Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now on Twitter

In case you haven't noticed the little badge on the lower left column, we've recently joined Twitter.  We'll be announcing new posts, there, and also Tweeting stuff you'll only get on Twitter.
Of course, The Scene will keep its regular schedule and provide links to reviews and so forth just as we always have.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sun-Sentinel's Monthly Theatre Article

It's not A story, it's several stories all jammed in under one headline. It seems that rather than cover a vibrant theatre scene, the witless editors of the Sun-Sentinel will only spring for a story once a month. And then they're not putting in the theatre section - but I foiled them by finding it anyway. At least it's by Bill Hirschman.

He touches on Richard Jay Simon's Open Letter:
Simon tried to rally the troops through e-mails and on Facebook to address the Broward County Commission Sept. 22. But he called the turnout of theater professionals "invisible."
He also lists some of the shows opening this month. And check out the bottom of the page, under "related stories:"

Hey, Howard Greenberg and Earl Maulker; do you know why not one of the three related stories are from your crappy newspaper? It's because everyone else in South Florida publishes something about theatre every week. Heck, two out of those three stories are mine, because where you published one article with four different subjects, I published four articles.

To my Scene readers - please click through to the article, leave nice comments about Bill, and complain that it should have been four articles.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mosaic Theatre: Rock 'N'Roll (7 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Tom Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll on September 10, 2009.
It's August 1968, and Russian tanks are rolling into Prague... Jan, the Czech student, lives for rock music; Max, the English professor, lives for Communism; and Esme, the flower child, is high. By 1990, the tanks are rolling out, the Stones are rolling in and idealism has hit the wall. Stoppard's sweeping and passionate play spans two countries, three generations and 22 turbulent years, at the end of which, love remains - and so does rock 'n' roll.
Richard Jay Simon directs a cast that includes Antonio Amadeo, Meredith Bartmon, Dana Colagiovanni, Scott Genn, Gordon McConnell, Deborah L. Sherman, Stephanie Simon, Adam Simpson, David Sirois, and Laura Turnbull.

For a teen view of this show, read Alexis Scheer's review on her blog, the Playground. It's a blog, so the content will be with us for awhile. Go over there and read it.

John Thomason reviewed for something called Forum Publishing group, but the review is on the Sun-Sentinel website:
Is it enough just to appreciate the peerless acting, gasp-worthy humor and, above all, essential music buried beneath the sheen of perplexing political theory?
...keeping up with every plot movement is a fool's errand. For this one-of-a-kind labor of love, it's best to let it envelop you, taking in what you can, whether it's the poetic irony in the soundtrack's usage of the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't it Be Nice," Turnbull describing what she would do to a certain anatomical region of a young protégé, or Eleanor's fascination with the most important offstage character in the play: the legendary singer Syd Barrett.
After the cancer takes Eleanor away from us, Turnbull returns as her character's daughter in Act Two, knocking that role out of the park with equal ardor.
To go back to my earlier question: Does it matter that much of the plot of "Rock 'n' Roll" will stream through one ear and zip out the other? Not really. It is fair to criticize a play for not breaking the material down into terms its audience will understand, but when there is so much exciting stuff going on regardless, it's hard to leave the theater disappointed.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
One must give credit to Mosaic’s talented Executive/Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon. For his tiny Mosaic theatre to attempt such a multi-cast, intellectually dominant play is something rarely seen in South Florida. If he diminished his seating capacity for Sean McClelland’s wall-to-wall set, it was not noticeable. If he selected a super South Florida cast to tackle this difficult-to-produce play, it was visibly apparent. If this production doesn’t get award-time attention, one would and should be surprised!
Amadeo’s Czech dialect was so on target, his ability to do “accents” could make him a South Florida male version of Meryl Streep. Ditto for David Sirois, as his Czech buddy. Amadeo, McConnell and Turnbull dominate the stage, along with this cast – Sirois, Adam Simpson, Stephanie Simon, Deborah Sherman, Scott Genn, Dana Colagiovanni, and Meredith Bartman.

Matt Corey is responsible for the sound (including the music which sets the stage for each scene), John Hall for the lighting and K. Blair Brown for the authentic costumes.
Mary Damiano reviewed for
Mosaic Theatre artistic director Richard Jay Simon certainly has chutzpah for choosing Tom Stoppard’s weighty, brain-expanding drama, Rock ‘n’ Roll. But Simon has never shied away from a challenge, and Rock ‘n’ Roll might just be his most challenging production yet.
Amadeo does a terrific job of illustrating what belief and oppression does to a man—there are moments when you can see his whole life on his face.
Laura Turnbull play’s Max’s wife in the first act and his grown daughter in the second act, and does it so well that it’s hard to believe it’s the same actress. She also nails one of the juiciest lines ever when she’s telling off a colleague who’s been flirting with Max. McConnell plays Max as a gruff lion of a man who realizes he’s been roaring at the wind.
The 22 songs Stoppard chose to punctuate the plot—songs by Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, U2, Czech band The Plastic People of the Universe, among others—are used to great effect in Matt Corey’s sound design.

