BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; Small, But Powerful
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: Small, But Powerful
Indie Theatre companies are incredibly economic. They have smaller budgets, smaller spaces, and usually very little start up capital. In spite of all this, the Indie companies produce the kind of work that provides a big experience. This week profiles two companies that are perfect examples of the small, but powerful dynamic. The first is Theaterlab. Having already been home to Dalliance Theatre Company's clever Who is Jordan Bishop, AMZ Creative's raucous Daniel Packard's Live Group Sex Therapy, and Tin Lily's fascinating Authenticating Eileen, Theaterlab has alread established it self as the lab in which great work is created. The Co-Artistic Directors of the space will be adding their own latest venture, Three Sisters Come and Go to their theatrical portfolio. From the press release: THREE SISTERS COME AND GO is inspired by French philosopher Julia Kristeva, who argues that we live under a crisis of disappearance and representation which compels us toward silence, paralysis, and ultimately a melancholia of longing. She speaks in favor of "jouissance" (joy) to be discovered through a new vision of being - perhaps through the paradox of the actor's art. Set between the apparently opposite poles of Chekhov and Beckett, the piece follows the lives of the three archetypical Chekhovian women and their desire to reconstitute their lives beyond their sense of profound loss. They inhabit a space in which "character" is the very thing that they cannot escape. Yet, in the still geometry of Beckett's Come and Go the narrative escapes the stage, opening a door to ambiguity, inviting both actor and audience to examine a trajectory of refreshed desire. This sounds like yet another piece that will offer that rare experience when an audience is challenged as well as entertained. This lab houses the kind of work that defies societal norms and to that effect, it truly has established itself as a laboratory for exciting and experimental work.
The Co-Artistic Directors Carlo Altomare and Orietta Crispino have been producing as far back as the 1970's and Theaterlab is their newest space. Found in a small white box on 14th street, it easily blends in to the myriad of buildings and businesses on that street, but the work that is produced there is bigger than the whole block. For more info on the lab and for info about getting involved in the experiment,. click here.
The AMORALISTS were formed as the result of a trip to Vegas that ended in a $5,000 loss whenthe original plan was to win $50,000 and start a theatre company. Had they decided not to form after that initial loss, the Theatre community would have suffered a much greater loss since this is a company that does work like no one else. Their latest production Happy in the Poor House has been so well received they have moved it into an Off Broadway venue at Theatre 80 on St. Marks and it is well deserving of that praise. The story revolves around the small, but powerful Paulie "The Pug", an MMA fighter who is looking for his big break and has trouble pleasing his wife whom he stole from his best friend. The plot becomes even more complex with a rogue's gallery of characters filling the expansive stage and eventually culminating in a battle royal the likes of which has not been seen since the early days of the WWF.
At first glance, this seems like a fairly basic narrative, but as it gets going, the complexity of the story and the shock at each character's blatant ignorance about certain cultures turns it into something much bigger. Paulie begins as a sort of foul mouthed cartoon and as the play progresses turns into a fascinating mixture of a South Park-esque stereotype, Willy Loman, and Brick from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Each character introduced is brought into this same level of complexity. The comedy is formed from the shock at the language everyone uses while keeping a straight face mixed with the reality that there are plenty of people out there who make racial, sexist, and off color comments and consider it nothing more than a side comment. The playwright Derek Ahonen also directs the piece with such adept attention to pacing that the show seems to fly by. The AMORALISTS mission statement reads, "The AMORALISTS is a theatre company that produces work of no moral judgment. Dedicated to honest expression of the American condition, our actor driven ensemble explores complex characters of moral ambiguity." Mission accomplished with this one. The performances in this show are top notch and the actors are so committed that no line seems out of line even though as an audience one may be consistently shocked by what is being said. This is the kind of raw unapologetic work that is bigger than all of us and serves as a sobering reminder just how small people's minds can get. The show is still running and you can find tickets here. This group may be in a bigger house than most, but it's filling up fast and with good reason.
Go see something bigger than you.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.