Friday, November 9, 2007

Szymkowicz/Szymkowicz, Schulenburg and Stephanie Walker Plays

Decided to go ahead and kill some time before I head downtown to see 12th Night of the Living Dead by blogging all the readings I caught this week.

In addition to 12th Night tonight, I am planning on going from LAX to the Hayworth Theater in Los Angeles for Chad Beckim's 'Nami tomorrow night. So I will have those to write about in addition to my trilogy reading next week. That is too much to reasonably write about. Especially since next week involves a possible Hank III concert, if I have the energy, and a trip to Boston for work, followed by Tracy Letts' August: Osage County on Saturday the 17th. This is no time to fall behind in my obsessive chronicling of my theater outings.

On Monday, November 5th I got to see two of Adam Szymkowicz's plays read in two different locations. First, I saw Herbie: Poet of the Wild West read as part of the on-going New York Library of the Performing Arts' A Rose by Any Other Name: Adaptations of Shakespeare series. My friend Kay is a librarian and had attended the dance piece based on Romeo & Juliet in this festival and saw Adam's name on the up-coming events list and alerted me to the reading. So, I met her at the NY Performing Arts Library next to the Lincoln Center (boy, the construction they have going on there is annoying!). Playwright Mark Schultz (whose play Deathbed should be opening in January and will doubtless be a must see) was there and I chatted to him before the play started about what we are both up to writing-wise and how crappy those Left Behind books are from a theological and doctrinal perspective (yeah, I don't know how we got off on that, except we were talking about Bridget Carpenter's The Faculty Room that I saw at Wooly Mammoth where Mark was just produced and that has the rapture in it) Mark apparently called into a talk show once and argued with one of the writers of the Left Behind books about how crap and illegit the whole premise was which I find deeply impressive.

Herbie: The Poet of the Wild West was a delightful riff off Hamlet. With Siamese twins standing in for Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, a performing bear, a disgruntled lesbian cowgirl, copious shoot 'em up quick draw killings, a desperately ugly saloon girl, and a deliciously whiny poet gunslinger hero. I thought the script was very funny and engaging. The audience was kind of a dull collection of souls, all thinking about the work they'd just left and were going back to on Tuesday. I didn't think much of the audience. I didn't stay for the talkback, but Adam said they were extremely quiet afterward, too. Sigh. The idea of having Herbie/Hamet be a poet, was especially inspired, I thought. Then he could wander around the desert reciting his poetry to himself in place of soliloquies. Inspired. The cast was divine. I have (true to form) misplaced the program and so can only say: Amelia/Bear Handler actress, you are a gfit from the gods and a comic genius. Ugly Betty actress, I am in awe. I bought that you were ugly and I laughed at the fact that you were ugly and I am sort of disappointed that you are not in fact ugly, because you convinced me you would be so charming as a horrifically ugly person. I don't know how you did it.

Then I skipped out of that reading and headed over to the first Flux Theatre Ensemble bar reading series at Jimmys 40. This was packed to the gills and I had to stand at the back of the room and watch the last two thirds of Gus Schulenburg's play Angel Juice. This is an adorable supernatural comedy. I caught enough to see knock performances from Candice Holdorf and Marnie Schulenburg. The bar series is going to be an ongoing series featuring the best of the Flux Sunday writers' meeting performance in a public format. Adam's Open Minds had a reading after Gus' play. I loved Open Minds, which is a fantastic political thriller/comedy. Also great performances from the Flux Ensemble.

Interestingly, as Adam has mentioned on his blog, both Herbie and Open Minds featured a leading character named Herbie and some similar lines from controling mothers. I love it when writers repeat images like that in their work. I think there is a great tradition in the visual arts (think Monet's haystacks) of an artist using recurrent images in his/her work (Cahlo's self portrait), but it isn't something that is done in quite the same way by playwrights. But in subtle ways, it is done-- thematically, with lines, with sets, with design features, etc. Matt Freeman talked some about this in a self-mocking way in his pretentious theater show when he interviewed himself about his own writing and recurrent auto-biographical themes. While these elements are analyzed in very successful playwright's work (Parks' recurring Abe Lincoln impersonators), no one ever pays any attention when beginning or mid-career playwrights start to work with recurring images. And that is when the phenomenon is at its most interesting because it is just happening.

Then on Tuesday night, I took in Oberon Theatre Ensemble's reading of my friend LA playwright Stephanie Walker's Something of Great Importance. That went over very well and featured some adorable performers. Stephanie seemed pleased and it was great to see a play I'd seen in my writers' group meetings in LA on stage in NY.

Off to see the Shakespeare zombies now. Will report back on how the trilogy reading goes next week.

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