Theater2020 MURDERS Assassins!

16 Mar

“Everyone has a right to their dreams and to be happy”, right? Sure, that seems like an easy pill to swallow. But what if their dream is to assassinate the president? Now, we must pause. This is what hit me within the first five minutes of Theater2020’s powerful and timely production of Assassins by Stephen Sondheim. I wish I could say that I was able to stop wrestling with that question and simply “enjoy” the show, but that would be a lie. Thanks to purposeful direction by David Fuller, this production doesn’t let the audience off the hook so easily and makes us ponder the inconceivable; do murderers deserve to be humanized and understood? I didn’t clap once until the show was over because of how profound this show is, not because there was ANY lack of talent on stage.


What happens when some of the USA’s most infamous presidential killers meet in an altered reality to connect with each other over their heinous acts? The result is hilarity and unnerving truths that we do not want to acknowledge because it scares us as it reveals the darker sides of the human condition. The cast does a great job of forcing the audience to sit with their feelings. We sit so close to the stage and the performers use the whole theater, which means that you can’t escape no matter how badly you want to check out. Amber Dewy serves as the narrator and lastly as Lee Harvey Oswald. Her magnetic voice strikes to the core. Dewey shape shifts well, switching vocal styles seamlessly. There’s no weak spot in her voice and it’s a pleasure to listen to her. Christian Doyle plays John Hinckley so well that we believe that the only way for him to win Jodie Foster’s love is to kill Ronald Reagan. His vulnerability is so honest that we can’t help but feel for his plight and root for him (almost).Insane! Bringing outstanding comedy to the show is Danny Wilfred. He saves us from total despair by making us laugh at the most inappropriate times. The rest of the cast impresses as well and all are praiseworthy.

But is doing a show like Assassins glorifying these men and women who have caused so much pain? Or is it a way to remind us all about mental illness and perhaps the need for stricter gun  control? Well, I leave that up to you to decide. But with our current political climate I urge you to be brave and go see this show. This is top-notch off off Broadway theater and yet again, a prime example of Theater That Matters! Simply put, they MURDER this production.

Assassins plays now through March 25, 2018 at 182 Remsen St., St. Francis College


Brietwisch Farms is FARMtastic!

13 Mar

Sometimes we go to the theater to be entertained and there’s nothing wrong with that! But sometimes we are lucky enough to learn at the same time. If you are seeking mere entertainment, don’t go see this show. However if you are seeking a thought-provoking, socially conscious, and morally engaging piece of theatre please go see Breitwisch Farm by Jeremy S. Kamps. Based on Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, this play is a firecracker brought to us Esperance Theater Company.

Doing a modern adaptation of a classic work is always dangerous. But in this case, it pays off ten-fold. For a full description of the Cherry Orchard please see ( But, Kamps play asks what happens when Web returns home to find that his mother’s farm in Wisconsin is in danger of being foreclosed upon? To his surprise and dismay, no one seems to care or take it too seriously. Web does not plan on staying too long but in comes Tai, a youthful idealist who captures his heart. On the farm we also meet Dolores and her son Oscar, immigrants from Mexico whose father was deported five years ago. Oscar has the potential to attend college on a full scholarship because of his academic and athletic prowess, but that comes to an dramatic end when racist teenage boys cripple him because of his ethnic origin.  

Chekhov was primarily concerned with the disappearance of the middle class. This play deals with our loss of agriculture and how we treat farmers, especially migrant ones. There are other story lines and themes that emerge throughout the play, such as fracking, human rights and political tensions. Weaving all these issues together into one play seems daunting, but playwright Jeremy S. Kamps does a masterful job of joining these events together like a skilled seamstress.

But what’s a play without its actors? Nothing! The cast is stellar. There is not one weak link in this knockout production. The chemistry between Joe Tapper (Web) and Danata Esperanza (Tai) are breathtaking and heart-wrenching at the same time. Their scenes moved me to tears beyond words. Alejandro Rodriguez is powerful as Oscar. His journey from arrogant youth to a leading young man is praiseworthy. Equally as impressive is Maria Peyramaure as Dolores. She is simply stunning and no other words are needed. I could say something flattering about all the actors in this gorgeous cast, but for the sake of brevity I will keep it short.

