UPDATED: More Mario at the Midtown International

Reporter and photographer Mario Claudio toured the Midtown International Theater Festival’s Autumn Arts 2016 Series contributing images and interpretations:

20161117_185213-1“Finding Fellini” starring and written by Megan Metrikin, was an absolute wonder of her journey to find Frederico Fellini. I was entranced from the moment the projector came on. The lighting started in a way that induced the imagery of a black and white film, devoid of color but full of nuance that forewarn an interesting artistic vision. I felt I was watching a Fellini film the entire time, with unique music and light cues that enhanced every scene. Megan Metrikin, expertly takes us on the journey from her home in South Africa to Italy filled with quite a few near misses on her adventure to just talk to Fellini and how his work had moved and inspired her. Wonderfully Done

20161112_143240Mescaline by Natalie Lifson, composed by Nick O’Brian was an interesting take on a superhero rock musical. It follows the story of a girl named Ava who is a sidekick called Sister Strike to her adopted father and mentor Red Eye (ala Batman and Robin), and her journey to college to have a normal school experience. This leads to befriending two girls that are her roommates and the RA that turns out to be the villain Mescaline, who goes on a rampage to kill students that would interfere with her making money to pay off her student loans. It a silly bit of a show and sometimes gets carried away. The characters could use more development, they come off as cheesy over the top super hero / villain tropes with overacted vocals, gesticulation and the classic evil laughter. The music needed more variety, it felt like the same song was playing but with different lyrics.

20161120_204247At the end times when an unknown virus causes people to be susceptible to cannibalism, can you still find friendship, or love? This artistic piece called “It Is Wrong to Eat People” dives into that topic though not as deep as one would hope. In a series of vignettes that piece the lives of 4 people (3 Women and one Man) that were left behind to survive a catastrophic because they lacked the funds to board a spaceship off the Earth to a colony. The vignettes felt disjointed, with events that seemed to happen in the past blending with the events in the present and no clear demarcation of where they were in time. No real outstanding performances from the actors, it felt even energy between them all.

20161112_222412The Actual Dance is a beautiful one-man journey through his wife’s cancer diagnosis and the inevitable metaphysical last dance they must share before she passes on. Chuk Obasi masterfully drives us through the ups and downs of Samuel A. Simon’s play and delivers over and over.

20161115_110158Shields of Blue is a powerful one-act that delves into the lives of a three generation family of police officers. Whose world is upended when Micheal (Ian Potter) may be charged with battering a confession out of a witness. This caused conflict with his father, the current police commissioner, Thomas (Douglas Cameron Duncan) who has to decide on family or duty. With the guidance of Thomas’s father,  Walter (James P. Stanton) and his other son, Henry (Rob Glascott), he decided to put Micheal on desk duty until the situation blows over. The calm is then cut by a much immediate need to help Kerry (Phoebe Wright), the grandchild of Thomas, from her abusive boyfriend, William (Micheal Metta). It really drives home that they much like everyday people cannot do anything outside of the law, even for their own family members.

20161112_162144Ciao Bambino is an interesting story about an illegal Italian immigrant who moves to New York City in 1965 hoping to create a new life, and ends up finding herself through music, laughter and love. It started out strong but floundered soon after with too many songs, some don’t move the story along. The show felt like a mashup of Sister Act 2, with Elizabetta teaching music to a rag-tag ensemble of student; Hairspray, with the style of music coming off as Doo-Wop mixed with Mediterranean flair and incidents with the law.
Most confusing is the introduction of the love interest halfway through the performance that later comes to Elizabetta’s aid from the immigration officer by offering to marry her to keep her in America. Only to have her refuse and get deported back to Italy, I was left thinking what the hell just happened?

