By Christian Viveros-Faun√©
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
On a deserted rock just a few knots away from the Island of Karen Carpenter, five long-dead broadsQueen Victoria, Cleopatra, Andromeda, Joan of Arc, and the medieval abbess Heloisewait mulishly for their beloved men (Joan is keeping a candle burning for our Lord, yelping, I am ze sword of ze baby Jesus!). But the womens hopeless vigil is interrupted by the arrival of infamous French feminist, diarist, and erotica-writer Anaïs Nin, who immediately pops a lithium tablet into Joans gaping mouth.
Sounding like a Gallic Madeline Kahn, the svelte Nin (Shelly Feldman) delivers blow after coy blow to her companions much-cherished delusions, asserting that women can only think clearly when theyre completely man-free. Reductive it might be, but Nin redeems itself with moments of joyful whimsy: When Heloise, Andromeda, and Queen Vic belt the Carpenters' "Superstar" in three-part harmony, all philosophical gaps are forgiven. RUTH McCANN
Just as one measure of the ability of a pop singer is if they can do it "unplugged," a trusty test of directors, playwrights, and actors is whether they can handle the "two guys in a room" play. Such two-handers are the theatrical equivalent of working without a netno shifts in space to avoid knotty story problems; no butlers to walk on to announce that the inspector is at the door.
Ashlin Halfnight's Good Pictures (the Studio at Cherry Lane) is such a vehicle. Set in a small-town jail cell in the aftermath of a guard's murder, the play keeps us in lockdown for 90 minutes in the company of a mismatched, volatile pair of criminals (William Jackson Harper and James Nugent). One of the strengths of Halfnight's script is that he manages to wring tension not only from the nail-biting situation (as the inmates wait all night for the inevitable arrival of the relief guards), but also from the mystery of who these men really are. Halfnight doles out this information piecemeal over the course of the play. In time, we learn that neither man is as good nor as bad as any single detail about their lives would make them appear.
Director Dominic D'Andrea keeps a tight rein on his actorsthe pace is natural and unhurried without dropping the energy for the most part. Harper and Nugent both manage to be simultaneously sympathetic and scary. From time to time, they even manage to be funny, even if it is gallows humor. This tight little production is a nice illustration of what can be accomplished with a few simple ingredients. TRAV S.D.
The Seven Little Foys
As a hard-core vaudeville fan, I regret to report that Chip Deffaas new musical The Seven Little Foys (Schimmel Center) is for old-school show-biz buffs onlyand undiscriminating ones, at that. The story of vaudevilles most popular kiddie act, created (in every sense of the word) by song and dance man Eddie Foy, this is a yarn with the potential to educate and tug the heartstrings, even as it amuses.
Unfortunately, the new show fails on all of those levels. The little action the book contains seems copiously plundered from the 1955 Bob Hope film of the same name, including that moviess many gross inaccuracies. The rest of the script is padded with reams of often irrelevant facts, presented without subtlety or integration. And then there are the songsall 46 of them. Five of these are by Mr. Deffaa and seem like the beginnings of an original musical score. The remainder are period songseight of which are from the wrong period.
As old man Foy, Michael Townsend Wright, a former stooge with the likes of Joey Faye and Uncle Floyd Vivino, brings with him a certain authenticity, if not an ability to act. The shows one saving grace (and a truly magical surprise it is) is the presence of Eddie Foys great-grandson Ryan Foy in the cast as George M. Cohan. Ryan clearly has both the family bug and the family talent. He lights up the stage whenever he appears, even as Wright appears to be under heavy sedation. TRAV S.D.
La Vigilia (The Vigil)
There are shipwrights, wheelwrights...and playwrights. Vincent Marano forges plays with a woodworker's old-fashioned sense of craftsmanship. La Vigilia (The Vigil)his tale of postwar Italy, playing at the Connelly Theatermixes the seemingly incongruous elements of commedia delarte and Italian neo-realism to produce a hybrid that, while not completely successful, is deserving of further exploration.
James Michael Armstrong plays an urbane, philosophical drifter named Sagesto, who masquerades as the long-lost husband of wealthy widow La Signora (Victoria Bundonis). In this effort he's egged on by various servants and other characters, all of whom have designs of their own.
The productions main problem is tone. While the plot is farcical in structure, broad comedy occurs only in sporadic flashes. And while the entire script is rich with witticism, folk sayings, and clever philosophy, the overall pace is heavy, almost funerealwhich may be appropriate for a story about a widow, but clashes mightily with the scripts comic aims. To straddle both would require the skills of an Anna Magnani. Bundonis acquits herself well with her characters melancholy aspects, but could do with some of the electricity displayed by Elka Rodriguez as the hotheaded innkeeper Ferra. The creators have built a very good furnace herethey just need to stoke up the fire. TRAV S.D.