Thursday, March 09, 2006

[title of post] 

Sherpa Dan took us to a double last weekend. Only this time it was theatre and not film. We did Judy Gold’s 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother at Ars Nova and then [title of show] at the Vineyard.

I’m a big fan of Ars Nova and the shows they do there. It’s a hep little joint that’s practically brand spankin’ new in NYC theatre years located over by The Daily Show on West 55th. I’ve seen lots of nifty and edgy performances and shows like the wacky variety show Automatic Vaudeville (which featured god’s gift to pop performance art, The Petersons! If you’re not cool enough to have seen them yet, to listen to Ethan Hawke is Gayright now! NOW!); a couple of great shows by Julia Sweeney; and Seth Rudetsky’s indescribably educational and funny performances of Deconstructing…, where alternately savages and praises singers famous and unknown.

25 Questions, while quite watchable, was not my favorite Ars Nova happening. It really needs some editing and a bit stronger direction. That said, the audience totally ate it up so who am I to say?

Our second theatrical event was also a bit raw, but I loved it. [title of show] is both easy and hard to describe because it’s a meta-musical. It’s a show created by two guys (Jeff and Hunter) for a New York City musical theatre festival seeking original submissions. So these two smartypants decided to write a show about writing a show for a musical theatre festival seeking original submissions. Following me?

The storyline follows the twists and turns of Jeff and Hunter trying to write their show. And it also details how they are aided, abetted and occasionally in conflict with their friends Heidi and Susan who are both their personal friends and their fellow performers.

The net result of this moebius strip of a show is a comedic treatise on the nature of individual creativity, creative collaboration, friendship and the struggle of trying to be successful in the arts. As a failed actor myself, my heart went out to these young artists because their travails, while partially presented in Kaufman-influenced (Charlie, not George) farce, ring all too true.

In particular, I found Susan Blackwell’s sharply felt performance to be deeply affecting. It’s not her expert deadpan delivery that gets to me, such as when she describes her day job as starring “in a little play called Corporate Whore where I play the role of the office manager”. It’s the heartfelt tears welling up in her eyes as she sings so transparently about being what it feels like to be crushed by the ordinary demons of everyday life.

While it’s not without flaws, the authors have clearly given it their all. The line "I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing/Than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing" sums up well their commitment and I was impressed. So you’ve got thirty more days to get yourself down to the Vineyard Theatre to figure out whether you’re one of the nine or the hundred. In either case, I think you’ll safely be able to say someday, “I saw their first show and I knew there would be more to come.”
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