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THE

Defender Picks

 

MARDI

March 28th

Book Reading: Elizabeth Pearce

Garden District Book Shop, 6PM

From her new book "Drink Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Best Cocktail Bars, Dives, & Speakeasies"

 

Spring Publishing Camp

Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop, 7PM

Book publishing workshop

 

Gabby Douglas

Dillrd University, 7PM

Olympic gymnast talks fame and fitness

 

Laelume

The Carver, 7PM

World soul jazz music

 

Laughter Without Borders

Loyola University, 7PM

Clowns for a cause, to benefit Syrian refugees

 

Tuesday Night Haircuts

St. Roch Tavern, 8PM

Tonight: beer, haircuts, karaoke

 

Thinkin' With Lincoln 

Bayou Beer Garden, 8PM

Outdoor trivia

 

Water Seed

Blue Nile, 9PM

Interstellar future funk

 

Stanton Moore Trio

Snug Harbor, 10PM

Galactic drummer’s side project - also at 8PM

MERCREDI

March 29th

Response: Artists in the Park

Botanical Garden, 10AM

Art exhibit and sale en plein air

 

Studio Opening Party

Alex Beard Studio, 5PM

Drinks, food, painting to celebrate the artist's studio opening

 

Sippin' in the Courtyard

Maison Dupuy Hotel, 5PM

Fancy foods, music by jazz great Tim Laughlin, and event raffle

 

Work Hard, Play Hard

Benachi House & Gardens, 6PM

Southern Rep's fundraising dinner and party 

 

Lecture: Patrick Smith

New Canal Lighthouse, 6PM

Coastal scientist discusses his work

 

Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks

Smoothie King Center, 7PM

The Birds and the Mavs go head to head

 

Drag Bingo

Allways Lounge, 7PM

Last game planned in the Allways's popular performance & game night

 

They Blinded Me With Science: A Bartender Science Fair

2314 Iberville St., 7:30PM

Cocktails for a cause

 

Brian Wilson 

Saenger Theatre, 8PM

The Beach Boy presents "Pet Sounds" 

 

Movie Screening: Napoleon Dynamite

Catahoula Hotel, 8PM

Free drinks if you can do his dance. Vote for Pedro!

 

Blood Jet Poetry Series

BJs in the Bywater, 8PM

Poetry with Clare Welsh and Todd Cirillo

 

Horror Shorts

Bar Redux, 9PM

NOLA's Horror Films Fest screens shorts

 

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie

Howlin Wolf, 10PM

Bronx hip hop comes south

 

JEUDI

March 30th

Aerials in the Atrium

Bywater Art Lofts, 6PM

Live art in the air

 

Ogden After Hours

Ogden Museum, 6PM

Feat. Mia Borders

 

Pete Fountain: A Life Half-Fast

New Orleans Jazz Museum, 6PM

Exhibit opening on the late Pete Fountain

 

Big Freedia Opening Night Mixer

Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture, 6PM

Unveiling of Big Freedia's 2018 Krew du Viewux costume

 

An Edible Evening

Langston Hughes Academy, 7PM

8th annual dinner party in the Dreamkeeper Garden

 

RAW Artists Present: CUSP

The Republlic, 7PM

Immersive pop-up gallery, boutique, and stage show

 

Electric Swandive, Hey Thanks, Something More, Chris Schwartz

Euphorbia Kava Bar, 7PM

DIY rock, pop, punk show

 

The Avett Brothers

Saenger Theatre, 7:30PM

Americana folk-rock

 

Stand-Up NOLA

Joy Theater, 8PM

Comedy cabaret

 

Stooges Brass Band

The Carver, 9PM

NOLA brass all-stars

 

Wolves and Wolves and Wolves and Wolves

Gasa Gasa, 9PM

Feat. Burn Like Fire and I'm Fine in support

 

Fluffing the Ego

Allways Lounge, 10:30PM

Feat. Creep Cuts and Rory Danger & the Danger Dangers

 

Fast Times Dance Party

One Eyed Jacks, 10:30PM

80s dance party

 


