Posts Tagged ‘La MaMa

02
Jun
18

There’s Blood at the Wedding: My Review

There's Blood at the Wedding 1As the sun set on yet another day when a gunman opened fire in a school on American soil the company of There’s Blood at the Wedding began their performance at La Mama ETC’s Ellen Stewart Theatre. Death by gunfire has become so pervasive in our society that these occurrences are categorized in a myriad of ways. This deeply moving, and at times, rightfully disturbing production seeks to address and present needless civilian deaths at the point of a police officer’s gun, or sometimes at the whims of their violent tactics. What is perhaps most chilling is that the thirteen vignettes that comprise this one hour entertainment represent just a mere drop in the bloody bucket we all bear.

Several forms of puppetry are blended together to present these stories and drive the point home. There are oversized full body puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes, and even the Japanese style of Bunraku puppetry, where the fully visible puppeteer manipulates the puppet figure in a seamless union of performer and character. The main artistic device though are large performing books that unfold with each story presented within. Developed just for this production these oversize books each contain their own unique storytelling methods. In this way, along with haunting music, poetic verse, and dance macabre the tragic stories of hapless victims like Sean Bell, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Justine Damand, and Amadou Diallo are all brought to brief life.

There's Blood at the Wedding 2Puppetry has a long history of being a vehicle for political discourse. From ancient Egypt, early Europe, and through our modern-day world puppets can be found expressing and communicating what others find to be uncomfortable or unspeakable. Puppets and their puppeteers and the messages they wish to convey also tend to flourish when times become oppressive and freedom of speech is restricted. The various forms of the puppetry arts have at times remained a singular form of dissent rejecting the doctrines imposed on their human counterparts. There’s Blood at the Wedding exalts the art form further in its mission to prove itself more than just a device for entertaining children.

Having created, designed, and directed the overall production, Theodora Skipitares has lead an exemplary team of puppeteers, puppet builders, scenic designers, composers, musicians, singers, and performers in a remarkable piece of dark theatrical magic. These gifted artists working together bring about a synergy of creative mastery and social commentary that is impossible to ignore and inconceivable not to be impacted by. This is a company of expert craftsman at the start of their creative journeys together and one can only hope to see more of their collaborations in the future and in Ms. Skipitares there are definite reflections of producer, director, playwright, author, and puppeteer Julie Taymor at the beginning of her illustrious career.

There's Blood at the Wedding 3Based on the recommendation of the American Theater Critics Association, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club will be this year’s recipient of the Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. This honor is given to theatre companies that have displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally. There’s Blood at the Wedding is a perfect example of why La Mama is so deserving of this special award and why this bold and exemplary production is more than worthy of your attention.

La MaMa
Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 E 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.254.6468
http://lamama.org/songs_for_lorca/
May 17 – June 3, 2018
$25

Edward Medina is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.

From an original post on TheaterScene.

All photo credits Richard Termine.

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 Broadway, 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.

28
Apr
18

Seagullmachine: My Review

Seagullmachine 1Seagullmachine, now being presented at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, is the totally immersive creation of The Assembly which describes itself as a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists committed to realizing a visceral and intelligent theater for a new generation. There are two distinct parts to this creation which was principally conceived by Assembly member Nick Benacerraf with a script by Anton Chekhov, Heiner Muller, The Assembly, and with a nod to William Shakespeare.

The first part has the audience ushered passed an empty performance space and through a door to a performance space with three quarter seating and set pieces and props everywhere. A wall with a metal garage door separates you from the empty space. As you take your seat there are actors milling about, warming up, reading their notes, and laying about on couches or sitting at desks presumably pondering what’s to come. What eventually follows is a traditional execution of Anton Chekov’s The Seagull. The racially diverse and multigenerational cast is as effective as they can be in this relatively staid world. They do shine at times though, and with all candor, the entire ensemble is to be commended for the multiple roles, both real and unreal, they will each pull off during the balance of their time on stage.

After intermission in what is the midst of a performance length of two hours and forty-five minutes we return to Chekov’s Seagull but as the action progresses and at the moment when Konstantin would normally shoot himself a jarring change occurs. Someone begins banging loudly on the garage door. Up to this point the large rolling metal door has been being used as a curtain to a supposed stage set against a field and a distant lake in this play within a play world. What follows is a full blown sequined Baz Luhrmann-like musical extravaganza of the obscure ten-page play Hamletmachine by German postmodern dramatist Heiner Mueller. In addition to the confounding confusion, sight lines are a definite problem here. It doesn’t help that the garage door wall bisecting the set designed by Nick Benacerraf and Emmie Finckel does not prove entirely effective for a good portion of the house observing from the three-quarter round seating.

Seagullmachine 2The next part of the evening has the audience being lead back to the once empty performance space to find themselves surrounded by loud, brash, neon colored costumes on display. Costume designer Kate Fry having been restrained in the first section was now allowed to go all out and her work is quite beautiful in its glorious absurdity. Here in this world the voyeurs are encouraged to walk around, view the costumes, speak to the cast, some of whom have now changed into colorful garb, and even help others change into the clothing on display. There amongst the multitude of flat screens playing images of social destruction and broadcasts of gloom and doom with disco music blaring and dancing encouraged the cast begins recitations and pronouncements until an observer is chosen to be the sacrificial Dane.

This theatrical double play, co-directed by Jess Chayes and Nick Benacerraf, doesn’t ever gel enough to actually work together. As much as they try to make the pieces fit the whole is never greater than the sum of its parts. The Seagull portion is passible and would work well on its own if it didn’t feel as if it was just a long setup for the rest of the show to come. The first half of the Hamletmachine section is just bizarrely out of place and so overblown to everything that precedes it that any hope of it being a bridge to what follows is immediately lost. The colorful, daring, and fancifully shocking madness of the latter part is left to try and make sense of it all. The task is too much for it to bear because everything leading up to that moment feels so distant and unrelated.

Experimental theatre is indeed a risky business. Abstract ideas need to meet real-world dilemmas and then be delivered in a strong and unified voice that leaves the audience moved in ways they never expected in forms they themselves could never visualize as possible. The Assembly may rightly believe there is a conceptual connection to this production but it’s a seemingly thin one. What’s truly missing is a strong enough artistic through line to connect this duo of extremely individual experiences. Shock for shocks sake never works on its own. It needs a solid foundation to land the blow. With Seagullmachine The Assembly is clearly brave enough to take risks they just need to unify the voice they deliver it with.

La MaMa
Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 E 4th St
212.254.6468
http://lamama.org/seagull_machine/
$30

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 Broadway, 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 American Theatre Critics Association, 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 Broadway, 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 American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.




Edward Medina Author

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