20161112_162428Peace and Quiet is a family story about an ailing husband, Simon (Tom Cappadona) and his no nonsense caretaking wife Diane (Ginger Grace) coming to terms that thier son Mike (Tom Burka) wants to put his father in a home because he is losing his memory due to advance Alheimers disease. With the help of his alcoholic wife Linda (Kate Greer) and thier budding actress daughter Ashley (Lizzy Ana Lincoln), they eventually convince Diane to see that Simon is not getting better and his memory is failing rapidly. Afterwards when the Mike and his family leaves, Diane and Simon have an argument because Simon has regressed to his childhood and doesn’t recognize his wife anymore. Leading to the culmination of Diane accidently stabbing Simon in the neck with her knitting needles just to finally have some peace and quiet.

20161106_131855By far my favorite show was The First Woman President by Keith Burridge, stars a phenomenal one woman performance by Bonnie Roe as Edith Wilson. It takes a great amount of talent and courage to perform solo and still keep the audience engaged and entertained which Bonnie Roe excelled with flying colors. She created a lovely and believable Edith Wilson and was charming and funny in her delivery. Honestly the only downside is that I was left wanting more, which i guess is a positive.

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Atalanta, I did not enjoy at all. Moody lighting, unclear story journey that felt long in most places and rushed in others.

 

 

20161104_004642Warmth is a comedy-drama play by Diane Rissetto. It’s about a  woman’s journey through an existential guilt of past violent human aggression and how she hopes to mend one Holocaust survivor tragic story. Diana DiCostanzo plays the conflicted Gemma, an Italian millennial often confused for being Jewish who lives in NYC with her comedic gay cousin Luke (played by Lev Harvey). Gemma becomes overwhelmingly obsessed with the atrocities of the Holocaust that she decides to volunteer to help survivors in Europe. This leads Gemma to start a writing contest where the winner will receive an all expense paid trip to NYC this introduces Magdelone. Magdelone, who is played by Stacey Lightman, is a Polish woman that harbored refugees on her family farm and fell in love with a Jewish man who later died on a death march before the end of the war. But what won her the contest is the fact she was impregnated by her lover and had to send her son to America for a better life in Long Island, this prompts Gemma to reunite the mother and son. Much to Gemma’s dismay she finds that Magdelone’s son had passed away a few years before the fated meeting and is survived by his daughter-in-law, Lydia (Taylor Henkin) and grandson Victor (Matthew Dean Wood). Throughout the play Diana and Taylor’s character meet at different Holocaust museums and events which in my opinion greatly foreshadows the evident meeting between Gemma and Victor and their budding relationship. All in all, this was a very touching and heartwarming tale on how sometimes you have to take chances and reach out from your heart to help mend pains.

20161104_005907 Wimberley by Julia Rae Maldonado is a tale of two friends reconnecting after 3 years apart set in Wimberley, Texas. Peter Ferraiolo plays Todd, a young guitar playing quiet gay man, while Josh Trent plays Evan, Todd’s rambunctious jocular adopted brother. It is very obvious from the beginning that there was a past event that makes their interaction palpable. Which leads to Evans desperation to mend the rift that he caused in his relationship to Todd. Both actors breath realistic life into their characters and portray interesting nuance and history. Though I enjoyed the journey, I was a bit let down by a lack of a solid resolution.

20161103_192240Germaine and Diane was inspired by the photo session between photographer Diane Arbus (Ceren Zorlu) and her subject Germaine Greer (Linda Alago) in the Hotel Chelsea, the fiction can be more tantalizing than reality. Ceren Zorlu portrays Diane Arbus as a sapphic powerhouse that will push most social boundaries to absurd levels just to capture the essence of a pure moment from Germaine. While Linda Alago’s portrayal of Germaine Greer as a secure dominant woman in her own right, that can see through most of Diane’s machinations with such ease and poise. This leads to a challenging tango confrontation that is electrifying since neither actress will submit to the others demands until the energy gets erotically physical.

20161106_133158An interesting cabaret of select songs from songwriters Brel, Weill and Aznavour. I loved Vickie Phillips stage presence and energy. Most notable was her pianist Gerry Dieffenbach who accompanied Vickie both in Piano and Voice. 

