Thursday, January 31, 2008

It Happens In May: Colorful World

Well, gang. We've got ourselves a venue and schedule for Nosedive's next full-length play. Colorful World will go up for four weekends in May (8-31, Thursday through Saturday) at 8 p.m. at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, Second Floor (where we staged PULP and a number of other shows now) on 236 West 78th Street.

I just sent Pete the second batch of rewrites and am very excited about this show. It's quite different from anything we've staged before.

I'll give you more details about the production as they unfold. But for now, mark your freakin' calendars, folks. Colorful World goes up in May at the 78th Street Theatre Lab.

Nosedive Productions Presents

Colorful World

(The Superhero Play)

A new play by James Comtois

Loosely inspired by Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons and
The Dark Knight series by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson

Directed by Pete Boisvert

In 1988, the world discovered a man who was indestructible, impervious to pain, and able to destroy a tank with his mind.

In the early-nineties, a trend where people dressed up in flashy costumes and fought crime took the nation by storm.

Now it's 2005. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are still standing. The Iraq War is coming to a close. Hurricane Katrina has decimated New Orleans. And several former costumed crimefighters realize their marks on the world are more akin to members of hair metal bands.

A drunk in a cape,

James "Your Hero" Comtois

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm Having...

...a bitch of a time writing about Steppenwolf's production of Tracy Letts’s new play, August: Osage County, mainly because I’m not sure if I should take a page from Matthew Freeman’s anti-reviewing philosophy and just go, “Jesus Christ, people! Go see this! It’ll be easily the best thing you’ll see all year,” or give it it’s due and write a well-reasoned analysis/review of the piece.

I keep starting and re-starting from either angle and end up being dissatisfied with what I’ve written.

Suffice it to say, I’ll spend the rest of today and tomorrow trying to overcome this conundrum, but for now I’ll say that if you haven’t yet seen August: Osage County, you really should. It’s only the second play I’ve seen this year and it looks like it’s already a shoe-in for one of the best plays of 2008 (yes, I liked it that much).

The acting across the board is excellent.

The story is captivating and compelling.

The set is amazing.

The play flies by at three and a half hours.

Ultimately, I felt like I was watching a marathon session of a really good HBO series. (Oh, wait. Right. I'm not supposed to compare theatre to television. Whatever. I'm doing it, anyway. Suck it.)

The story is captivating and compelling.So, yeah. While I try to get my act in gear, you should go see August: Osage County.

Hemming and hawing,

James "I Loved It" Comtois

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

3800 Elizabeth: A Sitcom For the Stage

Although I'll be plugging the final Saturday Night Saloon event in these pages very soon, I'll pause for a moment to actually plug a show I'm not directly involved in (that I'm looking forward to) featuring some Nosedive alum that takes place the following day in the same venue.

Beginning this Sunday, February 3, The Welding Club presents 3800 Elizabeth, a "sitcom for the stage."

According to co-writer and director Aaron Baker, 3800 Elizabeth follows the absurd non-adventures of Germanophile bartender AJ, his hypochondriac ex-girlfriend Sonja and his recently-moved-to- the-big-city-from-a-slightly-smaller-city childhood friend Mike.

Each week, Mike will make impractical life decisions, Sonja will think about Jane Eyre, AJ will offer up witty rejoinders along with Gibsons and Old Fashioneds and quite possibly we'll all learn a valuable (or maybe not-so-valuable) lesson.

3800 Elizabeth

Written by Aaron Baker and Frank Padellaro
Produced and directed by Aaron Baker
Stage Managed by Berit Johnson

Featuring Michael Criscuolo, Peter Handy* and Iracel Rivero

3800 Elizabeth will feature six brand-new episodes and one rerun. Special guest stars include Gyda Arber, Fred Backus, Alexis Black*, Bryan Enk, Heath Kelts* and (as they say) More!

*member Actors' Equity Association - Equity Approved Showcase

Admission is free.

Sundays at 8 p.m. starting February 3 (until March 16)

The Battle Ranch
111 Conselyea Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Tired of reality television,

James “Screw You, Celebrity Apprentice!” Comtois

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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Writers Strike

Seth McFarlane envisions negotiations that actually go somewhere...

