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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Union Square Free Night of Theater Celebration, October 15-

TCG’s fifth annual Free Night of Theater will have its NYC launch with a day-long celebration in Union Square on October 15 from 12:00PM until 6:00PM. Topping last year’s event in scope, scale and vision, this Union Square Free Night of Theater Celebration will have booths, art installations, and performances – both scheduled and spontaneous – as well as guest speakers including theatre artists and local politicians. The park will be transformed into a theatrical street fair with a performance stage and roving artists - under a canopy of colorful vibrant umbrellas. Programming for all ages will take place throughout the day and surprises are guaranteed. This event allows NYC theatre artists to come together as a community and share their gifts with the general public. 

A fanfare will welcome guests as the event is introduced by Mayor Bloomberg (his schedule permitting) and TCG’s executive director, Teresa Eyring. Throughout the day, there will be magic in the air as New York’s best theatre artists from Broadway to Independent perform for free while make-up artists transform faces, celebrity artists share personal stories from the sublime to the ridiculous, and children’s theater is performed for kids and parents. Toward the end of the day, a Fashion Show (pulled from the 75,000 pieces of Theatre Development Fund's The Costume Collection) will delight and amaze. Names of participating theatre artists will be released as the event draws closer. 

The Free Night of Theater program was introduced as a three-city pilot program in 2005 to raise the general awareness of America's not-for-profit theatres and attract new and non-traditional audiences. This year the national program is making more than 75,000 tickets available to 700 theatres in over 120 cities in more than 25 states. A complete list of the participating cities and theatres is available at www.freenightoftheater.netFree Night NYC is offering more than 5,000 free tickets to nearly 100 theaters across New York City. Online Tickets can be reserved on October 1, 2009. 

Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for not-for-profit Theatre. Its Free Night New York partners are the Arts & Business Council of New York, the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the League of Independent Theater, The New York State Council on the Arts, and Theatre Development Fund. Support for Free Night of Theater comes from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review- Luck (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

If you're lucky, when you get to 59E59 Theaters to see Luck you'll get to sit at one of the VIP tables up front - they've got the best view, the best table clothes and the best interaction with the star, or "hostess". But that's only if you're lucky. Then again, as Megan Riordan (playwright/performer of Luck) will tell you, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"... and she will further tell you that preparation most often meets opportunity in Las Vegas. At the Blackjack Table. When you're playing on a team.

Ms. Riordan goes by many aliases, one of which is Kim - your Las Vegas hostess for the evening - who gives you a show that is filled with everything that is the hallmark of Vegas: a little secrecy, a little slight of hand, a little razzle, a little dazzle, a little dancing, a little singing, some cards, some roulette, some dice and a whole lotta good luck rituals. As the evening unfolds she cleverly weaves storytelling with performance art and parlor games, using the dice or the cards to determine what she will do next.  (Example: Table 1 has a roulette wheel.  If the ball lands on 1 - 10 Kim will talk about "Can't" - if the ball lands on 11 - 20 she will talk about "Can").   The draw of a high card may tell her to give a definition, a low card will tell her to act out signals.

Ms. Riordan is the daughter of Max Rubin, one of the best blackjack players in Vegas and author of "Comp City" - a book about how to scam the casinos and get free stuff. After all, they've been taking our money for years, right? Everything Kim (and Megan for that matter) learned she learned from the best, and she imparts this knowledge to the audience in quick little gulps, like shots Jameson's Irish Whiskey thrown back, one after the other, glass by glass.  Flashy and glamourous Ms. Riordan is everything a child of Vegas should be - beautiful, tricky, funny, heartbreaking. She moves with lightening speed and shuffles through scenes the way a master card dealer will shuffle that deck; she is polite but empahtic... there's a rhythm to this night and your part in it depends on it going well. She's cleverly putting you on her team.

TEAM: Definition - In order to win in Blackjack - the only way - is to work in a team. And to do so successfully involves aliases, disguises, signals, codes, and escape plans. You have to be willing to take a hit for the team or the spotter can see that the card coming up will get the BP (Big Player or Big Personality) a win. You have to be willing to head to a casino straight from the airport, sit at a blackjack table with your father whom you haven't seen for a year, pretend you don't know him, and sit with him for 14 hours straigt playing cards and talking to him in code. You have to be ready for the fact that the day your dad walks you down the aisle, in fact... RIGHT before he walks you down the aisle, he offers to play you for the envelope your Uncle Jimmy just slipped you with a wink.

