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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: Find The Flea and get "in trouble" with The Bats

The Flea is considered a staple of the Indie Community. It provides two viable spaces for daring and creative work and has produced award winning shows by incredible playwrights. There is no doubt that The Flea has carved out a name for itself which helps it overcome the current economic issues that are ravaging the theatres downtown. The interesting thing about this is that while they survive on a lean budget and do remarkable work, they also manage to cultivate artists in a way that is exemplary and there is no more impressive example than The Bats.

The program lists The Bats as a "young resident company. Each year over a thousand young actors audition for a place in this unique company." After seeing the startling and incredible work presented in their current offering, Girls in Trouble by Jonathan Reynolds, there should be five thousand actors auditioning. The company also serves as a support group for all of the artists at The Flea and is non-union. As a result of this, the same young man who hands you your ticket will be on stage just a few minutes later. The group works like a well-oiled machine setting up the stage during pre-show and intermission, guiding audience members to their seats, and then fully committing to their roles on stage. This alone would be considered inspiring even if the show they presented was mediocre, but it is mind blowing when the show is in fact as professional as any Broadway or Off Broadway production. In fact every new Indie Theatre company should see The Bats in action and study their magic. And what a spell this group weaves.

Girls in Trouble is one of the few pieces in NY Theatre that still manages to shock. Indie theatre is famous for "edgy" shows and often they are edgy for the sake of being edgy, but Reynolds pens a tale spanning lifetimes that is so rooted in personal power and pain that any choice made (no matter how shocking) is rooted in a truth so powerful that attention must be paid. The play revolves around abortion in a raw and visceral exploration that asks searching questions about choice and responsibility. Jim Simpson directs the piece with the precision of a surgeon cutting up the vignettes into perfect snapshots of their respective time periods and using the space in ways that are incredibly thought provoking. One of the most startling moments (as well as a moment of absolutely brilliant staging) is when a young woman is being taken away to have the procedure and rather than have her exit quickly, we are forced to watch her walk the full length of the stage while now and again being hidden by the columns. To reveal any further plot points would really rob any audience of the full experience of discovering these choices alongside each of these fascinating characters. The experience is also intensified by carefully chosen moments in sound design executed with precision by designer Jeremy Wilson.

Finally, in terms of performances, these Bats soar. Every performer is fully committed to each and every moment in this piece and they approach some of the darkest moments with a truthfulness that is often heart-breaking. They work seamlessly as an ensemble, some playing multiple roles, leaping from various examples of time-period-specific acting, to accepting conventions that are surprising. In terms of the art of working with text everyone is an Olympic athlete. In fact, it would not be surprising to see any of these performers on a Broadway stage. They certainly are worth paying over a hundred dollars to watch. The good news is that the tickets at The Flea are significantly more affordable. The bad news is that the seating is extremely limited, so get those tickets here. Today.

In a world where there is an abundance of mediocre, The Flea and The Bats are doing something remarkable. Go see the remarkable. The mediocre will still be there when you get back.

 

Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.

 


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From This Author Michael Roderick

Michael Roderick has produced at Manhattan Theatre Source, Theater Row Studios, Where Eagles Dare, the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, the Red Room, the Bridge Theatre at (read more...)