Category Archives: Off-Broadway

Don’t miss your last chance to hear Eisa Davis’ work in progress (for now)

Eisa Davis in the spotlight at Jack in Brooklyn on April 23, 2014.. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh)

Eisa Davis in the spotlight at Jack in Brooklyn on April 23, 2014.. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh)

The magnificent Eisa Davis, who you’ve probably seen somewhere on TV if you didn’t meet her, like I did, through “Passing Strange,” is not just a singer and actress, but an accomplished playwright as well.

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Poland will never be the same after Ubu Sings Ubu

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A dangerous man: Tony Torn as Pere Ubu at Joe’s Pub on March 25, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

About midway through the show on March 25, the flabby, shirtless man on stage at Joe’s Pub — his face still bearing the image of the Polish eagle albeit runny with sweat — stepped out of character as Pere Ubu, the king of Poland.

It’s at this point in the show that I’d be introducing my special guest, said actor Tony Torn But I can’t, he added.

So he invited the audience to join him in a chant:

“Stew has flu. Stew has flu. Stew has flu….”

After chanting that a few times, any disappointment I might have been feeling about the absence of Stew, Tony Award-winning creator of “Passing Strange” and leader of the rock band The Negro Problem, vanished as Torn returned to character and carried on with the set.

Sure, it would have been nice to see Stew sit in with this talented band of actors and musicians. But he deserved to stay home and nurse his illness. And Torn and company managed to provide an extraordinarily entertaining evening without their announced special guest.

I had wondered how Stew fit into this mad plan of creating a band to cover Pere Ubu songs in character from from the Alfred Jarry’s 1896 French play “Ubu Roi.”

Torn, happily, answered the question from stage.

This show, “Ubu Sings Ubu,” wouldn’t have materialized at all if, some years ago, Stew hadn’t let Torn sing what he called “one of his crazy punk rock songs.”

He didn’t explain exactly when or how that occurred, so I can only guess it was in a workshop of some sort. Continue reading

Ecstatic Music Festival brings together 5 musicians in a unique collaboration

Ecstatic_Music_Festival_2

It’s hard to believe that the 2014 edition of the Ecstatic Music Festival is nearly over. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been able to get to most of the shows in the festival, which kicked off Jan. 31 and ends this Saturday, March 29.

Two shows remain this year: Wednesday’s bill featuring So Percussion and Buke & Gase, and Saturday’s program with Man Forever and William Basinski. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are a reasonable $25, but if you attend both shows, you can get in for $20 apiece. Click here to buy tickets online, or visit the Merkin Concert Hall box office at 129 West 67th Street in Manhattan.

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Cynthia Hopkins tells it like it really is

Cynthia Hopkins in character as “the fat lady” for her latest show, “A Living Documentary.”

I’ve long wondered how edgy performance artist Cynthia Hopkins survives.

The answer, it turns out, is: just barely.

Her extremely personal theater work, often presented as slightly bizarre, dreamy (sometimes verging on nightmarish) faux autobiography, has won increasingly wide acceptance. Aside from being the darling of St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, she’s put on her shows at other leading venues such as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

She’s become a favorite of comedian John Hodgman, who featured her on his end-of-the-world “Ragnarok” show in 2012.

She’s had a Guggenheim fellowship and has won Bessie, Obie and other awards.

(Click through to the jump for videos and more about Cynthia Hopkins.)

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Ubu Sings Ubu: Cleveland cult band’s music torn up and stewed

I was intrigued when I got an email about a show at Joe’s Pub tonight (Tuesday, March 25): the Ubu Sings Ubu Band.

I’ve never been a fan of Pere Ubu, David Thomas’ Cleveland avant-garage band. There’s not a single Ubu track in my iTunes library or in my I’ll-import-them-to-iTunes eventually collection of CDs.

So why would I care about the debut of a band covering songs that I’ll barely recognize?

The band’s video of  “Life Stinks” offered a taste that left me wanting more.

But it’s the personnel list that really got to me: Tony Torn, Dan Safer — and Stew (of  The Negro Problem/”Passing Strange” fame) sitting in as a special guest.

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Eisa Davis and The Cradle Will Rock — perfect together

cradleI saw the premiere
performance of the new Encores!
Off-Center
reading of The Cradle Will Rock at New York
City Center on Wednesday night. I didn’t spend a lot of time
analyzing casting decisions or reading up on this production. I
knew Anika Noni Rose,
Raúl Esparza and Danny
Burstein
were in key roles, but aside from that,
avoided reading about it. It was an effort to preserve an element of surprise. And
given that I’ve been spending som much time at Maxwell’s and other
rock events, there really wasn’t time. So what a pleasant
surprise when the curtain opened and there, front and
center, was Eisa Davis. It seemed
almost too perfect that an actor with a radical heritage (she’s a
niece of activist Angela
Davis
, a relationship Eisa explored in her
play Angela’s Mixtape) performing in a show
about union-busting and based on the timeless us-versus-them theme.
(Many theatergoers were introduced to Eisa through the Tony
Award-winning musical Passing
Strange
.)

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Stew & The Negro Problem at Barbès: A refuge from the storm and a special surprise

Blizzard? Who cares, when there’s a chance to see Stew, Heidi and the gang in an intimate Brooklyn boîte

Stew and Heidi Rodewald perform with a version of their band, The Negro Problem, at Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn in March 2011. And yes, that's Joe McGinty in the foreground.  (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew and Heidi Rodewald perform with a version of their band, The Negro Problem, at Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn in March 2011. And yes, that’s Joe McGinty in the foreground. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

If the predicted nightmare blizzard doesn’t bring New York City to a screeching halt on Friday, you should be at  Barbès in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood to catch a surprisingly un-publicized gig by Stew & The Negro Problem.

(Click through to the jump for all the details.) Continue reading

Colman Domingo puts ‘Soul’ back into the Vineyard Theatre (updated with discount code to see ‘Wild With Happy’ for just $25)

Colman Domingo

Tickets on sale now for this one-time event

If you haven’t seen Colman Domingo‘s wonderful “A Boy and His Soul,” which was such a treat at the Vineyard Theatre a few years back, you’ll get another chance to check it out in January.

Tickets are on sale now for a one-night-only reading of Colman’s one-man (but multi-character) show.

You probably know him from “Passing Strange,” on Broadway or at the Public Theater. And maybe even from “The Scottsboro Boys” at the Vineyard or, briefly, on Broadway.

And I certainly hope you’re seeing the play he wrote and stars in at the Public Theater through Nov. 18, “Wild With Happy.”

UPDATE: See “Wild With Happy for just $25. Use the code STORM by calling (212) 967-7555 (daily noon-8pm), or visiting the Public Theater Box Office at 425 Lafayette Street (Sun & Mon 1-6pm; Tue-Sat 1-7:30pm) or by clicking here.

“A Boy and His Soul” tells a slice of Colman’s life story using his record collection (yes, remember records?) to lead the audience through. It will help bring “Wild” into sharper focus.

Colman’s a major talent, brimming with life, love and emotion.

James Earl Jones told Colman that “Wild” was “miraculous.” I couldn’t agree more. And “A Boy and His Soul” is just as miraculous. If you loved “Wild,” then “Boy” will flesh out Colman’s story for you. Yes, it’s theater. Yes, it’s fiction. But the underpinnings of both shows are first-rate, true-blue Colman.

“A Boy and His Soul,” a reading and pre-show toast. 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th Street (Union Square East/Irving Place) in Manhattan. Call (212) 353-0303 or click here for tickets. $75.