Drawn uptown (although I came down from Harlem where I’m dog-sitting for a few weeks) by the likes of two actors that I love to watch work; Juan Castano (Public’s Oedipus El Rey; 2ST’s Parallelogram) and Frank Wood (Broadway’s The Iceman Cometh; LCT’s The Babylon Line). They both, albeit in different ways, bring a certain delicious energy to whatever they are in, expanding and contracting the work vivaciously. So on a hot NYC summer night, I found myself entering into Castano’s “my house, my music” energy at Second Stage‘s sweet McGinn/Cazale Theatre uptown at 76th and Broadway. Yet downtown for me. Location, it seems, plays a bigger role than I would have imagined.
The DJ sound beats us in almost relentlessly as we take in the garage surroundings and its uncomfortable energy. Castano, as the absorbed Juan, is holding court as he stares intensely at his compute screen pounding out a rhythm that his friend, Toro, played fascinatingly by Abubakr Ali (Netflix’s “Grendel“; Yale Rep’s Kiss), responds to, hesitantly, with phrases such as “Yeah“, “Sick“, and “So into it.” But it feels like a performative response from the young friend and possible admirer; a conflict-avoidant tact to stay clear and safe from the tension that is Juan. We can sense the combustible anger that lives somewhere underneath, inside his soul, and Juan lets it flare out stingingly with his sharp dismissals. These are not well-attached buddies getting into the sound of the night ahead, but two tense animals sizing up the situation.
One is just trying to keep the peace; light and friendly, but Castano’s Juan, almost instantly, is elsewhere, seemingly unconcerned with the fragility of the situation. He’s being somewhat of a DJ jerk to his guest and supposed friend, Toro, a nickname slapped onto this young man by a coach who was also, most likely, a prick and a wee bit racist. The fact that Toro, (real name Alex), lets it stand to this day says a lot about this young man. “Being aggressive hasn’t always been my strong suit,” Alex states, but it’s the uncomfortable energy in the room that hangs above our collective heads, and we can’t help but wonder when these two bull-boys will charge at one another. Eventually, they must, right? But the question that remains is, who will be scarred and bloodied the most after the confrontation?
They play like restless boys, one angry at the world, but masking himself in it like macho bravado armor, while the other stands more passively by, not too close, doing a nervous “sad sack routine”, lost and defeated by the confusing world that surrounds him. Both are compelling characterizations and interpersonal dynamics. We wonder why they are there together. What is their history? And why are they performing a friendship routine when the energy doesn’t feel all that friendly? Then, to stir the awkward pot a wee bit more, playwright Danny Tejera (Scary Faces Happy Faces) brings forth the balanced and confident Andrea, played most authentically by b (NYTW’s american (tele)visions) striding into the room casually yet solidly more comfortable than either of these two young men. A kindergarten teacher in ripped black jeans, she strolls into the hormonally charged garage space with a clear air of acceptance that is fully missing in the other two. b is the real deal in this awkwardly assembled piece of storytelling, giving us a direction and roadmap to what Andrea is really working through in a manner that elevates and informs, unlike the other two. She hangs in between them like the central core of a teeter-totter, watching these two engage in some serious jabbing and dodging, until she finally speaks the words to Juan we have all been thinking and waiting to hear, “Why are you such a dick?“
The whole formula feels a bit off-balance, especially in terms of culture and locale. We are told we are in Madrid, yet I didn’t quite believe we were in Spain until I was flat-out told we were. I kept expecting a playful shifting on the city name, like Roundabout Theatre’s Scotland, PA, but as directed with a decidedly vague foundation and clarity by Gaye Taylor Upchurch (RTC’s The Last Match), Toros never finds its solid footing on any site-specific landscape, both in the ‘here and now’, and in the journey. This could be any garage in any generic city named Madrid, whether it be Madrid, Maine or Madrid, Colorado. Maybe that’s the point, to make it universal, a wash of all cultural signposts, but the formulation is never unmasked within the structure, leaving us constantly wondering, where are we? And why are we here?
That question can be asked about most things outside of the well-scripted dialogue that feels energized, although ultimately unfocused. The room is solidly realistic, as designed by Arnulfo Maldonado (Broadway’s A Strange Loop), with strong costuming by Enver Chakartash (Broadway’s A Doll’s House), exacting lighting by Barbara Samuels (MCC’s Wolf Play), and a strong sound design by Darron L. West (Signature’s Paradise Blue), and it feels true to form until the abstractions are unveiled. It makes sense, ultimately, that Wood, underused but overdone, plays Tica, the aging dog of Castano’s Juan (before he steps into the shoes of Juan’s father), but the amount of time and focus his old-dog performance receives doesn’t hold us as strongly as it somehow should. The play stops itself in its tracks to watch an aging dog have a doggie dream, yet never really reveals why this is so relevant, beyond Toro’s pointed observation around Juan’s dog-talking voice, and his use of doggie pronouns.
There’s also an oddly inserted abstractionism around a sexual encounter that points more to director Upchurch’s dance background than it does to its misguided use here. So real, this space we are given, that this detour, although lovingly created, doesn’t really belong in this Spanish garage. A simple blackout moment, as used numerously throughout this 90min one-act play, would have kept us all equally invested and informed.
