The Baroness at the Clurman Theatre

This review of The Baroness: Isak Dinesen's Final Affair at The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row was written by written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Baroness: Isak Dinesen's Final Affair
Written by Thor Bjorn Krebs
Translated by Kim Damboek
Directed by Henning Hegland
Music by Aleksi Ranta
Set Design by Akiko Nishijima Rotch
Lighting Design by Miriam Crowe
Sound Design by Amy Altadonna
Costume Design by Stine Martinsen
The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/13/17

The Baroness captures an eerie intensity through the strange relationship between the young, Thorkild Bjørnvig, and the famous, Baroness Karen Blixen (known in the United States by the pseudonym Isak Dinesen), who takes a special interest in his "career." The tale takes place in Denmark where the young doctor, Thorkild, has just garnered national fame as the country's latest acclaimed writer. Upon hearing of the young man, The Baroness swoops in "to claim him." The two had a prolonged relationship between 1948 and 1955 that the playwright, Thor Bjorn Krebs, reconstructed for dramatic appeal using notes from the time period.

The infamous and famous Karen Blixen.

The infamous and famous Karen Blixen.

Just off the publication of Stjoernen bag Gavlen, a collection of poems, in 1947, Thorkild (played by Conrad Ardelius) was living a life that seemed perfect. He has financial support from a benefactor, has just married, and has a young child. There is just one major problem. He can't write. This is incredibly common. As a writer, I've read or come across accounts of other writers who have to learn to overcome the new struggle to create. When once they might have relied on the "wind in their sails," many writers find it difficult to hunker down and repeat their performance especially under the pressure of expectations. In comes Karen Blixen using this opportunity to insert herself in the young doctor's life. Sometimes I felt that this wasn't very relatable and that the structure of the dialogue did not work to draw you in, but there were a number of positives to the performance including Dee Pelletier who made an astounding Karen Blixen.

Blixen (at 62) approaches the much younger Thorkild (29) with an enticing offer. She will help him to write. The offer does not seem at all innocent. Blixen requires Thorkild to join her at her home,Rumgstedlund, alone, leaving behind his young family. Thorkild accepts, hoping the isolation will prove helpful. As the "affair" commences, Thorkild treads through it with so much naivete (or perhaps hesitancy) that the relationship is never consummated. Blixen requires him to swear a pact to her in friendship by giving him a ceremonial African dagger. With every scene change, she questions his loyalty, and he listens and listens. He goes through all the motions, but he fails to write little more than one sexually-laced poem about lust.

It's not really a surprise that sex is the subject matter. Blixen describes things like putting a record on as if it is a sensual caress. She also often claims she will find the gorgeous young doctor a harem to unleash the desire that led him to write Gavlen. She'll present them in a bouquet, she says. The closest she comes, however, is giving him an actual bouquet of flowers in the colors of the women she describes. Complicating things is the young wife of Thorkild's benefactor, Benedicte (Vanessa Johansson). Benedicte fits the mold of the women Thorkild is interested in, and when Blixen eventually pushes Thorkild away to Bonn, Germany for a literary escapade, Benedicte goes to see him. Passion envelopes them, and Thorkild begins to sever the ties of his old relationships, including his wife. He takes refuge in a summer home his benefactor had bought before the affair.

This time it is Blixen who follows the young Thorkild who has finally succeeded in writing again. Blixen confronts him about the pact, and at first, Thorkild seems like he has been won over by Blixen's statements of passion, loyalty, and friendship. When she claims they must seal their pact in blood, Thorkild finally rejects her. Blixen, entranced by voodoo, sees a black adder on the threshold of the door. She takes it as a token of esteem, but Thorkild writes that it is an ill omen. The two break their bond, and Thorkild would go on to write multiple collections of poems throughout the rest of his life. Blixen would publish Last Tales in 1957, which include four stories that seem to relate to their friendship.

The performance of the play was good and left little to be desired. The set design and lighting helped to showcase an intimate, reflective look at the creative process through this striking production about one of literature's key figures. Many aspects of this play were revealing and powerful, especially regarding the creative process which Blixen states, in the play, "takes courage." There did seem to be a minor disconnect between the audience and the play. I feel this was mainly due to an over-reliance on the audience having a prior understanding of who the two characters were, especially Baroness Blixen. As an internationally famous Dutch author who died in 1962, Blixen lived flamboyantly, often wearing lavish outfits. She was best known for Out Of Africa, written about her life in Kenya, which was made into an Academy-Award winning motion picture. I'd recommend this play to anyone interested in the creative process. Tickets can be purchased for $47.50 at https://www.satcnyc.org/thebaroness 

In a Little Room at The Wild Project

This review of In A Little Room at The Wild Project was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

In A Little Room
Written by Pete McElligott
Directed by Patrick Vassel
Stage Managed by Emma C. Olson
Set & Graphic Design by Zachary Zirlin
Costume Design by Evan Prizant
Lighting Design by Katy Atwell
Technical Director: Thomas Romme
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 9/9/17

A phenomenal script by Pete McElligott was brought to life by the talented acting trio of Jeb Kreager, Luis-Daniel Morales, and David Triacca. Not since watching a performance of 'Night Mother have I felt a script had a better hold of character development and dialogue. Set in a hospital waiting room, the pair of Jeb Kreager and Luis-Daniel Morales weaved their way through the complexity of human relationships with dynamism and dark humor. They shined together in the roles of the seemingly hapless Manning (Jeb Kreager) and the suited-up and serious Charlie (Luis-Daniel Morales) as they meet due to an unlikely conversation starter amidst mysterious circumstances.

Manning walks in, peruses the magazines, crosses the entire room to take a seat, clears his throat and asks, "Would you like this coffee?"  As innocent a question as it may seem, it tips the dominoes leading us towards an intense conversation between two strangers about life, death, and the uncomfortable questions that may arise when we begin to talk about them. Charlie accepts the coffee, and as Manning, dressed in classic dad outfit (loved the costume design) goes to deliver it, he trips spilling the coffee on a sleeping guy (David Triacca). Manning and Charlie get to work deciding what to do about the spilled coffee and, of course, promptly do nothing about it. Thankfully, it was cold already. When the guy leaves to clean himself off, the two wonder if he will come back. Eventually, Triacca does return to the little room playing a doctor, the second of three characters - the third is an arsonist.
 

Photo by Zachary Zirlin Photography and provided by press kit.

Photo by Zachary Zirlin Photography and provided by press kit.

This is when the play begins to get darker and darker (or in other words - really good). Sometimes the audience is consumed with laughter while at other times, the material is serious enough to suspend the room in silence. Charlie just lost his wife, who, at 27 years of age, died after suffering two consecutive strokes. He pines for all the years that they might have spent together. He wonders about the triviality of her instant death. Manning attempts to comfort him by saying, "It could have been worse" and after a moment, Charlie whips around accusingly, "What do you mean it could have been worse?" Demanding an explanation, Manning eventually shares that his 5-year old daughter just died of a brain tumor after suffering months of agony. The two dive deep into what's worse, instant or prolonged death, and the question of whether they would warn someone who was potentially going to die. They are instead interrupted by hospital fires that are quickly consuming everything around them.

At one point, Manning describes how he views life - "Billions of people doggy-paddling in the middle of the ocean...Billions of folks. Surrounded by endless water. Doggy-paddling in place. Trying desperately to ignore the fact that eventually - they'll get tired, they'll get old, and they'll go under. All of them." This view is perhaps reflective of Manning's depression and is a foreshadowing of a decision he will make later in the play. 

Triacca returns as Keagan, who looks as if he has walked through the fire. He warns Charlie and Manning that they probably should leave the hospital and get out before the fire consumes the place. Manning and Charlie get into an argument again, but it's short. They are both faced with the decision of whether to leave or stay as the walls burn down around them. Charlie, the younger of the two and the one who has been talking about all the things he has to do, heads towards a stairwell Keagen pointed out. He tells Manning he'll be waiting for him with a car, but Manning waves him off. Manning can't bring himself to move, and then the lights go out.

Great job all around. The actors, especially Kreager and Morales were fantastic. The play was funny, deep, and disturbing. What more can you ask from a dark comedy? Nothing, I think. There is more to the play than what was referenced here, and I do hope that this taste convinces you to give In A Little Room a shot. It's filled with perceptive commentary. The play runs through September 24, 2017. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased atwww.tenbones.org or by calling 866-811-4111.

Loveless Texas at the Sheen Center!

This review of Loveless Texas at The Sheen Center was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Loveless Texas
Music & Lyrics by Henry Aronson
Libretto & Direction by Cailin Heffernan
Scenic Design by Evan Hill
Costume Design by Cheryl McCarron
Lighting Design by Michael O'Connor
Sound Design by Ian Wehrle
Stage Managed by Marci Skolnick
The Sheen Center
18 Bleecker Street
New York, New York 10012
Reviewed 9/7/17

Loveless Texas took an interesting twist on Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost and made for a generally entertaining musical. For most of the first half of the play, the tension built and the songs, written and composed by Henry Aronson, were fun and often catchy. A few missteps in the script and final performance, however, kept this uplifting tale from reaching the level of a virtuoso.

