LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

LATE NIGHT LAVENDER

Monday, February 22, 2016

"JOI LANSING: A BODY TO DIE FOR" Re-discovering the Life and Secret Love of a Sex Symbol

"JOI LANSING: A BODY TO DIE FOR"
Re-discovering the Life and Secret Love of a Sex Symbol


Picture this: California, 1969.  You are a 21-year old, neophyte actress from Kansas who has come to Tinseltown to make it in showbiz.  You finally get your big break in a bona fide Hollywood film, albeit a low budget "monster flick".  On the set, you see the film's leading lady: a stunning movie star whom you've always admired AND desired ("There she was... the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life!").  After a nervous meeting, small talk turns into friendship, which quickly turns into inseparable companionship and dedicated love.  The younger actress was Alexis Hunter.  The leading lady was Hollywood sex symbol Joi Lansing, who had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had appeared on the cover of "Life" Magazine.  And, this true story is finally told-- in Ms. Hunter's new book called "Joi Lansing: A Body To Die For".  Sadly, Joi Lansing would actually die four years after that serendipitous meeting-- from breast and ovarian cancer.  Hunter attributes Lansing's illness largely to reckless hormonal and cosmetic interventions (including under-the-counter, loose silicone injections) that the star underwent to stay young and desirable, hence one of the meanings of the book's title. 


 

Joi Lansing came into her own as a star during the generation when the "blonde bombshell" type was all the rage.  It was an era in American  cinema when being golden-haired and busty was to be both an object of desire by men and the envy of other women.  In 2016, the name "Joi Lansing" may not be as immediately identifiable as her peers, "The Three M's": Marilyn, Mansfield, and Mamie (Of course, we mean Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie van Doren.)  However, the voluptuous Lansing had an impressive resume in movies, television, and theater.   She appeared in 32 feature films, with many of her earlier roles credited only as "The Showgirl", "The Model", or "The Blonde".  Chances are more likely, however, that you've seen Joi on the small screen, thanks to America's nostalgic love of vintage TV.  Lansing had appearances in some of our most popular and enduring TV shows, including "I Love Lucy" (She was one of the "bathing beauties" in the Season 6 episode "Desert Island") and six episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies", where her looks rivaled another TV sweetheart, Donna Douglas' iconic Elly May Clampett.  As you may have guessed, Lansing's beauty was her calling card.  This was not lost on her girlfriend Ms. Hunter, who dedicates entire passages in her book detailing Joi's appearance: "With no imperfections or blemishes, her skin had the smooth appearance of vanilla ice cream.  Keeping her beauty intact cost her very little money, as she cleansed her face with only Oil of Olay...".  Hunter points out that Joi didn't seem to be resentful over being "typecast" as a stacked sexpot throughout her career; complaints about those cliched Hollywood "creeps and scum" aside, she seemed to be warmly appreciative of her fame-- and willing to give her fans what they expected and wanted. 

The movie set where Hunter and Lansing met in 1969 was "Bigfoot", a low-budget horror movie about the mythical man-beast also known as Sasquatch.  Alexis Hunter (billed as "Nancy Hunter"), had a minor role as one of the female "creatures".  Joi, who was the female lead, was in company with other Hollywood names such as John Carradine and John Mitchum.   Certainly, neither the film's creators nor the cast (nor the critics, incidentally...) expected "Bigfoot" to be the next "Gone With the Wind".  The book even dedicates a very funny passage about Hunter and Lansing actually going to (secretly) see "Bigfoot" when it was finally released into theaters... with Lansing calling the movie "the worst film she'd ever have the pleasure of starring in".  At the time Hunter came into her life, Lansing was almost 40 years old, and the "blonde bombshell" persona had slowly given way to the grittier female sex symbols of the '70's such as Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, and Raquel Welch.  Joi Lansing was married to her fourth husband, Stan Todd, an investment broker who was also her manager.  However, that marriage had deteriorated into an amiable yet passionless relationship of convenience.  Because of both the still-repressive attitudes towards same-sex love, and Joi Lansing's public image as sex goddess, the relationship between Lansing and Hunter was, shall we say, "discreet"-- despite the fact that the two women were soon living together.  Hunter assumed the role of "Rachael Lansing", Joi's little sister.  Although the two ladies were inseparable, the true nature of their "forbidden" relationship stayed a secret.  As Hunter pointed out: "If I was her 'sister', there wouldn't be any suspicion that we were lovers.  I really don't know if people ever suspected; nothing was ever mentioned in the tabloids, and we were seen everywhere together."


