Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faith No More

When I was informed about this from my old grade and high school chum, Chuck Robidoux, I nearly ruined my trousers. Here's hoping they'll be doing some U.S. dates.

I know reunion tours are supposed to be cheesy and just fast and cheap ways to make a quick buck but don't ruin this for me.

The news coincides with the news of FNM frontman Mike Patton doing the music for this movie, which looks like just about the awesomest thing ever:

Caring a lot,

James "Mark Bowen" Comtois


Congrats and Other Stuff

As my buds and fellow Blood Brothers scribes Mac and Qui enjoy hurtling into the pantheon, I'm doing...well, precious little at the moment, actually.

I mean, I've been seeing a bunch of plays, including Red Fern's Raised in Captivity, Sheila Callaghan's That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play, the penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful and gearing up to see Chautauqua! tonight with Miss Gyda Arber (by the National Theater of the United States of America, whose Abacus Black Strikes Now: The Rampant Justice of Abacus Black made my Top Ten list for 2006). I also need to find times to see this, this and this.

As well as this and this.

I mean, sure, Nosedive's Disturbing Burlesque goes up Wednesday, March 11 at UNDER St. Mark's and Infectious Opportunity will be staged this summer, but at the moment I'm not really in high gear for those projects (half the work for Disturbing Burlesque has been done, with the other half needing to be done the week of).

But for the time being, I don't have a whole hell of a lot to report.

I'm sure that'll all change in the next week or dos, but for the time being I'll just reiterate my congratulations to Mac, Qui, and the rest of the casts and crew of Universal Robots and Soul Samurai for bringing the awesome at the same damn time.

Heaving with pride,

James "Overbearing Mother" Comtois

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Soul Samurai

Zombie films. Superhero comics. Sci-fi adventure flicks. With each new show, the Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company tackles a new pulp fanboy genre or subgenre with zeal and relish. This year, the Cowboys have taken elements from '70s blaxploitation films (Black Belt Jones, Blackula, Shaft), the video game-like cult movie The Warriors and, of course, martial arts movies, to create Soul Samurai, which is 100 minutes of pure unadulterated fun.

Once again written and choreographed by Qui Nguyen and directed by Robert Ross Parker (the company's creators and co-artistic directors), Soul Samurai follows the trials and tribulations of Dewdrop (Maureen Sebastian), a once wallflower but now deadly samurai assassin, as she travels the streets and abandoned subway tunnels of a post-apocalyptic gang-run New York to avenge the death of her lover, Sally December (Bonnie Sherman).

As Dewdrop mows down, and is hunted by, various gang members and gang leaders, she unwillingly acquires an annoying yet surprisingly resourceful sidekick, Cert (Paco Tolson). Her main target of revenge: Boss 2K (Sheldon Best), overlord of the most feared gang in Brooklyn (and probably all of New York, for that matter). Jon Hoche also appears in many roles throughout ranging from a disgruntled gang member, to the leader of an underground (literally) religious group to a very angry puppet.

Many fights, chases, revelations and confrontations with angry puppets ensue.

One of the (many) things I loved about Soul Samurai is how Qui's script jumps back and forth through time more often than a Quentin Tarantino film. The show opens with Dewdrop exacting revenge on Boss 2K (seriously, folks, I've spoiled nothing: it's the first scene in the play), and then jumps back and forth from how she and other characters got to that place to the aftermath of her actions.

Rather than create a jumbled mess, the end result is a taut and exciting story with an expansive mythology (there's a particularly fascinating and engaging way the show slowly and steadily deals with the origin story of one character, which I won't reveal here). There are also scenes of particular poignancy and darkness that separates Soul Samurai from the realm of '70s exploitation film parodies that just get off on the jive-talking slang and afros.

Everyone involved - Robert & Qui, the cast, the designers (Nick Francone on set & lights, Sharath Patel on sound, Sarah Laux and Jessica Wegener on costumes, Ashley Ryan on wigs & hair and David Valentine on puppets) - does an outstanding job here and deserves kudos. I should also point out that according to the program there are 19 characters in this show, which has a cast of five, which is impressive to say the least.

