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The Journey

A Review by Jen Bush

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When I read the description of The Journey, I was both intrigued and skeptical.  According to the description, this show was going to include a family who likes taking drugs together, a pet psychologist, a budding pop singer, a rookie cop with a blushing problem, a retired Elvis impersonator/mafia money runner and a dog named Tom Petty possessed by the ghost of Tom Petty.  That’s quite a packed agenda.  This had high potential for eye rolling corniness, especially when you put a human in a dog costume.  I must say, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it.  The cast was a mix of actors who were early on in their careers and seasoned actors with some impressive stage, screen and television credits.  They took great care to convey the Joshua Crone’s well-crafted material with respect and an ideal balance of emotions to ensure a quality production.

Nick and Luna, a young couple in love, desire to be married.  Nick is well liked by Luna’s family but in order to secure the patriarch’s blessing, Nick must go on a “journey”.  There is no need to pack socks and sundries for this journey.  This is a drug trip.  Set in psychedelic California, this family bonds by taking a drug called ayahuasca in the form of heart shaped chocolate.  They refer to it as medicine and it’s doled out by the family shaman/therapist and her partner.  Clearly the “Say no to Drugs” campaign didn’t impact them.  Nick is squeaky clean and has not dabbled in drugs hence his hesitation to obtain the blessing.  Obviously, a lot of hilarity ensues but this show is not without some side plots and heftier themes such as jealousy and insecurity.

11. Jordan Theodore, Sami Petrucci, Annabelle Fox, Jessica Van Niel, Leif Riddell, Kelsey Susino, Ben Jaeger-Thomas, Marco Greco, Desirée Baxter, Jeffrey Grover, Stephanie Roseman.jpgThe set was black box with a few props and some special effects.  A proper set was not necessary for this sturdy play.  Clever lighting effects with some bubbles thrown in did a good job of including the audience in the drug trip.  There was some audience interaction in the form of hugs and Tom Petty, the dog, very much acting like a dog eliciting scratches behind the ears and head pats.  All audience members were invited to have a heart shaped goody.  I’m sure it was just chocolate…I think.

The cast was iron clad and all well suited to their craft and their roles.  Kelsey Susino and Jordan Theodore charmingly play the happy couple.  Jeffrey Grover and Stephanie Roseman did a fantastic job played the hip loving yet conflicted mom and dad, Mr. and Mrs. Liebman.  Katie Housely and Sami Petrucci were delightful as Luna’s sisters with boyfriend troubles.  Their chemistry was wonderful.  Tim Palmer had a short but funny and memorable role as Officer Anderson.  Annabelle Fox was awesome as Zuzu, one hot mess of a rising pop star.  Jessica Van Niel was outstanding as Shanti Marsh, the family Shaman.  She played the role with conviction and was totally believable.  Equally outstanding was Leif Riddell who played Brad Marsh, Shanti’s husband and co-guru.  His experience in the industry was evident.  There was a sort of intensity to his performance that commanded attention.  Ben Jaeger-Thomas was great as Burt Becker, the flirtatious dog trainer.  His facial expressions were priceless.  Desiree Baxter and Marco Greco as the grandparents making a surprise visit to the family to celebrate the Jewish sabbath, absolutely stole the show.  They just ran amok with the funny material that they were given.  At last we get to Tom Petty, both the name of the dog and the ghost played flawlessly by Thoeger Hansen.  This character was actually the least conflicted and was the voice of reason in the show.  Among the other human characters, he played a sweet friendly dog.  In the absence of humans, he had some substantial monologues weaving the material together.  Thoeger Hansen did a wonderful job of drawing the audience into this likeable character.

13. Tim Palmer, Thoeger Hansen, Jorden Theodore, Sami Petrucci, Annabelle Fox, Katie Housley.jpgDespite the seemingly cluttered plot, the show flowed very well.  It was a very sweet ending, especially if you are a Tom Petty Fan. It was ambitious material that was done right and done well.   It’s worth the journey to Manhattan to see this show.

The PaperKids answer: What is this thing called LOVE.

A conclave of talented energetic artists has burst on the scene. They suffer from one defect … they are genuinely humble!

In it for the joy of sharing their art with others, the PaperKids Theatre Company announces their take on love, thanks to playwright John Cariani. LOVE/SICK takes the sonnet out of romance and allows us to see what it really means to love and be loved.

