Photo by Nikola Horejs
“REVOLUTION ?!” director Pavel Dobrusky and some of the rare actors you can depend on
Trav S.D. on Theater
Our Mr. S.D. contemplates March’s lion/lamb conundrum
BY TRAV S.D.
This year I predict that the month of March, instead of coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb, will enter like Pepe LePew and exit like a beautifully plumed peacock — that is, if it is anything like February was.
About Last Month…
Charles Mee’s “Fêtes de la Nuit,” at the Ohio Theatre, delivered as promised an exquisite American love poem to Paris as we have always imagined it to be: romantic, intellectual, sexual, snobbish, full of wine-drinking and chain-smoking, and mercifully bereft of Freedom Fries. Mee, of course, is a playwright of the first water, but the real treat of the production was Kim Weild’s direction, full of gorgeous stage compositions making full use of the Ohio’s deep playing space. Weild appears to run a tight ship; her spirited ensemble had clearly been drilled in their parts and drilled again until they burst out the other side into wonderful, assured performances. Stereotypes, yes, but affectionate ones.
I was likewise privileged to attend Charles Busch’s workshop production of “The Divine Sister” (a send-up of nun movies) at Theater for the New City. It is possibly Busch’s funniest play to date. The room was packed with adoring fans of course, each primed to guffaw at every actor’s tiniest twitch and tick, but the laughs were right there in the script. In a charmingly old-fashioned curtain speech at the end, Busch explained his motive in bringing his Broadway-level shenanigans back to his LES roots: “to have fun.” All I know is I’m grateful I got to see it.
“Julian Eltinge” at Dixon Place was an interesting hybrid. This biographical tale of the once-famous female impersonator combined Clay McLeod Chapman’s finely wrought monologues with Rick Sorkin’s moving music and a performance by Jeffrey Marsh, who acts affectingly and sings like an angel. (I swear it’s just a coincidence I went to see two drag-related shows in rapid succession). For all its virtues, “Eltinge” is a work-in-progress. As of this writing, it needs more development to bring its various elements into alignment, but the creators are off to a strong start.
Coming Your Way in March…
On March 4, the “Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre” will be opening their new show “Revolution!?” You think I’m kidding? Would I lead you astray? The answer is yes, but I still recommend this production. I caught this company’s version of “Faust” a couple of years ago and found it to be genuinely entertaining in a way that would be satisfying to most intelligent grown-ups, full of irreverent one-liners and lefty political observations of the sort Paul Krassner might make. So what if the actors are all held up with string? I’ve seen shows featuring live actors who could have used propping up by a couple of puppeteers. The company’s current production is about Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution in 1989. If you don’t know what that is, I’d advise you to see the production rather than avoid it. It will be playing at Theater for the New City through March 21. Go to theaterforthenewcity.net for info and tickets.
In case you’ve spent the winter hibernating, Theatre 80 St. Marks has ceased to be the headquarters of the Pearl Theatre Company. The legendary downtown venue, is now in the curatorial hands of Lorcan Otway, the original owner’s son — who’s been booking plays and films in the space. Lorcan’s a well-known folk musician who’s performed in many of my vaudeville shows (he plays several instruments, including the Uilleann pipes), in addition to being a lawyer, an activist, a Quaker, and part Roma (the people formerly known as Gypsy). He couldn’t be uninteresting if he tried. As of March 7, his theatre will also be the home of the Museum of the American Gangster. Helmed by Eric Ferrara, executive director of the Lower East Side History Project (whose book “A Guide to Gangsters, Murderers and Weirdoes of New York City’s Lower East Side” I reviewed in these pages), the museum promises to offer “an authentic speakeasy and a maze of hidden rooms and artifacts.” Still in the preview stage, the museum will be open Mondays through Saturdays, 12-5. This reviewer intends to be kind, having no desire to wind up in concrete galoshes. For more info go to moagnyc.org.
March 15 (beware the Ides) marks not an opening, but a sad closing. “The New York Downtown Clown Monthly Revue,” which has been at the Theatre Under St. Marks for nearly four years will be presenting its last regular show that day. This monthly workout has long been the place for insiders to go check out Every Clown Who’s Any Clown in NYC as they try out new material for an enthusiastic, supportive audience. Yes, a lot of whipped cream has been spilled in that theatre. If you want to be among those to watch this Ship of Fools sail on, more details at newyorkdowntownclown.com.
March 18 is the opening night of “The Two Gentlemen of Lewbowski,” DM Theatrics’ smash-up of the Bard of Avon with the Coen Brothers. Good luck getting tickets. The instant the production was announced, Lebowski freaks from as far away as Sweden started making their plans to attend. (For those with real lives: the Coen Bros. film “The Big Lebowski” has an international cult following of pot-bellied, pot-smoking bowling fanatics. Look out, ladies! They’re coming your way!) DM Theatrics is helmed by pop culture junkie Frank Cwiklik, a famous control freak who designs all the lighting and sound for the shows he directs, and executes the cues from the booth himself. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked with the company many a time over the past decade.) Their previous successes include “Bitch MacBeth” and “Sugar Baby,” and several adaptations of the works of Edward D. Wood, Jr., Hollywood’s worst film director. If that sounds to your liking, “Lebowksi” is hanging out its shingle at the Kraine Theatre, where it will play through April 4. To see what all the fuss is about, go to dm-theatrics.com.
Officially opening March 21 at HERE Arts Center is Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company’s “Alice in Slasherland.” Penned by company co-founder Qui Nguyen, a playwright, director and fight choreographer, the play tells the heartwarming story of a young lad who accidentally resurrects the soul of a murder victim, unleashing “a literal hell on earth” that “totally ruins the senior prom.” The Vampire Cowboys are all about the fight choreography, so go expecting to see lots of hilarious donnybrooks, mixed in with good old-fashioned horror stage effects. Performances run through April 10. Go to here.org for more info…if you dare.
And speaking of blood, what could be more sanguinary than a production entitled “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?” If it makes the seventh President of the United States sound a little like Freddy Krueger, so be it; “Old Hickory” ended the lives of more than a few British soldiers and Native Americans from both the battlefield and the White House. And what better subject material for a musical satire? I just hope it has lots of banjoes. This very populist sounding show will be at the Public Theater from March 23 through April 25. For info and tix visit: publictheater.org.