The term “immersive theater” has been thrown around so much in recent years that it has lost much of its meaning and purpose as a storytelling device. Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is an example of doing it right, letting the audience explore the story as they please and have different experiences on each visit. Mamma Mia! The Party is tourist-friendly, and it’s more of an excuse for audiences to drink and dance to ABBA songs. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Even the newest Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, which is already unconventional enough, is serving corn bread and chili at intermission.
Just as audiences are starting to get immersive theater fatigue, writer Matt Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker (Kapow-i GoGo, Puffs) come along with a premise that is insanely ambitious, technically challenging to say the least, and gobsmackingly brilliant. Their new play The Magnificent Revengers, which is currently playtesting at the People’s Improv Theater, is a choose-your-own-adventure revenge Western. Using their phones, the audience votes on a wide range of decisions, including whether to kill or spare an enemy, buy a boat, and which of your companions will get a pretty flower. Some of these decisions may seem minor, but there are always consequences down the road.
A Modest Proposal, which played January 25 thru 27 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, imagines a dystopian future where a totalitarian government has taken extreme measures to curb the population. The ruling political party stays in power by feeding the population an unending stream of cheery propaganda, extolling the virtues of figurehead Dr. Swift (Adam Foldes). Swift is credited with shaping the new world order, one that revolves around firmly maintaining births and deaths. Any addition needs a subtraction, so the government encourages people to commit suicide at a convenient facility. Grandparents do it to make room for their grandchildren. Others do it to serve the greater good. Some do it because they can’t stand the thought of living in this world anymore.
Tania in the Getaway Van, now playing at the Flea Theater’s new Tribeca home, is a coming-of-age story spanning decades and several generations of feminists in the United States, from San Francisco in 1975 to Brooklyn in 2012. Eleven-year-old Laura (Caitlin Morris) is unsure of who she is or what she wants in life, besides watching I Dream of Jeannie with her best friend Stacy (Courtney G. Williams), pretending to be Patty Hearst, and occasionally getting frozen TV dinners when her mother Diane (Annie McNamara) is out late at class. She doesn’t know what to think about her mother going back to school, but she knows that she despises her mother’s assertiveness training and answering her seemingly endless probing questions. Even though her mother insists that there are no wrong answers, Laura worries that her burgeoning feminist mother wouldn’t like it that she really wants to be an heiress and fantasizes about robbing banks.
Don’t Feed the Indians, which opened November 3 at La MaMa’s Downstairs Theatre, is an examination of Native American character tropes and stereotypes through a series of vignettes. Some of the vignettes are comedic, taking on Pocahontas with a Keeping Up With the Kardashians-style reality show and recreating Native American carnival shows. Other segments veer into harsher realities, like a character recounting an academic accomplishment from his school days and the vicious sexual assault that followed.
Aliens Coming, a new musical at the Peoples Improv Theater, is a comedic take on low-budget sci-fi movies with a blatant naughty streak. The plot is pulled from some of the best/worst episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with some modern touches, and it centers on two teenage girls, Brandi and Clementine, who are about to graduate from high school. They have been best friends since they were kids, but Clementine’s interest in art (and the “cool art kids” culture) is pulling them in different directions. When Brandi is abducted, however, Clementine sets out to save Brandi and the world’s genitals from a prudish alien race. Along the way, Clementine finds herself and loses her virginity, and Brandi becomes a YouTube make-up tutorial star. Really, it’s a typical coming-of-age tale of friendship and following your dreams. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Soot and Spit, playing at the New Ohio Theatre through June 17, is a celebration of artist James Castle. He was born deaf and autistic, and in his lifetime, he developed a distinctive artistic style using found objects, drawing tools he created, and a mix of soot and spit.
Piehole’s Ski End, now playing at the New Ohio Theatre, has big ambitions. According to a note published in the program, the show is meant to explore “economic and environmental dread” and provide a “thoughtful alternative to the noise” of the current political climate. Lofty goals and admirable ones in this time, but are they successful?
Last Saturday, I had the privilege of seeing the matinee of Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. It is a wonderful show, and it is the perfect show to see with a girl friend or two. I had a longtime friend visiting from out of town. This was her first Broadway musical, and she loved…
The “On The Spot-Light” series wraps up today with actor/writer/musician extraordinaire (and On the Spot’s production manager) Thomas Burns Scully. Before that, however, I want to thank readers for checking out the series and getting to know the talented folks behind On the Spot. I haven’t seen a show that combines cabaret and improv quite like it, and if you enjoy Broadway standards and comedy in the style of Whose Line Is It Anyway, you can still see On the Spot Monday nights at the Broadway Comedy Club. Tickets are available here, and check out the previous spotlights with Meg Reilly, Chris Catalano, Patrick Reidy, and Andrew Del Vecchio.
Thomas Burns Scully is a multi-talented performer, writer, and musician. He starred in the short film The Boy Under The Piano, which was nominated for a BAFTA, and he composed and performed the score for A Girl Without Wings. Scully is also a recipient of the Origin Theatre WB Yeats Emerging Playwright Award. Read on for his decidedly British comic influences and why he is drawn to villains (specifically mad scientists).
Welcome back to “On the Spot-Light!” My series, which takes a closer look at the very funny cast of On the Spot, is coming to an end with only two interviews left. If you missed the series so far, On The Spot is a unique cabaret-improv comedy hybrid show, which is currently playing Monday nights at the Broadway Comedy Club. Cast members who were previously in the spotlight are Meg Reilly, Chris Catalano, and Patrick Reidy.
Up next, meet the series’ penultimate funny man. When he’s not appearing in On the Spot, he can be seen in LMAO and Eight Is Never Enough, and he is on Vine @AndrewJDV. It’s Andrew Del Vecchio!