Ms. Riordan does a masterful job at portraying all the different angles of this life, illuminating a world that I'm sure few of us have seen, while at the same time giving us a purely stripped down one woman show about how much it can hurt to grow up in a family that is so significantly different than other families. Little tricks like using the security camera as a confessional to her dad is brilliant, the subtext being that this little eye sees all, this is the thing her father is most aware of, so by talking directly into it... maybe he will finally hear her?

Whether amped up or stripped down, Ms. Riordan is a compelling figure who found a way to tell her unique story in a fashion that does it justice. And with so many rolls of the dice and lucks of the draw that determine which scene goes next and which stories are told, the odd of it ever being the same show twice are 1:2 million and change. I'll take those odds.

Juicy MoMo Productions and 1st Irish Festival present
September 22-October 11, 2009
59E59 Street Theaters

Tickets $25. To purchase tickets and for more information visit

59E59 Street Theaters | 59 East 59th Street | Manhattan.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review- The Selfish Giant (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

Growing up can be rough; it's hard to leave behind all the wonderful, fanciful, joyous things than make up childhood and navigate the more somber realm of adulthood. But if you keep that little child inside you alive, and let them out every now and then to play, you're sure to reap the benefits of giving in to your more whimsical side.

This is not just the theme running through Literally Alive's production of Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant adapted by Michael Sgouros & Brenda Bell (Directed by Brenda Bell) but also the attitude that got hold of me as I attended the show.  Because, frankly, it's been a long time since I sat in a theatre and just gave myself over to my inner child, delighting in the tales of a giant, and his garden, of birds that can talk, of weather that can tap dance and of seasons that refuse to change until someone learns their lesson.

What I loved about visiting Literally Alive Children's Theatre is that they began the show with some simple rules that could have been deemed "Everything I know about theatre etiquette I learned in kindergarten".  A wonderful woman explained to the children that there would be loud sounds ... but not to be afraid.  She explained that at home the actors on TV can't hear you when you talk, but in a theatre they can so we have to be what?  "Quiet!" the crowd chirped.  "And we're going to turn the lights out in a moment, and the theatre will get very, very dark.  But don't worry, very soon the lights will come back on in a very surprising way!"  A part of me wished that this woman would come to every one of the productions I attended and remind all the "adults" that talking during a show was rude, not respecting the actors was bad, and not being nice to the people around you by squirming in your seat was disruptive.  Words to live by!

The Selfish Giant is a very simple musical based on an Oscar Wilde story in which a Giant is ... Selfish.  Another reason to love children's theatre - the title isn't misleading or purposely vague like so many others.  All the instruments that play during the performance are percussion - a xylophone, drums, some fun ones that make odd noises and sound effects when they're struck, and they're played by Michael Sgouros (who is the composer and Musical director as well) Emily Sgouros, and Kristin Smith.  The combination of these instruments is surprisingly rich - I thought I'd miss such staples as the piano or the guitar  but the music is so catchy and well performed that it's wonderful exactly as it is.

Eric Fletcher plays the giant (in Gene Simmons towering boots) as well as Oscar Wilde (who serves as a narrator of sorts).  Brianna Hurley plays his faithful servant Martha who for some reason has a thick eastern European accent... but hey, this is children's theatre so there's no need for everyone to sound the same.  Ms. Hurley also plays Sparky, a comical penguin.  Most appealing to children are Stefanie Smith (choreographer) and Dustin Cross who both play a number of characters.  These two team up in several different forms; sometimes as spirits who dance about like giant sized Tinkerbells, sometimes as wisecracking vaudeville type birds Myrtle and Gladys (which children found particularly funny), and sometimes as tap dancing weather (Hailey and Hector).  

With sets partially designed by the children who attend the performance, and personal handshakes to each of the children afterwards, Literally Alive does a great deal to make their little guests feel special... which goes a long way towards making their bigger guests feel special too.  With the freedom to wiggle joyfully to the music and clap loudly, or laugh delightedly, this show was a winner for children of all ages.  With a great message of sharing, and some catchy music, The Selfish Giant will put a smile on your face.

