Ching Chong Chinaman

by Olympia Zipitas

Ching Chong Chinaman
is a fun play full of laughter and cliffhangers. It follows a Chinese American family that seems normal at first, but then the teenage son, Upton, imports a Chinese man to do his homework so that he can spend all of his time playing computer games. We watch as this stranger forces the family to learn more about themselves as individuals and as a family.

Many creative aspects of the play really stood out to me. The man from China coudn't speak English, but instead of speaking Chinese, he communicated only with body language. He and Upton's sister, Grace, had entire conversations that made me forget that they didn’t speak the same language until Grace said something like, "You still don’t speak English.”
After the play, I was able to ask the actors some questions about their characters and the rehearsal process. I learned that they only rehearsed for a couple weeks, which surprised me because they all seemed so comfortable with each other. They explained that because of the small number of Asian actors in the theater industry, many of them had previously worked with each other at one time or another. I also asked James Chen, the actor who played the man from China, how it felt to not speak for a big part of the play. He said that it was difficult because he wanted people to realize that he didn't understand his surrounding, not that he actually couldn't speak.

Ching Chong Chinaman
is a lot of fun. The actors all played their roles very well and the chemistry between them was excellent. I definitely recommend this play to teenagers.

Playing thru April 11 $20 student tickets West End Theatre, 263 W. 86th Street, 2nd floor


World Theatre Day

By Christa Tandana

Do you think theatre is worth celebrating? Then World Theatre Day is the perfect holiday for you!

Join the rest of the globe on March 27 to celebrate the many forms of theatre. Created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute, or ITI, World Theatre Day is a day devoted to celebrating the creating and sharing of theatre.

Why should we celebrate theatre? Theatre is a great form of expression that goes beyond boundaries to connect people through emotion and creativity. Theatre arts does not mean just all plays. It includes drama, dance and musical theatre and even just watching it is part of the whole theatre experience!

Every year, the ITI partners with theatre communities all over the world to promote international exchange of knowledge and practice in theatre arts. Their purpose is to help create connections across the globe through theatre arts in order to create peace and increase understanding between communities in theatre and beyond.

Participators include countries like the UK, Ghana, Indonesia, Canada, Australia, France, the US. Right here in the New York, the New York City World Theatre Day Coalition is organizing a mass flash mob! A flash mob is a group of people who get suddenly crowd together in a public place to perform something and then quickly disperse. Bystanders are usually confused, amused, curious, or even wanting to participate! The one that will occur in NYC on March 27 will include a poetic reading, a song, theatre games and other mass theatre fun! One of them is called "Cheers to You" where they will start a mass applause.

You can find out more about how to participate here: www.nycwtd.com

So, whether you celebrate by joining the flash mob, seeing a show, or reading your PxP, take part in this international effort to celebrate theatre arts!


The Miracle Worker

by Ben Ellentuck

I called up a friend and said I had an extra ticket to a show and would he like to come. "Of course," he said, "But what show is it?"

"The Miracle Worker," I said.

"Oh," he replied. I could tell what he was thinking. And quite honestly, I was thinking the same thing myself. Going to a show about Helen Keller did not seem like the most thrilling excursion in the world. In fact, it seemed quite boring.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that the show is hilarious or ground-breaking or full of energy because it isn’t. That said, it sure as hell is moving.

The plot follows the journey of Annie Sullivan (played by Alison Pill), from being a Boston boarding school student to becoming an astoundingly successful teacher of blind and deaf Helen Keller (played by Abigail Breslin—the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine; she looks very different now).
Before Annie arrives, no one knows how to communicate with Helen. Annie sets out to not only discipline Helen, but to also educate her. Of course there are obstacles in her way (such as Helen's parents and Annie's past), but Annie's experiments become progressively more and more successful. Helen learns about Annie, Annie learns about Helen, and the two grow to really care about one another.

You may be reading this and thinking, "Well…it still sounds kind of stupid." Fine; I get it. Maybe I’d still even feel the same way if it weren’t for the very last moments of the play. However, those final moments (this production does them SO well) are some of the most tender, poignant, uplifting—in short, some of the BEST—I’ve ever experienced through a work of art, any work of art, EVER. You feel hope, not a blind optimism, but a real, tangible hope, welling up in your chest, for yourself, for the characters, for humanity as a whole. It feels wonderful just being alive.

If you’ve ever truly felt this, you know exactly what I mean. If you’ve yet to, I would highly recommend the experience.

I really don’t want to ruin the ending of the play by revealing the specifics to you (yes, it’s that good), but I will say this: whether or not you’re interested in Helen Keller, if you care at all about people, you WILL be moved by The Miracle Worker.