Just as George Lucas did with the original Star Wars (seriously, folks, I don't want to get into a debate about the sequels and prequels, so can we all just agree how kick ass the 1977 original is?) and Tarantino does with his films, the Vampire Cowboys manage to create truly new and original mythologies and compelling stories based on the spare parts of other works. Sure, there are elements of pastiche here. But Qui, Robert & Co. clearly know the difference between homage and rip-off.

Every year I always look forward to the latest Vampire Cowboys show the way a young child looks forward to Christmas. And unlike some Christmases, the Cowboys never disappoint. I'm definitely going to see Soul Samurai again before it closes.

Soul Samurai runs at the HERE Arts Center on 145 Sixth Avenue until March 15. Get your tickets here.

Flipping off puppets,

James "Jive-Ass Turkey" Comtois

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Getting My Soul Back

Well, my fellow theatre and pop culture sluts, I'm all set to go see Vampire Cowboys' latest piece of awesomocity, Soul Samurai, with many other folks from Nosedive Central. This is sure to be some balls-to-the-wall fun, about which I'll no doubt natter on at length on this site in the not-too-distant future.

If you're one of those people not seeing it with/through us tonight (and shame on you! Shame!), you should get your tickets pretty damn quickly, 'cuz I have a feeling this run will sell out soon.

Already performing kung fu moves on his landlady,

James "Evicted and Homeless" Comtois

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Random News Roundup

Unrelated to anything in particular, I just noticed that my previous post on Universal Robots (posted on Friday the 13th, no less) was entry number 666. I just thought you'd all like to know that.

Now that I've spent my three-day weekend downloading various pictures of women in various states of undress for my own edification - yes, my nickname for my penis is "edification" - I'm gearing up with the rest of the folks from Nosedive Central for the Soul Samurai Nosedive Night this Thursday. If anyone's still interested in coming to see the Thursday, February 19th show, send me an email.

I for one absolutely can't wait to see Vampire Cowboys' latest. But alas, it looks like I will have to wait another two days, so in the meantime, I'll continue to download more nudie pics from the glorious, glorious 'net.

I also just signed and faxed over the release agreement to the Chicago-based theatre company Gorilla Tango Theatre for their scheduled production of The Adventures of Nervous-Boy this summer. I'm interested to see how they plan to stage my bizarre little screed for the stage/on-paper meltdown. Heck, it gives me a good excuse to re-visit the Windy City, as I haven't been there in nine years. Is the pizza still good?

All about pizza and boobs,

James "Your Ideal Date" Comtois

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Universal Robots Revised and Revisited

I should probably warn people that there are some parts of this entry that could be seen as spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

Mac Rogers' Universal Robots takes a well-worn plot and premise from the pulp sci-fi stories from the 1940s and '50s - robots taking over the world - and elevates it to the level of Great Drama akin to works from such heavyweights as Chekov, Beckett, Pinter, or Albee.

Why am I so confident in making such a seemingly hyperbolic statement? I think anyone who's seen or read it will know I'm not exaggerating. In his original review of the play when it was originally staged in the summer of 2007, Martin Denton wrote:

"Rogers has used Karel Capek's famous play R.U.R. as inspiration for Universal Robots, along with some of the events of Capek's life and that of his brother Josef; this is no simple adaptation, though, but rather a sort of mashup of the original play, the Capeks' biographies, and a good deal of mid-20th century history, all filtered through a very contemporary horror/sci-fi sensibility. The result is a drama that's astute, ideological in the best possible way, and enormously compelling and entertaining."

Universal Robots is a pageant put on by a race (robots) about how they came into existence and flourished at the expense of another race (humans). Rogers has created an alternate history of the world about socially conscious/activist Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek (David Ian Lee) and his sister, Josephine (Jennifer Gordon Thomas) creating a play called The Drudges, similar to Capek's seminal play, Rossum's Universal Robots (which introduced the word and modern-day premise of "robots").

Of course, right after the opening of The Drudges, the Capek siblings are greeted by Helen (Esther Barlow), the daughter of a scientist that has indeed created the automata that they have written about. These automata, which Josephine dubs "robots," look just like humans, but can do the drudge and dangerous work that humans don't want to do.

