Up Close Festival, Program B: Review by Lainie Gutterman

Credit: Buatti-Ramos Photography

My son, Ian, and I were very excited to return to the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St) to see Program B of the Up Close Festival. (See my review for Program A https://motherhoodlater.com/posts/up-close-festival-show-review-by-lainie-gutterman/ which we saw on December 24, 2018)

If I had known it was going to be raining and I’d be battling a cold, I would have selected a different performance date, but we did want to be here for the special New Year’s Eve countdown celebration at the end of the show.

Program B starts off very similar to Program A. Narrator Ms. Pea (Summer Shapiro) explains we are at The Archive and will meet people who lived in the West Village and changed their neighborhood. Ms. Pea is dressed in the same dress she wore in Program A and even remembered Ian. Once again, she shows the same rodent slides and takes a group photo of the audience with a disposable camera.

Ian and I were very excited to get to see the Pizza Rat (Marisol Rosa-Shapiro) again in Velveeta Underground: A Pizza Rat’s Quest To Save Cheesy Beet Poetry (Part 2), another blackout occurs.

Fortunately, it is at this point in the performance where it deviates from Program A and provides new material. Ian, along with most of the audience, laughed hard during the tea scene between the Janitor (Peter Musante) and Ms. Pea. Without a doubt, this was Ian’s favorite part of both Programs.

Christina D. Eskridge: A Night at Sheridan Square
It’s 1939, and everyone is welcome in Cafe Society, NYC’s first integrated club. Christina D. Eskridge who is supposed to be Billie Holiday has a beautiful voice. She sang part of “Strange Fruit” without any accompanying music. The beaded sequin dress she wore was exquisite and put me in a festive mood for New Year’s Eve.

Bated Breath Theatre Company: The Pride of Christopher Street
In the winter of 1978, at 4pm, Brenda Howard gets off her stoop on Christopher Street and takes us on a march filled with lots of dancing in the streets. Through the windows of an unassuming apartment, the glow of light fills room after room as activists gather to plan their most extraordinary event yet. It is the meeting that transforms the Gay Liberation March into the Pride Parade forevermore. The audience was lucky enough to learn the secret knock to enter into this special gathering, where people of all ages join together to find their voice, speak against injustice, and celebrate their pride.

Like Program A, the show concluded with a ribbon-tying ceremony. Afterwards, Peter poured sparkling apple cider as we all counted down from ten to one. This was such a fun New Year’s Eve countdown for families with youngsters. I am really happy we braved the elements and didn’t let my being a bit under the weather prevent us from coming. I highly recommend going next year if they offer the 3pm New Year’s Eve show.

The show which is under 60 minutes (intermission free) is both entertaining and educational. I am now much more knowledgeable about the West Village’s history. Ian and I give Up Close Festival five out of five snaps. We look forward to returning to the festival next December.

Visit http://www.newohiotheater.org/upclose2018/htm.

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