31 TO JUNE 16
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY PRESENTS
"ZEN A.M." BY NATALIE MENNA, OUR RESIDENT
John Gazzale as Bruno,
the artist, and Brad Fryman as Chang, his guru. Photo by
of New Age manners and mores is set
among the "worried creatives" of post-9/11 New York.
WHERE AND WHEN:
May 31 to June 16, 2019
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$18, box office (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net
times, artists have always had to reconcile the demands of their
patrons with their own artistic integrity. In the 21st century,
the patrons' demands can come from both the left and right.
"Zen A.M.," a new comedy by Natalie
Menna, illustrates the conundrum, nesting it in present-day
issues of class identification, compassion, cultural identity
and creative resistance. Theater for the New City
will present the world premiere of the piece May 31 to June 16,
directed by Andrew Block.
The play is
a story of laughable characters straining to act rationally when
faced with difficult decisions of artistic integrity. Bruno,
a 9/11 survivor, has abandoned his lucrative Wall Street career
to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a painter. However,
money is running out and his jealous, excitable yet pragmatic
girlfriend--a fact-checker for a right wing media outlet--is set
on getting married.
Alexandra Bonesho, Brad
Brad Fryman, John Gazzale
Sean Phillips, Elizabeth
collaborator is a New Age life coach named Chang. Bruno's
best friend is a podiatrist named Hal, who is married to Rachael,
a nouveaux riche woman who is part time Feng Shui consultant,
jewelry designer and board member of the International Freedom
Center (IFC), a museum being planned for the 9/11 site.
a sage ritual.
Brad Fryman as Bruno
been commissioned to provide a painting for the IFC, but finds
it has suddenly shifted its focus from memorializing the victims
of 9/11 to the evils of America's past. It's an important
and lucrative commission, but Bruno has serious doubts about IFC's
changing agenda. He feels he should now turn down the commission,
but he has two problems. First, an artist depends on clarity,
insight and support from his inner circle, and these people can't
do anything but bicker over New Age spirituality and promote
their own agendas. Secondly, Chang has a contract to do a
film about Bruno's painting and stands to lose his shirt if it
doesn't get it done.
vacillations increase, hysteria and hilarity ensue. Can
financial folly, a marriage-minded girlfriend, a greedy guru,
and a crusading liberal fashionista change his mind? The play
is light farce with the theme that Americans will never agree
about anything because we have become too divided, but its deeper
theme is the price of artistic integrity.
excerpt of the play was performed in Theater for the New City's
Lower East Side Festival of the Arts last season.
are Brad Fryman* as Bruno, Dai Ishiguro as Kim, Alexandra Bonesho*
as Denise, John Gazzale as Chang, Sean Phillips as Hal and Elizabeth
Inghram* as Rachel.
is by Alexander Bartenieff. Set design is by Mark Marcante. Props
design is by Lytza Colon. Costume design is by Niiamar Felder.
Stage Manager is Emely Selina Zepeda.
Menna (http://nataliemenna.com) is author of "Occasionally
Nothing," which was presented by Theater for the New City's
2018 Dream Up Festival, and "Committed," which was performed
in 2017 at the 14th Street Y. She is a resident playwright
of August Strindberg Rep, for which she adapted "Journey
in Light and Shadow" by Stig Dalager for a 2017 production
at Gene Frankel Theatre. Last season, August Strindberg Rep presented
her "#MeThree," an evening of three original short one-acts,
at Gene Frankel Theatre. Her play "Roberta!" was presented
twice at United Solo Festival. Her plays "Roberta!,"
"I-POD" and "Zen A.M." have been published
by indietheaternow.com. She is also an actor.
Nothing" was nominated for Outstanding Overall Production
of a Revival/Adaptation/Sequel for her full-length play in the
2017 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (PCTF) and Menna was
awarded Outstanding Playwriting of a One-Act and Outstanding Overall
Production of a One-Act for the play at PCTF in 2016. "Committed"
received Outstanding Overall Production of a Reading and Best
Actor at PCTF in 2015. Menna was nominated for Outstanding Writer
for "Zen A.M." at PCTF in 2014. Select previous awards
include the Nettie Award for Best Solo Show for "I-POD"
in the Network One-Act Festival and Best Actress for "I-POD"
in MITF. Her short play "Hiroshi-Me, Me, Me" was a finalist
in the Strawberry Festival and The Network One-Act Festival, with
two nominations for Best Actress and Winner for Best Supporting
of "Zen A.M." is produced, presented and funded by Theater
for the New City. In 2020, Menna's play, "Committed,"
directed by Austin Pendleton, will be produced, presented and
funded by TNC. Ms. Menna writes, "Crystal Field's support
of playwrights is a dazzling example to the theater world of a
devoted artistic director. Her insight, wisdom and discernment
are matched only by her generosity. Under her leadership,
TNC has maintained its position as a premiere presenter of daring
theater. My gratitude to Crystal has no bounds!"
Andrew Block received the Ovation and L.A.Drama Critics
Circle awards for Best Director and Production for the world premiere
of "Small Engine Repair" by John Pollono. His selected
credits include: "This Stretch of Montpelier" by Kelly
Nicole Girod (The Fire This Time), "The Other Day" by
Mark Jason Williams (Theater at 14th Street Y), "Lost and
Found" (FringeNYC Encore, Lortel), "Straight Faced Lies"
(FringeNYC), "Why Bother?" (Best Director, Planet Connections
Festivity), "Downward Facing Debbie" by David Caudle
(World premiere, Planet Connections), "Bingo With the Indians"
by Adam Rapp (GLAAD award nomination for Outstanding Theatre,
West-coast premiere), "Illuminati" (Best Director, Network
OAF), "Bedroom Farce" (FAPC), "Reach" (Ivy
Theatre Company), "Company" (Gallery Players), "Avenue
Q" (Manhattan College), "Inherit the Wind" (Manhattan
College), "Rumors" (AADA), "The Shape of Things"
(Adelphi University) and "Recovery" (FringeNYC). A native
of New Orleans now living in New York, he also serves as representative
for the Off and Off-Off Broadway community for TDF.
*=appears courtesy Actors Equty
York Theatre Wire
Reviewer Larry Litt writes that "Zen A.M." is "an
expose of the contemporary art and high society world that calls
itself high culture," adding," If you have any interest
in art and society, this comedic farce is well worth taking in."
York Theatre Buyers Guide
Newsletter - June 15, 2019, by Ronald Gross
"Our highest recommendation! Hilarious, moving,
politically thought-provoking comedy of manners. An only-in-New-York
satire centering on the failed plan to create an International
Freedom Center Museum on the 9/11 site. Once again, Theater
for the New City offers a work of utmost relevance and entertainment
value, enacted by immensely talented actors, a brilliant
director, and an outstanding creative team." Read
the full review.