OVERVIEW: Red Bull Theater’s Short New Play Festival returns on Monday, July 11, 2022. Six brand new short plays will be selected from an open-submission process and presented in live in-person staged readings alongside two new short plays by commissioned writers, STEPHEN ADLY GUIRGIS (Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Our Lady of 121st Street) and LARISSA FASTHORSE (The Thanksgiving Play, What Would Crazy Horse Do?).
INSPIRATION: We are looking for work with classical inspiration. The word ALCHEMY is just a jumping-off point for creative thematic juices. Review our Mission and take a look through our history of Readings and Productions to see the kind of work we have done. Respond to a play we’ve produced or choose a classic of your own to adapt. You might riff on a classical character, borrow a classical milieu, or be inspired to create a brand new style of dramatic verse. Finding inspiration from classics beyond the traditional Western canon is welcome. We hope you will be in dialogue with classical theater in a multitude of creative and surprising ways.
SUBMISSION FEE: There is a $10 submission fee.
DEADLINE: 12 NOONEST on MONDAY, APRIL 4, 2022. NO EXCEPTIONS.
SELECTED PLAYWRIGHTS: will receive a staged reading of their submission as part of the festival on Monday, July 11, 2022, performed by an ensemble company of some of New York City’s finest actors.
will receive a commissioning fee of $400 and will receive a travel reimbursement of up to $400 to attend the festival rehearsal and performance on Monday, July 11 in New York City.
will be consulted on choices for the shared ensemble cast, will have final script approval, and will have the opportunity to have their play published and licensed by Stage Rights as part of our Red Bull Shorts series.
Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist is set in a time of plagues…Jacobean plagues…and the root story is cons conning the cons while the elite chill in the country. Now, I have not read Jonson’s original, but I think that I am safe in saying that Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation strays from Jonson because it is so damn pertinent to our current pandemic! And I doubt that Jonson’s audience would have gathered in all of the current plays nuances either. But I can’t say enough about Hatcher’s adaptation. It speaks to our times despite the out of date premise and the absurd situations depicted. This is a marvel of a play.
But certainly, this is a farce. And a laugh out loud farce. And one of the best that I’ve seen in quite a while.
Our story…a wealthy aristocrat had run off to the country to avoid the plague and left a serving man in the city to look after his home there. Said serving man has gotten involved with a charlatan and his female accomplice…they have been using the mansion as a base to fleece a number of wealthy gentry through any number of different devices. And…
“chaos is at hand!”
And I am guessing director Jesse Berger should get credit for casting The Alchemist…and the cast is marvelous…after watching this I can’t imagine who else could have played these roles more effectively. I have two favorites…we’ll get to that.
And Mr. Berger also has to get a standing ovation for his direction of this play. The complex timing, the movement of actors around the set, the fluid entries and exits, the swift and complicated costume changes all go on without a hitch…and he had the actors well prepared for what is a difficult text to speak and keep straight! The action is non-stop.
We start with our nefarious threesome who have taken up shop in the mansion…Subtle, played by Reg Rogers, is by turns the alchemist, a seer, and a teacher…Face, played by Manoel Feliciano, who is the gentlemen who is left to care for the house plus a number of characters embodied to help Subtle with their scams…and Dol, played by Jennifer Sanchez, who is the female distraction or assistant or temptress in their schemes. And although they’ve all sworn to get along and co-operate and share their ill got gains…at any number of points they display a certain willingness to cheat the others out of theirs!
And it is these three who are most pressed upon to keep separate the various characters and roles they play as part of their schemes, straight along with their costuming and accents. Challenging in the least…but these three pull it off with gusto. Subtle to Face as they play through (much to the delight of this audience) “you wanted another part!”
And on to my favorites: Jacob Ming-Trent plays Mammon, “thou rotund sinner”. An apparently rich but greedy man of the neighborhood…and probably the character that lost the most in the various swindles…although often the source of his own undoing…and who actually gets the LAST word if not actually the last lines in the play. But Mr. Ming-Trent plays him with swagger and finesse and a bold love of life…and a certain pursuit of happiness that is a lot of fun to watch. And even though he is accompanied by his skeptical friend, Surly, here played by Louis Mastillo, Mammon never loses hope…until the bitter end. And Surly is my other favorite…ever skeptical…and just as devious as any other character. He often talks directly to the audience…informing them of the obvious or explaining his own actions…with the bravado of an extra in a mob movie, Brooklyn accent and all!
