Category: Reviews

Photo courtesy of Roberta Kirosingh

 

I may not have been a Rocky Horror virgin when I entered the Diana Event Oval on Friday, October 27th, but I was still inexperienced: this was only my second time seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show live with a shadow cast. The difference between these two times for me was like the difference between the first time you have sex and every time after that: a vast improvement and learning experience.

Surprisingly enough, CMTS’s production of Rocky Horror was the latter in this analogy. My first experience was over the summer at a theater in Chelsea, and the uncomfortable, awkward feeling I had during the entirety of this production due to its lackluster quality definitely made me feel like the virgin I was labeled as. In fact, I’m hesitant to even count it as experience because it didn’t really teach me how to engage with a live Rocky Horror.

CMTS’s Rocky Horror, on the other hand, was the first time of my dreams.

Packed to capacity, the vibrant energy one associates with Rocky Horror was present in the space before the directors and hosts Maggie Vlietstra and Madeline Ducharme even walked on stage. And when the two did finally speak, it was in the same wacky manner as the characters of the movie. Every sentence was a joke, and mindful of their audience, Vlietstra and Ducharme catered these jokes to the Barnumbia community, mentioning how our limited free time was fleeting as per the CSA time management sheet and how alluring Lincoln Center could be, especially if your initials are D.S.

The fun didn’t stop when the movie started and the hosts left the stage. Instead, it was continued by Nick Hermesman, Carina Gobelbecker, and Liz Sobolik as they danced and stripped to complement the infamous introductory red lips of Rocky Horror. To my amazement–and I think it’s safe to say the amazement of everyone present–this choreography even included flips and splits in high heels. Mouths opened in awe, and soon after in laughter as the plot of the film began.

I find it hard to even begin to describe how wonderful the cast was because they made the show into a one-of-a-kind experience. Each member accomplished the difficult task of both interacting with and ignoring the audience. Dr. Scott gave high-fives while rolling through the audience, and Frank N. Furter, played by Juan Esteban Guerrero, threw Furter’s wig into the audience area. But the cast never missed a beat, even when the enthusiastic call-outs from the chorus and audience and sound of the movie blurred into a distracting and intelligible blob of noise, even when they were running up and down the aisles of the Event Oval.

Brad and Janet during rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Roberta Kirosingh.

Janet, played by Grace Hargis, and Brad, played by Lulu Cerone, were equally charming in the way they effortlessly adapted to their roles and embodied their characters, becoming the perfect shadows to the on-screen characters they were mirroring on stage. Rowan Hepps Keeney’s Rocky was comical and goofy, which balanced out the swagger of Guerrero’s Frank N. Furter, whose enormous presence demanded every ounce of attention from the audience, even when Furter was killing Rachel Barkowitz’s equally cocky Eddie off-stage. Charlotte Force and Rachel Miga also put on fantastic performances as Riff Raff and Magenta respectively, and their surprisingly well-rendered costumes, with their metallic and shimmering materials, literally dazzled the audience at times. The dynamic between the entirety of the cast — chorus and shadow cast alike — brought all of this together into what was truly a hilarious, fun-filled experience. I don’t know when else I’d ever get to put on a party hat and throw toilet paper at a movie screen while watching people run around stage half-naked and energetically mirror a movie except at Rocky Horror, and I especially don’t know where else I’d get to do it for only $2.50.

People often talk about how much they love doing things in the city, but can’t because it can be expensive. CMTS’s Rocky Horror reminded me that we don’t have to look past the Barnumbia gates to get a stellar theater experience: we’ve got plenty of talent right here on campus that you can see for cheap (and, if you live on campus, without taking public transit!). So, if you missed out on CMTS’s Rocky Horror this year, don’t worry — it’s an annual affair, and there’s plenty of other upcoming student productions you can check out on the Arts Initiative’s website. Or, if this article has made you really wish you went to this year’s Rocky Horror, try doing the timewarp again and maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up there.