 "A Body To Die For" is indeed a biography about Joi Lansing, but it's certainly not one of those dry, paint-by-numbers books about a celebrity.  We do learn a lot about Lansing's personal life-- including the debunking of the studio-manufactured myth that Joi was a devout Mormon who didn't give into the Hollywood vices of alcohol or cigarettes. (Let's just say that only half of that was true.) Mostly, however, the book is Hunter's deeply personal story about her relationship with the woman she so often refers to as some variation of "my girl".  This memoir truly lives up to its subtitle "A Love Story".  Endless descriptive passages are dedicated to the sheer joys of being in love: the kind of love where teenage girl giddiness meets all-consuming adult passion at the same time, and the other person becomes the most important feature of your life.   It was a love that indeed defied the labels of "straight or "gay".  (Hunter reflected, "I came into Joi's life at a time when she was ready for the all-encompassing love I was able to give her.  I think our love, the love I brought to her as a woman, was softer and safer than the experiences she'd had with the men in her life... and as her lover, I was committed to keeping it that way.") Lansing was later diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer, and this is revealed less than one-third of the way into "A Body to Die For".  What comes next is Hunter's story of her commitment to her ailing girlfriend-- through surgery, chemotherapy, pain, remission, and the ultimate recurrence.  Hunter was her constant companion.  She writes, "I loved this woman deeply, and that meant always being there for her, no matter what."  Sadly, the disease would eventually take the star at age 44.  


The book goes into extensive detail about Lansing's and Hunter's life together.  Anecdotes about trips to New York, Cape Cod, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and other destinations go alongside seemingly infinite passages about giggling, hand-holding, kissing, cuddling, naps, staying up late talking, and MANY meals together (Apparently, eating was an important bonding experience for the couple).  Some critics may argue that Hunter's precious moments may be a bit TOO precious (as in "too overly detailed", and/or "too personal"...), or that her book is more of a true-life "romance novel" rather than a sweeping biography about Joi Lansing's life.  Then again, "Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For" doesn't claim to be anything more than the author's own story, with a bit of a cautionary tale about the effects of Hollywood on one's soul thrown in. The reader is guaranteed to laugh, to cry, and to be transported back to a more glamorous era where a "forbidden" love flourished among unlikely circumstances. 

"Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For" by Alexis Hunter is now available.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ON VALENTINE'S DAY: Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company Brings "Tennessee Williams 1982" to the NYC Stage.



TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ON VALENTINE'S DAY:
Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company Brings "Tennessee Williams 1982" to the NYC Stage.


A pair of little-known Tennessee Williams one-act plays, written the year before the playwright's death in 1983, received their premieres this past weekend at New York City's Walkerspace, thanks to The Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company.  Directed by Cosmin Chivu, the evening included the world premiere of "A Recluse and His Guest", followed by the New York premiere of "The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde".  The first night of the new production was Sunday, February 14th, AKA Valentine's Day!  The idea of seeing two rare Tennessee Williams plays on the most romantic night of the year (with your other half, no less...) was too enticing to miss, but indeed ironic as well.  Arguably, Williams' stories were more often about unrequited fantastical love than actual emotional fulfillment, and more about the darker undercurrents of human sexuality rather than the actual joys of sex.   "A Recluse and His Guest",  an adult fairy tale of sorts,  can indeed be interpreted as a truly unorthodox "love story", with lines like "I don't get cold when I'm as happy as I am!" (Even though the play takes place in an undetermined time period,  Williams apparently couldn't resist the urge to insert a character who makes references to "unnatural acts" while still indulging in them...)  However, "The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde", cannot be interpreted as a love story in any way-- except in the minds of those who consider exploitation, non-consensual sadism, and family dysfunction to be some form of "love".  More than with most authors, Tennessee Williams' personal life and experiences have been the direct subject matter for his dramas.  The audience wonders, then, if the character of Ott the Recluse in the first play was based on Williams' own reclusiveness in his last few years; or if the tragic depiction of Mint, the young gay man in the second play, was reflective of the author's famously ambivalent feelings about his own sexuality. 