Simply put, you MUST see this show. It is awe-inspiring, meaningful, and eye-opening. If this is a taste of what Esperance has to offer us; timely socially conscious theater, I say bring it on in abundance. Thanks to them my belief in the transformative power of theater was reaffirmed. They say that “their roots run deep”. After seeing this wonderful production, I couldn’t agree more. This is a prime example of affordable, outstanding theater offered in the off off broadway community. And if you can’t afford it, they are generous enough to offer community tickets-free tickets-for those who otherwise might not be able to afford a night at the theater. This is a must see show and certainly a profound example of Theater That Matters.

Breitwisch Farm runs now through March 16, 2010 at Town Stages 221 West Broadway.

Let’s Talk about Disability Theater

25 Feb

So let’s talk about disabilities in theater. Yes it is important to educate our younger audiences. yeah we can do so without treating them like they are clueless. I want to see Addy and Uno today. I left this production bewildered. One part of me was grateful that they are having the discussion in the first place, but the other part of me was somewhat disappointed. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for and often and we are talking down to them.

It’s one thing to show characters on stage who are disabled and fighting for what they want. But it’s quite another to have characters who are solely defined by their disability. And sadly that’s what happened today. As a disabled person myself, I want children to recognize that people with disabilities are just like them. This production tries to do that, but when everything is so on the nose it makes it hard to have any nuances and give rich character development. These are the elements of good theater and children deserve no less. In fact throughout my years as an educator and artist, I have founds children to be some of the most astute audience members ever.

in the 21st century, I think it’s high time to see people with disabilities portrayed in a realistic light rather than mere stereotypes. While I applaud the  intentions and efforts of this show, it is almost like a movie of the week after school special. I believe its intended to be an educationally profound piece of theatre. I wonder if anyone on the production team had to disability themselves? The characters did not ring true and were cartoonish. It tried to “beat us over the head” with its message that bullying is bad and being different is OK. We get this standpoint in the first five minutes. Then the show has no where to go. We, I include myself as a member of the disabled  community, are not just heroes and victims. But we can be bullies and villains. We come in all shapes and forms and deserve to be represented that way. Children need to see us like everybody else, not preached down to about how we “should” be viewed.

YES, bullying and disabilities should be talked about and have the potential to make for gripping pieces of theater. Unfortunately, Addy and Uno, as cute as these puppets are, fail to ring true.  Am I being a little harsh?  Maybe, but people with disabilities are fighting every day to be seen as fully fleshed-out living human beings. Our younger audience members know when they are being talked down to. Children’s Theater can be a great vehicle for change and education, but it must be done so in a more subtle yet truthful manner. We need a more honest approach to presenting this to the public or else we get put in a box and no one likes that!

Brilliant Traces Needs a Reality Check

17 Feb



The wind howls on a cold blustery night in Alaska. Snow is blanketing the Earth, making everything white, separating the difference between the air and sky. Such is the setting of Cindy Lou Johnson’s emotionally charged work, Brilliant Traces. Produced by Art of Warr, this work has a lot of potential, but lacks feasibility.


The premise is this, Rosannah DeLuce is an unstable woman and somehow miraculously drives from Arizona to Alaska over weeks of time in her wedding gown. Her car dies in the terrible storm and she somehow finds herself knocking on Henry Harry’s door. Henry is somewhat of a loner and Rosannah disrupts his isolated life. The next 90 minutes focus on them revealing, their past baggage that still drives them into despair. Despite the hard to believe circumstance, these two broken souls form a connection and they start to negotiate an unlikely relationship.


When you go to the theater, you are asked to suspend your disbelief. I have no problem with that. Yet when circumstances are so unlikely, it is hard to get past it and makes it hard to believe in the rest of the play. Unfortunately, that is what happens here, it is too far fetched and we have trouble buying into the scenario. For example, Rosannah  doesn’t remember driving from Arizona to Alaska as she claims to have been hallucinating the whole time. And when she ends up there somehow, her dress is in pristine condition. Now if she really drove that far of a distance and then walked in a snowstorm, wouldn’t her dress show signs of wear and tear? This lack of attention to detail makes the set up more difficultr to believe.


