Last week I was invited to come and check out Madagascar, a production by New World Theatre at the American Theatre of Actors on the Upper West Side. The company, whose website is here and who also blogs here, initially produced The Bad Hamlet at the Pretentious Festival in June. I tend to avoid reviewing shows on the blog, but the production invites comments and I'd like to recommend it to (both of) my readers.
Madagascar, by Wry Lachlan, is, on the surface, a melodrama couched in a few theatrical tricks. It's the story of a couple, a writer and an architect, whose relationship is tested by, among other things, the loss of a child. Lachlan moves the story in time freely, with pieces of scenes, monologues and memories. There are moments when this script (which is, fairly, being workshopped) feels a bit overwritten. There is, maybe, a bit too much repetition. It also has moments that are both compelling and convincing; no small feat with material this well-trod.
The play is immeasurably helped by the direction and the acting. Director Meghan Dickerson keeps things modest and spare in the small ATA space, but she takes advantage of the scripts fluidity, and never allows the actors to feel boxed in or over-staged. The actors, though, do wonderful work here and I recommend this production almost entirely so that you can go and check out their work. Jason Liebman (who many of you may know from Men of Steel at the Vampire Cowboys or Bad Hamlet) gets to sink his teeth into a more realistic role and thrives in that environment. Both Alanna Thompson and Robert Zick, Jr. in supporting roles, are in turn touching and hilarious.
The biggest revelation for me was Courtney O'Brien as Michelle, the center of the play. She is bruising and complex; a powerhouse of an actor that I'm happy to have discovered in the time spent with New World Theatre.
The play runs only to August 11th. If you're looking for an alternative to the Fringe this weekend, try a trip to Madagascar.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.