"A Recluse and His Guest" takes place in an "far northern town" named Staad, in an unspecified "remote time".   We meet a horsehide-clad mystery woman (Kate Skinner) who has been wandering through the Midnight Forest.  We learn that her name is Nevrika, and she's "a woman who travels by trade", who rubs her leather wrappings with foul-smelling ointment to keep away the wolves.  As we later discover, she may be a bit crazy, or a bit gifted, or both: She speaks to animals. Nevrika is searching for food and shelter, and she eventually finds both-- as well as companionship-- with Ott, the recluse of the play's title (Ford Austin).  He reluctantly takes her in to live with him.  Nevrika progresses from being a maid of sorts to eventually becoming something of a surrogate wife, the zenith of their relationship being when she asks Ott, "Would it offend you if I told you that I'm in love... that I love you?"  Gradually, Ott breaks out of his shell, and the two even attend the town's famous Spring Festival together as a couple.  However, a not-so-traumatic incident causes Ott to retreat back to his house and therefore back to his reclusive lifestyle... and he then gives his new companion an ultimatum. Does she honor her benefactor's request? The play's conclusion is up for interpretation.  After the show, the audience was equally split over just what happens to the main female character. 

The dialogue of "A Recluse and His Guest" is adorned by live cello (courtesy of Paul Brantley, who's also the production's Composer) for an engaging effect, and the creative staging makes for some impressive use of the space.  The two leads are very charismatic; their performances, like the play itself, appropriately transcend place and time.  There are also some audience-pleasing moments of high levity in the form of the Spring Festival scene, complete with singing and dancing.  It's extremely corny-- and extremely funny too!

Unlike "A Recluse and His Guest", the setting of "The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde" is fairly clear from the beginning.  The accents reveal that this play takes place in Great Britain; the blindingly loud, pastel-colored fashions  (a yellow mesh T-shirt, a raspberry-colored men's suit...) make us pretty sure that we are in the 1980's.  Unlike the slow establishment of the environment and the characters in "A Recluse and His Guest", the second play kicks off like a shot of adrenaline (with a dirty needle, I might add...).  Almost immediately after a jolt of loud rock music and a light show of bright colors (to match the fashions, presumably...), we see one of the four characters being brutally penetrated from behind on a semi-concealed upper level of the stage.  Simultaneously, a video screen shows the "Mme." of the play's title engaging in an equally noisy sexual encounter with another character.   As you may have guessed by now, the second part of "Tennessee Williams 1982" has a very different feel from the first part.   With both sexually explicit scenes and R-rated dialogue, it's almost as if Williams set out to write a play to patently shock his audiences-- as much as audiences could be shocked ten years after "Carnal Knowledge", "Deep Throat", and "Oh! Calcutta" entered pop culture.  A better way of putting it would be to say that Williams kept his tendencies to explore the emotional dark alleys of humanity, but he was now doing it for a generation that wouldn't be traumatized by the "F" word or talk about STD's.

Still, the audience was indeed provoked by "The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde", although the play is more disturbing than titillating.  One of the reluctant occupants of Madame LeMonde's rooming-house is Mint, a young man who has lost the use of his legs and is forced to move around on stage via hooks hanging from the ceiling and a harness-like apatosaurus on his chest.  It's a physically challenging role that Jade Ziane handles amazingly.   Hall, a former classmate of Mint's from Scrotum-on-Swansea (Yep...), comes for a visit.  Played by a deliciously disobliging Darwin Patrick Williams, Hall goes into a vivid description about a sexual encounter with a woman, sparing no details.  He also verbally abuses the disabled Mint for being gay.  The vulgar language is a long way from the coded vocabulary of Williams' earlier, more famous works.  Still, Williams fans will spot the author's trademark characteristics.  Among other elements, there's  Williams' verbose dialogue (You'll never hear a more, shall we say, "colorful" description of homosexual tendencies than when Hall brutally taunts Mint.) and the "woe-is-me" depiction of the gay character.  It's not all just talk in this rooming-house, however.  One character literally drops dead, and he's not the only one.  And yes, we do eventually meet the proprietor of this crazy rooming-house, the Titian-haired Madame Le Monde (Kate Skinner again) up close and personal.  In eye-popping punkette imperiousness, Skinner's Madame makes a statement without even saying a word, although she does deliver one of the play's standout lines with deadpan eeriness: "The world is accident prone, no use attempting correction.  After all, the loss of one fool makes room for another.  A super-abundance of them must be somehow avoided…"  Even with a brief 45 minute running time, "The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde" packs a wallop.  The four characters range from pathetic to downright scary-- but thanks primarily to the acting skills of the cast, they are all truly fascinating to watch on stage. 


As said before, Tennessee Williams often permeated aspects of his own life and experiences into his writings.  Judging by the sold-out showing of "Tennessee Williams 1982" on its Valentine's Day kickoff, a LOT of people still want to know more about the author's life through his under-seen body of work.  Ironically, after seeing this astonishing duo of plays, the iconic author will remain  more of an enigma than ever.


