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Basic Help: 10 Things To Know About The Show Before You Go (2014 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on February 15, 2014

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Ten Questions. Ten Answers. And One Big Decision: Rock, Paper, Or Scissors?



Basic Help

Production Company: StrangeDog Theatre

“Your call may be monitored.” NJ’s premiere indie-theatre auteurs, StrangeDog, bring you Ben Clawson’s (Luna Stage, Shadowlands, David Mark Cohen award recipient) latest odyssey – a chronicle of two strangers who clash with a kitchen appliance, conquer customer service and quality assurance, only to discover simple companionship in the strangest of places.

Show Times:

  • Fri 2/21 @ 8:40
  • Thu 2/27 @ 5:30
  • Sat 3/1 @ 6:50
  • Wed 3/5 @ 10:15
  • Sun 3/9 @ 12:30

Answers by Artem Yatsunov (Director)

1. Your tag line is out there on postcards and press releases so we know the PR version of what this play is about. But when you talk to your family and friends, how do you explain the show to them?

AY: A woman has a flip out and melts down over the phone with a kitchenware sales associate, but then they become friends and talk about robots, sickly mice, failed marriages, unemployment, and the effects of too many margaritas. With jokes!

2. Here’s a scenario: After the show some audience members go have a drink. What’s the part of the show you hope they’re discussing?

AY: I hope they’re talking about how glad they are that they’re not as miserably sad and lost and confused as the characters in the play. But if they’re not discussing that then I hope they are discussing how much the characters remind them of themselves.

3. What drives your show – character, theme or plot?

AY: Time. These are the only 50 minutes that these people have together, nothing is left out, and no moment is wasted.

4. In rehearsals, read-thrus, or prior incarnations, what’s the one thing someone said about the show so far that made you (or the team) the most proud?

AY: “Megan and Gavin are BOTH in this? When are we going!” Caitlin’s (the super fan’s) dad.

5. Let’s fantasize for a moment. Let’s take the “off-off” off. Imagine this show is on Broadway. Would that change the production itself?

AY: Nope. What you will see at 8:40 on Fri Feb 21st, 5:30 on Thu Feb 27th, 6:50 on Sat Mar 1st, 10:15 on Wed Mar 5th, and 12:30 on Sun Mar 9th is going to not only redefine the art form but will also be the reason for St Marks Place to be renamed St Broadway Place. I strongly suggest everyone bring a bucket with them so they have a large enough vessel to weep into.

6. Taking that one step further – after paying everyone what they’re worth of course, what is the most lavish, luxurious, pointless thing you would spend money on if there was no constraints?

AY: The building itself would be shaped as an enormous blender (central image of the show) which lying on its side, and it will be large enough to fit at the very least a thousand people. Additionally, will be fully functional. Oh and along with that, we have two scenes we left out that do require a Miss Saigon style helicopter so we’ll bring those back and FINALLY be able to realize the play in its full form!

7. Is there a scene, a moment, a gesture … anything at all in the show that you anticipate may get a completely different reaction depending on the audience that night?

AY: It’s best captured by this one moment when one of our actors, Gavin Earl Johnson (who plays Simon, the kitchen ware help line phone operator) does a really, really spot on impersonation of a mouse sick with bronchitis coughing. After we saw that, once we were able to catch our breath from weeping at the beauty of that sequence, Ben Clawson (the playwright) and I strongly considered renaming the play A Mouse Coughs In Brooklyn but then decided we didn’t want to ground the play in a specific city. So we left it Basic Help.

8. What’s your favorite line from the show?

AY: “Cynthia: (drunk) Who did make him a he? Who makes any of us a he? Cause he, he is sexist then. Oh! Why’s the one who makes us a he got to be a he? I’m sexist.”

9. Is the world of this play sustainable outside a theatre? In other words … do you think people live the way the characters do? Would you want a world where they do?

AY: Sure!

10. You scan the audience and you see a face that stops you dead in your tracks – who is it? And why are you shocked?

AY: Antonia Lassar of Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise and I am shocked simply because she gets more gorgeous every time I see her. And I see her all the time! How does she do it?!


Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament of DEAAAAATH

In the THM virtual Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament of DEAAAAATH which FRIGID Show do you take on? And what do you throw?

CHALLENGES: We would take on Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise  - now that there is a cast almost as good looking as ours!

THROWS: We would definitely throw rocks, but not very hard cause if someone gets hurt it’s not so much fun. Why paper? That’s weird, I mean, you can’t really throw paper. Oh! And throwing scissors just sounds so violent and outrageous! At least with a rock you can sort of throw a warning shot, you can aim more carefully – but scissors!? Yuck. That is so dangerous.

Good choice, Basic Help!  Now, let’s see how ROCK worked out for you!  You were challenged by a number of shows, including Tina and Amy – so that gives you TWO rounds to try you luck with those gals.  Let get the games going!


~ East in Red who threw SCISSORS – that’s a WIN for you!

~ THE CANUCK CABARET who threw ROCK – that’s a DRAW …

~ Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise who challenged you RIGHT BACK and threw SCISSORS – that’s a WIN for your round, and a WIN for their round giving you TWO WINS!!

~ Real Dead Ghosts who threw ROCK – that’s a DRAW …

~ Boogie Of The Apewho threw ROCK  … another DRAW.

So in the end, you have THREE DRAWS, THREE WINS and NO LOSSES!  You obviously need NO HELP when it comes to this game – Basic or otherwise!

Thanks Basic Help  for participating in The Happiest Medium’s FRIGID New York Festival 2014 Q&A. And for playing our game! You’re officially ROCK in any and all challenges. You may win, you may lose – who knows! This is how it works in the crazy world of the Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament of DEAAAAATH!

For the rest of you don’t forget to check out Basic Help !


Feb 21, 8:40PM
Feb 27, 5:30PM
Mar 01, 6:50PM
Mar 05, 10:15PM
Mar 09, 12:30PM
UNDER St.Marks | $16.00


Horse Trade Theater Group will present the 8th Annual FRIGID New York Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) February 19-March 9. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at or by calling 212-868-4444.


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