Victoria Ordin is a writer based in West Los Angeles and Manhattan. Raised in L.A. around film and television, she developed an early appreciation for Broadway and cabaret from her parents, but particularly her father, whose musical passions ranged from classical to opera to Big Band. After studying English at Yale, Victoria earned her Masters at UCSB and completed coursework for the Ph.D. For the past four years, she has written a bicoastal memoir and culture blog called Victorian Chick Redux. Her work has also appeared in The Weekly Standard, Huffington Post, and Cabaret Scenes. She has just written her first review for the Los Angeles Review of Books and is currently co-authoring a book about finding love through air travel.
Early in Dirt [Contained]'s production of GARDEN OF DELIGHTS, a caller on a radio show asks Lais (Tana Sirois), the successful but tormented actress at the center of Fernando Arrabal's 1960s play, if she was was really an orphan. When Lais responds in the affirmative, the caller expresses sympathy for her presumed suffering.Lais' response provides the audience what it needs to appreciate (if not exactly to enjoy) what follows, even if Andre Breton, Antonin Artaud, the Theatre of Cruelty, the Panic Movement, and surrealism in general are literary terra incognito (as they were to me, a former English doctoral candidate specializing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries). But a little knowledge helps one to appreciate just how ambitious and complex a project this is. (I'm told Ferdando Arrabal, now in his 80s, made a special trip to America to see Dirt [Contained] perform his play. Having seen this extraordinary cast, led by the at once luminous and ferocious Tana Sirois, I can see why.)
It may be my bias as a former academic, but the more one brings to GARDEN OF DELIGHTS, the more one gets out of it. My reading of and about Arrabal since the show has retroactively increased my respect for and pleasure in the play. Nathan Gorelick's characterization of Arrabal's work in the journal Discourse is apt: '[His] theater is a wild, brutal, cacophonous and joyously provocative world. In his violence, Arrabal is related to Sade and Artaud. Yet he is doubtless the only writer to have pushed derision as far as he did. Deeply political and merrily playful, his work is the syndrome of our century of barbed wire and Gulags, a manner of finding reprieve.'BWW REVIEW: In THE UNWRITTEN LAW, 'Word Warrior' Chesney Snow Fights Racial Injustice and Finds Personal Freedom August 9, 2017
Chesney Snow (In Transit) calls THE UNWRITTEN LAW: REALITY SHOWING OF MY AMERICAN LIFE 'a choreopoem.' Like everything else in Snow's exquisitely wrought and riveting autobiographical work, his invocation of the term coined by Notzoke Shange in 1975 to describe For colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf is deliberate. In just 65 minutes, Snow compresses one-hundred years of family history and anchors this into a larger historical narrative. Not a single word is superfluous or out of place; everything signifies. Yet for all this tragedy, THE UNWRITTEN LAW isn't a downer. One feels sadness and some anger but by the show's conclusion, the dominant feeling is simply awe--awe at the courage and beauty both of the show as a whole and of Snow himself. Snow, literally, wrote his way out of the despair. The phenomenal dancing of Rebecca Arends and Maleek Washington are essential to the show's effect, as is the haunting union of A.J Khaw's piano and Varuni Tiruchelva's cello. The pure pleasure of the language, the dancing, and the music add up to 65 minutes of the most breathtaking theater I've ever witnessed.BWW REVIEW: The Goree All-Girl String Band Forges A Path To Freedom (And Audience's Hearts) August 6, 2017
One of five shows singled out as ones to watch at the prestigious 2017 New York Musical Festival festival, THE GOREE ALL-GIRL STRING BAND successfully couches a message about redemption through music in a consistently funny play about a female prison in Texas circa 1938. The true story of female inmates at Goree State Farm doesn't pull punches about racism, sexism, or the justice system. While the grim reality of incarceration (and potential sterilization) is ever-present, it is ultimately the humanity of these women who've done bad that emerges from Michael Bradley's well-plotted book and the fine acting of GOREE's ensemble, led by Lauren Patten (Fun Home).BWW REVIEW: APAC Presents A Lively and Long Overdue Revival of the 1974 Tony-Winning Musical, Raisin May 11, 2017
'There was a musical version of Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun?': this has been universal response of friends who knew I reviewing RAISIN. Even Dev Bondarin, the artistic director of APAC (Astoria Performing Arts Center) who directed the current production, only became aware of the show in college, during an historical survey of musical theater.