H/t Mr. Ben VandenBoom.

Part squirrel,

James "Nut Luster" Comtois

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So I've...

...bought my ticket for August: Osage County for tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it.

Getting off the mat,

James "Once & Future Theatre Patron" Comtois

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Contemplating Writing On A Friday Afternoon

You know, for a four-day week, it sure does seem like this week was interminable. I really am relieved it's finally Friday.

We've begun rehearsals for the final episode of Pinkie, giving ourselves two weeks of rehearsal instead of the usual one. But I guess that makes sense: since this is the final episode, the one that supposedly ties everything together, it's a tad longer, more intricate and more talkative than the previous episodes.

Or, as Marsha says during rehearsals, "Talky-talky-talky-talky..."

Although this was posted a while ago, Mr. Matthew Freeman and Mr. Mark Armstrong brought this to my attention, so I figured I'd indulge on this Friday afternoon.

Marisa Wegrzyn writes this:

For writers and writing, I'm not so interested in learning about the nebulous, intangible stuff of inspiration and creativity. Borrrrrring. I prefer the quantifiable details: Where do you write? When? Pencil or pen? In a spiral notebook or on office legal pads? When you write on the computer, what font do you use? How do you format your stage directions? Where do you go for character names? When you write at Starbucks, what do you drink? Do you snack? How good is your writing after a couple glasses of crummy [yellowtail]? Music? No? If music, what kind, how loud? Do you wear pants? Can you write on a bus? On a train? In bed?

Here are my best attempts at answers:

Where do you write? When?
Often at work (at my day job), during the day. Sometimes at home. Sometimes at bars (though I find I really just write my notes at bars).

Pencil or pen?

In a spiral notebook or on office legal pads?
Office legal pads.

When you write on the computer, what font do you use?
I used to use Palatino 12 pt., but now it's Times new Roman (also 12 pt.).

How do you format your stage directions?
If they're short, in parentheses within the dialogue. If they're long, centered (like blockquotes on blogger). Always in italics.

Where do you go for character names?
Sometimes they're names of people I know (or knew). Sometimes I try to think of a common name I haven't used before (or in a long while).

When you write at Starbucks, what do you drink?
I don't.

Do you snack?
Not unless smoking counts as "snacking."

How good is your writing after a couple glasses of Blue Moon beer?
You'd have to ask someone who's read or seen The Awaited Visit (my play written deliberately after getting super-drunk).

You bet. I really dig it while writing.

If music, what kind, how loud?
Depends on the script or scene.

Do you wear pants?
Yes. Yes, I do.

Can you write on a bus?

On a train?

In bed?

Anyway, I hope any of this was at all fun or enlightening. At any rate, have a good weekend, folks. And thanks to Isaac Butler for the very nice shout-out!

Takin' his pants off for rewrites,

James "Unencumbered" Comtois

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Superheroes Can't Have Paunchy Middles

As I finish the latest round of post-reading rewrites for Colorful World, Patrick discusses his efforts to get in shape for playing one of the superheroes in said play here.

Well, okay, he's also doing this for himself. But I suppose the impending production is also serving as a catalyst to start dieting and exercising for real.

This, of course, is coming from a person who still can't see his feet. Sigh...

Adding Canadian bacon to his blue
cheese bacon cheddar cheeseburger,

James "More Mayo, Please" Comtois

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Showcase Numbers

Isaac crunches some numbers and makes some good sense here. Anyone interested in the debate about Showcase reform should check it out.

Steaming a good ham,

James "Skinner" Comtois

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Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

I'm a day late in posting something about the death of Heath Ledger because I really didn’t (and don’t) have anything to bring to the table about it. When a co-worker of mine pointed out his obituary at about 4:30 yesterday, the word "surprised" doesn’t do the concept justice. It was simply news I was not expecting to get (not unlike the time Patrick emailed me to tell me Mitch Hedberg died).


