review

In “Cabin,” A Queer Thriller Takes Over The Bushwick Starr

Tyler Ashley in “Cabin,” photo by Maria Baranova

We’re always voyeurs, as audiences in a theater, but the three-paneled walls we peer through in Cabin only heighten our perverse role. In this titular cabin, men are spied on by more than just the audience.

Is Sean Donovan’s new play a bittersweet romance, a queer thriller, or a haunting look at outsiders in unfamiliar terrain? It boldly marries all three in its intricate constellation — or cobweb — that is now playing through June 8 at The Bushwick Starr.

S meets Paul, then S meets Stewart, and soon the three are escaping the city to galavant and smoke and make love deep in the woods, high in a relative’s getaway home, so elevated it sits above the rolling fog. The home’s clear vistas offer no safety.

Not long into their increasingly regular sojourns, S (Sean Donovan, who also directs) meets a mysterious older townie who develops a strange and off-putting obsession with the three gay men, who together exist in a relatively stable friendship and romance.

Sean Donovan in “Cabin,” photo by Maria Baranova

This is what S regales in a mammoth monologue at the geographical center of Cabin. We learn about the cabin’s history and tchotchkes, we see Stewart (Tyler Ashley) try out a new dance routine with Paul (Brandon Washington), and we then worry for their safety. But how the play’s eerie quality emerges is both jarring and subtle — it happens all at once, and yet it was there all along. Can queer men be safe even in isolated, fortressed havens?

Brandon Washington and Tyler Ashley in “Cabin,” photo by Maria Baranova

To clearly answer that would both spoil and undermine this play, which provides no easy answers. But here’s what this sly and dangerous play does do: it uses those three window panes for more than just peering, as in one mystical touch they become a reflector for the warm vignettes of memories past. It showcases Tyler Ashley’s virtuosic dance and lip sync talents. (For proof, see last year’s Bushwig performance.) And it ends with a lyrical blow so theatrical you’ll be reminded, again and again, how marvelous The Bushwick Starr is, how idiosyncratic its programming, and how mysterious and tender this gem of a play is.

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US Premiere of “Bleach” Follows Lonely Bushwick Rentboy

Eamon Yates in “Bleach.” Photo by Hunter Canning

Check your coat at the door, and maybe your comfort.

But what else would you expect going to see an immersive play about a gay sex worker in a Bushwick basement? Bleach, the UK-imported one-man show now at Tyler’s Basement (637 Wilson Avenue), boldly but often unsuccessfully tests the limits of actor-audience intimacy. An attendant at the theater asks if you’ll be comfortable with the performer touching you; the character, a gay prostitute, is a pro after all. He gets paid to touch.

Even if you say no, it’s hard to emerge unscathed. In Tyler’s subterranean shoebox studio where the ten-max audience members convene, it’s difficult to not at least brush shoulders with the single performer in Dan Ireland-Reeves’s erotically stimulating but intellectually numbing play. Continue reading

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Review: Gregory Alan Isakov warms a snowy night at Warsaw

Lief Vollebekk, left, and Gregory Alan Isakov perform a joint encore

Gregory Alan Isakov hails from Colorado; his opener Lief Vollebekk is French-Canadian. Throw them in a Brooklyn venue and you’ve got enough flannel and beards to open up an urban farm.

All in jest, this is not to downplay the authenticity of Isakov’s musicianship — his agrarian melodies feel borrowed from the earth as his poetic lyrics are caught from the wind. His folksy, bluer songs felt particularly powerful last night; it’s hard to not hear the lyric “The Universe, she’s wounded / but she’s still got infinity ahead of her” and not consider the onslaught of bad news that’s swept our country in the past few weeks. Still, many of his songs warmed instead of numbed, a necessary touch at Warsaw (261 Driggs Avenue) where audiences huddled and remained buttoned up from the unseasonably wintry evening.

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Brooklyn Indie Rockers Parquet Courts Kicked Ass at Elsewhere Last Week

Parquet Courts at Elsewhere on November 19, 2017. Photo by Megan Penmann
Parquet Courts at Elsewhere on November 19, 2017. (L-R): Andrew Savage, Sean Yeaton, Austin Brown. Photo by Megan Penmann

Last Sunday at Elsewhere (599 Johnson Ave) the night opened with high energy post-punk trio B Boys, who happen to be on the indie Greenpoint label Captured Tracks. I’m not necessarily a post-punk fan, and to me the genre can range from fun to straight up annoying. But B Boys actually were able to sound palatable—a bit like a surfy, less grungy Nirvana. And they played the part of anarchist punks with more irony than anarchy, singing lyrics like “every day is a struggle.” At times, they hit garage-y notes, but with a little more polish. They’re the kind of band I’d have seen in college, but minus the angst. So, they won my approval.

