Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Theater Weekend

So Catherine and I got back from visiting family in Texas on Wednesday night (almost 4 hours later than we were supposed to, thanks to rain storms in Houston... it's not fair, I know, but I blame it on Houston anyway). We saw a play last night, she's seeing one this afternoon, I'm seeing a different one tonight, we're seeing two tomorrow and another on Sunday. A life in the theater...

The play we saw Thursday was really very good: Alphabet City V at the Metropolitan Playhouse. Director Derek Jamison, who was one of the actors in PWP's West Village Fragments performing on a bed as it rolled up Seventh Avenue, did an excellent job staging the three short monologues that make up this evening (there are actually nine monologues in all, but they're divided up and perform on alternate evenings). Each of the performers in the piece have interviewed someone who lives or works in the East Village—last night, the subjects were one of the founders of the community garden, Le Petit Versailles; the manager of one of the many Indian restaurants near 6th Street; and a man who runs a museum and store dedicated to his own artwork. The actors and Derek then used the text from the interview to create a 20-minute solo performance.

All three of the actors—Tim Cusack, Katherine Cortez and Lisa Barnes—were very strong and I was most impressed with the quality of their interviews and the quality of their scripts: their subjects' voices, cadences and speech patterns seemed incredibly natural. One of the pieces, Cortez's De La Vega, kept the basic interview style in her performance (the character occasionally repeated the interviewer's questions for us, for clarity's sake) while the other two were able to create pieces that felt remarkably like unprompted monologues to the audience. I really liked that only Cusack's Peter Cramer was cast traditionally: Cortez performed male drag (at one point in the piece, De La Vega asks the interviewer if she's going to cut off her long hair to play him—she didn't but wears a hat, instead); the very Caucasian and female Barnes used only her costume and accent to indicate the very Bangladeshi and male Jubayer (which caused an ever so slight confusion for me until the character mentioned a wife and child... then I figured it out).

The Alphabet City series (needless to say, this is the fifth version of the piece) is a fantastic idea and an artfully executed evening. It's a celebration of individuality, community, and place that any artist could create anywhere in the world. I hope the creators will forgive me when I say to the rest of the world, "Steal this show!"

Well, okay... create your own show, but steal this idea: it's a great one.

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