Crumbs from the Table of Joy

(l to r) Brandi Jiminez Lee, Brianna Buckley and Chanell Bell in Raven Theatre’s ‘Crumbs From the Table of Joy.’ (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“The script from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage (2009’s Ruined and 2017’s Sweat) also leaves open the distinct and tantalizing possibility that his wife’s ghost isn’t the only spirit Godfrey is fleeing. Lily, sister of the deceased, makes a reappearance on the relocated Crump doorstep that leaves everyone breathless. Loud, unabashed and full-on woke, in an era when Jim Crow laws and separate-but-equal instructed African-Americans to “know their place,” Lily is unafraid to take up space and speak her mind. For the damaged Crump family, this is both enticing and threatening.

The unvoiced dialogue between Godfrey and Lily is suggestive of a more complicated and intertwined past between the two. Their immediate and still-palpable chemistry sends Godfrey fleeing in yet another direction — right into the chaste arms of Gerte (Emily Tate), a recent white, German immigrant that Godfrey meets on the subway. Charmed by her submissiveness and willingness to follow the teachings of the never-seen Father Devine, Godfrey impulsively marries Gerte and installs her in his crowded and emotionally charged Brooklyn basement flat.

Within the cramped rooms of the Crump apartment, religious, racial and sexual tensions flare as Ernestine prepares to graduate high school and transition to adulthood. While all of the cast members acquit themselves well and present the audience with a complicated and authentic slice of Eisenhower-era Americana, it is Ms. Buckley who completely commands our rapt attention.”

Read the fill post at The Broadway Blog.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

(l to r) Scott Allen Luke, Eunice Woods, Caroline Neff, Terry Bell, Christopher M. Walsh and Meg Thalke in Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.’
(Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Steppenwolf’s production, helmed by Director Jonathan Barry, keeps what is great about the original staging mostly intact. For example, the work is no musical, but it definitely has rhythm. Movement Consultant Dan Plehal turns ensemble cast members into fulcrums and pulleys, deployed effectively to lift Christopher into the air in concert with manic descriptions of his dreams and wishes. For example, in Act I, Mr. Bell is balanced on an actor’s feet as Christopher describes the weightlessness and pleasant solitude he might enjoy as an astronaut. In these scenes, the audience is reminded that Christopher is a complex genius, but also still very much a child. Even the most literal of young minds still has a capacity for fancy.

By the end of the play, Christopher has physically and emotionally stretched himself in new directions that none in his circle could have rightly anticipated. He enacts change within his family circle, community, and his own formerly very rigid and linear worldview. To be spoiler-free in this review, it’s enough to say that his fractious parents Ed (Cedric Mays) and Judy (Rebecca Spence) find themselves outwitted by Christopher, leading them toward better versions of themselves and allowing them to serve as more persuasive behavioral models for their son.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

Susan Collins Shows Cynical, Female Face of Patriarchy

“This is the second time that Baby Boomer and Generation X women have watched an articulate, brave and credible professional humiliated and dismissed by the men in the Senate Chamber. Anita Hill has been a rallying cry for feminists in search of equality and fair representation since 1991. Now Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s is another name we shall never forget.

But you know what hurts the most, as a voting American woman acutely repulsed by the Senate’s codification of a man’s right to take what he wants (and can get) on his uninterrupted march to the top? Though much of this scenario has felt similar to the events of 27 years ago, it is in fact the first time that a woman, a particular Senator, Maine’s Susan Collins, handed the judgement of another over to her male colleagues. And in so doing, she has reaffirmed the sneering dismissal of sexual violence allegations and the real pain behind the “#MeToo movement. She has communicated that the violation of a woman’s body is a normalized act of juvenile sport, rather than a disqualifying leadership behavior. And with her vote, Collins has also left settled law and precedent regarding a woman’s right to choose open for re-litigation.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Downstate

 

(l to r) Francis Guinan, Glenn Davis, Celilia Noble, Eddie Torres and K. Todd Freeman in ‘Downstate.’ (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Featuring a top-drawer ensemble cast, the four men attempting to engage society with a red “P” (for pedophile) permanently attached to them by the sex offender registry are Gio (Glenn Davis), a young man with corporate ambitions previously convicted of statutory rape; Dee, (K. Todd Freeman) a gay man and self-styled group home mother hen found guilty of repeatedly assaulting a 14-year-old boy; Fred, (Francis Guinan) a gifted pianist who served years in prison for exploiting his students; and Felix, (Eddie Torres) the quietest and perhaps most reviled member of the household. In addition to the horrendous crime of pedophilia, Felix is guilty of incest perpetrated on his young teenage daughter.

