We're now in the midsummer of this year's theater festival season. It's the time when small companies and fledgling productions get a chance to strut their stuff. Some of these showcases, like ANT Fest, a lineup of edgy entertainments curated by Ars Nova, are already over. Others like the compact Summer Shorts series of short plays at the 59E59 Theaters, which started previews yesterday; and the mammoth anything-goes FringeNYC, which will run from Aug. 12-28, are still in the wings.
Also now underway is the New York Musical Festival, more familiarly known as NYMF. Over the years, NYMF has spawned such shows as Next to Normal, [title of show] and Himself and Nora, a musical now playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre about the relationship between James Joyce, the Irish author of such modernist classics as "Ulysses" and "Finnegan’s Wake," and Nora Barnacle, the woman who was his lover, his muse, the mother of his two children and eventually his wife.
My friend Jessie and I saw Himself and Nora earlier this week. Written entirely (book, music and lyrics) by Jonathan Brielle it's a straightforward bio-musical with a pleasant, Irish-accented score and charming performances by Matt Bogart, who has been with the show since its NYMF days (click here to read an interview with him) and Whitney Bashor in the title roles plus a standout performance by Lianne Marie Dobbs, who like the other two cast members plays a variety of roles and makes each one distinctive.
It was an agreeable way to spend a summer evening (or summer afternoon; the cast is scheduled to perform at next Thursday's Broadway in Bryant Park) even if the show, directed by Michael Bush, a veteran of 10 NYMF productions, didn't reveal anything new about Joyce, Barnacle or the times in which they lived.
The full-length productions for this year's NYMF began this week. There are 18 of them, ranging from A Scythe of Time, a stage version of two Edgar Allan Poe stories; to Tink, the Peter Pan story as seen through the fairy Tinker Bell's eyes.
One of the shows, The Last Word, about a guy who tries to save his debt-burdened restaurant by, the press notes say, "hustling across America - one game of Scrabble at a time," has offered me the opportunity to give away a pair of tickets to its final performance at The Duke theater next Friday night, July 29.
You can learn more about the show by clicking here. You can win the tickets by naming the three NYMF grads that made it to Broadway. Send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Tuesday, July 26. Then, as usual, I’ll put all the right answers in a hat and have my husband K pluck one out. I’ll announce the lucky winner next Wednesday.
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