Friday, June 23, 2023

The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer: “Misconceptions” at 122CC Theater by Blessed Unrest

My interest in seeing this show came about for a few reasons. There’s the obvious, my being a childfree person and having recently seen a documentary called “My So-Called Selfish Life” for the second time. As some may or may not know, I got a tubal ligation at 26 years old after a major battle with trying to find someone willing to do it. I made that choice since I’ve always been career oriented and working in 2 fields that aren’t known for being child friendly; I’m not even sure law or entertainment have become more child friendly since that time but my story didn’t even happen in the 20th century or further back in time. I’d hoped a woman in 2023 trying to get voluntary sterilization would have an easier time of it now but apparently, that’s not happening.
Photo by Maria Baranova

So this brings us to “Misconceptions,” the story of a young artist named Harriet (Hilary Dennis) who finds herself pregnant and having to decide what she’s going to do. She has a daughter named Alicia already and the father of this pregnancy, Jorge (Sean Mana) is a guy who seems to mean well but his track record hasn’t been ideal. Harriet also has reservations about forsaking her artistic career as she is gaining more public prominence while Jorge decides he wants to step up and be a full time father, ready to embrace the suburban narrative of the white picket fence, 2.3 kids and so forth.

Darcelle (Celli Pitt), Harriet’s agent and close friend has to school Harriet on a few facts related to abortion and the historical experiences of women of color as Harriet decides to explore this topic in an effort to decide what she’s going to do about her own pregnancy. If you’ve read Toni Morrison’s book “Beloved” (like I did in undergrad and college), you may be surprised to know that there was a real life Sethe though that story didn’t go into details as to what that woman’s motivation was; she was simply arrested & confessed. I will not disclose the details of Sethe’s story since you can read “Beloved” for yourself but it presents a very pertinent idea and notion that’s very true for the time of slavery. Harriet presumes Darcelle being a lesbian will never encounter unwanted pregnancy and hasn’t thus far. However, the truth is far harsher than Harriet even knows.
Photo by Maria Baranova

The staging for this show was very cool since it was a 360 view. The director, Jessica Burr, introduced the show and did the most humorous money ask I’ve ever seen. Writer Steve Wangh also puts some elements of humor into the show aside from the seriousness of the topic and I feel like he covered the perspectives of both sides quite well with a conversational style though both this and “My So-Called Selfish Life” don’t examine my specific take on this subject or how I argue it with people. There were even a couple meta moments like Harriet exploring writing a stage play based on her project with abortion as she’s talking to people on all sides of the spectrum.

This also marks the first time I ever saw an actor (Perri Yaniv) come out from underneath the audience seating to get onstage. He does this to play the fetus. In one segment, a pro-life attorney (Rich Brown) tries to get the fetus’s take on whether it would like to be born or not. The pro-life attorney goes into the arguments you typically hear from the pro-life crowd and asks about existence, a concept far over the head of this fetus who’s simply hanging out. This imagining also marks a first and is probably accurate to what would happen in real life since how would a fetus be able to contemplate living independently and outside a womb?
Rich Brown (Pro-Life Attorney), Hilary Denis (Harriet) and Peri Yaniv (Fetus). Photo by Maria Baranova

Overall, I feel like this show covered the spectrum of views on the subject and wouldn’t totally alienate conservative types. After all, Harriet’s own mother (Ethelyn Friend) even showed empathy for her even though she was said to be a conservative pro-life type. However, it would not be the show to take young children and would be more appropriate for adults or older teenagers you’ve had the abortion conversation with.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Surreal Adventures of The Angry Redheaded Lawyer: "Bliss Street" at Theater for the New City in association with Sound Dog Properties

* As an FYI, apparently Blogger has gone woke and is engaging in censorship. Eventually, I may move to another platform that's not endorsing corporate censorship and has no concept of humor or artistic context to make a point. Not to mention there's no protected category for stupidity not related to a clinical diagnosis of mental illness or hypocrisy (which has no mental illness diagnosis to mitigate it unless we're talking about being brainwashed & that's not really a mental illness per se). Oh, and it's not a LAWYER'S job to co-opt woke narratives or march in lockstep with the PC police; we're the people who care about the laws as written and applied to all, not specific groups leftists have decided to give passes to (which simply furthers discrimination and problems those groups experience). That being said, let's begin the review:

This show caught my attention based on its setting. The location has a personal significance to me but you only get to know what it is if you actually know me in real life. I will say it represents a clean slate and a new beginning away from some bad stuff. Which I suppose is where we can begin this review.

