Fans of artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat will not want to miss an exciting new play coming to the off-Broadway stage just in time for the Christmas season. Staged Dreams is pleased to present the world premiere of Collaboration: Warhol & Basquiat, a new American play written by Tony Award nominee, Calvin Levels and directed by Tony Award nominee, Lonny Price.
Geoffrey and I had no idea what to expect, exactly, when we were invited to attend Feeling Franklin, a comedy showcase at The Producers Club in Hell’s Kitchen, starring LA-based character comedian, Franklin Marshall The Third. Geoffrey was familiar with Marshall already from social media and a guerrilla marketing campaign in which he has blanketed the streets of both LA and NYC with stickers and stencils bearing the likeness of his face, as seen above. The show seemed like it would be a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday evening in NYC, where anything can happen!
When we arrived at the designated address for The Producers Club, a sign on the door assured us that we were in the right place. We felt like we were in for a magical evening!
We were then escorted to wait in the bar, where we lounged on a very comfy leather sofa and enjoyed some art, such as this fine painting of an Octopus.
Really nice, right? Soon, it was time for the show!
As you can see, Franklin Marshall’s stand up persona, which is that of a shy-yet-horny nerd boy, relies heavily on his physical resemblance to Pee Wee Herman-meets-Ed Grimley, with a little of South Park’s Mr. Garrison thrown in. You will know what I mean by that last reference if you see him live, but I do not want offer any spoilers right now, because the thrill of discovery is a huge part of the fun!
Franklin refers often to his well-worn notebook, as he bases his jokes and humorous stories on observational, everyday sorts of experiences and things, often contemplating how much he wants to score with hot chicks, but how the desired ‘scoring’ somehow eludes him. Everyone can relate, and in this way he builds a sense of intimacy with the audience. Here are a couple of my favorite jokes from the set that I can still remember, because this was a couple of weeks ago now:
Franklin asked the audience if we wanted to hear a racist joke. Not wanting to appear uncool and overly PC, we play along and say yes. And the joke is . . .“Donald Trump.” That’s the entire joke, and it’s brilliant in its utter simplicity and resonant truth! Because Donald Trump is a racist asshole! I hate him soooo much.
Franklin also had a fun joke about a brand of Darth Vader condoms whose slogan is “I am Not Your Father.” Hilarious!
After the one-hour set, Franklin served the crowd a tray of very delicious cupcakes, which are my favorite thing ever.
It’s nice that Franklin takes the time to meet his fans after the show and pose for selfies. Here he is with Geoffrey, who Franklin recognized immediately from the FaceBook. Special! The most hilarious thing though is that if you just look at Franklin, it’s not hard to imagine that if he stood up straight, put on some clothes that fit and shampooed the product out of his hair, he probably cleans up pretty good! For more information about Franklin Marshall the III, who has opened for comedy greats like Rob Schneider, Dave Chapelle, and Nikki Glasser, you can visit Franklin Marshall the Third Dot Com!
Ned Eisenberg and Katie McClellan Star in Rocket to The Moon (Image Source)
When an oft-visited Water Cooler is the undeniable focal point in a multi-act play’s only set, you can place a safe bet that themes of Thirst and Relief — in all of their figurative and literal meanings — are sure to be explored. Currently in a limited engagement revival at Theatre at St. Clement’s, Clifford Odet’s Rocket to the Moon is set in 1938 during a sweltering NYC summer, and the heat isn’t the only thing that’s oppressive. Dentist Ben Stark (Ned Eisenberg) — whose Midtown Manhattan office provides the story’s setting — is experiencing a worrisome decline in business, as is his fellow dentist and tenant, Dr. Phil Cooper (Larry Bull), who doesn’t offer Ben much hope that his months-in-arrears rent will be paid any time soon. Ben is also treated like a doormat by his wife Belle (Marilyn Matarrese), a woman from a wealthy family who surely expected to be living a more comfortable and upwardly mobile lifestyle than what her husband is providing. Clearly, no one is too happy.
For Beatles fans who crave an authentic performance experience of the group’s expansive catalog of music, there is certainly no shortage of grand scale productions, which range from Rain and Let it Be on Broadway to 1964 The Tribute – an act that regularly sells out Carnegie Hall. But for fans who maintain a keen interest in the life and post-Beatles career of John Lennon specifically, Lennon: Through a Glass Onion offers something completely different.
Now in evening and matinee performances at the Union Square Theater, Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, is an intimate, two-man show featuring esteemed actor and singer John R. Waters and accompanist Stewart D’Arrietta, which originally saw sell-out tours in the duo’s native Australia. While there are no dazzling lights, clever sets, informative backdrops or special effects to bolster this very stripped down production, what you get is a heartfelt acoustic performance (guitar and piano – and D’Arrietta’s piano playing is quite excellent) of a selection of over thirty of John Lennon’s best and most autobiographical songs – both written with Paul McCartney while in The Beatles, and written and recorded by Lennon as a solo artist.
Tying the musical numbers together is Water’s biographical narrative of John Lennon’s often traumatic youth and tumultuous adulthood, the ups and down of which are punctuated and fleshed out by songs he wrote at that time. Although Water’s speaking voice is appealingly similar to Lennon’s, his (often quite gravelly) singing voice is not, so don’t expect the “close your eyes and imagine it is really him” effect that you can get with so many tributes. Through a Glass Onion is really more like watching two hardcore John Lennon fans perform his songs and talk about his life in a pub setting. This may or may not be your thing, so just know what you are walking into ahead of time.
In order to fit thirty songs into a 90-minute run time, many of the songs are performed as excerpts of various lengths, but you get the idea. Likewise, some liberty is taken with traditional arrangements, which finds “Help!” – one of The Beatles‘ most exhilarating anthems – performed almost as a dirge. Sometimes the alternative arrangements work and other times not so much.
It’s also unclear how much of the biographical information is simply improvised or creatively extrapolated based on various facts but, again, it is easy to imagine that Waters is speaking as Lennon and the story all comes together. As an aside, fans seeking more information about John Lennon’s life as a child and teenager, including the not-very-happy story about his relationship with his mother Julia – which had such a profound influence on so many of his songs — might be better served by the 2009 film, Nowhere Boy. You can find it on Netflix.
An added note about the venue, for those who’ve not yet been to the Union Square Theater, is that you are in for treat in this pristinely maintained, old school theater where every very comfy seat offers optimal viewing, so you don’t have to stretch your ticket buying budget to get the best seat in the house. The theater is also conveniently located three blocks uptown from the Union Square subway hub and is within blocks of dozens of excellent restaurants — so you can plan a night of it!
Lennon: Through a Glass Onion will run through February 22nd, 2015 at the Union Square Theater, located at 100 East 17th Street (Between Park Ave South and Irving Place), New York, NY 10003. Visit Lennon Onstage Dot Com for more information about the show, to get show times and to purchase tickets!
Plays about mental illness don’t really exist to make everyone feel comfortable. It’s a very difficult subject to tackle, especially given the intimacy of a live theater setting. But despite its uneasy subject matter, a new off Broadway play, BOB: Blessed be the Dysfunction that Binds, manages to deliver an engaging theatrical experience that is uniquely personal yet universally resonant. Emotionally harrowing and at times very funny, its success is one hundred percent owed to the gifted actress and playwright, Anne Pasquale.