New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

New York City Theater

Fringe Festival, 2005
New York

Soho Playhouse

“Marlowe,” written by Harlan Didrickson and directed by David Zak, compresses the tumultuous tale of playwright Christopher Marlowe into a two-hour evening. Ranging from palace to pub, court to cottage, the drama covers the playwright’s drinking, love life, spying and writing, the latter through excerpts from his plays. The ending is startling: instead of dying in a bar brawl, as commonly accepted, Marlowe is done in by the Queen herself.

The work is not without interest, although it has trouble compressing so many facets into a comprehensive whole. Still, the acting is vigorous, especially from Timothy Hall as Marlowe and Julie Partyka as Queen Elizabeth, performers with prospects for a bright future. The dialogue has sparkling moments and, Lord knows, the subject matter is rife with possibilities. Organization and structure are the missing ingredients.

“Frida and Herself”
Linhart Theater

More dance than drama, “Frida and Herself” purports to tell the story of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Using shadow figures as well as life-size puppets, Brandy Leary’s work divides Frida into two women – one who talks, one who dances.

But the two halves hardly coalesce nor add up to much, despite some striking images such as having the dancing Frida play with a model of her own spine (as a child, she was severely injured in a trolley accident).

Frida describes her other “accident” as her marriage to muralist Diego Rivera, whose “insatiable love and deep passion” cause him to take mistresses. Meanwhile, Frida drinks – and paints, of course, although we don’t see the result of her labors. Some of the images are appealing but it’s all terribly pretentious and dull. The most prescient line is Frida’s “I hope the exit is quick, and I hope never to return again.”

“Weddings of Mass Destruction”
Lucille Lortel Theater

The revue form is not dead – yet. In “Weddings of Mass Destruction,” three guys and three gals celebrate being gay with lots of in-jokes and smart patter. The result, the authorship of which is credited to Gayco Productions, is a good-natured musical mélange of a dozen or so sketches that usually hit their marks.

Beginning and ending with a double same-sex wedding in Provincetown, the evening covers adoptions, sex shops, liaisons short and long, celebrity crushes (e.g. Katie Couric, Alyssa Milano) and a finale that features “I Am What I Am.”

In a takeoff on the Abu Ghraib scandal, terrorists threaten to torture captives with homosexual acts. One lesbian finally fights back by refusing to be ashamed of her sexuality. Also effective is a satirical minstrel show where the politically incorrect entertainers are not blacks but gays. The show could be more hard-hitting, but it’s amusing and even uplifting.

“The Eisteddfod”
Performance Space 122-Downstairs

First the title: An Eisteddfod is Welsh for talent show. The 75-minute play by Lally Katz takes place not in Great Britain, however, but Australia. In a series of short scenes, two actors portray a pair of orphans, a brother and sister bent on putting on an amateur production of “Macbeth.”

Abalone, the brother, who has the idea for the talent show, entices his sister, Gerture, into giving up her job and her boyfriend to work with him. At times, Abalone pretends to be the boyfriend whom Gerture misses, with the talk turning to sex and humiliation. But where does pretend end and reality begin?

Beneath the surface is an undercurrent of cruelty and hostility which, while intriguing, is never fully developed. The play backs in on itself, although individual scenes are strong and the actors, Jessamy Dyer and Luke Mullins bite into their roles, suggesting layers of desire.

-- David A. Rosenberg
August 30, 2005

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