Nukain is an uneducated black farm laborer working in South Africa during the period of apartheid who has nothing of his own but a vision: he paints brilliant designs on bare rocks, creating beauty out of bare bones nothing. This stunning play presses forward with the intensity of a Greek tragedy.
The opening afternoon of The Nomad was a cold winter Sunday: we made it from the subway to The Flea as falling snow cloaked everything in all-over veils of white to gray … and then the show began. What a burst of color, brightness, and music, what delicious vibrance, as the play carries you to North Africa and its hot deserts.
With insistent percussive music saturated with North African overtones, theatrical effects to delight and astonish, and the superb performance of Teri Madonna in the lead role, it tells the story of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), a well-educated Swiss woman who left Europe to immerse herself in North Africa culture and the Sahara desert. She dressed as a man for the freedom it afforded her, converted to Islam, married an Algerian, wrote about North Africa, and died in a flash flood and died at the age of 27.
It feels exciting and even uplifting to attend the first performance of a new show. This one, My Life Is A Musical, has a cute idea, some amusing moments, and some fine performances from its principals and excellent ensemble players. On the other hand, the characters are thin, the story loose with predictable outcomes, and the music uninventive.
It’s an epic telling of the Old and New Testaments, referring to Medieval and later “mystery plays” of the life of Christ, 52 episodes more or less in sequence divided into three parts: The Fall, The Sacrifice, The Kingdom. Written by 48 playwrights, it’s performed by 54 actors who act, sing and
Sarah Keyes of the Angel Chorus. Photo Hunter Canning
dance 78 parts or so in 5 ½ hours, all taking place on the relatively small performance space of the Flea, with the audience in touching distance of the actors, and not only that, it includes dinner! .
The back stage magic of And Away We Go makes me think of the wonderful song about a dogged and devoted itinerant theater group in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, “We Open In Venice” (“then on to Cremona …. and on to …. and on …”). And Away We Go, too, is on the move — with the feel of a story about an equally valiant itinerant theater troupe only here the wanderings take them not just through Northern Italy but through time, back and forth. This imaginative, mind stretching extravaganza is beautifully pulled off by the Pearl Theatre group.
Heresy is topical, very funny, and totally enjoyable modern parable filled with references to today’s politics and based, roughly, on the life of Christ. Some of the characters have Biblical names, like Mary for the mother of Chris, her idealistic, purist son currently in jail. But Gurney’s a wonderfully surprising playwright so you can’t guess from that what to expect.
News Flash 12/15/2011: The Flea’s Romantic Holiday Comedy
Looking at Christmas Comes to TV
December 21 – 25 on Thirteen WNET
Thirteen WNET will air The Flea Theater’s acclaimed 2010 production of Looking at Christmas by Steven Banks (head writer of SpongeBob SquarePants) beginning December 21. Filmed live at The Flea last year, this romantic comedy set in front of New York’s famed holiday window displays is directed by Jim Simpson and features The Bats, The Flea’s resident company of actors. Broadcasts on Thirteen WNET are slated for Dec. 21 at 10pm; Dec. 23rd at 3am, and Dec. 25 at 11pm. Check your local listing for airdates in other markets. Here’s the review (Dec. 2010 )
The Flea’s Romantic Holiday Comedy Looking at Christmas Comes to TV December 21 – 25 on Thirteen WNET
Thirteen WNET will air The Flea Theater’s acclaimed 2010 production of Looking at Christmas by Steven Banks (head writer of SpongeBob SquarePants) beginning December 21. Filmed live at The Flea last year, this romantic comedy set in front of New York’s famed holiday window displays is directed by Jim Simpson and features The Bats, The Flea’s resident company of actors. Broadcasts on Thirteen WNET are slated for Dec. 21 at 10pm; Dec. 23rd at 3am, and Dec. 25 at 11pm. Check your local listing for air dates in other markets. Here’s the review.
This is an important play about the effects on individual lives of the Civil War draft riots in New York City. Since $300 would get you out of serving, it was easy enough to see the draft hit poor men unfairly, stimulating poor vs. rich antagonisms which, however, fast turned racial — setting poor Whites against Blacks. During four days in July 1863, a Black man, woman or child could not walk the streets in safety or hide in safety, and many were murdered. In this play, the immigrant Irish represent the poor side of that equation.
If you want an electric evening of theater, see In the Heat of the Night. It’s an exciting detective murder mystery story, enlarged by its vivid, shocking portrayal of what it meant to be a Black man in the deep South in the 1960’s. The play could not have a more dramatic presentation than the production at 59E59 Theaters where the audience, two rows deep, sits on four sides of the square stage. You can’t get away from the action and — grim as it can be — you don’t want to.