Monday, November 23, 2009

Naked Stage: Macon City, A Comic Book Play (5 Reviews)

Naked Stage opened the world premier of Marco Ramirez' Macon City: A Comic Book Play on November 13, 2009.
Set in a fictitious American Metropolis, Macon City chronicles the lives of several local denizens as they struggling to survive in a decaying city, long-since abandoned by the Defenders, a super-powered team of crime-fighters. Macon City promises to be one of the most exciting productions of the season.
John Manzelli directs a cast that includes David Hemphill, Scott Genn, Hugh Murphy, Alyn Darnay, and Jasmine Fluker. Set design by Antonio Amadeo, and sound design by Matt Corey.

High school senior Alexis Scheer shares her thoughts on her blog, Lex's Playground; we don't often include blogs or student reviews, but it seems relevant in this case:
In a world darker and grimier than the sketchiest alley in Downtown Miami was a city. A dark and grimy city known as Macon City. It's a place where the sidewalks eat people alive, the "Defenders" are long gone, and there are no tickets out. Marco Ramirez writes Macon City: A Comic Book Play, a piece delightfully geared to a younger demographic.
Fluker welcomes us to this desolate world, and delivers almost like a spoken word artist. She does best as one of Grime's hostages in a sewer, and lets out a blood curdling scream that is STILL giving me chills. Murphy nails the persona of Grime, and succeeds at being really, really creepy. Darnay does a nice job in creating the balance between being "mad" and someone we can feel empathy towards. Hemphill, like in everything I've seen him do, is fantastic. And paired up with Genn, the two are hysterical.
But in the end, the writing and the acting takes a back seat to the superior design elements. Manzelli effectively stages the whole show to make the most of his bedroom-sized stage.
Manzelli and Amadeo both pull out all the stops to make this a visually engaging piece. Matt Corey also designs an exciting soundtrack that stays true to the comic book theme.
Ron Levitt reviewed for Florida Media News (you'll have to scroll down to find it):
Yes, Macon City is off-the-wall insanity disguised as a tale but the brilliant John Manzelli –directed 90 minute play offers some unique prospective from the entire world of theatre; notably examples of fine acting, unique lighting and sound design, and a set (in a small theatre) which is imaginative, professional and surprising.
Antonio Amadeo has created one of the most decadent sets for this comic effort – trap doors, moving structures, gushing vapors, something that looks like a venus fly-trap – a decaying metropolis long abandoned by some unnamed crime-fighting super –hero.
Scott Genn and David Hemphill – prove once again why they are in such demand by tri-county theatres. Both give strong performances along with veteran actors Hugh Murphy and Alyn Darnay -- both of whom show how villainous characters can dominate the stage when they are front and center, seething with venom.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper (it's a three-fer; you may have to scroll down):
If you want to be reminded that the best theater can be distilled down to “a plank and a passion,” the Pelican Theatre (home of the Naked Stage) in Miami Shores is where you want to be.
Like graphic novels, Ramirez writes dialogue in capital letters, where subtlety is not a consideration. But he has able collaborators in set designer Antonio Amadeo and especially director Jon Manzelli, who transform his skeletal words into dazzling images. The effect is like a trailer for a summer movie that you are drawn to see.
No, Macon City is not for the Eugene O’Neill crowd, but if you want to see something with brawn that attracts that South Florida Holy Grail -- a young, eager audience -- check out what Naked Stage is up to.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
If Macon City: A Comic Book Play were running anywhere in South Florida other than the Naked Stage, it would probably fall on its ass. Its very premise might be too much for local audiences to accept.
The company is uniquely situated to make it work either because the members don't take themselves seriously or because they take themselves completely seriously.
Macon City's history is never specifically articulated; rather, its shapes suggest themselves through Antonio Amadeo's darkly giddy post-apocalyptic set and the strange sci-fi/impressionist poetry of a narrator.
The jarringly lovely Jasmine Fluker plays the narrator, billed as "Caption" in the program... Soon, as other actors enter and a plot forms, Fluker begins shapeshifting. She presses herself into a trash heap to take on the persona of an old homeless man, or morphs into a young girl trapped in a sewer. What began as simple gawkiness begins to look like a kind of interpretive dance...
...forget the story. It hardly matters. More important is Antonio Amadeo's set, which turns a stage barely bigger than a bathroom into a wonderland of dark alleys, sludge-filled sewers, and filthy hidden laboratories. Then there's John Manzelli's directing, which ekes out of this cast performances big and bold enough to make the material look daring.
Everyone in Macon City is fine, but Alyn Darnay and Hugh Murphy — who play Dr. Wells and the evil mayor — are on fire. Murphy, who bears a more than passing resemblance to John Lithgow, looks like he has waited his whole life to be so bad. His manic laughter stretches his jaws so wide it appears he's trying to eat the audience.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Naked Stage, a professional company based at Barry University, brings Macon City to life with such crazily creative glee that you can't help grinning as the production's surprises are revealed.
...the cast achieves the right tonal balance between playing comic book types and being real people telling an engaging story. As Grime, Murphy hits the play's most over-the-top role out of the park.
Macon City: A Comic Book Play makes for an exhilarating hour or so of boundary-pushing theater.
The Naked Stage presents Macon City: A Comic Book Play, at Barry University's Pelican Theatre through November 29, 2009.

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