Monday, December 21, 2015

15 for '15 - My Top Theatrical Experiences This Year

Daniel N. Durant as Moritz in Deaf West's Spring Awakening.
Photo by Kevin Parry.
We don't need no stinkin' rules! Especially not rules that limit me to choosing only 10 shows for 2015. That's just cruel and unusual punishment. And, as I'm not an accredited journalist, and this is my house, we're doing 15 for 15 this year.

I'm quite proud to report that my attendance bumped up from last year - I saw 130 shows in 2015, and when we remove the repeats, it comes out to 121 unique shows - only one fewer than I saw in 2013, and 24 up from last year. It's been an odd mix this year - some truly extraordinary theater, including the groundbreaking work by Broadway's biggest nerd, Lin-Manuel Miranda - but the Fall season on Broadway, at least in terms of straight plays, was oddly disappointing. However, Off-Broadway picked up the slack, there's still plenty of good work to remember from this past Spring, and loads to anticipate for 2016.

So let's get started. (and before anyone calls the dogs out on any shows I omitted, the list started at 32 for the year, which I then had to painstakingly cull down to its present length)

Honorable Mention: I can't officially include Hedwig and the Angry Inch on this list, since the production made my '14 list last year, but if I didn't include John Cameron Mitchell's incredible performance in the role he created, I'd be doing a disservice to all of us. I saw him only after his injury early in his run, but even hobbled as he was by multiple knee braces, his Hedwig was a terrifying and heartbreaking force of nature. The role (and the show) transformed under his care, running a good twenty minutes longer from all the riffing and adlibbing. This was Hedwig as I knew her from before - bitingly cruel one moment, sweet and loving the next. A deeply-bedded river of bitterness ran through her, even as she valiantly soldiered on, crutch tucked under her arm. And oh god, the moment JCM opened his mouth in the first song, sounding just like he did twenty years earlier, I started to cry. (I feel it would be remiss if I did not also mention the fact that my friend Marissa received the infamous car wash treatment when we attended together - without a doubt, an unforgettable evening).

Friday, December 4, 2015

Margin Notes: POPTART!

Seen on: Thursday, 12/3/15.
My grade: B+
Monique St. Cyr and Allison Strickland as Monique Jackson and Anna Martin.
Photo by Patricia Phelps.

Plot and Background
Monique Jackson is a rising singer-songwriter star acting out the role of a spoiled diva for anyone who will tolerate her. James Pearce is a gifted songwriter with a lofty view of the business of show. When Monique's assistant Anna maneuvers a meeting between the two to negotiate a collaboration, personalities collide in a big way. POPTART! is a new play by Krystle Phelps, co-founder of Girl Just Died, a NY-based theater company "dedicated to bringing to life new, exciting, and honest work that heavily features a variety of voices."

Disclosure, and
What I Knew Beforehand
I've worked with - and am friends with - director Gwenevere Sisco. Beyond that, I'd seen and reviewed her previous collaboration with Krystle Phelps, James Parenti, and Monique St. Cyr, May Violets Spring.


Play: There's always something rather thrilling about a real-time play with an approaching deadline. As Monique stalks about her dressing room, primping, drinking, changing clothes, writing "Bitch" on her mirror with lipstick, we know she has a performance (to a pre-recorded "live track") at an unspecified awards show only moments away. This is borrowed time: a chemistry meet with a new collaborator, dodged calls from her mother slash former manager, and a showdown between a diva and her only friend. Time seems to both expand and contract around moments - music plays and everything holds still. Tragedy strikes, and the show must go on. While Monique does her best to drive everyone away, there remains a moment of hope at the end - perhaps she recognizes that she is worth saving, after all. The final performance is thrilling, a release for both Monique and the audience.