Since the Capeks are good friends with the newly elected president of Czechoslovakia (David Lamberton), Rossum (Nancy Sirianni), the inventor of the robots, has approached them to convince the president to fund the project for mass production.

This provides an interesting prospect for Karel. If he agrees to help Rossum with the mass production and distribution of robots, it opens several ethical cans of worms that may be too big for him and the president to control. If he refuses, he's openly admitting that his desire for playwrights to be marginalized in society and his desire for massive social change has just been empty rhetoric.

So, robots are unveiled to the world. And said ethical cans of worms open, slowly at first, then at a faster and faster rate, until the human characters realize it's far too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

Then there's also the very moving subplot involving Josephine's interaction (relationship?) with the first fully functioning robot, Radius (Jason Howard). See, Radius was designed to look like a man named Radosh, a sweet and simple-minded owner of a café the Kapeks and their artist friends would meet at. Jo had feelings for Radosh, but were unrequited after a revolutionary blew up the café with Radosh in it. These scenes in particular, where Jo seeks - perhaps quixotically - for affection from Radius are touching and heartbreaking, especially when you consider where their relationship goes as the play progresses.

I saw the workshop production back in 2007 and thought it was the best play I had seen that year. It has been remounted with most of the original cast, but with a new director (Rosemary Andress, replacing Rogers who served as director of the 2007 workshop), a new set and some minor revisions in the script and is still headed to be one of the best shows I've seen in 2009.

It's simultaneously so dense yet doesn't feel overstuffed, filled with numerous subplots yet not remotely overwritten, intensely philosophical and thought provoking without once being heavy-handed or didactic, very fun without feeling frivolous. It has the perfect blend of high-minded art and pulpy genre fun.

How does Rogers & Company pull this off? I think because the philosophical, historical and spiritual elements never take place at the expense of the story. This also means you don't need to enter the theatre with a doctorate in mid-20th Century history or any knowledge of the Kapeks' work or biographies to follow the play. Sure, if you have either of those things they can add to the experience, but they're not essential.

Then there's the cast (which also includes Michelle O'Connor, Ridley Parson, Tarantino Smith and Ben Sulzbach), which is stellar. From O'Connor's narration to Howard's jaw-droppingly robotic voice to Lee's arrogant and naïve Karel to Parson's cocky American consultant urging the Czechoslovakian president to use the robots as soldiers to prevent World War II, everyone in the show sells the story, which again, is seemingly simple yet deceptively complex.

This truly is the stuff of Great Theatre (Title Case intended). For those who missed the workshop production, I can't stress enough that you really need to see this.

Universal Robots plays at the Manhattan Theatre Source until March 7. You can get your tickets here.

Trying to practice that robot voice,

James "Seriously, Jason, How Do You Do That?" Comtois

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Night of Robots

Tonight I'll be seeing Gideon Productions' revival of Mac Rogers' play Universal Robots, and I'm psyched as all hell. I'm hoping to write about my response to it seeing it the second time 'round tomorrow, provided I can muster up coherent thoughts aside from, "OMG Rbtz rul! LMAO! Jonas Brs 4eva!"

Yes, I'm in actuality a 14-year-old girl. But I think you guys already knew that.

Blowing all the Juniors behind the school,

James "Make That Slutty 14-Year-Old-Girl
With Self Esteem Issues" Comtois

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And Please Welcome...

...Time Out New York to the blogosphere.

Wanting more photos of Laura Benanti,

James "Internet Creep" Comtois


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bell Book & Candy

I wanted to give a shout-out and note of congratulations to the folks at Gravity & Glass/Triptych Theatre for Chapter Two of Bell Book & Candy, a very fun collection of morbid romantic one-acts (or, perhaps, morbid one-acts concerning love and relationships). Yes, one of my short pieces, "Relationships," is featured in it, so I really can't write any sort of formal review (lest it devolve into statements concerning "Comtois' dynamic voice for the stage," or, "This eminently blowable playwright..."). But suffice it to say there wasn't a clunker in the bunch ("the bunch" being eight short plays dealing with love, the supernatural and the macabre).

