Play Review: Your Negro Tour Guide

There are many benefits to minimalism within the theater. A lack of pomp and complexity allows for the eyes to rest and let the ears put in the work to understand more than simply hear. We, the audience, are greeted with few details to latch onto and create assumptions, allowing ourselves to come as we are, instead of fighting the need to fit into the role that we feel meant to play. The simplicity of space creates a tabula rasa that we audience members are invited to paint upon, in collaboration with our tour guide performers.

This is how we are lead into Your Negro Tour Guide, the play most recently produced by APAC (Astoria Performing Arts Center), written by Kathy Y. Wilson and performed by the puckish Torie Wiggins.

After we are met by the sparse, black box stage we are familiar seeing—set only with a town square-style bench, a mammy statue adorned title card, and our own pre-existing assumptions—we are introduced to our lead and solo player, performed by Torie Wiggins. An upbeat rap song heralds her in, imitating the start of a stand-up special. We know exactly what we are in for… for now.

Torie Wiggins, as our titular tour guide, embraces her role with complete and utter understanding of her minimalist task. From the moment she steps upon the stage, Wiggins embodies the confidence and charisma that she knows she will need to share these thoughts with—a possibly antagonistic audience. It is clear that her perceived ease is derived from her intense work and reworking. Like the eluded to comedian in a stand-up special, her work has clearly been crafted and polished to near-perfection, and we in the audience cannot help but be drawn in, as if witnessing Michelangelo’s “David” or da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Indeed, as Wiggins leaps in after her introduction to address the more vulnerable and touchy subjects of being a Black person in this country, the dread, discomfort, or hesitancy that many Americans would feel at the discussion of such charged topics is blissfully absent.

Wiggins first addressed a full definition of the n-word (utilizing the blunt-force of the slur with such veracity as to corral the audience into submission to understanding of what they are in for) and then moves onto an admission of both preferable traits and distasteful traits that have been stereotyped upon Black people. Through it all, she utilizes every tool in the actor’s toolbox to ensure that we will leave with having heard her peace. She holds herself with relaxed confidence, speaks with strength of tone and authenticity, is humorous in lampooning herself, her communities, and the audience, ensuring that no one takes anyone too seriously… nor without serious reflection.

The work itself fully supports such an effortlessly comedic and confident portrayal. Written by Kathy Y. Wilson, this biographical piece pulls no punches. Not only has Wilson written about the trials and tribulations of Blackness in our country (an all-too-oft discussed topic), but also speaks to the joy and even superiority of the Black experience in many ways. By utilizing a reoccurring compare-and-contrast bit, both the audience, and Wilson and Wiggins themselves present the vibrancy, unabashed strength, and pride of Black identity… and the space of femininity and queerness within that identity.

That, in this critic’s opinion, is the true greatness of this work and performance; Wilson and Wiggins speak to the wholeness of identity within our information-saturated society. In a time when intersectional advocacy meets gender identity meets race relations meets sexuality discussions meets the umbrella discussion of rights, Your Negro Tour Guide covers both the victimization and refusal of victim mentality of Black people, women, and queer people. In the approximately one hour runtime we are introduced to, and explore, the concepts of police violence, slavery, “talking Black,” Black female beauty standards, Black homophobia, Black History Month, Antebellum lesbian love stories, and the martyrdom of Black children and mothers. This powerful piece, full of beautiful hopelessness and colorful characters/caricatures, presents not a holistic view of Blackness, queerness, nor femininity in this American landscape, but an introspective on what it means to be more than one thing in the complexity of identity and justice in this mass jumble we call a country… all springing from the minimalist, blank slate of a familiar black box stage.

—Erik Schneider

MAY 12–23

Thurs–Sat and Mon at 7:00pm | Sat at 3:00pm | Sun at 6:00pm

at Astoria Performing Arts Center

44-02 23rd Street, LIC

Ticket link here


Musical Review: Man of La Mancha

As you enter the space of Astoria Performing Arts Center’s Man of La Mancha, any champion of innovative theater is greeted with that most addictive feeling one can feel in an artistic space: promise. A drab holding cell of the US Border Patrol stands starkly lit, characters—whom we’ve yet to meet—litter the stage, and a lone guitar is plucked expertly by a lead player. These characters, meant to be familiar, are lacking identifying costumery or even their eventual, adopted personas, leaving us to guess who might be portraying whom in this popular tale. Much in the same way, these characters, all with the same dread anticipation and, mostly all, marvelously members of the Latinx community, hold that same curiosity: What story is about to unfold?

This is truly where this production shines; in this spirit of promise and anticipation.

The story of Cervantes’ befuddled hero, Don Quixote of La Mancha, is familiar, and Leigh and Darion’s musical is cherished to all who celebrate the musical theater art form. Tony William II’s production starts strong, presenting audiences with an enticing alternative to the traditionalism that many productions cling to, and quickly dives into the complex and intense.

