The Real Americans ~ Mosaic Theater Company of DC Atlas Performing Arts Center

Jordan Wright
November 27, 2017 

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

If you saw Vicuña and the American Experience (through December 3rd at Mosaic) and you’re still itching to understand Trump voters, then journey with award-winning impressionist and playwright Dan Hoyle throughout America’s Heartland where Hoyle met some of these mindless flag-wavers.  Adopting the accents and gestures from mall rats and military vets to hipsters, techies and Christian fundamentalist right wingers, Hoyle is the man of a thousand voices.  In his search for folksy wisdom under the woodpile of America, this talented physical comic dons their personas in a one-man whirlwind of impressions.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

That Hoyle actually undertook his courageous, 100-day voyage in a van with the idealism of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, as opposed to say, hipster Jack Kerouac, is what sets it apart from your typical wise guy comedian.  He conceived his plan with a deep need to make sense of the direction of our nation’s political landscape.  His sincerity is palpable and raw.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Traveling through bayous and hollers and Midwestern farms to urban outposts, Hoyle comes across redneck pride, thick with ignorance and anger.  He interviews wacky conspiracy theorists and tries to make sense of Ramon, the street-wise Dominican.  These “real Americans” are also ordinary Americans whose isolationism circumscribes their views.  Logic, reason and science are frighteningly absent in their approach to politics and their choice of candidates.  Hoyle suggests the formation of an “anti-ignorance task force” requiring citizens to read at least three books per year.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

He actualizes his experiences through on-the-road phoners and meetups with his liberal, latte-drinking New York City peers who have an equally zero-tolerant, isolated view of the world beyond city limits.  Directed by and developed with Charlie Varon and performed in black box format, it was first produced in 2015.  Since then Doyle has updated the piece to reflect our post-presidential election malaise, touching on the opioid addiction crisis and the effects of Trump world.

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Dan Hoyle ~ Photo credit Mosaic Press

Funny and poignant.  Recommended.

Through December 22nd, 2017 in Lab II at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets, info on post show discussions, special rates and discounts visit www.MosaicTheater.org or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.

Vicuña and the American Experience ~ Mosaic Theater Company of DC at The Atlas Performing Arts Center

Jordan Wright
November 7, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Presidential wannabe Kurt Seaman (John de Lancie) ~Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Presidential wannabe Kurt Seaman (John de Lancie) ~Photo by C. Stanley Photography

A timely, re-engineered version of Jon Robin Baitz’s brilliantly acerbic, Trump-inspired, politically explosive, outrageously hilarious play, Vicuña and the American Experience, had audiences cheering wildly last at The Atlas.  For this latest incarnation of the play, Baitz has added a dystopian ending “intended as a warning”.  It imagines the country’s political landscape after a presidency built on lies and obfuscations.  The two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and noted TV writer has crafted a timely play that tracks both the pre- and post- election rise of a candidate for U. S. President.  As he describes it, “It’s social, political and anarchical.” And, what’s more, satisfyingly hilarious!  Just what’s needed right now.

Brian George plays Anselm Kassar, the elderly and elegant Jewish tailor -apprentice, Amir Massoud (Haaz Sleiman) ~ Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Brian George plays Anselm Kassar – Kurt Seaman (John de Lancie) –  Amir Massoud (Haaz Sleiman) ~ Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Several story lines weave together to present a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the near-farcical making of a blindly egotistical Republican candidate whose chicanery and buffoonery parallel our daily news feeds.  Presidential wannabe Kurt Seaman (John de Lancie), whose smarmy campaign slogan is, “Women love Seamen.  Seaman [semen] Loves Women”, is a man preparing for his final debate against a female Democratic candidate.  To clinch the vote, he has pressured a bespoke New York tailor with a celebrity clientele to hastily stitch up a vicuña suit.  Brian George plays Anselm Kassar, the elderly and elegant Jewish tailor.  His young apprentice, Amir Massoud (Haaz Sleiman), is an Iranian Muslim and Harvard educated student.  The two are connected through their families’ struggles in Iran during the Shah’s persecution of political dissidents. The outspoken Amir has gotten expelled from university as a result of his attacks against the U. S. government and though he is a naturalized American citizen, his parents’ immigration status is unsure – something that the fear-mongering Seaman uses to threaten him. “If you can’t make it in your own country, what kind of people are we taking in? I call them losers,” he claims calling Muslims radical Islamist terrorists.

Laura C. Hayes plays Srilanka ~Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Laura C. Hayes plays Srilanka, the candidate’s smartly dressed, socialite daughter and campaign manager who is working feverishly on her father’s behalf to secure the women’s vote.  Srilanka is brainy and driven – here depicted as a sympathetic character attempting to reign in her father’s verbal excesses, race-baiting and flip-flopping on issues.  Ring a bell?

