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.
Broken Pieces, a new play by Mateo Moreno, is running as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, at the Teatro LATEA @ The Clemente (located at 107 Suffolk Street), thru July 30. Tickets are $25, benefiting Planned Parenthood. Tickets are available online here or at the door.
This week, an article about Lauren Ambrose, who is currently playing Eliza Doolittle in a musical revival of My Fair Lady, has been making the rounds in the Broadway community, regarding her choice to take the Sunday matinee off. She might be taking it off because her role is extremely difficult musically and she needs to take a vocal rest day. She might be taking it off because she has children and she’d like to spend more time with them. Whatever the reason, the decision had been made and it’s nobody’s business except for Ambrose and the show management. That should have been the beginning and end of the story.
Except, it wasn’t the end of the story. No, what happened next played into our worst instincts and harmful “ideals” of the Broadway community that pit women against one another, generation against generation. And devalue women’s bodies and well-being.
The Rafa Play, now playing at the Flea Theater’s new Tribeca home, is a meta comedy about playwright Peter Gil-Sheridan’s imagined romance with professional tennis player Rafael Nadal. Gil-Sheridan, played on-stage by Olli Haaskivi, acknowledges his dual roles as the show’s playwright and lead character from the start with an over-the-top glowing preamble, and the navel-gazing never lets up. I don’t say this to be negative, I say it as a fact. This is a deeply self-involved show.
Washed Up on the Potomac, now playing at the Flea Theater’s new Tribeca home, is a dark workplace comedy set in the proofreading office of an ad agency (or possibly purgatory, depending on your interpretation). The show opens with a proofreading disaster in the office, a very obvious and costly mistake on an iPod ad, and the boss is looking for a scapegoat. There is the harried and mousy Sherri (Crystal Finn), who is dominated by her religious fundamentalist mother; Kate (Jennifer Morris), a wannabe rocker who won a songwriting contest at a young age but lost her momentum due to a family tragedy; Mark (Adam Green), a novelist who is so critical of his work that he rewrites the same passage again and again and never finishes anything; and Giorgio (Debargo Sanyal), the office’s self-serious manager who wishes everyone would act a little more professionally.
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.