"...what I loved most about it was that it didn't spend all its capital trying to cajole or bully me into liking it—it got to me the old-fashioned way, with wit and charm and intelligence."
by Martin Denton, nytheatre.com
POST MODERN LIVING presents two inter-related tales. The first half follows a day in the life of Mitch and Chester, a committed couple in a long time relationship. It is a boy-meets-boy story of promiscuity, first dates, self-imposed celibacy, and true love. The second half takes place on Mother’s Day, as Mitch help his mom with her garden. She recounts the story of how she discovered her breast cancer, the doctor who saved her life, and how her illness has re-affirmed her faith.
The production co-stars Chris Orbach (Law & Order: SVU, acclaimed jazz musician and son of Jerry Orbach), Drama Desk Award nominee Frank Blocker (Southern Gothic Novel, Fearless Moral Inventory, Eula Maeʼs Beauty, Bait & Tackle), Catherine Porter (Mac Wellmanʼs Crowbar), Wendy Merritt, Mick Hilgers and Briana Davis.
The production team includes John McDermott (sets), Jennifer Caprio (costumes), Tim Schellenbaum (sound), New York Innovative Theater Award nominee Timothy M. Walsh (lighting), and Monica Minoui (hair), Scott Ethier (Musical Director), Gabriel Luce (bass), and Daniel Acquisto (drums), and Heather Olmstead (stage manager).
Richard Sheinmel is a native New Yorker born in Brooklyn, raised in Staten Island. He attended the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, where he wrote his first play at the age of 14. His plays include Modern Living (La Mama), Jitter (Arclight Theater), and the musical Downtown Dysfunctionals (The Zipper Theater). As an actor, he is best known for appearing for over ten years in the Jeff Weiss / Carlos Riccardo Martinez cult hit serial Hot Keys. He has also appeared with The Ridiculous Theatrical Company in Call Me Sarah Bernhardt, and The Tale of Two Cities; with Ridge Theater in Mathew in the School of Life and Everyday Newt Burman; Mac Wellman's The Sandalwood Box; with Penny Arcade in La Miseria, and Invitation…; with drag star Linda Simpson in The Final Episode, and The Tranny Chase at PS 122; in Reza Abdoh's Father Was a Peculiar Man produced by EnGarde Arts; at Soho Rep in Naomi Izuka's Skin; and the title role in Peculiar Works Project's Freiheit Makes a Stand at the Vineyard Theater. Film appearances include the award-winning The Headhunter's Sister, My Sassy Girl, and Pollock directed by Ed Harris. Richard is a member of The Dramatist's Guild. For more info visit www.sheinmel.com.
Clay Zambo has been named by the York Theatre Company one of the musical theatre's "New, Emerging, Outstanding" composers and featured in their NEO5 concert. His Greenbrier Ghost (book by Susan Murray), the winner of Academy for New Musical Theatre's Search for New Musicals, received a concert performance at Burbank's Colony Theatre. Selected by Stephen Schwartz for the ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop, Greenbrier is scheduled for a full production later this year. A Mother's Carol (music by Scott Ethier) won American Composer's Forum's Welcome Christmas choral-writing competition, was premiered by the Minneapolis-based choral ensemble VocalEssence on NPR. His musicals have also been performed in London and the Edinburgh Fringe; on national tours; and are frequently premiered at NYC's Merkin Hall, including They Fly; Yo, Jonah!; and The Ballad of Thomas the Shammus. He is a member of BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and The Dramatists Guild. For more info visit www.clayzambo.com.
