Thursday, February 12, 2009

Florida Stage: The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock 5 REVIEWS!

Florida Stage opened the world premier of The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock on January 31. It will run through March 8th. See the website about tickets and times.

This article will be updated as new articles and reviews about the show are published.


Jan Sjolstrom with the Palm Beach Daily News finally got in to see it. And she didn't enjoy it all that much:
Heavy-handed performances, a confusing chronology and director Cathey Sawyer's literal interpretation hobble the production.
And Jan didn't have the same reaction to Donte Bonner that Christine and Hap had;
Donte Bonnér, as Laurel's lover, the Bridegroom, doesn't capture the cadence and pacing of a true storyteller, which is a serious flaw in a play so dependent on stories.
But she did like the technical aspects of the show:
Perhaps the best part of this production are Suzanne Jones' inspired lighting and Matt Kelly's brilliant sound design, a connective tissue of a capella mountain music that seems to issue from the characters' hearts.
Christine Dolen's review in the Miami Herald describes Florida Stage's production as "impeccable" - she likes the script:
Catherine Trieschmann's The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock celebrates the transportive, seductive power of storytelling even as the playwright spins her own tale of life in the North Carolina mountains at the ragged end of the Civil War.
And she likes the production:
A good deal of the credit for making this first Bridegroom production engaging also goes to director Cathey Crowell Sawyer, the theater's detail-focused design team, and a cast that makes thick mountain accents and colloquial speech patterns sound like a kind of folk music.
Hap Erstein's review also published on Monday, in the Palm Beach ArtsPaper . And it seems he wasn't quite as taken with it as Christine: a 21st-century audience, these characters come off as painfully primitive and two-dimensional...
And the "colloquial speech patterns" that Dolen described as " a kind of folk music," Hap found...hokey.
Nor is that impression mitigated by their cornpone dialogue... which director Cathey Crowell Sawyer makes worse by having her actors deliver them in capital letters
The only thing these two reviewers agree on is the performance by Donte Bonner:

The interplay between Cato and Bonner is lovely to behold. Perhaps if Laurel were sighted, falling for a wandering black soldier would have been more complicated. But because of their circumstances, the Bridegroom helps Laurel ''see'' by painting pictures with words, 'til she becomes a smitten kid who can't wait for the next story.
Only two of the characters rise above the clunky backwoods speech patterns. The title character (played by a wily, verbally nimble Donte Bonner) is a spinner of tall tales, a fast-on-his-feet inventor of vivid imagery and folk poetry, usually for the sake of seducing the gullible Laurel.
Bill Hirschman covered the show for the Sun-Sentinel: it's good to seem them actually publishing their own news.
The world premiere of Catherine Trieschmann's "folk ballad" at Florida Stage is an unsatisfying stew with tasty chunks that don't seem to belong in the same pot.
But Hirschman only feels that one actor rose above the material:
The only actor to claw his way out of the cardboard-cutout characters is Todd Allen Durkin as a lovesick preacher.
Hap Erstein, as you recall, stated that "only two" of the actors did that; one of them was Donte Bonner. The other is - no suprise - Tod Durkin. Here's Hap's take on Durkin's performance:
The other role that intrigues, though tangential to the main story, is Pastor Burns, an inept preacher with a crush on Maizey. The character might as well wear a sign saying “Comic Relief,” yet when Maizey rejects him, his pain is truly affecting. That, in turn, may be because of the performance of Todd Allen Durkin, surely the most versatile actor on the South Florida scene.
And you can tell that Bill really wanted to like more of this play when you read his last sentence about someone who is also an extremely versatile actor: Louralene Snedeker.
When Snedeker, a fine actress, channels Granny Clampett, the director has let her down.
Brandon K Thorp wrote up the show for the Broward Palm Beach New Times, and he's not heaping praise. Like Hap Erstein, he had problems with the thick dialect:
A botched accent is ordinarily such a small thing, but Florida Stage's production is DOA because of it.
But that's not to say it's all bad:
Still, there are signs of life all over the place in Bridegroom, and several scenes approach transcendence.
And he also singles out South Florida stage veteran Todd Durkin:
His astonishingly inept preaching has driven Blowing Rock to apostasy, so Maizey is his lone congregant. His oratory isn't helped by his deep infatuation with Hopewell. To seduce Maizey, he reads an especially pornographic passage from Solomon's Song of Songs, and when he gets to the word breast, he looks nervous enough to toss his cookies right there on the stage. Durkin's mastery of awkwardness is so complete that you can almost feel his mouth go dry as he imagines Hopewell's pert bosoms. After this scene on opening night, the audience erupted in spontaneous applause.
He mentions Louralene Snedeker and Ricky Waugh:
Ricky Waugh and Lourelene Snedeker's scenes are impressive, too. You get the sense that Waugh based his character's taciturnity on that of his onstage mum, and the constant clashing of their twin sourpuss sensibilities are remarkably lifelike.
And he also comments on the relationship between Susan Cato and Donte Bonner that impressed Christine Dolen:
She and Bonner have real chemistry, and their courtship scenes are greatly enhanced by a quirk in the script that has suave Bonner doing most of the talking. It's in his character that Bridegroom's folk-song roots are most visible and where playwright Catherine Trieschmann's writing is at its sharpest and strangest.
But Brandon echoes the conclusions of Hap Erstein and Bill Hirschman:
But goddamn, that accent. It bookends even this moment with ridiculousness so profound that it completely, irredeemably destroys what's supposed to be Bridegroom's dominant mood.

Here are the promotional articles about The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock:

See a video clip of the performance!

Florida Stage offers its own peek behind the scenes of this new show HERE.

The Palm Beach Post' s January 30 Promo Piece by Kevin Thompson:
Don't let the title fool you. While it doesn't sound like something you'd see on Lifetime (Blowing Rock is a small mountain town in North Carolina), the stage show's subject matter is definitely basic-cable juicy.
Hap Erstein interviews playwright Catherine Treischmann.
She found the kernel of her play in a museum caption that told of how the women would whisper the names of their enemies into their sons’ ears, long after the war had ended, saying things like, “Avenge me.”


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