new york city

“Grand Concourse” @ Playwrights Horizons

The average theater-goer may not find Grand Concourse, a large boulevard spanning the Bronx, to be a source of dramatic inspiration. But as someone who’s been riding the Bx1 bus all her life, I can point out a few treasures:

1) The Pregones Theater, a fantastic theatre company just a few blocks away that has recently teamed up with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater,

2) The Bronx Supreme Criminal Court, where real life courtroom dramas play out five days a week, and

3) The Butternut Street Theatre at All Hallows High School, located on Grand Concourse and East 164th Street. It’s where seventeen-year-old me got serious with Shakespeare in the Drama Club’s production of The Winter’s Tale.

So when I heard that Playwrights Horizons was producing a play named after Grand Concourse, my interest was totally piqued. I wanted to know how playwright Heidi Schreck was going to utilize this underutilized setting. I was also desperately hoping that this wouldn’t be one of those narratives where the one white cipher character is forever changed by the other lively but troubled minority characters.

No. Stop that. (Source:

Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded. Grand Concourse is as complex and captivating as its namesake. Set in a Bronx soup kitchen, the play follows Shelley (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), a veil-less nun who is questioning her faith–and is setting her one-minute prayers to the kitchen’s microwave timer. She’s assisted by Oscar (Bobby Moreno), an affable twenty-something who works at the soup kitchen, and is pestered by Frog (Lee Wilkof), a soup kitchen regular who sneaks carrots out of the refrigerator. Enter Emma (Ismenia Mendes), a nineteen-year-old college dropout who wants to start volunteering at the kitchen. Shelley takes Emma on, not knowing the devastating and life-changing consequences it will bring.

GRAND CONCOURSE OCTOBER 17, 2014 – NOVEMBER 30, 2014 PETER JAY SHARP THEATER Written by   Heidi Schreck Directed by  Kip Fagan WORLD PREMIERE Called to a life of religious service, Shelley is the devoted manager of a Bronx soup kitchen, but lately her
Emma, Oscar, and Shelley putting the Soup Nazi to shame. (Source: Joan Marcus)

Heidi Schreck’s play is a breath of fresh air in contemporary theatre. Having the play set not only in the Bronx–but in a basement soup kitchen–allows for new actions to take place that wouldn’t occur in, say, a living room in a home in New England. The diverse cast also actually resembles New York City’s colorful population. Their diversity isn’t just interesting in terms of ethnicity and gender, though. The varied characters (a young woman, a young man, a nun, and a homeless man) allow for different relationships and conflicts to occur: ones that we don’t often see in a standard two couples/family living room drama. I found it particularly engaging to watch Shelley’s progression as she struggles with her identity, her religion, and her ability to forgive. Shelley’s difficult yet triumphant journey makes her the fiercest nun in theatre since Audra McDonald’s Mother Superior.

So holy. So fierce. (Source:

Grand Concourse’s other strength lies in its humor. The cast, directed by Kip Fagan, has excellent timing in bringing Schreck’s comedic moments to life. Grand Concourse’s ability to make the audience laugh further accentuates the poignancy of the play’s more serious moments. It shows that there’s plenty drama to be found in the Bronx–and some smiles, too.

“The Answer-Killing Question” Challenges Educational Issues

Rafa Peréz and Damon Trammell in The Answer-Killing Question Buys a Crisis

Barry Germansky’s new dystopic play The Answer-Killing Question Buys a Crisis criticizes the authoritarian system of education that exists to uphold the status quo and homogenize the human experience. In this satire, a totalitarian alternative reality forces students and teachers alike to accept only one truth, the “one story” that answers any question, any challenge to society. The classroom serves not as a safe space to explore foreign ideas or promote self-discovery, but rather to obediently learn a highly-censored, streamlined curriculum.