B-Boys at Elsewhere, December 19, 2017. Photo by Megan Penmann
Britton Walker of B Boys at Elsewhere, November 19, 2017. Photo by Megan Penmann

B Boys definitely got the crowd amped up for Brooklyn headliners Parquet Courts. The band’s been around long enough to be able to wistfully (and perhaps bitterly) reference the dwindling Brooklyn DIY scene and the Elsewhere owners’ fallen former venue. When the crowd started catapulting their drinks at the stage during the second song, keyboardist Austin Brown quipped, “This isn’t Glasslands, you can’t throw shit.” And being a band born in Brooklyn in the mid-aughts certainly they’re clearly schooled in the art of playing to a house full of intoxicated locals donning flannels, thick-rimmed glasses and vintage Fugazi shirts. But this time, the scene was different. It was Elsewhere. Continue reading

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Bahamas Vibes In Greenpoint At Good Room

Bahamas, "All The Time" video
Bahamas, “All The Time” video

Last Tuesday night, a bit of the tropics came to NYC as Bahamas—the recording name of Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen—played to a sold out crowd at Good Room (98 Meserole Ave). The Greenpoint show preceded a show at Forest Hills Stadium the next night opening for Jack Johnson, whose Brushfire Records released Jurvanen’s second and third albums, Barchords (2012) and Bahamas is Afie (2014). Continue reading

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The Marked Men Thrashed Brooklyn Bazaar Last Friday

Marked Men - Brad Dechter
The Marked Men – Photo: Brad Dechter

The past week has been musically great, with reformed acts playing sold out shows around town. Texas-based punk rockers The Marked Men bashed their way through back-to-back gigs, first Thursday at St. Vitus (1120 Manhattan Ave.) then onto their initially announced Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave.) show on Friday. The band’s old-school punk riffing and ear for hooks has endeared them a strong following even if they haven’t released an album since 09’s ​Ghosts​. The venue was packed with a sea of black leather and safety pinned battle jackets, with the crowd singing or shouting in response to the band throughout their set.

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Review: London Grammar At Good Room (3/2)

London Grammar at Good Room. All photos by Dylan Lappin

In January 2015, I became obsessed with London Grammar‘s debut album, If You Wait. I can’t recall which single I heard first, or how, but whatever that entry point was, it led to listening to the album on repeat, attempting to do any justice singing along with Hannah Reid’s infectious vocals as I volleyed from track to track: oh this is my favorite, for sure … no, wait, but this one! Was it the vulnerable Nightcall or the reflective Strong that compelled me more? The intriguing lead-off track Hey Now, the subsequent Stay Awake with its gorgeous melody and driving rhythm, or the soul-bearing title track that left me on a high and drew me in for more and more with each listen?  Continue reading

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The Sounds Celebrate Album’s Ten Year Anniversary at Warsaw

The Sounds at Warsaw 11.25.16
The Sounds at Warsaw 11.25.16

Simply put, Swedish New Wave quintet The Sounds rocked Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave.) last Tuesday night. As their first stop in NYC during their North American tour celebrating the ten year anniversary of their hot sophomore album, Dying to Say This to You, Tuesday’s show may as well have been a stop on the original album release tour, gauging by the energy in the room, from band and audience alike.  Continue reading

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Five Awesome Polish Beauty Products

Beauty bloggers have consistently lauded the simple chicness of the beauty products found in the French pharmacy. They have praised the scientific brilliance of the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Consider this the long overdue ode to Polish beauty products, abundant, affordable, and yet perhaps still mysterious to many Greenpointers. The Polish beauty ethos—apparent in the products—is stick to what works, and to do it as naturally as possible. Here is a sampling of are some of the most popular products from around the neighborhood, no passport needed.

Bialy Jelen Natural SoapBiały Jeleń Natural Soap, $2
Find it at: Ziolko – 95 Nassau Ave #A

Summer in Brooklyn is a glorious time. Rooftop parties! Backyard barbecues! And lots and lots of sweat. Sometimes it feels like, scrub as you may, staying clean in the city in August is a fool’s errand. Before you resign yourself to a swampy, sticky month, might I suggest Bialy Jelen? This odorless, colorless bar soap makes no promises. It will not make you smell like rare flowers, nor will it magically reverse the aging process. It’s basic in the best way and does the only job you need a soap to do—get you really, really clean. You can use this unassuming bar to wash your face, your body, and even your lingerie according to one Polish model. Continue reading

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A Taste for Books: Bryant Terry’s Afro-Vegan

Collage from Archestratus' Instagram
Collage via Archestratus’ Instagram

Welcome to a new Greenpointers food series called A Taste for Books. We’ll be taking a page from the monthly cookbook club and potluck hosted by our Greenpoint neighbors, Archestratus (visit them at 160 Huron Street), featuring a different cookbook each month paired with insights from the monthly discussion. Thanks for joining us on this adventure that will highlight scrumptious recipes, dissect interesting ingredients and generally recap what happens when you mix cooks with books in Greenpoint.

First up – Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed (2014). Read more after the jump. Continue reading

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