Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Scene for August 29th, 2008

Here it is, the end of August, the end of Summer, and the beginning of my vacation. But don't worry, we'll keep you informed!


The Herald's Christine Dolen is back from her vacation, and delivers her take on The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Ground Up and Rising. And boy, is this an improvement over her stand-in! She starts off by telling us what we want to know from a review:
Given the 15-actor cast size and economics of small theater, the production is heading into he final weekend of a too-short run. Do, if you love good acting and theater that gives your gray matter a jolt, make haste to Kendall.
She immediately separates the characters from the actors portraying them, while still informing us of both:
The Devil's Advocate is Yusef El-Fayoumy (a flamboyant Carlos Alayeto), a butt-kissing prosecutor whose last name is gleefully mispronounced ''El Fajita'' (by the judge) and ''El Flamingo'' (by Satan himself). Defending Judas, arguing for redemption and forgiveness, is Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (the intense Kameshia Duncan), a passionate agnostic.
This show has been extended through this Sunday; take the chance!

New Theatre in Coral Gables has mounted As You Like It in its intimate space in the shadow of Merrick Place. The small company has picked up some renown over the years for its treatment of Shakespeare, and not just because they are the only professional theater (outside the two Festival companies) in South Florida attempting to do it on a regular basis.

This week, we have reviews in two of the three major newspapers.

First, we have the Herald's Christine Dolen review. And while she enjoyed it, she felt it wasn't a fulfilling as it might have been:
As You Like It, adapted by artistic director Ricky J. Martinez and staged by Roberto Prestigiacomo, features a cast of 14 (huge by small regional theater standards), some nicely detailed performances and an array of colorful costumes that almost make up for a barren shell of a set.
Me, I'll point out that Shakespeare didn't go in for scenery either. To my view, New Theatre hasn't cheaped out on scenery so much as returned to the roots of Elizabethan production values. But then, the Globe's bare stage was a lot more elegant than New Theatre's humble rostrum.

Though a few of the actors could be accused of scenery chewing (if there were any scenery to chew), director Prestigiacomo gets solid performances from the leads -- Randolph and Neal are more-than-capable veterans of New Theatre's forays into the Shakespearean canon -- along with effective comedic turns from Clint Hooper as the dig-my-melancholy Jaques, Odell Rivas as a foppish Le Beau, Wayne E. Robinson as the long-suffering Adam and, particularly, Robinson as the frisky Touchstone.

Burgess plays Orlando as a standard-issue hero, easily handling the language and his character's lovesick state. Girardin, who could stand to crank up the volume a bit, is nonetheless an enchanting Rosalind -- smart, strong, fleetingly vulnerable and altogether the sort of woman who could make not just Orlando, but anyone believe in love at first sight.

The Sun-Sentinel has Bill Hirshman's take on As You Like It; he also gives it a thumbs up - with caveats;
...the New Theatre's production of the romantic comedy As You Like It is recommended as a pleasant evening — with asterisks. Meet it halfway and you'll be entertained.

While the cast members' ability to navigate the Bard's verbiage is wildly variable, this production underscores the brilliance and beauty of Shakespeare's quicksilver wordplay while usually (but not always) keeping it accessible to modern ears.
Hirshman notes that it's always difficult to handle Shakespeare if you haven't had the classical training so often eschewed by today's acting programs. It's not that Shakespeare is ignored, but that style is not a major focus of most programs.
The overall effort is not enthralling and, as always, it helps to read a plot summary before you go. But be assured, all's well that ends well in this midsummer night's dream.
As You Like It runs through September 14 in Coral Gables.


Brandon K Thorp is writing for the Miami New Times this week, and he tells us about BETRAYED at GableStage. Sadly, Brandon has forgotten that he's supposed to be writing about this particular production, and not doing a literary analysis of the script. Yes, the script is important, and the story is worth examining; but the central issue of a theatre review is what this production has done with them: do they convey the intentions of the playwright? Do they illuminate the roles and bring them to life? Do they mine the play of all its riches, or do they miss crucial points?