"Tennessee Williams 1982" continues through March 13 at Walkerspace Theater, 46 Walker St, NYC.   For more information, visit www.PlayhouseCreatures.org.

(Photos by Russ Ross.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"UTILITY": Four Characters and a Power Outage





"UTILITY":
Four Characters and a Power Outage

There's something markedly incongruous about watching "Utility", the new play by Emily Schwend, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.  The theater is located on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, one of the most lively neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan.  Something exciting, or at least interesting, is usually happening 24/7.  When the set pieces for "Utility" are unveiled, it transports the audience to a very different atmosphere.  Despite some clues (the children's school artwork on the fridge, the vintage cow-shaped milk dispenser...), it's difficult to place the locale or even the time period as the audience waits for the show to begin.  Before we even meet the characters, however, one thing's for certain: We are clearly far away from the bustling scenario of  New York City.  The audience soon learns that "Utility" takes place in a semi-rural, recently water-damaged house in East Texas, and it's the home of working mother Amber (Vanessa Vache).  It was also formerly the home of her estranged husband Chris (James Kautz).  As the couple interact, we find out that they have been enduring an on-again, off-again relationship-- and the signs of frustration are clear within both of them.  Exhausted Amber has two jobs, Chris is chronically unemployed or underemployed, and there are three children.  Amber is planning a big birthday party for their eight-year old daughter.  It should be a happy occasion, but it just means more stress for the already spent Amber.  Through the first of many exquisite scenes of "wordless acting" by  Ms. Vache, it's clear that this mom is suffering much more than her superficially charismatic but seemingly unmotivated husband.  When Amber stares into space (and thus into the audience), her desperation is clearly palpable.   While this fractured family doesn't live in abject poverty, it's a tense situation where there isn't even 25 dollars available to pay the utilities bill.  Later on, that unpaid bill gives way to the central impetus of "Utility"-- hence the play's title. 

Another character, Jim (Chris' older brother, played by Alex Grubbs) soon enters the picture.  In contrast to the high emotions of Vache's Amber (shown both through her words and through her expressions), Jim is a stoic type, with his character offering mostly minimal pieces of dialogue delivered in blunt monotone.  It's about this point in "Utility" that the audience wonders just where the play is going...  but in the meantime, to make the picture complete, we meet Amber's middle-aged mother Laura (played perfectly by Melissa Hurst), who-- with her working-class-style priggishness-- can best be described as, well... a “pill”.  The realistic mother-daughter interactions are the equivalent of watching an old married couple bicker in public: not so much fun for the couple, but amusing for an outsider to watch.  The play’s climax comes when the electricity goes out, causing a domino-like effect of things going wrong.  It’s all exacerbated by the oppressive Texas heat which the characters constantly comment about.

The central character, Amber, is on stage nearly the entire run of “Utility”, and she bears most of the emotional weight of the play.  It’s a challenge that Vanessa Vache meets very well.  The actor's infinitely expressive eyes seem to constantly be yearning for something better.  The others-- Amber’s ne’er do well husband Chris, her mother Laura, and her brother-in-law Jim--  don’t seem to be as affected by the weekend’s stressors as much as Amber.  Yet, their roles are also supremely acted, and their characters are definitely NOT caricatures.  Amber and Jim get a moment alone together, and Amber vocalizes one of the tenets of her frustration in a pivotal statement:  “It ain’t fair. Ain’t fair that he (Chris) is gonna go through his life being the same guy he always is, same guy he always was, but I gotta go through my life... like, I gotta lose just about everything I used to like about myself just so I can keep shit even halfway decent for everyone else around here.” Jim then gets a chance to deliver a monologue where we speculate that his aura of deadpan disinterest may only be a survival mechanism for dealing with the difficulties of making it as a blue collar worker in a small Southern town.  As Grubbs' Jim reminisces, we get yet another example of Vache's skilled wordless acting that I mention before...

The conclusion of “Utility” comes when the long, hot, slow weekend closes... and the question for the audience becomes "Now what?"  Will Amber suffer a nervous breakdown, in concurrent symbolism with the power outage?  Will she send Chris out of her life for good?  Or will she stay with him?  The ending is not be the punch-style reward that some audience members may want after the protracted (Some may say a bit TOO protracted...) pace of the play.  Still, no one can argue that the final scene is very plausible.   No matter what, we certainly can't judge Amber or any of the other characters in "Utility" for their actions.  By the end of the play, we may or may not care about them.  We may or may not relate to them.  However, we can certainly understand why they are the way they are. 