Literally Alice Children's Theatre and 1st Irish Theatre Festival present
The Selfish Giant
September 13-October 25, 2009
The Players Theatre

Tickets are $25-50. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit

The Players Theatre | 115 MacDougal Street | Manhattan.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2009 IT Award Recipients Announced

New York, NY: On Monday September 21, 2009, the IT Awards (New York Innovative Theatre Awards), the organization dedicated to celebrating Off-Off Broadway, and host Julie Halston, announced the 2009 recipients at the Fifth Annual IT Awards Ceremony at New World Stages. Those unable to attend joined the OOB theatre community's biggest night of the year online, and also followed theatre critic Aaron Riccio's (Theater Talk's New Theater Corps, That Sounds Cool) live-blogging at

Performance by Caffe Cino Fellowship Award recipient The Brick Theater, Inc.

The Winners:


RECIPIENT: Christopher BorgJeffrey CranorKevin R. FreeEevin Hartsough,
(Not) Just A Day Like Any Other, New York Neo-Futurists 


Creating Illusion, soloNOVA Arts Festival


RECIPIENT: William Apps IV,
Amerissiah, The Amoralists Theatre Company


RECIPIENT: Constance Parng,
Lee/gendary, HERE Arts Center


RECIPIENT: Julian Elfer,
Twelfth Night, or What You Will,
T. Schreiber Studio


RECIPIENT: Elyse Mirto,
Any Day Now, Writer's Forum at Manhattan Theatre Source


RECIPIENT: Austin McCormick,
The Judgment of Paris, Company XIV 


RECIPIENT: Suzi Takahashi,
Lee/gendary, HERE Arts Center


RECIPIENT: Bruce Steinberg,
Blue Before Morning, terraNOVA Collective


RECIPIENT: Michelle Beshaw,
The Very Sad Story of Ethel & Julius, Lovers and Spyes and about Their Untymelie End while Sitting in a Small Room at the Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y., GOH Productions 


RECIPIENT: Michael P. Kramer,
Ragtime, Astoria Performing Arts Center


RECIPIENT: Asa Wember,
Angel Eaters, Flux Theatre Ensemble


RECIPIENT: Kimmy GatewoodAndy HertzRebekka Johnson, Sarah Lowe, Jeff Solomon,
The Apple Sisters, The Apple Sisters


RECIPIENT: Nat Cassidy,
The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots, The Gallery Players in association with Engine37


RECIPIENT: Nico Vreeland,
Elephants on Parade 2009, EBE Ensemble


RECIPIENT: Creating Illusion,
soloNOVA Arts Festival 


RECIPIENT: Like You Like It,
The Gallery Players


RECIPIENT: Lee/gendary,
HERE Arts Center


RECIPIENT: Maria Irene Fornes


RECIPIENT: Material For The Arts


RECIPIENT: Jillian Zeman


RECIPIENT: The Brick Theater, Inc.

About The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation:

THE INNOVATIVE THEATRE FOUNDATION is celebrating its fifth anniversary of celebrating Off-Off-Broadway, which recognizes the great work of New York's Off-Off-Broadwayhonoring its artistic heritage and providing a meeting ground for this extensive and richly varied community. As advocates for Off-Off-Broadway, they recognize its unique and essential role contributing to global culture.

Each season, 
The Innovative Theatre Foundation publicly recognizes excellence in Off-Off-Broadway, with a high-profile awards ceremony. The New York Innovative Theatre Awards celebrate the community and honor some of the previous years greatest achievements. The IT Awards heighten audience awareness and foster greater appreciation of the New York theatre experience.


Sponsors: Kampfire Films PR; United Stages; Lights Up & Cue Sound; Five OHM Productions
Media Sponsors:, Show Business Weekly, Stage Buddy,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review- the good thief (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

It is always a pleasure to see great scripts brought to life on the stage, especially when it is something so simple and yet so theatrical as a one-man show.  Of course the script, Conner McPherson’s, the good thief, now playing at The Player’s Loft as part of the First Irish Festival’s current line-up, is not new to NYC—but is a refreshing escape from the “pho-edgy” fare presented by other festivals recently in session.  This script is so strong in fact, it hides most of the flaws in Ormond Road Productions current manifestation.

