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Infringement Daily Planner: Day 3

Squeaky Wheel's 10th annual Outdoor Animation Festival comes to Days Park tonight at 8:30 p.m.

The amount of activity happening during this, the third day of the Buffalo Infringement Festival, absolutely boggles the mind. Just straight-up boggles it, for real.

You might have as much fun throwing any kind of predetermined plan out the window in favor of wandering aimlessly around Allentown and following the omnipresent Infringement vibe wherever it may lead you. But if you're the think-ahead type, here are five of many dozens of activities that will likely be worth your while today:

Continue reading "Infringement Daily Planner: Day 3" »

8BitBuffalo at The Foundry

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A little earlier this evening, I caught a bit of the "8 Bit Bonanza" at The Foundry, a mini-art and music festival meant to celebrate the opening of an exhibition of work by members of the 8BitBuffalo collective. I caught up with curator, game designer and former Sp@ce 224 owner Jose Rodriguez outside the venue for a little more info about the show. Here he is:

--Colin Dabkowski

Review: Torn Space Theater's 'Uncle Vanya'

Morgan Chard, left, and Diane Gaidry appear in Torn Space Theater's production of "Uncle Vanya" in the Dnipro Ukrainian Center.

 

There will always be incurably miserable people moping around in the world, so theater companies will always produce plays by Anton Chekhov, the Russian master of depression and despair.

As part of the Buffalo Infringement Festival, Torn Space Theater is mounting a brief run of Chekhov's masterwork "Uncle Vanya" in an ad hoc theater space inside the Dnipro Ukrianian Center on Genessee Street. The play is a snapshot of the tortured lives of a group of terminally woebegone Russians, each of whom is trapped in his or her own peculiar state of manic desperation.

This production, directed by Megan Callahan (who was also behind "He Who Gets Slapped," the company's Infringement offering last year) moves swiftly along through a story about wasted potential, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted passion. But one thing that won't be wasted is your time. Despite some quibbles, the show is sure to be an Infringement Festival hightlight.

The show tells the story of a creaky old Russian professor and his beautiful second wife, who have taken a brief sojourn to the country estate that makes their life back in the city possible. That estate, a drab and isolated place that seems to inspire a slightly different brand of simmering madness in each of its inhabitants and visitors, is managed by the utterly depressed and borderline suicidal Uncle Vanya.

Vanya is played in this production by James Luce, whose extremely affected performance sits somewhere between John Malkovich and Buddy Cole, the martini-sipping barroom wit portrayed by Canadian actor Scott Thompson. It doesn't remontely work for the character, who is supposed to be in love with the professor's wife (Diane Gaidry), but boy is it ever fun to watch.

Luce sinks his teeth into Chekhov's words, delivering certain lines with a sarcastic glee that only thinly masks his roiling unhappiness and sputtering out others with a feigned exasperation that never quite works for him. Still, the delivery is memorable and his comic timing elevates the performance.

Excellent work comes from James Heffron, who plays the alternately idealistic and world-weary young doctor Astov and from Morgan Chard as the bright-eyed Sonya, whom Checkhov dooms as he dooms the rest of his characters to a long life of constant disappointment.

The setting for the play, on an upper floor of the sprawling Ukrainian Center, may be the real star of the show. During the first act, the characters gaze out of the large, unblocked windows over the gritty landscape of Buffalo's East Side. It's not exactly the sweltering Russian countryside, but the setting works well, especially in its use of natural light. For the more troubling and troublesome second act, the seating is completely rearranged and we enter a sort psychological dream space more familiar to Torn Spac regulars, in which digital projections of several characters attempt to heighten our awareness of their internal struggles.

There seems to be no particular reason for this switch other than as an excuse to employ projections, and it seems almost certain that the straightforward approach, which worked so well in the first act, would have been more effective if it were carried through the entire production.

Even so, the performances, especially from Heffron and Chard, takes us firmly into the lives of these tortured characters, each of whom continues to grasp at some form of happiness even as the world outside seems determined to keep them from finding it.

The show runs through Aug. 4, with performances every day but July 28 and 30.

--Colin Dabkowski

Infringement Daily Planner: Day 2

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The 8BitBuffalo collective will have its opening tonight in The Foundry.

The first day of the Buffalo Infringement Festival is behind us, and with all its unexpected encounters with utter weirdness, our appetites have been whet. The weekend days of the festival are always the busiest, and today is no exception. Below are my very subjective picks for the day, but make sure to visit the Infringement site for the day's epic schedule in case you want to come up with your own.

• At noon, an artist known as that rapper named d performs a set of socially conscious hip hop at Filigree's, the Infringement uber-venue run by festival veteran and hula-hooper extraordinaire Melissa Campbell. This guy, a presence in and around the Occupy Buffalo movement made a strong impression during an Infringement preview event a few weeks ago and he'll likely do the same today.

