Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Theatrical Musical Experience About the Sea

Can you remember the first time you saw Rent, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Once? Musicals that changed the way we looked at standard musical theater. While Hamilton is getting all the attention this week as it starts previews on Broadway, I was lucky enough to head down to the South Street Seaport Museum where Naked Angels is presenting a musical theater experience/play/concert…I actually find it very hard to describe; but it is incredible. 

Myself and about 60 other people were completely captivated by 7 performers onstage who sing, act, play instruments, create sound effects/sets/images in the most creative of ways. Director Liz Carlson (artistic director of Naked Angels) and her design team have created an experience like no other. Breathtaking moments in this play, underscored by music and sounds that create a theatrical experience that immerses the audience into this world of the sea.

The show is SeaWife by The Lobbyists & Seth Moore directed and developed by Liz Carlson. The website calls it a concert play - I call it a deeply engaging and moving fable of a man's connection to the sea. How it bore him, nurtured him, and caused havoc in his life. We watch him grow from a young boy following in his father's footsteps to a man seeking out his own way in the world. The imagery used in this show to illustrate baby, boy, the sea…it is absolutely beautiful. 
Even the use of changing the actor that portrays our protagonist Percy midstream completely works in the way the entire story is presented.

For those that wonder what this is: it's a little Peter and The Starcatcher meets Once with a rocking, pulsating score that gives way to haunting melodies and the tightest harmonies seven voices can create. That score (co-written by The Lobbyists who are all performing it) is glorious. I left humming the closing song and still can't get it out of my head. 

I must mention the names of this ensemble group because I've never seen such devotion to artistic work - perhaps because you are sitting so close to them that you feel every single thing they do - but they are living, breathing and sweating this story out of every inch of their bodies. Tommy Crawford, Eloise Eonnet, Alex Grubbs, Will Turner, Tony Vo, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, and Raymond Sicam III give their all. 

The group has been working and reworking the piece for a few years now. I can't wait to see what happens and only hope a producer will jump in and take this show to an Off-Broadway house where it can have a longer run and more people can experience the magic that is happening nightly. Sure, there are places that can still be tightened up to work on the length of the show, but that's part of the beauty of catching something in its infancy. The show has been extended downtown through July 26th. Don't miss your chance to see it. So you can't get tickets to Hamilton until 2016…experience SeaWife now and tell your friends you got to see it before everyone else starts talking about it.

Photos by Caitlin McNaney

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Trump Factor

I used to be a die-hard Apprentice fan and then I stopped watching it when I got tired of some of Trump's antics off-air. To me, he was the school yard bully using social media to create fights with people to keep his name constantly in the spotlight. Using words like stupid, ignorant, and the worst to describe his foes. (Those same 5th grade words that haven't changed much in his vocabulary through the years.) 

When he announced his run for president, I didn't believe it would actually happen. The GOP race already had a ton of politicians all vying for the spot and believing they could make America great again. But still, this Washington outsider threw his hat in the ring and well...we all know what has happened since. People can't get enough of The Donald. His name-calling and bullying ways have gone from social media to reporters that interview him. He has an air about him that says he doesn't really care if you like him or not and for some reason - this is endearing more people towards him.

Say what you will about his politics, his answers of how he would govern - any of those things: Trump has changed the way this election is going to happen. He is driving the car and people have to jump in or run behind. He brings up a topic and then other candidates are forced to discuss it. Even though I am not a fan, he has shown a huge light on how politicians react. They don't. Instead of coming out and saying something against his stance, they sit and they wait until advisers tell them what to say. Trump doesn't wait. He speaks his mind. He goes on TV without a slew of people feeding him words in his ears. While I think in the long run that is detrimental to how to run a country (I mean, the president STILL has to listen to others even if Trump is used to running a company alone), other candidates could learn a thing or two about NOT being a politician for once and speaking up. Don't wait to say what you think others want to hear. Trump is going to run all over them if they don't. He's getting all the air-time and people are really listening. (And frankly, some of us are tired of what he is saying.)

Yes, part of me still believes he may be working for the Hillary campaign and this is all part of a bigger plan to get her elected...but in all honestly, the man that I think has the biggest ego in the race is showing how he got to where he is today in the world of business. Come debate time, he's going to be on that stage in The Donald Show while others are left in the wings. Come on GOP - time to take hold of the grand old party.      

