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November 24, 2010

From theater critics, "In the Footprint" draws mostly raves; no one agrees with Brooklyn Paper's claim that play would "appall" project opponents

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, after a dubious pan by the Community Newspaper Group's Gersh Kuntzman (oddly and hastily endorsed by the Observer) and my mixed but appreciative review, theater critics are pretty much raving about IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, by The Civilians.

The key review, from the New York Times's Charles Isherwood, sums it up:

This simple, scruffy-looking but smartly put-together production, written and directed by Steve Cosson and featuring songs by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), is as fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall.

TheaterMania's review calls the show "often-compelling" though it acknowledges the challenges:

There's a lot of matreial here to squeeze into 100 minutes, and while director Steven Cosson does an admirable job, the staging can feel unfocused.

Critic Aaron Riccio writes on his That Sounds Cool blog:

It is also one of the year's most sincere, clever, and enjoyable shows, period.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, A Brooklyn Civics Lesson, Offered in Word and Song

As subjects for musical comedy go, it would be hard to fathom anything less promising than the legal intricacies of the concept of eminent domain. Or, for that matter, the socioeconomic diversity of the crazy quilt of Brooklyn neighborhoods. The great Stephen Sondheim himself might find it tricky work to make lyrical magic of the relationships among the various civic entities charged with approving land-use deals in New York City.

Yet these matters are rhapsodized in song with style and wit in the spirited new show from the Civilians, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” which opened on Monday night at the Irondale Arts Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, within a demolition ball’s swing of the site in contention.

It is not hard to discern where the sympathies of the show’s creators ultimately lie. Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president who was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the multibillion-dollar redevelopment proposal, is depicted as a yapping basketball. Frank Gehry, the renowned architect whose signature pencil-shaving design for the arena is represented by a twirling disco ball, is heard pontificating fatuously about his “iconic” buildings in Spain and Los Angeles and the tower he refers to as “Miss Brooklyn,” one of more than a dozen in the original plans.

As for Bruce Ratner, the prominent developer behind the project — let’s just say that should anyone offer Mr. Ratner a pair of tickets to the show, he would be wise to decline. Mr. Ratner might be marginally more welcome at a Nets game in New Jersey this season.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards: The Musical

...the real stars of the show are local residents, who were interviewed by The Civilians, a self-described investigative theater company that incorporated the neighbors’ words into the script and into lyrics.

“I felt that a play could tell that story in a different way than a newspaper article or journalism,” said Steve Cosson, the director and co-writer. “Since a play is social and it brings an audience in, and it’s a community experience, I just think there’s a particular value to the art form.”

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Gets Musical Treatment

For this production, the actors were also the reporters. Greg McFadden plays half a dozen characters, including Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz and architect Frank Gehry. He interviewed all the people that he plays on the show and said he tried to absorb everything, from their beliefs to the rhythm of their voice. “It’s nerve racking to portray someone who is a real person and who is going to come see what you’re doing with their words and their cause and their life really,” he said. “So you try to be as faithful as you can to them.”

Cosson says that if the play sounds too much like reality, well, that is the idea. “It’s not a satire, it’s not a sketch comedy, it’s all authentic. It’s all people represented by actors, but real people are fascinating idiosyncratic creatures.”

Posted by eric at November 24, 2010 9:55 AM