It’s an important critique that has been explored in many a dystopic novel and film, a la Fahrenheit 451, 1984, even Ayn Rand. Unfortunately, The Answer-Killing Question doesn’t present us with any new perspectives on this trend. Its plot is far too generic, its character more like allegorical tropes than individuals. Andrew (Rafa Perez) is the university student fighting the system, but what his stake in the battle is, besides having thought of these ideas in the first place, is never clear. His friendship with Conrad (Damon Trammell) is tested when a professor (Matt Tracy) sets out to destroy Andrew’s anarchy. Their world remains unnecessarily non-specific throughout the play, so that we’re never quite sure what Andrew is fighting against or what the repercussions for his actions are. The only part of the play where the university actually appears threatening is when the professor demands that certain students have sex with each other in the middle of the classroom. What this action is supposed to represent or how the professor’s class is supposed to benefit from it is never exactly explained.

As someone with an background in public and university education, I know that there is certainly plenty of discussion in the educational community about these same ideas that Germansky presents. The classroom structure has radically changed over the last few decades to emphasize student-centered learning, honoring discovery and experimentation over rigid, changeless lecturing. Education will always perpetuate its culture’s ideas and values.  A second grade classroom in Texas will always look different than a second grade classroom in New York City. But I’m surprised that the play doesn’t choose to highlight other increasingly relevant issues in education, such as testing, student debt, or college alternatives.

The Answer-Killing Question Buys a Crisis plays at the Producers Club through October 26. Click here for tickets.

Fringe Round-Up! Part 7: Don’t Panic It’s Only Finnegan’s Wake, I’ll Say She Is, and Absolutely Filthy

Don’t Panic It’s Only Finnegan’s Wake by Adam Harvey

Summary: James Joyce geek Adam Harvey gives a one-man crash course on one of (if not the most) confusing texts in the English language and reads aloud noteworthy excerpts. Which, by the way, is no small feat.

Why Go: Whether you’re a PhD student in modernism or just a discerning reader, James Joyce is one of those intimidating heavyweights one tends not to approach without some guided assistance. Consider this your user’s manual. Warning: this play might actually make you want to read Finnegan’s Wake.

Thoughts: Harvey’s piece gently reaches out a hand as you step into the wild world of Finnegan’s Wake, but also, more to its credit, know exactly when to take it away, letting you roam free and explore. As Harvey explains, it is exactly what Joyce intends with his confounding work: to allow the reader/listener to hear the text through his or her own experiences and co-construct meaning, albeit one that is almost altogether subjective. There’s a playful quality to this type of learning, this venturing forth and seeing how the text speaks to us individually. Joyce is one playful son of a gun– Finnegan’s Wake is chock full of puns, wordplay, perversion, whimsy, and adventure.

Harvey is an excellent teacher and an extraordinarily talented performer. His role in the piece is a humble yet awe-inspiring one. Even though words like “Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk” roll right off his tongue, and he has clearly put years of time, energy, and love into his study of Finnegan’s Wake, Harvey never assumes a position of authority or power. There’s a genuineness to his presence, as if you’re in the same room as some one who has realized some kind of empowering truth, like a Buddha or something, but who never assumes the role of truth-teller, because no one knows as well as we do what our own personal truths are. If Finnegan’s Wake is sacred scripture (one meant to be experienced, not followed) then Harvey is its priest, and we’re more than happy to be in his congregation. (The last religious metaphor in this post, I promise.)

Don’t Panic played its last Fringe performance last Sunday, but look out for more Joyce-related readings and events on Adam Harvey’s website. Mr. Harvey, AUDIO BOOK PLEASE OKTHANKS.

I’ll Say She Is adapted by Noah Diamond

Summary: Written by Will Johnstone for the Marx Brothers, I’ll Say She Is premiered on Broadway in 1924 and launched them into Broadway and Hollywood stardom. It features vaudeville acts and musical numbers loosely tied together by a plot about an heiress looking for fun.

Why Go?: I’ll Say She Is was never made into a film, unlike the Marx Brothers’ other Broadway shows. And who doesn’t love the Marx Brothers? Note: replying to that question in the negative only proves your awfulness as a human being.