The play is simple, a man in a chair talking to the audience.  The man (Sean Gormley) is a nameless pay for hire thug who “ruffs people up” for a living.  He tells the story of how he set off one day on a routine job that would end with several dead bodies—landing him in prison.  The Irish humor throughout this dark tale keeps the audience laughing in between hideous descriptions of gunshot wounds and murders.  What McPherson does so masterfully is give this thug a heart.  He is not a sociopath—but a product of a poverty-ridden society both rough and uncaring.  After almost each violent segment of the narrative, he goes back to talking about his girl, Greta, with poetic sensitivity.  Greta, the love of his life, is always on this man’s mind—even though she is currently dating his boss and apparently not one for commitment.  Good storytelling with bubbling brutality and soul are the trademarks of McPherson’s plays.  That is why it is so sad that director John Keating does not seem to trust the text or his actor.  Keating fills the narrative with distracting sound cues, underscoring the play with music both jarring and sentimental—ultimately distracting the audience from the powerful words.  These tricks, common in film, do nothing for this story.

Sean Gormley is obviously a talented actor suited to this role.  His dark humor and perfect timing suit McPherson’s writing to a tea.  Unfortunately, there is not much beneath the humor in this manifestation although he comes close to it multiple times.  McPherson artfully has biting moments of pain for his character that are told through the guise of humor.  Gormley—though fierce and dark—does not bring the necessary guilt and pathos to the role—ultimately only trusting in the comedy to save him.  Gormely of course is not aided by the fact that every time his character reaches one of these painful realizations, sappy music begins to play. 

Flaws aside, it is still refreshing to see a text of this caliber on the stage.  Audiences should definitely take the hour to go hear such a marvelous play aloud.

Ormond Road Productions and 1st Irish Festival
the good thief
September 10th-October 4th, 2009
The Players Loft

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

The Players Loft | 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor | Manhattan.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Marrying Meg needs something Green

Marrying Meg a new Scottish musical at The New York Musical Theatre Festival will premiere Tuesday, September 29th to a fresh new audience, but it looks like no creator. It so happens their author Mark Robertson (Book, Music & Lyrics) can't afford to fly out here to see his own show. He is self-producing, and all the money he has been able to raise has been dedicated to the production. He is the only foreign writer accepted in the festival this year, and he has been working on this for 17 years.

Mark Robertson as "Thomas The Rhymer" in The Lass wi the Muckle Mou (1982)
 play that inspired Marrying Meg.

We at The Fab Marquee were compelled by his heart-wrenching letter (below). We hear most of the production team is working pro bono on this project, but it is not enough. The plane ticket from Scotland to NYC is close to $2,000 dollars.

With an outstanding Broadway cast, Stephen Berger (The Pajama Game, Into The Woods), Stephen Bienskie (Chess, Cats), Stephanie Youell Binetti (Curtains), Harris Doran (2008 NYMF Award for Excellence: Outstanding Individual Performance for Love Jerry), Kathy Fitzgerald (9 to 5, The Producers), Lisa Howard (9 to 5, South Pacific, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Michael McCormick (Curtains, The Pajama Game, Gypsy, Kiss Me Kate, 1776, Kiss of a Spider Woman), Jim Newman (Curtains, Minelli on Minelli, Sunset Boulevard, The Who’s Tommy), Tory Ross (9 to 5, Cry Baby), and William Ryall (Guys and Dolls, Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chess, How to Succeed In Business Without Trying).

The show opens September 29th, and they would love to have him there.

In these hard economic times I understand it is difficult to donate money, but just posting this on your blog or any kind of social media outreach is an amazing help.

You can donate by visiting this link (


Dear Friends:

I wonder if you might be able to help me. My Scottish musical comedy MARRYING MEG is to receive its world premiere at this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival. The show, which I have been writing, on and off, for the last seventeen years (I’m a full-time TV scriptwriter normally), has been a real labour of love for me. It’s a genuine Scottish musical, written by a Scotsman (me!), adapted from a brilliant Scottish play (Alexander Reid’s The Lass wi the Muckle Mou) which is in turn based on two famous folk tales from the Scottish Borders. If nothing else, MARRYING MEG’s Scottish pedigree is secure!

Throughout its extensive development period, MARRYING MEG has reached the finals of three prestigious European musicals competitions, and arrives at this year’s New York Musicals Festival as the only show to have Cameron Mackintosh as one of its official sponsors. Living as I do in the Highlands, I cannot tell you what a thrill it will be finally to see MARRYING MEG staged in its entirety. And in New York of all places! The home of musical theatre!

