Reviews NYCOff-Broadway Published 6 February 2024

Review: The Following Evening at Perelman Performing Arts Center

Perelman Performing Arts Center ⋄ February 1-18, 2024

Talking Band and 600 Highwaymen take us to an earlier moment in NY theater history. Juliet Hindell reviews.

Juliet Hindell
Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet in The Following Evening. Photo: Maria Baranova

Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet in The Following Evening. Photo: Maria Baranova

Does every conversation in New York eventually come round to real estate? It certainly plays a central role in The Following Evening, a semi-autobiographical play by, about, and performed Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet, stalwarts of New York experimental theater–and perhaps canny real estate investors. Maddow and Zimet are some of the founding members of the theater group Talking Band, which has been pushing performance boundaries since the nineteen-sixties. This play was created by another acting couple, Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, who run the theater company 600 Highwaymen and also act in this piece. Here, the two couples of different generations compare experiences in a free-flowing production that showcases the talents of Maddow and Zimet–and their loft in SoHo.

Soon after the play opens, Maddow and Zimet, aged seventy-five and eighty-one respectively, let us know that they have lived in a loft on Mercer and Spring Streets since long before SoHo was a hub of designer brands and influencers. We learn that they have been living in and performing in that loft since then early days when they arrived in New York believing they could make it here. In their case, the “it” is experimental theater; for years, they have been fixtures at the storied East Village performance space LaMama. Maddow and Zimet are what are known locally as “pioneers”– residents, many of them artists, who moved into raw loft spaces back in the day and, intentionally or not, gentrified the once industrial downtown area. The relentless evolution of New York is a theme of the show, with references to faceless glass towers contrasting with the bohemian community that Maddow and Zimet had a hand in creating. The dialogue seems plucked from reality, delightful non-sequiturs of memories and current concerns mixed as if at random.  Zimet warns us, “Nothing is going to happen in this play.” Nonetheless, the piece is a love letter to New York and the people who call it home. Zimet recounts a bike ride he frequently takes, where he identifies neighborhoods not by their landmarks but by the friends who have lived on certain streets over the years. It’s a poetic journey but also one that  presages Maddow and Zimet’s impending frailty.

Ironically, this production takes place in the brand new, marble-clad Perelman Performing Arts Center next to the World Trade Center.  Sleek and monumental, unlike the eccentric LaMama, the Perelman’s spaces can transform into a variety of designs; here, it’s traditional raked seating with a ground level stage. The space also has an extremely high ceiling meaning the bleacher-like rank of seats is pretty steep. (Curiously, this brand-new venue is not particularly comfortable, with no leg room and narrow, shallow chairs. Luckily this does not detract much from the action on tage.)

Written by the younger couple, the show occasionally has tinges of envy; Browde and Silverstone seem starstruck by Maddow and Zimet’s freedom to experiment. Browde and Silverstone appear onstage as if in rehearsal for The Following Evening, but their presence seems to distract us from the stars. We want to learn more about Maddow and Zimet’s theatrical adventures and hear their musings on New York city. The parts that feature Browde and Sliverstone, by contrast, such as an extended scene in a car, seem flat. There is also some awkward on stage “direction” by the younger actors of the older couple in poses or dances. The movement, while elegant and evocative, seems to have been included as a reference to the pieces the older couple created in decades gone by. And at one point Silverstone seems to want to lean in to the less than flattering comparison, saying “You were the pioneers, we are just jerks,” and also “I feel like a place holder.”

But the play is also a touching romance. Maddow and Zimet have been a couple as well as performing collaborators for fifty years, and their connection is as palpable as their talent. They have two other shows due to open this year in New York, but nevertheless, the play has overtones of a farewell and there are some humorous bits of advice doled out whether you aspire to be part of New York’s theater world or not.“Life is long, walk more,” Zimet intones near the end.

The SoHo loft gradually decays, and the homemade skylight the actors opened in the ceiling when they first moved in is now leaking. It’s hard to know if this really happened or if they are predicting the near future. The years when starving artists could find large unfinished spaces in Manhattan seem long gone–and perhaps that means that the kind of art created here will rely more on the largesse of corporate sponsorship and well-funded venues, such as the Perelman, than it did when Talking Band first formed. As a record of a lifestyle that once defined the city, this play is almost documentary in style–but what makes it memorable is its freeform meld of dance, music and musings.

Juliet Hindell

Juliet Hindell first went to the theatre to see “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when she was four. She’s calculated that she has since seen that play more than 2 dozen times, once in Japanese. A Brit, Juliet has made her home in London, Paris, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Hong Kong, Charlotte NC and now New York. A journalist, Juliet wavers between new writing and musicals as her favorite forms of theatre, and of course Shakespeare.

Review: The Following Evening at Perelman Performing Arts Center Show Info

Produced by 600 Highwaymen for Talking Band

Directed by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone

Written by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone

Scenic Design Jian Jung (scenic and costumes)

Lighting Design Eric Southern

Sound Design Avi Amon and Ryan Gamblin

Cast includes Abigail Browde, Ellen Maddow, Michael Silverstone, Paul Zimet

Show Details & Tickets

Running Time 80 minutes


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