12
Feb
18

The Chekhov Dreams: My Review

Chekhov Dreams 3Sometimes in the world of theatre you run into the seemingly perfect show. Everything appears to be just as it should be. The actors are talented and in some cases truly gifted. The script is appropriately funny, or tragic, or both whichever the case may be. The design facets are successfully executed and presented. The direction is in line with the text and equally in sync with the production. The audience is responding right on cue as expected. Yet in spite of all that there’s something just not right overall. As smooth as everything seems, as hard as everyone is working to nail it, there’s a nagging feeling that there’s something rotten in the state of Minsk. The Chekhov Dreams, currently playing at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, is one such show.

Jeremy is an independently wealthy struggling wanna be author. One evening over lots of wine, and a mutual game of guess the quote by which famous literary figure, Jeremy and his recently ex-girlfriend Kate form a blood oath to reach out and remain together in this life and the afterlife. This of course immediately leads to her death in a car accident. Three years later the still rich and now lost Jeremy is struggling to finish his first book. His opus is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen which was a favorite story of his since childhood. In the midst of the struggle he begins having regular dreams where Kate comes to visit. She taunts, and teases, and seduces him. Her temptations are too great, and his fear of failure is too overwhelming, so Jeremy makes another pact to kill himself and marry his now dead fiancée. This decision is no easy task to complete as his life proceeds to get more complicated.

Jeremy’s narcissistic hedonist of a brother Eddie keeps trying to cure his doldrums to no avail. Jeremy also wants to finish his book before he departs so he takes an acting class to help him release his creative juices. It’s there that he meets his acting scene partner Chrissy. She comes with her own imposing wants and needs including a love of Jeremy’s least favorite author Anton Chekhov. Of course, the scene their working on is from Chekhov’s The Seagull. It’s not long before the dead fiancée becomes jealous and impatient. She not only keeps up her dream visits she also begins appearing in Jeremy’s apartment while he’s awake causing him much distress and added mayhem. On top of all that Chekhov also begins taking on a featured role in his dreams as mentor, advisor, author, and dramaturge.

Chekhov Dreams 2Dana Watkins as Jeremy has the makings of a good leading man. He pulls off the awkward, dazed and confused romantic, along with the tortured lover and author to be. Elizabeth Inghram as the deceased Kate does very well as mortal girlfriend, seductive spirit, and eventually manipulative evil queen. As Chrissy, the ingenue and Chekhov scene partner, Charlotte Stoiber embodies a hopeful somewhat naive actress in search of true meaning in her work and in matters of the heart.

Christian Ryan as Jeremy’s flawed, heavy drinking, chain smoking lothario of a brother is in fine comic form. His scenes bring a laugh filled breath of fresh air into each scene he appears in. Rik Walter as the legendary director and writer Anton Chekhov is every bit the stately, stern, and imposing dark genius one might expect but he brings with it a sassy comedic edge that is fun to watch.

As already mentioned the cast is a talented lot. While each player plays their part the problem with the ensemble is one of what appears to be nervous energy. No one seems to be able to be still. There’s constant unnecessary movement and in some cases unconscious mirroring of each other’s actions. There’s also that unwavering feeling of trying too hard to please. It’s not always the case. When they connect with themselves, the erratic material, and the house, the ensemble plays very well together but for the most part this is all a hit or miss affair.

In support of the production the design team set themselves some very ambitious goals and for the most part they achieve them. Costume designer Christina Giannini is well represented. Along with the needed every day wear of the characters that inhabit this world she’s able to shine with beautiful period costumes that make the dreams they have so vivid. Lighting designer Diana Duecker and sound designer John McKinney more than ably deliver on setting the mood and the tone for both the real and the surreal proceedings. Scenic designer Scott Aronow had the larger challenge of having to wrangle many settings into one multi-dimensional set. His solution and execution does work nicely even though it was a bit wobbly at times. An extra support here, an additional nail there, and this minor quibble is eliminated.