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Love/Sick sounds like a Netflix series – and that’s a good thing. It’s nine short plays in one ranging from love-at-first-sight to long-time marriage. “The audience watches as couples in realistic situations are disrupted by absurdist impulses, acts of confession, and devilish desires. Rife with insecurity, notions of what “should be,” misunderstandings, and more. Basically, LOVE/SICK explores the rise and fall … and rise again… of love,” says Tory Delahunt, a member of PaperKids Theater.

Leaving it all up to the talents of the talented casts, the minimalist production features¨

“Obsessive Impulsive” featuring Jeff Brackett & Tory Delahunt;
“The Singing Telegram” featuring Kristi Donna Ng & Sudheer Gaddam;
“Uh-Oh” featuring Lucia Bellini & Jeremy Rafal;
and “What?!” featuring Shawn Zylberberg & Joseph Segot
All directed by Carlos Moreno Henninger.

“Lunch and Dinner” featuring Sudheer Gaddam & Tory Delahunt;
“Forgot” featuring Jaimie Wallace & Shawn Zylberberg;
and “Where Was I?” featuring Leah Serinksy & Kristi Donna Ng,
All in the able hands of Eric Holgerson as director.

Ruben Vellekoop will handle directing duties for “Destiny” featuring Lucia Bellini & Joseph Segot and “The Answer” featuring Jaimie Wallace and Jeff Brackett.

Love/Sick, a 90-minute production, will be at the Hudson Gild Theatre, 441 W 26th St, New York City, with performances on February 24 @ 9pm; February 26 @ 9pm; and February 29 @ 6:45pm

Tickets at: https://www.paperkidstheatre.com/love-sick

Ai chatted with the directors about their vision and that of love.

carlos.jpg“Thinking of myself as an artist isn’t something I’m all that familiar with- mostly the art I create feels like a sort of inevitable overflow of an interest I have in some story or concept rather than a formal and cohesive artistic statement- but in as far as I AM an artist, I’m interested in shamelessness,” says Carlos Moreno Henninger, citing that humility that I mentioned that ruins throughout the company. “In both art and life, I love it when the veneer of public image gives way to people’s real, raw, ugly, embarrassing insides. The movies you’d never admit you watch when you’re alone, the childhood embarrassments that keep you up at night, the resentment building between you and your lovely roommate, the saccharine Instagram quote that secretly moved you to tears- when these things force their way to the surface, that’s when I get interested. When people are shamelessly themselves, almost anything is art.

The collaborative nature of PaperKids also came through in his interview.

“Speaking of trusting actors, Lu Bellini and Jeff Bracket brought me to these plays! We had a large group of theatre friends that all wanted to be working, and at our first meeting, these guys brought Love/Sick forward for its huge potential cast of characters. That was enough to consider it, and then the play spoke for itself. It’s lonely without being bitter in a way that I think our generation is pretty familiar with; it’s funny and sweet but also deeply weird in a way that speaks to being young-but-not-that-young in our current moment.”

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Eric Holgerson chimed in similarly. “I am a collaborator first.  I believe that everyone has an artistic voice that should be heard.  My job as the director is to have a structural vision that can be pushed, pulled and stretched in order to fit the unique talent of the writer as well as the artists that will perform the piece. I need to lead us to the goal of telling the story in a realistic way that will touch our audience.” He elaborated, mentioning his own style of directing, “I love what improvisation and listening can bring. I’m influenced by everything that I have ever studied as both an actor and director. Sanford Meisner Technique as well as Seth Barrish strategies for actors have very much influenced my approach to the work.  I also like Scene Study and Improvisation work in order to help the actors get comfortable with each other as well as the piece. What drew me to this project was two things. One was the idea of being able to show the different stages of relationship, with the key being how we communicate (or don’t) within those relationships. Second was to opportunity to work with this pool of talented artists.  This group of directors and actors are some of the most talented that I have worked with to date.”

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Ruben Vellekoop jumped into the conversation – again in the collaborative sense but also something else that this company has a lot of: “As an artist, I aim to celebrate the ugliness of truth by beautifying it on stage. Honesty can be ugly – from the rolls my mirror shows to crying alone in the living room. My thinking is that I’m not the only one who has those moments and if I – as a director, choreographer, or designer – can portray those as beautifully as possible, my audience will go along with me. I hope that audiences will connect in those ugly moments because what we internally judge as ugly (see aforementioned rolls and cries), others can experience as beautiful.”

When asked why these plays, he reiterated “The chance to celebrate ugly love and to collaborate with friends and colleagues.”

