Okay, so, if you happen to read this and its Sunday and its not 5:30PM yet, go down to The Kraine on E. 4th St. and check out the final performance of the Nonsense Company’s Great Hymn of Thanksgiving/Conversation Storm at The FRIGID Festival. I had heard about this show a few months ago and then was nudged to go by an e-mail from my pals in Banana Bag & Bodice and I’m glad I went. The show really embodies the best of what Indie Theater can be. Really smart, well-written, unpretentious and totally riveting. Also, completely genuine in a refreshing “we’re not from New York” kind of way. The Great Hymn of Thanksgiving is a kind of avant-garde music/spoken word performance piece deconstructing the language used in the War On Terror. They bang plates, speak into cowbells, scratch forks across metal, pluck an autoharp and generally engage in sonic mayhem that, somehow, they managed to score on sheet music and follow. It was fascinating and engaging. Then Conversation Storm is a darkly surreal, frequently hilarious, deconstructed nonlinear multi-scene examination of a discussion among three friends playing out a hypothetical doomsday scenario to justify (or not) the use of torture. Really great stuff. Like Indie Rock, but Theater. Someone would do well to bring the show back for another run somewhere so more people could see it. Let’s hope these guys come visit NYC more often!
The low-key, unassuming, avant-garde aesthetic of the Nonsense Company stood in contrast to the very professional and mostly conventional work presented in Second Generation‘s festival of One Acts called Six which is part of their month-long new works festival Eleven. And I mean that as compliment.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went down to CSV’s Milagro Theater. According to their mission statement Second Generation is a non-profit theater company dedicated to:
- Creating contemporary, world-class Asian American theater that reaches across cultural, generational and racial boundaries;
- Cultivating the next generation of Asian American dramatic arts, by identifying and nurturing a vibrant community of actors, directors and writers from the established and emerging to the early-career and pre-professional; and
- Connecting with new and underserved audiences, especially young Asian Americans and other groups historically underrepresented in mainstream American theater, towards the establishment of a vital and effective platform for Asian American voices to be heard on the world’s stage.
I was kind of worried that I was in for an evening of strident Identity Politics and convenient, easy, self-referential Asian jokes, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the evening to be a very enjoyable evening of well-crafted, well-acted, professionally produced – if mainstream- theater. As happens from time to time, I misplaced my meticulous (haha) notes, so I can’t go into serious details.
My favorite piece was probably Julia Cho’s Round and Round which portrays the demise of a marriage between a linguist who has trouble expressing himself and his wife. It started out seeming deceptively pat, but soon became a nuanced and insightful examination of the breakdown in communication within a relationship.
I also enjoyed Michael Lew’s Moustache Guys, which is an absurd and hilarious comedy sketch about a fictional, mysterious secret society of Guys Who Have Moustaches. Someone should try and sell that sketch to Saturday Night Live.
And then there was Ralph B. Pena’s Tail – a series of three (four?) connected monologues by a woman who is stalking a guy she dated once and is now obsessed with. The monologues are dispersed throughout the evening, in between the longer One Acts and Jodi Lin gives a wonderfully over-the-top, hilarious and creepy performance as The Woman.
I think its great that Second Generation is providing this opportunity for Asian American actors to work. Just showcasing the talent, in its own way, drives home the frustration these actors must face with typecasting and the lack of decent Asian roles (or the lack of “color blind” casting) that may keep them from getting work. All the actors – Asian & Caucasian – were really top-notch. I look forward to seeing more!