Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review - "Eddie" at Midtown International Theatre Festival

Despite having a very intriguing concept--a bullied teen who finds himself falling in love with his bully--playwright Matthew Ethan Davis's "Eddie," as presented at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, is more of a work-in-progress, than a fully realized piece.

What we see are glimpses of an exciting story.  A disabled teen in a tough, inner-city school, mercilessly bullied by one of the jocks.  A bully hiding more than one secret of his own.  A school psychologist who is trying to break through to the withdrawn teens.  A prostitute mother wracked with guilt, when she is not addled by drugs and alcohol, with an abusive boyfriend/pimp.  A lonely girl, dying for attention.

But these elements never convincingly come together to create a compelling production.  What we are left with is a handful of interesting scenes, a couple of decent performances, and a show that could grow into something interesting, with a little bit of work.

Given that this is a festival, technical aspects of the show are necessarily sparse.  That suits Davis's quick cut scenes, though even with the simple technical aspects, some scene changes are a bit longer than they should be.  I think some of that may be due to the short rehearsal time that most festival shows have, and the lack of time using the actual performance space.  Given a longer run and more permanent home, I think this would work itself out.

The individual performances are a little uneven. Jacob Banser, as the bully Greg, is the surprising highlight of the show.  Banser shows equal adeptness at playing Greg's joy in tormenting Eddie, and his growing realization that his bullying is hiding something deeper.  In addition, one of the plot points hinges on the fact that Greg is losing his hearing.  Banser does a subtle job from his first appearance at playing with this. It's never overt, but when the fact is finally revealed, one can look back and see all the hints.

Yair Ben-Dor is fine as the titular bullied teen, though would like to see a little more range from him.  The character is a bit over-written--for a poor, inner-city boy raised by a drug-addicted prostitute, he is exceptionally well-spoken and witty--so I would like to see more visceral reactions from him, the kind you expect from a teen boy, especially one dealing with his first same-sex feelings.

And while Banser does a good job playing his character's loss of hearing, Ben-Dor is less successful.  Some of this has to be placed with director Brian Catton's blocking.  There are times when people are talking to Eddie's deaf ear (assumed to be his right ear, since he holds the cell phone to his left).  There is a particular scene with Linda, his school friend, where she quietly says something while they're hugging, her face buried in his right shoulder, which Eddie could not have possibly heard.

Steve Carrieri's Kyle, the school psychologist, is not well-fleshed out, and if the play is ever expanded into a longer version, I expect this character will play a much bigger role.  Carrieri does what he can with the part, though his interactions with Eddie's mother never quite click.

Nina Salza and Jay Rivera as Eddie's mother April and her boyfriend James generally perform well.  Salza's attempts at playing drunk fall a little flat, but her scenes where April vows to turn her life around are spot on.  Rivera is at his best when showing James's feral cunning, though I would like to see more danger from James.

Madison McGhee does a good job with a character that really has no place in the play yet.  Linda, one of Eddie's friends, seems like a lonely girl, desperate for someone to listen to her, but who walks an uneven line between fantasy and reality.  She is not yet integral to the play, and needs to be more incorporated into it if the show is expanded.

While "Eddie" is not quite there yet, I look forward to seeing how the show evolves in the future.

Written by Matthew Ethan Davis
Directed and Produced by Brian Catton
Co-Produced by Adyana de la Torre
Ticket 2 Eternity Productions/7 Guild Productions
Featuring: Jacob Banser, Steve Carrieri, Yair Ben-Dor, Madison McGhee, Jay Rivera and Nina Salza

Final performance Sunday, August 3rd at 2:30 PM
The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
312 W. 36th Street

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Powerstrip Boylesque

Fancy Feast and Lucky Charming
It's hard to believe that in a city the size of New York, there was only one monthly burlesque show featuring primarily male performers.  Now Matt Knife's monthly boylesque revue, Homo Erectus, has been joined by Powerstrip, a monthly revue at The C.O.W. on the Lower East Side, produced by Homo Erectus regular Lucky Charming, and featuring many of the same performers (Matt Knife himself performed at April's Powerstrip).

The April Fool's Day Powerstrip started with Matt Knife in a honey badger inspired strip (the costume was fantastic), Lewd Alfred Douglas in a strip that reminded me of some German expressionistic films, the amazing Fem Appeal from Kitty Nights Burlesque, Lucky Charming as a sad Cupid in a medley of love songs, Hard Corey's ode to beer set to the tune of "Ain't No Sunshine," magician Nelson Lugo's string tricks (I could watch Lugo's magic act for hours… excellent magic and a great sense of humor), and Alfie Bunz's sideshow-inspired strip, which involved him inserting spoons into his nostrils.  Norse Horsely was the show's gogo dancer and stage kitten (the man who collects the flotsam and jetsam after each act).

Powerstrip is still in its awkward formative stages - the stage patter could use a little tightening and the transitions between acts could be smoother, but that will come in time.  What it has in spades is talented performers and enthusiasm.

What Powerstrip really needs at this point is an audience.  Burlesque can be good with a small audience, but burlesque performers will put in more when they are getting good feedback from a large, vocal and appreciative house.  The audience at April's show was vocal and appreciative, but small.  Pack the house, and this will be an amazing show.

The next Powerstrip will be Wednesday, May 7th at 8 PM (doors open at 7:30) at The Celebration of Whimsy (The C.O.W.) located at 21-A Clinton Street on the Lower East Side.  The theme is "I Love the '90s" and performers include hosts Lucky Charming and Fancy Feast, Teddy Turnaround, Iris Explosion, Brooklyn Irons and Johnny Panic.  Tickets are $15.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

3rd Annual New York Boylesque Festival

April is turning out to be an amazing month for boylesque.  In addition to the two monthly boylesque shows - Homo Erectus at the Stonewall and Power Strip at The C.O.W. - this is the weekend for the 3rd Annual New York Boylesque Festival.

The first night featured a veritable smorgasbord of local and international boylesque dancers.  Hosted by The World Famous *BOB* - a talented performer in her own right, and someone who really knows how to fire up a crowd - the evening featured some of New York's most talented boylesque stars, including Matt Knife (of Homo Erectus), Lucky Charming (of Power Strip), Hard Corey, Johnny Panic, Gogo Gadget, Jack Nasty, Brooklyn Irons, Jason Mejias, and the oh so aptly named Mr. Gorgeous.

Also shaking their stuff were Ron Dez Vous (Hollywood), Pussy Noir (DC), Damien Wunderluv (CO), Mr. Valdez (CO), Mustang Monroe (CO), Paco Fish (Baltimore), Sir Willy Waterlily (Finland), drag king Lou Henry Hoover (formerly of Seattle, now a New Yorker), Jacques Patriaque (Austria), and the Mansfield Brothers (Canada).

A good audience really helps make a good burlesque show, and last night's raucous audience was there to party.  Naturally, the performers gave them more than their money's worth.

Among the highlights were Jack Nasty's Elvis inspired strip, Jason Mejias and Mr. Gorgeous's magic act (watch the clothing magically disappear), Damien Wunderluv's sultry strip (with live singing… the boy is talented), Lucky Charming's quest for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Matt Knife's steampunk strip, and Mustang Monroe's hip hop strip.

As amazed as I was by the first day's performers, I can only imagine what tonight's "main event" at B.B. King's will be like.

Tickets are still available.  The doors open at 6 PM; the show starts at 8 PM.