Chekhov Dreams 1All is not lost because there’s a gem of a show to be mined her but the excavation would have to go deep. Writer John McKinney and director Leslie Kincaid Burby could and should go back to the drawing boards on this one and uncover all that this script truly has to offer. There are warnings already built into this current version. In his dreamy appearances Chekhov warns of not using too many devices to advance the plot and yet he himself becomes one. He also warns that not everything is to be explained and yet that happens often in this production. Particularly in the fact that the play goes one scene too long for the sake of trying to wrap everything up with a neat bow. In fact, the entire show runs a bit too long. If the next incarnation were trimmed down to a tight intermissonless ninety minutes, as opposed to the overstuffed feeling of the current with an intermission two hour plus version, the entire company might find themselves with a dream worth having again.

Theatre Row
Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
www.chekhovdreams.com
(212) 239-6200
$44.25

Now Playing Through Feb 17, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

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03
Feb
18

Puffs: My Review

Puffs2An owl has arrived to deliver a message to a young boy. The lucky recipient of this owlgram has been accepted into a little known world renowned school of magic. He is to be taken from his humdrum life and set upon a new course and the magical adventure of his life. The catch is that this is not merry old England and this is not the boy legend in the making Harry Potter. This is New Mexico in the good old US of A and the boy is an awkward, and not that much of a gifted wizard to be, named Wayne. Nonetheless, Wayne is whisked off to England to experience ‘seven increasingly eventful years at a certain school of magic and magic’ just like the infamous Harry.

While Harry does make occasional appearances in this tale this story belongs to Wayne and all his fellow Puffs, the magical house he’s sorted into for his time at the school. This is a mirror world of the Potter books and if you don’t know them you will have some problems catching all the jokes in this very clever, fast paced, hysterically funny farce. While elements of the books play out in the periphery, this version is all about the Puffs and their mutual adventures of just getting through school and dealing with all the mayhem that Harry creates in his wake. The Puffs are endearing misfits but they know it and that always seems to empower them forward through their mutual endeavors.

The ensemble cast is exactly that in every sense of the word. They are frenetic poetry in zany motion and to lose any one of these skillful cartoon treasures would be to collapse this magical school’s house of cards. In total the company of thirteen players portray fifty three characters and features the talents of Langston Belton, Madeleine Bundy, Jessie Cannizzaro, Nick Carrillo, Anna Dart, A.J. Ditty, Julie Ann Earls, James Fouhey, Jake Keefe, Andy Miller, Zac Moon, Eleanor Philips and Stephen Stout.

Puffs1The design work on this production is clever to the max with every department delivering excellence. Madeleine Bundy’s set, costume, and prop designs are at the center of it all. Her set gives the reigning Broadway work of The Play That Goes Wrong a run for its money. Its backstage reverse world look and feel serves as the visual foundation in this frenzied world. Her hodgepodge of costumes is in all actuality a well-organized balance of quick change mastery that fits well within the mania and lets the audience keep track of the many characters and their houses as they fly by.

It’s writer Matt Cox’s book of secrets that drives this glorious insanity. His work reveals a true and genuine love of the parodied Potter source material. He provides not only comedic reverence to the proceedings but also isn’t at all afraid to skewer its revered cannon with right-on-the-mark pokes at its fabled facade. Cox has scripted an intermissonless one hour and forty five minute speeding magical locomotive that makes for a wild and wonderful ride.

One would think that a show and a cast that moves this quickly and delivers this many punch lines per second would be allowed to run amok to achieve those goal. That thinking would be incorrect. There’s a slow and steady hand at the helm of this madness that makes it all work and it belongs to director, Kristin McCarthy Parker. Reigning in all that creative energy and then knowing exactly when to unleash it is no simple task and her skill is to be admired.

