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Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

Also, Irondale's On Women Festival commences and Reverse Transcription matches an AIDS-era play with a new COVID play.

Opening number...

When the pre-show announcements began for the opening performance of Irondale's On Women Festival, I - like everyone else in the audience, I suppose - was expecting no more than the usual rundown of future performances, ways you can support the 38-year-old non-profit theatre company and, of course, instructions to keep your mask covering your nose and mouth throughout the performance.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter
Company Members of Mom On Skype
(Photo: The School of Open-Minded Kids Studio Theater)

But from the surprised and excited reaction of the audience, it's doubtful many expected an announcement that, through social media, Irondale had contacted Ukrainian solider, Oleg Onechchak, who had directed an ensemble of children in a collaboratively-written theatre piece about their recent experiences in their war-torn country which was performed in a warehouse-turned-bomb-shelter in the city of Lviv, and has arranged for them to fly to New York and give two performances in the company's Brooklyn theatre.

As previously reported by BroadwayWorld, Mama Po Skaipu (Mom On Skype in English) deals with issues of family separation as seen through the eyes of these age 10-14-year-old actors from Lviv's School of Open-Minded Kids Studio Theater. As with performances during the On Women Festival, tickets for Mom On Skype (performed in Ukrainian with English subtitles) are $30, or $15 for students, seniors and working artists.

There are very few places in the world that offer the abundance of live theatre that can be found in the five boroughs of New York City, and while we can be spoiled by the glitzy spectacle of Broadway, the most memorable and significant times I've spent watching live performances have been when suppressed voices are telling their stories; saying to us, "This is who we are. These are our truths."

I've already bought my tickets for Mom On Skype. Hope to see you there.

But meanwhile, back at the Festival...

Monica Hunken's wildly fun 1980s queer punk rock rebellion fantasia, Mt. Rushmore, begins with the playwright/performer, wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, leading the American presidents whose images were carved into what the Lakota Sioux called The Six Grandfathers in a dance to Tiffany's 1987 cover of I Think We're Alone Now.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter
Monica Hunken and Company
(Photo: Ken Schles)

Co-directed by Hunken and Theresa Buchheister, Mt. Rushmore is a monologue accented by hard rock performances where the playwright fronts a three-piece band (Nikkie McLeod, Phil Andrews and Ben Eshleman) .

A self-described political activist, Hunken tells how, as a middle-schooler, her proudest possession was a Pearl drum kit she bought with her own money.

"I don't have lessons, I don't have skill. I just want to make a loud noise, to hit something so hard but I can't hurt it."

The source of this healthy anger is her conservative mom, a supporter of every Republican president since Reagan. Fortunately, her older sister, a rock and roll photographer, nurtures her rebellious side by taking her along on gigs.

Loaded with pop culture references and a bit of audience participation (Don't worry, nobody's put on the spot) Mt. Rushmore takes on a Back To The Future twist when Hunken goes back in time to try and save her mother from a life of conservative thought. I'll leave it to the author to let you know if she's successful, but at the very least, we can be secure in the guarantee that "the future is unwritten."

Remember when Brian Stokes Mitchell would lean out of his apartment window every night after the daily 7pm cheer for health care workers and first responders and sing The Impossible Dream?

Well, the folks at Apthorp Cleaners on Amsterdam Avenue between 78th and 79th Streets sure do. I don't know how long this window display has been up, but it's a lovely tribute to the Broadway star who was hospitalized for COVID during the pandemic's early months.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

.

The Anthorp crew also seem to be fans of the Broadway revival of Company, as seen by this display in their other window...

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter

There's a subtle, brilliantly unsettling moment in Potomac Theatre Project's Reverse Transcription...

...where a young gay man, extremely cautious about COVID but craving physical affection, gives the bare-faced hookup guy who arrives at his apartment a mask, insisting that he put it on. With a smirk, the visitor places it on his crotch, suggesting a life-saving covering from a past pandemic that many were reluctant to wear.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Ukrainian Children Coming To Brooklyn in a Play They Premiered in a Bomb Shelter
James Patrick Nelson and
Joshua Mallin ​​​​​(​Photo: ​Stan Barouh)

The smirking visitor is played by James Patrick Nelson, whose excellent, hard-edged performance is the highlight of this pairing of an AIDS-era play with a COVID-inspired reaction.

Robert Chesley's Dog Plays, which premiered the year before the playwright died of AIDS in 1990, is a trio of short pieces set in San Francisco revolving around the relationships, both sexual and non-, of a middle-aged man named Dog.

In the first scene, he's haunted by the sight of a former friend (Joshua Mallin), who seemed so sick the last time he saw hi he figured he must surely be dead. Next, at a memorial for a former roommate, Dog meets hospital nurse Fido (Jonathan Tindle), who is haunted by the experience of seeing so many gay men die. In Dog Plays' final scene, Dog's lover Lad (Trey Atkins) tells of his dream to leave San Francisco and go to a fantasy world where everyone who was lost is alive and happy again.

Jim Petosa, who directs the program, co-authored with Jonathan Adler the second half, titled A Variant Strain. Here, Nelson plays Old Dog - perhaps a ghostly image of the AIDS-era character - who plays out scenes that parallel Chesley's original. The episodic evening may have some rough patches, but the strong ensemble makes Reverse Transcription worth the visit.

Reverse Transcription is playing in repertory with Sex, Grief and Death, which combines Caryl Churchill's Hot Fudge and Here We Go with Steven Berkoff's Lunch. Tickets for both programs are $31.50.

Curtain Line...

Marni Nixon once starred in a regional production of Lady In The Dark, which, when you think of it, is quite appropriate.

TodayTix Black Friday

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