School Pictures at the Wilma Theater

I am interrupting my regularly-planned blog posts to post a review of a play I saw this week at the Wilma Theater called School Pictures. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen: a one person performance by playwright Milo Cramer, who portrays a number of middle-school students they worked with as a private tutor in the City of New York before the pandemic. To take on all these parts in one play is quite an undertaking, but there’s more. Cramer sings all the parts in a high-pitched voice while accompanying themself on various musical instruments: a ukulele, a toy piano, a regular piano, and a portable organ. Sometimes they sit on the floor. Sometimes they sit on a chair. The set is sparse, an almost bare stage with minimal props.

Sound weird or tedious? It’s not. Cramer’s performance is engaging, well-paced, and entertaining. Nothing drags. You get drawn in to the personal stories of the students which are a combination of comedic, poignant, sad and illuminating.

Towards the end the play, Cramer wheels a tall blackboard onto the stage and resumes the role of teacher, instructing the audience about the institutional inequalities that plague the New York school system. There’s no preaching. Cramer’s arguments are all the more compelling because they engage in a dialogue with the audience, and lets everyone draw their own conclusions.

School Pictures will be at the Wilma Theater until November 20.

12 Chairs and 2 Actors = 1 Enjoyable Play

 

I saw a play last weekend that I’d like to recommend.  It’s called 12 Chairs (not to be confused with the Russian story with a similar name), and it’s playing at Buttonwood Studios  in the Callowhill or Loft District just north of Chinatown.

12 Chairs, a one-act play written by John O’Hara, tells the story of  daughter Louise and her mother Ann from the time Louise is seven years old until Ann dies in a nursing home years later.  While there is nothing extraordinary about these women’s lives, the play manages to be compelling, heartrending and humorous.  The script is tightly written, the direction is expertly paced and the acting is a real treat.

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The two actors who make up the cast, Marcia Ferguson and Amanda Schoonover take on an additional ten roles between them (besides the mother and daughter).  Using a minimum of costumes and props, they bring the additional characters to life with their acting skill.  And they are very skilled.

The set consists of 12 folding chairs on a low proscenium a few feet in front of the audience, and nothing more.  The actors make the story come to life.

You still have time to see this production of 12 Chairs which has three performances left.  You can buy tickets HERE.