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Very Short Movie Review

So. Saw Juno last night. I really enjoyed it. At first I was worried it was going to be too cute and coy for its own good, but the "zinging" dialogue settles down pretty quickly and you do realize, as precocious as Ellen Page's Juno is and as witty as Diablo Cody's script is, you realize you are watching believable, sympathetic and likable characters doing believable things.

I think those who find Page's Juno to be overly flippant should watch the film again and rather than listen to her one-liners, watch her face as she walks (er, waddles) through the halls of her school. It's filled with sadness and exhaustion and a sense of being overwhelmed. This is not an ironic or flippant movie.

The cast across the board is great. Even Vanessa (Jennifer Garner), who at first appears to be crazy of the "Back Away Slowly" variety, is very touching and heartbreaking.

But in my assessment, Juno is quite good; much better than Knocked Up.

Wanting to punch people in the wiener,

James "HVAC Man" Comtois


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Lazy Bastard

I'm hoping that I'll resume writing about theatre (aside from posting blatant plugs) in the not-too-distant future. The reason why I haven't (aside from writing up my Top Ten list) is simply because so far I haven't seen any plays. I really don't know why that is. Maybe I'm just temporarily burnt out. Maybe I just haven't yet heard about anything just that I need to see. Maybe I'm just freakin' lazy.

Okay, I actually think a combination of all three has taken place. (And no, I feel no compulsion to catch this before it goes up to the Great Production in the Sky. Okay, maybe if you're a super hot chick reading this and have an extra ticket and want me to be your date, I'll consider it.)

In truth, much of my focus of late has been spent finishing my personal writing assignments, catching up on my movie going (December and January is usually reserved for going to the movies) and reading comics (I received Seth's It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken, Chester Brown's The Playboy and Joe Matt's The Poor Bastard for Christmas, all of which I recommend, particularly It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken).

Yeah, I really understand what Mac's talking about when he admits:

"The extreme busy-ness of 2007 caused me to crash and withdraw a little bit, to be honest, terrified of anything that looks like work. ... I've never had the nonstop energy or killer instinct that a lot of successful showbiz people have. I get tired. I need time between shows to get drinks with people and watch DVDs on my computer."

Thanks for admitting this, Mac. I thought it was just me!

Anyway, I'll get back off the mat soon. In the meantime, the folks at Nosedive Central are getting ready for the first reading of Colorful World tomorrow, as well as rehearsing the final episode of Pinkie for the Saturday Night Saloon. I have to say, I'm excited about both (as well as feeling simultaneously relieved and saddened to be bringing the story of 1890s private investigator William "Dusty" Denton and his case to a close).

If anyone has any strong recommendations for shows either open or about to open in the city, by all means let me know. You can plug a good show that's not taking place in New York, but I probably won't go.

Unless, of course, you're a super hot chick that wants to take me and house me afterwards.

No super hot married chicks, please.

Fine with married chicks,
James "Homewrecking Theatregoer" Comtois

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mac Rogers Talks Back

Mac Rogers, usurper of the Miss Brooklyn Crown and author of the soon-to-be-published Universal Robots, talks about life, love, his battle against huffing and the pitfalls of tapping into the zeitgeist here.

(Okay, so maybe he doesn't talk about that stuff so much as he talks about writing and producing theatre.)

That adorable little minx, Michael Criscuolo, conducted the interview.

Wanting his crown back,

James "Miss Pretty" Comtois

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Final Note For The Week

Is the world really just going super crazy all at once? Is that what's going on?

Not gettin' this place no more,

James "Weirded Out" Comtois

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Wrappin' Stuff Up

With the final episode of Pinkie finished and sent off to the cast (WOO-HOO!), that makes today "Finish Rewrites on Colorful World Day." I mean, sure, I'll most likely do some more retouches later this month (and possibly February), but for all intents and purposes, today’s the day where I (theoretically) finish all the initial rewrites to get the script in a solid enough position to be read aloud by the folks in Nosedive Central.

I guess this means that, starting next week, I begin my completely new writing project for real (which I'll keep under my hat for the time being, if that's okay).

