BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; A Clubbed Thumb...

By: Sep. 14, 2010

Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures. 

This Week's Topic: A Clubbed Thumb and a Wreckless stage company usher in the fall theatre season

In the Indie community, the fall is a popular time for new companies to show what they have been cooking up during the summer months. The weather is getting a little cooler, Halloween is just around the corner, and Indie artists are ready to show new audiences the kind of work you might be concerned to watch in the dark. This week looks at two companies that are exploring these dark themes.

The first is Clubbed Thumb. This company, run by Artistic Director Maria Striar and associate director Diana Maxine Konopka, focuses on new American writers who write funny and strange plays. The company commissions works from these writers and develops the work which is the case with their most recent offering, Road Kill Confidential by Sheila Callaghan which is now playing at the 3LD performance space. Tickets can be found here.The company tends to focus on longer form shows and has a number of play development series including a week long series that happens at Playwrights Horizons in November and a summer festival in June. The company itself is a team of affiliated artists and was started by two actors who one day while looking through a reprint of a Victorian book of palmistry, happened upon this image of a Clubbed Thumb and finding the picture amusing, decided to use it for the company. With a full time staff of two, this duo searches through countless plays until they find something that excites them and that they want to develop. They use a blind submission process and they make it a point to try and work with writers that they have not worked with before. In many cases, Indie companies use many of the same people as the source for their plays and playwrights. Clubbed Thumb takes a different approach by encouraging the work of new playwrights who the company may not know. This has resulted in numerous awards for the company as well as accolades for fostering the careers of playwrights on the rise.When asked for a direct quote about the work the company does, Maria Striar replied, " Our work is adventurous, challenging, fun, polished and ninety minutes max. You can see artists who will be better known within the decade. Our audiences are smart and engaged, so not only is the work excellent, but it's a great group of people to sit and watch the play with" With all of the shows costing $25 or even less, this is a great opportunity to see star playwrights before they become even bigger stars.

It sounds like the next piece will also live up to its reputation. From the press release: " In Roadkill Confidential: a noir-ish meditation on brutality, a possibly rogue g-man stalks a stalled-out artist with a suspicious affinity for accident victims. Traps are set, traps are sprung, and everyone gets caught. Roadkill Confidential tackles, with style, humor and high theatricality, mediated violence and the numbness it produces, and, whether in art or in global politics, the ends can justify the means. The play was commissioned and developed by Clubbed Thumb with support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Multi-Arts Production Fund, with additional development at The Playwrights Center, The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and 3LD." Looks to be another engaging piece by a company developing exciting new work. To read more about Clubbed Thumb and to find out how to get involved, go here.

Next up, The Wreckless Stage Company offers a very dark look at a chance encounter and explores the idea of what men do to prove themselves in front of other men. The play Viewer Discretion Advised indeed lives up to its title since it shows an audience many things that are not pleasant, yet the piece still has many comedic and some laugh out loud moments. Playwright Ed Stevens has crafted a very clever piece of theatre that, very much like the characters we are introduced to, never quite tells us the whole story. Unlike many plays that take the story and tie it all up at the end with a simple answer to why these characters did what they did, this play forces the audience to wrestle with every choice that is made. The show revolves around Norm (No last name) who picks up Bud (Also no last name) off the side of the road and then takes him back to his apartment. The reason for his hospitality is never explained much in the same way we never really find out who Bud is or really Norm for that matter, but the time spent in the living room with these two is entertaining and also scary. One is never really sure if Bud, played brilliantly by Bob D' Haene, is seriously disturbed or just one of those people who likes to screw with other people's heads. Norm offers the same ambiguity, first saying that he is one thing, then back tracking and at times outright lying. Things get even more heated and intense when Norm's girlfriend Anne arrives. Katelin Wilcox as Anne is charming and flirtatious while Carson Alexander as Norm begins comical and simple, but slowly unravels as her connection to Bud gets stronger. The conversation then shifts almost entirely to her as we watch these two men slowly morph into savages with startling moments abounding right up until the play's haunting ending. The company may be known as Wreckless, but the writing here is anything but. Each line is a riddle with hints leading us to conclusions about each of these characters that constantly shift throughout the piece. Just when the audience thinks they have things figured out, Stevens takes a turn off the road and plows through the woods of psychology leading each of us to wonder what we would become if we were in Norm's shoes. One thing is for certain, everyone is glad when the lights come back on and we realize it was all just a play. The piece is playing at The Kraine Theater through October 2nd and tickets can be found here.

If these two pieces are any indication of what the fall will be like for Indie Theatre fans, then the future unlike the material, looks bright.

Read more of Michael's insights at


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