Friday, May 29, 2009

Theatre Scene reader Wins Free Tickets!

Well, not from me. But Alexis Scheer read about uVu's Summer Shorts Contest on this week's Mondays Are Dark column, and followed through - and won!

Alexis is more than just a Theatre Scene reader, she's used her Google account to Follow the South Florida Theatre Scene. It's a way of showing support for the Theatre Scene. It also allowed me to see that she has her own blog, Lex's Playground. She details the shows she's scene, and the ones she's working on, which includes appearances at my old stomping ground, Actors' Playhouse. (And yes, I do remember you, Alexis!)

So congratulations on winning the tickets, and welcome to the Theatre Scene!

Friday Promos

There's just so many promotional articles, I feel that I'd be remiss in not pointing them out to you.

Summer Shorts! Summer Shorts!  Summer Shorts!

Hmm..stories about Summer Shorts always seem to occur in threes...

The Herald
The numbers are always impressive: More than 1,200 scripts are considered, though this year just 23 will wind up onstage, including plays by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and Christopher Durang; musical pieces by Cyndi Lauper, Michael John LaChiusa and Lisa Loeb; and works by South Florida-based playwrights Michael McKeever, Marco Ramirez, Andrew Rosendorf and Christopher Demos-Brown.
Broadway World:
A rocking new Shorts 4 Kids line-up for families with tunes penned by Grammy Award Winner Cyndi Lauper and breakout artist Lisa Loeb ("Stay: I Missed You") along with a mix of fast and funny plays for families and a new "Create-a-Short" Contest featuring the work of young artists; the company's naughty, bawdy late night undershorts Series featuring sinful comedies by the nation's hottest talents...
Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Carbonell Award-winning actor Gordon McConnell of Lake Worth likes a juicy role to sink his teeth into, but -- as the cliché goes -- “what he really wants to do is direct.”

“I’m trying to branch out a little bit,” he says by cellphone, on his way to Miami for rehearsals of this year’s Summer Shorts. “I love theater, but I’d like to direct for the theater rather than act in it.”
Personal note; I've been in a show that Gordon both directed AND appeared in.  He hadn't planned it that way, but we had an actor drop out, and since he already knew the play...

Critic's Picks:
Strange Snow at the Alliance, In a Dark House at Mosaic,

The Post's Oddly Scattered Choices
The Palm Beach Post's Theatre News article mostly confines itself to the limits of Palm Beach County these days; no surprise to see Yankee Tavern and At Home at the Zoo, they also plug a community theatre production of The Underpants, and Stuart Little, a kids' show at a theatre I'm unfamiliar with.  The odd thing is they completely skip over Broward County and select exactly ONE show in Miami-Dade county: the national tour of Chicago at the Arsht Center, the one show playing in Miami that has no ties to South Florida. It's further proof that the Post's entertainement section has no pulse.

Christine's Contentious Chronicle

Actually, the only thing in contention is whether or not I count the two paragraphs as "reviews."  But her blog entry mentions the three productions opening this weekend (including the three parts of Summer Shorts), as well as plugging The Dumb Show (final weekend) and Havana Bourgeois (this week and next).

If you haven't voted yet, you only have until Midnight on Sunday to help me decide if this should count as a review of those two shows or not. The poll is up and to the right; just one click and you're done!

Consensus Required.

I'm putting up a new poll, for this weekend. I need all Theatre Scene readers to weigh in on this one.

As you know, a couple of weeks ago, the Herald reprinted some Sentinel reviews while their critic was out of town. When Christine returned from her NYC excursion, she announced that she still planned " to catch up with the shows," but didn't actually state that we'd be seeing a full review in the Herald by the Herald's own critic.

In yesterday's Drama Queen, Christine plugged two of those shows.

The Dumb Show:
At Davie's Promethean Theatre, Gregg Weiner, Deborah L. Sherman and David Sirois are doing a deft job of eviscerating both reckless, self-adoring celebrities and tabloid "journalists."
And Havana Bourgeois:
Under David Arisco's sure direction, James Puig, Jossie Harris Thacker, Jennifer De Castroverde, Oscar Cheda, David Perez Ribada, Joshua David Robinson and Francisco "Pancho" Padura play achievers and strivers, most of whom don't fully grasp the elusive truth until their dreams -- or their lives -- have crumbled. Particularly for those who lived this and left Cuba (and for the people who love them), Havana Bourgeois becomes an intense, emotional theater experience.
The question is, do you, the readers of the Theatre Scene, feel that the coverage in the blog entry should constitute a play review?
Should we count Christine Dolen's blog entry "Don't Miss Plays" as reviews of two shows?
[] Yes, she does discuss the qualities of the productions, so it is a review.
[] It's all right this one time, but I still think we deserve dedicated reviews for each play.
[] Hell, no! We deserve a proper review by the paper's own voice, not a re-print followed up by a beefed-up "critic's pick."
[] Maybe... if I can use this as an elaborate excuse allowing me to copy the answers from the student sitting next to me... because I'd have been a totally straight "A" student if we'd been allowed to do this.

If the blog post counts as a review, I will update the posts with the show's reviews to remove the note that the Herald declined covering the shows, and link to the blog post as I would any review.

If it's NOT a review, the relevant posts will remain unchanged.

If we're OK with it "this once," I'll amend the note at the top to read "The Herald didn't really review the show, but Christine did mention them in her blog," with the appropriate links.

I'm closing this poll midnight on Sunday, so please vote soon! And of course, comments on this post will be welcome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Scene for May 29, 2009

We're past Memorial Day, and into the final month of the 2008-2009 Theater Season in South Florida.  But we still have the Summer Season to look forward to. 

Oh, before forget; the results of the latest Theatre Scene Poll are in.  The question was "How do you choose what you see?"  The number one answer is no surprise; word of mouth.  The second place answer was a four-way tie between reading reviews, whatever's close, whatever's playing, whatever's cheap, and whatever has nudity.  Yay us.  We're so cultured.

Now, on to what's playing this week in the South Florida Theatre Scene.


In A Dark House, at the Mosaic Theater.

Signature Shorts, presented by City Theatre at the Arsht Center.  These are the plays that made Summer Shorts famous.

Strange Snow at the Alliance Theatre Lab.  You can peak behind the scenes through their blog.

Under Shorts, presented by City Theatre at the Arsht Center.  Shorts for those with a more...mature...inclination.

still playing:

The Odd Couple is at Broward Stage Door. Through June 7th.

At Home At The Zoo makes its home at Palm Beach Drama Works through June 14th. This is Edward Albee's expansion of his classic one-act play, Zoo Story.

Yankee Tavern plays through June 21 at Florida Stage.

El Inconveniente plays at Little Havana's Teatro Ocho through June 21.

Havana Bourgeois plays at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater through June 7th, 2009.

passing through:

The national tour of Chicago at the Arsht Center.

last chance to see:

Promethean Theatre Company winds up the its critically acclaimed production of The Dumb Show at Nova Southeastern University's Mailman Theatre.

The African American Performing Arts Comunity Theatre (AAPACT) concludes its run of For Your Love...Sucka.

for kids:

Shorts4Kids, presented by City Theatre at the Arsht Center.

