that girl allison

I'm Allison. I see a ton of theatre. I'm a fan of Green Day, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Weezer, Oasis, Adam Rapp, Emily Giffin, and Shakespeare. I run sometimes, and do yoga always.

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thatgirlallison08 at gmail dot com

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I was invited to the first preview of Love Letters last weekend starring Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow. I knew nothing about it going in but it was 90 minutes, no intermission, and the stars are fantastic, so I was excited. Love Letters was originally off-Broadway and then on Broadway in 1989. It had a weekly rotating cast, which is going to be sort-of replicated on Broadway this time around too .

Love Letters is the most simple play you can imagine. Two actors sitting at table onstage reading letters back and forth to each other. Some are only a sentence, some are a page long. We journeyed with these two characters from the time that they were 8 years old and passing notes in class until they’ve both been married multiple times, with children, and careers, and problems. It’s funny, serious, sad, charming, and slightly depressing (towards the end).

This play was slightly reminiscent of the movie One Day, which follows two people throughout a number of years and much unrequited love. 

I walked out of Love Letters completely moved by these actors, the story they told through letters, and the uncomplicated way that it was presented. 

For more information, click here.

On Tuesday night I went to see a preview performance of the Broadway transfer of Steppenwolf’s, “This Is Our Youth,” by Kenneth Lonergan. I was extremely excited because I remember really enjoying reading the play in college and I adore both Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin. I didn’t actually remember what the play was about, and I didn’t know whether or not Michael Cera could actually act onstage, but I had high hopes going into the show.

This Is Our Youth is about affluent youth living on the Upper West Side in the early 80’s, trying to figure out their next steps in life, deciding whether or not to continue using various drugs, and attempting to be independent from their parents. After one of their friends, and primary dealers, dies during the night, they contemplate what they’re doing with their youth and if THIS is how they want to remember it.

Michael Cera, as Warren, was great onstage. He did what he does best: lanky, socially-awkward teenager. My favorite was Kieran Culkin though. I’ve seen him onstage a few times previously and he’d always been good, but he just rocked it as Darren. He spouted off line after line with such ease and his comedic timing for darkly humorous lines was perfect. His physical comedy was also natural. Rounding out the small cast was Tevi Gevinson as Cera’s love interest Jessica. Gevinson, I believe, is just out of high school and doing this in her gap year between high school and college. She was perfectly awkward and nervous as Jessica.

 Needless to say, I really enjoyed this production. I’m also someone who has a soft spot for plays about entitled kids bitching endlessly (ala Suburbia, etc.). This play will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely mine and I highly recommend it. 

Over two years ago I saw Colt Coeur’sRecall" at The Wild Project downtown. It was interesting premise (kids who get "recalled" for bad behavior and such) and I had high hopes for "Dry Land,” by Ruby Rae Spiegel.

Unfortunately Dry Land had no point. I’m still not even sure what it was really about. It focused on two high school girls on a swim team, one is pregnant and needs not to be, then she accuses the other girl of being in love with her, and then the other girl gets recruited for college, and the originally accusatory girl is upset. Sound incoherent? It was.

The cast including Sarah Mezzanotte, Tina Ivlev, Alice Kremelberg, Matthew Stadelmann, and Jim Ireland all gave it their best shots to make sense of the script.

I don’t like to be unfairly harsh on shows, but I really have no idea why this play was staged. If you like avant garde though, this might be for you. 

On Tuesday night I decided to take in a performance of Primary Stage’s newest production, Poor Behavior by Theresa Rebeck. It sounded interesting because who doesn’t love some poor behavior sometimes? I also love Rebeck’s work - as far as playwriting. Her screenwriting for TV (ahem, Smash), not so much. 

Onstage was a small cast of theatre veterans, Brian Avers, Katie Kreisler, Heidi Armbruster, and Jeff Biehl as two couples spending what should be a peaceful weekend somewhere outside of New York City. The play opened with a philosophical screaming match between Ian and Ella (not a couple) over whether or not the word ‘good’ has any meaning. 

