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The hope of every playwright who enters new work in a festival is that he will meet a producer who might want to move his work forward commercially. Gene Fisch, Jr., Producer and founder of the New York New Works Theatre Festival, now onstage at the Acorn Theater in Theater Row through September 22, is determined to make that happen. He put this festival together to showcase a number of shows in a short time, and he has been successful in getting producers to come see them. Several shows have been optioned out of the festival, so he’s clearly doing the right thing.

Each festival presentation is limited to 25 minutes, under the generally true assumption that the quality of the project should be evident from that. A typical festival program has four different shows. The audience will vote for their favorites, and six winners of that vote will be presented next weekend in encore performances as the  Best of Fest.

Over two days, I saw six presentations which varied widely in quality.  But the fun of a festival like this is to see the range of creativity, and hope you stumble upon a shiny nugget of a show.

Flower of Iowa by Lance Ringel, based on his novel, introduced us to two soldiers in France during World War One, one Briish and one American, who spend a night together that blossoms from friendship into what presumably will become a gay relationship.   The dialogue was honest and real.  The two young actors, Ben Salus and Bradley Johnson, are both very touching under the subtle and tasteful direction of Chuck Muckle. I was intrigued to see how the rest of the show develops, which is the reaction producers of these shows hope to elicit.

Inamorata by Fred Kramer, on the other hand, was a turgid, enervated, amateurish tale of an aging woman reflecting on her life with two alter egos as her younger self.  Susan Dougherty as the older woman was so low energy I thought she would fall asleep along with me.  The two girls playing her younger selves, Oakley Friedman and Nancy Kimball, were barely more interesting. The show’s young director, Dylan Alexander Kaplan, did nothing to help this show make the right impression. Whatever might have been interesting in the writing was buried in this presentation.

The other four shows were all one woman presentations which showed a wide range of talent, or lack of it.

Heather Massey performed as Hedy! The life and Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, which she also wrote. Under the direction of Blake Walton, Ms. Massie very much captures the style and beauty of this famous performer. The show also emphasizes that Hedy was also a woman of science, whose invention of frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology was the foundation of our wireless device world.  Ms. Massie is interested in inspiring young women to seek careers in science through her show, which is noble. But it’s not necessarily great theater. Her show is just so much, “this happened then that happened,” with no dramatic tension in the story telling. When you write a show about someone’s life, it’s incumbent on the author to deliver not just the series of events in someone’s life, but the struggles and conflicts which make it interesting. From what I could tell, Ms. Massie hasn’t captured that.

Errol Rappaport, Cindy Marinangel, Russell Daisey

Errol Rappaport, Cindy Marinangel, Russell Daisey photo by Rose Billings

Much more successful was Cindy Marinangel as Dietrich, in a one woman play written by Willard Manus about Marlene Dietrich, directed by Michael V. Doane.  The play is set on the eve of her return to Germany after the war, as a performer in 1960. Marlene Dietrich was seen by the Nazis as a traitor to Germany. She faced death threats if she chose to go on. This dramatic context adds important tension to the show. As she is deciding whether or not to face her audience, she is visited by an American soldier who is a reporter for what I presume to be the Army paper, Stars and Stripes, to whom she tells the story of her life. The excellent musical accompaniment was by pianist Russell Daisey.

Ms. Marinangel is a powerful beauty in her own right, who skillfully draws us into Dietrich’s world with a smart sexiness as much her own as Dietrich’s. This looks like a show which should go somewhere, with a charismatic star you don’t want to miss. Fingers crossed you’ll have another chance to see it in the finals next weekend.

In The Pink Hulk, actress Valerie David shares with us her personal journey through not one but two bouts with cancer. There’s no faulting Ms. David for her energetic, often light hearted, and always deeply felt memoir. This writer/performer is on a highly personal mission to raise awareness for a cause. Ms. David is engaging and honest in her performance, as directed by Padraic Lillis.  But it never seems to rise dramatically above her personal passion.   It should continue to find success in festivals and private presentations, although probably not commercially.