Arsht Center: Chicago (reviews)

The National Tour of Chicago is playing this week at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
... the show is still going strong. On Broadway, anyway.

On the road? Maybe not so much.
To the delight of some and the dismay of others, Colombian beauty Sofía Vergara is making her Miami stage debut in the show as prison matron ''Mama'' Morton.
Casting a bombshell in a role customarily played by a heftier woman who communicates avarice and lust for the fame-hungry murderesses she calls her ''chickies'' is a choice. And we shouldn't be surprised that a show that has tried to boost its box office by featuring celebrity stars (think Lisa Rinna and hubby Harry Hamlin, Melanie Griffith, Usher, George Hamilton, Samantha Harris, Chandra Wilson) would consider bringing Vergara to Miami a no-brainer.
But the decision is also pandering, unfair to Vergara (who doesn't have the stage experience to believably exist in the show's sly, stylish world), to the theater-seasoned cast and anyone in the audience who might object to watching a novice at Broadway touring show prices.
Ouch! But Dolen makes an excellent point: this is the fifth week of Vergara's stage career, and the producers have callously plastered the picture of an actor who is playing a relatively minor role all over the production as if she's the Second Coming. But while Dolen bitch-slaps the producers for casting Vergara, it's not all that bad:

A funny, radiant Bryn Dowling is bouncy blond Roxie Hart, a gal who's only too happy to plug her lover Fred (Brent Heuser) and humiliate her sad-sack hubby Amos (Ron Orbach) to get her name in the papers. Terra C. MacLeod, who played Roxie's rival Velma when the tour hit the Broward Center three years ago, is still bringing Fosse style -- pinioned upper arms, a jutting pelvis, lightning-fast legs -- to the dancing that is her strong suit. And Broadway veteran Brent Barrett makes defense attorney Billy Flynn as irresistible as he is avaricious.

still has plenty going for it: a great Kander-Ebb score, sexy dancers, vibrant characters, an ever-resonant story. But the too-often broad and cartoonish production at the Arsht isn't wearing its age well.

Chicago plays through this Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Florida Stage: Yankee Tavern (6 reviews)

Florida Stage opened the world premiere of Stephen Dietz's Yankee Tavern on May 15, 2009.

From the acclaimed playwright of Lonely Planet, Private Eyes and Fiction, comes this dramatic thriller set in a crumbling tavern in New York. A young couple is caught in a web of conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks, when in an instant outlandish hypothesis becomes dangerous reality as critical facts continue to emerge. A highly praised election from the 2007 1st Stage New Works Festival.

Michael Bigelow Dixon directs a cast that includes Antonio Amadeo, Kim Morgan Dean, William McNulty, and Mark Seisler.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production*.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
Dixon paces the play as best he can, and sees to it that the various emotions are well-pitched and the clues don't go unnoticed.

Antonio Amadeo creates a complex portrait of the conflicted Adam. Mark Zeisler's Palmer, the stranger, is appropriately grim and threatening. Kim Morgan Dean's Janet is by far the most interesting character, moving from tolerant humor to downright terror. William McNulty as Ray is a bit too jovial. Richard Crowell's down-at-heel set is so well-executed it's like another cast member.

There's enough good material in the play to make it possible for Dietz, who's a superb playwright, to shape it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller. As it stands, it's only half-way there.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times. It seems that he enjoyed the show;
...Steven Dietz... proposes a universe populated by skeptics, where conspiracy theories abound, Occam's razor rubs backward, and a boring, factual explanation of anything must be a lie.
Because of a lopsided script — which gives Amadeo approximately one line for McNulty's every ten, and Dean far less — Ray, though affable in a gruff way, comes off as a bully. Yet slowly, subtly, his arguments cohere. As the outside world slips away and your workaday disbeliefs are suspended, you may find yourself believing.
...I marveled at set designer Richard Crowell's magnificently dilapidated barroom; I applauded the subtly mounting anxieties peeking through the friendly cool of Amadeo's Adam. I'm also a reasonable person, and I can look at the way act two explodes in a whirlwind of paranoia and violence as art for art's sake, even though it has a claim on reality roughly approximate to that of the fairy contingent in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In these terms, Yankee Tavern is one helluva show.
But with reservations:
A good night at the theater is worth a lot, but it is not worth increasing that number (of citizens that believe that the federal government had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks). By failing to include any cogent alternatives to Ray's theories and by giving us no choice but to accept that the events of act two really are indicative of a conspiracy to cover up the truth behind 9/11, Dietz may have succeeded in selling a bill of goods that he never bought in the first place.
If I had a wicked streak in my sense of humor, I might suggest that if Dietz had included cogent alternatives to some of the wilder speculations, the conspiracy theorists might have interpreted that to mean that Dietz's play was simply another piece of government propoganda devised by the NSA as a means to lull the theatre-going public into a false sense of security.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Dietz’s play is engaging and interesting, full of funny tirades and food for thought, but it switches gears abruptly in the second act, careening from quirky comedy to sinister thriller. The play comes alive when McNulty is on stage, his performance is luminous enough to light the whole theatre. The other cast members get their big moments and do well with them, but Yankee Tavern belongs to McNulty. Richard Crowell’s scenic design is another highlight—his attention to detail makes the tavern look as if it’s been housed at Florida Stage for 40 years.
Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
If you’re into conspiracy theories, Yankee Tavern will get all the conspiratorial juices inside of you flowing nicely. Unfortunately, the show premieres at time when the country is finally moving past the horrible events of 9/11.
Although solidly acted, Yankee Tavern feels a little dated. The show would’ve probably played better three or four years ago. Some theatergoers may be reluctant to see a stage production that still conjures up such bad memories.
I have to point out that the same could have been said of The Diary of Ann Frank. Mr. Thompson my be bringing too much of his own baggage into the theatre with him. Shouldn't good theater, like any art, push us to the edge of our comfort zone, if not outside of it altogether?
Yankee Tavern features a capable cast, led by McNulty, who plays Ray as zany and kooky, yet still sane enough where you can’t completely dismiss his more outlandish theories. Meanwhile Zeisler is effectively hitman sinister and X-Files mysterious despite briefly flubbing a few lines during Friday night’s opening performance.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:

...with this world premiere, Florida Stage is back in its strength of language-based, political plays, deftly directed by Michael Bigelow Dixon and well performed.

McNulty’s Ray could be dismissed as a nutcase, if he were not so well read and persuasive. Even if you do reject everything he says, the actor remains compelling. His ingratiating way with improbabilities is in marked contrast to Zeisler’s Palmer, a character of uncommon intensity, even before he opens his mouth.

Dean is the audience’s surrogate, rationally rejecting each conspiracy theory until they reach critical mass of undeniability. And Amadeo is well cast as fuzzy-headed barkeep Adam, amiable until he finds himself caught in a crossfire of double-crosses.

Aiding the evening’s credibility is Richard Crowell’s realistic, though dilapidated tavern set. And notice how sound designer Matt Kelly adds to the production’s mounting tension with a barely audible background thrum.

