Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Afternoon in the East Village: Theater for the New City's Street Theater presents "99% Reduced Fat, or, You Can Bank On Us" outside Theater for the New City, East 10th Street at First Avenue

Theater for the New City's award-winning, rabble-rousing, rip-roaring Street Theater's up-to-the-nanosecond over-the-top agitprop summer musical extravaganzas are always a pure delight, and we were thrilled to be standing on East 10th Street outside Theater for New City by First Avenue
on this very hot and humid afternoon to see the premiere of director/creator Crystal Fields' 2012 production, 99% Reduced Fat, or, You Can Bank On Us,
a fabulous only-in-New-York-kids theater experience put on by an amazingly energetic and dynamic cast and crew, including many of our favorite performers from street summers past, with a terrific musical score by Joseph Vernon Banks.
We don't have the amount of time we used to and could write long, detailed stuff about what we see , but here's a great summary of this brilliant show:
Spooked by the loss of his best friend, who sniffed everything from incense to bath salts, a surly young gang member known as B.C. (Justin Rodriguez) begins to feel the weakness and impotence of a tough's life.
He wanders aimlessly through the city, witnessing impotence and suffering everywhere.
Teachers teach to the test and students learn nothing. The Mayor campaigns on a bicycle against sugary drinks and smoking in the park.
Pink slips fly while schools and hospitals close.
Stop and frisk and racial profiling push him from one neighborhood to another. ("Why don’t you go back to where you came from!" "Where’s That!? The Bronx? Cause that’s where I was born.")
The illusory nature of the American Dream is distilled at a concert where a Hip Hop artist performs, jumping all over the stage. People yell, scream and finally bum rush the stage but all they can grab is thin air--it’s a hologram!
B.C. finds himself at an Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park, where, he is beguiled by Suzy Freedom (Bridget Dowret), a young protestor.
She is an enlightening dreamer, pursued by police sirens, nightsticks and mace.
Lured by her desire for a better world, she blindly follows her visions: flying off the top of the Freedom Tower into the Land of Angels, where everyone has a three-room apartment and where everyone can afford organic food, college is tuition free and the government pays for health care. "Naïve, naïve," everyone says as she wafts away, "She didn’t know where she was going."
With her disappearance, B.C. knows he has lost the only thing he has ever prized. He tries to return to his old life, but a police raid throws him into the arms of his Seventh Grade teacher, Mr. Smiley (Michael Vazquez and Michael David Gordon alternate in the part), who gives him the best-selling book he has written, "Recipes for the Future."
It's a manual of gourmet meals for under $3.00, plans for Urban Gardens and methods of organizing grass roots protests and civil actions.
It is linked with a smiley face onto Facebook and Twitter.
B.C. and Smiley found a Cultural Center for the neighborhood and organize for future elections.
B.C. is also nurtured by a Mentoring Angel (Mark Marcante) and the "Un-Leader" of a local Occupy Wall Street contingent (Alexander Bartenieff).
Our hero has found his role in life, gathering strength from his immigrant heritage, the idea of taking government out of the hands of corporations, and the notion that politics doesn’t die with an election.
One man in office cannot change the world, but pressure from the ground up can and will accomplish all.
These wonderful shows, which we saw last year at St. Mark's Church and in 2009 in a Jackson Heights' Travers Park, always contains an elaborate assemblage of trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, masks,
original choreography and a huge (9' x 12') running screen or "cranky" providing continuous movement behind the actors.
We always enjoy the company of more than thirty performers at Theater for the New City's summer Street Theater productions, and that's why we wanted to see the very first performance of this year's show. You can catch it all over the city on weekends until September 16. Check this schedule.
We're grateful to everyone who presented today's performance, well worth standing in the hot sun -- though we were happy to get some ices as soon as we stopped applauding.

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