BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; Shakespearean Summer Gems
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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: Shakespearean Summer Gems
Summer is a time when many New Yorkers go out of town and on various vacations but it is also a time when some of the best work is done. While many are scrambling to stand in line for hours to get tickets to see the latest celebrity infused Shakespearean piece in Central Park, there are companies that are making magic without any of that. They are the Indie Theatre Celebrities and deserve recognition for all that they do. This past weekend saw two very different companies on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size of company and experience, but what their two companies shared was a solid production of a Shakespearean text worthy of a much longer run. The first is Sonnet Repertory Theatre inc.
Sonnet last collaborated with Matchbook productions to present a stunning production of Richard II on the low flying trapeze, and this time around they tackled Twelfth Night and put together a show that rivaled many of the Broadway Shakespearean productions in its unity of concept, beautiful music, and excellent direction. The set by Seth Easter was the first thing to greet the audience when arriving in the space and it really was a sight to behold. Sliding doors, a bed that moved, a gigantic piano littered with bottles and candles and a wide open space center stage for the actors to move through freely. The expanse of space allowed director Michael Luberes the opportunity to develop all kinds of clever staging devices to enhance the comedic moments throughout the show. The scene is Malvolio's bedroom is so well executed that the audience was in hysterics right up until the final moments. Also impressive were the original compositions by composer Ben Toth. Shakespearean sonnets are turned into rollicking piano pounding numbers making scene transitions feel more like short musical numbers. The casting in the piece was also excellent, but the standout of the evening was Malvolio, played brilliantly by Ted Schneider who goes on such a journey through this show and in the end teaches all of us a lesson about humility. The concept which addresses the issue of unrequited love is so clear throughout the work and includes a very inventive look at Antonio who could easily be a throw away character but is rather turned into a person searching for love himself as well that he cannot attain. There is no doubt that Sonnet Rep does the kind of work that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. For more information on them, check then out here.
Now, on to the new kids on the block. Snorks and Piñs is a New Theatre Company is comprised of a group of talented performers and they serve as a nice reminder that audiences can still be wowed with simply some phenomenal actors and text and not much else. Their last production of As You Like It was in a small theatre where the actors had little more than a strip of stage space with audience on either side and yet it felt as if they had a space the size of central park. This is due in no small part to director Gillian Riley's clever and adept staging of the piece. Entrances and exits were handled by characters standing up or sitting down in costume while slipping into their next character. The space itself allowed for a truly intimate experience with a very clever nod to the audience on the all too familiar "All the world's a stage" speech. During this moment all of the actors sit center and just choose different audience members to make eye contact with. It was a very intelligent moment of staging and a great moment for the audience. The cast was also very good, especially Timothy Goodwin's Duke Frederick who spends every one of his scenes eating something and acting completely nonchalant about everything he says. This is particularly effective in the moment of Rosalind's banishment which is handled with no more gravitas than "go to your room". Also quite impressive is Gwenevere Sisco who moves from the doofy William to the love struck Phebe with grace and charm and then just as quickly switches back again. The entire cast is to be commended for making such magic in such a tiny space. Rounded out with lovely original compositions by David Mallamud, this was a show that was a real treat for the audience. For more info on their company, go here.
The Indie community is full of gems like these two companies, all one has to do is dig.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.