The biggest issues with this modern restructuring of Shakespeare's classic were that it didn't take a big enough step away from the original in the over-arching plot. It became too predictable while creating too many subplots which became mired in unnecessary detail. Almost every character in the cast of twelve actors had their own arch. This not only limited the pace of the first act, but it bogged down the second act as well with corny serendipity. Long story short, all the characters fell in love with a counterpart from a competing ranch in 1930s Texas. One of the largest issues with this was the fact that almost every actor had a song to sing. While the lyrics, were in my opinion, clever, they were mostly songs about death and devils and love. Potentially quality subjects for a comedy, but even the cast members who could execute their material better than others heard only a little bit of laughter and appreciation from the audience. There are two possible reasons for this. The first being that it didn't seem like Loveless Texas focused on the comedy. It seemed to be much more focused on a tense relationship between the mature, "King Navarre," and his immature, younger brother, Berowne Navarre, and how the relationship between the two characters developed. The second was that the audience had to strain to hear many of the songs over a live band that performed in the corner. The live band was a welcome presence but it was a little too loud at times for the actors to overcome.

Awesome set at the Sheen Center.

Awesome set at the Sheen Center.

Despite these limitations, I still enjoyed this musical. I felt like Darren Ritchie as King and Joe Joseph as Berowne did a fabulous job. Their solid performances helped to create palpable tension as the two butted heads on life philosophy. King Navarre owned a ranch in Texas at the onset of the Great Depression and had promised to sell an oil-strike to a rancher in Louisiana named Leroy Beausoleil. Leroy had apparently come upon the information that the strike was about to hit pay-dirt while King Navarre believed it was about to run dry. Before the land was officially sold, the oil reserve boons and King Navarre refuses to sell. After tracking down his younger brother, Berowne, who had been causing trouble all over the continent and parts of Europe, King has Berowne and his two companions sign an agreement to work on his property under three conditions: no drinking, gambling, or womanizing. Berowne reluctantly agrees, but then suddenly takes the high road on the property issue arguing basically that all the moral authority in the world doesn't matter if King is not a man of his word. King points out that Berowne doesn't understand taking responsibility, and frankly, as a viewer, I was hooked.

King Navarre's plans are complicated when Leroy's daughter, LaReine Beausoleil (Trisha Jeffrey) arrives in Texas to attempt to claim her land accompanied by three women, friends of hers, who have some history with Berowne and his companions. Admittedly, things move a little too fast here as love is in the air. The characters on King's ranch are all men, and they quite quickly find counterparts on the Louisiana side to fall in love with including the stodgy, woman-scorned King Navarre, who falls in love with LaReine after barely a word passing between them. King (Darren Ritchie) sings an intriguing solo number about choosing between business and his heart, and as the first act closes, he makes his choice - business - by interrupting the other lovebirds during the most comedic sequence of the play, a local dance that Berowne and his companions sneaked off to in bad disguises so that they could check in on their women. As this confrontation comes to a close, LaReine learns her father has died. King attempts an apology, but LaReine and her party leave for Louisiana immediately.

The build-up went for naught as the remainder of the play becomes song after song wrapping up the subplots. The main important part of this second act comes when Berowne and King argue in song about a compromise Berowne suggests. It is unclear what King will choose, but later, at a wedding between Duke Dumaine (one of Berowne's companions, Colin Barkell) and Kathy Bridge (one of LaReine's, Annette Navarro), King surprises everyone by offering the full deal to Berowne. At the wedding, everyone finds their love except for Berowne and Rosaline. For some reason, Rosaline is miffed after not receiving a formal response to a letter she wrote pleading for Berowne to stand up to his brother. He stood up to his brother, but apparently, she needed that in writing. A year later, she holds up his poker game disguised as a seldom mentioned minor character who goes by the name of the Cowgirl Bandit. When she reveals her identity, the two sing to each other about their love in a lovely duet. Amanda Lea Lavergne as Rosaline was one of the brightest spots of the cast along with Bligh Voth as Maria Broussard

Ultimately, the happy ending and the positive messages in the songs made for an enjoyable show. The expectations seemed to be very high based on the subject matter, and the high quality of the set design and costumes. Not to mention the inclusion of a live band. However, even from the third row, the difficulty in making out all the lines in each song became a serious concern. I'd suggest focusing the plot on the four main characters and cutting solo numbers by side characters that didn't greatly affect the dynamic of the play. Regardless, the show remained a pleasure to watch. For tickets ($30 for September 6-10 and $40 for September 12-24), go tohttps://sheencenter.org/shows/loveless/ or call 212-925-2812. 

Stand up and Take your Clothes Off! at the Kraine Theater

 

This review of Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off! at The Kraine Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Stand Up & Take Your Clothes Off!
Various Performers
Produced by Jillaine Gill & Kerryn Feehan
Music by DJ Stevie C
Stage Kitten was Flora Carnivora
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 9/3/17
 

The Stage is set at the Kraine.

The Stage is set at the Kraine.

Jillaine Gill and Divina Gransparkle (filling in for Kerryn Feehan) co-hosted and curated an excellent line up of comedy and burlesque at the historic Kraine Theater in the East Village. Their comedy accentuated a night of laughs and sexy strip teases that kept viewers engaged and left them wanting more. Typically, this monthly variety show is co-hosted by Jillaine and Kerryn Feehan who will be back next month, but the chemistry between Jillaine and Divina was a pleasure to watch. For example, Divina dropped that she was coaching Jillaine to win the "Miss Coney Island" title this year and there happened to be a challenger in the crowd. It was a fun sequence which Divina followed up later by prompting Jillaine to read a prepared monologue. She read the part of the Judge's wife in Thinner. Jillaine got deep into character for the read with some campy retorts followed by a thrilling and conclusive shouting match. The audience responded enthusiastically. The duo also introduced the acts which included the female comics, Joyelle Nicole Johnson, Jen Mutascio, and Amber Rollo, as well as the burlesque performances of Sweet Lorraine, Miss Frankie Eleanor, and Clara Coquette.

Joyelle Nicole Johnson did a clever bit that combined political angst and sexual shock appeal revolving around a date with a white Trump supporter. He told her, "Black Lives Matter was a terrorist organization," and she decided that she has to do the deed as her part to help bring the nation back together. I'm loosely paraphrasing that because she also joked that the only reason she brought him home was "because he had weed." The funniest part, however, was her take on white privilege which culminated in, "he's mad because he didn't do anything with his whiteness." It had me laughing the next day too as I reflected on the performance. She also reminded us "you're about to see some titties, loosen up."

Sweet Lorraine, the founder of Shades of Burlesque, followed her and was easily my favorite act of the night. She strutted in wearing a wire mesh dress with a black corset to the song, "I Will Take That Ride" by Bette Davis. She had a classy, vintage hair style which hung just above her eyes which were painted to look like little almonds. As the song sensually chanted, "Lord have mercy...I'm mighty thirsty," Lorraine pulled off her opera gloves and shimmied out of her layers revealing her voluptuous figure. At one point she leaned over one of the audience members and began pulling off a glove with her teeth. She teased both guys and girls with sensual and sexual hand gestures.

Jen Mutascio came next and earned a lot of laughs. She made a number of self-deprecating jokes such as "I did grow up in Jersey. That is why I am so feminine" as well as one involving the guy in the front row who was sitting alone. She addressed him saying, "Hey, I'm a female comic. I'm not picky." Another highlight of her set was her joke about her mom finding her brother's gay porn in her closet. Her mom was appalled and Jen responded that is indeed what got her hot "because you can't get pregnant taking it in the back."

Miss Frankie Eleanor strutted on stage next in a beautiful golden dress with flowing, long, black hair. She moved smoothly to the Latino beat of Desatre by Pilon. She showed a lot of leg as she sensually removed various shimmering gold garments to reveal sheer underwear. She had incredible confidence and didn't even bat an eyelash when her bra caught as she removed it. In one deft swoop of her wrists, she snapped it off and tossed it aside to laughs, claps, and whoops from the women in the crowd.

Amber Rollo rounded out the comedy for the evening. She was a little in-between the other two comics with a mix of self-deprecating jokes that had some clever build ups as well. For example, she introduced that as a stripper, she made money by providing a "Girl Friend Experience." She listened, made eye contact, and didn't touch their dick." She also joked that she trades nanny service for a haircut and that the three-year-old was asking to be exclusive. She's "still got it," she laughed, and then dropped that improv (something she also does) was the lowest of the low as a performer because she could still be "booked as a stripper."

Clara Coquette upped the tension in the room coming out in full latex to the hard rock song "Feed My Frankenstein" by Alice Cooper. After pulling off her flowing cape, she caressed her curves and then turned up the intensity of her act. She made aggressive strikes into the air as she violently threw zippers and straps aside. Where only her eyes and lips had been revealed, she showed hand, arm, and leg until she went down to her bare chest. When she finally let her mask fall to the floor, the only thing remaining was her panties and high-heeled boots. Electric performance!

