Williams, Marlowe and Lovecraft…oh, my!
April’s packed with big names in small venues
BY TRAV S.D. | I have not observed that there is any more rain in April than in any other month, but to belabor a quote from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” — when in doubt, print the legend. If it doesn’t rain a lot in April, it ought to. That’s why I’ll be walking around all month dressed like the Gorton’s Fisherman and carrying the Morton’s Salt Girl’s umbrella. And I’m here to tell you, when you’re dressed like that you can have any seat in the theatre you want.
The month starts off on a spicy note with “Mamma Roma,” a solo show about the Italian neo-realist actress Anna Magnani, written and performed by Anne DeSalvo. The earthy, sexy Magnani was Tennessee Williams’ favorite actress. He wrote “The Rose Tattoo” for her and, furthermore, she smoked cigars! I only hope DeSalvo is the type who can tear the joint apart (because God knows Magnani sure was). “Mamma Rosa” will be playing April 3-14, at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Consult cherrylanetheatre.org for more info.
Speaking of Williams, something rather momentous is slated to take place this month — the world premiere of an unproduced work by the Great American Playwright. Williams had been working on “In Masks Outrageous and Austere” for nearly four years when he died in 1983. It was withheld for over two decades by its editor, the late Gavin Lambert, a friend of Williams and author of the screenplay adaptation of Williams’ “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.” The production will star Shirley Knight, veteran of many a Williams stage and screen project. Knight will be playing the role of Babe (the world’s wealthiest woman), who is kidnapped by agents working for “a nefarious corporation” called Kudzu Chem. Among the many people she encounters during her surreal ordeal, the most interesting to me is “Playboy,” the mentally challenged son of an opera singer, who can only say, “Coo” and masturbates compulsively. Yes, sir, the old Williams magic is back! The production will also mark another exciting revival: that of 45 Bleecker Street — which had been previously shuttered for many months due to a rental dispute (though recently reopened for the New York International Fringe Festival). It’s excellent news to know this venue is back in play again. “In Masks Outrageous and Austere” opens in previews on April 6, with an official run April 16 through May 26. For info, visit cultureproject.org.
Starting April 6, Ashley C. Williams (star of the cult horror film “The Human Centipede”) presents “Die: Roll to Proceed” — an interactive show about a man who makes all of his decisions on the outcome of dice rolls. In each show, the audience will get to do the actual dice rolling, guaranteeing a completely different outcome for each performance. It plays every Friday at 10:30pm, through October, at The Red Room. Get more info at mindtheartentertainment.com.
April 7 through May 6 The Civilians will be presenting “You Better Sit Down: Tales from My Parents’ Divorce.” Company members Matthew Maher, Caitlin Miller, Jennifer R. Morris and Robbie Collier Sublett interviewed their own parents about the circumstances of their break-ups, and will portray them in this devised piece under the direction of Anne Kauffman. Described as “shockingly candid and unexpectedly hilarious,” it will be at the Flea Theatre (see thecivilians.org and theflea.org).
April 18 through May 5, Lunar Energy Productions will be presenting “christopher marlowe’s chloroform dreams” at The Red Room. The producers describe it as “an Elizabethan noir fairytale that follows Christopher Marlowe, poet and private eye, and his dame Daphne as they fall into a dangerous world filled with drugs and gangsters…Hero and Leander via Bogart and Bacall, with a nod to Kurt and Courtney. A meditation on love and addiction; a theatrical mixtape; a dreamlike collage of language, ritual and myth.” For more on the production and this interesting-sounding company, visit lunareneregyproductions.com.
April 19 through June 24, make way for terror you can only hear when RadioTheatre presents their third annual H.P. Lovecraft Festival. RadioTheatre specializes in presenting works geared especially for the ear, which makes for a nice match with a master of purple paranoid prosody like Lovecraft. The company will be offering two separate programs, one consisting entirely of the longer story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the other several smaller pieces: “The Lurking Fear,” “The Horror at Martin’s Beach,” “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and “The Evil Clergyman.” While I enjoy Mr. Lovecraft’s writing a great deal, I confess that it’s because I find it as unintentionally hilarious as it is frightening. So out of consideration for the real fans I think I’ll sit this one out. It’s all happening at The Kraine Theatre and you can get all the dope at radiotheatrenyc.com.
April 21 through May 20, don’t miss Clyde Fitch’s 1906 stage adaptation of Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth” (presented by one of my favorite downtown companies, the Metropolitan Playhouse). Buyer beware, though. Contrary to its title, the play, like the novel it’s based on, is anything but a barrel of monkeys. A wealthy young heiress gets about 17 bad breaks in a row until she takes too much of a sleeping draught and her worries are over. Prepare to be amazed and depressed! On the upside, the Metropolitan always does tasteful work, true to the spirit of whatever period they’re taking on. You’ll see the play as it was meant to be done, and that’s pretty rare in this age of smart-alecky directors who always want to “explode” the “text.” To find out more, consult metropolitanplayhouse.org.
April 23 is the official opening night of “The City Club” at the Minetta Lane Theatre (it opens for previews on April 3). An original jazz and blues musical set in 1934, it’s about a naïve club owner who hires brilliant musicians from the wrong side of the tracks to play for a decadent, corrupt audience…until someone gets murdered! Isn’t that always the way? The show was a hit at Edinburgh and is being directed and produced by Mitchell Maxwell (“Stomp!,” “Damn Yankees,” “Oleanna,” “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” etc., etc., etc.). Tickets and info: thecityclubbroadway.com.
On April 30, Soho Rep will be holding their 35th anniversary gala, this year honoring Julie Menin (founder of Wall Street Rising, host of NBC’s “Give and Take,” and Chair of Community Board 1). Lucy Liu and Tim Blake Nelson will host the event, with presenters including Steve Buscemi, Blythe Danner and Sally Field. There will be performances of Mac Wellman’s “Dracula,” Melissa James Gibson’s “[sic]” and Debbie Tucker Green’s “Born bad.” Tickets for the fundraiser to benefit Soho Rep’s 35th season start at $300 and are available at sohorep.org.