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.
Life in Trump's America often feels like a deathlike daily march out of a hole eight stories below ground. Jordan Wolfe capitalizes on our collective weariness with his exuberant, campy rock musical version of George Romero's iconic 1968 horror film, Night of the Living Dead. As with all remakes, it helps to know the source material, if only to compare or appreciate the handling of familiar characters and plot-lines. But NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD! THE MUSICAL! stands on its own and makes you laugh even if zombie-eating creatures in 'middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania' don't generally interest you.
Mitchell Walker's direction keeps NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: THE MUSICAL! moving at a clip. The choreography is far more more elaborate than in most shows of this scale, as are the sets. Often in off-Broadway musicals, there are three or so strong songs and a lot of filler. And even if more than a handful of songs are solid, they tend to sound the same. Jordan Wolfe's songs range from rock to jazzy-pop to more traditional musical theater fare and his dialogue is crisp and clever. Add first-rate singers and strong musical direction by David Rosenberg and you get a well-executed musical farce (marred only by muddy sound and occasionally drowned out lyrics).BWW REVIEW: Broken Box Mime Theater Explores The Fragility of Contemporary Life in SKIN February 4, 2019
Nearly two years after an impressive debut at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theater at A.R.T, Broken Box Mime Theater is back with SKIN, a collection of fifteen short pieces which alternate between the playful and the political. In Reverse (which dazzled this reviewer), consisted of just ten pieces. These physical storytellers, who come from diverse performing arts backgrounds (none of which, remarkably, include dance) have a palpable bond, perhaps because they communicate outside the sphere of language. Acting depends upon listening, but in mime, the 'listening' takes a more visceral and amorphous form. This accounts, I think, for the intimacy one witnesses in BXBR. It's easy for mime to miss the mark, at least if one associates meaning with hitting one's marks. These performers must trust each other to help make each action intelligible. Meaning itself, one might say, is collaborative.
There is much to admire in Skin, and under Becky Baumwoll's direction, the performers continue to amaze with their ability to convey such depth and precision of feeling with recourse only to facial expressions and body language.BWW Review: Shopping Is Serious Business in Cheryl Stern's Hilarious and Poignant SHOES AND BAGGAGE August 28, 2018
Broadway veteran Cheryl Stern's SHOES AND BAGGAGE, incubated at Nancy Manocherian's The Cell, is a sharply-written musical comedy gem about a woman's lifelong obsession with shopping. The autobiographical tale by the Jonathan Larson award-winning writer (who also wrote the lyrics for the fine music by her Drama Desk nominee and Emmy winning-composer husband, Tom Kochan) is punctuated both by moments of genuine self-awareness and tragedy--from the loss of her best friend to cancer to 9/11. Under Josh Barros' direction, the result is a ferociously honest show that doubles as a memoir about a 'working [stage] actor' (not to be confused with a 'star'), whose Jewishness lovingly and palpably informs every scene.BWW Review: The Curtain Falls On Musicals Tonight! With Hilarity and Warmth In CALAMITY JANE: A MUSICAL WESTERN March 20, 2018
Often described as an off-Broadway (or off-off Broadway) version of Encores!, Musicals Tonight! presents its 100th and final production, CALAMITY JANE: A MUSICAL WESTERN, at the Lion Theater. Currently in its 20th season, the series received a Village Voice Obie award and grant in 2004. Unlike other revivals which substantially alter old musicals to appeal to modern audiences, Mel Miller's brainchild and labor of love allows a new generation to enjoy the lesser-known works of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and the Gerswhins, among others, in their original form.
