del Rosso Review: Worse than Tigers

“Worse than Tigers,” an inventive new play by Mark Chrisler, presented by The Mill Theatre and New Ohio Theatre, concluded its run in downtown Manhattan on September 8th. I am still thinking about the play, which is a good thing. It may be more than the sum of its parts. But I am still not sure that sum is quite enough. 

  In the play’s first act, I thought Chrisler was heavily influenced by Harold Pinter. In the second act, by Edward Albee. But Chrisler throws both together and then adds a man-eating tiger to stir the pot. And it is one zany pot. 

 The play opens on an apartment tastefully decorated in shades of somber gray (expertly done by Scenic Designer Matt Carlin, with Lighting Design by Kate Ducey). The literally buttoned-up Humphrey (Braeson Herold) is married to the icy Olivia (Shannon Marie Sullivan) and for unknown reasons, their relationship has totally broken down. So Humphrey invites round a mutual friend from college in the hope he will bring them back together but instead gets a volatile cop named Kurt (Zach Wegner). What could go wrong?  But Kurt, who in addition to bringing a man-eating tiger along with him that he leaves outside the door, also oozes sex and violence in equal parts. This makes Humphrey nervous, while making Olivia thaw. Trouble ensues. 

Shannon Marie Sullivan as Olivia & Braeson Herold as Humphrey in “Worse than Tigers”

 The disparate styles in this play don’t seem to gel into a cohesive whole. Is it existential? Pinteresque? Albee-esque? Because by the time we get to the end, we are firmly in the land of realism.

The cast is uniformly excellent, as is the razor-sharp direction by Jaclyn Biskup.

 The reasons for the failure of the marriage, when we finally get to them, are  poignant. And the use of the tiger as a metaphor for facing one’s demons is effective. But two acts of roaring – by the tiger and the couple – feel protracted in getting to the crux of the play. 

It is true there are many things worse than tigers. But when getting to what’s worse takes a machete to cut through the jungle, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.


Folliet: Even Against the Odds


Everything today is

everywhere precarious

& the future bodes ill

as we struggle on

against all the odds

to make it better

following Camus’s 

l’homme revolté 

Sisyphean primal cry:

“Art & revolt will die

only with the last man.”

Duty bound we stand

our revolting fate.



Mary Folliet

September 2018


del Rosso Review: The Naturalists

“The Naturalists,” a play by Jaki McCarrick and presented by The Pond Theatre Company is having its world premier at Walkerspace  in downtown Manhattan. It is directed by Colleen Clinton & Lily Dorment, both co-founders of the nascent Pond Theatre Company, to whom credit must be paid. With too few companies female-led and even fewer female directors, the New York City theater scene is grateful to these intrepid women. 

“The Naturalists” is set in 2010 Ireland, in County Monaghan where Francis (John Keating) and his slovenly brother Billy (Tim Ruddy, in excellent form) co-exist in a crappy caravan on family land (the on-point Scenic Design is by China Shimizu and evocative Lighting Design by Caitlin Smith Rapoport).  Eventually, they will fix up “the big house” on the hill, but given eighteen years have gone by and the two are still stuck in the same dilapidated quarters, this seems unlikely. They need help, so Francis hires Josie (Sarah Street) for “light housekeeping.” Ostensibly a dancer but more of a European wanderer, she quickly becomes a fixture in the caravan as well, and both men try unsuccessfully to contain their adoration.  Josie is unruffled by their attention. What does bother her is when Billy finally tells her that Francis, now a devotee of nature, going so far as to lead schoolchildren on nature walks,  was the mastermind behind an IRA bombing  that killed 18 British soldiers, for which he spent 12 years in prison. Additional complications include an unseen mother who has deserted the family, swans, money gone missing and an uninvited former IRA colleague  John-Joe (Michael Mellamphy, sufficiently menacing and thug-like) who turns up the temperature in the midst of all the bucolic, rolling hills. 

  I confess to being a fan of John Keating. I have seen him in at least 25 stage plays in completely different roles and he ranges from the superlative to the sublime. He is incapable of giving a bad performance. Francis, the lead role in this play, is a departure for him. For Keating to go from the sweet, gentle man who has turned his life around with no desire to revisit the past to the “boss” capable of killing, showcases both his emotional and physical range. His voice is a great asset as well: it can be as soft as a lullaby and as stern and deadly as an army commander.

“The Naturalists” has a few structural flaws: the sluggish pace of the first act, clocking in at one hour and 15 minutes, needed to be picked up. The second act veers off in a direction that might make Martin McDonough fans happy, but did not seem to fit with the rest of the play. The character of Josie is the hardest role because it is a thankless role. Sarah Street could not have done any better with what she was given. It is too easy for Josie to move into the brothers’ lives; too easy to become romantically involved with both; too easy for what the ending suggests. Her background, her story, is flimsy. She is not a three-dimensional character; she is more a foil for the brothers’ continuing drama. 

As for the musical cues, as much as I appreciate the use of Tom Waits’s “Martha,” easily one of the saddest songs ever written about regret and nostalgia, for those unfamiliar with “Martha” that aspect is lost on them. To name the mother “Martha” and use the Waits song at the beginning of the play and at the end is a miscue.  But to use Vaughn Williams’s “The Lark Ascending”  was absolutely beautiful and made total sense. 

“The Naturalists” has great performances across the board and is a showcase for the talents of John Keating. Shakespeare’s kings are waiting for you, Mr. Keating. I hope the New York City theater scene takes note. 

Cast of “The Naturalists” : John Keating, Sarah Street, Michael Mellamphy, Tim Ruddy

del Rosso Review: Tell Me How I Did

Tell Me How I Did 

There was a time in Manhattan circa 1970 when actors performed “in the many places actors do plays in New York: churches, coffeehouses, bars, basement lofts, little theaters upstairs, little theaters downstairs, ELT (Equity Theatre Library), off-Broadway, on Broadway, everywhere,” said Michael Shurtleff,  the late, great acting teacher and author of “Audition.”

 I thought of that and of him while watching “Tell Me How I Did,” an evening of one-acts on August 6th & 10th, by up-and-coming playwright Justin McDevitt, courtesy of Cloudbusting Productions; not least because I had no idea the Duplex down on Christopher Street in the Village had a little theatre upstairs. And I do mean little. 

A small space forces a playwright as well as the creative team to be inventive. Clever. They deliver, with precision directing by Jessica Harika, Lights and Sound by Armando Bravi, and making the most of that space, Stage Manager Crystal Bellant. McDevitt does not disappoint, particularly with the title one-act, “Tell Me How I Did.” Set in a farcical, dystopian future that is not too far away, Lent, a waiter (Steven Ralph, sympathetic as a symbol of all the long-suffering service industry workers everywhere) has just arrived at his spare apartment, exhausted after a long shift. He drinks bourbon out of what appears to be a cat saucer, if he had a cat, and then collapses onto a chair. Enter two sleek women in black, Axby and Bet (Cat Capece and Kayla King, clearly enjoying the bad cop-worse cop routine) from CPS – Consumer Protection Services, who are not to be messed with.  They taunt Lent, rough him up, and all because of a negative consumer review on the Tell Me How I Did site. One Mariella (Thea K. Lammers, having a high time as a spoiled brat diner), complained that Lent made a face when she gave him her gum to dispose of, and worse, sang “Happy Birthday” to her off-key. It doesn’t end well, but it is worth noting that absolutely everything is subject to plebeian review on Tell Me How I Did – including CPS. 

With the second one-act, “The Happy,” we are in the hybrid territory of docu-drama crossed with Edward Albee – and it works. “The Happy” depicts a Haverhill, Massachusetts,  family: Kara (Jennifer Pace, wonderfully manipulative), Rose (Cat Capece, a study in arrested development), Duds (Tyler Adams, playing that guy who’s along for the ride), and Claudette, the grandmother (Steven Ralph – I’ll get to him shortly).  Kara has won the lottery, so she and the rest of the family have  turned up at an Orlando motel room at the behest of her embittered step-son Gabriel (Thea K. Lammers, unrecognizable and astonishing).  Gabriel has also contacted a documentary film maker  (Kayla King) who happens to be streaming the meeting live – unbeknownst to Gabriel. He wants to expose the family for what they are – and he does, but that comes with a terrible price. 

McDevitt has a natural way with witty dialogue that does not feel forced, and he is very, very funny. Consequently, the casting of Steven Ralph as Claudette equals everything that comes out of her mouth is absolutely hilarious. This is both good and bad: good because the first half of this one-act plays like comedy-drama; bad because once most of the family, including Claudette, exit, the comedy goes with them. So the play takes a turn that bisects it into two neat halves, and I would like to see those two halves integrated. I suspect, with all of that material, that there is a full-length play in there. We who will now follow the talented Justin McDevitt will just have to wait until it comes to fruition.


del Rosso Review: PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) 32nd Season – Howard Barker +Bertolt Brecht + Caryl Churchill

I can find no better way to illustrate the significance of the PTP/NYC’s 32nd Season than to offer this excerpt from Brecht’s poem “Again and Again”: 

The rain

Can’t go back up

When the wound 

No longer hurts

The scar does. 

Indeed, again and again, history repeats itself because those in power learn nothing from history except, inadvertently, that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The time periods shift but little has changed, whether it is the early 20th century charting Brecht’s life, work and music in “Brecht on Brecht,” Barker’s “The Possibilities,” written in 1989, and Churchill’s “The After-Dinner Joke,” written a decade earlier. The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Brilliantly directed by Jim Petosa, “Brecht on Brecht” which, to our happy surprise, turned out to be a musical, with dynamic musical direction by Ronnie Romano, opens on Scenic Designer Hallie Zieselman’s well-appointed, almost stately room: a black grand piano, expensive-looking Persian carpets, and four music stands facing the audience. Four corresponding company members come out: Harrison Bryan, Christine Hamel, Carla Martinez, Jake Murphy. They look at the sheet music, groan, toss it into the air, knock over the stands, create chaos, upending convention and stolidity and social order. 

What follows is a carefully curated collage of Brecht’s words, politics, music and how he took all of these elements and made them into theatre, into poetry, into singing, into art.   The company, including Miguel Castillo, Olivia Christie, Sebastian LaPointe, and Ashley Michelle, many of whom are new PTP faces, is uniformly excellent. 

“Brecht on Brecht” is both intermission-less and seamless. I mention the latter because there were highlights when the impulse was to burst into applause and jump out of one’s seat, but pauses were not encouraged.  

I am sure most people are familiar with the swing version of Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” from Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera” or Ella Fitzgerald’s version on the1960 live Berlin album (when she improvised the lyrics she had forgotten). Then comes the incomparable Harrison Bryan, and what he has done with “Mack the Knife” is a staggering work of genius that rattles the bones. Seated on top of the piano, with no props, nothing fancy, just that voice and a few simple hand gestures, the man Bryan is singing about is by turns charming and absolutely terrifying. He is not a man you would want to have a beer with. He is a man you avoid at all costs. Bryan withholds, lets loose and then reels all that emotion back in. He made Mack the Knife a cutthroat murderer’s torch song. Unforgettable.

One scene, featuring Christine Hamel, consists of four phone calls followed by a monologue. She is in the process of saying goodbye to family and friends because she is leaving. We learn it is 1935. She is a Jew in Germany and has suffered betrayal on all fronts: by her spineless husband whom she still loves and by her country. If she does not leave now, if she waits, she risks being sent away. Hamel’s face conveys all of this. The conversation with her husband that she rehearses alone and then what she actually says to him when confronted is a heartbreak. The parallels to today are… Brechtian.  

“The Tango Ballad,” a vicious, co-dependent relationship song, performed by Carla Martinez and Jake Murphy, walked a tightrope between farce and violence. Neither one of them will be leaving the other anytime soon. 

So at the end of this spectacular evening of Brecht, what has been learned?

Another illustration: after the deserved, protracted applause and the lights came up in the theatre, the gentleman sitting next to us asked, “What was that line? I missed the end of that line. ‘The bitch that…’?”

  Reading from my notes, I said, “The bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

He said, “Oh. Right. How did you happen to write that specific line down?”

Think about it. I mean, really. 

Think about it. 

“The Possibilities” by Howard Barker and “The After-Dinner Joke” by Caryl Churchill are running as a double-bill. It’s not hard to understand why. Both are British, formidable, political, glittering with brilliance. Barker, at 72, and Churchill, at 80, are also thankfully,  both still writing. My editor and I were discussing this before the performance. Righteous anger is a great motivator.

For this presentation, “The Possibilities,” superbly directed by Richard Romagnoli, PTP has selected four from the decalogue of short plays, in four different time periods. In “The Unforeseen Consequences of a Patriotic Act,” extending an Old Testament parable, Judith (Kathleen Wise, in a provocative, controlled performance) coiled, serpentine, has repaired to the country with her Servant (Marianne Tatum, a powerful presence, protective, motherly), recovering from lopping off the head of Holofernes, losing her voice and giving birth to a child. Having done more than her fair share of patriotic duty, she is content with solitude and silence. But a Woman (Eliza Renner, appropriately officious and class-conscious) sent from the government of Bethulia to convince Judith otherwise has a surprise in store for her. For Judith is a true warrior. And Judith has no shame or regret; rather, she knows the beheading was “a crime” and she will not repeat that crime or have anything more to do with the deed. The Woman in question gets nowhere tempting Judith with flattery or power or fame. So she extends her hand. But the Woman clearly did not realize the depth of Judith’s rage, and a loving gesture is exactly what she mistrusts the most. 

In the powerful “Reasons for the Fall of Emperors,” Jonathan Tindle plays an increasingly terrified Alexander of Russia during early 19th century wartime. Unable to bear the sound of his men’s screams in battle as their throats are slit, Tindle, terrific in his apparent vulnerability, is offered wax to stopper his ears by an Officer (Adam Milano) but declines. He gets no relief until a Peasant boot-shiner (played with grace, wit and humility by Christopher Marshall) pokes his head into the tent. The Peasant provides a sort of philosophical counsel and a tender display of humanity to the emperor which clearly he is not accustomed to. The scene climaxes in what can only be described as Alexander the Emperor standing in clothes he has never donned before. When Alexander offers himself up for assassination, the Peasant, affronted, declines. And because the peasant is the greater man, Alexander punishes him. 

“Only Some Can Take the Strain” is an Orwellian tale wrapped in a cockney accent. Set in the modern era – traffic, sirens, shopping carts – the Bookseller (Marianne Tatum, in a wonderful, canny performance ) initially comes off as eccentric, slightly daft, paranoid – a bag lady. But after an encounter with a Man (Adam Milano, thuggishly good) and a Woman (Eliza Renner) in a severe, black skirt suit, it is clear this “act” she puts on is with good reason. In her near-defeat, I was reminded of Lucky in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” chain around his neck, holding the luggage, can’t go on but will go on until the bitter end.

In my head, I dubbed “ She Sees the Argument But” the “ankle play.” I had to check when this was written, because this cautionary tale could be TODAY, though it is set in a futuristic society, where everything to do with women- clothing, makeup, hemlines – is controlled, policed to the nth degree. This is the ultimate blame-the-woman-before-it-happens universe. The Official (Kathleen Wise, in frightening, buttoned-up mode), interviews a Woman (Madeleine Russell, spirited, defiant), ostensibly about her sexually-provocative, above the ankle skirt. “We’re so glad you came,” the Official says repeatedly, and “We just want to understand.” The Woman is smart enough not believe this, but she is trapped. You should not believe this because you are in the real world, and you still have choices.  

In Caryl Churchill’s farcical “The After Dinner Joke” directed at a clip by Cheryl Faraone,  Selby (Tara Giordano, with an open-faced candor), is a bright, young do-gooder who hands in her resignation because she wants to save the world. Her boss, the aptly named Price (Jonathan Tindle), is the president of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Instead of letting her go, he puts her in charge of fundraising for his charity (the organization is loosely based on Oxfam). From there, with the best of intentions, Selby skips down the paved road to hell. Naively, she debates with the Labor-leaning Mayor (Christopher Marshall, in another stellar turn, nearly upstaged by his two-tone shoes and natty green socks) that not all things are political. He suggests his pet snakes. But there are snakes in the grass everywhere she turns: a businessman who runs banana farms bemoaning costs due to a devastating hurricane, never mind that it has killed thousands; a golfer who would rather give to “known causes,” meaning ones that benefit himself; Dent, the charity campaign manager (Kathleen Wise, all business here) who does not want slogans to remind people of their wealth or their complicity and undercuts Selby at every turn. 

