Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Razor Swallowing, a GPS & Awesome Waffles

Contributed by Doug Strassler

One of the neater finds of the past season was actually a new theatrical locale that emerged in 2011, the Canal Park Playhouse. Situated on the border of the West Village and TriBeCa, and not far from the gorgeous views along the Hudson, CPP is a bit of a trailblazer. Using the proceeds of its bed and breakfast part, CPP produces a variety of shows for kids and adults alike (and makes some pretty awesome waffles as well).

In the last year alone, the Playhouse has presented revivals of such top-notch shows as Frank McGuinness’ Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer finalist, The Baltimore Waltz. And their kid-friendly fare included weekend afternoon runs of Sarazad and the Monster-King. An ongoing show that the Playhouse runs features a spook show performed by “rock star” magician extraordinaire Cardone, who completes such mid-boggling acts as razor swallowing and strait-jacket escapes. It’s a sweet but scary throwback to the old shows that used to appear in places like Coney Island. I also had the privilege to see Sherri Eden Barber’s comedy Inadmissible, a behind-the-scenes look at the politics decorating the college admission process, directed by D. B. Gilles. Months later, I can still recall being captivated by Kathryn Kates’ exquisite timing and delivery.

So, too, do I still fondly recall The Navigator, which played the WorkShop’s main stage last spring. Eddie Antar’s play about a down-on-his-luck man and his GPS system which knows too much and maybe just enough had already won a pair of IT awards several years back, but it upgraded the show for its new 60-seat berth. Still small-scale but resourceful, the show was terrific, and replicated the feeling that audience members were indeed stuck in the same car as the show’s leads. Stars Joseph Franchini and Kelly Anne Burns (eerily evoking a GPS) were unforgettable. So much so, in fact, that Franchini even earned a Drama Desk nod for Best Actor last year. I hear talk that Navigator might have even more life in store. This is the little show that could. I can’t wait to see what happens to it next.

That was 2012 in Off-Off theatre for me: full of pleasant surprises in hidden places. Actually, pleasant as these shows were, they weren’t a surprise at all.

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