Besides the joys of their texts, I always find myself intrigued by the strategies playwrights employ to keep themselves in production. Rob Handel, a dramatist and fundraiser, brilliantly conceptualized 13P with the marketing tag: “We don’t develop plays (we do them).” He and the group razzed theatre companies that institutionalize the failure of new work, and the Obie Awards justifiably recognized him and his 12 co-writers in 2005 (everybody in 13P actually only gets one production before the entire entity self-destructs, just like on Mission Impossible). Derek Ahonen, a founder of the Amoralists and its writer, has also become part of the fabric of Off- Broadway, without the deadline. His strategy is to be everywhere, all the time. In the past year, in New York, you could have seen The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, Happy in the Poorhouse, and Amerissiah (it closed in late June). Now The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side and Happy in the Poorhouse are back. Ahonen, who told TimeOut New York that the critics will eventually turn on the Amoralists—and he’s probably right—nevertheless, has very ambitious plans before the crucifixion. He told The New York Times he wants to create two new plays a year. The idea is to “Book a theater, then spend two months writing, two months rehearsing and two performing, with . . . (hopefully) an extension.”
I don’t think critics will mind the industry, however. Here’s a homegrown repertory company, without pretention, doing its own work, keeping actors together, and growing talent. The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side playing today, isn’t the glorious Theatre of the Rough piece I saw at Theatre 80, St. Mark’s in 2009–its frontal nudity and in-your-face dialogue; time warp and internal contradictions (a commune in today’s East Village?) seemed ungrounded then. Watching The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side now at PS122, tighter and cleaner, is like seeing the play’s central character, Billy (terrifically played and incredibly timed by James Kautz), coming out of a hallucinogenic haze: Nothing has actually changed, but now it all makes perfect sense. Besides knowing the trajectory, my reactions may also have to do with the smaller theater and the ability to watch the acting a little closer. Mandy Nicole Moore, for example, as an abused flower child, does excellent, focused work, which I had not noted. Malcolm Madera acts very precisely within the booby traps of a long dispiriting segment based on the punch line, “Just kidding” (which must also be funny). When Ahonen played it, he gave the role an urban, sleaze edge; Madera comes out of an L.L. Bean catalog, internally and morally a blank. You’ll like the rest of the cast, too, now no longer working part-time in the theatre. Ahonen may have found the way to turn a love for pop art into his own kind of Warhol factory.
© 2010 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.
Visit the Web site of the Amoralists: http://www.theamoralists.com/
THE PIED PIPERS OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE
Call Theatermania at 212-352-3101
9 a.m.- 9 p.m., Monday – Friday
10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
Our box office is open for walk-up sales:
Tuesday-Saturday: 4pm – 8pm
Sunday – 4pm to 6pm
Performance Space 122
150 First Avenue
New York, NY 10009
"The Pied Pipers is fast, funny, raucous, and in your face. All are outstanding. Considerably smarter and complex. I'll certainly follow The Amoralists work from now on." – Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
"Ahonen has written full, complex characters, and the committed cast approaches them with sincerity and heart. This is exciting work, fresh and refreshing: The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side makes you want to follow the Amoralists wherever they go next."
– Adam Feldman, Time Out New York
"A nearly three-hour dose of high-energy Steppenwolf-style realism. The young company's deep commitment and contagious exuberance brings to mind the vitality that distiguished the early Off-Off Broadway work of artists like Sam Shepard only a generation ago." – The New Yorker
"Love Stories don't come any purer than this." – Doug Strassler, OffOffonline.com
"'The Pied Pipers of The Lower East Side is the most exciting theatre I've seen in quite a while. The Amoralists are making theatre here that really does have the capacity to lead their audience towards some meaningful social change." – Martin Denton, Nytheatre.com
An extraordinary gathering of young idealists live as a modern day urban tribe above a vegan restaurant in NYC. Billy, Dawn, Dear and Wyatt are an extended sexual family battling their fears and addictions in order to live their utopian dream. The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side is a celebration of love and the search for human grandness.
The AMORALISTS is a theatre company that produces work of no moral judgment. Dedicated to an honest expression of the American condition, our actor-driven ensemble explores complex characters of moral ambiguity. We seek to initiate a dialogue between artists and audience, putting theatre at the heart of our community. Rollicking, rebellious, and raw, our work will go home with you…Boom!
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