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Theater Buff: Transport Group’s David T. Patterson

March 22nd, 2017 Comments off

This month’s Theater Buff offers you a slice of Americana via the good looks and charm of David T. Patterson, currently starring in Transport Group’s ambitious William Inge repertory of Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba.

(Photo provided by David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo provided by David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
David T. Patterson

Hometown:
Tampa, Florida

You’re tackling two William Inge plays: Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba. That must have been an intense audition process — what was it like?
The initial audition was just another day at Pearl Studios. But the callback process was a trip. It was a chemistry read with the four girls they were considering for Madge, and it was the scene (spoiler alert) where my character breaks down, kisses her passionately, and then carries her offstage.

I remember frantically googling “do you kiss in a callback” on the J train heading over that morning, ’cause I had no idea what the protocol was for that. In what felt like a truncated episode of The Bachelor, I did the scene twice with each different girl. The scene was so different every time, which I loved, and thankfully I brought ChapStick and Listerine breath strips that day.

David T. Patterson in 'Picnic.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

David T. Patterson in ‘Picnic.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

For those not familiar with Inge’s work, how would you describe these plays in terms of their place in American theater history?
Inge was a contemporary of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and was actually more initially successful than they were. These plays explore American loneliness, and yearning like no other playwright since. Inge has a beautiful mix of the poetic and the quotidian.

Picnic is a true ensemble piece. There are no set changes and no real breaks in storytelling. Come Back, Little Sheba was also groundbreaking in that it was one of the first plays to ever open a discussion on alcoholism, gender roles and domestic abuse. Both shows have very strong, beautifully written female characters, and Come Back, Little Sheba is told completely from one of their points of views. Inge was way before his time in a lot of ways.

What has been director Jack Cummings III’s approach to these plays?
It’s been all about the text and the acting with these productions, which is so exciting. It’s pared down. Simple set. With a beautiful, original score by Michael John LaChiusa featuring the vocal stylings of our very own Hannah Elless and some really gorgeous lighting. Jack gave the cast a lot of freedom to explore and embody these characters, which is so appreciated. He made a point to honor what Inge intended and focused on the humanity, loneliness, and yearning of the two pieces.

Transport Group

In Picnic, you portray Hal, a ‘drifter.’ If you were to wander off for a few months, where would you head and why?
I’d backpack through Europe. There is so much history and so many cultures to explore, as well as cuisines to try and people to meet. You can be in a completely different world in less than two hours. Also, I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Make the jaunt up from Georgia to Maine, then roam around New England some. I love being in nature and I love eating lobster. Win-win.

If I weren’t a performer, I would be: 
In advertising. Don Draper, minus the chauvinism, womanizing, and secret past.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Intermission. The show is under way, those initial nerves are gone, you’ve established a rapport with the audience. Plus, I can go back to the dressing room and goof off with John Cariani.

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment on 49th Street in midtown is super classy and near all the theaters. Good Old Fashions, with a cozy Old World feel. And for a solid beer list and a quieter spot to talk, Hurley’s Saloon is a great spot to decompress after a show. Unless it’s fight night.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to: 
Either of New York City’s botanical gardens. They’re both far away, so it’s definitely a trek, but worth it! I’m a big fan of the Orchid Festival in the Bronx and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn. I also love Smorgasburg, which is a huge food truck/stand outdoor market. The one in Williamsburg is great because it’s right on the water. And I love the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m a park guy. #sorrynotsorry

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Montana. Near Big Sky. On my own ranch.

My workout “secret” is:
Meal prep. Technically it’s outside of the gym, but the kitchen is where the real progress is made. Making/bringing your own meals isn’t only healthy, but it’s also cost effective. And don’t skip leg day.

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A great smile and laugh. A sense of humor is super important to me. As well as good dental hygiene.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
Duolingo. Technically it’s an app, but it’s free and can help you learn a language on the go. Factcheck.org is also a pretty useful site these days, too…

People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Was very sickly and scrawny as a kid. Severe peanut allergy, severe asthma, plus lactose intolerant. I was “that” kid. The kid who sat alone in a corner every day during lunch because if I were near a PB&J I’d break out in hives and pass out.

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Batman.

Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Batman.

Transport Group’s Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba play through April 16 at The Gym at Judson. Click here for tickets. 