TICKETS: $26.50 lottery rush • Circle in the Square, 235 West 50th Street.


Fuerza Bruta

by Ben Wolfson

You would think a show with the title “Brute Force” would be about street thugs and cocaine smugglers. Wrong. Fuerza Bruta is about the collective experience of participating in an audience. There is no plot, no main character, not even a spoken word. And there are no seats.

The lights come on. A man in a white suit runs on a treadmill. A shot rings out. The man kneels over, examines his red stained suit, sheds it, and keeps running. Soon he is hit by a wall made  of confetti-filled cardboard  boxes. The confetti and box  pieces fly over the audience.

You move to another  part of the stage, where a wild  dance party begins. The guy next to you starts head  banging, even the man in  the fancy suit starts tapping his foot. The actors jump into  the audience and dance with you.
A pool of mermaids descends from above and you crane your neck to see with a sense of wonder. The pool is shallow and it starts to rain. The girls start diving and whirling, the shallow water allows for infinite grace. There is art in the way the water follows them, splashing in hypnotizing formations. The pool descends over your head; you can reach up and touch it. You are invited to dance as you get doused from above with water.

As you walk out of Fuerza Bruta, you feel you know everybody in the cast and the audience. The only thought in your head: “Let’s do that again.”

Tickets: $25 general rush • Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 E. 15 St.



by Zija Lubin-West

Race, the newest David Mamet play (which he both wrote and directed), is a very bold piece of work. The writing is straightforward, and in the midst of all the bickering and anger, it is quite entertaining.

Jack Lawson is a cynical lawyer who is approached by a messed-up billionaire charged with raping a black woman. Lawson’s partner, Henry Brown, is a man of morals, but is by Lawson’s side most of the time. Susan, a young and eager intern with strong views, helps on the case. As the case unfolds, Lawson and his team uncover secrets about Brown and themselves.
The raked stage was an interesting choice. Though it was easier to see all of the actors onstage, it must have made it harder on the actors to move around. It is uncommon to have a raked stage in contemporary theatre.

The office took up the entire stage and was used very well. No one seemed to be moving just for the sake of it, or because that’s where they were told to go. Each of the actors seemed to really understand what they were saying and who their character was.

Though Race is bold, it is also very funny. This is a play that could easily offend people, but with the right crowd and the right attitude, it is a heavy and heavily humored show. 

TICKETS: $26.50 student rush • Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.

Race Dramaturgy

by Jahnesha Huertas

David Mamet’s plays Oleanna, Race, and Speed-The Plow have countless similarities. Not only does Mamet shine light on the dynamics of power, class, and authority between men and women, but the driving catalyst of his plot is almost always the sinister actions of a female. Whether this is the manifestations of sexist views on the behalf of the playwright is not completely apparent. Mamet shows women using their assets and positions in society to take advantage of male authorities.

In Oleanna, Carol, is a college student who can't handle the pressures of college and seeks out extra help from her professor. She makes it very clear that it is unfair that the authorities who hold the power to decide if she fails are human beings just like herself - they are people who aren't less lacking in their perfections, so why do they hold so much power over her and society? Susan in Race is also a young woman, an intern to be exact, and is surrounded by men in the workplace. She is the one with less professional experience, yet she ends up being the biggest threat to the case. Karen in Speed-The-Plow portrays herself as pure and naïve and is significantly younger than Gould, the film producer, who is obviously attracted to her. She wants a film idea to be produced and she knows that she can use her sexuality to get what she wants. She is very honest and upfront with Gould about his desires and romanticizes his need for love as virtuous. She makes him think that they both are searching for the same thing.

Mamet has a very specific formula. All of these plays have only one woman in them and he places the female in a male-dominated atmosphere. Mamet gives most of the social and professional power to the men in his pieces. By making Carol the student, Susan the eager intern and Karen the secretary, they seem the least threatening. His plays communicate that still in today’s world, men hold most of the power. Mamet puts his female characters at different social statuses than their male counterparts to mirror the dynamics of authority in the real world and their efforts on their inferior subjects. Also, Mamet makes age a prominent factor in all the characters of his plays - the women are all the youngest.

Race takes this a step further by making race a prominent issue in the plot. One of Susan’s mentors is also black like herself. By doing this, Mamet makes the statement that gender trumps race. Even though both characters are black, Susan’s position does not hinder her efforts to stand up for the alleged rape victim - another black woman. Both characters are more married to the bigger picture than their current situations. They are willing to risk everything to prove a point. Even though the alleged rapist never commits foul play against Susan personally, she still wants to make him an example.