Photo courtesy of Kuldeep Singh

 

This past week, Columbia Taal, the only South-Asian fusion dance team, hosted an event on campus called Samatva. This event included performances from Columbia Taal and Columbia Raaga, which is Columbia’s South-Asian fusion music organization. The showcase performance of the night, however, was led by junior Sophia Salingaros and her dance partner, Jeeno Joseph.

Photo courtesy of Kuldeep Singh.

Both Sophia and Jeeno performed a series of Bharatanatyam pieces, which is the most well-known form of Indian classical dancing. The Bharatanatyam style places great emphasis on the rigidity of the upper body as well as its nuanced use of hand and facial gestures as a sort of pseudo sign language. Historically, this style of dance was meant to be perceived as an interpretation of various Hindu myths, but it has in recent times become a source of resistance against its historical stereotypes. Sophia and Jeeno utilized this movement to create powerful and moving pieces of beautiful dancing to demonstrate that boundaries—religious, gendered, and political—don’t exist in art.

The notion of samatva, the word for “equality” in Sanskrit, can be seen throughout the entirety of their performance. Sophia and Jeeno, as a non-Indian and a Christian, respectively, demonstrate the ability to break through and transcend socially constructed historical biases. Their performance itself was extremely elegant and conveyed the richness of the Indian cultural tradition, which goes to show that art itself cannot be contained by external limitations, because it is the ultimate means of self-expression.

Raaga and Taal were both perfect complements to Sophia and Jeeno’s performance because they added the element of a group performance, which allowed multiple voices to come together in unison and create something incredibly powerful.

If you missed this performance, be sure to check out Sophia and Jeeno at the Battery Dance studios on November 11th and 26th, and be on the lookout for Taal and Raaga’s next performances on campus!

Guests, pre-insanity (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel, an opera based on a 1962 film directed by Luis Buñuel, is absurd. Aristocrats return to their mansion after an opera outing. They soon discover that they cannot leave the dining room. Naturally, they become crazy and turn on each other. It is the idle domesticity of Clue mixed with Lord of the Flies savagery.

I was initially concerned that Adès’s music glorified these lifeless subjects. How could he write high-strung heroisms for such ennui? Juxtaposed elements, though, frame the opera’s macabre. Lovers fondle each other naked. Luscious harmonies hug crazed language: “Birds of our coupled mouths, while death enters through our feet.” This is not a prototypical tragedy; we’re not meant to feel for the plutocrats. But the music points toward sympathy. Disparate moods compete in this creation of unreality.

Accompanying exhibition for the production. Human hands, lamb legs, and olive branches for dinner. Bon appétit!

Adès etches continuous, pulsating phrases in the love scene (See “O Albion,” from Arcadiana, for an example of this style). The music pictures a spaceship creeping through a mysterious fog. Cohesive linearity is rare in New Music aesthetics, which often favor disjunction and fragmentation.

The work clearly targets the aristocracy. After the richies go crazy, the mulling mob asks: “Are they all dead?’ Answer: “This is to be hoped.”

Could the affluent figures stand as representations of the one percent in tonight’s seats? Wealth inequality unabashedly lurks in the Met’s walls. Price of my ticket has $115 base rate, plus $7.50 service fee, and then a $2.50 facility fee (thank god for press tickets.). This is a hierarchized concert life. One price does not fit all.

The bottom-dwellers – those on the lower levels – finance opera. At intermission they chow down on über-expensive meals on the second tier, gazing out on Lincoln Center’s plaza, served by dressed-up waiters. It’s possible to witness the residual effects of aristocratic ass-kissing. Met employees grunt, curse, hold curt, stony expressions. At the ticket window, my ticket was flung at me with disgust. Misery swirls among workers. Yet, galas “celebrate” the one percent’s contributions. The Met wants to wrestle money from their coffers to supplement their seemingly-perpetually sinking finances.

Adès confronts the art form, crusting with opulence, and the Met, which stages stagnant, thoughtless “tradition” for commercial indulgence – here you will not find feminist productions of troublesome “classics.” Through financial support, donors implicate themselves in the opera’s demands: Adès skewers those who bankroll him. I wonder if ticket refunds will soon be in premium demand.

