Tuesday, July 31, 2018

56 (2018-2019): Review: TWELFTH NIGHT (seen July 29, 2018)


“The Food of Love”

Last week, as I subwayed home to Queens from a midtown show, I was so immersed in my book that I didn’t immediately notice I was sitting alone in my corner at the end of the bench. A fellow rider, sprawled across the opposite bench, had made a generous donation to my car of whatever he’d been digesting, and everybody had moved to the sides. Sometimes, it pays to have an insensitive nose.
Nikki M. James and the Blue community. Photo: Joan Marcus.
As soon as the next stop arrived, I jumped up and ran into the adjoining car, sitting down between two well-dressed African-American women, one of whom had a boy by her side. Seeing the program in my hand, the woman to my left showed me hers and had the boy with her stand up so I could see he was wearing a Public Theater t-shirt with the logo for Twelfth Night on it.

Quickly, this being the subway, I got into a lively discussion with the woman on my right, who told me that the boy, her13-year old son, was a cast member in the current Shakespeare in the Park revival of Twelfth Night, which incorporates the services of a numerous local citizens affiliated with various community organizations. The boy, whose name I neglected to get, is involved with the Brownsville Recreation Center, formerly the Brownsville Boys Club, where I once did a teaching internship.

Like the other community participants in Twelfth Night, he’s one of two approximately 50-member ensembles (Red and Blue) that appear. Sadly, I discovered that he was in the Red group and I’d be seeing the Blue when I was scheduled to attend. If his proud mom, to whom I gave my card, happens to read this, send me a shout out!

For several years now, the Public Theater has been producing three-performance runs (separate from the annual Shakespeare in the Park presentations) of heavily adapted, musicalized classical material at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. They operate under the rubric of its Public Works program, created by the wonderful director Lear deBessonet in 2012, which has become a model of civic engagement with theatre arts. Twelfth Night follows in the wake of The Tempest (2013), The Winter’s Tale (2014), The Odyssey (2015), an earlier Twelfth Night (2016) directed by Kwei-Armah, and As You Like It (2017), which I had to leave midway through because the weather that night had no regard for its civic duties.  

The current Twelfth Night, codirected by the Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah, the new artistic director of London’s Young Vic (where a separate version will be done this fall), is the first Public Works show produced for a five-week run under the Shakespeare in the Park banner.

A “reimagining” of the 2016 Central Park production (which I missed), it resembles its above-named Public Works predecessors in being a freely adapted, considerably shortened (to 100 minutes!), and heavily musicalized version of the Bard’s original. The idea, though, isn’t new, what with musical versions of Twelfth Night having occupied New York stages since Your Own Thing in 1968, Music Is in 1976, Play On! in 1997, and a 2009 Shakespeare in the Park staging using a symphonic rock score by the band Hem.
Shaina Taub and the Blue community. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The driving creative force here is Shaina Taub, the ultra-talented 29-year-old singer, musician, composer, and lyricist gradually becoming a major musical theatre presence. Taub, who has not only written a melodically delightful, unpretentious, and frequently enchanting score in the jazz, pop, and Broadway show tune modes, appears as Feste the clown, whom she makes a central figure.
Patrick J. O'Hare (holding beverage), Shaina Taub, Shuler Hensley, and the Blue community. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Among her first-rate songs are Toby Belch’s insult-laden drinking song, “You Are the Worst,” the lovely ballad, “Is This Not Love?,” a chorus line number featuring Malvolio and the ensemble in yellow top hats, and the fight preparation song, “What Kind of Man Are You Gonna Be?” (No playlist was provided so I’m guessing at the titles.)
Andrew Kober and the Blue community. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Taub’s lyrics are more contemporary prose than musicalized quotes from Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, but they nicely fit the feel-good tone of the production. In her hands, Feste is a busker-like emcee in boldly striped colors and cap, and an accordion at her breast when she’s not at the piano. Although acting is not her forte, she comments personably on the story in song and speech.
Lori Brown-Niang (in pink), Shuler Hensley, and Blue community. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Conceptually, this is by no means a novel Twelfth Night, although purists will surely rage at its desecrations. The severely cut text, which nonetheless manages to hew closely to Shakespeare’s original, retains a few chunks of his dialogue—especially the most accessible ones—in a script mingled with contemporary dialogue. Some cast members are deaf, in recognition of which many lines are conveyed by the actors both aurally and in ASL, although you might wonder why the signing is as selective as it is.