 

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

15 Minutes with Jackie Hoffman

December 8th, 2015 Comments off

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Once Upon a Mattress

by Ryan Leeds

No one will ever accuse Jackie Hoffman of subtlety. As a musical theater actress who made her Broadway debut in 2002’s Hairspray, she’s continued to chew the scenery and turn small bits into pure hilarity. In September, she wrapped a successful run as the alcoholic voice teacher, Maude P. Dilly in the Broadway revival of On the Town. She’s now sharing the stage with Lypsinka in Transport Group’s revamped version of Mary Rodger’s Once upon a Mattress. For the first time, she’s a leading lady and, in spite of her less glamorous dressing room at downtown’s Abrons Arts Center, she’s thrilled to be wearing the crown of comedy in a role originated by the legendary Carol Burnett.  The Broadway Blog spoke with her by phone recently, prior to one of her first preview performances.

You’re a native New Yorker, having grown up in Bayside, Queens. Is that right?
Yes. But now my mom lives in Great Neck—not the wealthy part, but the down and out part—as I sit talking to you from an electrical closet, like a room in the movie Room.

Jackie Hoffman (center) in 'Once Upon a Mattress.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Jackie Hoffman (center) in ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Tell me about your history with John Epperson (a.k.a. Lypsinksa):
We met when I came back from doing Second City in Chicago. Amy Sedaris and I did a production of The Children’s Hour where we played two little girls and the two lesbian schoolteachers were played by Charles Busch and Lypsinka. It was at a theater company called Tweed. Then we did another show with that company that was legendary. It was Imitation of Imitation of Life. John played Lana Turner and I played the mixed race daughter of the maid. So we go waaaay back.

Are you concerned that you’re assuming a role that Carol Burnett created?
At first I didn’t think it was a good fit when we did the reading, but when we did the concert version I started to really get it and I made it my own. It’s hard not to have her in my head, but I mean that in a good way. I have her blessing and she told me that I’d have so much fun with the role—and she’s right. I’ve been fortunate to be able to create every role I’ve played on Broadway, except On the Town, which was my first revival. I think I brought my own unique spin to that show and I’m bringing my own unique spin to this as well.

John Epperson (l) and Jackie Hoffman (r) in 'Once Upon a Mattress.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

John Epperson (l) and Jackie Hoffman (r) in ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Talk about your role in Once upon a Mattress and give us a thumbnail version of the plot:
Well, there’s an evil queen, (which I’m sure all your readers will identify with) who has an abnormal attachment to her son and doesn’t want him to get married. She has deemed that no one else in the kingdom can get married until the prince gets married. It’s basically a sophisticated story about a bunch of medieval horny people who can’t wed until Prince Dauntless finds an appropriate princess. It’s like auditioning for the Roundabout. Not that I know what THAT’s like. Quote me! So then my character, Princess Winifred arrives. She is unlike anyone anybody in the kingdom has ever met; she’s fun, down to earth, and takes over the castle by storm.

You went to NYU and did improv work at Chicago’s famous Second City, and yet you have such a natural ability to make people laugh. I wonder if you do any character studies or if you just go onstage, do your thing and “crack people up”?
I’d say the latter. Especially in this show, where I get reach into the trunk of shtick, because there is so much opportunity. Carol Burnett said that I would have so much fun doing this and I am because it’s really built for a comedienne.

How are you preparing for performances?
It’s a very vocally demanding role and it takes a lot of me, so I definitely have to warm up vocally. We’re just in the first few performances so I hope I can last through the run. We’ll see.

Well, you had quite a long run in On the Town, so that should have been a good primer.
Yes. I did a lot of vocal gymnastics in that, too, but the songs that I sang fit my voice. Oddly enough, I’m a natural soprano. Winnifred’s songs are much more vocally demanding and “belty.”=

Marc Shaiman, composer of Hairspray, said in a recent New York Times feature  about you that you can do just about anything but dance. Is that because you can’t or you won’t?
Wow! That’s a deep question. I would say 73 percent can’t. I can eventually, but I’m incredibly clumsy and it takes me a lot longer than everybody else. But I will say that Marc saw me dance an intricate finale in Hairspray. It’s just that I had to study it in the wings for two and a half years!

What would you do if you weren’t acting?
Crying. Which is actually what I do after every gig ends and the next one begins.

You are quite self-deprecating, but you’ve also been described as being fearless. Do you have any self-doubt about yourself as a performer or do you always maintain a confidence?
It’s a weird mix. You must think you’re good enough to put yourself in front of people, but if you think about too much, you’re in trouble: What am I doing? Why am I doing this in front of people? Am I good enough?

As a resident of Manhattan and constant kvetcher, what are your top three pet peeves about living in NYC?
Ugh! Sirens, Urine, and Vomit. In that order.

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

Review: ‘Three Days to See’ at Transport Group

July 31st, 2015 Comments off
The cast of 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“How did Helen Keller burn her cheek? She answered the iron.”

“If Helen Keller fell in the woods, would she make a sound?”

“Helen Keller walks into a bar. Then a table. And then a chair.”