The interactions are fascinating, and the human dynamics draw us in. We want to know why those three are all there, hanging out together. And why is Juan fighting such a battle within himself, against his parents, and inside of his friendships? We lean into the existential crisis conversation that unfolds in a moment of connection, but the investigative nature doesn’t really last or reveal much, similar to when we realize what is underneath the tarp. It’s just a haphazard piling of odds and ends, stacked and hidden to make us think it’s something of importance. I hope a rewrite is in the works, as there is something super compelling in the interpersonal dynamics, but when the curtain is drawn back, it’s just a jumble of sophomoric idealizations and histrionics, topped with a punch and a shitty reaction. I wanted more; from Cantano’s Juan, Ali’s Toro, and more importantly, from Tejera’s Toros. Who is “the real Toro, bitch?” I’m still waiting to figure that out.
Ruth Stage’s “Lone Star” Guzzles Down Edgeless Revelations and Trauma at Theatre Row NYC
By Dennis W
Hey, grab yourself a six-pack and head out to Angel’s Bar (at NYC’s Theatre Row) where Ray, Roy, Cletis, and Elizabeth will meet you in the backyard. It’s just a place to hang out, where tired old lawn furniture and a few milk crates hiding in the scrub go before they retire to the junk pile. It’s the early 1970s, and there isn’t much to do in the backwater town of Maynard, Texas, as a matter of fact, the town almost disappeared not too long ago.
The main players, Roy and Ray, in Ruth Stage’s Lone Starwritten by James McLure (Original Adaption by Ruth Stage) seem to be the brothers. They exist here, living out a dark comedy about a psychological casualty of war who comes home. It begins with a substantial monologue and mini-concert by Roy’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Ana Isabelle (Off-Broadway’s I Like It Like That). She is trying to save her marriage to her high school sweetheart, a former soldier who came home from Vietnam two years ago and suffers from PTSD (which was not even acknowledged by the military until the 1980s). Isabelle gives an adequate performance but it feels very odd that she is alone on stage talking about how her husband’s condition has and is affecting her, him, their life together, their family, and their strained marriage. What’s odd is that when she’s finished she leaves, not to be seen again, until just before the final curtain.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Have You Begun Dreaming of It Yet? (PART I)
What else – White Christmas, of course!
December is jampacked with great entertainment, so I hope you’re caught up on your shopping, because there are lots of treats for you this month. Here’s a stockingful of events that you shouldn’t miss.
If you’re looking for probably the most glamorous gift of the season, drop by Doyle Galleries to at least look at The Ellin and Irving Berlin Sapphire and Diamond Ring. Bidding is estimated to begin at $200,000 at the December 14th auction.
Jason Henderson kicked off the month reprising his highly acclaimed latest venture, Getting to Noël You at Don’t Tell Mama on the 4th. If you missed this evening, don’t worry – he’s back by popular demand—same time, same location—on January 24th and February 11th. It’s quite a curious and fast-paced ride he takes us on, and it’s one not to be missed.
The York Theatre has delivered a mitzvah–just in time for Christmas. Billed as a Musical Comedy of Biblical Proportions, The Jerusalem Syndrome certainly lived up to expectations. You must see it to discover the meaning of the title, which is fact, not fiction.
While this has been in development for several years, the skilled midwifery of the York brought forth a little bundle of joy that had the audience laughing at its humor and touched by its message. Sensitive to the current Middle East conflict, the York bravely went ahead with the project, which affords everyone a chance to marvel and understand the miracle that is Israel.
It’s running through the end of the year—visit the York website https://yorktheatre.org for more info.
Urban Stages has announced its “2023 Winter Rhythms” series, the award-winning music festival at Urban Stages Theater (259 West 30th Street – between 7th & 8th Avenues).
It began with a gala on December 6 entitled “Nights at the Algonquin: A Celebration of The Oak Room Supper Club,” featuring many legendary cabaret performers including Natalie Douglas, Boots Maleson, Steve Ross, and Daryl Sherman. Hosted by Michael Colby (author of The Algonquin Kid), the evening began with a champagne and wine reception followed by the show at 7:30 with a post-show gathering to follow.
On Sunday, December 10 at 3pm “Created at the Algonquin: Songs from Musicals Written at The Algonquin,” featuring performances by Craig Bierko, Shana Farr, Jenn Gambatese, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Steve Ross and others. The program will be directed by Sara Louise Lazarus with Michael Lavine directing the music.
As part of the festivities, Shana Farr will reprise her glorious Barbara Cook tribute on the 16th. Ice Cream,. Anyone?
Everyone’s favorite is Karen Mason, whose show Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! is one night only at Birdland at 7 pm on the 11th.
Stay tuned for Part II for Christmas romance, tradition, and good will!
T2C Talks to Patrick Olson About Emergence
Patrick Olson, is a musician-scientist and now a performer with his own show Emergence, Off-Broadway at The Pershing Square Signature Center through January 7, 2024.
