reviewed by Jody Christopherson
Walking toward the subway at 12:45pm in my Crown Heights neighborhood on the way to Red Fern Theatre Co’s production of Gentrifusion, a dude on the street offered to personally gentrify me, intimately and specifically.
This made me angry (as it usually does) and I said a few things, and he said a few things, followed by gestures while police looked on, very little got accomplished and I went on my way to a Sunday matinee in the theatre. I have no idea who this man is, I probably couldn’t recognize him on the street tomorrow it happened so quickly. My impulse was to shut him out, protect myself. But I live there, not separate from him or our neighborhood.
At these intersections of interaction are the difficult places we have the opportunity to listen . . . even change. This is what theatre, unlike life can do for us, allow us a context in which to observe as we explore deeply personal issues. Gentrifusion is such a experience- 6 skilled writers (Jon Kern, Crystal Skillman, Michael John Garces, Joshua Conkel, Carla Ching, Janine Nabers) create realistic scenarios in which many perspectives exist and can be given equal weight, displaying destructive and constructive interconnectedness without sentimentality or safety.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the work:
Michael John Garces’ ghost story inhabited- 3 inhabitants (Molly Caden, Gio Perez, Michael Schantz) of haunted building witness their presence becoming a part of a buildings history, playing on fear of the past and the way the present informs the future.
Crystal Skillman’s Crawl,- two brothers (Sheldon Best and Nathan Hinton) selling their Crown Heights family home after their real estate broker father passes away, look to move towards something better. A hilariously heart breaking search for home, based on a true story from a Crown Heights broker.
Joshua Conkel’s Robert Mapplethorpe Doesn’t Live Here Anymore- Andre St. Claire Thompson plays a acerbic vulnerable and gorgeous pre-op transvestite opposite Devin Norik’s adopted chinese baby toting affluent gay doctor, broaching the changing class scape between “queer people and gay people” in a gentrifying chelsea neighborhood losing and regaining it’s fierce authenticity.
Janine Naber’s ominous play (2)11 is rife with stand out performances from Andrea Day as a young recently divorced mother ( ex-park slope dweller) who is held up at gun point with her newborn in a baby bjorn and Federico Trigo the police officer who interviews her and escorts her home (to his old and her new neighborhood, 11211).
Jon Kern’s Ours is the Future, Ours is the Past- couple, Lucy (Megan Tusing) and Max (Eugene Oh) relocate to 11211, their apartment is robbed. A violent and ultimately honest interaction ensues with local mechanic (Salvador Chevez) as they break the cycle of violence and separateness.
Carla Ching’s First of the Month- with the talented trio- Rajesh Bose, Wayne T. Carr and Tiffany Villarin- everybody broke in broke neighborhoods, even people who seem like they have cash don’t. Most of us who have the money to live here without personal wealth have a few jobs and are lucky to be scrimping by while sharing a place with room mates. We really need each other to survive hard times.
Would be truly exciting to see this is a collection of work travel into the communities represented; crown heights, chelsea, etc encouraging people who regularly attend theater and those who do not regularly attend to experience the piece together.
Gentrifusion: : an installation of new work
Playwrights include: Carla Ching, Joshua Conkel, Michael John Garcés, Jon Kern, Janine Nabers and Crystal Skillman
Directors include: John Giampietro, Colette Robert, and Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Artistic Producers: Andrea Day and Kel Haney
Executive Artistic Director: Melanie Moyer Williams
Full Cast List in Alphabetical Order:
Sheldon Best *, Rajesh Bose *, Tim Cain *, Molly Carden, Wayne T. Carr *, Salvadore Chevez, Gilbert Cruz *, Andrea Day, Nathan Hinton *, Devin Norik *, Eugene Oh, Gio Perez*, Casey Robinson, Michael Schantz, André St. Clair Thompson, Federico Trigo *, Megan Tusing, Tai Verley, and Tiffany Villarin
January 27 - February 13, 2011
The LABA Theatre At The 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues
4/5/6/N/R/Q to Union Square; L to First Avenue
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m. (Super Bowl Sunday, February 6 at 2pm)
Additional performance on Monday, February 7 at 7pm.
Tickets are $25 and are now available online atwww.theatermania.com or by calling 866.811.4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater box office ½ hour prior to the performance.
Running Time: 120 minutes (with intermission)