Off-Broadway Theater Review : NEW YORK ANIMALS (Bedlam Theatre Company at the New Ohio Theater)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on November 29, 2015

in Theater-New York


New York Animals BEDLAM 3 - T Charles EricksonThe always energized and entertaining Bedlam theater company opens their current season with New York Animals, Steven Sater’s musical play about New York City life in the 1990s. Excellent lead vocalist Jo Lampert fills the room with lovely songs by Mr. Slater and Burt Bacharach, the musical interludes separating comic vignettes designed to give us a sampling of life in the Big Apple just prior to gentrification, when the city had character and characters—old Jewish waitresses; American-born cab drivers and delivery boys; neighborhood accents; and emergency rooms overcrowded, understaffed, and insane. Under Eric Tucker’s direction, the show (still a work in progress as of November 28th) is presented in a piano lounge setting complete with drink service. Patrons are seated at little round tables more or less surrounding the playing area and the keyboard (manned by musical director Debra Barsha).

New York Animals BEDLAM 4 - T Charles Erickson

Five actors (Blanca Camacho, Ramsey Faragallah, Edmund Lewis, Susannah Millonzi, and Mr. Tucker) perform twenty roles, with some renditions more exciting than others—Ms. Camacho as the old waitress comes to mind, as well as Ms. Millonzi as one of her patrons. But all of the acting has the playfulness and energy characteristic of the troupe. The company’s goal seems less about bringing forth the reality of a play than about bringing forth the performance of that play: They are your friends, you are their guest, and they are putting on a show for you—that is the feeling one gets watching Bedlam.

New York Animals BEDLAM 2 - T Charles EricksonThis is especially fortunate with respect to New York Animals, a sprawling collection of brief, observational, vaguely interconnected sketches that offers little in the way of suspense, tension, drama, story, subtext, or insights. A rich, white new mother has trouble firing her Hispanic maid; at his struggling garment company the new mother’s husband must stave off a vendor demanding payment; a delivery boy tells off his patronizing rich woman client; a businessman gets into a taxi being driven by a young, white, left-wing PhD with paranoid delusions; two lonely friends in their mid-thirties—a gay man and a single straight woman—discuss the possibility of having a baby together; a half-crazy homeless man gives advice to a young mother that saves her baby’s life; an insane 50-something woman is fired from her job, and we wonder, was she always crazy or did living a working-class life in NY make her so?

A lot of Mr. Sater’s characters and situations feel a little too familiar. And while some are better rendered than others, nothing in the play is especially surprising or revelatory. Yet for all its shortcoming this organism has potential. The show is still developing and there is reason to be optimistic. Even as is, on the whole, New York Animals is entertaining, especially for fans of Bedlam.

Additional musicians: Lena Gabrielle, David Wearn, and Spiff Wiegand.

New York Animals BEDLAM 1 - T Charles Erickson

photos by T Charles Erickson

New York Animals
Bedlam Theatre Company
New Ohio Theater, 154 Christopher Street
Tues – Thurs at 7, Fri At 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 3
ends on December 20, 2015
for tickets, visit New Ohio or Bedlam

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