Metropolitan Playhouse fest gives voice to East Village

[media-credit name="Photos by Alex Roe " align="aligncenter" width="600"][/media-credit]
Jim (Michael Durkin) is haunted by the ghost of Stephen Foster (Mark August), in Laura Livingston’s “Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts.”

Plays, oral histories, panel discussion to ponder neighborhood’s now and then

Jonathan Hicks plays tennis against the apocalypse, in Andy Bragen’s “Game, Set, Match.”

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Here’s a numbers game where every member of the audience comes up a winner. Over a three-week period, the third annual installment of Metropolitan Playhouse’s East Village Theater Festival will offer eight new plays, six solo performances, a panel discussion, a lobby art exhibit and one look back at the demise of an influential Downtown arts incubator.

“The East Village Chronicles, Vol. 8” draws upon the neighborhood’s life, lore, history and diversity. Among the eight plays: Anthony P. Pennino’s “Posers” revisits the CBGB’s of the 1980s. “Willow Grove,” by Isidore Elias, sees change come to Orchard Street (circa 1976) — as a small dress shop is being put out of business by encroaching department stores; and in Michael Bettencourt’s “The Fever Dream of Captain America,” an FBI agent with an Egyptian background visits a mosque in an attempt to recruit a Bengali-born cab driver.

“Alphabet City, VIII” is the latest installment of an ongoing project that puts the words of local residents, verbatim, into the mouths of monologuists. The six new “theatrical portraits” include Jared Houseman as Jeffrey Ruhalter (a fourth generation butcher, whose Jeffrey’s Meat Market was one of the original tenants of the Essex Market) — and Cate Weinberg as Richie Baxt (the “Guitar Doctor,” who’s been living, and fixing guitars, on the Lower East Side for over 30 years).

On June 20, John Clancy (a co-founder of the annual August behemoth FringeNYC) reads “Notice of Default and Opportunity to Cure.” Equal parts infuriating and inspiring, it’s his account of how The Present Company’s 198 Stanton Street “Theatorium” (1998-2000) met its demise during the early days of the neighborhood’s shift from indie theater incubator to rich and trendy percolator. First produced in 2000, the hybrid stand-up routine, confession, docu-drama and sermon was praised by this publication’s Downtown theater correspondent Martin Denton (he of and as a rumination “with surprising depth, on the whole nature of what theatres and theatre artists do, and how (and why) society attempts to place — here comes that word again — a value on that.”

Throughout the festival, the Metropolitan Playhouse lobby (shared with the Connelly Theater) will be home to an exhibition of work from East Village artists. On June 27, a panel discussion (“Downtown Class”) on East Village/Lower East Side neighborhood identity will focus on gentrification and culture clashes.


At Metropolitan Playhouse
220 E. 4th St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.
Tickets: $22 ($18 for students/seniors, $10 for under 18).
Discount passes are available for multiple events
To order, call 212-995-5302 or visit

Alphabet City” and “East Village Chronicles” play on various dates, from June 11-July 1 (Mon., Tues., Thurs.-Sun. at 7:30pm; Sat. & and Sun. at 3pm)

“Notice of Default and Opportunity to Cure” is performed Wed., June 20, 7:30pm

The “Downtown Class” panel happens Wed., June 27, 7:30pm


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