STAGE PAGES ONLINE / SPECIAL
(c) Steven E. Thornburg, Stage Pages Online: www.SpotlightOn.org
Charity" in its Fifth Year
Article by Steven E. Thornburg
LABORS OF LOVE 2003: "IN THE GARDEN OF THE GODS" performed
two successful performances at the Lucille
Lortel Theatre on November 10, 2003 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative.
H. Shep Pamplin,
Executive Producer/Director of the event, asked for those of us in
the audience to spread the word for next year. I believe in giving
this great cause a head-start. So, listen up; and I’ll tell you
about this charity.
In a nutshell, the show is a reversal of positions. The show is put
on by a large group of talent agents, managers and casting directors
-- and assorted volunteers who share the passion of helping the
cause until "a time when these fundraisers are not needed
anymore" (because cures are found and help is aplenty).
Make no mistake. Although these people are usually the ones on the
other side of the footlights promoting the performers, many of these
participants have had Broadway/Film/TV careers themselves; and there
were many surprises and treats. A great time was had by the
attendees and, from the looks of it, the performers!
The opening was lead by Musical Supervisor Ken
Lundie; and the company was decked out in Greek God and Goddess
costumes which set just the right campy tone. Many highlights
followed. On Broadway
featured Benjamin Klein,
Michael W. Rodriguez, Scott Wojcik and Tom
Wojtunik. As choreographed by Gayle
Holsman, the performers danced and sang with conviction.
"Shep" looked stunning when he officially started the show
dressed for a Dame Edna homage. As if to out-do himself, many of the
following numbers were altered with parody lyrics by Shep: Love
Song (with deft performances by Rick
Miller and Debbi Kowell);
and Brush Up Your Shakespeare
(Shep and the charismatic Barry
Other performers displayed the gift for parody writing as well: Valerie
Adami and Ed Ferron (Paula‘s Rant);
Debbi Kowell (Crazy); and Lisa
Gold (Where the Goys Are).
The highlight of the evening was the piece by Ann Hampton Callaway, At The
Same Time. The company, conducted by Shep, displayed solid
musicality as a chorus and with all of the individual solo parts.
Impeccable, Ladies and Gentlemen! The simple staging of the number
was also especially effective.
The company cut loose and had fun with Fame
and a Stomp routine. The
choreography had many "parts" happening simultaneously and
was executed with childlike glee.
Other shining stars of the evening were Sheldon
Zimet, Carole J. Russo, Elaine George Foulides, Bob Luke, Nancy
Leirer, Linda Stopfer, Leslie Collis, Elsie
Stark, Elizabeth Gans,
Rob Reynolds, Kryste Andrews, Kerry Rivelli, and Tom
Additional segment direction and choreography was contributed by Bill
Castellino, Liz Ortiz-Mackes, Joshua Bergasse, Dennis Edenfiedl,
Galye Holsman and Amy Uhl. Producers: Charles
Rosen, Carole J. Russo and Sandy
Lighting: Karen Hagaman
and Katie Gorum. Wardrobe
Supervisors: Barbara Berman
and Cynthia Lopez. Hair/Make-up: Rich
Production Assistants: Brian
Patacca, Dustin Charles, Maria Alana Mason, Matthew S. Morris, Nick
Buonagurio and Karina
Technical and Stage Assistants: Seth
Soloway, Todd Amore, Morgan Lamar, Greg Sessenden, Suzanne Baretta,
Chris Davison, and Persis
Congratulations to the rest of the lovely company (including many
ushers and dressers) and all of their business sponsors. These
volunteers are doing wonderful labors
of love for individuals who need treatment, screenings, food,
meds, counseling, visitations and a myriad of other services. It is
the heart and spirit of the company which came shining through on
Monday. One of the lovely performers herself "came out" as
a survivor of cancer. She is a success story that I wish others to
If you want to volunteer and help the benefit next year, drop me a
line at Stage Pages; and I
will pass your name and number along to the producer.
For further information, you may log onto www.bcefa.org.
Best wishes to all.
Spotlight On Festival
STAGE PAGES ONLINE / REVIEWS
(c) S. Braun, Stage Pages
by Sherry Braun
Greetings one and all. All of you know how I praised the 1st Annual
Halloween Festival. The 2nd Annual Halloween Festival during 2003
was even better. The collective quality of the work was exceptional.
