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“Hooked on Happiness is a delightful new musical set in a high school drama class, with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, and music composed by Arthur Abrams…. Director Mark Marcante does a brilliant job…genius.” – James Navarrete, TheaterScene.com

Enjoy the complete review:

Hooked on Happiness is a delightful new musical set in a high school drama class, with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, and music composed by Arthur Abrams.

We meet the high school leads, Kim, played by Hannah Carne, and Eric (Leonard W. Rose), on the beach discussing global warming and how helpless they feel about it. They also make reference to how their parents and adult role models are ignoring this overwhelming green issue.

Mark Marcante does double duty as director and set designer and captures the energy and emotions of a drama teacher and its talented students perfectly. He also does a brilliant job changing the set from beach, to classroom to performance stage. The use of the fiery and tree laden backdrop along with the disco ball that comes to life in a catchy song and dance performance is genius. Not to forget the video projector scenes that follow along the story lines and add just the right ambiance to certain moments of the show.

Leonard W. Rose and Hannah Carne in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

Once back in school, Kim and Eric decide to go against the wishes of their drama teacher Ms. Carlson, played by Liz Bealko, to choose between Hello Dolly! and Our Town for their senior drama project and decide to put on their own show.

After a unanimous vote by the other students in class, and much hesitation by Ms. Carlson, for she knows there will be push back by parents, many of which are evangelicals, she gives them the green light to fire away.

From then on, it’s show time with each song addressing how global warming is hurting mother earth. There are some very catchy tunes and a variety of tempos to keep everyone entertained.

One of the best songs is “Love in an Uncertain Time” which has some very comedic and well timed moments as performed by Kim and Eric.

Spencer Martinez, Jazz Sunpanich, Liz Bealko, Hannah Weaver, Hannah Carne and Jordan Rubio in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

“How Hellish Hot Does it Have to Get” is another fav, with lead vocals by Hanna Weaver and backed up by Jazz Sunpanich and Spencer Martinez. It’s a catchy number with just the right amount of teen flirtiness and girlish naughtiness.

While the spotlight was sometimes off on a few numbers, lighting designer, Alexander Bartenieff, does add the right element to every musical performance.

Bealko’s Ms. Carlson even gets into the act a couple of times as a dancing polar bear and has her own tap dance and singing number that is quite impressive on both fronts.

Costume and prop designer Lytza R. Colon supplies the perfect balance of senior high school musical costuming and props.

Hannah Carne in a scene from Tom Attea’s new musical “Hooked on Happiness” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

The choreography by Mackenzie Surbey is original and never tedious. It blends perfectly well with the music and, of course, the personalities of each performer.

Although the show is 80 minutes without an intermission, it just breezes right by and one is never bored. The music, played by Peter Dizozza (on piano), Ralph Hamperian (on bass) and Art Lilliard (on drums), keeps the show moving at perfect tempo. From ballads to disco tune, from rap to group numbers, the music is spot on. Sound designer Alex Santullo delivers a pitch-perfect musical.

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“This thought-provoking play… It’s captivating … entertaining … a really tight production … great performances.” – Jacquelyn Claire. StageBiz.com

“An inside look at the human drama when everything in the board room falls apart.” – Matt McClure, New York 1

Enjoy The Complete Review From StageBiz.com

SHAREHOLDER VALUE is a fast paced docu-style drama from playwright Tom Attea. Or it could be aptly  titled, “The Stockmarket Crash – for Dummies” or “A Change of Heart”. We are placed right at the desk of a high powered CEO pre-, during and post the financial crisis of 2008. It’s a hot seat. Financial jargon hurtles towards us like buckshot. We catch fragments, concepts and business speak in the heady atmosphere of the office of a titan of industry. Billions of dollars are made and lost in mere sentences. You feel the adrenaline, the fever, associated with transacting with vast sums of money and how easily it can all be lost. The chaos is underscored by pulsating, urgent music composed by Arthur Abrams. This story is loosely based on the meltdown at General Electric – in our fictional world we are at Total Electric with Jerry Ingram (Dennis Holland) at the helm. We see the iceberg approaching and can only sit on the side lines re-arranging the deck chairs on this impending Titanic failure… It’s captivating.