The American theater has a rich tradition of barroom plays, of which Yankee Tavern now becomes a part. Here’s a toast to Dietz and his play, which should work its way through the nation’s new play network with the staying power of a juicy conspiracy theory

Bill Hirschman reviewed "special to the Miami Herald":
The show is competently directed by Michael Bigelow Dixon and well-acted by the cast, although all of them have trouble getting any electricity going except for one second act scene between Dean and Zeisler.

Kudos are due Richard Crowell who designed a gloriously grimy wreck of a New York bar that Eugene O'Neill's characters would love, complete with dark wood paneling and a tiny TV over the bar with aluminum foil on the antenna.

As with most premieres, Tavern needs more work. The first third of the show could be tightened; it's mostly Ray spinning an unending procession of theories. They're entertaining but there is no absorbing conflict to keep us hooked until the stranger appears.
Yankee Tavern plays through June 21 at Florida Stage .

Actors' Playhouse: Havana Bourgeois (3 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse premiered Carlos Lacámara's Havana Bourgeois on May 15, 2009.
Set in Cuba from 1958-1960, Havana Bourgeois explores the impact of Fidel Castro’s Revolution on the Cuban middle class. Havana Bourgeois is a universal drama that illuminates the choices we make as history closes in around us. This remarkable new play follows the associates of an advertising agency as Castro moved from savior of the poor to dictator forcing the mass exodus of the Cuban middle class.
David Arisco directed a cast that includes Dann Pino, Jossie Harris Thacker, James Puig, Oscar Cheda, Jenniger De Castroverde, Francisco Padure, David Perez Ribada, Joshua David robinson, and Carl Waisanen.

The Miami Herald has declined to review this production*.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Some of the most extreme audience reactions I've ever witnessed in a theater were during this show, when I watched a row full of Cuban exiles gasp and clutch their chests and cry.
David Arisco's directorial fingerprints are all over the first couple of scenes, in which the actors laugh and schmooze with all the outsized fakety-fakeness of the big-number musicals that compose Arisco's fave fare...
It gets better, though. Lots. Arisco obviously has a dark side, because as he guides Calvo's ad agency out of the halcyon days of Fulgencio Batista... Havana Bourgeois becomes a horror show.
It's worth noting that all of these people seemed perfectly normal and happy before Castro came to power. They were ordinary beings, unaccustomed to making mortal, or even ideological, decisions. And so it is jolting to see green-shirted thugs popping into existence where only mild-mannered office workers were before, and heroism where there was only neighborliness. It's a credit to the actors that these transitions — despite occurring with shocking speed — never feel forced. They appear as the sudden fulfillment of long-subsumed desire, which is probably what they are.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Havana Bourgeois is burdened by the history it seeks to humanize. There’s no suspense because we already know what happened.
The production is oddly devoid of period details, save for a cool retro television. The ad agency set is very perky and modern, the costumes could be from just about any modern time period, which doesn’t help the interchangeable nature of the play. Also, the play is dwarfed by the Miracle Theatre’s vast main stage venue; the upstairs theatre would have added an intimacy not possible in the main theatre.
...a terrific performance by James Puig as a been there, seen that illustrator who refuses to submit to the new regime. Puig brings depth to a familiar character.
Danny Pino, the much-touted TV actor from the CBS show “Cold Case” looks the part of a young Cuban family man and turns in a competent performance, as does the rest of the cast.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
Suffused with wit and pathos, Havana Bourgeois charts middle-class Cubans' disillusionment with the betrayed promise of the revolution. Your reaction to the drama at Actors' Playhouse is guaranteed to fall into one of two camps.

Cuban-Americans will feel validated on a gut-wrenching level as they watch surrogates for themselves or their parents struggling toward the decision to leave their families and homeland.

People without that connection may not be as profoundly moved, but they will emerge with a far better understanding and compassion for the Cuban exile mentality.
The play's tone nearly loses its balance several times, but never quite tumbles off the high wire thanks to director David Arisco....Castro is only referenced in water-cooler talk. Lacámara eases in the encroaching tragedy so gradually that you wonder whether you are still supposed to be laughing. There is even one knee slapper inexplicably injected just as the play reaches its heart-rending peak.

As civil liberties evaporate, Lacámara's dialogue edges closer to didactic debates. Only the heartfelt delivery of the actors takes the edge off what threatens to become dueling position papers.
The entire cast (including Oscar Cheda, Jossie Harris-Thacker, David Perez Ribada, Jennifer de Castroverde, Carl Waisanen and Francisco Padura) create vibrant human beings rather than stand-ins for social attitudes. But what puts the show over is Arisco's sure direction plus the vibrant performances of the devastatingly handsome Pino, the flamboyantly anarchic Puig and the deadly earnest Robinson.
Robinson deserves special praise as the true believer who never parrots dogma. His emerging revolutionary is convincingly sincere no matter his increasingly harsh pronouncements as the dream devolves into nightmare.
Havana Bourgeois plays at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater through June 7th, 2009.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mondays are Dark, Memorial Day 2009

I hope you're all haveing a relaxing Memorial Weekend Holiday. Here's your Monday reading list, in case you get stuck in the rain:

Cocktail Tale

Christine Dolen has a drink with Sofia Vergara.
Vergara has interrupted her limited starring gig in the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago to headline the show's touring company this week at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. That's unusual, but this is a performer who has built a thriving career on doing things differently.
Chicago plays at the Arsht Center this Tuesday through Sunday.

South Florida's Ignored Playwright

Christine also tells us a little bit about Tarrel McRaney, a playwright from Miami who has yet to have one of his productions staged in South Florida.
On Wednesday, May 27, McCraney will receive the first New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award in a ceremony at the newspaper's Manhattan headquarters. Honoring an American playwright who has made a recent professional debut in New York (McCraney was chosen for The Brothers Size at the Public Theater), the award was determined by a committee of three Times arts editors, Times contributor Sylviane Gold and four impressive playwrights: Edward Albee, Richard Greenberg, James Lapine and brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reviews his "Brother/Sister" trilogy, being produced at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey.
Partly spiritual, very funny and altogether grabbing, The Brothers Size Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet is the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale by Tarell Alvin McCraney - at age 29, a master storyteller and one of the American theater's boldest, brightest new voices.
Random Bits

Alliance Theatre Lab releases pictures of Kim Ehly in the title role of My Name is Rachel Corrie.

In A Dark House opens at Mosaic Theatre this week. Theatre Mania fills us in.

You could win free tickets to City Theatre's Summer Shorts 2009: uVu Video Blog tells you how.

Ivanka Trump supports Miami Shores' Playground Theatre, according to Social Miami.

Out of Town

South Florida favorite Lisa Morgan will be closing out the theatre season at on the Gulf Coast, according to BroadwayWorld:
"This play is truly a gem, and I think audiences will immediately fall in love with Shirley and her story," said (Florida Rep) Producing Artistic Director, Robert Cacioppo. "One-person shows are difficult to do because you have to be absolutely certain that you choose the perfect actor - and Lisa Morgan is the perfect choice, and Willy Russell has given us one of the funniest, touching and most wise one-person-plays around."

