Reviews

Films

My Dinner With Schwartzey

"Excitingly constructed and full of spectacle, My Dinner With Schwartzey reminded me of parts of Moulin Rouge, where the excesses of the characters became a cinematic whirlwind. Skirboll maintains a demanding pace, keeping the audience as unbalanced as the central character.  For a film dealing with potentially nightmarish topics, there is still a lot of fun to be had watching My Dinner With Schwartzey. Skirboll knows how to control the flow whilst delivering a film that is consistent with its mission. It's a journey through the cocktail glass that we hope to make it back from with our innocence intact." 

– Four Stars from UK Film Review

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Greetings from Sarajevo

"Greetings from Sarajevo is a solid piece of filmmaking; a terrific thriller with a gripping premise and captivating lead performance from Dina Manganaris - in only her second film role, I might add! But the true essence of the movie lies with Melissa Skirboll’s direction and Penny Jackson’s writing. Both of which work in absolute harmony, creating a film which, like its main character, radiates with an assertive self-assurance."

– Four Stars from UK Film Review

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Plays

Louise in Charlestown

NYTheater Now Review
 

Going Up

“Going Up brings a disarmingly funny, and unexpectedly heartwarming comedy to the Dublin stage at the Teachers’ Club. Both actors are superb, with a natural chemistry that makes you presume they’ve been a dynamic duo for years. The scriptwriting captures the New York vibes very well, showing how people can be connected with each other, despite living in their own worlds.Heartwarming, charming and laugh-out-loud funny, this British-American production is definitely bound to warm the audience on a cool Dublin evening. Make the effort to go, and be sure to leave with a smile on your face.”
– Scott De Buitléir, EILE Magazine

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“Well, over the last few weeks it’s true to say its been my misfortune to sit through some very questionable ‘theatre’ – diverse in standard, at best ‘watchable’ at worst making me question why I continue to support the art form! But last night . . . .Redemption! A truly laugh out loud play called ‘Going Up’ – well written, solidly directed with two wonderful performances, both comic and poignant in turn! The central conceit of the show involves a New York Drag Queen and a terminally straight middle aged car salesman TRAPPED in a lift – and the situations this affords the two protagonists are many and varied! – And I’m still smiling this morning! – my only regret? I didn’t see it earlier in the week as I would have most certainly gone a second time!”
– Adam Lawlor, Dublin Theater Actor and Reviewer

“Debuting a boisterous story of Manhattan in a quiet corner of Dublin, Penny Jackson’s Going Up launches the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival with an intimate and whimsical charm. Played by two performers, the one-hour piece ensnares two incompatible characters in a frustrating scenario: a stuck elevator. One is short, straight, neurotic to the point of heart failure, and unnervingly loud. The other is tall, gay, composed to the last stroke of eye-shadow, and equally loud. At first glance, the situation reads as a hackneyed setup where the fun lies in watching opposing forces collide while finding unlikely commonalities. Yet the device of these characters’ collision is what brands Going Up with originality, and how New Yorker Jackson colors her characters with monikers of home makes them believable peers to relate to and not simply trite archetypes to gaze upon.
– Joe Madsen, The Thin Air Magazine

GOING UP can be purchased through Indie Theater Now

I Know What Boys Want

“… concise, dense, harrowing, and as timely and topical as whatever is trending on Bing or Twitter or Google right now… Jackson doesn’t shy away from any of the myriad issues that surround her ripped-from-the-headlines plot. In a dozen taut, provocative scenes, she considers the Pandora’s Box that the Internet has proved itself to be; the differences in views on feminism and female empowerment… this play never feels polemical or exploitative; she uses the intimacy and freedom that the indie theater ethos provides to deal frankly and incisively with these subjects that so concern her.”
– Martin Denton, NYTheater.com

“Jackson’s play raises timely questions about information permanence, privacy, and the blurring of feminism with premature sexual empowerment.”
– Ruthie Fierburg, Backstage

“A tense and engaging show about a high school smartphone sex scandal.”
TheEasy.com

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Safe

“… tells Nina’s story, teenage girl sent to live with her disinterested dad when her mum is sent to rehab. Nina thinks she’s too fat, best friend Liz is too thin and together they try to cope with society’s expectation when all they want to feel is loved. The script by Penny Jackson, is variable, sometimes surprising and heartfelt. This is a tightly directed production. Debby Brand as Nina was rightly nominated as Best Actress during the show’s New York run. Carolyn Cutillo as Liz has a fragile vulnerability. And Nick Palladino’s Phillip, the mysterious teacher who offers Nina help with her homework, does a great job of keeping the audience guessing about his intentions. A timely story of teenage angst in a world where the well-off try to buy the love their children.”
– Claire Wood, The Edinburgh Evening News

