Preview of upcoming shows at Yale Cabaret
It’s a new year and the Yale Cabaret is ready to pick up where it left off, bringing to its beloved but basic basement space at 217 Park Street theatrical experiences that make up in enthusiasm what they lack in slickness. Which is a way of saying that the best thing about the Cabaret—what keeps it real and makes many its devotees—is the fact that it is student-run and the students who run it are driven by passion and dedication to theater, as none of this is for money or even for grades. It’s to bring people together and make something happen, and to try out things for the sake of doing them. And, of course, there’s food and drink too, with a changing menu from chef Anna Belcher.
The first four shows of the 2nd half of the season have been chosen—Cab 10 through 13—which will take us through the second week of February. The shows were described to me by co-artistic directors David Bruin and Elijah Martinez (the third of their number, Leora Morris, is deep in the process of her thesis show, Women Beware Women, which opens on Saturday, January 23rd, at the Iseman Theater, then plays through the Cab’s first dark week of the semester). With two shows in January and two in February, the shows selected strike a balance between new work—written by playwrights at the Yale School of Drama—and pre-existing works not often seen in these parts.
First up, this week, Thursday to Saturday, is Salt Pepper Ketchup, written by first-year playwright Josh Wilder and directed by first-year theater manager Al Heartley. The cast is comprised of first-year actors—but for Eston Fung, who was showcased last semester in The Commencement of William Tan—so this is an excellent opportunity to have a look at some of the new faces in the program. Author Wilder hails from South Philly, an area long-known as Point Breeze that has recently become the site of much gentrification, to the extent of getting a new name: New Bold (which sounds like a coffee roast). In the context of the ramifications of four-story condos being erected where old two-story townhouses once stood and property taxes hiking sky-high overnight, the play looks at Mr. Wu’s humble Chinese take-out “joint” caught between the resentments of the local regulars and the efforts of the upscale newbies to “change things for the better.” Wilder’s script works evenhandedly with all concerned: the anxiety of long-standing businesses when trying to adapt to the tastes of the vegan generation; the good and bad of the co-op mentality that assumes a certain level of economic parity; the vandalism or other acts of violence that can come from people who feel their backs are against the wall, and, through it all, the kind of racial tensions that have become a mark of our distressed times. Described by Martinez as “The Wire meets Clybourne Park.” January 14-16.
Cab 11 is a play called Slouch. Written by B. Walker Sampson, a Brooklyn-based playwright, and co-directed by Matthew Fischer, a first-year sound intern, and Stella Baker. Described as an existential comedy and a “Waiting for Godot for the facebook generation,” the play offers a light, relaxed tone while also dealing with the kind of angst that emerges from people always comparing themselves with other people (as in ubiquitous social networks). Gordon, for whom three roommates—one male and two females—wait, is a high-rolling, good-looking friend who tends to make things happen. Through much physicality and movement and a fluid sense of time—as well as characters’ ability to “narrate” each other’s thoughts—we arrive at a portrait of youth trying to break out of the stasis of the present. The team for the show met at the School of Drama orientation and bonded on their love for this play. January 21-23.
Some of you may have seen Boris Yeltsin, the closing show of the first half of the Cab season, a sharply satirical re-working of the Oresteia by Mickaël de Oliveira, directed by second-year director Elizabeth Dinkova; or you may have seen last season’s postmodern puppet-show version of Georg Büchner’s Leonce and Lena, also directed by Dinkova; or you may have seen Best Lesbian Erotica of 1995, a studio production of a play by second-year playwright Miranda Ross Hall, directed by Dinkova, which was edgy, funny, ribald, and had a heart. Whether or not you saw any of that, you should come see Cab 13, How We Died of Disease-Related Illness, written by Hall and directed by Dinkova, who have formed a creative partnership out of a kind of like-minded comic urgency. When the ebola outbreak occurred, Hall found herself infected with the paranoia that spreads in a health crisis and began concocting this “zany comedy” to treat the various strains of hysteria that we collectively live with these days. In the play, a social scientist contracts a life-threatening disease in a foreign country, then spreads it at an American hospital. Laughs abound. February 4-6.
Cab 13 offers Cloud Tectonics, perhaps the best-known play by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, which debuted at the Humana Festival in 1995. The play has long been a common reference point for Yale School of Drama actors Sebastian Arboleda, Bradley Tejeda, and Bobby Guzman, as members of second-generation immigrant families living in L.A. The latter two are in the cast, joined by Stephanie Machado, while Arboleda—memorable from last year as the king in Leonce and Lena—directs. The team’s enthusiasm for this “dream-like love story” has spread to the Cab, convincing the artistic directors that now is the time for this show. It's not only a tale of immigrant assimilation—always a vexed story in our polymorphous nation—but of migrant experience, in terms of the “east coast” vs. “west coast” mentality. It’s also about the way “past, present and future pull at each other,” so that the tensions of one time speak to the tensions of another. February 11-13.
After these four shows hold the floor, make room for the annual extravaganza that is the Yale Cabaret Drag Show, but more about that later. For now, see you at the Cab!
For more info, go here.