Theater review by Helen Shaw The level of control in Bailey Williams’s exquisite I thought I would die but I didn’t isn’t apparent at first. In the play’s bizarre initial scenes, things actually seem pretty loosey-goosey. A shut-in young woman (Williams, in supersad sweatpants) lives in an existentially porous apartment, crunching on aspirin and wondering where the kitchen went. Wasn’t it there a minute ago? And what about the TV? She could swear she was just watching Law & Order. Her roommate (a superb Matthew Bovee) steps directly through the wall—a stretchy white membrane that lets whole couches slide in and out—and a freaky neighbor (Yonatan Gebeyehu) tries to get her interested in balloons. Their language is formal and stilted: “Welcome home to our shared apartment!” she cries, as a smiling Bovee pops into view. This beginning has the kind of oddness you might feel you’ve seen before; even the air of menace is familiar. A number of High Weird plays rev their engines by referring to a mysterious event in the past—something no one wants to talk about. (Hauntings are big now; ditto for weird shrieks.) But then the play smash-cuts into another style, and the stylization of Sarah Blush’s direction leans farther into the strange. Suddenly we’re in a true-crime documentary about a violent murder, rendered with the idiotic portentousness of the genre’s most lurid examples. Bovee is our host; Williams is an expert witness; Gebeyehu is all the other figures at once. Another sma
After many years, the sassy and clever puppet musical doesn’t show its age. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s deft Sesame Street–esque novelty tunes about porn and racism still earn their laughs. Avenue Q remains a sly and winning piece of metamusical tomfoolery. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
The 42nd annual edition of the African-diaspora cultural festival focuses on the history and culture of Rwanda in a program created by artistic director Abdel R. Salaam. The Rwandan company Inganzo Ngari is joined onstage by actor-poet Malaika Uwamahoro and the BAM/Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble. In addition to performances, the festival includes community events, readings, film screenings and a visual-art exhibition.
La MaMa's annual festival runs riot with dance. Witness Relocation's Surveys the Prairie of Your Room (May 18, 19), created and performed by Dan Safer and Ae Andreas, features music by Heather Christian and text by Kate Scelsa. Other participating artists include Italy's Gruppo Nanou (Apr 26–28), Colleen Thomas (May 3–5), Mia Habin (May 3–5), Yin Mei Dance (May 9, 10), Hari Krishnan/inDance (May 11, 12), Bobbi Jene Smith (May 16–19), Jesca Prudencio (May 23, 34) and Sin Cha Hong (May 25, 26).
David Parsons and his company return to the Joyce with a mixed bill that features three pieces by Parsons—Round My World, Nascimento and company favorite Caught—as well as the late Paul Taylor's Runes (1975) and the New York premiere of Trey McIntyre's Eight Women, set to music by Aretha Franklin. (At matinee performances, Parsons's Hand Dance replaces the Taylor piece.)
The Italian Dance Connection gives New York the boot in a three-day festival that comprises 16 live dance works (including 10 premieres) and a dozen films. The offerings are divided into four distinct programs.
Founded by modern dance titan José Limón in 1946, the company continues under the guidance of artistic director Colin Connor. This latest NYC engagement includes two Limón favorites, The Moor's Pavane and Psalm, along with Connor's The Weather in the Room and Francesca Harper's Radical Beasts in the Forest of Possibilities, which is set to a score written and performed live by Nona Hendryx.
Theater review by Regina Robbins About two-thirds of the way through Christopher Chen’s extraordinary new play Passage, ensemble member Lizan Mitchell acknowledges that some in the audience may be experiencing a kind of déjà vu. Based on—but in no way bound to—E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, Chen’s text takes colonialism out of any specific racial or temporal context in order to examine power, exploitation and resistance as nakedly as possible. And yet, Mitchell admits, context is everything: Everyone in the room, onstage and off, brings their own life experiences to this moment. Still, she says, “I am trying to bring us all to the same page. Even though…that’s impossible.” She pauses. “Right?” Passage begins with Q (Andrea Abello), a citizen of Country Y, travelling to join her fiancé in Country X, where he has relocated for “opportunity.” On the way, she encounters F (Linda Powell), another Country Y-er moving to X for work, who is also in search of something deeper that she can’t find in her country of origin. After arriving, F meets B (K.K. Moggie), a Country X doctor who, despite her stellar reputation, is obliged to take orders from her Country Y superiors at the hospital where she works. The trio embark on an excursion to mysterious local caves; there, in darkness, fears and prejudices are exposed and lives are turned upside down. Stripped of names and nationalities, the characters in Passage (portrayed exclusively by actors of color) are nevertheless totally
NYCB returns to Lincoln Center with a six-week slate that includes multiple collections of dances by company founder George Balanchine. Among the many other offerings in the varied season are premieres by Pam Tanowitz and resident choreographer Justin Peck; two mixed bills of work by 21st-century choreographers; and, for the final week, Balanchine's full-length forest romp A Midsummer Night's Dream (May 28–June 2).
