Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Plays

Sue Cremin and Edoardo Ballerini in Honey Brown Eyes.

With America's political attention aimed at ourselves these days, and what little energy we have to focus on international affairs devoted to conflicts in the Middle East, Honey Brown Eyes' subject — the Bosnian War — seems like it happened a century ago. (I know it happened in the 20th century, but you get my drift.)

Promising playwright Stefanie Zadravec shows the effects of the war on two former friends who were members of a rock band and now are on opposing sides of the conflict. Not only do they end up in different cities, but they also appear to be stranded in different plays in the Working Theater production that I saw for Time Out New York. The first act plays like an over-the-top melodrama, the second, an understated character study.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Younger Brother Also Rises

Pablo Schreiber in Gruesome Playground Injuries.

The first time I saw Pablo Schreiber act was either in the TV crime drama The Wire or the Off-Broadway play Sin: A Cardinal Deposed. Both were around five or six years ago, and the order escapes me. In Sin he sat silently onstage for nearly the entire 90-minute show before delivering a stirring closing monologue about the sexual molestation he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was a boy. In The Wire, still the show for which he's best known, he played, to quote my friend Joshua, "the less-stupid guy from season two."

I knew back then that he was Liev Schreiber's younger brother, but he's become such a successful actor in his own right that it's easy to forget. Now he's back on TV in another cable series, FX's critically acclaimed but low-rated Lights Out and appearing in another Off-Broadway show, Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries. When I interviewed him for Time Out New York he told me that for him to ever work with brother Liev, it would have to be a project with two great roles for actors that are 10 years apart, like True West. I think they should they just hold out for the next Waiting for Godot revival.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Doused and Deconstructed

Rouner and Ryan in Tom Ryan Thinks He's James Mason...

How I am growing to embrace weird downtown experimental theater. I quite liked Tom Ryan Thinks He's James Mason Starring in a Movie By Nicholas Ray in which a Man’s Illness Provides an Escape from the Pain, Pressure and Loneliness of Trying to be the Ultimate American Father, Only to Drive Him Further Into the More Thrilling Though Possibly Lonelier Roles of Addict and Misunderstood Visionary -- whew! -- which has a milk-drenching scene (above) that brought back memories of the tomato-juice-dousing scene in Elizabeth Marvel's Hedda Gabler. Not only are these great ways to illustrate power struggles, but they're also lots of fun to watch.

The back of the one-page program thanks a list of folks for providing financial support to the production, from director Daniel Fish and starring Thomas Jay Ryan and Christina Rouner. I was heartened to see so many theater artists contributing to the development of weird experimental theater. Among the names: Michael Cerveris, Kathleen Chalfant, Jesse Berger, Colleen Werthmann, David Zinn, Linus Roache, Moises Kaufman, David Herskovits, Emily Mann, Henry Stram, to name a few.