Rock ‘n’ Roll is for people who like to think, but also like to feel.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Artistic director Richard Jay Simon deserves credit for stretching himself and his actors with Rock ‘n’ Roll, but in its opening weekend, it was the ambition that was most evident rather than the mastery of the material.
Simon has certainly gathered some of the area’s best performers for the three central roles, but at this point, they still seem to be wrestling with their dialogue, spouting diatribes from the author rather than conversing. It is that ownership of the script by their characters that is missing, the potential portal to the play’s heart.
Sean McClelland takes over much of the theater with his scenic design, with the twin poles of Prague and Cambridge at opposite sides of the space, and a versatile middle ground playing area in between. Nothing has been stinted on this season opener for Mosaic, except perhaps some additional rehearsal time for the cast.
This is not a fully satisfying evening of theater, but there is so much to take in in Rock ‘n’ Roll that it can be sufficient nourishment for the mind regardless of how much of the play flies by overhead.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
(Playwright Tom) Stoppard, director Richard Jay Simon, a sublime cast and design team tell a compelling story, one full of wit, insight and theatricality.
As challenging as Rock 'n' Roll is for the audience, doing the play justice is a test for any theater, particularly a modest-sized one like Mosaic. With a few caveats (some actors barely project, for example), Simon and company have done an excellent job of bringing Stoppard's work to life.

Matt Corey's stop-on-a-dime rock sound design is brilliant. Set designer Sean McClelland supplies both Max's Communist academic-at-home habitat and Jan's graffiti-splashed flat. K. Blair Brown's costumes and wigs are transformative, turning Turnbull from Eleanor in Act One to grown-up Esme in Act Two. Turnbull and Amadeo, two of the region's finest actors, turn in wonderfully detailed, moving performances. McConnell is still fighting for the laser precision Stoppard's dialogue demands, but his Max is there emotionally. Scott Genn, in a variety of roles, and David Sirois stand out among supporting players.Stoppard's plays are too rare in South Florida. They demand much from artists and audiences, but done well, they deliver much too. Mosaic is delivering a potent Rock 'n' Roll.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
...this is a titanium-dense Tom Stoppard play about the unlikely intersection of idealism, disillusionment, political science, classical Greek literature, pop culture, art, freedom of speech, the failure of Communism -- brilliant intellectual discussions racing past too fast to understand.
Just savor some solid performances, the witty wordplay and cerebral acrobatics. And do read the cheat sheet inside the program identifying political figures and laying out the chronology of Czech history before the show starts.
It is an Everest of a play and Mosaic's skilled team here under the direction of Richard Jay Simon has mounted a brave expedition to scale what likely cannot be completely conquered with a few weeks' rehearsal. Still, they get pretty far up the mountain.
Almost all of the cast members in this highly-skilled troupe are unable to break down the unending complexity of the material so that every moment is comprehensible. Not surprisingly, the most effective moments are the most accessible ones when the characters' intellect is eclipsed by familiar emotions of joy and frustration, such as the anger of the professor's wife (well-played by Laura Turnbull) who needs emotional support from her husband as she battles cancer.
Rock 'N' Roll will play at Mosaic Theatre through October 4th, 2009.

Mondays are Dark

'Tis the Season
I was out of town when the Miami Herald posted its preview of the upcoming Theatre Season. Lots of exciting shows coming in; some new, and some...not. Seriously, how many times can we see Mamma Mia?

Deja Vu
Well we've already linked to stories about Sunday in the Park with George at the Caldwell Theatre, and The Marvellous Wondrettes at Actors' Playhouse, but now the Drama Queen and the Miami Herald weigh in.

OK, both are from the Herald, and both are written by Christine Dolen. I just wanted a clever way to link them. Sheesh.

InFlexible Ticket Pricing
In a world where Flexible Ticket Pricing is becoming the rage (charging more for tickets as demand goes up and availability goes down), we now have the symmetry of a plan styled after Netflix:
Seattle's ACT Theatre is offering this option to patrons who prefer the flat monthly rate of a "basic membership" that lets users see just about anything playing in ACT's various performance spaces for one low price. For example, during September a basic membership participant can get a ticket to any or all of the following for his one monthly fee of $25 (or $20 if he's under 30): "Das Barbecü," "Until the Last Dog Dies" and "Runt of the Litter."
That's bold. That's really bold. (h/t to Philip Watson via Twitter)

Hometown Hero
The Drama Queen tells us that Michael McKeever is to be honored at Barry University

Hometown Success
While we don't cover much community theatre here on The Scene, it's worth noting that Lake Worth Playhouse has been presenting shows for 57 years. Ron Levitt wrote the story for ENV Magazine.

Another Sign of Success
Mission Paradox shares what they consider to be a hallmark of success.

Cracking the Code
The Miami Herald discusses the upcoming Teatro Trail production of Abel Gonzalez Melo's Chamaco (Boy at Vanishion Point) with director Alberto Sarraín. The play is a rarity: a look into life in Cuba as it is today; not a nostalgic look back.

The play has been produced before, in Havana and in Turkey. But Sarraín feels that this production will be special:
"Unlike other places where the play has been produced, Miami has in its hands all of the decoders necessary to decipher a work written in Cuban code," he says.
The play will be presented in Spanish with English supertitles.

And hey, is this the old Trail theatre on 8th Street? I wondered if anyone was ever going to save it.

Meanwhile, in Coconut Grove...
...the Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed. But is there really $20,500,000 floating around in their name? That can fund a lot of companies who are, you know, still in business.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Open Letter From Richard Jay Simon

The following is an open letter from Richard Jay Simon to his colleagues in the South Florida Theatre Community.  He has forwarded this to many people via email, and I am posting it here at his request.

If you've replied to him via email, I ask that you consider copying and pasting your reply here so everyone can participate in one conversation.  Feel free to tweet this or otherwise link to it.