2009 Cappies

Last week, we mentioned the Cappies. has a report on the results.
Pomp and circumstance marked the event as students from 29 schools turned out in their nicest attire. The gala began as all the nominated students processed from the stage into the audience.
Meanwhile, In Palm Beach...

...the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed. The Palm Beach Daily News reports:
A majority of the council made it clear at an April 15 meeting that it is open to razing the Playhouse if that is necessary to get a new, more economically viable theater built.

Council members also expressed a lack of confidence in the Palm Beach Theater Guild's ability to raise enough money to renovate and operate the Playhouse. The guild has long proposed to operate the Playhouse under a lease with Sterling; Sterling says the guild has no viable business plan.
This is a long way from being over:

Not content to rely solely on the landmark protection or the 1979 agreement, Theater Guild President Patrick Flynn formed a political action committee that gathered enough signatures this spring to place on the ballot a proposed town charter amendment that would give voters the power to protect the Playhouse.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher's office certified in April that 822 signatures were from registered town voters, enough to place the amendment on the ballot.

So it looks like the least-desired performance space in South Florida will remain in limbo for awhile longer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Got Kids?

Onelia Collazo Mendive of gives us a rundown of upcoming shows for children in South Florida.  The article includes a brief description of the shows, and links to websites.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Shorts! Summer Shorts! Summer Shorts!

Erin Joy Schmidt is Betty the Clam Girl, (a theatrical song) by Michael John LaChiusa, which is featured in Undershorts, part of City Theatre’s annual Summer Shorts festival. Photo: George SchiavoneIt's that time of year; the afternoon rainstorms have become a daily occurence, eyeglasses fog up when you step out the door, and City Theatre is in full production with Summer Shorts.

There are three stories out about City Theatre's annual celebration of extremely short plays, and that's appropriate given the festival's three part programming this year:

  1. Signature Shorts: the basic format that started it all
  2. Shorts 4 Kids: a program of short plays for children and families
  3. Under Shorts: plays with a more adult theme, playing later in the evening.

Andie Arthur brings us an in-depth look at Summer Shorts in Miami Artzine.
Although the set up is different this year, Summer Shorts continues its tradition of celebrating the diversity and wonder of South Florida talent. Directors for the 22 plays and two mini-musicals in Shorts 4 Kids are all local favorites.
Along with celebrating local directors, four of the shorts are written by local playwrights: Michael McKeever, Christopher Demos-Brown, Andrew Rosendorf and Marco Ramirez.
Arthur has a complete cast list, and interviews each of this year's featured playwrights.

Onelia Collazo Mendive has a good overview in the Miami Theater Examiner; her take on Shorts 4 Kids:
A new Shorts 4 Kids line-up for families with tunes penned by Grammy Award Winner Cyndi Lauper and breakout artist Lisa Loeb (“Stay: I Missed You”) along with a mix of fast and funny plays for families and a new “Create-a-Short” Contest featuring the work of young artists...
Her article includes a video clip. It's, um, brief.

   David Hemphill, John Manzelli and Erin Joy Schmidt star in the world premiere of Andrew Rosendorf's <em>Orlah.</em>  The Miami Herald has it listed as Critic's Pick. Given the format of the Critic's Pick, Christine Dolen can do little more than give us the facts, but it's all there.
David Hemphill, John Manzelli and Erin Joy Schmidt are featured in Andrew Rosendorf's Orlah
Summer Shorts plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts May 28 - June 21. It moves up to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for a brief run from June 25 - 28.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another South Floridian winds up In the Heights

Veteran South Florida actor Oscar Cheda has just learned that he will be going out with the National Tour of In the Heights.

He joins an illustrious group: South Floridians involved with the Broadway production include Alex Lacamoire, Andréa Burns, Janet Dacal, Carlos Gomez, Nina Lafarga, Tony Chiroldes, Afra Hines and Joshua Henry.

Cheda, who recently won the Carbonell Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his work in GableStage's Adding Machine, will be the "swing*" for Kevin (the dad) and the Piragua guy.

To say he's excited would be an understatement:
"Oh my god! It's finally sinking in that I'll be gone for a year!"
The tour kicks off in Tampa on October 26, 2009, but you won't have to drive that far to see it: it comes the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on March 16 for a three week run.

Congratulations, Oscar!

* understudies fall into two broad categories: "standbys" are actors who only appear in the show if the actor they are understudying is unable to perform. A "swing" usually appears in the show in a lesser role, ready to take over if an actor in the larger role is unable to perform. Swings are common in large shows such as musicals.

The Scene for May 22, 2009

In apparent response to my recent critique of review practices at the Herald and the Sentinel, Christine Dolen reports that the Herald picked up the Sentinel's reviews because she was out of town, and she says "I plan to catch up with the shows." Does that mean we'll be seeing Herald reviews of Havana Bourgeois, Dumb Show and Yankee Tavern? You'll note that she didn't actually use the phrase "I'll be reviewing them." We'll see.

In the meantime, here's what's playing this Memorial Day Weekend.

Just a reminder: Clicking on a highlighted show title leads you to the review summaries for that show.

still playing:

The African American Performing Arts Comunity Theatre (AAPACT) runs its production of For Your Love...Sucka through May 31, 2009.

The Odd Couple is at Broward Stage Door. Through June 7th.

At Home At The Zoo makes its home at Palm Beach Drama Works through June 14th. This is Edward Albee's expansion of his classic one-act play, Zoo Story.

Promethean Theatre Company presents The Dumb Show at Nova Southeastern University's Mailman Theatre through May 31, 2009.

Yankee Tavern plays through June 21 at Florida Stage.

El Inconveniente plays at Little Havana's Teatro Ocho through June 21.

Havana Bourgeois
plays at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater through June 7th, 2009.

passing through:
Amy Wilson
Motherload plays on Friday and two shows Saturday only at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. More about the show here.
Based on creator Amy Wilson's own experience as the mother of three children under five, MOTHER LOAD has audiences lining up from coast to coast for a night of laughs about everything from prenatal yoga to preschool applications. From organic baby food to self-important lactation consultants to the perils of "mommy and me" classes, this laugh-out-loud show is an exposé of the fruitless and ever-challenging quest to be the "perfect" mom.

last chance to see:

Mauritius plays at New Theatre through May 17 - has been extended through May 24!

A Little Night Music plays at the Stage Door Theatre through May 24th, 2009.

for kids:

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree plays at The Playground Theatre through May 22nd, 2009

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater presents Miss Nelson is Missing!, a musical based on the popular children's book, through May 30th.

Sol Children Theatre Troup presents The Commedia Cinderella on Friday and Saturday.

Promethean Theatre: The Dumb Show (3 reviews)

Promethean Theatre Company had a rough road getting their May show on its feet: Kimberly Akimbo was originally slated for the slot, and when casting conflicts arose, Speed the Plow was selected, but a larger company pulled the rights out from under them.