These directors aren’t just that – they are also poets. I found this ironic. Doing a show that shines realism on love is being heled by those whose words show the abundance of love in their hearts! One has to imagine that this production will be like Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130.

No, I won’t tell you why … treat yourself on Valentine’s Day and read it.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45108/sonnet-130-my-mistress-eyes-are-nothing-like-the-sun

These guys are keeping it real and warming our hearts.

That’s rare.

Happy Valentine’s Day

https://www.paperkidstheatre.com/love-sick

Robert Viagas in Blackwell Asylum

Nellie and the Women of Blackwell

By Ashley Adelman

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

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In 1887, an investigative reporter named Nellie Bly faked insanity so she could be committed to a notorious New York City lunatic asylum, as they were called in those days. Bly planned to report on what she had heard were appalling abuses of the mentally ill there.

In the new play Nellie and the Women of Blackwell, billed as a “terrifying immersive theatrical experience,” audiences join her and undergo some of the horrors she found there.

Staged by Jessica Schechter in a claustrophobic cluster of too-dark or harshly-lit rooms in the basement of an old building on the Lower East Side, Nellie and the Women of Blackwell, asks small groups of audience members—16 at most—to adopt the names and personas of actual women who endured “treatment” at the facility. We accompany Nellie (Kate Szekely) as she subjects herself to recreations of the mental and physical anguish suffered by the inmates there: bathed in filthy ice water bath, fed scraps of bread infested with cockroaches, strapped to a metal cot, beaten, bullied, insulted, and gaslighted by a nightmarish pair of sadistic nurses (Nicole Orabona and Janessa Floyd).

The experience proves very harrowing in spots. Audience members are given a safe word to be released if the experience gets too intense.

In a prelude to the play, we are shown a list of reasons women could be declared a lunatic, including excess sexual desire and a bump on the head. Many were imprisoned because they didn’t speak English and were assumed to be mentally deficient. Representing the hundreds of such inmates who passed through the bowels of Blackwell is a pitiful young blonde woman named Tillie, who responds to the asylum’s ministrations by falling deeper and deeper into actual insanity. She gives the most heartrending performance of the evening, and it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that she is played by the author of Nellie and the Women of Blackwell, Ashley Adelman.

At the performance reviewed, the actors stayed resolutely in character despite one audience member who resisted immersing himself in the performance and kept trying to make a joke of it all.

Though aspiring to the tradition of immersive theatre landmark, Sleep No More, this show has been produced on a shoestring, but uses its low budget to suggest the ugliness and sparseness of the Blackwell Asylum’s environment.

Lessons of the play’s experience will not be lost on New Yorkers who see how a contemporary group of “outsiders”—illegal immigrants—are treated today.

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A co-production of Infinite Variety Productions and Wildrence, Nellie and the Women of Blackwell  is playing a limited run through March 7 at Off-Off-Broadway’s Wildrence performing space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Jay Michaels takes Ten with Lenny, Desi, Monica, and Drew

A cavalcade of acclaimed Playwrights offer-up a plethora of playlets looking at the world through less-than rose-colored glasses in Planet Connections New Short Play Festival “DARK PLANET: Not Your Mother’s Valentine’s Day” at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 E 14th St, New York City.

The evening is broken up into two sets of works and each is short enough that you can attend both. Like a box of candy … ten great pieces in one great night. Planet Connections New Short Play Festival “DARK PLANET: Not Your Mother’s Valentine’s Day” at the Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 E 14th St, New York City. Showtimes:
Thursday, February 6: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM; Friday, February 7: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM;  Thursday, February 13: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM; Friday, February 14: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM;  Thursday, February 20: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM; Friday, February 21: 7:00 PM & 8:30 PM

7:00 PM SHOWS:
PLAY WITH ME Written by Lenny Schwartz
THREE MEN WITH GUNS Written by Monica Bauer
RECONCILE, BITCH Written by Desi Moreno-Penson
SHADOW DANCE Written by Jake Brasch

ALL 8:30 PM SHOWS:
SUPERSTARS Written by Glory Kadigan
TEXT ANGEL Written by Drew Larimore
FIEVEL DRIDGE, THE GREAT ORATOR OF FISHINGSTILL Written by Erik Champney
THE SECOND COMING Written by Gabrielle Fox
PLAYTHINGS Written by Jan Rosenberg
A DAY AT THE BEACH Written by Quincy Long

Some very funny, some brutal, all engaging.

