Nov 7, 2006

Three Glimpses of Contemporary Theater [LINK]

From a review of Go East, Young Girl, by Village Voice theater critic Garrett Eisler, November 7, 2006:

Is Bhutan a blue state? Ask Mary, a widowed mom quietly living the red-state life in an increasingly yuppified New England exurb when a Bush-hating neighbor starts tempting her teenage daughter with dreams of escape -- either to the Orient or that other exotic locale, Columbia University. Why would anyone waste time and money going to either, Mary asks, as both her kids suffer the stifling consequences of Mom's closed-minded class-bound desperation.

Daisy Foote's Bhutan superbly documents the toll taken on the blue-collar family in the age of Nickel and Dimed America. Mary used to work at a bank but now wears a Star Market checkout-lady badge; she sees economic salvation in selling her father's property to a McMansion developer....

Another review from the same issue, this one by Andy Propst, concerning a drama titled Fare Minded:
Pervez (Debargo Sanyal), a Pakistani engineer working in Manhattan as a cab driver, jokes that he's funnier in English than he ever was in Urdu. It's not surprising that his sense of humor has evolved, albeit bitterly. The FBI raided his home and took his brother Nawaz (Aladdin Ullah). Before coming to this country, his wife left him because he wasn't religious enough, and here, Barb (Annie McNamara), a Christian sent to Manhattan to proselytize, has no compunction about kissing him when drunk or sleeping in his cab when locked out of her mission but, ultimately, won't become involved with him because of his religion. Pervez arrived in the States fearful of African Americans; ironically, his only real friend is Nate (Edwin Lee Gibson), a black homeless man living at Port Authority on the corner where Nawaz used to sell newspapers, which he stuffed with pamphlets about Islam.

Playwright Mike Batistick combines issues of religious intolerance, bigotry, and the Patriot Act in a dark comedy that's as aimless as a cab driver cruising for a fare....

And another, this one by Angela Ashman, concerning a play titled Pictures of an Exhibitionist:
In Victoria Stewart's smart, thought-provoking drama, an African American lesbian performance artist interviews a porn star for her latest documentary theater piece on social injustice and winds up questioning the exploitative nature of her own work. Like Anna Deavere Smith, Sarah Brown (the talented Pamela Hart) mimics the movement and language of her subjects onstage....

Stewart's razor-sharp and often humorous dialogue explores the porn industry in an "everything you always wanted to know about a sex worker but were afraid to ask" fashion, from the objectification of women to faking orgasms. Unable to believe Sonia's claim that she enjoys being an "exhibitionist," Sarah pressures her for sob stories about her childhood and ultimately portrays her as a one-dimensional victim of an abusive father. Sarah feels no guilt about selling out Sonia (wonderfully acted by Jenny Maguire) for the sake of her art until her assistant, a doctoral candidate, turns the tables and interviews Sarah ... A surprise twist at the end involving a tape recorder and Sarah's secret desire for Sonia makes for a steamy, shocking conclusion.

11/22 UPDATE: The oblique reference to Nickel and Dimed, by the way, is to the book of the same name by Barbara Ehrenreich, a chronicle of the difficulties the journalist encounters when posing for extended periods as a low-skill worker. The absurdity of the book's premise becomes transparent before you get to the end of the first sentence:
Mostly out of laziness, I decide to start my low-wage life in the town nearest to where I actually live, Key West, Florida...

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