Ralph and Alice and Ed and Trixie (and Song and Dance)

Left: Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows in “The Honeymooners” on TV. Right: Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer in the stage musical. Credit CBS Archives; Richard Termine for The New York Times

With a book by the TV writers Dusty Kay (“Roseanne”) and Bill Nuss (“Pacific Blue”), music by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills, “The Honeymooners” tells a new story that would not have felt out of place on the original sitcom.

Here on the stage of the Paper Mill Playhouse,Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer were rehearsing what appeared to be a conventional scene from “The Honeymooners,” the 1950s sitcom.

Against the backdrop of a luxurious apartment far beyond their modest means, Mr. McGrath, playing the rotund blowhard Ralph Kramden, was apologizing to Ms. Kritzer, as his endlessly forgiving wife, Alice, for another harebrained scheme gone awry.

“I got a biiiiiiiig mouth,” Mr. McGrath said, in a blustery Brooklyn accent. “It’s about time you know that, too.”

Ms. Kritzer offered a deadpan reply. “Thanks for letting me in on the secret,” she said. “You hid it beautifully.”

Sixty years ago, this might have been the moment where a studio audience would burst into applause. Instead, an orchestra struck up a gentle tune and Mr. Grath began to sing an apology for continually disappointing his wife:

Oh, I want it so bad
That of course I get mad
When you burst my hot-air balloon
I just want to love you
Take you to the stars above you
Bang, zoom, to the moon

The apartment set moved offstage, leaving only a stylized depiction of the Manhattan skyline. As the moon began to rise above it, Mr. McGrath embraced Ms. Kritzer and said sweetly, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”

“The Honeymooners,” in its best-known incarnation as a CBS series, starred Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows (playing the Kramdens) and Art Carney and Joyce Randolph (as their neighbors, Ed and Trixie Norton), a pair of blue-collar couples with big dreams that perpetually elude them.

The TV show helped establish a lasting template for future generations of sitcoms, including “The Flintstones,” “All in the Family,” “Roseanne”and “The Simpsons.”

The simple dynamics it depicted – the relationship between a man and his wife, and between that man and his best friend – are fundamentals that the cast and creators of the “Honeymooners” musical hope to duplicate.

Read the full article from the New York Times here.

WORD BECOMES FLESH, directed by Psalmayene 24 Captivates at Theater Alliance

BWW Review: WORD BECOMES FLESH Captivates at Theater AllianceBack by popular demand (and just in time) WORD BECOMES FLESH is theatre worth doing more than thinking about. This encore presentation written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph with additional dramaturgical compositions by Khalil Anthony and Dahlak Brathwaite and directed by Psalmayene 24 is an arresting composition of dance, hip-hop, music, and spoken word performed by an indefatigable five man ensemble. Louis E. Davis, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham Jr., Gary L. Perkins III, and Justin Weaks, with nary a weak link among them, move with one heartbeat as they perform a series of letters from a young black man to his unborn son and explore what it means to grow up black in the 21st century. Sneakers squeak, sweat drips, music blares, voices reverberate around every corner of the intimate theatre. It’s clear a rebellion is taking shape.

Director Psalmayene 24 does not want us to mistake this work for anything but a rebellion- a peaceful and artistic rebellion. Psalmayene notes the “arsenal of movement, sound, and lights” more powerful than bullets and bombs that the cast and creative team employ. The ensemble dives into the perpetual battle against terrorism African Americans have always faced while giving voice to an all-encompassing anxiety in the face of bringing a child into such an environment.

WORD BECOMES FLESH displays the fullest embodiment of bodies-a physicality so intimately married to the power and complexity of language that it at once feels like an affirmation, a confrontation, and an invitation. You will be left reeling. From the moment the lights gradually come up from total blackout, lighting designer William K. D’Eugenio and sound designer Nick the 1da work in tandem to ensure that we simultaneously see and hear the beating heart of this production. With the support of the entire exceptional creative team, the ensemble takes flight, displaying an impressive range of emotional as they flit in and out of the central voice of the young father.

If you want to see theatre for social change at it’s most potent, check out the Word Becomes Action Festival at Theater Alliance.

Read more from Broadway World here.

Are We Pussy Riot?

Logan Ellis and Barbara Hammond in rehearsal for We Are Pussy RiotKent, WA
©Annabel Clark

Like so much of America, Hammond began following the story art collective Pussy Riot after their it slammed onto our social media feeds in February of 2012. That month, five young women entered Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior, covered their faces in bright balaclavas, and yarled a punk prayer—“Virgin Mary, put Putin away!” The action was short—guards dragged them out after less than one minute—but the resulting media firestorm was long. After Pussy Riot uploaded a video of the event to YouTube the girls were charged with “inciting religious hatred,” tried and sent to labor camps for two years.

