Golden & Shining

November is an especially busy month for theaters on Long Island, with choices ranging from two productions of Kander & Ebb’s last Broadway hurrah, Curtains (Floral Park’s Theatre Box and Commack’s Star Playhouse), to two productions of David Lindsay-Abaire’s fine drama, Rabbit Hole (Mattituck’s North Fork and Islip’s Synergy Ensemble) to Babylon’s James Street Theater tackling Sondheim’s Follies.

Regular readers of this column, however, know my predilection for world premieres and lesser-known works, since they tend to be riskier endeavors financially and also help lift a theater scene past its 30th production of Annie and millionth mounting of The Sunshine Boys.

As such, kudos first of all to the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center, which continues to nurture homegrown dramatist John Blenn, the playwright in residence at Five Towns College. Former editor of Good Times and entertainment editor of The Island Ear, Blenn now has more than 55 plays(!) under his husky belt, the latest being Golden Parachutes, which premieres at DHPAC, November 6-8. A satire of the corporate greed that pushed America into its financial toilet, the comedy tells of a well-meaning but incompetent nerd who sabotages the well-fed executives of World Monsterbank.

Another work responding to business malfeasance, in a quieter and darker way, is Melanie Marnich’s 2008 drama, These Shining Lives, receiving its New York-area premiere at SUNY Stony Brook’s theater department, November 5-15. It’s the true story of women who earned money between the wars by working at a glow-in-the-dark watch factory. What made the timepieces glow? The dials were hand-painted with radium. And since the brushes were tiny and prone to splay, workers were encouraged to lick the tips to keep them pointy. The highly publicized lawsuits that resulted would have a lasting impact on the legal obligations companies now follow regarding the safety of their employees.

Interviewed by the Washington Post in conjunction with the play’s 2008 premiere at Baltimore’s Center Stage, Marnich noted, “how difficult it is for people of a certain class to really stand up and say, ‘No, I am entitled to justice.’


Pick to Click
Fela! (Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill)
An off-Broadway smash last season, the biographical Afropop musical, Fela!, wowed critics with its verve and choreography (by Spring Awakening Tony winner, Bill T. Jones). Now the life of African singer, political activist and AIDS victim Fela Anikulapo Kuti moves uptown in the hopes of being the next Avenue Q or In the Heights.

Sounds Promising:
Quartett (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Kind of like La Ronde, there’s no end to adaptations of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the treacherous tale of a woman spurned. This version is by German poet Heiner Muller, with avant-garde legend Robert Wilson directing and French actress Isabelle Huppert playing the manipulative Marquise.

If You Must
Burn the Floor (Broadway’s Longacre Theater)
If you feel the way I do about dance, you’ll spend the first 15 minutes gazing in awe at the gorgeous, perfectly choreographed people on the Longacre stage. Then you’ll spend the next hundred minutes eyeing your watch and expecting rain.