Star power comes to Henry Street Settlement
A Biblical-size flood has swept away almost everything on earth, leaving two lone survivors who have lost the ability to speak and can only communicate in song and dance. To keep up their spirits, they sing of the rise and fall of civilization to tunes ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim to Queen and R.E.M. Written by and starring two remarkable musical-theater performers, Taylor Mac and Mandy Patinkin, the unusual musical workshop production, “The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville,” comes to the stage of the Abrons Arts Center, the performing and visual arts program of the 120 year-old Henry Street Settlement, from December 14-31. It is not a surprising presentation for the Abrons Arts Center, which features some of the city’s most adventurous theater, music and dance.
While Mac’s formidable reputation rests on downtown performances, often in drag, most recently in Brecht’s “Good Person of Szechwan” at the Public Theater, Patinkin made his name on Broadway in big productions like “Evita,” “Sunday in the Park With George,” as well as in a solo show of Yiddish songs, “Mamaloshen.” Scored by Daniel J. Gerhard and directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, their first venture together should be a revelation or as Mac recently put it in a phone conversation, “A total blast and an absolute joy.”
Patinkin and Mac chose the songs together. “Everyone expected me to want alternative type songs,” says Mac, “because that’s my world but I was more drawn to the American Songbook because I don’t get a chance to sing those songs very often.” Famed for writing the acclaimed plays, “The Walk Across America for Mother Earth” and “The Lily’s Revenge,” as well as his dazzling, sequined cabaret performances, he is accustomed to rapid changes of style and mood within one play and from performance to performance. “I’m looking forward to this vaudeville after the Brecht and all its extremes,” he says.
After this workshop, Mac and Patinkin will take “The Last Two People on Earth” to theaters around the country, in hopes of bringing the show back off Broadway next year. Mac can’t wait to get the show in front of an audience. “The audience is my favorite part of acting,” he says, “though sometimes it’s my least favorite too. I believe I am a mirror and each and every one of my audience members is both snow white and the evil queen. I rely on them for a conversation; it sustains me. And I’m not talking about applause. I always discover something about my performance through the unspoken interaction. It’s what keeps me doing theater.”
“The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville” starring Taylor Mac and Mandy Patinkin at Abrons Art Center of Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand Street (at Pitt).
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