This is all disgusting, right? Mr. Norris’ unrelenting script won’t make it that easy on us. Gio, Dee, Fred and Felix are all men facing different challenges with differing levels of self-awareness and remorse factoring into their respective ambitions for social acceptance. Trying to navigate this complex terrain and manage the men’s parole restrictions is Ivy (Cecilia Noble), a weary, tough but empathetic officer balancing the protection of neighborhood children with even a criminal’s basic need for dignity. Her job is unenviable.

The cast, featuring Steppenwolf ensemble members Mr. Davis, Mr. Freeman, Mr. Hopper and Mr. Guinan, is beyond reproach, even if many of their characters are not. The actors and their prodigious talents are part of an exclusive artistic ensemble known all over the world with good reason. Because these players have performed together so many times, their offstage familiarity and chemistry lend an additional wow factor to the acting. An ability to make the heinous look, feel and sound organic is no small achievement.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

We’re All Christine Blasey Ford: Washington’s Week in Toxic Male Manipulation

“We should not be at the mercy of Chuck Grassley, Jeff Flake, Brett Kavanaugh this President or any man to screen our stories and evaluate their credibility before they are accepted as worthy of public consideration. I know I did not vote for this method of triage any more than I asked my high school friend’s younger brother to penetrate me with his fingers as a I slept in their parent’s home 21 years ago. Astonished and ashamed (because after all, I’d been drinking that evening and was wearing tight pants), I pretended not to wake up, and I never said a word about until I confided in my husband a year ago.

Why didn’t I speak up? We’ve all tortured ourselves with this question.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, an educated and accomplished woman, has been driven from her family home by collective male anger and the slurs and death threats that come with an interruption of the status quo. Brett Kavanaugh has said in open testimony that he will make us all pay for suggesting that his abuse of women is somehow disqualifying from the Supreme Court elevation that is his white, male destiny.

#WhyIDidntReport is more than a trending hashtag. It’s an accepted method of female survival, reinforced yearly, daily and hourly by our broken political culture.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Caroline, or Change

 

Rashada Dawan in Firebrand Theatre/TimeLine Theatre Company’s production of ‘Caroline, or Change.’ (Photo: Marisa KM)

“Caroline, or Change, a 2004 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical (with music by Fun Home‘s Jeanine Tesori), is an amalgamation in all of the best American theatrical ways. Part blues rock opera with its finger on the pulse of the Civil Rights movement, part celebration of post-World War II Jewish survival and culture, with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner of Angels in America fame, the work absolutely demands that audience members sit up and pay attention. It has a lot to say, much of it with a Southern Gothic aesthetic evocative of Tennessee Williams at his best.

Much of the Western world’s mid-20th Century social tensions are channeled through Caroline Thibodeaux (Rashada Dawn), a divorced mother of four and domestic worker serving in the employ of the Gellman family. The Thibodeauxs and the Gellmans are galaxies apart on the relative privilege spectrum, but both clans know loss, grief and of course, the experience of being culturally ‘othered.’ As the curtain lifts, audiences are exposed to the strange, but special relationship between 39-year-old Caroline, who confines her moments of spiritual peace to one cigarette per day, and eight-year-old Noah Gellman, who enthusiastically lights Caroline’s smokes and idealizes her as ‘stronger than a man.’

This characterization is both more and less true than the young, motherless Noah can fathom. Caroline’s internal struggles are expressed via song and short, terse verbal communications devoid of warmth. A domestic violence survivor with broken dreams who supports her family by taking her weary seat on the segregated bus to ‘wash white people’s clothes,’ the only kind of ‘change’ Caroline has known is the kind that asks her to do more with less.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

Homos, or Everyone in America

“Playing with traditional, linear, and narrative conventions, Homos leaps back and forth between past, present and everything between to take a look at two young, bookish, Big Apple men falling (and trying to remain) in love as massive cultural shifts swirl around them. Scenes boast Sorkinesque rapid-fire dialogue, impacted by events such as 9/11, President Obama’s 2011 repudiation of the Defense of Marriage Act and rising public consciousness of insidious hate crimes.

The play also shines a light on the heterogeneity of the LGBTQ ‘community,’ despite American culture’s seeming preference for pouring all members into one rainbow-hued bucket. The Academic is presented as the traditionalist: a monogamist conscientious about moving through orderly stages (love, cohabitation, and then marriage) with a desire to live in the ‘right’ neighborhood. Conversely, The Writer abhors convention. Uncertain about committing beyond the moment, eager to smash cisgender norms and vocabulary, besotted with the chaos, noise and mood swings of New York’s creative circle, The Writer exhibits a self-pitying and destructive streak that stands apart from The Academic’s more earnest approach to intimacy.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.