This Twelfth Night’s relative faithfulness to Shakespeare contrasts it with Desperate Measures, the popular Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Measure for Measure. The latter is an entirely new work maintaining only an outline of its source. The Public’s show is essentially a Twelfth Night primer, an Eighth Night, if you will; nevertheless, it’s hard to escape the feeling that, entertaining as it is, its simplifications tend to patronize the wider audience to which it’s reaching out.

The many diverse nonprofessionals of all sizes, colors, shapes, and ages do things like banding together to suggest a sea tempest but, in general, dance  (to Lorin Latarro's choreography), sing, and mill about as Illyria’s lively townspeople. Apart from their vibrant presence, there are notably few unusual interpretive tricks up the show’s sleeves to differentiate it from other modern-dress versions.
Nanya-Akuki Goodrich, Ato Blankson-Wood. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Casting of the principals is as diverse as that of the community players, with actors playing roles they’d be unlikely to land in more conventional productions, and not necessarily because of ethnicity. The show makes no pretense at being realistic; two African-American performers play the identical twins Viola/Cesario (Nikki M. James) and Sebastian (Troy Anthony) but that can’t hide their considerable differences, especially their relative size. All that’s needed is similar costuming and the idea is clear.
Troy Anthony, Nikki M. James, Blue company. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Most of the staging, as in the comical combat (crafted by fight director Lisa Kopitsky) between Andrew Aguecheek (Daniel Hall) and Viola, or the confinement of Malvolio (Andrew Kober) to a Porta Potty (with hilarious aftereffects), presses hard on the farce pedal. The audience responds with frequent laughter to such business, as it does to occasional verbal interpolations along the lines of “Oh, shit!”

Nothing of particular interpretive significance is suggested by designer Rachel Hauck’s generic background of a manor house (attractively lit by John Torres) with three large doors and several second story balcony openings, nor by Andrea Hood’s dozens of bright costumes, which convey a party-time air more than one of any particular time and place.
Jonathan Jordan, Daniel Hall. Photo: Joan Marcus.
All the principals are fine and some have standout moments. These include Nanya-Akuki Goodrich as Olivia, Ato Blankson Wood as Orsino, Shuler Hensley as Toby Belch, Lori Brown-Niang as Maria, and Jonathan Jordan as Antonio (whose attraction to Sebastian the play enjoys stressing).
Blue company. Photo: Joan Marcus.
My advice is to leave your Shakespearean preferences and preconceptions at home, be more a partygoer than a theatregoer, enjoy the good vibes and sweet tunes of an eclectic New York community gathered for a worthwhile cultural purpose, and pray for balmy breezes to blow, to and fro.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Delacorte Theater/Shakespeare in the Park
Central Park West at W. 81st St., NYC
Through August 19









Sunday, July 29, 2018

55 (2018-2019): Review: THIS AIN'T NO DISCO (seen July 28, 2018)


"The Coke Side of Life" 
Today, Studio 54 is a Broadway theatre, a 1927 venue originally named the Gallo and intended for opera. After a checkered history under many names and show biz purposes, it was converted in 1977, under its current name, into New York’s hottest disco by entrepreneurs Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
Peter LaPrade and company. Photo: Ben Arons.
It was known for its anything-goes decadence, flamboyant clothing, liberated sexuality, coke sniffing, and exclusivity, with a velvet rope line that used all sorts of arbitrary rules as to who it let in and who it left out. That last, of course, increased its desirability among both celebrities and the hoi polloi.

Set of This Ain't No Disco. Photo: Ben Arons.
For all its immense success, Rubell and Schrager’s Gomorrah came to a crashing end in 1980 following scandals about their tax evasions and a report concerning an aide to President Jimmy Carter. Other managements kept the place open through 1986 and Rubell died in 1989 from AIDS.

