Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Reviews: Enjoyably Offbeat “Regretfully, So the Birds Are” Play Premieres at Playwrights Horizons, While in Arthouse Cinemas, Pakistani Trans-Positive “Joyland” and Kelly Reichardt’s Gentle “Showing Up” With Michelle Williams Are Worth Catching
Regretfully, So the Bird Are (c) Chelcie Perry
Theater: Regretfully, So the Birds Are
At Playwrights Horizons (Co-Production with WP Theater)
It’s very hard to successfully convey an absurdist world on stage, unless it’s a severe post-apocalyptic world like that of Beckett. And it’s even harder to pull off if it’s a comedy. My favorite contemporary play of this ilk is “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonough, although its comedy is more black than not. Even Playwrights Horizons has made the attempt with varying levels of success, with plays like “Mr. Burns” and “Mankind.” For the audience, it’s a delicate balance between believing a play’s allegorical world and rejecting it and its more far-reaching imagery. Somehow, “Regretfully, So the Birds Are,” Julia Izumi’s enjoyable, very funny and surprisingly poignant new play keeps everything afloat thanks to a ridiculously talented cast and inventive direction by Jenny Koons. The play centers on the Whistler family of New Jersey, who are at a crossroads as they try to recover from their mentally unstable matriarch Elinore (the invaluable Kristine Nielsen) setting her husband on fire. Her children, all adopted from Asian countries, have different ways of coping: eldest daughter Mora (Shannon Tyo) is finally old enough to try to find her birth mother, while younger sister Illy (Sasha Diamond) and brother Neel (Sky Smith) decide to have an affair (that term is contested throughout the play). So, in-between the incest and the murder, Izumi peppers in a talking snowman, a flock of birds banding together to stop their extinction, many journeys (accompanied by Journey songs) as well as a cowman (don’t call him a cowboy) and a mysterious woman at an airport. All this is conveyed with more sincerity than absurdism by the cast who are all wonderful. Tyo, who has worked seemingly nonstop since her Theater World Award-winning performance in “The Chinese Lady,” is poignant as Mora, while Diamond and Smith are nice discoveries as the young lovers who insist their relationship isn’t incestuous because they’re not blood related. Gibson Frazier and Pearl Sun are also effective in supporting roles, but it’s Nielsen who is the MVP here, utilizing her unique comic delivery to the play’s benefit. See how she milks every last laugh out of a seemingly innocuous line like “I could have sworn this couch had more cushions.” Despite its unwieldly title, Izumi’s script is wonderfully wacky and heartfelt in equal measure and has found a kinship with collaborator Koons that the production never falters even when veering into some outlandish flights of fancy. By the end of this quirky play’s journey, I was surprised by how moved I was.
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Titaníque (c) Emilio Madrid
The nominations for the 2023 Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway were announced today with Wolf Play receiving the most nominations with six and then four productions with five nominations each: A Case for the Existence of God, Endgame, Epiphany and Titaníque. Ryan J. Haddad received the most individual nominations for Lead Performance and writing Dark Disabled Stories as well as a Featured Performance for american (tele)visions.
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Some Like It Hot (c) Marc J. Franklin