 

Image made by Laura Elizabeth Hand, CC’19

Content Warning: sexual assault

As everyone reels from the news about Harvey Weinstein, the question of inequality for women in Hollywood finds itself once again at the forefront of conversation. Behind the camera, women are coming forward with stories of sexual assault, and we’re finally engaging in a conversation that should have begun years ago. But… what about in front of the camera?

In her acceptance speech at last month’s Emmys, Best Actress winner Nicole Kidman explained that she and Reese Witherspoon produced Big Little Lies to create “more great roles for women.” She was met with thunderous applause acknowledging her role in Lies as “great.” But I was lost.

Over the summer, I binged-watched probably hundreds of episodes of television and saw every movie in theaters. And there were, indeed, great female roles. Elisabeth Moss’s Offred was a strong feminist, Kimmy Schmidt made her way to college, Wonder Woman dominated at the box office, Anne of Green Gables made a triumphant return to television, and the women of This Is Us, Veep, The Crown, and so much more were complex and inspiring.

But when I turned to Kidman’s Big Little Lies, I couldn’t help but gasp at the tireless repetition of sexist tropes and same old plotlines. For those who don’t know, Big Little Lies follows four different mothers in an upper-middle class suburban town. Madeline, played by Reese Witherspoon, is the town gossip and an overbearing and self-centered mother. Jane, played by Shailene Woodley, is a single mom, new in town, with a troubled past. Her son, Ziggy, gets into trouble with Renata Klein, the hard-working businesswoman whose daughter claims Ziggy hurt her. And Kidman’s character, Celeste, is a stay-at-home mom who’s hidden the truth about her abusive husband for years.

If you look at the logline, you may buy Kidman’s claim about “great roles for women.” Save for perhaps Witherspoon’s one-dimensional character (who’s literally portrayed as if Elle Woods just grew up a tiny bit), the rest of the women indeed seem complex. But rather than focusing on the crux of the women’s troubled stories, the show spends the bulk of its time rehashing the fight  fight between Jane and Renata’s children. While the fight begins with a serious accusation, before long it becomes clear that Ziggy didn’t hurt Renata’s daughter, and that the fight has spiraled into an all-out war over who works harder: the working moms or the stay-at-home moms. By the end of the first episode, everyone in town has taken sides, and suddenly it’s like you’re watching a glorified version of a middle-school cat fight, but with birkin bags instead of friendship bracelets.

The subplots are equally uncompelling, and wouldn’t pass the Bechdel Test if you gave them all the leeway possible. Madeline can’t seem to get her new husband to get along with her old one, or convince the town to let her put on a production of Avenue Q. These are ridiculously privileged problems, yet the show makes them out to be as dramatic as the abuse Celeste is experiencing at home. Madeline finally connects with her teenage daughter by admitting that she cheated on her new husband. Oh great, isn’t that wonderful motherly guidance? Meanwhile, Renata doesn’t have sex often enough with her husband, and her poor daughter can’t get enough kids to come to her million-dollar birthday party.

But while all this is happening, the only two characters with the possibility for a compelling subplot also fall short. A few episodes into the series, we learn that Jane was raped and she fears that Ziggy will inherit his father’s violent tendencies, but this intriguing storyline barely gets any airtime. Celeste finally works up the nerve to go to a therapist, and the show’s only truly “great” female moments are in Kidman’s painfully accurate portrayal of a woman struggling to come forward about abuse. When Celeste finally decides to leave her husband, the depiction of women on the show finally feels empowered.

But within one episode, everything swings back again. In the final scene, at a ridiculously over-the-top school function, Celeste’s husband discovers she’s leaving and starts to hit her. Coming to her defense, Madeline, Jane, Renata, and one other woman hit him back, and we learn that Celeste’s abusive husband was the man who raped Jane all those years ago. Finally, the women accidentally push him over a cliff and kill him. It was an act of self-defense, and the audience breathes a sigh of genuine relief and hope for Celeste’s brighter future.