We all know of Don Quixote, the some-would-call-mad dreamer and Spanish gentleman who fights giants which are merely windmills, dispatches barbers of their shaving-basin helmets, and woos a lowly peasant woman as one would court a princess. In this lovely musical we are invited to see this tale as both told by and performed by the writer of Don Quixote himself, Miguel de Cervantes (played gallantly by JJ Hoss). As Cervantes tells his fiction, we witness the other members of the prison cell transform from despondent to dedicated day players, breathing life to the fanciful story of a man who refuses to accept the grim-dark reality that others demand he see.

In this reworking, the traditional Inquisition-age prison cell is swapped instead for the aforementioned US Border detention cell, and all props and costumery provide a scene reminiscent of a refugee camp. The audience is left, in the end, enthralled from engaging with these immigrants, turned prisoners, and, revealed, most importantly, to be fellow dreaming and yearning human beings. These energized performers—most notably Taïs Szilagi as the fiery and wounded Aldonza/Dulcinea, and Francisco Arcila as the Governor, lead player, and part-time pit instrumentalist—tell this compelling story, but we are still left with many pressing questions: How are these characters within this show within a show being coerced into performing this narrative? What is the fate that awaits these prisoners-turned-players in both their reality and their constructed story? Why is that man shirtless?

The answers can only be sought by attending this enticing production.

Still with all of the questions that come with this story, one cannot help but be wowed by the vocal stylings of the cast. The music of Mitch Leigh deviates strongly from the traditional, western standards of most popular musical theater, offering complex and virtuosic intervals, difficult to discern for those untrained in the cultural stylings of the melting pot that is Spain. Yet—with another nod to Taïs Szilagi and note to our Don Quixote, JJ Hoss—every cast member pulls out the stops, bringing strong conviction and tonal clarity to every number.

It is with great thanks to these performers—lead, again, by JJ Hoss and a, surprisingly quixotic and highly erratic Sancho, played by Anthony Martinez—that this show finds its heart. Each member gives their earnest love and skill in continuing to reel in the audience with their commitment to a story that, in fiction or in present reality, need not remain an impossible dream for anyone who seeks to dream it.

—Erik Schneider

Until February 26, 2022

Thursday–Saturday at 7:00pm | Saturday & Sunday at 3:00pm
At their new home, 44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City

Click here for tickets.
General: $25
Senior: $20 (65+)
Student: $15 (must show ID at the box office)

(For performances Feb. 18–20, use the code FRIEND5 for $5 off.)


Man of La Mancha at Astoria Performing Arts Center

Awaiting trial, deportation, or something worse? Cervantes’ tale of two impossible dreamers held for an unknown crime on trial for their very lives is revived with this bold new production of the Tony Award-winning classic.  

Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Book by Dale Wasserman
Directed & Designed by Tony Williams II

Featuring: 
Lucia Alvargonzales, Francisco Arcila, Stanley Graham, JJ Hoss, Anthony Martinez, Jay Romero, Taïs Szilagi, Gil Torres
Stage Manager: JoJo McDonald

February 10–26, 2022

Thursday–Saturday at 7:00pm | Saturday & Sunday at 3:00pm
At their new home, 44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City

Tickets:
General: $25
Senior: $20 (65+)
Student: $15 (must show ID at the box office)

Click here for tickets.


The Ones that Didn’t Make It

Some of the categories from the 2021 Survey did not make it onto the EAT, DRINK or DO & SEE pages. The main reasons being that there were too few responses or there were not clear winners. Here are the categories that were left off, and the top responses listed in alphabetical order.

Best Club (Social)
ASTORIA
Astoria Horror Club
Astoria Social Darts League
Ladies First Astoria
Queens Rugby Club
Wandering Jews of Astoria

Best Date Spot
ASTORIA
Astoria Park
The Bier & Cheese Collective
Break Bar
Burger Village
Diamond Dogs
Heart of Gold
Mar’s
Sweet Afton
The Wolfhound

LIC
5th Hammer Brewing
The Gutter LIC

Best Massage
ASTORIA
Sonia Maksimovitch

LIC
Quintessential Therapy

Best Nail/Beauty Salon
ASTORIA
Adriana Milhart
Best Beauty Salon
Bliss
Dahlia Nails
Eve’s Nail Salon
Faces & Nails
Haus of Wax
Kiki
Lily’s Nail Salon
Nail Berry
Rainbow
Spa Barlie’s
Wellshow

Best Place to Work or Study
ASTORIA
The Bier & Cheese Collective
Burger Village
Corner Spot
Heart of Gold
New York City Bagel & Coffee House
Panera
Prince Tea House
Queen’s Room


BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Winners Announced

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The BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 winners have been posted! You can see the new winners on the EAT, DRINK, DO & SEE and LOCATION pages. The LOCATION page has them on an interactive map and organized by location. We have a post here with a complete list of all the 2021 winners. And on this post you can see the Winners by the Numbers. This was the first time we expanded every category to include space for LIC, so there were a record number of winners, and since there were fewer responses for LIC, those winners were posted alphabetically. For Astoria, we were able to post those as first, second and third place, as we have done in the past.