Tom Attea’s text is educative and entertaining. At first the finance speak can seem alienating but slowly the concepts become clearer and you are able to grasp the intrinsic make-up of this particular universe. The essence of this piece hinges on the idea that having to deliver shareholder value every quarter epitomizes a lack of long term vision and results in shortsighted quick fixes. It’s a text that makes you feel clever – you are given enough information to draw your own conclusions. The answer seems ridiculously simple. From the outside you can see the crash waiting to happen and how easy it would be to take a different course if they would only allow themselves to see the wood for the trees.

I also liked the way Attea gives us both the public and private realms of the CEO. We get to go to work with Jerry as he navigates spinning off divisions and green lighting cutbacks i.e. losing a lot of money. It’s a high pressure environment where everyone seems on step away from cardiac arrest.

Back home, wife Angela (Debbie Bernstein) nurtures her husband into a calm vortex where he can discard the day. However, his nights belong to the ghost of Thomas Edison who disturbs his sleep with warnings and pleas – he wants Jerry to remember the light bulb and stay true the the founding product of the entire business. This is not a vision he can embrace…just yet. Jerry has the support of his CFO Don O’Day (Matt Gorsky) and his administrative assistant Emily Adams (Kristen Tripolitis) who are 100% on his side no matter what foolish plan he embarks on. He is locked in a battle with an activist investor and a slighted ex-employee. No-one is really the winner at the end of the day. These office politics are now the stuff of history and as we take a peep at what went on behind the boardroom doors we find human beings at their most hedonistic and most vulnerable. It’s an absorbing work.

Director Mark Marcante has created a strong outline for the actors to color in. A bold set with an almost filmic score defines the experience as each doorway leads to a different world of status, stress and longing. This is a really tight production that looks like it had a substantial rehearsal period. Marcante has coaxed great performances from the actors.

Dennis Holland as the proud peacock of the financial kingdom is fabulous. He has a mighty presence on stage with a powerful voice and is completely believable as the alpha male facing unwanted competition from the young bucks. He gives a layered, honest performance that really drew me in. Matt Gorsky as the second in command, just in the shadow character is a perfect foil for the brass band loud Jerry. He gives a sensitive, well crafted performance as the man unable to truly step into his own light. Kristen Tripolitis as the obsessive compulsive, perfectionistic admin assistant is a vibrant energy on stage – completely focused and detailed in her character choices. I enjoyed her ability to play sensual and strident in the role of Emily who teeters on the line between professional conduct and personal desire. Debbie Bernstein gives us a warm, loving, distracted wife who doesn’t completely grasp her husbands plight. She is a charming performer with an elegant grace that pervades the stage whenever she makes an entrance.

Benjamin Russell as the annoying Curt Preston is our divine antagonist. He perfectly gets under your skin with his self importance and bullying tactics. Joe Candelora as the ex-employee turned board member, Bill Hill, drips with self pity and a lust for revenge. I particularly enjoyed his outburst at Jerry detailing his depressing journey after losing his job. His humiliation and rage were palpable. Bill McAndrews as Thomas Edison was simply delightful – I wouldn’t mind being visited by him in my dreams. He has a devilish twinkle in his eyes and is entirely lovable – he brings the heart to the whole story.

Theater for the New City’s Crystal Field presents another solid world premiere. This thought provoking play reminds us to keep vigilant and stay true to the tangible.

