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
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
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
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
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.
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
Nine Parts of Desire, through November 9, (limited run)
Ensemble Theater, 55 Mercer Street (at Broome St) Tickets:
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