It’s dlevy!: David’s Favorite 2015 Theater

Originally published on itsdlevy.net.

I’m not sure how many shows I saw this year, and I didn’t keep good enough record to count. Suffice it to say, I saw a lot, but not everything. Therefore, I’m not in a position to tumake a “best of” list or anything of the sort. Instead, I present to you a list of my favorite theater from 2015, in alphabetical order.

Last year, I listed a top 13, with one honorable mention plus three additional shows I had loved enough in previous years to see for a second time during 2014. This year’s list includes 15 shows, two of which were return trips, plus two honorable mentions, so I guess I have a fairly consistent amount of love in my heart available for great theater.  Continue reading

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250 Word Reviews: Puffs

Originally published on 250 Word Reviews.

Third or Nothing

PUFFS, OR: SEVEN INCREASINGLY EVENTFUL YEARS AT A CERTAIN SCHOOL OF MAGIC & MAGIC
(Off-off-Broadway: The Peoples Improv Theater)

Churchill said, “History is written by the victors,” but how often do we hear about life during great events for the rest of us? Playwright Matt Cox provides this lens on the Second Wizarding War, through the eyes of one Wayne Hopkins (Zac Moon). Wayne dreams of being the hero of his story, but that position has already been filled be a certain Mister Potter. Neither brave nor smart nor anguine, he is sorted into the house for everyone else, Hufflepuff, and makes two best friends: Oliver, a math whiz (Langston Belton) and Megan (Julie Ann Earls), a wannabe villain. Mentored by Cedric Diggory (Evan Maltby), the Puffs’ rallying cry represents their dreams of someday not coming in last: “Third or nothing!” Do they have a chance at making a difference in a world dominated by legendary heroes and villains?

Like Kapow-i GoGo (from the same team) before it, Puffs transcends parody and fan service to create a three-dimensional world populated by believable characters whose tragedies resonate as strongly as their triumphs. There’s a lot of story to get through in 80ish minutes, but director Kristin McCarthy Parker’s sure hand keeps the story clear even as the pace gets frenetic. Moon’s performance, more Hamlet than ham, provides a strong center around which wackier characters orbit. The whole cast excels, but special kudos to Andy Miller for the best “rally the troops” moment this side of Henry V. Knowledge of the Potter canon is helpful but not necessary to love Puffs.

Production photograph by Colin Waitt: Zac Moon (l) as Wayne with (l-r) Nick Carillo, Andy Miller, Eleanor Philips, Jessica Cannizzaro, Madeleine Bundy, and Stephen Stout.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to note that I contributed $10 to this production’s Kickstarter campaign.

Jewschool: Handle With Care: A Jewish Play Born From An Interfaith Marriage

Originally published on Jewschool.

Handle With CareWhen I first skimmed the press release for Handle With Care, a play currently running off-Broadway in the theater that used to house Old Jews Telling Jokes, I thought I had the whole thing figured out in advance: a non-Jewish playwright married an Israeli actress and wrote a show for her. Simple, I thought. It must be a comedy exploring the hilarity of intermarriage, like an Abie’s Irish Rose for the Pew Report generation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For although playwright Jason Odell Williams has written a play about love bridging disparate lives, it’s about a burgeoning love affair between an Israeli Jew and an American Jew, finding each other in the most unlikely of circumstances: their “meet cute” occurs when a delivery man loses the box containing the remains of Ayelet’s recently deceased grandmother, which he was supposed to be bringing to the airport for return to Israel. Josh, Ayelet’s love interest, is the delivery man’s only Jewish friend, so naturally he gets the call to help translate the situation to the distressed Israeli who speaks very little English.

The result is a charming romantic comedy that would be right at home on JCC stages anywhere in the country. That the play was written by someone who’s not himself Jewish (although he is part of a Jewish family) is surprising, so I was glad to have the opportunity to speak with both Williams and his wife (and star of the show) Charlotte Cohn about that play, their marriage, and working with one’s spouse. Continue reading

Adams House Pool Theater: Revisionist History

Revisionist History premiered April 30, 1998, at the Adams House Pool Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, as part of the ARTS First Theatre Festival. This production was directed by the author and ran five performances. The original cast consisted of Pippa Brashear as Gaby, Janel Moore as Rachel, Michelle Capasso as Sue, and Maya Bourdeau as the professor. 

THE TIME:  The present.

Gaby's bedroom

Gaby’s bedroom

THE PLACE: A dormitory room; a large single.  The back wall is covered with three gigantic windows overlooking the streets of an average college town.  A bed with its head resting against the SR wall cuts the room into upstage and downstage halves.  Upstage of the bed, on the floor, is a half-completed art project, a collage of sorts.  On the SL wall, opposite the bed, is a bookcase and bureau.  The bookcase is being used more as a de facto display case, with picture books open to various pages, knick knacks, and jewelry scattered over the shelves.  These item s are not neatly ordered.  The walls are covered with charcoal drawings of disturbing faces, athletic female bodies (dancers, rowers, runners, etc.), and the occasional landscape.  Interspersed with these are a few photographs of GABY’s family members.  A CD player rests downstage right, on the floor, near enough to the bed so that it can be operated without rising.  A phone sits in a similar position on the floor next to the other side of the bed.

The only entrance to the room is from the audience.  However, actors should be able to enter undetected during blackouts.

THE WOMEN:

GABY:  A young woman in her second try at a freshman year of college.  She is an athlete, running track and rowing crew. She is tall and slim, and she’s always dressed in layers of mismatched, worn out athletic clothes.  Around her neck she always wears a funky modern crucifix-necklace.  While she could easily pass as white, occasionally she chooses to drop subtle hints that her father is black.  She has specific sets of actions and emotions that she uses, depending on with whom she is interacting.  How she acts when she is alone is the mystery left to the actor.

RACHEL:  One of GABY’s best friends at college.  She is also a first year student.  RACHEL is short, sarcastic, and occasionally sexy.  She comes from a relatively rural area, but is anxious to become a city native.  When she gets stressed or upset, she occasionally purges in the dorm bathroom.

SUE:  GABY’s best friend on the crew team, also a freshman.  SUE is a tall, muscular, self-assured young woman.  Although SUE has a very masculine build, her gorgeous hair and winning smile remind her friends that she is a cuddly amazon.  She is romantically involved in a very serious, long distance relationship with Deanna, a high school senior from her hometown.

THE PROFESSOR:  THE PROFESSOR exists in her own time and space, in a tidy office, or perhaps a lecture hall, somewhere in the theatre – on the stage, in one of the boxes, the exact location is not important as long as it does not impose upon GABY’s space.  She is a professor of History.  She is also an occasional observer to the action of the other characters.  Her watching is at times clinical, at times voyeuristic, and at times paranoid.

THE PLAY:  Continue reading