  The thing is, poverty isn’t sexy. A hurricane that devastated an island, left it with no power and killed thousands isn’t sexy. And guilt certainly isn’t sexy. Better to devise a light-hearted, after-dinner joke to make giving to the charity more palatable, so everyone can believe they have a clean conscience and become a do-gooder just like Selby. Just don’t look at that python handbag too closely. 

I cannot recommend PTP/NYC highly enough.

Company, Brecht on Brecht, Photo by Stan Barouh

Christopher Marshall (Peasant) and Jonathan Tindle (Alexander of Russia) in Howard Barker’s Reasons For the Fall of Emperors – Photo by Stan Barouh

Tara Giordano (Selby) in Caryl Churchill’s The After-Dinner Joke – Photo by Stan Barouh

They are an extraordinary company.  They choose powerful, thought-provoking work, and the Potomac Theatre Project – actors, directors, technicians – work together in such a seamless way, there are no chinks in this armor. PTP/NYC is necessary theatre, right here, right now. 

del Rosso Review: Danger Signals

Photo by Charlie Dennis

Down at the New Ohio Theatre on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, there is an odd, interesting play by the talented Built for Collapse company called “Danger Signals,” ostensibly about time, anxiety and lobotomies.  A collaborative theatrical event with text by Nina Segal, composition by Jen Goma, choreography by Ben Hobbs, set and video design by Dave Tennent, lighting design by Joe Cantalupo, and directed by Sanaz Ghajar, “Danger Signals” is visually arresting and boasts three terrific performances. It disturbs, but not enough; probes, but not as deeply as it should. 

Jessica Almasy is about to give a lecture on the brain, specifically about lobotomies, to an auditorium full of people but is paralyzed by anxiety. Her dance/movement counterpart, the wonderful Eva Jaunzemis, tribal, other-worldly, mimics her and serves as a time-traveling narrator. Robert M. Johanson, stepping in for “All White Men who have trampled on others in the name of Progress,” is appropriately arrogant and extremely funny. 

Almasy has the largest part but also the least to do, which is unfortunate. I wish her character had been better written. I understand why she stood in front of us inert, counting out beats, but found this ineffective. It didn’t make the audience uncomfortable enough. And while it is clever to have her and Jaunzemis morph into Lucy and Becky, and while it is disturbing for neurophysiologist John Fulton to have done experiments on chimps, it is perhaps even more disturbing for neurologist Walter Freeman, the “Father of the Lobotomy” to have traversed mental hospitals throughout the United States, experimenting on patients without a surgeon, including 228 lobotomies in a two-week period for a West Virginia state-sponsored lobotomy project, referred to by the press as “Operation Ice Pick.” 

That I find deeply disturbing. Like the poor chimps, these people had no choice in the matter of what was done to them or their brains. Most often, the patients were women.                   

The surgeons were always men. “Danger Signals” could have mined more of this for a sense of immediacy, of sexism, control, hubris. For a contrast between then and now. Today, to treat anxiety and mental disorders, we have swerved to many expensive doctors prescribing many expensive pills. We have come a long way, haven’t we?  

del Rosso Review: Pity in History and Arcadia

No Pity in History

from No Pity in History: Gaukroger (Steven Dykes) and Pool (Matt Ball) Photo: Stan Barouh

from Arcadia: Septimus Hodge (Andrew William Smith) and Thomasina Coverly (Caitlin Duffy)
Photo: Stan Barouh

from Arcadia: Hannah Jarvis (Stephanie Janssen) and Bernard Nightingale (Alex Draper)

Every summer, at Atlantic Stage 2 in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, the exceptional Potomac Theatre Project comes to town under the PTP/NYC umbrella. This year is especially good, and marks their 31st season, with two plays by British playwrights in rep: Howard Barker’s Pity in History and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. The contrast of these timely plays – politics, patriotism and war vs. knowledge, philosophy and carnal embraces – highlights the versatility of all the actors, without exception. PTP is an extraordinary company.
“Theatre should be a taxing experience,” said Howard Barker in a 2012 Guardian interview, adding, “The greatest achievement of a writer is to produce a character who creates anxiety.” Pity in History, bracingly directed by Richard Romagnoli, gives us all that and more, setting the play inside a cathedral near London during the beginning of the English Revolution. Opening with a bang not a whimper, there is the chaos caused by the rabid patriotism of crazed, pack-mentality soldiers led by Factor (Jay Dunn) a nationalistic officer, destroying the cathedral’s artifacts and “idols” ; there is “collateral damage” in the form of Murgatroyd (Jonathan Tindle), a cook, dying slowly in excruciating fashion and as Croop (Christopher Marshall), the cool-as-marble chaplain remarks, “I never knew a man dies so badly, it dishonours the regiment.” Croop, an arrogant ideologue, fancies that the soldiers will become “soldiers of God” and he their cultish leader. In the middle of this is a mason, Gaukroger (a terrific Steven Dykes) and note that Barker did not name this character “artist.” Gaukroger is too pragmatic to be only an artist, with the wrong upbringing and class to call himself one. Instead, he works on commission building monuments to the dead of upper-class patrons like the widow Venables (the appropriately glacial Kathleen Wise). This pragmatism is what saves him: war, politics, patriotism, idealism are of no interest. Gaukroger is the artist as survivor, waiting out the chaos until the next wave of history washes over him. As he says to his sweet, wayward apprentice, Pool (Matt Ball), “You have all sculpture in the world stored in your fingertips if you watch. And if they do not crush your fingers you can build it all again, like the books can be re-written and all the pictures painted over again…” What is left to history after the cycles of destruction and violence and chaos is what is built and rebuilt, pieces put back together again, Caravaggios stored in a basement for posterity to unearth… the artist survives.
The Atlantic 2 is not an easy space to make look like a cathedral, so praise to Mark Evancho’s Scenic Design, to the Lighting Design of Hallie Zieselman, the Sound Design of Cormac Bluestone, some of which was truly frightening.

What history leaves behind also occupies the minds in Tom Stoppard’s astonishing, time-traveling Arcadia.  Beautifully directed by Cheryl Faraone,  seemingly disparate elements of two parallel worlds- the laws of attraction, Romanticism vs. Classicism, landscape gardening, academia, a mathematical prodigy, misogyny, the known and the unknown – coalesce into one where heart and mind work in unison.
The play opens in 1809. Septimus (a fine Andrew William Smith) is tutoring his thirteen year-old pupil, Thomasina Coverly (Caitlin Duffy, great in a difficult part) at her family’s very large country home in Derbyshire. He is also cuckolding one “poet” Ezra Chater (Jonathan Tindle, in humorous form after his long death in No Pity in History) while also having it off with Thomasina’s mother, Lady Croom (a fantastic Megan Byrne) and palling around with an unseen Lord Byron. It becomes quite clear that the young Thomasina, a math prodigy, is outpacing her teacher, and indeed, everyone else around her. It takes a while for her mother to cotton on, what with this garden of hers in need of landscaping by one Noakes (Sebastian LaPointe), who eschews Classicism for a touch of the Gothic. Lady Croom is also aware of the amorous notes going back and forth in her own home, ferried by Jellaby, the butler (Steven Dykes, superb and almost unrecognizable from No Pity in History).
The counterpoint, in alternating scenes, is set at the turn of the millennium in the same country house. Hannah (Stephanie Janssen, excellent), a scholar and author, is excavating the history of the Gothic garden for her new book with the help of the Coverly descendants: Chloe (Eliza Renner, delightful), Valentine (Jackson Prince, spot on), a mathematician, and Gus (Manny Duran, expressive and elegant). Hannah is quite happy mucking about in the garden until she is rudely interrupted by Bernard Nightingale (Alex Draper, magnificent in a role to relish), an insufferable don and critic of the first degree. He lies, dismisses her work, then suggests a partnership of sorts, as long as it suits him. While Hannah is increasingly motivated by her fascination with Thomasina and digs deeper in the library archives, researching her relationship with Septimus and her prodigious gifts, Bernard becomes more and more enamored of his quasi-fictional story. But there are consequences for hubristic ambition. Bernard, publicly humiliated, cries, “Of course it’s a disaster! I was on ‘The Breakfast Hour’!”
There are parallels between Hannah and Thomasina. Hannah says to Valentine, “It’s wanting to know that makes us matter.” Thomasina, on the other hand, not only wants to know everything, she wants to know that which is unknowable. Witness her lament at the burning of the great library of Alexandria: “Oh Septimus! – can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides – thousands of poems – Aristotle’s own library brought to Egypt by the noodle’s ancestors! How can we sleep for grief?”
Septimus replies, “….We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind.” What Thomasina does not yet know is she, too, will become part of the lost brilliance she fears; and what Septimus does not yet understand is love that comes too late, and the grief he will carry with him for the rest of his life. And that is the case with all of the arguments in this play: in the end, we are complex, contradictory, flesh-and-blood human beings, with wants, needs, desires, emotions and confusion.
PTP’s production of Arcadia is exquisite, nuanced, funny, heartrending. All credit to the beautiful costuming by Mira Veikley; the Scenic Design by Mark Evancho and his choice of tortoise; the gorgeous Lighting Design of Hallie Zieselman. Arcadia is a highlight in the heat of this 2017 New York City summer.
Pity in History was written in 1984; Arcadia in 1993. Both plays are about history, about what remains. Fortunately for us, these plays have remained and seem neither dusty nor dated; they are applicable to our world today. Great art does that. Great art survives. PTP/NYC keeps great dramatic art on the stage. We here at ONE wish PTP would come to New York City more often, and stay a good deal longer.



del Rosso Review: Quietly

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 12.03.47 PM

The newly and beautifully-renovated Irish Repertory Theatre in association with The Public Theater in New York City have brought in a doozy of a production from The Abbey Theatre in Ireland: “Quietly” by Owen McCafferty. About “The Troubles” and their aftermath but set in present-day Belfast, “Quietly” offers a day of “truth and reconciliation” – or at least, the truth, as ugly and painful as it may be.

Robert (Robert Zawadzki, solid and convincing) tends an empty pub and to pass the time, watches football on the telly, irritated as his home country of Poland gets trounced by Northern Ireland. In comes the tightly-wound Jimmy (a superb Patrick O’Kane) who knows an awful lot about football and one match in particular: July 3rd, 1974, when Poland played West Germany in the World Cup. Jimmy was sixteen years old at the time. When Robert asks how he knows so much about that game, Jimmy says, “Never mind how I know.” And by the way, Jimmy tells Robert, he has invited a man to meet him in the pub, and there might be a bit of shouting but nothing to worry about. Robert looks unconvinced, and he is right, because the moment Ian (Declan Conlon, equally superb and more than a match for O’Kane) walks in, there is a lot to worry about.

The pub in question has a special significance: a crime took place there, and for Jimmy, it may as well have been yesterday, not in 1974. Ian is a contemporary of Jimmy’s; he is a shambling wreck of a man trying to take stock of what is left of his life. This and their age are what Ian and Jimmy have in common: they are both prisoners of the past, inextricably linked, haunted, existing only in “bits and pieces.” Jimmy, coiled like a snake and ready to strike at any second, hangs onto his anger; Ian can no longer look at himself in the mirror when he shaves. But if absolution is elusive, perhaps what the two men have in common is enough to move forward.

The past, if not forgotten, has the ability to inform the present; man can learn from his mistakes. But the end of “Quietly” suggests that no matter how much the world has changed, clans and tribes and religion will aways demand you conform, or get out – and that includes “others” from far-flung countries who do not support the Northern Ireland football team.

Director Jimmy Fay has created a powder keg in a pub.The tension is sustained for the 75 minute running time, and I did not know if all of the men would leave the pub alive. For Jimmy and Ian, the past can never be left in the past, and one rash decision at the age of sixteen ruined lives and the effects have rippled on for years.

Photo: James Higgins

McCafferty’s “Quietly” owes a lot to Conor McPherson’s “The Weir.” Both Irish plays are set in pubs and there is much drink, talk, and male camaraderie. But “The Weir” is more elusive, less direct. Each character is haunted for different reasons, and they are only bound by the village they come from. What haunts the men in “Quietly” is opposing sides of same event, making their bond both permanent and devastating.

del Rosso Review: No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming

2-Alex Draper (Bela) and Stephanie Janssen (Ilona) in NO END OF BLAME-p-2

In British playwright Howard Barker’s “No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming” Bela (Alex Draper), a poet, begins his journey toward truth and freedom on the Hungarian battlefields at the end of WWI. By the time he is back in Budapest, at the Institute of Fine Art, Bela has renounced poetry and emerged as a gifted painter, a genius, the most talented in the school, with an ego to match. But Bela’s calling is not the brush; it is the pen. A political cartoonist, speaking truth to power, is what he is compelled to do. Consequences be damned.

Fanatical and driven, Bela produces an inflammatory cartoon that gets himself expelled not only from the art institute but also the country. Even his mentor Bilwitz (Jonathan Tindle, affecting and wonderful), who reveres Bela’s gifts but not his choice of application, can’t save him. No matter. Bela is ecstatic at the news. He will find freedom elsewhere.

Bela walks across the border to Russia with his long-time, long-suffering friend Grigor (David Barlow), a painter, and his girlfriend IIona (Stephanie Janssen). Here is where he believes he will find the freedom to make his political art. But after twelve years, in 1934, Russia is the land of Lenin, Stalin and the Russian Revolution gone wrong. It is not long before Bela comes to the attention of the government and an official government arts committee strongly recommends he compromise his vision – which, for once, he does. After an angry scene in the street, it is suggested he take a “vacation.” Bela is hell-bent on finding some place where freedom of expression truly exists, not for himself but for humanity; he rejects anyone who challenges his singular pursuit of truth and art, including Grigor, his now-wife IIona, and their daughter, Judith, all of whom he leaves behind.

When Bela lands in England, he kisses the ground. Freedom from tyranny at last! He is welcomed and employed at the Daily Mirror, until 1943, when he pisses off Churchill, and a smaller “committee” meeting follows. The British fussiness and tea service in this scene is hilarious, and David Barlow is just as shockingly good as Deeds, a twit of a bureaucrat, as he is with the sensitive, simple Grigor. By 1975, in England but soon to be out of a job, Bela has not found a place that gives him the freedom to make his political art. Everywhere he goes, he is kicked out for not towing the party line. He has managed to avoid prosecution at every turn, but he cannot avoid the ghosts of his past. His singular pursuit in the service of freedom for mankind comes with the price of isolation and a tortured soul.

In truth, Bela belongs nowhere. He embodies the artist’s eternal quest.

Barker’s play is one of the first PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project), celebrating their 30th season, ever produced. To choose to revive it now was timely, for myriad reasons, and I could not help but think of Charlie Hebdo and the price those artists paid for freedom.

In order for this play to work and work well, Bela has to be perfectly cast. Onstage virtually the entire time, he has to be arrogant, yes, but sympathetic and charismatic. Alex Draper achieves this brilliantly. His Bela portrays why genius makes bad company: he is magnetic and maddening, talking and interrupting with no filter, telling people exactly what they don’t want to hear with no guile whatsoever. But when he recognizes Grigor in a London park, entirely transformed and broken, Bela breaks, too. Not for long, though. He has to protect what is in his great artist’s head. There is no room for anything, or anyone else.

Barker’s play is astonishing in both scope and structure. Director Richard Romagnoli is to be credited for his own vision, and clarity. “No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming” is not an easy play, and to be able to get the brutality of Barker as well as the emotional depth of the piece is something. And that ending is a wonder.

I can’t say enough about the dynamic, brilliant Potomac Theatre Project. Does it make a difference that these actors have known and worked with each other for years, and does that translate to the relationships onstage? Yes, it does. These actors are tremendous. They exude warmth and they shine with brilliance. All of them, including Christopher Marshall, Nicholas Hemerling, Jonathan Tindle, Christo Grabowski, the chameleon-like Valerie Leonard, Alexander Burnett, Steven Medina, Shannon Gibbs, Gabrielle Owens, and Ashley Michelle. Do they blow most of the thrown-together-to-look-like-a-family-but-I-don’t-believe-it-for-a-second Broadway plays out of the water? Yes, they do. And if I have not made it abundantly clear, you must go and see this difficult, wondrous, rewarding play, running till August 7th. PTP/NYC’s “No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming” is a superb realization of the power of theater.


del Rosso Review: Good

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The always-challenging, provocative PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) is celebrating their 30th anniversary season by bringing back two plays in repertory: “No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming,” by British playwright Howard Barker, and “Good” by Glasgow-born playwright C.P. Taylor. “Good,” written in 1981, contains lines that would not sound out of place in the mouth of the current Republican presidential candidate. This is unsurprising, considering the play is set in the 1930’s of Hitler’s Germany. For the record, Hitler (Noah Berman, stellar) is portrayed as a vain, demented clown.