Full disclosure: I have no use for Westerns in any genre (including literature) and find Oklahoma impossibly hokey and tedious. (I do like 'O What a Beautiful Morning.') The characters and plot of this by-comparison unknown musical are to me far more interesting than Oklahoma! Don't buy a ticket to CALMITY JANE: A MUSICAL WESTERN because it's the final installment of Musicals Tonight!. Buy a ticket because it's a worthy musical skillfully rendered by a strong cast. BWW Review: Joanne Hartstone Creates A Moving, Authentic Portrait of Hollywood's Golden Age in THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN January 8, 2018
From her first utterance while perched on the H of the Hollywood Sign, Joanne Hartstone convinces us that she is failed Golden Age actress Evie Edwards. Even before we know why this young actress has resolved to end her life as Peg Entwistle did, we feel the urgency of her plight. Written by Hartstone herself, THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN--a hit with audiences and critics alike at the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals--makes its New York debut at Theater for the City, fresh off a successful Hollywood run. THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN would be impressive if written by someone other than its star. But Hartstone's writing is as powerful and nuanced as her performance. In spite of some sound glitches on opening night, the one-woman show nicely directed by Vince Fusco was captivating from start to finish.BWW Review: Jonathan Leaf Explores The Roots Of Second Wave Feminism With Singular Artistry and Rigor in THE FIGHT November 10, 2017
The very title of THE FIGHT encourages us to imagine the rivalry between Phyllis Feinberg (Fleur Alys Dobbins) and Doris Marguiles (Judith Hawking)--obviously fictional names for Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan---in pugilistic terms.Deftly directed by Peter Dobbins, artistic director for the Storm Theater Company (which is currently in its twentieth season), Leaf's meticulously researched play explores the ideological and personal conflicts within Second Wave feminism, taking the 1973 meeting of the National Woman's Caucus in Houston as its dramatic focal point. Like his last work, Deconstruction, THE FIGHT is part-mystery and part-intellectual history. Profiled as an 'up and coming playwright' and compared to Saul Bellow in Timeout New York, Leaf's signature is the sustained, careful exposition of concepts and characters through sharp, witty, realistic dialogue. One thinks of George Eliot's line in Daniel Deronda's Book II: 'The moment of finding a fellow-creature is often as full of mingled doubt and exultation as the moment of finding an idea.' Leaf's plays are cerebral yet full of emotion, 'mingl ing ' ideas with with their messy human manifestations in ways Eliot, an irreducibly philosophical novelist, would approve.BWW Review: FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY Cleverly and Lovingly Pokes Fun at the Iconic Sitcom November 4, 2017
Perhaps the most surprising thing about FRIENDS!THE MUSICAL PARODY was the average age of the audience at St. Luke's Theater. Friends debuted in 1994, when some in attendance were barely walking, and many others not yet in middle school. I was about to graduate from college when the show first aired and expected to see more Gen Xers at the nearly sold-out final preview show. But Friends was more than a hit television show; it was a cultural phenomenon that influenced fashion, speech, hairstyles, and ultimately, our concept of young adulthood at the cusp of the 21st Century. Audiences believed that Monica, Ross, Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel, and Joey were friends because the actors playing them actually were. The final number, 'Where They Make A Million Dollars An Episode' gets at the rare and magical bond that develops between actors and fans on a show like Friends. Skillfully directed (and choreographed) by Paul Stancato (with nice work on sets and costumes by Josh Iacovelli and David Rigler), FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY is an entertaining trip down memory lane.BWW Review: Dan Giles Takes Up Parenthood (And Homicidal Hamsters) In BREEDERS October 6, 2017
When I posted a short reaction to BREEDERS on Facebook, a friend commented: So the play compares gay men to hamsters!? No, but Dan Giles traces, in parallel, the lives of a gay couple expecting the birth of a baby via a surrogate, and the lives of a bickering hamster couple expecting pup, to profitable and mostly entertaining ends.Mikey and Dean, now in their early 30s, have been dating since they were teenagers, when each was the only gay man the other knew. Mikey (Alton Arburo), a successful young professional who does Crossfit and likes sports, is what Armistead Maupin called in Tales of the City an A gay (or at least a proto-A Gay, as he's still making his way up the socioeconomic ladder). Dean (Jacob Perkins) is a smart, nerdy, sensitive man who, by his own admission, looks like his mother still dresses him.BWW REVIEW: SELF-YELP Wittily Probes the Absurdity of the Popular Crowd-Sourced Review Site at the 2017 Midtown International Theater Festival August 28, 2017
Like it or hate it, Yelp is an undeniable force in American culture. Like Google, it's become a verb, as in, 'I Yelped the restaurant that gave my reservation away!,' or 'I'm going to Yelp the mechanic who installed brakes instead of a timing belt!'Yelp reviews can go viral, as with the recent post by a Kyle O. from Texas about Berghain, an exclusive Berlin nightclub that is actually a gay sex mecca. They can even cost a Yale professor a deanship, as with June Y. Chu, whose elitist, mean-spirited reviews of multiple New Haven businesses added yet more fuel to the flame of anti-Yale sentiment nationwide.
SELF-YELP, then, a two-woman short play by Helene Ellford and Emily Thomas featured both at the Midtown International Theater Festival and the Strawberry One-Act Festival, could not be more timely. The five vignettes are drawn from Yelp reviews in New York City, and while the thread tying these reviews together is tenuous, the writing is consistently funny. The small audience (under ten people) laughed through most of the 30 minute piece.BWW REVIEW: Atlas Circus' Lucky Delights Audiences at Dixon Place August 24, 2017
LUCKY, the latest production by Atlas Circus, follows the life of a young man in 20th-century New York City, as he tries to find his literal and figurative center. Created and directed by Tommy McCarthy, a graduate of Muhlenberg College with 14 years of dance training (at the Joffrey and Boston Ballet, as well as Muhlenberg), the show consists of eleven comic vignettes.
Two of the performers (Evans and Avery Deutsch), along with much of the crew, are Muhlenberg alumni, which may explain the palpable camaderie among Atlas Circus members. Leo Abel graduated from Ivaldo Bertazzo's school of dance and acting and worked in experimental theater for ten years, fusing dance, circus, singing, and puppetry. Russel Norris (who has appeared at Theater for the New City, Stairwell Theater, Brave New World Rep, among others) rounds out the talented cast.BWW REVIEW: Dirt [Contained] Explores the Pain of Freedom in Fernando Arrabal's GARDEN OF DELIGHTS August 12, 2017
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.