Saw some shows

Last week, before the Tonys and the controversy over Julius Caesar, I saw a bunch of off and off-off Broadway shows and two are especially sticking with me.

Somebody's Daughter by Chisa Hutchinson.  I know Chisa from the New York Neo-Futurists (we are both alums; Fun fact: we are also both Vassar alums but we didn't meet there) and have been so excited for all of her achievements and her growing professional success since her time with the company.  Chisa's writing is so bright, specific and nuanced, particularly in her characters' voices and dialogue.  Somebody's Daughter takes on cross-cultural relationships, coming-of-age, mother/daughter relationships and more but in surprising ways; we've seen these topics before but Chisa's play never felt anything but fresh. This play, too, made excellent use of a not-quite-linear structure and an expert sense of where each character's story should end.  In less-capable hands, it's easy to imagine a still-good but much less successful effect, but Chisa's choices are so spot-on that she avoids pitfalls we've all seen elsewhere and has created something that feels revelatory.  And though I was there to cheerlead for Chisa (and clearly wasn't disappointed) I would be remiss if I didn't say that the performance and the direction (and the production design) were all outstanding.  Somebody's Daughter is part of Second Stage's season and is running through June 25, so just GO SEE IT. 

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee by Eric Bogosian.  This is a one-man show - a connected series of monologues - written a decade ago and performed recently by Frank Zagottis at one of the modest theaters at The Producers Club.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the script which felt dated, in spite of clever updates to cultural references and which (for me) didn't manage to overcome its negative attitude/world-view in spite of being self-aware about it.  But whether you liked the script or not - and I may be in the minority: it should be noted that the night I was there, the nearly-sold-out audience really seemed to be enjoying itself - there is no denying that Zagottis is an artistic force to be reckoned with.  With no set to speak of and just a couple of small props to help delineate different characters, Zagottis held our attention for 90 minutes without flagging.  Even more remarkably, he kept our focus without ever grabbing or straining for it; his performance was a beautiful blend of energy and ease.  Even in the moments that seem clearly to have been written by Bogosian for himself - Bogosian as Bogosian - Zagottis fit himself beautifully into the piece as if it had been written for him.  If producers do decide to remount the show, I'd like to see director Jeffrey Zeiner take a stronger hand in shaping the journey of the piece and clarifying just a couple of spots where I wasn't sure if I was seeing a new character or one we'd met before.  Still, overall, this show is a testament to the power of a performer in a room with something to share - the power of theater - which is always lovely to behold and inspiring to remember.