MARRYING MEG is a fun show with a great big Caledonian heart, and I’m convinced it will appeal to almost anyone with an affinity for things Scottish. I really would like to think I’m bringing a wee bit of Scotland to the Big Apple. I know people say that in order to make your dreams a reality, you have to be willing to beg, borrow and steal. This fall I’m living out my dream. But after borrowing (and even stealing) all I could, I’m now giving begging a try! (Excuse me if I’m not very good at it yet.) Our production is faced with fundraising challenges this year, and while our first weeks of rehearsal have gone incredibly well, the final stretch of our rehearsals is tight. For our first weeks I was able to be with the cast and crew as they rehearsed the show, but now it seems that I will not be able to return to see the actual performances of the production due to cost.

Would you consider making a donation to our show? Every little bit counts, and donations through the website are 100% tax deductible. Plus, donors of $1,000 or more receives two tickets to one of our performances. (Now isn’t that reward enough?) We're also hosting a fundraising party on Thursday, 24 September from 7pm-10pm at Shoolbred's in NYC. Get details on Meg's Engagement Party here.

More information about the amazing cast and creative team, as well as clips from the show can be found at Please also consider coming to see the show that I am so very proud of. Schedule and ticket information are below. With your support, Meg hopes that many a mickle maks a muckle!

With gratitude,
Mark Robertson

Friday, September 18, 2009

Review- Cell (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

"I hear you sit right on the stage with the actors," one woman said to those of us gathered in the Gene Frankel lobby, waiting to take our seats for Paula Meehan's Cell. "You just sit right there in the prison cell like you're part of the show." A man, leaned over and said to me "Prison? I thought this show was going to be about phones". "Really?" I replied, "I thought it was going to be about molecular biology." Cellhowever, set in a women's prison in Dublin and populated with the disenfranchised women of Ireland is quite different.

Upon entering the theatre we were all a bit put off at how extremely close the chairs were set up to the performance area - lined up right across from the cell's 
makeshift table, and next to the spartan prison beds.  The more timid among us chose seats in the back row, but even then we were close enough to see the careful details of Lilia Trenkova's set design.  It's very clever putting the audience, as much as possible, inside the cell, because it's uncomfortable, and scary and a bit claustrophobic.  It makes you want to get away, it makes you feel exposed and devoid of privacy. You're made to feel as if you're serving your sentence right along with these women, and when that cell door slammed shut you knew which side you were on.  

When we first meet the women in the cell it's early morning, frigidly cold, and already hopeless.  There's no soothing daylight to gently awaken these inhabitants.  Rather, Martha (played by Laoisa Sexton) and Lila (Laura Knight Keating) are jarred awake by their fellow inmate, "Delo" short for Delores (Aedin Moloney) who is obviously the boss of this little trio and mad as hell that one of her rules (something about a bucket, something about cycles, I'll let you fill in the rest) has been broken.  She monitors and delegates every detail of the cell (who does what, when they do it, and how) with an engineer's precision and fiercely guards her power with a hard line of intimidation.  She's the boss, and she rules not just with an iron fist, but with a crazy flurry of rage that tornadoes its way around the small space in uncontrolled and unpredictable bursts.  When Hurricane Delo calms down her cellmates react like grateful animals; yet cower distrustfully at her demeanor knowing another powerful storm is just moments away.  If HBO's OZ had been set in a woman's prison in Dublin there wouldn't have been a man left alive after Delo Roche got done with them.  As it stands, it's hard enough to keep the women alive.

Playwright Paula Meehan spares no gritty detail of reality, and director John Keating is right there with her: there is graphic sex, painful abuse of the verbal and physical variety, visible effects of drugs (both the pitiful vacant blankness of too much as well as the doubled over crippling pain of too little) and crudely descriptive language. In Delo she has given us less of a character than an element; this hard, angry woman acts as a force, at times like the pull of gravity around which everything revolves, but at times more like the pull of a black hole -- she'll take all you have and she'll demand more.  And when she's done with you... there's nothing left.

Through conversations we find that there was another cellmate, Annie, who went through a cycle of abuse with Delo that lead to her suicide with just three months left on her sentence.  At the top of the show Lila is well on her way to following Annie into this pit of despair.  Martha and Lila may be criminals, but they're no match for the likes of Delo who, at times, seems to find this all a game... something to do while she counts down the hours, swatting at lives the way others swat at flies to see who will break into the most pieces.

Into this mix comes Alice Kane, a murderer (Katherine O'Sullivan).  Before she's brought into the cell there's speculation at how tough she will be, having killed someone and all, but when a sweet older woman comes into their cell the group is taken aback.  Not knowing quite what to make of her each woman tries to figure out how this new dynamic will change life for them.  Unfortunately, despite her willingness to become a mother figure to the girls and take on Delo, she's found herself in a scenario that will just keep cycling.  Ultimately, it all ends they way it began - in a tragically sad prison cell.