All of the participants are to be congratulated, as well as the
audiences which really seemed to dig the "scene" on 42nd
My latest thoughts regarding many of the productions follow. This
column is the first of two. Stay online in the coming weeks for the
second installment. Please remember that my goal is to be
constructive in my response to theatre-going; and yet my thoughts
are just one opinion. My criteria for "criticism" is the
overall entertainment value of a production and
"tightness." In other words, do all of the production
elements make sense in context of festival producing, as well as in
the context of the Off and Off-Off Broadway scene?
The most interesting feature of the Spotlight On experience is
seeing several productions and witnessing what the various
collaborators do to maximize available resources. For example, as a
bit of an insider, I am aware that the producers brought in some of
their own drapes, fog machines, slide projectors and lighting
instruments to augment Chashama. And the house provided a movie
projector and screen, which some of the guests used gratuitously and
Sometimes the creativity pushed the time constraints. One might
argue that some shows were overproduced; but the theatre fervor is
obvious. And fervor is a good thing. Other plays obviously placed
the focus on the text and the acting and held their own when the
simplicity took us to the sublime.
Please enjoy each of these reviews:
GOLEM STORIES (Untitled Theatre Co. #61 & FHB Theatre Co.)
By Edward Einhorn
Directed by Glory Bowen
As developed since its premiere in March, GOLEM STORIES is magical.
There are puppets and ghosts which provide many "oohs and aahs"
and surprises. Costume, set (Cemre
Durusoy), Music (William
Sullivan Niederkorn), Sound (Christopher
Brooks), Lighting (Aaron
J. Mason) and prop designs are unified and almost appear as a
storybook rendering -- a lighter choice over the first staging.
The actors are mostly recast, with the return of old pros, such as Harry
Klein (King Rudolph), Maxwell
Zener (Moshe), and Michael
Whitney (Thaddeus). As a whole, the crafting of the ensemble is
terrific -- also better than the March version. The sisters Devorah
and Rivka (Diana Cherkas
and Morgan Dover-Pearl)
contrast now, with one emotional and the other controlled. The
Maharal is deftly performed by Jerry
Mond, and the Rebbetsin is humorously portrayed by Lela
Frechette. The Golem is likeably presented as a gentle giant by Chris
Rummel. The magic of the puppetry is executed without a bump by Christopher
Betz, Talaura Harms, Molly Light, Elizabeth Ann Wood and Berit
Glory Sims Bowen
(Director) cleverly utilizes the upstage area outside of the set to
show exits and entrances in an entertaining, and sometimes telling,
This story is inspired by the ancient Jewish legend of the Rabbi and
his God-play when he makes a man out of clay. GOLEM STORIES has him
receiving the ultimatum to destroy the golem because he is a
monster. Although the
villain is the Christian Cleric who postulates a ridiculous point of
view, few of the Jewish characters come off perfect either in this
historic piece. As a matter of fact, the resonating part of the play
is the universality of Einhorn‘s writing.
Most of the characters demonstrate the human folly of
reacting out of fear -- fear of the unknown, fear of authority, fear
of the golem (representing the "other.").
The final tableau is poignant with the family mourning the loss of
the golem (each reflecting in his/her own way the cause which
brought on the effect). The moment rang true in a martyred hero
going to his death with acceptance and honor.
Now I will state the controversial opinion. Despite the sad ending,
I believe this project could be a wonderful lesson and
conversation/departure point for youngsters. As well as all of the
high production values which entertain, the play has a huge message
that young people "get" when given the opportunity.
Other contributors: Caroline
M. Costa (Assistant Dir.), Renee
Hollenback (Stage Manager), Susan
Pislak (Assistant Scenic Designer), Jennifer Spinello (ASM)
Waiting for LuGo…A One-Man Show With Other People
(The Gay and Lesbian Acting Co.)
by Hector Lugo
Directed by Allen Hidalgo
Hector Lugo is a force -- sometimes a whirlwind and sometimes a deep
and emotional exclamation mark. In the tradition of the one-man show
(Whoopi Goldberg or John Leguizamo), Lugo brings an imaginative
flair to the form: other people! These people aren’t just the
characters he portrays. He literally gives us a star turn in Nathaniel
Reimer, who portrays the Stage Manager and the husband to
Lugo’s Aunt. Reimer and Lugo present a duet with dancing ease and
Lugo also renders a moving and troubled soul -- a dead cousin who
dies in a car accident on the way to Lugo’s opening night. Another
character is the adorable little boy grappling with the concept that
beauty first and foremost comes from the inside and not in the
pretty dress that it is his predisposition to wear!
