Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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

Alonso & Cerveris, Nikolai (photo: Paul Kolnik)

By Jacquelin Carnegie – (New York, NY)
With immigration reform under debate, it's interesting to see how it's reflected on stage. These plays portray immigrants at different ends of the spectrum, in America and other places, who've left their homelands with diverse motivations: seeking freedom of expression; looking for a better life; fleeing war and oppression.

Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre (Lincoln Center, 65th St. & Broadway) Until June 16, 2013
Written by Richard Nelson; Directed by David Cromer; Starring: Michael Cerveris, Stephen Kunken, John Glover, Blair Brown
(photo: Paul Kolnik)
Forced to choose between working under the confines of Lenin's oppressive Communist regime or staying true to their own modernistic ideas, many of the 20th century's greatest artists fled Russia for the West. In this play, Russian émigrés, and old friends, choreographer George Balanchine (beautifully played by Michael Cerveris), composer Igor Stravinsky (John Glover), painter/set designer Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein), actor Vladimir Sokoloff (John Procaccino), conductor Serge Koussevitsky (Dale Place), and composer and Mr-Fix-It Nikolai Nabokov, Vladimir's cousin (Stephen Kunken) spend a weekend together in a country home in Westport, Connecticut. It's 1948 and most of them have already become American citizens, yet, as they reminisce, there's bittersweet nostalgia for the homeland that denied them the freedom to create the masterpieces that have rendered them famous. The most fabulous perk: watching Stravinsky and Balanchine create their famous ballet "Orpheus"--if you ever wondered what that experience was like, this is your chance to imagine.

(photo: Carol Rosegg)
The New Ohio Theater (154 Christopher St.) Until June 9, 2013
Written by Roland Schimmelpfennig (translated from German by David Tushingham); Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar; Starring: Noah Galvin, Peter Kim, K.K. Moggie, Stephen Duff Webber & Welker White
Presented by The Play Company, this is a very cool piece of theater about poor, undocumented kitchen help in an Asian restaurant in an unspecified time and place. Stunningly staged, directed, and choreographed, this gifted group of actors as immigrants looking for a better life, yet trapped by their circumstance, will move you to laughter and tears.

The Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th St.) Until June 23, 2013
Written by John Guare; Directed by Neil Pepe; Starring: John Guare, Martin Moran, David Pittu, Peter Maloney & Omar Sangare
Maloney & Pittu (photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia)
Tony Award® winning playwright John Guare always has something fascinating up his sleeve. This time, it's Eastern Europeans fleeing war and oppression before, during, and after WWII. The play, presented by the Atlantic Theater Company, is based on three real-life exiled artists: the Czech filmmaker Karel Reisz; the Polish actress Elzbieta Czyzewska; and the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. Karel, magnificently portrayed by Martin Moran, was a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia sent to Britain just before the war, when he was a child. Elzbieta, a celebrated actress in Poland, sacrifices her career when she follows husband, renowned American journalist David Halberstam, to New York in the 1960s; her story is illuminated by Guare (making his off-Broadway acting debut) and Omar Sangare. Born into Polish high society that stifled his spirit, Witold, brilliantly played by David Pittu, gets exiled in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the outbreak of the war and remains there for 25 years. These three, beautifully-told tales of melancholic lives are both heart-rending and buoyant.
This play isn't about immigration, but it was written by a Norwegian and it's worth seeing before June 9, 2013:

Turturro & Schmidt (photo: Stephanie Berger)
By Henrik Ibsen (translated by David Edgar); Directed by Andrei Belgrader; Starring: John Turturro, Katherine Borowitz & Wrenn Schmidt
BAM is known for its imaginative productions of Strindberg and Ibsen and this rendition of The Master Builder doesn't disappoint. It's always exciting to see John Turturro on stage and this affecting portrayal of Solness is particularly moving. His real-life wife, Katherine Borowitz, does a beautiful job as his onstage wife Aline, and newcomer Wrenn Schmidt is knockout as young, beguiling Hilde. The play was written in 1892 and the text still sparkles. The striking set was designed by a true master builder, Santo Loquasto.
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