Mortified: smells like teen girl spirit

Studio 59, in association with Touchstone Theatre, is presenting Mortified.

Isaac Mazur and Emily Jane King are two of the excellent young performers in Amy Rutherford’s Mortified (Photo by Emily Cooper)

This might seem like an odd thing to say but, to me, Mortified feels whole and perfect in the same way that a body can feel whole and perfect: it’s just that organic, sensual—and complicated.

And, like being embodied, Mortified is more than a touch surreal. Playwright Amy Rutherford has set the action in the dreamlike space of an empty swimming pool. That’s where Woman conjures up Girl—herself from 25 years earlier—because Woman is so fucked up about a sexual relationship that Girl had with a guy named Ty, starting when she was 13 and he was 21, that, in her adult life, Woman is frozen. [Read more…]

Incognito Mode: not stealthy enough

Studio 58 is presenting Marcus Youssef Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn

Lauchlin Johnston’s pixelated set is the star of Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn.

Incognito Mode examines porn—while wearing rubber gloves. Amazingly, given the subject, there isn’t a millisecond of eroticism and there’s no real immersion in shame. This might be a dangerous thing to say of a show about porn, but I wanted it to go deeper.

To create the script, writer Marcus Youssef worked with the fifth-term students at Studio 58, who helped to devise the show and who are appearing in it. The script is loosely structured on the relationships among a group of friends who graduated from high school not that long ago.

In that bunch, there’s a couple whose names are Jason and Jasmine. He’s addicted to porn. But all we really see in this narrative thread are Jason’s fruitless attempts to address the dreaded subject and Jasmine’s understandable frustration at his inability to do so. What people seem to forget in stories about addiction is that there’s a lure: pleasure. There’s some kind of overwhelming intoxication. Abandon. And that’s the point. Until your self-loathing slaps you in face and makes you long for oblivion again. [Read more…]

The Skin of Our Teeth: Maybe not this time

Studio 58 is presenting Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth.

Can a temptress like Sabina bring about the collapse of civilization, or is that question flat-out sexist? (Photo of Erin Palm by Ross den Otter)

It’s easy to see why Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth was hailed as a great work when it premiered in 1942. And it’s easy to see why director Sarah Rodgers would choose to stage it in 2018. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth watching for two and a half hours.

The Skin of Our Teeth is a deliberately allegorical—and often comic—examination of the perpetual human cycle of tragedy and resilience. And it’s chock full of anachronisms. Although the play’s vernacular places the action in the forties, Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus are clearly Adam and Eve. “Antrobus” is derived from the Greek anthropos, which means “human” or “person”. And, in a little aside, Mrs. Antrobus, whose name is Maggie, is slyly referred to as Eva. She’s not the only family member who has undergone a name change either. Her son Henry was called Cain until that unfortunate incident with Abel. [Read more…]

Wilderness is a thicket of good intentions and overstatement

Studio 58 is producing Wilderness.

Playing Cole, Nolan McConnell-Fidyk understands the strength delivering his lines like a person, not an actor.

This production makes a weak script worse.

The subject matters. Wilderness is about young adults who are struggling with mental health issues, including addictions. Against the young people’s will, in many cases, their parents have sent them to a therapeutic camp in the Utah wilderness.

Playwrights Seth Bockley and Anne Hamburger—the latter sent her son to a wilderness camp—developed their script based on interviews with other families who have firsthand experience. But the results are choppy. With multiple characters and two timeframes, the script contains very few sustained scenes and precious little narrative development. Characters often stand and spew the content of their interviews, and the result feels more like disjointed reportage than compelling theatre. [Read more…]

As You Like It: Is Shakespeare’s comedy the right vehicle for a meditation on the refugee crisis?

Michael Scholar Jr.'s As You Like It draws inspiration from the refugee crisis.

Playing Orlando in As You Like It, William Edward serves notice that he is an actor to be watched.

There’s a lot going on. And a bunch of it works.

In setting As You Like It, Shakespeare’s comedy about banishment, director Michael Scholar Jr. draws inspiration from the global refugee crisis. The combination isn’t always a good fit, but it does result in the creation of a multi-textured, sometimes surprising world. [Read more…]

At Studio 58, Angels in America is angelic

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Studio 58, Prior Walter, Julien Galipeau

Prior Walter (Julien Galipeau) slaps on some lips. Pro tip: next time, apply your rouge under your cheekbones, not on them.

Yesterday, I saw the last performance in Studio 58’s run of Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches. Because the show is over, this isn’t really a review; it’s more of a shout out to some outstanding talent.

Let’s not forget what a work of genius Tony Kushner’s script is: Kushner’s examination of American culture and politics through the lens of the AIDS crisis is monumentally original—smart, moving, and hilarious. Congratulations to Studio 58 for producing it.

Rachel Peake’s excellent production featured a fantastically innovative set from Drew Facey: otherworldly figures spun around two parabolic walls on casters, revealing an endless succession of new scenes.

Elizabeth Barrett (Harper, a valium-addicted Mormon woman who is married to a gay man) and Julien Galipeau (Prior Walter, who has AIDS) ripped my heart out. Barrett’s performance was a fantastic combination of the understated and surprising. And Galipeau was heartbreakingly skinless. I can’t wait to see what these two are going to do next.

Yay!

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