REVIEW: Piper McKenzie’s Dainty Cadaver
Piper McKenzie’s Dainty Cadaver
The Brick Theater
February 6th 2012
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I first met most of my newfound friends in the theater community. The process seems to be that I see them a few times and slowly become better friends with them over time – so remembering the exact moment that the friendship switch is thrown is always kind of muddled. Clearly, I need to start keeping proper charts of my friend activity.
I believe the first time I was introduced to Jeff Lewonczyk and Hope Cartelli (jointly Piper McKenzie) was after seeing Willy Nilly, a show produced for the 2009 Fringe Festival. Bearded, fatigued, and swimming in a sea of slick brown polyester, Jeff took the stage to stall for time. There had been Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark levels of technical difficulties early on – complications of the new theater they had been moved to in an extension of the run – and Jeff handled the setback with the care of a charismatic bear, grumpily awoken from a nap. He openly chatted with the audience and shot caustic jokes, while darting his attention about making sure everything was prepared to start. Hope was in the show – but afterward I discovered a living ball of happiness formed into woman. She’s the kind of person who never has an awkward introduction, because even when speaking to her for the first time, you feel like you’ve known her your entire life.
There are few people out there that are not only charismatic, but also leaders. Creative fonts that not only produce work, but inspire others to do their best. They create a positive group that everyone seeks membership to, but hold such power easily and comfortably – admitting all who seek admission. Kermits of people, who have found their rainbow connection and help others reach it too. Hope and Jeff are such people – and I’m as proud to know them as I am to have worked with them.
This year marks the second annual Piper McKenzie’s Dainty Cadaver, an event themed after a Surrealist drawing game, where artists created a work in turn – each artist taking over for the last, but never seeing the work of the artist before the one they were continuing from. That same process was devised by Piper for playwrighting process where one writer passes off to the next. The whole thing is rehearsed and produced in roughly two weeks time, and performed only once for an audience. And what makes it truly amazing, is that Piper McKenzie has been able to attract the best and brightest writers, directors, and actors in NYC to create not only a zany night of theater, but also one of the best community building exercises I’ve ever bared witness too.
The tickets are cheap and designed to get butts in seats. The plays are produced with whatever is on hand. It’s equally a challenge to everyone involved as well as a chance to creatively show off. For example, this year I was part of Team C (each year they write 3 full plays this way and produce each – preforming one nightly over a Friday-Saturday-Sunday), directed by the incomparable Patrice Miller. Patrice was given a rather bizarre piece that stretched from a 90 year old’s birthday party, to India, to a Wizard of Oz style adventure – and she chose to take these surreal points and produce a full musical.
With original music.
And a massive cast.
And choreographed dance numbers.
ALL IN ROUGHLY A WEEK AND A HALF.
The world “talent” or “skill” doesn’t always properly describe the work that some can magically accomplish.
I had originally set out to review this years Dainty Cadaver today. I quickly discovered that you can’t easily review a show that’s designed from the ground up to make very little sense – But you can hopefully spread the word about it’s creators. Piper McKenzie has done more than just create an event. It has given the community an outlet for it’s creativity. It has given us an excuse to work together. A simple idea that crosses lines and breaks down cliques. An event that introduces people and distills friendship.
As we finished, a few performers (Steve Burns and Morgan Zipf-Meister) who I had the pleasure of performing with in the previous Dainty Cadaver, stopped before we left after our performance. We each had a genuine “same time, next year” moment, looking forward to the next time we could be a part of one of these crazy things. I’m proud to have been a part of this. Proud to be a part of a community this creative. And prouder still to call Hope and Jeff friend.
In the next few days I’ll be editing together the performances into sharable videos that highlight some of the best parts of each team’s show.