Key parts of that history course through the combination of facts and fiction making up This Ain’t No Disco, a disappointing rock musical at the Atlantic, its title drawn from a lyric in the Talking Heads song, “Life during Wartime.” Frenziedly directed by Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), it offers nearly sung-through disco and new wave music (little of it sounding like what it’s a pastiche of) and sometimes indistinguishable lyrics by Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Peter Yanowitz (drummer for the Wallflowers). The cluttered, emotionally uninvolving book, its musically supported dialogue written in rhyme, is by Trask, Yanowitz, and Rick Elice (Peter and the Starcatcher).
Cameron Amandus, Nicole Medoro, John-Michael Lyles, Krystal Mackie (center), Tony D'Alelio, Hannah Florence, Ian Paget. Photo: Ben Arons.
Performed on an all-purpose arrangement of movable scaffolding (designed by Jason Sherwood), with multiple, TV-sized projections (designed by Aaron Rhyne) covering even the ceiling overhead with ads for peep shows, nude revues, and the like, the show attempts to embody the aspirations, debauchery, and eccentricity of those populating the late 70s club scene. Abetted by Ben Stanton’s rock concert-style lighting, it contrasts the upscale flash of Studio 54 with the even more transgressive scene on White Street in Tribeca, where Steve Mass opened the funkier Mudd Club (1978-1983), which had its own exclusivity rules (no celebrities was one) designed to increase interest.
Samantha Marie Ware, Peter LaPrade. Photo: Ben Arons.
The characters oddly mix actual people and those who seem composites of typical club hounds. The former include Rubell himself (Schrager doesn’t appear), played by Theo Stockman as obnoxious and sleazy, with an exaggerated nasal whine and Brooklyn accent, and a fey gayness unlike anything the closeted Rubell publicly exhibited.
Theo Stockman, Peter LaPrade. Photo: Ben Arons.
Chief among the latter is a young, gay, graffiti artist named Chad (Peter LaPrade), who gets by as male hustler cum busboy at Studio 54. He’s paired with a talented black punk poet/singer, in a presumably Patti Smith-like mold (but actually more R&B), named Sammy (Samantha Marie Ware), single mother of five-year-old Charlie (Antonio Watson). Both LaPrade and Watson make the most of their stereotypical roles as poor, suffering artists placed in stereotypical situations.
Samantha Marie Ware. Photo: Ben Arons.
The friendship and travails of Chad and Sammy, reunited after knowing each other at high school in Forest Hills, comprise the plot’s central action. Chad falls into the coarsely colorful clutches of ambitious underground publicist Binky (Chilina Kennedy, the show’s standout), a bit reminiscent of Nikki Haskell, who, after giving him the name “Rake,” helps him to his 15 minutes of fame. Meanwhile, Sammy’s rise to club stardom comes burdened with the hard-luck consequences of substance abuse.
Chilina Kennedy. Photo: Ben Arons.
Other supporting characters include a dead ringer (well, maybe with a less cheesy wig) for Andy Warhol, identified only as the Artist, and played by Will Connolly as zombie-like and gently controlling, with the original’s Factory now called the Warehouse. For some reason, the Artist gets the eleven o’clock number, “One Night, Terpsichore,” an autobiographical lament about his failure to follow his dream and become a dancer. Its rather banal chorus goes:

LIFE IS SUFFERING AND PAIN
AND WE'LL LIVE IT AGAIN AND AGAIN
UNTIL WE UNDERSTAND
LIFE IS SUFFERING AND PAIN 

Krystina Alabado, Lulu Fall. Photo: Ben Arons.
Mass (Trevor McQueen), who is mainly a passing presence, is presented more or less straightforwardly while the D.A. who goes after Rubell is not Robert Morgenthau, however, but the fictional Lamont Brown (Eddie Cooper), a corrupt, politically ambitious, supersized African American with same-sex issues of his own. And two lesbian artists, Meesh (Krystina Abado) and Landa (Lulu Fall), who transitions to Landon, also have significant stage time as dependable friends for Chad and Sammy.
Eddie Cooper. Photo: Ben Arons.
As background, an ensemble, often wearing Sarah Laux’s creative reimagining of the period’s wilder concoctions, many designed to show off rippling male torsos, dance and sing energetically to Camille A. Brown’s (Once on this Island) choreography.
Will Connolly. Photo: Ben Arons.
Over the course of its two and a half hours, much of the material, such as the rivalry between the uptown and downtown disco scene. With so much of these clubs’ history easily available in both print and memory (for some of us it wasn’t that long ago), the reasons for its distracting blend of real and fictional personages are vague.
Company of This Ain't No Disco. Photo: Ben Arons.
And, instead of the rather mundane and predicable stories it tells of suffering artists, why not a book that accurately reflects the far more compelling drama of what really happened to Rubell and company during those high-flying, nose-powder days?

OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Atlantic Theater Company
336 W. 20th St., NYC
Through August 12





Saturday, July 28, 2018

54 (2018-2019): Review: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE (seen July 27, 2018)


“Smokin!” 
Jukebox musicals come in every size, shape, and color, particularly when it comes to the use of a range of narrative devices holding the songs together. These range from biographical accounts of the artists represented (Beautiful, Jersey Boys) to fictional stories (Mamma Mia!) to shows like the 1995 Broadway smash, Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller, which ran a record-breaking (for a revue) 2,036 performances. That show, now in a rousing revival at Stage 42 (formerly the Little Shubert), has no story at all but is simply an arrangement of popular songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller presented seriatim without even a single word of dialogue. 
John Edwards, Jelani Remy, Dwayne Cooper, Kyle Taylor Parker. Photo: Julia Russell.
Its approach, however, shouldn’t prevent anyone with a melody in their head, rhythm in their bones, and nostalgia in their heart from boogying down to 42nd Street to see and hear this awesomely entertaining revival roll out a succession of mid-20th-century chart toppers. Nine gloriously talented, supercharged, ultra-personable performers, five men and four women, the majority non-white, demonstrate a powerful arsenal of vocal, terpsichorean, and comic skills that keep the audience engaged for an intermissionless hour and 30 minutes.

Working on Beowulf Borrit’s elaborately detailed, two-level barroom set representing the eponymous locale, with spiral staircases at either side and upstage shelves filled with an assortment of vintage radios (props to prop master Deb Gaouette!), this band of solid pros rocks through 40 solid numbers accompanied by an eight-member band ensconced in an alcove at stage left. Almost every song is so well done that the lack of dialogue or background exposition—which allows for more numbers—is a blessing in disguise.
Jelani Remy, Shavey Brown, Emma Degerstedt, Dwayne Cooper, Max Sangerman. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Director-choreographer Joshua Bergasse (Charley and the Chocolate Factory), basing his work on the original concept of Stephen Helper and Jack Viertel, compensates for the lack of a storyline by finding the dramatic soul of each song and theatricalizing it with varying degrees of physical expression. Occasionally, however, an attempt to get laughs from a song goes too far, as with “Dance with Me.” Now and then, a song will bleed into another with suggestions of an ongoing character relationship but this never lasts long enough to become anything substantial.
Jelani Remi, Shavey Brown, John Edwards, Max Sangerman, Dwayne Cooper (front). Photo: Joan Marcus.
While all the performers can dance, some are virtuosos at the art, particularly the athletic Jelani Remy, whose “Jailhouse Rock” is a knockout; the lithe Emma Degerstedt, whose booty shaking will yank your eyeballs out of their sockets in “Teach Me How to Shimmy,” and the slinkily sexy Dionne T. Figgins, who sets pulses racing to songs like “Dance with Me” and “Spanish Harlem.”
Dionne T. Figgins, Dwayne Cooper. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Leiber and Stoller’s wide musical vocabulary has room for traditional rock and roll (including lots of Elvis-related material), doo-wop, rhythm and blues, country-western, and power ballads. The singing is consistently potent; in fact, one of the show’s few drawbacks is that several gentle songs receive overly pumped up renditions, creating a feeling akin to a TV singing competition. For pure excitement, though, watch John Edwards explode with emotional TNT when he sings “I Who Have Nothing,” giving Tom Jones a run for his money, or plus-sized Alysha Umphress, looking sensational in flame-colored tresses as she blasts “Trouble” (accompanied by bassist Yuka Tadano).
Dwayne Cooper, John Edwards, Shavey Brown, Kyle Taylor Parker (above). Photo: Gary Ng.
Nor can we ignore guitar playing singer Max Sangerman, who covers Elvis’s “Ruby Baby” and “Loving You,” and Kyle Taylor Parker, whose several numbers include another Elvis favorite, “Treat Me Nice.” And even the band gets into the act with a bring-down-the-house version of “Dueling Pianos.”