Ultimately, all the performers did a good job. The comedy was entertaining and included some very funny jokes. Props again need to go to Jillaine for delivering a solid monologue. The October show next month will be the show's six-year anniversary. Additionally, Divina will be back to her burlesque routine, which if it includes as much sass and attitude as her stand up, promises to be fun. Tickets can be found on The Kraine Theater's website for $10 (or $15 at the door). See link here: http://www.horsetrade.info/event/4e8273d0c379530633751cbc53de0221   

Inanimate at the Flea

This review of Nick Robideau's Inanimate at The Flea Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Inanimate
Written by Nick Robideau
Directed by Courtney Ulrich
Scene Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen
Costume Design by Sarah Lawrence
Lighting Design by Becky Heisler McCarthy
Sound Design by Megan Culley
Production Stage Managed by Gina Solebello
The Flea Theater
20 Thomas Street
New York, New York 10007
Reviewed 8/27/17

This play aimed true in almost every facet. The dialogue was crisp; the set (scene, costume, lighting, and sound) design was on point; and the acting, phenomenal. Beyond that, Inanimate intrigued me with its oddities and left me wondering about the intricacies of the human mind. The main character, Erica, demonstrated a range of emotions including love and lust for inanimate objects. Lacy Allen shined in the lead role. Her eyes filled with sadness and desperation when confronted with the possible loss of these things she had become infatuated with. Yes, things! To us, we might view feelings toward material things as something akin to sentimental attachment, but apparently, this obsession with objects truly does exist.

It has been shown through psychological study that attachment to objects occurs normally at a very young age. Children prefer specific objects that have been given to them and are "theirs" over identical copies or replacements. While this can be considered a form of ownership, it does take on potentially new perspectives when viewed through the lens of this play. For example, Lacy's character, Erica, hears the voices of objects around her. While most of the lines are merely what the object is such as a fluffy bunny (Nancy Tatiana Quintana) calling herself "soft" or a lamp (Artem Kreimer) saying he "flickers and shines brighter," we could wonder that perhaps this object obsession is due to an actual "spirit of the object" such as an essence talking subliminally to us. Or perhaps her thoughts are merely constructions and hallucinations of normal emotional attachment to objects. Are the objects important because they have an actual voice, or because the objects are important for another reason - does a voice develop? So, in other words, does our sense of ownership come from an internal form of attachment unrelated metaphysically to the object in question or does the object itself also form an attachment to us?

Capture.JPG

Forming a conclusion on the reality or even the morality of those possibilities aside, I thought this made for an engaging story idea that kept me interested throughout. While the main conflict didn't have a lot of complex depth, it did subtly appear early. Erica has fallen in love with a Dairy Queen sign named "Dee," an artful character constructed by Philip Feldman. After allowing herself to awaken (in a sexual way) to the Dairy Queen sign, Erica begins to allow other objects to talk to her including a can opener who appears as BDSM gear-laden Michael Oloyede whispering "cold, metal, black." When she puts the can opener against her skin, someone complains and Erica loses her job at a supermarket. Her sister, Trish (Tressa Preston), a political activist promoting a referendum involving a downtown revitalization for small businesses is embarrassed by a caller to the show. So at first, it seems the main problem is Erica regaining a sense of normalcy so she doesn't hurt her sister's political ambitions. However, an astute viewer could pick up that the Dairy Queen is called old (it's on the edge of the downtown business district) and while Trish's bill is meant to help small businesses, it is conceivable she may use it to destroy Dee, which she does, causing a final rift between the sisters.

Mixed up in this, is an interesting human relationship that develops between Kevin, a manager at the DQ, and Erica. For six months, Erica has been coming to the DQ to get ice cream while Kevin just happens to have been working. Kevin has nursed a crush on her since high school. The two intermittently talk at night when Erica is trying to flirt with the DQ sign (yes, at times, this play is very funny). Erica even reveals her feelings for objects to Kevin at some point. At first, he is taken aback, but he eventually becomes extremely supportive. Erica suggests they could even get along harmoniously with her allowing him to have his way with her as well as other people if he is okay with her enjoying the occasional object. Too good to be true? Possibly. Maki Borden did a stellar job in the role, and he helped create many comedic moments.

Perhaps the infatuation with Dee was all just feelings for Kevin that couldn't be expressed another way? Or maybe Dee actually did exist and his climactic death will someday mean as much to us as the moment Jack floats away in Titanic. Regardless of what conclusions you may draw from your viewing of Inanimate, you will be entertained and have an interesting experience. Tickets are available for $35.00 online at www.theflea.org or via the Box Office extension at 212.353.3101. 

Afterlife at the Secret Theatre

This review of Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger's AfterLife at The Secret Theatre was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

AfterLife
Written by Coni Ciongoli Koepfinger
Directed by Joan Kane
Costume Designs by Lani Cerveris Cataldi
The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, Queens 11101
Reviewed 8/17/17

AfterLife opened on a ragged set full of animal skins and scattered trash giving way immediately to a distinct dystopian vibe. To a soundtrack that provoked the feeling of an electronic Dances With Wolves, a woman ran along a barbed wire fence in search of trash. A "Tag" she calls herself when confronted by a strange man who she accuses of being a "Talker." More is revealed about whom Talkers and Tags are and how they relate as the play goes on, but now, we have the key back drop of the show. Two people meet just outside a fence patrolled by guards that protect some unseen compound that holds among other things an apple tree. One is a man and the other a woman.

This may spark some recognition of the tale of Adam and Eve and that would be on point. This story is a post-apocalyptic rendition of the classic tale of human creation inspired by a painting from the Voire Dire Project of a tree alongside a fence. The darkness of the painting in question could certainly have inspired the dark tone of the play, but there isn't anything particularly creation story oriented within the painting. The Invasion, painted by Cindi Cericola, instead looks like a plain picket fence with a barren tree so I would posit that the lone tree served as an opportune catalyst for a pre-conceived idea of a post-apocalyptic Adam and Eve. The play's content also focuses most heavily on the evil of "them" which typically insinuates greedy corporations who among other things "intoxicated" the world with plastic. The commentary is neither obtuse nor demonstrably insightful, but regardless, a few lines may provoke discussion such as a sequence when Stark Wilz as the Talker begins his attempt to lure the curvaceous Lani Cerveris Cataldi as the Tag into helping him to get two apples from a nearby tree by saying, "Are you hungry? I am starving...There is no garbage, and we shouldn't eat garbage. We could work together [to get the apples on the tree]."

The two actors were convincing in their roles, and they delivered the long stretches of dialogue fluidly and easily. However, they weren't required to do a whole lot other than stand across from each other and play off each other. When the Talker goes off to chase the apples that have fallen from the tree, the Tag sings, "Be with me, color the light...Be set free, be with me." When the Talker returns, he watches her sing. When she notices he is back, she states, "They can't stop the music," to which the Talker responds, "Teach me to sing. I want to be in tune with life." She coaxes the music out of him by talking him through a path of enlightenment similar to Buddhism's eight-fold path and lo and behold, he can sing! Both actors have beautiful voices. I'd be curious to see what they are capable of in potentially more demanding roles because I felt they handled this performance well.

Other highlights of the play include the costume design which was done by Lani too. Her makeup work made the two characters look like rugged adventurers who had been tested by years of violence and strife. The atmosphere, lighting, and stage design truly fit with the intended idea of the play. The play itself felt a little long-winded at times, but it provided a platform for discussion afterward, which was fun. People interpreted aspects of the play differently which allowed for the story to take on new life after the show. Additional performances of AfterLife at The Secret Theatre are on August 22nd at 7:30 p.m., August 27th at 3:00 p.m., and September 1st at 7:30 p.m. To get tickets, call the box office at 718-392-0722 or go online to www.secrettheatre.com. Enjoy!

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Lucky at Dixon Place

This review of Lucky at Dixon Place was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Lucky
Presented by Atlas Circus Company
Created & Directed by Henry Evans & Tommy McCarthy
Production coordinated by Cody Johnson
Stage managed by Annie Corrao
Lighting designed by Alex Womer
Choreography by Tyler Holoboski
Dixon Place
161-A Chrystie Street
New York, New York 10002
Reviewed 8/15/17

Lucky surprised me with a combination of good, old-fashioned slapstick fun and a modern storyline. The mixture provided a family-friendly atmosphere punctuated by excellent commentary delivered by one five-year-old girl in the audience who had other guests laughing in hysterics when she said things like "It's so funny!" and "Is he going to eat it?" Thankfully, the timely remarks of a five-year-old are not necessary to enjoy Lucky. It is performed silently in the classic style of an early motion picture film. David Evans accompanied the action on the piano, which took place in front of a cartoon animation displayed on a big screen. Black cutouts with white chalk introduced each scene and inside each of these, the Atlas Circus crew impressed continuously with acrobatic stunts and good choreography. Even without a line of dialogue, Lucky communicated a deeper critique of modern society than almost all of the contemporary plays I've seen in the last year. There were scenes about the office 9-5, waiting tables, and chasing after a dream to be an actor all while being ever so close to finding love in this great city of New York. The modern conundrum, indeed, punctuated by stunning routines filled with daring flips!