Jason Jacobs was selected as a “2007 Person of the Year” by nytheatre.com for his work as co-artistic director of Theatre Askew. He directed two GLAAD Media Award-nominated productions for Askew: Bald Diva! and i google myself, as well as The Tempest, The Tale of the Good Whistleblower..., and I Claudius Live! Other New York productions include: Lavender Songs for TOSOS II (Back Stage Bistro Award), The Boycott, Mario and the Magician for Center for Contemporary Opera. Regionally, he directed Opus and Vanya/Vermont for Vermont Stage Company and directed The Accidental Activist for the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca. He has a BA from Yale and an MFA Columbia.
by Martin Denton, nytheatre.com
The antidote to the surfeit of soulless synthetic musical comedies on Broadway awaits you at The Club at La MaMa, in the form of Post Modern Living, a musical (kind of) by Richard Sheinmel, with songs by Clay Zambo, whose casual informality, honesty, and warmth are rivaled only by its dazzlingly high entertainment quotient. I loved this show, and what I loved most about it was that it didn't spend all its capital trying to cajole or bully me into liking it—it got to me the old-fashioned way, with wit and charm and intelligence. The kind of show you definitely want to hang with.
Post Modern Living is, in fact, really two shows: a pair of mini-plays about the same set of core characters linked only by a single line of dialogue. The opening piece is called "The Twelfth Day"; it takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas, but it could almost be any day of the year. Sheinmel presents a slice of life in which various events occur, all of which seem momentous right when they're happening and then recede into lost trivial detail, precisely the way real life unfolds for all of us. The characters in the story are Mitch Mitchell, an East Village performance artist not unlike Sheinmel himself (and indeed portrayed by Sheinmel); Chester, his longtime partner in life and love; Joy, Mitch's mom; and friends Gerrie and Meg, who are Mitch and Chester's guests for the little Twelfth Day of Christmas party that caps this playlet. Mitch narrates sometimes; and other times a character named Uncle Louie guides us through the day, almost always with a guitar slung around his neck and a song on his lips. Mitch goes to the doctor; he and Chester briefly debate where they would go to live if the Republicans make a political comeback; Gerrie gets drunk at the party; Mitch and Chester tell their friends the story of how they met. Nothing happens and everything happens and Sheinmel lets it all just hang there, content not to find a moral or even a button for this wondrous and endearing piece; the realness is what makes it so magically perfect.
The second item on the agenda is more narrative-driven. It's called "Uber-Mom" and is indeed about Joy and what happens when she finds a lump in her breast that could possibly be cancer. It unfolds in Joy's kitchen, where Mitch is visiting and the two are preparing a meal; as they chop the salad ingredients, Joy recounts her trips to the hospital and her experiences with a lab technician named Grace who, Joy discovers, has a spirit guide named Gertrude. Mitch and Joy's loving conversation is interrupted occasionally by phone calls from Mitch's brother (who I guess suffers from bipolar disorder or something similar?), Robby.
The songs are more organically part of the first piece than the second, and they aren't that many in number, but they give the show a lively flavor. We're constantly aware that we're being told stories (sometimes within other stories); the whole point of the show, I think, is to revel, as a group—audience and performers—in the companion arts of listening and sharing with other living, breathing humans, all in a room together. The richness of this particular experience cannot be duplicated on the Internet or in a big auditorium where a manufactured entertainment is being unspooled.
Sheinmel is a smart and wry writer and performer, and I'm eager to see him in both capacities again soon. His fellow actors—Mick Hilgers (Chester), Catherine Porter (Meg and Grace), Briana Davis (Gerrie and Gertrude), Frank Blocker (Dr. Zappi and Robby), and Wendy Merritt (Joy)—all do fine work here. Chris Orbach as Uncle Louie (and in other incidental roles), leading the four musical numbers, is the glue that holds the night together snugly. Zambo's songs are melodic and genuinely incisive and witty; they are beautifully performed by an onstage trio consisting of Scott Ethier (piano/musical director), Gabriel Luce (bass), and Dan Acquisto (drums).
Director Jason Jacobs realizes the work beautifully on The Club's small, intimate stage. All of the production elements are spare and simple, with Sheinmel changing his costume unobtrusively on stage when necessary and most of the few props accessible to the actors from a couple of hanging shelves spaced around the playing area.
This is the second installment in the Mitch Mitchell saga (the first was Modern Living, back in 2006). I hope many more are still to come.