“Good” ostensibly tackles how it is possible for an ordinary, “good” German, John Halder (Michael Kaye) to alter his belief system in order to justify unspeakable acts. John, a successful professor and novelist at university, has a neurotic wife, Helen (Valerie Leonard), children, a Jewish best friend, Maurice (Tim Spears), and an ailing mother (Judith Chafee) confined to a nursing home. What separates him is “bringing music into the dramatic moments of my life.” This method of escapism blinds him to others’ needs, and eventually blots out his own conscience. John is recognized by the SS as a potential recruit via his novel: part of it suggests that euthanizing the ill and infirm is a mercy and in the best interests of both patient and family, this despite the fact that John is not a medical doctor and that the SS fail to differentiate fiction from non-fiction. Nevertheless, once John agrees to “write a document,” it is a slippery slope to betrayal of everything and everyone he knows, and cares about.

This is a rather linear description of a non-linear play, and the way Taylor has constructed it is genius. “Good” is told in overlapping scenes with minimal set pieces suggesting multiple locales (credit Mark Evancho for Scenic Design); it moves forward in time, then back, stops mid-scene and jumps to another scene, moves forward again, recedes. This gives it an energy and an inexorable pull: you, as an audience member, know what’s coming, and in your head you still shout NO NO NO. But John can’t hear you. He can only hear the music in his head; music which was used to great effect and added much-needed levity (sound design is by Seth Clayton).
All credit is due to Director Jim Petosa for a seamless, thrilling production, and in particular for the restraint taken with Hitler’s henchman (Adam Ludwig as Bouller and Eichmann, Christo Grabowski as Freddie) portrayed as flesh and blood men, rather than simply evil.

The most difficult part, of course, is Michael Kaye’s John. For me, he perfectly embodies Hannah Arendt’s “the banality of evil” – organizing the gassing of the Jews not out of malice, but out of “careerism and obedience.”

“Good” does not answer how this happens, but maybe it does not have to. Maybe knowing why is enough. What concerns me is what always does when I see excellent, thought-provoking theater: that the people who are seeing “Good” aren’t the ones who need to be seeing this play, and that the people who don’t see this play wind up electing another vain, demented clown as their leader.

del Rosso Review: I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour


For me, the most exciting part of “I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour” created and directed by Brooke O’ Harra at La Mama Experimental Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village, was that I stood next to downtown actress Kate Valk. If you have ever seen The Wooster Group’s phenomenal, avant-garde productions as I have, you will know founding member Valk’s work; from their interpretations of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape” and “The Emperor Jones” to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” she is, according to Hilton Als of The New Yorker, a “classical actress who performs in an experimental medium.” She is also chameleon-like from role to role, and electrifying onstage. It is no surprise Valk was at La Mama, supporting another great theater company.
I am a huge fan.
“I’m Bleeding…” is a traveling show; the audience is moved to different locations around the theater (which is how I came to be standing beside Valk) and though it is not interactive, the audience is ostensibly who the play is about. So prepare to have your space invaded, to be a participant as well as an viewer. It is a fascinating reversal.
Additionally, the living history tour deals with what we say and what we mean; repetitive phrases that begin as something innocuous and end as something entirely different; sexual and violent thoughts that are rarely said aloud but are said and confronted, including a song with the following chorus:

“I want to punch you in the face!
I want to punch you in the face!
Because I am a woman* and you are the Aud- ience
I want to punch you in the face!
I want to punch you in the face!
Because I am a Brooke and you are the audience I am an actor.”
All the performers excel at understated magnificence: Becca Blackwell, Jane Bradley, Hye Young Chyun, Sharon Hayes, Laryssa Husiak, Anna Kohler, Zavé Martohardjono, Greg Mehrten, Alexander Paris, Tanya Selvaratnam, with Nick Auer, Donna Barkman, and Dan Kuan Peeples. The inventive sets were by Andreea Mincic, lights by Sarah Johnston, costumes courtesy of Alice Tavener, sound Brendan Connelly and * original design concept Justin Townsend.
“I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour” is the fourth component of a nine-part project titled “I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: studies in directing or nine encounters between me and you.” Given that, I would now like to see all of them. And hope Kate Valk also attends.

Body: Anatomies of Being


New Ohio Theatre and Blessed Unrest ensemble are currently presenting “Body: Anatomies of Being” downtown in New York City’s  West Village until May 21st. It is an extraordinary, affecting theatrical experience about bodies: nine of them, to be exact. They are all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, genders and ages. When the actors, at the beginning of the show, come out and face the audience, they stand at the lip of the stage, the lights are brought up and they look at us for an uncomfortable length of time: they are entirely nude, and it is meant to be uncomfortable. How often do any of us look at real, naked bodies? How often do we instead measure ourselves against the exterior photoshopped, perfect bodies in the media? In celebrity culture?

Conceived and directed by Jessica Burr (who is also the Artistic Director of Blessed Unrest), with the text by Matt Opatrny in collaboration with the Ensemble, this show is a brilliant example of incorporating parts of the actors’ histories and personal stories to create a cohesive whole. There are various threads woven together, and the actors break into pairs, with one exception. Each pair has their own story: a love affair between a trauma surgeon and a model who survived breast cancer; a nurse who loves a middle-aged man grieving his sister’s death; a tattoo artist and the Italian fling who rediscovers him;  an anthropologist and her painter husband; the same painter and his subject, the middle-aged man grieving his sister; his sister and the trauma surgeon who wants to save her, and is rebuffed.

But back to the bodies. These bodies, and this fantastic ensemble – Natalia Ivana Escobar, Catherine Gowl, Tatyana Kot, Poppy Liu, Sevrin Anne Mason, Darrell Stokes, Sonia Villani, Nathan Richard Wagner, and Joshua Wynter – are almost always in motion. They entwine, stretch, dress, undress, pose, tumble, touch. They are hardly ever at rest.  The fourth wall is broken and fun facts are thrown in about the epidermis, microbes, and poop. About scent and smell and the particulars of attraction.

Blessed Unrest is described as an “experimental physical theatre ensemble” but I would also call them adventurous. Brave. There is one incredibly moving moment when one of the characters actually takes flight; and another when a man finally releases his grief and comes to terms with the past. One more, in a hospital ER, when a woman stops all motion, and lets go, finally, of her body. The body at rest.

I wish everyone could see “Body: Anatomies of Being.” I wish it toured high schools and colleges. Because by the end of this singular, 100 minute, intermission-less show, you no longer see or judge the bodies onstage; you see people. You see their souls. Ordinary bodies that are extraordinary.

Folliet Poem: FOOTFALLS ENCORE for Beckett’s 110th


+in honor of the 110th anniversary

of the birth

of Samuel Beckett

13 April 1906+

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

(1st line of his 1st novel, Murphy, entered in 1st of Murphy

manuscript notebooks 5/9/1935)

when every shoe hurts

no shoe fits like a glove

right foot left foot right foot left foot

become painful acts of love

just do one foot at a time

like all the other times

right foot first every time

left foot second every time

until the last footfall-

left or right as it may befall

del Rosso review: The Bellagio Fountain

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The most inventive, wondrous sets in Manhattan are being created by Concrete Temple Theatre at the HERE Arts Center in the Village. Water is integral to the production of “The Bellagio Fountain has been known to make me cry,” and Water takes two agile performers to bring into existence nightly: Brianna Seagraves and the ingenious Carlo Adinolfi, who is also the Designer of the set. The first sound the audience hears is ocean waves; I thought it was a recording, until I saw Adinolfi, literally cutting paper as he crossed the stage, fold over fold, creating not only shapes but also sounds.  His work is extraordinary.

Unfortunately, the script, by Renee Philippi, who also directs,  does not live up to the sets, though the actors are very fine.  Set in Florida, land of heat, humidity and hurricanes, Curtis (Heinley Gaspard) a plumber, used to love water until his wife drowned; now he hates water and his job. Nevertheless, a leak brings him in contact with Dixie (Melissa Hurst), a woman with a 5th grade education but who “reads a lot” and has a strained relationship with her daughter Maria (Lisa Kitchens), who lives in the house next to her.

In the first half of “Bellagio” there are allusions to ancient water reclaiming the earth, mourning and the longing for love.  That would have worked, and the longing for love in particular is what I thought the three had in common: lost love, love yet to be, love that has passed one by. But then, for no apparent reason, there is the Italian husband of Dixie’s who may have cheated and had another child so obviously they must separate and cause friction between her and Maria; and there are a few children of Maria’s from her divorce mentioned, but the children do not figure into her life at all.These subplots involve unseen characters, are confusing, and I didn’t believe any of it for a second.

What I did believe: Dixie on her own, in a trailer. Her daughter, divorced, also alone, in a trailer next to her. Curtis (who inexplicably drops out of the play completely), also alone. It is another thing that binds them together, along with various stages of love. Those elements plus Adinolfi’s stunning sets would have made an interesting play. No other characters necessary. Less sometimes yields more.

del Rosso Review: Cinderella

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I admit that initially I was skeptical about going to review an adults-only, “baroque-burlesque-ballet Cinderella,” presented by Company XIV and AMDM productions down in the Village at the Minetta Lane Theatre. In my head, I thought “Porn Cinderella” and that is what I expected.
Wrong. So wrong.
This is some serious shit: serious dancing, singing, gymnastic orgiastic permutations of every kind. Gender-bending, too. At two and a half hours with two intermissions for “cocktail breaks” (no rest for the performers, however, who burlesque their way through those as well) “Cinderella,” reimagined by impresario Austin McCormick, easily could have been twice as long, the audience twice as enthralled. We’d be there, still.
The familiar story unfolds with music, movement, and hardly any dialogue: the orphaned Cinderella (the astonishing classically-trained dancer Allison Ulrich) is severely mistreated by her diva-demon Step-mother (the outrageously flamboyant Damon Rainey) and operatically-inclined, conjoined Step-Sisters (Marcy Richardson and Brett Umlauf). But the lonely Prince (Steven Truman-Gray, an equally astonishing dancer, singer and a match for Ullrich) needs a companion, and so throws a Ball, inviting everyone in the kingdom. Cinderella is locked in a cage on the eve of the Ball, so she will be going nowhere, until a Fairy arrives (Katrina Cunningham, sultry and silky-voiced), freeing her, granting her wishes and giving her the right shoes.
You know the rest, right?
But not the way Company XIV does it. The visuals here are sumptuous: the audience is first greeted with a mist of red haze and gliding bodies in white; the costumes begin with shreds of Louis the XIV, corsets and wigs, and extend to contemporary pasties, glitter and codpieces. The music runs the gamut from classical “None But the Lonely Heart” in French to contemporary ballads, depending on the scene, and the mix works. I dare you not to be moved when Cinderella and the Prince first meet, by both music and dance plus chemistry. Or not to be wowed at the Prince’s bathtub entrance. Or not to want that Step-Mother to get her comeuppance.
The choreography is first-rate, and the performers in this company – whose backgrounds including Juilliard training, Cirque du Soleil, The Martha Graham School – are just incredible. It is a testament to Director/Choreographer Austin McCormick that he chooses not only multi-talented people, but also different shapes and sizes, rather the way Mark Morris does.
And the show is sexy. How could it not be? These bodies in motion are glorious. What those bodies do is impressive – in heels, in spikes, in toe shoes – and occasionally, in this show, breathtaking.

This is not Disney’s “Cinderella.” Do not bring children. Do bring a wide-open mind.

del Rosso Review: Schooled

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Lisa Lewis’s smart, funny “Schooled” begins with a charismatic, world-weary professor and film maker, Andrew (Quentin Mare, smooth, swaggering, terrific) past his prime addressing a class of students (in reality, us, the audience). “I’ve sat right where you are now. Back when real people could afford this place. No offense. If you’re here, you got money or talent, hopefully both. Money, mostly.”
Andrew teaches at one of those fancy New York City film schools while he works on screenplays and drinks heavily at The White Horse Tavern. His last big hit was ten years and an ex-wife ago. Enter Claire (Lilli Stein, a great mix of naive and canny), a 22 year-old impressionable, impoverished film student with an encyclopedic knowledge of Andrew’s work, and a hunger to succeed. She asks Andrew for help, and they begin meeting regularly, to write and drink (that would be mostly Andrew), at the White Horse. Claire could be nominated for a scholarship that would change her life, but she has competition: her brilliant, moneyed boyfriend and fellow film student, Jake (Stephen Friedrich, perfectly puppy-doggish, with a bite).
Claire wants the scholarship but she might also want the attention of Andrew; Andrew wants a hit film and eventually, wants Claire; while Jake wants Claire, the scholarship, success and Andrew to disappear.
The older professor/younger protege trope has been done to death, but Lewis makes it entirely fresh and surprising. The characters are three-dimensional, human. There is no black or white in this play; Lewis colors everything gray, shifting our sympathies and loyalties. At 90 minutes and no intermission, this play moves, and moves fast. Lewis has the humor to match that speed. Witness the exchange between Andrew and Claire:
: Oh god, the collective ego in this class, it’s inspiring.
Make a B movie. You don’t have to do it forever. The money’s in franchises. I’d love to do some quirky little relationship drama like you guys, there’s just not the time.
: Everyone in class would love to have your career.
Everyone in class is twenty. They would also love a popsicle and a nap.

“Schooled” at the Soho Playhouse, and presented by The All Americans, is part of the Fringe Encore Series, which highlights the best of the NYC and Edinburgh International Fringe Festivals, extending their run. The night we attended, the house was not full. It should be.

del Rosso Review: The Quare Land

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“It takes a clever man to play the fool, Robber,” says 90 year-old Hugh Pugh (Peter Maloney) from the relative comfort of his bathtub to Rob (Rufus Collins), the man who wants to buy his land.
Isn’t that the truth? It also takes an outstanding actor to make Hugh come alive from a stationary position for 80 minutes every night, and that is exactly what Maloney does in The Irish Repertory Theatre’s terrific production of John McManus’s “The Quare Land,” now playing at the DR2 Theatre in Union Square.
As part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival, “The Quare Land” has already won accolades before officially opening on October the 1st: Best Director for Ciaran O’Reilly, Best Playwright for John McManus, Special Jury Prize for Peter Maloney, and Best Design shared by the entire design team. That design team comprises: Charlie Corcoran (Set) Michael Gottlieb (Lighting), David Toser (Costumes), Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab (Sound) and their collective work is spectacular.
Rob, or “Robber” (Collins, a patient foil, at first) as Hugh likes to call him, a man of about 45 and owner of a construction company, comes to Hugh’s farmhouse on a hill in County Cavan, checkbook in hand, on a mission to buy the field necessary to complete a golf course for his upscale resort. But Hugh has other things on his mind: he obfuscates, digresses, tells a few stories from his long life. Hugh really doesn’t have time to listen, but listen he must if he wants Hugh’s field. And even then, he may not get what he wants.
This is a story of two generations of Irish: the old, cantankerous rural land owner who has enough to get by, lives his life entirely his own way, has a sense of his own history and is satisfied; and the younger man who is under immense pressure to succeed and has no use for history unless he can bulldoze over it. Witness the shaming Hugh does to Rob as Hugh relieves him of his watch:
“I can’t stand under your generation’s attachment to worldly goods. Big jeeps and huge houses and foreign trips and fake tits. (sermonizing) You don’t own the things you buy, the things you buy end up owning you.”