Tom and Betsy Salamon’s unique adventure—part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part walking tour—draws participants into an amusing web of puzzles and intrigue. You can choose between the three-hour New York tour, which takes participants through various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, or the two-hour Village tour, which travels through quirky Greenwich Village. Groups of as many as 11 are booked every half hour.
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
Twice a week, after closing time, 20 people crowd into the city’s oldest magic shop, Tannen’s, for a cozy evening of prestidigitation by the young and engaging Noah Levine. The shelves are crammed with quirky devices; there's a file cabinet behind the counter, a mock elephant in the corner and bins of individual trick instructions in plastic covers, like comic books or sheet music. The charm of Levine's show is in how well it fits the environment of this magic-geek chamber of secrets. As he maneuvers cards, eggs, cups and balls with aplomb, he talks shop, larding his patter with tributes to routines like the Stencel Aces and the Vernon Boat Trick—heirlooms of his trade that he gently polishes and displays for our amazement.
[Note: The review below is for a 2014 version of this show, which was then titled The Imbible. A revised version now plays at New World Stages. A different, brunch-theater edition, titled Day Drinking, plays on weekend matinees.] Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy? Great! Now imagine him as a bartender who is deeply interested in the history of ethanol alcohol, really likes wigs and costumes, and just joined a coed barbershop quartet. That description of Anthony Caporale’s The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking may sound far-out, but the show is both educational and entertaining. (It's also a fine showcase for a cappella classics arranged by Josh Ehrlich and performed by a gifted ensemble that includes the show's director, soprano Nicole DiMattei.) Mixing whimsy and information, Caporale makes the story of our relationship with alcohol remarkably compelling. And the show's lessons—on subjects like the drinks served at Prohibition-era speakeasies, the origin of the gin and tonic, and the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink—can be washed down with complimentary, thematically appropriate beverages. As Caporale says, “Trust me, I get funnier with every sip.” That makes the show a must-see for anyone who enjoys free booze, which is probably nearly everyone.—Amelia Bienstock
For 21 years, this proudly old-school series has offered a different lineup of professional magicians every week: opening acts, a headliner and a host, plus two or three close-up magicians to wow the audience at intermission. Housed for the past seven years at the unprepossessing Players Theatre, it is an heir to the vaudeville tradition. Many of the acts incorporate comedic elements, and audience participation is common. (If you have young children, bring them; they make especially adorable assistants.) Shows cost just $37.50 in advance and typically last well over two hours, so you get a lot of value and variety for your magic dollar. In contrast to some fancier magic shows, this one feels like comfort food: an all-you-can eat buffet to which you’re encouraged to return until you’re as stuffed as a hat full of rabbits. For a full schedule, visit the MNM website.
Theater review by Adam Feldman After all the discussion last season about the sexual politics of My Fair Lady and Carousel, it may seem like a suboptimal time to revive, of all musicals, Kiss Me, Kate: a 1940s lark, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, in which the tempestuous leading lady is—at least in the original version—spanked onstage by her ex-husband before returning to him, in the end, to sing a paean to feminine submission. Roundabout Theatre Company’s very diverting production is nothing if not sensitive to the show’s potential dangers. In his Playbill note, artistic director Todd Haimes promises a Kiss Me, Kate that “resurrects all the magic of its 1948 premiere while rising to the responsibility of a 2019 revival.” Gone is the spanking, and changed are some of the lyrics. In the most important instance, the chastened Kate no longer laments, in verse borrowed straight from the Bard, that “women are so simple”; her reproach now applies to “people” as a whole. If only adjusting a show to fit modern sensibilities were quite so simple as that. At the center of Kiss Me, Kate is an enmeshed love-hate relationship between two headstrong actors that mirrors the plot of the version of Shrew they’re performing together. Actor-producer Fred Graham (Will Chase, in fine voice and a dashing period mustache) has pinned his tenuous financial hopes on a touring Shakespearean musical; his costar is his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Kelli O’Hara), who has a reputation for