Archives 'Review'

24 November
ibrews

You might even call it a Post-Mortimer report. Ha ha ha, I am so darn clever!

 

Whew. The show is over. We made it. Though I’m keeping this website completely image/video free, here’s a few goodie links:

 

1) The final script!
2) The show program!
3) YouTube Video of the performances with captions!
4) The awesome flash file Dan made and operated during the show! (press ‘/’ to fade in or out, and press all sorts of other keys to make other things happen)
5) Oh, and also this ridiculous video I made when on a whim I asked TJ and Mike to perform the whole play in Simlish (but check out the English captions!) Not bad for being put on the spot…

 

It has truly been an exhilarating couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because it’s my first time doing this in a professional setting, but I’m sorry, two weeks seems like a super quick turn-around time to cast, rehearse, and tech any play– even a 10-minute one. Here’s a bullet-breakdown of how it all went down:

  • First, as you may have seen in my previous report, my very-recently-written play was selected for this festival even though it was submitted late. Minor detail I overlooked: it needed to be produced completely independently of the hosting theater–The Brick. Oh.
  • Welp, guess I’m directing now! I was lucky that right off the bat, TJ Clark signed on to play Mortimer Goth. TJ and I had a playwriting class together at Syracuse University, then started hanging out more in the city when he started taking Liz and I to Trivia Trsyt nights at The Rock Shop in Park Slope. I asked TJ if he knew any actors who would be good for a Sims-Style performance, but TJ wasn’t familiar with The Sims. Shooting in the dark, I linked TJ to a few pictures of Bob Newbie and asked him if he knew any actors who at least vaguely looked like the digital icon. “How about Mike Finn?” he queried, and gave me his contact info. Mike signed on too. Huge relief.
  • Then came rehearsing. We did it all at my place since Mike lives in Astoria and TJ lives in Park Slope, making Bed-Stuy a happy middle. As someone used to working with actors who are doing it ‘extracurricularly’ in their ‘free time’, I was blown away by the professionalism of these two. They insisted on rehearsing every other day, they always made it to rehearsal early, and they had their lines completely memorized in under a week. And Mike shaved his head for me– wowee wow wow!
  • I love rehearsal because I love workshopping my writing. I think of my scripts not as untouchable pieces of art, but loose blueprints to be brought to life by actors. The coolest thing that came out of rehearsal that wasn’t in the original script was the notion that the whole play could be taking place in Bob’s house. Originally, it was just about two different approaches to playing The Sims, but then it took on these lovely dark undertones by visually implying that Mortimer would become Bob’s twenty-fifth victim. Then we even got to have this lovely little twist at the end where the ‘player’ decides to lock Bob in this time, and now he’s destined to die as well. Hooray!
  • Meanwhile, I’m working with Liz and Dan on costumes, props, and real-time on-demand flash animation, all the while putting together the dozen or so sound cues I want and e-mailing Ian Hill at The Brick to try to figure out what exactly is possible in the space (please oh please let projecting from behind work!). I’m also in touch with Danton, Morgan, and Ian about any last minute thoughts on the script, and how to create a pleasing show program that properly addresses our first professional performance as WhAT (Warehouse Architecture Theatre).
  • Two days before the show we had a tech rehearsal at The Brick. Projecting from behind works-YAY! It went super smoothly except for one small thing– no sound cues. Here’s what happened: I bring in my CD. They tell me its blank. I tell them there’s no way its blank. After all, the night before, I burned it and played it on my computer using three different kinds of software. They insist I am mistaken. Alas, we do the tech rehearsal without my sound cues. I go home, put the CD back in my computer. It plays!! What the heck right? But then my computer starts making a noise like an exorcism. I open the CD tray. There are two CDs in there. The one on top is blank. The one under it is the one that burned, and has been sitting there ever since it was burned. Oh dummy am I!
  • The next night we do a dress rehearsal at my place, and we try to time everything with my sound cues from a small, spazzy laptop. At this point I’ll be up in the booth during the show making all that happen. Things look good though.
  • Night one goes great! Only real hiccups are TJ’s mustache constantly almost falling off (yeah… eyelash glue wasn’t working so we duct-taped it) and that the placement of Dan backstage forced him to have to leap through the projector, creating a shadow and turning it off briefly. Really though, it was wonderful. From the moment people started laughing when music from The Sims played, I was overjoyed…
  • Night two goes EVEN BETTER!! The lines are delivered with the strongest punch I’ve heard yet. We paint TJ’s mustache on this time, which makes more sense anyway since in The Sims, facial hair is a painted texture and not any kind of polygonal geometry. Dan sits on the side that doesn’t force him to stumble awkwardly into audience view. Only downside– like an idiot, I didn’t empty the Bloggie I had Liz filming the show on, so we didn’t get to record the last few minutes of the show, which was done to absolute perfection. Oh well. Theatre is always meant to be a live medium anyway, and its my hope the experience was extremely pleasurable for all involved, and at least a little pleasurable for all reading/watching this stuff after the fact.

