The theater is dead. Long live theater.
That is how the fearlessly forthright monologist Mike Daisey sees it in his one-man-band ballyhoo How Theater Failed America, hilariously snarking on everything from arts funding to NYTimes reviewers to complicit Joe's Pub ticket holders. With a manic, occasionally maniacal energy and dead on analysis of the modern day mainstream arts scene (with the tongue-in-cheek lament of 'Why can't we be more like Sweden?'), Daisey leaves no truth unturned. And the basic truth in Daisy's world is that theater - and by extension our nation - is so devoid of community that artistic evolution is all but impossible.
Frankly, Daisey doesn't point out anything new. Let's face it, the death bell for theater has been ringing at a deafening pitch for decades now. But the sign of a great artist isn't always exploration of the next new thing, but rather the uncovering of a universality through startlingly fresh means. As a performer Daisey delivers, diving in with everything he's got - intellect, humor 'til it hurts, hulking physicality and sweat to the point of dehydration. And as an audience, we sit transfixed and wondrous.
Armed only with a water glass, Daisey's armchair philosopher orator has so much heart we willingly partner on his rant. With everything you expect in a one man show - personal humiliations, suicidal tendencies, and nostalgic role play (his actor portraying a masturbating bishop being the most memorable) - Daisey is entertaining to be sure. But that isn't enough for a master artist, so he just doesn't stop until he makes you think. And lament. And leave the theater changed.
Personally, I've been trying to get into Daisey's monologuing class for months now, and it always fills up lickedy split. So until then, I'll get my Daisey on Monday's at Joe's Pub until May 11.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The theater is dead. Long live theater.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The subject of death is rarely presented realistically in theater, yet Katherine Williams' My Dead Mother is Funnier than You does this heartbreak justice in her tale of a serial dater whose mother's passing touches every aspect of her emotionally raw life. Williams' dead-on portrayal of Nicole poignantly points out the humor, horror and hysterical in death-too-soon, and stays true to the trauma that comes after someone beloved passes unexpectedly. And for this teenager and the woman she becomes, the loss of mama leaves quite a mark.
Her dead mother may be funnier than you, but nothing is funnier than dating in New York City. Nicole is deadpan hilarious as she trollops through man after man, linked to them by their own earlier loss of a loved one, finding immediate intimacy with emotionally unavailable Lotharios. Fortunately, the cast is to die for, and her lengthy list of love interests are fully fleshed and never trite. Our heart breaks for Nicole as she is left over and over by men not her equal, played to perfection by Franklin Abrams, Dan Almekinder, Michael Scott King and Jeff Stevens. All are mirrored superbly by her forever-mourning father, portrayed by the stellar Joseph Callari. It is enough to make a gal delete her Nerve profile.
Nicole is advised by a loveline of insightful armchair philosophers - older sis Laura (played with wry perfection by Jaye Maynard), kindhearted, cursing shrink Dr. Garcia (the deliciously empathic Todd Conner), the hell-bent yenta Jessica (blond and versatile Makenzie Caine) and her father's eloquent, devoted poodle Mr. Brown (played by Gabriel Silva, whose take on a love smitten lapdog is hump-o-licious).
Williams' script is deftly directed by Clyde Baldo, who does a fine job balancing life's rotten, joyous curves, taking us on a seesaw ride that is loss, love and personal conflict. I was expecting a laugh-a-minute joy ride of irreverence, and while I did guffaw at this wonderfully written play, I got so much more than I bargained for. Death is a bitch, but it doesn't have to turn you into one.
Please, please extend this run. Playing until Sunday, 4/13 at the ArcLight Theater at 152 W. 71st St. Tix $18, available at http://www.theatermania.com/.