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Jody Williams, Theater Review, Zeal NYC
Anyone even remotely aware of current American politics has at one point thought, “is this really happening?” Whether you are conservative, liberal, a little of both, or nothing at all, it’s likely that a person you have thought about supporting has done something odd or downright unbelievable. Clearly Tom Attea, the playwright and lyricist of Heather Smiley For Presidentwas smart enough to capitalize on this idea.
Picture your favorite Saturday Night Live political sketches and add music, which I personally believe makes everything a little easier to understand, and you have Heather Smiley For President. Unafraid to draw liberally from real life and incorporate things that have only been whispered in your inner circles, the candidates in this play are outrageous and hilarious. Heather Smiley, played by Rebecca Holt, is a former Secretary of State and First Lady hoping to become the nation’s first female president. Sound familiar? Oh, and her husband Bob, played by Joris Stuyck has a lazy southern drawl and is a little too friendly with his wife’s speech-writer (played by Nellesa Walthour). Are you laughing yet? Heather is an overly confident woman hoping to get voters’ support by reminding them how much she and her husband were struggling financially after leaving the White House. Her opponent George Worthington, played by Todd Lewis, is the Republican senate majority leader and a former preacher married to a beautiful but constantly intoxicated woman, played by Carol Tammen. Let me also mention him beating out republican opponents like Donald Rump, Ben Incarcerated, and Jeb Cushy.
Attea and composer Arthur Abrams have managed to improve upon something already amazing, what I would call a MUCH lighter episode of House of Cards, and infused it with catchy songs that will be pleasantly stuck in your head for a couple of days. They, with genius of director Mark Marcante and choreographer Angela Harriel keep the audience eager and excited to see the election results. Every piece of the stage was smartly used, without too many set changes between scenes but still encompassing more than a handful of locations. The play has the feel of a large ensemble cast but with only a fraction of the actors, which makes it fun and intimate. Whether you’re well-versed in politics or not, Heather Smiley For President will keep you entertained.

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TalkinBroadway

At a young age, Evan Fury (Isaac Miller) has become America’s Favorite Newscaster, his star quarterback good looks, commitment to telling the truth, and his unimpeachable work ethic have secured him the top spot among all news hosts, and his refusal to utter the name of the corrupt, incompetent President have also made him the target of angry presidential tweets. Yes, the musical that opened at Theater for the New City on January 14, is in fact about the current administration, and by focusing on he-who-rhymes-with-dump’s constant attack on the free press, it’s also far from being escapism.

The show with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, and music by Arthur Abrams, takes a Capra-esque approach to how journalists ought to deal with the 45th President, by having Evan be so committed to his cause that his colleagues are brutally beaten inside the White House, as the narcissist in chief demands Fury utter his name at least once. But in his search for justice, Fury has been neglecting his pregnant wife Cheryl (Alexandra Schwartz) who gives him an ultimatum: he has to choose between his family or his job.

Fury has become so obsessed with defeating the President, that he even sees him in his dreams (he’s played by David O. Friedman wearing a bright yellow wig, pursing his lips and shouting his way through his songs) and when he finally decides to take a break from work, his obsession seems to become even more potent, he sees Donald everywhere, at the beach, in his living room, and even in his bed, between him and his wife. The show cleverly captures the President’s constant appearances and the inescapability of his presence…

Where the show excels is in the casting of Miller, who embodies the qualities of heroes of movies past. He acts as if the spirits of Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper took over the body of a young Matt Damon… Miller delivers a performance full of humor and heart. He’s always game and in doing so manages to make us forget about the terrors that await us in the news channels and on Twitter once the show comes to an end, if only for a minute. — Jose Solis, Talkin Broadway

A fun, upbeat romp… you’ll get a kick out of the show. And the anchorman, Evan Fury, is played by newcomer Isaac Miller who is so terrific I see Tonys® in his future! Catch him now before he hits the big time. – Jacquelin Carnegie, The Arts Voyager

Unlike our reality-TV-star-in-chief, who Attea’s script refuses to name, America’s Favorite Newscaster is a shining model of restraint, never aiming its barbs too low… When the president (David O. Friedman) appears in Fury’s bedroom like the Ghost of Christmas Present, the situation is wonderfully silly, and Friedman’s impression is a funny profile in petulance. Director Mark Marcante keeps things moving briskly… Essentially, the baby-faced Fury is a junior Walter Cronkite, and Attea’s Capraesque point seems to be that we desperately need him to stay in that anchor chair, defending democracy against the person we elected to defend democracy …. Director Mark Marcante keeps things moving briskly on the triptych set he also designed…. The lighting and sound design by Alexander Bartenieff and Alex Santullo, respectively, nicely navigates a few tricky moments. In particular, the two of them, along with prop designer Lytza Colon, combine their talents to stage an awards show scene that comes off without a hitch. — Joseph Pisano, Theater Scene