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Ai spoke to three of the playwrights in the 7:00 p.m. slot and one in the later part of the night about their work and the impending premieres.

IMG_3433Lenny Schwartz, a writer/director of such plays as Subject 62, Kung-Fu Babies, The Inside of His Severed Head, Ben Minus Zoe Minus Ben, The Social Avenger and Co-Creator amongst many others, is also an accomplished screenwriter of such films as Murder University, Normal, Accidental Incest and the upcoming The Haunted and The Hunted, Codename: Dynastud (Scorpio Films Releasing) Long Night in a Dead City (Scorpio Film Releasing) and Higher Methods (IM Filmworks) among others. Schwartz, with a flair for the fantastic, contributed a work called PLAY WITH ME. “My Initial idea for it was to have a romance set in a fetish club,” says the whimsical scribe, “And to be raw and honest with the language. I had originally thought that nobody would ever produce this but – lo and behold – here we are!” His clever retort is indicative of his faith and confidence he has in Planet Connections. Making sure we are “turned on” by the salacious settings, he interjected “It is a short play that Is designed for laughs and acceptance for all no matter who you are and what your proclivities or lifestyles are.”

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The second writer is Desi Moreno-Penson, a New York City-based playwright and actor. Her plays have been developed and produced at a vast array of recognizable venues: Ensemble Studio Theater (EST), The 14th Annual Women’s Playwriting Festival in Providence, RI, Urban Theater Company in Chicago, Teatro Coribantes in San Juan, PR, the SPF-Summer Play Festival, Henry Street Settlement, terraNOVA Collective, and The Downtown Urban Theater Festival (DUTF) @the Cherry Lane in New York City, among others.  RECONCILE, BITCH, her entry in this short-play fest, is about a pair of passionate, overly dramatic hipsters that love each other and struggle to get back together. Although for the sake of the universe, they probably should not be together and should probably be in separate mental institutions! This piece was originally commissioned by Tiny Rhino, based out in Brooklyn. With only love and romance to go by, she went dark – even twisted. “I don’t care for rom-coms at all,” says Moreno-Penson, “so I took my inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and specifically, the scene between Helena and Demetrius (“And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel. And, Demetrius, the more you beat me, I will fawn on you.”)”

Monica Bauer headshot playwright.jpgFinally, Monica Bauer boasts a litany of works that were internationally produced. Her most recent full-length play, Vivian’s Music, 1969 (directed by Glory Kadigan) was seen Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters, and is being published by Original Works. She has won awards like the Emerging Playwright Award from Urban Stages, and a Planet award for Best Script of a Comedy Award for Anne Frank and the Gaza Strip.

Her respect for the mission of Ms. Kadigan and Planet Connections was all the impetus she needed to pen a play just for this festival. “I wrote it specifically for Dark Planet, and for three of my favorite actors, John Fico, Randall Rodriguez, and Russell Jordan,” said the international produced playwright, “Two gay men with guns, and a future professor of African American studies, participate in what may or may not be a legitimate drug deal, potentially foiled by a comic flurry of accusations and explanations. May the person with the best story win!” Yes, this festival is designed to be packed with love stories but as Ms. Bauer put it: “it’s a twisted little play that doesn’t seem at all like a love story … and it isn’t. Except for the turn it takes that I hope takes the audience by surprise!”

DREW #7

Produced widely in both the United States and Australia, Drew Larimore made his Off-Broadway premiere of his new play OUT OF ICELAND in the spring of 2012 starring Lea Delaria at Walker Space.  He has been a semi-finalist at the O’Neill Theatre Conference, The Lark Playwrights’ Week, the Heidman Award, the P73 Playwriting Fellowship, a writing residency at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and former EVVY award-winnder. His short play, THE ANNIVERSARY, after receiving a world premiere in Australia and a U.S. premiere in New York, is published in Vintage Anthology’s recent SHORTER, FASTER, FUNNIER.  His new play, THE CANNIBALS OF MCGOWER COUNTY was featured in Asolo Repertory’s Unplugged Festival of New Work, an O’Neill Finalist in 2016 and workshopped at Denizen Theatre in 2019.

His entry is awash in irony. TEXT ANGEL is a solo show about Bonnie, an entrepreneur/motivational text angel, who accidentally sends the wrong motivational text to the wrong person, thus resulting in tragedy. Drew offers up a piece that seems to echo the old phrase of the road to hell is paved with good intentions. “TEXT ANGEL is actually a part of a collection of inter connected monologues about a death-by-sexting, where people struggle with their own responsibility in the situation writ large,” says Larimore, who most recently, served as a writer-in-residence at the Studios of Key West, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the Djerassi Artist Residency Program in California.