ATTACHED MESSAGE*************************

Dear friends and colleagues,

I am ashamed.  I am embarrassed.  I have let our South Florida community down and coincidentally, feel the South Florida theater community has let itself down.  The community which I love is in grave danger.

As you all know, decisions have been rendered in Miami-Dade County and Broward County to drastically reduce the budgets for the arts.  Public hearings have been conducted and decisions have been made.  I do not have the pulse on what is transpiring in Palm Beach County but will investigate that thoroughly.

Several days ago, I went to the final Broward County Commission meeting and lobbied for the arts.  There were, maybe, a total of thirty individuals, most of whom run cultural organizations, in attendance trying to convince the commission to not cut from us, or at least, to reduce the reduction.  I was highly embarrassed that our industry had little or no representation to object to these cuts.

There were actually more people in the room lobbying for the privatization of horse stables.

I looked around and saw zero actors.  I looked around and saw no set designers, no lighting designers, no costume designers, no electricians, etc.  Aside from Janet Erlick of the Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theater, I saw no other theater producers.  No representatives from the Theatre League of South Florida.  No one from the Carbonells.   No arts journalists reporting on probably the most significant story in years.

One member of the Broward County Commission declares quite pointedly that art is a painting on a wall and nothing more.  We should all be outraged.  We should be insulted and refuse to accept this level of ignorance.

We see countless e-mails from our respective Cultural Divisions and maybe we send an e-mail to our membership, but where were we when it mattered most?  E-mails mean squat.

We were given an opportunity to speak as to why the arts are important and we were invisible.  We need to rise up like a phoenix and fight for what defines us as human beings.  We need to fight for our art.  It was so easy for them to vote and that cannot be the case, it simply can’t.  It is time for us to become unified across county lines and form a committee with representation from all counties with the objective to do everything within our power to restore these funds.

In hindsight, I wish I would have spoken up and asked TLSF to deploy armies to attend these meetings for there is nothing more important than this.  We should have had phone trees established to ensure that we had sufficient representation at the meeting.  The theater festival would look quite different without theaters.

I should have contacted Christine, Bill, Brandon, Ron, Mary and anyone who covers the arts to give this topic sufficient coverage.  Perhaps they could have kept arts lovers informed and encouraged them to let their voices be heard.  If there is ever something that should unify all of us producers and artists, it is this.

The one thing to ever unify us was the threat of the Carbonell Awards being removed from us.  Everyone came out in droves to save our beloved awards - Is that really who we are?  We care more about recognition than saving our theaters which employ thousands of artists and pump millions of dollars into our fractured economy?

Please, I do not wish to diminish the importance of the Carbonells within our community but we are talking about hundreds of our cultural organizations losing anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue.  Do we want to take a chance that some of our theaters might potentially have to close their doors?

Next year, there will be further movements to cut all funding for the arts and if we don’t figure out a way NOW to become one unit…

Small theaters are seemingly indifferent to this crisis as they don’t receive much, if any, funding from government.  I would ask that they try to see the bigger picture.

We need to have a plan created by all of us, unified, in one strong message.  I think we all need to support each other.  We are cultural leaders.  We are so busy micro-managing our respective organizations that I think we all lost sight of the big picture.

With the help of the TLSF, it is my hope that we can create a strong umbrella program which will notify us and take charge of these critical advocacy efforts that we must all actively participate in and respond to. I for one am happy to serve on this committee.

We need organized, strategic campaigns designed to brand the importance of art on all decision makers.  E-mails are not sufficient and lead to inaction.  We need to create initiatives which lead to action.

The intention of this letter is not to attack anyone and I sincerely hope it doesn’t come across as such, but we need a unified plan for the betterment of all of us.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard Jay Simon
Executive/Artistic Director
Mosaic Theatre

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Sex, Lies, and Dramaturgy"

IN DEVELOPMENT by David CaudleNot three words most of us would put together, but they are the short description of the next project for New Theatre.

New Theatre has cast the world premiere of "In Development" by David Caudle, which opens on October 9, 2009.

The cast includes Bill Schwartz*, Mark Della Ventura, Ricardo Rodriguez, Aubrey Shavonn*, and Skye Whitcomb*
Sex, death, and dramaturgy take the stage at a summer conference for aspiring young playwrights and their legendary mentor. Lusty, blustering playwright Gideon Flynn struggles to keep his psyche and his dominance intact as he deals with the demons of the previous summer.
Performances run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 1 pm

* denotes a member of the Actors' Equity Association

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Free Night of Theatre Video

The Scene for September 24, 2009

This is a re-constituted Scene; the original was lost in a tragic editing accident.

Let me see, something with a witty flavor about the summer going by so quick. Bla Bla Bla. SCENE!

still playing:

Rock 'N' Roll at Mosaic Theatre Be sure to call ahead; this show is selling out on a regular basis - for good reason!

Take Me Out at Rising Action Theatre through October 4th.

The Glass Menagerie
at Broward Stage Door Theatre plays through November 1. The buzz via Twitter has been very positive; but politics keeps the reviewers away.

Así es (si así os parece) -- So It Is (If You Think So) at Teatro en Miami Studio. (In Spanish with English supertitles). It plays through October 23.

last chance to see

The Taming of the Shrew at New Theatre through September 27.

Pony plays at Area Stage through September 27 (in Spanish with English supertitles.)