Next week I'll offer more details about what we at Nosedive Central have decided our 2008 season will look like. Suffice it to say, we've had to make a few small changes here and there to our original plans, but regardless, we’re pretty happy about what we've come up with and what we plan to do for the year.

Anyway, that's it for me for the week. Have a good weekend, folks. I’ll talk to you on Monday.

Almost done his Nosedive writing obligations,

James "Lazy Bitch" Comtois

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Get Real!"

MattJ just sent me this. It really made my day. God bless you, David Lynch.

A Luddite,

James "Caveman" Comtois

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

So, Yeah...

...I saw Paul Thomas Anderson's latest, There Will Be Blood last night. Not 100% sure what to think of it (especially being a huge Anderson fan, having loved all four of his previous films, including Hard Eight). I definitely think the Coens' No Country For Old Men is a superior film, but maybe that was my problem: I went in this expecting to see the Greatest. Movie. Ever.

Though a tad too bitchy and negative, film critic Stephanie Zacharek said it best in her review:

"This isn't a cynical picture, just a maddeningly incomplete one. And it's too emotionally constrained to be worthy of Anderson's considerable gifts. There Will Be Blood strives for boldness, instead of just being bold."

I'm not saying I didn't like it (I did), nor am I saying I thought it isn't a very well-made movie (it is). It's just that, despite its presentation as an epic, There Will Be Blood feels very thin; very cold.

Anyone else see it? Your thoughts?


James "Turning Point" Comtois


Monday, January 07, 2008

Onward and Upward

The penultimate Saturday Night Saloon has come and gone with more than a little fanfare, which means I have this week and next to write the final episode of Pinkie, so it can be ready to be staged on Saturday, February 2.

I have to say, this last installment was an absolute blast. We received some good energy from a large house, and had a whole lot of fun performing in this episode (though, I'm being a tad presumptuous here: the rest of the cast seemed to be enjoying themselves Saturday night and said at the bar afterwards that they had fun, so, heh, I’m taking their high-energy performances and post-show statements at face value and assuming they weren’t phoning it in or lying to me).

I seriously can't wait for the final Saloon (not only to perform episode five of Pinkie, but to see how all the other shows end).

The folks at Nosedive Central will be meeting this week to go over the nuts 'n' bolts of our 2008 season. We know Colorful World will be the centerpiece: the main full-length play we plan to stage sometime in the spring. But there are still some other pieces of business (i.e., possibly remounting The Adventures of Nervous-Boy in the summer and/or staging a new Blood Brothers anthology show in October) that we have to take care of.

As soon as we have a firm grasp on what we're doing and when this year, I’ll let you folks know.

Okay, back to writing episode five of Pinkie and rewriting Colorful World.

The laziest go-getter in town,

James "Slap Happy" Comtois

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Episode Four of Pinkie This Saturday Night

Now that I've posted by "Best Of" list and have been back in the city for nearly a week, it's time to resume the blatant plugging.

The fourth entry of Vampire Cowboys' monthly Saturday Night Saloon series, featuring the penultimate episode of Nosedive's Old West noir, Pinkie, takes place this Saturday night at 8 p.m. the Battle Ranch on 111 Conselyea Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

To get everyone up to speed, in Pinkie, William "Dusty" Denton, an ex-Pinkerton Agent, is starting life anew as an independent private investigator in a small Colorado town after leaving the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Stubby Gilbert, the local saloonkeeper, has hired Dusty to discover the identity (or identities) of the person (or persons) throwing rocks in the windows of his saloon and harassing him outside his home late at night.

Stubby believes the perpetrators of this harassment are the farmhands of Jason Norris, profiteer, entrepreneur, and the sheriff's cousin. After Stubby leaves Dusty's office, Charlie Burnside, a Pinkerton Agent and Dusty's old partner, shows up to intimidate Dusty enough to drop Stubby as a client. Despite Charlie's threats, Dusty insists that he'll take Stubby's case and be paying Mr. Norris a visit.

Upon entry of the Norris ranch, Dusty finds the proprietor, Jason Norris, deader than a doornail, hit on the head by a blunt object. It is at the ranch that Dusty meets Blossom, a prostitute working for Stubby that is seeing Norris on the side and under the radar, unbeknownst to her employer.