Their final choice was Joe Penhall's The Dumb Show, which opened May 15th. Margaret Ledford directed Greg Weiner, Deborah Sherman, and David Sirois. I saw it myself last week, and it's obvious that Promethean didn't go and select an "also ran" but made the effort to find a new "first choice."

The Miami Herald has declined reviewing this production*.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Some aspects of the production don’t quite mesh—the British humor, for example, falls flat, which bogs down the pacing and energy. But Weiner is terrific as the TV star, who goes from cocky to desperate to vulnerable over the course of the play. His accent is also spot on, and he’s so good at what he does it never feels like he’s acting. Sherman and Sirois, as the reporters are more stagy, more mannered. They’re at their best when they’re tag-teaming their prey, transforming from reporters to witch hunters, brow-beating the poor star into a “confession” about his perceived immorality.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
... an excellent play with a dubious premise, for which Promethean's three actors compensate with a balls-to-the-wall manic energy that leaves an audience with little time for critical thought.
Weiner has received every plaudit a South Florida actor can garner in the past year — a Carbonell, drooling reviews, an in-print comparison to Zac Efron — but he's never deserved them more than he does now.
...there is a peculiar genius to Sherman's acting... She looks like she's groping for even these obvious words, and after saying them, she looks unsatisfied. It's as though she knows there's something more profound she means to say but isn't sure there's any language to express it.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
British playwright Joe Penhall stabs a scalding skewer directly into the rotting guts of tabloid journalism in the Promethean Theatre's scathing production of the viciously funny Dumb Show.

Margaret Ledford's driving, inventive direction and a top-of-their-game cast eviscerate the morally bankruptcy of vampire celebrity journalists by depicting one publication's relentless pursuit of a TV star's descent into dissolution.
Weiner just won a Carbonell for his Irish ne'er-do-well in Mosaic's The Seafarer. He is far better here. Weiner's boorish celebrity is all profane bluster and self-centered vanity, yet Weiner makes you feel sorry for this sad human being by the end of the evening.
Playing what are essentially two roles, Deborah L. Sherman (Promethean's producing artistic director) and David Sirois are mesmerizing in their self-righteous hypocrisy.
As excellent as the cast is, the star may be Ledford. Her overall vision is rock solid consistent, her rapid-fire pacing is flawless and her movement of actors around the stage is fluid. Best of all, she and her cast have cooked up scores of silent reactions and bits of business that raise the production beyond actors saying words.
Promethean Theatre Company presents The Dumb Show at Nova Southeastern University's Mailman Theatre through May 31, 2009.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Herald "spin cycle" doesn't wash.

I've received a lot of positive response to my article calling out the Herald and the Sentinel for their use of each other's reviews.

Not everyone agrees with me, of course. From one of the comments left on that story:
I am not a fan of the column sharing practise, but I still don't think the Herald should get knocked for this incident. The are the ones who are pushing forward in the face of this crisis. They should be commended for being the only local paper taking a risk and giving us the coverage we deserve.
- Antonio Amadeo
And it's true that the Herald has superior arts coverage in South Florida. Their reviews are the most prominent in the market, their critic the only one with a blog to supplement her alloted space in the newspaper proper. And Christine does review more plays, in more places, than anyone else. Antonio is absolutely correct.

But look at two of the shows missed this last weekend:
Really? These are shows that are OK to miss?

Christine Dolen of the Herald addressed this in today's blog entry, which starts off explaining that she was in New York, seeing productions that virtually none of her readers will ever be able to afford to see. But I do understand that a theatre critic has to drink from the Original Source, as it were, to maintain a perspective of what a Broadway show really is, and how our local productions compare.
Also while I was away, Havana Bourgeois opened at Actors' Playhouse, Dumb Show at The Promethean Theatre, El inconveniente at Teatro 8, and Yankee Tavern had its world premiere at Florida Stage. I plan to catch up with the shows, but because we didn't want readers to wait, we picked up Bill Hirschman's Havana Bourgeois and Dumb Show reviews for the Sun-Sentinel and sent him to review Yankee Tavern for The Herald; Mia Leonin covered El inconveniente for us. Just a little inside-baseball note on the Herald's continued commitment to theater coverage.
Uh huh. I found all of Hirschmann's reviews on the Sun-Sentinel, first - including the Yankee Tavern review, which appeard with a Sun-Sentinel byline when it first appeared on the Herald's website yesterday. The Sun-Sentinel still seems to think it's their review:

which sort of contradicts the Herald's "Special the Miami Herald."

But you know what? The problem hasn't changed: two papers, one review. Will the Sun-Sentinel now hire Dolen to review the show? Because that's the only way to put things back in balance at this point
...we didn't want readers to wait
Dolen's blithe response is indicative of a deeper problem with our local news dailies: they are completely out of touch with the 21st century.

Here's the point that Dolen - and apparently everyone running the Herald and Sentinel - have missed:

Their readers are already NOT waiting.

We're not waiting for the paper to show up at our door; we're using the internet. If we're not surfing the web, we're using an RSS feed that brings the latest news to our desktop. Or to our cell phones. I get the reviews minutes after they're posted. Waiting? Are you f***ing kidding me?

We're looking for different perspectives on the story. Regurgitating someone else's review not only doesn't give us a different perspective, it wastes our time.

My South Florida News feed aggregates all the latest stories from all three of our major dailies. Right now I have to wade through 30 articles to get 10 stories. Actually, 8, because the Sentinel tends to have some stories twice under slightly different headliines. God knows why.

But while we're not waiting for stories to show up, we are still waiting for something:
Christine Dolen's reviews of the three major plays that opened last weekend.

And we won't be satisfied with copies of Bill's reviews. Not that we didn't like them. But we've read those. Old news.

Conundrum Stages on the Tube

Conundrum Stages will be on the air in the very near future:
We will be featured on On Stage with Iris Acker this coming Friday at 7pm, with a second showing on Sunday at 6pm.

This is the list of channels that were given:

Broward and Palm Beach - Channel 19
Miami - Channel 24
South Miami - Channel 16

DirectTV, DishTV, and AT&T- Channel 63

Hope you'll get to watch it at some point.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Poll: How to Choose?

I've put up a new poll for this week: How do you choose which plays to see?

The question came up when I read an article by Rick Stein in The Arts Blog: What is the future of arts journalism?
Some observers say that audiences no longer want to be told what’s
worthy of their attention, instead preferring to curate their own
arts-going experiences and reach their own conclusions about them.
So how does the 21st century theater patron select shows worthy of their attention? Only one way to find out, hence the poll.

Teatro Ocho: El Inconveiente (review)

Teatro Ocho opened Juan Carlos Rubio's spanish-language comedy El Inconveniente on May 15, 2009.

Marcos Cassanova directed a cast that includes Grettel Trujillo, Daisy Fontao, and Lyduan González.

Mea Leonin reviewed for the Miami Herald:
As Shakespeare's fool, Feste jokes in Twelfth Night, ''Present mirth hath present laughter/What's to come is still unsure,'' so turns the wheel of comedy: wit propels the unsuspecting public toward surprising twists of plot. In Juan Carlos Rubio's contemporary Spanish-language comedy El Inconveniente (An Inconvenience), these elements combine to make for lively and, at times, poignant theater.
The undisputed highlight of El Inconveniente is the chemistry between Trujillo and Fontao. Surprisingly, this is the first time these experienced actresses share the stage. Under Marcos Casanova's steady direction, their timing is impeccable and the camaraderie palpable.
El Inconveniente plays at Little Havana's Teatro Ocho through June 21.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Failing their readers.

