What may be May’s Downtown best

L-R: Nicole Beerman, Joseph Varca and Megan Hill, stars of Crystal Skillman’s “Cut.” Photo by Meg Sturiano

As ‘Bowery Wars’ rage, Horse Trade eyes Under St. Marks buy


The big news for Downtown indie theatre lovers this month is that Under St. Marks — one of Horse Trade Theatre Group’s three intimate playing spaces — is being put on the market by their landlord. In the 12 years of Under St. Marks’ existence, this observer has watched it grow from a crude and sorry basement theatre with no heat…to a crude and sorry basement theatre with no heat plus an excellent bar! I kid, of course. Small though it may be, Under St. Marks has gotten a thorough makeover in the past few years. The feeling in there is like that of a secret social club. The loss of it would be unfortunate, as good, old-fashioned alternative theatre spaces seem to be evaporating all over the city. Horse Trade is starting a campaign to buy the building themselves. Crazier things have happened. Both HERE Arts Center and Dixon Place have succeeded with ambitious capital campaigns within the last few years, so there is indeed hope. Stay tuned here for further developments, and to learn more from the Horse’s mouth, see their website: horsetrade.info.

On April 30, Downtown Arts opened “Bowery Wars” — a site-specific theatre event on the streets of the Lower East Side, re-enacting the gang wars led by Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly. Performed by a cast of 22 teenagers (Downtown Arts works with young people), the epic story also manages to fold in a subplot adapted from “Romeo and Juliet.” That ought to get the blood pumping! The experience starts at the corner of Lafayette and Jersey and winds up on East 3rd Street. To find out how to take part in this violent historical spectacle, go to downtownart.org. The “Bowery Wars” will be raging through May 22. (BTW, you may want to follow up the experience with a self-guided walking tour up and down the Bowery using “The Bowery: A History of Grit, Graft and Grandeur.” Written by the Lower East Side History Project’s Eric Ferrara, the book is chock full of tasty lore about the neighborhood’s rough-and-tumble past. Look for it in bookstores or at onthebowery.org.

On May 9, one of New York’s premier vaudeville revivalists (Mark Lonnergan, artistic director of Parallel Exit) is presenting “Move It!” — their fifth annual FREE evening of physical theatre (translation: clowning, dance and like that). On the docket, they promise: “Titillating Tap” from Parallel Exit; “Playfully Poignant Puppetry” from Honey Goodenough and Eric Wright; “Jazzy and Jubilant Juggling” from Michael Karas; “Phantasmic Physical Theatre” from Company SoGoNo; and “Classic Clown” from Kevin C. Carr and Carol Lee Sirugo. It’s all at HERE Arts Center. More info at parallelexit.net.

May 12-24, Terranova Collective is presenting their annual soloNOVA Arts Festival once again at PS122’s 9th Space Theater. A couple of highlights of this festival of new solo works include: Saviana Stanescu’s “Polanski Polanski,” performed by Grant Neale. Neale (whom I enjoyed immensely in “Rat Bastards” at Dixon Place a couple of seasons ago) is a dead ringer for the pedophiliac cinephile (cinephiliac pedophile?). The slippery-tongued devil apparently delivers the piece in English, French and Polish. Also on the menu: Desiree Burch’s “Tar Baby” — which promises to be an hour-long “dismantling” of American history touching everything from Manifest Destiny to Blaxplotation. I saw her monologue “52 Man Pickup” last year. The woman is afraid of no one and nothing, and she’s mighty hilarious as well as kind of philosophical in a Lenny Bruce kind of way. All the dope on the show can be found at terranovacollective.org.

May 18 through June 26, the Atlantic Theater Company will be celebrating their 25th birthday party by presenting “10 x 25” — a festival of ten-minute plays by some of the world famous playwrights they’ve presented over the years (including Stephen Belber, Ethan Coen, John Guare, Kate Moira Ryan, Lucy Thurber, Tina Howe, Craig Lucas, David Mamet, Sam Shepard and a good many others). They also promise these will be directed and acted by big stars as well, but at press time those names haven’t been announced. To keep tabs on this late-breaking story as it develops, go to atlantictheater.org.

May 19 through June 4, the Management and Horse Trade Theatre Group will present “Cut,” by the terrific Crystal Skillman — winner of last year’s Innovative Theatre Award for best play. The play concerns three writers for a reality show (yes, reality shows have writers. What are ya, new?) who suddenly find themselves under the gun and have to re-edit their new episode of “Ladies of Malibu.” I hope they claw each other’s eyes out! It’ll be up in the aforementioned Under St Marks. For info: managementtheatercompany.com.

In Horse Trade’s other space, The Red Room (May 19 through June 4), the discerning playgoer can take in “Dirty Little Machine.” It tells the tale of a little girl named Jane who finds a dirty novel and obsesses about it her entire life. When she grows up, she decides to seek out the “most degenerate, repulsive, douchebag she can find and date him.” Come, come, young Jane, most of us are quite capable of doing that without even trying! At any rate, it seems that the girl is either trying to “fulfill her deep-seated sexual fantasies OR renounce all disempowering desires and become a true feminist.” Why’s it got be “either/ or,” I’d like to know? More info: horsetrade.info.

Lastly and bestly, The Theatre Museum is having its annual benefit at the National Arts Club on May 16. I’m one of the presenters and I must tell you my knees are already knocking — as I’ll be sharing the bill with the likes of Hal Prince, Tovah Feldshuh, Rita Moreno, Jim Brochu (“Zero Hour”) and on and on, in an evening directed by Tony Walton and organized to honor lyricist Sheldon Harnick (“Fiddler on the Roof” and “Fiorello!”). Surely there must be some mistake! Nah, I’m presenting an award to Frank Cullen, who created “Vaudeville Old and New,” which is possibly the best reference book for old school show biz buffs on the planet. It will be my pleasure — and terror — to do so. To find out how to join in the fun, visit thetheatremuseum.org.

See you Downtown!