Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Documentary to Chronicle the Production of David Parr's Slap&Tickle

Production is underway on a documentary film about the mounting of Slap&Tickle's summer 2010 run at the Provincetown Theater. Filming and editing the feature documentary is Nathan Butera, who followed the progress of David Parr's play from the castmembers' arrival at the wharf in P'town, through their first full cast read-through in the presence of playwright David Parr, the conception and execution of the set design and build, blocking and tech rehearsals by the director, David Drake, his stage manager, set designer, and lighting designer, the events of the full six weeks of performances and events in P'town intended to build the audience, and finally the sold-out closing night performance and striking the set within minutes of the final toasts and farewells at the closing night party.

Throughout the production, the filmmaker interviewed audience members after they had witnessed the play. Interviewees included leading literary and theatrical persons from Provincetown, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC, a nationally prominent blogger, the former head of a leading gay rights advocacy group, an award winning flm director who had himself directed Slap&Tickle's director David Drake, and others. The documentary looks closely at David Drake and David Parr in particular, their collaboration, and the alchemy of Drake's accomplishments as actor and director on stage and screen and David Parr's relatively new voice in the American Theater world.

The perspectives of the actors themselves, the director and playwright and the eminent commenters also interviewed shed light on Slap&Tickle as a piece of art, literature, and sharply observed commentary on modern gay sensibilities. "What Are You Doing Here?|Slap&Tickle in Provincetown" will illuminate just what it takes artistically to mount a critically acclaimed, provocatve summer stock production in Provincetown, the birthplace of Modern American Theater, and the documentary promises to be in itself a landmark work upon its expected completion for planned screenings at film festivals in 2011.

Nathan Butera is a New York-based filmmaker. He received his MFA in Film from NYU and has written and directed numerous short films. His short "Paws" was purchased by Canal+ for broadcast on French television and has screened at film festivals around the world. His film "Brother" was a finalist for the Student Academy Awards and was screened at numerous festivals, premiering at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Butera has written a feature-length script based on his short film "Brother" and is currently writing his second feature. His script "Topaz-55" was a finalist for the Sloan Foundation Grant. Butera has worked for New York-based filmmakers John Sayles for the film "Sunshine State" and Spike Lee for the film "The 25th Hour."

Filmmaker Nathan Butera.

Review - The Unfortunate Honeymoon of Tony and Steve (Wings Theatre and Zephyer Rep)

By Byrne Harrison
Cross-posted from StageBuzz.com

Blake Bradford's latest play, The Unfortunate Honeymoon of Tony and Steve, currently in production at Wings Theatre has its share of comic moments. The play follows Tony (Matt Klane) and Steve (K.B. Thomas) on what would have been their honeymoon. Due to Tony's substance abuse issues, Steve called off the wedding and had Tony sent to rehab. Since the honeymoon was already set, Steve and his best friend Rachel (Madeline Reed) have come to Lindy Loo's Hideaway in the Bahamas for some rest away from all the drama. Unfortunately, Tony, fresh out of rehab, has had the same idea, and has brought his nephew Bobby (Jake Zachry) along. As often happens in comedies, the two former lovers find themselves next door to each other. This works out well for Rachel and Bobby, who embark on a steamy affair. It doesn't quite work out so well for Tony and Steve.

Bradford's play feels a lot like a sitcom, albeit a long one, which has both good and bad aspects. On the good side, it tends to move at a quick pace, and thanks to some good comic work by several of the actors (Madeline Reed and Carol Neiman in particular) and director Kymm Zuckert it maintains a light, breezy feel. On the negative side, it feels long and a bit rehashed. In fact, one scene between Steve and his mother (Susan Kirby), in which his mother confesses to Steve about one of her youthful dalliances, is straight out of an episode of "The Golden Girls." Other portions of the play seem to beg for a laugh track, and indeed in some places the actors seem to be holding for laughs, just in case.

