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Off Broadway

Fish Men Where The Past Effects The Present in Chess

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Fish Men, José Joaquín Pérez
José Joaquín Pérez

José Joaquín Pérez Photo: Carol Rosegg

Cándido Tirado‘s Fish Men is getting a New York run at Intar. Set at the chess tables in Washington Square Park we not only watch the drama unfold but see spectacular chess games done at record speed.

José Joaquín Pérez, Shawn Randall, Gardiner Comfort

José Joaquín Pérez, Shawn Randall, Gardiner Comfort Photo: Carol Rosegg

The staples at the park are two hustlers both desperate for dough. Cash (Shawn Randall) is the ultimate player, luring marks into bankable assets. He has 24 hours in which to raise $800.00 to buy his child a bike. The stakes are high because this item has been promised multiple times before and he stands at loosing his son. For John (Gardiner Comfort) his not too bright Russian sidekick the stakes are even higher as due to some gambling debts he stands to lose a hand.

Shawn Randall, Ed Setrakian

Shawn Randall, Ed Setrakian Photo: Carol Rosegg

Also in the park are regulars Ninety-Two (Ed Setrakian), a chess prodigy who due to traumatic circumstances no longer plays. Jerome (David Anzuelo) is the only chess player who is there for the enjoyment of it all.

Enter Rey (José Joaquín Pérez), whose uncle the day before was taken. Ray has a score to settle and demons that are buried deep, which are on the verge of destroying him and anyone who comes in contact with him.

This show tackles a lot of issues including the Holocaust, the extermination of the American Indians, genocide in Guatemala and Black Lives Matter. Each character has it’s own point of contention.

Act One is a lot of exposition and should be cut or at least streamlined. Act Two has pay-offs but again less is more and would make more of a point. Many times just when you thought the play was over another issue came into play.

The cast is all superb with Mr. Setrakian and Mr. Pérez standing out.

Lou Moreno’s direction is fascinating to watch as the dialogue goes hand and hand with high-speed chess.

This play has a lot going for it but seriously needs some cutting. Tirado’s work, premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theater (in collaboration with Teatro Vista).

Fish Men: Intar Theatre, 500 W. 52nd St. until March 18th.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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Off Broadway

The Welkin Is A Play About The Cruelty Of Women

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Lucy Kirkwood’s The Welkin asks several questions about right and wrong, the violence women deal/dealt with, power between wealth and not, the belief that men are the better species, even to women and why and how women do not defend or truly help each other.

Stepped in 1759, Suffolk, England, the story centers around Sally Poppy (Haley Wong), who’s sentenced to hang for helping her lover murder a little girl, except she herself is with child, so she claims. It is up to twelve women to decide her fate. Is Sally telling the truth or lying to save her skin. Under English law “pleading the belly” could commute the sentence saving Sally’s and her child’s life.

Midwife Lizzy Luke (Sandra Oh) believes in life, but these women have issues that effect the outcome. One has miscarried 12 times (Emily Cass McDonnell) in eight years and delivered a stillborn son, one is going through menopause and is overheating (Ann Harada), Sarah Hollis (Hannah Cabell) lost her voice in childbirth and has not spoken since, one is not who she says she is (Mary McCann). These women’s circumstances and beliefs often blur their choices and we are like peeping Tom’s looking in.

Wong, as the complex Sally, is a rebellious teen, who is over life as it was dictated for her. She wants to live by her own rules and when the puzzle has been exposed this plays leaves more questions than answers, which is impossible to ask or state here without giving the whole play away. Lets say, who her mother is, who her father is, who the child is and who the women who ultimately decides her fate was never really explored and that is the fascinating psychology that would have made this play soar.

Sandra Oh last seen on Broadway in 2006, is best known for TV’s Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy. She is the heart and soul until she is not. Once her secrets are out the play seems a little like Mother’s Play.

Emily Cass McDonnell makes us hate women whose own self centered needs and wants take no prisoners. Hannah Cabell makes us wish women who are like her would stay silent. Ann Harada and Dale Soules as Sarah Smith bring humor to challanging aspects of a women’s journey.

There are two men in the play Mr. Coombes (Glenn Fitzgerald), the bailiff who is a special friend to Oh’s character, until he is not and Danny Wolohan as the doctor that the women choose over a midwife, because he is a man. In The Welkin women eventually choose a man over their own. This man’s opinions of women, is beyond tragic.