Each one of the actresses in Cell is absolutely brilliant, taking on a different role and tone that keeps this little world in balance.  Laura Knight Keating's Lila is movingly haunting as the weakest of the cellmates; we can feel each wave of pain as she's wracked with symptoms of withdrawal.  Laoisa Sexton's Martha is a bit more feisty and playful, as much as she can be... she hasn't yet been defeated by Delo and still has something to look forward to.  Sexton has perhaps the biggest challenge - going from someone able to cope to someone then thrown into complete despair.  Katherine O'Sullivan's Alice has just the right melding of sweet-old-lady-on-a-trumped-up-charge and crazy-old-bat-who-killed-her-neighbor.  She plays it just delicately enough that you're left guessing the whole time as to what you should believe about this knife-wielding, blanket knitting grandma.  But without a doubt, it is Aedin Moloney who is completely fascinating as Delo.  Her performance is gripping and her energy will have you watching her even when she's not speaking.  

Luckily you don't have to commit a crime to be sent to this Cell; it runs through the 20th so catch it before its sentence is up.

Fallen Angel Theatre Company and 1st Irish Theatre Festival present
Sept 8-20, 2009
The Gene Frankel Theatre

For tickets and more information, visit

The Gene Frankel Theatre | 24 Bond Street | Manhattan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review- In The Daylight (Vital Theatre Company)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

In The Daylight (by Tony Glazer, directed by John Gould Rubin) is an ironic title, or a conclusive one, or perhaps even a hopeful one.  Because the last thing you get with this play is one shred of hopeful daylight; this is as noir a plot as any written by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, right down to the rapid-fire dialogue and the "it was a dark and stormy night" setting. Rather than any daylight what you do get is dark shadows, deep secrets, harsh verbal sparring, some gun play, a mysterious urn full of ashes smack in the middle of the living room... one half expects Barbara Stanwyck to come slinking in at any moment asking Fred MacMurray to help her with the clasp on her ankle bracelet. Except for a missing Blackberry which sets off an unfortunate chain of events, this whole story could be set in 1940.

Joe Urla, Concetta Tomei, Sharon Maguire
Photo by: Gili Getz

When we first meet prodigal son Martin Feingold (Joseph Urla) he's back after a six year absence driven back home by the notion that his mother Elizabeth (Concetta Tomei) may be dying, and driven back into the house, literally by a raging storm that leaves him soaked and leaves the house whim to every crack of lightening and every shudder of thunder so realistic that the audience cowered in half dread of being drenched as well.  Not that this house seems to give much respite; for one thing it's crooked as hell, the whole set listing steeply to the right in a not-so-subtle way of informing you that this is no cozy childhood hug Martin is returning to.  The home is also completely white, stark, devoid of anything save a bottle of scotch, an ottoman and the urn; several doors lead into the room, and a staircase moves away from it; overall this is not a welcoming place.  The next nails-on-chalkboard piece of the welcome wagon is pinchy sister Jessica (Sharon Maguire) who immediately launches into a bitchy volley with her brother which proves that they've never really gotten along, or if they did, it was a long time ago.

When mother Elizabeth comes on the scene (Concetta Tomei) she adds the top note of this dysfunctional family perfume; kind words are scarce in this house but there's no end to the verbal jibes, the button pushing, the backhanded complements, the insults disguised as harsher insults.  The only fun they have seems to be quoting movie lines to each other, and even those are the repellent ones, you won't find a Breakfast Club quote being thrown around in this home.  Obviously something very bad happened here six years ago, but only the silent, ghostly Dr. William Feingold (Jay Patterson), wandering in and out of his home and replaying scenes before his death give us any clue as to the disturbing things which may have happened before Martin ran off to write his book and gain fame at (some would say) his family's expense.  

Jay Patterson, Joe Urla, Ashley Austin Morris
photo by Gili Getz

Soon enough Martin discovers his Blackberry is missing but don't fret, it's returned soon enough.  Into this house of horrors, blown in by the storm, carrying Martin's Blackberry, is a little wisp of southern belle, Charlotte Fontaine (Ashley Austin Morris) the fan who sat next to him on the plane, a dear young girl with a fan-sized crush on Martin and a need to know everything about him.  When she begins to poke around too much the whole fabrication comes crashing down and we find out exactly what horrifying events lead to the Feingold family's complete destruction.  Not only was nothing as it seemed, it was far, far worse.