Most of us have heard—or told—a cruel Helen Keller joke. The rapid-fire succession of such one-liners is how Jack Cummings III’s Three Days to See, a new theater piece presented by Transport Group, begins. The diverse company of seven actors storms the stage, each grabbing a mic as if they were in the finals of Last Comic Standing.

(l to r) Barbara Walsh and Zoe Wilson in 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Barbara Walsh and Zoe Wilson in ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“This is ridiculous,” blurted the patron sitting behind me, so offended by the onslaught of insensitivity. But that’s exactly where Cummings wants to begin: at the epicenter of what pop culture has made Helen Keller. The real woman, born in Alabama in 1880, was struck blind and deaf by the age of two. Most are familiar with The Miracle Worker and the arrival of her tutor, mentor, and friend, Annie Sullivan, who helped Keller reconnect to the world through finger spelling.

Keller’s journey from unruly child to world-renowned social activist is the subject of Cummings’ work, portrayed en masse by the company, each taking his or her turn to embody Keller’s words. The play’s dialogue—and that word is used loosely for the majority of it is narrative—is entirely drawn from her writings. Cummings can only occasionally craft dialogue based on referenced conversations, and that lack of engagement pigeonholes the company into an often-presentational performance style.

Those who transcend the fourth wall tend to capture the most heartfelt moments, including Barbara Walsh (Falsettos, Company, Hairspray), who embodies both Sullivan and Keller at different points and magically creates a sense of time and place with each nuanced movement. In contrast, Marc delaCruz (If/Then) has the joyful thread of following Keller’s journey through the reading of Gone With the Wind in braille. Punctuated throughout the evening, he steps center stage as if he’s cracked open the door for a secret slumber party. Others are less successful, either in their ability to connect with the audience or lack of physical dexterity.

The cast of 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Cummings asks a lot of the company. Choreographed in a pedestrian spirit similar to the work of Steven Hoggett (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Once, Peter and the Starcatcher), I almost wish that Hoggett had choreographed the piece to up the ante in terms of movement vocabulary. Even so, there is plenty to take in visually as well as with the other senses. Lighting designer R. Lee Kennedy makes the most of the stage at New York Theatre Workshop, transforming a blank slate into an endless number of locales.

The script is also driven into high gear by its accompanying soundtrack, which I assume was the collaboration of Cummings with sound designer Walter Trarbach. Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing Sing, is the auditory backdrop to an epic battle to teach Keller to eat with silverware. The musical choices sometimes overwhelm the action, with familiar overtures from the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook as well as a notable portion from Elmer Bernstein’s Academy Award-nominated score from To Kill a Mockingbird.

In its final moments, Three Days to See addresses its namesake, playing out what Keller wrote as her three-part “miracle.” It is a beautiful sequence of dreams unlived, and a reminder that our senses are a gift not to be taken lightly.

Three Days to See
Transport Group
79 East Fourth Street, NYC
Through August 16

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter and Instgram at @roodeloo.

Theater Buff: Marc delaCruz of ‘Three Days to See’

July 15th, 2015 Comments off

Every third Wednesday of the month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. This month we’re stimulating all of your senses with Marc delaCruz, who appears in Transport Group’s premiere of Three Days to See, based on the writings of Helen Keller. You can look, but don’t touch!

Marc delaCruz (photo: DJ StereOtype via The Broadway Blog.)

Marc delaCruz (photo: DJ StereOtype via The Broadway Blog.)

Name: Marc delaCruz

Hometown: Seattle, WA

You’re currently appearing in Three Days To See, which explores the world of Helen Keller as portrayed by a diverse ensemble of actors—what was the audition like?
This was an extremely rare (and probably will never happen again) occasion where I didn’t have to audition. I worked with the director, Jack Cummings, on a four-week workshop earlier this year and a couple of months later he asked if I would like to be a part of Three Days to See. I was honored since this is a brand new work that he conceived himself. With Jack directing and Transport Group producing I knew it would be a great, highly original show, and I jumped at another chance to work with them.

Marc delaCruz (photo: Frank Louis via The Broadway Blog.)

Marc delaCruz (photo: Frank Louis via The Broadway Blog.)

If you had to lose one of your senses, which would it be?
Any sense but touch. If I were to lose any of the other senses I think I’d be able to adapt but I couldn’t do without touch. As Helen Keller said, “Paradise is attained by touch; for in touch is all love and intelligence.”

If I wasn’t a performer, I would be:
A baker. I love pies.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Curtain Call. It is the moment when performers and audiences get to recognize each other and a great reminder of who it is all for.

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Room Service. Try the Zeed Zaad.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
Jeepney, a Filipino restaurant in the East Village, for Kamayan night. Every Wednesday and Thursday the food is served on banana leaves with no plates or silverware.