Except that, Hugh’s dreams of what he can buy in the future end up owning him as well, to his detriment. Generational differences not withstanding, it turns out that greed is ageless.

del Rosso: Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival 2015

David Kaplan, Co-founder and Curator of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown, Massachusetts, is now in its 10th year (Year TENN Ptown Sept 24-27). Co-founder and curator David Kaplan has said, “What we are about ultimately is to change the way that Williams is spoken about and thought about in the world.”
I had never been to the Tennessee Williams Festival, and was introduced to plays I had never seen or heard of before. When I ran into David Kaplan and told him my mind had been both blown and expanded, my appreciation for Williams deepened, he said, “I love it when people come to the festival for the first time, because they have no idea what they are getting into.”
He is right. This year’s productions of Williams’ plays come from South Africa, London, Boston, Mexico City, New York City, and Mississippi, as well as right here in Provincetown.
One could call the TENN Festival (mostly) a reassessment of Williams’ later work. Why?
Kaplan says, “The proposition that Williams stopped writing what was called lyric realism because he was alcohol-impaired was overturned by Festival performances of Williams’ dialogue in which broken sentences and aching pauses demonstrated virtuosic control and mature musicality. Late autobiographical plays such as The Traveling Companion and Something Cloudy, Something Clear were not marginal after all, but essential.”

The TENN Festival is essential viewing. But you don’t have to believe Kaplan. Or me. Let the plays speak for themselves.
1. The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore: by Abrahamse & Meyers Productions from Cape Town, South Africa at The Provincetown Theater. Directed by Fred Abrahamse. Cast: Jennifer Steyn (Sissy Goforth), Marcel Meyer (Christopher Flanders), Nicholas Dallas (Stage Assistant One/Witch of Capri/Rudy/Giulio, Daniel Richards (Stage Assistant Two/Blackie).
At intermission, an older, bearded man stopped me en route to the bar and said, “You’re reviewing this, aren’t you? Who do you write for?” And I explained. Then he said, “And I don’t suppose you can tell me whether you liked it or not, can you? Well, I suppose I shouldn’t ask, it’s not…”
“It’s phenomenal,” I said. Okay, maybe a reviewer isn’t supposed to tell, but too bad.
“It is, isn’t it?” said the man, delighted. “Tallulah Bankhead did this play on Broadway and it ran for five days then closed.”
‘Really?” I said.
“Yes,” he said, “but isn’t Jennifer Steyn stunning?”
Yes, yes, and more yes.
Steyn is Sissy Goforth, an aging, terminally ill showgirl living on the Italian Riviera and “writing her memoirs.” Enter the beautiful Christopher Flanders, a penniless poet and “angel of death” played by Marcel Meyer.
There are references to Kabuki in the text, and this particular production has Kabuki gently incorporated in landscape, movement, costume. It is stylized, beautiful to look at, the music is gorgeous and everything just works. The relationships work: servant to servant, servant to master, master to would-be lover. Everyone wants something in this play and no one quite gets it. The aging showgirl wants to be well and not die. She does not want to be lonely, but she wants to give nothing in return for companionship. The opportunist Flanders wants food and drink; instead, he starves. And he waits. The servant wants peace and will have none. But because it is stylized does not mean it isn’t devastating: Sissy eventually has to face the end of her life, but she does not go gentle. She isn’t good at accepting help. And though she makes a big deal of the jewels she wears and of being “robbed blind” by her servants these are distractions. She can’t take those jewels with her, and she knows it.
2. The Day on Which a Man Dies, by Abrahamse & Meyers Productions from Cape Town, South Africa. Designed and directed by David Kaplan. Cast: Jennifer Steyn (Woman), Marcel Meyer (Man), Daniel Richards (The Oriental), Nicholas Dallas (Second Stage Assistant).
A meditation on the life and death of Jackson Pollack, and what happens when the artistic spirit and motivation dies, this is another first-rate, beautifully acted, visually stunning production of a play that was unknown to me before stepping into the theater. Jennifer Steyn is unrecognizable from “Milk Train..” and Meyer captures the artist’s agony. Williams depicts the conflict between devotion to personal life and devotion to one’s art; and then what happens when there are no more ideas. When there is nothing more to give, or to say.

3. Suddenly Last Summer, by Tennessee Williams Tribute, Columbus, Mississippi. Directed by Augustin J. Corrrero. Cast: Brenda Currin ( Mrs. Venable), Drew Stark (Dr. Cukrowicz), Beth Bartley, (Catharine Holly), Laura Beth Berry (Mrs. Foxhill), Vicki Hill (Mrs. Holly), Shane Tubbs (George Holly), Cherri Golden (Sister Felicity).
A Williams classic. Yes, it is a camp film. But that camp film boasts indelible performances by Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and above all, Katharine Hepburn. It is not so much about what is remembered about Mrs. Venable’s son Sebastian, it is rather the image his mother wants to retain of him even if it means lobotomizing the truth out of the only other woman who knows the truth: his cousin Catharine. Mrs. Venable can’t very well set up a Sebastian fund and proclaim he was chaste all his life if someone out there is saying otherwise, now can she?
This production was a bit of a disappointment, and as I said, that film does loom in the mind. But Brenda Currin did not seem entirely comfortable in the part (in contrast to when I saw her at TENN @ Town Hall, where she was fabulous), and neither did the Stark’s doctor escape from “acting” the part, nor did Hill’s Mrs Holly and Tubbs’s George escape greedy Southern stereotypes. The lack of a cohesive whole seemed a directorial problem. The breakout performance was Beth Bartley’s, whose magnificent, wrenching Catharine riveted me throughout.
4.The Parade, by Peregrine Theater Ensemble, Provincetown, MA. Directed by Jef Hall-Flavin. Cast: Ben Berry (Don), Nash Hightower (Dick), Ruby Wolf (Miriam), Bronwyn Whittle (Wanda), Ian Leahy (Postman).
The Parade or Approaching the End of a Summer is the play that put this festival on the map. First done ten years ago as a world premier, it was published after Tennessee Williams’ death. This time round, when I saw it, a small grey platform was set up on the beach at low tide between the breakwater and the Provincetown Inn. So the set was Mother Nature at her best: a spectacular afternoon, blue skies, bright sun, a blue sea, and this previously unknown play.
Don, a stand-in for a young Tennessee, is in Provincetown, writing plays, on the brink of success and in love with an Adonis named Dick (or, as Don’s friend Miriam calls him, a “gorgeous, graceful moron”) who cares nothing for him and claims to be “asexual.” No one believes this. Don and Dick are on a mail-drop platform in the dunes (because that was how it was done before email had its way) and while Dick practices his dance moves, Don suffers, fumes, they bicker, and then Don storms off. Enter Miriam. Then Dick storms off and Don returns. He and Miriam confide in each other; they would, they are close friends. Perhaps too close.
Don’s work does not bring him the happiness, the love and passion he craves. Miriam believes he should concentrate on his writing instead of Dick. But she also may have ulterior motives.
The characters in “The Parade” love the wrong people, people who can’t or won’t love them back, causing immense heartache. But it is also about the conflict with the artistic spirit and how much fulfillment that spirit can and cannot bring.
This production, compared to the others, was spare. Minimal. And for me the most affecting. The cast, as I said to the director (that’s the lovely thing about the Festival being in Provincetown; one can run into people one admires everywhere), was stunning, and they broke my heart, in particular Ben Berry’s Don, a dead-ringer for young Tennessee, and Ruby Wolf’s Miriam. Their scenes together were affecting. Astonishing. Heartbreaking.
5. The Remarkable Rooming House of MME. Lemonde and Aimez-Vous Ionesco? by Beau Jest Moving Theater, Boston, Ma. Directed by Davis Robinson.
Cast for The Remarkable Rooming House… Mint (Jordan Harrison), Son (Nick Ronan), Hall (Larry Coen), Madame Le Monde (Lisa Tucker).
Cast for Aimez-Vous… Francine (Lisa Tucker), Marlene (Robin Javonne Smith), Delphine (Larry Coen), Mr. Coppitt (Nick Ronan & Jordan Harrison).

Hilarious. Sad. Absurd. A put-upon cripple. A bit of buggery. A visit from an old friend. A spot of tea. A fertile landlady. Director’s notes: “Tennessee planned for the play to be part of an evening of ‘Williams’ Guignol’ that was never produced.” That description is apt. To say more would give away too much, I think. But The Remarkable Rooming House of MME. Lemonde boasts a first-rate ensemble cast, filthy humor and pathos. That’s a lot for a short play that segues beautifully into Aimez-vous Ionesco? Two female friends meet for tea, and a ballet dancer, one Mr. Coppitt, stops by. They are preoccupied with him, he is preoccupied with himself, pisses, preens and leaves. Is there anything left to talk about? Is there anything left? Is there…anything?
6. TENN @ Town Hall consists of excerpts from eleven world-premier productions of Tennessee Williams. The show was compiled and directed by Jef Hall-Flavin.
The plays of Williams were: The Parade, The Pronoun ‘I’, Sunburst, Green Eyes, The Remarkable Rooming House of MME. Lemonde, The Dog Enchanted by the Divine View, The Enemy: Time, American Gothic, Once in a Lifetime, Curtains for the Gentleman, Aimez-Vous Ionesco?
There were also excerpts of plays inspired by Williams, from Greg Barrios (Rancho Pancho), Charlene A. Donaghy (Gift of an Orange), and Wendy Kesselman (The Shell Collection).
While there were roughly 30 performers, it could have been a cast of thousands, such was the staggering amount of talent on one stage. This was a high-energy, happy event that left me wanting to run out and buy every, single Williams’ play I did not know. I am working on it. Truly.

I did not get to see every play at the festival, but I wish I had. I wish I had a clone, because then we could have gone out each night, late, and discussed what we missed.
It takes a special kind of talent to recognize genius; this is what David Kaplan has accomplished with his astonishing tribute to Tennessee Williams, year after year for a decade. But this far-reaching Festival is also a tribute to Kaplan himself: his knowledge, breadth, and devotion to changing the Williams landscape. The next generation has geniuses, to be sure; but that is not enough. There has to be someone to rediscover, to redefine, to keep that flame burning.
What happens every year at the Provincetown Theater Festival is historic. And ephemeral. So many people from around the world contribute to this memorable experience. David Kaplan, again, “When what’s admirable is gone, it’s worth recalling, like a splendid summer day recalled in September, or Williams’ visions recalled by performances in Provincetown for the last ten Septembers. Loss sometimes prompts an imperative to recall.”
As I said, this year, 2015, is the first year I attended The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
It won’t be the last.

David Kaplan, Co-founder and Curator of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival



“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”

John Keats

vibrant hued falling season

bright with promise tinged with rue

breezes rustle to a frosty fate

but not too late to rack & rake

memories fond, fearful & true

into love’s last great bonfire

until in winter’s arms we expire

del Rosso Interview: Pat Shortt

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As I strolled down 50th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, on a bright, warm mid-September day, I approached the crosswalk and there was a man standing in front of me, already waiting for the light to change.
I knew this was Pat Shortt. I just knew it.
He was the right height, about 5’7”, and the right build, with slim legs and a broad torso. Even though he was wearing entirely different clothing from his onstage garb: dark blue denim shirt, navy stove-pipe jeans, sneakers and bright blue eyeglasses, there was something about the shape of his head, his hair and the back of his neck.
It was him.
So when he turned towards 51st, I followed him. We both stopped for the light to cross 10th Avenue, along with some other people. When we reached the other side, he was kind enough to let a few women go in front of him, me among them.
I reached the Irish Arts Center about one minute before he did. I stepped into the empty, refreshingly cool foyer and looked around.
And in walked Pat.
I said, “I knew it was you. I knew it was you from the back of your neck.”
Then I introduced myself. He laughed, shook my hand and said, ‘I’m glad the back of my neck is so distinctive.”
He asked if I would like a coffee, and I followed him to the bar while he poured.
“Looks like someone made a fresh pot. If not, I’ll make more. Try it. See if it’s all right.”
The coffee was good. He asked, “Have you seen the show yet?”
That would be “Selfie” his sold-out one-man show at IAC, and part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival.
I said, “You don’t read your reviews? You wait until the run is over?”
He laughed and said, ‘No, no, I’ve read one or two.”
I said, “Well, I forwarded your PR person, who I thought was also your minder, the review. The show was wonderful. You’re an incredible performer.”
He said, “That’s a relief; I’m glad to hear it.”

We both sat down, and I took out my pen and notebook.

I had had several back and forths with Pat’s PR person, who seemed to regard me as some sort of female journalistic assassin. So I wanted to put Pat’s mind at ease, and in fact, referred to his PR person throughout the interview as his “minder.” And every time I did that, Pat laughed.
I told him I wrote reviews for “One” because I loved theater but I was not a reviewer per se; I was also a playwright, essayist and taught writing at NYU. I also told him that I was intensely curious from a writing perspective and also, forgive the pun (or not), believe that he should be exposing himself to a wider audience.
Pat visibly relaxed.
I asked him about the genre term “sketch comedy,” which is typically performed by a group and little to nothing is written down.
I said, “When I requested a script, your minder told me there was no script. But in the program it says ‘Written and Performed’ by you, and clearly directed by you as well. So if there is no script, and I came to see ‘Selfie’ on another night, would I see a different show?”
Pat said, “Of course there’s a script, of course there is. Otherwise, the lighting director would miss the cues, he’d never know where to…well, you know, you’ve done it.
I’m very please with the reception here, because you don’t know if the show will work until you perform it. There is no rehearsal. And the first night is excruciating, because it hangs on moving people around. The audience for me is more of a foil [rather than audience participation]. I don’t want them to talk back.”
I said, “Have they ever? I have to tell you, if you had chosen me, I would have hidden under my seat.”
Pat laughed and said, while tapping his index finger on the table, “It’s only ever happened here, in Manhattan.”
“Of course!” I said, laughing. “What happened?”
“Well, I tried to move a woman up to one of the funeral mourners, and she said, ‘I own this seat. I paid for this seat. This is my seat.’”
“Oh no!”
“Only in Manhattan! And thing is, I focus on them for the rest of the night. I don’t leave’em alone. I went back to the woman – she must have had her varicose veins done, didn’t want to move – I said, ‘Would you like a cuppa tea, dear?’ She said, ‘No, I don’t want a cup of tea.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll get you a nice cuppa tea.” I came back later and said, “Would you like a nice sandwich, dear?’ She said, ‘No, I don’t want a sandwich.’ I said, ‘You will later, I’ll just get you one.”

I wasn’t writing anything down at that point because I was laughing too hard.
I asked, “You work in sketch comedy as a writer, as a creator, as a performer. How do you create those characters?
Pat said, “It’s very clinical, really. I wanted to do something about a photographer, because you see them, the press photographers, they always go into a crowd and snap a picture and they want to do it fast and then fuck off somewhere else. So I wanted a character that went into the crowd, and uses, I use, every day language. I was using the wig but it was too much of…it stood out too much, you know? My costumer, who’s been with me from the beginning, suggested the hat.”
I said, “The hat is…so naff. It’s great!”
Pat said, “It is great, isn’t it? And do you know, people said to me, they knew a photographer who looked just like that; they said, yeah, we know that stock photographer who wore that hat all the time, in the rain like, and never took the filthy thing off!”

I said, “I think it’s wonderful you transformed audience members into pallbearers. I said to Mary, my editor, ‘That is the best end of act one I have ever seen. Ever.’”
Pat laughed and said, “You know, I have an office in the BBC studio in Limerick, where I write, and there was a coffin up on a wall – must have been used for something – and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if…?’ And I kept thinking it. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could…?’”
And he nodded. Laughing.

I said, “What about the singing funeral director?”

Pat said, “Ah, the singing…I was thinking about funeral directors, and someone unlikely plugging their own first album. And the song “Margaret” to be honest with you, that was written specifically because I wanted to get to the stage where I’m balling and crying at the end of a comedy show.”
I said, “You said you played saxophone, so did you also play guitar as well?”
Pat said, “Well no, I just picked up the guitar a few years ago for a character and…”
I said, “Oh, you’re one of those irritating people who can just pick up an instrument and play it, right?”
Pat just laughed.
I said, “I’m going to out that in the piece, you know. ‘Irritating people who can…’ because I can’t contain my jealousy.”
He said, “Yes, I’ve been playing it since then. Just a few years.”