No, No, Nanette at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through September 27.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The New Kids on the, er, Scene

The Drama Queen covered Fly Away Balloon Theatre Company last week.
...a group whose name was inspired by a line in The Wizard of Oz -- is a collection of actors, directors and playwrights (some do all three things) who have decided to showcase their original work
But an acquaintance surprised me with ANOTHER newcomer; Slow Burn Theatre Company. Their catch phrase is "Really Explosive Musical Theatre."

The new company has dual artistic directors, Patrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko. Korinko worked at St. Louis' New Line Theater, while Fitzwater directed at other theatres Missouri. Scott Miller, who is listed as "artistic adviser," is the founder and artistic director of New Line, which bills itself as "the bad boy of musical theatre." It seems to be the model for this new company.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a rejuvenated South Florida musical theatre circuit. Once upon a time, we had enough musicals being produced that actors could be employed for a significant portion of the year, between Actors' Playhouse, Royal Palm Dinner Theatre, Hollywood Playhouse, Brian C Smith's Off-Broadway, the old Jupiter Dinner Theatre, and the old Florida Rep (the one in WPB, not Fort Myers).

So what is "really explosive musical theatre?" From their website:
Let's face the music...Rogers & Hammerstein have passed. Their last show was 50 years ago (and it wasn't even very good) so lets move on. After all, British director Peter Hall says, "What attracts audiences finally is new questions, not old answers."
We're committed to bringing high-quality contemporary musical theatre to the community. And delivering new broadway to a new audience showing that theatre can ROCK.
Some of the shows on their wish list have had major local productions in the last few years; La Cage Aux Folles, The Full Monty, Altar Boyz, Urinetown, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Aida. Others we haven't seen in a little while: Big River, Bat Boy, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, and Rocky Horror Show. I'd love to see City of Angels.

But La Cage? It's a good show and all, but geez, I'd love to go more than two years between productions of it. The only show that gets done more down here is Fiddler on the Roof. Which is playing at the Broward Center in October, I'm compelled to mention.

Their first announced show is Bat Boy: The Musical, slated to open February 18, 2010 at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre. Join me in welcoming a new professional theatre to the South Florida Theatre Scene.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mondays are Dark

Here's your Monday reading list!

The Miami Theatre Examiner tells about The Marvelous Wondrettes, the season opener for Actors' Playhouse.  You can also read up on it at

Beau Higgins at tells us about the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof, coming to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts next month.  Hans Zarkoff Topol is featured as Tevye, who is neither a fiddler, nor does he get on the roof.

Hap Erstein of the Palm Beach ArtsPaper discusses Caldwell Theatre's upcoming concert version of Sunday in the Park with George.  Sondheim/Lapin collaboration is adored by musical theatre fans, but the production requirements are prohibitive for any regional theatre to take on.  It's easy to lose money on even a successful production, if the production's budget is bigger than ticket sales can off-set.  That's even given the fact that most of the budget would have to be covered by donations.  But if the concert sells...who knows...

Mission Paradox points out that while some non-profits do run themselves "like a business," they may not have examined all the different approaches to running a business.  Food for thought.

Meanwhile... in Palm Beach...
...the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Herald: It's Only Rock N Roll

According to my Google News page, this weekend it's only Rock N Roll;

Richard Jay Simon tells me he's been selling out houses, so make sure you call ahead for your ticket.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Scene for September 18, 2009

Well, getting back from vacation has thrown off my internal calendar, so this week's The Scene is a little late. It seems we're in the September Doldrums in South Florida; not much opening, but nothing's closing, either. The official start of the South Florida Theatre Season is still a couple of weeks away, but you can catch some excellent shows that comprise the tail end of the Summer Season.

passing through:

THUG LUV presented by Treadwell Prodcutions at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center on September 19, 2009 at 8:00 PM

Composition Notebook presented by the Fly Away Balloon Theatre Company at the Laboratory Theatre of the Acting School of South Florida. For information and reservations, call 305-879-7282. Read about it on The Drama Queen.

still playing:

The Glass Menagerie
at Broward Stage Door Theatre plays through November 1.

Rock 'N' Roll at Mosaic Theatre plays through October 4, 2009.

The Taming of the Shrew at New Theatre through September 27.

Take Me Out at Rising Action Theatre plays until October 4th.

Pony plays at Area Stage through September 27 (in Spanish with English supertitles.)

No, No, Nanette at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through September 27.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kenneth Kay heeds The Bandit's call.

It's funny how things work out. An old friend of mine and I were talking about the rough theatre season, and the closing of the Blowing Rock Stage Company. Its artistic director was former South Floridian Kenneth Kay.

I've known Ken Kay for years; we met when I was ASM on some show at Florida Stage (back when it was still Theatre Club). Long before I started critiquing the reviewers, Ken would respond to reviews that he found lacking, sending in long letters analyzing the review's (and the reviewer's) flaws in no uncertain terms. One year, as he recieved his Carbonell, he used the opportunity to point out that we, the south Florida theatre community, had all but ignored the legacy of Ruth Foreman, who was one of the first producers of true regional theatre in South Florida.

He and his wife, actress Kim Cozort, had moved to North Carolina to take on Blowing Rock, expanding its programming and moving it into a new space before it abruptly shut down, a victim of the economy. I said that I'd heard that BRSC artistic director Ken Kay and his wife, actress Kim Cozort, were going to move back to South Florida.

My buddy leaned into me, and in a conspiratorial whisper informed me:
"You know, he got a call from The Bandit..."
Of course, anyone who's ever worked for Burt (which includes me, my old friend, and Ken Kay and his wife and a score of others) knows that "The Bandit" can only be one person: Burt Reynolds.