Finally, the joke is that Hector Lugo finally gets to the
performance and loses his S.M. and accompanist because they are
angry at his lateness. So, Lugo has nothing to say to the
audience, and the act ends -- the first lack of truth in the
evening. This is Hector Lugo, folks; he would always have something
The audience is fully satisfied with the tight evening -- just under
an hour. However, we certainly would welcome more of this very good
thing. If Lugo had a “voice” as authoritative as the other
people, just what would he say?
Why was he late, after all?
This talented man could very easily develop a little
"encore act" to top off his evening.
Waiting For LuGo is aptly directed and staged by Allen Hidalgo. Lighting
and Sound Technician: Sherrian Felix.
DO YOU MIND IF I JOIN YOU? … A Psycho Drama
(Cinti Laird Productions)
Written and Directed by Cinti Laird
Cinti Laird has a great deal of talent as a writer. DO YOU MIND IF I
JOIN YOU? shows her talent for sensitive and character-building
scenes with two or three actors -- such as the ones between the
roommates. Her larger ensemble scenes are also quite successful.
Note her humorous interactions in the balloon blowing section.
The play is about the effect of sexual abuse on a woman’s psyche.
It cleverly postures as a psychological drama when really it is a
drama about psychos! The surprise is that we think it’s about one
woman when really another is equally affected. Perhaps Laird could
develop this content to a degree. The women come off, ironically, in
a fairly negative light. Each is either dysfunctional or
psychologically destructive -- one toward herself and another
against a man -- any man (not even the one that abused her friend).
DO YOU MIND IF I JOIN YOU? looks like a teleplay, with its pattern
of short scenes and at least two locations cycling back and forth.
For the stage, a little dramaturgical guidance could set the form
squarely on track. If we are going to see movies onstage -- but not
adapted for the stage -- let’s at least give them the benefit of
seeing them and not the scene changes. Scene changes are wasted on
the audience unless they are information-giving, visually
stimulating or entertaining. Concentration automatically is lost,
and the audience is tempted to stop "story-gathering" and
The logical quick fix is to divide the stage into two playing areas:
one for the living room and one for the restaurant. Transition from
one to the other with ease and maintain continuity of story-telling.
(Do not move couch, table, chairs, coffee table, and props after
Laird succeeds with two casts. In both groups, acting was sincere
and fascinating to watch. The actors are allowed freedom to
experiment and explore that which is not necessarily in the script
(e.g., paper sculpture and meditation on crystals?). Anita
Bernice Durst (Evelyn) delivered an original character -- quirky
and light at first. Gloria
Rosen (Evelyn) gave the more expected performance -- very
straight and honest. Both successful. Amy
Groschel (Millie Booker),
Danny O’Brien (Philip Wendel),
Christine Utterberg (Restaurant Owner),
Tana Sarntinoranont (Roger Richard), Al
DiGuilio (Jeff Daniels) and Yvonne
Lin (Sonja Rivera) also caught my attention.
Also featured: Tom Whitacre
(Bill Christian); Monica
Bailey (Sonja Rivera); Josh
Garner (Roger); Gideon
Alexandre (Jeff Daniels); Gary
D. Morgan (Stan Yokum); Adrian
Enriquez (Jeff Daniels - Swing); and Stephen
Powell (Announcer - Voice Over).
Costumes by the cast were attractive. Rosen wisely kept it simple
and adorned her various scenes with the addition, or subtraction, of
an accessory -- such as a scarf. Durst was more elaborate, taking
advantage of the long scene changes.
Lighting & Sound Designer: Jim
Vignato. Tech. Assistant: Salvatore
Marascia. S.M.: Christine
Utterberg. A.S.M.: Missy Goodwin.
CHALK IT UP (Loop Ltd. Productions)
By Daniel Haben Clark
Directed by Diedre Kilgore and Roger
The evening is comprised of two one-acts about the corruption of
innocence. The direction is excellent; and the casts are sexy and
at-ease with their character development.
"An Acting Lesson" (Directed by Diedre
Kilgore) features Samantha
Downs (Rosa) with just the right quality as the starlet
archetype of yesteryear. Brendan
Burke (Terence) hits the right young male, romantic, sincerity. Tom
Bass (Rex) brings dimension to the director. Diedre Kilgore
(Mara) is believably the female romantic -- an especially strong and
effective performance in contrast to her bitter and experienced Mara
in the next act.
