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ATW Review – Charlie Victor Romeo opens Undergroundzero Festival

Last night Collective Unconscious kicked off its 2008 Undergroundzero Festival with a return engagement of the acclaimed Charlie Victor Romeo (CVR), the award-winning show derived entirely from the “Black Box” transcripts of real-life airline emergencies. Principally created by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Irving Gregory, this show, which is just running through Friday, takes you into the tension-filled cockpits of actual flights in distress.Somehow, in its many incarnations over the past several years, I’d never caught up with “CVR” and I must say that everything I’ve heard about it (or you’ve heard about it) is absolutely correct. This is a fascinating portrait of the psychology of crisis and a harrowing theatrical journey.

The seven person ensemble (Patrick Daniels, Irving Gregory, Nora Wooley, Sam Zuckerman, Paul Bargetto, Derek Wright and Debbie Troche) re-enact approximately a half dozen air-crises. (I’ll be honest – I stopped keeping track of the number as the tension of “CVR” mounted).

The creators have chosen a wide-range of events – from a brief snapshot of an Air Force plane that has difficulties following multiple bird strikes to a major U.S. jet trying to right itself following the blowout of an aft bulkhead. As these events are recreated (enhanced by stunning and award-winning sound design) you witness the widest range of human reaction – from abject panic to clear-sighted coolness that you can’t help but wish will save the day. Often that is not to be the case as scene after scene unfolds (projections following each scene detail casualties and remind you of what caused the aircraft to experience difficulties).

Charlie Victor Romeo is powerful stuff, and if you’ve not had a chance to catch it, I highly suggest you do during one of its three remaining performances at Collective Unconscious in Tribeca. Also, taking in the show will allow you to pay final respects (sadly) to the theater’s space at 279 Church Street itself, which following this presentation will shutter. The remaining Undergroundzero performances will be presented at The Flea and the Manhattan Children’s Theatre.

In case you’re curious about what else is on tap in Undergroundzero, here are a couple of shows that have caught my interest:

July 18 & 19 at 10pm, July 20 at 7pm
When beleaguered President Porkpie learns that the Pinchbottom Burlesque Organization are stockpiling “Weapons of Ass Destruction”, he orders an immediate invasion. In response, the burlesque stars forswear their beloved bump & grind in favor of military maneuvers. When the two armies clash, who will emerge victorious? Featuring: Nasty Canasta, Jonny Porkpie, Amber Ray, Anita Cookie, Bastard Keith, Clams Casino, Dirty Martini, Doctor Lukki, Naughtia Nice, Pookie Patootie, Scott Rayow, and Tigger. This production will be hosted by The Flea Theater Mainstage (41 White Street between Broadway & Church Streets — accessible from the A,C,E,N,R,Q,W,6,J,M,Z to Canal or 1 to Franklin Street).

July 18 & 19 at 9pm, July 20 at 5pm
Adapted from Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, Performance Lab 115 (winner of Best Overall Production at FringeNYC in 2005 for God’s Waiting Room) presents a Brechtian lounge act of epic proportions! Developed during a six month residency with Mabou Mines, this rebuttal to the Broadway musical interweaves found text, original music and inspirations from Brecht. Reconfigured for a more site-specific feel, the production will be hosted by Grace Bar & Restaurant (114 Franklin Street Street between West Broadway & Church Streets — accessible from the A,C,E,N,R,Q,W,6,J,M,Z to Canal or 1 to Franklin Street):

July 12 & 13 at 7:30pm
Written by Don Nigro
Directed and performed by John Clancy (cofounder of FringeNYC) & Nancy Walsh, Nigromantia (medieval Latin for “speaking with the dead”) pairs two monologues by award-winning playwright Don Nigro: Golgotha and Genesis. Golgatha is either the story of the resurrected Christ or the ramblings of a crazy man in Pittsburgh. In Genesis, Eve, the mother of us all, tells us her side of the Story. Performed at Manhattan Children’s Theatre (52 White Street between Broadway & Church Streets — accessible from the A,C,E,N,R,Q,W,6,J,M,Z to Canal or 1 to Franklin Street).

For more information on the Undergroundzero Festival, visit: Further information on Charlie Victor Romeo which will move to the U.K. next week is available online at