20 years ago, Burt was a demi-god on the local theatre scene. Pretty much everyone who's been working in South Florida theatre in the last three decades owes a debt to Burt Reynolds, who decided against all reason to put his dinner theatre in Jupiter, Florida. He trained scores of actors and technicians, many of whom are working in theatre, film and television across the country and around the globe. His fortunes shifted, and about 15 years ago his presence on the local theatre scene began to wane.

So, I thought, he's starting it up again.... Then my buddy shrugged said "Well, I don't know if that's for public consumption or not." Of course, I assured him that I wouldn't leak the word.

And I didn't, and haven't. Bill Hirschman did, for the Sun-Sentinel.
Film icon and Florida native Burt Reynolds is reopening his Jupiter acting conservatory that trained hundreds of students during the 1980s and '90s.

Although the new Burt Reynolds Institute of Film and Theatre Training will not revive the dinner theater that starred celebrities, the long-range plans include finding a 99-seat theater, said Suzanne Niedland, chairman of the board.
A key element will fall in place this week when veteran South Florida actor and director Kenneth Kay returns to become executive director and the institute's only paid employee. Kay was an intern at the old institute in the 1981 and served as its artistic director in 1993-95. picked up the story just a little while ago, and brings us the Institute's website:

So, it's official: The Bandit called Ken Kay, and fun is about to begin again.

This is great news for the South Florida theatre scene; but not because Burt is starting another acting school: it's great because Burt brought back Ken Kay and Kim Cozort to South Florida. Welcome back! And thanks, Bandit!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rising Action Theatre: Take Me Out (5 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out on August 28, 2009, an ambitious project for the company.
Darren Lemming, the star center fielder of the world champion New York Empires, is young, rich, famous, talented, handsome and so convinced of his popularity that when he casually announces he's gay, he assumes the news will be readily accepted by everyone.
David Goldyn directed a cast that includes Larry Buzzeo, Laris Macario, Terry Cuzzort, Cyril Cerrao, Carlos Palacios, George Vince, Bill Dobbins, Eric Jensen, Daryl Lennard Walton, Ted Dvoracek, and Louis San Luis.

(for the record, I have seen this production; Rising Action has done a credible job with it. Is it as good as Caldwell's production of a few years back? Of course not. But the consensus of the reviewers - and my own experience - is that this a production worth seeing)

John LaReviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
The Rising Action Theatre turns in a surprisingly solid production of Take Me Out. Though some of the actors are a bit older than most baseball players, the performances are quite good. Darren Lemming is played by handsome Laris Macario. He has enough confidence and charm to carry the part without being too cocky to be sympathetic. He also gives us just enough of a connection to the character of Mason Marzac to let us believe that there could potentially be something more between them. Marzac is played by Ted Dvoracek, who whips through lengthy dialogue with comedic deftness. His fussy, nervous energy earns him entrance laughter more than once. Though Terry Cuzzort is a bit old for the role of Shane Mungitt (who is twice referred to as "a kid" in the script), he captures the desired simple roughness of the role. He is quietly menacing. Mungitt is someone best left alone with his thoughts. Cuzzort gives us a believable anger that results from being prodded to open up. Larry Buzzeo as Kippy Sunderstrom does a nice job with the narrative nature of his role, but is missing a tangibly affectionate connection to Lemming.

While there are good cameo acting moments by supporting actors in the show, such as Louis San Luis as Kawabata, Take Me Out is by nature an ensemble piece. There were some lighting issues on the night attended, but the technical aspects of the show serve the show well enough in this small space. Filled with nudity and coarse language, it is a realistic portrayal of the world of baseball behind the scenes. This production in three acts is well worth seeing for the performances and for Greenberg's intelligent writing.
Dmitry Rashnitsov reviewed for the South Florida Blade:
When a gay theater puts on a play about pitchers and catchers, you would think a lot of innuendos and subtleties would find their way on stage, but Rising Action Theater’s version of Take Me Out plays it “straight” in telling the coming out story of a superstar baseball player in New York. The result is an enjoyable show with a solid performances from the ensemble cast.
Macario hits a home run in his steady performance, boasting the God-like stature and disposition needed at the start to convey his characters beyond mortal abilities. Macario’s character range is long, and vulnerable moments show this young stage actor’s versatility and ability to carry a show.
Of particular note should be paid to Dvoracek’s comedy-foil role of Mars, a fish-out-of-water, lonely, older gay gentleman who’s thrown into the sports world and essentially becomes the gay community’s mentor for the newly outed baseball star.
Walton, a newcomer in the cast, seems to be learning on the job and needs to convey a stronger stage presence for audiences to take him seriously. He does fit the part physically, however, as opposed to several of the actors who are obviously older than the Major League Baseball players they portray. But ignore that obvious fact, and there are still some nice performances. Buzzeo... in particular is older than his character, but he delivers an engrossing performance in this supporting role.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Take Me Out has been staged in South Florida before, in a bigger budget 2004 production at the Caldwell Theatre Company. The key difference between the Caldwell's Take Me Out and Rising Action's isn't money, though: It's casting.

A few happy exceptions aside, Rising Action's performers neither look nor act like World Series-contending baseball players. And that's precisely what the members of Greenberg's fictional Empires are supposed to be.
Director David Goldyn has some real assets in Macario, Dvoracek and Larry Buzzeo, who plays Darren's best pal on the team and serves as the play's narrator. Macario exudes both a mischievous confidence and the wariness of a man who spent years compartmentalizing his life. Dvoracek radiates Mason's captivating quirkiness, and Buzzeo is solidly engaging.

