Friday, February 1, 2013

New York Off-Broadway Buzz: Not-To-Be-Missed Shows, Feb 2013

By Jacquelin Carnegie – (New York, NY)
Nothing like a rousing theater production to fend off the winter blues. Since Off-Broadway shows have limited runs, head straight to the box office (or online equivalent).

Ana Graham & Antonio Vega (photo: Carol Rosegg)
59E59 Theaters (59 East 59 St.) Limited run: until Feb 17, 2013
Presented by The Play Company in collaboration with Por Piedad Teatro; Adapted by Gigliola Fantoni; Translation by Danya Taymor, Ana Graham & Antonio Vega; Staging by Laura Almela & Daniel Giménez Cacho with/starring Ana Graham & Antonio Vega
Jaded by the trend of helicopters taking off, chandeliers crashing, and rain falling on stage? This delightfully-imaginative play will take you back to the essence of theater—the suspension of disbelief aided by actors who are truly “players.” Working On A Special Day is based on an Oscar-nominated Italian film, Ettore Scola's Una Giornata Particolare, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. On stage, actors Ana Graham and Antonio Vega, who also co-direct, beautifully portray the bittersweet melancholia of an overworked housewife and a bachelor neighbor left home alone on a day in 1938 when everyone else has gone off to celebrate Hitler's visit to Rome. Equally amazing is how the set—drawn by the actors with chalk on blackboard-like walls—completely captures the look and feel of the original film. An Italian film performed as a play by Mexican actors in English-–intrigued? You should be. Actors Ana Graham and Antonio Vega deserve every accolade.

Kirsten Holly Smith
 (photo: Joan Marcus)
New World Stages (340 West 50th St.) Limited run: until April 7, 2013
Directed by Randal Myler; Written by Kirsten Holly Smith & Jonathan Vankin; Starring: Kirsten Holly Smith, Christina Sajous, Coleen Sexton, Benim Foster, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Ashley Betton & Jonathan C. Kaplan
The great thing about bio-musicals—apart from the fun--is that they give you the chance to experience something you might have missed. If you were not alive, or too young, in the 1960s, singer Dusty Springfield’s enormous popularity, talent, and trailblazing stances might have eluded you. Kirsten Holly Smith channels Dusty and goes on a journey from her start through the highs of her chart-topping status to the lows of her substance abuse and on to a hard-won recovery. Aside from her hit rendition of “Son of a Preacher Man,” you might not have known what an icon Dusty was in mod-era London and, later, in the U.S. Here, you get a chance to find out. While the show and script could use some polish, the band is fabulous and the songs rock on.

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