REVIEW: ‘Friendship Bonds’ shorts reveal new perspectives at New Ohio Theatre’s New York City’s Indie Theatre Film Festival

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  The New York City Indie Film Theatre Festival offered a variety of films from shorts to features on a wide range of topics and some of the film selections contain mature themes.   Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

The Sleepless Critic was knee deep in short films and tackled Dating Drama and Friendship Bonds shorts which focused on a variety of perspectives on relationships. Friendship Bonds explores the value and challenges of friendships in various circumstances.  Click here for the Dating Drama short film review. 

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Andy and Kaliope’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Beautifully written and produced by Rachel Handler with stirring direction by Crystal Arnette and Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Andy and Kaliope is a touching short film starring Jai Ram Srinivansan in a sweet portrayal as Andy, a foster child whose big imagination is in a war with his darkest fears.   Accompanied by Rachel Handler as warm and encouraging Jamie, Colin Buckingham as Cole, and an extraordinary gift, Andy must muster the courage to move forward.  It is a wonderful short film about the power of hope.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds Two Women on A Bridge Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Exceptionally directed, written, and edited by Tom Bean, Two Women on a Bridge is a thought provoking journey over the Williamsburg Bridge in May 2020 in a captivating display of black and white cinematography.  Starring Karen Maine and Suzanne Lenz to Michael Abiuso’s gentle score, Two Women on a Bridge delves into a fractured friendship and reflects on the overwhelming changes in the world while engaging and hypothetical popup endings instill light humor to some serious themes.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Eyeballs’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

In a quirky but realistic zoom scenario, a group of students are brought together by a group school project in Eyeballs.  Written by Molly Powers Gallagher and starring as Nadine, Ola Pater as Cara, and Zack Palomo as Dev, the small zoom group convincingly conveys the nervousness and the hesitation to share ideas and connect.  Directed and edited by Robert Thaxton Stevenson, stay put for this cute comedy’s end credit scene.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Lindsay, Lindsey, Lyndsay’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Lindsay, Lindsey, Lyndsey is not an exaggeration, but a tale of three different Lindsays. Lindsay’s fabulous new house.  However, things are not quite as they seem.  Dan Kuan Peeples, Cameron Cronin, and Daphne Overbeck deal with jealously, unrequited love, and a renewed sense of belonging as they reminisce over old times.  Though some of the themes are a bit repetitive, this dramedy examines the complications of long term friendships and what keeps them going through it all.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘The One They Wanted’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Directed by Catrina Rubenis-Stevens and written by Bryan Harlow, The One they Wanted is an absorbing and important short film about the challenges veterans face from within after they come home.  It is a beautiful and poignant look at a pair of brother and sister veterans who share in their internal battles as sister Gabi faces difficulty in daily activities.  Margo Serrano as Gabi embodies the veiled emptiness and depression over recent events while Writer Bryan Harlow also stars as Gabi’s nurturing brother Patrick as they attempt to find connection in their shared experiences.  It is a genuine and affective short film not to be missed.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Scene Study’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Scene Study is a sly short film about mixed signals.  Written and directed with a few twists and turns by Trace Pope, Russell Sperberg as shy Cal and Joshua Ciccel as charismatic Ryan rehearse a scene study together when something unexpected happens.  Director Trace Pope does a remarkable job in this brief time frame to create a light, unpredictable drama that keeps the viewer guessing till the very end.

Remarkably directed by Bandar Albuliwi, Sakrə Fīs (Sacrifice) is a riveting Iranian story about Azaheh, impressively depicted by Tiffany Ariany and Johnny Ferdosi as playful and fascinating Aadan who find themselves in a suspenseful and life threatening situation during a football game.  Enhanced by Joe Aguirresarobe’s gripping cinematography and Nima Fakhrara’s affective  score, Ariany and Ferdosi’s natural and sweet chemistry and the dangers of daily life in present Iran is what makes this increasingly tense and unpredictable tale such an engrossing and heartrending journey.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘The Bottom’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Do the ends justify the means?  A man, at his most vulnerable, is being forced into a mysterious lake at gunpoint.  Hostility and tension reach its boiling point in this eerie confrontation between James Kautz as Jude and Alex Grubbs as John before the plot thickens.  With harrowing direction by Morgan O’Sullivan and James Kautz and fueled by Adam Bloch’s haunting sound effects, The Bottom is an dark, deeply psychological look at the affect of toxic relationships and may cause more than a chill.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘We (Don’t) Know How to Live Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

On a lighter note, We (Don’t) Know How to Live is a comical and somewhat liberating look at life when reaching a milestone birthday.  Four friends unite for Claire’s 30th birthday party, but Claire receives some distressing news before she arrives which may ruin the whole thing.  Jayne McLendon as Betty, Hilary Wirachowsky as Claire, Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Darcy and Gordon Harper as Daniel all give off some Friends vibes as they reflect upon the direction of their lives.  Reflectively written by Jayne McLendon, Hilary Wirachowsky, and Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah, the festive and inviting setting keeps the mood light as the group tackles relatable and age appropriate musings.

