Gorged on arachnoid gigantism and spider-hype? Treat yourself to a theatrical enema with help from Stage Dive’s handy-dandy off- (and off-off-) Broadway roundup. Here’s what playing in the shadows this week.
The latest installment of WASP-porn from the eerily prolific A.R. Gurney (Love Letters, The Dining Room) is a gentle chuckle into a closed-fist: Curtis (Gregg Edelman), preparing for the wedding of his son (Ari Brand) in the Adirondacks, communes with his late father (Daniel Davis), a minor monster of Connecticut uber-white-and-uber-right-ness who insists on referring to “tuxedos” as “evening clothes.” As a series of oh-so-modern complications ensue (gay comedians! naked pool parties!), Curtis must decide where to draw the line, progressiveness-wise. But the line he’s looking for seems to be miles ahead of him–and ahead of Gurney, too. We conclude at room-temperature middle-of-the-roadness–it’s a mid-season King of the Hill episode, without the drawls.
At 59 E. 59 through March 20
Lynn Rosen’s Apple Cove isn’t staking any claims to originality: A predictably arch take on predictably hollow suburban Archies and their sex-starved Bettys, this tiny, ‘toony one-act satire owes plenty to Durang, Albee, D.H. Lawrence, Stepford, and countless distillations thereof. (At this point, wouldn’t the truly subversive choice be a full-throated defense of suburbia?) But the sun-splashed cast–including Smallville’s Allison Mack (who shows potential as a stage actress) and The Aliens’ maestro of beta-male awkwardness Erin Gann (who looks uncannily like an etiolated John Edwards)–makes Rosen’s zippy, pointy dialogue sing.
At The Women’s Project through March 6.
We open in a postapocalyptic Earth, where a couple of “vaudevillieans,” Rozetta Stone (Lori E. Parquet) and Dog (Chris Wight), practice their act and try to avoid Droogish slavers. We know the world is postapocalyptic because A) people speak in that weird neo-Elizabethan hip-hop that all postapocalyptic people seem to pick up after the Big One; B) people wear grimy, ear-flattening knit caps to better show off their feral snarls; and C) old-fashioned pageant-wagon theater is, inexplicably, really, really important again. (Sad, isn’t it? That it always takes a technology-exterminating ‘Geddon or two to restore live drama to artistic supremacy?) But playwright Liz Duffy Adams has a few tricks that put her a notch above your average Brechtswept wasteland: A genuinely crystalline ear for rough, poetic dialogue; a handful of simple, honest themes–possibilities for kindness in a savage world, guilt as a luxury and a form of selfishness–in lieu of sprawling world-building; and, most crucially, the savage talents of the Flux Theater Ensemble. Director Kelly O’Donnell keeps things moving so briskly, you barely notice the play’s forty minutes longer than it needs to be. Apocalypses, methinks, should be short and sweet.
At the Flamboyan Theater (Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center) thought February 20.
WHEN I COME TO DIE
Condemned murderer Damon “D” Robinson (Fences’ Chris Chalk) was supposed to die. He didn’t, despite the best efforts of the State–three needles and a team of doctors, and for some damn reason, he still didn’t go down. Understandably, D would like to know why–before the limbo he’s been suspended in by this unexpected stay of execution drives him out of his mind. In this modest drama, playwright Nathan Louis Jackson (Broke-ology) further hones his gift for warmly witty conversation and intimate communions between lost souls. (He also resists nearly every prison cliche–no small thing in a media culture saturated with them.) But Jackson never furnishes much of a rejoinder, dramatic or thematic, to the arresting proposition of his premise: Why is D spared? Apparently to engage in a touching male-bonding dream-sequence with his spacey next-door cell-mate Roach (Festen’s David Patrick Kelly). Beyond that, the playwright’s intentions are somewhat soft and obscure. His steely-nerved willingness to let the show die slowly down without much of a final beat feels both brave and frustrating. Chalk keeps getting more and more interesting as an actor–and director Thomas Kail (In the Heights) can sure as heck stage a tense moment–but the Robinson character’s history is kept shrouded in mystery until far too late in the play. Wanting to know more is a good thing; but we’ve got to know something about this guy if we’re going to proceed from mere sympathy to genuine, fourth-wall-busting empathy.
At the Duke Theater through February 26.