Monday, January 08, 2007

Youngblood 2006: A Year in Review (January – April)

(A scene from Elizabeth Meriwether's Heddatron at HERE Arts.)

Here’s a look back at 2006 - a year in which it can be fairly stated that without Youngblood there would not have been much theater in New York City. Or, at least, not very much interesting theater. What follows is a brief summary of all that Youngblood accomplished in those twelve theatrical months of 2006.

Youngblood comes out swinging with the first part of Thicker Than Water at Ensemble Studio Theatre. On the double bill are one-acts by Maggie Smith and Amy Herzog. In Smith’s Henrietta Hermaline’s Fall from Great Heights, directed by Abigail Zealey Bess and starring Nicol Zanzarella-Giacalone, Denny Bess and Brendan McMahon, a socially backward, chronically allergic young secretary is swept into a world of romance, heartbreak and despair when the pigeons on her roof proclaim her the rightful Queen of the Bird People.

In Amy Herzog’s Hungry, directed by Christine Farrell and starring Lucia Brizzi, Erin McMonagle and Rebecca Pace, three friends - in the middle of the 90s, in the middle of New Jersey - try to hold onto each other.

Thicker Than Water continues with Kevin Christopher Snipes’ full-length drama A Bitter Taste, in which a mild-mannered college professor (Peter O’Connor) and a smooth-talking divorce attorney (Paul Clark) explore the underbelly of their lifelong friendship after their world is thrown off balance by an underage male prostitute (Haskell King). The New York Times praises that, "Under R. J. Tolan's direction, the play offers some taut drama."

Meanwhile the ever-irreverent Les Freres Corbusier team up with Elizabeth Meriwether and a couple of real honest-to-god robots for Heddatron at HERE Arts. Directed by Alex Timbers, Heddatron follows the adventures of a housewife abducted by robots and forced to act out Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. In the New York Times Ben Brantley calls the show an “exultant celebration of the cathartic powers of theater.” Carolyn Baeumler, Gibson Frazier, Nina Hellman, Ryan Karels, Julie Lake, Daniel Larlham, Spenser Leigh, Michael Schulman, Ian Unterma, and fellow Youngblooder Sam Forman star.

In front of judges Sigourney Weaver, Julia Stiles, Christopher Durang, Oskar Eustis, Jo Bonney and David Cote, Youngblood squares off against rival New York theater companies including Partial Comfort, Vampire Cowboys, and Labyrinth at the 2nd Annual Battle of the Bards at Crobar. Ed Murray pens the entry (a journey through a Dantesque gym hell) and R.J. Tolan directs. Sadly, Youngblood gets its ass handed to it by Ma-Yi, which takes home first place.

Meanwhile two new plays by Youngblooders open in New York: Qui Nguyen’s Trial by Water (produced by Ma-Yi) at the Culture Project and Edith Freni’s Baby Girl (produced by Partial Comfort) at Center Stage. John Gould Rubin’s directs Nguyen’s historically-inspired tale of a group of Vietnamese immigrants trapped at sea and forced to savage lengths to survive. Dinh Q. Doan, Genevieve DeVeyra, Jojo Gonzalez, Karen Tsen Lee, Arthur Acuna star. Baby Girl, directed by Padraic Lillis, focuses on a recent drug addict turned mother who must decide whether or not to sell her baby. Curran Connor, Sarah Hayon, Chris Kipiniak, Trisha LaFache, Andrew Stewart-Jones, and John Summerour star.

After Battle of the Bards, Youngblood decides it can play well with others and rounds out the month by teaming up with local theater groups for its annual ten-minute play festival Asking 4 Trouble 5. In addition to acting and directing collaborations from Partial Comfort, Les Freres and Labyrinth, A4T5 finds a new home at the Kraine Theatre. New short plays are served up by Annie Baker, Emily Conbere, Courtney Lauria, Michael Lew, Elizabeth Meriwether, Edward Lee Murray, Daria Polatin, Sharyn Rothstein, Kevin Christopher Snipes and Maggie Smith.

Elizabeth Meriwether’s The Mistakes Madeline Made opens at the Culture Project, directed by Evan Cabnet and starring Colleen Werthmann. It is subsequently named one of the Best Plays of 2006 by Time Out New York.

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Want to know what contributions to New York theater Youngblood made from May to August? Check back here in a few days for the second part of Youngblood 2006: A Year in Review.

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