Much of the success of this play lies with the fantastic scenic design created by Christopher Barreca, the lighting design by Thom Weaver, and the sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes.  In a play of such darkness, ambiance can make or break the mood, and these three fabulous artists do an amazing job of creating an entire world where these characters can  live out their crazy lives.  I doubt their story would have been as dramatic in a split level colonial.

Some of the pacing of the story was problematic for me; it took me a while to warm up to this cold brother and sister who so easily could pick up where they left off despite years of being apart, let alone after being torn apart by such a tragedy.  True, some families mask their hurt and pain with sarcasm and quick, nervous chatter, but I still felt they might have needed a little more stillness in the beginning before diving headlong into the neurosis of their relationship.

By contrast, Ashley Austin Morris' Charlotte is like a breath of fresh air, as I'm sure she is meant to be, when we first meet her she is quite a character without being a caricature which is a fine line that many actresses can't always walk along.   And later, during the second act when her character deepens and her motives and reasons become more clear Ms. Morris is able to follow through with her voice and not veer from the character she has created.  She was wonderful to watch.

In The Daylight is filled with stunningly dramatic moments that leave the audience gulping (if not gasping).  The plot contains enough surprises and twists that the audience does not see coming, which is always enjoyable, and watching the veteran Concetta Tomei perform brilliantly alongside new talents like Ms. Morris is a great treat.  While there were a few bumps in the story, overall this is a very enjoyable, if gritty, night of theatre that will leave you a bit nostalgic for the days of Noir.

Vital Theatre Company presents
In The Daylight
September 8-October 11, 2009 (Opening, Sept 20th)
McGinn/Cathale Theatre

For tickets and more information, visit

McGinn/Cathale Theatre | 2162 Broadway, 4th Floor | Manhattan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review- A Short Wake (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Diánna Martin.

Family dysfunction comes in all shapes and sizes, from all cultures. However, something can be definitely be said for the type of relationships that are cultivated in an Irish-American household that includes drinking and physical abuse. Siblings can either stick together to keep secrets or escape to other sides of the country - or the world - as they struggle to get away from their past (and each other)... although we all know that our pasts never leave us, they just have a way of sticking to us, like gum on the bottom of our shoes; or, in some cases, can be re-routed into positive outlets such as the arts.

A Short Wake, by Derek Murphy, a Dubliner, brings us into the funeral parlor for the wake of the father of Teddy (Peter Bradbury) and Jimmy (Brandon Williams). The main centerpiece of the set is a huge casket and a few chairs - perfect, really. Held in New York, the wake is a rather pitiful affair - both sons make note of the lack of anyone coming to mourn the man in the coffin and the flower arrangements looking a bit tired. Murphy's continuous hilarious dialogue allows Bradbury, even alone, to flourish as the two-bit con in a nice suit (and greasy hair), following in his bookie father's footsteps, having moments between cracking jokes to quiet his own sadness and unease as well as conflicting feelings of the final weeks of the father's cancer as he stood by his bedside. Conflicted because dear ol' dad actually thought it was the younger brother, Jimmy, the whole time, holding his hand - Jimmy, who has not been around in ten years and hates his father with a fiery passion.

As Bradbury sips from his flask and clutches his stomach from acid reflux, we see Williams finally enter, reluctantly, into the parlour. A successful lawyer in California - as far away from New York as he can get without leaving the country - Jimmy emanates a powerful wave of tension from the moment he enters the room. He can't even get past the first few chairs in the parlour, and it's Bradbury who is making all the effort to try to get a hug and pull him into the room - to try to find a common ground and a way to get past their years of dealing with abusive parents and be brothers again.

But it's not so easy. Jimmy can't understand why Teddy is even in mourning for the man that he considers to be a horrible father, human being, and abusive alcoholic; and Teddy can't understand why Jimmy can't let it go now that the man is dead - and why his younger brother's selective memory seems to have forgotten some important points about what their mother was really like as well; her alcoholism, her abusive behavior, and what really went on during one particular night that changed all of their lives forever.

And so we have a brilliantly written and acted two-character play that is really a four-character play; because the man in the coffin and the woman that we learn more about as the play goes on become as important as the two brothers on stage who, as they sip their whiskey and gin, begin to open up to each other more and more. Is this about a couple of drunk Irishmen going over old times? NO. This is a play about family, about how memories can be completely different depending on who is telling the story, and how 30-year-old grudges can become mantras for no reason other than they exist.