I said, “What I like best about your comedy is that it’s not bitter. And it’s not self-reverential. For example, and I know it’s sacrilege to say anything negative about him, but…Ricky Gervais. And Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I’ve had enough of it, I think. And stand up… most of it is about what is going on in the world, and I already know what is going on in the world. And I am completely thrilled that off stage you look nothing like the characters you play onstage. I can see Louis CK at The Beacon and see him offstage and he’s the same, pretty much. Same persona. Observational comedy.”
Pat sat up, pointed at me and said, “I get exactly what you’re saying. I come from a theater background. I tell people, I do silly. I do funny. And the physical …a tradition of clowning. It’s proper theater, and it’s escapism.”
I said, “Exactly.”
Pat said, “Most of the stand up I see, 85% of it is angry. I don’t want to be shouted at.”
I said, “If I wanted to be shouted at, I’d get on the subway.”
Pat said,”If I wanted to be shouted at, I go down the pub.”
I said, “And I really think, with everything going on in the world, we need escapism, the kind that makes you laugh.”
Pat said, “Yeah, takes you away for a theatrical experience for a time.”
I said, “So what’s next?”
Now, that is a long list: he remains in NYC for a week after the show ends on 9/27; then goes on to Boston where the shows have already sold out; then he tours Ireland and northern Ireland; then Australia…
I said, “That’s too far away. Are you looking to expand to audiences here, in the US? It’s television, right now, that would give you that broad reach.”
Pat said, “Yes, right now, I’m writing a sitcom with two friends for the BBC, and it’s in-house for the BBC, which is very good. It’s in development and they seem to be pleased so far; I’m pleased. The BBC says it’s first on their list of projects.”
I said, “That’s fantastic. The key is getting it to translate to here without it losing something; because we’re really good at fucking British series up. But some we can do well, like the American version of ‘The Office.’”
Pat said, “‘The Office’ was better here. Good example.”
I said, “It was funnier.”
Pat agreed, “It was.”

After 40 minutes, the interview ended, but not before I took his photo (not a selfie). He brought our coffee cups to the sink and washed them out, and I said, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t photograph you doing dishes?”
He laughed. “Yes!”
When he was finished, I shook his hand and thanked him profusely. I wished him luck on the rest of his run.
Turning to leave, I said, “And tell your minder I did not assassinate you; I was a good girl.”
Pat just laughed and laughed.

del Rosso Review: Celebrity Autobiography

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“Celebrity Autobiography,” created by Eugene Pack and a Drama Desk winner for Unique Theatrical Experience in 2009, has been running on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City and touring across the United States ever since. The show is taking part in Origin’s 1st Irish Theater Festival, with good reason: if it can work here, it can work in Ireland. Why? Because this show relies on only two sources of material: celebrities who choose to write ( and I use this term loosely) their autobiographies when clearly they have no business being anywhere near a keyboard; as well as actors and comedians who will stand up in their street clothes and read directly from said autobiographies, with hilarious results.
In short, an abundance of riches.
The actors and comedians are different at every performance. The night I saw it: Tate Donovan, Geraldine Hughes, Michael Urie, Jackie Hoffman, Dayle Reyfel, Alan Zweibel, Maulik Pancholy, and Eugene Pack himself.
Some of the autobiographies they read from: “First Step, Two Forever” by Justin Bieber; “All Things Kardashian,” by Kris Jenner; two battling books, one by Donald Trump (all about him) and one by Ivana Trump (all about her children); one by rapper LL Cool J (all about sex); three different canines – Shirley MacLaine’s, Paris Hilton’s, and Sandy from the show “Annie”; one by Diana Ross (all about being a control freak).
You get the idea.
To a certain extent, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. But consider a sample of what was written and subsequently read:
LL Cool J, first time on tour: “We didn’t even bother taking off our clothes, I just bent her over the sink.”
Diana Ross, on playing Central Park when it began, unexpectedly, to rain: “The dream had changed without consulting me.”
Kris Kardashian, on visiting the Mona Lisa with her daughter, Kim: “Like the lady in the frame, to many we remain a mystery.”
Many of the readers now say they will never venture into this particular genre, out of fear. And after listening to the most amazing drivel for an hour and a quarter, I agree with comedian Rachel Dratch, when she says, in the trailer for “Celebrity Autobiography,” “Maybe don’t write one of these.”
Fat chance.

del Rosso Review: SELFIE

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I am trying to figure out the words to describe Pat Shortt, a unique performer I was unfamiliar with until I stepped foot into the Irish Arts Center on West 51st Street in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. One-man band comes to mind, but this would be doing him a disservice. Pat Shortt is more like an entire philharmonic conducted at a fever pitch: he can play all the instruments, all the parts, compel audience members to play a few if he so chooses and make them laugh to boot. And the conductor? Shortt does that, too.
“Selfie,” part of Origin’s 1st Irish, is a high-energy solo sketch comedy Pat Shortt wrote, directed and stars in. Appropriately, his first character is an aging press photographer, who talks a mile a minute in the heaviest of Irish accents, sporting a nifty Nikon and a bad haircut. He knows everyone, naturally, because when he speaks to audience members, which he does for about 20 minutes, he calls the man Seamus or the woman Sheila; they come from the same place, know the same people, and can talk about such disparate things as showers, the telly, haircuts and premarital sex.
Shortt’s next incarnation (and all of his characters are village-types, not sophisticates) is a singing undertaker in a shiny, black, ill-fitting suit, patent leather shoes and thick white socks, promoting his album,“I’ll Be the Last Man to Let You Down.” He dislikes the Irish attitude towards death, hates euphemisms. Because his father was also an undertaker, a man showed up at his door one day and said, “I’ve lost me mother.” Shortt said, “I’ll just get me coat.” Then the man said, “No, she passed.” Shortt goes on to say, Not by here, she expletive didn’t. We were at the door for an hour.
Shortt’s undertaker offers observations and anecdotes: a doctor whose facial ticks suggest he was “raised by a family of badgers” ; and his father a book snob. When he would tell his father that he had seen a great film, his father would look down at him and an extended “Oh” would escape his lips, followed by a lofty “I read the book.” He describes his father as loving the outdoors but hating traveling, so they camped out in the backyard for two weeks in a leaky tent because his dad was “tight as a duck’s arse” – too cheap to buy a new one.
Shortt got audience members to do the following: switch front row theatre seats for lesser seats in the back; actively participate in a funeral; fetch flowers; heavy coffin lifting. By the end of the first half of the show, it is quite possible he could have gotten the audience to do almost anything.
There is an intermission. I don’t recall many one-man shows having an intermission, but the lead up to this one was fantastic. Then again, I don’t know many performers, and no American equivalent, who does what Shortt does.
In the second part, Shortt comes out as a member of the Garda (national police of Ireland), complains about idiot parking, explains a few crimes in the village that need solving with a series of helpful diagrams and recites an award-winning poem called “You Can’t be Doing That.” This clever, funny poem is segmented into historical rhyming bits starring Hitler, Churchill, The Queen, Caesar, Kennedy, Khrushchev and the like, in costume.
Did I mention Shortt also plays a mean guitar? Composes his own songs and sings? That he is hands-down hilarious? That you won’t see anything like this anywhere else? That this review, though glowing, doesn’t come close to the hilarity this man inspires? Shortt needs a bigger stage, audience, country, continent. For now, he is at The Irish Arts, where you should be queuing up to buy tickets; the show closes 27th September.

Del Rosso Review: PONDLING

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Astonishing. That is the word that fits Genevieve Hulme-Beamen’s one-woman show, “Pondling,” which she wrote and stars in, presented by Guna Nua and Ramblinman as part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival, and performed on the smallest of three stages in the 59E59 Theater complex in Manhattan.
Hulme-Beamen’s Madeleine is an Irish adolescent who lives in a rural world of men: on a cattle farm with her grandfather and brother, she is exempt from chores save for holding a torch during milking, though she knows this is a ruse for her “general uselessness.” She speaks with an exaggerated manner and her gestures are dramatic; she is an intense little girl and to escape from her dreary world, she has concocted a rich fantasy life, complete with a love interest, John O, “older now, 14,” who in real life only scorns her.
So far, seems familiar. But when Madeleine says she “killed the stray cat that frightened the chickens at night,” you get the feeling that something is amiss. In short, she has all the makings of a teen psychopath.
Hulme-Beamen’s script is full of sharply drawn images and her precise language is unique; she also gives a full-out, tour de force performance that left me breathless. She was frightening in her ferocity and simultaneously sympathetic, which is quite a feat when playing a seriously disturbed child I would personally run from. When Madeleine gets her “wish,” when she enters the sophisticated world of women, “lovely and glamorous,” she is intoxicated by all the beauty, all the femininity, all that she can borrow but is not hers. Hulme-Beamen lets us see and touch and feel what Madeline does. When it is all taken away, the heartbreak is palpable.
“Pondling” is astonishing.

Del Rosso Review: Stoopdreamer by Pat Fenton

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September in New York City ushers in a new theatrical season, and what better way to begin than with the annual Origin’s 1st Irish 2015? Now in its eighth year, this festival of Irish Theater, running from September 2-October 4, welcomes companies from Dublin, Limerick, Belfast and across NYC. Performed in different locations around the city, no two plays or venues are alike.

“Stoopdreamer,” by Pat Fenton, directed by Kira Simring and staged at The Cell in Chelsea on West 23rd Street, is a nostalgic triptych: three characters in search of a neighborhood that for the most part has disappeared.

Set in Farrell’s, one of the last Irish saloons in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, the amiable, elder bartender Jimmy (Jack O’Connell) begins by speaking to the audience about unwelcome changes in the neighborhood; and no villain was more great than Robert Moses, his Prospect Expressway bulldozing 400 homes, countless businesses and displacing 1,215 people. This is illustrated with projected visuals behind him (and throughout the play), to show exactly what kind of damage Moses wrought. Jimmy scoffs at the fancy bars setting up business in the neighborhood, with their “50 different kinds of craft beer. Here, we serve Budweiser. Cold.” As for the demise of old-style pubs, he says of Pete Hamill, when he was young, “There were so many Irish saloons with their doors wide open he could listen to the whole Brooklyn Dodgers game by just walking around.”

Billy Coffey (Bill Cwikowski), retired police officer, sits at the bar writing in his notebook. He is next to speak to the audience, with stories, anecdotes, and some nice phrases, like “Rockaway Beach – the Irish Riviera.” Frustrated in his ambitions to become a writer, he followed the “thin blue line”; now, instead of taking a job as a doorman on Park Avenue, he will write instead. And he never married (leading to…).

A lot of this talk is historical, with many names, dates, numbers. Because interaction between the characters comes late in the play, the format lends itself more to reading than listening. Until, that is, Janice Joyce (Robin Leslie Brown) walks into the bar.

Someone please write Ms. Brown a one-woman show. Please. It doesn’t hurt that Janice is the only three-dimensional character, with wants and needs, who is after something more than nostalgia. But Brown brings a lived-in, regretful, vibrant, authenticity to Janice, so she conversed with the audience, rather than talking to us.

And the faces! The faces of these wonderful actors are glorious: not Hollywood, not immobile, but real. Faces you would want to spend time with. Faces that have stories to tell, lives they have lived, adventures they have had. Got an hour? See “Stoop dreamers,” presented by nancy manocherian’s the cell collaborative. Then afterwards, find an Irish pub and get yourself a beer. You’ll want one. You will.


Del Rosso Review: VINEGAR TOM

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2015 is the 29th season for the PTP (Potomac Theater Project), and their 9th year in New York City. They are an exciting, adventurous company to watch for in future, currently running in rep Howard Barker’s play “Scenes from an Execution” (also reviewed in ONE Magazine) and an evening of two little-known and not often produced one-acts: Howard Barker’s“Judith: A Separation from the Body” and Caryl Churchill’s “Vinegar Tom.”

“Judith” is strange kettle of fish. The Book of Judith is not intended as factual history; it is more symbolic in the vein of David and Goliath. Judith (Pamela J. Gray) , a beautiful Jewish widow and The Servant (Patricia Buckley) pass through the enemy lines of the Assyrian Army and into the tent of the General, Holofernes (Alex Draper). There, with her cunning and feminine wiles, Judith seduces the general with lies and artifice but does not sleep with him; instead, he drinks too much, passes out and she beheads him, saving Israel from destruction.

But this is not what Barker had in mind, nor the story he tells, at all. A woman committing murder to save Israel is thrown out in lieu of a battle of the sexes, and is only mentioned at the very end of the play. Beginning on a spare set with Holofernes playing chess by himself (get it? He needs a worthy opponent?) Judith and her servant appear at his tent. Let the games begin.

The general claims he “cannot be loved.” Judith says, “Only politics keep us apart.” Ultimately, Judith comes to care for the general but still beheads him: we kill the things we love? And then in classic Barker fashion, Judith mounts the headless corpse, to frustrated effect. Men: can’t live with them, can’t live without them? And Judith exhibits the exact same cruelty to her servant that the general does when alive. She becomes him. So…women are just as bad as their counterparts?

Judith could have emerged morally compromised yet victorious, celebrated by her people, having to live out the rest of her life contemplating what her sacrifice cost. The sudden change to cruelty and her defiling of the corpse is cheap and too easy.

Holofernes’s “tent,” by Hallie Zieselman, is spare and contemporary, as are the costumes by Mira Veikley. They are almost sleek, with the diminutive general in gray trousers, shirt and black boots and tall, blonde Judith in a draped dress, then a black, sheer, long slip and thong. I am a huge fan of Alex Draper, perfectly cast as Holofernes (and unrecognizable from his role as the Doge of Venice in “Scenes from an Execution”) and Pamela J. Draper, mercurial as Judith. But the play as it stands discards the more interesting themes, and, written in 1992, seems anachronistic to this reviewer.

“Vinegar Tom,” by Caryl Churchill, is set in a small, northern England village in the 17th century. Between scenes, a female trio performs a sort of cabaret-type performance; those songs take place in the present.

Churchill wrote “Vinegar Tom” in 1976; she said in her research, she “discovered for the first time the extent of Christian teaching against women and saw the connections between medieval attitudes to witches and continuing attitudes to women in general.”

So there is slut-shamed Alice (Tara Giordano), who has sex out of wedlock and is a single mother. Next is Margery (Kathleen Wise) an abused farm wife, a workhorse, and in desperation to regain her husband’s love, she accuses Alice’s widowed mother, Joan (Nesba Crenshaw) of being a witch. Joan also owns a cat named Vinegar Tom, later accused as her “familiar.” There is young Betty (Caitlyn Meager) who bucks an arranged marriage and in turn is locked in her room, then bled and purged of her “illness.” Susan (Chelsea Melone) has three children and is pregnant with another; she is conflicted but takes a potion to rid herself of the child, and in later guilt, exposes Ellen (Lucy Faust), the herbalist (now one would call her a homeopath) to the charge of witchcraft.   The only ones who escape hanging are Margery, who is married, albeit unhappily; and Betty, who has no choice but to succumb to the arrangement of wedlock. This cast, including Bill Army as Jack, the brutish husband and Steven Dykes in various roles, was uniformly wonderful, with just a few slips of accent. This is a big play for a one act, and costumes, by Annie Ulrich, are evocative and spot-on for the period. The set looks more elaborate, and entirely different but that is clever camouflage by designer Hallie Zieselman.

You might think that the cabaret trio would add levity. Don’t. Churchill wrote the scathing lyrics to the songs, a nice contrast to the lilting melodies by Carol Christensen.

Churchill got it one act: as long as you are a woman who behaves and conforms within the confines of society, you will be fine. Has all that much changed?


If Barker had read “Vinegar Tom” before he had written “Judith…” perhaps Judith would have wowed Holofernes with her intellect, drank a few glasses of wine, had great sex, still beheaded the general, of course, to save Israel, and still emerged victorious but without the transformation and degradation.

If Churchill could have read “Judith,” before writing “Vinegar Tom…” I don’t think she would have changed a thing.




Del Rosso Review: THE WEIR – Irish Reperatory

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Bigger is not always better. Witness the current incarnation of “The Weir,” revived by The Irish Rep at their smaller, temporary location on E. 15th Street, off Union Square while their home theater on West 22nd Street undergoes renovations.

I confess this is my fourth time seeing “The Weir”: once on Broadway, twice at The Irish Rep’s old home, and now at the DR2 Theatre. read more —>


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The great Jan Maxwell has said she is retiring from the theater, and if so, she has she chosen to revive a brilliant role in a brilliant play to go out on: Galactia in “Scenes From an Execution” by Howard Barker, presented by PTP/NYC at The Atlantic Stage 2 in Chelsea. But I hope she will be persuaded otherwise.

