Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theatre in NYC- NYCycle: Secondary Sources

Last night, I caught the second to last production of NYCycle: Secondary Sources, a collection of three short plays performed by the amios theatre troupe. I’ve written plays that have been performed in their monthly shotz event, so expect this review to be totally biased. On a serious note, the only reason that I’m biased is because the people who write, direct, and appear in these plays are some of the most wonderfully talented people working in theatre today. Shit you not. Go see NYCycle tomorrow (for the final performance!) and see what I mean. You won’t be disappointed.

And hey, if you are, that just means you have terrible taste, so at least you’ll know your failings as a human being!

NYCycle: Secondary Sources is made up of three thirty minute plays that center around the ideas presented in this statement from amios art director Christian Haines: “The title ‘Secondary Sources’ refers to second hand information. The idea stems from WikiLeaks, wherein primary sources were published and then interpreted by secondary sources. This led to full scale revolution throughout the middle east. It strikes me that a lot of our own information and opinions are formed by other people’s analysis with very little appreciation for the critical thought of the individual.”

So let’s get to those plays!

(NOTE: All of the following photography is very, very © alanna wilson photography 2011.)


Written by John Behlmann

Directed by January LaVoy

Starring Kate MacCluggage (replacement for Jenna Panther), Lauren Berst, and Michael J. Fulvio

This isn’t a dig at the other two plays, both of which I loved, by John Behlmann’s “Un-f**king-believable” is the strongest play of the bunch, and a hell of a way to kick off a night of excellent theatre. At its core, it’s a mediation on what “I love you” means to different people, and how three words, when said in tandem, can matter so much to some and so little to others. Behlmann, by putting his characters in ridiculous yet believable situations, examines the failings of the three words, and the inability of words as a whole, really, to truly express what one feels.

We see the characters lie to each other in ways small and large, all building to the devastating revelation that each of those lies, no matter the size, is a violation of the trust that is necessary for an “I love you” to matter. “Un-f**king-beievable” is heartfelt and hilarious, with the most realistic conversational dialogue I’ve seen in theatre in… well, not sure how long.

I love this play.

…See what I did there? Yeah? Good? …Fine.

Jesus, it’s Easter

Written by Dan Loeser

Directed by John Pieza

Starring Jillian LaVinka, Rob Hille, and Justin Yorio

Couple walks through park in Easter. Couple realizes that they have arrived in the area famous for gay men meeting up for sex. Jesus jumps out of a pile of garbage.


The skinny of this play is that Jesus appears to this couple, telling them that he was given a sign by Heaven that he will find the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene in the park. Jesus spends the length of the play trying to convince the woman (Christine, which makes Jesus think that she must be his Mary: “That’s practically me-tine!”) that she is his wife and she must ascend to Heaven with him.

The play uses the Secondary Sources theme to show how the Bible has failed humanity and how the vagueness of the message from Heaven has misled Jesus. While this play was mostly comedy, actor Justin Yorio performed Jesus as a human. A hilarious, completely earnest, and sometimes even an asshole human. While most of the lines of dialogue had me cracking up, I was actually moved by this odd “Jesus in the park” play at times. I’m paraphrasing, but the moment that the play began to feel like more than just satire to me is when Jesus says something to the extent of this: “To you, it has been thousands of years since the anniversary of his death and resurrection, but to me it’s been three days since I was nailed to the cross… and, at the same time, it’s been three years. So time is irrelevant to me… but that every breath I take without Mary is killing me.”

Add a hilarious twist ending to the play, and you’ve got a winner.

American Exceptionalism

Written by Steven Cole Hughes

Directed by Kate MacCluggage

Starring Joshua Coomer, Christian Haines, and Melissa Ortiz

There are three cast members and maybe twenty characters. There are minimal wardrobe changes to show who is who (a headband, an eyepatch, etc.), and the play moves at a breakneck pace, moving from a news report, to a man in his living room, to church, to a speech, to… well, a whole bunch of other stuff. For the first minute or two, I admit that I was confused as hell, but the superb directing from MacCluggage quickly made clear what was going on. Even though there is hardly a thing to visually tell these characters apart, the brilliant staging and exceptional acting from the cast (particularly Joshua Coomer) makes this satirical explosion of a play work in a way that I hadn’t thought possible.

The play climaxes with a speech from Coomer, who plays a congressman that publicly renounces falsely representing himself as a stuffy, moderate politician without personality. But I’ll let that part of the play speak for itself. “American Exceptionalism” ruthlessly satirizes that which Americans think matters; while it’s a comedy, it is made into a horror story through the shocking kernels of truth that are presented alongside of satirical hyperbole.

Also, the play is about lighting farts on fire.

After the play, a comedian and musician named Zoe Farmingdale took the stage for the Zoe Show, a twenty minute set of stand-up and songs inspired by the night’s plays (there is obviously no video available from tonight, as it just happened, but here's a taping of a Zoe Show from a previous NYCycle). It was a hilarious coda, and the songs will be stuck in your head on the train ride home.

Jesus in the park, Jesus in the park…

Here’s some info on the show:

June 3rd - LAST SHOW!

The Monkey West Theatre

37 West 26th Street, 12th Floor (btwn 5th & 6th)

New York, New York

Go see it. You won’t regret it.

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