Just Do Art: The See It On Stage Edition

At Abrons Arts Center through Oct. 29, “Why Why Always” uses Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 film “Alphaville” as a jumping off point. Photo by Paula Court.

“WHY WHY ALWAYS” | Set in a dark dystopia where supercomputer Alpha 60 pulls the strings and pushes the buttons of an emotionally lobotomized population, “Alphaville” is a gritty, bullet-ridden, noirish nightmare through which a chain-smoking, trench coat-wearing secret agent assumes the guise of a journalist (talk about Fake News!) to track down the computer’s inventor and bring him in from the cold. By no means derivative yet certainly owing debts to George Orwell and Raymond Chandler, French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 black and white prophecy of doom still packs a wallop — but its then-futuristic vision of technology as the ruler of a single city didn’t foresee an Internet with the power to engage, stimulate, and placate on a global scale.

Taking Goddard’s film as “a foundation and a jumping off point,” the longtime collaborative team of Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty have crafted a hybrid stage presentation that defies mere categorization as “multimedia” (although that’s a good place to start). Using performance, dance, live-feed cameras, sound, scale models and other we-won’t-spoil-it-for-you elements, “Why Why Always” mimics certain plot points and buzzwords from “Alphaville” while mapping its own search “ for the human, poetic and emotional amidst a landscape of mechanization, isolation and control.” The contemporary phenomenon of online ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos also has a key role in the world of “Why Why Always,” with repetitious, seemingly soothing acts (such as towel folding) rendered both comforting and ominous when placed alongside a world of whispers, secrets, and seductresses — and that’s all the explanation we’re going to attempt, still swooning as we are from the show’s video trailer (available for view via their website).

Wed., Oct. 25 through Sat., Oct. 28 at 7:30pm; Sun., Oct. 29 at 4pm. At Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St., btw. Pitt & Willett Sts.). For tickets ($25), call 212-352-3101 or visit abronsartscenter.org. Show info at whywhyalways.automaticrelease.org.

A NYC cabbie comes clean with tales of the gritty city in “Off the Meter, On the Record” at the Irish Repertory Theatre through Nov. 5. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

“OFF THE METER, ON THE RECORD” and “THE HOME PLACE” at the IRISH REPERTORY THEATRE | You don’t need to wait for their holiday production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to appreciate how much better off the world is with the Irish Repertory Theatre in it. Attending two current productions from this nonprofit Chelsea gem will do more than just earn your angel wings — it will send you out of the W. 22nd St. facility hungering for more (a craving that can be attended to somewhere between Nov. 29 and Dec. 31, when their live radio play version of George Bailey’s redemption tale takes place).

Good news in the meantime: Two of Irish Rep’s stalwart stewards are helming current projects. Through Nov. 5 on the W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage, producing director Ciarán O’Reilly is the director of “Off the Meter, On the Record” — writer/performer John McDonagh’s world premiere solo work based on 35 years spent as the driver of a NYC yellow taxi. Eons before apps and ages before Uber, McDonagh answered the hails of everyone from Upper East Side matrons to celebrities, with an occasional consulting job thrown in (he was the one who taught Richard “Top Gear” Hammond how to beat the mean streets of Manhattan while in cabbie mode). Pithy and poignant, McDonagh blends classic NYC seen-it-all observational humor with earthy Irish storytelling.

“The Home Place” takes place in the Irish town of Donegal during a sweltering 1878 summer; at the Irish Repertory Theatre through Nov. 19. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Through Nov. 19 on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage, artistic director Charlotte Moore directs Brian Friel’s “The Home Place.” Set in the northwest coastal town of Donegal during a sweltering 1878 summer, Ireland’s dawning Home Rule movement has nationalist tensions already simmering by the time a doctor arrives determined to demonstrate the indigenes’ “inferior place in the natural order.” His measuring of craniums doesn’t sit well with the villagers, nor does this politically dangerous form of Darwinism do much to improve relations with his cousin — a liberal-minded Anglo-Irish landlord who, along with his son, has a romantic interest in Margaret, the dutiful “chatelaine” at the lodge in which they all reside.

“Off the Meter, On the Record” plays through Nov. 5: Wed. at 3pm & 8pm; Thurs. at 7pm; Fri. at 8pm; Sat. at 3pm & 8pm; Sun. at 3pm. Tickets are $50. “The Home Place” plays through Nov. 19: Wed. at 3pm & 8pm; Thurs. at 7pm; Fri. at 8pm; Sat. at 3pm & 8pm; and Sun. at 3pm. Tickets are $50-$70. For reservations to both shows, call 212-727-2737 or visit irishrep.org.  Irish Repertory Theatre is at 132 W. 22nd St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.).

—BY SCOTT STIFFLER

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