The Velveteen Rabbit
When viewed with love, even the plain and ordinary can become vibrant and beautiful. That simple observation lies at the heart of The Velveteen Rabbit…an imaginative musical adaption written by Anya Saffir and Cormac Bluestone and directed by Ms. Saffir.
…the staging has no mechanical gimmickry or flashy embellishments: just ingenious props, a cello and a guitar, frequent a cappella and sometimes mere hints of costumes. But what enchantment these elements achieve as the cast members narrate, sing and act out the story of the Velveteen Rabbit.
The writers have leavened the tale with humor — a musical number in which the more elaborate nursery toys boast is particularly funny. Yet not even a rousing bunny dance undercuts the poignancy. As the Skin Horse admits, and the rabbit learns, love sometimes hurts. But to deny love is to be less than fully alive.
-The New York Times
Directed by Anya Saffir, the story has been condensed to its essential elements. The simplicity of the approach highlights the performances, which make the production so moving and effective.
…the toys are all brought to life with joy and creativity by the actors, and there’s a raucous number by the playthings that got the audience smiling and laughing. Of course the heart of the tale is the bond between the Boy and the Velveteen Rabbit, and the scenes chronicling their burgeoning friendship are sweet and inspired some in the audience to tear up.
I highly recommend this musical…It’s a quality production that will leave you and your children glowing. After it finished, I overheard several grown-ups and their children exclaiming how wonderful it was. It beautifully embodies the charm and spirit of the book while giving it a fresh twist.
The Velveteen Rabbit, now playing at the Linda Gross Theater in Manhattan, is a play that demonstrates some very important lessons through a toy rabbit and a skin horse:
Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.
This is a show with both a brain and a heart. It makes you think and feel at the same time.
Romeo and Juliet
There are no false bosoms, no wigs, and no drag makeup for the men playing the female roles in the all-male cast of this “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare’s women, however, come vividly to life, adding an arresting frisson to this surprisingly engrossing production.
In some mysterious coup de théâtre, the matter of actor gender becomes unimportant; what does come to the fore is the intensity and poetry of Shakespeare’s oft-told but ever-potent tragedy of young love.
Director Anya Saffir has guided her 15-person cast into a palpable appreciation of the Bard’s text, delivered with sureness and passion. She has also staged the work with an electric energy…
In my many viewings of “Romeo and Juliet” and its variations, I don’t think I’ve ever been more caught up in the fate of these star-crossed lovers.
In a style inspired by Italian neo-realist films like Rome and Open City, director Anya Saffir helms an all-male ensemble cast that allows this classic story to be seen anew.
The Director, Anya Saffir, and the actors make dynamic use of the stage, filling the theater with life, energy and testosterone.
The casting brings fresh illumination to the story, as it is stripped to its most basic elements…. in this essential format, the focus is on the story and the play. This Romeo And Juliet will bring the story to life for the audience anew, and is recommended for anyone who thinks they know the story too well.
-Reviews Off Broadway
A passionate all-male production of Shakespeare’s tragedy with shrewd direction by Anya Saffir and sparkling new music by Cormac Bluestone. Free of extraneous drag and anchored by superb performer John Early as Juliet, the stripped-down production offers a refreshing take on the text that feels both timely and classic.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
This is one of the best children’s shows of the year. Case closed.
The cast, directed by Anya Saffir, is excellent.
-The New York Times
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Saffir’s direction is refreshing and allows the catharsis of the play to hit home. The show runs nearly three hours with one intermission, but doesn’t seem that long as this ensemble will certainly captivate you.
The Pipeline Theatre Company takes up the Brechtian torch in its current revival of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Theater for the New City, rendering a superb production that hits all the right notes in style and stride. With spry pacing, compelling brio, and a host of laughs, director Anya Saffir leads a savvy, resourceful ensemble. In the wrong hands, Brecht can easily slip into ho-hum heavy-handedness and didacticism, a danger that never threatens this production. Without skimping on the material, Saffir surges Brecht’s two hour and forty-five minute tale ahead with remarkable command.
Replete with techniques and devices that embody the tenets of Epic Theatre, Saffir embraces the Brechtian model but is not intimidated by its shadow. She allows her cast to realize their roles with heightened vigor and ingenuity. Rather than resembling mere mouthpieces for Brecht’s themes, Saffir’s ensemble injects an impulsive zest into its array of characters that makes the work all the more flavorful and, yes, flat out funny.