The first glimmer of a review comes 2/3 of the way down the page:
It is odd to witness joy against a backdrop such as Lyle Baskin's dark, metallic set, which is all ugly walls, chainlink fences, plastic chairs, and cheap tables. But for a while, the Iraqis' excitement overpowers their surroundings.
So... does that mean the set design is effective? Not? Is it a clever metaphor? All we know from this about the set is that it was ugly. What we don't know is if it was bad thing or a good thing. The excitement of the Iraqis may have overwhelmed their surroundings in Iraq, but what about the actors in this production? It's not a given that they are one and the same unless that specific point is made. Which it isn't.

He eventually slips in the only adjective relevant to the show he was watching: of the translators is getting a polygraph test from an angry security officer (Todd Allen Durkin, in his most intense performance since Thom Pain)
Ok, Durkin is intense... in which role? The rest of the paragraph deals with script, not performance or production. Maybe the review will start on page two. Let's see...nope. We're boned. Brandon left the review out of his review. All we get is stuff about the script, about the story, nothing telling about the actual production by GableStage. He mentions some people and the parts they played, but fails to mention if they played them well or badly, and we learn that Lyle Baskin designed a "darkly metallic" set. Two pages, and that's all we get.

Now maybe, what we're seeing in this second review that utterly fails to mention the actual production in meaningful terms, is that the direction, action, and setting fit so perfectly that even supposedly professional reviewers can't see where the compelling script ends and the compelling performances begin. Maybe.

But it would be sure nice if either Brandon or Eileen would have actually SAID that. It's what they're paid to do. Instead, they've done little more than describe a script and recite the cast list from the program. Well, OK, we know that Durkin was "intense."

Last Chance!

Slava's Snowshow at the Arsht Center closes this Sunday, August 31.


This is the final weekend to see True Blue is at the
The Women's Theatre Project.

From the Theatre with the Worst Website in Florida.

It's official: Broward Stage Door's Website sucks ass. Not only can't you find what's playing, you can't even find out who's working there. Back when Ground Up And Rising only had a MySpace page, we could find out more about them.

Hey David Torres: fix your freaking website already! The picture of your season poster doesn't cut the mustard. If you want people to come to see shows, we have to be able to tell what's playing without pulling out a microscope.

Thanks to Eileen, who is in the show, I can say that The Convertible Girl is definitely running at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. And with a microscope, I can see that it's running through October 22.

And thanks someone pointing out that Stage Door has two theaters out there in deep suburbia, I discover that they're opening Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? I imagine there are all sorts of people in it, someone directing it, and so on. But I guess it's a secret or something.

From the Theatre with the Second Worst Website in Florida.

It's Naked Stage. But they have no money and no staff (or at least, a lot less of either than Stage Door.) Still, it would be nice if their own homepage explained that their 24 hour Theatre Festival has been postponed, and why, and when it's going to be presented, and if it will be at the same place or somewhere else, rather than leave it to Christine Dolen to report it in her blog. We love you, and respect you, and support you, and yes, even cherish you; now update your darn site. That's what it's for.

But at least we can read the date it DIDN'T happen...


Bathhouse, the Musical, at Rising Action Theatre, through September 7th.

Sol Theatre is going repertory; it's held over Why We Have A Body ( a show recommended by two out of three critics) on Saturdays through September 13th, and Blowing Whistles on Wednesdays and Fridays through September 12th. (Do we dare ask what happens on Thursday Nights up there?)

Casting Call

Co-Contibutor Conundrum Stages is holding auditions for their next reading: see their blog (in our side bar) for details.

Fixin 2 Rain needs four male non-union dancers for its upcoming run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Be aware that this is an overtly Christian production. Contact them via their website.


  1. Thanks, CLJ for the plug. Appreciate it.

    As far as websites....Tamarac Theatre of Performing Arts is gulity of the same thing. Yes they show shows, no pics, no details, nothing.

    I expect that from community theatres, but theatre companies who claim to be professional should know better.

  2. Exactly. If you want to sell tickets, you have to make it easy to find out about your show; websites are actually extremely cheap when you consider all the factors.

    Sure, a lot of Stage Door's audience are in their 80's, and I suspect most of their audience are group audiences from various senior centers, but there should still be basic information available, like dates.

  3. I stand corrected with Tamarac, though.

    They do have pics from past shows and details about their current show. That's about it.