T2C talked to this prolific artist to learn more about what seems more like a movement and a unique experience.
See t2C’s review here.
Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem: Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street through January 7th. Tickets and information: emergenceshow.com
Video by Magda Katz
Off Broadway Girl Talk Madwomen of the West
Right now at the Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street is the New York premier of Sandra Tsing Loh’s Madwomen of the West. The show in a way reminded me of the 1996 play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, where celebrities joined on stage. Here you have Caroline Aaron, Brooke Adams, Marilu Henner, and Melanie Mayron, all actors who have performed on film, TV and stage. They are like long lost friends, they are so familiar.
The four have gathered together for Claudia’s (Mayron) birthday. It is being thrown at the Brentwood home of Jules (Adams) and Marilyn (Aaron) has decorated. Enter the long lost Zoey (Henner) and what you think you know about these friends, isn’t what it seems. As a matter of fact, this birthday brunch is about to turn into the brunch from hell. These Baby Boomers, are also feminists admiring Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, though not always on the same side. They break the 4th wall, as they banter back and forth to themselves and to us, the audience. They confront, encourage, justify and talk about transgender, health, the horror of Trump and those “pussy hats”, sex and so much more. Think “girl-talk” to the max.
They sit on couches, as a backdrop of palm trees, and a lone piñata take center stage, thanks to set designer Christian Fleming. The play has no money, so the production is bare bones…. so they say. Everything about this show is tongue and check and is well directed by Thomas Caruso.
Each actor here shines and in an out of the way aside, each has pieces of their real selves written into the roles they play. Not having seen Aaron on stage before, I was impressed by her vocal quality and humor. Adams brings sophistication and Mayron adds that knowing, we are all in the same messed up boat. Henner will make you want that body and her sex appeal.
These women knocked down doors for the women to come, but I was surprised that the one issue they missed out on was that women are still not equal in this country. It takes 1, count it 1 state to approve this and yet plays about feminism leave this vital information out.
The show ends with “The Bitch is Back.” they sing in glee. I guess it is ok when we call ourselves that.
Madwomen of the West: The Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street through December 31.
“Stereophonic” at Playwrights Horizons Sings Solidly
It’s July 1976, in a recording studio in Sausalito, CA and we are being invited into a space that only a select few get to visit, let alone witness. This is art in the making, pure and simple, with ego and love, getting mixed and faded in through the process most musically. In Playwrights Horizons‘s magnificent new play, Stereophonic, written most delicately by David Adjmi (The Blind King Parts I and II), a band on the cusp of greatness has assembled, and they are tasked, casually and with great intent, to something magnificent and meaningful, a lasting piece of musical art, to follow up their last album that has become, over the timeframe, a breakout hit.
The play is exceptionally well framed and constructed; both musical and meandering, in the best of all possible ways, yet somewhere inside Adjmi’s engaging Stereophonicand its three-hour running time, a deeper level of contextual art formulation is unpacked quite beautifully. It saunters forward, with a complicated level of exhaustion, angst, and inspiration, unearthing something that almost defies expectations and compartmentalization. It’s a 1970s rock saga, clearly modeled on the legendary Fleetwood Mac and their dynamic backstage friction, that leans into and plays with the problematic relationships within this unnamed band as they try to create magic behind a glass wall, while also trying to fulfill their emotional needs in the confines of the studio and real life.
It’s all emotional breakups and reconciliations, with a layer of bored and sleep-deprived banter; around a broken coffee machine and the annoying reverberations of (not only) the drum. It’s electric and conflictual, playing havoc on every one of these characters’ insecure hearts, while offering up no grand solutions or final product. Stereophonic is all about the tiny details and the little frustrations that grow and become emotional cannonballs bent on destruction, leveled and defused out of an undercurrent of love and need for creation. It is incandescent in its artful construction, displaying and writing about a realm few of us can understand. It’s the agony and ecstasy that lives and sings inside the magnificent creative process of musicians, arts, singers, and writers, who hear aspects that most of us can’t understand, let alone hear or comprehend. And we have been invited in, to bear witness to its creation, in all its meticulously dull and exhausting detail. Giving light to the darkness of the process, and how art can both create and destroy those involved in its coming to life.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sarah Paulson
A Monstrously Intense Double Bill from Playwright Daniel MacIvor at Factory Theatre Toronto
Happy Chanukah Day 4 Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik Explains The Holiday
Romantic and Meaningful Love Quotes For Her To Help Win Her Heart
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
Family3 hours ago
Countdown to Christmas: Own The Moon
Family4 days ago
Countdown to Christmas Day The Gift of Self
Events2 days ago
Happy Chanukah Day 2: Light One Candle With The Carney’s
Events3 hours ago
Happy Chanukah Day 4 Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik Explains The Holiday
Events1 day ago
Happy Chanukah Day 3: Food For Thought
Family2 days ago
Countdown to Christmas Day: Map The Song Of Your Life
Family1 day ago
Countdown to Christmas Day Our Holiday Gift Guide: A Portable Campfire
Food and Drink4 days ago
Sagaponack Serves Up a Night to Remember in Flatiron District