Louis San Luis rocks his Japanese lines as pitcher Takeshi Kawabata, a frustrated man in a slump. But most of the other ``boys'' of summer haven't been boys for a long time. Cuzzort, especially, will make you hoot when his Shane describes himself as a dumb ``kid.'' There are plenty of laughs in Take Me Out, but that's not supposed to be one of them.
The Sun Sentinel sent out Rod Stafford Hagwood, who inflicts another smattering of fragmentary jottings he calls a review:
Like baseball itself, the drama Take Me Out is inning after inning of sweeping allegories and big ideas.
Which Rod never does tell us about.
But in the three-act production directed by David Goldyn at Rising Action Theatre, the best moments — and there are many — are not in the big, swing-for-the-fences scenes, but in the smaller passages.
The clumsy silences; the blank looks as something sinks in; the loping grace of athletes crossing the stage; the tight smile after swigging a beer – basically any time the 12 actors aren't acting all actorly... y'know: acting with a capital "A."
Darren Lemming (played in sulking monotone by Laris Macario)
Kippy Sundstrom (Larry Buzzeo in strong, acerbic form)
Shane Mungitt (Terry Cuzzort doing a passable job of channeling a John Rocker type)
Mason Marzac (Ted Dvoracek substituting cutesy for innocence and repression)
Most of Rod's...'article'... was his recitation of the entire story, and a thumbs up for the three times the stage is full of naked men. - "quite the marketing tool" is how he puts it. Me, I pick plays for the quality of production; I can find nekkid folk at Haulover Beach.

Take Me Out plays at Rising Action Theatre through October 4th, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Festival festival! it or not, the Theatre League of South Florida has thrown a Theatre Festival for the last three years. If you didn't know that, you're not alone; it basically amounted to declaring any shows by member theatres in a certain date range to being part of the festival, and a party being thrown at some point. There wasn't a whole lot of cohesiveness to it.

But that was then: this is now.
“We hope this year’s Festival will bring a whole new body of fans to the many theatrical venues in the tri-county area,”
- Meredith Lasher, TLSF President.
24hrProj2009This year, there are two opening night programs at opposite ends of South Florida on Monday, October 12th; the 24 Hour Theatre Project at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, and the local presentation of the nationwide reading of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later at Florida Stage in Manalapan. The program in Coral Gables is also a fundraiser for the Naked Stage, and includes the kind of lavish pre-show party and post-show reception as only Actors' Playhouse could put together.

That's pretty festive, right? "But Wait, There's More...."

Free Night Of Theatre 2008At least 8 South Florida Theatres will be participating in the national Free Night of Theatre on Thursday, October 15th. This will be the Theatre Communications Group 5th year of promoting theatre across the country: participating theatres put aside blocks of tickets to lure in first-time theatre goers - or long time patrons who call far enough in advance to take advantage of the deal - in to see a show FOR FREE. But before you go off to see a free show, there's an open party and trade show at America's Backyard in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

So now it's really starting to feel like a Festival - but there's MORE:

On October 19, there's a party at MuseoVault in Miami's Design District, hosted by , a Press club luncheon at the Miami Shores Country Club, and last - but not least - a closing party on October 26th at Revolution Live in downtown Fort Lauderdale which will include presentation of the Silver Palm and Remy Awards.

Other events for the festival are still in the works; you can find details about the 5th Annual South Florida Theatre Festival on, the Theatre League website.

No word on whether they're throwing in steak knives or melon-ballers at this time.

Mondays are Dark

Florida's Got Talent
The Drama Queen reports that Conundrum Stage is trying something new.  Conundrum's Blog describes it from the inside.

It's Rock 'n' Roll

The Miami Herald visits Mosaic Theatre to discuss their latest production, Tom Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll.  A review should be out shortly, since the play opened this past weekend.  Order your tickets now: Richard Jay Simon says they've been playing to sold-out houses.

October 12: A Busy Day
The Miami Herald reports that The Naked Stage's 24 Hour Theatre Project will occur on the same date as Florida Stage's The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.  Well, they are basically at opposite ends of South Florida, and seating is limited at either show.

The same article also tell us that Barton G. is opening up a restaurant at the Arsht Center in Miami.  Prelude will open on October 23, inside the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House.  He will also be opening the Bombay Sapphire Lounge in the old Sears Tower in early 2010.

Other Performing Arts

For those that are interested in the full range of performing arts, The Miami Herald discusses the outlook for opera, ballet, modern dance, and more.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Scene for September 11, 2009

I've had a nice little trip to the northeast, but meanwhile the plays keep coming in South Florida. The season doesn't really kick off until October, but we have two plays opening this week, and a total of nine productions playing around South Florida.


The Glass Menagerie opens at Broward Stage Door Theatre, and plays through November 1.

Rock 'N' Roll opens at Mosaic Theatre, and plays through October 4, 2009.

passing through:

Mother/Son plays at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, a co-production of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Inside Out Theatre. Tickets are available through the Broward Center website.

still playing:

The Taming of the Shrew
at New Theatre through September 27.

Take Me Out at Rising Action Theatre plays until October 4th.

Pony plays at Area Stage through September 27 (in Spanish with English supertitles.)

No, No, Nanette at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through September 27.

last chance to see...

The critically acclaimed Speed The Plow at GableStage finishes up this Sunday, September 13th.