And we have a constant parade of others who seek advice, boons, requests, lessons, or an alchemist’s stone. Dapper, played by Carson Elrod, who is horribly unlucky at gambling and wishes that Subtle provide him with a familiar or spirit to bring him good luck at the gaming tables. You can probably guess where this ends up. But it gets pretty convoluted and hilarious before play’s end. Dugger, played by Nathan Christopher, a lovelorn tobacconist, who wants Subtle to advise a wealthy widow to select him as her next husband. The widow Pliant, played by Theresa Avia Lim, has more up her sleeve and apparently skirts than is apparent at first glance. Did I forget to tell you this was also something of a bawdy tale? My bad…it certainly is! Ananais, an Antibaptist who seeks a have a stone of his own to turn base metals into gold. He resists handing over payment without results which also leads to unexpected turmoil and comedy…and maybe a bit of bawd as well. Ananais is played by Stephen Derosa. And finally Kastril, Pliant’s brother who seeks help from Subtle to find a knight to marry his sister and lessons in argument! Allen Tedder provides us with a very outrageous Kastril.
Me thinks this version ends in a different; much different vein than Ben Jonson originally intended…but this one is sublime. So there you have it ” and a Shetland pony.”
As I said above, this streams online until February 14, 2022 and here is the link! It is a pay what you can presentation so please be as generous as you are able. I don’t think this play will disappoint you!
Red Bull Theater is a talented theater group that presents Elizabethan and Jacobean plays that aren’t Shakespeare. And on a number of occasions I have extolled their acquired ability at doing fresh and engaging on line readings via Zoom…and this presentation of The Wonder of Women written by John Marston and directed by Nathan Winkelstein is no exception.
Now imagine a play where a royal nobleman has a beautiful daughter sought after by two powerful young royals…and the losing suitor takes particular offense and starts a war. And here we have the premise behind The Wonder of Women. But of course it doesn’t end there. The backdrop is the wars between Carthage and Rome…and as Rome invades the land of Carthage to distract Hannibal’s progress in Italy…said rival suitors change and re-change and change again their numerous alliances…with the luckless bride caught in the cross fire. So through out we have an immense amount of bloodshed and characters who suffer from not quite understanding where the royals currently hold allegiance.
In the end, nobody…and I mean nobody wins.
The Red Bull presents this reading via six very engaging actors.
The three principal characters are Syphax, ably played by Derek Smith. Syphax is the losing suitor for the hand of Sophonisba and Mr. Smith plays his role as the vengeful rogue from start to tragic finish. The husband of Sophonisba is played by Ro Boddie! As he plays Massinissa, he effectively runs the gamut of star struck lover to ardent defender of Carthage to turncoat of his own accord…in both his marriage and his political allegiances. And the lovely Sophonisba is played remarkably by Cara Ricketts. Sophonisba loves Massinissa and suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune up to a point…in the end she refuses to be a pawn in the great dramas of men…and our tragedy comes to a bloody end.
And we have three other hard working cast members…who have to play a number of different roles…something that I would think far more daunting in a Zoom reading than on a stage.
First we have Sarin Monae West who handles her multiple roles with grace, charm, and a remarkable directness: Gelasso, a Senator of Carthage; Nuntius, a solder of Cirta; Zanthia, servant of Sophonisba; and Eroctho, a night hag. Probably the best character she’s been handed here is the flirtatious and conniving role of Zanthia. I look forward to seeing here play here again in the future.
Robert Cuccioli has two prominent character roles here. First as Asdrubal, a Senator of Carthage and the unfortunate father of Sophonisba. Thinking he has married off his daughter well he finds himself at the helm in the war against Rome. And then playing in the opposite camp he is also Scipio, the Roman general. This oppositional casting confused me at first.
And Reynaldo Piniella is the final cast member and he is charged with a number of royal figures and a major league rogue. Here he is well cast as first Vangue, a servant of Syphax; Laelius, a lieutenant of Rome; and Gisco, a murderer.
I have been lax on getting this written…The Wonder of Women is streaming until tomorrow evening. It is free but with a pay what you can request. Here is the link!