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Review: Never Losing Hope With SEX, SHOPLIFTING AND ROCK & ROLL at Theater For The New City

Recently in performances at the iconic East Village venue.

Review: Never Losing Hope With SEX, SHOPLIFTING AND ROCK & ROLL at Theater For The New City Hope - what a wonderful word to believe in, after everything the world has been through in the last year. Hope is a wonder in itself - a reason, a belief, even a reason to believe. It is living our days with the ever-present idea of something better to come, even if we don't know what it is or will look like; it brings us to smile, even if reality strives to whittle that smile away. Hope is the way many of us have been living, so we are all too familiar with what it means to reflect on our lives in times of struggle. When something so tragic, so widespread becomes something so personal, we are forced to take a step back from ourselves and see the world in a new light.

Now think about that in terms of drug addiction. It's an issue many of us don't see - something that isn't broadcasted on the news daily, or that which brings us to worry day after day. It isn't something with a fixed set of symptoms - no rhyme or reason. But the power that theater has is that it can hone in on a single person and give us the chance to partake in her story - to make us see something that wasn't there before, but in truth was always there. It allows us to be instantly transported to another world and see hope in one of its purest forms: in that of a human being who is suddenly given her reason to live. Recently performed at Theater for the New City, Claude Solnik's Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll not only proves how theater has returned to our shaken reality for the better, but also that, like his 24-year old protagonist who slowly rises from the rubble, hope is something that is never truly in our power to lose.

Directed by JD Glickman, Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll concluded its two-week run this past Sunday. Performed at the East Village icon and with COVID guidelines in check, audiences returned to the theater at long last to witness a show truly worth the wait. This is a story about people who embrace the unknown, and in it find new life. A security guard bails out a young woman who tries to steal from her store, then takes her home for a night of fun. Hope and Ringer question their relationship the next morning, made that much more complicated by the presence of Hope's supposed ex-boyfriend, Lou. Formerly out of Lou's car, Hope and Lou soon become frequent visitors at Ringer's apartment, strengthening the bond of complete strangers. With love comes consequence, and Hope reveals details about her life that soon become too much of a burden for her to bear alone. Review: Never Losing Hope With SEX, SHOPLIFTING AND ROCK & ROLL at Theater For The New City

Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll brings us into the world of drug addiction, in the form of a young girl, almost 25, who has little to live for other than her next fix. Her life is a mess, her goals non-existent other than getting through each day. But then, life becomes impassioned with the fire of purpose, and that deep-rooted existentialism, the question of "what is", makes for one riveting plot.

As the theater's resident playwright, Solnik has written quite a few plays which showcase his ability to capture the true essence of a certain moment and make it palpable to his audience; I believe Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll is truly an ode to his talent. It is Solnik's ability to capture the extraordinary within the ordinary that makes his plays so raw, and yet so profound. Rock & Roll is a very real look into the life of a drug addict, taking us step by step towards a complete understanding of each person and how they ultimately wound up in a very uncertain present. This show didn't feel like watching a sequence of events being acted out towards an end, as much of theater does - each moment, each day in these characters' lives is significant, as it brought with it a new challenge on each of the links of the chain which binds them. Good theater pushes the limits of what the audience is comfortable with, and this show really did a great job of doing just that.

Review: Never Losing Hope With SEX, SHOPLIFTING AND ROCK & ROLL at Theater For The New City Credit must go towards all of those who made this production of Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll possible. Emily Vaeth, Dan Purcell and Elisa Tarquinio make up a wonderful cast that very adeptly navigates its way through this plot. Although the circumstances of this show are extraordinary to many, these three actors bring to each moment a certain tangibility - a perfectly clear understanding of how life can suddenly take a turn for the worst in a single instant. Each character compliments the other in their joint, dysfunctional plan of getting through life in one piece; everyone was well cast indeed. Kudos also to Lighting Designer Marsh Shugart (who has partnered with Solnik on numerous performances and never disappoints), Joanna Newman (Stage Manager), Natasha Velez (Lighting Board) and Executive Artistic Director Crystal Field. Mike Borgia composed original music for the show, and Erin Michelitsch served as the production's photographer.

Sex, Shoplifting and Rock & Roll premiered at Theater for the New City (located at 155 1st Avenue) on May 13th, and ran thru May 23rd. Please visit the theater's website here to see why they remain a wonderful community staple, in addition to checking out exciting upcoming events (including the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, running May 28th-30th).

Thank you for making my return to the theater a happy one, and definitely full of hope for what's to come - it's good to be back.

Photo Credit: Erin Michelitsch

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