Dusty convinces Blossom that he is not Norris' killer, then Blossom catches on that Dusty is a private investigator, and (falsely) assumes that Stubby has hired him to either intimidate Norris or find blackmail material to make Norris turn over his antique arquebus: according to Blossom, both Jason Norris and Stubby Gilbert have claimed to be the antique gun's rightful owner, as both have claimed their great-great grandfathers used it to win a duel.

However, ownership of the gun may be a moot point, since the gun is now missing (and Norris may have been the only person who knew of its whereabouts).

After Blossom leaves the Norris ranch, Dusty hears the farmhands, Mike and Harry, approach. Hiding, Dusty overhears Mike and Harry panic, then get intimidated and briefed by Charlie, who has shown up for some unknown reason. At some point, Mike says something about Sally blowing her stack if she finds out Norris is dead.

Dusty escapes the ranch and heads over to Stubby's bar & brothel, the Arcade Saloon, with his assistant Eileen Clayton. While going over their notes on the case, and agreeing that Mike and Harry are unlikely suspects to Stubby's recent harassment (they being, let's face it, wimps), Dusty and Eileen are approached by a drunk and angry ne'erdowell named Leland, who apparently has a seething hatred against Pinkerton Agents. Leland is distracted and sedated by one of the Arcade's prostitutes, Sally (the same Sally Mike mentioned). According to Sally, both Stubby and Blossom are unavailable (Stubby's out sick, Blossom's out...entertaining).

Dusty learns from Sally that a Pinkerton Agent killed Leland's brother in the Northwest Railroad Strike a few years back and in the "What Are the Odds" department, not only was the Pinkerton's involvement in the strike one of the reasons why Dusty left the Agency, but it turns out that Jason Norris used to own the Northwest Railroad.

Leland returns to the Arcade to talk with Sally, and by "talk," I mean, "threaten." What's he threatening her with? It's hard for Dusty to say: it sounds as though that Leland's insisting that Sally find Jason Norris' missing arquebus, but nothing can be confirmed for sure. Dusty decides to intervene in Sally and Leland's argument, which angers both Sally and Leland, who both leave the saloon.

Upon their departure, Charlie and two other Pinkerton Agents arrive at the Arcade, ready to arrest Dusty. Arrest him for what? Charlie never says: he pistol-whips the ex-Pinkie, who falls unconscious.

Will all - or any - of this begin to make sense in episode four? Show up to the Ranch this Saturday to find out.

Dancing as fast as he can
to write episode five,

James "Home Stretch" Comtois

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Top 10 of 2007

It's time once again for Little Jimmy's Take-It-Or-Leave-It Top Ten Plays of the Year.

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive of doing a list this time around. Not because I didn't see enough plays (my self-made criteria was at least 31 productions, which I more than fulfilled), nor because I didn't see a number of very good plays (I did). In my estimation, 2007 was an excellent year for plays and I had a good selection to choose from for my annual "cream of the crop."

No. The reason why I was a bit apprehensive is because, despite having seen more plays in '07 than in '06 or '05, I missed out on possibly 99% of the most talked-about and well-regarded shows of the year (I'll talk about this more shortly). Granted, this has never bothered me before, but for some reason it did this time 'round.

I'm not 100% sure why this is. Perhaps because the longer I do this, the more compelled I am to "step up the game." In some ways, I believe I am (I'm seeing more shows each year and keeping better track of what I'm seeing). But at the same time, when I look at the number of shows I've missed, I wince.

I also noticed that there's a lot of nepotism in this year's list: of the 10 shows on this year's list, four were made by good friends of mine. Two of the 10 were made by friendly acquaintances. Which leaves four on the list made by people I didn't know personally.

Then again, I ultimately said, "feh." With the thousands of shows going up in the New York area alone in the calendar year, there really is no way to be a comprehensive playgoer (as opposed to a movie that can be seen on DVD after its initial release, once a play closes, the production is gone).

