Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Ironbound

Marin Ireland and Moragn Spector. Photo Sandra Coudert

Baggage Bound to Repeat Itself in Relationships
By Lauren Yarger
Three time frames intersect at one location – a bus stop in Elizabeth, NJ -- in Martyna Majok’s study of relationships and their baggage in a run co-produced Off-Broadway by the Women’s Project Theatre and Rattlestick.

Marin Ireland stars as Darja (a Polish-born, New Jersey-bred woman not unlike the playwright) who relives three relationships in three time settings – 1992,  2006,  2014 – that all end up at the bus stop.

First we meet Tommy (Morgan Spector). They have been together for years and the young immigrant has tolerated his multiple infidelities – until now. Now all she wants from him is $1,000 to buy a car and go look for her estranged son, whom Tommy doesn’t much like. Tommy isn’t very helpful to the distraught mother, who finally just claims he owes her. Relationships are all just about money, after all, she decrees.

Tommy is a bit put off to think that Darja is putting a monetary value on the sexual favors she has performed for him over the years as part of their relationship, especially when he realizes she might actually leave him and those benefits might no longer be at his beck and call. He does seem to care about her, however, even while proclaiming his intention to see other women.

Flashback to when Darja first arrived in the US with her first love and fellow immigrant, Maks (Josiah Bania). He and his wife are full of hope for a new life – and a music career for him -- in a new country full of promise and possibility. This relationship also centers around money, we discover – their lack of it – which is a problem since Darja is expecting a child.

Flash forward and Darja finds herself homeless at the bus stop where she meets Vic (Shiloh Fernandez), a kind street hustler.

The factory where Darja once worked looms in the distance (though not depicted on Justin Townsend’s bleak, simple set) as a metaphor for her struggles. Once a bustling example of the hoped-for fruits of honest labor, it has since been shuttered as business dropped off and workers were let go. The young woman also is haunted by the memory of a terrible tragedy at the hands of one of the factory’s slicing machines, all because a worker friend of hers had been distracted by thoughts of being somewhere else, somewhere that felt like home.

The play is a sensitive look at one immigrant’s story over the span of 20-plus years. It’s touching and realistic, with Ireland giving a strong performance (complete with accent – dialect coaching by Charlotte Fleck and Deb Hecht ) under the direction of Daniella Topol. The 90 minutes without intermission is compelling, but a bit of a downer, despite some humor to help temper the story.

The time jumping is confusing at first, but once we get the hang of who’s who and what is happening, we are aboard – even if Darja herself never makes it on a bus out of her grim New Jersey surroundings. Majok’s writing is poetic and full of passion is (she has an MFA  from the Yale School of Drama).

She is a playwright to watch. Ironbound premiered at the Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington, DC last fall. Her plays have been performed and developed at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The John F. Kennedy Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Yale Cabaret among others.  She is part of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwright Program at The Juilliard School and has taught playwriting at Williams College, Wesleyan University, SUNY Purchase, and as an assistant to Paula Vogel at Yale.

More information:
Ironbound runs through April 24 at Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Place, NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $10-$70: rattlestick.org.

Credits: Written by Martyna Majok; Direction by Daniella Topol; Set and Lighting Design by Justin Townsend, Costume Design by Kaye Voyce, Sound Design by Jane Shaw, Dialect Coaching by Charlotte Fleck and Deb Hecht,  Stage Conflict by Uncle Dave’s Fight House, Props by Zach Serafin. 

-- Language
-- Sexual Dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain

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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 concept, "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 Intensive and other 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. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

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

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

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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