"Utility" is presented by The Amoralists and is directed by Jay Stull.  The play continues through February 20th, 2016 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, NYC.  Visit www.Rattlestick.org/Utility for more information.


(Photos by Russ Rowland)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

SNOW WHITE'S SEXY ADVENTURES: Company XIV's Erotic Version of the Timeless Fairy Tale!






SNOW WHITE'S SEXY ADVENTURES:
Company XIV's Erotic Version of the Timeless Fairy Tale!



Company XIV's World Premiere of "Snow White", now playing at New York City's Minetta Lane Theater, is the third and final production of the performance troupe's current season.  Prior to this new, sexed-up vision of the oft-retold tale, Company XIV brought their avant-garde interpretations of "Cinderella" and "The Nutcracker" to the stage.  Their "Snow White" has been heavily promoted as being patently for "adults only".  Indeed, there's lots of suggestive choreography and flesh-baring costumes.  Most of the female cast is titillatingly clad in revealing lingerie throughout the show.  The male characters ("The Queen's Men"), not to be outdone, are seldom wearing more than G-strings, fishnet stockings, and heels just as high as the ladies'. The first scene gives us an elaborate dance routine entirely dedicated to the famous Wicked Queen and her legendary vanity.  The Queen's Men-- all incredibly built guys with S&M-style ball gags in their mouths-- swirl and circle around Her Highness,  holding mirrors and fanning the flames of her narcissism.   The mirrors, capturing the expertly timed lighting, seem to take on a life of their own.   All this pageantry unfurls before we even hear those famous words "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." for the first time!  The Queen then goes on to perform a sexually-charged, gravity-defying dance with her virile subjects.  However, as we all know, there's a younger, raven-haired beauty waiting behind those fancy curtains on the stage-- and Hell hath no fury like a Queen scorned.


"Snow White" was first published by The Grimm Brothers in 1812-- and as we enter 2016, it still remains one of the world's best known and most beloved fairy tales.   The enduring story of the titular princess has been re-imagined and reinterpreted dozens of times throughout history,  but it's a safe bet that it was the 1937 animated version by Walt Disney remains the most widely known, enjoying its transgenerational appeal 79 years later.  In the original story, the Wicked Queen actually attempted to kill Snow White three times, unlike in the Disney version where she tries only once with the iconic poisoned apple.  In only one example of Company XIV keeping with the Grimm Brothers' original darker version, the audience gets to see Her Wickedness attempt to kill our heroine three times: the first by a corset being pulled too tight, and the second by a poisoned comb.  Both these failed attempts become a chance for the hardworking cast to give us some superb-- and at times, superbly funny-- original choreography to the classic novelty song "A Corset Can Do a Lot For a Lady" and to a brooding version of Britney Spears' "Toxic", respectively.   But there are many more decadent delights in this two-hour show.  Just wait until the circus "comes to town" in the Second Act...    


Thanks to the unique directorial ornamentations of Company XIV's Austin McCormick (who's also the troupe's Founder/Artistic Director), this truly irreplicable vision of "Snow White" unfolds as a surreal, genre-defying spectacle-- with sex appeal, humor, and Grand Guignol in mixed proportions at different times throughout.  Those aforementioned directorial ornamentations, incidentally, include meticulous attention to details in both the costumes and the elaborate set pieces; It seems like no expense is spared for maximum visual impact.   Lighting and video effects, and even puppetry, are deftly incorporated into the production.  The result is a multi-media experience which, true to Company XIV's intent, seems both cutting-edge and vintage at the same time. 


Despite the many musical indulgences, one song you (mercifully) WON'T hear in Company XIV's "Snow White" is "Someday My Prince Will Come".  However, those hoping for the story's traditional happy ending won't be disappointed.  True to Company XIV's traditions, the climax comes complete with a gender-defying twist.  And as for the scene-stealing villainess?  Here's a hint: Her fate is faithful to the original Grimm Brothers' "Snow White".  And let's just say that revenge is a dish best served, in this case, burning.

Company XIV's "Snow White"
runs Sundays at 5PM and Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM, through March 12th, at The Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane New York City.  Visit www.CompanyXIV.com for more information.