Also, let's face it: I have some pretty gosh-darned talented friends who shouldn't be punished simply because they know me. (After all, isn't knowing me punishment enough?)

(This is also one of the reasons why I originally started doing this annual list: to give kudos and recognition to some shows that might have otherwise passed the radar of some mainstream outlets; to congratulate the makers of plays that deserved much more recognition than they might have received.)

So, what high profile and oft-talked about shows did I miss in 2007? Seriously, folks, there were a lot. In terms of the big shows that were the talk of the town this past year, I did not see Spring Awakening, Grey Gardens, Blackbird, Peter and Jerry, The Coast of Utopia, August: Osage County or Rock 'n' Roll. I also missed the much talked-about Off-off/indie shows such as Riding the Bull, 12th Night of the Living Dead, David Johnston's The Oresteia and Departures.

So remember, these are not the ten best plays produced in 2007, these are the ten best plays I saw in 2007 (kind of a given, I know, but I figure it's something worth repeating).

For those interested, the final tally of productions I saw in 2007 ended up to be 49 plays (compared to the 41 plays I saw in 2006): nearly a play a week. Of the 49 plays I saw in 2007, I only saw one Broadway show, nine Off-Broadway shows and 39 Off-off-Broadway shows. My final tally for the top ten: one Broadway, one Off-Broadway and eight Off-off-Broadway.

I ended up seeing two shows this year (Mac Rogers' Hail Satan and Qui Nguyen's Living Dead in Denmark) that were on previous "Best of" lists. You will notice that they are not on this year's "best of" list. Does this mean that they don't live up to repeat viewings or compare to newer efforts? No. I just took it as a given that, as wonderful as it was to see these shows again, they wouldn't be eligible for the list this time 'round.

(Not that it matters; you'll notice that both of these fuckers got on the list regardless.)

Okay, enough dicking around. Here, in ascending order, the ten best plays I saw in 2007:

10. The Dirty Talk
(Spare Change Productions, written by Michael Puzzo, directed by Padriac Lillis, at Center Stage)

Two men stranded in a cabin during a torrential downpour, The Dirty Talk (which is featured in Plays and Playwrights 2006) is an excellent example of character development and storytelling: The fun of the play is slowly and steadily finding out who these men are, what their connection is and why they're stranded in the cabin. Michael Puzzo's script takes its time in filling the audience in as to what's going on. And Sidney Williams and Kevin Cristaldi are perfectly cast as the odd couple stranded in the woods.

9. A Guy Adrift in the Universe
(Four Chairs Theatre, by Larry Kunofsky, directed by Jacob Krueger, at Roy Arias Studios & Theatres)

Martin Denton described the play this way: "Imagine Larry David and Thornton Wilder collaborating on a re-do of Our Town." I don't think I could have put it better. A Guy is born, lives his life and then dies, all in the span of about an hour and a half. Simultaneously unsentimental and touching, A Guy Adrift in the Universe is a unique and honest view of Life (capital L) and Humanity. Writer Larry Kunofsky and director Jacob Krueger reveal humanity as an incredibly whiny, selfish and insufferable race, but suggest that these may be endearing and sympathetic qualities.

8. An Interview With the Author
(Blue Coyote/Pretentious Festival, written by Matthew Freeman, directed by Kyle Ancowitz, at the Brick Theatre)

Writer/performer Matthew Freeman interviews himself in a Q&A session that starts out ultra-congratulatory then becomes very, very up-close-and-personal, perhaps even too up-close-and-personal for the author. An insightful look at what goes on in the mind of a critically-acclaimed Off-off Broadway playwright and delivering exactly what it promises, An Interview With the Author was one of the funniest plays I saw in 2007.

7. The Magic of Mrs. Crowling
(Horse Trade/Royal Circus, written by Brian Silliman, directed by Abe Goldfarb, at the Horse Trade Kraine Theatre)

Simultaneously a satire of fantasy books and stories and a defense of them, The Magic of Mrs. Crowling is a deceptively candid play about grief and the degree to which people use fantasy and escapism to deal with grief and loss. This was an incredibly funny, touching and honest show.