There are twists and turns, and affairs that may or may not be, but as you can probably guess, this weekend is a disaster that ends one or maybe two (I’m not spoiling anything!) relationships. I enjoyed Ian’s tirades on marriage and American misuse of it. I enjoyed all of the screaming battles and physical comedy that Poor Behavior has to offer (and it offers a lot of it). What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good screaming match. 

These four adults all take part in some Poor Behavior. Some are more guilty than others, but I can attest to the fact that they all need to grow up a bit next time they leave town together. 

Last weekend I saw another fun, yet ridiculous, show, Pageant, by Bill Russell, Frank Kelly, and Albert Evans.

A musical about a beauty pageant filled with cliches from all around the country. The catch? All of the contestants are played by men, in drag, of course. 

Through a series of fun numbers, lots of singing and lots of dancing, a few chosen audience members who are the judges, pick who wins the Pageant. The cast is filled with talented gentlemen like Nick Cearley, Marty Thomas, and John Bolton, in addition to Nic Corey, Alex Ringler, Seth Tucker, and Curtis Wiley. 

Is Pageant fun? Yes, but it’s also stereotypical and a little bit cheesy. 

So the Labyrinth Theater’s production of The Muscles in Our Toes, by Stephen Belberclosed on Saturday night, but I wanted to write about it regardless. Because it was really ridiculous (in a good way).

The Muscles in Our Toes was a ridiculous comedy about a bunch of high school friends coming together for their 25 year reunion. When one of their beloved classmates has supposedly been kidnapped in Africa and nothing is being done to get him back, this group of old friends devises a plan to wake the government up themselves.

Does it sound ridiculous? Well it was. It definitely was. Was it entertaining? Oh yes, it was that too.

Bill Dawes as Les lead the cast fearlessly. Amir Arison was hilarious and probably my favorite of them all. Rounding out the small ensemble cast was Samuel Ray Gates, Matthew Maher, Jeanine Serralles, and Mather Zickel. 

They were all great, but the plot has the ridiculous confidence that most American’s have - which is too much. 

Last night I was invited to see The Qualification of Douglas Evans, by Derek Ahonen, the second play currently playing in rep with Enter on Forest Lane, both produced by The Amoralists. I hadn’t noticed the tag line on their logo when I saw Forest Lane last weekend, but it says, “a two play repertory exploring man’s vicious cycles.” Well, Douglas Evans was definitely about a man in a vicious cycle of codependence and alcoholism.

Douglas starts out an innocent college freshmen in New York City who is soon corrupted by a harlot from his college and soon after he’s introduced to booze and everything is down hill from there. A wanna-be actor, he soon turns into a wanna-be playwright who jumps from one codependent relationship with a quirky female to the next.

To say it was depressing is an understatement. But it was also really interesting. I kind of want to see it again to analyze it a bit more.

Derek Ahonen, who starred as Douglas in addition to writing the piece, was impeccable and highly impressive. The girlfriends played by Kelley Swindall, Mandy Nicole Moore, Samantha Strelitz, and Agatha Nowicki, were each convincing and endearing. Penny Bittone and Barbara Weetman as Douglas’ father and mother, in addition to a few other characters each, were also impressive.  

Clocking in at two and a half hours, this is definitely not a RomCom, but it’s a worthy play nevertheless.  

I was super excited when I was invited to The Amoralists’ newest production, Enter at Forest Lawn recently. The Amoralists are amazing and even though they’re productions are weird, to say the least, I love them.

Enter at Forest Lawn, written by Mark Roberts and directed by Jay Stull, was about a stressed out Hollywood television producer and how he’s manipulated by the people in his life. Mark Roberts spouted off line after line effortlessly as Jack, the always-stressed producer. The always-amazing Sarah Lemp was Jessica, Jack’s on-edge and less-than-competent assistant. Then there was Matthew Pilieci, another Amoralists member, who is consistently amazing and probably the stand out in the cast. David Lanson and Anna Stromberg round out the cast as a nervous staff member and a devious Hollywood columnist.

