Sunday, March 16, 2014

New York Off-Broadway Buzz, March 2014

Bum Phillips (photo: Corey Torpie) 
By Jacquelin Carnegie – (New York, NY)
BUM PHILLIPS ALL-AMERICAN OPERA La Mama (66 East 4th St.) Until March 30, 2014
Monk Parrots’ World Premiere: Concept/directed by Luke Leonard; Music by Peter Stopschinki; Libretto by Kirk Lynn. Starring: Gary Ramsey

You're in for a treat 'cause there's a lot of talent on view in this production, not to mention the neat feat of combining sports and opera. The title character, Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips, was a legendary NFL coach for the Houston Oilers in Texas in the 1970s. While he never quite got the team to the Super Bowl, he put on a heck of a show trying. The Bum Phillips creative team does too. The opera was conceived and directed by Luke Leonard, who grew up in Houston during coach Phillips' "Luv Ya Blue" era. As Luke points out: "Texas, football, and opera are all grand scale concepts. Opera and football are epic." The voices are all wonderful. The music by composer Peter Stopschinki is stunning and the lovely, minimal staging highlights iconic aspects of Texas and America's love affair with football. The show would benefit from more scenes of the coach actually coaching; otherwise, it's bound for even bigger venues and greater accolades.

And Baby Makes Seven  
New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St.)
 Until April 12, 2014
Written by Paula Vogel; 
Directed by Marc Stuart Weitz, Purpleman Theater; Starring: Susan Bott, Constance Zaytoun & Ken Barnett 

 (photo: Steven Schreiber)
Every couple has its manners and mores. This couple, beautifully portrayed by Susan Bott as Ruth and Constance Zaytoun as pregnant Anna, like to play-act as children. Ruth is sometimes Henri, a little French boy, at other moments, she's Orphan, a feral, wild child, while Anna is Cecil, a child genius. Akin to Peter Pan's Lost Boys, Ruth and Anna with their fantasy brood find imaginative ways to forge a family in the brave new world of same-sex couples. A male friend Peter, sperm donor and foil to the ladies, wonderfully played by Ken Barnett, at first attempts to get the women to abandon their small fry alter egos but, in the end, realizes that to be a part of this family, he too must join the band. So ahead of her time, playwright Paula Vogel wrote this 20 years ago. Then, it was a shocker; today, it's a slice of life. Yet, the trials and tribulations of love & marriage and becoming a modern family remain poignant and touching. 

PUPPETRY at HERE Arts Center (145 6th Ave.)
The House (photo: Jakob Eskildsen)
Puppetry is the ultimate suspension-of-disbelief. When done well, it can transport you to another place faster and better than any hallucinatory drug. Yet, there are far too few venues to see the artistry of puppetry. Luckily, HERE's Dream Music Puppetry program supports and encourages contemporary, adult puppetry and provides a venue for the works to be performed. Puppeteer extraordinaire Basil Twist is the program's Artistic Director. Some recent fantastic shows: The House by Denmark’s Sofie Krog Teater with David Faraco - A tale of intrigue and betrayal in a house/funeral home entertains and enchants like some magic elixir. The Pigeoning by Robin Frohardt - A nerdy, curmudgeon deals with a pigeon problem. Sign up for HERE's alerts to catch the next puppet show. 

Nothing on Earth (photo: Dixie Sheridan)

Small Theater Companies With Mighty Missions:
Abingdon Theatre Company (June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th St.) - Dedicated to producing new American plays. [Current show: Hellman v. McCarthy - famous literary feud between writers Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, features Dick Cavett.]
Axis Theatre (1 Sheridan Square) - Founded to present unique, offbeat productions. [Current show: Nothing on Earth - Harry Houdini's crusade to expose fraudulent mediums pits him against his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a confirmed believer. Fascinating premise, based on real-life events.]

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