Friday, January 18, 2019

New York: THEATER BUZZ, Winter/Spring 2019

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (New York, NY) 
Fend off the winter blues in New York City with great theater.
Friendly Reminder: Off- and Off-Off Broadway shows have limited runs, so get tickets right away. 

THE PUBLIC THEATER (Plays) - The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St.)
SEA WALL/A LIFE - Newman Theater, Until March 31, 2019
Both Shows Directed by Carrie Cracknell; Sea Wall: Written by Simon Stephens; Starring: Tom Sturridge; A Life: Written by Nick Payne; Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal (photo: Joan Marcus)

It's to their credit, in this time of irresponsible discourse, that two young, prominent actors should choose to do such mature material. In SEA WALL/A LIFE, Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver two separate-but-equal, powerfully-moving monologues about love and loss. While you're probably familiar with Gyllenhaal's film work, this bona fide movie star is also a gifted stage performer. You may be less familiar with Tom Sturridge, but this dazzlingly-gifted British actor works his craft to perfection. (Sturridge was beyond brilliant in the Orphans' revival.) The SEA WALL/A LIFE monologues take you for an emotional ride, but Sturridge and Gyllenhaal know how to deliver the goods.

136 East 13th Street (2 Shows, 
Until March 10, 2019)   
Adapted from Strindberg's Miss Julie by Yaël Farber; Directed by Shariffa Ali; Starring: Elise Kibler (Julie), James Udom (John), Patrice Johnson Chevannes (Christine) & Vinie Burrows (Ukhokho)
(photo: Joan Marcus)
Yaël Farber's brilliant adaptation of August Strindberg's play--about class struggle and sexual tension--relocates it from staid, late 19th-century Sweden to volatile, post-Apartheid South Africa adding race--another layer to the toxic, emotional mix. James Udom's tour de force performance as John is so electrifying it's as if he commands lighting down on stage to strike Julie in her reckless self-absorption, destroying lives--animal and human. In this not-to-be-missed version, the cook Christine is John's mother with her feet firmly planted in the past as his make a break for the future. [Mies Julie's "dance of death" is playing in repertory with Strindberg's other The Dance of Death.]
New Version of Strindberg's play by Conor McPherson; Directed by Victoria Clark; Starring: Cassie Beck (Alice), Richard Topol (Edgar) & Christopher Innvar (Kurt) - Written in 1900, this may be the first in a long line of tragic-comedies in which the featured couple loves to loath each other. Conor McPherson's contemporary adaptation takes this train wreck of a relationship and spins it on its axis with humor. Cassie Beck as Alice, the verbal dart-throwing wife, and Richard Topol as Edgar, the henpecked yet harassing husband, throw their punches with brio.
(photo: Joan Marcus)
Classic Stage Company presents larger-than-life productions in a small, intimate space. Theater fans, if you’re unfamiliar with CSC's work, it’s time to discover them!

Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 West 47th St.; 
Extended to March 10, 2019 (with Pope as lead till Feb. 24)
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Directed by Trip Cullman; Starring: Jeremy Pope, John Clay III, J. Quinton Johnson, Nicholas L. Ashe, Chuck Cooper, Caleb Eberhardt, Austin Pendleton, Daniel Bellomy, Jonathan Burke, Gerald Caesar, Marcus Gladney
(photo: Matthew Murphy)

In addition to some beautiful voices, this show delivers heart and soul. Adolescence is never easy, but when you're young, black, talented--and gay--life can throw you some extra-special curve balls. In the Manhattan Theatre Club's lovely presentation of CHOIR BOY, Jeremy Pope (Pharus), with the voice of an angel, is bedeviled by his classmates with their own set of issues. The tensions come to a boil in the "hothouse" setting of an exclusive boarding school--a prep school--for on-the-rise black boys. Pharus strives to become a man, his own person, and the leader of this extraordinary choir. J. Quinton Johnson (Bobby) is his tormented torturer, Caleb Eberhardt (David) his conflicted secret admirer, and John Clay III (AJ) the wise roomie who sets him "straight." A joyous night in the theater. Plus, the singing will knock your socks off.

For Tweens, Teens & Adults
If you missed this incredible presentation at The New Victory theater last year, luckily you have a second chance to see it. A reprise takes place at La Mama (Jan 24-Feb 3, 2019). Since it's such a short run, don't delay, get tickets now! 
LaMama (66 East 4th St); Until Feb. 3, 2019; For ages 12 & up
Conceived by Ping Chong; Written & directed by Sara Zatz & Kirya Traber in collaboration with the cast. Cast: Edwin Aguila, Monica Victoria Tatacoya Castañeda, Andrea "Syl" Egerton, Mohammad Murtaza, De-Andra Pryce, Porscha Polkahantis Rippy & Rafael Rosario

Ping Chong + Company's extraordinary presentation will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you care.
For GENERATION NYZ is a celebration of humanity's diversity and how we are all more similar than different. It is the story of seven amazing young adults who could have easily fallen through the cracks of life. Born into poverty, hopelessness, neglect, and confusion, each one of them--through a combination of personal perseverance, the kindness of strangers (teachers and mentors), and a splash of luck--saw a vision of what could be for themselves and forged ahead to actualize that dream. The cast represents the “gorgeous mosaic" of New York, celebrating their heritage--Black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, South Asian, and European--and the neighborhoods they grew up in: the South Bronx, West Harlem, Far Rockaway, Queens, and East New York, Brooklyn. This show is so dope, woke and cool, it should be extended. And, hopefully, filmed to be shown in every school and college across the country to give all kids who are dazed-and-confused an infusion of hope.

For Adults & Sophisticated Teens
The same goes for this mind-blowing show. If you missed it at The Public Theater about ten years ago, here's your chance to experience some extraordinary theater. It's a short run at NYU Skirball (Jan 23-Feb3, 2019), so get tickets today!

NYU Skirball (566 LaGuardia Place); Until Feb. 3, 2019
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Directed by John Collins; Performed by ERS' ensemble with Scott Shepherd as Nick.

The theater company, Elevator Repair Service, pays homage to the written word--often to those of great American novelists--in fascinating and brilliantly-innovative productions. GATZ is ERS' acclaimed, not-to-be-missed, word-for-word enactment of The Great Gatsby. That's right--six hours of performance, worth every second, with its' committed ensemble of terrific actors. No more to be said, because part of the thrill of this show is experiencing the way it unfolds and sucks you in. Soon you are no longer listening to a novel being read, you are there on Long Island in West and East Egg with the beautiful, careless people.
Practical: It lasts about 8 hours (the show, plus 2 intermissions & a dinner break). Bring a seat cushion, a back-support pillow, and believe in the green light!

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