As many long-term readers are aware, I've been highly critical of the Sun-Sentinel's practice of re-printing Miami Herald reviews in lieu of covering the event themselves.

The South Florida Theatre Scene is painfully aware of the difficulties being faced by our nation's newspapers. But at the same time, newspapers can not survive if they do not meet the needs of their readers - us.

We read newspapers so we can make informed decisions. We trust them to provide us the information we need in a timely manner. In most cases, it's the story itself that is crucial. In straight news, the facts are the facts. In straight news, it doesn't matter who reports the story as long as the story is reported accurately.

But that's only true of straight news. Commentary and review are another animal entirely, and it is commentary and review that directly impacts those trying to make decisions about arts, culture, and entertainment. This area is almost totally subjective, and the facts are not necessarily part and parcel of the complete story. In commentary and review, the party making the commentary or offering the review is critical. We are seeking the unique interpretation made by a specific individual. It's the only time bias is not only tolerated, but demanded.

In commentary or review, we, the readers, do not reach our decisions by reading a single source, because that source is subjective; it is offered through the filter of the perceptions of the journalist. At the same time, understanding that what we are reading is biased, we necessarily seek out additional points of view. It is only through reading multiple points of view that we can derive something approaching the true merit of the subject of commentary or review.

One has only to read the recent aggregation of reviews we've compiled at the Theatre Scene to understand how the many different critiques are mandatory to our ability to select those events we wish to attend.

When the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post fail to provide us with those different viewpoints, they undermine their own reason for existence. They fail in their primary mission: keeping their readership informed. It's not a matter of simply carrying a story, we need the unique perspective.

By "sharing" columnists and reviews, the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post are not "saving money" or being "cost-effective." They are ripping us off. They are stealing from us, monetarily, because we purchase their product with the understanding that they are going to provide us with fresh viewpoints, but instead sell us something we've likely already read in its original publication. And they are robbing us, morally, by depriving us of the differing perspectives we need in order to make informed decisions.

The mistake being made by our major dailies is in believing that we are only reading a single source. The truth is that if you read newspapers, you read more than one. And this is even more likely if you read the online versions. Their current business model only reduces the value of their websites; after all, if they are only carrying one version of any story, why bother visiting the other sites?

We need our daily papers - all of them. And we need them to maintain their own unique pool of reviews and commentators. A message needs to be sent to the publishers that their current practices are unacceptable, and even self-destructive. Something must be done: a stand must be taken.

Boycotting the newspapers is out of the question: after all, the Theatre Scene's primary function is aggregating all the news and reviews into a single place. That means we must read and compile all the stories we can find. And frankly, you can't promote reading papers by starting a campaign to not read them. After much consideration, the Theatre Scene has come up with a unique approach to this dilemma: the bully pulpit.

Effective immediately, when the Theatre Scene discovers that a paper has reprinted another paper's review instead of producing its own, we will not simply ignore that paper as we have done in the past. From now own, we will note that that paper as declined to cover a particular show. That notice will be at the top, above the reviews. And it will stay there. Periodically, we will tally up the number of shows each paper has declined to review.

Admittedly, this is akin to kicking them in the shins. But one can only use the tools at one's disposal.

Of course, the knee-jerk reaction of the publishers will be to not publish ANY review on a show that they might have used someone else's review on. And while that would be a more honest approach than the one they are now taking, it would also continue the dissipation of adequate coverage by the newspapers.

So on a monthly basis, the Theatre Scene will tally up the number of plays reviewed by the three major dailies, and contrast it to the number of plays that opened that month. Of course, we will only count plays reviewed by the paper's own dedicated theatre reviewer.

We hope that you, the reader, will send emails to the publishers of the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post, as warranted. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, how you feel about their coverage, or the lack thereof.

Who to contact:

Miami Herald
Anders Gyllenhaal, Executive Editor,
Dave Wilson, Senior Editor/Administration,

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
Howard Greenberg, Publisher,
Earl Maucker, Editor-in-Chief,

Palm Beach Post
Alex Taylor, Publisher,
John Bartosek, Editor,

A Peek behind the scenes of In The Heights

In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams chronicles the personal stories of composer/ lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In the Heights in the months leading up to opening night. The program premieres Wednesday, May 27 at 8 p.m. (ET) on Great Performances on PBS HD (check local listings). Click here to watch a preview.

South Floridians involved with the project include Alex Lacamoire, Andréa Burns, Janet Dacal, Carlos Gomez, Nina Lafarga, Tony Chiroldes, Afra Hines and Joshua Henry.

BTW: In the Heights will be playing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of their 2009-2010 Broadway series.

Mondays are Dark; May 18, 2009

I suspect that a lot of my readers are up at FPTA's yearly audition, either onstage or sitting at the table. Just remember, nobody ever died from a bad audition. They only wished it had killed them.

Fear No Evil

The Alliance Theatre is preparing to open the controversial My Name is Rachel Corey. Mosaic had planned a production last year, but there was such an outcry from patrons and supporters that Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon was compelled to cancel it.

So what's the big deal? The title character is sympathetic to the Palestinian's desire to have their own country. Which isn't the same thing as saying the play or its producers are sympathetic to that cause, according the the Alliance's blog:
Let us be perfectly clear; at its heart, this play is not about the Israel/Palestine conflict. The play is also not an agitprop piece, designed to inflame or offend. It is, at its core, a play about a fiery, passionate, idealistic young woman whose pursuit of social justice runs up against the unforgiving nature of reality, a young woman whose sense of ethics allows no compromise or rationalization. It is also the words of one human being, words that do not pretend to offer a balance or "opposing viewpoint."
I applaud the Alliance team. I have found it disgraceful that in the nation that claims to define freedom of speech, there are people who would banish attempts to fully examine the moral dilemmas we face in the Middle East. You don't have to approve of the play, and you certainly don't have to see it; but if your views cannot withstand examination or entertain the disucssion of of the other side of the argument, the validity of those views must be suspect.

Theatre vs. Theatre Companies

On a related note, The Playgoer wonders if the current approach to producing theatre is necessarily the best one:
Why must every play be part of a "season"? Why must every audience be dominated by "subscribers"? I'm convinced that what's left of the core theatre audience today--especially those under 40--just don't care about all that anymore. When they hear something's good, they just want to be able to go buy a ticket and see it--wherever, whenever.
It's something to consider.

More Contrarian Opinions

The Producer's Perspective overheard something at the Broadway League Town Hall Conference that caught his attention:
"Why is it that we are always asking how we're going to get people in their 20s to the theater? Do you ever hear nightclubs wondering how they are going to get 50 year olds to go drinking until 4 AM?"
- Mike Isaacson
This is news?