Tilted Windmills Theatricals and producers John Arthur Pinckard and David Carpenter are to be commended here as well. They took great steps to protect, package, and promote this gem of a production in such a way that allowed it to be found by its adoring audience. They knew what they had and nurtured it wisely. Puffs began at the Peoples Improv Theater, where it gained its first momentum, before moving to the Elektra Theater where continued critical acclaim brought it to its current home at Stage 5 at New World Stages.

Puffs has broken two New World Stages box office records to date and is well on its way to break others as it repeatedly plays to sold out houses. It is primarily word of mouth support from its loyal and growing fan base that drives this well-deserved success. With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opening shortly it’s easy to see how Puffs may just become a permanent fixture on the New York theatre scene as scores of fans flood into the city from all over the world to catch two of the hottest wizarding tickets within reach.

New World Stages
Stage 5
340 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019
http://www.puffstheplay.com/
212.239.6200
$52-$97
Now Playing Through Nov 4, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

19
Nov
17

Don’t Feed The Indians: My Review

Don_t Feed The Indians 1In order to gain entry to the Safe Harbors Indigenous Collective’s production of Don’t Feed The Indians: A Divine Comedy Pageant at the legendary La MaMa’s Downstairs Theatre you must first pass through a sideshow. Your guide through this living tableau of indigenous fallacies and misrepresentations is a tall well-dressed ponytailed huckster in braids and sunglasses. You’re given gold chocolate coins to toss in the baskets of the presented freaks in order to feed the Indians an enticement to perform for you. There’s the half-naked, half breed singing warrior brave, the firewater drinking alcoholic homeless veteran of many wars, and of course the cigar smoking tobacco selling old woman indecipherably chanting away, all there for your enjoyment before you take your seat in the theater for the main event.

The carnival atmosphere, beautifully created by set designer Ann Mirjam Vaikla, lighting designer Cecilia Durbin, and costume designer Sheldon Raymore, continues on inside. What follows is an absurdist collection of songs, skits, and parables about expected racial archetypes and the insufferable lengths to which Native American actors must go through to fit into those molds or find themselves without professional employment. Loosely based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, the story presents the onstage performances and backstage dramas of a Native American family of performers trying to satisfy an audience starving for those stereotypes while dealing with the personal costs of living up to the lies imposed upon them to match the forced expectations of the Eurocentric crowd. This is a twisted variety show with the punch of an in-your-face moral message that’s meant to amuse, but make one squirm in the process.

Don_t Feed The Indians 2There are bits exposing the racism of supposedly tried and true entertainments like Disney’s Peter Pan and the musical Annie Get Your Gun. Indian Casino shows are also on display here with an emcee from hell and the comedic stylings of a beaded borscht belt husband and wife team that present the irony of double edged self-deprecating humor. Television is properly skewered as well with a very funny use of Keeping Up With The Kardashians to exemplify the cost that individuals pay when living a lie. These are all set against real and touching revelations of autobiographical sacrifices made in the act of attempting against all odds to live an artist’s life including depression, family conflict, forced rape, and the loss of leaders and elders as the fight for equality and acceptance rolls ceaselessly on.

Don’t Feed the Indians was conceived, written, and directed by Murielle Borst-Tarrant (Kuna/Rappahannock Nations), with musical direction by Kevin Tarrant (Hopi/Ho-Chunk Nations) both of whom serve double duty in the cast as well turning in some of the funniest and touching work of the show. The balance of this talented all Native American ensemble includes Nicholson Billey (Delaware/Choctaw Nations), John Scott-Richardson (Haliwa-Saponi Tribe), Danielle Soames (Mohawk/Kahnawake Nations), Henu Josephine Tarrant (Hopi/Ho-Chunk/Kuna/Rappahannock Nations), Joe Cross (Caddo/Nation of Oklahoma), Tony Enos (Cherokee Nation), George Stonefish (Delaware Chippewa/First Nation) and Gloria Miguel (Kuna/Rappahannock Nations). Each of these actors delivers performances ranging from spiritual ritual, broad slapstick, and heart wrenching sadness with utmost skill and grace.

