Saturday, February 24, 2024

Margin Notes: The Moonshot Tape & A Poster of The Cosmos

Seen on: Friday, 2/23/24.

Plot and Background
Deep Flight Productions present a pair of monologue one acts by Lanford Wilson for one week only at The Flea. Both plays concern a character answering questions from an unseen person. In A Poster of The Cosmos, Tom curls over a takeout coffee in a precinct interrogation room after the death of his lover; in The Moonshot Tape, Diane grants an interview to a student in her hometown while staying in a rundown motel near her mother's nursing home.

What I Knew Beforehand
I had read both plays, years ago, in the collection of 21 one acts by Lanford Wilson, but I didn't remember most of the content. But I know and love the work and voice of Lanford Wilson, and I was very excited to get to see some of his work performed.


At the end of Cosmos, Tom asks if the police are happy now that he's finished telling the terrible story of his lover's death from AIDS, and his attempt to cope with that moment. At the end of Moonshot, Diane offers her interviewer a drink, to help digest her story of sexual abuse and revenge. But the question they're really asking is "Do you regret asking me to tell you the truth?" Because the thing about knowing the truth is, you can never unknow it. This horrible thing that has been living inside Tom, inside Diane, has spread to live inside their interrogators, has spread to live inside us.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Weekly Margin 2024, W7: Public Obscenities, The Seven Year Disappear, Prayer for the French Republic

2/13/24: Public Obscenities
What: TFANA hosts Soho Rep and NAATCO National Partnership Project's production of Shayok Misha Chowdhury's play about Choton, a queer studies PhD student who, with his boyfriend, travels to his family home in Kolkata, India to research the queer Bengal community in the wake of the repeal of anti-sodomy and anti-homosexual laws.
And? I loved it. This is the rare play that lets itself breathe (yes, it's a little over three hours but it's worth it), that lets its characters exist in both the quiet and noisy ends of the spectrums of memory, introspection, loneliness, and the urge for connection. A major motif in the play is the power and permanence of photographs: not only the large and gloomy photograph of Choton's grandfather, who stands guard over the house, but the recently-discovered and revealing photographs taken just days before his death. Once a person dies, there will never be any more new photos taken of them; this is all we get. But there's power in the discovery of photos unknown, showing a side long hidden. And these photographs, these films, these voice memos, these attempts by Choton and Raheem to document the ephemeral, they give us something, but they also never quite capture all we remember of the moment--including, perhaps especially, the one documenting them: the one behind the camera. This play is such a gift; I'm glad I didn't miss it.

Abra Haque, Debashis Roy Chowdhury, and Jakeem Dante Powell as Choton,
Pishe, and Raheem. Photo by Hollis King.

What: The New Group presents a new play by Jordan Seavey: a two-hander metatheatrical nonlinear look at a complicated mother-son relationship and the damage caused when the experimental artist mother disappears for seven years on the brink of her MoMA commission.
And? A really interesting line of tension in the voyeuristic excavation of Naphtali's trauma after his abandonment at the hands of his mother and business partner. I think, even at the end, I don't forgive her; I don't think we're meant to. It's too little too late, and in having Cynthia Nixon's character play everyone else her son meets, even if she thinks she's atoning, it's still all about her. But yeah, it's very good multimedia theater.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Weekly Margin 2024, W5: Hamlet

2/04/24: Hamlet
What: Eddie Izzard performs a one person Hamlet, as adapted by Mark Izzard.
And? She's always an engaging performer, as we all know, and there are some very powerful moments of discovery, when she lets herself breathe into a moment. I think overall this would be a confusing production to follow for anyone not already familiar with the characters and story (the sword fight at the end is, well, a lot of jumping around), but it's worth seeing for fans of Suzy Izzard.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Weekly Margin 2024, W4: Pride House, Harmony, Our Class, Once Upon a Mattress, Dear England

1/24/24: Pride House
What: TOSOS presents Chris Weikels' new play, about Beatrice Farrar's collection of friends at Fire Island during the summer of 1938, right before a hurricane hits.
And? full review here.

Jake Mendes, Patrick Porter, Jamie Heinlein, Alex Herrera, Aaron Kaplan,
and Tom Souhrada as Stephen, Thomas Farrar, Beatrice Farrar, Brad, John
Mosher, and Arthur Brill. Photo by Richard Rivera.

1/25/24: Harmony
What: The Broadway transfer of Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman's musical about real life music group The Comedian Harmonists, performing amid the rise of fascism in 1930s Berlin.
And? It's better than it was downtown. They trimmed a lot of the excess (though I'm astonished Chip Zien let them cut his Marlene drag number). It's still not a great show, but it's a better show than it was. And like Pride House, it's attempting to bring new attention to a piece of culture that larger society tried to erase from memory. I do wish Zien had more colors in his paint box. Every time he wants to emphasize something or intensify the emotion, he yells/belts. Quiet intensity is also potent, when used. It is nice to see the six young men who originated the roles of the singing troupe downtown return with the show to make their Broadway debuts (except Zal Owen, who has one prior Bway credit), and Sierra Boggess and Julie Benko are great in somewhat thankless parts. 

And, well. I wish some of the subject matter didn't feel so bitterly current as it does, but here we are.

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, and
Sean Bell as Chopin, Lesh, Harry, Young Rabbi, Erich, and Bobby.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes/Adam Riemer.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Margin Notes: Pride House

Seen on: Wednesday, 1/24/24.
Gail Dennison, Jamie Heinlein, Calvin Knegten, and Raquel
Sciacca as Irene Gerard, Beatrice Farrar, Hugo Franc, and
Maxine Franc. Photo by Richard Rivera.

Plot and Background
The Other Side of Silence presents a world premiere of Chris Weikel's new play about Beatrice Farrar and her friends in Cherry Grove, Fire Island, right before the 1938 hurricane that devastated the vacation homes there and led to a fundamental shift in the demographic of vacationers on the island. Beatrice Farrar, her cottage Pride House, and her friends are among the barely-remembered but worth-retrieving pockets of Queer history, and nearly all the characters in this play are real people who were there in her house during the storm.

What I Knew Beforehand

Very nearly nothing, except that it took place on Fire Island before a hurricane.


The walls of Pride House--so named for Beatrice Farrar's love of Jane Austen, but also granting the audience a knowing nod toward the future of Cherry Grove's population--are painted as a mural: a beautiful endless horizon of a gentle wave cresting toward a sandy shore, with benign puffs of white cloud overhead. They match the back wall of Evan Frank's evocative and poetic scenic design, the "actual" outdoors, as if there is no barrier between the island paradise outside and the haven inside. The glassless windows perched on slender frames--no actual protection from the outside--reinforce this impression. When the first act closes amid the rising storm, the sounds of a tree falling and window glass shattering pierce the air. But the glass was never there. The protection was never there, and we have been always outside and exposed, waiting for a storm to rip everything away.