• Today is huge for Infringey art openings, perhaps the most hotly anticipated of which is the "8 Bit Bonanza" at The Foundry, a very cool arts space in a warehouse on Northampton Street on the East Side. The show, in addition to putting the spotlight on a number of local bands, will feature the work of the 8BitBuffalo collective, described tantalizingly as "a group of artists, both digital and traditional who, in a combination of tribute and nostalgia address the themes and aesthetics of classic (circa 1985) video games." Things get started at 7 and run through midnight.

• If video game-inspired art isn't your thing, use the opportunity to check out the opening of a new gallery next door to a new shop called Coming Home Buffalo at 138 Elmwood Ave. In addition to a series of performances from the likes of Sparklebomb and A Glitch in the Circle of Life, the space will feature work from an eclectic collection of underground artists that will remain on view throughout the festival.

Pete Sorkin, one of my favorite finds from last year's festival (here he is playing his hilarious original tune "The Residential Treatment Facility Blues") has a 6 p.m. set at the Essex Street Pub. More than worth checking out, and checking out again when he plays at various times during the rest of the fest.

• Hilarity is pretty much a sure thing during The Hotshot Whiz Kids Podcast Live event, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the back room of Rust Belt Books, which, fair warning, tends to be stuffy. (In the humid sense, not in the artsy-fartsy sense.) The Whiz Kids bill themselves as Buffalos number one comedy podcast, and their live show will feature a slate of experienced Buffalo stand-up comics. They'll record another live podcast at the same time on Saturday.

Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the comment section, and come back throughout the day (starting in the afternoon) for updates, photos and videos from day 2. Happy Infringement one and all.

--Colin Dabkowski

Alaysa O'Brien on Allen Street

Today's performance from the Slyboots Drumming Ensemble was canceled, so in the sprit of Infringement, I wandered onto Allen Street and discovered something else. That something happened to be a sidewalk acoustic set from Alaysa O'Brien, who was kind enough to play an original tune called "Maynard," titled for James Maynard Keenan, the lead singer of Tool. Here she is:

Butterfly at Picasso Moon

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Butterfly performs on Allen Street.

It stands to reason that the first Infringement act I caught this year was extraordinarily bizarre. It consisted of a man, woman and two small children making a gigantic racket with a drum set, guitar and several household items including pieces of wrought iron and what looked to be the discarded top of a pressure cooker. This happened outside of Picasso Moon on Allen Street on a patch of sidewalk that also contained several trees whose trunks had been covered with knitted material, as if to keep them warm --- or yarnbombed, as the kids say.

Initially, I was pretty unimpressed with the act, which seemed to me a slightly more technically advanced version of what I used to do with the contents of my mother's kitchen when I was a kid. The more I watched, though, and the more the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves, it grew on me. By the time the guy pictured was slamming a recycling bin full of random metal objects repeatedly onto the pavement and creating a glorious clatter that echoed all around Days Park, I had a smile on my face. Here's a short Instavideo of the performance:

Later tonight, I'm catching Torn Space Theatre's production of "Uncle Vanya" in the DNIPRO Ukranian Center. Look for a review sometime later this evening.

--Colin Dabkowski

Getting your bearings in Allentown and beyond

Today's Gusto cover story about the Buffalo Infringement Festival features a map that should help festivalgoers orient themselves and provide a little taste of the Infringement vibe. Download a copy here, print it out, and take it with you to make your wanderings slightly less aimless:

 

--Colin Dabkowski

An Infringement primer

For those unfamiliar with the Infringement Festival, here's a primer on its origins from co-founder Donovan King that I recorded during last year's festival:

--Colin Dabkowski

Infringement Daily Planner: Day 1

Today is the first day of the 8th annual Buffalo Infringement Festival, a city-wide event that showcases the vast creative underground of this region and gives local artists a chance to showcase their work. Every day in this space, we'll be listing five recommended activities. But the festival is so vast -- with hundreds of performances, theater productions, visual art shows and street parties to choose from -- that you should also check out the full schedule at Infringebuffalo.org.

Here are today's picks:

A stretch of sidewalk in front of the Antique Man shop at 234 Allen St. will become a stage for the amorphous Infringement Busking Collective, an eclectic group of musicians and other performers who will serenade pedestrians with a series of performances ranging from straight-ahead acoustic guitar performances to experimental noise rock. (This performance from the 2011 festival, for instance, was one of the latter.) The collective performs from 12 to 6 p.m. today and returns on Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and next Thursday.

Anyone who has not experienced the true weirdness of Infringement might want to amble past Picasso Moon at the western edge of Allen Street between 7:30 and 8 p.m. tonight. There, they'll be able to catch an artist by the name of Andrew Biggie mounting a strange bit of performance art. Here is the show's very Infringey, very cryptic description: "Attempts to find stillness. Images of death, and reoccurring dreams hum open. They discuss duality as I lose friends. I fill my head with teenage junk. I will sing on sidewalks rearranging mundane rituals and become a plastic bag." OK, then.