Don_t Feed The Indians 3This is a production whose heart is in the right place and whose cause is righteous. The overriding message is everything here and that’s not only laudable but also commendable. That being said this is also a production whose heart and cause cries out for some focus in the telling. The script is in need of editing and the production overall is in need of tighter direction. The old adage of less is more is apt here. Many of the target points are being missed in the scattershot delivery of scene, after scene, after scene with the encroaching feeling of repetitiveness around every corner. A sharper focused beam would shed even more light on these all important issues and would greater serve to correct the injustices being presented. One would hope that the production and artistic teams of Don’t Feed The Indians will return to the stage after having polished this diamond in the rough once more.

La MaMa
Downstairs Theatre
66 East 4th St
New York, NY 1003
http://lamama.org/
212.352.3101
$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors + $1 Facility Fee
Nov 2 – Nov 19, 2017
From an original post on TheaterScene.

Photo credits Maya Bitan.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

18
Nov
17

Latin History For Morons: My Review

Photo 3 - John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusJohn Leguizamo has a problem at home. His wife is waiting for him to step up, his daughter is at the know-it-all brat stage, his son is being bullied at school and that is the source for all the turmoil at home. He wants his son to be able to defend himself not with his fists, but with his words. It is words, after all, that built his father’s career. When the bullies at his prep school begin to taunt him about his race and heritage Leguizamo wants his progeny to be able to quote historical facts about their great ancestors. This is where the problem presents itself. When his son challenges him for facts to use in his defense his father realizes he has none. He realizes that the education that he received, the one we all received and continue to receive, is devoid of the true story of the Latin global influence.

Latin History for Morons, as Leguizamo points out, is for us. We’re the morons. So was he. Until he set about educating himself and his son. That search gave birth to the latest one-man show from the king of one man shows. This semi-autobiographical ninety minute work is a class in discovery. Our lesson spans three thousand years of Latin history. Its syllabus includes all the magnificent Latin kingdoms that once ruled a good portion of the globe. It speaks in truths of the rise and fall of great cultures, legendary heroes, and the significant impact they had on history. These historical events range the gamut from ancient wars to modern battles, through science, art, music, and beyond. All the while illustrating how these accomplishments were squashed and diminished by calculated influences that exist to this day.

Photo 2 - John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusThere are shades of Mark Twain alive and well on the Studio 54 stage. Twain was, of course, known for his books and stories but he was also one of the first touring standup comics. His lectures made the people of the late 1800’s take an introspective look and question the lessons they had taught themselves about life, the class system, and race relations. This lecture is also reminiscent of the heady days of George Carlin’s landmark Class Clown where he took on the establishment and where the seeds were sown that made him a counter culture icon. Carlin dedicated that album to Lenny Bruce who led the modern-day counterculture era and paved the way for future outspoken social critics and satirists, who had no fear of mixing comedy and politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity.

Leguizamo embodies all that but he would be quick to point out that the influences don’t stop there. Cheech and Chong are the current Latin anchors of this genre. All their albums were lessons in resistance, non-conformity, and cultural reflection. There are echoes of their classic parochial school routine Sister Mary Elephant at work in Leguizamo’s lesson. Puerto Rican Freddie Prinze is here too, so are the language hijinks of Mexican comedian Cantinflas, Cuban historical comedy artist Alina Tropayo is present, even the ironic sass of young Puerto Rican Aubrey Plaza can be felt. Leguizamo gleefully speaks of the mixing of the races and the foundations of his comedic work reflects that.