20161106_141124Little Invisible Backpacks, written and directed by Magda Cychowski is a play about a family struggle to recover from the death of their mother due to stomach cancer. It’s a raw story that is expressed wonderfully by the cast, from their struggles within themselves to drugs and even a comical interaction with a family therapist.

20161104_230507A Night with FieFie is an inspirational young star in the poetry world. Insightful poems about loss, anger and love. Wonderful performance tonight. Absolutely touching, raw and introspectively honest.

20161112_1432401Mescaline by Natalie Lifson, composed by Nick O’Brian was an interesting take on a superhero rock musical. It follows the story of a girl named Ava who is a sidekick called Sister Strike to her adopted father and mentor Red Eye (ala Batman and Robin), and her journey to college to have a normal school experience. This leads to befriending two girls that are her roommates and the RA that turns out to be the villain Mescaline, who goes on a rampage to kill students that would interfere with her making money to pay off her student loans. It a silly bit of a show and sometimes gets carried away. The characters could use more development, they come off as cheesy over the top super hero / villain tropes with overacted vocals, gesticulation and the classic evil laughter. The music needed more variety, it felt like the same song was playing but with different lyrics.

20161115_202215A heartbreaking tale of promises and betrayal. “Julia” written, directed and starring Eddie Shields is a tale of a southern debutante, Julie (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard) and the one time affair she has with her fathers house servant, Jean (Eddie Shields). Though Jean was betrothed to Kristine (Maria Jan Carreon), he confesses his love for Julia and promises to runaway with her to France. The main betrayal happens after Jean rapes Julia and discards her when he discovers that she doesn’t have any money to her name for their “romantic” gettaway. This leads to the ultimate sacrifice, where Julia deprived of her love and maidenhood resorts to suicide, leaving Jean and Kristine to face the pending consequences. I really feel that the actors gave an excellent performance and portrayal from the sleazy Jean, to the naive Kristine, and drunken heart torn Julia. Eddie Shields brings Jean to life as a loving caring guy that is looking forward to his wedding of Kristine, then takes a sharp twisted to a deplorable rogue. It’s a shocking change in character for both the audience and the characters in the performance as well. Sarah Elizabeth Bedard, portrayal of Julia is very much on point of a spoiled, entitled debutante, which makes her change to a derailed scorned love that much more heartbreaking. I honestly hoped she would make it to France without Jean, though she tried to convince Kristine to come with her.

20161120_160830Solicitudes by far was not my favorite productions, it was dictated stereo instructions done in the guise of a Jane Austin novel. Most of the production was said to the scripts in hand and not to the audience. No acting other than the costumes made for the period and even that was a stretch. It was painful and grueling experience, which was a sad sad day for Jane Austin.

20161116_181335A beautiful work of artistic poetry and acting, inspired by the poems of Matthea Harvey, Federico Garcia Lorca and Lord Tennyson. “De Profundis” by Ran Xia was a interesting interwoven tapestry involving settings from modern day Staten Island, to Cuba in the late 1800s and underwater. It tells the story of a Mermaid (Juliana Philippi) who longed to hear sound above the waters of the ocean. The story of an inventor Antonio Meucci (Jim Sherwood) who wants to build realistic sounds for his ailing wife, Esterre Meucci (Rosanne Rubino) who slowly becomes tormented by the slightest of sounds and the pressure upon her old bones. Another story about an adopted mother, Lyndall (Juliana Philippi) who collects seashells from different times in history and her ward, Clementine (Therese Dizon) who is saddened when she must leave Lyndall when her family comes to find her, only to find that no one ever heard of Lyndall Esterre. To the final story of Clementine and her fiance Guy (Adrian Burke) that want to buy and rebuild a theatre where they discover a magic mirror that reveals things they are not ready to let go of.

