Thursday, June 01, 2006


posted by Nick Cernoch at 2:05 PM

I love New York City (or is it I heart New York City?) and when I found myself visiting an old friend this past Memorial Day weekend I jumped at the chance to see some theatre...4 plays to be exact, not bad for 5 days.

My last visit to the city was over 5 years ago, the city was different and at that point I was living in Texas as an undergrad as opposed to working in Los Angeles theatre, so I didn’t understand the small theatre scene in either city. I thought New York was all about Broadway and edgier Off-Broadway Shows…Off-Off Broadway and 99 Seat Theatre were unfamiliar terms to me at that time.

I now know much more about the many smaller theatres on both coasts and I realize their importance to the development of new plays and playwrights. Smaller theatres in LA and New York also provide stages for work that sometimes just won’t be done at larger venues…work that might be deemed too risky. Armed with this information, I chose to purchase tickets to shows at mostly smaller theatres on my trip to New York this time around.

First up was the Flea Theatre’s production of Back of the Throat by Yussef El Guindi (sound familiar?). I was of course not going to miss a chance to see another company’s production of a play that we are producing in LA.; it’s only ever been possible with one of our previous 10 productions (The God Botherers). The show was in the Flea’s smaller downstairs theatre, a very wide, shallow space where I saw a production very different from what ours will be. It’s quite amazing to see a different group of artists start from the same script and come to somewhat different conclusions about casting, costumes, staging, etc…it was a unique and educational experience.

My next stop was Sheila Callahan’s Dead City, produced by New Georges. This modern adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses was done at 3LD Art & Technology Center, a very new venue that has a large art gallery feel to its performance space. Although this was a first preview, I thought the performances were very good. I was also impressed with the show's set, lighting and sound designs. Large rolling walls were moved by the actors while a massive backdrop had scenes from the city rear-projected onto it. Visually the show was like a modern art exhibit, I was happy to see compelling storytelling and acting as well.

UPDATE: Click here to read what the New York Times had to say about Dead City.

Sunday I had a double feature of 2 very hot productions: the Tony-nominated revival of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Adam Rapp’s Red Light Winter. The minimalist Broadway production of Sweeney Todd featured the actors as orchestra with a fantastic performance by Michael Cerveris as the vengeful Todd. Unfortunately Patti Lupone (who I hear is amazing in this show) did not go on as Mrs. Lovett, I may have been wowed otherwise. Red Light Winter was great, gut-wrenching theatre…something I’m drawn to. I think I was able to enjoy this show the most as a “theatre goer” since I hadn’t read the play and I wasn’t over-analyzing it technically or otherwise (which one may tend to do when one works in the theatre).

Overall my trip was amazing and enlightening, I saw a play our company is working on here, a Broadway understudy, a first preview, a hot show produced by Steppenwolf in New York…I even got to sit in on a tech rehearsal for a play being produced by 13p. After this theatre buffet, I found what Damaso said in his previous blog about LA theatre to be very true…there is great work and not so great work being done in every “theatre” town…the myth about one city having some sort of monopoly on great theatre is just that, a myth.

OK, as always its time to get back to work…we have a set to build.


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