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Merrie L. David, Theater Pizzazz

“…compelling … good story telling … good singing voices … beautiful love song …” –

The musical drama spotlights the harsh realities of the families of steelworkers in a Pennsylvania town where the steel mill, which has been the principal employer for 75 years, announces its impending closure. As the unionized workers strike to protect their wages and benefits, they strive to make a settlement with management, but negotiations break down and the mill must shut its doors and liquidate its assets to pay off its debts. AN AMERICAN WORKER is about the effects of the economic calamity on the workers and their families and how they cope, or fail to cope, with the disaster. The playwright grew up in a small town in southwest Pennsylvania, near the West Virginia border. In Pennsylvania history books, his hometown, Connellsville, is referred to as “the coke capital of the world.” Its livelihood depended on semi-burning coal into coke in hundreds of beehive-shaped coke ovens, which are still ensconced in the hills surrounding the town, and shipping it by rail to the steel mills in Pittsburgh. At its height, the town had about 22,000 residents, including more millionaires per capita than any other city in America. Frick and Morgan were both there. But the town was devastated when the steel ovens in Pittsburgh switched from coke to gas, and it has never fully recovered. The current population is just over 9,000, or less than half of what it once was.

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This musical is a contemporary story of a young man who is a song-and-dance talent in the tradition of Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly.  Not surprisingly, he finds that today’s rock- and rap-dominated world has no place for him.  To console himself, he has created an imaginative world in which he lives: the world of the classic American musical.

His comforting but fragile illusion is most clearly represented by his apartment, where photos and mementos from the musical world of the 1930’s and 1940’s abound.  The musical explodes dramatically when the world of heavy-metal rock unexpectedly intrudes on his otherwise rather placid life.  One night, outside his doorstep, he rescues a young woman who is being verbally and physically mistreated by her lover, a heavy-metal bandleader.  She moves in with her new hero, setting the stage for a conflict not only in terms of love interest but also between styles of singing and dancing, between the elegant life as portrayed in the musicals of the 1930’s and 1940’s and the earthier life of today’s rock-and-rap world.  The musical merrily dramatizes the joys and sacrifices of going your own way and believing in your dreams.

Living in a Musical – the sixth collaboration by Mark Marcante (director), Tom Attea (book and lyrics), and Arthur Abrams (score) – is as appealing and enjoyable as the vintage glass bottles of Coca-Cola in its lead character’s fridge … Naturally wholesome but nonetheless hilarious, Living in a musical is plain and simply charming.” – The Village Voice, Leslie Minora

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The musical is about the struggle of a young lingerie designer to be accepted and promoted for her talent in a fashion company where men hold all the top positions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “… standout performances by the two leads … an interesting take on the fashion industry that is sometimes not thought about … broke the glass ceiling – it’s a smash!” – Harper’s Bazaara
“… a show for the modern “lean in” career woman. A lingerie designer named Samantha … learns how to maintain her feminine identity and still rise to the top of the corporate ladder.”
-Theatermania.com”

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Peter Haas, Theater Pizzazz
There is a collection of talent downtown on the East Side that is well worth a visit. Your destination is the Theater for the New City, on First Avenue at 10th Street. The attraction is a new musical titled The Folk Singer.
One element of the talent lies behind the scenes: the musical’s writers: Tom Attea (book and lyrics) and music (composed by Arthur Abrams). Their contemporary story focuses on a group of young folk singers who — inspired by the relevant songs that were created and made popular decades ago by such singer/writers as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan — decide to mount their own folk-song festival to spotlight up-to-date concerns.
Says Attea: “I wanted to create a work that would comment on today’s times, using new folk songs with contemporary substance.” Directing “The Folk Singer,” including its musical show-within-a -show, is Mark Marcante.
The performance begins in a small café, where five young folksingers decide to create their own new songs and perform them. As they prepare, the walls of the café part to reveal a raised stage representing a park bandstand, where their performances – augmented with a fine four-piece band – then take place. As the principals sing, images representing the subjects of the songs appear on a screen above the stage, enhancing the power of the lyrics. For several numbers as well, the cast’s own performances are projected overhead, for added intimacy with the singers.
The cast is a talented group. They are Mary Adams, Matthew Angel, Larry Fleishman, Olivia A. Griffin, Micha Lazare, Andy Striph and Nick McGuinnness. The park band consists of Arthur Abrams on piano, Ralph Hamperian on bass, Art Lilliard on drums, and, on lilting violin, Susan Mitchel.