And there you have it folks: my off-off Broadway playwriting/directing debut. I’m extremely grateful for everyone who made it such a lovely, welcoming experience. Now on to more!


28 October
ibrews

A-

Hoo-rah!

  • Incredible technical achievement. They made a film in real time, with all of the elements from acting to voice-over to sound to cameras visible to us in all of their beautiful artifice. The music wasn’t played live, but it still had to be synced in real time- still quite an achievement.
  • Perfect space for the performance. Open, cold, workshoppy, raw. I loved the way that the narration had an extra layer of real-time, natural echo, which was further enhanced in moments when two actors were reading the same words.
  • Also thanks to the large space, there was a wonderful ‘prologue’ section before the show where all of the actors recounted their own ‘personal’ memory of the story of Orpheus and Euripides.
  • So much fun to see hands, feet, face, chest, etc. all played by different actors, but cut together to look like the same person. This disorienting quality was one of the many ways the show explored the fickle nature of memory.
  • The ‘face’ of Orpheus and the ‘face’ of Euripides were both fantastic silent film actors– they conveyed so much through so little expression. I’ve seen a lot of film actors do terrible on stage, and a lot of stage actors do terrible on film. Big props to these two for pulling both off at the same time.
  • Loved the cinematography choices, and impressed that they never actually storyboarded anything. A lot of the shots, particularly the shots from below for the box and the water in the sink, felt very Breaking Bad.

Blech…

  • Because of coloring/lighting inconsistencies and the overall art-house film style, they should have followed suit with ‘…some trace of her’ and had the live film in black and white.
  • It was distracting to see people walk in front of the screen… it felt right to keep the ‘technical work’ and the ‘finished work’ separate. Or, rather than have this be a ‘necessary evil’, I wish they had found a way to have it mean something… maybe have people walk in front of the screen at moments when we’re supposed to be particularly aware of the artifice of the narrative medium… or something.
  • the final moments of the story, while beautiful, didn’t feel like it should have been the ending. Maybe it’s because the show as a whole was short, but there was a lot of time spent ruminating on moments (this is about memory after all!) and while I understand the end is the last time he sees her (therefore, the last ‘memory’), on a purely emotional level, it didn’t feel right to end there.
  • I wish Katie Mitchell and ‘…some trace of her’ was acknowledged as an influence.

26 October
ibrews

A-*

Hoo-rah!

  • The most skilled, talented acrobatic wunderkinds you’ve ever seen performing impossible feats, supported by a meh story.
  • Music was suitably epic, catchy, and moving. Listen to it all, but here’s one of my favorite songs: Pageant.
  • The moment you walk into the theatre, you are in a different world. Words like ‘iron’, ‘turrets’, ‘primitive’, ‘engrossing’, and ‘steampunk’ come to mind.
  • Love how much happened in the audience during the show, from charging armies to crazy swinging to drums to shooting arrows.
  • The space of the stage changed so many times and in so many different ways. It was an ocean, a jungle, a beach, a cliff-face, a boat, underwater, a factory. What I found most impressive about these transformations wasn’t the multitude of beautifully-designed giant set pieces, but rather how the big rectangular slab was used in so many different ways, based on how it rotated and what was projected onto it. Most impressive was the near-vertical cliff face being shot full of arrows that the performers swung from, and the final battle that gave us a plan view of the conflict through some incredible wire-work.
  • Speaking of wire-work, there was surprisingly little for such dangerous feats. The most stomach-twisty moment was when two guy alternate flipping and jump roping a top a massive spinning set of two wheels, performing their most dangerous stunts in moments of free fall. I was well aware that if something went wrong, they were likely to break their neck down on the edge of the big rectangular slab below.
  • Rescuing the drowning mother underwater was both heartbreaking and beautiful. Loved the technical achievement of creating bubbles and simulating swimming, especially contrasted with the real swimming of Le Reve (which made me realize how weird it was that we never saw anything under water in that show)
  • I was deeply invested and enthralled by the first twenty minutes of story and where I thought it was headed… but more on that in the Blech… section.

Blech…

  • Okay. Let me be clear. This grand spectacle, taken on its own complete terms, had almost nothing wrong with it. There was never a dull moment– every second was enamoring, from cute shadow puppets to epic battles. But the story. Oh the story. It wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t make me believe right from the moment the show started that there was something epic to be told here. But you did.
  • Here’s the story as it was told, along with what I was thinking during it: open on a happy brother and sister doing crazy kendo battle at an insane speed. Over that, we hear a deep narrator give the only words of the entire show; something like: ‘this is the story of the two imperial twins and how their conflict moves an entire nation into the chaos of war.’
    Holy crap I’m so freakin’ excited. This is going to be like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ meets ‘Blood Brothers.’Sure enough, it’s not long before the twins are separated in a struggle (you could say one was abandoned) and they’re being raised in separate tribes.
    Oh my God– they’re going to grow up and do battle on opposite sides of the same war!
    They both fall in love with tribe members. For one of the twins, there’s also a case of unrequited love.Oh Jesus, when they do battle, the lover of twin A is going to kill the lover of the twin B, and that will cause twin B to kill the lover of twin A, then twin A will kill twin B, then when twin A is the only important character left living, weeping in despair, the jealous unrequited lover of twin B kills twin A in vengeance! This is going to be glorious!!