The Palm Beach Daily News reports that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre will be dark from August 3 through the 20th. Remember when all the theatres closed in August? No? God, I'm old.

The Post's Presumptious Promo Piece

It's presumptious only because it's labeled as a review: probably a tag added by one of the kids running the Post's new browser-buster website, PBPulse. Kevin Thompson's article in the Palm Beach Post gives us some background on Florida Stage's latest offering.

Yeah, it's Bent.

Broadway World reports that Rising Action Theatre is taking on Martin Sherman's powerful Bent.

That Raul Esparza Is At It Again

The Drama Queen tells us that South-Floridian-gone-big-on-Broadway Raul Esparza has tied a record: he is one of only two actors in history to be nominated for a Tony Award in every category for which a male actor is eligible.

She really means "two OTHER actors."

The Drama Queen also tells us that "two actors with ties to Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics" will soon be appearing on Miami Stages.

Of course, Ken Clement is already appearing at Broward Stage Door in The Odd Couple and Deborah Sherman is appearing in The Dumb Show at the Promethean Theatre. But I guess those are not "Miami" stages.

And wasn't David Perez-Ribada in that show? She forgot to mention that he's opening in Havana Bourgeois at Actors' Playhouse.

But congratulations to Carlos Orizondo, who appeared in the original production with all the actors noted above, and Grettel Trujillo, who was in the New York production of Anna. They are among FIVE actors with ties to Anna in the Tropics working on South Florida stages.

Funny how she's never used that Anna connection until now.

Last but not Least

Most people I run into - even those in Theatre - have never heard of the Cappie Awards. It's the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre and Journalism, and the South Florida chapter (which encompasses Broward and Palm Beach counties) has their presentation ceremony on Tuesday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. It's an impressive list of nominees.

Congratulations to all the nominees; whoever takes home the actual award, all of you are winners.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

By Popular Demand

The South Florida Theatre Scene has a new web address:
Don't worry, the old blogspot address will still get you here, but now our name is our address. Much easier to remember, and easier to get here. (Happy now, Mr. Durkin?)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Return of The Vagina Monologues.

Broadway World reports that The Vagina Monologues are (is?) returning to the Sol Theatre Project.

Sol's website describes it as "run extended," and not "back by popular demand." My guess is that while the run technically ended, they didn't strike anything, so they're considering it an extension with a little break in it.

It plays May 22, 23, 39, 30, and June 5 & 6.

See Sol Theatre's website for details.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Scene for May 15, 2009

Good news! The Palm Beach Post finally reviewed At Home At The Zoo! And they managed to see The Wizard of Oz at Kravis Center. Their new website still bites the wax tadpole, but at least it has theatre reviews again. And while I hate the layout and basic design of PB Pulse, it does have RSS feeds for reviews and theatre news, so you can see their latest stories in the Sidebar.

On with this week's Scene:

Just a reminder: Clicking on a highlighted show title leads you to the review summaries for that show.


Havana Bourgeois opens at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.
Set in Cuba from 1958-1960, Havana Bourgeois explores the impact of Fidel Castro’s Revolution on the Cuban middle class

Yankee Tavern opens at Florida Stage.
In a decaying bar on the ground floor of the abandoned Yankee Hotel, a young couple and a devoted conspiracy theorist debate the truth behind 9/11.

The Dumb Show opens at Promethean Theatre Company; this is probably the best deal in South Florida right now: $15 tickets!!
"...a mesmerising, utterly persuasive account of a classic tabloid sting…a furious, black-comic satire on the bankrupt values of our tabloid culture." —Daily Telegraph (London).

still playing

Mauritius plays at New Theatre through May 17 - has been extended through May 24!

A Little Night Music plays at the Stage Door Theatre through May 24th, 2009.

The African American Performing Arts Comunity Theatre (AAPACT) runs its production of For Your Love...Sucka through May 31, 2009.

The Odd Couple is at Broward Stage Door. Through June 7th.

At Home At The Zoo makes its home at Palm Beach Drama Works through June 14th. This is Edward Albee's expansion of his classic one-act play, Zoo Story.

passing through

The Wizard of Oz at the Kravis Center blows out of town Sunday.

A Love Lost Life is back, at the Cuillo Center. It's the unauthorized story of Marlon Brando, and you might have seen it - or missed it - at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

for kids

Inanna and the Huluppu Tree plays at The Playground Theatre through May 22nd, 2009

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater presents Miss Nelson is Missing!, a musical based on the popular children's book, through May 30th.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More on Richard Akins.

I reported the death of my former employer back in April. The first official, mainstream-media obituary was published in Variety on May 11. It's only got one factual error: Richard did not run the Jupiter Theatre for ten years, although he came close. He ran it for eight years, from 1989 until 1997.

This article apparently had more errors at one point: the Sun-Sentinel picked it up off the wire. Our South Florida based newspaper blindly passed on such inaccuracies that he ran the Maltz Jupiter Theatre (the Maltz appellation didn't become attached to the theater until about 5 years after he closed it), and that the theater was in Delray Beach. In fact, the Jupiter Theatre is called the Jupiter Theatre because it's in... Jupiter. 30 miles north of Delray Beach.

The rest of it seems more or less accurate.

Kravis Center for the Performing Arts: The Wizard of Oz (4 reviews)

The National Tour of The Wizard of Oz is a an adaptation of the classic movie. This is the same production that played at Miami's Arsht Center this past fall, and it's playing at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach through this Sunday.

Direct Nigel West recreates the movie with a cast including Noah Aberlin, Cassie Okenka, Jason Simon, and Chris Kind.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
It takes chutzpah to adapt a classic movie such as The Wizard of Oz for the stage. In doing so, the production now at the Kravis Center bit off more than it could chew.
....the production cannot overcome the dullness brought on by mediocre performances, near-verbatim parroting of the 1939 movie and uninspired direction.
It's likely that the show's producers are banking on families to fill seats. Casting local dance students as Munchkins and Winkies (the Wicked Witch of the West's minions) probably contributed to that goal.

Students from the Academy of Ballet Florida played those roles at the Kravis. Thanks to their unabashed enthusiasm, the audience's attentiveness picked up measurably when they were on stage.
Kevin D. Thompson reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
After all these years, Oz remains the perfect family entertainment, a show that will entertain the little ones while bringing out the little kid in the rest of us. Judging by the reaction at Tuesday’s opening night performance, the more mature members of the audience were having as much fun as the children.
The cast does a terrific job, led by Cassie Okenka as Dorothy. Her voice is strong and true and she sings Over the Rainbow with the type of quiet conviction that’ll almost make you forget Judy What’s Her Name? Okenka also brings a fresh-faced charm to the iconic role. Meanwhile, Jason Simon is hilarious as the Cowardly Lion and the wobbly-legged Noah Aberlin makes a mighty limber Scarecrow. Toto the dog, however, basically steals the show as he scampers on and off stage right on cue.
Wisely, the stage show remains faithful to the movie, except for one delightfully high-stepping and colorful jitterbug scene that’s a welcomed treat in act two and wonderfully choreographed by Leigh Constantine.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Director Nigel West and adaptor John Kane hit most of the iconic moments in the film and suggest equivalents for most of the memorable visuals. (OK, the Horse of a Different Color had to go, but that is the rare exception.) And when they cannot come up with a way to reproduce an effect live, they resort back to film, as they do for the tornado and the resulting flying house.

