Theater for the New City Stages World Premiere of SINGIN' IN THE E.R.

Theater for the New City Stages World Premiere of SINGIN' IN THE E.R.

Sometimes a trip to the Emergency Room is so awful that it's just made for Theater of the Ridiculous. That's the premise of "Singin' in the E.R.," the newest musical by Ruby Lynn Reyner, a star of John Vaccarro's Playhouse of the Ridiculous who has been called a female Jerry Lewis. The piece is inspired by ordeals in a New York City hospital suffered by the author and her husband. Now she believes that the only way to deal with such life-changing experiences is through unrestrained, exorbitant laughter. Theater for the New City will present the musical's world premiere run September 26 to October 13, directed by and starring its author.

The play was written from actual experiences, but they are transformed with outrageous satire. The setting is a fictional hospital in the dark world of medical mishaps. A variety of songs, all in rock 'n roll style, are nestled among outrageous scenes with such mind-bending events as arms falling off, crashes with the crash cart and fitting a woman's ass to a sling. One of the songs, "Biggest Balls in Town," was written by Reyner and the late Jackie Curtiss; the others are by Reyner alone.

Theater of the Ridiculous was born when two masterpieces by Ron Tavel ("Kitchenette" and "Life of Juanita Castro"), drafted as scenarios for Andy Warhol's Film Factory, found their way to the stage in 1965 when Warhol suggested that Tavel try them out as theater. This idea led to the birth of a genre to be named Theater of the Ridiculous, whose one-sentence manifesto, penned by Tavel, declared "We have passed beyond the Absurd, our position is totally Ridiculous!" A movement was formed which eventually split into three directions: Ronald Tavel's plays, directed by his brother Harvey, many presented at Theatre of the Lost Continent in the Jane West Hotel; the productions of director John Vaccarro (who staged plays by Tavel, Rosalyn Drexler and Charles Ludlam and called his group Playhouse of the Ridiculous); and The Ridiculous Theatrical Group, which enjoyed a long run of Ludlam's plays in the Sheridan Square Playhouse during the 1990s under the leadership of Everett Quinton. With cross-gender casting and drag queens as actors as two of its signature elements, Theater of the Ridiculous is now seen as the progenitor of glam rock and the Rocky Horror cult.

Ruby Lynn Reyner was a star of Vaccarro's Playhouse of the Ridiculous, appearing in "Conquest of the Universe," "Heaven Grand In Amber Orbit" and "Trilby in La Bohemia" (Drama Desk Award for Acting), among others and starting her well-known band, Ruby and the Rednecks, with musicians she worked with in the Playhouse. She last appeared at TNC in a 2014 revival of "The Life of Juanita Castro," which was presented by TNC along side "Kitchenette." Both were directed by Norman Glick as a tribute to the plays' original director, Harvey Tavel. Reyner played Fidel Castro opposite Agosto Machado as Juanita. In the play, the Castro family (Juanita, Fidel and Raul), together with Che Guevara, post for a family portrait as a director, thoroughly in charge, gives them their lines from a script. The four Cubans parrot his poetic dialogues with humorous errors. There are plenty of hi-jinx among the characters, including vaudeville bits with Fidel's cigar, jokes about paranoia and censorship and lengthy expositions in Spanglish about lust, murder and Fidel's "winsome demagoguery." It was archetypal Theater of the Ridiculous.

Reyner writes, "For my entire 45 year career, TNC has been my home. I always knew that I could put on a show and be mentored and treated fairly by Crystal Field. Thanks to her, I was able to present my beloved downtown community with original, innovative, avant garde, experimental theater. I especially recall one show that I created with my then partner, Gordon Bressack, that TNC presented at their former location (Second Ave. & 10th Street). We wrote & directed "Voidville" and it was a huge hit! Now, 40 + years later, Crystal Field & TNC are making it possible to present my new production. TNC has never let me down. Thanks Crystal!"

The actors are Ruby Lynn Reyner, Sara Cook, Richard Craven, Robin Brenner, Joyce Miller, Mila Levine, Laura Pruden, Xan Aspero, Jon DeLucca, Vilma Hodo and Levi Wise. Set design is by Jimmy Simopoulos. Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. Costume design is by Lola Niasse. The musicians are Susan Lampert (keyboard) and Mary E. Rodriguez (percussion). Stage Manager is Sara Cook and Assistant Stage Manager is Alex Carroll.

$20 general admission, box office (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net

PHOTO: L-R: Sara Cook, Robin Brenner, Ruby Lynn Reyner, Levi Wise, Richard Craven, Joyce Miller, Mila Levine, Xan Aspero. Photo by Jonathan Slaff


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