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Feeling the Qualms at Playwrights

Tony and Pulitzer prize winner Bruce Norris does not shy away from controversial plays that makes audiences think…and talk. That's exactly what I wanted to do after seeing his latest work The Qualms finishing up their run this week at Playwrights Horizons. The moment the show was done, I wished for a theater play club that I could sit with others and discuss what we had just witnessed.

On the surface, the play seems like a regular comedy; newlyweds Chris and Kristy (played wonderfully by Jeremy Shamos and Sarah Goldberg) attending a swingers party at the home of Gary and Teri (the charming John Procaccino and Kate Arrington); a perfect setup for disaster of dropping outsiders into a world they don't know. However this play is much more than an evening of titillation for theater-goers looking for a sex-romp comedy. It is smart, dark, and very thought-provoking. People may walk into the play believing they know exactly how they feel about a certain situation, but Norris has played both sides of this lifestyle and completely challenges your thoughts. Instead of making it black and white about how you feel about monogamy, the play brings in conversations about war, freedom, property, jealousy, and so much more.

I love Jeremy Shamos as an actor in everything I see him do. He plays 'every man' in such a way that you cheer for him even when he says things you may not agree with. I've read reviews that called his character of Chris as the a$$hole of the show, but I tend to disagree. Sure, he says things that are very unkind, but he's also struggling with the entire concept - even though he obviously is intrigued or he wouldn't be at the party. I actually see the character of Roger (played perfectly smuggly by Noah Emmerich) as the alpha dog pushing Chris's buttons. With Chris, you feel his desire to try something new, yet his constant struggle with his own personal moral code. Even as his pressure breaks and his rants grow, he continues to return because some part of him is still interested (I don't believe it's all about his desire to be correct and convert the others in the room). Shamos is perfect showing that growth, that boiling over, and an exasperated man who has dropped down the rabbit hole and not sure he truly wants to get out.

The entire diverse ensemble is greatly acted with Donna Lynne Champlin, Andy Lucien and Chinasa Ogbuagu rounding out the couples. Pam McKinnon has directed this piece in a way that makes you feel every single moment taking place. We are a part of the evening - the funny moments and those that are uncomfortable. The play takes place in real time which also adds to the intimacy of the entire thing.

I've always thought I was a pretty open-minded person and believe I can't impart my rules on others. Yet I also found myself judging characters within the show at different moments. If you can get a ticket before it closes and want to open your mind to a dialogue, get to 42nd street and see this show…then join our theater club to discuss what you witnessed. See if you leave feeling the same way you did when you walked in.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Free Download for Long Weekend

I've been working on a screenplay based on my book Cool Side of the Pillow. The book was published two years ago and holds a special place for me because of the themes of life changes, theater, friendship, and family. 

In honor of working on it for a new medium, I've made the download free from July 1-3. So grab it up now for your kindle and have something to read beach side this long weekend!

Zachary Kleinmann lives in the elite world of New Canaan, Connecticut and has left his accounting job four years earlier to be a modern stay-at-home father. But as his son is starting preschool, his wife is passionately involved in her own career, and Zach is knocking on forty years old, he begins to wonder how he will find his own serenity and define himself moving forward. 

Enter Ginger Charman, an older, eccentric, free living children's theater actress who has dedicated her life to bringing joy to children and keeping all those around her young at heart. As Zach is pulled into her world and discovers secrets about his new friend, he is not sure he'll ever be able to leave the rabbit hole once he has fallen through - or if he'll even want to venture outside of it again.

I started my career as a theater actor many years ago and found it a fitting place to plunge a greenhorn into for the setting of this novel. The protagonist is a "regular" guy that is attempting to juggle all the areas of his life; fatherhood, a wife passionately involved in her own work, his lack of motivation; all while dealing with a marriage in a slump. Zachary Kleinmann is on a search without even knowing it when he meets Ginger Charman. Her youthful outlook and non-conformist ways are just the thing the thirty-nine year old dad needs to pull himself out of his self-imposed state of complacency. As the title indicates, Zachary is looking for something calming in his life as one does when they flip over a pillow in bed. I hope this book appeals to many: dads, theater lovers, and contemporary fiction readers from all walks of life.

Enjoy the free download and share it with your friends!