Just Do Art! Week of June 6, 2013

Photo by G. Mozgala Gregg Mozgala as Blizzard the underworld kingpin. See “The Penalty.”

Photo by G. Mozgala
Gregg Mozgala as Blizzard the underworld kingpin. See “The Penalty.”

THE PENALTY
Like a rundown carnival’s dark ride attraction, Clay McLeod Chapman packs his monologues, short stories, novels and plays with the unnerving sense that serious danger is lurking just around the bend. But unlike promised Midway thrills that rarely materialize, Chapman’s characters always deliver when it comes to crossing the line that separates sinister impulse from violent action. That makes him particularly well-suited for this musical version of “The Penalty.”

Chapman’s stage adaptation (with music and lyrics co-written by Robert M. Johanson) is inspired by the Gouverneur Morris novel and the Lon Chaney film version. Set in 1920 New York City, a legless beggar’s plea for spare change is ignored by Lower East Side passersby — who are blind to the fact that the seemingly helpless derelict is actually an underworld kingpin obsessed with executing a macabre revenge plot against the prominent doctor who deformed him. “The Penalty” stars Gregg Mozgala as Blizzard, along with an ensemble that includes actors from Mozgala’s The Apothetae theater company (dedicated to the production of new full-length plays about the “Disabled Experience,” and the only NYC-based company to be run, owned and operated by people with disabilities).
Fri. & Sat., June 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 & 29. At 7:30pm, at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St., btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). For tickets ($15 in advance, $18 at the door; $12 for students/seniors), call 212-219-0736 or visit dixonplace.org.

Photo by Steven Schreiber Kathreen Khavari, in the Transit Lounge production of “You Are Dead. You Are Here.”

Photo by Steven Schreiber
Kathreen Khavari, in the Transit Lounge production of “You Are Dead. You Are Here.”

YOU ARE DEAD. YOU ARE HERE.
The debut production from playwright Christine Evans, director Joseph Megel and media designer Jared Mezzocchi’s Transit Lounge theater company shifts between the past and present, telling the story of a charged encounter between an American soldier and an Iraqi girl blogger.
The project came about in 2010 when Megel commissioned Evans to write a script about a U.S. veteran haunted by video game-style flashbacks to Iraq. What ultimately became “You Are Dead. You Are Here.” has been evolving ever since, most recently under the auspices of the HERE Artist Residency Program. Inspired by the ever-blurring line between video game environments, interactive technology and military research, the play incorporates animated landscapes from “Virtual Iraq” — a virtual reality program used in military training, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy and rehabilitation. Dr. Skip Rizzo, the creator of Virtual Iraq, worked with Transit Lounge to retool his cutting-edge software for the stage.
Tues.-Sun. at 8:30pm, Through June 22, at HERE (145 Sixth Ave., just below Spring St., entrance on Dominick St.). For tickets ($10 in advance, $18 one day prior, $20 day of show), call 212-352-3101, visit here.org or purchase at box office (5pm to curtain, on day of show). Student rush tickets free with ID.

Photo by Anne Kristoff See, and hear, the late Frances Ciotta — one of Anne Kristoff’s “Last of the Italians” (on view at Soho Gallery for Digital Art, through June 15).

Photo by Anne Kristoff
See, and hear, the late Frances Ciotta — one of Anne Kristoff’s “Last of the Italians” (on view at Soho Gallery for Digital Art, through June 15).

THE LAST OF THE ITALIANS
Once dominant and now dwindling, South Greenwich Village’s Italian community has been captured for the ages — in vibrant and loving detail — by New York-based photographer, writer, installation and mixed media collage artist Anne Kristoff. In “The Last of the Italians,” Kristoff uses expressive photos accompanied by brief interview excerpts to tell the story of a changing neighborhood’s casualties, stubborn survivors and enduring traditions. At its best, as in the case of Frances Ciotta, the exhibit’s combination of visual and audio beautifully conveys both the crystalized essence of a particular person and their universal desire to retain that which they hold near and dear.
“We celebrated everything in that place,” says Ciotta of an old haunt. Refusing an invite to join her daughter in the outer boroughs, she insists, “I’m going from here to the cemetery. I’m my own boss. I like it that way.” True to her word, Ciotta passed away in 2012, exiting this world as a Village Italian. Her sense of defiance endures, alongside other exhibit participants — such as 43-year-old Tommy Cannella (who’s been praying in front of the blessed mother at St. Anthony’s for decades) and 16-year-old Christina Auricchio (who admits to spending most of her time out of the neighborhood, yet daydreams about what life would have been like to grow up with dozens of kids her age on the block).
Free. On view from June 11-15. Opening reception: June 13, 6-9pm. At Soho Gallery for Digital Art (138 Sullivan St., btw. Houston & Prince Sts.). For info, call 212-228-2810. Visit lastoftheitalians.com for a sneak peek.

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