I particularly enjoyed Damon Heath Sager's "Dead Girlfriend," about a guy who refuses to accept the loss of his lady friend and Steven Fechter's "The Mission," about an Iraq War vet trying dead war buddy's widow. "The Mission" also features Sutton Crawford, an actress I've never met, but have been a fan of, having previously seen her in two plays that have made my annual "Top Ten" list (Abe Goldfarb's 2004 staging of Titus Andronicus and Four Chairs' A Guy Adrift in the Universe in 2007).

There's even a short musical about King Kong being bemused at how his life lead him to be climbing the Empire State Building and getting shot at by planes.

And seriously, how adorable is Summer Baldwin as the armless Timex in Christopher Bell's "A Curious Thing?"

Anyway, it was a lot of fun. You should check it out.

I'm hoping to catch Chapter One, which features a whole different set of one-acts (they run concurrently at CenterStage on 48 West 21st Street). It runs until February 14 (Valentine's Day). You can get tickets here.

Believing in a thing called love,

James "Drooling Date" Comtois

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Preparing and Adapting

We here at Nosedive Central are finalizing our plans for staging Infectious Opportunity this spring and will most likely be sending out all the information on the show sometime in March. In the meantime, we're gearing up for our Soul Samurai night on Thursday, February 19. Tickets for that are actually going very, very fast, so anyone in the New York area that wants to see Vampire Cowboys' latest (which writer Qui Nguyen himself has said it's the best thing he's ever written) and drink heavily with the Cowboys and Nosedivians, send me an email very, very soon.

It's very interesting that Laura brings this up now that we here at Nosedive Central are working on a new business model. And by "new business model," I mean, "a business model at all."

Since we first formed the company back in late 1999, early 2000, we've produced in a "spend first, ask questions later," way. We put stuff on our credit cards, get loans, and sign contracts for spaces and worry later about how we're going to complete payments on the space. For many of us, getting the work staged was too important to worry about pesky little details about cash flow or revenue.

We really can't produce that way anymore.

It's not just because our entire economic infrastructure is collapsing, or that being in debt in your 30s isn't quite as hip or adventurous as it is when you're in your early-20s. Those are huge factors, of course, but mainly, we can't stage shows that way anymore simply because with many producers' job security (mine included) now being a joke, we simply can't start each production at "zero," pour what little money we don't have into the show, then pray that box office returns will at least get us paid partially back. (Little inside baseball fun-fact: that plan sure didn't work on Colorful World.)

Plus, with the rents of theatres going up substantially, the cost of staging a show, even on the cheap, has gone up considerably since we started (our first play, Monkeys, cost a grand total of $2,400 to produce).

I'm very glad to see everyone in Nosedive is on the same page about this and are setting things in place to make sure the company can stay afloat.

I know, I know, a theatre company now talking about how to be fiscally responsible. Will wonders never cease? (Though, to be fair, it took us nine freakin' years to start.) Will these new money saving and fundraising techniques work? Who knows? At least we'll be moving in the right direction.

Pinching pennies,

James "Cheap Bastard" Comtois

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Monday, February 09, 2009

And Hells Yeah...

I've got my tickets to see Universal Robots and Raised in Captivity. So buckle the fuck up, Cowboys. I'm comin' for you next!

Lining up all his ducks,

James "Duck Fucker" Comtois

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On-Set Flipouts

I've actually been getting a little too obsessed with the whole actors and directors flipping out on the set thing, with listening to the Christian Bale rant roughly 10 times a day (well, 30, really; the uncut version 10 times and the dance remix another 20 times). I know, I know, I should be waaaay above all this, and follow Mr. Freeman's example and attitude, but I just can't help it.

I could try to intellectualize it all by saying this is a way to counter the insufferably toothless press junket interviews we're inundated with that have nothing more to say than, "This director was such a delight and this project was such a thrill to work on and blather blather blather," but that's admittedly disingenuous.

The truth is I find them amusing, because I'm petty and small-minded.