20161112_200720How far would you go to satisfy your true love? In “The Good Life” by Joe Hoover, we experience that even though you can be a pure and honest person like Tommy (Tyler Brown), it can be too much for his girlfriend, Jane (Devon Ahmed) to handle. This caused Jane to call for a break with Tommy, who she feels is repressing any bad behavior because he must be in constant control of his life. When a mutual friend, Cindi (Jessie Ruane) is due to be married and supervises Tommy about how selfish he is being with his need to control events in his life, this leads to an “Oral” interaction between the two and the eventual break up from Jane. The moral I gather from this play, staying true to yourself is much harder when it makes others feel bad about themselves in comparison.

20161116_210456“Breastless” starring and written by Laurel Turk, was a beautiful and honest view about breast cancer survival. Laurel takes the audience on a journey of the ups and downs of surviving breast cancer, from diagnosis to lack of sexual intimacy to possible reconstruction of her breast using the TRAM flap surgery that involves using ab muscles. For a serious topic, it is uplifted with comical interludes from the other cast members, Dorian Gregory who sparkles the stage with wonderful ukulele playing and her comical timing as well as playing Laurels lover. Emily Bloch, also sings and dances on the stage as well, and plays a photographer for Laurel to remember her breasts. Emily Fox also helps to elevate the brevity as Laurels Doctor and close friend. Possibly the most intimate and beautiful moment is when Laurel appears on stage after her Bilateral mastectomy surgery, only to show that the breast she had in the beginning of the performance were actually prosthetic. I was moved to tears and deeply touched to experience such a personal unabashed moment.

20161116_194905The Elbisnopsers! or How Do You Say Their Damn Name?
Written by Katrin Arefy and directed by Tana Sirois, this 30 minute one act was by far too funny to end in such a short time. I absolutely enjoy absurdist comedy and i felt this one ended way to soon. It’s a story of an unnatural fear of the Elbisnopsers that had the three actors (Patrick Hamilton, Shelley Valfer, and Ann Herberger) comedic mispronouncing and misspelling, to condemning neighbors of having a barbaric genetic disease, and searching a globe for the home of the Elbisnopsers. The most interesting point was when the actors broke the fourth wall and started questioning the playwrights logic of the whole show, even Ann Herberger took off her characters wig. It was hilarious through and through and I wanted more.

20161115_220941To what length will you take a small innocent misunderstanding to win the affection of a stranger? “Centennial Casting” written by Gino Dilorio and Nancy Bleemer, directed by Alessandro Colla, was a lovely Rom/Com with genuine heart and charm. Lou Martini Jr. plays Vincent DiDonato, who inherits a metal casting shop called Centennial Casting in Manhatten. Along with his two co workers, Doo Doo (Anthony Patellis) and Carmine (Alessandro Colla), who concoct a plan to set Vincent up with a girl who accidentally sent her Head Shot to the company under the illusion it was a casting company for actors. Alicia Harding plays the starving actress, Edi Keaton, who works with her best friend Michelle (Janine Molinari) at the Moon Dance Diner. This leads to a 90min foray into comedy, where Doo Doo act as a Italian director of a foreign independent film about the horses called, Sea Biscotti, with Carmine as the uninspired Jockey. All the while Vincent wants to tell Edi the truth because of the guilt that he feels in deceiving her. The most stand out actor in the group, in my opinion, was Anthony Patellis who stole every scene with his comedic timing and all around outlandish character.