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

REVIEW:  Boasting two stellar leads, Central’s Square’s ‘The Half Life of Marie Curie’ full of inspiration and crackling chemistry

For revolutionary physicist and chemist Marie Curie, not everything can be solved through a calculation.

On the verge of her second Noble Prize for Chemistry, anxious and introspective Marie Curie finds herself embroiled in a scandal and at one of the lowest points of her life.  Quite literally bursting onto the scene is brilliant and charismatic electromechanical engineer and suffragette Hertha Ayrton ready to bring humor and optimism to what seems like a bleak situation.

Lee Mikeska Gardner as Marie Curie Debra Wise as Hertha Ayrton Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios

Brimming with crackling chemistry between Lee Mikeska Gardner as Marie Curie and Debra Wise as Herthe Ayrton, Central Square Theater opened their fall season with Lauren Gunderson’s The Half Life of Marie Curie continuing through December 12 at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The show is 85 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The stage is deceptively serene for Lauren Gunderson’s The Half Life of Marie Curie. Lindsay Genevieve Fuori’s colorful, innovative, and functional scenic design comes to life as stirring sound effects and a mysterious and foreboding piano score by sound designer Elizabeth Cahill make an intriguing combination fused with Whitney Brady-Guzman’s dynamic and surreal lighting.

A production that picks up from the very start, these two driven pillars of science with contrasting personalities are a fascinating pair to watch and listen to their musings.  Gunderson’s sharp script strikes a delicate balance between intellectual prowess and absorbing dramedy.  They share their views on life, family, and work with wit, humor and candor, yet instinctually encourage each other forward with respect and admiration.  Both are widows and mothers who struggle with how women were perceived in the early 20th century, but their sheer determination and passion for science ultimately make an indelible mark on the world.

Lee Mikeska Gardner as Marie Curie and Debra Wise as Hertha Ayrton in 1910s swimwear Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios

Adorned in a lovely feathered black hat and flowing emerald green dress, Debra Wise brings gravitas, confidence, ego, and clever charm as Hertha Ayrton.  From the moment Ayrton bursts onto the stage with a confident cock of her head, gleam in her eye, and cheerful intonation, a lightheartedness sets in to her passionate and outspoken persona as opposed to Curie’s darker sensibilities.  Dressed demurely in a rich purple dress, Gardner skillfully embodies tense Curie in her careful and calculated movements.  You can practically see the wheels turning in Curie’s constantly analyzing mind and consider the lengths she would go for the sake of her work.

Lee Mikeska Gardner as Marie Curie Debra Wise as Hertha Ayrton Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios

Marie Curie and Hertha Ayron’s exchanges are no ordinary gabfests.  From sexual politics to love to family and everything in between, Wise and Gardner, as different in their approaches are and as opposite their personalities, they understand each other as equals, colleagues, and kindred spirits. Celebrating each other’s triumphs and supportive in hardship, theirs is a true testament to unyielding and enduring friendship and it stands at the center of this auspicious and biographical story.

Directed astutely by Bryn Boice, Central Square Theater presents Lauren Gunderson’s The Half Life of Marie Curie through December 12 at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The show is 85 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘The Annulment’ makes parting sweet sorrow

First comes love.  Then comes marriage.   This new musical takes a look at what may come next.

Playwright Sheila Kelleher,  Music Director John Ferguson, and choreographer Cat Umano collaborated for a two day workshop of a world premiere musical destined to be submitted to a future New York festival.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre presented ‘The Annulment’ on Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 at Hingham Town Hall in Hingham, Massachusetts.  This show contains some adult humor.  Click here for more information and more about Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s future productions.

With music accompaniment consisting of Music Director and pianist John Ferguson and percussionist John Duff, the inviting set was well suited for this production as the show travels to different eras and timeframes.

‘The Annulment’ may have been about three different couples and what happens after they said, ‘I do,’ but what truly gives this show more emotional weight are the larger questions it pursues.  What does it take for long-lasting happiness?  What stirs the soul?  What constitutes an annulment and when is it just legal jargon on a piece of paper?  Celia, portrayed with quick-witted cynicism and wistfulness by Carole Shannon, just wants some answers.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre The Annulment Celia and Nadine

Carole Shannon as Celia and Stephanie Blood as Nadine Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

‘The Annulment’ could very well have developed into a drawn out court battle, but it instead explores the nature of relationships, love, loss, and everything in between.  The cast has a very natural chemistry and it is not difficult to imagine this group being longtime friends.  The show is also not without its share of wild and sometimes cynical humor.  James Swindler channeled a Vince Vaughn vibe as Dave, a playful, party-loving guy who has an uninhibited passion for his equally wild wife Nadine, a lively and comical performance by Stephanie Blood. Their uninhibited and flirtatious antics are among the most amusing parts in the production and they both clearly look like they are enjoying themselves.

