In covering the arts beat, I receive so many invitations that I generally must avoid works in progress without regular runs. But there is a larger world out there of drama, dance and assorted other entertainment working hard to achieve goals and be recognized. There’s also an immense, competitive talent pool.
Two examples of events that I recently attended, short plays presented by a theater group called Infusionarts and the Producers Club under the title “Relationships,” and “Works in Progress” by FJKDance, a new contemporary company, are cases in point.
Critics don’t generally review showcases and works that are still in the shaping. But it can be interesting to see them as examples of the volume of arts efforts in New York and report on them.
On the evening of November 7 at the Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, I mounted the stairs to the tiny Royal Theater to see a group of short plays under the title “Relationships,” and was interested in the range covered and the talent participating. For example, “Divided,” written and directed by Beth Newbery, dramatized the plight of five girls being kept as sex slaves and plotting an escape. Jody Doo as Kat emotionally and daringly conspires to lead a break-out, along with actresses Ilinca Tuvene, Johanna Block, Chelsea Burris an Tadaa Jackson. Alberto Gonzalez Jr. also had a key role. The subject, of course, is in tune with horror news stories about young women turned into prostitutes against their will.
Another play, “Forclosure,” written by George Cameron Grant and directed by Newbery, was a creative attempt to deal with poverty and its effect on a wife and mother. It starred Sammi Price, Philip Childers, Ty Gailloux, Ryo Hayashida and Andee Usman.
There was a nifty idea stirring in “Racquetball,” written by Philip Paradis and directed by Laurie Rae Waugh. Two professors were played by Thamer Jendoubi and Ken Coughlin. One is up for tenure and told that the university is looking for diversity, but lacks a Communist on staff. If he said he were a Communist, tenure would be a sure thing. Given all the people kicked out of universities in the anti-Communist witch hunts, the mere idea is hilarious. If the prof doesn’t want to say he is a Communist, then he could satisfy the university’s diversity need for a gay on staff. And if he said he were a gay Communist, tenure would definitely be a cinch.
Other plays on the bill included “The Jedi Mind Meld,” written by Shari Umansky and directed by Newbery,” and “Girl Parenting,” written by Thursdon Stone and also directed by Newbery.
On the very next night, November 8, I ventured to the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, 248 West 60th Street, to see the “FJKDance 2015 Works in Progress.” The director and choreographer is Fadi J Khoury, who also dances in the company founded last year. Its aim is to fuse different dance genres, such as modern, jazz, classical ballet and folklore.
Khoury talked to the audience at length about the company and its desires, illustrated by works of different approaches. One was an effort inspired by ballroom dancing (which Khury teaches), and enlivened with the music of Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck and John Klemer.
Another offering titled “Reflections” combined projection and lighting designed by Calvin Anderson, photography works by Cathy Gavin and music by Peter Michael von der Nahmer. It is an intensely flowing piece that seeks to explore life, nature and humanity. “Dum Tak” combined Tabla (Middle Eastern drum) and Latin Salsa and Rhumba, and three couples performed in point shoes, Latin heels and bare feet.
I don’t qualify as a dance critic, but I enjoy seeing dance programs, and my impression was that FJKDance presented a vibrant, attractive and talented group possessing great enthusiasm and led by a director-choreographer with ultra dedication to his chosen art form.
During any given week it is possible to sample entertainment in assorted venues apart from the high profile shows with long runs. That’s one of the pleasures of living in New York. Posted November 23, 2015.