20161123_171338“Save The Robots: The Musical” book by Jacques Lamarre, Clark Render, and Rob Susman, with music by Rob Susman and Hagatha. David Rigano, directed the show in a very interesting style along the lines of Little Shop of Horrors and Rocky Horror Picture Show. The story revolves around Professor Friedrich Freeze (played by Alexander Robin Kass) and his former assistant, Dr. Bridgette Oskendosky (played by Sandra W. Lee) and their plan to create a bio degradable, hydroponic, zero carbon emission robot. But due to work wardrobe differences, Dr. Bridgette likes to wear lingerie outfits to work where Professor Friedrich likes lab coats, they parted ways and created their own robots that look like the other. This leads to the next two characters Donna Matrix (Lindsey Lavin) who is an unassuming secretary with a dominatrix side when pushed, and Onyx Sardonyx (Matthew Dyer) who was a former custodian for Dr. Oskendosky and Professor Freeze and subjectively fired because he wasn’t very good at it. Both are employed by the mysterious group called Mysterian and the leader (Olivia Hoffman) is actually an alien from Planet X in the EnEnEnEnEnEnth (actually said in the show this way) dimension that wants to devour all life on Earth but are threatened by the robots.The show is hilarious and silly, with lots of risque scenes of BDSMesque whippings and squeaky leather clad running around. Music and vocals from the entire cast was TOP NOTCH, fully voiced not forced and confident in style and technique. Kass and Lee work double duty as their roles and as the robots that the other created. Where as the whole cast doubled for the Red robe claded Mysterian aliens while Hoffman was narrating and helping the show move along in a steady pace.

 

 

 

 

The Steve Silver Screen Debut

15056462_1721827568133950_541449272569597969_nThe Watchtower, a film based on the play by Steve Silver, had an exclusive preview in September at The Magno Screening Room in NYC. Actor and playwright Steve Silver, along with a team of directors, producers, and writers, has begun a theatrical and cinematic journey called the Silver Screen Project. Mr. Silver, along with David Sharp, Laurie Rae Waugh, and Jay Michaels to name a few, head a team dedicated to committing off-off Broadway plays to film, thus preserving independent works that usually vanish all too quickly. Beginning this is Mr. Silver’s play, The Watchtower.

Receiving acclaim during its initial run at one of the original theatres associated with the famed off-off Broadway movement, the American Theater of Actors (ATA), Mr. Silver and his colleagues did not want it to just end. The odyssey of fundraising, pre-production, shooting, and editing yielded a high-quality film presentation of Mr. Silver’s gritty and unapologetic tale of the underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen and what it took to survive there. Many of the original stage cast appear in the film.

“I’ve seen some amazing work and now they’re gone,” exclaimed Mr. Silver, a prolific playwright, “I hope this is the jumping off point for countless dreams to be realized and messages brought to posterity.”

David Sharp, a stage and film journeyman in his own right – and member of the cast of The Watchtower – shared Mr. Silver’s excitement with a simple phrase, “if we get the right people behind us… the possibilities are endless.”

Mr. Silver is already in pre-production for a film version of the play, Mirrors, which recently ended a successful run at the ATA.

 

Mr. Silver shared his thoughts with us on the eve of his film making its journey through the film festival circuit.

We hear a lot about inspiration- or Muse- that drives an artist. What inspires you?

I love to write about real life with a touch of history, while keeping focus on the world around us.  I write about things I know like all the different neighborhoods I have lived in.  Recently, I have spent time writing about my current neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen.  I write from the heart and incorporate real life experiences into each and every plot.  I am a native New Yorker, born & raised in this wonderful diverse city.

Tell us about why you wrote this and why it’s important enough to become a film?

Originally the play started as a love story between Tommy and Eileen O’Day and how the Westies became involved with the Mafia.  I then expanded it into a full length play whereby I added some additional characters and plot themes.   I felt that this story would shine a light on one family’s journey through the push and pull of the underworld.  Most movies that are written in the gangster genre are about the Mafia and not many discuss the lives of the Irish neighborhoods with a focus on the Irish point of view.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

Personal fulfillment- sharing history with the next generations, so the history of those who built our city isn’t forgotten.  We have to reflect & recognize on the good and the bad that came along when the city was built.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession.. ”it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

No.   I do so many things in life that writing is not the only thing I do.  I’m a father, I love my family and I value how family plays an important role in our lives

Along those lines, if you couldn’t do this, what would you do?

Well, I don’t ever think that I will stop writing.  I have more to write & share with the world.  I enjoy taking a real live event and weaving a story line through it.