    But… no. They each have their own adventures, then finally find each other, and rather than resentment or anger or a battle, we get a ditzy hug between them. And they team up and have one last battle with nameless villains.

    Wait, it’s over? Uh… cool? But… wait! What? Oh, blueballs.

  • Basically, I love shows that end with everyone dead, and also, after seeing several Matthew Bourne dance productions that told nuanced, emotional, evocative wordless stories, I thought I was about to witness something with a similar depth, but on a grander scale. I was simply mistaken.

 

*Because I had such incredibly high hopes for this show based on where I thought the story was taking me, my immediate reaction coming out of the theatre was C+. That aggression has passed and I’m now able to appreciate the show on its own terms. After all, apparently Cirque shows never have anything close to a semblance of a story, so I appreciate what I can get.


25 October
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • A series of beautiful, intense, death-defying tableaux that encompass every incredible feat you could possibly imagine involving water in a one-million-gallon capacity theatre.
  • While there was always a ‘main event’ to focus on in the center, the performance is wonderfully designed for a theatre-in-the-round by making the entire ensemble perform symmetrical actions pinwheeling out. Thus, you get to see the stunning ‘secondary’ performances from nearly every angle, perfectly synced.
  • This is technically an absolutely genius show. One moment, there’s a 30-foot tree rising out of the water. The next, someone is flipping through the air from 80-feet up, landing in the water right where that tree just was. There was also a myriad of awe-inspiring choreography below the surface that either involved people breathing through oxygen masks, sticking their head in some kind of air-filled room, or breathing underwater (I have no idea…)
  • The lighting (done by my company’s namesake, Jules Fisher) was magnificent. I particularly appreciated the manner in which it plays off the audience and makes everyone look like part of the performance.
  • The lead dancer/actress had boobs! Real boobs. This may seem like a strange thing to call out, but this was a big deal to me for a couple of reasons. First, she was gorgeous and incredibly skilled. Second, there is a very narrow range of body-types you find in professional dancing, and curves (or any percentage of body fat for that matter) tend not to make the cut; typically you see flat, hard-as-a-board, super-skinny, super muscular women. I have no problem with that inherently, but the change was refreshing. It also made her super easy to pick out in a sea of 50 muscle-madness women.
  • When getting seated, I noticed the VIP seats have screens that show you backstage. I wonder if it keeps showing you that during the show? I would love that– like watching the ‘making-of’ disc of a movie while the movie is playing.

Blech…

  • The story was laughably cheesy and simple-minded. I think it’s really only stomach-able if you’re here on a date night and can project your own romantic, more nuanced narrative onto it. The story in a nutshell (spoilers!!!): girl loves a guy, he proposes, she isn’t sure, falls asleep on a park bench, has a wet dream, wakes up, marries him. Yeah…
  • A calloused man might say the show is ‘just a lot of splashing.’ I don’t disagree, but it was truly epic splashing.
  • The show was essentially over after only an hour, and the ‘wedding cake encore’ performance was clearly an addendum.

15 October
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • Loved the format and style of the whole production– particularly the newspaper headlines and the Blood Brothers as MCs with cryptic little introductions to each play. And I appreciated that they acknowledged their debt to the Crypt Keeper.
  • Watching an episode of Community today, Abed says something like ‘we only respect horror films where the characters make choices we would make.’ While I really don’t like any horror films save maybe Cabin in the Woods, I enjoyed these shows because the characters were well-written and made genuine choices. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that these are all based on true stories, but I still applaud the writers for their interpretations.
  • Nice variety of themes is the plays– yes, there’s a crazy killer in each one, but I appreciated the unique nature of each and the forces guiding their stories.
  • The one I enjoyed the most: dating show with serial killer. Loved the way his insane answers and fantasies were reacted to as though they were the typical cutesy adorkable answers typically given on those kinds of things.
  • The one I respect the most: gay porn star serial killer wants to be famous, so films his exploits, obsesses over his Google Alert. Oh, and in a surreal part 2, is tortured by spiky dildos by anthropomorphized  versions of the cute fluffy animals he killed.
  • The one the disturbed me the most (in the most dramatic manner): Bible-obsessed kids show host drugs children, eats them, and uses them as puppets. This is the play that took the most liberties from reality but… Jesus.

Blech…

  • I found a few of the plays shocking, but without much drama. Guy with mental disorder mutilates himself. No thanks.
  • While I liked the idea of the wordless play with only a song guiding it, the story was very unclear.
  • Knowing all of these are true stories, sometimes the Blood Brothers commentaries on the events came off as unsavory and in bad taste.