Fringe Begins

NoDef's Theatre Critic Does Opening Night: Cicada, The Other Mozart, Boesman and Lena



Two or three years ago, I grew disgruntled with the New Orleans Fringe Festival. Except for any absolute obligation shows, I started avoiding it in its entirety. Sheer size had not made the fest a “victim of its own success.” There’d been no noticeable decline in the quality of its slate. Rather I believed that the rest of the New Orleans scene had fallen victim to it. It’s all in the timing: Whereas in most cities a fringe fest invigorates the off-season, the theatrical dead zone, ours had set up camp in the middle of prime time – in a town where workable periods for full-run shows is already severely limited by the major holidays – then grown so huge as to suck all the air out of the room. 

 

Local producers not ensconced in the suburbs now have little choice but to close their fall productions a week early to get the hell out of the way or fold one weekend of whatever they’re presenting under the Fest banner. And if Fringe Fest gave back value to those overshadowed producers in the form of new butts regularly in the seats, I couldn’t see it. The 800-pound gorilla of the fall feeds mostly itself, returning next season tipping in at 900 pounds.

 

This year, I beganreviewing for the Defender and figured that I was due for a reality check. So, I signed up for a full plate of everything that was not puppetry, burlesque, sideshow, stand-up, poetry, or dance. (In other words, the plays.) Is the breadth and depth of Fringe Fest offerings really outweighed by its voracious omnipresence, or was I just being a bitch?

If my first night running around town is any indication, it looks like the latter…

 

 

Cicada (Lofty Productions, New Orleans)

The production of Mary Jacobs’ Cicada, by Lofty Productions at Claire’s Garden – in Gentilly, way off the official Fest map – harkens back to what fringe fests used to be: the loving presentation of technically modest, thematically adventurous, interesting but uncommercial work. Cicada concerns itself with Joann (Abigail Riddick), a workaday grunt whose ordinarily unhappy life is notable only for her status as the very young single mother of eight-year-old Cole (Preston Slaughter.) Cole has been giving her the silent treatment, without explanation, for many weeks. Is he sick? Depressed? Going through a phase?

Joann's conversations with the one bright spot in her life, her tippling lesbian BFF Ellen (Christina Ingrassia) – a near-stereotype, akin to the sassy gay friend, redeemed by the modesty of her sassiness – with Cole’s concerned teacher Ms. Miro (Jasmine Johnson,) and, most memorably, with Cole himself Jacobs limns the depth of Joann’s anger and hurt. My son can hear me, respond to me so, what? Does he hate me?

 

Cicada is a drama of the quotidian, such as we almost never see from American writers. (At its best, it put me in mind of the British maestro of the working class, Ken Loach.) In calling Cicada "adventurous," I mean to compliment Jacobs mostly for what she does not do. I waited in dread of The Explosion – a moment of violence or the revelation of a dark secret; perhaps, just as bad, a Lifetime-movie hug-cum-reconciliation – that blessedly never comes. Even the title metaphor is unstrained in its use. The play ends as it begins: a plain-spoken, poignant slice of hard life, its central mystery unresolved. Yet, still we feel that we’ve traveled somewhere important.

 

I can take issue with director Jacobs not pressing her unforced and persuasive actors harder to play beneath the surface of her lines, Specifically, I question the apparently intelligent and devoted Joann’s adamant refusal to even consider Ms. Miro’s suggestion that she get counseling for Cole (and for herself), and, really, with an entire scene in Cole’s classroom. Since Joann doesn’t contradict or evade what Ms. Miro said to her when she tells Ellen about the meeting (which would’ve been interesting) there’s probably no reason for us to see it. And the play would benefit in unity if it never left the living room.

 

Jacobs may or may not prove to be a major writer, but she’s a serious one already. Cicada is my favorite new work by a local playwright this year.

 

 

Boesman and Lena (American Theatre Project and Ashé Center, New Orleans)

Lately I have had reason to accuse myself of being an easy grader. So, it’s a special relief that American Theatre Project’s latest, Athol Fugard’s modern masterpiece Boesman and Lena offer some confirmation of mu scale. The work presents the same grace and confidence I found in ATP's recent Freedom Summer…all of it and then some.

