Volume 81, Number 22 | November 3 - 9, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Vanessa Lenz

A picture’s worth a thousand words: Clowns Ex Machina in “Clowns Full Tilt: A Musing on Aesthetics” (at La MaMa, Nov. 4-20). Visit clownsexmachina.com.

In November, give thanks for Downtown theater
Vampire Cowboys’ Qui Nguyen collaborates with The Bats…at The Flea!

BY TRAV S.D.

The big Downtown theatre news from the last several weeks happens to be taking place in the streets. In case you haven’t noticed, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) — in addition to making a statement — puts on a mighty good show. And it’s by design. OWS’s Arts and Culture Working Group meets weekly at 60 Wall Street and cooks up spectacles like the army of zombies that onlookers saw on October 17. A group of circus performers has established a Unicycle Action Organizing Committee (Let the sissies who ride bicycles form their own group!); and Judith Malina and The Living Theatre (livingtheatre.org) have gotten in on the act (Don’t they always?) with the Occupy Your World Festival — which has been happening for weeks at several outdoor locations. The next one is November 5 in Times Square. Downtown theatre company, The Civilians, created a theatre piece based on interviews with the protestors called “Let Me Ascertain You: Occupy Wall Street” (which they presented at Joe’s Pub on October 28). And the latest: MTV is now producing a reality show starring OWS protestors as cast members. Maybe some of them will become stars, make a million dollars and have to protest themselves.

“All that is solid melts into air,” wrote Karl Marx. But he couldn’t have been talking about our hearty Downtown theatre companies! Two long-standing Off-Off Broadway houses have just announced good news about their respective futures — and a third new venue has just come into being. First, the much beloved Ohio Theatre (formerly in SoHo) has just opened their new facility at the former Wings Theatre on Christopher Street. Their current show “Two-Man Kidnapping Rule” plays through November 20 (sohothinktank.org). Second, the Horse Trade Theatre Group just released the good news that they’ve signed the lease on their Under St. Marks space. This month, you can see St. Marks shows with titles like “Brew of the Dead,” “God Tastes Like Chicken,” “Teenage Cop” and “Dreamboat and Friends” — if that is your perverse desire (I know that it’s mine!). Find a full schedule and buy tickets at horsetrade.info.

Back on the west side, there’s the brand new Canal Park Playhouse on Canal Street — which not only offers plays like the upcoming “Perfect Catch: A Throwmantic Comedy,” but will also have screenings of Little Rascals movies! “Perfect Catch” hits the boards November 5-27. Find out about these and other shows at canalparkplayhouse.com. I repeat: Little Rascals movies!

One show that’s got my interest piqued is Sybil Kempson’s new production at Dixon place, entitled “The Secret Death of Puppets, or How Do Puppets Die? Or Puppets Die in Secret” (Make up your mind, Sybil!). It’s an evening of three one-acts that talk about “forbidden knowledge” and our “uncanny relationship with the inanimate.” The inanimate? Yes! Truth in advertising — this really is a show about dead puppets! Although, this is not surprising from the woman who gave us “The Potatoes of August” and “There Is No There There.” The show runs from November 3-19. All the info is at dixonplace.org.

There are two edgy clown shows of note this month. November 3-19, John Leo and Jay Dunn bring “Handshake Uppercut: A Victorian Clown Throwdown” to Dixon Place. The perpetrators describe the show as an “adults-only sexed-up mash-up of vaudeville, clowning and burlesque.” For info and tickets: dixonplace.org. November 4–20, Clowns Ex Machina (a troupe of nine female clowns led by Kendall Cornell) will present “Clowns Full Tilt: A Musing on Aesthetics” at La Mama E.T.C. The piece promises to be an exploration of two dimensional representations of women throughout the ages. Sounds serious; one hopes those red noses aren’t just there to lead Santa through the fog. Find out for yourself at lamama.org.

From November 4 through December 2, Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” is a play about a girl who discovers that her recently deceased sister led a double life — then gets sucked into her life of adventure. Nguyen and the production’s director (Robert Ross Parker) ordinarily produce such shows through their own company Vampire Cowboys, but here they’ll be working with The Bats (the rep company of young actors based at The Flea). Their shows typically have humor and a lot of stage combat. Expect not to be bored. The show is officially open November 17 through December 23. More details at theflea.org. Also visit vampirecowboys.com.

“Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” goes into previews at the Minetta Lane Theatre on November 7. Hats off to whomever thunk this one up, it’s a savvy bit of producing even as it supports a good cause. Among the well-known playwrights who have lent their talents to the bill of marriage equality one-acts are Moisés Kaufman, Paul Rudnick, Neil Labute and Wendy MacLeod. It officially opens November 13; let’s hope political events give it a limited shelf life. Visit standingonceremony.net.

The prolific and dedicated Israel Horovitz, author of “Line,” “The Indian Wants the Bronx” and a gazillion others is back this month with a brand new play at the Cherry Lane. Called “Gloucester Blue,” it’s described as a black comedy about a man who returns home (to Gloucester, presumably, where most of Horovitz’s recent work tends to be set) and encounters a morass of infidelities and murders. And fish sticks. No, I’m just kiddin’. The play runs November 17 through December 3. For tickets and info: cherrylanetheatre.org.

Lastly, on December 29, the Public Theatre will open their new production of the William Shakespeare horror show “Titus Andronicus” directed by Michael Sexton.

Sexton has been the artistic director of the not-for-profit Shakespeare Society for many years. Before that, I knew him primarily as “the other guy who pulled the rope.” Many years ago, we were both stage hands at Trinity Rep in Providence — where our job was to hoist the ghost of Jacob Marley high into the air in “A Christmas Carol.” No doubt, the sparks will fly in this notoriously bloody Elizabethan potboiler, featuring film and TV star Jay O. Sanders as the titular Titus. Go to publictheater.org for more info.

That’s all for now. Except for this word of advice: You know how you and all your friends and relatives tend to be lying around like slugs the day after Thanksgiving, full up to the gullet with turkey and cranberry sauce and such-like — inert and wondering what to do with yourselves? Heed this sage advice from your Know-All Correspondent. Get thee to a Downtown theatre!

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