Thoughts: I was really hoping that I’d enjoy this production more than I did.  I’ll Say She Is does retain a lot of what makes the Marx Brothers so iconic (the impressions are spot on, particularly Noah Diamond’s Groucho and Seth Sheldon’s Harpo), but overall quality of the piece felt a bit subpar. More effort was put into the costumes than in any of the staging or direction. The musical numbers were slow and dull, with the actors often just standing in one spot throughout or repetitively gesturing at some far idea of choreography.  The vocal talent was unfortunately meager. Even the chorus seemed to be struggling to hold up a song. Everything about this show felt clunky and  half-rehearsed. I think that with tighter staging and a more energetic pace, this musical can replicate what it must have felt like to be at this fame-delivering hit in the 1920’s.

I’ll Say She Is plays its last Fringe performance on 8/22 at 9:30pm

Absolutely Filthy by Brendan Hunt

Summary: Absolutely Filthy imagines the futures of the “Peanuts” characters, who relive their pasts when the gang comes together for Charlie Brown’s funeral. Though for legality’s sake, they’re, you know, not “Peanuts” characters. Or whatever. The play largely focuses on Pigpen, who grows up a drug addict and homeless, and is now seeking redemption from his old friends.

Why Go?: The darkly hilarious show got rave reviews at the Hollywood Fringe, performs to packed shows every night, and might have life for much more time to come.

Thoughts: Let’s just start with saying that Brendan Hunt is absolutely amazing as Pigpen and gives a performance that is unique, striking, and authentic. Though the ensemble gives wonderful performances, this is Hunt’s show. Pigpen’s journey to redemption is the best case for catharsis I’ve ever seen and literally left me sitting in my seat reflecting on how much of this show I could genuinely apply to my own life. Hunt uses a dusty hula hoop to simulate Pigpen’s dust cloud. It’s an apt prop to use– not only does it physically place him at a distance from his old friends, but it also takes labor to uphold.  It is Pigpen’s dust cloud to maintain, and his is the freedom to let it go.

Absolutely Filthy played its last Fringe performance this afternoon, but tune into the website to actively hope for more performance and support the show.


Why Rocky’s Expanded Boxing Ring Is Way More Than A Cool Stage Effect

The reviews are in for Broadway’s new adaptation of Rocky, and they mostly agree on the same things:

1) The performances are excellent, especially those by the three leads– the charismatic Andy Karl, the darling Margo Siebert, and the grandiose Terrence Archie.

2) The book, music, and lyrics are repetitious, basic, and overall weak throughout the show. And the stand-out numbers all borrow music from the original film.


Because the world needs more Hugh Jackman gifs
Because the world needs more Hugh Jackman gifs

Right at that climactic final fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed, a team of frantic ushers escort the audience members in the first six-ish aisles of center orchestra to ‘golden circle’ seating on stage, after which a large boxing ring edges out into the orchestra so that the final scene occurs right in the middle of the theater. At the same time, a makeshift Jumbotron lowers from the ceiling, which was pretty flipping impressive. And the stage proper becomes a busy news studio with freakishly bright stagelights whose sole purpose seemed to be to temporarily blind me every few minutes. Rocky and Apollo both enter through the main house doors, down the aisles of the theater, and into the ring, which is literally surrounded by people on all four sides. Folks on orchestra left and right must stand in order to see the boxing match, which was probably a bother, but it’s all part of the transformation of the winter garden theater into a sports arena. It’s the most ambitious and exciting technical theater innovation since (and honestly way cooler than) Les Miz’s rotating stage or Phantom’s falling chandelier.

Look you guys. Just look.

This isn’t the only impressive use of technical theater in the show. Large industrial panels swerve seamlessly and soundlessly in the background to usher in scene changes, including one where a rack of meat-locker cow corpses drop unexpectedly on stage. Adrian’s pet shop is a wonderful treat to see (are there really fish in those tanks?) and even more exciting to watch is the rooms of her house unfold onstage as if on a conveyor belt. This is what happens when you combine a huge production budget with a visionary director like Alex Timbers, who at the age of 35 has already established a repertoire of shows (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher) displaying his successfully experimental and passionately playful voice in theater.