At Seaman’s insistence, Anselm promises to make a suit for him, one that is cut and fit so expertly that he will be assured a successful debate performance.  Think “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  But though the suit’s imaginary powers take on near mythical proportions, Amir warns Seaman that, “the suit can’t stand in for principles.”  Ah, principles, morals and truth – in such short supply today.

Amir Massoud (Haaz Sleiman) – Kitty Finch-Gibbon (Kimberly Schraf) ~ Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Act Two introduces Kitty Finch-Gibbon (Kimberly Schraf), the fiercely principled, Old Guard conservative, chair of the Republican National Committee.  Kitty tells Seaman the RNC considers him “stark, raving mad” and is willing to buy him off at any cost.

Under DC native Robert Egan’s exquisite direction, we have a cast with purpose, passion and pace.  Original Music and sound design by Karl Lundeberg.

A brilliantly acerbic, politically explosive, outrageously hilarious piece of theater.  Highly recommended.  

Through December 3rd at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets, special rates and discounts visit www.MosaicTheater.org or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.

After the War ~ Mosaic Theater Company of DC

Jordan Wright
March 29, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

Israeli playwright Motti Lerner’s world premiere production, After the War, is set in the two weeks following the end of the Second Lebanon War which began in July 30, 2006 following an airstrike by the Israeli military on Lebanon’s Hezbollah.  A time of fear, vulnerability and ambiguity by both sides, it hardly mattered who cast the first stone, since good fences don’t necessarily translate into good neighbors, and war comes easier to these eternal enemies.

Paul Morella as Joel and Tonya Beckman as Trudy in After the War at Mosaic Theater Company of DC, March 24-April 17, 2016. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Paul Morella as Joel and Tonya Beckman as Trudy in After. Photo by Stan Barouh.

For Joel (Paul Morella), a world renowned concert pianist, it’s his duty as an artist to speak out.  Unfettered by his country’s jingoist politics, he takes a broader view of war’s toll on humanity, speaking out to anti-war and human rights groups to draw attention to the suffering of those affected – even if it is against his own country.  In this instance he agitates for aid for the Lebanese orphans – a political position unimaginable in Israel.  “The person is also his conscience,” Joel insists.

When he returns after 18-years to make amends to his family for his absence, he is received as a traitor.  Joel has returned to give a concert to raise funds for the orphans and they are determined to undermine it.  Living in Tel Aviv they have endured the wrath and excommunication of neighbors and a government that condemns Joel’s outspoken beliefs.  His brother Freddie (James Whelan) has had his business destroyed and his son Izzy (Guy Kapulnik) has fought in this war and hold an entirely different view based on their war zone experiences.

Tonya Beckman as Trudy and James Whalen as Freddie in After the War at Mosaic Theater Company of DC, March 24-April 17, 2016. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Tonya Beckman as Trudy and James Whalen as Freddie in After the War. Photo by Stan Barouh.

With all the elements of a Greek tragedy that pits brother against brother, mother (Barbara Rappaport) against son, and son against his own son, the story reveals the conflict burning within as each betrays Joel.  It is described in a press release as such, “The play speaks of the artist’s responsibility in an embattled society and illustrates the entrenched divisions between elite cultural purveyors and working class pragmatists; between right-wing and left-wing Israelis: and be extension, between conservative and liberal forces in a divided American Jewish community.”

Paul Morella as Joel and Barbara Rappaport as Bella in After the War at Mosaic Theater Company of DC, March 24-April 17, 2016. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Paul Morella as Joel and Barbara Rappaport as Bella in After the War. Photo by Stan Barouh.

At times Director Sinai Peter’s staging seems over-dramatized, but there is raw passion at hand and a fierce commitment to tell a story of how a family’s faith in one another can be destroyed by war.  Bear in mind too that Lerner, who describes this play as autobiographical, cannot mount this play in his own country where free artistic expression is challenged by the right-wing government.

Tonya Beckman as Trudy and Michael Tolaydo as Bernard in After the War at Mosaic Theater Company of DC, March 24-April 17, 2016. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Tonya Beckman as Trudy and Michael Tolaydo as Bernard in After the War. Photo by Stan Barouh.

An exceptional cast puts this play on the must-see list.

Note: This week Mosaic Theater Company announced an extraordinary one million dollar grant from the Reva and David Logan Foundation, allowing the two-year old company to continue to present its series of groundbreaking plays.

Through April 17th at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets and information call 202 399-7993 ext. 2, or visit www.MosaicTheater.org.