This is the 29th season for the PTP (Potomac Theater Project), and their 9th year in New York City. They are a fantastic company, and I mean that in every sense of the word: to enjoy the company of, and to be a company of performing artists. “Scenes From an Execution” is no ex-ception: the sets are minimal yet functional with no waste (by Hallie Zieselman), the costumes absolutely beautiful (original design by Jule Emerson, additional design by Mira Veikley) and it boasts a phenomenal ensemble, not least among them, Jan Maxell. Maxwell is Galactia, the best artist in 16th century Venice, a genius, who is commissioned to paint a 100 foot mural of a battle at sea; in effect, to paint war. Her married lover, Carpeta (David Barlow) is also a painter but not in the same league. He has made “peace with life,” which affects his rather dull style of painting Jesus repeatedly. Temperamentally, they are complete opposites; he loves Galactia, sleeps with Galactia, but does not understand her.

As it is a commission, Urgentino, the Doge of Venice (Alex Draper-superb), a Cardinal (Steven Dykes-officiously irritating) and the Venetian state want a depiction of glory and triumph, cele-bration and victory over the Turkish soldiers. Galactia wants no such thing: she will paint the truth, the guts and gore of war, literally, no matter what it may cost her. Arrogant, uncompromising, selfish, yet brilliant, she knows that once the mural is finished, there will be a price to pay, and pay it she will. Ironically, Galactia could have withstood being broken, tortured, plunged into eternal darkness. What she does not foresee is giving up part of her soul (largely due to, ahem, a critic, Rivera, played pitch-perfectly by Pamela J. Gray).

At one point, Galactia’s daughter says to her, “Give the people what they want.” Given that Maxwell (and I for one am an enormous fan, having seen her both on and off Broadway), in a recent Time Out New York interview, said her reasons for retirement had to do with loving off-Broadway but being “disappointed in the kind of theater that you can make a living doing,” the choice of “Scenes from an Execution” makes perfect sense. Maxwell says, “It’s probably my fa-vorite role…Galactia is a strong, unsympathetic woman, and you don’t see that very often in theater, although you’re starting to see it more.” I urge you to see Jan Maxwell in “Scenes…” and then imagine her, in, say, “Cats,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even if offered an obscene amount of money, for her it would be a soul-killer. Because Maxwell is Galactia, down to her bones. You can feel it in the performance; this is what she lives, who she is, and the truth of her art is what she believes in.

This is a clarion call to all notable playwrights! Write something of brilliance for Jan Maxwell. Don’t let her retire. Don’t…

FOR THE LAST TIME: Del Rosso Review ****

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For the Last Time.

There is a sublime jazz band center stage of the musical “For the Last Time,” playing on Theater Row, 42nd Street in Manhattan. I would not say this is the only reason to see the seductive new jazz musical by veteran (“Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” – 1960) jazz singer Nancy Harrow (music and lyrics) and Will Pomerantz (director and co-writer); I do say see it for the band, the cast, the music, the whole shebang. read more —>

del Rosso’s Reviews: The Belle of Belfast

There’s some fine acting in quite a good play, “The Belle of Belfast” at the DR2 Theatre, New York’s Irish Rep’s temporary home off Union Square. “The Belle of Belfast,” by Nate Rufus Edelman, takes place in 1985 Belfast, at the height of “the Troubles.” At the center is Anne Malloy (Kate Lydic, fantastic) a half-tortured, half-brat of a 17 year-old, whose parents were killed in a bomb blast when she was 10 years old, leaving her in the care of her nutty great-aunt Emma Malloy (Patricia Conolly, delightful first-rate), a situation she resents bitterly. Because of the way her parents died, they have been extolled as “heroes,” which Anne hates. If she had a choice between a united Ireland and her parents, she confides, she would take her parents. This dia-logue is relayed to her 35 year-old local parish priest Anne is in love with, Father Ben Reilly (Hamish Allan-Headley, stoic and droll); he is the only one she believes listens to her, it is late at night, in the rectory, and they are alone in a room together. read more —>

DA, revival: Del Rosso Review

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It is difficult to write a memory play, complete with ghosts and younger selves, without a shred of sentimentality. Yet that is exactly what Hugh Leonard achieved with his 1978 Drama Desk, New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Tony-award winning “Da,” presented in a beautiful revival by the Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre right off Union Square in Manhattan. read more —>

del Rosso review: Blessed Unrest’s LYING

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On 52nd Street in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, The Interart Theatre Development Series is presenting Blessed Unrest’s production of “Lying,” a stage adaptation by Matt Opatmy of Lauren Slater’s metaphorical memoir of the same title.  Going in, I knew Blessed Unrest to be an exuberant, adventurous company. I also knew Director Jessica Burr was a Lucille Lortel Award winner in 2011.

“Lying” is the coming-of-age of Lauren (Jessica Ranville)  – wait, the fourth wall is broken, so it’s really a meta-metaphorical adaptation of a metaphorical memoir.  Jessica the actress plays Lauren the writer though Matt did the adapting. Jessica playing Lauren’s coming of age is told through the prism of epilepsy – wait, but the real Lauren may not have had epilepsy; she may be “Lying.” Then again, the details about the auras and regarding the ground as a crash pad are spot-on, and I should know, because I have epilepsy, and I am not lying. So if the real Lauren did not have epilepsy, then she did an inordinate amount of research, including but not limited to what it feels like to be conscious during a brain operation.

My question is: Why?

Published in 2000, the book “Lying” was Lauren Slater’s fourth memoir; perhaps the words “fourth memoir” should give one pause.

Out of the mouth of Jesus, beautifully played by actor Nathan Richard Wagner, comes this: “Patients with Munchausen’s Syndrome use fake illness as a conduit for conveying real pain. They pretend or exaggerate not for money but for things beyond weight, beyond measure.

Many choose epilepsy.”

Near the end of the performance, Jessica the actress playing Lauren says, “I am not an epileptic. I am really really not an epileptic. I have had many serious psychiatric and neurological problems in my life, but epilepsy has not been one of them. I have a fitful, restless brain, I feel I have several selves. I have had auras all my life and I take anticonvulsant medication daily. The metaphorical world and the material world blend and blur, become each other; believe me, I have suffered seizures.

Jessica Burr is a fascinating director: endlessly inventive, visually exciting. She is an innovator when it comes to combining music and choreography, and the results can be transformative.

Why choose this material?

If Lauren’s truth as well as her journey is mercurial, Burr can go meta-crazy: she can break the fourth wall at will; she can tease as much humor and fun out of the script without sacrificing poignancy. She can cast brilliantly -Charise Green, Nathan Richard Wagner, Sonia Villani, Rich Brown- who play up to eleven roles each, including Lauren’s three-headed mother, her small father, nuns, Jesus, a neurosurgeon, a therapist, AA members, and a sexually-addicted famous writer. And that’s not even half. Jessica Ranville is equally adept at the various incarnations of Lauren. Burr can evoke emotions through the use of music and employ an industrial-sized fan in a witty, olfactory way. In short, she has a lot of room, and knows how to use every inch.

It’s interesting to like “Lying” yet find the source material for this devised work distasteful. Then again, that could be my epilepsy talking. I thought Act I was superb and Act II less successful. On the long but pleasant walk home from Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper West Side, I tried to figure out why. There was less humor. It seemed to be full of desperate people. Or maybe, instead of running out of ideas (not something Blessed Unrest could ever be accused of), it had too many all at once.

When Jessica the actress playing Lauren finally learns how to fall (in Act I), I was genuinely moved. That is a testament to Director Jessica Burr and her talented cast. “Lying” may actually be about a liar, a thief, a manipulator, a sociopath: Burr made me care about her. And that is no lie.

Folliet Poetry: Pips & Quips



we can’t govern our affections”

Washington Square-Henry James

hungry for the one thing everybody loses-

young loving”

Jazz-Toni Morrison

Which is it, Aphrodite?

What say you, John Keats?

Beauty & Truth?


Beauty & Youth?

Just asking….



-for CAT-

a toke at 10 for one

a taste at 11 the other

cool libations at lunch for 2

together or alone

smart girls know what to do



Youthful yearning?


Yearning for youth?

Which years are more fun?



Attack the didactic

All right & yet

Who better than the poets

To light the way

Toward elusive

Beauty, truth, peace?



A quippy girl is equipped

For life


Its assaults

Sexist or otherwise

del Rosso Reviews: “Port Authority”

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In 2008, I saw “Port Authority” by Conor McPherson at The Atlantic Theater Company (it was first staged in London in 2001). The extraordinary cast comprised John Gallagher Jr., Brian D’Arcy James, and Jim Norton (a McPherson stalwart). Once again, (having seen “The Weir,” “Shining City” and “The Seafarer,” all on Broadway), I was mesmerized by McPherson’s language, the shimmering ordinariness and passivity of these three Dublin men, and their stories of lost loves. I thought the production peerless.

Now “Port Authority” is back in New York, this time staged by The Irish Repertory Company (at the DR2 Theatre off Union Square, while their main stage undergoes renovations) and directed by Ciaran O’Reilly.

The play’s protagonists represent the three ages of man: young Kevin (James Russell) has moved out of parents’ home for the first time into a dump shared with three other equally aimless youths. Dermot (Billy Carter) is a middle-aged, arrogant, deeply insecure man who has inexplicably been hired as a money manager for a glamorous firm. Joe (Peter Maloney) is in an old-age home run by nuns, where a trip to the shops for betting and beer is considered the height of rule breaking.

Ghosts loom large in McPherson’s plays, and “Port Authority” is no exception. Each man is haunted by the specter of regret: a love that could not be, a love squandered, a love deliberately denied. These seemingly ordinary men, who never acknowledge each other on Charlie Corcoran’s spare yet beautiful set, are imbued with sadness as they stand and deliver their own stories, in chapters, in succession. So though the construct is theatrical (the Author’s Note reads: “The play is set in the theatre.”) the regret is palpable, recognizable. Human. As Dermot says, “Don’t ever try to work anything out. Because you don’t know—and you never will.”

As Kevin, James Russell is all angles and angst, a totally believable young man head over heels without a clue. Billy Carter has all the swagger and bravado of Dermot, but I would have liked him a bit more hang-dog, a bit more embarrassed rather than comedic, so that when he comes back to his wife, his response to her is defeated, overwhelming need. And Peter Maloney is masterful as the conflicted Joe, wrapping his wife’s rosary beads, like honor and duty, around one hand, and his desire for an unknown woman, framed and clutched, in the other.

This ”Port Authority” is very fine, with all involved working at a very high level. You will suffer no regrets for the 90 minutes you are in their company.

del Rosso Review:

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It is not often I see a flawless production of a brilliant play, one which transports me in time and space. One where I stop taking notes and just give in because I have no choice. “Indian Ink” by Tom Stoppard, finally getting its New York premier courtesy of the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre, is a flawless production. It is brilliantly acted, beautiful to look at, compelling, moving, and smart.

The play alternates between 1980’s England and 1930’s India with Eleanor (the estimable Rosemary Harris) reading her younger sister’s letters to Eldon Pike (Neal Huff, appropriately irritating). Her sister, Flora Crewe (Romola Garai, very fine), was a poet, famous only after her death, and Eldon, who has already published her poems, is now publishing her letters. But he wants more than that; a biography of Flora is in the works, and he believes Eleanor does not know this. He is wrong. Not only does Eleanor know, she disapproves. As she says, “…biography is the worst possible excuse for getting people wrong.”

With only a few props against a vibrantly colored set, the play shifts elegantly and effortlessly in time (take that, Broadway), and begins just as Flora arrives from the UK. She is there ostensibly to work, but really for her health, which she believes no one else knows about. An Indian painter, Nirad Das (Firdous Bamji, superb) asks her to pose for a portrait, and she obliges. Despite some cultural misunderstandings and miscommunications (Das admires everything British, much to Flora’s dismay), their artistry – painter and poet – creates an erotically charged bond between them.

Stoppard interweaves the personal with the political: there is the generational defense of “The Empire” by Eleanor and the long-term effects colonization had on India. There is a search for identity by Das’s son Anish (Bhavesh Patel, terrific), and he is not the only one. There is a learning curve on Flora’s part, about art and the rich cultural and spiritual history of India. There is the shifting meaning of the word “home.” And there is inevitable loss.

Director Carey Perloff’s production is nuanced, and beautifully, achingly realized. Nothing here is heavy-handed. “Indian Ink” is one of the best things I’ve seen, and has stayed with me. In this busy, bustling Manhattan world, that’s saying something.

del Rosso Review: MAN IN THE MOON

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Two people faced with the exact same circumstances – debt, depression, divorce – could react in completely different ways. One muddles through, and the other commits suicide. As for the latter, who knows why?

One of New York’s 7th annual Origin’s 1st Irish Festival Theatre offerings, “Man in the Moon” by Pearse Elliot, wisely does not try to answer that question. Instead, Elliot gives us one man, Sean Doran (Ciaran Nolan, brilliant), who recounts scraps of stories and bits of histories of people he has loved who have taken their own lives: two brothers, a local vagrant, a woman he admired from afar. He tells us his own story as well, from a bench by Half Moon Lake in Belfast, Northern Ireland: a favorite spot of suicides.

Reviewing “Man in the Moon” is a little bit tricky because come to find out, it was a full- length play complete with intermission, but was necessarily cut down by 45 minutes to fit the festival’s running schedule. However, as it stands, this play has some hilarious parts: there is an Edinburgh film premier mix up; a lion living it up in a forest, and at one point, Elvis is in the house. There are poignant moments of memory, and the selection and use of music is terrific. Tony Devlin has directed beautifully; he gets movement, fluidity and atmosphere just right.

But the star here is Ciaran Nolan’s Sean.

Nolan is truly extraordinary. Every emotion his character feels registers on Nolan’s face; from the moment he walks onto the stage, you know exactly what kind of man he is and where he’s at, which is the opposite of the cheerful song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys that ushers him in.  Energetic, funny, all rubbery limbs and crotch-grabs, he runs from sad sack to misogynist to lost in a world he no longer wants to be a part of but can’t escape. Or, chooses not to.

There are missteps. Sean needs a more credible job than street hawker of a questionable charity, particularly when there are solid ones like Oxfam around. That part reminded me of volunteers with clipboards on New York City sidewalks for any given cause, “volunteers” being the operative word. Sean may eschew the responsibilities of adulthood, but he lived with a woman and had a child: he had to support them somehow, albeit temporarily.

Also it is not necessary for Sean to tell us that he is lonely and has got nothing to go home to. Why? Because Nolan does such a good job showing this already: in his comportment, and in that expressive face.  The words are redundant.

I would have liked more stories about the people we don’t see – Joe, for example – in order for that connection to make more of an impact.

But please, for God’s sake, don’t let that stop you from seeing this terrific play with this performer. “Man in the Moon” deserves to go further than this festival, and reach a wider audience. And I hope it does.


del Rosso Review: Gertrude — The Cry

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Gertrude – The Cry

In the first scene of “Gertrude – The Cry” (a reworking of “Hamlet” focusing instead on the complex Queen Gertrude and her appetites) presented by the PTP/NYC Theater Project in their 28th season down at the Atlantic Stage II, Claudius poisons Polonius, Gertrude (Pamela J. Gray) strips naked so Claudius  (Robert Emmet Lunney) can see what he’s getting for killing his brother, read more —>

EXIT 13 ENTER 14* — New Year Haiku by Mary Folliet



Exit, pursued by a bear.” “The Winter’s Tale”


what is the word” Beckett


how shall we know it

tragicomic calendar

year of the sonnet

del Rosso Review: The Clearing, by Jake Jeppson

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Let me tell you about the very fine, courageous acting going on in a play called “The Clearing” by Jake Jeppson at St. Clements Church on 46th Street in mid-town Manhattan. Spoiler alert: if you do not want to know the BIG EVENT of the play and other secrets, stop reading now.

For everyone else, I will begin with the mother, Ella Ellis, played by Allison Daughtery. Think of her as Everymother. At one point in the play, read more —>

del Rosso review: Brendan at the Chelsea

The terrific Irish actor Adrian Dunbar is appearing off-Broadway on Theatre Row 42nd Street, with a very fine cast that he also directed, in “Brendan at the Chelsea.” The play has come in from the Lyric Belfast, and is working alongside Origin’s 1st Irish Festival. read more —>

“Ingenius” Bekah Brunstetter in ‘Welthy Holliday’

The usage of Buddy Holly’s music by playwright Bekah Brunstetter in Welthy Holliday Productions beautifully realized version of “Be A Good Little Widow” is ingenious. The music is lively, happy, yet the listener knows Holly was doomed to die in a plane crash. So too is Craig (Matt Bittner), who is married to Melody (Aamira Welthy); Melody is destined to become a widow, which will link her, for better or worse, to Craig’s widowed mother, Hope (Chris Holliday).

