Monday, July 26, 2010

Midtown International Theatre Festival

With so many theater festivals and outdoor Shakespeare, New Yorkers and tourists have plenty of options for summer theater. It can be overwhelming to keep track of everything and within each festival, it can be hard to narrow down what to see. The Midtown International Theatre Festival, now in its 11th year, offers 61 productions and free readings in eight genres (The Melting Pot, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Off the Mortal Coil, The Art of the Con, Isn't It Bromantic?, Remember My Name, From the Pages of History, and GRRRL Power!). This weekend, I attended two of those shows--The Gospel According to Josh and Lovers: A Bold New Musical (an advantage to theater scheduling is that you can often make a day of it and knock out a bunch of shows at once)--both playing through August 1.

The Gospel According to Josh is Josh Rivedal's one-man show (directed by Josh Gaboian) about his religious Baptist upbringing and his desire to be a star. The conflict is a bit forced--in the first scene, Rivedal recalls being spanked with a belt by his father, but it was also his father who was largely responsible for Rivedal's love of music. With an easygoing voice and manner similar to Jeff Anderson who played Randal in Clerks and the ability to morph into various characters, Rivedal is an engaging performer and the 75 minutes fly by.

Lovers is a two-hander with book, music, and lyrics by Christopher Massimine and directed by Christopher M. Czyz. Chip (Will Taylor) has just killed himself and left a note and package for his girlfriend/fiance of 8 years, Jolie (Courtney Hammond). It's hard not to call to mind The Last Five Years while watching the story of their relationship unfold. According to his bio, Lovers is Massimine's first major production. He shows much promise as a songwriter, but there is still room for growth. Some of the lyrics are smart, but a few are cringeworthy. There are some moments of originality, such as the story of their courtship, but the mysterious package is an unnecessary gimmick. The intermission comes at a very awkward place (some audience members were confused as to whether the show had ended) and the show feels overlong at 2 hours, but with some work, it could have a future life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cold As Ice

The Ice Factory Festival is the last chance for New Yorkers to see a show at the Ohio Theatre before it sadly closes its doors on August 31. For those looking to cool off and drawn to the title Ice Factory, it should be noted that the performance I attended of Hater (the third of six plays presented) last night was a little too warm for comfort, but paper fans were provided on every seat. Ice could apply, however, to the characters in the play, a new translation of Moliere's The Misanthrope by Samuel Buggeln.

Though the play still takes place in 17th-century Paris, the language is modern and the names have been updated. Alex (Nick Dillenburg) hates everyone and everything except Celine (Zoƫ Winters), even though she represents the qualities (phoniness, backstabbing) he despises most in society. He is jealous of her many suitors, but blind to the other women who are in love with him.

Strobe lights by Dans Maree Sheehan and choreography by Robin Carrigan (backed by Subvader's beats) suggest a club-like atmosphere in between scenes, but they don't aid the storytelling process and feel extraneous.

The cast as a whole is capable, but only a few performances stand out. Aysan Celik as Celine's frenemy Alison and Noah Weisberg as Alex's friend Phil excel in the humor department--her with facial expressions and him with physicality. It is Merritt Wever in the smaller role of Celine's cousin Liane that impresses the most. She is the most natural on stage and brings a needed humanity to the play.

Hater plays nightly at 7 through July 24.
Photo credit: Krissie Fullerton

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good Morning America(n Idiot)

I can't take credit for the title of this post--it was taken from a cute sign that somebody had this morning at the American Idiot performance in Central Park, part of Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series.

They performed two mash-ups--"Boulevard of Broken Dreams/Holiday" and "Letterbomb/American Idiot"--as well as "Good Riddance." This was a smart move as most of the actors had a chance to be featured and the portions of the songs not suitable for television could easily be cut. All in all a morning well spent. I don't claim to be a great photographer, but here are a few of the photos I took:

The stage

The band shows up

Rehearsing some of the dance moves

Michael Esper, John Gallgher, Jr., and Stark Sands looking happy

I couldn't get a good shot of Tony Vincent, but he had to wear his St. Jimmy costume and make-up and was barely on camera, so someone should see it.

This picture seems very Jesus of Suburbia-esque

Rebecca Naomi Jones, rocking it out

Action shot