PTP NYC’s inaugural Living Room reading series was held March 22 and 23 with four readings from playwrights Snoo Wilson, Howard Barker, Dan O’Brien, and John Kolvenbach. The reading was meant to celebrate the works of these playwrights, particularly Snoo Wilson who passed away in 2013, as well as publicize PTP NYC’s upcoming summer repertory season.
The PTP NYC Summer 2015 Repertory Season is as follows:
Judith by Howard Barker, featuring Pamela J. Gray, Alex Draper, and Kathryn Kates
Vinegar Tom by Caryl Churchill, featuring Tara Giordano
Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker, featuring Jan Maxwell and Alex Draper
The 2015 Living Room reading series line-up was as follows:
A Tribute to Snoo Wilson (Darwin’s Flood, Vampire, The Everest Hotel, Lovesong of the Electric Bear), written by Snoo Wilson and arranged by Cheryl Faraone
No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming by Howard Barker
The House in Scarsdale: A Speculative Memoir by Dan O’Brien
Sister Play by John Kolvenbach
I was unable to make it to the reading of John Kolvenbach’s Sister Play, but I did attend the other three readings. While I was impressed by this group of talented actors, my feelings on the play selections was more divided.
Before the reading, I was unfamiliar with the work of Snoo Wilson, but their tribute left me wanting to see more of his work. His bizarre premises and off-beat sense of humor was very appealing, and the selections from Darwin’s Flood, Vampire, The Everest Hotel, and Lovesong of the Electric Bear showed Wilson’s range from hilarious to heartbreaking. In Darwin’s Flood, Charles and Emma Darwin come face to face with Jesus Christ, as in the Son of God, and he isn’t what they expect. Vampire is a unique take on the Victorian vampire and spans generations to World War I and ending in a funeral parlor catering specifically to bikers. In contrast, The Everest Hotel follows a singing group of juvenile delinquents employed by the Catholic Church to convert Communists using rock music. Lovesong of the Electric Bear is about the life of Alan Turing, and one of the main characters is a sentient teddy bear. In particular, I really wanted to see more of Vampire, one of the reading’s more female-driven pieces, and Lovesong of the Electric Bear. Perhaps with the success of The Imitation Game, it might be time for a revival.
On the other end of the spectrum, I really despised No End of Blame. The actors all did their best and managed to interject some humor into their line delivery, but I thought the writing was obnoxious and self-serving, not to mention blatantly sexist. If a play is going to open with a rape joke, it had better be a good one or serve a real purpose. If that play opens with a bad rape joke and then has almost no female characters of any significance, that is a major problem. Also, painting socks on a person’s legs will not keep them warm when they move to frigid Russia with no suitcase. That scene drove me absolutely crazy. I mean, I get it. He is an artist and its supposed to be symbolic, but it is also super pretentious. The only part of the play that I found interesting was the conflict between the British government and the newspaper and ensuing confusion about whether the country is at war with the USSR.
Fortunately, the readings ended on a high note for me with The House in Scarsdale. Alex Draper, who also played Bela in No End of Blame, was much more enjoyable here playing a whole cast of characters opposite Danny Wolohan, who played Dan. In the play, Dan is searching for the answers to his family’s secrets and write a memoir play while trying to sort out his own identity. It was funny, thoughtful, and honest, and it kept me engaged for the entire 2 hours with no intermission.
For more information about PTP NYC and their upcoming productions, visit them online at PotomacTheatreProject.org or call 212-352-3101.