OK. Let’s just say it up front. “Pericles” is a play with problems and almost nobody understands it. It’s one of Shakespeare’s last plays and some scholars believe he had a not-too-talented collaborator for half of it. It’s hardly ever staged because it doesn’t sell well.
But none of that deterred the Two River Theater company in Red Bank, NJ, from putting it on their adventurous 2015-16 season schedule that includes an all-male “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum” and the upcoming all-female “I Remember Mama.”
Two River Theater tonight announced its 2016-2017 season, which includes Michael Cumptsy as Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” and Ruben Santiago-Hudson directing August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Cumpsty and Santiago-Hudson, comfortable on NYC stages, bring their Broadway level work to regional theaters. Both men are returning to what they consider their second home which 2River fans are happy about.
“Ropes,” a new play, is about three brothers who rarely talk or see each other but come together at their estranged father’s behest to travel thousands of miles to see him walk a tightrope one last time.
Written by Latin American playwright Bárbara Colio, translated by Maria Alexandria Beech, and directed by Lisa Rothe, this work could be about three brothers from any country in the world.
It focusses on siblings who still remember hurts and slights from childhood, are wildly different from each other as adults, who briefly join together in a united journey while bickering the entire time, and return home somewhat changed but still questioning their places in their world.
This play was part of Two River’s 2013 Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays where then, and now, English- and Spanish-language performances are scheduled. But there is nothing overtly Spanish about this work. These guys could be Russian, Australian or American. While almost all of its 80 minutes is set in airports, we don’t know which ones. The ultimate destination is never mentioned. Do any of them live in a Spanish-speaking country? It’s baffling to me, but, whatever.
The sons are named after famous singers:
— Luis Moreno plays Presley, the eldest son and a successful businessman in construction. He has a wife he loves, but he doesn’t want to be a father — yet. She isn’t much liked by his siblings and the feeling is mutual. He bought them all first class plane tickets, dresses expensively and expects to lead.
— Varin Ayala plays Paul (the cute Beatle), the middle brother who is one year younger that Presley and acts kind of like a referee. We don’t know what he does for a living but repeatedly reminds dos brothers he doesn’t have enough vacation time to get together often. He’s lonely and would like to meet the woman whom he sees from his balcony every day walking her dog.
— Gabriel Gutierrez is Prince, three years younger than Presley, who blames his constant crying as a baby for driving their father out of the family. If Prince has a job, he never talks about it. He takes his shoes off ever chance, dresses casual, travels with a backpack only, and wears his hair in a top knot. He has a terminally ill girlfriend.
These siblings really don’t seem to have anything in common except for their father and crazy cat-loving mother who only talks to Paul and, he says, only responds in monosyllables. No wonder they never socialize. If it sounds depressing.
It’s only after the three men get into a physical fight with each other, miss their connecting flight, and get drunk in the airport bar do they seem to get along. And they mostly talk about their dad, the guy who wants them to see his greatest and last stunt as a tightrope. walker … excuse me, aerial artist.
There is not much mystery about how the show will end. And whether the siblings will ever get together for that talked about trip to their old lake home in a red convertible — which sounds like a great idea — seems very unlikely.
The actors all are fine in roles that don’t have much depth. Director Lisa Rothe makes good use of the small Marion Huber Theater, a black box that seats maybe 80 people for this play.
Nacelle Sissons’ set is minimalistic but fascinating, especially with lighting by Mary Louise Geiger. The audience sits at an angle and a long concourse-like airport walkway runs in front of us, also at an angle. It’s about three feet off the ground with airport doors behind it far right and left. Open-air boxes serves as seats and are moved around. Above the stage are three tightropes. Each is headed in the same direction but at different heights and different angles, never touching. They remind me of the three brothers — moving forward, just not on the same path. Do these ropes bind them together or pull them apart?
Ever since John Dias took over as artistic director at the well-respected nonprofit Two River Theater, he has reached out to the local Hispanic community with various events. “Ropes” is just the latest offer in the Red Bank-based theater’s s mission to be more inclusive.
Written by Barbara Colio and translated by Maria Alexandria Beech, the theater has scheduled several Spanish language and school-time performances in addition to English performances.
Colio’s “Cuerdas” (or “Ropes”) won the 2009 Mexican National Fine Arts Prize for Playwriting.
This President’s weekend you can buy sheets or buy a $99 subscription for three plays to one of the most ambitious regional
theaters in the country through Tuesday (Feb.16) and I say people who can get to the Two River Theater in Red Bank (NJ) should jump on it.
Being staged is an all-female production of “I Remember Mama,” Shakespeare’s “Pericles” set in a bar featuring an accordion with music and lyrics by Rinde Eckert, and a new translation of “Ropes,” by Barbara Colio about three sons of the greatest tight rope walker of all time searching for answers.
See. A new work by a leading Latin American playwright and new interpretations of classical work. What’s not to love?
The world premiere of “Lives of Reason” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank was not what I was expecting.
Taking place during a faculty cocktail party at a college in the northeast, it “exposes the challenges of intellectual life — and what happens when one woman’s secret passions explode and her authentic self is revealed,” according to the press release.
What we have is a 110-minute cocktail party from Hell (no intermission) that veers between a soap opera and a satire with audience laughter in places I’m not so sure the authors intended.
Two River Theater’s “Forum” isn’t just funny, it’s hysterical, hilarious, uproarious, delirious, crazy. It’s a scream with plenty of that coming from both the stage and the audience. With an all-male cast, the 1962 musical comedy hit under the superb direction of Jessica Stone seems like a new show for modern times.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing not to like about this show that continues in Red Bank (NJ) through Dec.13. I’m hoping to catch another performance myself.
“Seven Guitars,” the 1940s segment of August Wilson’s 20th century Pittsburgh Cycle, is receiving a glorious staging at the Two River Theatre Company in Red Bank (NJ) through Oct. 4.
The company has a knack for hiring good people to mount and perform in its shows and should be applauded for signing Brandon J. Dirden for his directorial debut. (As an actor we saw him here in 2012’s “Jitney” and “Topdog/Underdog,” and earlier this year in the world premiere of Reuben Santiago-Hudson‘s “You’re Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine.” Two River doesn’t always take the safest route to fill seats, which is just one reason why this company is so very interesting.
Will Connolly (center) stars as Jeremy Heere in the world premiere of “Be More Chill” at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. The company includes, from left: Paul Whitty, Gerard Canonico, Lauren Marcus, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Hsu, Jake Boyd and Katlyn Carlson. (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson Photography)
Will Connolly (Jeremy Heere) and Eric William Morris (The Squip) in the world premiere of “Be More Chill” at Two River Theater.compan in Red Bank, NJ. (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson)
Will Connolly (Jeremy Heere) and George Salazar (Michael) in the world premiere of “Be More Chill” at Two River Theate, Red Bank, NJ. (PHOTO: T. Charles Erickson)
Stephanie Hsu (Christine) and Will Connolly (Jeremy Heere) in the world premiere of “Be More Chill” at Two River.(PHOTO: T. Charles Erickson)
For actor Gerard Canonico, hitting the sweet spot is all about artistic collaboration and a new, edgy musical is the best way to achieve that goal.
It’s based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini about a high school student who considers himself a loser, is tormented by bullies, invisible to girls. Then he learns about “squips”—a quantum computer in pill form that once ingested communicates with your brain. It could be his ticket to the high school hero highway.