Photo 1 John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusActor and comedian Leguizamo is a Columbian raconteur that started in stand up and branched out into television and film. His personal life and experiences are the source of his comedic work. He is a fearless entertainer and a masterful wordsmith, who not only obviously values education but also basks in the light it provides. This producer, screenwriter, playwright, and now self-taught teacher of Latin history is also well credentialed. He has won two Obie’s, three Drama Desk awards, three Outer Critics Circle awards, one Emmy, and six Cable Ace awards for his troubles. Leguizamo needs to make room on his shelf of accomplishments because Latin History For Morons is a powerful, and powerfully funny lecture that will once again garner awards for its creator and professor.

Director Tony Taccone is no slouch either. He’s been the Artistic Director of Berkley Rep for the past twenty-three years. Amongst his accomplishments he commissioned and co-directed the Los Angeles world premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America. In this production Taccone lets his thoroughbred lead run at his own pace but has crafted a world around him that lets every aspect shine. Rachel Hauck’s very realistic drab New York public school classroom is a treasure trove of nooks and crannies that Leguizamo uses to his advantage to find books, and books, and even more books to back up all his claims. Lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols work is to be commended as well for its ability to take Leguizamo on all the journeys he must travel to present the world of his stories. From his son’s constantly slamming bedroom door, to distant far off shores and imagined dance parties, then bringing us right back to class again.

At this point in his career John Leguizamo has performed in the more plays than any Latin actor. He’s also had the most one man shows on Broadway by any actor. Leguizamo is a theatrical national treasure of many nations. They’re all inside him. The Mayan warrior. The proud Incan. The peaceful Taino. The outspoken American. He’s a true citizen of the world and he’s on a mission to teach a class we should all take. Now more than ever.

Studio 54
254 West 54th St
New York, NY 10019
https://latinhistorybroadway.com/
212.239.6200
Nov 15 – Feb 4, 2018
$55 –  $249

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Photo credit Joan Marcus.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more information on Edward’s work, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

18
Nov
17

The Red Shoes: My Review

The Red Shoes 1The mere mention of The Red Shoes conjures up technicolor memories of the 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger British film that tells the story of a love triangle sided by a controlling director, an idealistic composer, and a dedicated dancer thrown together in a creative crucible. It also brings to mind remembrances of the dark Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of a pair of red slippers that once worn may never be removed until the dancer dies of exhaustion or has her feet cut off to make the madness end. First produced in London last year it took twenty years for director and choreographer Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures dance company to bring his sumptuous vision to life. Every day spent conceiving this masterpiece was time well spent.

The theatrical story of The Red Shoes follows the film closely. The simple plot is a love letter to dance, theatre, the life of performance artists at work and the sacrifices they are willing, or are forced to make, in order to create a legacy. Still set in the 1940’s, Victoria Page, a young ambitious dancer arrives at Covent Gardens to audition for the demanding company director Boris Lermontov. While there the company composer Julian Craster spies her as well. Once cast she begins her rise within the company ranks and in the hearts of both men. But they each want her for reasons of their own. Craster is in love with her heart. Lermontov is in love with her gifts. Once she dons the aforementioned shoes to dance the ballet written for her by the composer, and created for her by the director, she begins to feel torn by both men and her growing fame. Eventually the emotional and artistic strain is too much on the threesome and they begin to pull at each other. This results in rejection, revenge, and a tragic ending foretold by a train whistle in the first act.

The Red Shoes 4The phenomenal cast of twenty-six dancers includes members of Bourne’s New Adventures dance company, the New York City Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre. In this particular performance Sam Archer was dark and dramatic as ballet impresario Boris Lermontov, Sara Mearns was exquisite and flawless in her role as rising star Victoria Page, and Marcelo Gomes was romantic and heartbreaking in his interpretation of struggling composer Julian Craster. The rest of this outstanding cast is split between a variety of dancers at various times. A mix born out of the necessity to rest dancers during what must be a grueling run. The choreography that guides and glides them all is detailed and complex. Scenes are filled with movement both front and center and deep in the background. Every character that occupies a space is at work bringing this vision to life.

