theater

“Dandy Be Good” Offers Sizzling Tales in Bitter Weather

Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk
G.J. Dowding. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk

Vital Joint’s venue is tiny, but the amount of pre-show audience chitchat was enormous. Most was facilitated by a a suit-donning and larger-than-life Rhinelander (more on him later), but some was organic: “Did you make that necklace” or “Hey, the bar serves beer” pleasantries were also exchanged. If there was ever a lull, our German friend was quick to fill it with a quip or suggestion that the cash-only bar is steps away. “This is experimental theater,” he said. “You’ll need a drink.”

This is all the prelude to Dandy Be Good, queer artist GJ’s storytelling cabaret now playing through January 27 at Vital Joint (109 Meserole Street) as part of Brooklyn’s Exponential Festival. Like the pre-show banter, Garlan Jude (GJ)’s show fosters community and togetherness. They lip sync to songs from Judy Garland (a fun reversal on the performer’s name?) and interviews from socialite women of yore. But GJ doesn’t hog the stage — they share it with a trio of guest performers: a vaudevillian-reminiscent actress, a consummate orator, and — yes — our chatty German pal.

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Activists Are Real? See For Yourself in The Buswick Starr’s New Comedy, “Cute Activist”

Madeline Wise in “Cute Activist” at The Bushwick Starr

Milo Cramer has made his Bushwick Starr debut.

I’m not just discussing his play, the zippy and zany Cute Activist. Cramer wrote it, but — in a lovely surprise — is also in it. And like his play, the performance is delightful.

Cramer, alongside Sebastian Pray, puppeteers his way through his new comedy, now extended through February 3 at The Bushwick Starr (207 Starr Street). Cute Activist gingerly but probingly tackles capitalist greed, interracial dating, and — yes — activism. (Sound designer John Gasper comically conjures *thunder* each time that forbidden word is uttered.) Or is it slactivism? It’s hard to say. Cramer doesn’t try and pin down the elusive term, but he does winningly show how his heroine Jen — short for Jen-der, or Jen-trification — illuminates it for herself. Continue reading

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New Office Satire “R&D” Comes to The Keep January 11-13

Reversible floor tiles. Sleeve Me Alone. A pencil that’s also jerky.

Practical or utterly useless, these are a small handful of the colorful pitches in Brouhaha Theatre Project’s upcoming R&D: a nightmare in three flowchartsAnd while these may seem the stuff of Call-Now-and-Save infomercials aimed at sexagenarians comfortable in their recliners, they originate from the fresh minds of one of Brooklyn’s youngest and most promising theater companies.

R&D is basically a portrait of a team of Young Professionals who leave everything behind to devote themselves to this crazy startup called BrainSoul,” said Sam Myers, one of Brouhaha’s five company members and R&D’s playwright.

R&D (as in “research and development”) overflows with exhausting and all-too-familiar corporate jargon that is ripe for comedic satire. Office lingo like “impressive stapling work” and “on the same page” are often tossed around. Somehow, outside of the workplace and inside the theater, these phrases feel like poisonous earworms, which may be the point. 

“Over the course of the play, the YoPros’ enthusiasm for the company becomes more and more cultish,” Myers said. “It’s an office comedy that tries to push the toxic insularity of work life to a really extreme place.”

The show debuted last year at Dixon Place in Manhattan and now comes to the basement of Bushwick/Ridgewood’s The Keep (205 Cypress Avenue), a bar with as much spunk and funk as Brouhaha’s latest project. 

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Heather Christian Unleashes a Ravishing Tour de Force in The Bushwick Starr’s “Animal Wisdom”

Heather Christian in her Bushwick Starr show, “Animal Wisdom.” Photo by Maria Baranova.

The richest musical score this season might not be found on Broadway. To add to its allure, it’s created by a “migraine-suffering musician who talks to dead people.”

It’s a bold self-proclamation, but Obie Award winner Heather Christian’s Animal Wisdom is an equally bold work — and one that’s near impossible to pin down. To call it a play lumps it in with traditional narratives, and yet to label it a folksy-Requiem-mass-drama barely trumpets its dynamism, élan, and pure resplendence.

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A Fiery, Absurdist “Chamber Music” Now Playing at St. John’s

Members of the “Chamber Music” cast at St. John’s

“The chair recognizes Joan of Arc.”

It’s hard not to recognize her, in the theatrical sense — like the Joans we’ve seen, this one’s armor-clad, cross-bearing, and all-powerful. But is this Joan? Well, of course not; it’s merely a depiction.

But is the performer (a marvelously focused Bre Northrup) playing Joan, or a character who believes they are Joan? This is one of the central questions in Arthur Kopit’s Chamber Music, now playing through September 16 in the basement of St. John’s Lutheran Church (155 Milton Street).

