Theater for the New City: "155 Thru the Roof"

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Lily Field (Cam Kornman) and her spiritual guide, The Ancient Mariner (T.D. White). Photo: Jonathan Slaff

[Theater]

"155 Thru the Roof," a fanciful comedy with music, will be presented by Theater for the New City, April 3 to 20.  Written by award-winning playwright Toby Armour, directed by George Ferencz with music by Peter Dizozza, the play follows the epic adventures of Lily Field, director of Theater for the New Syzygy, as she moves through the Fourth Dimension beyond Earth and the Lower East Side.

Audiences were first introduced to Lily and Theater for the New Syzygy in 2012, when “155 First Avenue” debuted at Theater for the New City.  That play, by the same team, celebrated the heroic struggle for survival of an Off-Broadway theater in a past haunted by friendly ghosts such as Walt Whitman and Molly Picon. “155 Thru the Roof” continues the chronicle of the theater’s survival far into a perilous future.

Amid torrential rains and floods, the very foundations of the theater's building are threatened.  Only its eco-friendly green roof, long neglected and gone to seed, offers a refuge.  But when Lily and her troupe of actors climb out onto the roof, they see a magical rain forest and a portal to the stars.  Serene amidst this jungle, two Martians are broadcasting their morning talk-show.  The big news, they tell their Martian theater audience, is that this year they will have an entry in the Interplanetary Musical Theater Competition!  Do they have a script? A director?  Lily is the answer!  She is whisked away into space by her new companion, the Ancient Mariner, where she faces the biggest challenge of her career. With Apollo, the Sun God, a more than slightly interested observer, looking on, Lily must create a winning musical production or she will never see earth and her beloved Lower East Side again.

Peter Dizozza is a composer known for his simple, cheerful music with a Gershwinesque flair.  His songs for this play, set to lyrics by Toby Armour, are bright and optimistic, with a very American flavor.

Reviewing the 2012 play, Tamas Vilaghy wrote in The Local East Village (a project of NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and The New York Times), "Playwright Toby Armour has made the theater itself the main character through her strong and versatile writing, and the actors in the play are facets of the artistic community....Armour weaves strands of Greek tragedy and Yiddish theater, embellishing a simple plot with great jokes and memorable characters. Peter Dizozza’s incidental music and songs are charming decoration....As the play speaks through the myriad accents of New York City through the ages, we learn to trust in the future in spite of its uncertainty, and trust that what artists do has always been, is, and will be worthwhile. It is this fundamental belief which elevates George Ferencz’s raucous and joyful production from a mere neighborhood tale to a love song dedicated to art."

The cast of ten features Cam Kornman as Lily Field and T.D. White as The Ancient Mariner and includes Kat Yew, Alexa Criscitiello, Charles Browning and Mike Hill. Set design is by Mark Marcante, lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff, costume design is by Sally Lesser and sound design is by Tim Schellenbaum.

Toby Armour's plays have been presented in NYC, LA, Boston, Denver, elsewhere in the U.S., as well as Scotland, Ireland and London. "Voices from the Black Canyon" won the Lewis National Playwriting Competition.  "Fanon's People," which debuted at TNC, won four Dramalog awards when produced at the Fountain Theater in LA.  She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Arts Council, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the Arizona Arts Commission, and the Jerome Foundation She is a member of the Dramatists Guild. Her latest play, “Marion Alert” was presented in Key West by the Fringe Theater last spring. A new play, commissioned by the town of Guilford, CT on the occasion of its’ 375th birthday, will be performed outdoors on May 31. She is grateful to Crystal Field, George Ferencz and Peter Dizozza, for all their support and wisdom in this production.

George Ferencz ,director, is best known for his direction of plays by Sam Shepard.  Recognized by the New York Times "as one of the foremost directorial interpreters of Shepard," he has directed landmark productions of "Angel City," "Back Bog Beast Bait," "Cowboy Mouth (in Concert), "Suicide in B-Flat" and "The Tooth of the Crime."  His productions and rehearsal techniques appear in "The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard" edited by Matthew Roudané, "Theater On The Edge: New Visions, New Voices" by Mel Gussow and "Theater Criticisms" by Stanley Kaufman.  Ferencz's ?"Directing Shepard" was published by the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Journal.  His TNC productions include "Lincoln on Hester Street," "Fear Itself," "Piecework," "Delicate Feelings" and "The Space Show," the first TNC production at 155 First Avenue.  As a resident director at La MaMa, he has directed over 30 productions including most recently the blues opera "Conjur Woman" in New York and Rome.

Peter Dizozza ,Musical Settings, Piano, has accompanied plays by Maria Micheles (including "Night Park" at TNC), Leah Maddrie, Myron D. Cohen, Bruce Jay Friedman, Helen Slayton Hughes and Richard Vetere, and an oratorio score for the legendary "Legs Like These," Neil Ericksen's adaptation of the myth of Atalanta.  He has also provided scripts and scores for a wide range of independent "Cinema VII" projects including "A Question of Solitude" and "TentagatneT," an experimental play produced by La MaMa in its Experimenta! 2007 Program.  Other song settings include poems and texts by Shakespeare, T.S.Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

WHAT: THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY TO PRESENT "155 THRU THE ROOF" BY TOBY ARMOUR, DIRECTED BY GEORGE FERENCZ, WITH MUSIC BY PETER DIZOZZA.An East Village theater is washed away by floods; its artistic director is abducted by stage-struck Martians.

WHERE AND WHEN: April 3 to 20, 2014. 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.

$15 general admission, $10 students and seniors. Box office (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net

Runs 100 min (incl. intermission). Critics are invited on or after April 4. 

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