The music of New York born composer Bernard Herrmann serves as the foundation that brings this lush world to life. The score of The Red Shoes is a compilation of the original film score and Herrmann’s works on Citizen Kane, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Fahrenheit 451. All these orchestrations were webbed together by Terry Davies into what amounts to a haunting score. In a traditional Broadway musical there is always the hope that the tunes are catchy enough that the audience is humming them as they leave the theatre. The score for The Red Shoes will be playing in the theatre of your mind in a bittersweet blend for days afterward.

The Red Shoes 3Though there has been some very impressive production design and execution, both on and off Broadway, this season but the sets, lights, sound, and costumes of The Red Shoes outshines them all. The beautifully clothed to perfection dancers dance but the set dances as well. A suspended curtained proscenium arch is flown about the stage as needed to give points of view from a myriad of angles. One moment we are on stage, the next we are backstage, the next we’re stage left, or stage right, and in one set of scenes with a simple side to side motion we are transported from one distant room to another. The rest of the settings from Covent Gardens, to the Monte Carlo Opera House, to a seaside resort, and theatrical offices, and lover’s apartments are all equally grand with minimal execution. Such is the magic of set and costume designer Lez Brotherston, lighting designer Paule Constable, projection designer Duncan McClean, and sound designer Paul Groothuis.

At the center of all this, The Red Shoes ballet itself is the culmination of all the parts of the overall whole. It’s different than the wild color explosion of the film and yet it holds its own as a darker richer piece. It’s a unique sparkling grey gothic gem at the center of a ring setting of bright color rich diamonds. To experience the New Adventures rendition of The Red Shoes is to surrender yourself to master storytellers using every facet of their talents to bring romance and tragedy to life. Without a single word spoken, with only powerful grace filled movement, one is made to truly believe in the transformative powers of a pair of crimson slippers.

New York City Center
Main Stage
131 West 55th St,
New York, NY
www.nycitycenter.org/pdps/TheRedShoes/
212.581.1212
Oct 26 – Nov 5, 2017
$35 – $140

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Photo credit Johan Persson.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more information on Edward’s work, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

14
Nov
17

Big Apple Circus: My Review

Big Apple Circus 1 - Photo credit Juliana Crawford

Hidden away in the corner of Lincoln Center Plaza’s Damrosch Park is a grand tent. It sits on the stage right side of the Metropolitan Opera House. Covered in gold stars on its surface, and filled with genuine stars within, the large blue big top is surrounded by a caravan of black wagons emblazoned with gold lettering proclaiming the return of the Big Apple Circus to its metropolitan home.

Not too many cities in the world are able to boast of having a circus named after them but New York City can proudly make that claim. That honor was almost lost a season or so ago. The Big Apple Circus was in debt, insolvent, and declared bankrupt. The Grand Tour, it’s last named production, was to be its final appearance. After some clever moves, including changing from a non-profit status to a for profit status, and along with some bold investors who saw the value in saving this rather unique icon, the circus was reborn. Under new ownership, with stunning new and returning headliners this cultural gem has made a triumphant return to New York City just in time for its 40th anniversary season.

Famous for its European-style one-ring presentation, where no seat is more than fifty feet from the performers, this intimate setting puts the performers almost within reach and makes their breathtaking feats all the more dramatic. Under the leadership of new Ringmaster Tyron “Ty” McFarlan the circus is in laudable hands. Formally of the now sadly defunct Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus host McFarlan brings with him the commanding presence of a three ring circus master tempered with a charming one ring sensibility that guides audience and performers through a marvel of a show.

Big Apple Circus 2 - Photo credit Juliana Crawford

This is a tight, fast paced, extravaganza of great talent that includes the married dynamic duo of Dandino & Luciana, who combine speed, acrobatics and daredevil grace on roller skates. There’s the award-winning contortionist Elayne Kramer, master juggler Gamal Garcia, the balancing skills of Jan Damm on the tricky Rola Bola board, and the acclaimed acrobatics of The Anastasini Brothers. Circus trainer and presenter Jenny Vidbel, performs beautifully in the ring with sixteen hoses and ponies, and some very lucky rescue dogs. For over ten years Big Apple Circus has maintained a vital no wild or exotic animals policy. The talented animals that appear with her are all a part of this third generation animal trainer’s own family.