The bigger problem is that West has encouraged his actors to mimic the performances in the movie version of L. Frank Baum’s timeless tale. Cassie Okenka has a lovely singing voice and her Over the Rainbow is a stirring beginning to the Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg score, but her line recitations are disconcertingly similar to those of Judy Garland.
At least choreographer Leigh Constantine seems to have been given free rein to inject some ingenuity into the show’s dances, as he does with the sleep-inducing poppies, the nattily dressed crows and the elegant, animated trees.
Late in the second act, the show makes it most pronounced divergence from the Wizard of Oz movie with a jazzy production number, Jitterbug, which was filmed 70 years ago, but ended up on the cutting-room floor. ... this artifact of the period dance craze is very welcome...
This traveling stage production has a tradition of enlisting a local dance studio’s moppets into the company to fill in as Munchkins and as the Wicked Witch’s palace guard, the Winkies. Here the assignment goes to The Academy of Ballet Florida, with the school’s principal Donna Morgan handling the staging of her brood. They do fine, even if they do stick out as obvious tots, but then the whole company seems a tad young for their roles.
But if your youngsters remark on the way home that they prefer the movie over the overlong stage show, they may have a future in the reviewing game.
Rod Stafford Hagwood saw the show at the Arsht Center last year, and his, um, 'review,' has been reprinted in the Sun-Sentinel:
There's no downloading Dorothy.
To be sure, there is an effort to bring the 1939 film version of the L. Frank Baum classic book (published in 1900) into the cyber-riffic age of video games and CGI.
But beyond all the pyrotechnics, this story is centered on Dorothy.
But you just can't totally shake the old-schoolness.
Sometimes things are so old, they become new and fresh again ... particularly to a new, digitized generation.
You know what? Trying to find meaningful quotes in this is making me nauseous. Just go read it.

Anyway, The Wizard of Oz at the Kravis Center blows out of town Sunday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Food for Thought

MaryAnn Devine was surprised to read that Momix Dance Company is a for-profit arts endeavor.
...Momix has managed to do what many arts organizations say is impossible: succeed both artistically and financially as a for-profit arts group.

Are we wrong in assuming that the nonprofit model is the best for the arts?
Read the whole story on smArts & Culture, a blog about marketing arts organizations.

Palm Beach DramaWorks: At Home At The Zoo (5 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks concludes its 9th season with the regional premiere of Edward Albee's At Home At the Zoo, which adds a first act to his classic one-act play, Zoo Story.

The production opened on April 24th in West Palm Beach. William Hayes directs a cast that includes Todd Allen Durkin, Margery Lowe, and Christopher Swan.

Set Design by Michael Amico, Costumes by Brian O'Keefe, lighting by Ginny Adams, and sound design by Steve Shapiro.

Kevin D. Thompson finally got sent out to review for the Palm Beach Post; my browser only seized up twice loading the page.
Good dramatic theater should engage your mind while making you dissect what you saw long after the final curtain calls have been taken.

Palm Beach Dramaworks prides itself on staging shows that do just that. And the small West Palm Beach theater company has done it again with At Home at the Zoo
With the addition of the first act, Zoo, skillfully directed by Producing Artistic Director William Hayes, is essentially two different plays. The show starts off slow (mirroring the lukewarm marriage) ... But by the time the second act rolls around, the show takes a decidedly dark turn and simmers with intensity, passion and rage.
Swan portrays Peter with the right amount of emotional restraint and Lowe is excellent as the long-suffering wife whose toothy smile belies her inner discontent. But it’s Durkin who will command your attention in a bravura performance that will leave you both mesmerized and in awe. He’s one of the most talented local theater actors working today.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Well, the company proves again -- not that it was ever in doubt -- that The Zoo Story is a remarkable, concise, powerful piece of writing with a role that a resourceful actor such as Durkin can have a proverbial field day with. As to the new first half, to quote Gertrude Stein on the subject of Oakland, there is not much there there.
Jerry initially seems like some minor annoyance, the sort that sits next to you on a plane flight when you’ve got a good book. But as he continues his invasive questioning of Peter, crowding his space, growing more erratically animated with his story, we do sense how mesmerizing Durkin is and how unstable Jerry is.

Director William Hayes -- who played Jerry in that earlier Dramaworks production -- might as well get some credit for helping to shape Durkin’s performance, but he is unable to breathe life into the first act or to make it seem less arch.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
The triumph of the production is the intense rehearsal work of director William Hayes and his cast, who excavated inscrutable dialogue for meanings embedded in the pauses among everyday speech and the feverish passions boiling under a placid surface.
Lowe has never been better communicating the quiet desperation of housewives you meet in the grocery store. Swan, a newcomer here, is inexplicably compelling and nuanced as a buttoned-down everyman. And Durkin simply nails the impossible role of the anguished man driven near madness.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News (The Palm Beach paper that didn't throw away its entire entertainment section and sell its soul to become a brochure for Sunfest):
Perhaps because of the gap between the writing of each act, the play is a study in contrasts. In act one, Albee exhibits his power to pinpoint seldom-expressed, uncomfortable truths, but he maintains a tone of gentle, if exasperated, affection. In act two — the old Zoo Story — he takes us into the Twilight Zone.
Act one introduces us to Ann, Peter's wife, portrayed with the clarity of etched glass by Margery Lowe.
Todd Allen Durkin gives what could be the most brilliant performance of his career as Jerry, who despite his demons has more soul than Peter ever will.
Dramaworks has a track record of superior productions of Albee plays. This one, like the rest, is not to be missed by those who like their theater hot and provocative.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Fifty years ago, Zoo Story made playwright Edward Albee famous, but he forbids it from being shown again. Its brief, brutal, single act had struck him as incomplete. Now he's added another, and the two acts combined are called At Home at the Zoo, showing at Palm Beach Dramaworks.

The two-act piece is better, and that ought to be apparent to anyone unencumbered by nostalgia.
The new, first act is more subtle and in this production features Margery Lowe in her strongest and most understated performance in years....She is Ann, wife of Peter the publisher (played by Christopher Swann)
Their interactions, as orchestrated by director Bill Hayes, have the half-scary, half-wonderful feel of blood returning to a limb that's been slept on all night. Ann and Peter know each other well but are rusty at knowing. They love each other but are rusty at love.
The drifter, Jerry, is played here by Todd Allen Durkin, and he achieves what I thought impossible: making Jerry's secondhand beatnik ways look and sound authentic. If you've read or seen the play, you know that Jerry's a jerk...Durkin upends all of this.
Reimagining a classic is never easy, but At Home at the Zoo does more: It adds ambiguity to a work that, before, was all about absolutes, it turns ciphers to people, and it repositions its hero as a lost little boy who may not need a conversation so much as a spanking. Albee, in his old age, has become very wise.
At Home at the Zoo makes its home at Palm Beach Drama Works through June 14th.