(All photos by Mark Shelby Perry)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS": Best-Selling Book Inspires Provocative New Stage Drama





"DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS":
Best-Selling Book Inspires Provocative New Stage Drama


Robert Lyons
' provocative drama "Death of the Liberal Class", directed by Jerry Heymann, enjoyed its World Premiere last week at New York City's New Ohio Theater.  If the name of the play sounds familiar, it is because the show is inspired by the best-selling, oft-discussed 2010 book of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/activist/author Chris Hedges.  (Of note, the play's title is used with Hedges' blessing.) With the race for the White House being the overwhelmingly dominant topic in American consciousness at the dawn of 2016, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are tossed around (Some would say "exploited" as well...) on a constant basis in our various forms of media.  However, "Death of the Liberal Class" the play defies the dichotomous branding of "liberal" and "conservative".   In fact, the personalities and ideologies of the four main characters-- and their subsequent personal and ideological conflicts with each other-- transcend any simple, media-imposed labels.  As a result, who is  "right" or "wrong" soon becomes up for interpretation.  As the play progresses, the quiet setting of a remote Canadian farm reveals an environment where searing drama exists alongside the chirping birds and freshly laid eggs. 

Nick Pinder (Steven Rattazzi) is a New York City-based author of an anti-capitalist book named "Robo-Corp: How Man-Made, Money-Making Machines Are Devouring Our Future".  The book theorizes that corporations have become the equivalent of robots who will eventually be controlling the humans who created them.  We learn that the book has become not just a best-seller, but also a cultural talking point with a cult-like following of trans-generational admirers.  However, professional success soon leads to personal disappointment when the author learns that he cannot realize solutions for the crises he speaks about.   Our protagonist-- now separated from his wife and seemingly mellowed in his late 40's-- retreats to a farm in Canada, a secluded location where the play is set.  Joining Pinder on the farm is his teenage daughter Andrea (Jeanette Dilone).  At first, there seems to the proverbial "generation gap", albeit an amiable one, between father and daughter:  While Nick is content with his new rural life, Andrea is fanatically attached to her laptop,  and frustrated with the farm's limited internet access.  To say she's "tech-savvy" is a severe understatement-- which the audience learns more about, in a big way, later on.

Nick and Andrea aren't alone for long.  Nick's aforementioned wife Daphne (Melissa Murray), a charismatic and successful TV personality with a loyal fan base, comes to visit for the Canadian Thanksgiving.  The third side of this domestic triangle becomes complete, and the three-way relationship between the "happy family" is revealed to be quite complex.  The audience learns that Andrea is disappointed that her former renegade of a father has "lost his edge".  Like her dad, this daughter is also idealistic... but this young woman's ideals are clearly in a league of their own.  The girl finds a kindred spirit in a mysterious "chatroom friend" named Even (as in "even number", played by Justin Colon), who seemingly appears out of nowhere.  The climax of "Death of the Liberal Class" comes when Nick's pretty blonde neighbor and discreet lover Maggie (Olivia Horton) gets hacked in a major way, and a strapping, no-nonsense Canadian constable (Arthur Aulisi) comes to the farm to investigate.   Simple domestic drama (Whether Andrea will return to live in New York City with her mother, for example) gives way to power struggles and, ultimately, the revelation about a rather unholy alliance which could have quite far-reaching effects-- both for these characters and WAY beyond...

"Death of the Liberal Class" is essential theater for the new generation-- where cultural, social, and political mores are constantly evolving, weaving together, and merging.  Robert Lyons has given us exceptionally well-written characters, with the central relationship being the dynamic between Steven Rattazzi's Nick and Jeanette Dilone's Andrea.  Rattazzi expertly conveys the evolution of a left-wing author whose life has changed with middle age (The "flashback" scene, where Rattazzi's Nick is interviewed on a CNN-style talk show, is a deft directorial touch.).  Dilone's Andrea is a post-millennial who appreciates the music of The Ramones and The Talking Heads; her expressive eyes give the audience a view into a wild spirit much too large to be satisfied with a rural setting.  The supporting cast is excellent as well, and the play also has an unseen  character in the form of Nick Pinder's pivotal book: a symbol of ideal theory versus living reality.   The play never tries to sway the audience as to who is "right" or  who is "wrong".  The characters' assorted value systems alternately intertwine, clash, and at times even parody each other.   Depending on the audience member's viewpoint, the conclusion of "Death of the Liberal Class"  is either open-ended, or the ultimate fulfillment of the ideology of one of its characters.  Bring on the debate!

"Death of the Liberal Class" runs Wednesday through Sunday, through February 13, 2016 at The New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, NYC.   For tickets and more information, visit www.NewOhioTheatre.org.

(All photos by Steven Schreiber )