Baby, it’s Hot Inside


Downtown theater brims with ideas brought to boiling point


November was such a busy month that I only saw one show from last month’s column: but I saw it 50 times. The show, of course, is Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” — playing at 3LD Art & Technology Center (www.3ldnyc.org) through December 10. I would love to give it a glowing review, but seeing as how I am in it that might be construed as more than usually biased. Therefore, we turn our attention to the virgin snows of December….

I am luridly expectant at the prospect of seeing “What She Knew” — playwright and critic George Hunka’s retelling of “Oedipus Rex” from Jocasta’s point of view. In this production, the “First of the Red Hot Mamas” will be played by Gabriele Schafer. Schafer is best known as one half of the company Thieves Theatre, which she ran for many years with her husband Nick Fracaro, and was most notorious for a theatre piece they did in the early 90s in which they lived in a teepee at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge for several months. More recently, I saw Schafer play both Hamlet’s father and mother in a Butoh-influenced version of the Shakespeare play (“Q1: The Bad Hamlet” — produced by New World Theatre). The hair-raising performances I saw makes me to think there couldn’t be a better person to do an “erotically transgressive” one-woman show about Oedipus’s mother. The production is under the rubric of Hunka’s company, Theatre Minima, and will be playing at Manhattan Theatre Source, December 1-11. For more info: www.theatreminima.org.

I am also happy to report that Theatre Askew’s “Horatio’s Rise” — written and directed by Jason Jacobs — opens at The Cell (www.thecelltheatre.org) on December 1. Producer Tim Cusack has been doling out tidbits about the show to me for over a year knowing as he does of my abiding interest in all things 19th century. The titular “Horatio” is, of course, Alger — author of scores of rags-to-riches novels that were considered inspirational in their day, if a bit preposterous in our own. In Jacobs’ play, a teacher introduces a wayward student to “Ragged Dick.”(Stop giggling now. I mean it!) From what I can glean, the play has serious overtones without ignoring the unavoidable humor inherent in some of Alger’s work. Having enjoyed several of this company’s productions, including “I, Claudius,” “Cornbury” and “A Night in the Tombs,” I feel comfortable giving this one an advance “thumbs up.” The run is just one week, ending on December 5. For tickets and info: www.theatreaskew.com.

November 2 through 11, the Incubator Arts Project will be presenting “Emancipatory Politics” — written and directed by Eric Bland and his company Old Kent Road Theater. I’d previously seen and enjoyed Bland’s “The Protestants” — which had its absurd aspects, but it looks as though he is embracing Incubator Arts’ experimental mandate and trying some new things, including puppets and “movement through the space” in this “collage-like” story about a bunch of radical leftists in Arizona (don’t they know that’s McCain country?) Of the cast, Becky Byers, Gavin Starr Kendall, Iracel Rivero, and Alexis Sottile are well-known and heavily endorsed by me. The others approved by association. The production will be at St. Mark’s Church. There’s more info available at www.incubatorarts.org.

Several shows at Theater for the New City this month tickle my fancy. First, there’s the annual return of the seminal Off-Off Broadway company Bread and Puppet Theater. This is the 39th year the company has come back to TNC, and it’s always impressive to see those eerie, gigantic, medieval-looking puppets move about TNC’s cavernous Johnson Theatre. This year’s production is entitled “The Return of Ulysses to His Homeland and the Decapitalization Circus.” Hmm…. wonder if it will be political? The production runs December 2 through 19. Also opening on the 2nd is Matt Morillo’s “Angry Young Women in Low Rise Jeans with High Class Issues.” While its tagline, “Even though it’s a play, it doesn’t suck” strongly inclines me to throw their press release in the wastepaper basket, its promise of “foxy, urban women” in (let us not forget) “low rise jeans” has convinced me to do the big thing and give the production a second chance. This is the show’s second NYC revival since its premiere in 2006, and it has been produced as far away as Australia, so someone must like it. “Angry Young Women” runs through December 12. “Dollface” — opening on December 23 — is less interesting for its concept (a Queens woman enrolls in a comedy class and then gets involved with a jewel heist) than for its personnel. Several of the collaborators have interesting music biz credits on their resumes. Co-composer Rob Hyman is a founding member of The Hooters and songwriter of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” His collaborator, David Forman, has written and recorded with Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, Aaron Neville, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Maryann Faithfull, Levon Helm, Taj Mahal and others. “Dollface” runs through January 16. For info on all three of these shows as well as others at TNC, go to www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