And as in all good art, the structure of a narrative should always connect to its content. In less highbrow terms, a director’s choices should reflect something about the story. And what is Rocky’s story about if not a man of the people, an underdog who represents the many of us who learn to roll with the punches and withstand defeat. It’s about as democratic a story as you can find.

But, in case you haven’t noticed, Broadway isn’t exactly the epitome of democracy. First of all, have you seen the price of tickets lately? You can your own knock-off heavyweight championship belt for that kind of money. Also, seating. The more money you cough up, the better your view. You can pretty much tell a person’s expendable income from where they’re sitting. People… this ain’t the Ancient Athenian theatron we’ve all come to know and love (just me? okay…), the type of space that emphasizes equality and community. Instead, the typical Broadway theater emphasizes stratification and separation. A much more democratic space would be the sports arena or stadium. Sure, you’ve got the nosebleed seats and the Hollywood celebs sitting courtside at the Lakers game, but there’s a combination of all-around seating, giant screens with close-ups of the game, and a pure crowd energy that really makes for a ‘no bad seat in the house’ kind of feeling.

Rocky’s final scene manages to combine all of these elements into a wonderfully new democratic space right in the middle of the theater. There’s new seating on all sides. There are jumbotrons and strobe lights and The Final Countdown playing in the background. And there’s suddenly this new crowd community, bringing us all together in the thrill, the spectacle of it all. And there’s no better reason for all this than to root for Rocky, the everyman against all odds.

Get ’em champ!

Nutcracker Rouge at Minetta Lane Theatre

It’s holiday season! Which means it’s time to wake up from your Thanksgiving-induced food-comas and go see some theater! And if you’re looking for some holiday-themed cheer, this post is a friendly reminder that the Rockettes aren’t the only ladies in town in short skirts and tights dancing to classic Christmas melodies.

poster-Nutcracker Rouge-w

 Nutcracker Rouge provides a steamy, fresh alternative to the traditional holiday ballet with a lot more sensuous thrills and a lot less clothing. In this version, presented by Company XIV and The Saint at Large, Marie Claire (Laura Careless) is an adolescent girl who is led away from her aristocratic home to the Kingdom of Sweets, an uncanny, sensual world of burlesque dances and other guilty pleasures.

Every act in the Kingdom of Sweets is energetic, exciting, and sexy.  Nutcracker Rouge achieves an opulent and classy decadence through its genre-bending work. The set and costume design by Zane Pihlstrom is essential to setting Nutcracker Rouge‘s beguiling atmosphere. Every glittery crotch piece and bedazzled pastie reveals the rich detail and playful sensuality embedded in the show. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer (George Takacs and Shelly Watson) have nearly a dozen costume changes, all of which set a vivacious tone for their ensuing acts. These acts also mesmerize with a versatile and seductive cast which includes a soulful singer, circus performers, ballet and contemporary dancers, and instrumentalists. The acts retain parts of Tchaikovsky’s notable original score while adding some new and contemporary numbers (Madonna’s “Material Girl” makes an opportune appearance).

While Nutcracker Rouge is certainly an aesthetically pleasurable experience, it sometimes felt no more engaging than a performance of the classic ballet. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer act as MC for most of the show, but the bare plot and lackluster writing prevents any connection from actually happening. During intermission, Mrs. Drosselmeyer wandered around the house asking hardly engaging questions like “How do you like the show?” and “What do you think will happen to Marie Claire?”, just so that the show could justify writing “immersive” on its billing. Burlesque is notable for breaking that fourth wall, for engaging the audience in plenty of playful sexual innuendo and often witty banter (anyone who has seen Eager to Lose at Ars Nova knows how much of a difference an engaging MC and audience participation increases the viewer’s investment in the story). If it weren’t for one or two ambitious audience members’ catcalls and exclamations, the house would likely have remained too formally silent for a show that aims to set a sensual and lively environment.

Despite this detachment, Nutcracker Rouge heats up the theatre with a visually sweet and sensually scrumptious show that would make the Sugar Plum Fairy proud.  Catch it at the Minetta Lane Theater through January 5th, Tickets here


Little Miss Sunshine at 2ST: Why Can’t Musicals Get Dark Material Right?