The show also has a perfect bass baritone in Dwayne Cooper, who adds his lowdown grace notes to ensemble songs like “Charley Brown” and “Yakety Yak,” and leads the other men in “Little Egypt.” The most remarkable chops belong to Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, insanely good whenever her powerhouse voice detonates with songs like “Fools Fall in Love,” “Hound Dog,” and “Saved.”
Emma Degerstedt, Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, Dionne T. Figgins, Alysha Umphress. Photo: Joan Marcus.

In case you need reminding, other golden oldie anthems included from the Leiber and Stoller songbook include “Young Blood,” “Kansas City,” “Poison Ivy,” “On Broadway,” “I’m a Woman,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Love Potion #9,” and the unforgettable, “Stand By Me,” favorite of crooning subway beggars.

Cool lighting by Jeff Croiter (keep an eye on those radios when the lights go down low) and superb, hipster-styled costumes by Alejo Vietti, help make Smokey Joe’s Cafe a smokin’ experience. When you see reviewers (myself included) tapping their feet and clapping their hands at a show, you know this is one certain generations—i.e., mine and those right after—will get a huge kick out of.

On the other hand, when I hear otherwise “woke” young people say they’re not interested in shows like My Fair Lady, to cite one example, because it’s “old music,” I worry that Leiber and Stoller may already sound to them like Mozart and other dead white men.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Stage 42
422 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through January 6







Friday, July 27, 2018

53 (2018-2019): Review: COMFORT WOMEN: A NEW MUSICAL (seen July 24, 2018)

"The Musical That Could Go Wrong"


When you think about it, calling a show Comfort Women: A New Musical is not so far away from “Springtime for Hitler,” the parody title Mel Brooks gave his show within a show in The Producers. What next, Slavery: A New Musical? Genocide: A New Musical? And Comfort Women is by no means a parody; it’s a heartfelt attempt to dramatize a significant historical tragedy. It’s also a regrettable misfire.
Sam Hamashima, Abigail Choi Arder, Jack Vielbig. Photo: NK KIM.
The night I went, a couple of unexpected events proved more dramatic than the show. The first happened about halfway through, as I and, I’m sure, others were feeling ever more uncomfortable in response to the clumsily earnest proceedings. Suddenly, a middle-aged man a few rows in front of me passed out. Immediately, his female companion started screaming his name and shouting for help as she struggled to revive him.

Of course, his physical condition surely had nothing to do with the show—or, at the least, wasn’t helped by it—but the house manager and staff rushed in, the show was stopped, and attempts began to assist the gentleman. After nearly 25 minutes, EMS guys arrived, escorted the poor fellow, now feeling a tad better, out, and the audience was told it would take another 10 minutes before Comfort Women resumed.

I have no idea why we had to wait so long after the man had left. Last year, something similar happened, not once but twice, while I was watching the Broadway revival of Carousel, the details of which can be read here. Those incidents were handled with remarkable alacrity, unlike the situation at Comfort Women, but the different response times is surely related to the easier access provided to a Broadway orchestra than to the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, located on the fourth floor of Playwrights Horizons. Still, the show should have been ready to go at the crack of the whip and not to have forced the audience to wait another 10 minutes before resuming.

Then came incident number two. Several scenes later, a scenic mishap occurred involving a wooden wall that slides out from stage right to represent the background to a Japanese general’s office. Essentially, given the minimalist style of Stella Hyun Joo Oh’s scenery, composed mainly of wood-slatted walls with doorways that open in a variety of configurations, it isn’t really necessary; perhaps the director will wisely cut its use from subsequent performances. The mishap happened when the wall was supposed to retract but refused to do so, bolloxing up what followed as actors and crew tried their best to push it back offstage. When they finally succeeded, the audience applauded.

As for Comfort Women, it’s a sincere but problem-riddled attempt to put on stage the horrific story of the euphemistically named “comfort women” (ianfu 慰安婦 in Japanese) the hundreds of thousands of women who were deceived or outright kidnapped from their Korean towns and villages (Japan had occupied Korea since early in the century) to be sold into sex slavery for the “comfort” of the Japanese military during its campaigns throughout Asia. When the existence and extent of these operations was widely disclosed in the 1980s, it stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy between Japan and Korea that the Koreans believe has not yet been satisfactorily resolved by its former occupiers.

