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New York City - Theatre




Stacy Layne Matthews's
The Homo’Nique Show
July 29 -31, 2011 @ 7:30 PM
The Laurie Beechman Theatre | The West Bank Cafe


Reviewed by Kelsey Ehlert

Stacy Layne Matthews of RuPaul’s Drag Race gave a fantastic performance in a drag version of Oscar winner Mo’Nique’s BET talk show, The Mo’Nique Show. Matthews hosted the live talk show parody in New York for only three nights the weekend of July 29 and audiences packed in like sardines. Friday’s performance sold out with a guest lineup which included Carmen Carrera and Amanda Lepore.

The Laurie Beechman Theater offers cozy dinner seating; guests arrived early and immediately began drinking as Adele’s latest album played in the background. The anticipation was palpable as Matthews dramatically entered through the back and walked through the crowd, bowing and kissing cheeks along the way. Many gay murmurs could be heard, including, “Damn Stacy, you look good, girl!”

Matthew’s delivered a few well rehearsed jokes all prefaced with “Bitch,” before giving the audience an opportunity to ask questions. A saucy older gentlemen inquired, “Mo’Nique, what’s it like having drag performers recreate your look?”

Her response was met with a fierce round of applause, “Bitch, you haven’t arrived until someone’s done a fierce tuck of you!”

While Matthews as Mo’Nique was great, Rick Syke as Liza Minnelli was superb. It’s fair to say you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a drag Liza shake her ass to a cabaret version of Beyonce’s "Single Ladies." She stole both the show and Beyonce’s dance moves. Tommy Fernia as Judy Garland was also remarkable. As a duet, the two were show-stopping.

The first of Mo’Nique’s official guests was Carmen Carrera, made famous by Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag University. She glided through the crowd and left a thick perfume trail in her wake. She was beautiful in person, but surprisingly shy and inarticulate on stage.

Other performers included transgender icon, Amanda Lepore, and Randy Jones (the original cowboy from The Village People). Jones was hilarious and also intoxicated—he walked on stage with a glass of Kettle One on ice and offered it to Mo’Nique, who graciously took a sip before changing the subject.

All in all, Homo’Nique was entertaining and the venue appropriate. The West Bank Café offered delectable eats like Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese and a Butterscotch Toffee Parfait. Stacy Layne Matthews was a great host—sharp, beautiful, and funny—Bitch, we think you’re going places!

The Laurie Beechman Theatre | The West Bank Cafe | 407 West 42nd Street
At 9th Avenue




Hollis Witherspoon as Maya Swan, Rosie Sowa as Calista Grey
& Gavin Starr Kendall as James in
Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia

Claire Kiechel's
Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia
Sunday August 14th @ 2:15PM
Thursday August 18th @ 2PM
Monday August 22nd. @ 6PM
Wednesday August 24th @ 7PM
Saturday August 27th @ 9:30PM
The New York International Fringe Festival – FringeNYC
The First Floor Theatre @ LA MAMA


Reviewed by Arlene McKanic

Maya Swan’s father is dead. He’s not only dead, but his death was absurd; he died trying to swim with a killer whale in its tank. Or was he offering himself to the killer whale as a sacrifice? So begins Claire Kiechel’s play Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia.

James Swan’s death has unhinged his daughter, a New York city preschool teacher who’s decided to hole up in her apartment and push away all that represents life and a hopeful future. This includes her patient boyfriend Mark, and her practical sister Sarah, who’s taken upon herself the task of sorting out their father’s stuff without her help. Maya actually hires a drummer from Craigslist to bang the drums in her apartment, the better to drown out the rest of the world. But Maya is sinking into unreality; now and again she’s tormented by the songs of whales, who she’s come to equate with death. Lo and behold, a real humpback whale has taken a wrong turn and found itself up the Hudson River. Maya, in her mad, grief-stricken state, half-believes that she’s summoned it.

Keichel’s play couldn’t be anything but a comedy, and in spots it’s screamingly funny and full of lovely New York twists — a line about people who smoke clove cigarettes on the High Line got one of the biggest laughs of the evening. Keichel hilariously intersperses Maya’s scenes with bits of a newswoman interviewing various people about the whale, including a save-the-whales type, a psychic, a bureaucrat from the Bloomberg administration, and ordinary folk who’ve come to whale watch. Yet, the playwright’s skill is such that the humor always contains an undertow of sadness, and even tremors of metaphysical terror. Maya’s father’s death reminds her that he will be dead forever, and one day, she too will die, as will her eager and fresh faced little students, and their parents, and the whale that’s found its way into the river. Indeed, the whale, sickening in the river’s fresh water and pollution, is probably going to die before any of them.

