Monday, August 14, 2017

The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer: "Checks and Balances" or Bottoms Up! -- a play by Crystal Field at Theater for The New City

"We can see your partisan bias showing!!!" That was the main thought in my head as I saw this show (I mean, the Trump head with swirly ice cream hair and all the evil taking place makes it obvious along with some of the songs) but I do have to admit it was damn funny & definitely had the ring of truth to it.

FYI: this show is literally being held outdoors.

When I came to the performance at Theater for the New City, I was trying to figure out which theater it was in & asked the staff, who directed me to go around the corner to 10th Street. If you're a pale butt who burns after 5 seconds in the sun like me you'll want to arm yourself with good sunblock during the show in case Mr. Sun peeps out. Despite an initially cloudy day, Mr. Sun did decide to peek out during parts so I applied some sunblock I had on me. Lots of passerby also stopped to watch this play as it was taking place.

Our story starts with the premise of the government being for sale and the election of Trump as the starting point for all the really bad stuff taking place (though maybe it was bad beforehand in the story? I'm not sure).

"The Suits" take over immigration policy. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Glory (Briana Bartenieff), a young girl in NYC who attends school with her friends and has an idealist “do gooder” history teacher in Mr. Keene (Michael David Gordon), starts her journey on a subway ride from hell to get to a performance of “Hamilton” that her class has been able to get tickets for.

Briana Bartenieff and Trump Puppet. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

As many a NYC resident who has used the subway, especially this summer, knows what is supposed to be a simple subway ride leads to diversions and increasing frustration for everyone on board. The subway conductor (Justin Rodriguez) gets an earful from the passengers for the constant changes in service and is clearly stressed as well as overworked. The accuracy of subway travel could not have been depicted better.

Justin Rodriguez as subway conductor, under Trump Puppet. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Glory ends up separating from Mr. Keene in pursuit of truth, which devastates him.

Michael David Gordon as School Teacher. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

She ends up in a homeless camp and chats with a few homeless people to learn that she's speaking with a Buddist monk (Mark Marcante), Mother Earth (Cheryl Gadson) and the Blue Fairy (Terry Lee King) who are hiding out as “New York is on the road to truth.” They show Glory a visual exercise of the concept of activism where if you see something, you DO something vs. just saying something & guide her along her journey to truth.

Homeless enclave: (l-r) Matthew Angel, Breana Bartenieff, Cheryl Gadson, Mark Marcante, (hidden) Natasha Velez, Danielle Hauser. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

To avoid spoiling the ending and events, at first it seems that things aren't going well as the Blue Fairy ends up getting captured in DC while trying to spread “love dust” and “glittering truth” at an exclusive venue where a reporter (Alexander Bartenieff) is shunned. However, things ultimately work out in the end and the aforementioned Trump head is “killed” with the love dust and glittering truth as it spreads among the city dwellers.

"Suits" (Juan Villages, T. Scott Lilly, Lei Chin, Matt Angel) bury the Blue Fairy as reporter (Alexander Bartenieff) looks on. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

In a twist I didn't see coming, the cast spreads the magic among those audience members sitting in the very front.

Mark Marcante and Terry Lee King dance with audience members in finale. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The beginning and ending of this show was definitely the most interesting I've seen since both were extremely impromptu. The opening dance number starts out very slowly then gets a faster freestyle groove to eventually morph into a hip hop routine. The closing number was literally the audience being welcomed to get up and dance as Lady Liberty (Crystal Field, once she is restored to her prior glory with the presence of love dust and glittering truth) invites us to do.

Statue of Liberty (Crystal Field) emerges to lead ensemble in "Forward March." Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The songs are great. I especially loved “Fake News” with the costuming and the lyrics. There's also “Sanctuary City” and “Fusion” with the men in suits (who reminded me of the many lawyers I see in my day job) dismantling Lady Liberty which are standouts to me.

"Fake News" chorus line. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

"Santuary City" -- L-R: Terry Lee King, Cheryl Gadson, Matt Angel, Mark Marcante, Natasha Velez. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

I applaud the presence of live music, a diverse cast and dancers who felt accessible, like any one of us could get on stage and boogie even if we had two left feet. It didn't feel like an atmosphere where you were going to be judged for bad dancing though I personally did not get up and boogie, opting to maintain journalistic integrity.

If you're a liberal or more idealist than most, you'll definitely like this show. If you have a sense of humor, you will like this show regardless of which “team” you voted for.