About the Oberon Theatre Ensemble
The Oberon Theatre Ensemble is an active player in New York’s independent theatre community. Each season we combine classic, contemporary, and new works in a format that allows each to highlight and enhance the other. We juxtapose new against old in a single evening or in a repertory schedule, with our ensemble of actors and directors nimbly jumping from one world to another to draw our audiences fully into the experience.
We believe in the joy of a well told story, the connection offered by a supportive community, and the magic of the theatre. Oberon actively works to share this magic with others by reaching out to the community. We offer discounted student and senior tickets to our performances, and create shows that we can bring to schools, senior centers, and hospitals. We have also presented shows free in Central Park and strive to keep all our offerings affordable.In a time when Off-Broadway theatres are closing, ensemble theatre groups are all but unheard of, arts funding largely nonexistent, and theatres both large and small focused on finding the next big commercial hit, Oberon may be a bit old-fashioned in its approach. Nonetheless, our commitment to cultivating and invigorating a diverse theatre community remains steadfast. And it will remain so even admidst the rapid change that charcterizes this unforgiving haven we call our home, New York City.
New York Times Reviews
The Drawer Boy
by Micheal Healey
Directed by Alex Dinelaris
By NEIL GENZLINGER
Published: March 13, 2013
Actors must be thrilled when handed Michael Healey’s play “The Drawer Boy,” no matter which of the three characters they’ll be tackling. It’s such a beautifully written piece, humorous and heart-wrenching but never overwrought, that all you have to do is ride the vehicle the author has provided. You can concentrate on your performance, not on dredging humor out of unfunny jokes or tears out of unconvincing moments.
And the three actors in the Oberon Theater Ensemble’s fine production at the Abingdon Theater Arts Complex make the most of the opportunity, especially William Laney and Brad Fryman as old friends who share a farmhouse in the Canadian countryside. It’s 1972, and Mr. Fryman plays Morgan, who, we gradually realize, has for years been caretaker of Angus (Mr. Laney), a man with impaired mental capacities.
Angus’s condition results from an injury sustained during World War II, and there’s a story behind it. It takes a stranger to bring that story to the surface; this is a classic outsider-intrudes-on-a-closed-world play.
The stranger is an actor and writer named Miles (Alex Fast), who turns up at the door asking to live and work with Morgan and Angus so that he can learn about farming for the purposes of writing a play about it. Mr. Fryman finds the dry sense of humor in his character, who has great fun pulling Miles’s leg with nonsensical chores and fanciful stories about bovine anxiety.
The performance that locks it all in, though, is the one by Mr. Laney, who is unforgettable as the confused, childlike Angus. In the early going Angus is unable to remember basic things from one minute to the next, including who Miles is and what he’s doing in their house. But Mr. Healey has called for a character who is more than just a simpleton, one who always leaves you suspecting that there is potential behind the eyes. Mr. Laney, under Alexander Dinelaris’s direction, hits that target expertly.
A version of this review appears in print on March 14, 2013, on page C6 of the New York edition with the headline: Two’s Company, Three’s a Tale.
Order by Christopher Stetson Boal
Directed by Austin Pendleton
Published: June 25, 2010
David Byrne in “Psycho Killer” could be speaking for Tom Blander when he sings, “I hate people when they’re not polite.” The lyric seems tailor-made for the ironically named philosopher-turned-cannibal in “Order,” Christopher Stetson Boal’s deliciously nasty little horror comedy, running at Theater Row.
Who hasn’t shared Tom’s frustration? But rather than seethe inwardly about bankers, BP executives and the young entitled person who just cut in front of you at Whole Foods, he advocates two simple steps: kill and eat. Three if you count the occasional humiliating prelude.
In Ryan Tramont’s deftly measured performance, Tom isn’t always so decisive. When we meet him, he’s a doormat being cold-shouldered by his wife (Amanda Plant), abused by his boss (Mac Brydon), intimidated by a homeless guy (James S. Washington) and chided by his best friend (James Edward Becton) for lack of ambition. His bullying therapist, Dr. Fine (Brad Fryman), says: “Grow up. Get real. Be more interesting.”
Tom has quit teaching philosophy to take a menial office job in order to “effect change from beneath.” But the failure of his crusade for civility has made him increasingly susceptible to the influence of his personal demon, a childlike but insidious chap named Bathug (Gabe Bettio).
Austin Pendleton is a skilled director of actors. His no-frills production eschews lighting effects and other atmosphere enhancers, instead entrusting the cast to embody a recognizable world of bad behavior that breeds rage. (“Order” is being staged in repertory with “Othello” as part of Oberon Theater Ensemble’s season exploring the human condition.)
The play is a slow starter and could be tonally smoother. Perhaps fittingly, it doesn’t fire up until Bathug gets his wicked way. “Stay with hate,” he urges the equivocating Tom.
But a scene in which Tom reduces his closeted, gay-baiting boss to a simpering slave is priceless, its transitional exchange hilariously played by the two actors.
Mr. Boal has absorbed his share of B-movie lore; there are echoes here of “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Paranormal Activity” and “Drag Me to Hell,” among others. With a playfully earnest touch, he lays psychological and philosophical foundations, referring to Hobbes and Nietzsche. But he upends them, so to speak, by having Freud’s writings on dreams stuffed somewhere snug in the decaying corpse of Dr. Fine, who had it coming.
Tom doesn’t go unpunished, of course. But for a while primal urges run riot, and our own demons are given a vicarious workout. “Order” suggests that with one provocation too many, the psycho killer (qu’est-ce que c’est?) could be any of us.
New York Times Interview
FEBRUARY 29, 2008OTE's Brad Fryman was interviewed by NY Times writer Steven McElroy for an article in the listings section, accompanied by this picture:
Complete text of The New York Times piece 2/29/08:
"WINTER REP 2008 While a season of plays presented in rotating repertory is common practice in summer stock, it is not the norm in the Off Off Broadway world. But the Oberon Theater Ensemble, now in its 11th season, has been presenting shows this way for a few years, and its current offerings include “Macbeth,” with James Holloway, above left, and William Laney, and Michael Weller’s “Ghost on Fire.”
“The two plays, if you have to boil it down to one word, are about ambition,” said Brad Fryman, Oberon’s artistic director. “Macbeth’s ambition comes from an unnatural place, and ‘Ghost on Fire’ is about these young people who entered the professional world and thought they could change it through film.” The three central characters in Mr. Weller’s 1985 play had grand plans when they were documentary filmmakers in college, but haven’t reached their goals 15 years later. In comparison, it is not much of a stretch to guess that Shakespeare’s Scottish Thane was once an idealistic young man too, before his motives darkened.
For Oberon, juxtaposing thematically linked plays is important, but not the only reason for producing two shows at once. Mr. Fryman said there was “extreme financial benefit” to this model, since theater rental is a daunting budget item for a company without a permanent home. Offering multiple shows can increase ticket sales by enticing theatergoers to see more than one. (The Emerging Artists Theater company regularly tries the same approach: its “Triple Threat” premiere, running through Sunday at Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan, includes three productions under one roof.)
Oberon has an added challenge right now — there is another Macbeth in town, and his name is Patrick Stewart. Mr. Stewart’s appearance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music could be intimidating, but Mr. Fryman is not cowed: “For me it makes it very exciting,” he said. (Through March 9, Lion Theater, Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton, 212-279-4200, ticketcentral.com; $20.) STEVEN McELROY" copyright 2008 The New York Times Company