So, in addition to the Bale rant, I've also had a lot of fun watching this on-set meltdown with director David O. Russell while filming I Heart Huckabees:

And Matt Johnston just sent me this video with Michael Cera via Perez Hilton's site (although, I'm not 100% convinced this isn't staged, not like it matters):

And Scott Walters thinks we theatre people are nasty.

Sorry, folks. I find this shit fun and funny to watch.

Next week, I hope to begin my five-part lecture series on why videos of people getting hit in the nuts by baseball bats are nuggets of comic gold.

Delivering your daily dose of cultcha,

James "Fancy Fucking Pants" Comtois

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February Show-Going

Working on when I'll be seeing Universal Robots and Soul Samurai. I'm really excited for both shows, especially considering Robots was easily the best play I saw in 2007 and VC’s last production, Fight Girl Battle World was easily the best play I saw in 2008.

Tomorrow night I'll be attending this. And I still need to find nights to see this and this.

High on meth,

James "Public School Teacher" Comtois

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Episode One of Eye in the Sky

The first episode of Audacity Theatre Lab's Eye in the Sky Project is now online. Check it out here.

Always paranoid,

James "Over-The-Pants Handjob" Comtois

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Cranky Moment for a Soul Samurai Cast Member

He's just trying to pay his bills online in between rehearsals.

(Courtesy of Mr. Qui Nguyen.)

Speaking of Soul Samurai, check out this article by director Robert Ross Parker in The Brooklyn Rail about what he's learned doing New York theatre. Also courtesy of Qui.

Just copying Qui's blog from now on,

James "Mr. Original" Comtois

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stuff I'm Currently Working On

• The book for a musical (yes, musical) with the metal band Gods of Fire about an aspiring necromancer.

• Awaiting notes for the second draft of a screenplay (yes, screenplay) I’ve written based on Laird Barron’s novella, Hallucigenia.

• Yet another screenplay; this one being a revenge tragedy in the Kill Bill vein with Abe Goldfarb, tentatively entitled Scrapper.

• Another screenplay still ("Jesus, Comtois, I thought you wrote plays!") based on Charles Willeford’s novel, Pick-Up.

• A full-length play ("Final-fucking-ly!") concerning four interconnected stories about four pretty miserable ladies.

• The various prep- and wait-work inherent to staging Infectious Opportunity this spring and organizing the fundraising events (the Soul Samurai night and Nosedive's Disturbing Burlesque).

Just figured you'd like to know.

Writing a lot to take his mind off his life,

James "Creatively Repressed" Comtois

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"If I had to guess, I'd say the average YouTube user was a 14-year-old girl with Down's Syndrome."

I found this simultaneously hilarious and soul-crushing from Yes, we really are drowning in a cesspool of imbeciles.

Dying a little bit inside,

James "From HILARITY!" Comtois

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Two Fundraising Events

Hey, gang. I just wanted to give everyone the head's up about two events happening in the next two months.

The first one is a joint venture between Nosedive and the baddest mofos in the New York theatre scene, Vampire Cowboys. Vampire Cowboys is set to open their latest show, Soul Samurai, quite soon. And, through their kindness, they're allowing Nosedive Productions to once again ride their coattails with a cross-marketing deal.

Nosedive is selling $25 tickets for the Thursday, February 19th performance of Soul Samurai. But the $25 isn't just for the show; it's also for admission to an after-party at the HERE Arts Center, hosted by Nosedive. We'll be serving drinks, of course. It'll be fun. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., the after-party will be, well, right after curtain call.

Proceeds from ticket sales go to both Vampire Cowboys and Nosedive Productions.

Anyone who's interested should drop me a line at

In addition, on Wednesday, March 11, at UNDER St. Marks at 10 p.m., we'll be hosting our own fundraising show, Nosedive's Disturbing Burlesque, featuring some of the loveliest ladies in the New York burlesque scene performing some unnerving routines. Hey, you may get an erection, but you may not feel good about yourself afterwards.

The lovable Bastard Keith will host.

So, seriously. Samurai fighters and burlesque dancers. Can you really go wrong with either?

Wanting the dancers to fight with swords,

James "Luck-Pusher" Comtois

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