But then, they deny the murder. In talking to the police, not one woman comes forward with the truth. He simply fell, they say. In talking to the police, not one woman comes forward with the truth. Why? I’m not sure. In their silence, the women of Big Little Lies end their show not with a message of the importance of speaking out for victims of abuse, but of the harmlessness of staying silent. Suddenly, everything about the showKidman’s character and even Jane’s intriguing subplotseems far too convenient. For Jane, the question of her own PTSD and her son’s violent tendencies are suddenly resolved. And true, it seems like Celeste was about to finally stand up and leave, but by choosing to kill off the abuser, the writers eliminate the incredibly difficult period abused women struggle through, physically and emotionally, to take that step away. If this were a real woman, Jane’s and Celeste’s  struggles would not be over with a timely shove off of a cliff and a promise to never speak of it again. Abuse lives with people forever.

The show ends with a reconciliation. Like they’re in middle school again, Madeline, Jane, Celeste, and Renata are suddenly friends, joined together with a secret. But let me put it plainly: abuse is not a cute little secret you share with your friends. Abuse is not a problem that deserves less screen time and the same dramatic emphasis as does the question of whether to put on Avenue Q. Abuse is real, abuse is terrible, and abuse doesn’t resolve itself that easily.

Big Little Lies took home five Emmys this year. In her acceptance speech, Nicole Kidman said that the show helped “shine a light” on abuse. Maybe, but the small light the show shines is not enough. The women in the show aren’t “great”: they’re simple, naive, entitled, and don’t reflect the true complexities that women like Celeste and Jane (or even real-life Madelines) face every day. And in an industry where actresses experience sexual harassment every day and a world where men like Harvey Weinstein find success, Hollywood needs to do better.

So yes, Ms. Kidman: you’re right. Hollywood does need more great roles for women. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.

Do you believe in magic?

Regardless of if you do or don’t, the show “In & Of Itself” at the Daryl Roth Theatre will convince you that you do in 75 minutes. Executive Producer Neil Patrick Harris presents a unique theatrical experience that blends illusion with a narrative of identity. Derek DelGaudio, the sole actor, does a fantastic job crafting an authentic performance, taking audience members on an emotional journey that explores identity, memory, how others perceive us, and what is meaningful in one’s own life.

Walking into the theatre, guests are presented with a standing board of “I am” cards. Guests are invited to choose a card that will later be used throughout the show. I chose “I am a ray of sunshine.” Why? It spoke to me. But they had a wide range of options, from alien, to C.E.O, philosopher, accountant, and troublemaker. Identities one strives to be are paired with true identities, such as occupation or family titles. You pick one that speaks to you, whether accurate, funny, or fictional.

The theatre is small and intimate. Perfect for what unfolds next. Delgaudio combines magic and storytelling seamlessly, leaving audience members in awe not only of the tricks he pulls, but also at the story he seeks to tell. Both personal and relatable, the story brings up our own memories and experiences – forcing us to confront who we are and how we identify.

The interactive element of the show is what really allows for the human quality of the production to come through. Each night something different occurs on stage because of the unique audience members present, who each bring with them their own identities and perceptions of themselves. Delgaudio forces you to question your identity labels and reminds you that sometimes people will never fully see you and your experiences for what they are – but that’s okay.

You will ask: Who am I? How do others perceive me? How do I perceive myself? Does it even matter? That’s the point of the show. Delgaudio reminds us to be cognizant of the fact that people are more than what they appear to be (just as magic is more than what it appears to be!). Dig a little deeper and you’ll see more and more of who a person is. It’s a glorious thing to dig below the identities we assign to ourselves and allow others to assign to us.  

If you want a different theater experience that is both intimate and beautiful, then see this show. Keep an open mind and go with someone you care about. It’s an experience worth sharing.

 

“In & Of Itself” runs through May 6, 2018 at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Tickets can be found here.