Circus royalty is featured here as well with record-breaking legends Nik Wallenda and The Fabulous Wallendas wowing the crowd with their famous seven-person pyramid on the high wire and The Flying Tunizianis executing their daring quadruple somersault on the trapeze. This is the first time in circus history that both legendary feats are being performed in the same show. Joining these daring acts are the comedy hijinks of Grandma the Clown. This marks the return of the Big Apple Circus icon and Barry Lubin the man that brings her to life. Lubin is a member of the International Clown Hall of Fame and the first professional clown to perform on all seven continents. This is Grandma’s twenty fifth season and this time she’s paired with sidekick, Joel Jeske. The well teamed pair are a joy to watch and fill the tent with sheer comedic bliss.

Big Apple Circus 3 - Photo credit Juliana Crawford

The production team assembled for this 40th Anniversary season is another stellar compilation. Director Mark Lonergan, is a three-time Drama Desk Award nominee and his skills serve this production well. Choreographer and associate director Antoinette DiPietropolo keeps the action moving at a quick pace. Giving everything a grander than usual look is Tony Award winning Lighting Designer Jeff Croiter and Scenic Designers Rob Bissinger and Anita LaScala. Drama Desk Award nominated Costume Designer Amy Clark delivers the fun of sparkle and spandex. Special mentions must also go to Crew Chief Matthew “Toystore” Zimmerman and the ever present Ring Crew, along with Music Director Rob Slowik, Conductor Rob Slowik and the Band.

It should also be noted that Big Apple Circus will continue its four decade commitment to audience and community outreach programs. Circus of the Senses offers special enhanced experiences for guests with autism, visual, and auditory challenges. The special performances include ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices with live audio commentary, before and after show touch therapy experiences, and a Braille program book. Sensory-friendly performances for Autistic audience members will feature lower light and sound levels, a descriptive picture book showing the different areas and acts involved with the circus, and a “calming center” that can be accessed at any point during the show. Also, as part of the Circus for All initiative, eleven performances throughout the ten-week run will offer $10 tickets for every seat in the house to underprivileged children and underserved schools.

Big Apple Circus 4 - Photo credit Juliana Crawford

Though updated and freshly polished the Big Apple Circus is still, at its core, entertainment at its finest. The finale brings the full complement of performers center stage and as they enter the ring en masse one is reminded that this circus is a multi-generational institution. One that generations of guest families have returned year after year to enjoy as well. On both sides of the ring circus life is family life. Everyone responsible for the 40th Anniversary Edition of the Big Apple Circus should feel proud of not only rising from the ashes but for soaring like a phoenix as well. New Yorkers should also attend filled with pride that their circus is home again and in truly fine form.

Lincoln Center
3 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
bigapplecircus.com
$37.50 – $129
212.257.2330
Through Jan 7, 2018
From an original post on TheaterScene.
All photos credited to Juliana Crawford.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more information on Edward’s work, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

09
Nov
17

M. Butterfly: My Review

M Butterfly 1

Clive Owen and Jin Ha (Copyright Matthew Murphy)

There’s a prison cell on stage at the Cort Theatre. It’s occupied by a single prisoner. The man in the box is a civil servant convicted of betraying his government. He’s been imprisoned mind, body, and soul along with the remembrances of the circumstances that caused him to be locked away. He fell in love with an enigmatic opera singer and he fell for the trap she set for him. Love is the key that locked him away. The cell is in Paris and the year is 1986.

