Awaiting the Singularity with "Nothing Human"

 

"Nothing Human raises a number of issues—from,  unsurprisingly, the technological (for example, the internet pastime of misattributed quotes and the question of whether an AI can understand love or humor) to the artistic (the problems of representation in theater and film and, as ALBA points out, the tendency of art to endorse endpoints of comfort and settledness when progress requires risk and change) to the social (marriage, sexuality, and religion, to name a few)—in such a way that they illuminate one another. Perhaps most significant for the play's ultimate thesis are the individual blindspots, the unquestioned comfort zones and beliefs, of a set of characters who are diverse in race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and body type. Nothing Human is tightly plotted, and its numerous moving parts come together satisfyingly. The production also builds a vivid sense of the world that these characters inhabit with only a few stools and chairs, the actors, and some projections, which establish scene titles, dates, and locations but also represent elements like ALBA and her online searches. The cast is strong, with Royale and Patterson generating some of the biggest laughs, Irizarry and Simone creating engaging chemistry and nuance in their characters' relationship, and Alexander giving a spirited performance tracing Alex's increasing disillusionment with breaking into the film business.

If you only see one play this month in which Bin Laden and Hitler dance to hip hop through a protagonist's nightmare, make it Nothing Human."

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards, Thinking Theatre NYC

 

"With all of the questions this play asks and the two seemingly unconnected stories, this play really shouldn’t have worked. It very easily could have been confusing and overambitious. However, the two stories are so well written, the questions so relevant and striking, and the acting is all-around fantastic, and I found myself falling in love with it. Tackling various perspectives on what it means to be human, “Nothing Human” asks questions that many are afraid to talk about."

 

"One of the most incredible scenes is when this group of people goes out to eat at a restaurant. The group gets into a heated discussion about prejudice that I won’t ruin for you, but it is one of the most honest, fearless, and well-executed discussions on the topic that I have seen on stage."

 

"At its core, “Nothing Human” seeks to understand why humans are so messed up. Why do we do terrible things? Using the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the death of Bin Laden as launching points, the ideas of “why we do the awful things we do” are fresh in our characters’ minds. This renewed freshness is what leads Alberto to confess his secret to Amy. It’s what causes the studio to revise the movie script to cause the group of artists to arrive in Boca Raton. The stakes are as high as they have ever been because those feelings of fear and confusion are still there.  All of this leads to the eventual reveal of why these stories are being told side by side and the resulting scenes are impossible to look away from. There are so many things going on in this play that it would be impossible to mention them all. All I will say, is “Nothing Human” will keep you thinking long after the curtain closes."

 

- Max Berry, OnStage

The Underpants Godot


" The Underpants Godot is a playful think-piece with a meta-theatrical structure that heightens the questions illuminated within the fiction. The audience is caught between Tara and Doug, both of whom offer compelling cases for defending the writer’s authority (Tara) and creative interpretation (Doug). The predicament is most obvious when we see that Doug’s choices, and his reasons for them, are legit. Doug’s version of the play champions Beckett’s text. Indeed, what little we watch of this erotic version of Godot does make the story pop in a new way. Leveraging this interpretation, The Underpants Godot hits on the socio-political ramifications of stringent stipulations, particularly when playwrights nix shows that stray from specified (or "implied") race, gender, or sexuality. "

-Sarah Palay, Theatre is Easy

 

 

 "From the moment you’re handed your program, it is clear that The Underpants Godot, currently running at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, is an unusual production. Instead of just one playbill, there are two. The outer one is for the show within the show, a production of “Waiting for Godot” being put on by a group called “Bleeding Unicorn Productions.” The inner one is for “The Underpants Godot” itself, and the relationship between those two programs pretty much encapsulates the story that Duncan Pflaster’s play tells. Named Best Play in the Secret Theater’s 2015 UNFringed Festival, it is at once a farcical look at the theater business, an examination of the problems involved in reinterpreting an author’s work and a look at how sexuality influences the way we look at art."

-Steve Barnes, Queens Times-Ledger 

 


"...the way the play mirrors, lampoons and, most importantly, respects Beckett's work, especially in how the play's ending is on par with Beckett's and how there is also a lot of talk with no resolution or action, just like there is in Waiting for Godot, makes for a quite interesting play that is more than just a show with guys standing around in their underwear. (...) As the character of Tara states, a reimagined production still has to serve and enlighten the original work. The Underpants Godot succeeds in meeting that task, as it is an intriguing look into the limits of personal interpretation of a well-known piece of drama while also being a compelling case for the defense of the author's original intent." 

- Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (Arizona production)

 

A Touch of Cinema 

Theater in the Now: Fighting the Fascists, On Film

"A Touch of Cinema is a stirring reminder of the power of the arts during repressive regimes.  Where the story takes place is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t matter. Since World War II, many countries have forgotten the lessons of history.  The characters in this play say that America is/will be the place that, just like in the movies, fights evil and offers freedom to all. (...) If you like “Casablanca” and the other fascist-busting films of the 40s, you will find this play moving.  If you are not familiar with the 20th Century, work like this and the others referenced herein will give you strength. Aliza Shane stylishly directs the talented cast through many moments that will be familiar to actors and those who fraternize with them.  I could become accustomed to Tricia Bastian’s flashy costumes."

 

Arts Independent: Touching 'Cinema"

"A Touch of Cinema is a good play. With Spotlight On Productions and Cross-Eyed Bear Productions, Playwright Duncan Pflaster and Director Aliza Shane have brought to life a script that crackles with love for the subversive power of cinema. From references to Godard, Les Enfants du Paradis and Charlie Chaplin, Mr. Pflaster reminds us of the revolutionary potential cinema once had. (...) Pflaster’s script is lovely, particularly when it serves as a love letter to old works. I loved when Dina Kummerspeck (Diánna Martin), the liberal director of the film within a play, gives a final monologue replete with references to The Great Dictator. The repressed actors in Kummerspeck’s subversive film, who serve as stand-ins for old Hollywood archetypes, are similarly spectacular. My favorite, Kristen Vaughan’s Regina Fontaine, is played with Marylin Monroe “Happy Birthday Mr. President”’ era sexiness. Russell Jordan, who plays the publicly closeted, privately fabulous Martin Dure, is hilarious and heartwarming. Pflaster’s love for the history of cinema is truly touching. (...)  I left the show inspired to create film and more in love with the cinema than I’ve been in a long while. Lovers of art: this is one you’ll be glad to see."

 

NYC Travels (part of a larger article about Spotlight On Festival)

"Duncan Pflaster’s play added a touch of cinematic magic to the festival. A Touch of Cinema is play within a play and the reading of Dina’s (Diánna Martin) forbidden movie script had actors and audience members on the edge of their seats. Confronting theatrical stereotypes, creating movie magic and revealing the truth through staged dialogue, spun a suspenseful tale where the actors learned to expect the unexpected. Lars Engstrom, Kristen Vaughan, Russell Jordan, Lucy Spain and Michael Andrew Daly are shocked that their staged reading has made its way to the silver screen."

The Douchegirl Play


"The writing and directing in The Douchegirl Play are a class apart.  Yes, there are some semi-nude moments which Duncan Pflaster does so well. These are rounded out with Shakespeare references and show tune snippets which remind one of what is considered respectable human behavior.  How does this jive with Morgan Zipf-Meister’s fiery performance as Irma, the woman who tramples on respectability with the kinky line “My safe word is LOVE”? Heather Lee Rogers is a vulnerable Mariah, someone you could sympathize with if you could get to know her. P. Case Aiken III performs brilliantly as Steven, the guy who strains to put up with a conflicted wife and best friend.  Eric Hedlund as Lenny shows us the rash behavior we may expect from “real men” ("douchebags") and what is really driving such posturing. Naturally, such a revelatory play would be transformed by a combined Fight/Intimacy Coordinator (the ever-present Emily Edwards)."

 

 - Edmond Malin, Theatre Is Easy

The Thyme of the Season 


"The Thyme of the Season picks up 3 months after A Midsummer Night's Dream left off. Dream ends with everyone getting what they "want" and living happily ever after... at least by the standards of Medieval morality plays. Pflaster has taken this ending and, with a light sprinkling of modern thinking and imagination, come up with new misadventures for the couples (faerie as well as human) to struggle with - truly giving the audience something to think about in terms of what it means to be happy if you really become aware of who you are and who you would really want to be. (...) Ultimately, The Thyme of the Season succeeds in what it sets out to do: It’s a great, colorful and worthy successor to the "prequel". From the costumes (Mark Richard Caswell), to the clever dialogue which stays faithful to the period while still advocating modern ideals (without creating jarring anachronisms). While fans of Shakespeare will recognize a lot of themes, you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the original to thoroughly enjoy this tale... moniker of "sequel" aside, Thyme is well developed enough to stand on its own and is an enjoyable piece of theatre. Definitely make the thyme to see it."

 

- Stephen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

BOTTOM LINE: A witty, edgy, and thoroughly entertaining return to Athens’ forest that does the original play justice. (...) The dialogue simulates Shakespearean verse with the occasional hilarious veer into modern language. (...)Another great aspect of The Thyme of the Season is Mark Richard Caswell’s rich, colorful costuming. The beautiful clothes and the evocative original music, provided by Matthew Applebaum and Michelle O’Connor, more than compensate for the small, bare stage. Eventually, everything comes right as in the original play - and the characters even learn a few unexpected lessons, the most important being that all dreams must end and "to not see truly is a waste." If you're a fan of the original play, it would be a waste to miss this blast of a follow-up.