Bradford is a good dialogue writer, and the weaknesses in the script primarily come from allowing it to become a bit bloated and trying to stick too close to a sitcom format. When he allows moments of pure theatricality, the play shines. One of the best examples of this is early in the play when Lindy Loo (Linda Hill) and her Cowgirlettes (Katharine McKenzie, Zade O'Blenes, Drina Seay) provide a running musical commentary about the shenanigans going on between Tony, Steve, Rachel and Bobby. Unrealistic and hilarious, it is one of the funniest moments of the play because it is so surprisingly fresh. By ditching the safe sitcom style and bringing in more scenes like this, Tony and Steve could be a much stronger show.

Acting in Tony and Steve is a mixed bag. Leads K.B. Thomas and Matt Klane are both strong in the quieter moments between their characters. Thomas has a tendency to play his comedy very broadly, which often puts him at odds with the rest of the actors in the scene. Madeline Reed is terrific as the supportive and put-upon Rachel, and her scenes where she cuts loose with the much younger Bobby are outstanding. Reed and Zachry play well off one another, and they often steal the scene even if they are doing nothing more than frantically making out.

The characters of the Cowgirlettes, Lindy Loo's trio of wayward girls, are sadly underutilized. Doing little more than glaring and lipsynching, the Cowgirlettes' comic potential remains largely untapped. Zade O'Blenes' choreography for the girls is strong, however, and shows that they can move. I would have liked to have seen more done with them and Lindy Loo.

Overall, The Unfortunate Honeymoon of Tony and Steve has its moments, but isn't quite up to the task of keeping an audience entertained for the full running time. Judicious editing, keeping a firm hand on the mugging, and playing up the theatrical and farcical aspects of the script while downplaying the sitcom feel would help pull the show together nicely.

The Unfortunate Honeymoon of Tony and Steve
By Blake Bradford
Special material by Linda Hill, Matt Klane and Kymm Zuckert
Directed by Kymm Zuckert
Scenic Design: Matt Klane
Stage Manager: Emily Rolston
Costume Design: Linda Hill
Choregrapher: Madeline Reed
Cowgirlettes Choreographer: Zade O'Blenes
Associate Producer: Eli Walker Palzkill
Zephyer Rep Producer: Karen Brelsford
Casting Director: Gretchen Ferris
Resident Director: Dana Dobreva
Directing Intern: Nicole Gehring
Production Management Intern: Chie Morita
Acting Intern: Allie Rightmeyer
Design Intern: Anastacia Spada
Directing Intern: Abigail Strange

Featuring: Linda Hill (Lindy Loo), K.B. Thomas (Steve), Madeline Reed (Rachel), Jake Zachry (Bobby), Matt Klane (Tony), Carol Neiman (Grammy Jean), Susan Kirby (Donna Ann), Katharine McKenzie (Cowgirlette), Zade O'Blenes (Cowgirlette), Drina Seay (Cowgirlette)

Wings Theatre
154 Christopher Street

August 5th-29th

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review - The Twentieth-Century Way (The Theatre @ Boston Court and New York International Fringe Festival)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Ed Krieger
Cross-posted from StageBuzz.com

The story that inspired Tom Jacobson to write The Twentieth Century Way is intriguing in and of itself. In 1914, in order to cut down on the vice of oral sodomy, the Long Beach Police Department hired two actors, Warren and Brown, to entrap and arrest men in public bathrooms, changing rooms of bathhouses, and private clubs - wherever men "given to that sort of thing" congregate. The story of the men they target and how they arrest them is interesting enough to put on stage as is.

Jacobson, however, has created an intriguing play within a play within a play that incorporates Warren and Brown's story, then transcends it. The Twentieth-Century Way begins with two actors Warren (Robert Mammana) and Brown (Will Bradley) vying for a role as a confidence man in a movie. While they wait for their auditions, the two probe and challenge each other, trying to psyche the other out in a display of alpha male one-upmanship. This leads into a challenge: using their improv skills, Warren and Brown will act out a story about two actors hired to entrap homosexuals in 1914. The first person to fail has to drop out of the audition. The two men jump from role to role - actors, police, newspaper editors, victims - telling Warren and Brown's story, and constantly daring each other to go further. As the story careens forward, taking on a life of it's own, the two actors begin to lose themselves, forcing them to finally strip off the characters, the pretense of their acting and storytelling, and fianlly be themselves.