The structure and characterization of this play done by Henry Evans felt like something ripped out of time. Yet, somehow Lucky managed to touch on so many aspects of life in the city today. From hunger to the struggle for mythical success to finding time for love. It was funny and made comical use of old Saturday Cartoon style cliches such as banana peels and whipped cream-pies.Lucky starts off with a pictorial sequence where Lucky, the character (Henry Evans), is sent off on his way to New York. At first, he has trouble adjusting to city life. His things are stolen (by Leo Abel's character), and he has a "good time" trying to get them back running around after Leo. Leo and Russell keep eating food in front of him in various roles including a funny sequence where Russell approaches him as a hot dog man. For the remainder of the play, these other three actors (Leo Abel, Russell Norris & Avery Deutsch) take turns targeting the young man, Lucky.

Deceptively calm before the fun of Atlas Circus's performance begins.

Deceptively calm before the fun of Atlas Circus's performance begins.

Leo typically plays a thief who ends up sneaking off with all of Lucky's belongings except for his briefcase which Lucky somehow hangs onto in a fun circus sequence. Following the opening scene mentioned earlier, Lucky attempts to peacefully spend the night in a park. Once asleep, Leo appears and after making off with everything but Lucky's shoes, he goes after Lucky's briefcase. Through many complex acrobatic maneuvers and back and forth with the muscular Leo, Henry Evans remains "asleep" with his head cocked slightly and the snooze button on. He snores loudly and somehow the two (Henry & Leo) make feats of balance and strength look easy whether the briefcase is in Henry's mouth or in his hands. Eventually, Leo is able to open the briefcase and reveal to the audience that there is nothing remaining within. Lucky wakes up to find that all he has left are his stinky shoes and his briefcase.

The other two play somewhat more "helpful roles." Russell Norris is every boss. Sometimes sauntering in. Other times running in with high knees and waving his arms. He made hilarious noises while Leo's character littered in the park or Henry's character disappointed him in some new way. With each job Lucky took, Russell's tall and lanky frame would end up tapping Lucky or Henry on the head and sending him away. That is until finally Russell, as a construction foreman, bursts into laughter after Henry attempts to acrobatically reach for a sandwich he's dropped from a swaying beam at a construction site.

Avery Deutsch represented the many love interests of Lucky in New York. She works with him at every job and is always just that elusive. Russell Norris even duct taped Lucky to a chair so he wouldn't peek over into the next cubicle at her. The duct tape didn't stop the two from dancing together beautifully, but somehow just before they kiss, she always seems to be pulled away. Avery did give a striking performance lip syncing to Ella Fitzgerald's Hernando's Hideaway. "All [we] see are silhouettes" indeed. So much fun!

There was no dialogue to delve into, but there was great attention to detail. At one point, Lucky wanders down a street and the theaters say, "Not you," "Cancelled," and "Someone else" before flipping to Lucky for a brief moment and then back. I would recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a good time and an interesting theater performance. For the younger crowd, the play is just fun and engaging. For the refined theater-goer, there is enough there to think about while enjoying magic tricks and the athletic circus routine expertly performed by Atlas Circus. Shows ran Tuesdays and Wednesdays from August 1st through 16th at Dixon Place, so hopefully, they will bring it back. Do check out @AtlasCircus on Instagram to follow these performers and see what they are up to next and when.

Apartment 301 at Access Theater

This review of Antony Raymond's Apartment 301 at Access Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Apartment 301
Written & Directed by Antony Raymond
Access Theater
380 Broadway
New York, New York 10013
Reviewed 8/3/17

Elsinore County Theatre, the production company behind this play, advertised this run as "the world premiere of this comedy about a woman whose life is about to be radically altered." The show's publicist promoted it as a "New Comedy." As a result, I went to see Apartment 301 with the expectation of having a few laughs. However, as a comedy, it missed the mark on many levels. From the stilted script that lacked any depth to the dark lighting in the theater, a lot of pieces of the production negatively influenced the ability of the play to be funny. Most of the "jokes" were either making fun of millennial women or of a pathetic neighbor who otherwise seemed completely irrelevant as a character. The actresses had the hardest time breathing life into their dialogue and, for the most part, were unable to make the dramatic moments believable with good timing and realistic emotions. It was only the negative aspects of their lives that seemed to come forth strongly, which is why I kept wondering why the play was classified as a comedy. I'm not really sure how an unplanned pregnancy from a guy who lied about wearing a condom was supposed to be funny. 
 

Brightened using instagram and iPhone filters.

Brightened using instagram and iPhone filters.

The play's setting is limited to a single room of the apartment. The black door of the apartment featured on the program seemed a little creepier than I would have expected for a play that promised to be light-hearted and thought-provoking. The two girls, Morgan Scott as Brooke and Abbey Shaine Dubin as Lacey, begin by contemplating the color of a pregnancy test. It's a little confusing what they are talking about at first since the props and stage were sparse, but it becomes clear when Lacey states, "I'm late."

To give an example of the difficulties of the script, the two then launch into a winding discussion about what they should do that night. Brooke suggests they grab a bottle of wine and the first chuckle from the audience comes when Lacey says that "it will be an Ernest Hemingway evening." Only, apparently, it hadn't been decided at that point because Brooke gives some condescending advice to Lacey that she should have made sure her partner used a condom, while Lacey's response to most everything Brooke said was to question her motivations and intentions. Even before the bottle of wine has been opened, Lacey is saying to Brooke, "Hug me. I can't believe he did this to me." Finally, we get to the two of them commiserating about how much they hate their lives. Lacey straight out says, "I hate my life" while Brooke says, "There is nothing out there for me" as she apparently can't find work as an actress.

Jim, the neighbor (Eric Doviak) at some point interrupts this convoluted series of one-liners looking for a screwdriver to help put something together in his apartment. Easily the funniest aspect of the play is just how pathetic this 38-year old secretary at a law firm character is. After he gets the screwdriver, Jim returns it the next day and bonds with Lacey who is crying over being pregnant and having her dancing career as a ballerina suddenly placed in potential jeopardy. He insinuates himself into her life as a sounding board with this brief laugh getter, "You left the door open, so I didn't know if that was your silent way of saying it's O.K. to not leave yet." 

I felt the actresses handled this strange and awkward intruder situation with realism and measured emotion. However, the situation takes an unexpected twist when we learn Brooke, a Canadian, must figure out a way how to legally stay in the country. One night she is drinking alone when Jim appears with two sets of flowers, one for each of the roommates. Brooke gives this man, who has never been on a date, the run down on how to get a girl while he admits to having benefited from the services of a hooker on various birthdays courtesy of his brothers. Expectedly, the two sleep together and when Lacey finds out the next morning, deep emotional conflict erupts. Jim comes out of the bedroom and refuses to be sent away until they are all friends again. Jim accidentally pushes Brooke and she falls unconscious after hitting her head on a table. Frightened regarding the consequences of what he has done, Jim ties both roommates up but Brooke regains consciousness, escapes her bindings, and attacks Jim with the original screwdriver. During their fight, they happen to stab Lacey in the stomach. While Brooke calls for an ambulance, Jim stabs himself in the heart.

Apartment 301 is like an episode of Friends with half the cast and the plot of a short horror story. I am not sure if the ending was supposed to appear slapstick, but for me, the funniest moment was when Jim pulled away from the accidental stabbing of Lacey looking at bloody hands that had no blood on them. He changed this cleverly by getting blood on his hands while trying to "stop" the bleeding with a paper towel. But back to the point, the play's comedy didn't translate to the majority of the audience for a number of reasons I have already mentioned. The setting, the ambiance, and the script made it difficult for the acting to create the right recipe for laughter. I am not sure what would have helped but not relying on a single character for most of the comic relief would have been a step in the right direction. Tickets at $25.00 and are available on the theater company's website at www.elsinorecounty.com/index.html

Lost and Guided at Under St. Marks

This review of Irene Kapustina's Lost & Guided at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Lost & Guided
Written & Directed by Irene Kapustina
Assistant Director: Alexandra Kattan
Costume, Set & Lighting Design by Wesley Cornwell
Sound Design by Adam Cuthbert
Stage Management by Sabrina Morabito
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/5/17

Lost & Guided has an intriguing concept for a play. Set amidst the onset of violence in Syria's Civil War, it follows the fates of two families connected through best friends Amina (Mischa Ipp) and Rima (Mouna R'miki). While relying perhaps too heavily on the classic idea of how civil war or war, in general, can tear apart families and ruin lives, the play does synthesize the emotions of the characters through good acting and an engaging script. These factors allowed the play to capture both the naive hope, in the early days, of positive changes being made to the government and the devastating effects the war would later have on the citizens of the country.

Despite a plethora of moments of clarity that created intense emotional drama, there were some aspects of the play that made it difficult to follow. One of the problems was a convoluted story arc. Most likely meant to draw attention to how lives are altered by the onset of war as mentioned earlier, I felt like none of the featured characters became an early focal point. This made it hard to catch the main storyline, but it did provide for interesting dialogue that was partially a guise for the delivery of a deluge of information. 

The first scene in the play shows a conversation between Rima and Amina discussing husbands. Mouna R'miki as Rima was an awesome ball of passion that dominated the opening wonderfully. "I do not love him!" Rima exclaimed before launching into a twister-like tirade across the exquisite stage with a delicate balance of grace and verve. "He's so quiet" she would say about her husband while being her loud and obnoxious self and describing her own character as the worst thing about her personality. It was pretty funny, but beside her, Amina seemed to be merely a person with a pulse for Rima to talk to. Even though this scene seemed like a big deal, most if it didn't really factor into the main elements of the story. The most important part was the return of Imad and Sami (Rima's brother) with news. Even though he just got engaged to Amina, Imad accepted a position in a hospital in New Orleans.
 