The meat of this written matter was a question posed about short-form works. The ten-minute play is making a name for itself across the New York theatrical skyline. With so many larger festivals disappearing, there seems to be bigger space for little plays, but how do authors feel about it?

Ms. Moreno-Penson was most vocal: “Some stories can be easily told within the ten-minute parameter. Other stories need a little more time. As a playwright, I feel that I have a lot to say, so I much prefer the formats of the one-act play (15 to 25 minutes), or the full-length (45 to 90 minutes). However, one really great thing about writing within such tightly constrained limitations is that it forces you to be very specific in all your choices. Every word, idea, and nuance have to be very carefully chosen and decided upon. As challenging as that is, it can also be a very positive learning experience. And I’m all for learning new stuff!”

Mr. Larimore seemed the most exuberant: “Short form is great!” he said, “I started writing with short plays, and I still think there is a succinctness to them like nothing else.” One would imagine Ms. Bauer felt the same – being able to form a piece for her favorite actors and for her trusted colleague, Glory Kadigan. “If they’re good, they end before you feel it’s really over,” he concluded.

Mr. Schwartz agreed and summed it up in true ten-minute play style … one sentence: “get to the point and get the Hell out!”

With these being only one-third of what the bill-of-fare is on this valentine of vociferous verses … it looks to be a great night.

 

Robert Viagas and Rats

RaTs:SubwaySongsandStories

By Maguire Wilder, with music by Maguire, Gavin Knittle, Kiara Negroni, Lucas Saur, Kyle Best, Natalie Thomas, and Lo Williams

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

Most New Yorkers have contended with the sight of rats scurrying among the tracks in the subway system. But how many of us have thought to turn that experience into a stage musical—and from the rats’ point of view?

image1 (5)Well, Maguire Wilder and her composer collaborators have shouldered that challenge in RaTs: SubwaySongsandStories, getting a workshop production at TheatreLab in Hell’s Kitchen. This self-described “part fact-based narrative and part queer fantasy,” follows two lady rats on their quest for love and feasting on the night of the mystical Solstice—only to come to a tragic end.

image3 (2)Fara Faidzan plays the Subway Rat Princess with a frantic but endearing gawkiness, brought on by her unrequited horniness. She is aided in her journey by Tabby Cat the Sewer Rat, played by Maiya Pascouche with a contrasting sensuous confidence. Their subterranean bildungsroman hits its high points with the rocking celebration song “Throw It Back, Little Rat,” and breaks your heart with the plaintive “Let Me Out.”

Other roles are taken by Claire-Frances Sullivan, Markese McLamb and John Knipsel, who also act as the chorus and three-piece orchestra.

Though vermin are not often portrayed sympathetically (Disney’s Ratatouille squirms to mind as an exception), the peculiar thing about this show is how militantly pro-rat it actually is. It makes a villain of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its latest rat eradication campaign. The show is all about how the poor innocent rats just want to gobble fast food and have sex “just like you” and how sad it is when they get trapped and poisoned. And wind up ascending the stairs to Rat Heaven, where one supposes they will meet Cheese-us.

Offered as timely counterprogramming to the ill-fated Cats movie, RaTs scampers along for most of its ninety-minute intermissionless run time, but bogs down once the leads are trapped and singing about how they literally want to throw up. The audience needs to hear a bit of higher rat philosophy and aspiration than their simply wanting to eat and mate. But maybe that’s as high as rat eschatology goes.

RaTs: SubwaySongsandStories is playing a limited run through January 26 at TheaterLab in Manhattan.

An Angry Young Man Matures

72706820_10155702235733078_3734927088432447488_nJay Michaels sat down with playwright James Crafford regarding his latest works at the American Theatre of Actors.

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James Crafford began his theatre life studying with the legendary Stella Adler 46 years ago. After suffering through five showcases that failed prior to even opening he decided to do it himself. His first showcase of works as a playwright was approved and produced by Ms. Adler sight unseen. He continued contributing works for Ms. Adler for the next two years. One of his works was optioned for Broadway, which took him on a journey that continues today as a distinguished playwright.