"The Singing Lesson" (Directed by Roger Ansanelli) highlights the talent of the singer, Harry, made
human and well-rounded by Roger Ansanelli. Bruce, the assistant and
side-kick, is subtly played by David
Cochrane as loyal and unrequited.
The costumes, props and set dressings augment a fine production.
Clark’s writing delivers sensitive, close studies. I felt like a
witness to a true microcosm of six lives. The two acts stand alone
as a statement. However, there is a third act, "An
Interview," which rounds out a trilogy. I look forward to its
staging at another time.
Stage Manager: Lee Marlowe.
Lighting and Sound Design: Robert
Torres. Piano version of ‘At Last’: David
Musial. Intermission Piano: Joe
MONSTER IN THE CLOSET (En Avant Playwrights)
3 short plays written by Edward Valentine
Directed by Peter Bloch
Valentine is a funny playwright -- a comic writer for the large
audience. Judging by "Couch Play," "Mrs. B," and
"Snipe Hunt," I think he can be appreciated commercially.
The strong evening was directed (by Peter
Bloch) specifically as broad comedy.
"Couch Play" is a "biting" satire in which East
Village Slackers meet their doom. "Mrs. B" is a scorned
housewife who fancies herself Bluebeard’s final bride. This one
really goes somewhere because of the talent of Susan
Barnes Walker (Mrs. B) and the brilliant staging by Bloch. And
Cub Scouts are menaced by a winged nightmare in "Snipe
Hunt" -- more satire which proves that we can laugh at men who
will be boys. All are wacky.
The acting is very strong. In fact, there isn’t a single mediocre
comedian in the troupe. Congrats must go to Tracy
Baker, Campbell Bridges, Peter Downey, Jesse May, Michael Todd, Luis
Villabon, Susan Barnes Walker, and my two favorites, Tim Burke and Hunter Gilmore.
Production Stage Manager: Katherine
I love the message. In fact, to sum up the theme of the whole night,
one might argue that, "Nobody can live except the
monsters." Monsters will destroy everybody. MONSTER IN THE
CLOSET is the classic nightmare from childhood. The Boogie Man will,
indeed, get us -- every single one of us. Now, that’s just the
right confirmation we need at Halloween.
CRASHING (Hey Ladies! Theatre Co.)
By Simona Berman with contributions from Kate Searcy
Directed by Vin Berardi
CRASHING is a surprising production with a strong female vibe. I say
"surprising" because there is a structure, and yet Berman
seems to be successfully inventing her own form -- not a traditional
musical and not a traditional play. Art forms are poetically
blended: mime, dancer and singer come and go like aspects of the
women themselves (as subconscious or alter-ego).
The story is about three women (Kate Searcy, Verena Podack and Simona Berman), their lives, friends, dating, and
roommates. All three leads are solidly different characterizations
-- and immensely likeable. The beautiful singer is
Sujana Chand; and the gorgeous dancer is Julia Reid.
All of the players are delightful colors on the Berman/Searcy
canvas. But Berman herself is in the foreground. She actually breaks
into song and sexy movement at a split-second’s timing, taking the
others with her. They never question it.
The direction is quick and agile; and so is the technical crew.
Sound and Lights are professional. Costumes are attractive; and the
one-unit set is a perfect indication of a living room and
AVENGE! (Genesis Repertory)
A New Adaptation of Thomas Kyd’s THE SPANISH TRAGEDY
Directed by Jay Michaels
This is Thomas Kyd‘s nightmarish renaissance play, adapted freely
and theatrically. It’s a creative venture about a big issue: death
and destruction. For $15 we get more than a revenge story about a
man losing his son; and we get more than a general look at the 19th
century period. We get ghosts, demons, blood, sex, incest, gore, and
This group wants to be on the Metropolitan Opera stage and likes
things big. Large flames on the screen burn and symbolize the
violence and hell of many periods. As directed by Jay
Michaels, there is a winking aspect to the Grand Guignol
proceedings. Note the woman’s head falling from the guillotine!
Some of the projected images (Cornelius
Matteo) are clever visuals for a set "on the cheap." Michael
Fortunato and Mary
Elizabeth MiCari are production designer and Hair/Make-up
Dozens of costumes (Matthew
Simonelli) are cleverly indicative of THE SPANISH TRAGEDY:
colorful and atmospheric, if not finished. (I would much rather see
daring productions like this which allow me to use my imagination
instead of not seeing them because period productions with a cast of
thirty are prohibitive.)