IMG_9825.JPG

Retrospectively, this might have been given a more prominent position in the unfolding of the story. The news could have been broken at the beginning of the scene and then Rima could have consoled Amina while lambasting her own husband. However, it came at the end somewhat disguising the fact that Imad takes the central role in the story powered by Doga Celik's superb performance. While Imad is in New Orleans adapting and adjusting to American life (quite comically at points), the Syrian Civil War breaks out and begins to tear apart his family back home. All he can do is stay in contact through Whatsapp hearing intermittent news from Sami, who works as a star doctor in a hospital, and Amina, who plans to escape with Rima as a refugee to Jordan. Imad is left powerless complaining, "I'm a man. I should do something," but he can't even tell his fiancee he misses her because she starts to cry. His biggest issue is being able to sound surprised and enthusiastic when colleagues tell him interesting news while at home bombs begin to become a constant threat. At first, Sami, played by the solid Shayan Sobhian, joyously discussed the pro-Democracy marches, but quickly the news starts to sour when Rima's husband is taken off to fight for Assad's army.

The other major difficulty in following the storyline was in the structure of the cast. Three of the seven actors played strange bit roles that mostly didn't require talking. These roles came in between major talking parts like commercials between different segments of the show. For example, immediately after Imad delivers his news about going to America, Jarrod Zayas, as an officer, chases, and mimes the killing of Alexandra Kattan, who plays a student. By mimicking hand movements on one side of the stage while Alexandra twisted and turned on the other side of the stage, Jarrod could act out more violent gestures, but it seemed a little awkward as the audience had no context for the interaction. Sami explained later when he told Imad over Whatsapp that students had been delivered to their parents dead. I am not sure if these scenes were added to make the situation seem more dire and violent, but it may have required more building up for the sake of comprehension. Susan Cohen Destefano also joined these in between segues dressed in a nun's habit and usually appeared only when death struck.

Regardless of these factors, the narrative became engrossing as the toll of the war became more and more apparent. I was deeply moved by the ultimate fate of the main characters in the play. Amina walked to Jordan for 10 hours, and Rima, who didn't leave, died in a bombing raid. Amina rested on her backpack mid-stage while Rima's body crashed to the floor in the back. Meanwhile, Sami safely rested up against the wall having just told Imad he was hiding under a support beam. When he goes to help an injured rebel left for dead, she cries out and a guard (Jarrod Zayas) kills them both. The two actors lay side by side after Sami sends out one last message to be received by Imad in America. Safe in America, Imad goes to pray.

There were a lot of positive aspects to Lost & Guided, but the story arc and the silent segues did make it difficult to follow. I would recommend this play for its timeliness and gritty nature. Doga Celik and Mouna R'miki stood out for their passionate performances as Imad and Rima. The cast as a whole brought a human face to a faraway war that now resonates for me more emotionally than it did before watching the play. For that, Lost & Guided deserves praise as does writer-director Irene Kapustina for writing the script after conducting interviews with Syrian refugees living in the United States. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it while it is at Under St. Mark's Theater through August 25, 2017. Tickets for $20.00 can be found on www.lostandguided.com or by calling 1-800-901-7173. 

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Marks

This review of Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret
Jillian Thomas - Master of Ceremonies
Produced by Gregory Levine & Rob Dub
Featuring Various Performers
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/2/17

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret is an entertaining and worthwhile experience for anyone interested in a taste of the New York Cabaret Scene. In a small black-box theater on St. Mark's Place, this variety show has been running for four years now. As far as cabarets go, this extravaganza features older, experienced performers as well as newcomers. With a rotating roster combining the classic single singer, comedy, and burlesque routines from month to month, there is an opportunity to immerse yourself in New York Culture and get an idea of what types of shows might interest you. Additionally, you may see one or more of these performers returning, and perhaps also get a surprise visit by Neil Diamond - if only. The following six performers were featured at the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret on August 2nd:  She She Dance, Kevin Michael Smith, Gregor of Berlin, Galatea Stone, Shayna Bliss and the JJs, and artist-in-residence Bill Chambers as Neil Diamond. The comedian, Jillian Thomas, was the Master of Ceremonies. I am told the name Ten Foot Rat Cabaret was inspired "by those giant inflatable union-local on-strike Rat balloons seen throughout New York City and, of course, our durable hometown critters themselves."

Pre-show (Taken by press)

Pre-show (Taken by press)

She She Dance opened and closed the night. Introduced by Jillian Thomas as one of their returning performers, she opened us up with a bang. Blues singer She She Dance, a pseudonym for Azusa Dance, has a strong voice, a positive attitude, and solid dance moves. Putting those together in the intimate, grungy atmosphere at Under St. Mark's Theater was like putting an energizer bunny into your living room if your living room looked and smelled like a basement with a bar. She sang Dancing In The Street and Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog with the verve of a Red Bull. At times, her deep voice was a little scratchy, but she really packed a lot of power into each line which made for a good opening.

Kevin Michael Smith was next up. An Air Force Man, Kevin's jokes tended to revolve around his time as both a reserve and deployed member of the USAF in Afghanistan. Some of the references that might have drawn a few cheers from a different crowd didn't get the same reaction from this Lower East Side audience. Still, he earned a few good laughs and was able to adjust his routine to the audience as he went including the gem that he probably set the record for "most condoms on (him) at one time while having unprotected sex." He performs a weekly show, Polished Comedy, at Beauty Bar in Manhattan.

He was followed by Gregor of Berlin (Gregory Levine) who was "contractually obligated" to appear. First, he pontificated on the trials of being relegated to a lower status of a comedian by his agent who wanted him to hone his craft. It was a clever sequence of self-effacing jokes which appeared within grander statements. He would remark on his frustrations on being sent to rooms with comedians who actually needed the help as if he was unaware that his comedy wasn't quite up to snuff. One of these destinations was Disney World where Gregor entertained children. With a stalwart set of stout anti-jokes, Gregor was able to deliver jokes in the form of advice and mockery of American children. He'll be at 54 Below on September 8th. He also hosts and co-directs Guilty Pleasures Cabaret.

Gregor also got the best job of the night according to him, introducing the burlesque dancer, Galatea Stone. Galatea strutted in dressed in blue with a feathery turquoise scarf that draped to the floor on what looked like 9-inch heels. Somewhere 7 or above at least. Talent. She danced for the song Sex & Candy by Marcy Playground, gradually pulling articles of clothing off and enticing the crowd to follow her hand gestures. It seemed like she would bare it all only to reveal a pair of stickers covering up her nipples. If you are interested, she'll be at Legion in Brooklyn for her monthly show, We Are Legion, at 8 p.m. on August 9th.

Shayna Bliss followed Galatea and disarmed the crowd with her voice rather than her legs although she did dance a little to the music as well. Accompanied by the JJs, a pair of brothers on the drums and piano, she sang Patsy Cline's Strange and The Beatles' The Fool On The Hill. She brought a lot of emotion to her performance which struck me as she seemed to pour her soul into her music. She wasn't quite able to coax the same volume out of the PA system that She She Dance did, but she obviously dug deep. An enticing performer, I look forward to seeing her again.

Neil Diamond came last. The impersonation portrayed an astute parody of the pop-culture giant, but I must confess to having never seen Neil Diamond live. A crowd more familiar with the hallmarks of a Diamond performance might have gotten more out of the solid Bill Chambers' performance. Still, his jokes about weed and old New York hit a few members in the audience, and his singing of one of Neil Diamond's classics while gyrating violently was a nice touch.

Very fun stuff. That's what you can expect from Ten Foot Rat Cabaret. Tickets for $10.00 can be purchased online at http://www.tenfootrat.com/blog/wordpress/ or at the door. Starting next month, the show will be on a Saturday night. The next show will mark their 4th Anniversary! 

The Unwritten Law at Dixon Place

The Unwritten Law
Written & Performed by Chesney Snow
Direction & Choreography by Rebecca Arends
Co-Created by Chesney Snow & Rebecca Arends
Production Management by Joe Flowers
Visual Design by Emre Emirgil
Lighting Design by Ro-z Edelston
Dixon Place
161-A Chrystie Street
New York, New York 10002
Reviewed 7/31/17

"The Unwritten Law" are social norms you are expected to follow. If you disobey them, you can expect an extreme and potentially violent reaction by some members of your community. For every gender, ethnic, racial and/or religious group, the social norms differ. In a conservative Muslim country, the unwritten law might be that a woman should not dress too immodestly. An effeminate man in America might need to "butch it up" in some settings. For a black man in America fifty years ago, it might mean not walking down the street with a white woman, or in the case of Chesney Snow's relative Charles, the offense was for having the audacity to shoot back after being attacked by Klan members in the middle of the night. The punishment, of course, is death.

