According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Modern Living

Modern Living is too much like research in search of a story to be an emotionally satisfying ninety minutes. But it's charmingly honest, with likeable characters, and Richard Sheinmel does something with them next time, he'll have a hit on his hands.

Nomi Tichman and Richard Sheinmel in "Sheila Mom," one of the three plays that, along with musical interludes, make up Modern Living.
Photo Credit / Stephen Mosher

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Richard Sheinmel seems like a splendid actor/playwright. He’s sincere and disarming, and his collection of plays, Modern Living, is an honest portrayal of the life of the artist as a young man. The intimate location of The Club at LaMaMa helps him connect with the audience, and the fabulous character actors of the ensemble convey even the most obvious one-liners with complete sincerity. But all three of the pieces, each a different genre, lack gravitas: they seem more like introductions to people the playwright knows than an expose on them. Furthermore, the lyrics to the musical interludes between each play, performed by Jordon Rothstein & the t.v. boys, were hard to decipher and didn’t really fit into the ouevre of Sheinmel’s storytelling. Modern Living is perhaps a bit too modern: it is so compartmentalized and scrubbed clean that for all its efficiency, it’s also a wee bit cold.

Shienmel’s first play, “Florida Mom” is a perfect one-act for the LaMaMa space. Though the action is straightforward, the meta-narration goes backward in time with a series of pleasing vignettes. But the only thing these scenes lay the groundwork for is a beautiful montage by director Michael Baron that fast-forwards through all the bits we’ve just seen, and straight to a conclusion. Though there’s no need for any of this stagecraft (the play could just as easily be sequential), this show at least attains a poetic gravitas, even if it resolves itself before the drama begins. The other two pieces are not nearly as bold: “Mister Fishkin” is a one-line joke waiting for the predictable punchline, and “Sheila Mom” does a better job paying homage to the Alphabet City of the early ‘50s (a time of Charlie Mingus, Max Roach, and Bill Cosby) than it does to any emotion. Like the characters, this is research in search of a story, and once Sheinmel commits to developing these characters, rather than briefly illuminating them, he’ll have a major work on his hands.

At best, Modern Living is a spotlight for talented actors like Christopher Borg, but without plot or emotion, it’s just a series of fragments, fading faster than morning dew.

LaMaMa: Theater of the World (74A E. 4th Street)
PERF. (through 10/29): Friday-Saturday @ 10; Sunday @ 5:30

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