Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Jesus Hopped the A Train

Jesus Hopped the A Train
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Sharone Halevy
Presented by Yellafella Entertainment
16th Street Theater

What's It All About?
Inmates Angel Cruz (Juan Castano) and Lucius Jenkins (Jordan Mahome) cope with life inside Riker's Island prison and sadistic corrections officer Valdez (Jake Hart). Valdez gets kindhearted colleague Charlie D'Amico (John Payne) relieved of duty for being too friendly with Lu (he had provided the prisoner with cigarettes, Oreos and genuine friendship). Valdez makes it known that the fun times are over and seems to have it in for Lu because he freely confesses his faith in God.

Cruz, incarcerated for shooting a cult leader who had brainwashed kids who had to be kidnapped and "reprogrammed" after the experience, also doesn't want to hear "religion" from Lu, but he accepts the man's friendship in the midst of harsh treatment and abuse from other inmates. Cruz's case touches Public Defender Mary Jane Hanrahan (Christy Escobar) who works, at peril to her own career, to have the charges against him dismissed. All hope seems to be lost for Lu, however, who is headed to death row for the eight heinous murders he committed.

What are the Highlights?
The gospel is clearly proclaimed as Lu (in a wonderful performance by Mahome) prays, sings and shares his faith while working out during the one hour of outdoor recreation time he is allowed each day in the prison yard (the minimal set, effectively designed by Clifton Chadick). Sharone Halevy directs an above-average Equity Showcase.

What are the Lowlights?
Only five performances!

More information:
This presentation was a special one-week engagement and has closed. YellaFella Entertainment was founded in 2011 by actor/writer/director Lelund Durond Thompson. Its mission is "to tell universal stories that heal through music, theater, film and photography. YellaFella represents faith and hope. YellaFella represents love for people. YellaFella represents love for people’s creativity, YellaFella represents the steps toward healing and positive change that we all desire." The company is producing a number of diverse projects. Tshidi Manye (currently starring as “Rafiki” in Broadway’s The Lion King) has recently begun the YellaFella Concert Series where she invites her audiences on a journey of self-exploration and emotional healing through song. Also in development is The Doll Confessions, a new play fused with music and dance, which examines the effects of childhood traumas as seen through the eyes of the dolls who have witnessed them. The Doll Confessions is directed by Tony Award winner Trezana Beverly. For more info: http://yellafellaentertainment.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- Strong language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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