Throw a $60 Banksy sketch into Times Square and it’s likely to hit a theater hosting a musical that has been adapted from a film. With the era of jukebox musicals whimpering stubbornly along, Broadway is looking for new ready-made material to translate into high-grossing, audience-pleasing, low-risk adaptations.

Sometimes it works. A classic movie gets instantly revived by the Broadway treatment. Disney usually plays this game well and I’m totally psyched for the Aladdin and Hunchback of Notre Dame musicals on the horizon. And look at what Broadway did for The Producers and Spamalot. But these shows all sprouted from original films that had simple and/or comedic plots, larger-than-life characters with very clear motivations and personality traits, and overall optimistic and entertaining goals. Family films and classic comedies fit comfortably into the Broadway mold of spectacle, frivolity, and lots of heart.

Working with material that strays from that formula is a bit trickier, although perhaps it shouldn’t necessarily be so. See, the way I always figured that a successful musical adaptation works is that you look at the original material, see where there’s a key emotional moment, and plug a song into that shiz. Ragtime is one of my favorite musical adaptations because it gives its production a great balance of plot-driven and character-driven substance. Its songs work to drive its enormously proportioned plot forward while also exploring the plot’s emotional resonances in the characters.

So when given a piece of emotionally complex original material, the adaptation formula seems like it could be simply carried out: have a major character development or a complicated relationship or idea? Make a song out of it. Use the advantages that music plus lyrics afford over just plain old dialogue or general statements. A melody can add so much more power to an expression. It can enhance it, mimic it, even contradict it.

So why has Broadway and Off-Broadway  turned three pieces of emotionally rich material into something resembling a Disney musical more than anything. Continue reading “Little Miss Sunshine at 2ST: Why Can’t Musicals Get Dark Material Right?”

Fringe Round-Up Part 3: Cowboys Don’t Sing

The Fringe Festival is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recount some of the great shows we caught on its final weekend!

Cowboys Don’t Sing, presented by Figure It Our Later Productions, was a big crowd pleaser- so much so that I was starting to feel like I was missing out on some kind of inside joke. In a way, watching Cowboys felt a bit like being a fly-on-the-wall at a hasty and playful collaboration by somewhat-talented, uncannily witty, and culturally savvy college friends who have an irreverent love for Westerns.  There’s a ton of whimsical humor and everyone definitely seems to be enjoying themselves, but you never quite connect to the play in a meaningful way.

Cowboys takes off on a shaky start. Neither the plot nor the songs nor the acting are remarkable in themselves. The true center of the show is its self-referential, self-deprecating treatment. There’s a storyline and characters, but they’re mostly props for a satirical poke at Westerns, and theatrics in general. There’s the character who always dies, the girl who has no real function in the plot, the obligatory love duet, the sassy Hispanic saloon mistress, the tongue-in-cheek racist targeting of Native Americans. All of it is fun. Most of it is funny. And some of makes for some good old self-aware theatrics. For example, instead of a traditional intermission, we are given a short “Intermission: The Musical,” in which we watch faux-audience members share the thoughts on the show and wander into the actors’ dressing room in search of some peanut M&Ms. The best highlight of the show is most likely “One Horse Town,” the song given to the otherwise-silent horse (played by Tim Rozmus) in which all the horse puns in the world are unleashed in three minutes.

Once Cowboys gains momentum, it finds its unique voice and has laugh-a-minute humor. I’d recommend keeping an eye out for future incarnations of Cowboys and seeing it for its uniquely funny, self-referential love/hate for the West.