 

This staging proves ATP artistic director Ed Bishop’s determination to burn off any mere “business,” make no moves that don’t serve the story, indulge no showoff-y “moments.”  With only simple but appropriate costumes and set and two high-powered leads, Bishop tells the story of tense, exhausted bottom feeders who live off the literal garbage of the ruling class. They are always on the vagrant move until a walking-dead ‘kaffir’ appears to disrupt their balance of power by providing Lena the illusion of companionship…which is, under the awful circumstances, is as good as the real thing. This is powerful, darkly funny work, resonating well beyond the confines of its apartheid-era South African setting, as work by geniuses like Fugard are wont to do.

 

It specifically confirms my suspicion that India King is thrilling. She vaults beyond the success of her show-stopping performance as Fannie Lou Hamer in Summer (which was merely a long monologue, after all, grand as it was.) Now, she lays claim – alongside Amy Alvarez, Becca Chapman, Jennifer Pagan, and Liann Pattison – to the finest dramatic lead performance by an actress this year. Her Lena is believably tough yet subservient to the volatile Boesman, blunt but given to flights of poetry and, most important, alive in character every single moment. Here is what I call bone-deep acting. 

 

The surprise is Kirk Bush as Boesman, whom I’ve always enjoyed but never been thrilled by. It must’ve been the roles, because he matches King beat by beat. Boesman’s anger at their lot in life has left him sullen and dangerous. This is yet another in a recent spate of local productions shot through with toxic machismo, and if I lauded Alex Wallace’s transformation in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I can do no less for the handsome and charming Bush here. He’s made himself feral, ugly, and magnetic.

 

I must be brief(er.) So, I’ll close by noting that I wish to hell Bishop would give more thought to the opening and closing moments of his shows – they are always weak – and that as the kaffir Outa what TJ Toups accomplishes, although it might appear otherwise, is not at all easy. Kudos to Toups for being so disciplined and effectively eerie in a thankless role. 

 

The Other Mozart (New York City)

I can’t actually recommend that theater lovers arrive five minutes late to a house show especially when it starts on time, then locks its doors because the layout of the parlor doesn’t allow for late seating. However, you could do worse if the curtains aren’t tightly drawn on the porch and the show you’re peering in at is The Other Mozart.

 

Although I lacked the stamina to peeping-Tom my way to the conclusion, I saw (and heard: Sara Florence Fellini, who alternates in the title role with the playwright, Sylvia Milo, has the voice of a crystal bell) a good half-hour of it before I grew weary of crouching. There was something very Upstairs Downstairs right about furtively watching such a fey and stylish show through the window of a gorgeous manse.

 

Anyway. In case I don’t make it back as I hope to do – like I said, the plate is full – I can confirm that Milo’s script is a detailed, straightforward recounting of the life of Nannerl Mozart, Amadeus’ older sister, and an acclaimed musician in her own right before becoming lost to history. (There is, by now, a buckling shelf of forgotten-woman-genius solo shows, most of them having originated on the fringe circuit. An enterprising anthologist with patience for research could collect into a terrific volume.)

 

Milo and her collaborators, especially director Isaac Byrne, made two extremely smart decisions. The high style of the performance – all-white, period-elegant, the actress surrounded by a moat of sheet music and tulle – is inversely proportionate to the grounded trustworthiness of the just-the-facts-ma’am text. Secondly,  before they dive into the inherent polemics of Nannerl’s overlooked life, and broaden the story to include the neglect of other female musicians of her day, they really lay on the charm. This is feminist theatre with girlish allure.

 

Oh! And Fellini is captivating. Beyond that, I just can’t say.

 

I can say that, outside of Fringe Fest, we rarely if ever see work like this. Perhaps by virtue of providing inspiration, that alone is giving back enough to the local theatre scene.

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Contributors:

Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Andrew Smith

Listings Editor


Photographers


Art Director:

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor:

Alexis Manrodt

Published Daily

Editor Emeritus:

B. E. Mintz

Editor Emeritus



Stephen Babcock