Sex and identity issues inform the comic love triangle in Kitchen Theatre’s Cock
Cockfight was the title a squeamish New York Times used two years ago when Mike Bartlett’s award-winning dark comedy Cock opened. In shunning the title used for the earlier London opening, the Gray Lady was on to something. Consider the starkly bare stage from set designer David L. Arsenault that director Margarett Perry has chosen for the production at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company, running through Sunday, March 9. There’s not a single prop, not even a strip of masking tape on the floor.
An American salesman gets embroiled in East-West comic dilemmas in Syracuse Stage’s Chinglish
David Henry Hwang was still a kid-playwright when he burst upon the scene with his Tony-winning M. Butterfly 25 years ago. Taking Puccini’s Madame Butterfly as a template, it was a deeply serious work about Western misperception and exploitation, with echoes of the dreadful experience in Vietnam. Since then both the times and the playwright have changed. China has become an economic behemoth, allowing Hwang to unleash his madcap inner muse.
An unemployed exec whines with wit in Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue
Neil Simon’s rarely revived The Prisoner of Second Avenue is the darkest of all his comedies, bar none. So many misfortunes befall hapless adman Mel Edison that he feels like an anticipation of the Joe Benjamin character in the playwright’s God’s Favorite, Simon’s comic take on The Book of Job, written a few years later. Snip out the frequent laughter in Prisoner, running through March 1 at Appleseed Productions, and you’re left with a rough draft of Death of a Salesman set in midtown Manhattan. The secret is that the prisoner of the title does not rage against his fate or even bitch. What he does is kvetch, a Yiddish word implying complaint with a sense of absurdity in it all.
Le Moyne students tackle childhood woes in The Fourth Graders Present An Unnamed Love-Suicide
Playwright Sean Graney’s longish title, The Fourth Graders Present An Unnamed Love-Suicide, contains different messages and could easily be misinterpreted. The setting is in a brightly lit parochial school, where all the students wear gray sweaters, with the boys in ties and the girls in tartan skirts. In this Boot and Buskin Theatre Group production, running through Saturday, Feb. 22, at Le Moyne College, all the performers are college age, affecting to move and talk like 9-year-olds. At first it feels faux naïf, but is soon revealed to be something more sinister. Despite running less than an hour, this is not a show for kids.
Producing artistic director Timothy Bond continues the high standards that have distinguished Syracuse Stage for 40 years
It’s an old, old building with new curb appeal. At base a remodeled 1914 movie house, Syracuse Stage’s Archbold Theatre has long been a familiar fixture on East Genesee Street, downhill from the Syracuse University campus. It looks different now, though. During the six-and-a-half year tenure of producing artistic director Timothy Bond, it has become a prime station on the Connective Corridor.
Theater veteran Gerard Moses leads a spirited cast in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
No other local performer enjoys greater authenticity on stage than does Gerard Moses. He’s a teacher of actors, an actor’s actor. As a Syracuse University Drama Department faculty member he took on more roles at Syracuse Stage than any colleague. Unlike other department members, Moses has also given generously of himself to community projects.
A manic depressive novelist gets his close-up in the movie-themed Jump/Cut
When ironist Paul (James Uva) and more reflective Dave (Sean Pratt) begin the action by licking the shaft of a bong to see if you can taste the plastic, it feels as though we’re starting a slacker comedy in Jump/Cut, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 15, at Central New York Playhouse. Playwright Neena Beber, a former television writer, who premiered Jump/Cut in 2003, is just being coy with us, however.
Hot Stuff: a tango treat at Syracuse Opera
The panel for projected titles in the Mulroy Civic Center’s Carrier Theater for Maria de Buenos Aires begins with a disarming piece of consumer advice. It’s a quick message, something like, “Don‘t expect to discern every nuance by what you read here.” For this Syracuse Opera production, running through Sunday, Feb. 9, it could mean two things, both useful. One is not to be distracted up here from what’s happening on stage. Or, secondly, it could mean that the words found in the lyrics and the surreal plot do not give us what Maria is really “about.”
Chain Reactions: Two slaves confront their master as the Civil War ends.
Nearly 150 years after it was banished, slavery--the mass involuntary servitude of millions--has become a fresh theme for dramatic exploration. It’s not that we forgot, but rather that we had been glossing over some details. At the movies, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln reminded us that passage of the 13th Amendment, ending slavery, was by no means a popular slam dunk, while Twelve Years a Slave spelled out unrelenting daily humiliation from barbarous to petty. Matthew Lopez’s 2006 drama The Whipping Man, at Syracuse Stage through Feb. 16, tightens the focus to three men in a single household, bound by multiple deep ties. It dramatizes what could have been said on the first day two of them were freed.
Who’s on Top? Kitchen Theatre’s ‘Venus in Fur.’
David Ives’ Venus in Fur is a play about two people at an audition for a different play with the same title. The play to be produced is an adaptation of Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 erotic novel, Venus in Fur, which gave us the word “masochism.” Leading the audition is the playwright and first-time director Thomas Novachek (Brandon Morris). The actress trying out is named Vanda (Maddie Jo Landers), which just happens to be the name of a character in the novel and the adaptation Thomas is producing. Given that David Ives (All in the Timing, Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?) is America’s most playful dramatist, these are but hints at the reversals of expectation and intellectual pranks that are about to unfold.