Marc delaCruz

Marc delaCruz

My workout “secret” is:
Yoga!

Swim trunks, speedo or skinny dipping?
Swim trunks! Growing up I spent a lot of time with family in Hawai’i where swim trunks are daily wear.

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
Wit. I’m a sucker for a wise ass.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of:
www.yesmagazine.org

People would be surprised to learn that I. . .
can sleep up to ten hours straight.

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
My older sister. I always thought she was so cool—highly intelligent but down to earth and really good with people.

Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another opens. But we often look so regretfully upon the closed door that we don’t see the one that has opened for us.” Is there a past ‘closed door’ that opened up an unexpected opportunity?
Five years ago I was booked for a show that was unexpectedly cancelled. With nothing lined up, I took some money I had saved up and enrolled in a yoga teacher-training program. At the time I had no idea how much I would enjoy teaching yoga. The experience brought me closer to the practice that is now an integral part of my life and introduced me to the caring, compassionate community at Yoga to the People.

Three Days to See
Transport Group Theatre Company
Theatre 79
79 East Fourth Street, NYC
Through August 16

Curious about Transport Group’s production of Three Days to See? Take a peek at the trailer…

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @roodeloo.

Review: Transport Group’s “Almost, Maine”

February 4th, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Marcus Scott finds warmth in the chilly setting of Almost, Maine

"Almost, Maine" (photo: Carol Rosegg)

“Almost, Maine” (photo: Carol Rosegg)

If you’re looking to escape the Polar Vortex by bathing yourself in the warmth of a downtown Gotham theatre, perhaps you’re out of luck if you sought comfort at the Transport Group Theatre Company’s current production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine. Upon entering the Gym at Judson, the theater evokes that of a nuclear winter, with synthetic snow caked to the stage floor like frosting.

Comprised of a series of nine two-character vignettes, scenic designer Sandra Goldmark transports you to the wintry remote town of Almost, Maine with a keen eye. Engulfed by mountains, the closest emergency room is 38 miles away, and the only drinking well hangout around is the Moose Paddy Bar. But love is slightly surreal in scope in this backwards town, taking on the tangible as something that can be kept in sacks or transferred into items, and where people literally fall head over heels.

Executed by four actors in multiple roles, all of the characters in varying stages of life and relationships, Almost, Maine questions the accepted psychosis we put ourselves through in the name of love, the interconnectivity we crave and the tick tock of time that beats to all of our internal biological clocks. In this show, love is heaven and love is hell: Jimmy (played by Cariani himself) aches over his ex-girlfriend at her bachelorette party; a young lady returns to the man who proposed to her nearly a decade earlier, only to discover he has married and moved on; a pair of best friends share their romantic war stories before unveiling their latent romantic feelings for each other; and an unhappily married couple on the verge of separation roll up their cuffs and spill their gospel truths.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the show is the scene “This Hurts.” Steve (played by Cariani), a man who is nigh-invincible to pain, falls in love for the first time after he is kissed. This singular actions makes him susceptible to feelings and awakens his senses. It is heartbeat of the play, taking common phrases like ‘love hurts’ and turning them into messages that ring true for anyone who has had pangs of love.

Donna Lynn Champlin in "Almost, Maine." (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Donna Lynn Champlin in “Almost, Maine.”
(photo: Carol Rosegg)

Remarkable performances are given by an extremely talented cast: Kevin Isola’s whimsical sincerity lights fires with a slow burn; Kelly McAndrew’s veracity from New England debutante to Pine Tree State hick reveal an impressive and moving character actress; and playwright John Cariani’s gritty boy-next-door façade and ticking time bomb crackpot center prove he’s worth his salt as an actor. But the standout is none other than Donna Lynne Champlin, who was recently seen in Terrence McNally’s And Away We Go at Boston’s Pearl Theatre. She evokes a blend of Melissa McCarthy’s assault-and-battery comic chops with Kathy Bates’ tear-soaked gravitas. Her scene with Cariani as two bundled-up, thrill-seeking snowboarders whose version of pillow talk involves stripping out of a never-ending layer cake of clothing, is knee-slapping comic gold.

Jack Cumming’s easily paced and quicksilver direction, which includes multiple entrances from the back of the house, upstage and behind the audience, always propel the action. Crafted with passion, walk into the winter wonderland of Almost, Maine—it may just chill any qualms you have and put them on ice.

Almost, Maine
Transport Group Theatre Company
The Gym at Judson
243 Thompson St.
Extended through March 2.

Marcus Scott, an MFA graduate of NYU Tisch, is a playwright, musical theater writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Elle, Out, Essence, Uptown, Trace, Giant, Hello Beautiful and Edge Media Network.