Bradbury had me from the beginning. From his New York bookie attitude combined with his actual pain about his father - and the hilarious monologue he has before Williams comes on, I was delightfully absorbed. When Williams first entered, and for the first fifteen minutes after his entrance, I thought the actor had some tics and was holding onto his prep to the point where it was interfering with his relating to his brother, and his ability to take in this brother he hadn't seen in 10 years (even though we know our siblings and sometimes have to only glance at them even after that long). His anger was so consuming that it almost became a fifth character in the room. But as they began to talk more, and as he accepted his brother's gift of fine whiskey in a flask, I began to see some of the prep drop, and just see a character who was in tremendous emotional pain dealing with his smart-ass brother, and vice-versa; and once he got cooking with Bradbury, then the show took off, I felt, for him and for me. Both actors should be applauded for holding this critic in the palm of their hand, simply following along as the two wove tales tall and true about their lives and loves and their relationship with each other - and the pain they were trying to get past.

Combine truly gifted actors, with fantastic direction from Ludovica Villar-Hauser and this amazing rich, darkly comedic dialogue, and you are left afterwards simply wanting to see it again. I thought the staging was great (I never saw the director's hand, and so it goes in a well-directed piece); however, one thing I would have tried was to not open the casket so that we saw the figure inside. To open it upstage would have been better, I think; for although the acting was so good that it kept my mind off of what was in that coffin, I still kept having to block it out, especially when I had a view, it took me out of the play momentarily.

It's my understanding that many, if not all, of the 21 plays in this festival are of high caliber; however, if you see any of them, please add
A Short Wake to your list. Anyone who has ever had difficulty talking to a family member, and anyone who has ever wondered what it was like (are there families like that out there?) will be taken on an emotional roller-coaster, with laughter filling in the spots where it sometimes hits too close to the bone. 

1st Irish 2009 and Tweiss Productions present
A Short Wake
Sept 10-26, 2009
Manhattan Theatre Source

For more information and tickets, visit

Manhattan Theatre Source | 177 MacDougal Street | Manhattan.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review- Tales from Rainwater Pond (1st Irish)

The Fab Marquee review by Peyton Wise.

When Americans think of Ireland, amidst the clutter of misty green fields, vaguely Celtic druids and freedom fighters, one image seems eternal: an older man telling a wistful story in a lilting voice.  Tales From Rainwater Pond at 1st Irish is a radiant embodiment of that image.  1st Irish, a festival of Irish theatre currently playing twelve venues throughout the city, has a wide range of styles and theatre companies, based both in America and in Ireland.  Wexford Arts Center, the presenter ofTales From Rainwater Pond, feels like an Irish cross between BAM and a regional theatre, presenting outside productions as well as self-produced plays, along with a wide range of music, cabaret, visual arts and an elegant café. 

Tales From Rainwater Pond is written and performed by Billy Roche, a playwright and novelist whose work often centers on his hometown of Wexford, a coastal community of just under 20,000.  Actually, what is presented at 1st Irish is Mr. Roche performing two short stories, “Maggie Angre” and “Haberdashery” from a book of short stories by the same name.  And what stories they are. 

Mr. Roche has the rare gift of richness of detail without superfluity of emotion.  His brief hints at the grief of a father or the burden of a long-burning love are stunning because we are given merely a suggestion and the foundation to fill in the rest.  While the stories are uniquely small-town Irish, the humor and loss they describe are universally human.  There is something that happens during this show that is quite larger than its individual pieces.

Although an actor of some experience, Mr. Roche has the slow delivery and wry amusement of a writer reading his own work.  At the beginning of the piece, there seems to be a firm fourth wall despite the direct address, although that breaks down by the end of the show.  While Mr. Roche occasionally enacts an action in the first story and portrays the narrator of the second story, there seems to be no reason why this should be a play as well as a book.  However, Mr. Roche and the production possess some ineffable magic of storytelling that makes the stories breathe in a way no reading could.  The simple act of one man telling an intricate story of lonely people he cared about became a community meditation.

Wexford Arts Center and 1st Irish 2009 present
Tales from Rainwater Pond
Sept 3-13, 2009
Irish Repertory Theatre

This show has now closed. For more information on 1st Irish, visit

Irish Repertory Theatre | 132 West 22nd St | Manhattan.