Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GableStage: Speech & Debate (3 reviews)

GableStage opened the southeastern professional premiere of Stephen Karam's Speech & Debate on June 19, 2010.
This fiercely funny comedy with music asks: what do a high school debate team, predators in cyberspace and a musical version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible have in common? The answer: three teenagers who are wrestling with sex, lies and YouTube videos in this off-Broadway comic hit.
Amy London directed a cast that included Jackie Rivera, Patti Gardner, Ryan Didato and David Dearstyne.

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

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...Stephen Karam demonstrates his skill with contemporary dialogue and the angst of today’s youth in the breezy,‭ ‬comic‭ ‬Speech and Debate.

While more lightweight than GableStage’s usual fare,‭ ‬the production demonstrates the company’s continued interest in new talent‭ ‬--‭ ‬introducing Karam to South Florida as well as three fresh-faced performers who have recently graduated from Miami’s New World School of the Arts.
‬In a rare sidestep,‭ ‬artistic director Joe Adler hands over the staging chores to Amy London,‭ ‬who makes some headway in giving the episodic tale some dramatic shape.
‬Rivera has genuine star quality,‭ ‬a charismatic bundle of energy with terrific comic timing and an underlying vulnerability.‭
...‬Karam is a writer to keep an eye on and Rivera is the reason to see the production at GableStage.
Roger Martin reviewed for
Directed by Amy London and using recent New World graduates David Dearstyne, Ryan Didato, and Jackie Rivera with Patti Gardner supplying a little adult sanity, this latest GableStage show whirls furiously and hilariously through the machinations of three high schoolers trying to get cast in a high school play (Diwata), publish newspaper stories about the Mayor and certain young men (Solomon) and troll the gay forums in search of love (Howie).

If this sounds like a Glee knock-off, be aware that Stephen Karam has crystal balls, premiering his piece Off-Broadway in 2007, two years before Glee lit up the TV.
This is a fun show, one that melds the hilarious with the serious with no detriment to either.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
For this production, artistic director Joseph Adler has handed off the director's job to Amy London, who gets sharp performances from seasoned pro Gardner (even in the ridiculously written part of the reporter) and a trio of recent New World School of the Arts grads.
Dearstyne, Didato and Rivera easily nail the self-absorption of high school kids. They're hilarious in a dance number that has them stripping down to flesh-colored undies, sheer agony registering on Didato's face. Dearstyne, a very good actor, deliberately comes off as awkward when Howie plays Abraham Lincoln as a gay teen. And Rivera... is deliciously over-the-top as Diwata...
Karam and GableStage turn the play into a crazily entertaining ride.
Speech & Debate plays at GableStage through July 18, 2010.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mondays are Dark

Before we get to the reading list, you should know that you can wind up June with The State Theatre Project at Flavor in Coconut Grove. Alexis  over at The Playground has the skinny on their latest project, Beer & Cigarettes.  (And David - set up a website so I can include you in the theatre roster!)

Here's your somewhat light but still interesting Monday reading list:

Movin' On
The Palm Beach Daily News talks with staffers at Florida Stage, which has now moved out of their Manalapan space and into the Kravis Center.

Don't Make Me Pull Over reports that Are We There Yet is almost at Actors' Playhouse.

Some 'Splainin  Gets Done
Lucie Arnaz talks with about Babalu, coming next week to the Arsht Center.

..In Miami, the Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed.
The Coconut Grove Playhouse was hit with a bunch of code violations by the City on Tuesday; could this finally be a good sign? Will the current board have to make a move now to do something? Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.
The town will ask a judge to rule on the constitutionality of a (second) referendum that would require voter approval before certain landmarked buildings could be demolished.
Palm Beach Circuit Judge David Crow ruled the first referendum was unconstitutional because the 1979 agreement constituted a development order governing a site with fewer than five parcels. The judge’s decision is being appealed before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Flynn urged the council today not to send the second referendum to the courts. “Nearly 1,000 voters have asked you again to put a landmarks measure on the ballot,” he said. “We’re exercising our right under the constitution.”
I hate to state the obvious, but the owners of the Playhouse have rights, too.  Flynn's insistence that we ignore the Constitution because it doesn't facilitate his desires is disappointing. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Scene for June 25, 2010

If I didn't happen to know that there's still a lot of plays to come, all the shows closing this week would worry me.  But worry not; more stuff is on the horizon.

But if you've been putting off seeing stuff, you're going to have a busy weekend...


A Midsummer Night's Dream opens at Florida Atlantic University, through July 25th.  Their summer series always brings in professional actors to work with graduate students from the theatre department.

still playing:

Speech and Debate plays  at Gablestage through July 18.  The critics - and audiences - are raving about this one.

City Theatre's production of  Summer Shorts, a play festival with two series: Signature Shorts, consisting of kind of short plays that put City Theatre on the map, and Under Shorts, racier adult themed plays.  The series plays in rotating rep at the Arsht Center through June 26th.  After that, they move to Nova Southeastern's University School for a limited engagement the first weekend in July.