This is the true story of an affair and an incident that began during the turbulent sixties. Rene Gallimard was a married low-level French diplomat stationed in China who fell in love with Song Liling, an enigmatic Beijing opera singer. His two decades old affair of the heart was blind to the political intrigues and the vagaries of espionage that surrounded his desires. China was a changing political hotbed filled with foreign devils wanting fantasy woman. Gallimard’s fantasy woman was just that, a fantasy. He believed her to be a woman when she was in fact a man.

M Butterfly 5

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

While it was not unusual at the time for males to portray females in the Chinese opera, the diplomat goes out of his way to believe his lover is a woman and she uses that to her advantage. Her deceptions are deep and even involve spying for the Communist government. Despite warnings from his friend, suspicions from his wife, and the tacit prodding of his superiors, Gallimard falls for the deceptions that ultimately cause him to lose everything including a child that was never really his to begin with. The deceptions and delusions follow him through his trial and his imprisonment, and it’s there in his cell, night after night, that he relives it all over and over again for his own torture, and our amusement.

Butterfly is a powerful play with theatrical provenance. The original production premiered on Broadway in 1988, ran for almost 800 performances, and won the Tony Award for Best Play. The venerable Puccini opera Madam Butterfly plays a role here as well. It’s arias and music frames a great deal of the drama. However, it’s the cinematic quality of this production that truly sets it apart. Clive Owen’s performance as Rene Gallimard is reminiscent of classic Hollywood actors like Clark Gable and Robert Mitchum but with a hollow core at his emotional center. In turn Jin Ha as Song Liling carries his, and herself, with the glamour and mystery of legendary ladies of the Chinese Cinema like Ruan Lingyu and Brigitte Lin but with the added cold steel of a film noir Barbara Stanwyck. The rest of the ensemble also provide solid performances while at the same time carrying out multiple roles.

The settings of scenic designer Paul Steinberg move fluidly from place to place like origami paper sculptures that fold and unfold. Screens as colorful art pieces, transforming into shadow boxes, glass walls, and architectural forms that provide both open space and solitary confinement. The original music and soundscapes composed by Elliot Goldenthal set the proper moods and tones of all these locations as does the exquisite work of lighting designer Donald Holder. The lush costumes of designer Constance Hoffman are beautiful whether they are the drab green wear of menacing soldiers or the decadence of Liling’s gowns and Ma Cong’s outstanding choreography delivers in a multitude of styles as well. The world of M. Butterfly is a fully realized world and all these artists have given it a fluid and very visual life.

M Butterfly 3

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

This piece of theatrical performance art has one visionary at its core. That creative eye belongs to director Julie Taymor. Her hand can be seen and felt everywhere in M. Butterfly. Her experience in theater, opera, and film all combine into a strong creative vision that coalesces each form into one outstanding piece of work. She is currently represented on Broadway by the grandeur of The Lion King, she’s most known in some circles for the nightmare that was Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, but here her work is reminiscent of the boldness of her earlier directing choices like Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass. You are just not going to find a director more willing to take an artistic risk on the American stage than Julie Taymor and here the all risks pay off.

M Butterfly 4

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

M. Butterfly shows no signs of aging. Playwright David Henry Hwang has made some changes to his masterwork but they only serve to amplify the already clear themes of the original, and to clarify some of the facts of the actual events. Arguments can, will, and have been made as to the necessity, both good and bad, of those changes. Just like his first incarnation, time will tell. As for the obvious, one would think that the gender bending twist of M. Butterfly would have lost some of its impact some thirty years later. The opposite proves to be true. In this day and age gender identification is front and center in our national mind set. Though it may be the focus of a great deal of the current body politic, in the new M. Butterfly the issue tugs at the heart strings and serves more of an emotional punch than a shocking blow to the mind. Perhaps the well-deserved attention and accolades this revamped production will undoubtedly receive will help to broaden the scope of our collective psyche.

The Cort Theatre
138 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036
$39 – $139
(212) 239-6200
Mbutterflybroadway.com
Oct 7 – Feb 25, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more information on Edward’s work, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.




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