Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Scene for July 18, 2008

Sure, it's opening weekend for BATMAN: The Dark Knight. But it's a busy weekend onstage, too.


First up is Midlife: The Crisis Musical. It's the summer offering from Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables. It plays through August 10th.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show earlier this week, although you wouldn't know it from using our RSS feed from the Herald; for some reason, it's not in the theatre section. But we did find it. And it seems that Christine liked what she saw:
"Arisco has mounted a real gem "

"Having chosen the perfect revue, Arisco then made a second savvy move: He got the perfect cast. What Margot Moreland, Lourelene Snedeker, Maribeth Graham, Barry J. Tarallo, Allan Baker and Wayne Steadman bring to the upstairs Balcony Theater stage are powerhouse voices, terrific comedic timing and the kind of seasoning that only their many collective years of performing experience can bring. Along with musical director/pianist David Nagy, collectively and individually, this bunch shines."

Dan Hudak of the Sun-Post also had a review up for Midlife, and his was easy to find. However, Dan had a very different take on the show than Christine:
"If only it were more consistently funny. About half the songs are memorably amusing in this never-ending bitch-fest about middle age, while the other half are vapid misfires that neither amuse nor delight."
Unfortunately, there's no tie-breaker from Brandon in the New Time. It's been weeks since I've seen any of his reviews in the Miami version, and I suspect the weenies in charge of it have decided not to cover Theatre anymore. (BTW, I will be blogging about THAT subject shortly!)

No, this week we turn to The Sun-Sentinel and Bill Hirschman for a tie-breaker:
"Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical --- arguably the least promising show title this season --- is a surprisingly funny and occasionally moving depiction of the physical and emotional challenges facing folks between 38 and 60."

"'s the Actors' Playhouse team that elevates this beyond the material on the page."
It sounds like David Arisco has finally found a play with the impact of his exceptionally successful production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!

Last week, I mentioned this little gem at Palm Beach DramaWorks, starring my good friend, Beth Dimon. As I mentioned last week, Hap Erstein had his very positive review up.

This week, Jack Zink at the Sun-Sentinel also gives Souvenir an enthusiastic review.
"Huzzah the no-talent squawker!
"Palm Beach Dramaworks successfully has taken on the challenge of Souvenir, a 2005 Broadway comedy based on the true life of a woman who murdered music every time she sang, and did it often."
Jack also comments on the all the design elements, something too rare in theatre review:
"The company's designers have provided the two actors with rich surroundings. Michael Amico's set is trimmed in marble effects that double as a Ritz-Carlton recital salon, Jenkins' private rehearsal room and several other locales when carefully lit by Ron Burns. Steve Shapiro's sound design mixes in concert hall crowd reaction to augment the crowds in the tiny Dramaworks space. Erin Amico's costumes range from the ostentatiously dowdy to showbiz flamboyance for Dimon's showcase."
Finally, we can add Brandon K. Thorpe' Brandon must be tired, because it seems the entire first page of the review is dedicated to exposition.

The SECOND PAGE consists of one continuous paragraph. No breaks anywhere. It's one long monotonous drawl about Dimon's singing versus her character's singing, and how it's bad, but it's supposed to bad, but it's not the same kind of bad as the real bad was, and that's bad because the real bad was bad in a different kind of way, and that's bad because the fake bad isn't really as bad as the real bad, which wasn't so bad because the real bad wasn't trying to be bad.

Did he like it? I don't know. I don't think he knows, either. He seemed like both of the performers. He seemed to like the idea of the show.

But my old friend Al Mathers saw it, and urges me to drag myself across three counties to see it.

So I will.


This week we have two plays that feature characters played by the playwright.

The first is the latest offering from Ground Up And Rising, The Hate U Gave: The Tupac Shakur Story, reviewed by Christine Dolen of the Herald:
"The many contradictory facets of a complicated man are on display in The Hate U Gave: The Tupac Shakur Story, the Ground Up & Rising world premiere of a play written by and starring Meshaun Arnold. Like the late rapper himself, the script and production have both obvious strengths and notable weaknesses."
"Shakur's story is rich with potential drama. But The Hate U Gave is several rewrites away from truly mining those riches."
So the show needs work; but this is a work in progress, and wouldn't it be great to be able to say "I remember it when..." Seeing the finished hit is a no-brainer; it takes a true theatre lover to see the work through from its roots.

Bill Hirschman of the Sun-Sentinel enjoyed Broward Stage Door Theatre's production of Zero Hour, a biographical play about famed comedic actor Zero Mostel.
"A volcano explodes nightly in the Broward Stage Door', spewing flame and lava over the audience without benefit of special effects."
"As both playwright and actor, Brochu has nailed the essence of this difficult but brilliant chameleon who could be tender and terrifying, playful and combative, all in the space a few seconds."

Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival performs at Sunset Cove Park in Boca Raton this year, while their normal stage in Jupiter's Carlin Park undergoes a renovation.

Hap Erstein of the post feels moved to explain something about The Bard at the outset of his review:

" would be worthwhile to keep in mind the Elizabethan definition of comedy.

"Recall from your English lit class that all you needed for a comedy in Shakespeare's day was a few characters still alive by the final curtain, enough for a wedding or two."

Needless to say, Hap wasn't laughing all that much. But he apparently was taken with the set design, an MC Escher homage littered with different levels and stairs leading nowhere:
"Perhaps that is a metaphor for the entire production - it has its ups and downs, is built sturdily, but with numerous opportunities unrealized."
The production fares better under the pen of the Sentinel's Bill Hirschman;
"...audiences ... will be charmed and amused by this talented, enthusiastic and imaginative group of actors, directors and designers.."

"Crawford, Trucks, Heidi Harris as one brother's wife and Krys Parker as her sister give quite serviceable performances, most dancing nimbly with the punny pentameter. But their real strength is investing every moment with an infectious energy and delight that won over the audience."
We don't have a tie-breaker on this one, but I say "go for it." And the admission is free! But pack the insect repellent: both Hap and Bill commented on the mosquitoes.


I would be remiss if I didn't mention fellow Theatre Scene contributor Kevin Johnson's project; his Conundrum Stage is presenting a reading of William Inge's Summer Brave. I hope you've been reading his blog entries on it; it's great stuff! You can catch it this Monday, July 21, at 7:30 pm at St. John's on the Beach. Admission is free.

The Promethean Theatre also has an event on Monday; they are taking their acclaimed production of Juan C. Sanchez's RED TIDE to the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

They've had to make cuts and adjustments to the staging for this project, and they're trying it on an audience limited to the size of the Minnesota theater they'll be playing. Unlike Summer Brave, this performance is helping to cover the costs of getting to the Fringe Festival, so it's $40 a ticket.


Dream a Little Dream at Florida Stage.

Shining City runs through this Sunday at GableStage.

Why We Have A Body is held over through August 9 at Sol Theatre Project.

The 23rd Annual Hispanic Theater Festival at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Produced by Teatro Avante.


  1. CLJ:

    Sorry if you didn't catch my meaning. I did indeed like Souvenir, as I had hoped to indicate by the generally warm and fuzzy tone of the review, my claim that the play "captured Florence Foster Jenkins quite well", my windy praise of Tom Kenaston's piano playing and acting, my even more verbose praise of Elizabeth Dimon's dramatic chops, and especially that one sentence where I said: "Souvenir is a surpassingly good summer show." That seemed like a fairly unambiguous statement at the time, but I see now how wrong I was.

    So I apologize. A few weeks ago I poked around for your email addie and couldn't find it -- I would love to chat with you at length, and privately, about the purposes and methods of both criticism and drama. If you'd be amenable to such a thing, please do drop a line. bkthorp at bellsouth dot net (sorry for breaking it up that way -- I'm trying to fool the bots).

    But I will say this: When discussing a piece of art of any kind, the most boring question you can ask or answer is "Did you like it?" It's boring because it's meaningless. If you like or don't like something and say so, it says nothing about the piece of art under discussion -- it only says something about your own circumscribed tastes. Better to say what a thing is than to say how much you liked it/didn't like it/loved it/hated it/whatev. More on this when and if we talk.

    As far as The Miami New Times, life is difficult in the journalism biz these days. We're doing better than the dailies, which are all laying off huge portions of their staffs, but we have our problems as well. Both papers have temporarily scaled back their theater coverage by half. Hopefully things will pick up by the end of the year. In the meantime, I'm doing two weeks in Miami, then two weeks in Broward/Palm Beach, and then two weeks in Miami again.

    If the situation doesn't improve, we'll likely switch our arts coverage to the internet.

    Thanks for your attention, and best of luck . . .

    - BKT

  2. Thanks for supporting local theatre...I come to this site for all my theatre info...Bill Hirschman also wrote a review on The Hate U Gave. Check it out at:

  3. Brandon; I admit that I'm hard on you. But I see such potential in you. You can be one of the greats, but only if you can stay on task.

    I will be posting about theatre reviewers - and what I expect of them - in the next few days. It will be in the context of the shifting practices of the local press recently spotlighted in Christine Dolen's blog. I will gladly discuss my views of criticism and drama, but not privately. If it is to have any value, it must occur in a public forum.

    I'm all about the sunshine, Sunshine. :-)

  4. CLJ:

    Thank you.

    I'm not asking you to cease flogging me in public. I like being flogged. I mean that, in addition to the public floggings, I'd like to initiate an informal dialogue which you could then make public if you wished (or could keep to yourself, depending).

    - BKT