Just Do Art, Week of Jan. 29, 2014
PIG IRON THEATRE COMPANY’S “TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL”
The rough and tumble (and quite possibly insane) thespians from Pig Iron Theatre Company proudly boast of their inability to sit still. But you’d be mistaken to connect the unconventional ensemble’s perpetual motion with an inability to focus on the story at hand. In fact, a dutiful fidelity to the source material weighs heavily on the frontal lobe of director Dan Rothernberg — who says this Philly company is poised to deliver a “rough, wholly American” version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” without “deconstructing the thing.” That’s good news, because the Bard’s much-interpreted tale of mistaken identity and misdirected love is wicked funny as written — making it a perfect match for Pig Iron’s exuberant fusion of clown theater, cabaret and dance (and, in this case, a Balkan-inspired score performed live by members of the West Philadelphia Orchestra).
Feb. 4–7, 12–15 and 19–22 at 7:30pm. Feb. 8 at 7pm. Feb. 9, 16, 23 at 3pm and Feb. 19 at 1pm. At Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St., at Pitt St.). For tickets ($30-$40), call 212-352-3101 or visit abronsartscenter.org. Also visit pigiron.org.
“THE HOUSE OF CONNELLY”
Founded in 1931, The Group Theatre burned bright for just a decade. But co-founder Lee Strasberg’s “method acting” technique, as well as the ensemble’s commitment to realism and relevance over diversionary fluff, left an indelible mark on the likes of Brando, Dean, Pacino, De Niro and Streep — all of whom underwent training at the Actors Studio (founded by Group members Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan and Robert Lewis). Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner and Clifford Odets also did some pretty good post-Group work — but other than Odets’ “Golden Boy” (revived last year on Broadway to great acclaim), The Group Theatre’s work is largely unknown to contemporary audiences.
For the past several years, The ReGroup Theatre Company has been calling attention to the Group’s “lost” plays — by publishing three collections and bringing long-dormant works such as “Big Night” to the stage. Their current effort reconsiders “The House of Connelly,” by going with playwright Paul Green’s original “jaw-dropping conclusion” instead of the more optimistic ending imposed upon its original 1931 run. In doing so, ReGroup acknowledges that for all its ambition and integrity, even The Group Theatre’s inaugural production (directed by Strasberg, with Adler and Odets in the cast) was not immune to leavening harsh reality with a little hope. Still, regardless of which tone dominates at curtain time, there’s plenty to chew on, in this tale of a wayward heir navigating his Old South legacy while assessing the motivations of a potential love interest.
Through Feb. 9: Mon. and Thurs.-Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 3pm. At The Barrow Group Theatre (312 W. 36th St., third floor; btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For tickets ($35), call 212-868-4444 or visit smarttix.com. Also visit regrouptheatre.org and thehouseofconnelly.com. At 7pm on Sun., Feb. 2 (also at Barrow Street Theatre), ReGroup will present a staged reading of Green’s adaptation of the Richard Wright novel, “Native Son.”
They’ll all be mainstage productions someday — but right now, the creative types who have the full confidence of HERE’s Artist Residency Program are ready to give you a glimpse of their upcoming works, all in various stages of development. That’s the upshot of CULTUREMART, which has an impressive track record of very few misfires among its annual throw-it-out-there festival. This year’s edition offers 13 workshop performances from mid-career artists in the fields of theater, dance, music, puppetry and visual art (three HARP alumni, also in the midst of developing new projects, are on board as well). Here’s some of the stuff that tripped our wire:
Joseph Silovsky’s “Send for the Million Men” uses puppets and robots to blend his own biography with the trial, then execution, of 1920s anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti (7pm, Feb. 1 & 2). Dead-on theater critic David Cote (a tough but fair champion of the Downtown scene) provides the libretto for “The Scarlet Ibis” — based on the 1960 James Hurst short story, in which a well-meaning older brother’s efforts to toughen up his frail sibling has tragic results (6pm, Feb. 3). “The Futurist” is an evening-length dance by Laura Peterson Choreography, in which elements of composer [Joe Diebes’ with sound installation] transform into costumes, furniture and landscapes that represent the dread, hope and anticipation expressed by a diverse group asked to imagine what life will be like in the coming years (8:30pm, Feb. 5 & 6). Leyna Marika Papach’s opera/movement-theater work “Glass Mouth” questions whether external things like words and movements are capable of representing the true nature of our thoughts (8:30pm, Feb. 8).
Performances happen through Feb. 9, at HERE (145 Sixth Ave., entrance on Dominick St.). For tickets ($15), call 212-352-3101 or visit here.org. Student Rush tickets are free (with valid student ID) at the box office, open after 5pm on show days.