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Carole Shannon shows a pensive, vulnerable side as Celia, her smooth vibrato poignant during the numbers, When I Used to Sing and What We Missed.  Charlie McKitrick impressively portrays Tony, a critical man who constantly worries more about outward appearances than anything else.  ‘The Annulment’ is skilled at building tension and there is no lack between these two.  Offering a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear is Deanna Lohnes as Celia’s supportive friend Sabrina.  ‘The Annulment’ is a funny, relatable musical comedy with heart when life doesn’t quite deliver a happily ever after.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre has been entertaining audiences for over 70 years.  This fall, ‘The Dr. Seuss Experience’ exhibit will be heading to Boston and Hingham Civic Music Theatre is also presenting ‘Seussical The Musical‘ in October.  Click here for all the details and their recently announced 2020 season.









Director Matt Silva and ‘Waist Watchers the Musical’s’ cast talks improvising, exercise, and girl’s night out

Since April, Alan Jacobson’s Waist Watchers the Musical, a musical comedy from the production team responsible for You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy, and Menopause The Musical, has been taking a frank and lighthearted look at four women’s struggle with dieting, body image issues, exercise, and much more.  Perfect for a date night or a girl’s night out, this musical comedy continues through Sunday, June 25 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts.  Click here for the full schedule and for tickets.


‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

The atmosphere was full of excitement and laughter as the cast and director of Waist Watchers the Musical, having just performed a weekday matinee, spoke about the unique preparation for this show, working with the choreographer of the acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook and Hairspray Live, and keeping the show fresh and more hilarious each and every night.  Director Matt Silva and cast members Kiley McDonald, Stephanie Genovese, and Krissy Johnson all agree they are having a blast.

Sleepless Critic:  Waist Watchers the Musical tackles a unique and sometimes sensitive subject.  How does this show balance comedy with working out?

Kiley:  We’ve talked about that a lot and how to approach the material knowing about body image and social media.  It really takes a toll on women and how they envision what’s perfect.  This show does a really good job of making light of everything and reminding us to laugh, accept, and love who you are.  Everyone has flaws and trouble with something.  That can’t hold you back and rule the choices you make in life.

Waist Watchers The Musical

‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast at Cook’s Gym Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

SC:  Waist Watchers The Musical’s choreographer, Dani Tucci-Juraga, was behind the choreography for the acclaimed film, Silver Linings Playbook and Hairspray Live, which featured some amazing dance moves.  Did you find learning the dancing particularly challenging?

Stephanie:  Dani is fantastic.  She is the sweetest woman I’ve ever met, but she is tough.  She knows exactly what she wants and pushes you to become a better dancer, performer, and in this case, athlete.  There were times when we were sore and complaining and she told us to deal with it and try harder.

SC:  What attracted you to this show and these roles?

Matt:  I am the orchestrator for this company who had taken on the show.  It was out in Phoenix and I didn’t have anything to do with it.  I went to see the show and thought the material was cool, acceptable, and empowering for women.  The production itself wasn’t all that successful in terms of the talent, choreography, and the production value.  I was really excited to take the message, empowerment, and the women’s process and collaborate with them and make it fun.  I thought the production was lot of fun, but I thought the show I saw needed a little injection.


‘Waist Watchers the Musical’ cast  Photo courtesy of Playhouse Productions/Regent Theatre

SC:  The cast has very unique roles to prepare for.  Aside from the dancing, what other preparation was involved?

Kiley:  We knew right away that we needed to condition our bodies for the show because it is non-stop, 90 minutes of cardio.  We would have to sing and dance without a lot of time to breathe.  We also don’t leave the stage very often.  It took us a little while to get our bodies moving, figure out where to breathe, and where to sing.  A lot mental preparation goes into it.

SC:  This show features all new and original music by Vince Di Mura.  Do you have any favorites that stand out for you?

Stephanie:  I love Lazy.

Kiley:  My top favorite is The Morning After.

Chrissy:  Eat it.

SC:  You have been performing this show since April and the final show will be on Sunday, June 25.  How does the show stay fresh each time you perform?  I understand the show involves a lot of improvisation.

Stephanie:  We try to make new discoveries each night.  Every audience is different and they react to different things, so every performance stays different and fresh.

SC:  You must encounter your share of surprises improvising and trying new things.  Any memorable moments that occurred onstage?

Krissy:  At this one performance, we had a new sound system.  It was the first time using this wireless microphone. The mic cracked and made a loud noise onstage right before one of my lines.  It frightened me so badly, I screamed!  From that moment to the end of that scene, I could not stop laughing or get my lines out.  It was quite amusing.

SC:  You all obviously have really snappy chemistry on and off-stage.

Kiley:  We are very fortunate to all get along and appreciate each other’s sense of humor.

SC:  What is the best reason to see Waist Watchers The Musical?

Stephanie:  It is definitely a girl’s night out and one hundred percent campy.  It’s a feel good show with lots of laughs.  Good clean fun, but definitely PG-13.

Presented by Playhouse Productions, Waist Watchers the Musical continues at the Regent Theatre until June 25.  After the Regent Theatre, the show continues its tour in Huntington Beach and Sacramento, California.  Click here for further details and for tickets or call 781-646-4849.  Group rates are also available at 888-264-1788.