For those of you who have never heard of The Nuyorican Poets Café, I don’t blame you. Just a quick 20-minute travel from the University, a direct commute on the J train, the intimate theater is certainly a unique hole in the wall. The smell of wine permeates the air of the exposed brick performance place. Certainly different from many other theater venues, the setting offers a casual scene with a bar and discorded chairs. However, the performances are in no way sub-par.
Their most recent production, Nine Signs of the Times, premiered April 11 to a full “house.” Produced by Daniel Gallant, it featured new plays and monologues by nine famous and successful playwrights. The performance is a benefit for the Café’s education programs. $10 of each ticket was tax deductible and the proceeds went to help the afterschool children’s literacy program and the destructive fires in New Jersey.
The second short play was written and directed by Clay Mcleod Chapman, and was called The Wet Echo. The play told the narrative of a man encountering a sexual experience with a woman. The male character, played by Abe Goldfarb, was compared to an archeological explorer entering an ancient cave, which created a humorous performance. The man becomes “lost” in his search, another funny concept, and the writer uses excellent imagery and figurative language to portray the metaphor to the laughing audience.
The fourth performance by actor Tyler Bunch was truly inspiring. The Emmy-winning producer and director delivered a flawless interpretation of the text, Alt-Visions, written and directed by Daniel F. Levin. The monologue delivered the story of the character’s connection with his constantly evolving girlfriend and the experiences and situations he endured throughout their relationship before she tragically died. Unlike some other performances this night, the monologue actually seemed real, not as if there was just an actor onstage reciting memorized lines. The audience really believed each word he was saying. Furthermore, Bunch conjured up his own live tears on the spot, which added to the originality of the genuine performance, proving him to be a very talented actor. Plus, the added costume and props was an effective bonus compared to the bare setup of the proceeding acts.
The fifth play was equally compelling. I Didn’t Want A Mastodon, written by Halley Feiffer and directed by Christina Roussos, shared the unlikely romance between a male and female ex-couple. The actors Diana Stahl and Sanford Wilson were very talented. However, the script was equally interesting. For instance, the audience is aware that something crucial happened between the two prior to the time and space of this particular scene, but they are unaware what that something was that caused the woman to be so angry at the man and for the man to be begging for forgiveness. The elephant in the room is exposed at the very end, however, and provides a shocking and unexpected outcome. Meanwhile, a cardboard box remains on the table center stage to which to actors continue to refer to, without the audience ever being able to see what is inside. This hidden mystery kept audience members engaged and curious.
Additional works presented in the show included new plays written by Kathleen Dimmick, Caridad Svich, Laura Shaine, Neil LaBute, John Guare, and the talented actor, producer, playwright, and executive director himself, Daniel Gallant.
Overall, the plays and monologues seemed well rehearsed, despite the few acts that weren’t off book yet and some specific actors who kept forgetting their lines. The show as a whole ran smoothly which the stage crew moving set pieces and props on and off the platform in between the different acts, accompanied by appropriate music to set the mood for the next piece.
When asked how she felt about the work presented this night, an anonymous audience member said, “I think it’s uneven.” Although the presentation of the new works altogether was not a perfectly polished production, one must keep in mind that the show Nine Signs of the Times is the original debut of the works of the famous writers, and The Pace Press can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Upcoming events at The Nuyorican Café include US poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway and Salome: The Voodoo Princess of New Orleans. For more information, visit www.nuroican.org.