I will leave it to others to speculate why a musical nominated for nine Tony awards--including Best Original Score, Best Choreography, Best Book--and the winner of two statues (best musical and Best Leading Actress) has all but vanished from theatrical memory. But one hopes that Bondarin's production will restore Raisin to its rightful place in the musical theater canon, not because it takes up relevant social and political topics (which it does), but because it's a fine show with compelling music and lyrics by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan and sharp, elegant by Hansberry's ex-husband and literary executor, Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zalztberg. (The cast album also won a Grammy in 1975.)BWW REVIEW: Despite Talented Cast, Lost and Found's OLD NEW YEAR Fails To Find Its Way May 5, 2017
It's one of those great New York real estate stories that underscores what only a New Yorker understands: your entire life depends upon your apartment. Even if broke, a decent place in the right part of town is they key to everything. And broke he was, working odd jobs as house cleaner, landscaper, and law firm transcriptionist (or something equally tedious). But one day, after getting paid $150.00, he splurged on the 'full package' at a Korean massage parlor downtown.
The scene, with Hwang on the accordion, is a microcosm of a show that through laughter, music, and sometimes tears, presents a brave yet gentle portrait of an artist. Like the show and his life, the massage has a happy ending, but not the one you expect. It's a long way from Lancaster to upstate New York which Wells shares with his soon-to-be husband. In these terrifying times, when even the tough are rattled by the news, Wells and the outstanding ensemble of IT WILL ALL WORK OUT reminds us that things sometimes do.BWW REVIEW: Jonathan Leaf's DECONSTRUCTION Bravely and Brilliantly Delves Into The Difficulties of Truth April 4, 2017
Over halfway through DECONSTRUCTION, Jonathan Leaf's remarkable play about Paul De Man, Mary McCarthy (Fleur Alys Dobbins) tells Hannah Arendt (Karoline Fischer) that she sees no morality 'worthy of the name' in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. 'There's a need to find authenticity,' McCarthy concedes, 'But it seems to me that you can be genuinely and perfectly evil.' However one feels about deconstruction as a method of reading--I happen to be a fan--we should all agree that De Man was a bad guy: a thoroughgoing liar, a bigamist, a swindler, a manipulator, and the author of some 200 pieces for the Nazi publication in Belgium, Le Soir.
I've lingered over this literary-historical context (ironic, given that deconstruction deemphasizes extra-textual material, including authorial intent) because while Leaf's play works beautifully as a story about the (alleged) affair between De Man and McCarthy, the play's real triumph is how deftly it evokes the intellectual minefields on which these personal relationships developed. DECONSTRUCTION is far better, to say nothing of smarter, than most of the ideologically-driven caricatures of the play suggest. This is all the more remarkable given the play runs a mere 75 minutes.BWW Review: New Yiddish Rep's Masterful Revival of Sholem Asch's Look At Eastern European Jewish Culture in GOD OF VENGEANCE March 24, 2017
Making his theatrical debut as the scribe in the New Yiddish Rep's GOD OF VENGEANCE, real-life lawyer and ex-Hasid Eli Rosen told American Theater's Simi Horowitz that he believes in 'transparency': 'The only way to effect change is to shine a light on what goes on behind closed doors.' Or in the case of Sholem Asch's controversial 1907 play, in the basement of a brothel owned by Yankl Shapshovitch, deftly played by Shane Baker, a Yiddish stage veteran with a Vaudeville background.GOD OF VENGEANCE is a large, sprawling text, full of complex characters whose motives invite debate. In this, Asch's play embodies the best traditions of Judaism, along with the brokenness he sees in Judaism's most extreme forms. Still, Asch did not want the play produced in the wake of the Holocaust, fearing it might fuel anti-semitism. The issue is not lost on modern interpreters of Asch's text, but the New Yiddish Rep approaches the play with all the rigor and sensitivity one would wish from a Rabbinic scholar poring over a verse of the Talmud.BWW REVIEW: The View UpStairs: A New Musical Shines A Well-Intentioned Light On Gay Life in 1970s New Orleans March 6, 2017
