A Bitch in Time and Arcana Cabaret at Space 55

The setup: Part of the mission of Space 55 is to foster the development of new writers and performers (through their classes and workshops) and help artists like those share their work with audiences. Recurring free-for-alls/showcases such as the 7 Minutes . . . and A Bitch in Time series (and this coming weekend's Third Saturday late-night event, Down-Lo Solo), are a way to get a small bite of what these literary/performing types are currently up to.

Since we were all cozy at Bitch last weekend, we decided to check out Arcana Cabaret's November show, too -- their bilingual, socially conscious humor/variety show occupies the Second Saturday late-night slot. Though none of these events is the same show twice, we like giving you a flavor of some of these recurring performances, so that you can get, when appropriate, excited about checking out a future iteration. Just continuing to render your entertainment prospects that much less vague. And, as always, you're welcome.

See also: - Big Brain 2011 Finalist: Kim Porter - Space 55 Performs at New York Fringe Festival - "A Bitch in Time" Presents Two Evenings of Female Solo Performances to Benefit Space 55

The execution: A Bitch in Time has built quite a reputation in just the past couple of years, and the theater was packed to the gills with fans. There's definitely something about pouring an overwhelming proportion of estrogen onto the stage that makes an evening enchanting and powerful in a way nothing else can -- even when the ladies remain clothed, as they do here.

Most of the performers last Saturday wrote their own material, though that isn't required. Some memorized their stories, some read from a manuscript, and a few assumed characters and leapt around like actors in a play. The cool thing is that all of them worked -- even the writers who might not be the strongest of performers had interesting enough stories to tell when they simply stood and read, as Michelle Burchfield (pictured above) did.

Several of the women featured in this Bitch weren't as familiar to local lit fans or Space 55 patrons as they often are, but I know most of them from the theater community or from performance art excursions dating back into the mid-'90s. It was great to have poet/memoirist/novelist Molly McCloy travel up from Tucson (she'd disappeared to Brooklyn for a while), to find out that Michelle Kable writes songs and has a lovely singing voice, and to see actor/director Sally Jo Bannow take the stage alone with a chain of monologues/rapping about breasts that included my new favorite phrase, "Want some fries with that mistake?"

I was also impressed with Harmony DeLeon's story of considering a career change. She portrayed a person you might consider boring recounting a life episode that you might also consider boring, but her skills as a writer and performer mean that her segment actually killed.

On the other hand, Arcana Cabaret's show was just awful. The company, led by omnipresent activist/writer/performer Ernesto Moncada, has been around awhile and features some performers I've enjoyed in other productions, so I don't know whether they were having an off month or they've just become too comfortably RoRo incestuous for other people to find them entertaining anymore.

The couple of highlights in the writing -- longer sketches about Sesame Street characters' lives on the real street and Iraqi Muslim zombies during Ramadan (a funny idea on its own) inexplicably in conjunction with bored and disillusioned superheroes -- were hampered by incomprehensible political messages, lazy, crappy acting, and no resolution.

I could pick on a lot more stuff for several more reasons, but there's little point. These guys claim to be presenting cutting-edge, experimental theater. But it would have to be energetic and captivating in some way, if that's the case. Oh, and the black nail polish is a huge effort that makes little visual impact in a black box theater. I'd spend that time working on dialogue. The trademark black paint around the troupe's eyes is much more effective.

The verdict: If you're brave and super-supportive of alternative stuff, try out Arcana's monthly high jinks sometime -- and please let me know if it was better. A Bitch in Time returns in April, and you should snap up your seat ASAP.

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