Susan’s character challenges the definition of right and wrong. She has a very strong feeling that the alleged rapist is indeed guilty, however, she doesn’t act on her strong emotions until after her mentor asks her to play the victim in a reenactment of the encounter. Such an act would be her admitting that a white man was innocent of the rape of another black woman. Susan believes that since the alleged rapist confessed to the crime, thus proving that he was guilty, all of her foul play up until that point simply does not count. Susan is actually an aid in uncovering the truth. Her male colleagues are loyal to their client, but not necessarily loyal to the truth. As lawyers, they aren't interested in revealing the truth, they only want to protect their version of the truth.

The female characters in Race, Oleanna, and Speed-The-Plow are more loyal to the principles of their life situations than to the situations themselves. Susan, Karen and Carol are interested in making a statement about justice and truth in the society that we live in and Mamet uses them as a literary device to not only forward the plot, but as a symbol. Mamet shows that though men do not hold all of the power, woman are still highly underestimated. Mamet's female characters show that it doesn’t matter how mature and professional a male may be - a younger woman who appears defenseless can fool any man into doing what she wants.



by Melissa Miranda

Stomp is musical entertainment for all ages. This performance doesn’t have a storyline or characters, just music. And not the type of music that you hear a band play or listen to on the radio — this music is made by objects that we see and use every day. The performers use garbage cans, brooms, newspapers, plastic bags, stop signs, sinks, lighters, and more to create different beats and patterns.

The theatre is unlike any other theater I have been to. The stage is small and there are what seem to be millions of things hanging on the walls. These objects turn out to be what the performers use to make music.

The eight “stompers” move their bodies to the rhythmic beat of the music, dancing like they are at a party, not onstage. Although there’s no speaking, the performers use phsyical comedy and facial expressions to make the audience laugh. The show makes me feel empowered and energetic. I feel the urge to dance and to make music with everything around me.

Stomp is perfect for teenagers who enjoy music and love to laugh. It takes music and movement to a whole other level.

TICKETS: PxP Special 2 for 1 ticket offer • Feb 16th-Mar 25th, Tue-Fri @ 8, Sat & Sun @ 3 • Code PLAYBY • Phone, box office or online • Orpheum Theatre, 126 2nd Ave.

A View From the Bridge

by Sara Aronbayev

Broadway’s A View From the Bridge is packed with love and deceit. Set in the mid-1950’s, the play follows Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman living in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with his wife Beatrice, and Catherine (played by Scarlett Johansson), his 17-year-old orphaned niece. Eddie dotes on Catherine. This becomes more pronounced after Beatrice’s cousins come from Italy to start a new life in America. Sheltered Catherine falls for one of the immigrants, and Eddie’s passionate jealousy propels the play towards a series of tragic confrontations.
The actors’ portrayals of Arthur Miller’s character are spot on. Scarlett Johansson gives a remarkable performance in her Broadway debut, really committing to her role of an overly protected young woman itching to experience the world around her. The set played a significant part in creating the melancholy mood of the play. It revolves on a turntable, showing different locations, but keeping the same atmosphere. The dark lighting and cramped rooms highlight the anxiety that radiates from the characters’ inner conflicts: Catherine with her lack of freedom, Beatrice with her confusion over Eddie and Catherine’s relationship, and Eddie’s inappropriate desire for Catherine.
The central theme in A View From the Bridge — jealousy — is very relevant to modern teenagers. It’s like the forbidden fruit on the tree: you always want what you can’t have. Though written fifty years ago, this play has withstood the test of time.

TICKETS: $26.50 general rush • Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St.

A View From the Bridge Dramaturgy

by Christa Tandana

Did you ever imagine Scarlett Johansson on Broadway? Well, she is now, starring in A View from the Bridge alongside Liev Schreiber.

Enter the world of Eddie Carbone (Schreiber), a longshoreman who lives with his wife, Beatrice, and his orphaned niece, Catherine (Johansson), in an Italian American neighborhood in Red Hook, Brooklyn in the mid-1950's.

The 1950's were the age of McCarthyism. Citizens were scared of being considered a communist, coming into the country was extremely difficult and immigration laws and procedures were harsh and tightly enforced.

Arthur Miller, the playwright of A View from the Bridge, grew up in Brooklyn and had a particular fascination with the community of longshoremen in Red Hook. Before he wrote A View from the Bridge, Miller wrote a screenplay in 1950 called “The Hook”. The film was supposed to be about corruption on the docks and was never produced because Miller refused to change the villains from corrupt union officials to communists to give it a more “pro-American” feel.

