Newsletter - June 15, 2019
by Ronald Gross

BOTTOM LINE:  Our highest recommendation!   Hilarious, moving, politically thought-provoking comedy of manners.  An only-in-New-York satire centering on the failed plan to create an International Freedom Center Museum on the 9/11 site.  Once again, Theater for the New City offers a work of utmost relevance and entertainment value, enacted by  immensely talented actors, a brilliant director,  and an outstanding creative team. 


 In a downtown artist’s loft facing Ground Zero, a moral crisis is triggered for a famed artist, Bruno  – by the arrival of a Chinese delivery guy bringing him his take-out supper.   When Bruno discovers that he hasn’t got enough money to pay the bill, and summons help from his friends, complications – and hilarity – ensue. 
Among the protagonists and antagonists who assemble are a New Age Life Coach named Chang (but he’s not Asian), a hen-pecked podiatrist who’s married to a nouveau riche fashionista, and the artist's perky girl-friend with wedding bells on her mind.
So should Bruno scuttle his artistic integrity to get-along-by-going-along with changing plans for the Museum which has commissioned a major work from him? 

More important, will the podiatrist pick up the fashionists’ jacket from the dry-cleaner before 6:00? 

And most consequential of all, will the Kung Pao Chicken get eaten or thrown out?
The cast's fabulous. 

Brad Fryman bestrides the stage like a colossus, building an unforgettable
portrait of an artist mired in ludicrous personal failings but surmounting them with genuine spiritual yearnings.  
Elizabeth Inghram delivers a dazzling portrayal of  a self-absorbed uptown art-world Machiavelli, relentless in  manipulating her husband, her clients, and anyone else who wanders in.
John Gazzale steals the show in several scenes, but in the most welcome way, with his enactment of a Zen master/Native American shaman/Yoga instructor/ arts market speculator/you-name-it.  His “11-o’clock” number when he brings all of these spiritual practices to bear at once, is one of the most hilarious tableaux we’ve  seen this season.
Dai Ishiguro does extraordinary work as a Chinese food delivery guy who emerges gradually as much more. Sean Phillips does wonders with the “straight man” role of Best Friend to the troubled protagonist. Alexandra Bonesho is utterly winning as the artist’s on-again-off-again girl friend.
Since classical times, artists have had to reconcile the demands of their patrons with their own artistic integrity. "Zen A.M." unforgettably portrays the artist's conundrum, nesting it in present-day issues of class identification, compassion, cultural identity and creative resistance. The play offers us laughable characters who are straining to act rationally when faced with difficult decisions. 

It makes for extraordinary theater!