The ensemble, working together in near perfect step, is among the finest you will encounter. Many of the actors also double as musicians, playing an assortment of instruments ranging from drums and piano to trumpet and banjo. Composed by Cormac Bluestone, the music in the piece is more than just an afterthought; it is at the core of the play and is performed expertly.
“Terrible is the temptation of Goodness” is one of the more striking lines in the piece. Illustrated in the struggles of Grusha and Azdak, the line reflects the play’s central thematic question: Can virtue thrive in a society so conditioned to do wrong? With levity and pathos, the Pipeline Theatre Company takes us on an absorbing ride toward the answer.
-Off Off Online
The Pipeline Theater Company does justice to this energetic, fairytale-like story. Composer Cormac Bluestone goes above and beyond. The music is engaging, with a folk band that included a banjo, trumpet, fiddle, accordion, harmonica, and keyboard. These musicians were part of the cast, alternating between acting and playing depending on the scene.
Equally impressive to the design aspects were the acting and direction. The 18-person cast collectively plays over 70 characters. The changes between characters are sometimes unbelievably quick and scenes move directly from slapstick to high drama, yet each member of the ensemble gives equal commitment to every character they play. As an ensemble their chemistry sizzles.
Pipeline Theatre Company’s Caucasian Chalk Circle Is Not To Be Missed
The Pipeline Theatre Company is mounting a vibrant and exciting production of Bertolt Brecht’s socialist fairy-tale, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, at Theater for the New City in the East Village. The production is a must for anyone who wants to see Brecht done well.
Adeptly directed by Anya Saffir, the production features an outstanding cast. Despite the size of the house at Theater for the New City, the performances have been selling out, so make a reservation and see this wonderful production.
Pipeline Theatre Company’s Caucasian Chalk Circle is one of the best productions I’ve seen all season, if not the best. Using not a lot — beams, rope, a ladder, a large and wondrously ragged piece of cloth, the designers of this off-off Broadway production conjure up vast distances in a varied landscape, from city to rural mountain villages, treacherous bridges crossing precipitous valleys — I could only think, Spider-Man eat your hat. The puppet that represents Michael as a toddler has a refreshingly original look and conveys the fluctuating vitality and unease of the young child. The music, both in the background and accompanying Brecht’s songs suggests Russian folk songs and Kurt Weill.
A richly realized production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
-Let’s Talk Off-Broadway
Every actor in this energetic, well-directed cast plays at least three different roles, changing hats, dresses, and historical times with remarkable ease and flair. The usage of stage sets is impressive: simple yet sufficient structures quickly transform the stage from a mansion to a peasant shack and from a court into a mountain road. Dramatically orchestrated and touching is the scene in which fleeing Grusha crosses a broken bridge over a two-thousand-foot-deep abyss, disregarding a group of locals who warn her the old wood won’t hold her weight. Weaved naturally into the plot, the songs and music by Cormac Bluestone give it that special ethnic feel as if we had been invited to a traditional Gruzinian wedding where the old fashioned entertainers amuse the guests with their tales.
Compliments to director Anya Saffir, this drama never drops its intensity yet it makes us laugh quite a few times – at people’s stupidity, greed, or self-centeredness. “In this play, Brecht invites us to take a closer look at those small choices we make in life,” Saffir says in her interview, “and how those choices impact the life of others.” Like a great old book rediscovered in a grandmother’s trunk, this production is a delicious revival of an almost forgotten classic, and a definite treat. If you are in New York, don’t miss your chance to see it.
BOTTOM LINE: Good Brecht. See this if you think theater should have a conscience.
Anya Saffir’s direction deserves praise; the production could teach a college theory class. From the clothing racks onstage to the direct questioning of the audience to the tongue-in-cheek treatment of station, we never forget the reality of the theatricality or the theatricality of reality. We leave the play, ultimately, as I believe Brecht intended: with a sense of the importance of correct decision-making. As Azdak says towards the end, “if you don’t treat it with respect, the law just disappears on you.”
-Theater is Easy
A thoroughly ambitious production… The set by Eric Southern and the original music by composer Cormac Bluestone (played by a very capable live band that includes some of the actors) creates a big playing space for the actors to fill with this huge performance. What makes the production a success, however, is not the broad strokes of the ambitious and epic design but a genuine adherence to the humanity of the characters.
A faithful, intelligent, and ballsy performance of Caucasian Chalk Circle.
A Brecht play done right cruel and wondrous, gentle and menacing. And to direct it well, you need a scalpel in one hand and soldering iron in the other. Anya Saffir wields both, and her creation is a thing of beauty.