BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; A "Starship" and a "Screenplay..."
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by Michael Roderick
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: A "Starship" and a "Screenplay" stand out this festival season
In the Indie theatre community, the festival circuit is a popular step on the journey for new production companies, performers, directors, and playwrights. The festivals offer a chance to try out new work, experiment, and do some market research. This is the 11th year of the Midtown InterNational Theatre Festival and two productions have stood out recently as being incredibly intelligent and groundbreaking. These two shows are: Duncan Pflaster's "The Starship Astrov: A Checkhovian Space Comedy" and Scott Brook's "Screenplay"
Pflaster's show is sure to become a cult classic along the lines of The Rocky Horror Picture show and one can just see it being done all over the place. The premise is the classic tale of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya retold with characters engaged in space travel. At first glance, the piece may not seem like much more than a Saturday Night Live sketch, but in the hands of the well informed Pflaster, the piece turns into a pretty amazing exploration of Chekhov's characters and themes. Utilizing very few set elements, the show relies on the text and the performances of the cast. Under the direction of Eric Parness, this group soars. Parness directs the show with such specific attention to period style that the result is hilarious. Watching these characters lament over space berries, space travel and going back to Arizona is half of the fun. The other half is of course the performers themselves who are so committed to the world of the play that the results are incredibly engaging. Walter Brandes as Captain Jonas January is delightfully obtuse and ElizaBeth Davis' Celaria is a really wonderful mix of Data and perhaps, a fem-bot. Rafael Jordan, as the wise-cracking Marcus Washington, gets many of the laughs of the night, and Phillip Emeott's Dr. Michael Rosy has some really great moments as well. The whole cast works well and Parness keeps the show moving when it needs to and draws out certain moments, almost winking at the audience with the slowness of certain famous Chekhovian scenes. The berry sharing is a personal favorite. Definitely check it out. There are a few more performances of this show left. Catch it before it lands among the stars here.
Scott Brook's Screenplay is an intense production which also relies on very simple set elements to tell the story. The reason for this is that the script is so interesting that one needs little else. Brook's razor sharp dialogue flies around the space as each of his characters try to evade it, but in the end everyone is cut in some way. It begins innocently enough with two college buddies. One is sleeping with the girl the other wants and we can see a hint of jealousy but not much more. As we flash forward we find that the old wounds are still not healed and how twisted some people can be. The story tells a fascinating tale of desperation and the search for fame and what fame ultimately means. It does all of this within one sitting. Rarely is a production so intense that it feels as if one is not watching a show, but themselves. Screenplay is that show. Any artist would do well to see it and to meet Mr. Brooks as he is truly a talent like Pflaster who is on the rise. The show features performances by Brooks himself, Jonathan Sale, Diana De La Cruz, and Heather Dilly. Expertly directed and staged by Jenny Greeman, these actors move throughout large chunks of time and to levels of emotional intensity and maturity almost effortlessly. This is a stellar production that really is not to be missed. In order to not miss it, tickets can be found here.
Pflaster and Brooks show us that the future stars of the industry often can be found in the festival circuit. Might be a good time to go star gazing.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.