The Seeing Place Theater presents two masterful plays that highlight parent child relationships. Both plays have something to say about grief, mental health, and how the desire to connect can affect a person’s life. Thematically, it makes for a heavy night, but it’s not without faults or comedic moments.
A Number by Caryl Churchill lays out the long term aftermath of a father’s decision and desire to hold on to a child he wanted and thought he lost.
Initially, the dialogue was not quick enough to generate the driving tone that is characteristic of Churchill’s body of work, and it came to pace occasionally. Unfortunately Michael Stephen Clay is a one tone actor, while Brandon Walker is working in every scene to heighten the urgency by reacting to what Mr. Clay is not giving him. Mr. Walker’s talents are apparent; he created three genuine characters through subtle mannerisms, postures and vocal qualities.
‘Night, Mother by Marsha Norman chronicles Jessie’s (Erin Cronican) last night at home with her mother (Carla Brandberg) before she commits suicide.
Carla Brandberg and Erin Cronican are excellent scene partners. Despite her hoarse voice, Erin Cronican created a busy yet apathetic caregiver, who simply wanted to check off her list. Ms. Brandberg is absolutely brilliant, her Mama has a warm presence and an icy tongue – two things necessary to highlight the unique cruelty only mothers can deliver.
Lighting designer Joyce Liao played a heavy role in ‘Night, Mother. It was very subtle, but the lights were slowly turn red as the play progressed – leading to the inevitable suicide. As sound designer, Brandon Walker also snuck in a ticking clock that stopped with the gun shot.
The set (designed by Erin Cronican) was a detriment to both plays. It was not the design that failed the actors here, it was the layout of the design. All of the furniture was set up in a diagonal row, pinning two corners of the stage with furniture that was rarely used, and leaving the other two corners with no excuse to occupy them. While the directors’ intent in both plays is present, the physically limited playing space stifles the dramatic potential. Additionally, the actors’ movement did not always feel natural because of the set layout; a few times they seemed to invent movement or activity that didn’t made sense in the context of the moment.
Despite the often awkward movement, the pairing of these two plays makes for an intriguing evening of theatre, and demonstrates the unified vision of The Seeing Place Theater.
A Number/ ‘Night Mother, The Seeing Place Theater, The Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th St. Closes January 20.
My View: The Only Thing Missing Was A Latte ( with extra foam) Marcy & Zina Party at 54 Below
The only thing missing at last night’s party for Marcy and Zina was a Latte choice in the beverage section on the menu at 54 Below (with extra foam). The show, titled Make Your Own Party: The Songs of Goldrich and Heisler was conceived by Scott Coulter and performed by a cast of five. It celebrated over three decades of quirky, heartfelt and utterly contemporary romantic comedy songs written by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich.
From “Taylor the Latte Boy” to under appreciated altos we were introduced to the cast of characters that inspired these inseparable, irreverent friends to write over three hundred and counting musical love letters to the city, the theatre, and the people who make them sing. The evening was filled with the heart felt stories that these two award winning women have created and was performed by a first rate cast of Broadway super singers. The lyrics, the music, the luscious harmonies…it was the best party of music I’ve ever been invited to.
The Performers: Jill Abramowitz, Cole Burden, Alex Getlin, Joe Kinosian, Kelli Rabke, and Austin Rivers.
Joe Kinosian,piano, Matt Scharfglass, bass
Marcy & Zina have been performing and writing together since 1992. Their critically acclaimed romantic comedy songs have been featured in venues across the world, recorded by artists across many genres, and appear in numerous folios and collected works. Their Off-Broadway musical Dear Edwina earned them a Drama Desk nomination, and other works have been produced by regional powerhouses such as Paper Mill playhouse, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodspeed, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Their shows include Ever After, JUnie B Jones, and The Great American Musical, based on the bestselling book by auther/director Julie Andrews.
My View: Live from 54 Below…Saturday Night Love Songs
If there is one night during the week when you want-need?- to hear love songs, well, it’s got to be a Saturday night. And this last Saturday, 54 Below provided just the right tonic of famously romantic songs in a show created and hosted by Scott Siegel titled “Love Song Saturday Night”. It’s a new hit series at the club and the songs in the show came from every genre, including Broadway, country, pop, R&B, and more. They were performed by a richly talented cast of stars that sing not from the page, but from the soul. The packed house of mostly lovers had a sensational time and Eda and I got home in time for Saturday Night Live
The Performers: Edward Staudenmayer, Elena Mindlina, Christopher Brian, Moipei, Matthew Drinkwater, Ryan Knowles, Ben Jones. Ron Abel, music director
My View: My Heart Is Exploding With Love For Donna McKechnie
My heart is exploding with love for Donna McKechnie and her jewel box of a show titled: “Take Me To The World – The Songs Of Stephen Sondheim.” Since the legendary composer/lyricist has left this planet, there have been many shows and evenings (with even more to come) trying to capture, assess, explain and illustrate what it is/was that made him the revered genius he has become to any actor who sings. Some more successful or eloquent than others. Some more musical than others. But (and this is a large use of the word) no one has had the span of time on this same plane embodying the work of Sondheim on a stage, more than Donna McKechnie, who starred as Philia on the National Tour of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, which was the first show Steve wrote the words and music for. That already puts her in a class all her own. And “class” is a word that perfectly defines the confection and power that comes across a stage and into audiences hearts when she speaks, sings or dances. No “spoilers” here, but if you want to learn how it’s done, go see Donna McKechnie. She has information we didn’t even know we needed and I would like to be at the head of the class. Awe-inspiring. Stephen is a huge part of her lore and longevity, which can shake away the idea that she will be forever defined as Cassie in A CHORUS LINE. There is, oh, so much more to behold and time has been loving to her, as she to it.
Ian Herman, music director
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