Hanging over the play is the arrival of Halley’s Comet, why really is this play called The Welkin and an odd section where The Bangles “Manic Monday is sung ala an ode to Bridgerton. In a show that is over 2 hours, that could have been cut.

Director Sarah Benson’s direction at times seems odd and leaves more questions than answers. What is extremely well done \s the casting, as this cast all shine in their respected roles.

The Welkin is disturbing on so many levels. What it is saying seems unpalatable, but we do need to take it’s message to heart for at some point for the sake of humanity we need to connect and be on each other’s side.

The Welkin: The Atlantic Theatre Company at the Linda Gross Theatre, 336 West 20th Street until July 7th.

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Off Broadway

Yada, Yada 

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What’s better than a 90-minute sitdown with old friends? Nothing, of course, and that’s exactly what Singfeld, A Musical Parody About Nothing is all about. An energetic and highly talented cast take on the proposition that Jerry and George are going to write a musical about–what else?–nothing. Chiming in with comments and suggestions are Elaine and Cosmo, with occasional drop-ins from Mr. and Mrs. Costanza, Mr. Peterman and Susan. Other familiar names, situations, phrases and even subtle musical homages (I counted at least five) are jammed into this fun-filled and highly enjoyable show. 

So the rhymes aren’t always perfect, who cares? You’ll be trying to stifle your laughter so you don’t miss the next reference which will have you guffawing even harder. Another tribute to the cast: on this hot afternoon, they performed under hot lights and gave it their all. This show is a must for any Seinfeld fan—bring your friends and, well, yada yada. 

Singfeld, A Musical Parody About Nothing: The Jerry Orbach Theater the Theater Center 210 West 50th Street

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Events

Titanic is a Complete Musical Triumph at NYCC Encores!

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By Dennis W

Titanic sailed into New York City Center full speed ahead saved from a watery grave and stoked with a newfound energy that brought the house down. Encores! latest concert production dazzles, taking on the famed musical about the sinking of the largest, fastest ship afloat on its maiden voyage in 1912 with expert gusto. The Tony-winning 1997 musical, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston (Broadway’s Nine),resonates with emotion, class struggle and humanity.

The Encores! Orchestra, with Guest Music Director Rob Berman (Encores! Into the Woods), takes center stage and the spotlight delivering a phenomenal interpretation of the nuanced score. Filling the theater with a powerful rendition of Yeston’s vision, Berman’s musical direction breathes new life into the score that tells the saga of the iconic doomed “unsinkable” ship that went down with more than a 15-hundred people aboard. The audience is transported by the music to the disaster and seems locked in on every note. The 32 voices in the cast joined to present a sound that reverberated through the space creating a richness and fullness that would give you goosebumps.   After the curtain call the orchestra played as people left and when it was done the audience who was still left in the theater roared with appreciative applause. It’s no surprise that Titanic: A New Musical swept the music category at the 1997 Tony Awards winning for orchestration, score, and best musical.

The ensemble cast, in Encores! tradition, was chosen from the best and brightest Broadway has to offer. Each actor gave an amazing performance from the leads to the chorus but there were a few standouts. Ramin Karimloo ( Broadway’s Funny Girl) as Barrett gave a deft performance as the ship’s stoker. His duet with Harold Bride played by Alex Joseph Grayson (Encores!/Broadway’s Parade) is a highlight portraying a mix of emotions including love, hope, and desire while we watch the voyage come to a tragic end. Brandon Uranowitz (Broadway’s Leopoldstadt) is convincing as the tightly wound and controlling owner of the shipping line. The always astounding Bonnie Milligan (Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo) as Alice Beane adds a little comic relief as the social climbing 2nd Class passenger who is determined to hobnob with the rich and famous. Drew Gehling (Broadway’s Almost Famous) as Edgar Beane gives a noteworthy performance as the husband who can not see his wife’s vision of a new society where people are not locked in their station forever. Encores!, as always, it seems, assembled an all-star cast who together brought this production of Titanic to life.