To tell their story, Hammond flooded herself with research material—she read exhaustively, attended protests at the Russian Embassy in New York, traveled to Moscow. The resulting piece, woven from real text and rich with music and audience participation (though not of an arbitrary, invasive variety), views the Pussy Riot story from many angles: the women themselves, the Western media that fixated on them, an orthodox Church employee, a Russian political prisoner without the advantage of Western media attention.

The play premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepard University in 2015, where it was a commissioned work. Hammond and Ellis met the following year at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, and she mentioned she’d written a sort-of-musical about Pussy Riot. “When [Theatre Battery] read the play all together, what stood out was how it’s reaching out about international, socio-political events that might feel alien to our audience, but that because of current events in our country are going to feel extremely prescient.”

“This play and this company are a great fit because Pussy Riot was an anonymous art collective, and Theatre Battery is a loose collective of like-minded people with a collective voice,” Hammond says. “Pussy Riot was adamant that no admission was charged to any of their events, and Theatre Battery has radical hospitality.”

Radical Hospitality, a concept pioneered by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, is about eliminating barriers to entry. “Nobody who is not a traditional theatergoer has any reason to believe that 25 dollars or even 10 dollars is a good deal on a play,” Ellis says. “When you have no context, stepping into a storefront theatre with a play that you’ve never heard of is actually a big risk for people and a good reason to not want to do it.” And so, Theatre Battery tickets are free.

“It allows people to get away from the expectation that you’re purchasing a piece of entertainment, and more into the idea that you’re tapping into a community resource,” he says. “Just like a library or a church, everyone is welcome to this, and walking in isn’t going to cost you anything.”

Read the full article from City Arts here.

Tickets to WINTER, Written By Julie Jensen, Available Now

Written by Julie Jensen
Directed by Gary Graves
Jul 15–Aug 13

inspired by ROBECK in ENDING LIFE: Ethics & The Way We Die
by Margaret Pabst Battin © 2005 Oxford University Press

World Premiere #56: a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

We have extremely limited availability on 7/30.
If a performance is full, please call the box office for information about the waiting list (510) 558.1381

A beautiful, empowering story about a woman whose once-brilliant mind is now diminishing. Her decline is troubling not only to herself, but to her family, who each have different ideas about what’s right for her. Meanwhile she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. Funny, touching, and very topical, WINTER is a thought-provoking look at our right to die.

Production Sponsors: Will & Linda Schieber, Tom White & the Leslie Scalapino O-Books Funds

“Jensen’s illuminating and powerful script finds the humor in the universal questions posed” -Salt Lake Tribune

WINTER is produced at Central Works as part of a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. Other partnering theatres are Salt Lake Acting Company (Utah) and Rivendell Theatre Exchange (Illinois). For more information please visit nnpn.org

TICKET PRICES

Advance tickets: $30
(Advance sales by phone thru Brown Paper Tickets: 800.838.3006)

At the door: $30–15 sliding scale

Pay-what-you-can: preview performances and every Thursday, at the door as available

Information & subscriber reservations: 510.558.1381

PERFORMANCE CALENDAR

Thu Fri Sat Sun
July 13
8pm
Preview 
PWYC 
14
8pm
Preview 
PWYC 
15
8pm
Opening 
16
5pm
Talkback 
20
8pm
PWYC 
21
8pm
22
8pm
23
5pm
27
8pm
PWYC 
28
8pm
29
8pm
30
5pm
Aug 3
8pm
PWYC 
4
8pm
5
8pm
6
5pm
Talkback 
10
8pm
PWYC 
11
8pm
12
8pm
13
5pm

RUNNING TIME

75 minutes without intermission
minimum suggested age: 12
Due to the intimacy of the performance space, we cannot allow children under the age of 7.

CHURCH & STATE Written by Jason Odell Williams

 

  • From Left to Right: former US House Representative Gabby Giffords, her husband Mark Kelly, playwright Jason Odell Williams, and producer Charlotte Cohn.
  • From Left to Right: Playwright Jason Odell Williams, journalist Carl Bernstein, and producer Charlotte Cohn.

CHURCH & STATE, written by Jason Odell Williams, discusses God, Guns, and Politics, and leaves viewers discussing relatable and relevant topics about our current political climate.  Read the full review from the Huffington Post here.