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Digital Dilemmas shines the spotlight on a modern American family totally addicted to computers, iPads, iPhones, Androids and gaming consoles, just when they receive a visit from their eloquent and witty grandmother, who insists her smartphone is the dumbest thing she ever owned and prefers to remain in the analog age. As the confrontation heightens, she dares them to a challenge that any touchscreen age family might never recover from – going without their beloved devices for one full day.Let the withdrawal pains begin!
The musical brings laughter and insight to our obsession with digital devices and our struggle to tear ourselves away from them long enough to preserve our personal space, thoughts and sanity. It also explores romance in the digital age – with the story of a young man so addicted to online dating that he has totally lost interest in any of the women he knows personally, including the woman who’s perfect for him.

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Play About a Pope Resigning Heading Off-Broadway
By MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The debut of Tom Attea’s new play is likely to benefit from some holy timing — he’s written a play about a pope resigning.
The off-Broadway company Theater for the New City said Friday it will produce Attea’s “Benedictus,” a play written two years about a pope who steps down.
It is slated to run from May 30 to June 16 at the company’s home in lower Manhattan. Mark Mercante will direct the production with incidental music by Arthur Abrams.
According to producers, the play is about the fictional Pope Benedictus, who has visions that command him to follow a new calling. Top cardinals must then decide what to do with him.
Attea, a playwright and lyricist, has had eight musicals and one play produced off-Broadway.     Art Imitates Life in Theater for the New City Play, ‘Benedictus,’ Which Focuses on a Pope who Resigns.
Nancy Dillon, New York Daily News
Pope Benedict has left the world stage — but playwright Tom Attea hopes his resignation will bring his flock to the theater.
Attea has written “Benedictus,” an Off-Broadway show about a fictional pope who tries to retire after having a series of visions directing him to liberalize the Catholic Church.
In reality, of course, Pope Benedict XVI retired claiming exhaustion — and amid new reports of sex scandal coverups.
“The exterior parallels are remarkable,” Attea told the Daily News.
Attea actually wrote the play two years ago, but stashed it in a drawer thinking it was “too controversial.”
Then life imitated art.
So when Benedict made history as the first pontiff to step down in 600 years, Attea dusted off the work and got it booked at the Theater for the New City on the lower East Side in a matter of days.
The uncanny storyline includes Vatican intrigue, a cavalcade of cardinals and questions of mental fitness. The action really begins when Attea’s fictional Pope is visited by Jesus, Mary, God and the Holy Ghost, who urge him to abandon his conservative theology in favor of humanistic fulfillment.
“This play delivers the drama audiences are looking for but also an uplifting reason for a Pope to retire, rather than this regrettably sordid stuff going on in Rome right now,” Attea said.
“The position of this play is that it’s time for a historic change — to see that true holiness consists of true commitment to this life as a gift from the ultimate source,” he said. “We need to stop the destruction of life with war, pollution, whatever.”
Attea, who grew up Catholic, said devout parishioners might find some of his material unsettling but it is never offensive.
“I hope they sit back and think a little about their own lives. It’s spiritually nourishing,” said Attea, whose most recent play, “Living in a Musical” earned raves three years ago.
“Benedictus” opens May 30 for three weekends. The theater’s artistic director couldn’t stop praising the play.
“He writes about this man as a human being with all kinds of inner turmoil and questioning. And that is wonderful,” said Crystal Field, executive director at Theater for the New City. “It’s really the way we need to see people who have great power.”