We want to congratulate all of the winners, and we would like to thank everyone who filled out the survey (a record number this year). If you filled it out, you may see your write-ups on the site! We also want to thank the following businesses for providing prizes: Astoria Performing Arts Center, The Bier & Cheese Collective, The Bonnie, The Brass Owl, Burger Village Astoria, Compton’s, Heart of Gold, Katch Astoria, OK Café, The Shillelagh Tavern, Taverna Kyclades, Tea and Milk, and The Wolfhound.


Featured BOAST Location: Katch Astoria

Featured-BOAST-Location_KatchWe want to highlight Katch Astoria, which is a Featured BOAST Business on the sidebar of the DRINK page, as well as a BOAST 2021 winner for Best Bar for Sports. If businesses are interested in being a Featured BOAST Location, they can get in touch with us by email (hello@boast.nyc), on the CONTACT page or through social.


Winner stickers

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Do you know a business that is a BOAST 2021 Winner? We are selling winner stickers and we can be reached at hello@boast.nyc, through the Contact Form on the website, or through any of our social channels: Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Also… We’re now BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC.

Go out and enjoy, but also stay safe and healthy.

—The BOAST Team


BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Winners by the Numbers

Here are the BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Winners by the numbers. Since we added LIC to every category, there were more winners than ever before.

By Section
EAT
25 categories
128 winners

DRINK
13 categories
57 winners

DO & SEE
12 categories
51 winners

Total Categories: 50
Total Winners: 236

By Location
33 – 30th Ave
26 – Astoria-Ditmars Blvd (N/W)
25 – Broadway (N/W)
24 – Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave (7)
19 – Court Square (E/G/M/7)
15 – 31st Ave
14 – Astoria Blvd (N/W)
12 – Steinway (M/R)
10 – Queensboro Plaza (N/W/7)
3 – 36th Ave (N/W)



BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Winners (complete list)

Here is the complete list of the BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Winners. The winners in Astoria are ranked first to third, and the winners in LIC are listed alphabetically since there were so many less responses on the survey for LIC.

EAT
Best Outdoor Dining
ASTORIA
1. The Bonnie
2. The Bier & Cheese Collective
3. Sweet Afton

LIC
Centro
Il Falco
Jackson’s Eatery | Bar
Top Quality

Best American Restaurant
ASTORIA
1. Burger Village
2. Cronin & Phelan’s
3. Queen’s Room
3. Sugar Freak

LIC
The Baroness
Bellwether

Best Bagels
ASTORIA
1. Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company
2. New York City Bagel & Coffee House

LIC
Bricktown Bagels & Cafe
Pumpernickel Bagel and Delicatessen
We Bagel

Best Bakery
ASTORIA
1. Parisi Bakery
2. Martha’s Country Bakery
3. Queens Bake House

LIC
Blackstar Bakery & Cafe
Cannelle

Best Brunch
ASTORIA
1. The Bonnie
2. Astoria Provisions
3. Mom’s Kitchen & Bar
3. The Shady Lady

LIC
The Baroness
Jackson’s Eatery | Bar
Sweet Chick
Top Quality (more…)


Best Organizations or Causes to Contribute To in Astoria and LIC

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Before the end of the year, and before we post all of this year’s winners, we wanted to share the results from the BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Survey for Best Organizations or Causes to Contribute To. Thank you to everyone who filled out this survey question. These are in alphabetical order.

First for Astoria:
Astoria Food Pantry (Website, Instagram)
Astoria Music Collective (Instagram, Facebook)
Astoria Mutual Aid (Website, Instagram, Facebook)
Astoria Pug Composting (Instagram, Twitter)
Hour Children (Website, Twitter, Facebook)
LiveOne.TV Studio (Website, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook)
Paul the Cat Guy (Website, Instagram, Facebook)
Queens Together (Website, Instagram, Facebook)
Tikkun BBQ (Instagram)

And for LIC:
ACE Programs for the Homeless (Website, Instagram)
The Connected Chef (Website, Instagram, Facebook)
Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (Website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)


BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Survey is LIVE

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Let us know your favorites in the BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Survey!

The BOAST: Best of Astoria & LIC 2021 Survey is LIVE! The site is boast.nyc/survey.

Please fill it out by December 28, 2021, and be sure to add your name and email at the end of the survey for a chance to win a prize. We always appreciate short write-ups with your entries, and please share the survey with anyone who knows and loves Astoria or LIC! Also, this year you can fill out part of the survey, and then come back to it later and make changes until you submit it.

This year we are expanding the survey to include LIC, so each question has space for Astoria (plus write-up) and LIC (plus write-up). We appreciate you filling out as much as you can, but no need to fill out more than you’d like.

Outdoor dining is still very much a thing, so that leads off the EAT section of the survey. There have been a lot of dessert spots popping up, so a new category this year is Best New Sweet Shop. And in the DO & SEE section we wanted to highlight the category Best Organization or Cause to Contribute To.

We hope you have a great holiday season.

Stay safe and healthy,
The BOAST Team