These two women are wildly different people, separated by class, age and mores. Hope is an uptight, rigid Connecticut type, who sticks to “rules” of widowhood: mourning is to be done in private, with no tears or tantrums. Mourning should not be messy. Melody, at 26, was still trying read more —>

review: Barker’s “The Castle”

Manhattan in summertime is humid, sweaty and gross. Did I mention smelly? It’s that, too. To make yourself feel better, and smarter, you could take in one of the annual summer theater festivals: The NYC International Fringe, Under the Radar at The Public, or, you could avail yourself to the 27th season of PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) at The Atlantic 2 in Chelsea, where Caryl Churchill’s “Serious Money” and Howard Barker’s “The Castle” are playing in rep. read more —>

review: RADIANCE • LAByrinth Theatre Co look into the mind of 1955

LAByrinth Theater is a company that has produced acclaimed productions and collaborations with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Glaudini (who are also the founders) as well as playwright Stephen Aldy Guirgis (“The Motherf**ker with the Hat). Since their move from The Public Theater across town to the new Bank Street location near the Hudson, LAByrinth’s mission has been to showcase new playwrights and new work, which in the current economic climate is both difficult and admirable.

“Radiance” an unwieldy play with good intentions, is set in 1955 in a wonderfully dilapidated bar (courtesy of scenic designer David Meyer) and begins with an unhappy, blowsy blonde, May (Ana Reeder ) an accountant who is having an affair with the proprietor, Artie (Kelly AuCoin). It takes a good thirty minutes for something to happen, and it does: a man named Rob (Kohl Sudduth) walks in. But he is not just any man. read more —>

OCTOBER’S REALITY CHECK Poetspace: Mary Folliet


(autumn 2012: the post-fall fall)


topaz tree tops flash

warning winter’s white expense

some greens yearn for spring


flaming forward fast

amidst lemon, crimson, rust

topaz tree tops flash


jeweled mums abound

albino pumpkins astound

topaz tree tops last


autumn breezes blow

topaz tree tops flash then fall

while October goes

ONE contributor Elliott Murphy to be awarded Medaille Vermil by the City of Paris

Congratulations to Elliot Murphy:
Mayor Bertrand Delanoë is bestowing the Médaille de Vermeil of the city of Paris to an accomplished musician and writer.
Mon 1 Oct 18:00
Salon Hotel de Ville

Excellence is still key.


‘The Exonerated’: Guilty as Charged ‘STUNNING’

If you did not see the multi-award-winning ‘The Exonerated’ ten years ago, now is your chance. Culture Project, on 45 Bleecker Street in the Village, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the play in special association with The Innocence Project. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Bob Balaban, ‘The Exonerated’ is a stunner.

To say the play is an epic is an understatement. Six characters, only connected by the fact that they were all wrongly convicted and sat on death row for years, and then exonerated. What they lost is irreplaceable. Irrevocable. Their youth, livelihood, family, husbands, brothers, children. And time. So much time.

But none of this epic is fictional; Blank and Jensen have used only the words, interviews, court transcripts of the people involved, and made up nothing. That is what makes this evening in the theater, listening to these stories, so compelling. The words. The truth of what happened.

This is not a re-enactment. The stage is bare, except for a row of chairs and black stands holding scripts. The words of the six are entrusted to a rotating cast of formidable actors: Stockard Channing, Brian Dennehy, Delroy Lindo, Chris Sarandon, JD Williams, Curtis McClarin.

The vagaries of the US judicial system are explained succinctly by Sarandon’s Kerry Max Cook, who spent twenty-two years on death row, was raped, sodomized and branded in prison, lost his brother and was then blamed for the death by his mother, and was not compensated (none of the exonerated in this play were) for any of Texas’s error: “I came from a good family. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.”

But perhaps the saddest story was Channing’s Sunny Jacobs, who was at the wrong place, wrong time, and only trying to protect her young children. Her husband, Jesse Joseph Tafero, also wrongly convicted, was executed in Florida, and made headlines because the electric chair malfunctioned and it took an inordinately long and painful time for him to die.

Exonerated? Yes. But the loss these people suffered is immeasurable.

The night I saw “The Exonerated” the real Sunny Jacobs was in the audience. After the performance, Channing brought her onstage, supported by a cane and walking unsteadily. Jacobs thanked the cast, thanked Channing, and thanked the audience for listening. She thanked the playwrights for “giving a voice to those who have none.” Then she cried.


GORE VIDAL 1925—2012

The editors, contributors and friends of ONE Magazine join the literary world in mourning one of the greatest writers and essayists of the 20th century. It’s going to be very quiet without Gore Vidal, 1925—2012. May he invigorate the next world as well as he did ours.


Theatrespace Review: De-boning Miss Lily • ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’

At the tail end of the fourth heat wave of this increasingly unbearable 2012 New York City summer, I was looking forward to a bit of relief at the 19th annual Ice Factory Festival down in the West Village. This is largely due to the talented Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, and the collaboration between Studio 42  (known for producing “unproducible” plays), Ice Factory and their new space, in the New Ohio Theatre.  With a juicy, provocative title like ‘Miss Lily Gets Boned’ how could one go wrong?

Well, the message of the play is, we’re all animals, and we are all doomed.

Which is a little bit passé, and if you have observed the climbing crime rate here in conjunction with the heat (hit and runs, shootings, stabbings, overloaded boats capsizing, with children the victims) you already knew we were doomed.

But back to the play.

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso • Time to get CLOSER THAN EVER


I went into the recent off-Broadway revival of Maltby and Shire’s musical “Closer Than Ever,” presented by The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s on the East Side of Manhattan, blind, as it were. I had little knowledge of their music, and did not see the 1989 original New York production. So I was ready for anything.

It was opening night. The crowd was supportive. The cast, Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, and Sal Viviano, were exceptional. Directed with assurance by Richard Maltby Jr., with musical direction by Andrew Gerle, they teased every bit of humor out of each and every Maltby and Shire song. Jenn channeled her inner feminist Dolly Parton for You Wanna Be My Friend; Christiane was moving and thoughtful for Life Story; Sal, a perfectly reasoned stalker in What Am I Doin’? and George, the picture of patience in I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning.

And yet…

TheatreSpace Review: Lisa del Rosso gets MASSACRE(d) by Jose Rivera & Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

If you take seven bloodied murderers, four male and three female, and put them in a room together right after they have plotted and killed the town “devil” – a man who was a murderer and worse himself – one would think this set-up would yield interesting results, at the very least.

Yet, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater down in the Village, read more —>

THIS IS ‘IN’: TACT’S LOST IN YONKERS Theatre Review by Lisa Del Rosso’

I am not an enormous fan of Neil Simon, and this opinion is largely based on the recent, unsuccessful revivals he has had on Broadway and off. However, after watching the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lost in Yonkers,” in a beautifully rendered production presented by TACT (The Actors Company Theatre) on Theater Row 42nd Street, I am well on the way to changing my mind. read more —>

From the Editor: Hey Glassholes: ‘This American Life’ – IS DAISEY IS PROTECTING THE GIRL?

From the Editor:

In regards to the controversy surrounding MIKE DAISEY, I write to express my full support for THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS as a creative work.

Theatres are not courtrooms, no matter how the monsterous public relations companies, recently hired by the parties involved, will now attempt to make them appear. Daisey is not the ultimate target — theatre, the arts, free expression is. As-is creative license and our ability to communicate critical ideas in a public arena.

The New York Times, and BBC documented the lion’s share of agregious faults in our new culture of slavery-by-proxy, highlighted by Daisey’s monologue. Second, it’s not rocket science to connect the dots: FoxCOnn hires Burston Marstellar • Apple Launches iPad • Daisey sandbagged by the glassholes.

But in this real world of corporate espionage, coercion, conspiracy and fraud, I predict this: Mike Daisey might be protecting the safety of the girl in China. Just a creative hunch.

Martin Belk, editor, ONE Magazine

BELK: A Ballad of Reading in Gaol (full version of essay published in Scottish Review of Books)

A Ballad of Reading in Gaol

(Full version of Scottish Review of Books Essay.)

By Martin Belk

A young woman hangs back after my writing seminar at the new City of Glasgow College with a question: “What’s it like, ya’ know, in there?” For a second, I’m thrown, forgetting that in the preceding class I’d alluded several times to my prison writing workshops. Before I could respond, huge, heavy tears welled up and fell from her eyes, falling down to her denim jeans. She didn’t say anything more, she didn’t need to – she has a loved one on the ‘inside’. I didn’t quite know what to tell her: a ‘modern place of rehabilitation’, to reassure her, or, a ‘bona-fide prison’, to confirm and confront her worst fears? Neither is entirely true, there are problems in the narrative.


Poetspace: Mary Folliet Hard Times Encore • Good Times Ahead 2012


Hard Times Encore

~a Café Loup haiku~

what a see-saw world

these turbulent trying times

no exit in sight

Good Times Ahead

~a New Year’s wish~

peace & love maybe

but please first fair play for all

then we’ll rock ’n’ roll

—Mary Folliet

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: Nina Raine’s TRIBES: Get your ticket! “You Might be Missing Something”


“You’re not missing anything,” is repeated like a mantra throughout the first act of Nina Raine’s brilliant and provocative “Tribes” by various members of Billy’s upper-middle class British family. Born deaf into an intellectually rambunctious, argumentative hearing clan, Billy (Russell Harvard), was raised reading lips and not taught sign language on principle, “so he would not be part of a minority,” according to his stubborn, retired academic father Christopher (Jeff Perry). Also currently living under the same roof are Billy’s mother, Beth (Mare Winningham), a novelist; his college-age sister Ruth (Gayle Rankin), a singer; and the insecure, older brother Dan (Will Brill), who is not quite sure what he wants to be, other than a creative person like everyone else in the family. But in truth, the family argues at such a pace that it is impossible for Billy to keep up, leaving him in silence; until Billy falls for Sylvia (Susan Pourfar) who was born hearing into a deaf family, learned sign language and is going deaf herself. Sylvia introduces Billy to a new world where fits in. Now he wants to tell his own stories his way, and asks his family to learn how to sign, refusing to speak to them until they do. When they balk, he leaves them.

The North American premiere of “Tribes” is at the Barrow Street Theatre down in the Village in New York City; it has already had a successful run at The Royal Court in London, 2011, won an Offie Award and was nominated for both Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for best new play. “Tribes” is playing currently in Australia and productions in Germany and Hungary are in the works.

“Tribes” explores notions of conforming or not, of love and possession, and of belonging. The profanity, intellectual arguments, sibling rivalry and egotism are all completely believable in a high-octane, competitive household. There are pithy one-liners, like when Ruth asks why no one in her family can’t say a word without shouting, and Christopher replies, “Because we love each other.” Ruth replies, “Yes, like a straight jacket.”

The production of “Tribes” at the Barrow Street Theatre is impeccably directed by David Cromer and beautifully acted by a first-rate ensemble. Raine’s moving, funny and shattering play demonstrates the limits and benefits of the tribe one comes from, and also, finding a new one. After Billy leaves and Dan is reduced to a gibbering wreck, he finally asks, “What is the sign for love?” The answer is both an affirmation, and an enormous step forward.

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: “imitation should be avoided at all costs”


It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to the great, early plays of Sam Shepard,  read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: The Picture Box “Needs Some Gray”

Picture Box

If “The Picture Box,” a new play by Cate Ryan presented by The Negro Ensemble Company (celebrating their 45th season) at the 42nd Street Beckett Theater, were instead a painting, it would be only in the colors black and white. What it needs are shades of gray. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review: JAMES X: a BRAVE theatrical Experience!


How does society deal with a juvenile delinquent? An “abandoned boy?”

In the case of “James X,” written and performed by the astonishing Gerard Mannix Flynn, at the age of eleven he was sentenced into Ireland’s industrial school system, run by congregations of nuns and brothers. On his way to the first, St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Letterfrack, he was orally raped in the car by a brother, and sodomized by another once he arrived. From there, a succession of schools followed, then prison, and the abuse never stopped: physical, sexual, mental. No matter how many times James X complained, nothing was ever done.

The Culture Project, Gabriel Byrne (who also directed) and Liam Neeson are to be commended for bringing to New York a brave, wrenching theatrical experience. Byrne has been very candid about his own abuse at the hands of a priest, and how he tried to come to terms with it included a very public letter of apology written for TheIrish Times in the 1980’s, which was met with a thunderous silence.

Finally, times have changed, with hundreds of victims coming forward and telling their stories, blame being apportioned, and amends being made by the Catholic Church. These are small steps, but in the right direction.

“James X” is the pseudonym on his file, for confidentiality, when he testifies before the Report of the Commission to inquire into Child Abuse. Now a middle-aged man, James X sits outside the room waiting, nervous, jittery. For most of the 85 minute play, Flynn goes at a clip, and puts on quite a stream-of-consciousness, rolling on the ground, sometimes funny, animated song and dance account of his life. No sexual abuse is mentioned until, just before the end, Flynn confesses his “show” was a lie. The lie he “invented to make his life tolerable.”

Flynn reads his statement. He reads out the litany of his sexual abuse, the physical abuse that landed him in the hospital for an operation, his incarceration in the prison for the criminally insane. He was betrayed by the system, and tells the tribunal, “You said you would cherish us and take care of us. And you didn’t. This is your file, not mine. It is your shame. And I’m handing it back.”

© ONE Magazine 2011

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace Review DERBY DAY by Samuel Brett Williams

23 (L-R): Jared Culverhouse as Frank Ballard (sitting), Jake Silbermann as Johnny Ballard (standing), Beth Wittig as Becky and Malcolm Madera as Ned Ballard - photo: Paul Gagnon

Midway through world premier of “Derby Day” by Samuel Brett Williams in the 42nd Street Clurman Theater, I wrote in my notebook, “The waitress will get the winning ticket.” And she did.

The deserving waitress in question, Becky, played by the brilliant Beth Wittig, not only wins, she steals the show out from under the three volatile male characters. Becky is the only one not trapped, who knows who she is, who has any dignity. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO / MARY FOLLIET – Theatrespace Review & Panel Report – The Agony of The New Yorker: MIKE DAISEY TRIUMPHS!

Mike Daisey in The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, running at The Public Theater NYC. photo: Joan Marcus

There has been much press about Mike Daisey’s one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” down at The Public Theater on Lafayette Street in the Village. Much of it is good (a rave in The NY Times, and a three-week extension); bad (a rather poisonous, anonymous blurb in The New Yorker); and unwanted (Daisey has received both hate mail and death threats, apparently for his unwillingness to participate in the post-mortem deification of Steve Jobs).

But the anonymous blurb in The New Yorker interests me most, not because the writer was too much of a coward to sign his or her name to the objection, read more —>


“the black idea of winning”
–Bertolt Brecht

there is no contest
no opponent
no side to take
no stakes to risk
no prize to win
no victory to hope
only moments to kill
& longing to live


Mary Folliet NYC 2011

ONE blogs — Polmont Young Offenders: VIEWS FROM THE PEN 2

'Family' by Jule_Berlin/Flickr

 Family Visits
by Alexander Morrissey

I am just back from visits. My son and partner were up today and it was good. I had been looking forward to it for two weeks.

We were talking about what changes both of us have made since becoming parents. My partner seems to have made loads of changes but when she asked me what I have changed, I couldn’t think of anything. Then I thought about it and realised that I have in fact: stopped taking drugs, started attending courses to manage my anger and I have really improved my attitude.

I said to my partner that although I have changed these things there is still a long way to go. I said that I realise there are always things that go the wrong way in life and things don’t happen as you would like. I believe that you have to be strong and face these situations head on, rather than jumping over them or just pushing them to the side. If you tackle the issues you can overcome them.

This is all we talked about through the visit. My son was smiling and having him on my lap brought a tear to my eye. I was so happy yet so sad at the same time as I knew I had to leave them.


ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”) NY Theater Workshop


Less than halfway through “Kaddish” (or “The Key in the Window”), a version of Allen Ginsburg’s poem at The New York Theater Workshop in the East Village, I had to put my pen down, so mesmerized was I by Donnie Mather’s extraordinary performance. That “Kaddish,” which was not only performed but also adapted by Mather himself, coincided with the Jewish holiday of Roshashana was total luck, according to Director Kim Weild, and opening night ended September while ushering in the melancholy of autumn. A perfect backdrop for “Kaddish.” read more —>



fall lineups galore

fashion, fiction, Broadway, art

fall back time hour saved

back to school, work, home routines

rousing us to our fixed fate

—Mary Folliet, NYC Autumn 2011

ONE blogs — Polmont Young Offenders: ViEWS FROM THE PEN

 And So We Begin

By Bash Wallace

 Today was a gainful day. I left my cell and walked the enclosed pathway to my creative writing class. This pathway, referred to as the route, is six feet wide however us, the prisoners, are restricted to two feet of this, making out walk more like a march. In single file and all sporting short back and sides we resemble soldiers and I suppose in a way, we are. Street Soldiers. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – Theatrespace – review: Tape

“Tape,” by Stephen Belber is playing at the June Havoc Theatre on 36th Street in mid-town Manhattan. “Tape” is a pitch-perfect study of the perpetual adolescence of the American male. I am not sure if there is a European male equivalent or even one a European will understand, other than the Scottish writer J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” and the “I won’t grow up” syndrome it inspired. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Culture Change And Intellectual Decline

When the last world war ended in 1945, Europe was gutted, short of all the means of maintaining a normal existence, except that, pre-war, the lower classes had rarely shared normality as the middle-classes knew it. Suddenly there was an equality of diet, dull but not unhealthy, a shortage of clothing, houses and all luxuries, but a general sharing of what there was, and only the rich, taxed to the hill, really complained. Anything was better than war and that had ended. At the same time there was a flowering of high culture. Concerts were packed. So was opera and ballet, new literature was eagerly discussed, art exhibitions were full, and the BBC had started the Third Programme, which enabled everyone to hear on the radio good music, interesting and educational discussions and talks for a small license fee, and generally there was an interest in education, the higher levels of which had become available to all who could pass exams. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Lies, Corruption and Conspiracy

We are living through an age without shame, when corruption is endemic throughout society from the highest elected officials down through the guardians of our laws to those who want a little more of the desirable possessions of life, whether they have much or little. The Murdoch scandal has exposed the lies and cover-ups, the bribes to keep quiet, police attempts to stop the Guardian’s investigations, Cameron’s weak brushing over Coulson’s reassurances that he had known nothing, which even a loyal dog would not believe, while offering no “second chance” to misguided but deprived youth that finally revolted against a society that offered it nothing while removing whatever hope had been there when we had a welfare state. read more —>


Modern communication technology is effecting events that is involving the forgotten segment of society internationally in a way that no-one foresaw. And that segment is the youth of today, not only the teenagers and early twenty year-olds, but also those younger ones who have to share all the miseries of hard times and the indifference of the affluent middle-age bourgeoisie. The rich get richer and not only do the poor get poorer, but they get far more numerous. And the speed of communication, through all the electronic media, together with the universal spread of mobile phones – nothing is easier to steal – is bringing that generation together internationally as never before. read more —>

ONE blogs – LISA DEL ROSSO – review: Territories, Splatters and Victories: Potomac Theatre Project 2011

At the Atlantic II, in New York”s Chelsea, three plays ran in rep this summer, produced by the 25 year-old company PTP (Potomac Theatre Project, from Middlebury College, Vt.)/NYC. Three playwrights: Steven Dykes, Neil Bell, both Americans, and Howard Barker, English. Running in rep, while usual for many theatre companies in the UK and regionally here in the US, it is not done so much in New York City. read more —>


The unfolding of the Murdoch saga brings surprise after surprise, and the whole evil empire shows signs of eventual collapse. How can a press mogul wield so much power that a supposedly democratic country like Great Britain, run by a three hundred year-old party system, can come to believe, at least as far as its leading politicians are concerned, that an election cannot be won without his support?



Historians will have such a wealth of material to deal with then they come to writing up the first decades of the twenty-first century, that may well drown under it. Around the world there is deepening depression unbelievably incompetent government and administration of industry. This of, natural resources (all dwindling fast) and all social institutions, with widespread corruption that is not even disguised, and a culture of greed, tyranny, and power-lust that is demolishing all the products of civilised rule-of-law, individual and group rights, and decency that it has taken centuries to establish. read more —>


There is much current discussion about the reform of the House Of Lords and whether it should be elected or not. It should be elected, but not by the general public that periodically elects one set of mediocrities after another, including some corrupt enough to claim large fictional expenses to add to their already over-sufficient salaries. A new set of Lords (and they do not necessarily have to be titled) should consist of four groups, numbering about a hundred in all and required to be there every day. read more —>

ONE 9 • Scatpack must see

My first encounter with a member of the ‘Pack’ known as ‘Scat’ was on the street, last Thursday, when I noticed a thin young man walking ahead of me wearing an outfit similar to a bumble bee: bright yellow and black. On the back of his jacket was the company name emblazoned for all to see. He pranced with pride down the street, chatting vigorously with his mates – all of whom carried themselves with an infectiously high spirits one would expect on the pavements of a performing arts festival, as opposed to the loathsome air of Hollywoodania put on by so many these days. I took notice, imagining the group to be some odd mix between the American 1940s TV show ‘The Little Rascals’ and characters from an older John Waters movie. read more —>



The Sky is falling! No, It’s just the I.Q. of television content.



The Future of Property Among most tribal societies private property does not exist, other than a few utensils and weapons. Everything belongs to the tribe or the group or the society to which the group belong. With the growth of civilisation and national identity much private property developed, with wars and conquest create classes that owned property, land, houses and other things. read more —>


History…Today…And Human Destiny How much can one say in a few words? There are certain historical dates: 1914, 1917, 1939, 1945, 1989—and 2011 looks as if it will be another one—that has been fixed in historical memory. Recorded history, other than the mythical texts that try to explain the reason for the presence of intelligent life in the universe, go back not much more than the 3000 years and the events recorded are best known through the literature of great poetry, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, down to Beckett in our own time.



The last century could hardly have been more eventful, although we have become too accustomed to some of its better moments. 1911 was a high point for Edwardinian optimism, the hey-day of expressionism in painting and the European arts, especially music. Der Rosenkavallier, perhaps the most popular opera of the 20th century, emerged that year, Picasso was already famous, much great literature was appearing or being written, while history was getting ready to plunge the world into a catastrophic world war. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – ‘The Worst of Times’ MONDAY MAN RETURNS!

Dickens was referring to the depth of the French Revolution, but the words are very apposite to 2011, not only in Britain, but nearly everywhere. This will be a year of revolution in many places, to chaotic trouble in most other places and to decline, suffering and misery almost everywhere else. read more —>


The President of the United States gave a major news conference yesterday. The same President who controls the fate of US and British forces in Afghanistan, as well as a large part of the world economy. The number of viewers online was just over 450.

The US spin-machines of infotainment chose to focus on the looney in Florida who wants to barbeque Korans, and kept their spew foaming about how Obama faces a ‘blowout’ in Novermber mid-term elections. The UK, even the publicly funded BBC, continued the farce called blow – reporting the earth-shattering Koran story.


ONE 10 • The Grumpy Chef: Cook Like a Kid!

The Grumpy Chef: Cook Like a Kid! Mason Douglas

Good god…being a chef can be boring at times… It’s not the hours or the getting changed 8 times a day or even the laborious meetings with officious officials from the FSA. (Damn killjoys banned unpasteurised foodstuffs and are proceeding to bring down the culinary elite by forcing us to microwave and to cook things “well done” the bastards…).

ONE 10 • Hello Berlin!

I love cities. Being in a place where my surroundings constantly buzz and I have little to no idea of what could happen next. So far, this drive took me from a small village in Scotland to its biggest city, Glasgow. And then to study in the city that they say never sleeps, New York. Now, having explored Paris and Prague, and visited friends in London, this time — Berlin.

Hello Berlin!
–Jonathan Pryce


ONE 10 • Polmont YOI Writers

ONE 10 prison states of mind contributions from Polmont Young Offender’s Institution Writers


ONE 10 • New York Notes: Sirloin Senator


At the upscale New York City restaurant where I work as a waiter, the Rail consists of six tables with roomy armchairs across from six booths lined up along a wall of windows facing a side street near Central Park.

New York Notes: Sirloin Senator — Watching Tables & Keeping Tabs
–Mark Lawitz


ONE 10 • Hollywood Notes – inside the gilded cage

Learn how to write a screenplay for the low price of only $299.99! — or at least that’s what the Hollywood establishment would like you to believe. As an aspiring screenwriter, my email overflows every single day with offers and claims from various ‘pros’ pitching their latest book or workshop: Learn the Syd Field Method! Experience the Robert McKee Way! You too can sell your first screenplay for $750,000! Three Act Structure, Twelve Stages of Story Development, Twenty-Two Steps to Become a Master Storyteller – and so on. Apparently, you’ll need to be in tip-top shape to mount the thousands of steps required for success, and have a superb financial plan to manage the millions of dollars that will soon be rolling in.

Hollywood Notes: inside the gilded cage
–Cheryl Compton


ONE 10 • Paris Notes: inside the Women’s Prison

In the summer of 1978, a telephone call from Rosalie Gomes, an editor at the English-language Paris newspaper, Paris Metro, was to lead to an out of the blue bizarre correspondence with a young woman. The newspaper had received a letter from an American woman who was an inmate in the Women’s Prison in Rennes, about three hours southwest of Paris. From New York City, Jill Diamond had no family or friends in France and Rosalie, who was a friend of mine, thought that I was a possible candidate to befriend the woman. I readily agreed, took Jill’s address and wrote an immediate letter to her. Little did I suspect when I posted this letter that I had opened the door to a two-year deeply intense and passionate correspondence.

Paris Notes: inside the Women’s Prison
–Jim Haynes


ONE 10 • Mexico Notes: Both Sides of the Border

It was utter coincidence that while the immigration debate began raging anew in the US media and tighter restrictions along the US-Mexican border were being called for, I visited Mexico in June for the first time.

Mexico Notes
–Geraldine Sweeney


ONE 10 • Edinburgh Notes: Reflections on Gaza

Edinburgh Notes: Reflections on Gaza
Flotilla Day, 31 May 2010
–Charlie Graham

Remember the Boxes for Bosnia? When you were at school, or sending your kids to school during the recent times of war in the former Yugoslavia? You’d send the young ones off with a box and you’d think they’d get there. Let’s go back to Aramana.

ONE 10 • Notes from El Salvador

Peace in La Paz
During the week I recently spent in El Salvador, the only time I felt truly clean was the day we went to the beach at La Paz (Spanish for peace). The poverty and violence of the city ebbed away as we watched a small fishing boat come ashore at sunset with its day’s catch. These men were very happy. This is the El Salvador the tourists see.

Notes From El Salvador
–Anna Graham


ONE 10 • Central Park Notes

In 1811, by municipal decree, Manhattan Island, between 14th and 155th Streets, was cordoned off into a carefully plotted rectilinear street grid — avenues run north and south, streets east and west.
The first New World city to adopt such a plan, New York was ripe for commercial expansion north from the oldest settlements at its southern end, where the burgeoning maritime and trade economy was poised to rocket the metropolis into the Industrial Age. This street plan also made it almost impossible for adventurous adolescents to get lost, at least geographically, which I happily discovered in the autumn of my 16th year.

Central Park Notes
–John Moore


ONE 10 • Sydney Notes: Carnivals and Corrections

On the eve of my public conversation with the Premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, as part of a Sydney Writers Festival event on the topic of Forgiveness, I felt nervous but prepared. It would be my first time moderating panels at the Festival, now the third-largest in the world behind the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Hay Festival. My usual way of alleviating nerves was to prepare thoroughly. But as the event showed all of those involved, you can’t prepare for the unexpected.

Sydney Notes from the Writers Festival
–Virginia Lloyd


ONE 10 • The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending
–MSP Christopher Harvie

I have been grateful over the past few years for the hospitality of the Guardian’s ‘CommentisFree’, until its self-editing system was changed and new-style gatekeepers made it clear that freedom stopped around Watford Gap: not just my contributions but anything from too-far-north of London would not be welcomed. I wrote to other Guardian illuminati, but in Germany they say ‘Keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort.’ – ‘No answer is also an answer.’ The terms of the New CiF dialogue were all too clear: liberty for vox metropolis, let the rest twitter in the wings.


ONE 10 • This is Mine: ‘ME-2’ (moi aussi)

This is Mine: ‘ME-2’ (moi aussi)
–Martin Belk

Glasgow, May 2010
I get frustrated, searching for ways to outwit, outsmart, outfox the ubiquitous ad campaigns for booze, drugs, soulless Pop music, computer games and mobile phones that too often possess the minds of the new ‘ME-2’ generation.


ONE 10 • Four Year Stretch

Four-Year Stretch: Reflections of a 21st Century Graduate
–Peter Simpson

You may ask yourself, ‘How do I work this?’…
You may ask yourself, ‘Where does that highway lead to?’…
And you may ask yourself ‘My God, what have I done?’

—Talking Heads, 1981


ONE 10 • Prisons Inside and Out

On May 17, 2010, the justices of the US Supreme Court, in a miraculous decision, barred life terms for young offenders who haven’t committed murder. Miraculous because the current court leans decidedly to the right, and also because we in the US are very good at locking up and throwing away the key, rather than figuring out what to do with ex-convicts once they are released. In short, what we do is next to nothing, (apart from a train fare and a ride to the station) and “rehabilitation” has become a curse word, as well as perceived as a financial drain.

Prisons inside and out
— Lisa Del Rosso


ONE 10 • Poetspace

We huddle, peer through
the pane of glass at our feet
pebbled with raindrops

as a large man crouches down
with a folded tissue, gently
wipes them away

revealing more to us
than bare shelves
and missing books.


One 10 • … How did you get there?

1. Where are you from?  2. Where are you now?

3. By way of?     4. Would you do it all again?

5. Describe your last memory of leaving what you consider ‘home’ or where you’re from.

6. What’s your profession?


disclaimer: We wanted a quick survey not a research project — photos quality from the ‘net so there. And

we can’t help more boys answered than girls. That’s the situation, but enjoy the stories. read more —>


Someone in the West Coast of Scotland is reading the wrong web sites. As if a visit by the Pope might not be divisive enough, somebody, with the best of intentions, has invited none other than Ex-New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani to address the Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s International Awards dinner on 19 November 2010. I’d like to remind the powers-that-invite something my grandmother taught me years ago: Good intentions pave the road to hell. And, if anyone thinks Rudy’s ideas will do anything positive for Scotland and/or Glasgow, get ready for a lot of division, fire, and brimstone. I’m an expat New Yorker, I was forced to endure King G’s iron fist.



At last a little truth and reality is beginning to emerge from a long period where politicans have treated those who elect them as fools to be gulled with lies and impossible promises, while always careful to feather their own nests. For decades they have become increasingly ignorant and philistine, caring for little other than being leected and living an easy, privileged life. Never having learned much history, treating economics as doctrinal religion and with no general culture or interest in knowledge, they have become the worst body of parliamentary rulers for centuries. At least the new coalition is telling us that our descent into debt and chaos must be regulated as far as possible. It is only thinking of those with enough income to survive a period of increasing austerity, ignoring the plight of those without jobs or even a legal right to live here, and giving no thought to the strong possibility of revolution because that is not part of the British tradition. read more —>

ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: AND NOW … REALITY

The UK election is over. The bombast is past. Now, not only Britain, but most of the world is facing a future that will become ever more difficult even in the richer countries, and catastrophic in the poorer. While politicians, most of whom are profoundly ignorant about the realities of the world and the period they live in, will will continue to make statements about ‘recovery’, ‘back to propserity’, etc. — thinking people and the few public voices that are honest as well as aware will have to come to terms with the single choice that lies before us: either accept a long regime of austerity, that will include rationing of the essential things we need to live, or, sink into a new dark age where hunger, thirst, famine, anarchy and tribal warfare will be the norm. read more —>


Politics have always been corrupt, although there have been corrupt, although there have been historical periods when a few individuals have brought up the moral and intellectual tone. One think of Burke, Disraeli, Parnell, Nye Bevan and a few others, often defying their party to say what had to be said. It is the party system that is corrupt and always will be, because all that matters there, is automatic unquestioning obedience to the leader who can distribute patronage, favours, wealth and promotion to eminence and fame. read more —>