Brad Raimondo directs with the deft, steady hand that’s necessary for a play that hops in and out of reality. Christopher Heilman also does a good job with his lighting design, precisely illuminating this character or this part of the stage for the best emotional wallop. His scenic design is also clever. The play begins with a forest of boxes behind Maya’s sofa, which also serves as a screen for the projections of sea life she shows to her students. At play’s end, the boxes are gone, like Maya’s delusions. A nod should also go to costume designer Sarah Reever, especially for the shawl Maya wraps herself in like a cocoon, as well as Sam Kusnetz for his impressionistic sound design, including the spooky whale sounds.

Hollis Witherspoon is funny, poignant and a little exasperating as Maya. Witherspoon makes the audience feel the disorienting depth of her loss, but why must she push everyone away? And what is up with her hiring this drummer? The drummer, by the way, is played with a loopy bravado by Jordan Douglas Smith. Siri Hellerman is great as Maya’s levelheaded sister, and Ryan Feyk makes the audience identify with his put upon, strangely innocent Mark,who wants to be there for Maya as much as she’s determined to reject him. Gavin Starr Kendall, clumping around in red shorts, is also good as James and other roles. Rosie Sowa is funny as a ridiculous, but recognizable, reporter who’s determined to make everyone believe that a lost humpback whale is the greatest story ever told.
An meditation on mortality and whales, Whale Song is part of the 15th Annual International Fringe Festival. It will be at LaMama, 74 East 4th Street, till August 28.

Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia was produced by the Dreamscape Theatre and directed by Brad Raimondo.

fringenyc.org

LaMama | 74 East 4th Street



Silence! The Musical
Currently Running
Closes September 24, 2011
Theatre 80 St. Marks


Music and Lyrics by Jon and Al Kaplan
Book adapted by Hunter Bell
From an original screenplay by Jon and Al Kaplan

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Back in August of 2005 I called the Fringe presentation of Silence! The Musical “hands down the best musical this year so far.” It took way too long for this irreverent, rude and madly entertaining show to finally hit the NY stage, but the results were worth the wait. Had it not been for Book of Mormon—another scathingly satiric yet spectacular show, the quote above could easily apply to 2011!

Silence! is a smart, side-splittingly funny parody of the 1991 film Silence of the Lambs which starred Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins--both won Academy Awards for their astonishing performances as did the film, it’s director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally (based on the novel by Thomas Harris). This “unauthorized parody” follows the film’s plot rather faithfully -- and skewers it rather mercilessly.

To fully appreciate the extraordinary job the creative craftsmen have accomplished audience members should see the film at least once. There were a few youngins the night I saw it that seemed a bit lost while the majority of patrons were hysterical with laughter at the ghastly joys and delicious delights being offered up onstage.

The musical opens with a chorus of human lambs singing the haunting title tune, which feels like a blend of the original Howard Shore movie score with some ‘Ballad of Sweeney Todd’ tossed in.

As Clarice, Jenn Harris enters jogging intently. When she speaks, in her exaggerated Jodie Foster lisp, she sets the satiric bar pretty high. That bar is blown into the stratosphere with the appearance of Hannibal Lector (the amazing Brent Barrett) and his first power ballad, ‘If I Could Smell Her Cu--.’ This is the show’s signature song and is sung with just the right amount of seriousness and camp while a rather off-color ballet featuring dream sequence versions of the two characters is simultaneously staged. Those offended by the song have missed the point entirely and may as well leave since more nasty and base moments and numbers are waiting in the lunatic wings.

The best parodies require a hyper-heightened infusion of the most memorable moments from the original. This is accomplished to near-perfection here. There are very few clunker moments, although some of the kitchen-sinked comedic gags do fall a bit flat but most of them soar.

The score (by Jon and Al Kaplan) is exciting and affecting with the Act One finale “Quid Pro Quo,” a rousing standout number where Lector and Starling tango it out.

Buffalo Bill’s songs are appropriately inappropriate and wicked and Stephen Bienskie delivers them with evil glee.

Christopher Gattelli’s direction is inspired. The man does so much with the lowest of budgets. Most of the Fringe cast is back and even more pitch perfect—the best among the best being the shameless Jeff Hiller and Deidre Goodwin, who has the best line in the show.

Jenn Harris, who has stamina and speech slurs to spare, pays homage to her cinematic counterpart by diving in and squeezing every drop of broad mimicry out of Foster’s performance. Harris is a gem of a comedic actress, even when her vocals are just okay.

The casting of Brent Barrett is genius. He never tries to do a Hopkins impersonation. He does, however, emulate his charm and elegance as well as his chilling charisma. And no matter how vulgar his Hannibal is asked to be, he always adds that dash of grace. I love the dizzy Airplane-like touches like having him clean his glass with Windex and Barrett does it with such sophistication.
Oh, and his voice is crazy-fantastic!

The entire Silence! team kicks Lamb ass! It’s a delectable delight that should have a long life.

Tickets $25.00 to $65.00 | 212-352-3101 & 866-811-4111

web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/832805

www.SilenceTheMusical.com

Theatre 80 St. Marks | 80 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10003


 

 

 


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