How do you want (legit) history to remember you?

Wow, that’s a tough one.  I would like to be remembered as a writer and film maker who cared to bring forth the human side of every story to life.

Last Words?

I hope the audiences enjoy my spin on what living the life in the Irish mob is like in our film, THE WATCHTOWER- The Movie.  I am looking forward to getting my next project in the works.

 

 

Ben on Jack

On this, the centennial of the passing of famed author and adventurer, Jack London, join THE Jack London STAGE AND FILM FESTIVAL on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at The Mary Rodgers Room, 1501 Broadway, NYC. [program listed below] 

 


 

We spoke with playwright/filmmaker/producer Ben Goldstein about his own adventures:

763424-250We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?

Inspiration sometimes comes in a flash. Imagination however, I believe is like a muscle. It strengthens with use. When I was a kid I tried to exercise my imagination by not going to sleep unless I had thought of something I hadn’t thought of before. Sometimes it was visualization or an insight into someone’s behavior; sometimes it was a new story. I always loved a good story and still do. A good story can inspire. A good story can change the world.

Why Jack London?

The period between 1890 and 1916 closely parallels our times. The issues of the day were financial panics, exploitation by the robber barons, unemployment, child labor, homelessness, racism, immigration, the labor union movement and Socialism versus Capitalism. In the early 1900’s Jack London was not only the most popular writer in the world he was the spearhead for much of the political and social dialogue on these matters.

My goal in creating this work is to celebrate the work of an artist, writer, photographer and political figure whose star has dimmed over the years.  He is not a perfect figure and I present him warts and all. But his achievements so far outweigh his deficiencies that I feel his place in literature and history need to be reevaluated. Besides bridging the gulf between romantic and modern literature he helped foster significant social legislation.  His passionate lifestyle and work made him the template for such writers as Ernest Hemingway, Robert E. Howard, Eugene O’Neill, Jack Kerouac and numerous others.

Today most people remember Jack London as the author of “Call of the Wild” (which is still being reprinted in almost every language in the world). But Jack London’s work is far greater than just one book. Several of his short stories including “The White Silence,” and to “To Light A Fire” are among the best ever written, and his novels, “Martin Eden,” and “The Sea Wolf” still hold their place as formidable literary achievements. His social writings, such as “War of the Classes” and “The Iron Heel,” present stirring ideas and concepts that are still relevant today. While he is considered a juvenile writer here in America he is considered a serious political and social critic throughout Europe and Russia. Part of the reason for his diminished status was due to his Socialism and the repression of his works during the 1950’s in America.

Until recently his photographs have been totally ignored. It is my intention to give these works a chance to be seen for the great social and artistic record they are. I use interviews with London scholars to elucidate Jack’s character, lifestyle, love life and personal philosophy, and show how they reflected and conflicted with the political, and social mores of his times.

Jack London is the template for the “modern hero,” who rebels against the hypocrisy of society and through his own hard work helps change it for the better.  It is an inspiring tale of a child laborer and eighth grade dropout who, through his own efforts, becomes the highest paid, most popular and most controversial author of his day.

His refrain, “I’d rather be ashes than dust,” sums up his passion for life.

 

Tell us about your research and artistic process.

Initially, as a kid, I was fascinated by Jack London’s adventurous storytelling and language. Thirty years ago I began to reread Jack London’s works and found I couldn’t put them down. I have since read all of Jack’s short stories and novels, and almost all of his newspaper reports, essays and letters. I found Jack’s life story as compelling as his literary work.

In 1987, I tried to get a grant from the NEH to make a film about Jack London but was denied. I wrote a screenplay that was optioned but never made. I wrote a number of teleplays for a 13-part series but couldn’t get them produced. About six years ago I gained access to the London collection at the Huntington Library.