6. Talk Radio
(Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and JAM Theatricals, by Eric Bogosian, directed by Robert Falls, at the Longacre Theater)

Many critics have called Live Schreiber the greatest actor of his generation. Now having finally seen him perform live, I see what all the fuss is about. And when Mr. Schreiber, playing shock jock Barry Champlain, yells, "Your fear, your own lives, have become your entertainment," I can't say I find this concept dated or passé.

5. Macbeth Without Words
(Piper McKenzie Productions/Pretentious Festival, written by William Shakespeare, adapted & directed by Jeff Lewonczyk, at the Brick Theatre)

Exactly what the title promises: a performance of William Shakespeare's tragedy about the overly ambitious usurping Scottish king who gets his comeuppance, with nary a line spoken. Jeff Lewonczyk expertly adapted and directed an all-movement pantomime performance of Macbeth that was both lucid and mesmerizing. This was great fun.

4. Gutenberg! The Musical!
(UCB Theatre, written by Scott Brown & Anthony King, directed by Alex Timbers, at The Actors' Playhouse)

This "backer's audition" for an incomplete musical about the inventor of the printing press was absolutely hilarious. Despite a bunch of ironic humor throughout, there's such a sweet, un-ironic humanity to its main characters, aspiring Broadway musical writers Bud and Doug, that made me excited for them to get their very silly play off the ground. I left the theatre smiling.

3. Men of Steel
(Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company, written by Qui Nguyen, directed by Robert Ross Parker, at Center Stage)

Well, hey. Is it even remotely a surprise that a Vampire Cowboys show is on this list? What can I say? Every year Robert, Qui & Co. top themselves, and 2007 was no exception. Men of Steel, easily Qui's most ambitious Vampire Cowboy script to-date, is about comic book superheroes getting into serious moral and legal troubles. Fun and engaging from start to finish, especially for us geeks who have such a fondness for superhero comics. Even for those who have never read a Spider-Man comic or played with a Star Wars action figure or even owned a LEGO set, this was (is) a great show.

2. Welcome to Nowhere (bullet hole road)
(Temporary Distortion, written & directed by Kenneth Collins, at The Chocolate Factory)

Temporary Distortion's deconstructionist take on the modern American road movie is a captivating, hypnotic and mesmerizing work of art, easily one of the best plays I've seen this year. I've never seen anything like this on the stage. Sure, I've seen plays that utilize non-linear storytelling, mixed- and multi-media. I've also seen works that act more as installation pieces than conventional "plays" before. But I've never seen something that employs all these methods that is so compelling, so haunting, so thoroughly absorbing. I loved this show.

And the best play I saw in 2007 was...

1. Universal Robots
(Gideon Productions, written & directed by Mac Rogers, at manhattantheatresource)

On one hand, many of you may be rolling your eyes over me choosing a play written and directed by a frequent Nosedive collaborator. The rest of you, however, have actually seen this brilliant play and know exactly what I'm talking about. This bare bones production of Mac's epic script about robots taking over humanity reminded me of the ways theatre can surpass film in terms of scope, storytelling and conveying ideas. Part science fiction, part political allegory, part thriller, part redemptive tragedy, part spiritual parable and part historical fiction run amok, Universal Robots brings so many ideas to the table and examines them all thoroughly. This was, without any doubt, the best play I saw this past year.

So let's bring on 2008!

Ready for the New Year,

James "Diaper Boy" Comtois

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back To Work...

Well, I've returned to the Rotten Apple and the desk of my day job, slowly and steadily getting re-acclimated to New York living. Yeah, it's very surreal being back for me. I’m hoping to snap out of it soon. I probably will, but it's amazing what spending two weeks in the snowy woods doing virtually nothing and seeing virtually no one will do to a fellah. (I swear, the Christmas Carol cast party feels like it took place during my college years.)

Still, I hope everyone enjoyed their various holidays and are enjoying 2008 so far.

Tomorrow I plan to post my "Top Ten" for 2007 list, with the obligatory explanations, apologies and grains of salt.

Anyway, Happy New Year, everybody!

Already not knowing how to do his job,

James "Rusty" Comtois

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