I have not yet seen the Slyboots Drum Ensemble, but word on the street is that they are unmissable. It's made up of students from Buffalo's Slyboots School of Music, Art and Dance and promises a "powerful showcase of complex rhythms from around the world and infectious grooves that force your body to move." You can catch the first of many Infringement performances from the ensemble at Old Wondermoth, otherwise known as the Nickel City Co-op, at 208 North St.

The Slyboots ensemble will join the Infringement Festival Opening Parade, a sure-to-be-strange group of pot-banging, kazoo-playing, ridiculously costumed Infringers which will make its way from Old Wondermoth into the center of Allentown (and possibly back again) sometime between 6:30 and 8 p.m. It's a perfectly strange way to kick off the festival.

Today's absolute not-to-be-missed event is, as usual, the Infringement Festival Open Ceremonies, which get started in Nietzsche's at 7 p.m. and runs into the wee hours. The $5 show features a roster of 12 Buffalo bands and is a good chance to meet and hang out with Infringers from around the city.

Follow my Infringement coverage here and at @colindabkowski.

--Colin Dabkowski

Thursday Theater Roundup

The Buffalo theater scene is in the midst of a rare (and extremely brief) lull, which means there aren't any local productions on the Thursday Theater Roundup this week. (As a reminder, the Roundup as a general rule includes only shows which receive three or more stars from our reviewers.)

Fortunately for local theatergoers, this week marks the opening of the Buffalo Infringement Festival, which features a crazy array of productions, from Subversive Theatre's "A Man's a Man" to "Car Stories," mounted by Montreal's Optative Theatre Laboratories. Click here for a listing of all Infringement shows. Stay tuned to this space for updates on Infringement shows, and follow me on Twitter @colindabkowski during the festival. Also, tonight is the opening of Shakespeare in Delaware Park's production of "Measure for Measure," which moves the Bard's tale from Vienna, Italy to the Wild West border town of Vienna, Texas.

And below, take a look at what's on offer just over the border at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont:

At the Shaw Festival:

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"Enchanted April," through Oct. 26 in the Festival Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "The play departs in several ways from the popular 1991 film, but the spirit of love reborn or found again remains, and lingers after the curtain comes down." --Melinda Miller

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"Lady Windemere's Fan," through Oct. 19 in the Festival Theatre. ★★★★

From the review: "The production design of the show, which provides an alternately light-drenched or shadow-plagued backdrop that amplifies the wide mood swings of its characters, is one of the most enthralling the Shaw Fest has ever conceived. Teresa Przybylski’s sets and Louise Guinand’s lighting conspire to create sumptuous and frightening stage pictures that seem to owe more to Caravaggio or Velazquez than anything from Hollywood or Broadway."  --Colin Dabkowski

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"Trifles," through Oct. 12 in the Court House Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "Next to Glaspell’s beloved mini-masterpiece, Eugene O’Neill’s “A Wife for Life” looks like exactly the piece of unpolished juvenilia it is. Which makes sense, as it was the great American dramatist’s first play, which he later disowned and attempted, unsuccessfully, to destroy. We should be glad he didn’t. Though the piece is probably more interesting to O’Neill scholars and seasoned theatergoers interested in tracing the patterns of his career, its proximity to “Trifles” elevates it to something more." --Colin Dabkowski

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"Guys and Dolls," through Nov. 3 in the Festival Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "For this production, directed by Tadeusz Bradecki with molecular fidelity to the original material and choreographed to within a millimeter of its life by Parker Esse, the Shaw has rounded up a phenomenal cast." --Colin Dabkowski

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"Major Barbara," through Oct. 19 in the Royal George Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "Director Jackie Maxwell’s production of Shaw’s long-winded but monumentally engaging play about the tug-of-war between public and corporate interests sets out to rescue Undershaft from her status as a weak protagonist all too willing to mold her ideals to the arguments of others. Alas, despite Maxwell’s laudable efforts and a remarkable performance from the magnetic Nicole Underhay in the title role, the show fails to transform Shaw’s projection screen of a protagonist into a living, breathing human." --Colin Dabkowski

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Claire Julien and Julia Course star in the Shaw Festival's production of "Our Betters."

"Our Betters," through Oct. 27 in the Royal George Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "The play, which explores the efforts of newly wealthy Americans to seek ancient British titles and the status that accompanies them, is timed to exploit our culture’s renewed obsession with the roaring ’20s and the surrounding decades. The play, though a bit clunky in its conceit, is positively 'Gatsby'-esque in its attempt to uncover the emptiness of the British aristocracy and the equally vapid American climbers who try to invade it." --Colin Dabkowski

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