9/21/22: Cost of Living
What: The Broadway transfer of Martyna Majok's Pulitzer-winning play about people in disabled bodies, their caregivers, and that freefall fear when there's no safety net left. Original stars Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan reprise their Off-Broadway performances, joined now by Kara Young and David Zayas.
And? I had seen the Off-Broadway run in 2018 and been impressed, but somehow seeing it again now I am even more blown away. Each individual's story is heartwrenching: the ways they're unable or unwilling to let themselves connect, and the ways they try anyway. David Zayas as Eddie does great work with his opening monologue, but delivers much of his scene dialogue facing forward, which cuts off his connection with his scene partners. Kara Young brings beautiful vulnerability with a spiny edge as her character Jess bonds with Gregg Mozgala's sarcastic, arrogant, and somehow sweet John. And Katy Sullivan, oh Katy Sullivan. She's extraordinary as Ani: vibrant, angry, grieving, wickedly funny, and all while moving only her face and two fingers. It's still very rare to see visibly disabled bodies on the New York stage. It's rarer still to see them on a Broadway stage. If for only that reason, this play would be important; but this play is also deeply moving, telling stories about disabled characters without making their disability their only defining feature. These are four fully realized characters in a world hostile to vulnerability in any stripe, and yet the possibility of kindness, of reaching out a hand, still persists. Martyna Majok is truly a gifted and poignant writer, and I can't wait to see what's next from her.
9/22/22: american (tele)visions
What: NYTW presents Victor I. Cazares's new play, as directed by Theatre Mitu's Rubén Polendo, about an undocumented Mexican family living in the States, and their obsession with Walmart and with the television, as a shattered prism to examine their grief at a sudden loss.
And? When I walked into the space to see the gridded white container of the stage, holding four oversized rusted boxes (scenic & costume design by Bretta Gerecke), aurally underscored by half-phrases lost in a broadcast stream (technology design by Theatre Mitu (Kelly Colburn, Alex Hawthorn, and Justin Nestor)), I remembered, "Oh yes, Rubén Polendo has always been excellent at creating an environment." That gridded container reveals itself to be a wall of screens for broadcast; the rusted boxes open to show the family's double-wide sliced in half, or the toy aisle at Walmart, or a fallen meteorite. The family, meanwhile--mother Maria Ximena, father Octavio, daughter Erica, and dead brother Alejandro (played by his friend and lover Jesse)--reveal themselves to be unable or unwilling to process their griefs, demanding filters of television screens full of telenovelas, shopping channels, Nintendo games, and homemade videos not for public viewing. Just as the family is shattered by their grief and denial, so too is the timeline shattered: Alejandro is alive and he's not, Maria has left and she hasn't, Octavio knows the truth and he doesn't, Erica can save everyone and she can't. The entire play is a bit of a Schrödinger's family until at last the facades come down and the truth is faced. Cazares's writing is both poetic and blunt somehow, allowing us an escape from reality before sending us back to the ground, like the meteorite Erica keeps wanting to find. At times it feels a bit overwritten, some language losing its poignancy upon repetition, but I can't think what of this journey I would cut.