Sunday morning Michael Dale: Everybody sing! Everyone dance! Everything legal! Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville opens at La MaMa – Broadway World | WHs Answers

In this week…

The great lesbian love of Eve Adams in Irondale. closes today $30, with $15 tickets for students, seniors, and working artists.

Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville at La MaMa. Until January 31st. $35

Seagull presented by Elevator Repair Service at NYU Skirball. Until January 31st. $60

opening number…

Despite the dual efforts of understudy, standby and swings, COVID outbreaks still mean Broadway performances are occasionally canceled. While this can be a headache for producers and a disappointment for ticket holders, it seems like a manageable inconvenience over the course of a successful show.

But even a brief COVID hiatus can be disastrous for off-off-Broadway and indie productions, with their typically short runtimes and inability to budget for underwriters. This week I was looking forward to seeing the Thursday night opening performance of Paige Esterly’s The Great Lesbian Love of Eve Adams; the second mainstage entry at Irondale’s On Women Festival. But an email on Wednesday morning told me that two company members had tested positive, so the entire 4-performance run had to be cancelled, with the exception of tonight’s 5pm show.

Sounds like a great subject for a play. Eve Adams arrived in New York from Poland in 1912 as Eva Kotchever, but changed her to a biblical reference as her fame grew as a publisher, gay activist, and owner of the lesbian hangout Eve’s Hangout at 129 MacDougal Street, known for its sign counseling. “Men are admitted but not welcome.”

I’ll be there tonight at 5pm and I hope you will too. General admission tickets are $30, with $15 tickets for students, seniors, and working artists.

As someone who vividly remembers the big stink North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms raised in the late ’80s about state support for arts like the homoerotic photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and the chocolate-covered activism of Karen Finley…

…it made me smile to read in the program notes of the show that cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville, an unabashedly merry celebration of marijuana use, both medicinal and recreational, was “made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.”

A collaboration between two of Off-Off-Broadway’s most popular historically subversive companies, the HERE production, presented at La Mama (tickets $35), is a hilariously entertaining and educational two-hour song, dance and spoken word festival that begins as a relaxing community experience and evolves into a call to activism.

Grace Galu and company
(Photo: Maria Baranova)

“Tonight is for anyone who has a crime on their back for smoking, growing, or distributing a flower,” says author/lyricist Baba Israel, who co-directs with dramaturg Talvin Wilk and happily hosts the evening. Music Director Grace Galu – who wows onstage with her vibrant, passionate singing – composed the score with a blend of blues, soul, jazz and hip-hop performed by fusion band Soul Inscribed.

Among the historical tidbits we learn are how marijuana was first brought to this continent by enslaved Africans who hid it in their hair, and how the song “La Cucaracha” was originally a protest anthem performed by Pancho Villa’s troops was sung, stating that they would not fight without their rations of grass.

But starting in the 20th century, anti-marijuana laws help local governments control minority communities and protect pharmaceutical industry revenues. One particularly touching passage tells how activists defied laws to provide cannabis to people living with AIDS. We also see heartwarming footage of Israel’s mother Pamela Mayo, a member of the radical Living Theater, whose marijuana use is helping her dementia.

They are followed by Rocka Jamez’s exquisite dramatic dance, which features a war veteran calming his PTSD with marijuana, leading to Galu as the veteran’s mother singing a heartbreaking ballad recounting how he now sits in prison for self-medication .

If Facebook required me to post my relationship status with Elevator Repair Service’s theatrical productions, I would have to stop the dropdown at “It’s complicated”…

Not that I’m lacking in admiration for the off-beat ensemble, which has made its way with published lyrics since 1991. I was absolutely fascinated by Gatz, her word-for-word interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and, as a self-identifying First Amendment junkie, had a blast at Arguendo, who took his lyrics verbatim from a case of the Colonel Court of Justice of the United States over whether Indiana strippers should be forced to wear G-strings and pies instead of dancing completely naked.

your measure of measure? Too much concept over content for me. And after reading my review twice I still can’t figure out what I thought of their take on The Sound And The Fury.

Sunday morning Michael Dale: Everybody sing!  Everyone dance!  Everything legal!  Cannabis!  A Viper Vaudeville opens at La MaMa
Seagull Company (Photo: Ian Douglas)

I don’t think it’s disrespectful to advise someone buying tickets for Anton Chekhov’s version of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at Skirball (entitled Seagull) by artistic director John Collins that they’re buying the late 19th century classic will not see clearly. That becomes pretty clear about 7 pages into actor Pete Simpson’s pre-show speech, which not only provides questionably accurate architectural and geographic information about the theater, but also explains the safety flag system that viewers can use if they feel triggered .

Of course, if you are familiar with the original, you know that a big problem is the conflict between a young aspiring playwright, Konstantin, who wants to write important, modern works, and his mother, an actress made famous by commercials, Fare. And I think about three minutes later in the second act of the three-hour production, in which the actors stand motionless and silent for an endless time, it occurred to me that what we were observing might be Konstantin’s take on Chekhov’s play.

There were every indication that a young aspiring playwright was attempting to write an important, modern work. Actors in period rehearsal clothing sit on folding chairs and pass a hand-held microphone to the next speaker. A scene in which actors comment on a scene played by other actors. A reference to a famous line that was shortened. And of course the obligatory interpretation dance. (see photo above)

One thing, however, about the elevator repair service. Even if I don’t understand what they are doing, they do it with full commitment. Hell, I’ll see what they do. And I noticed a lot of young faces in the audience. If some of them left the theater feeling inspired by a fresh, inventive production that blows the dust off a ponderous classic, well, that’s more important than me leaving with a headache.

curtain line…

Curt Weill: Composer of The Threepenny One-Act

Leave a Comment