Chesney Snow, a well-spoken African-American young man, has overcome many obstacles in his life. His gutsy, visceral performance brought tears to his eyes as he relayed major turning points in his life. He discussed the trials and tribulations of his mother and how over decades of injustice and reconciliation, his family has made marginal socio-economic gains which have been achieved through hard work. That is especially evident in the life of Chesney Snow, which is told in this show through narration, poetry, dance, and live music. Before he starts to tell his own story, he takes a bit of a winding road approach I don't think was altogether necessary. But the stories he told were interesting and revealing. He was delightfully aided in that by the talented interpretive dancers Rebecca Arends and Winston Dynamite Brown with pianist A.J. Khaw, and cellist, Varuni Tiruchelvam.

The story of his mother was particularly moving. At age 17, his mom lies almost dying on the sidewalk but through an indomitable spirit that would characterize much of his and her life, she gets up and lives to have him three years later in 1979 when she is age 20. His mom is the true heroine of this story. Through near Herculean effort, she carried her family on her shoulders. She worked in a Nursing Home where she endured "endless days and nights of wiping asses, bathing and feeding elderly patients" including one old man who tormented her with egregious insults. When he realized she was pregnant, his mom told him it was her intention to name her son after him. He then broke down, cried and apologized to her for enduring years of his abusive behavior. Chesney relates having gone through "grade school hell" because of his name. Because his father was pursuing a career in radio, money was coming in slow, and when Mr. Swift refused to get "a real job," his mom took him to Chicago where she met "Michael, the Eiffel" (so nicknamed because he was tall). His little sister is born, and everything seems blissful until young Chesney realizes his mother is being beaten and that drugs are a constant curse. Chesney stands up to Michael one day during one of his mother's beatings by smashing him in the leg with a hammer. They leave temporarily for Mississippi, but after a brief return to Chicago, his mother decides enough is enough when she discovers Michael has touched Jackie, Chesney's six-year-old sister.

Chesney reflects that his mother must have endured those beatings for him and his sister, and it serves again to show how strong a woman she was. For the next five years, Chesney and Jackie live with GG, his grandmother, who he describes as being so tough and no nonsense that she once shot her own drunken sister in the ass. This is also when Chesney began to beatbox, an art form where the performer replicates the sound of percussion by using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. With his cousin Bobby, they began to perform publicly. Bobby may have had the voice of an angel, Chesney remarks, but he was also brought down by muscular dystrophy. The last steps he would take were to GG's house where she would love and feed him while they made music. Things pick up for a little while for Chesney and his family when his father finally earns some money and renown in Oklahoma City as a radio show host. Chesney spent some time with dad, and after five years, his mother returns with a new man, Jessie. Unfortunately, the good times did not last. Jessie pulls a gun on Chesney's mom, and thanks to a scream by Jackie, the family is able to escape. They end up living in a small town in Wisconsin, where they are the only black family in the neighborhood. 

Adjusting to that new life wasn't easy. At first the kids gave him a hard time, but eventually, the community welcomed him especially because of his musical skills. Perpetuating the patterns and choices that stand in the way of breaking out of one's socioeconomic class, at sixteen years old, Chesney gets his girlfriend pregnant and realizes he has failed his mom. He calls his dad for help only to learn that his dad has been arrested. Chesney does everything he can to get custody of his son Deron, but a couple of slip-ups with fighting at school and a failed marijuana test result in his son going to live with his baby momma's trailer park grandma. His argument that his own mother bought a house wasn't enough to sway the custody decision in his favor. He would spend the next seven years trying to rescue Deron from this hell but Deron would only disappear further into the abyss of Child Services after Chesney tried to take him, without permission, across state lines. After five more unsuccessful years, Chesney begins grinding with what he does best, beatboxing until he begins to make Off-Broadway performances in 2010 and receives a cryptic e-mail from someone claiming to be Deron.

The Unwritten Law shares a heartfelt story of one person's life. It presents the challenges Chesney Snow faced in his struggle to rise up and achieve. The heroine of the story, his mom, played an ample role in the way the drama of his life played out and perhaps she deserves more credit than he gave her. Few people face such difficult circumstances and I think it's inspiring to see how hard Chesney has worked to make a name for himself. Has he found his son? He didn't say. Perhaps that is part of the purpose of this performance. There are a couple of times Chesney showed off not only his skills to rhyme and twist words but also to beatbox and rap. It was a unique performance and a definite treat. Chesney Snow is an entertaining storyteller and he raises plenty of issues for the audience to contemplate. You can catch The Unwritten Law at Dixon Place from July 30-August 14, 2017. To get tickets, call 212-219-0736 or go to www.dixonplace.org 

New York - Taken by author

New York - Taken by author

A Toy Gun at Teatro Circulo

This review of Tamar Bartaia's A Toy Gun at Teatro Circulo was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

A Toy Gun
Written by Tamar Bartaia
Directed by Becky Baumwoll
Translated by Donald Rayfield
Teatro Circulo
64 East 4th Street
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 7/29/17

A Toy Gun, a play by Tamar Bartaia, is part of the Georgian-American Theatrical Feast, a festival of new works written by playwrights from the Republic of Georgia. It begins in a small Georgian town but the country's setting and the sequence of events that affect it during the lifetimes of our two main characters, Medea (Tara Giordano) and Yoram (Luke Younger) are very similar to what is happening elsewhere in the world. The writer and actors successfully present universal themes that resonate beyond the circumstances of any one country. One of the main plot points is how the two characters react to current events in their home country from their changing statures. Their perceptions of the world and of each other change during the course of their lives. A toy gun connects them throughout their lives.

The two characters meet on an empty black stage when Medea (Mea) goes to an audition for a role in a play that her teen idol, Yoram (Yo) is putting on. The actors portray the emotions of the moment very well while they also begin spreading colored sand along the ground which accumulates as time passes. At the start, Mea is giddy with hope while Yo is cursing the fame that isolates him. He can't stand love letters or his adoring fans while Mea makes up having received even one. While she waits in line to audition, she catches Yo's attention, but not for the right reasons. She has had a drink of Brandy, and Yo notices that her eyes glisten. He asks her to audition, but while in her mind, she impresses, in reality, Yo can barely stand the sight of her. He sends her away saying, "You have no talent." Mea storms out, and when at home, she fumes. With excellent chemistry and rhythm, the two actors were able to make all this believable whether there were supposed to be two or twenty people in their fictional world.

At first, she plans to kill him with her dad's shot gun, but then she goes to grab her brother's toy gun. She imagines humiliating him in front of everyone but when she arrives, he is alone working late. He hears her coming up the stairs and tries to calm himself down by telling himself it is probably just one of his fans looking for an autograph. Mea appears and threatens him with the toy gun. To her surprise, Yo breaks down crying. She loses all respect for him and tosses the gun on the floor beside the sniveling Yo. He grabs it after she's left and realizes instantly that it is only a toy. There are many emotional aspects portrayed in this opening but there was still a long way to go. The toy gun incident alters both characters' paths in life. Mea runs home to tell her family she no longer wants to be an actress - to their relief. Yo goes home to wallow in the misery of his realization of having broken down in front of this little girl. Mea suddenly has more confidence in school, and Yo begins to cancel shows so that no one sees him miserable. At one point, he throws the gun out the window only to look for it in the dark. When he finally does come out for a show, he is haunted by Mea's face and sees her everywhere in the crowd. But he does the performance and receives applause. 

The Swirling Sand of A Toy Gun

The Swirling Sand of A Toy Gun

Years go by. Yo stays an actor, and Mea gets married and has kids. One day, for her confidence and unique mezzo soprano voice, she is selected for a prestigious scholarship at the famous La Scala in Milan. Everyone is proud and Yo sees Mea on television saying how beautiful she is and not recognizing her as the child with the toy gun. The roles have now been reversed. While Mea once looked up to Yo as untouchable, now Yo looks at Mea the same way. Unfortunately, while she is gone, a civil war breaks out. Yo is brave and fights hard. He is one of two survivors from his battalion. Meanwhile, Mea watches helplessly from abroad and begins to feel the isolation, loneliness, and imprisonment of fame Yo once felt. Because of their fame, both were asked, "Which side are you on?", and both couldn't tell a difference between the sides. 

The remainder of the play deals with this dichotomy. The lives of the two characters are ruled more by their roles in society than by their own desires. Mea continues to succeed as a singer, and ultimately when offered a contract late in her career, she turns it down to return to buy her father's old house to reinvigorate the community. Although her search for purpose abroad had turned into homesickness, the aging Yo, inspired by the incomparable Mea, has begun to learn English and frets that he has wasted too much time. Even when a second civil war breaks out for a little over a week, he risks marching through the dangerous streets in order to study English at his tutor's house. He discovers that English is not as hard as he thought, and he falls in love with his tutor's twin children, who call him Grandpa. He begins to write plays in English, and one of his plays is accepted for production in England. On the same flight he takes into Heathrow, Mea leaves for home. In England, Yo realizes the plays there are pretty bad, saying the audiences there "are bound to like (mine)." He plans to write plays at home so he can spend time with the twins. However, on the flight home, he has a stroke after writing his final play, A Toy Gun. Mea, now living in the same town as Yo, rushes to the hospital to confess that she was the girl from that day long ago. A week later, posted from the day before Yo's death, Mea receives a package and inside is her brother's toy gun and the words, "Thank you for everything dearest."