Stage Door Theatre's production of The Drowsy Chaperone plays through July 25

passing through...

CATS is back at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, through June 27, 2010.  Apparently it hasn't reached its ninth life quite yet.

Cameron Mackintosh's new spin on Mary Poppins with songs from the Disney movie ends it critically acclaimed visit at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, June 27, 2010.

Bjorn Again -- the ABBA Experience! plays on night only on June 27 at the Parker Playhouse.  Just a little something to tide  you over until Mama Mia swings back through town.

Girl Play, the Second Annual Lesbian Play Reading Festival, at The Women's Theatre Project this weekend only.

last chance to see...

Ian Bruce's Groundswell plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 27, 2010.

Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence plays at Alliance Theatre Lab through June 27.

Milk Milk Lemonade plays at Empire Stage through June 27.

The fledgling company Andrew Arts Studio offers its production freshstaging of Godspell through June  26th.  No reviews out on this one, but I saw it, and while some of the young voices lacked the strength to overcome the recorded accompaniment, the enthusiasm of the largely teen cast more than made up for it.

The M Ensemble presents Lydia Diamond's adaptation of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison's first novel, through June 27, 2010.

Mother/Son plays at Rising Action Theatre through June 27.

This is the final weekend for Laffing Matterz  at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; its final show for this season is Sunday, June 27. It will be returning to the Broward Center's intimate Abdo New River Room in November.

for kids...

City Theatre is offering a new musical by Lisa Loeb and Marco Ramirez, Camp Kappawanna, through 27, 2010.  An article about the show, including a video clip, is up at the Miami Herald.

Actors' Playhouse presents Pippi Longstocking, through August 7, 2010.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mondays are Dark

City Theatre Goes (to) Camp
City Theatre is producing its first full-length play, a musical commissioned from Lisa Loeb, with a book by Marco Ramirez.  Christine Dolen spoke with the creative team for the Miami Herald.
"I've always wanted to write a musical,'' says Loeb, who was once in a band with fellow Brown University student and Spring Awakening composer Duncan Shiek.
Lemonade, anyone?
Drama Daily dissects a recent review of the play she directed, MilkMilkLemonade.
His review provided little in the way of useful feedback about the show and was so general in nature so as to suggest that Day may not have researched let alone read or understood the play.
By the way, this is not sour grapes on her part; like too many reviews published in South Florida, the review in question fails to stand up as a proper critique and instead is just one more unsupported opinion in a universe of subjectivity.  The purpose of a review isn't simply to tell us if the play was "good" or not; it's supposed to let us know how the pieces were put together, and give us an analysis of where it went wrong - and where it went right.

Scheer Honesty
The Playground reviews Undershorts, and echoes the question all the critics have been asking.
...even though this bill was more enjoyable I'm still left wondering, this was the best out of +1,000 entries? First question, who is writing these plays? Or probably the more accurate question, who is reading and selecting them?!
I'm reminded of Alec Baldwin, talking about The Shadow on Fresh Air a few years ago, and how it was lambasted as a failure.
"It's the nature of the business - most things fail.  Thousands of movies end up in the can, never seen.  Failure is the norm.  It's success that's remarkable.  It's amazing that anything ever succeeds, really."
OK, So Now What?
Butts in Seats talks about a Minnesota Playlist Article that basically reports that theatres who do surveys often don't know what to do with the results.

Odd's 'n' Ends

You can decide which is what, but here's a bunch of tidbits bundled by The Miami HeraldTwo local playwrights looking for sponsors to fund their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the lesbian playfest Girl Play is coming up,  and some college projects onstage for the summer.

Girl Play
The Fort Lauderdale Theatre Examiner tells us a little more about the Second Annual Lesbian Play Reading Festival, produced by The Women's Theatre Project in association with The Pride Center at Equality Park.

Speaking of Festivals
The Miami Theatre Examiner tells us about Prometeo Theatre's offering for the XXV International Hispanic Theatre Festival.

The Revolution Unwound
Hap Erstein in the Palm Beach Post notes that HAIR isn't the shocking anti-establishment piece it once was.

Dead Men Walking - and Dancing and Singing tell us that Promethean Theatre, which had summer hit last year with CANNIBAL! - The Musical, is offering yet another tasteful summer treat; Evil Dead - The Musical.  Demons and Zombies and Ghouls; oh my!

The Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

City Theatre: Camp Kappawanna (1 review)

City Theatre opened Camp Kappawanna on June 17, 2010.  It's a new work, commissioned by the company, with music & lyrics by Lisa Loeb, and book by Marco Ramirez.
Take a trip to Camp Kappawanna—a world Premiere Musical  that will instantly transport you to summer camp with hip, cool music by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb and a script by rising national playwright and South Florida native Marco Ramirez.