Director Emily Moler makes dynamic use of her staging Kopit’s absurdist play, setting it in the round and utilizing the subterranean locale’s low-budget though ample space. In fact a church basement may be the unlikely, appropriate setting for Chamber Music: the play actually takes place in a mental institution, so a church (with its rigid mores) lends itself winningly to this story’s strict asylum. The “Joan of Arc” and other lady icons, from Osa Johnson to Pearl White, inhabit this jail, and their meeting of the minds feels echoed in the opening of Top Girls, Caryl Churchill’s feminist anthem. Continue reading

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An Unquiet Night: Reel Orchestrette Live Scores Faust at Film Noir Cinema

Film Noir Cinema at night © Julie Congo
Film Noir Cinema at night © Julie Congo

When Will Malitek, the owner of Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave), turned an old Greenpoint funeral home into his gorgeous new 54-seat movie theater, he remodeled with very specific plans in mind. There’s a sizeable gap between the screen and the first row, where Will says he could have added more seats, but he wanted space to present live music.

This summer, Film Noir Cinema has launched a new series presenting silent films with live music by Reel Orchestrette, a collaboration between musicians Bradford Reed and Geoff Gersh.

Faust Film Noir Cinema July 22 2017After a sold-out screening of Nosferatu in June, Reel Orchestrette is returning to Film Noir Cinema on Saturday, July 22 at 9pm with a live score for Faust, a 1926 German silent film directed by F. W. Murnau.

These two events are only the beginning. Malitek hopes to continue the series with screenings of all the major German silent films: Metropolis, Waxworks, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and more. And in October, he says we can expect to see a full lineup of silent horror films.

Tickets for Faust are $15 and on sale now at Film Noir Cinema (where you should also take a moment to flip through their incredible collection of films available to rent).

To find out more about the performance, we spoke with Reel Orchestrette’s Bradford Reed and Geoff Gersh. Continue reading

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Self-Help Gets a Lift in “The Protégé,” a New Play at Chez Bushwick


I hope you have the pleasure of meeting Caitlin Bebb, whose addictive and contagious luminosity makes her an ideal artist to write and perform in a show about self-help. Even if you don’t meet her personally, you may feel like you have after experiencing her intimate but wild new show, The Protégé, presented by Glass Bandits and playing June 23–26 at Chez Bushwick (304 Boerum St).

Personal development, therapy, and self-improvement can come with sticky stigmas; by nature, these tactics make us address, confront, and perhaps publicize our imperfections. But in her mysterious yet alluring solo show, Caitlin Bebb rejiggers these ignominies, breaking down the walls of what self-help can expound — well, perhaps not breaking them down, but certainly infusing them with spiritual rejuvenation, a genre-defying performance, and a dance party. Continue reading

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Food for Thought (and Humor) in The Bushwick Starr’s “[porto]”

“[porto]” at The Bushwick Starr. Photo by Marina McClure.

It serves pickled pomegranate, fried chickpea, and grilled sage.

No, it’s not the organic/gluten-free/farm-to-table market down the street; it’s the rustic gastropub in The Bushwick Starr’s (207 Starr St.) new play [porto] though based on Brooklyn’s artisanal food scene trends, these bites might soon appear on your go-to bar’s menu. And like those snacks, the play is a concoction of the satirical, savory, and flat-out strange.

[porto] is part of this year’s (and the second annual) Exponential Festival, a theatrical series promoting works created in New York and performed in Brooklyn. Kate Benson’s funny, meandering, and world-premiere play centers on Porto, a young woman for whom the hipness of Brooklyn’s cultural and foodie offerings has perhaps grown dull.

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Experience the nautical, inventive, and gorgeous world of “In a Sea of Faces”

"In a Sea of Faces" plays now through September 25 at Williamsburg's Cloud City venue.
“In a Sea of Faces” plays now through September 25 at Williamsburg’s Cloud City.

The hero’s journey often follows three simple steps: protagonist leaves home, protagonist faces challenges in the world, protagonist returns home, changed. But with In a Sea of Faces, composer and librettist Jahn Sood turns this adventure on its head, all the while achieving depths as great as the ocean from which his hero originates.

Sood’s new folk opera at Cloud City (85 N 1st Street) is as playful as waves, as theatrical as changing tides. In the wildly inventive world directed by Katie Melby, the ocean talks back, handheld flashlights articulate battle and shipwreck, and swaying sails cradle a wayward father’s song of homecoming. Continue reading

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Funky Plot and Savory Performances for Shakespeare in the Theater’s “Cymbeline”

Curt James (foreground) and Josh Krebs in "Cymbeline" at The Brick
Curt James (foreground) and Josh Krebs in “Cymbeline” at The Brick

Cymbeline is tonally ambiguous, dramaturgically elusive. This is no weakness of Shakespeare’s so-called tragedy, but it stands out in being one that ends in reunions and discoveries instead of wars and death while featuring beheaded characters and disguised lovers. It’s no wonder, then, that critics have long debated whether Cymbeline is drama, romance, comedy, or something in between. Perhaps Shakespeare was pushing genres out and contemporary storytelling, with its mix of laughter and catharsis, forward. Regardless of category, Stay Awake! Theatre’s production of Cymbeline at The Brick (575 Metropolitan Ave.) in Williamsburg is firm in its footing thanks to its minimalist approach and rather strong performances. Continue reading

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