As with most productions by The Amoralists, I highly recommend Enter on Forest Lawn. It’s playing through August 9th down at the Walkerspace at 46 Walker Street. Click here for more information. 

New York’s immersive theater scene has outdone themselves yet again. I was offered a ticket to The Queen of the Night last week and immediately jumped. Think Nutcracker Rouge meets The Great Comet of 1812 minus the literary source and Christmas. That’s what The Queen of the Night is. Or in other words: it’s a super erotica circus with a few dance breaks.

The entire night lasts about 3 hours. There’s about an hour of pre-show where you’re encouraged to go just walk around the space and explore, and if you’re lucky a cast member will pull you away and show you something neat that you hadn’t yet discovered. Some people were whisked away to meet the Queen who was standing on the stage for most of the pre-show. 

Once the show begins, all of the chairs that are messily piled onstage are ripped down and put around the tables that are scattered around the stage. I had been told to sit at a certain table by a cast member, so like an obedient audience member, I listened. 

After the story is introduced and there’s some impressive stuff onstage, they bring out huge platters of food that includes lobster, a rack of ribs, a full roast pig, potatoes gratin, kale salad, bone marrow, and of course, wine. Oh, and two vegetarian options which were roasted cauliflower and some mushroom dish that I didn’t try. We were served the rack of ribs at first but then encouraged to go to other tables to try what they had. Such a cool idea! Definitely a way to make the audience socialize.

After eating and another section of the show is performed, the cast rolls out huge white containers and tells us to throw out plates and everything on the table in them. That’s one way for a quick clean up!

Just so you know: You will get felt up, kissed, fed, and used (in the show).  I was singled out to be the girl who refuses the crazy character’s proposal for a happy ending with him (as in marriage, not an orgasm). I won’t lie - I loved the moment that we had in the spotlight. And then we danced again at the end of the show. I’m glad i listened to that one cast member on where to sit!

After the two main couples of the night get together and all is well, everyone dances (including the audience) and then cast members are lined up in various spots around the nightclub with lots of spoons and the most decadent chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted. As evident in the above photo, they feed it to you.

This is definitely more fun than Sleep No More, though the story is less clear than The Great Comet of 1812, and it’s definitely more immersive (and invasive!) than Here Lies Love (and twice as long). This probably ties with Here Lies Love - I love the historical aspects and music of Here Lies Love but who doesn’t love a free meal with their erotic circus acts? 

This is a definite New York experience to be had if you can deal with being touched by more strangers in one night than ever before. Tickets are not cheap but they’re definitely worth the price.

For more information, click here

I attended the opening night of Manhattan Theater Club’s When We Were Young a couple of weeks ago. I had seen the word ‘feminist’ thrown around in writing about the plot of the show but didn’t really know what to expect.

Cherry Jones plays a woman (Agnes) who runs a home for women who are domestically abused and looked to escape their husbands. Agnes also has a daughter of her own, Hannah (Cherise Boothe), the feminist of the house who wants to go to an Ivy League school and has no time for boys. Mary Anne (played by Zoe Kazan) arrives at their doorstep and while she’s staying with them, she coaches Hannah on how to get her dream guy to ask her to the prom, among other things, and this totally changes Hannah, for better or for worse, who knows.

When We Were Young is much deeper and thought-provoking than I’m making it seem, but it’s also a very heavy. You definitely need to take a moment to remember to breath during intermission.

Cherry Jones is, of course, spectacular. Boothe and Kazan are both enjoyable to watch and believable. Patch Darragh and Morgan Saylor play two supporting roles as well and help keep the play moving and exciting.

This is a fine production at MTC and Jones’ gives a performance not to be missed. 

(Full disclosure: The company I work for works on this show, but the opinions are all my own.)