NEW YORK – It started last fall in a series of vacant storefronts along an iconic Miami Beach thoroughfare as a safe way to offer theater during the coronavirus pandemic. Now Moisés Kaufman has brought “Seven Deadly Sins” to New York City, with seven new short plays about pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.
Originally conceived by Michel Hausmann for Miami New Drama, the new show — produced by Tectonic Theater Project and Madison Wells Live — officially opened Tuesday in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District for a “strictly limited engagement” that has already been extended one week, through July 25.
“I think that one of the greatest joys has been seeing the audiences' faces eager and so hungry to be back. That’s been incredibly rewarding,” Kaufman, who directs and wrote the play about greed, told The Associated Press on Thursday in a phone interview. “You see how much they missed it. It’s a sense of elation, of joy."
“Seven Deadly Sins” has theatergoers watching actors perform inside the stores through display windows, while listening in with headphones.
“It feels festive in a way that I didn’t expect,” Kaufman said. “I knew that the plays were good and I knew that they were going to have a good response to the plays, but what I didn’t expect is how joyful the audiences are and how much they are thrilled to be able to be back in the room with actors, even though they’re outside.”
While the construct is very similar to the Florida original, Kaufman wanted new material not only to make it a “New York event,” but also as an opportunity to give more people work. The show arrives while the city’s theater community is making steps toward reopening after the pandemic.
The new playwrights are Ngozi Anyanwu (Gluttony,) Thomas Bradshaw (Sloth,) MJ Kaufman (Pride,) Jeffrey LaHoste (Envy,) Ming Peiffer (Wrath) and Bess Wohl (Lust.) Performers include Tricia Alexandro, Shuga Cain, Shavanna Calder, movement artist Donna Carnow, Shamika Cotton, Brandon J. Ellis, Brad Fleischer, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Kahyun Kim, Morgan McGhee, Caitlin O’Connell, Cody Sloan, Eric Ulloa and Bianca Norwood.
Of his own piece, Kaufman said: “It’s a family comedy about how greed has a way of kind of tearing down even the nicest of families. I wanted to do greed because, unfortunately, it’s one of the most common sins.”
To maintain COVID-19 safety, ticket holders are socially distanced and masks are required. Actors stand behind a glass barrier to isolate themselves from their colleagues, the audience and production staff.
Kaufman, a Venezuelan artist based in New York City who's best known for “The Laramie Project” and has received awards including the National Medal of Arts from president Barack Obama in 2016, is set to direct the Broadway musical “Paradise Square” next year.
He is hopeful that people will go back to the theaters “very quickly” when the curtains rise again. He also believes that the format of “Seven Deadly Sins” will stick around long after the pandemic is over, with its endless possibilities.
“Michel’s idea is a brilliant idea and this is a proof that it works,” he said of it's success both in Florida and New York. “It’s an experience that you don’t get in the theater. It’s an experience about being outdoors, about the short plays. It’s an adventure!”
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