Yet, the script has potential. It is reminiscent of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley. With strong performances by Blake Merriman and Alyssa May Gold, there are gems of magic. However, the writing is monologue heavy and it makes it seem like a competition between the two actors over whose life is worse, rather that two people who are lost finding each other. The actors do their best with script, but fall into emotional indulgence every so often. Merriman has moments where his soul comes pouring out of him and we fall in love with him. Gold has similar moments, but her character is so dysfunctional that it makes it hard for her to truly connect and bring forth a lot of innocence.


I left the theater a little bewildered, but not completely disappointed. Johnson is on to something, but more realistic circumstances would help us buy into this piece from the beginning.

Where is Jericho?

30 Jan

What makes us attracted to those that are bad for us? Why do we stay in unhealthy relationships? Can anything good come from bad? These are the central questions that Jericho, a new play by Michael Weller dives into. Although he explores these issues poignantly, the overall play fails to deliver as it is too scattered in its current state.

Set in Coney Island in 1932, Jericho, a charismatic man without any real skills, finds himself working on a carousel. One night, a young girl, Julie, enters the carousel and instantly falls head over heals for Jericho. However, Jericho’s boss, Mrs. Mosca is also pining for him and in a heated scene bans Julie from ever riding the carousel again. But Jericho won’t have it and quits the carousel, his only paying job, and pursues a roller-coaster relationship with the, innocent, yet outspoken Julie. Penniless, the new couple end up living with Mrs. Hendrick. When Jericho learns of Julie’s pregnancy, he begins to look for ways to earn fast money. Unfortunately for him, Tynk, a scoundrel, entices him to commit robbery. Then in Act two all hell breaks loose and Julie’s left to pick up the pieces.

Act one starts off strong as the three strongest actors in the play: Hannah Sloat, (Julie), Stephanie Pope (Mrs. Mosca), and Vasile Flutur (Jericho) occupy the stage for most of the time. Their connection to each other and the broken love triangle they form captivate the audience. It is here where the heart and soul of Weller’s work dwells. Flutur plays the deeply troubled and damaged Jericho with many layers. We love seeing him negotiate the nuances and subtleties of his character. Pope plays Mrs. Mosca with power, yet shows her softness for Jercho well. Sloat adds a nice contrast as the fiery, outspoken Julie. Yet her overall innocence shines through and we are always on her side against all odds.

Unfortunately the rest of the cast is not as strong and it falls apart in Act two. Erinn Holmes plays Mrs. Hendrick, an older woman who owns a photography shop where Julie and Jericho stay when they are homeless. Holmes tries very hard to portray her character. Yet, she puts on affected speech and tries to sound older than she is. This does not work in her favor. Her speech is so strangely pronounced that it sounds fake and forced. This makes it hard to listen to her as she is clearly struggling on stage. This makes for an uncomfortable performance. Maybe it was because I was seated in the first row, but it is clear that she is wearing copious amounts of make-up thickly layered on. This does not serve her or the play well as we instantly know that she is not the right age for her character. It makes it hard to take her seriously. A simpler approach in terms of make-up and speech would greatly enhance her authenticity.

But in general, Act two loses its potency as Weller adds in extra scenarios that we do not need. There is a narrative character always on stage and though his complete presence adds a nice ominous tone in Act one, in Act two he speaks to the audience more and it seems to come out of nowhere. Sometimes he is integral and powerful, but often he is just unnecessary and detracts us from the heart of the play. There are similar moments when the dialogue gets wonky and starts to feel like a cliche rather than true discourse.

Yet, the very last scene (which I won’t give away) gets us back on track and tears at our heart strings. Sloat and Flutur save this act from being a total train wreck. I hope Weller will revise his play and let these honest moments that touch us stand and remove all the clutter that’s around them. It seems as if Weller is stuck between writing very poignant moments that come pouring out of his soul and other moments where he is in his head and trying to force an outcome. When Weller let’s go and writes from his soul we are transported and moved. But when he tries to be “crafty” he loses us. Right now. Jericho, like its main characters, is stuck between worlds and is a diamond in the rough. But, the most important thing is that the diamond is there, it just needs to be polished up before it can shine to its true potential.