THE VIEW UPSTAIRS is a production of the Culture Project, which bills itself as 'New York's home for socially conscious theater.' Seen in that context, the play is not without value. Just don't expect nuance. And at one hour forty-five minutes and no intermission, it's a tough slog. Out of sixteen musical numbers, only a handful are musically compelling. And given the current political climate, it's worth reminding a younger generation what it was like just 40 years ago. Few in this crowd believed Trump would become '45,' or that basic human rights-from freedom of the press to gay marriage-would be in jeopardy. Moreover, before the Pulse Orlando shooting, the fire at the UpStairs Lounge was the deadliest hate crime against gays and lesbians in American history,yet remains unknown outside New Orleans except to activists or students of queer history. Though uneven and often heavy-handed, THE VIEW UPSTAIRS has some nice moments. Given the important subject matter, one just wishes it worked better as a piece of art.BWW Review: Broken Box Mime Theater Highlights the Joys of Subversion in SEE REVERSE February 27, 2017
These are deep philosophical waters but important to understanding the work of Broken Box Mime Theater, whose mission is threefold: 1) 'To activate the imagination of audiences,' 2) 'to contemporize the art of mime,' and 3) 'to remind us all of the power of simple storytelling.' SEE REVERSE consists of ten individual pieces, some of which include some combination of eight enormously talented performers with backgrounds ranging from theater to opera to poetry: Nick Abdeel, Becky Baumwoll, Duane Cooper, Geraldine Dulex, Blake Habermann, David Jenkins, Marissa Molnar, and Matt Zambrano. Surprisingly, not one has formal dance training, which makes the precision of their physical movement all the more remarkable.BWW Review: Siobhan O'Loughlin Plunges Into Politics and Psychology in BROKEN BONE BATHTUB February 20, 2017
In a world with so many peddling-and profiting from--faux inspiration, SILENT NO MORE: A THEATRICAL DOCUMENTARY offers the real thing. Directed by Michele Christie, Ed.D., Executive Director and Founder of No Limits, SILENT NO MORE is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious as it traces the struggles and successes of courageous men and women variously affected by hearing loss. Some three decades after Children of a Lesser God, the conflict rages on in the deaf community between those who (only) sign and those who speak. A major theme of of SILENT NO MORE is that those in and beyond the deaf community need to support, rather than criticize the choices of those with partial or full hearing loss.BWW Review: Yehuda Hyman and The Mystical Feet Company Explore Grief in The Mar Vista, An Ambitious Jewish Historical Drama December 15, 2016
Nothing in the press release prepared me for the power and beauty of THE MAR VISTA, an ambitious autobiographical theater-dance piece by Brooklyn-based Yehuda Hyman which ranges over four countries on two continents in 90 years. This is no one's fault (though a tissue alert would have been nice), as the collaboration between Hyman's Mystical Feet Company and LABA: The Laboratory of Jewish Culture does not lend itself to neat description. A brief review of Hyman's artistic background--choreographer, playwright, poet, translator of poetry, and teacher of dance at Sarah Lawrence (from which he earned his M.F.A), Princeton, NYU, Barnard, and USC, among others-would best, perhaps, indicate the play's epic sweep, both emotionally and historically.BWW Review: HOLIDAY HOUSE: CHRISTMAS BENDS Delves Into Psychic Darkness At Christmas In Cold War America December 8, 2016