“The short description of “Safe” provided by the producers indicates that Penny Jackson’s play is about Nina, “an affluent prep school girl from the East [who] meets a dangerous man” and raises the question whether Nina “will be safe.” The wonderful thing about Ms. Jackson’s play is that the audience is never quite sure whether the dangerous man is suspected sex offender Phillip Goodrich (played with stunning brilliance by Nick Palladino) or Nina’s father Paul (played with the right dash of creepiness by David Lamberton). “Safe” is brimming with moral ambiguity and serves up a delicious taste of what is right and what, ultimately, is wrong. Under Joan Kane’s lustrous direction, SAFE’s cast of four emotionally thrashes about Theater C at 59E59 and invites the audience into the real world of teenage angst with honest performances about authentic concerns. SAFE will do well at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and should come back to New York City with a new run.”
– David Roberts, Theatre Reviews Limited

“New York City. Two troubled teenage girls. An older man, is anyone safe?” Written by Penny Jackson, this award-winning play explores the shadows of uncertainty during a time of vulnerability. The play is very well directed by Joan Kane. This is an intense drama, simply staged, sharply and economically written. The acting is of high quality – emotional without going overboard. Unhinged parenting has brought forth alienated children and this creates the backdrop of an intriguing story that takes us into dark territory. A broken alcoholic mother in rehab has led to Nina reluctantly moving in with her parentally clueless workaholic father. The style is very naturalistic, the acting uniformly strong and, in places, powerful and highly convincing. This is a finely crafted play, full of excellent dialogue, delivered impressively by the cast.

The play deserves a better venue and needs higher production values to really turn into something special at this Fringe. 
The piece is at its impressive best when it gets physical and when the tension rises. But these are capable actors, well on top of the strong script. Many other issues surface without ever drowning out the story – America’s obsession with beauty and weight loss, the danger of affluenza and the impact for detached parenting through overwork. Relevant issues, handled skillfully in the writing and in the stage realization. The director has extracted the very best from the two young female actors in this piece, and the two men are believable throughout.

The strength of the directing is that it has harnessed the script to the talent of the cast and it all feels modulated near perfectly as intense drama. 
When does innocent friendship tip over into sexual danger? How do the needs arising from vulnerability and pain get safely satisfied rather than pitching into soothing darkness and danger? These questions sit skillfully and patiently under the narrative of this well crafted play. The devil comes in many guises, often when we are at our most weak, and he offers us comfort… Yet this particular devil is all too human and I won’t tell you any more of this story unless I spoil it for you. Go see it. In a better space it could become outstanding. But even where it is, the play carries itself extremely well. Want to see an engaging, well written, hour long play at the Fringe – one with plenty of tension, interesting themes and questions and, most importantly, a good story? If so, Safe is a very good choice.”
– Paul Levy, EdFringe

“Sometimes it is tough being an affluent New York teenager. No, really. Nina’s mum is in rehab, while Liz’s gives her hash brownies to “make her eat”. The former is being looked after by her articulate – but until now absentee – father and the latter is pushing her sister’s baby, while high on drugs. American playwright Penny Jackson’s award-winning exploration of neglect behind nicely painted doors captures the voices of the young, wealthy and troubled with accuracy and warmth. Left to their own devices, the pair are without real adult guidance. Nina develops a relationship with an older man she barely knows, while Liz attempts to destroy everything she come in contact with, including herself. With strong performances from Debbie Brand as Nina and, in particular Carolyn Cutillo as Liz, and polished support, the writing is compelling and tightly structured.
– Sally Stott, The Scotsman

Prose

 
Becoming the Butlers
 

“In her first novel, Pamela Brandt has written a story of humor and heartache. In an account of spiritual awakening and more significance, Brandt’s characters have failings as well as virtues. This is a warm and witty book from a promising new writer.”
– Omaha Metro Update

“A remarkable talent for creative vibrant characters … as Ms. Brandt smoothly pulls together plot and character, her future work may be highly regarded.”
– The Atlanta Journal | The Atlanta Constitution

“Brandt, whose stories have appeared in Story Quarterly and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, has a light touch, and depicts the insecurity of New York teenage life with wit and feeling. Brimming with the neuroses of city life, this is an appealing first novel about overcoming inferiority and learning that it’s better to improve yourself than to become someone else.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

"In her first novel, Pamela Brandt has written a story of humor and heartache. In an account of spiritual awakening and more significance, Brandt’s characters have failings as well as virtues. This is a warm and witty book from a promising new writer."
– Omaha Metro Update | November 19-25, 1990

The Barbie Chronicles

“While both positive and negative theories get a workout here, there are also some poignant childhood memories to keep things amusing …Novelist Pamela Brandt recalls envying Barbie’s perfectly shaped (though nippleless) breasts. “Barbie has become an icon and a fetish,” writes editor McDonough, a children’s book author. “To some angelic, to others depraved.” Chronicles will likely persuade you she’s both.”
– People

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