Finally, there was Queen Kong En Chaine, written and performed by Dana Block. This show, and Ms. Block, were like a car wreck you couldn’t look at and couldn’t look away from.   It is promoted as a play about Hitler’s favorite film maker, Leni Riefenstahl.  The title refers to Ms. Riefensthal’s desire, concocted by Ms. Block, to make a feminist, female version of King Kong to restore her film career. When Ms. Block comes on stage she is supposed to be a hundred and three years old (actually, Riefenstahl died just after her one hundred first birthday.)  But Ms. Bloch was inappropriately dressed in black leatherette like a Wiemar biker chick.  Her show was also full of bizarre and inexplicable story turns.  At one point, she introduced a Barbie doll and then became a Barbie doll like figure herself.  She concluded her presentation with an expletive filled monologue about her vagina.  I couldn’t imagine suffering through any more of Ms. Block’s tasteless theatrical self-indulgence.

So, you never know what you can dig up when panning for theatrical gold.  Next weekend will feature a reading of an unproduced play by Bernard Pomerance, the deceased author of The Elephant Man.  Be sure to check out the Best of the Fest next weekend as well.

Jeffery Lyle Segal is a multifaceted theater artist who has worn many professional hats. He started as a musical theater performer in his teens. He attended Stanford U., Northwestern University, and SUNY at Binghamton to study acting, directing and dramatic literature. He also wrote theater reviews for The Stanford Daily and was Arts Editor of WNUR Radio at Northwestern. After college, he is proud to have been the first full time Executive Director of Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company. He left them to work as a theater actor and director. His special effects makeup skills got him into the movies, working on the seminal cult horror film, Re-Animator.He also did casting for several important Chicago projects, sometimes wearing both production hats, as he did on Chicago’s most famous independent movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While living in Los Angeles, he joined the Academy for New Musical Theater, where he developed two book musicals as a composer, lyricist and librettist, Down to Earth Girl (formerly I Come for Love, NYMF 2008), and Scandalous Behavior! (York Developmental Reading Series 2010). He wrote, produced and performed his song “Forever Mine” as the end title theme of the horror film, Trapped! He also has written songs for his performances in cabaret over the years, and the time he spent pursuing country music in Nashville. Most recently he created a musical revue, Mating the Musical, for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival 2016. In NYC, he has attended the BMI musical theater writers’ workshop, and the Commercial Theater Institute 14 week producer program. He is currently creating a company to develop new musicals online. He still keeps up his makeup chops, working with top doctors in NYC and Chicago as one of the country’s most highly regarded permanent cosmetic artists (www.bestpermanentmakeup.com) and as a member of Chicago local IATSE 476. www.jefferylylesegal.com

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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Broadway

Drama Desk Awards Backstage In The Press Room

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T2C was backstage at the Drama Desk Awards last night. Here is a look at the action.

First in the room:

Kara Young

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

Sarah Paulson

The Cast of Stereophonic-Will Brill, Sarah Pidgeon, Juliana Canfield, Andrew R. Butler, Tom Pecinka, Chris Stack and Eli Gelb

Nikiya Mathis

JR Goodman, Ray Wetmore and Camille Labarre

Nikki M. James

Patrick Page

Enver Chakartash

Paul Tazewell

Cole Escola

How to Dance in Ohio cast members that includes-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Paul Tate dePoo

Avran Mlotek, Motl Didner, Dominick Balletta and Zalem Miotek

Jane Cox

Brian MacDevitt

Brian MacDevitt and Jane Cox

Isabella Byrd

Ryan Rumery

Walter Trarbach, Cody Spencer and Kai Harada

David Yazbek

Itamar Moses

Lady Irene Gandy

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick

Nathan Lane

Will Butler

Marco Paguia

Shaina Taub

Justin Peck

Daniel Aukin

Jessica Stone

Corbin Bleu and Sarah Hyland

Andre Bishop and James Lapine

Keisha Lewis

Maleah Joi Moon, Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara

Maleah Joi Moon

Keisha Lewis and Maleah Joi Moon

Kelli O’Hara

Brian d’Arcy James

Peter Nigrini

Carole Rothman and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Amy Herzog