The reggae musical The Harder They Come finishes its run at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on September 13.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mondays are Dark

Good Walls Make Good Audiences
There's a lively little discussion on the Drama Queen about the 4th wall.  Be sure to read the comments.

Casting News
The Alliance Theatre Lab has cast Sexual Perversity in Chicago.  And director Skye Whitcomb learns that even the actual physical walls of a theatre don't mean as much as they ought to.

They Think We Might Suck
MissionParadox points out that the performing arts doesn't actually start with open minds at curtian:
Most people, when given the option to attend a performing arts event, are more scared that the performance is going to be disappointing then they are excited that the performance is going to be good.
Yikes!  Imagine going to a restaurant expecting to hate your meal; expectations tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies!  His point is that we're not selling the play so much as convincing the audience to trust that they will be seeing something worth the price of admission.
My observation is that most of us in the arts are very good at putting up programming, but we aren't good at building relationships.
Butts In Seats picks up on this topic; he first thought of a post from awhile back that touched on the subject:
In the entry I talked about the efforts I was going to inform people about performances since they often commented they hadn’t seen anything about the show.
This is important, because this is why the Theatre Scene was started; to provide a place for people to learn about the shows going on in the area.
In that entry I spoke of using electronic notifications, word of mouth and opinion leaders to help disseminate information about performances. One thing I missed that Adam speaks about is relationship building. It is true that people need to view the information you provide as credible, but they also need to believe that you will provide an enjoyable experience even if they end up less than thrilled about the performance.
I have always been proud of my former employer, Florida Stage, for the level of trust they've built with their audience.  They sell out most of their tickets before they even announce what shows they will be doing.  Back then, Louis Tyrell boasted that he was selling theatre, not plays.  But now I realize that what he'd really done was to build exactly the kind of relationship described above.

Community Cartel
Seth Godin proposes a solution to absurdly high royalties paid by community theaters for the right to do productions that are mostly only done by community theaters:
Imagine contacting 3,000 high schools and finding 500 willing to join together and agree to act as a buying cartel. Now, the organizer can poll the directors at these schools and find thirty plays they'd be willing to put on next year.
I dunno.  I think I'd rather herd cats than get 3,000 high school drama departments to agree on something.

Fresh Perspective
Parabasis doesn't tell use much we don't already know about the problems facing small theatre companies, but it's a good rundown of the essentials; funding, space, visibility, and quality.  He also goes through the strengths: resourcefulness, community support, variety, and demographics.

He does add one point we really need to consider:
Success is poorly defined.  A show that sells badly can still be an artistic success. A show that no one liked can still be beloved by its creators. If success is poorly defined, failure is also poorly defined, and thus a company ceasing production is largely based on factors that have little to do with the actual work.
This article has spawned a lively discussion from different regions around the country.

This comment, in particular, is reminiscent of my own views on theatre criticism.

Deja Vu
Did you know that they're doing a sequel to The Laramie Project?  Bill Hirschmann writes it up for the Sun-Sentinel.

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach...
...the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Scene for September 4, 2009

Labor Day weekend. I just can't believe it; where did the summer go? Nothing is opening this weekend, but there are still great plays to see this weekend.

still playing:

The Taming of the Shrew
at New Theatre through September 27.

Take Me Out at Rising Action Theatre plays until October 5th.

Pony at Area Stage (in Spanish with English supertitles.) (Read about the production on The Drama Queen).

No, No, Nanette at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through September 27.

Speed The Plow plays at GableStage through September 13.

last chance to see...

CANNIBAL! The Musical
at The Promethean Theatre closes September 6.

The Whipping Man at the Caldwell Theatre Company ends its extended run on Sunday.

passing through...

The reggae musical The Harder They Come plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through September 13.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Theatre: Taming of the Shrew (3 reviews)

KatherinaPetruchio.jpgThe New Theatre opened its latest Summer Shakespeare offering of Taming of the Shrew on August 27, 2009.

Robert Prestigiacomo directed a cast that includes Karen Garcia, Israel Garcia, Jackie Rivera, Joshua Horn, Stephen Neal, Christopher Vicchiollo, Rusty Allison, Clint Hooper, Dawn A. A. Plummer, and Adriana Perez.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
The Taming of the Shrew takes place in Italy, where Commedia dell'Arte flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its plot involves lovers, old men and crafty servants, all stock characters in improvised Commedia theater. And though Shakespeare's original has almost 30 parts, New Theatre's version demonstrates the play can be performed by 10 actors, the standard number in a Commedia company.