 

- Di Jayawickrema, Theatre Is Easy

 

 

The Starship Astrov
 

"Duncan Pflaster's new "Chekhovian Space Comedy" The Starship Astrov ties a clever concept to a sci-fi/speculative drama that authentically has something to say.(...) we have here a play that's timeless in its examination of the human condition (following in the path of the great Russian playwright) and oh so timely in its consideration of ecology versus economy. (...) The writing, concepts, and performances are all well above par for the Midtown International Theatre Festival (...) The Starship Astrov is certainly a worthy destination at MITF, and I suspect it may surface in another venue in the future (hopefully before the year 3047)."

 

- Martin Denton, NYTheatre.com

"The remarkable thing is that it actually works, and works well, due in large part to playwright Duncan Pflaster's ability to walk the fine line between humor and pathos, just like Chekhov before him. Astrov is a very funny play, especially in the first half, but it still presents sad, lonely people longing for purpose, meaning and love. The twist is that it presents them not in a country estate, but in possibly the loneliest place of all - the endless void of deep space."

 

- Byrne Harrison, StageBuzz

"Pflaster's show is sure to become a cult classic along the lines of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and one can just see it being done all over the place. The premise is the classic tale of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya retold with characters engaged in space travel. At first glance, the piece may not seem like much more than a Saturday Night Live sketch, but in the hands of the well informed Pflaster, the piece turns into a pretty amazing exploration of Chekhov's characters and themes." - Michael Roderick, 99 and Under the Radar (BWW)

"More than likely, you've been transported to The Starship Astrov, a play where playwright Duncan Pflaster takes the best of science fiction tropes and embeds many of the themes and characters of plays such as Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. The result is a play (delightfully directed by Eric Parness) that will tickle your funny bone with homages that run the gamut from Star Trek to Buck Rogers, but with an over arcing sense of nostalgia for the times in your own life when you knew you had to move on to the next stage. You can't help but smile as what seems (at first) to be corny caricatures change into ideal vehicles which transport the story not just across the galaxy, but also to a meaningful conclusion for our own lives. This is more than you would have expected from something billed as a comedy. (...) Sometimes you want a little cheesy science fiction, sometimes you want a bittersweet reflection on the human condition. Luckily in the case of The Starship Astrov you can have both. See it this week while you can as it only runs through July 31st.

- Stephen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

"Pflaster packs his dialogue with clever one-liners, and the actors commit to their material. (...) An amusing evening of theater." -

 

Rachel Crouthamel, Show Business Weekly

"Pflaster has reimagined some of Chekhov's characters and plotting with aplomb."

 

 - Andy Probst, Theatermania

 

 

Ore, or Or

The banter and quips could get heavy-handed but manage not to and the actors deliver them with spot-on timing. [...] Rachel Lin, the actress playing the geisha as well as several other roles (a photographer, Calvin's sister, a Halloween party hostess) is a strong performer, shifting from role to role effortlessly. The other actors handle their roles nicely and there is a sense that each actor has settled comfortably into his or her character's skin. [...] With his large imagination and witty dialogue, Pflaster is definitely a playwright to watch. [...] Ore, or Or offers a nice alternative to the basic romantic comedy.

- Amy Freeman, Off Off Online


Even without with framing device of Yamashita's gold, Ore, or Or would be an excellent play. Pflaster has created complex and interesting characters, all with their own flaws and insecurities, and put them in a compelling story. Even as they hurt one another, intentionally or unintentionally, they remain remarkably human and sympathetic. While much of this is due to the excellent work done by all the actors in the play, Pflaster's ability to write complex and fully realized characters allows them to spend more time creating nuanced performances.

- Byrne Harrison, StageBuzz


The oddly titled Ore, or Or is an artfully constructed, well-aimed, and resonant story of a modern New York City love triangle. [...] This sub-theme is an appealing, ornate framing device, though perhaps not totally necessary, as the imperfect, realistically rough-edged New Yorkers living their laughing, heartbreaking lives in front of us are intriguing enough by their plain selves. Still, without the dream sequences, we wouldn't have the lovely costumes and the great score, and they do provide some neatly dramatic moments as well, so who's complaining? The car may be a little used, but the paint job is smooth and the engine runs very well. Climb aboard; this is a worthwhile trip.


- Jon Sobel, Blog Critics

Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants

"...a hilarious hour and a half of iambic pentameter, missing manhoods, lost hearts, and political scheming. (...) The verse flows off the actor's tongues as if they were made to speak using rhyming couplets and pentameter. (...) Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants is a fantastic evening of theater. The play wears its influences well and provides laugh after laugh while jabbing at contemporary politics."


