BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar, Indie Theatre's Movers and Shakers
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: Tucked away Treasures
Small companies doing Big thingsNavigating the world of new Indie productions often feels like a treasure hunt. Most of the time, one is give some obscure directions, finds a space that is not necessarily a theatre or is part of a store front or a bar, and eventually one ends up sitting or standing seeing a show in a space that they least expect. In the case of the two companies profiled this week, the treasure at the end of the search is well worth it.
The InterArt Theatre is tucked away on a corner of 10th ave and if there wasn't a specific address listed, you'd easily walk by it thinking it was an apartment complex. Upon further investigation an entire theatre space is discovered and even more exciting was what was housed there this past weekend. Royal Family Productions presented a charming piece entitled Safe Home that calls to mind the style of classics like Brighton Beach Memoirs and a Lost in Yonkers. Updated for today's tech-savvy audience with clever projection design by Alex Koch, the piece directed with precision by Chris Henry is a perfect example of well-executed theatre. The story was inspired by letters that playwright Sean Cullen had found elucidating moments from prior generations of his family. Cullen then took years to fill in the gaps and in the playwright's note explains this is his first play. The piece was incredibly polished and effectively told a fractured tale of lost love, familial bonds, and the loss of a loved one to war. The greatest loss being that even with an extension, the run finished out on February 3rd. Rumors swirl that this show could perhaps have a second life, and that would truly be well deserved. Find out more about Royal Family Productions here.
Embody Studios in Brooklyn has many uses but for short bursts of time they host theatrical productions and if one is willing to hop on the L and find the battered green door next to a pharmacy on Bedford ave, Tin Lily Productions arresting EAT. By Matin Van Veldhuizen can be found. And when an audience member sits down for this meal, they will surely ask for seconds at it's conclusion. Tin Lily is a new company that has taken an incredibly intense piece and puts the audience right in the heart of it. The space is brilliantly set up with seating on either side so that the audience can see each other and so that the action takes place so close that the audience feels as if they are sitting at the table along with the three tormented sisters who are the subject of the piece. Rarely is theatre that deals with eating disorders done with such compassion and honesty. This is a credit to Veldhuizen's inate sense for dialogue that cuts to the bone, director Jillian Johnson's amazing character work and intimate staging, and the ability of three absolute powerhouse actresses. The show opens with Tai Verley's Bea delivering a monologue about her obsession with food mixed with her growing concern about the arrival of her two sisters. One is reminded on Yasmina Reza's ART as she opens us up into the intimate world of these three incredibly distinct personalities. Throughout the piece she is vulnerable and raw and watchable.
Next to arrive is Anna, played brilliantly by Hollis Witherspoon who seems as laid back as they come strolling around having a glass of wine and chatting about life completely shielding what's to come. Last to arrive is Jo played with measured restraint by Annie Branson. As the evening wears on, each of these women slowly tear into their past and present the same way one would tear into a juicy steak and similarly, there is a lot of blood. From Witherspoon's sharp one liners to Jo's snide comments on the proper pronunciations of words, each character starts to push buttons until we are in the middle of an all out war. Incredibly impressive in this is Witherspoons transformation from laid back, sarcastic, and closed off to broken and sputtering when her secret finally comes out. There was an audible gasp when Branson struts on to the stage in tight black pants and Witherspoon makes a comment about her thighs getting fat. The casting itself a clever choice of Johnson's part to force the audience to face how much distortion there really is in body image in the face of eating disorders. Tin Lily is off to a great start with this piece and there are a few performances left. Find tickets here and be ready to be full by the end of the evening and as Johnson suggests at the end, stay and have some wine.
There are many great shows out there for those willing to search. Go on a treasure hunt this weekend.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.
From This Author Michael Roderick