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Time and the Conways. . . Worldly Acts. . . . . . Worldly Acts. . .  Zip Code of Atlantis. . .  Chicago's Schadenfreude. . . 

Time and the Conways. The Actors Company Theatre is putting on a play for just one long weekend that everyone who can should try to see: J. B. Priestly's rarely seen Time and the Conways.

Priestly is best known to theater goers for The Inspector Calls and Dangerous Corners. Like those plays, Time And the Conways (1937) has a mysterious edge, in this case derived from its unusual non-linear structure.

The story of the Conways, a prosperous middle-class family from a small manufacturing town in England, begins in 1919, just after World War I during which the paterfamilias is killed and flashes forward to the post-depression era, the time when the play was written. By returning to 1919 for the third act, Priestly allows the , audience to understand the family's action and interaction in light of what they know will happen. The play is part of Tact's (Scott Alan Evans, Cynthia Harris and Simon Jones, co-artistic directors) ninth season which this year focuses on the theme of Heart & Home -- or plays that put the heart in the heart.

Time and the Conways will be presented at The New York Historical Society Theatre, 2 W. 77th Street (at Central Park West), November 9 at 7:30PM; November 11 at 2PM (which features a talkback with cast and director); and, November 12 at 7:30PM.

The 1938 New York production of Time and the Conways starred Dame Sybil Thorndike and Jessica Tandy. The Tact cast features company members Delphi Harrington, Simon Jones, Eve Michelson, Margaret Nichols, John Plumpis, Scott Schafer and Lyn Wright and is guest directed by Will Pomerantz.

November 11, 2001. J. B. Priestly's Time and the Conways update. Having seen the TACT presentation , I'd like to add that if you have a free evening tomorrow, it is well worth seeing for two reasons: First, because the play is rarely performed in this country and is full of interesting characters; second, because the Actors Company Theatre's concert productions are rather unique.

While there are no sets and the actors hold scripts in hand, these productions are fully rehearsed and thus much more than staged readings. It's easy to imagine the Priestly play being lavishly staged, but the play and the actors quickly made me forget the absence of sets. True to the "orchestra performance" tag the 11-member cast (all excellent) a cellist, violinist and pianist from the Manhattan School of Music enhance the production with an original score by Tarik Ghridella.

June 13, 2001: Worldly Acts A porn palace has gone legit. Jack Merrill and a group named Urban Empire in association with Francis Ford Coppola, movie mogul and publisher of the magazine Zoetrope: All-Story have collaborated on an evening of five original one-act plays under the umbrella title of Worldly Acts-- presented at the retrofitted Go-Go Room of Show World. Enter what still looks very much like a house of mirrors from its 8th Avenue entrance. Ignore the pinball machines (at least that's what they seem to be from a distance) in the front, head upstairs and you'll find a ballroom sized space with mirrored ceilings. From this a small theater has been carved out with a Go-Go dancer sized stage.

All but one of the 15 to 30-minute playlets were published in Zoetrope's Winter 2000 special One-Act Play issue, a free copy of which you can pick up in the lobby (Don De Lillo's The Mystery at the Middle of Ordinary Life, Elizabeth Dewbery's Who's On Top, Sean Michael Welch's Boise, Idaho and Amanada Beesley's The Stolen Child ). Interestingly, the only offering not from that issue is the best written and performed, Garth Wingfield's Daniel on Thursday which stars Urban Stages creative director Jack Merrill and Matthew Del Negro in a funny and endearing story about a budding romance in a Gay bar that smartly transcends stereotypical plays about Gay singles. The rest of the evening's fare is, like most such collections, a mixed bag. Though the Zoetrope One-Act Play issue featured an interesting article Why Read a Play? by Edward Albee, none of these plays seemed persuasive enough to make me want to read them after the performance. As Albee posits "performance can make a minor (or terrible) play seem a lot better than it is. Performance can also, of course, make a bad play seem even worse than it is". Peter Jacobsen and Jennifer Dundas the most experienced and known to me actors on board did bring out the fun in Boise, Idaho. The other actors did little to lift the DeLillo or Dewberry plays out of a decidedly minor key. As for the last and longest piece, The Stolen Child, the actors delivery of this dual monologue only served to make it seem interminable. Worldly Acts continues at Show World (669 Eighth Ave) Tues through Saturdays at 8pm through June 29th -- 669 Tickets are $15 ( -212/206-1515).

April 9, 2001: Zip Code of Atlantis. Our Philadelphia critic, Kathryn Osenlund, leaves the city of brotherly often enough to keep up with theater in New York. On her most recent trip she took in Zip Code of Atlantis by Larry Myers, which is at Theater For The New City (155 First Ave) until April 15 -- too short for a regular CurtainUp review. Here, then is her brief take on what she saw:

Zip Code is a series of 8 short monologues or dual-monologues titled "plays," dominated by gym obsessed actors who live in their cars. The plays are together an homage to James Dean. Myers has said, "James Dean, our century's Icarus icon and Narcissus human sacrifice, is a figure actors emulate, borrow from, and aspire to." There are a lot of gym bags in this show and devilishly clever comments on Hollywood's "killer turf," James Dean, and random thoughts on the popular culture. One character persists in confusing James Dean with Jimmy Dean of sausage fame. And one claims, "I'm James Dean . . .you need a dog license. All I need is a break." The presentation is fairly immobile. It needs re-thinking in the production department. The little plays themselves contribute to this problem. You can pretty much just close your eyes and be seduced by the words, except then you would miss the nudity. The work needs to be lifted on the wings of its metaphors, and it needs stronger emotional bearings, which begin to happen in a scene where a couple considers taking a "James Dean Ride." Zip Code, while clever and twisted, suffers from its fragmentation, as did the very good Fishnet & Secondary Smoke last year. Nevertheless, Myers plays are an important part of the mix that is Off-Broadway. They are fresh, as new works should be. The creation of new works is necessary for the future of the art form. The theatre can't live on a diet of revivals, safe plays, and old standbys. Heck, the language alone is worth taking the risk to go see it. Where else can you hear, "He had so many tattoos I had to take a Dramamine"? Another Myers play, Alpha and Beta Males can be seen at Pegasus, 119 E 60th St (performances still available: April 20, 21, 27, 28 reservations @ 501-4381).

Chicago's Schadenfreude March 18, 2001.We have some visitors from out-of-town but, unlike the usual sort, these are bright, funny and great to have around. They're staying for two weeks, but we have a feeling when it's time for them to go, we'll wish they could stay just a while longer.

They are Chicago's Schadenfreude, which -- as they will quickly make sure you know if you don't already -- is that delicious German noun meaning "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others". Combining political satire with what could broadly be called "everyday social commentary," quick wit with awesome physical comedy and, above all, fearlessness, they are, more than anything else, a treat. This is sketch comedy like we don't get to see very often. Whether it's a warped version of the United Nations set in a bar in which a pudgy but still overly self-impressed Uncle Sam tries to push around the scornful lesser countries, a take on career advancement at the local McDonald's, a true crime story at a supermarket (shown on video) or a truly-brilliantly executed series of snippets from campus life for the class of 2001, the ensemble of six (not counting Major Domo Mark Hanner) performs with aplomb. Kate James is the lone woman who's up against a pack of men, but she more than holds her own; in fact, she's as good at this as anyone you'll ever see. The hour-long show, 10:30 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, is at HERE, 145 6th Avenue (212) 647-0202. After 3/25, they'll be gone, hopefully not for long. Entertainment guaranteed, and just 6 bucks. (submitted by Les Gutman)

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