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Photo: Julieta Cervantes

OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Living Here

Living Here

March 30, 2015: There were only two dozen people in the audience when the folksy balladeer Gideon Irving performed “Living Here: A Map of Songs,” produced by the Foundry Theater, on Wednesday. But this was definitely a sold-out show. Listeners crammed the snug living room of a prewar apartment on the Upper West Side, which was decorated, like the other rooms, with so many examples of Soviet Nonconformist art that you could barely see the wall behind them. We sat on chairs and sofas and something that was probably a piano bench. Our gracious hosts offered red wine and white wine, tidbits of melon on toothpicks, a bowl of tangerines, a stack of focaccia and what looked like a homemade cake. Sound nice? Too bad. Mr. Irving will probably never perform there again. A strolling player — to be fair, he also bikes, drives and skates — Mr. Irving offers his songs and stories in a different home every night. He’s played 306 places on a couple of continents and said that he very much enjoyed 303 of them. He asks for a bed, though a floor or a futon will do. He often gets dinner and breakfast, too, and donations from audience members that cover further travels.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Washeteria

Washeteria

March 30, 2015: In recent years, Soho Rep has offered dramas like “Blasted,” “Born Bad,” “An Octoroon” and “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation” — tough, turbulent, troubling. But in the new show, “Washeteria,” the company is running on a much, much gentler cycle, with lots of fabric softener, too. The theater’s first all-ages play, staged in a formerly vacant storefront in South Williamsburg, “Washeteria” is the loopy creation of the terrific set designer Louisa Thompson, who developed it with the directors Sarah Benson and Adrienne Kapstein and the students of Brooklyn Arbor P.S. 414. The storefront sits on a fairly cheerless block just beyond a highway overpass. But when you step past the smashed glass door and on to the scuffed linoleum, you’re overcome by warmth and light and the fresh and gladdening smell of soap. A lightly absurdist take on a laundromat, “Washeteria” has a couple of cruddy washers and dryers, a cave of detergent bottles and a pile of unclean clothes stretching up to the ceiling. There are signs that say “Please Let Us Wash and Fold Your Cellphones” and “Please Keep Off the Grass Stains.”

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Twelfth Night (or what you will)

Twelfth Night (or what you will)

March 30, 2015: Every so often, evidence arises that acting might just be the most satisfying profession on the planet. Take the company called Bedlam, which is putting on not one but two inspired productions of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in a small and airless room in the garment district that seats about 50, and making you feel like its members are the luckiest people alive. The actor-envy inspired by the five-member cast here isn’t of the usual order. It’s not because these performers are more glamorous, more famous or richer than the common herd. You don’t see their egos being stroked into tumescence by mass admiration. And I seriously doubt if any of them have swimming pools or personal chefs. But in the two productions in which they appear on alternate nights at the Dorothy Strelsin Theater, these five individuals allow you to experience vicariously the heady delight of becoming other people, and then other people who are pretending to be other people altogether. And, oh, the insights and uncommon pleasures to be gleaned from such acts of transmutation.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: Camp Kappawanna

Camp Kappawanna

March 27, 2015: No one, you’ll be relieved to learn, sings “Kumbaya.” Arts and crafts haven’t made the list of activities. And neither, oddly, has theater. But Camp Kappawanna, the primary setting of the fresh and funny new musical of the same name from Atlantic for Kids, part of Atlantic Theater Company, still resembles real institutions: Campers’ baggage includes more than outfits and bug spray, and insecurities flourish here as much as at middle school. Gina (Lydian Blossom), Kappawanna’s director, embraces the rundown camp with the scruffy enthusiasm of her former life as an amateur rocker. (You can bet that the Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb, who collaborated on the music and lyrics with Michelle Lewis and Dan Petty, lets Gina display her inner Joan Jett.) But the camp initially horrifies Nick (Wes Zurick), a video game geek, and Veronica (Faye Rex), a fashion-obsessed elitist who wonders how she ended up here. “I’m guessing Daddy made some bad investments,” Gina responds, displaying the sly wit that characterizes much of the book, by Cusi Cram and Peter Hirsch.

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OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: New York Spring Spectacular

New York Spring Spectacular

March 26, 2015: Well, at least the Rockettes get to take the final bow. Those glamorous chorines, with their skyscraper legs flapping away, are a New York institution worth cherishing. So the prospect of a few more weeks of work for the hard-working, high-kicking women in the line makes you want to root for the “New York Spring Spectacular,” a lavish new tourist-baiting entertainment being presented at Radio City Music Hall, itself another cherished city institution. When those beautifully poised women with lithe legs and supersize smiles came forward for their final bow, I was as pleased as anyone else to pay them their due. Sadly, little else in this gaudy orgy of civic hype made me smile. On the contrary, this numbingly overblown 90-minute infomercial for the city that never sleeps threatened to send me into a waking coma. Imagine having the Empire State Building stuffed down your gullet, floor by floor, and you’ll get some sense of this production’s relentless promotional fervor. Aside from a few brief appearances by the Easter bunny, and a finale set to Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade,” the titular season doesn't feature very prominently in the show, which is probably just as well, since spring doesn't seem to be grabbing the spotlight too vigorously itself this year in New York.

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