The Sub patriarch, Paul (Jeff Canter), is a man just trying to catch a break in the world of entrepreneurship while taking care of his devoted family in the Upper East Side. He goes through a couple failed businesses before we get to Coventry, the club where many of the greats got their start. If you’re familiar with the history, I’m not going to give you that here. That particular task is for our guide through it all Ethyl who enlightens us at her own spot (Ethyl’s) where the show is rocking and the story is brought to life.
Photo by Jonathan Slaff

A special shout out to Sarah MacDonnell who sets the scene and presents this tale with wit, humor and accessibility to the TikTok and social media set who often can’t be drawn away from that world so easily. This particular performance had a wait list and that may have been specifically to see Sarah if the conversations I heard were an indication of her appeal to the audience. Seating was quite a challenge, an event I haven’t seen so much in my reviewing tenure. I’m also not sure if Theater for the New City no longer reserves seats for press though I prefer to slip in unnoticed on general principle.

Abra Bigham’s script is informative while also humorous. I definitely saw places where I laughed such as the reference to Paul as the “big boss man” (which made me think of the movie “Office Space” which some may know is one of my favorite movies of all time as well as influential on how I structured my career). The costuming was awesome as well as the scenery and usage of the projector screen set up where you didn’t feel like things were cut off or confusing.
Various cast members. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Posters for The Coventry. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Louie (Milo Longenecker), the guy who came with the Coventry’s previous previous incarnation and never spoke but definitely needed his time off was great. He didn’t have to speak but simply provided comic relief with his mere movements and presence in the scenes. This was even more presence at Charlie’s (Blaize Alder-Ivanbroo) birthday party where I kept wondering if he was going to hit the birthday cake or lose his balance. Physical comedy is an underappreciated skill that really deserves more credit. On his birthday (his 25th), Charlie’s family gifts him with a burial plot. Talk about a mix of practicality and maybe a morbid sense of humor.
L-R: Alyson Reim, Blaize Adler-Ivanbrook, Milo Longenecker, Jef Canter. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Charlie (Blaize Adler-Ivanbrook) is presented a deed to his burial plot. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

It reminded me of when my sister’s first husband died and we were going to his funeral. My mom joked that when my father died, she’d have to make sure the casket didn’t come out until about 15 minutes after the funeral started and he’d have to have his pants unzipped while holding a Burger King bag. She didn’t actually do this when my father passed about 10 years later but we got a good laugh out of that imagery.

The characters in this show were quite interesting: there’s Charlie of course the son trying so hard to make his band “Cliff and the Pits” happen but life just was not helping him as his front man Cliff (Thomas Deen Baker) had a nervous breakdown, his father was not about to give them stage time and in the wake of the nervous breakdown the other band members felt it was time to move on, his mother Mina (Alyson Reim) who kept everything together and Mandy (Alisa Ermolaev), the California girlfriend with more sunlight aversion than even yours truly (and you know most natural redheads go from pale to lobster in 20 minutes or less without sunblock).
Thomas Dean Baker. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Blaize Adler-Ivanbrook, Alyson Reim. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Blaize Adler-Ivanbrook, Alisa Ermolaev. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

After the show, I was happy to meet the real life Charlie Sub who was in attendance and whose life was being portrayed onstage. He struck me as a relatable, good guy whose family raised him well and would appreciate how they were portrayed in this show.
Jeff Canter, Alyson Reim. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Overall, this was an entertaining, engaging and educational show that I enjoyed seeing especially with the +1 I selected who it turned out had more connection and interest with this show than I knew about when I initially invited him. He’s also a bit of a Lower East Side celebrity in his own right so that experience made the night even better for me. I wouldn’t bring little kids but I think teens on up and especially people who know this era would get a kick out of it.