Bradley and Mammana are spectacular in their numerous roles. Although much of the play is humorous, director Michael Michetti keeps the production charged with a certain amount of menace and eroticism. The Twentieth-Century Way is also a technically well-produced play. Garry Lennon's costumes and Nick Santiago's props are excellent - set backstage at a theatre, the actors are constantly pulling costume pieces and props from various trunks and wardrobes and incorporating them into their "improv." Lighting designer Elizabeth Harper also does a terrific job helping set the mood of the scenes.

A fascinating play, excellent cast and superior production values make The Twentieth-Century one of the best shows in Fringe NYC 2010. The Theatre @ Boston Court is to be commended for bringing this challenging and entertaining play to life.

The Twentieth-Century Way
The Theatre @ Boston Court
Writer: Tom Jacobson
Director: Michael Michetti
Properties Design: Nick Santiago
Lighting Design: Elizabeth Harper
Costume Design: Garry Lennon
Dialect Coach: Tracy Winters
Assistant Director: Sabina Ptasznik
Production Stage Manager: Meg Friedman
Casting Director: Michael Donovan, CSA
Key Art: Christopher Komuro
General Press Representative: O+M Co./Rick Maramontez, Jaron Caldwell

Featuring: Will Bradley and Robert Mammana

VENUE #10: Players Theatre

Sat 14 @ 7:30
Mon 16 @ 5:15
Wed 18 @ 8:45
Sat 21 @ 12:15
Tue 24 @ 4:15

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review - Missionary Position (Geveryman Productions and the New York International Fringe Festival)

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Dorothy Shi
Cross-posted from StageBuzz.com

As part of Fringe NYC, Steven Fales brings the latest chapter in his Mormon Boy Trilogy to the stage. Despite his best intentions, Mission Position, does not deliver.

I have to confess that it's a little hard to write a review of this play, since I was unable to see the entire performance. The evening I saw him perform, Fales was cut off before completing the play because he had gone over his allotted time. But this is indicative of the main problem with this production.

Fales is a pleasant, though somewhat conventional actor with good looks and a lovely singing voice. His story, dealing with his two years spent as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and his struggles with homosexuality while on that trip, is not one that is by any means common fare on stage. He is personable and friendly. He is not, however, a director, and Missionary Position needs someone with an iron grip to make it work.

With a director in place to work with the pacing and to cut some of the stage business and more overwrought scenes (particularly a big pirate fantasy sequence), Fales would be allowed more time to concentrate on his performance. Several times in the play, Fales bobbles his lines and seems to lose his way. More importantly for a solo show, he lacks the sense of spontaneity that forges the bond between an actor and his audience. We all want to succumb to the illusion that we are the first people to hear this particular story, that Fales is letting us all in on a little secret. Here he doesn't act so much as perform, and this performance creates a distance that keeps us from truly empathizing with his struggles.

There is a lot in Fales' play that is unique and interesting, but this production is not the best opportunity to experience Missionary Position.

Missionary Position
Written, Performed and Produced by Steven Fales
Stage Managers: Sean Lambert, Alex Mark

VENUE #16: The SoHo Playhouse

Sat 14 @ 7:45
Fri 20 @ 2
Sun 22 @ NOON
Tue 24 @ 10
Fri 27 @ 6

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review - Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown (New York International Fringe Festival)

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Brandon Kaiser
Cross-posted from StageBuzz.com

Miss Magnolia Beatrice Deveraux Beaumont is nothing if not proper. She is, after all, a debutante. Imagine her surprise at finding herself, after her untimely death on the cusp of the Civil War, not in heaven as she expected, but an unwilling passenger in the body of a gay man living in Manhattan in the 21st century. It's enough to make a lady clutch her pearls and reach for the smelling salts.

