Corrections or additions?

These review by Simon Saltzman were prepared for the October 27,

2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Off Broadway Roundup

The trick to catching many of the best shows Off-Broadway is to move

quickly. A large percentage of the shows have limited runs (often as

short as three weeks) as they are produced by non-profit theater

companies under guidelines provided by Equity, the actors’ union that

limits the number of performances allowed under a special showcase pay

scale. When a show is deemed a good bet for a commercial run, the

producers renegotiate the terms and the show will most likely move to

another theater for an open-ended run. Some shows are commercially

produced from the outset. Here is a short rundown of shows currently

running that offer entertainment for the family as well as for the

adventurous.

Tracy Lett’s psychological chiller Bug, about a paranoid (is he or

isn’t he?) enlisted man who goes AWOL from an army hospital when he

begins to think that his brain has been implanted with a

mind-controlling chip, is a huge hit.

Believing he is pursued by government intelligence agents, the escapee

finds refuge with an emotionally unstable woman hiding from her

abusive husband. Together they sink deeper and deeper into a macabre

relationship and a bug-infested experience best described as a

horrific skin-crawler. Terrific off-beat performances put this one

over the top.

Bug, open ended, Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street (7th

Avenue

South); Tickets: 212-243-6252

Playwright A.R Gurney isn’t pulling any punches about his feelings for

George W, in Mrs. Farnsworth, a witty and politically nuanced play

about a woman who writes a story about the cover up of the president’s

past love affair and brings it to her writing workshop for a reading.

Interesting things happen when Mr. Farnsworth shows up unexpectedly

and gives the class, including the stunned professor, his version.

This return engagement (played last spring for a limited run) again

stars Sigourney Weaver.

Mrs. Farnsworth, ends November 6, Flea Theater, 41 White Street

(at

Church Street); Tickets: 212-352-3101.

Barbara Minkus (she played Fannie Brice on Broadway after Barbara

Streisand) is wonderful as Molly Picon (1898 – 1992), the

Jewish-American star of stage and screen, in Picon Pie. This frothy,

charming, and intimate musical bio is punctuated with more than a

dozen Yiddish songs and enhanced by the endearing performance of

Stuart Zagnit, as her husband Yonkel, and others. Nostalgic, to be

sure, but what’s wrong with coming out of the theater singing such

lyrics as "Yid’l Mit’ n Fid’l" and "A Bis’l Liebe" (Who needs a

translation?)

Picon Pie, open run, Daryl Roth Theater II, 103 East 15th

Street; Tickets: 212-239-6200.

Be prepared for an early winter, as a full-scale blizzard (actually

tons of white confetti) is literally blown with gale force through the

theater in Slava’s Snowshow, a unique family entertainment starring

Slava Polunin, Russia’s greatest clown, and company. The somewhat

melancholy and relatively silent episodes are buoyed by encouraged

audience interaction with giant beach balls and balloons. At the

performance I caught, it was the very youngest children (some looked

to be about five to seven years old) who had the most fun.

Slava’s Snowshow, open run, Union Square Theater, 100 East 17th

Street. Tickets: 212-307-4100.

Puppeteer Basil Twist and company stand (unseen) behind a giant water

tank in which colorful bits of paper, feathers and other light objects

are made to move gracefully, artfully and create abstract designs in

the illuminated water to the blaring and painfully over-amplified

music of Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique. If staring at gorgeous

screen-savers for one hour (that’s how long the show is) is your idea

of entertainment, then this is for you. The show is playing a return

engagement as many people seem to be entranced by it.

Symphony Fantastique, open run, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50th

Street (at 8th Avenue). Tickets: 212-239-6200.

Cookin’ is an off-the-wall, slice and dice, chop and skewer,

rhythm-driven, fast-paced entertainment from Korea (inspired by the

performance art form called samulnori), in which the Korean performers

as chefs put together a fancy complex meal, as they fight, dance, toss

pots and pans cutlery and bodies about a huge kitchen with wild

abandon. At turns funny and frantic, yet a little exhausting. And what

child doesn’t love comedic chaos?

Cookin’, open run, Minetta Lane Theater, 16 Minetta Lane.

Tickets:

212-307-4100.

Throughout Nine Parts of Desire, a thought-provoking, insightful, and

emotionally charged one-woman play, impassioned Iraqi-American actress

Heather Raffo wears the abaya, a traditional Iraqi head-to-toe black

robe-like garment, used traditionally and as a prop.

Raffo, who also wrote the play, portrays various Iraqi women,

including a doctor, an artist, and a professional mourner before and

during the invasion and after the occupation. As we are informed by

the personal issues and social concerns of these women trying to cope

in these turbulent times, we are also riveted by Raffo’s mesmerizing

performance.

Nine Parts of Desire, through November 9, (limited run)

Manhattan

Ensemble Theater, 55 Mercer Street (at Broome St) Tickets:

212-925-1900.


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