Comfort Women, by the way, is not really “a new musical.” It was presented at St. Clement’s in 2015, although no professional reviews appear on Show-Score.com. It has music by Brian Michaels and Taeho Park, lyrics by Michaels, a book by Dimo Hyun Jun Kim, Osker David Aguirre, and Joann Malory Mieses, direction by Dimo Hyun Jun Kim, and choreography by Hyun Kim.

The work’s promotional material declares that the production, a product of the Dimo Kim Musical Theatre Factory, is “the first ever all Asian Off-Broadway cast led by an East Asian director.” To which one might ask, what about China-born Tisa Chang, director of numerous Asian-American casts at the Pan Asian Repertory? Or Tisa Chen? 
Chloe Rise, Roni Shelley Perez. Photo: NK KIM.
A cast of two-dozen Asian-Americans—uncommonly large for Off Broadway—of numerous ethnic backgrounds (mixed and otherwise) plays the many characters, some portraying multiple roles. The action depicts the ways in which women were taken from their families and hometowns, how they were transported to Indonesia, the cruel conditions they lived in, and their abusive treatment (including branding) by the countless soldiers they serviced.

It also presents a melodramatic plotline in which a Korean sergeant in the Japanese army named Minsik Lee (Mattheus Ting)—given the Japanese name Nakamura—befriends a woman called Geoun Kim (Abigail Choi Areder) and participates in a plan to help her and her friends escape. This puts him in conflict with a Japanese sergeant, son of General Hiroshi (Matthew Ting), who also has problems with his father.
Roni Shelley Perez (center), Sarah States (upper left), Chloe Rice. Photo: NK KIM.
The episodic plot—running from 1942 to 1945—is something of a mishmash. It includes pistol-to-the head executions, choreographic interludes of soldiers fighting, sometimes with incongruously decorative umbrellas subbing for rifles, and dance episodes featuring the women, one of them using simulated versions of the long sleeves worn in traditional Korean dance. The scattershot sequence of scenes is often weakly integrated, and long, static passages with little dramatic progress are frequent.

Musical numbers sometimes evolve more or less organically from dramatic situations and others appear stuck on, like the comic (in theory, at least) sequence featuring an Indonesian boy named Nani (Matthew Bautista) singing in a ragtime-sounding song about his family laundromat. (This may be a new addition as I can’t find it in the press script, where Nani sings about something else.)
Matheus Ting, Jake Vielbig. Photo: NK KIM.
A superior score would have helped, but, except for a moment here and there, the music is barely tuneful, ranging from bland songs that sound like faux-operatic efforts in the Les Miz mode to generic pop-oriented numbers, not one of which conveys a Korean or Japanese feeling. Given the excellence of much modern Korean and Japanese music this is a major drawback. And I’m not talking about K-Pop or J-Pop. At the same time, several scenes forget they’re part of a musical and lack even the underscoring heard in others. Finally, too many lyrics are bogged down in clunky, pompous verbosity, as here:

WHY SHOULD YOU REJOICE?
DON’T YOU KNOW SOMETIMES LIFE’S NOT FAIR?
WHY SHOULD YOU ESCAPE,
LEAVING ME STUCK WITH YOUR PAIN TO BEAR?
STUCK WITH MY FATHER TO FACE PAIN AND DISGRACE.
HE IS MY HERO I AM HIS TO DEBASE.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO NOT HAVE A VOICE, TO NEVER HAVE HAD A CHOICE.


Perhaps the greatest problem is the cast, an eager but largely inexperienced and versatility-challenged group of young actors who appear more like a group of college students than a company of professionals. Despite their Asian-American backgrounds, their speech and behavior weigh more heavily on the American than the Asian side of that equation. Now and then, a professional-sounding singer can be heard (mainly on the distaff side), but the overall quality of the acting is amateurish, serving only to make the characters more overtly stereotypical while emphasizing the inadequacies of the writing.


Comfort Women serves a useful purpose in seeking to find the theatrical means to explore the ramifications of a significant modern problem reflected in the ongoing worldwide practice of sex trafficking, a connection we must, of course, make for ourselves. But good intentions and a worthy cause are cold comfort for audiences seeking something more than these inadequate theatrics.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Peter Jay Sharp Theatre/Playwrights Horizons
416 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through September 2