Working Theater continues their commitment to “theater for and about working people” with their recent production of James McManus’ Cherry Smoke. Set in a steel mill in Western Pennsylvania, it portrays four downtrodden teens, desperate for fortune to smile upon them, but faced with the cruel reality of inevitable failure. Vayu O’ Donnell is mesmerizing as Fish, a young boxer whose innate rage clouds his intentions and decisions- some of which lead to criminal activity. Yet for all of his rage and anger, O’Donnell’s portryal is earnest and sympathetic. Cherry (Molly Carden) is his bright eyed girfriend, vowing committment to him in spite of her reservations. Neither of them were raised in the best circumstances, having suffered mental and physical abuse. Fish’s brother Duffy (Patrick Carroll) is a struggling mechanic trying to provide for himself and his girlfriend, Bug (Julie Jesneck). While the play has no comedic levity, it provides skilled actors playing rounded, heartfelt characters you’ll want to care about.Working Theater once again has produced a solid work about the durability and fragility of the human experience. Cherry Smoke closed on May 18th. For more information about Working Theater, visit http://www.theworkingtheater.org.
Woodie King, Jr’s New Federal Theater gave life to Ed Bullins’ The Fabulous Miss Marie, but for all intents and purposes, this could have remained shelved. Three time Tony Award nominee Tonya Pinkins stars as Marie, a boozy socialite who is fond of scotch and swingin’, along with her husband Bill (Roscoe Orman, Gordon on TV’s Sesame Street ). It opens with the couple and their friends tipping back a few and watching a low grade pornographic film. It doesn’t improve. Bill attempts to seduce his own niece, Ruth (Toccarra Cash) who later delivers a rambling monologue and shows us how she can chug an entire bottle of beer in one shot. Press notes state that the action takes place over the course of a weekend in nights preceding the Watts Riot. Taking that into consideration, one might think that race issues would be prevalent, but the only reference to this are from two caricatures, Steve (Ugo Chukwu) and Gafney (Beethovan Oden), who yell clichéd lines about black power and vigilance. Otherwise, It could have easily taken place on Arbor Day in Poughkeepsie on a random Tuesday. Fortunately, audiences need only suffer 90 intermission-less minutes of this incoherence but after 30 of them, you might wish to ask Orman how to get to Sesame Street or better yet -to the closet exit. To steal a line from my guest who attended: “The Fabulous Miss Marie was anything but!” How right she was. It closed on May 18th. For more information about New Federal Theater, visit http://www.newfederaltheatre.com.