How much you'll enjoy New Theatre's Taming of the Shrew, however, may depend on how much you appreciate -- or can tolerate -- the relentless silliness of Commedia style.
What too often is lost in this high-energy, intensely busy production is The Taming of the Shrew.
Odious as the idea of a man ``taming'' his wife seems to us in the 21st century, if you're going to play Petruchio, you do it with all the wiliness and bombast the Bard wrote into the character. Garcia is masterful, and you have to wonder what this Shrew might have been like had his cast mates risen to his level.
Karen Garcia (no relation) doesn't come close as Katharina, aka the shrewish Kate. A beauty with a sultry voice, she spends much of the play arranging her hands into various poses, as if getting ready to vogue down a runway.
Clint Hooper has a whistling, scene-stealing turn as Vincentio, the aged father of Lucentio (Joshua Horn), one of the pretty Bianca's many suitors. But such small moments of true theatrical comedy get swamped by a frenzied Commedia tidal wave.
Mary Damiano reviewed for
It's New Theatre's custom to do a little summer Shakespeare. I used to think that it was a good thing, if only to expose audiences to the Bard's work, but now I question whether bad Bard is better than no Bard at all.
The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare's battle of the sexes tale of spirited, headstrong Katherina and Petruchio's scheme to mold her into a submissive wife. In New Theatre's production, the misogyny is played with full force, without the wink to the audience that many directors include to soften the edges of cruelty.
The saving grace... is Israel Garcia. His Petruchio is clever and roguish, and he's the only actor who imbues his delivery with meaning. As Katharina, Karen Garcia (no relation) looks as if she's a marionette--her entire performance consists of posing, pouting and sneering. The unrelated Garcias do manage to conjure up some lustiness in an early scene together, but they don't maintain that chemistry.
Shakespeare's plays require actors trained in his work. Not every performer, no matter how talented they might be in other areas of theatre, can perform Shakespeare's dialogue with the feeling and rhythm it should have. There's a lot of talent on New Theatre's stage during The Taming of the Shrew; the performers have proven themselves in other productions. There are probably performers in South Florida who can ably perform Shakespeare, they just don't seem to get cast at New Theatre.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
This production certainly has a different flair. New Theatre Artistic chief Ricky J. Martinez chose a visiting “theatre-maker” from Italy, Roberto Prestigiacomo, to direct this production, and selected a topnotch cast of ten – some obviously playing multiple roles — to ham it up for the audience in the tiny space on Laguna Street.
In this play within a play, Katharina ( a talented Karen Garcia) is known for her volatile temper and for her reputation that no man can tame her. Her younger sister Bianca (Jackie Rivera) is much sought after, but – according to her father Baptista (Stephen Neal), she cannot wed until her older sister takes the marriage vow, much to the chagrin of Lucentio (Joshua Horn) and Hortensio (Clint Hooper) and other suitors. Then, on the scene comes Petruchio ( a scene-stealing Israel Garcia) who — though only interested in money and fine jewels – eventually weds and turns Kate into an obedient woman.
The charming Christopher Viccihiollo, Rusty Allison, Adriana Perez and Dawn A.A. Plummer round out the ensemble company of actors (and actresses).
Taming of the Shrew plays at New Theatre through September 27, 2009.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Arsht Center: The Harder They Come (2 reviews)

The British adaptation of the 1972 movie The Harder They Come opened on September 29, and will play at the Arsht Center through September 12.
A hard-driving, irresistible musical celebration! Young singer Ivan Martin heads to Kingston with dreams of becoming a reggae star, but a corrupt and drug-fueled music industry drives him into a fast and furious life as Jamaica's most-wanted outlaw and most-celebrated underground star.
Dawn Reid and Kerry Michael direct a cast that includes Rolan Bell and Joanna Francis.

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

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
That The Harder They Come is now a stage musical should surprise no one. (If Abba made the grade, anything can.) What's surprising is how gritty it remains. Even at the posh Adrienne Arsht Center, the rude boy magic is rude and boyish. The music helps, as does a stripped-back set.... What sells it is a brilliant young cast, which takes the old bones of Martin's story and rattles them into something new and beautiful.
If I've heard more expressive singing in a touring musical, I can't remember it; the harmonies are strong, sure, and lovely, and the soloists deserve immediate record contracts. I'm thinking of Lain Gray, who plays Pedro, the man closest to Ivanhoe. He's blessed with an impossibly sad voice that seems to sob each time it swoops into falsetto. And I'm thinking of Joanna Francis as Ivanhoe's church-mouse girlfriend, Elsa, whose voice begins all silky-wispy and then grows higher, stronger, and steelier, climbing up and up until it's like a glittering edifice in the sky. A young woman sitting behind me in the theater described Francis's singing as "The craziest shit I've ever heard."
But most of all, I'm thinking of Rolan Bell, who plays Ivanhoe... Bell is full of such irrepressible cheer that his arrival onstage is something very much like dawn breaking... Bell's smile, naive charisma, and plain goodwill are reminiscent of Ragged Dick with a beat. He's galvanizing.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
To twist an old ad slogan, you don't have to be Jamaican to love The Harder They Come. But truth be told, in order to absorb all the cultural resonances in the stage version of Perry Henzell's famous 1972 movie, you almost have to be Jamaican.
Directors Dawn Reid and Kerry Michael keep their large cast and six fine musicians constantly onstage, as if everyone had crowded into a church hall colored Rastafarian green, yellow and red.
Onstage, that verbal and visual exposition is limited by the need to make room for songs. Watching The Harder They Come in the theater, you may wonder just why the innocent, church-going Elsa (Joanna Francis) falls so fast and so hard for Ivan. Or why Elsa winds up taking care of a motherless baby whose father, Pedro (Lain Gray), gets Ivan into the ganja trade. The shorthand storytelling can be confusing.
What is undeniable is how powerfully the cast delivers the show's music. Many of the performers have been with The Harder They Come since it was created in 2006, and that makes for a polished ensemble. Although some of the characters have become caricatures, the songs (in the words of a borrowed Jackie Wilson tune) keep lifting the show Higher and Higher. Particularly memorable are Gray's haunting version of Cliff's Many Rivers To Cross, Bell's striving You Can Get It If You Really Want and his re-creation of that star-is-born moment in the studio. It's then that The Harder They Come connects with everyone.
The Harder They Come will play at the Arsht Center through September 12.