The Huntington’s Jack London collection is the largest in the world and I was able to go through some 12,000 of London’s own photographs as well as his correspondence, memorabilia, essays, newspaper reports and his wife Charmian’s diaries. At the library I met the Huntington’s literary manuscripts curator Sara S. “Sue” Hodson who is one of the main narrators of my film. She is so erudite and charming; I knew I now had all the elements to make a film. Sue also introduced me to renowned London scholar, Jeanne Reesman, with whom she was preparing a book of never-before published London photographs.  Together they introduced me to other scholars and the film began taking its final form.

 

What do you hope to give your audience ultimately? 

I hope the audience will get a sense that it is important to be involved in life, to appreciate its beauty and hardship and to take part in the struggle for social justice. That has always been worth the fight.
Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

I have always felt that there are too many paths and I had too few feet. I have been a playwright, producer, director, children’s author, teacher, illustrator, filmmaker, music publisher, recording studio owner, lyricist, songwriter and vacuum cleaner salesman. It has been said that each of us is put on this earth for a unique mission.  This mission is sometimes hidden from us and our lives are spent in discovering that purpose. We may never know what that purpose is and we may or may not be successful in its accomplishment. Part of what makes life meaningful is discovering that mission, discovering the best part of our selves and actualizing it. As Lincoln once said: I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.

Last words? 
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite London quotes:
Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.

 

THE Jack London FESTIVAL

Program 1: 1:30 – 2:50 p.m. A live performance of portions of the new musical, Martin Eden by Gregory Nissen based on the 1908 novel by Jack London. Followed by a Q&A with Mr. Nissen

Program 2: 3:00 – 5:15 p.m. Jack London: American Original, A 90-minute documentary by Ben Goldstein based on the life and writings of Jack London. Followed by a Q&A with the director

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Crossing millennial LINES

A Rant by Bob Greene

If it ain’t broke, doesn’t fix it, said the scholar at some point. LINE, Israel Horovitz’ inaugural tome about five souls aiming at the unseen prize of being number 1, has had a reworking at the theatre of its residence, 13th Street Repertory.

The reworking is no reworking.

For a decade at least, the play, a 60-minute salad of Pirandello and Serling with a few dirty words for color, about five characters lost on a line wanting nothing more than to be first… for no attainable reason, has attracted viewers since 1967. The draw was that you would see a bare-bones moment of theatre. Drenched in surrealism and 60s sensibilities, this play was a gem just as it is.

Fearing that familiarity breeds low ticket sales, the play has been updated and rethought into oblivion.

Ironically, these innovations created the self-fulfilling prophesy and that confusion wrought by odd schemes and casting have brought the show to become an albatross at one of the last bastions of off-off Broadway subversion.

Thankfully, director/producer Jay Michaels has brought to us the original production – done originally. All bells and whistles are removed; all “ideas” are safely stowed; and we have here the LINE that Horovitz conceived: a study in desperation amongst those whom we can identify.

Michaels’ staging and character contributions are clear and simple, letting the art and artists shine through. Conor Mullen’s fight choreography hands us witty bits of musical theatre movement filling the black box with pratfalls.

The rotating company of artists are young, smart, attractive, and naturally talented.

14639599_10209461576229152_5164392848114347512_n

The stage opens with a sleeping clowne, Fleming, who encounters the snake in the garden of Eden, Stephen, whose Eve (in the guise of Molly, the only female), and snarky imperious Dolan are perfect foils for him. Taking up the rear is her mate, Arnall, a wimp who’s happy to be so. The next 48 minutes are who’s on first, what’s on second and I-don’t-know’s on third with a finale that makes you wonder about everything from reincarnation to the existence of God.