In Joe Hutchenson's charming one-man play, the audience follows Miss Beaumont and her host, Joe, on his birthday vacation to Provincetown. He sees this vacation as a chance to connect with someone, perhaps even to find some happiness that has been missing in his life.

Miss Magnolia doesn't know why she's been placed in this body, but she voraciously consumes every morsel of Joe's completely alien lifestyle. As she starts to experience Joe's senses and is eventually able to communicate with him, she discovers that it's never too late to live a useful life.

Hutchenson is an excellent actor. His Miss Magnolia is sweet as honey and as proper as a lady can be (she's even working on an etiquette book). That she never strays into camp says a lot about his ability as an actor and his empathy for this character. Miss Magnolia is not to be ridiculed, nor is she merely a comic means to an end. Joe, also, is a fully fleshed out character - a gay man, alone on his birthday and recognizing the writing on the wall as his youth starts to fade. He's a man in need of support, even if it is of the supernatural kind.

In addition to being an effective actor, Hutchenson is a marvelous storyteller. Miss Magnolia's description of her first few moments in Provincetown transported me to the place. I could picture the streets and the crowds, smell the food and the sea air. With few props and set pieces, Hutchenson himself becomes the ultimate set designer, inviting the audience to see through his (and Miss Magnolia's eyes).

Under the able direction of Cheryl King, and with support from Ellen Rosenberg's strong lighting and sound, Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown is an outstanding production.

Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown
Cheryl King Productions
Writer: Joe Hutcheson
Director: Cheryl King

VENUE #15: The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre

Sat 14 @ 3:45
Tue 17 @ 9
Fri 20 @ 9:15
Tue 24 @ 5:45
Thu 26 @ 2:45

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck Gets A Big Gay Ice Cream Song

By Byrne Harrison

No, this isn't a theatre-related post. But if you live in New York City and don't know about the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, you are missing out.

Doug Quint, who along with his partner Bryan Petroff created the BGICT, is a buddy of mine from my rugby-playing days, and I'm thrilled at the following good news.

BIG GAY ICE CREAM SONG sees digital release on August 22, 2010

Music and ice cream trucks go hand-in-hand. When New York City’s Big Gay Ice Cream Truck needed theme music, they skipped over the obvious choices- no show tunes or disco for them. Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go’s) stepped in and authored this gem. Her recording is three minutes of pop pleasure… sort of like ice cream for your ears.

While in design college in the mid 1970s, Jane Wiedlin stumbled upon the burgeoning Los Angeles punk rock scene. She and Belinda Carlisle were inspired to form The Go-Go’s. The band quickly became local favorites and were signed by the indie label IRS Records. With most of their songs written or co-written by Jane (including the classic Our Lips are Sealed) The Go-Go’s went on to enormous success, selling out Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, and appearing twice on the cover of Rolling Stone. In addition to her work as a Go-Go, Jane has released solo albums of her own, which have included the hits Rush Hour, Blue Kiss, and Tangled (a song featured in the movie Pretty Woman). Rolling Stone called her most recent solo album Kissproof World a “solo tour-de-force by an entrepreneur, an actress, and a rock goddess.”

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck began rolling the streets of New York City in June 2009. Described by The Village Voice as “a cross between Mister Softee and Mario Batali” their menu combines traditional soft-serve ice cream with imaginative toppings such as wasabi pea dust, Nilla Wafers, Dulce de Leche, olive oil and sea salt, and other rotating offerings. These are dispensed the way ice cream should be — with humor and good cheer.

Availability: August 22, 2010 via iTunes and most other digital download services

Producer: Travis Kasperbauer

Label: Painful Discs

Publisher: Wiedwacker Music/ASCAP

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review - Slap&Tickle (Robert Driemeyer in association with Jim A. Lande)

By Byrne Harrison
Cross-posted from StageBuzz.com

I'll admit that I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from David Parr's new play, Slap&Tickle, currently at The Provincetown Theater. It's set in a gay bathhouse, is sponsored by Manhunt, and has a funny sounding title. I guess I was expecting an updated version of Terrence McNally's The Ritz. While Parr's Slap&Tickle certainly has it's comic moments, this nuanced play about a group of men whose lives intersect at a bathhouse is certainly no broad farce. Well written and extremely well acted, Slap&Tickle is a surprise and not to be missed.

