THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY'S DREAM UP FESTIVAL TO PRESENT "OCCASIONALLY
NOTHING," AWARD-WINNING ABSURDIST PLAY BY NATALIE MENNA
Life is the time in between the sometimes which sometimes happen. Is that post-truth enough for you?
WHERE AND WHEN:
September 8 at 8:00 PM, September 10 at 6:30 PM, September 12 at 6:30 PM, September 14 at 6:30 PM, September 16 at 8:00 PM
Theater for the New City (Johnson Theater), 155 First Avenue
Presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2017
Box Office: (212) 254-1109, www.dreamupfestival.org
Running Time: 70 minutes. Critics are invited to all performances.
NEW YORK, July 10 -- It was inevitable, perhaps, that our post-truth politics would inseminate 21st century absurdist theater. On sunny example is "Occasionally Nothing" by Natalie Menna, which takes us to a dismal time-to-come when something can become a profound, obvious nothing. Life becomes the time in between the sometimes which sometimes happen. The piece won awards in Planet Connections Festivity for developmental stagings, with critics cheering the playwright for her mastery of Theater of the Absurd. Theater for the New City's Dream Up festival will present the work September 8 to 16.
The short two-act play is set in the foreseeable future, when the world is nearing its end. An older man, a young man and a woman, all British expats, are sheltering from nearby bomb blasts in a bleak room. They cope by taunting each other with warped games of verbal wordplay and by blurring each other's realities while losing touch with their own. The older man is the uncle of the younger man, who is a punk rocker. The woman, wife of the latter, is slightly older than he; she is a former Rockette and of Sephardic Jewish heritage. The trio's ordeal is meant to offer a bleak glimpse at life in the wake of a dystopian presidency, where wars will abound, words will have lost their meaning and people will have lost their way.
The play won prizes for Outstanding Playwriting of a One-Act and Outstanding Overall Production of a One-Act at Planet Connections Festivity in 2016.
Critic Anthony P. Penning (The Modernist Beat) praised "Menna's sure command of the tools of the Theatre of the Absurd," writing, "Menna focuses not on political polemics but on the spiritual and emotional devastation that our less-than-brave new world is wreaking. The writing here is spare, brutal, and emotionally resonate." He praised the dislogue as crackling with energy and wit, and concluded, "Most artists have game-changing works, a piece that catapults them to the next level of their medium; 'Occasionally Nothing' is that work for Menna. The play clearly belongs to the same tradition of Beckett’s 'End Game,' which does not rob it of its importance or necessity. It speaks to the dark shadows of the 21st-century in a vibrant and yes comic voice. It should be seen."
Critic Edmond Malin (Outer Stage) compares the characters' speech to the denial of truth in our present political dialogue. They talk, he writes, "only in a captivating double speak which they have presumably needed to adopt because of bad political developments. 'Is something ever nothing?' they ask. 'Sometimes.' If this sounds like splitting hairs, just remember who got elected last year and keep reading. Such discourse and the 'endgame' which the men fear is approaching bring to mind the great Samuel Beckett. His work seems to work best in dark times. But when are we? Clay enjoys listening to 80s music, even during the apocalypse using his last battery. At one point, he suggests listening to the band New Order, which had been banned by the New World Order. What I mean to say is, pay attention and enjoy the dark humor." He quotes direct allusions to our present political situation that are, well, chilling. Under the “Grumpf” administration, the characters declare, “we’ve moved from discourse to dissent to verbal threats to violence…to silence.”
In both reviews, there was enthusiastic praise for director Yvette Dumeng and for all three actors, two of whom, Sean Hogan and Maiken Wiese, are returning for this production.
Playwright Natalie Menna is author of "Committed," which was performed
last season at the 14th Street Y. She is a resident playwright of August Strindberg
Rep, for whom she adapted "Journey in Light and Shadow" by Stig Dalager
for a 2017 production at Gene Frankel Theatre. She has received awards at Planet
Connections Festivity for her plays "Occasionally Nothing," "Committed"
and "Zen A.M." Her "Roberta!" was presented twice at United
Solo Festival. Her other plays include "I-POD" and "Hiroshi-Me,"
which won awards in other festivals. "Roberta!," "I-POD"
and "Zen A.M." were published byindietheaternow.com. She is also an
actor and appears in the 2018 Dream Up Festival August 27 to September 4 in
August Strindberg's "Creditors," newly translated by Robert Greer.
Lighting design is by Gilbert "Lucky" Pearto. Costume design is by Janet Mervin. Sound design is by Andy Evan Cohen.
The ninth annual Dream Up Festival (www.dreamupfestival.org) is being presented by Theater for the New City from August 26 to September 16. An ultimate new work festival, it is dedicated to the joy of discovering new authors and edgy, innovative performances. Audiences savor the excitement, awe, passion, challenge and intrigue of new plays from around the country and around the world.
The festival does not seek out traditional scripts that are presented in a traditional way. It selects works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us.
In addition to traditional plays, a unique and varied selection of productions will again be offered, drawing upon a variety of performance genres including musicals, puppetry and movement theater. The Festival's founders, Crystal Field and Michael Scott-Price, feel this is especially needed in our present time of declining donations to the arts, grants not being awarded due to market conditions, and arts funding cuts on almost every level across the country and abroad.
# # #
Critics are invited to all performances.
Photos of this play are available at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NpBwD7D6xqbemuPn9.