Steve Abbruscato (Hieronimo)
and Robert F. Saunders
(Don Andrea) lead the "style" language with quick and easy
precision. Likewise, their style movement is true to form. Not
everybody is as successful with the soldier and class archetypes.
The slow-motion fight sequences are effective for everybody. But,
when more realistic scenes begin, some actors lose the strong class
grounding. For example, Joel
Malazita (Horatio) sets himself up as a strong fighter and yet
in scene work leads from the waist -- cute and sexy to be sure, but
I would argue the wrong choice. This kind of quibble is minor,
however, considering his abundant talent. Several of my critic’s
picks are Kevin Myers, Kate
Syzperski, Cynthia Granville, Michael Schwendemann, Cameron McElyea,
Rodney Hakim, Amy K. Browne and Ron Dizon.
Other stand-out performers are Rhianna
Basore, Tammy Tunyavongs,
Phil Vos, David Fischer, M.
Alan Haley, Jennifer Brian, Megan Crawford, Meredith Murphy, Daniel
Ishofsky, Kelly Markus, Eric K. Johnston, Racheline Maltese, and
When I see a classic, with a "30 member plus" company, I
am keenly aware that there must be a mentor-teacher behind the
project. I commend Jay Michaels (Director) for making this his
forte’ and giving countless New Yorkers the chance to hone the
craft which they studied in school.
Avi Soroka (Stage
Manager), Betsy Karic (A.D/Sound
Design), Aliza Shane
(A.D.), The Wright Group (Publicity).
Thor's Day (The Glines Presents a Spotlight On Production)
By Edward Crosby Wells
Directed by Steven Thornburg
THOR'S DAY is a brilliant creation, from the writing to the current
production's performance and direction. Set on a stormy day in
October, Philip (John
Rengstorff) takes home a younger man, Buck (Adam
Mervis). Repressed and bi-sexual Philip meets rough trade and is
about to get a quickie roll in the hay. Of course, fine drama such
as this has much more at stake. The audience, as well as Phil, is
taken on an hour and twenty minute journey into the darkest and
saddest places -- encountering possibly supernatural forces and
certainly an agenda which is set by Buck. The genre is original and
universal as far as I can tell, combining psychological realism,
suspense drama, erotic thriller and a new twist on the positive gay
role modeling for which John Glines is famous. (At first glance, we
are not sure that both of these heroes are honorable ones.) But what
ensues is a completely well-rounded study of two humans -- a
universal tragedy. And yet, these heroes may have succeeded in
getting what they want -- or need.
Rengstorff and Mervis are epiphanies and in perfect chemistry with
each other. Moment to moment acting is believable, without a single
compromise to the pacing. Both players are hugely likeable, with
humor and poignancy. The nudity and simulated sex are indeed brave
and flow inevitably toward climax. Greater revelations (than the
fleshy kind) surface when salvation arrives.
Steven Thornburg directs
the exciting staging in a way that opens up this black box with
variation in playing areas and nuance in the drama. Fight
choreography (uncredited) is scary and sometimes shocking. People
around me cringed.
Music and sound design by Thomas
Hasselwander is evocative and climactic -- pun intended -- and
includes a tornado and haunting tango. Lighting designs on past
Chashama productions have died (with eight or ten rudimentary
instruments). But Jim Stewart's balanced lighting shows just what one can do on a
shoestring. His lightning effects are augmented partly by lights
hidden inside furniture. Anthony
Fusco's costumes are appropriate, a handsome suit on the
insurance salesman and the midnight cowboy look with edgy tattoos on
Buck. The Tommy Barz set
implies a middle income living room with telling choices in set
dressings (note the figurine of Jesus crucified).
THOR'S DAY is highly philosophical and sneaks in many issues,
ranging from vegetarianism, the gay man's sometimes preoccupation
with "chicken," justification for murder, God, and -- most
importantly -- the capacity for man to heal another man. In fact,
the large theme is that of salvation and the ability which one of
God's lowliest has to give life to another. Philip represents Man's
guilt, conscience and potential; and Buck represents the elemental
force of destruction in a metaphysical way. However, it is
destruction that often leads the way to liberation and re-birth.
THOR'S DAY will be seen next at Wings
Theater Company in June of 2004.