Fringe NYC Round-Up Part 1: Slaughterhouse Five, Occupy Olympus, and Kemble’s Riot

We are SO excited to be covering the 2013 Fringe Festival in New York this summer! When we got our shiny press passes in the mail, we let out a squee of theatre love. I might have tried to use it as a Metrocard at least once, an ID Card twice, and a FroYo punch card four times. For those of you who are not in the press/theater industry, this is an approximation of what a press pass looks like:

Those are not my real fingers

The Fringe is an immense annual summer festival of Off-Off Broadway productions from independent theater companies. Since Edinburgh first started the Fringe Festival nearly 70 years, many other cities have hosted their own. Good times. New York started theirs in 1997. This year’s festival featured over 120 shows. Here’s what we checked out over the weekend:

Slaughterhouse Five

Anni Weisband and Jamie Effros

True False Theater’s adaptation of the Vonnegut classic has been performing to sold-out audiences these past few weeks. You know dem Vonnnegut nuts go crazy for this stuff. The only Vonnegut adaptation I’ve ever seen was the film “Breakfast of Champions” and I’ve been trying to wash my memory of it ever since.

Slaughterhouse Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, WWII veteran, who is abducted by aliens from a planet called Tralfamadore. The aliens teach him that they see time not as a linear, progressive time but as a circle, all-encompassing time. They see its entirety, and at all times we are ourselves in a fatalistic sort of way. Even death is just another moment that they can access as much any other life moment.

The play’s structure seems to imitate this random access code. Events are presented out of order in short spurts (some scenes are no longer than a few seconds). They pass somewhat chaotically through Billy’s time in the war, his post-war efforts at marriage and normality, and his stay at a Tralfamadore Zoo mating with a notorious porn star. While the structure is in keeping with the story’s content, it’s at times a bit distracting. There must have been about a hundred scene changes, none of which were fast nor fluid. I’d the show’s running time is about a fourth pure scene changes, and they don’t vary throughout the show. That means it’s the same weird music with the same broken movements, like Billy’s going through warp speed. It gets a bit tired.

Also I would have liked to see the scenes working together more cohesively. Some feel too out-of-context and often confusing. Many scenes, however, were quite subtly intertwined. Billy’s story is about reconciling the human experience with the horrors of war and it’s important that both be present in the same moment. The Trafalmadore time structure is liberating in many ways– there is no such thing as a future, a past, or present. Since we are all that we were or will be, we have nothing to fear, nothing to plan for, nothing to change. But does that means that Tralfamadorians can turn a blind eye to injustice? to war? Is that the relief that Billy is looking for?


Occupy Olympus

This is another literary adaptation (yay!). Magis Theater has taken Aristophanes’s Plutus, God of Wealth, and turned it into a modern day, Brecht-like allegory. The story goes like this: A middle-class citizen helps restore the sight of Plutus, god of wealth, who was blinded by a jealous Zeus so that he could not see whether he was giving wealth to good or bad people. Things get a bit chaotic as wealth is distributed into the hands of the good (some of whom become bad), drawing attention to the way that man-made systems perpetuate greed and selfishness.

Occupy Olympus could deal with a bit more focus (some parts with Donald Trump and stockbrokers seem thrown in there without context or purpose and the citizens’ march on Olympus constitutes a long chant of random issues, celebrities, and public figures that really just feels a bit silly– Why are we beasting on Justin Beiber, again?) However, the play’s combinations of song, dance, comedy, drama, and various other genre forms make for an exciting, engaging ride. There’s a square dance that provides a great analysis of our modern relationship to wealth, a shadow play involving Joan Rivers and Dick Cheney, and a pretty intense scene between a masked CEO and two good citizens, and audience questionnaire responses are included in various scenes.

Much of Occupy is poignant and often haunting. As one audience member stated in the post-show talk-back, instead of catharsis, the end only brings tension, and often shame. Every scene explores a different facet of modern-day wealth, provoking us the audience to take action against injustice in whatever small ways possible.


Kemble’s Riot

In 1808, the Covent Garden Theatre Royal burned down in the middle of a performance of Macbeth, staring the the theater’s owner, John Kemble. Kemble managed to restore the theater with the patronage a wealthy statesman in the following year. However, when the theater reopened, prices were raised  by a shilling to cover the expenses. Audiences rioted for 66 nights, and Kemble stubbornly stuck it through until he returned the old prices.

