tour launches September 8, with the Downtown Manhattan shows taking place on September 23, at 1 and 4pm in Tompkins Square Park. Circusamok.org for more details.
September 11-16, an outfit named Gobsmacked Productions is offering a revival of their 1996 show “Sicks: An Evening With Six of the Most Notorious Women in History.” The villainous sextet consists of Lizzie Borden, Bonnie Parker, Catherine the Great, Ma Barker, Queen Mary I and Squeaky Fromme. I think they left out a few notorious women, including some I know personally. Be that as it may, I look forward to spending an hour or two with such interesting conversationalists as these. The show promises to “walk you through life from their sick and twisted perspectives as they tell their own versions of what really happened to land them in the spotlight.” I’m so there! The limited run will be presented at Walkerspace, which also houses Soho Rep. Tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006.
September 12-22, the Workshop Theater Company is presenting a “Play-in-Progress” production of a musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi,” at the Jewel Box Theater. Anyone who knows the book will be highly curious as to how such a thing can be made stageworthy (it’s part memoir, part rambling tall tale, part travelogue, part history, part instructional manual and no “story”). Still, stranger things have happened. Both “Oh! Calcutta!” and “Cats!” ran for years. For more info, go to workshoptheater.org.
And if you haven’t been hearing enough about Ayn Rand lately, this show by Michael Yates Crowley and Michael Rau of the company Wolf 359 should put you over the top: “Song of a Convalescent Ayn Rand Giving Thanks to the Godhead (in the Lydian Mode).” Playing a myriad of characters, the team previously responsible for “The Ted Haggard Monologues” and “Righteous Money” mash up comical songs, sketches and poems all revolving around the original evangelist of the church of selfishness. The show runs at IRT September 15-29. Tickets are free or pay-what-you-can, and can be reserved at brownpapertickets.com.
September 21-30, a highly unique theatrical performance event will be taking place in the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. An entire four-walled, fully furnished and functional ranch house is being built inside the space — in which a trio of actors will be performing a 90-minute play on a loop all day, every day, from 1 to 9pm. The actors will be improvising their movement throughout the house. Spectators can watch the free event through the windows. The script, called “Habit” was written by Jason Grote, long a Downtown indie theater stalwart who has gone on to great success as a television writer. It’s all part of the Crossing the Line festival, co-presented by Performance Space 122 and The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). For more info, fiaf.org/ctl.
September 22, 1-8pm look for a bevy of fine free performances along East Fourth Street, as Fourth Arts Block puts on its annual Fab! Festival. The schedule is not yet posted, but one thing I can promise you’ll see is a co-presentation by yours truly and the Innovative Theatre Awards Foundation. I’ll be hosting and presenting an afternoon of Freak Fiction featuring me, the Lady Aye, Dandy Darkly, Steve Bird, Bobby Oahu (aka Josh Hartung), et al. Full schedule and locations TBA, at gabnyc.org.
See you there, I hope!