“Mapping Mobius” at LaMaMa E.T.C.’s First Floor Theatre promises to be a trippy experience. Taking as its inspiration the eponymous, technically impossible “strip,” it’s supposed to describe what happens when a scientist delves into a model of his own mind, presumably winding up in some sort of feedback loop. Far out! (If the fuzz is reading this, I didn’t inhale.) At any rate, if you too want to have your mind blown, “Mapping Mobius” — by The New Stage Theatre Company (www.newstagetheatre.org) — is playing December 2 through the 19.

On December 6, Terranova Collective’s Groundbreakers Playwrights Group is presenting “Bug Out!” — a bill of ten-minute plays inspired by the word “bug.” If you’re not a fan of creeping insects, don’t fret. The organizers have given the artists wide latitude as to how to interpret their mandate and the products of their imaginations are just as liable to include irritated humans, or hidden recording devices. The quintet of young scribblers includes Lauren Feldman, Andrew Kramer, Nick Mwaluko, Leah Nanako Winkler, and Halley Feiffer (daughter of Jules and a multitalented artist in her own right. She not only writes, but acts. You may have seen her in “The Squid and the Whale”). “Bug Out” plays one night only, December 6, at HERE Arts Center. For more info, go to www.terranovacollective.org.

December 7 through the 15, the Kraine Theater will be the site of “The Corporate Personhood Play Festival.” I like the name and the theme of this festival very much (it refers to recent legal decisions that make it possible for corporations to commit all manner of calumnies under the pretense that they possess the same rights as individual human beings). The fest includes nine short plays in two separate bills, and to give you a flavor, here’s a description of “Oh, Donna” by the excellent young playwright Lucille Scott Baker: “A young heiress (and friend of Paris Hilton) who has organic tendencies with organic juice and a few secrets, takes over the world’s third largest communications company.” I’m there! And lest there be any doubt about the subversive tendencies of this festival, all shows are FREE! Why, it’s downright un-American. “The Corporate Personhood Play Festival” is a co-production of Horse Trade Theater Group and The Subjective Theatre Company. More info at: www.subjectivetheatre.org.

Finally, I would be remiss in my duty as a corrupter of public morals if I didn’t recommend these sick, twisted holiday shows. December 3-11, one of the funniest performers I know — Bradford Scobie — brings his “Moisty the Snowman Saves Christmas” to Dixon Place. This parody of Rankin-Bass holiday specials, penned by and starring Scobie, was a hit of last year’s NY Musical Theatre Festival (www.nymf.org) and also stars the great Murray Hill, among others. For info: www.dixonplace.org.

December 10-30, End Times Productions — the folks who brought you “Manson: The Musical” — return to Ace of Clubs with their 4th annual “Naked Holidays.” This “Yuletide Bacchanalia” promises an array of comedy sketches involving Adolph Hitler, the Tea Party, and, by my count, 13 scantily clad showfolk. Talk about roasting chestnuts! For tickets: www.endtimesproductions.org.

Over at PS122, December 15-19, you can catch “Brothers and Sisters and Motherf**kers.” This solo show — featuring one Jibz Cameron as Dynasty Handbag — takes us to a Handbag Family Holiday Dinner featuring “hatred, drugs, murder, spider, old babies, secrets, the devil, grandma and explosives.” For info: www.ps122.org.

And on December 14, don’t miss me as the titular slasher in “Jack the Ripper’s Holiday Spectacular” — along with my chorus of cuties, The Bleeedin’ Tarts, piano man Albert Garzon of Ixion Burlesque, country duo the Tall Pines, contortionist Amy Harlib, burlesque side show artist Foxxx Trot and music hall chanteuse Lorinne Lampert. It’s all at Bowery Poetry Club. Be there or be square! See you next year!