Parr's play is non-linear, allowing the stories of the various characters to be told in short pieces, each character's story revealing a little bit about themselves and often another character. The play continuously loops back upon itself to give a different point of view on a scene or to create connections between characters that are not readily apparent. It's an exciting and fascinating form of storytelling that hooks the audience and keeps them interested.

Director David Drake has assembled a terrific ensemble featuring J. Stephen Brantley, Todd Flaherty, Joe MacDougall, Christopher MacDow, Joseph Mahan, and Aaron Tone. These six actors play multiple characters (there are twenty or so characters presented during the play). While most of the characters can be distinguished by slight costume changes - one wears his towel like a sarong, another a baseball cap, one a string of pearls - even without these visual aids, the actors do such a remarkable job creating these characters that it would be easy to follow as they change from person to person. As an audience member, it's exciting to see an actor create a number of characters during one play and excel at making them unique and memorable. This cast does a terric job at that, with particular praise going to J. Stephen Brantley and Joe MacDougall, both of whom so thoroughly transformed from character to character that it was easy imagine that one was watching a much larger cast of actors.

Only two actors play sigle characters. Joseph Mahan as Billy, an older, flamboyant gay man whose story about stealing his mother's pearls and finding an "Uncle," an older gay man who taught him about life, were both funny and touching, and Aaron Tone as Frank, an employee at the bathhouse who had a childhood crush on Han Solo and was the victim of a vicious attack. They provide an anchor for the play, a couple of fixed presences at the bathhouse.

Drake once again excels as a director, creating a fast-paced, yet easy to follow production. His set design is simple but visually interesting, creating numerous levels in the playing area for the actors to use. Chris Page's lighting design is also effective, and Susan Morabito's music is a very nice addition to the show.

Quite easily the best performance I saw while in Provincetown, Slap&Tickle is eyeing a New York run. If you are visiting the Cape, I highly recommend

Written by David Parr
Directed by David Drake
Original Music: Susan Morabito
Set Design: David Drake
Lighting Design: Chris Page
Costume Design: Beto Guedes
Stage Manager: Charlie Owens
Technical Director: Dean Denmon
Marketing: Ron Johnson

Featuring: J. Stephen Brantley (Brett, Josh, David, Tim), Tod Flaherty (Sam, Jesse, Dale), Joe MacDougall (Ray, Danny, Marcus), Christopher MacDow (Mel, Vic, Aldo), Joseph Mahan (Billy Sunday), Aaron Tone (Frank Stark)

The Provincetown Theater
238 Bradford Street

Call 508-487-9793 for tickets.

July 6th - August 14th

Monday, August 9, 2010

Broadway Impact Celebration Tonight

Prop 8 has been ruled unconstitutional in the landmark case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Broadway Impact, a community of actors, directors, stage managers, fans, and producers united by the simple belief that anyone who wants to should be able to get married, is hosting a celebration party on Monday August 9th from 7-9pm at Therapy, 348 West 52nd Street in Midtown.

This is a historic decision for our country and for the future of full equality under the law.

Broadway Impact will be joined by a growing list of television and Broadway performers including, Tony nominee Hunter Bell, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell from [title of show], Sirius Radio host Seth Rudetsky, cast members from the Tony award winning musical La Cage aux Folles, actors Nick Adams, Will Taylor, Jason Tam, Jose Llana, Shayna Steele, also Richard Socarides (Former Advisor to President Clinton), Miss New York Claire Buffie, and many more members of the Broadway and television community (TBA).

Broadway Impact is proud to be partnering with the American Foundation for Equal Rights (www.afer.org), lead by Chad Griffin, Dustin Lance Black and Rob Reiner. This case was their brainchild where they brought together the incredible legal pairing of David Boies and Ted Olson to challenge Prop 8 and came out victorious!

Come celebrate this landmark decision with Broadway Impact.