A View from the Bridge was then introduced in 1955 as a one act play on Broadway. Since then, it has been made into a movie and performed as an opera.

The last Broadway production was done in 1997 and starred Anthony LaPaglia, Allison Janney, and the late Brittany Murphy. It won several awards including a Tony for Best Revival of a Play and Best Leading Actor in a Play for LaPaglia.

Arthur Miller has written such famous plays as All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. A View from the Bridge may not be his most famous play and one might ask why there is any need for another revival, but with a new cast and new director, this might just be a new way at looking at this kitchen-sink drama!


Memphis - Backstage

Memphis Dramaturgy

by Sabrina Khan

Memphis, a new musical that soulfully narrates the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is Broadway’s live history book of a time when music engaged the nation to acknowledge and take action
against racial discrimination.

In the show, young Huey Calhoun has a passion for rhythm and blues, and he visits an underground black club to listen to music. There he meets Felicia Farrell, a young black singer, who becomes Huey’s inspiration to bring “race music” to mainstream culture. Although the genre gains instant popularity among American youth, Huey is constantly met with hostility from conservative (often older) white people who want to censor it from the media.

Based on actual accounts, Memphis is set in a period of American history spanning The Great Migration, leading into the Civil Rights Movement, all amidst the origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

During the years of 1910-1970, over six and a half million black migrants moved from the South to the North in the hopes of escaping segregation and gaining greater standards of living. In 1910, 80% of the black population lived in the South, and because of The Great Migration, by 1970, only 25% remained. Unfortunately, the North didn’t offer the haven the migrants had hoped for and racism was rampant.

Facing discrimination in all walks of life, harsh treatment from employers, violence from the Ku Klux Klan, and segregation in the South, African Americans began to fight for equal opportunities and rights. Major strides were made in this fight: the Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared segregation in schools unconstitutional, Rosa Parks’ protest and successful Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Kansas, to name a few. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s paved the way for greater change in the next decade.

Finally, Rock ‘n’ Roll emerged as a youthful and rebellious call for change that defied the structure and rules of the past generation. The music enveloped all that conservative America tried to suppress - a sense of freedom and raw energy that was heavily influenced by black musical roots. A fusion of rhythm and blues, soul and gospel, Rock ‘n’ Roll, was much too political and risqué, but radio stations, a platform for divide, were willing to take a chance on it and made legends of artists like Elvis Presley. With a voice criticized for sounding “too black”, Elvis sang and danced controversy in his tunes and demonstrated the feel of the time. And when disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term Rock ‘n’ Roll in the early 1950s, he made an amazing addition to the recording industry and mainstream media.

Read a review of Memphis here
and an interview with the stars here


Sound Off: How Do You Speak?

In the spring issue of PxP (coming out next week!), we review shows that explore different ways of speaking - with words, with music, with dance, with sounds.

PxP Wants to Know...

How do YOU speak?

Tell us in the comments!


Lessons Learned

by Grace Lisandrelli

During regularly scheduled meetings called Plogger Bootcamps, teen ploggers learn of the latest occurrences at TDF, hone their writing skills, and exchange ideas about effective plogging. At the most recent Plogger Bootcamp, the ploggers had the pleasure of meeting with TDF Online Content Editor and fellow critic, Mark Blankenship. In initiating a discussion, Mark posed a simple question: Why did you want to become a plogger? Some said they wanted to broaden their theater repertoire, while others sought a medium in which to fuse their love of theater and writing.

One plogger’s answer in particular has remained with me since that meeting. This plogger relayed her experience as an artist and the sort of criticism she receives from her peers. A person would approach her drawing, for example, and negatively comment on the size of her subject’s sketched hand. When the plogger would ask the critic to elaborate on his or her criticism, the critic offered neither a detailed explanation nor a route by which to correct the problem. Many people, particularly critics, are quick to disparage but few can clearly articulate the reasons behind their critique.

Mark presented a method to avoid this pitfall in the form of three questions, which he uses as a framework for all his reviews:
  • What was the artist trying to accomplish? – Critics should look beyond the art’s exterior and search for the message being portrayed.
  • Did the artist accomplish his/her goal? – Once the art’s meaning has been deciphered, the critic should determine whether the artist has successfully communicated his/her message to the audience.
  • Was the subject matter worth exploring? – After answering the first two questions, the critic must question if the overall theme has any bearing on society.

I found these questions thought-provoking and capable of leading a critic to uncover multiple dimensions of a work of art. They will prove a useful tool as I write my next review.