BWW Blog: To the Mothership – Day One – CASA VALENTINA and SLEEP NO MORE

Greetings Dear Readers. The lure of the Mothership was finally too great and I have returned to her to see what kind of wisdom she wants to impart. Yes, I have returned to New York to avail myself of the fabulous new shows the city has to offer.

After a long and arduous journey I finally made it into the city and barely in time to catch my first show.

CASA VALENTINA

BWW Blog: To the Mothership – Day One – CASA VALENTINA and SLEEP NO MORE
Nick Westrate, John Collum, Gabriel Ebert and Tom McGowan
in Casa Valentina
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

The level of history, heart and rich characterizations in this script is astounding. It's 1962 and a group of men, some regulars and some newbies, have ventured on up to the Catskills to a small resort where they will indulge in their hidden desires. Nothing tawdry, they just have the need to dress as women. And in the safety of the resort run by George/Valentina (Patrick Page) and his wife Rita (Mare Winningham) they can do just that. And just as newbie Jonathan/Miranda (Gabriel Ebert) comes out in to the world, so does a scheme to make their way of life more public as well as secrets that could destroy them and the safe space they have created.

Harvey Fierstein has crafted a beautiful piece which displays a not often talked about sub-section of transvestite history. And the cast couldn't be more of a dream ensemble from the theater Gods to tell this story. Page and Winningham manage some devastating chemistry together which only makes the rift between them more powerful. John Cullum and Larry Pine represent the older guard of the group and counterbalance the idealism and youthful glee of the younger guard of Ebert and Nick Westrate perfectly. Tom McGowan brings in the laughter amidst the tears wonderfully with his wry observations. Reed Birney as the agenda laden Charlotte manages a kind of duplicitousness while still obviously caring for her group. And I must mention Lisa Emery who may only come in for one scene but her facility as the outside spotlight intruding in on this haven is a quite powerful one.

And I have to gush a little over Ebert who had me in empathetic tears with his giddy fear mixed with exuberance over his first foray into this world. His vulnerability throughout the piece is palpable and entrancing.

I'm suspending my three letter rating system for this trip Dear Readers, as most will more than likely be WOW's or at the least YAY's but this is one stunning piece of theater that should be seen.

You can find out more about it at www.casavalentinabroadway.com.

SLEEP NO MORE

BWW Blog: To the Mothership – Day One – CASA VALENTINA and SLEEP NO MORE
Nicholas Bruder and Sophie Bortolussi with audience members
in Sleep No More
Photo credit: Robin Roemer Photography

So once I left the ladies of "Casa Valentina" I emerged onto the street into the heavens opening up and dumping buckets of water down upon us. We Seattleites know our rain and this is that incessant deluge of huge water drops that soaks you to the skin within seconds. So getting a cab over to the McKittrick Hotel to catch the phenomenon of "Sleep No More" was not easy but I finally made it.

Sopping wet and exhausted I stumbled into the darkened hallway (yes, it's quite dark throughout) and into a world where the tone and style never waivers. The piece is part theater, part haunted house, part dance/movement piece, part jazz club and all fun. There really is something for everyone here as you wander through the various floors and rooms of the hotel watching a retelling of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" conveyed with almost no words. As you wander through you're welcome to go most anywhere you like and follow any character but your interaction is strictly limited to that of a voyeur as you're basically a ghost complete with the masks provided. Throughout the rooms and the tale, the evening can get quite intense and the show is not for the faint of heart and can last up to three hours. But even if you find it gets a bit too much for you there are black masked guides around to get you back to the safety of the bar where you can relax and process what you've witnessed. I myself found a moment where I kind of hit a wall of "too much" as I stumbled into what I can only describe as the naked disco blood orgy and birthing chamber. It was there I began my eventual retreat to the bar where happily I was greeted with some gorgeous jazz standards from the Django Conwick Quartet featuring the stunning voice of Stella Sinclair through which, along with a drink, I was able to make my mental journey back to reality.

It's easy to see why this experience is such a hit as it's like nothing you've ever experienced. Even my cab driver knew about it and told me he's picked up people who've been over 70 times which isn't surprising as you can always come away with something new. It's a bit of a mind blower.

You can find out more about it at www.sleepnomorenyc.com.

So there's Day One, Dear Readers. I'll be back tomorrow with my antics from today as I witness musicals both murderous and punk alongside family dramas.

See you soon!

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Jay Irwin Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years. He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting works.

Instituting a new three letter rating system for my reviews for 2014. They'll range from best to worst as WOW (A can’t miss), YAY (Too damn good), MEH+ (Good, with some great things going for it), MEH (Just OK), NAH (You can miss this one) and WTF (I think you can figure out my complex code there).

Jay is also an actor in the local Seattle scene. Follow me on Twitter @SeattleBdwyGeek


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