The direction by Anne Kauffman (Encores! Assassins) is limited but interesting given the small amount of stage the actors have to work in as the orchestra is elevated on stage directly behind the action. The scenic design by Paul Tate Depot III (Broadway’s The Great Gatsby) acts as a three-dimensional backdrop that gives the impression of the famed ship, billed as the next wonder of the world, but is rarely used by the actors. The costumes designed by Márion Talán de la Rosa (Off-Broadway’s The Connector) seemed to lose the formal spirit of the early 1900s on their way to the Encores! stage. The men were basically in suits and the women’s costumes did not evoke the structure of dresses of the era which were simpler in construction and with higher hemlines.

City Center Encores! production of Titanic is a complete triumph. It relies on a magnificent score and poignant lyrics to tell the story of one of the world’s major shipping disasters that sent shock waves around the globe. The orchestra, conductor, and actors embraced the rich score giving a performance that bowed the walls and wowed the crowds packed inside the New York City Center with their intensity and magnitude. Encores! Titanic is the show to see right now, playing at the New York City Center until June 23rd. Is there a Broadway transfer in the works? We hope so.

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Events

The Musical Titanic Successfully Sails onto the Stage at City Center

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Titanic The Musical proves that the music and story does not need the special effects of a sinking ship to send the audience on an emotional journey. Twenty-five years ago when Titanic opened on Broadway, after reading headlines about the  malfunctioning unsinkable set, I skeptically went to the show; but, those first 18 minutes turned out to be the greatest opening number I had ever seen. The show is currently being performed at City Center in the Encores! Series and this score can stand alone without the trappings usually required to produce a Broadway spectacle. The opening number not only introduced us to the three focal people who each in their own way contributed to the disaster of the iceberg: Captain E.J. Smith (Chuck Cooper), Thomas Andrews (Jose Llana), J. Bruce Ismay (Brandon Uranowitz); but, also the members of all three classes aboard the ship and the crewmembers. As the 32 member cast raises their voices in beautiful harmony to cheer “Sail on, great ship Titanic” the hopes of the third class passengers, the wonder of those in first class and the pride of the crew are all felt by the audience. So moving is this song that we can suspend reality and wish that the maiden voyage of this “floating city” actually successfully makes it to New York.

This is not the Rose and Jack story that fictionalized a love story between a third and first class passenger but an even more beautiful story based on real people who either survived or were left onboard as the ship broke apart.


The music and lyrics by Maury Yeston are thrilling, cheerful, romantic and haunting. The story and book by Peter Stone who had previously done justice to the telling of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 again brings history to the stage with wit and suspense despite knowing the eventual tragedy.

Over twenty songs fill this musical score with a variety of styles and themes. Each one perfectly delivered by this amazing team of actors and singers briskly directed by Anne Kauffman. There is not a bad song in the mix nor a disappointing performer; but, in addition to that opening number I must highlight a few.

Lady’s Maid sung by the 3rd class passengers brings me to tears as three Irish lasses all named Kate start by telling their fellow travelers their dreams for America. Samantha Williams, Lilli Cooper, and Ashley Blanchet play the ‘three Kates’ and are joined by the ensemble all singing their own individual ambitions – to be a constable, engineer, and governess, etc. It fills my heart with pride that America is such a land of opportunity and then it breaks when I realize that some of these dreamers will never make it to their destination.

A pairing of two male singers, Ramin Karimloo and Alex Joseph Grayson, playing coal stoker Barrett and radio operator Bride, respectively sing two love songs one to his fiancé and one about his career choice is a magical duet where each voice is given a chance to shine.

Another example of Yeston’s genius is a song where three voices combine but certainly not in love; the ship’s owner, designer, and captain Blame each other for the inevitable sinking. It is a dramatic song that is rarely seen in such a show but too often seen in human nature.

The real life owner of Macy’s department store was actually onboard the Titanic with his wife. Chip Zien and Judy Kuhn portray the elderly Isidor and Ida Straus whose love proved even stronger than the two youngsters in the James Cameron film. Ida chose not to get on a lifeboat without her life long partner and that love is beautifully sung in their duet Still.

Love, anger, hope and desire are all represented on the stage but it is second class passenger Alice Beane that gives the tension a bit of comic relief. Wonderfully sung and acted by Bonnie Milligan, Mrs Bean dances into the first class salon and in one of the few choreographed numbers brings joy to the festivities. She and her husband Edgar (Drew Gehling) sing I Have Danced – a song that depicts the struggle of a happily married couple when ambitions are not in line.

