Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Chatting with the Tea Party TOP PICK

John E. Brady, Maribeth Graham, Jeffrey C. Wolf, and Richard Kent Green. Photo: Matthew Dunivan
Chatting With the Tea Party
a documentary‐style play   
By Rich Orloff
Directed by Lynnette Barkley
Robert Moss Theatre
Through Feb. 21

By Lauren Yarger

What's It All About?
Playwright Rich Orloff (Funny As A Crutch), a self admitted pretty liberal New Yorker, realized that while he didn't like a lot of what the Tea Party stood for, he didn't actually know anyone who was a member of it. Driven by a desire to answer the question "Who are these people?" Orloff conducted  more than 63 hours of interviews with leaders of more than 20 Tea Party groups around the country. 

Jeffrey C. Wolf plays Orloff.  John E. Brady, Maribeth Graham and Richard Kent Green play a variety of characters from the folks Orloff interviewed to political figures (Dialect Coaching is by Page Clements). All of the dialogue uses for the Tea Party members is real, taken from the interviews.

In the course of chatting with Tea Party folks, Orloff finds himself actually liking some of them. He doesn't agree with their politics when it comes to gun control, abortion and other issues, but he comes to respect most of them as decent, patriotic people, deeply concerned about the country and willing to take action about the things they feel passionate. 

Without keeping an open mind, he wouldn't get far from his early thought that "The Left and Right don’t just have a difference of opinion, we live in different realities."

What Are the Highlights?
One of the best scripts of the season, Broadway or Off. The action, directed by Lynette Barkley, keeps us engaged as the skilled actors walk in and out of personas. Orloff has the gift of slick writing, so the many elements are anchored (often with some sharp humor) and paint quick vivid images of the characters without relying on stereotype. The project itself is pretty brave for a New York playwright (showing any empathy for someone who is not a full-out, Obama-supporting, liberal Democrat usually doesn't win you any friend here -- a reaction amusingly captured in the pay by reactions from the playwright's friends.)

While Orloff's own opinions are not hidden, his reporting skills remind us of how journalism should be -- looking for information and reporting truth rather than pushing an agenda. I found the play timely, powerful and refreshing. The significance of the song "Why Can't We Be Friends" playing at intermission is not lost.

What Are the Lowlights?
None. Go see it.

More Information:
The set and lights are designed by Nick Francone, with costumes designed by Orli Nativ, and projections designed by Paul Girolamo.

Performances are Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through Feb. 21. Tickets are $18: www.chattingwiththeteaparty.com.

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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 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. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

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. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

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 Episcopal Actors' Guild.

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.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


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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