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Satirical play “No Brainer, or the Solution to Parasites” opens in Brooklyn

The producers of the new play, “No Brainer, or the Solution to Parasites,” call it “a gauzy and improbable fable, just right for a hot summer afternoon.” It revolves around a social worker who challenges a blond, Trump-like villain who ultimately becomes king of New York City. The social worker fights valiantly to protect families facing eviction, children in temporary housing and immigrants struggling for citizenship while facing deportation.

The production marks Theater for the New City’s 43rd year of its award-winning traveling street theater company. The production will be presented throughout the borough, including Coney Island and Sunset Park, on Aug. 16, 17 and 24. The satire has been described as “a rip-roaring musical which portrays our road to national madness as a bad trip to Hades.” 

In the play, the heroic social worker accepts the challenge of helping to save the world from the Trumpian charlatan. But first he must survive the horror of Russian spies, drone warfare, faceless armies and man-made climate change. What ensues, according to the production notes, is “a battle of light and dark, respect and protection versus corruption and power madness.”

TNC’s street theater productions have been presented annually since 1976 and usually revolve around astute commentary couched in satire, song and slapstick.

Photo by Quinn Calcote

Their scores are a mix of music, from bossa nova and hip-hop, to musical comedy and classic cantata, and it’s all designed for family audiences, with complex social issues often presented through children’s allegories.

The elaborate production includes a wide array of stage props, including trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, masks, original choreography and a giant running screen behind the actors. The company consists of 28 actors, 10 crew members, two assistant directors, two stage managers and five musicians.

The play was written by Crystal Field, who began writing street theater in 1968 as a member of Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. In 1971 she became a protégé of Robert Nichols, founder of the Judson Poets Theater in Manhattan, and Peter Schuman, founder of Bread and Puppet Theater.

Field has written and directed a completely new opera for the TNC Street Theater company each successive year. She collaborated for eleven years with composer Mark Hardwick, whose “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and “Oil City Symphony” were inspired by his street theater work with Field.

The play’s composer is Joseph-Vernon Banks and he’s written original music for previous TNC street theater productions, including “Shame! Or the Doomsday Machine,” “Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!,” “Bamboozled, or the Real Reality Show,” and “The Patients Are Running the Asylum.”

Brooklyn performances are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m. on the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 10th Street; Saturday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m. at Maria Hernandez Park at Knickerbocker Ave. and Starr Street; and Saturday, Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. in Sunset Park at 6th Ave. and 44th Street.

This free musical for all ages will tour parks, playgrounds and closed-off streets throughout the five boroughs through Sept. 15.

L-R: Terry Lee King, Mark Marcante, T. Scott Lilly, Michael David Gordon, Cheryl Gadsden. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

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