David Adjmi

Adam Greenfield, David Adjmi

Sarah Hyland and Debra Messing

 

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Broadway

The 2024 Winner’s Of The Drama Desk Awards The Red Carpet

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The 2024 Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced last night at NYU Skirball Center. Tony Award Winners Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit hosted the ceremony.

Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit

Aaron Tveit

Sutton Foster

T2C was on the red carpet.

Andrew Durand

Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman 

William Jackson Harper

Shaina Taub

Peter Nigrini

Kecia Lewis

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Jocelyn Bioh

Laura Benanti

Jesse Robb and Shana Carroll

Jessica Lange

Camille Labarre, Ray Wetmore and JR Goodman

Michael Starobin, Andrea Grody and Shaina Taub

Will Brill

Sarah Paulson

Richard Ridge

Sarah Hyland

Maleah Joi Moon

Patrick Paige

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields, Maleah Joi Moon

Brian D’Arcy James

Will Keen

Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Keen

Mary Louise Burke

Isabella Byrd

Justin Peck

Kara Young

Marco Paguia

Miss New York Rachelle diStasio

Josh Breckenridge

Lorin Latarro

Ricky Ubeda

Glauco Araujo

Dorian Harewood and Nancy Harewood

Mark Williams

Brody Grant

The Cast of Stereophonic-Andrew R. Butler, Will Brill, Tom Pecinka, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Chris Stack and Sarah Pidgeon

Paige Davis and Patrick Page

James Monroe Iglehart

Sarah Pidgeon

Nikiya Mathis

Montego Glover

Cole Escola

Tom Pecinka

Chris Stack

Leslie Kritzer

Miriam Silverman

Andrew R. Butler

Pat Swinney Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment with Juliana Canfield

Juliana Canfield

Enver Chakartash

Robert Pickens and Katie Geil

Will Butler

David Adjmi

Daisy Prince

Debra Messing

Lena Hall

Debra Messing

Nikki M. James

Michael Stuhlbarg

Paul Tazewell

Camille A. Brown

Marin Ireland

How To Dance in Ohio-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Jacob Karr

Dylis Croman and Robert Montano

Eli Gelb

Walter Trarbach

Steven Valentine

Peter Charney and Brendan George

Rebecca Frecknall

Lady Irene Gandy

Timo Andres

 

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Broadway

The 2024 Winner’s Of The Drama Desk Awards With Interviews

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Photo Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

The 2024 Drama Desk Awards were a star-studded ceremony at NYU Skirball Center co-hosted by Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit. This is the only major NYC theater awards for which Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway productions are considered in the same categories. Two recipients in each of the gender-free performance categories were announced and in some categories not only were their ties but three winners selected.

The winners are:

Outstanding Play: Stereophonic, by David Adjmi, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Musical: Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Revival of a Play: Appropriate, Second Stage Theater

Outstanding Revival of a Musical: I Can Get It for You Wholesale, Classic Stage Company


Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play:
Jessica Lange, Mother Play, Second Stage Theater

and Sarah Paulson, Appropriate, Second Stage Theater

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical: Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses, Atlantic Theater Company, Maleah Joi Moon, Hell’s Kitchen and Kelli O’Hara, Days of Wine and Roses, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play:
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Mother Play, Second Stage Theater and Kara Young, Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical: Kecia Lewis, Hell’s Kitchen and Bebe Neuwirth, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club


Outstanding Direction of a Play:
Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Direction of a Musical:
Jessica Stone, Water for Elephants

