News & Reviews from New York
February 21st, 2013

The great monologist Martin Moran is the most charming entertainer in town in ALL THE RAGE, the solo show written and performed by him. He explores the roots of anger, forgiveness, people open, people blocked, in America, and as an interpreter in Africa. He’s a masterful story-teller from start to finish, with the agility of a dancer, who, as he gives flesh to people in his encounters, touches the heart and the funny bone as he tells stories of his adventures with a poignant sense of humor and basic human truthfulness that is rare. Illustrated with maps, pictures, charts, a globe, directed with meticulous timing by Seth Barrish, with a super simple set by Mark Wendland, with perfect lighting by Russell M. Champa, Moran, a former member of the cast of “Spamalot,” delights us, provokes thought, and powerfully moves us.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

January 04th, 2013

The play MY NAME IS ASHER LEV by Aaron Posner, adapted from Chaim Potok’s novel, has a convincing premise: An Artist must be true to his inner consciousness and pursue the nature and inspiration that God gave him, or he can become a whore. It’s about integrity in Art. It also sets up a good conflict: an Orthodox Jew paints Jesus, to the consternation of his father (Mark Nelson- who also plays The Rebbe and an old artist who guides the boy). Jenny Bacon plays the understanding mother (as well as an Art Dealer and a Model). OK- here’s the good part of the production: the set by Eugene Lee, an artist’s studio, including skylight, is terrific, and so is the lighting by James F. Ingalls which perfectly creates moods. I had problems with some of the rest. With much of the play narrated by the young Asher (Ari Brand), an artist driven by his talent, although there are some interesting ideas explored, most of the arguments are simplistic, and redundant, including a discussion on painting nudes— should Art have boundaries?- which is belabored. The performances by the men are intense and emotion-filled, but the father cries all of his lines, and Brand has a head bob- yes, or no, or just an emphasis on EVERY word, which undercuts the emotions of his remembrances. It’s distracting, but not as much as the unrestrained ham given us by Nelson as both the father who doesn’t understand Art or Artists and as the Rebbe. (He’s more real as the artist/teacher.) Bacon is a contrast to the men: she gives a lovely performance as the mother, with a sense of reality-- of Being, and is wonderful in her other two portrayals (except that the director, Gordon Edestein, has her smoking on stage, which drifts into the audience). I believe that only a non-painter could write this worshipping of the art. But even good material spoken by the father is diffused by his crying recitations dripping with over-acting and a quavering voice chewing up the scenery. A lot of people can be fooled by this kind of performance, but I believe what Alfred Lunt said: “The secret of Acting is: say your lines loud and clear, and don’t bump into the furniture.” I kept imagining how the lines spoken would impact if said simply and without demonstration.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

I lucked out-- went to the Andre Zarre Gallery, 529 West 20th St., and found the work of TWO exceptional artists on display. I was immediately struck by the depth and originality of what I assumed were painted works by Beata Drozd. There is a clarity of line as well as a complex three-dimensional depth to her figures and backgrounds. The faces are vividly alive, the costumes are intricate with color detail. I thought there is humanity, subtlety and emotion in her brush. Then I found out that there is no brush— it’s all collage: thousands of pieces of paper cut from magazines and pasted on her canvas to form impossible pictures. I was stunned by the beauty and artistry of this multifaceted, elaborate work, and wished I could spend hours exploring each of these extraordinary pictures.

I moved to the next room to see the work of Jean-Michel Gourdin, who works under the name “Zed.” Swirls of blended colors on the 30 X 40 canvases, each alive with motion, each with clarity, in these abstract swishes. Fooled again-- they are not paintings- they are photographs. He uses no computer graphics, sets no scenes- just swings his camera at mostly natural undefined objects, and gives us works that are original and, though abstract, filled with a warm emotion.

The exhibit runs to the end of January. 212/255-0202.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

January 02nd, 2013

Mummenschanz, celebrating its 40th year as the world’s premiere Mask Theatre company, gives us a wonderful experience in imagination. They perform as the personification of inanimate objects including Giant Hands, Insects, a Slinky, bugs, bags, giant figures, snakes, a Flame Dance, a medley of rectangle and square and circle, dancing Objects, a brilliant section of sticks that conflict and then join, faces constructed by cords, and two holdovers from previous years: toilet paper features on a face and the peak of their art for me, clay masks that two of the troupe sculpt and resculpt into people, and morph into animals. There are two Black Light sections that give us a lovely visual tangent. This is a highly developed, fascinating show, and it’s hard to describe the magic that the performers bring to the stage. I’d have sworn there were about eight people in the show, and it’s a surprise when we learn at the bows there are only four. They are veterans with the bodies of Slinkies and the timing of trapeze artists. Miss this, and you miss some of the highest level of innovation in visual communication that exists on this planet-- and, being purely visual, Mummenschanz has played in 80 countries, and finds resonance in audiences of all ages.

Richmond Shepard—Performing Arts INSIDER and

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