Theater & Activism: The Working Theater Company’s 2011 Annual Awards Gala

The Working Theater Company’s gala evening was a breath of fresh air on a musty May evening in New York City.  A friend had invited me to join her table, providing an opportunity for exposure to this inclusive, politically-aware company (mission statement available on their website).

The evening’s speakers were eloquent and their words obviously heartfelt. The company’s dedication to providing a voice for working Americans in the theater was clearly articulated, and they displayed their working process and its results to attendees through a series of short scenes, performed during the meal.

This entertainment included selected scenes from Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty, and hearing the work discussed reminded me of hearing Scottish theater activists talking about John McGrath’s The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil.

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THEATER REVIEW: “The Sphinx Winx” at Theater Row

There’s very little to recommend The Sphinx Winx over traditional B-movie fare, available at a lower price (and higher camp factor) from Netflix and local indie movie stores. Fans of Egyptian paraphanalia and themes can take a pass, since this show owes little aside from pop-culture references to Egypt. All this could be forgiven if the show were funny; alas it is not.

(l-r): Ryan Williams (Soothsayer), Erika Amato (Cleopatra), and Bruce Sabath (Doctor) in the Off-Broadway musical THE SPHINX WINX at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre (410 West 42nd Street).

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THEATER REVIEW: “Teeth of the Sons” at the Cherry Lane Theater

Teeth of the Sons by Joseph Sousa, at the Cherry Lane Theater, examines family and faith from the perspective of two brothers, each vying to be the one regarded as successful by the rest of their family – and in one’s case, his God.

Jacob, played by Sousa, is the younger of two Jewish brothers. Jacob looks after the family house, studying Torah and being pursued by all the families at temple with girls of a marriagble age. His older brother is the family fuck-up, or so we are shown throughout the character’s familial interactions. It turns out that Sam, who has a habit of disappearing on his family for extended periods of time, has re-connected with the boys’ estranged father and his side of the family – who are Greek Orthadox. Meanwhile, Sam’s fallen for – and knocked up – a Polish girl, and now they want Jacob to let them stay for a while.
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THEATER REVIEW: “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” Aunt Dan, and Searching for Humanity through Theater

During recent visits to the theater, two plays have raised questions about how our society confronts and copes with our basic animal instincts, and the complicity of individuals in destructive acts performed by their societies. They’ve also presented complex existential arguments about the limits of communication and the need to be satisfied by what is, rather than by what one wishes could be. The two plays? Rajiv Joseph’s current Broadway production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Robin Williams’ Broadway debut) and a production of Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan & Lemon from Buffalo, New York theater company Torn Space.
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Celebrity Meltdowns – On Opposite Day

Celebrity Meltdowns – On Opposite Day.

Recently, Pakistani actress Veena Malik was taken to task by a conservative cleric in her country for her perceived “shameful” representation of herself and of Pakistan on the Indian version of “Big Brother,” “Big Boss.”

Please consider reading my thoughts, linked above at the show blog, on Ms. Malik and her incredible stand for women around the world, and donating to “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues” at Kickstarter if you find the commentary engaging, interesting, or insightful.

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Announcing a New Creative Project: Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the last little while, it’s time to announce the answer! Check out my new project, “Celebrity: The Meltdown Monologues,” and if you like the idea of the project – please back us! (We’re looking to raise $15,000 by April 17, so every dollar – and moment – counts!)

Click the link below to learn more about the project and become a backer:

Check out our blog for more on the background, inspiration and direction the show will be taking:

And please think about clicking “Like” or sharing this on Facebook, as well as any other social networks you’re a part of. Your support would make a struggling playwright (me) very, very happy – and help enable a discussion around (among other things) how the changing social requirements of living in the digital age might be affecting not just celebrities, but – as we move toward an increasingly transparent and documented society – affecting all of us.

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Film Review: “Potiche”

Somewhere between seeing the preview for “Potiche” advertised prior to “Blue Valentine” at the Angelika and the article I read about Catherine Deneuve on this week, I decided that “Potiche” was on my must-see list. Not sure why. Just had a hunch.

Following the hunch, I made the trip up to Chelsea to check out the film last night.

It’s a charming story about a woman who has allowed herself to become a “trophy housewife,” and how she reclaims her birthright – and then some – when her priggish, overbearing, condescending, philandering husband suffers a heart attack due to the stresses of a general strike. She finds her way and her self-confidence over the course of the film, inspiring people like her husband’s secretery (and mistress – an open secret that adds a stereotypically “french” feeling early on in the production). Deneuve plays Suzanne Pujol, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner. It’s no wonder that press has made sure to emphasize, to a generation who might not be familiar with Deneuve, exactly how sexually electrifying this woman has been over the years – and it’s utterly refreshing to see her being appreciated by the men in the film as a sexual being. But unlike the men, she has an appreciation of how the years have changed her internally. At one point, resisting the advances of Depardieu’s character, she recommends that they remain good friends: “It’s age appropriate,” she says.

The flashbacks add great depth to the film; we understand that Mme. Pujol may be age-appropriate now, but that her ideas of appropriateness were very different at different ages. I find the ending a bit jarring – in addition to finishing her election campaign with a song about the beauty of life (maybe it’s a song with cultural relevance in French-speaking countries?), Mme Pujol declares (in a moment that might remind viewers of Natalie Portman’s Black Swan Acceptance Speech) that she considers herself the “mother” of everyone in her district.

Kind of weird for a woman who’s just spent an entire film carving out a role for herself outside the home, but while members of her family caution her that “the age of patriarchy is over” and that the modern world had moved into an age of efficiency, outsourcing and the bottom line she sticks to her guns – and as she says herself: a social, human touch worked in breaking the factory strike – maybe there’s room for a “Potiche 2: President of France” in this franchise!

What do you say, Ms. Deneuve?

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