It’s no wonder James Jennings – one of the founding fathers of the off-off Broadway movement – offered Crafford a home at the ATA. Crafford has since supplied plays and screenplays to Jennings and his merry troupe making him a household name in that house. One of that merry troupe, Laurie Rae Waugh, has been a major interpreter of Crafford’s works over the years – directing and thus winning awards for the work. This time around she is a member of huis cast.

Now, the American Theatre of Actors will present two dynamic works by this controversial author and influencer: Moves and Countermoves: New Works by James Crafford. Performances are January 22 – February 2, 2020 (Wednesday – Saturday @ 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.) in The B.E.T. (Beckmann Experimental Theatre) of the American Theatre of Actors Complex, 314 W 54th St, New York City; (212) 581-3044 for tickets.

The Chaos Effect doesn’t need a butterfly or the span of the universe. It can be two people and the right – or wrong – words said at the right – or wrong – time. Michael Bordwell will serve as director and interpreter of these two new works by a political firebrand and unapologetic author.

“The Game Is Not Over” explores the relationship between a man and the two women in his life – his wife and his former lover. A simple living room becomes a battlefield as the wife confronts the former lover.

79912316_2857746350923553_7987528285858824192_n.jpg“After the Hanging” explores the aftermath of a racist hanging of an African-American man in the deep south. The aforementioned man’s wife confronts one of the witnesses to the lynching.

The plays feature a repertory company of seasoned professionals familiar with Mr. Crafford’s work and the landmark American Theatre of Actors: Alan Hasnas, Thomas J Kane, Tzena Nicole, Valerie O’Hara, and Meredith Rust; with a special appearance by stage and film actor/director Laurie Rae Waugh in “After The Hanging.”

Crafford – having started as an actor – makes sure that his cast are well fed – with dialogue. “My goal in writing plays is to offer juicy parts for ALL the actors involved,” he said.

A question recently asked of Granville Burgess due to his Lincoln/Douglass musical, Common Ground, has been asked of Crawford as well. “What’s an old white guy doing writing a play like After the Hanging?”

“[the play] banged around in my head for years after having read a short story by Erskine Caldwell called SATURDAY AFTERNOON that tells the story of a whimsical lynching that left me devastated,” he explained; “I recall throwing the book across the room in a fit of despair.” The book was surely his gauntlet if you know Mr. Crafford. Never backing down from a fight – which is evident due to his recent battles with Cancer and President trump (not sure which was worse) Crafford began creating this powerful play.

As “Rick” in his play VIOLENCE
(winner, Jean Dalrymple Award, presented at Sardis)

 

“I am deeply grateful to ATA for featuring my work and giving me the opportunity to grow as a writer, director and actor. I also hope that audiences will recognize current parallels in AFTER THE HANGING even though it takes place in 1927,” Crafford concluded.

As he alluded to a “glut of one acts” he is ready to have produced, we should prick-up-our-ears for more battlecrys with his by-line.

“Straights” Talk from Robert Viagas

The Straights by T. Adamson

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

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Two women launch an epic cross-country road trip full of madness, drugs, self-discovery, and a torrent of talk in T. Adamson’s frenzied new Off-Off-Broadway play, The Straights.

Tall, redheaded Mary Glen Fredrick dominates the action as Nina, a pure force of nature who machine-guns invective at her traveling companion/would-be lover Phoebe (Jennifer Paredes) in between virtual arias of p.c. vituperation and wheedling barked into her cell phone’s voice recognition software, complete with spoken punctuation.

In fact, he play consists of mainly of similar audition-worthy character speeches, though several would benefit from trimming, especially a rambling story purporting to be drawn from Inuit folklore. Nevertheless, The Straights revels in the pure joy of writing and speaking, created by a powerful and virtuosic voice in the American theatre. The show’s 11 o’clock speech is delivered with mounting power by Paredes, describing her desperate loves and unquenchable hates, presented as a mounting series of “Ifs,” building to a breathless climax, as the travelers complete their journey across what the play repeatedly calls “the long earth.”

But as for pure star power, it’s Fredrick as she rails at her friends, howls at fate, and even as she dashes across the stage joyfully in her birthday suit. The play contains one deathless line. Explaining why she won’t give a sample of her shampoo to her on-the-outs traveling companion, Nina snaps, “Shampoo for my real friends, real poo for my sham friends.”

The production featuring Neo Cihi, William Thomas Hodgson, Emily Shain, Lisa Ramirez, Tony Castellanos, Cat Crowley and Boscoe Barles.

Directed by Will Detlefsen The Straights is playing a limited run through Dec. 21 at JACK arts center in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.