Friday, October 5, 2007

When the Messenger is Hot - October 4, 2007

When the Messenger is Hot was developed in Chicago and is presented at 59E59 by Steppenwolf Theatre Company. It is a perfect choice to transfer to New York as the protagonist or rather protagonists, there are three 'versions' of Josie's character, (played simultaneously by Kate Arrington, Lauren Katz and Amy Warren) was born in New York and moves to Chicago where she eventually 'develops'. All three actresses have a turn at being the 'present' Josie, and all are wonderful, but my special favorite was Amy Warren who seems to truly capture Josie's awareness of her self-esteem issues while fighting against them.

photo credit: Jay Geneske

The three in one presentation of Josie is clever and often funny, ringing true to the inner voices we hear in our heads. That's something we can all identify with, as are the other points addressed in this funny, moving and sometimes tear-jerking play adapted by playwright Laura Eason from the book by Elizabeth Crane. The use of the 'three in one' is also a subtle nod to Josie's loss of faith in a god who would take her mother from her, "when she needed her mother most."

Josie's Mom (Molly Regan) is 'not like other mothers'. She is an opera singer, Regan pulls off all aspects of her character flawlessly and her voice is beautiful and a fabulous counterpoint to her hilarious cursing. Josie's explains that her only childhood rebellion was not to use profanity as it was the only thing she could do to distinguish herself from her parents.

It gives nothing away to say that Josie's mother dies so I will address here a beautiful piece of directing by Jessica Thebus. The funeral for Mom is handled in such a simple way that I found tears running down my cheeks. Sometimes the most moving moments are the simplest ones.

To discuss the plot here would detract from the beauty of watching it unfold so I will say nothing more about the story. I will say go see it. Oh, and if you like PiƱa Coladas, and getting caught in the rain... you'll love it. Really.

Despite the surface charm and wit there are serious human issues addressed here, and Ms. Eason is to be commended for her subtle touch with delicate matters and a wonderfully natural ear for dialogue.

When the Messenger is Hot
59E59 Theaters (B)
59 East 59th St.
New York, NY
Tickets: 212-279-4200
running time: 1 hour 15 (no intermission)

October 3 - October 28, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jump - September 30, 2007

I went to Jump knowing only that there would be a display of martial arts. There was. But there was also much, much more.

The show begins before the lights go down. An 'old man' played with absolute tongue in cheek charm by Woon-Yong Lee infiltrates the audience, asks for piggy back rides (and gets them!) and generally disrupts entire rows of people who are already seated. It's the old Bugs Bunny 'scuse me, pardon me' routine and it works. The combination of techno-video game pre-set music and the old man's shenanigans prepare the audience for the show to come.

Jump is set in a traditional Korean home consisting of an extended family - grandfather, father, mother, the drunken uncle, the daughter and her apparently shy suitor. But this family is not typical in any way. Each member is a skilled martial arts expert and every member of this cast exudes so much charm and humor that when they pull members of the audience onstage to assist in their family 'training' people were hoping to be called upon.

There is little dialogue in Jump, but little is required. The comedy is universal, familial relationships that everyone will recognize, shy young lovers getting to know each other and then of course there are the burglars. Yes, this family of kick-ass fighters has their home broken into by an Abbott and Costello like duo who bring the silliness to a new level and their arrival allows the family to stop 'training' and really let the fireworks begin.

I would love to point out specific members of the cast, but as Jump is performed in rotation by two distinct casts (except for the Old Man) I cannot be sure who was playing the parts the night I saw it. Given the level of excellence in the performances I saw I can't imagine that the other cast is any less brilliant. The jumps and leaps are performed with breath-taking grace, in fact there were times it seemed the people onstage would actually take flight. The humor is so inclusive, so warm and heartfelt that you will not be able to resist an ear-to-ear smile.

Jump is a wonderful blend of martial arts movie, silent movie and cartoon. There's even a little Superman thrown in. Keep an eye on the Clark Kent-like suitor. I guarantee you will love his alter-ego.

Go see Jump. You WILL believe a man can fly.

And you'll laugh - a lot.

Now in Previews
Opens October 7
Union Square Theatre
100 East 17th Street