- Amy Freeman, Off Off Online

"...the adjectives I'd use to describe Prince Trevor are sweet and earnest, and I mean neither to be at all pejorative. Pflaster has created a modern fairy tale with a moral that is worthwhile and timely - that one person's actions can make a difference; that petty tyrants and demagogues can be toppled like so many mythic dragons if people will only band together and make something happen. (...) features several commendable performances, notably Paula Galloway as Bluebella's lusty but pragmatic lady's maid and Carlos Rafael Fernandez as Prince Trevor."


- Martin Denton, NYTheatre.com

"Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants has all the staples of over-the-top parody: bawdiness, goofy names, a little commander-in-chief bashing, and modern slang injected into "period" dialogue. But the play's special brand of comedy is in matching Shakespearean reference and iambic pentameter with gay themes and full-frontal (male) nudity. English majors, Mel Brooks fans, anyone who can handle live nakedness, lend Cross-eyed Bear Productions your ears (and eyes), and come away thoroughly entertained. (...) And amidst all the debauchery, the lovable cast of Prince Trevor delivers every joke, whether an intricate play on words or an exploding expletive, with such sweet-faced sincerity, they often catch us by surprise. Rather than nodding and winking, they wholly inhabit this fantasy world, and each utterance of the word "queer" by a stern medieval king gets that many more startled giggles."


- Sarah Krasnow, Theatre Talk's New Theatre Corps

Admit Impediments 

Admit Impediments is a Musical Comedy written and composed by Duncan Pflaster and directed by Clara Barton Green. This show takes on the delicate issue of gay marriage, subtly accomplished by asking us to look at the nature of marriage, both heterosexual and for convenience. It asks tough questions and expresses the frustrations experienced by all people denied this basic human desire, and by the end our engaged couple make the decision not to marry until it becomes an equal right for all. Reminiscent of early Charles Busch, the writing is witty and clever; the social clichés manage to feel fresh and fun. It opens with a song titled “Getting Stoned with My Baby”, and follows with a sassy number called “I Love Your Breasts”. “Every Day of My Life”, sung by Booth Daniels, is a sweet tear-jerker worthy of any pop chart. Mr. Pflaster takes himself seriously; these songs are Broadway worthy. Part of the MITF Development Series, this production is sparsely produced and cries out for a bigger production.

- Li Murillo, Hi!Drama (Manhattan Cable Show) 5/18/07

 

 

Eternity: Time Without End

"Eternity: Time Without End, written and directed by Duncan Pflaster, is reminiscent of existential works such as Waiting for Godot or Skin of Our Teeth. Duncan Pflaster has created a modern-day American production which questions relationships, love, youth and the definition of family. The entire ensemble is superb with the chameleon performer Jason Specland performing everything from a pizza boy, to a British society man, to a clown. Humorous and thought provoking.

 

-Christopher Farr, Hi Drama (Manhattan Cable Show)

Sleeping in Tomorrow 

"Sleeping in Tomorrow is a tremendously well-written production by author Duncan Pflaster. The plot revolves around a woman at a cocktail party and all of her parallel universes. It is similar in style to a play by Thornton Wilder entitled The Skin of our Teeth with all three acts having the same characters in different time periods and different situations. Most of Duncan Pflaster's work has a Thornton Wilderesque quality to it. Mr. Pflaster carefully weaves his relevant thoughts regarding Jewish persecution, homophobia, sexism, jealousy, and the plight of the average white guy, into this script while giving us entertaining characters. The proverbial question of this production "Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?" doesn't truly hit home till Mr. Pflaster skillfully releases it ten minutes before the play's ending. This author is truly among the current undiscovered great off-off Broadway writers."

 


- G.S. Bowen, "Hi-Drama" (Manhattan Cable Show)

"Pflaster always provides a quirky world which wins the interest of many disciples. Inventors, sports figures, jews, homos, witches, masochists, nazis and clowns are represented here.
In Pflaster's new play for adults, Berenice is dissatisfied with her life and looking for answers in cosmic mysticism. When she begins having out-of-body experiences at a cocktail party hosted by her husband's gay brother and his lover, she takes the opportunity to explore several parallel universes, encountering all of her friends in wildly different worlds and circumstances. The director has done a lovely job of staging SLEEPING IN TOMORROW. The actors successfully accomplish many adjustments on character among the universes (…) The technical aspects are enjoyable as well -- a simple placement of good apartment furnishings and good sound and lighting. Costumes, too, are easy on the eye. A great deal of preparation and love brought this play off. Ms. Lauren Adler's performance as Berenice is especially honest and engaging. Yet the whole cast works as a terrific ensemble."

- Sherri Braun, Stage Pages