We know the ship is going to hit the iceberg but as Matthew Scott as the ship entertainment sings the rhythmic tune Autumn coupled with the Company repeating the haunting No Moon the suspense grows as the ship sails in the night.

Anne Kauffman directs the cast seamlessly from scene to scene not only allowing the songs to tell a fantastic story but to bring out the wit and passion of Peter Stone’s words.

Rob Berman, the Encores! Music Director, again conducts this 30 piece orchestra with incredible ease despite the complicated orchestrations created by Johnathn Tunick. With every violin string, trumpet note, drum roll and cymbal clash the music envelops the huge theater yet touches every individual in it.

Encores! Began 30 years ago to honor scores that are not often revived. With minimal rehearsal time for this limited run some actors are still on book but that does not diminish either the music, story or the talent on the stage. Much has been written about the cost of producing on Broadway so a production with this many cast members and musicians may never be transferred to a Broadway theater as Encores other 2024 title, Once Upon a Mattress will be doing so do not hesitate to buy a ticket. Do not be left on the dock waving goodbye to this magnificent creation.

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Off Broadway

The Opposite Of Love A Devastating Look At Where We Are At Sexually

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Ashley Griffin (Trial)  new play The Opposite of Love, is an uncomfortable, truthful, devastating and brave play about sexual intimacy, trauma, sexual abuse, assault, suicide and the sexualized world we live in today. This piece shows how the misuse of sex has permeated our culture, our minds and our feeling. We no longer truly date or have relationships, but look to satisfy our needs with not love, but sex. When you have grown up sexually abused, without a solid family background how do you navigate this world, that your heart tells you is instinctively wrong? That is at the crux of The Opposite of Love.

Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner Photo credit: Jeremy Varner

The play follows trust fund baby Eloise (Ashley Griffin) who has been sexually compromised since she was a small child by a relative. Though not penetrated in the true sense of the word, her boundaries and trust issues have been violated. Wanting a loving, intimate romantic relationship she is ill equipped to function. Enter Will ( Danny Gardner), a male prostitute she has hired to take away her virginity. Unable to connected in any way Eloise sends Will away, but Will seeing a potential cash cow, suggests that they meet weekly to just…talk.

Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner Photo credit: Jeremy Varner

During the course of several weeks the two share the trauma’s of their lives until they finally connect and Eloise feels safe enough. We learn about both of their insecurities, their deepest wants and lies they tell the world until they both feel seen.

Intimacy director Crista Marie Jackson has allowed us to see just enough without crossing the line, but the real kudos goes to director Rachel Klein, who does not play down to us. She crafts this play with heart, soul and intelligence allowing us to go on this journey without falling completely apart with it’s honest look at where we have come to.

Ashley Griffin, as a writer has a wonderful way with words as she expresses what we all are feeling. She shows us that we are both Will and Eloise. Who we are depends on our financial circumstances and upbringing.

Griffin as an actress needs to slow down on her delivery. Her words have so much to say but we miss some of the text due to her rushing and projection. Her charactazation fares better as she takes us on the rollercoaster of this journey. You are never going to expect the ending and that is where she really shines.

Gardner’s Will is organic as we follow his transformation with anticipation. He goes from shallow cad to a broken man who has finally allowed himself to care. We see his mind work as he lies, then tells the horrors of his actions and his the trauma’s of his life, than are even more devastating than Eloise’s as he is told by society that he can not feel. In the end when he finally let’s his guard down we feel his pain and heartbreak.

Gardner, who is primarily known for his tap dancing work on Broadway’s in Dames at Sea and Flying Over Sunset, wow’s as a dramatic actor. I look forward to seeing him do more straight acting.

Griffin and Gardner have chemistry, which allows the play to go even deeper.

The scenic design by Brendan McCann and lighting by Zach Pizza, do well in such a small space and on a small budget

The Opposite of Love, could easily upset and anger those who have not come to terms with the shadows within, but if you are willing to face those devils you just might find a fabulous piece of theatre. I hope this show gets a longer run, where audiences will have a chance to experience this intimate look at the reality of where we are now. I know it is Tony season and there are only a few more performances but if you get a chance, I highly recommend this show.

The Opposite of Love: New York Rep at the Royal Family Theater (145 West 46th Street, until June 15th.

We did a Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents with Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner. Click here to see this interview and learn even more about The Opposite of Love.

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