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“The Capitalist Ventriloquist” is a timely and delightful new musical comedy about dynastic hedge funds, the demands of billionaire investors, misguided parental expectations, and the struggle of the son of an imperious hedge fund owner for self-determination. He’s a mathematical whiz-kid whose father expects him to report directly to work after graduate school and create a trading algorithm that will protect the firm against lightning-fast computer trades, which sway the market to perplexing and perilous extremes. But the son’s inner voice since childhood tells him he’d rather be a ventriloquist – specifically, a singing ventriloquist.
The son’s alter ego is his dummy, Randy, who longs to be in show business but whose acerbic quips prompt the son to say, “Sometimes you sound just like my father.”
After graduation, the son dutifully takes his place at the fund. But instead of crunching numbers, he engages in stealth rehearsals with Randy behind closed doors. His father is in an especially touchy spot, because the boy is engaged to the daughter of his biggest investor, who only keeps his money in the losing fund for her sake.
The girl loves our hero, but she’s not too keen to walk down the aisle with a ventriloquist. Worst of all, the dummy is awfully easy to kidnap or maybe sell on line. The son’s only allies are his father’s secretary, who secretly admires him, and a wily talent agent who, remarkably, can’t exactly be bought.
ERIC
I KNOW YOUR RETURNS HAVEN’T BEEN
QUITE WHAT WE HOPED THEY’D BE.
BUT STICK WITH ME AND SOON
THEY’LL GROW LIKE A RED INK TREE —
(spoken) Excuse me. Of course, I meant to say “like a red oak tree” — a giant red oak tree!
HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE
THAT MY INVESTMENT ADVICE
MAKES TRUSTING ANYONE ELSE
AS RISKY AS THROWING DICE.
I’M THE MASTER OF WALL STREET —
SO ADEPT AT HIGH FINANCE
I ALWAYS LAND ON MY FEET
AND SELDOM LOSE MY PANTS.
I KNOW THE RED AND GREEN
STOCK QUOTES THAT FLASH ALL DAY
ACROSS MY TRADING SCREEN
SEEM LIKE A CASINO IN PLAY.
BUT DON’T YOU WORRY.  DESPITE
THE OCCASIONAL SHORTFALL,
MY EXPERIENCE AND FORESIGHT
CAN EARN BILLIONS FOR US ALL.
(spoken) Oh, yes
I’M THE MASTER OF WALL STREET —
SO ADEPT AT HIGH FINANCE
I ALWAYS LAND ON MY FEET
AND SELDOM LOSE MY PANTS.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT A THING.
IF A BET GOES SOUTH, MY FRIEND,
OR WE GET A MARGIN CALL,
WE’LL COME OUT AHEAD IN THE END!
WHY, DUE TO OUR DEEP RESEARCH
AND UNCANNY INVESTMENT STYLE,
WE HAVE SOME CLIENTS WHO PURCH-
ASE THEIR OWN BAHAMIAN ISLE.
YES, THE OUTLOOK WILL ALWAYS BE SUNNY
IF YOU TRUST ME WITH YOUR MONEY,
YOUR RETURNS WILL BE ROBUST
AND, OF COURSE, YOU WON’T GO BUST
IF YOU TRUST ME WITH YOU MONEY —
TRUST ME WITH YOUR MONEY.
(spoken) Ah, yes!
I’M THE MASTER OF WALL STREET —
SO ADEPT AT HIGH FINANCE
I ALWAYS LAND ON MY FEET
AND SELDOM LOSE MY PANTS.
AND, AS YOU KNOW, MY SON,
WHO’S A MATHEMATICAL WHIZ
AND YOUR DAUGHTER’S FIANCE’,
WILL SOON BE JOINING THE BIZ.
THEN YOU CAN REST ASSURED
WE’LL HAVE THE SMARTS TO OUT TRADE
EVER FIRMS LIKE GOLDMAN SACHS.
SO YOU, MY FRIEND, WILL HAVE IT MADE.
(spoken) Yes, yes, my friend!
THE OUTLOOK WILL ALWAYS BE SUNNY
IF YOU TRUST ME WITH YOUR MONEY,
YOUR RETURNS WILL BE ROBUST
AND, OF COURSE, YOU’LL NEVER GO BUST
IF YOU TRUST ME WITH YOU MONEY —
TRUST ME, TRUST ME, I URGE YOU,
AS A FRIEND, WHATEVER YOU DO,
TRUST ME WITH YOUR MONEY!

