Volume 76, Number 17 | September 13 - 19, 2006

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

George W. Bush and Co. in “Tap Dance,” the Theater for the New City summertime performance fest — now in its 30th year — that blends a bit of opera, comedy, and yes, even some shoe shuffling.

Crystal Field gets a few things off her mind

By Jerry Tallmer

Walt Whitman would have loved Crystal Field. She’s been sending her barbaric yawp over the roofs of the five boroughs of this city for 30 years now, with this year’s version of her free summertime Street Theater touching on almost as many bases as old Walt’s encyclopedic “Song of Myself.”

I say “as many bases” advisedly, because there’s not only a baseball sub-theme in her Theater for the New City’s 2006 summer show but one of the actors playing a ballplayer should be named Tommy Henrich, except that his name is actually Mark Mercante. Tommy Henrich was the Old Reliable of the New York Yankees of the 1950s. Mark Mercante is, and has long been, the strong-shouldered Old Reliable of TNC in dozens of capacities beyond actor — though that too.

When the current show somehow zooms from the Bayonne Flats to the Tex-Mex border for an outraged yawp about immigration wall-builders, it is Mercante and teammate Matthew Angel who bellow out: “Clemente! Koufax! Mitsui!” as cases of immigrants who were distinctly not “undocumented terrorists.”

The 2006 anniversary edition, after touring the streets, greenswards, and playgrounds of the five boroughs, ends back Downtown Saturday, September 16, 2 p.m., in Tompkins Square Park, and Sunday, September 17, same time, in Washington Square Park.

Its title is “Tap Dance” — as per Mr. Bush’s wiretapping brigade. Crystal calls it an “opera,” also a musical comedy. And yes, there is some (earnest, muscular, effortful) tap-dancing in it by all concerned, particularly by a large gentleman in a blinding white suit whose name is Michael Vasquez. The tap dancer, not the suit.

Here are a few of its and Crystal’s other ongoing concerns: The Corporate World. Corporate manipulations (cheating, fudging, lying). Media empires. Coffee nuts (“cappuccino!”). Global positioning systems. Guantánamo Bay. Capitalism. Cell phones. Blackberries. The condo-ization of rental apartments. Shopping malls. Stockbrokers. Health care. Public education. Library-book checkout-list snoopers. Big Oil. Video games. Fear-mongers. Teachers’ salaries. Homosexual rights. The cutdown on anti-terrorist funds for NYC. And — oh yes — a war in Iraq.

Are ya listening, Walt?

The audience one recent Sunday at the Central Park Band Shell was listening and applauding and laughing and having a ball.

Three other people (in a cast of 27) who need to be mentioned are (1) Craig Meade as a Concerned Citizen who opens the proceedings with: “At one point I was a dummy,” only to be clunked in the head with a life-sized dummy of himself; (2) a slim, indignant lady librarian in a polka-dot dress who seemed to be a cut above everyone else in acting talent, only to turn out to be an actor named John Buckley; (3) Crystal Field, all in green, as Ms. Statue of Liberty introducing the three Raging Grannies who, denied enlistment, sit down in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square.

After all these years, I have figured out the difference between a TNC Street Show on the street and a TNC Street Show in the parks.
 
Common to all venues:

Suntan lotion, water bottles, sunglasses, bicycles, inline skates, cameras, pre-show New York English, pre-show New York Spanish, milk crates (to sit on), kids, dogs, sweethearts (all genders), mamas, papas, miscellaneous onlookers, all-through-the-performance chatterers, the Cranky (for scenery), astonishing props, very loud amplifiers, a nifty four-piece band (Gary Newton, Phil Smith, Michael Grayson, composer Joseph Vernon Banks at the keys) that needs no amplifiers.
 
In Central Park:

Pigeons.
Yawp.

TAP DANCE. Theater for the New City’s 30th anniversary Street Theater. Book, lyrics, and direction by Crystal Field. Music by Joseph Vernon Banks. September 16th and 17th at Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park, respectively. Admission free. For further info: (212) 254-1109.

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