I will spend my life in awe of artists who “bloom where they are planted.” I slipped into a door in the East Village, a once famous squat, and found myself in an artist haven and theatre. Twenty seats constitute this oasis, and it was a sold out house. In this small space, we gathered to watch Tennessee Williams’ “In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel” with the feeling that I had stumbled onto a secret. On any given night, this city pulsates from the energy released in the multitude of these little venues where actors deliver epic performances in small “circles of light.” It’s just fantastic.
. . .a fast-paced, high-energy, polished production. . .
We’re in the aforementioned bar, and Miriam is flirting outrageously with the barman. It is tinged with urgent desperation. She is married to the famous painter, Mark, who is in the process of a nervous breakdown. He believes he has discovered “color,” which is making him terrified. He is clearly losing his mind. He has been spreading his canvases on the floor, spray painting them with a spray gun, and rolling around in the colors completely naked. (Sounds like it would make a fortune on the contemporary art scene in NYC 2017).
Miriam calls Mark’s art dealer, Leonard, to fetch his cash cow as she wants out of the relationship. The couple are both psychologically unstable and rage against each other while the barman looks on in shock, horror, and disbelief. Leonard arrives and attempts to find solutions.
You can see why real-life married couple Charles Schick (Mark) and Regina Bartkoff (Miriam) have chosen this piece, as it delves into the psyche of the artist and those who prey on and support their process. Both Schick and Bartkoff are exceptional visual artists, as well as actors, and the material feels deeply personal to them.
Regina Bartkoff has a striking presence with a glorious vocal timbre. I particularly enjoyed the scenes when she played Miriam becoming hardened and fierce in the face of her husband’s loss of sanity, which mirrors her own breakdown.
Charles Schick gave us a man on the verge of combustion. As Mark, he erupted like an artistic Vesuvius on stage and flung himself around as his psychosis took its toll.
Wayne Henry as Leonard was an exceptional counterpoint to Miriam and Marks unraveling. He played the calm, concerned, exasperated art dealer brilliantly. Henry was the anchor for the turbulent, thunder-wielding married couple. His two little Hawaiian lady cameos were hilarious and delicious.
Brandon Lim as the barman was phenomenal as the polite, innocent man trying to deal with the chaos upsetting his routine. He has a powerful presence on stage and gave the leads his total attention and never pulled focus.
Director Everett Quinton has crafted a fast-paced, high-energy, polished production and utilized the small space magnificently. Ramona Ponce created stunning costumes for the production – I particularly loved her hat design for Miriam, which seemed to be another character in the play; it had such life. Michael Aquirre created a superb set and evocative lighting design to complement the action.
This piece is drenched in raw emotions and allows the performers an opportunity to push the boundaries of their talent. They let Williams’ life wounds channel through them and flood the theatre. I urge you to slip through the crack in the wall to find yourself in the workroom or womb of the alternative theatre scene in NYC.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission.
“In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel” plays through March 25, 2017 at 292 Theatre. For more information and tickets, click here.