The solid structure and depth of this play are apparent from the start when society and class lines are insinuated by the briefest mention, but astounding detail lies just beneath the surface at every turn. For example, from London, Mea sees the civil war as lasting three days while in-country Yo and the tutor see a civil war that lasts almost two weeks. These are small things but they serve to create the perspective that details may change based on from whom and when the information is received. The actors brought out the level of depth that made this play well-worth seeing. They engaged the audience to create an intimate setting and deserve credit for solidly executing their lines. There were no complex fight scenes or dramatic dances but they talked easily and moved around the stage pouring different colored sand from envelopes and packing boxes. This seemed to represent the experiences that one accumulates in life because, in the end, each of them had their own large pile and the rings they had formed at the start of the play had become muddled and unclear. It was a cool image (see above) and helped to keep my attention.

I'd recommend this play. It is short and meaningful while others in the festival could have tended to the obscene or abnormal. It is relatable showing that the search for meaning goes beyond finding a day to day purpose. Instead, it is about connecting and forming bonds between people even if by some strange incident involving A Toy Gun. The festival runs from July 19th through August 3rd at Teatro Circulo (www.teatrocirculo.org). 

In A Word at the Cherry Lane Theatre

This review of Lauren Yee's In A Word at The Cherry Lane Theatre was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

In A Word
Written by Lauren Yee
Directed by Tyne Rafaeli
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
New York, New York 10014
Reviewed 7/2/17

In A Word delivered a thorough introspective of what it can be like to work with and raise difficult children. The play showcases a child seen as adorable in one moment and then troublesome in another. The juxtaposition of this child's different phases left me wondering whether I felt bad for any of the characters at all. At first, I empathized with the parents who had lost their little boy. The situation seemed so heartbreaking. A child had gone missing and his two loving parents were unable to move on, but as the sequences of the play revealed a clearer picture of the circumstances of the household, I felt like the audience was challenged. We were confronted with the question of whether the value of the loss and the parent's remorse changed with the knowledge that the child was mentally handicapped.

The play began in the living room of the Hamlet family. The husband, Guy, steps in to find the wife, Fiona, searching through boxes. It's the second anniversary of the disappearance of their adopted little boy, Tristan, and as Fiona frantically ransacks the apartment looking for evidence of their child, Guy tries to get her to go out for dinner for the first time since the tragic incident two years ago. Jose Joaquin Perez's performance as Guy was particularly patient and respectable alongside a clever Laura Ramadei. Perez brought a lot of emotion to his part as he made impassioned appeals to his wife. It makes sense right off the bat that he wants her to move on from their lost child, but she has a hard time letting go. He is concerned for her, but he can't understand why she has been so listless these past two years. He tells her, "This has to stop" and in almost the same breath, reminds her, "Was there something that you wanted to tell me?"

The aftermath of the play at the Cherry Lane - great use of stage props to focus the audience's attention.

The aftermath of the play at the Cherry Lane - great use of stage props to focus the audience's attention.

These appeals launch a series of flashbacks that became the main substance of the play. About every 3-5 minutes, the couple would say some lines of dialogue that would cue a flashback sequence and an extremely talented Justin Mark, who played a myriad of roles including the role of Tristan, joined the couple on stage. His comedic timing was impeccable. As a detective, Justin mockingly plays with a cantaloupe from Fiona who thought she had met the kidnapper at the grocery store. She has some trouble when she first sees Justin Mark, the detective because the kidnapper and Tristan were also played by Justin Mark. He says, "I just have one of those faces." It is revealed later that Fiona never saw the kidnapper on the day of Tristan's disappearance, but she is clearly hung up on the loss of her child. She not only hallucinates meetings with the supposed kidnapper, but she also paints a glossy picture over the time that she was living with Tristan. Fiona tells the newspapers that she "loved him" and that she "misses him very much," but Guy tells the audience, "funny, I never remember hearing those words (when Tristan was around)."

One of Fiona's favorite lines to young Tristan is "take care of your things or you're going to lose them." Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Fiona took her own advice. As Guy brings up, Tristan was a much more difficult child than Fiona would let the media know. She likes to tell how great Tristan was, but in reality, he was "difficult." That's what Guy remembers hearing. At school, Tristan was a nuisance, and Fiona had to take him into her own class to keep him from going into special education. It is actually unclear as to why she does this considering that Tristan's behavior is revealed to actually be pretty horrible. He has trouble controlling is bowels. He has trouble learning. He can't make friends. His own father recognizes his developmental disabilities and calls him at one time "retarded." Fiona tries to avoid this word, but she can't seem to come to grips with the reality of Tristan's situation. After a particularly traumatic "picture day," the school gives her a leave of absence and she loses Tristan in the parking lot of a gas station when she stepped in to grab a candy bar. She finally reveals this to her husband, Guy, who reminds her that "even if we can't get justice, we can get better."

At the beginning of the play, I felt remorseful, but when I learned more about how Fiona handled her son's situation and education, I felt a lot less empathetic towards her and unfortunately, her child. It seems to me like she wanted to remain in denial rather than make tangible efforts to help Tristan get better, more helpful attention. That being said, I also wonder if I'd still feel as badly for the missing child as I did at the start if I knew then that he had these difficulties. I definitely feel bad for the husband and father, Guy, who has stayed patiently by his wife's side for these two years, but there is an element of "you reap what you sew" to the whole play. In A Word will keep you entertained for sure, but it may also leave you scratching your head at times at the behavior of the two parents. It's well-written, fluid, and makes you think. If you're looking for that, get tickets atwww.CherryLaneTheatre.org or call OvationTix at 866-811-4111.

Bastard Jones at the cell theatre!

This review of Bastard Jones at The Cell Theatre was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Bastard Jones
Book, Lyrics & Direction by Marc Acito
Music & Lyrics by Amy Engelhardt
Choreography by Joe Barros
The Cell Theatre
338 West 23rd Street
New York, New York 10011
Reviewed 6/30/17

Bastard Jones started out with a bang and ended with an earth shaking finale. Simply put, well done. The play told the oft-comedic tale of Tom Jones, a 1749 story of a bastard ward to an English squire named Allworthy. After release, the book was condemned for having been lewd and was credited with causing a number of earthquakes. The cultural commentary still resonated today with a well-constructed plot revolving around the love affair between the bastard Jones and Sophia Shepherd, a Reverend's daughter. My initial thought was that this exemplary off-Broadway production seems poised to make a push toward larger audiences. Marc Acito, the writer ofAllegiance, did a superb job of weaving amusing action between entertaining songs setting the stage for gripping reveals. He and lyricist Amy Engelhardt were aided by an energetic cast with strong vocal talent that provided us ample opportunity to bask in awe.

"When a low-born's heart can bleed such kindness, it makes us think of God," sings Bridget, Squire Allworthy's frequently ill sister, played by the lovely Cheryl Stern. She ponders the fate of young Tom Jones just before she makes a pivotal decision to aid him by unveiling a secret that may shatter her own reputation. It's at this moment we learn the most about each character. Squire Allworthy has fallen ill after stopping to aid a pregnant woman in the street. Tom, his bastard ward played by an exceptional Evan Ruggiero, remained by his side. Meanwhile, his true nephew Mr. Blifil, brought to life by a witty Matthew McGloin, drank and conspired with Reverend Shepherd to wed the Reverend's daughter. Reverend Shepard, played by Adam B. Shapiro, was one of the most hilarious actors in this musical. He played the role of the chief antagonist as he shouted Damnation and Fornication as Tom Jones vied for his daughter's virtue. So, what is Bridget contemplating as she watches Tom by her brother's side?

Tom has done himself no favors to this point. He slept with a local beauty, Molly, given cheeky flair by Alie B. Gorrie, who became pregnant while his first love Sophia was away. Sophia loves Tom too, but she is concerned by his promiscuity and drunkenness. She confesses her love and sexual awakening with one of the most memorable songs of the night, proclaiming, "I felt a tingle." However, he has an honest and kind heart which Bridget intends to reward. She writes a short letter before dying, which she handed to the Reverend. He gives it to Mr. Blifil, her son, who after reading it quickly disposes of it. When Tom rushes out to share the news that the Squire is alive and then heads out for a night on the town, Blifil seizes the moment to report Tom's misdemeanors to Squire Allworthy as evidence that Tom was not at his bedside during the bleak moments. As Allworthy issues a sentence of banishment, the song "Born To Be Hanged" is sung with gusto by all. At the same time the sentence is being issued, Tom discovers that Molly has been sleeping with the Reverend. Tom breaks it off with her so he can be with Sophia. Before he can rejoice, he discovers he has been banished.