14939978_982210538551715_2485870205801595204_oAs the comic Fleming the role is shared by Elliot Wygoda and Robert I. Gottlieb. Wygoda, a muscular straight man whose mastery of the double take and shocked whine of response served as a cue line for the audience to guffaw; while Robert Gottlieb’s working class accent and incredible physical timing gave us a vaudeville sketch with every phrase; Stephen, the unofficial leader, was given two slight-of-frame wizards to mystify the audience. The more sedate one with well-coiffed black hair is Danny Berger. His clear theatrical acumen gave us great subtext letting us follow the story within the story well; while the maniacal Brady Richards handed us a tour-de-force the likes of which you’d hand to Shakespeare. Nina Cudic’s wounded flower that is Molly makes us cheer when she – after being beaten like Hillary Clinton – wins over these amateur Trumps toward the end of the play; while Angelica Alicia Adams was a winner from page one with courage in delivery and sturdy resolve in character. Beth St. John – who has left the company for now – was a Molly combining youth and seen-it-all demeanor.

 

Conor Mullen displays his acting chops as Dolan, the captain of industry, with no-nonsense steadiness and total precision; while his counterpart, Ben Lerner, gave us a wink toward sitcom style with exquisite lyrical delivery.

Mario Claudio and Andrew Schwartz are the punching bags of the team. Arnall, an amalgam of names bestowed on this sad sack is portrayed as a pained innocent always being broadsided by Andrew Schwartz (heartbreaking in several moments) and a scaredy-cat with a survival instinct by Mario Claudio. Claudio, a member of another product at 13th Street displays just that much more stage presence one might find from a veteran of more than one LINE.

LINE’s director worked with the original director, thus his vision is flawless and the producers, Joe Battista and Mary Elizabeth Micari are adept in the classics, so credibility is conveyed.

This LINE is a history lesson. It hands us a time-warp. It is an original work, done the same as it has been in the same theatre by the same type of actors that were there a half-century ago. Maybe Hamilton is fancier but you will NEVER see a piece of the great OOB movement done so well … ever … again.

The bottom line is that LINE is back as it should be. The parable intact, run by dedicated souls obeying the Theatre Gods by maintaining this great moment.

Mario gets on LINE: Prolific Performer joins the LINE

11659429_1457078151274735_3925271007530620522_nMario Claudio has had a great year… and his lucky number is 13.

The summer started off with him as the principal player in Genesis Repertory’s production of Generations, a new musical, which premiered at the legendary 13th Street Repertory Theater. He kept the same make-up mirror as he stayed in 13th Street for his appearance in – and as assistant director of – Hamlet, presented by Nine Theatricals, at the same theatre. He popped uptown for a role in Grande Grande, a new play receiving a triumphant run at the American Theater of Actors (at press time, news his our desk that the play has been nominated for a Jean Dalrymple Award) and now… he returns to LINE for its 50th Anniversary production. Where… 13th Street. Oh yeah and he appeared on the Paul Giamatti series, Billions

… oh yeah, and he is the press photographer for the Midtown International Theatre Festival. 

We stopped him on the way to a show for a few words of wisdom…

We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you? 

– What inspires me to be an actor? I would have to say being able to move an audience with a writers vision of a play or musical. It’s really to me a spiritual playing and or make believe that I experience with the audience. I don’t perform a character, but i react to the moment. Honestly the whole process is humbling and cathartic, and the best way to express my gratitude is to stay true to my character and portray an honest journey.

What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”

– Well fame and wealth is all good in my book, but i think i would like to inspire people that feel they couldn’t be an actor to not give up. I started taking acting more seriously in my early 30s (dating myself here) and I enjoy my journey so far. I’m of the school of thought that its never to late to pursue your dreams.

Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?

– I feel like this is all I can do, i enjoy the fulfilling feeling of performing and taking risks while performing. Its probably one of the few mediums that is not static and that can always change that speaks to me. Not many “jobs” give you room to morph in a moments notice and still have it be acceptable and valid.

Along those lines, if you couldn’t do this, what would you do?

– I would most likely be a social worker or something that helps people on a grand scale. Like i said before my performances are a journey that the audience and i take together. If i could help someone go through a tough time in their life I would be satisfied.

Last words? 

– Its never to late to follow your heart and reach for your true desire in life. As Shia Labeouf said “Just DO IT.”

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