talkin' broadway

Marta Reiman, seated, and Hayley Treider  PHOTO: Sasha Karasev,

Marta Reiman, seated, and Hayley Treider

PHOTO: Sasha Karasev,

Kentucky Cantata

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Imagine you are the parent of an 18-year-old daughter, a recent high school graduate eager to leave her home in rural Kentucky and head to New York City to study acting. She has talent, a dream, the promise of a sofa to sleep upon, and an appointment with the Stella Adler Studio. And what if you reluctantly let her go alone to that place about which you have nightmares? And what if your very worst nightmare comes to pass?

This is the premise of playwright Paul David Young’s devastating new play Kentucky Cantata, now at the HERE Arts Center. It is about a brutal rape committed by an undocumented immigrant, a cab driver who picks up the young woman, Carolyn (Hayley Treider), at the airport and takes her to a deserted parking lot off the highway.

The rape, which occurs early on in the 70-minute play, is not directly depicted, but we are given first-hand accounts of it from Carolyn and from the rapist, Kareem (Tony Naumovski), who says of himself, “I am the one you cannot hear or see, the dark water that envelopes you.” Kareem has his own sad tale to tell, but, really, he should not go looking for sympathy from the audience. For the rest of the play, our hearts are entirely with Carolyn and her parents, Larry (Dan Patrick Brady) and Dora (Marta Reiman).

Kentucky Cantata is a brilliantly-composed play in which the metaphorical fourth wall separating the actors from the audience is raised and lowered at various times, so that the effect is one of alternately looking through the two ends of a telescope. Some of the story is deliberately distancing, with an expressionistic tone and narrated directly to the audience. At other times — especially in the scenes between Larry and Dora (exceptionally well acted by Mr. Brady and Ms. Reiman) — the play takes on a naturalistic tenor. Collectively, the two styles engage the heart and the mind throughout.

The play is rich with both imagery and down-to-earth detail. The family is not vaguely from Kentucky, but specifically from Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky (a real place). The route the driver takes from the airport is named, as is the business where the parking lot is located. Any New Yorker who has taken that well-traveled route will have no trouble envisioning the locale. The relationship between Larry and Dora is explored as well, and we can see that their marriage is as complicated as any, but that their ties to one another are unbreakable, even in the wake of the shattering events that unfold after one of them convinces the other to allow Carolyn to make the trip.

The performances are supported by a trio of talented musicians: Chris Funke on guitar, Rebecca Kuehl on flute, and Ashleé Miller, who composed the moody score, on clarinet. The musicians remain onstage and walk among the actors throughout the well-crafted production, directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan. Kentucky Cantata is a masterful work that is likely to stay with you for a long time after the final bows.

Kentucky Cantata Through February 8 HERE,145 6th Avenue - Enter on Dominick St., One block south of Spring St. Tickets online and current Performance Schedule:

Terms of Service

[ © 1997 - 2015, Inc. ]


Theater is Easy

Kentucky Cantata

By Paul David Young; Directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan

Off Off Broadway, New Play 
Runs through 2.8.15
HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Avenue


by Angel Lam on 1.27.15

Hayley Treider in  Kentucky Cantata . Photo by Sasha Karasev,  .

Hayley Treider in Kentucky Cantata. Photo by Sasha Karasev,

BOTTOM LINE: A dark, poetic play about a young woman's dream to become an actor in New York City colliding with a mentally troubled illegal immigrant taxi driver.

Kentucky Cantata is a fictional story about a young woman named Carolyn from Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky (this is a real city). Her mother Dora (performed by Marta Reiman) has been worried and warns Carolyn (Hayley Treider) not to make the trip to the dangerous city. Dora dreams of her daughter working in a steady, stable occupation in rural Kentucky, but Carolyn is determined to leave. With the support of her father Larry (performed by Dan Patrick Brady), she sets out to New York City alone, not knowing that her life will soon come to a distressing halt.

The opening of the play describes a brutal rape scene, where the entire ensemble (including musicians) suggests the ominous event through body language, movements, and sounds. The scene sizzles with a disturbing sexual energy. Musicians intertwine between the actors, and the sounds/melodic lines punctuate the actors' speech. The score (performed by three musicians, composed by Ashleé Miller who also plays the clarinet) is sparse and hollow. Guitarist Chris Funke performs gracefully and with subtle charm in a scene interacting with Dora's sultry monologue.

The story unfolds non-chronologically, with a few long, bare monologues that depict detailed portraits of individual characters. Tony Naumovski does a great job with the difficult role of Kareem the taxi driver, a torn-hearted, lonesome visitor who is illegally staying in the country. As Carolyn, Hayley Treider performs well with choreographic movements as a young and distressed soul, moving between the physical world and the non-physical. Playwright Paul David Young's poetic writing moves comfortably between the psychological world of the characters (where a character speaks directly to the audience) and the traditional dialogue between a pair of actors at a specific time and place. The play is directed with nuanced details by Kathy Gail MacGowan, with movement consultation by Kristin Swiat and Marjorie Folkman.  

(Kentucky Cantata plays at HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Avenue, through February 8, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7PM and Sundays at 2PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at or by calling 212.352.3101.)

“And then there’s Kentucky Cantata, at Here Arts Center, which tells the story of a young actress from rural Kentucky who moves to NYC and is raped in a parking lot. Written by Paul David Young, whose ingenious play In the Summer Pavilion greatly impressed me Off-Broadway in 2012, Kentucky Cantata will feature onstage musicians and a nonstop musical score interacting with the actors, hoping to combine music and language in new ways.”

    — Erik Haagensen,