This sequence of events sets up the remainder of the play. Tom saves a Mrs. Waters on the road, and Sophia runs away to avoid Blifil. The two meet in an Inn on the road, and when Sophia catches Tom fornicating with Mrs. Waters, she flees to London. Tom chases after her but is unsuccessful in persuading her to hear his pleas as Lady Bellaston arrives. Crystal Lucus-Perry stole the second act with a wickedly stunning portrayal of Lady Bellaston. She commands a lord and lover to "Have another oyster, dear" until she is satisfied. She harbors Sophia with her cousin, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and lusts for Tom, who had been promised an audience with Sophia. Tom breaks it off with Lady Bellaston, who, for revenge, conspires to end his life by framing him for the murder of Mr. Fitzpatrick who has been chasing after his wife. As the executioner prepares to carry out his responsibility, the fates align to reveal what Bridget had said in that letter. Tom Jones is actually Bridget's son with the former schoolmaster Partridge, who had become Tom's companion. Upon learning this, Allworthy grants Tom his estate and the other characters reverse their opinions of the former villain. Even Reverend Shepherd admits to his affair with Molly and condones his daughter's marriage to Tom Jones.

I hope you have a chance to see Bastard Jones while it is still running Off-Broadway. The Cell Theatre has brought in a talented cast who added a lot to the story with strong chemistry on stage. My pulse raced as the plot unfolded, and I couldn't be happier with my decision to go see Bastard Jones. I do believe that the jokes about sex never go too far for a modern audience and would be fit for almost anyone over the age of 18. Frankly, you should see Bastard Jones now, before it moves to a larger theatre and the price per ticket soars. If you are looking for a musical comedy that will give you more than a few smiles, Bastard Jones is for you. It will be all the rage soon! Even I hope to see it again! Tickets can be purchased for $40.00 at www.TheCellTheatre.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Michelle DellaFave @ the Met Room

This review of Michelle DellaFave's Cool Burn at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cool Burn
Starring Michelle DellaFave
Musical Director: Richie Vitale
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 6/16/17

Michelle DellaFave looked stunning in a tight-fitting blue dress especially considering this accomplished woman appeared on Dean Martin's television series, "The Golddiggers" in the late 1960s. Her voice shocked the audience too as Michelle consistently displayed an impressive range that once prompted Dean to say, "this girl can sing!" Her show, Cool Burn, covered a number of stalwart choices that were popular during the 60s and 70s interspersed with Michelle's off-hand wit. Transitioning as smoothly between octaves as us normal-voiced people change channels on a television, Michelle reminded us she was indeed human by often introducing her songs in various voices such as a Russian accent for the comical classic, "Vodka." She was joined on stage by the Richie Vitale Quartet, which included a pianist, double bass, trumpet, and drummer. Richie, on the trumpet, directed the show and dazzled with a number of trumpet solos to which DellaFave danced.

Joined during the first song by a pair of young, male, well-dressed backup singers, Michelle shined from the moment she stepped on stage. She set the tone for the night with the heartfelt classic, "Am I The Same Girl" (Barbara Acklin, 1968). During the song, Michelle's backup singers danced and played off of her in mock flirtation as she asked them, "Why don't you stop and think it over?" While the dance moves drew a few hoots and hollers from the crowd, they remained on the classy side of suggestive. Richie Vitale also entertained the audience with the first of many trumpet solos to which Michelle danced looking like she was having the time of her life.

Photo credit from  https://www.michelledellafave.net/  - on tour with the USO show

Photo credit from https://www.michelledellafave.net/ - on tour with the USO show

DellaFave credited her infectious smile and fun attitude to her father who liked Frank Sinatra. She, too, was raised in New Jersey like the great star. She really showed off her range with "At Long Last Love," a song Frank Sinatra popularized (originally written by Cole Porter in 1938). She went from sultry to aggressive as she jumped octaves in bursts. Things went along very smoothly through the first few numbers but when DellaFave slowed it down for Ella Fitzgerald's "Midnight Sun" (1957), it was a little difficult to understand her. The song had a beautiful melody, but at times she failed to sufficiently project. 

Michelle left the song behind and the genre by switching it up to the 1966 pop hit, "Got To Get You Into My Life" by The Beatles. It was a curious addition given the tone of most of the music, but fit the theme of mid-century hits. The crowd loved it too because the backup dancers came back to fight over the darling diva on stage. She sent them off, but called one of the two back with a tender, "Por Favor, I need the magic touch of your amour" ("Por Favor" by Doris Day 1965). The blend flowed well and allowed a young guitarist named Thayer who had joined in on the edge of the stage to join in for a solo duet with DellaFave. His pick danced along the guitar as Michelle presented "But Beautiful" (Nat King Cole, 1958) in a much faster pace than the original was performed.

Michelle continued to add twists and turns to her show's theme, which seemed to fit in terms of style, but not necessarily with any particular story. When she asked the audience to start snapping, I struggled to think of what song might be coming next until I recognized Michael Buble's "Fever." What a lovely way to burn indeed! The dancers came in and off stage for the next few numbers, but the young hunks' gyrations garnered special attention when Michelle toyed with them. It was fun to watch and I smirked, but she easily drew out the most laughter from the crowd with her rendition of "Vodka." Her dynamic range and off-kilter dancing made it a particularly fitting choice. It displayed her style and personality well.

For the most part, Michelle impressed with a vocal range that few other singers could match. At times this stretched her voice, but she had such depth combined with the ability to push herself that the occasional break in her voice disappeared between the throaty crescendos and high-pitched doodles. Michelle was truly a wonder to enjoy, and her song choices seemed to fit her personality and voice. She did stray out of the theme of the 60s and recalling her time on the Dean Martin Show a little bit for some more contemporary songs, but they were good choices to share who she was and to further showcase her talent. To find out more about Michelle, visit her website at https://www.michelledellafave.net

Frans Bloem at the Metropolitan Room

This review of Frans Bloem's Beyond Borders at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Beyond Borders
Starring Frans Bloem
Musical Director: Steve Sandberg
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 5/26/17

We drank. Frans sang. Only a handful of us may have been able to stop clapping long enough to take another drink. He went to find a missing guest performer. We chatted briefly. A woman appeared on stage without introduction. Who was this mysterious woman? Who did the wildly entertaining Frans sneak in and out with barely a word from his own mouth? An alternate persona by the name of Maxime who turned an already good show into a great one leaving an indelible impression on the crowd. Trotting in on 7-inch pumps, affectionately nicknamed "stripper stilettos," Frans really strutted his stuff whilst thanking his "mommy" and "poppy" for giving him great legs even if he didn't have their help in achieving his goals. Raucous fun and laughter ensued.

But my, oh my, has Frans Bloem come a long way since starting as a street performer in Paris at age 17. He may have once as a young man traded washing dishes in the City of Lights for washing dishes in the City That Never Sleeps, but he certainly doesn't have to wash anyone else's dishes today. Since that first move from The Netherlands to Paris, he has now become a worldwide boulevardier even donning an expertly tailored white jacket he was gifted for performing in Hong Kong, By showing a myriad of crowds, in a variety of languages, he can put on a show, Frans has been able to overcome daunting obstacles. When he first moved to Paris, he couldn't pay 7 francs in 1971 to upgrade from a small flute called a Piccolo. He told us on this first flute, he used to sing the song "Pigalle." Then, with a skilled piano player to his right, he asked us singing the same song, "Would you like to visit Pigalle with me!" Frans took us back to another time, with his nostalgic touch sharing songs that spoke to him over the years such as "It Will Be My Day." He also gave us a taste of his own personality setting the stage for Maxime by singing songs like "La Boheme" and joking that "he was Bohemian already."

Using his language skills combined with his own infectious personality, Frans created a certain level of mystique even before donning the white gown and Maxime personality. He blended French with Dutch and German, joked about his accent sticking even after 40 years away from Holland, and then sang the Spanish song "Sabor a Mi." Not bad for a former dishwasher! Few people ever dream of having such a successful career. Few people can afford to finance a life in New York City by performing as a singer. Frans proved he earned it by doing a little bit of everything. The majority of the songs were in English and some were age-old classics such as "Brother Can You Spare A Dime." Although no longer contemporary, the majority of the audience recognized them immediately. Frans' story about how he became the man he is today took on a special resonance when, dressed as a woman, he sang, "What Makes A Man A Man," for which he received enthusiastic applause.

Regardless of song choice, Frans combined a flair for the dramatic with his keen sense of the exotic. He guided us into another world with his uncanny ability to sense the mood of the crowd. As the show progressed, he grew more flamboyant and pulled us deeper into his world and experiences as a world citizen. Frans became more and more animated playing off our emotional excitement. He moved along the stage, called out members of the audience, and threw his hands out in gestures at powerful moments. The excellent pianist, Steve Sandberg, helped to create this sense of a building atmosphere. His hands danced up and down the scales on the piano. As the choruses ended, Steve gave a little twist of his own that helped create a sense of harmony between piano and performer. He gradually got more daring with each of Frans' striking gestures giving the sense that the pair have been working together for quite a long time.

I greatly enjoyed Frans' show, and it seemed like everyone who attended was brought to life by Frans' smooth voice. His confidence fell off of him like feathers from an angel's wings. I do hope Frans stays home in New York and performs for us a few more times, but I would completely understand if he took a gig in Amsterdam. If you have a chance to see his new show, Beyond Borders, see it. Even if you are expecting the surprises he has in store, you will be impressed. Thank you, Frans, for living a true New York Story and for showing us the mantra "all are welcome" means something to someone somewhere. For more information regarding Frans Bloem, you can visit his website at www.FransBloem.com