HOLIDAY HOUSE: CHRISTMAS BENDS, the latest from Tracy Weller's experimental theater company, Mason Holdings, bills itself as a 'darkly comedic... psychological study of how we experience childhood as outsiders.' A brief perusal of Weller's fascinating website, Tracy Weller Land-a rabbit hole in the best sense--would make clear that this is not a show for anyone under 16, notwithstanding the pre-show holiday party with cookies, egg nog, and a live Santa. And in spite of the star's evident talent, the play is disjointed and incoherent.BWW Review: Gideon Irving Makes His Own Kind of Sense -And Music - in MY NAME IS GIDEON, I'M PROBABLY GOING TO DIE, EVENTUALLY November 25, 2016
Gideon Irving is an original. One-man (or woman) shows are by definition personal, but even by the yardstick of solo performance, MY NAME IS GIDEON, I'M PROBABLY GOING TO DIE EVENTUALLY is unlike anything I've seen in theater or cabaret. The 30-year-old actor born at Roosevelt Hospital on 58th Street (along with his twin brother Isaac, a singing abalone) has performed his musical show in six countries and 504 livings rooms, along with fringe festivals and the occasional theater.BWW Review: A DOG STORY Captures Hearts and Laughs at The Davenport Theater Loft November 23, 2016
A DOG STORY is that rare musical comedy that manages to be sweet but not cloying, accessible but not banal, and light but not unsubstantial. With most of the city still in deep mourning over the election (and facing a logistical nightmare in Midtown for the next four years), this new musical--with a strong book by Eric H. Weinberger and excellent lyrics and music by Gayla D. Morgan-could not have come at a more perfect time. The show was an extended-release happy pill, after which you felt-if only for an hour or two-that everything will somehow be okay.BWW Review: Baby Boomer Sisters Cope With Aging Parents In Joni Fritz's IN THE CAR WITH BLOSSOM AND LEN November 18, 2016
Billed as a dark comedy about 50-something children faced with 80-something parents in decline, IN THE CAR WITH BLOSSOM AND LEN is a semi-autobiographical play by Joni Fritz (and directed by Tony nominee Lynne Taylor-Corbett) making its New York debut at the Queens Theater. 'I write about what I know, and what I know is family,' Fritz notes in the program's poignant note about her own theater-loving father, who did not live to see this play produced.BWW Review: In BLACKTOP HIGHWAY, Performance Artist John Fleck Muses on Simulacra, Animals (Live and Dead), and Trump November 8, 2016
Lynn Henderson delighted a small but enthusiastic audience at Don't Tell Mama in the final performance of her new show, T'AIN'T NOBODY'S BIZNESS IF I DO! With musical director Douglas J. Cohen, a multi-award winning songwriter (including a Drama Desk Award nomination and the Noel Coward Prize), and bass player Bob Sabin (himself the winner of numerous jazz awards, who sits on the music faculty both at the prestigious Hunter College High School and NYU), the veteran big band, choral, and lounge singer combined material from her 2014 CD, If We Only Have Love, with classics from the Great American Songbook (George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, among others). Ably directed by 10-time MAC Award winner Barry Kleinbort, the show also included more contemporary material by Billy Joel, Jerry Herman, and Randy Newman. September 23, 2016
The first annual HARVARD-YALE CANTATA at Feinstein's/54 Below, a musical competition modeled on the legendary boat race, was nothing short of electrifying. The sold-out show directed and produced by Tom Toce (Yale '78) was one of those evenings that make you grateful and happy to live in New York among so many brilliant and passionate artists. And if you happened to attend either school, it produced a particular pride in all that is wonderful about institutions fashionable to bash in an age of reverse snobbery. (Full disclosure: I graduated from Yale in 1995.)
While the second CANTATA played to a slightly smaller crowd, the show featured songs by lyricists who have made lasting contributions to popular music in the 20th Century: Alan Lerner (H '40), Tom Lehrer (H '46 and MA '47), and John Forster (H '69). In more recent years, Cambridge and New Haven have produced Broadway composers such as Larry O'Keefe (H '91 HEATHERS, LEGALLY BLONDE) and Bobby Lopez (Y '97, BOOK OF MORMON, AVENUE Q, and songs from FROZEN), the youngest of only 12 people to win an Emmy, Tony, Grammy, and Oscar.