The production, written by recently deceased playwright Adrian Bunting, tries to simulate the riot with us the audience leading the way. On stage, Kemble (Guy Masterson) and his sister/prominent actress Sarah Siddons (Beth Fitzgerald) fret over the rebuilding and, later, the crowd’s demands. In the audience, comedians Matt Baetz and Marla Schultz dispute the merits of the riot and incite us in chants … and stuff. 

The riot never really takes off and ends up being a tad awkward. First of all, the comedians in the crowds are obviously not from Kemble’s time and their involvement is nowhere near consistent. Sometimes they’re narrating the history, other times they’re analyzing the actors’ performances, sometimes they verge into personal spats. It’s all VERY funny and cute, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. Also a comparison of the Covent Garden fire to 9/11 felt very very stretched. I also think that the Kemble riots were supposed to be parallels to the Occupy movement, but they don’t exactly match up.

If we’re supposed to think that Kemble is the 19th century equivalent of a big banker, it doesn’t come through. We are shown that though the theatre is rebuilt entirely on an aristocrat’s dime, Kemble still needs to price hikes to maintain the theater’s new and improved structure. Another monologue (which, by the way, is delivered amazingly by Masterson, I got chills) illustrates the god-like stature that Kemble has as a theater-giver. He has the power to makes us feel, goddamit!


These shows and more are easily found on the Fringe website for information and tickets.





Nobody Loves You at Second Stage Theatre

Jeff (Bryan Fenkart) receives a trophy for being all sorts of lovable.

A critique of faux-reality t.v. might sound a bit trite and begrudging nowadays. Unless you’re some kind of neo-Luddite, most of us have come to terms with our fascination with reality shows, even when their events are obviously staged or exaggerated. Reality television helps give our minds a rest from words like “trite” and “neo-Luddite.” I still get excited about new episodes of The Voice, even though I can’t bear to watch anything with Gordon Ramsay in it for more than 30 seconds.

I was originally looking for a funny Gordon Ramsay gif but this seems a lot better.

Which is why, perhaps, the first five minutes of Nobody Loves You feel a bit worrisome– are we about to get preached to about the evils of reality television?

But never fear! Nobody Loves You, or NLY as the show’s resident twitter expert calls it, has all the heart, fun, and spectacle of a great musical. And the best part is that its critique of reality television is only as deep or complex as you let it be.

Jeff is a smartypants PhD student writing a dissertation on ontology, or the philosophical study of reality. His girlfriend Tanya gets frustrated with his academic views, particularly when it comes to her favorite reality television show, “Nobody Loves You.” Tanya breaks up with Jeff, announcing that she’s going to audition to be a contestant on NLY. Jeff also auditions, seeing the chance to win Tanya back, but when he finds that he has a spot on the show and she does not, he remains on the show as research for his diss. He aims to prove the unreality of reality tv, and in doing so, becomes a fan favorite, as well as the favorite of a production assistant named Jenny.

NLY feels a bit banal at first but once focus turns away from Jeff’s relationship problems towards the reality show within the show, it finds its hilarious, and often genuine voice. Jenny and Jeff’s relationship feels fun and unique, as portrayed by their love song listing the things they hate. The supporting characters are all excellent and hilarious. The contestants begin their NLY stay as stock characters but they quickly develop individual wants and needs so that you truly care about what happens to each one. The show’s host, played by Heath Calvert, left me replaying some of the show’s funniest moments in my head all day. Rory O’Malley also steals his scenes as twitter fan Evan. You can watch him perform a song written almost entirely in twitter lingo here.

If you didn’t clip on that link, you really should. Got it?

Because honestly, I really shouldn’t continue unless you click it.

Okay, now that we’ve got that clear…

Nobody Loves You is fun, it’s fresh, and it’s reflective of today’s obsessive fan culture. For example, is reality t.v. functionally similar to musical theater in a willing suspension of disbelief sort of way? Are reality tv fans inherently aware of its superficiality, and if not, is that something to be worried about?

But nevermind that, because you can still enjoy the show without all that thinking. Now go watch that Rory O’Malley clip or I SWEAR TO GOD…

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