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“Great humor and ebullience ,,, good, genuine laughs … lively performance … Attea’s talent as a playwright is evident.” — Kesa De Santis, Punch In International.
The play is about a screenwriter of action adventure movies who is haunted by the high-body count in his movies and, when he is drunk, imagines that he receives visits from a character called “Happiola,” who encourages him to reclaim his talent and turn to writing about life-enhancing subjects.

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The play is a hilarious farce about false answers to teenage pregnancy and the spread of STD’s. A college professor has a book published that contains his nonsensical system for achieving abstinence. It’s called Just Say No To Sex. The book offers such axioms as “Winking leads to talking. Talking leads to touching. Therefore, winking must be avoided.” His prize student is his daughter, Melanie. The star football player, who is a legendary womanizer, tells the professor he’d like to take his course. The professor is delighted, but his daughter suspects that the star has other motives, specifically, seducing her. The dean of the medical school, an attractive woman, attempts to persuade the professor that his system can’t work. She also happens to like him, but he is indifferent to her. We learn he has been alone since his wife eloped with the gardener. The play ends with his song of lament, “How quickly a dream can die.”

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This was the first show produced at Theater for the New City that I was the sole author of the sketches and songs. Children loved it, and it ran for 19 weeks. The Villager gave it a rave review, dedicating a spread to the show and calling it “Delightfully funny.” Some of the songs were quite heady, especially Albert & Al Bert, a song featuring Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, and Bertrand Russell. Curiously, children listened to it with rapture.

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Lincoln Plaza is a modern interpretation of the story of La Traviata, which in turn is based on the novel The Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas, fils. The rewrite is based on a young tenor who meets a hooker who occasionally wanders up to the Lincoln Center area from her usual haunts in Manhattan’s West 50’s. They fall in love, and, as in the novel, the tenor’s father begs her to leave his son. She does, and when the son is heartbroken and the father realizes he has erred, they go in search of her, to find that she is ill and, with them looking on, dies.
The show closed a week early, because the woman who was cast in the lead was offered a part in a film that required her departure.
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Brief Chronicles of the Time was the first produced show I contributed to and was presented in showcase at The Actors Studio, where I was a member of the Playwrights Unit for ten years. It also marked the period of my collaboration with my theatrical mentor, Charles Friedman, who was the director of such landmark shows as the original production of the revue Pins and Needles, as well as Sing out the New, and the musical version of Street Scene. He went on to direct film musicals at 20th Century Fox under Zanuck, was the original director of The Colgate Comedy Hour, and directed the Sergeant Bilko show for seven years. He was a great theatrical craftsman, who was a show doctor during the 30’s. I learned many valuable things from him, such as all stories are based on an emergency, which gets worse, and the conflict springs from the pressure created by the emergency. In other words, conflict is an effect. It can’t be controlled. But the emergency that precipitates it can. Or, as Charlie used to say, when the curtain goes up, the question is, “Where’s the fire?” He also taught me principles of lyric writing; for instance, that each song has a form that begins with the first word and creates a line of tension that is not released until the last word. I met Charlie when he took the idea of a revue to Lee Strassberg that would be based on how actors represent their times through the roles they take. Lee loved the idea, and Charlie went looking for a comedy writer to work with. He asked the head of the Directors Unit, who told him, “The only funny writer at the Studio is Tom Attea.” We met over lunch, laughed a lot, and began our collaboration. He always wore a fedora and a wristwatch that was given to him by Abbott & Costello. I wish everyone could have such a wonderful apprenticeship as I did with Charlie. At the time, I was a copywriter at Young & Rubicam, writing commercials for Dr Pepper and Jello-O.

 

(c) 2019 Tom Attea