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“Frida Liberada” at Urban Stages

Talented, fearless, and a visionary, Frida Kahlo was an art pioneer. Her life was filled with tragedy: a debilitating accident, infidelity, and illness, events well-documented in her self portraits. Frida’s life is also portrayed in the one-woman show Frida Liberada, currently playing at Urban Stages’ Outreach Octoberfest.

The play, written by Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, begins not with Frida’s life, but with her death. Frida, played by Diomargy Nuñez, enters from the back of the house, singing in Spanish about dying and finding peace with God. This Frida is dead and knows it, eager to share the story of her life with the audience. And share she does, speaking about her childhood and her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera–while playing all the characters.

But the most interesting character is Frida herself. Nuñez is an active, exuberant version of the aritst, singing, laughing, and moving about the stage through Lydia Fort’s clean direction. Three upstage panels show Frida’s paintings as she knew them. This Frida is alive and well–on the stage, and in our imaginations.

Frida Liberada plays until November 2nd at Urban Stages. 

Marilyn is Dead: Burlesque Noir

Marilyn is Dead! puts a new spin on burlesque. Its premise is all in the title: Marilyn Monroe, the star of Hollywood sex and glamour, is dead. While many view Monroe’s death as tragedy, Marilyn is Dead! revels in it. Described by its producers as “Dark Hollywood Glamour at it’s Finest,” Marilyn is Dead! delivers. Hosted by the delightful Amanda Lepore, the show features burlesque, singing, and tarot readings, and more. The burlesque acts are all entertaining, and one in particular shows great promise: the performer, decked out in 1960s detective drag, undresses a woman sitting on a chair. The woman is a lifeless Monroe, and as the performer dons Marilyn’s dress while discarding her own clothes, it is clear that Marilyn’s legacy is in good hands.

Marilyn is Dead! performs tonight at 10:30pm at Duane Park. Presented by Anna Evans and Delysia LaChatte. Hosted by Amanda Lepore. 

Mission: Confidential

If, while slipping drugs into a young journalist’s drink or stealing a highly contentious hard drive from a man’s laptop in the middle of Central Park, the NYPD get the wrong impression and stop you, just let them know you’re participating in live theater. They’ll make a doubtful face, or turn to a partner, but, as I’ve learned from my own faux criminal activities in Mission: Confidential, chances are they’ll let it pass.

Mission: Confidential follows a growing trend of immersive, interactive theater, aiming to break the confines of a traditionally structured show and let the audience in on the action. Starting at one of the entrances to Central Park, you and a group of up to ten people are entrusted with the task of unearthing a criminal plot that involves a mob boss, a kidnapped girl, a rookie cop, a computer hacker, and a sassy businesswoman.

It’s certainly a lot to entrust an audience with.  Groups perform their tasks, which lead them through a 3-4 block radius from the starting point, largely unguided, but the directions are generally clear enough to follow with ease and precision. Besides, trust is the name of the game in Mission: Confidential – group members must gain the trust of their fellow performers with all sorts of shady activities, which often gained us some unexpected attention from passers-by not “in” on the act.

There is also quite a bit of walking, so comfortable shoes and sunscreen are recommended. Yet, coursing through tourist-oriented Midtown felt exciting even for a native New Yorker. It felt thrilling to walk the city streets in a new way- not so much the hurried, annoyed way we New Yorkers tend to travel but rather the all-absorbing, adventurous pace of one experiencing something new and unanticipated.

As for the technicalities, Mission:Confidential succeeds in creating a believable, intriguing plot with lots of fun characters. I’d love to see Mission: Confidential become even more intricately designed, especially if it wants to involve every member of a group of ten feel invested in the crime. But that also requires having an audience who’ll keep up the pace.

For more information and tickets:Mission Confidential

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