Enemy of the People is No Enemy of Mine!

16 Jun

What makes a classic work a classic? Is it just that it’s old and written a long time ago? Or is it because its message is timeless? The latter certainly is the case with An Enemy of the People by Ibsen. Wheelhouse Theater Company does a great job dusting off this play, and showing that it still packs a punch today.

What happens when morals and integrity threatens economic life? We have certainly seen these to opposing forces contend with each other throughout history. And unfortunately, for the Stockman family it drives a wedge between two brothers that is irreparable. Thomas Stockman, a revered doctor in this town, has made an awful discovery about the water used for the baths that attract people from all over the country to visit. Unfortunately, the water and piping is poisonous and deadly for all those who come in contact with it. He believes that this is a “no-brainer” and his brother, Peter, who just happens to the mayor of the town, will have this situation taken care of at once by replacing the pipes and purifying the water. But Peter, who walks a fine line between authority and abusing his position of power, reveals that it is not so simple. It would cost a lot to repair the pipes and would take a lot of time. These factors would upset the big-wigs of this town who would stand to lose money during that time. Peter wants his brother to sweep it under the rug and pretend that the poison isn’t there. However,  Thomas knows that silence would equal death for a lot of people and therefore, refuses to stay silent about his discovery and insists that his brother does the “right ” thing. Sadly, his decision comes with a heavy price for him and his family. Things keep escalating until the crucible is reached and then everything explodes.

The cast does an applause worthy job of getting at the heart of this drama. Michael Schantz and David kenner battle well as the two brothers. It feels like you are at a boxing match watching two heavyweights duke it out for the title. And they hit hard. The audience is on the edge of their seats watching these two give everything they can muster up in this winner-takes-all war.

Director Jeff Wise makes very clever use of his cast. Interestingly, they never leave the stage until the very end and provide help to each other by being jacket repositories, prop handlers, et al. Like a true ensemble, they sit at the same time. Yet, cleverly, Wise never lets his stylistic touches interfere with the story being told. In fact, having everyone on stage all the time adds fuel to the fire and keeps the play going seamlessly. We don’t get to catch our breath until the last second- which is a good thing.

As I asked what makes a classic earn that honor of being called such? Whatever it is, this play has it and this cast serves it up well. You may be fooled into thinking you are going to see some ancient relic far removed from today’s political climate. You couldn’t be more wrong. Go see it and you’ll understand why!

An Enemy of the People runs until June 24, 2017 at the Gene Frankel Theater, 24 Bond St.

Her Opponent will Take Anyone Down

21 Apr

A lot can be said about this election. Comments range from it being “fixed”to Russian infiltration. But there was something unique about this one. And not just because we had a woman running, but the stakes were sky high. That is why, Her Opponent a verbatim theater piece, is so wonderful. Now that the hoop-la of the election has settled down somewhat, we can really look at these two strong people and see their tactics at play. Seeing excerpts from the debates while knowing the end result, was a different position to find yourself in. One could go on and on about their political beliefs here, but I will endeavor to put my bias aside and review this as any other piece of theater.

The genders are reversed in this production with Trump being played by Rachel Tuggle Whorton and Hillary being played by Daryl Embry. The moderator was played by Andy Wagner. It was evident from the moment that the play started that not only was the cast talented, they had worked very hard at bringing their character to life. Each actor managed to capture the essence of who they were portraying. So much so, that the gender was invisible in a sense. you knew who each person was easily. I would be lying if I said that this production didn’t effect me emotionally, it did. The actors were so convincing that it was not to transfer my feelings about the candidates onto the actors playing them.

Yet, reversing the genders allowed me to see each candidate differently and the tactics they used against their opponent. And judging from the audiences reaction, it did similar things for all of them. This was more of an experiment than a play. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautifully crafted experiment. Would switching genders make you feel differently about the candidates? Well, you’ll have to go see it and decide for yourself. But whatever your takeaway is, it’s definitely a strong piece of theater.

Her Opponent plays at 210 W 50th st. For tickets visit