Outstanding Choreography: Justin Peck, Illinoise, Park Avenue Armory


Outstanding Music:
Shaina Taub, Suffs

Outstanding Lyrics: David Yazbek and Erik Della Penna, Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Book of a Musical: Itamar Moses, Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Orchestrations: Marco Paguia, Buena Vista Social Club, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Music in a Play:
Will Butler, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Revue: Amid Falling Walls, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play: David Zinn, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical: Paul Tate DePoo III, The Great Gatsby (includes projections)


Outstanding Costume Design of a Play:
Enver Chakartash, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical:
Paul Tazewell, Suffs

Outstanding Lighting Design of a Play: Jane Cox, Appropriate, Second Stage Theater


Outstanding Lighting Design of a Musical:
Brian MacDevitt and Hana S. Kim (projections), The Outsiders

Outstanding Projection and Video Design: Peter Nigrini,Hell’s Kitc

Outstanding Sound Design of a Play: Ryan Rumery, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical:
Nick Lidster for Autograph, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, Cody Spencer, The Outsiders and Walter Trarbach, Water for Elephants


Outstanding Wig and Hair:
Nikiya Mathis, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Manhattan Theatre Club


Outstanding Solo Performance:
Patrick Page, All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain

Unique Theatrical Experience: Grenfell: in the words of survivors, St. Ann’s Warehouse, National Theatre, and KPPL Productions

Outstanding Fight Choreography: Cha Ramos, Water for Elephants

Outstanding Adaptation: An Enemy of the People, by Amy Herzog


Outstanding Puppetry:
Ray Wetmore, JR Goodman, and Camille Labarre, Water for Elephants

SPECIAL AWARDS

Ensemble Award

The cast of Stereophonic – Will Brill, Andrew R. Butler, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Tom Pecinka, Sarah Pidgeon, and Chris Stack – who execute David Adjmi’s hypernaturalistic text with extraordinary care and precision, while also performing Will Butler’s music with the freshness and life that makes us believe we are witnessing, first-hand, the creation of a new American classic.


‘Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award

Cole Escola, who both wrote and stars in one of this season’s biggest hits Off Broadway, Oh, Mary! Following in the long legacy of queer artists who write themselves into American history, Escola’s new “gay fantasia on national themes” is a hilarious reminder of why we must continue to interrogate our past.

ADDITIONAL SPECIAL AWARDS

How to Dance in Ohio Authentic Autistic Representation Team – Sammi Cannold, Nicole D’Angelo, Becky Leifman, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Liz Weber, and Jeremy Wein  – for their steadfast support of autistic theatermakers, and their strides toward true accessibility for neurodiverse individuals both on and offstage.


Lighting designer Isabella Byrd, whose self-described technique as a “darkness designer” has earned her a cache of nominations and awards in the United States and abroad. During this season, Byrd illuminated two Broadway shows done in the round, An Enemy of the People and Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club. Off Broadway, her spotlight on quiet, small-scale stories both enchanted us in Primary Trust and mesmerized us in Infinite Life, with a parking-lot sky that marked the passage of time.


Lady Irene Gandy, for career achievement. A press agent extraordinaire for over five decades, Lady Irene has always demonstrated her passion, dedication, and love for theater. A Broadway producer and Sardi’s honoree, she is a zealous advocate for inclusion, diversity, and equity in the arts.

 

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Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents David Zayas Jr.

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week is David Zayas Jr.

David Zayas Jr. is making his Off-Broadway directorial debut with Simpatico at The Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street 3rd Fl. Simpatico plays until June 29th. David most recently directed the Jesus Hopped the A Train staged reading starring Common, John Ortiz, and David Zayas. David also directed LABs 30th Anniversary and the Barn Series, which included three New Works in progress by Stephen Adly Gurgis. A Bronx Native, theater and film Director, Actor, and Photographer, David is a member of The Actors Studio’s Playwright/Directors Unit and LAByrinth Theater Company. He has directed with Planet Connections, Actors Theatre of NY, NY Theater Festival, Samuel French OOB Festival, and Chain Theatre along with award winning films in over 20 festivals.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here and 18th here.

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