Join young Jennifer Jenkins, the show's awkward and adorable 12-year-old heroine, as she faces the fear and enjoys the fun of going away from home for the very first time.
Sean Paul Bryan directed a cast that included Melanie Liebner, Renata Eastlick, Troy Davidson, Gerard Pelati, Mary Sansone, Tom Anello, and Jameson Hammond.

Christine Dolen, who usually ignores children's theatre productions, reviewed for The Miami Herald:
City Theatre's Camp Kappawanna -- the commissioned collaboration of singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, her writing partners Dan Petty and Michelle Lewis and Miami playwright-screenwriter Marco Ramirez -- is the company's 15th anniversary show, so I thought I should check it out.
The musical's terrific score is a hybrid of numbers from Loeb's second children's CD, Camp Lisa, and new songs. They're threaded easily through Ramirez's story about a lonely girl, Jennifer ``Jenny'' Jenkins (Melanie Leibner), who leaves home for a ramshackle camp on the verge of foreclosure and finds herself.
...director Sean Paul Bryan pushes the young-adult cast into broad, lively, loud performances, which seems to be standard kid-theater style. Leibner has some subtle, painfully introverted moments, and she sings like a dream. But everyone else is pretty much over the top, entertaining as that can be.
City Theatre's production of Camp Kappawanna plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through June 27, and then plays at Nova Southeastern's Silverman Auditorium July 1 - 3.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Scene for June 18, 2010

In addition to Bill Hirschman's review of Drowsy Chaperone, we've also gotten some good buzz about it off Facebook.  And you'll be amazed wathcing Bert dance up the proscenium in Mary Poppins.  Actually, he dances up the side, across the top (upside down) and down the other side!  Stunning!

Lots of great theatre playing across South Florida this weekend; seeing a play is a great way to beat the heat.


Speech and Debate opens at Gablestage on Saturday, June 19.  Joe Adler has directed every single show at Gablestage - until now.  He's tapped Amy London to take on this play with music; which makes sense, since there's as much choreography as simple staging to this one.  Hopefully, he's busy nailing down his proposed stewardship of The Coconut Grove Playhouse.

still playing:

Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence plays at Alliance Theatre Lab through June 27.

Mother/Son plays at Rising Action Theatre through June 27.

Stage Door Theatre's production of The Drowsy Chaperone plays through July 25

The M Ensemble presents Lydia Diamond's adaptation of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison's first novel, through June 27, 2010.

The fledgling company Andrew Arts Studio offers its production freshstaging of Godspell through June 26th.  No reviews out on this one, but I saw it, and while some of the young voices lacked the strength to overcome the recorded accompaniment, the enthusiasm of the largely teen cast more than made up for it.

Ian Bruce's Groundswell plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 27, 2010.

City Theatre presents Summer Shorts, a play festival with two series: Signature Shorts, consisting of kind of short plays that put City Theatre on the map, and Under Shorts, racier adult themed plays.  The series plays in rotating rep at the Arsht Center through June 26th.  After that, they move to Nova Southeastern's University School for a limited engagement the first weekend in July.

Milk Milk Lemonade plays at Empire Stage through June 27.

Laffing Matterz slings laughs and food at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through June 27. Don't miss the fun!

passing through...

Cameron Mackintosh's new spin on Mary Poppins with songs from the Disney movie plays at Broward Center for the  Performing Arts through June 27, 2010.

Entr'act Theatrix presents HAIR at Palm Beach Gardens High School June 17-20.

last chance to see...

When The Sun Shone Brighter winds up its critically acclaimed run at Florida Stage this Sunday, June 20.  This will be their final performance in the Manalapan theater, as they are moving to West Palm Beach.

for kids...

City Theatre is offering a new musical by Lisa Loeb and Marco Ramirez, Camp Kappawanna, through 27, 2010.  An article about the show, including a video clip, is up at the Miami Herald.

Kravis Center for the Performing Arts offers up Curious George Live!, June 17 - 20, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alliance Theatre Lab: Coyote On A Fence (2 reviews)

The Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence on June 10, 2010.
Illiterate but likable, Bobby Reyburn is a funny young guy who loves to do impressions. He's also a member of the Aryan nation, a racist predator convicted of a horrific crime. John Brennan is educated and arrogant, a serious writer who may only be guilty of doing society a favor. As each awaits his fate, one evokes sympathy, the other derision. In vivid scenes, COYOTE ON A FENCE explores the disturbing question: Can one be innocent though proven guilty?

Adalberto Acevedo directed a cast that included Travis Reiff, Kristen Upchurch, Jehane Serralles, and Mark Della Ventura.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami
Della Ventura (is) fascinating as Bobby, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who hates Jews and Blacks, was gang raped so badly he walks with a limp, sees out of only one eye, is uneducated and ignorant, and was birthed by a prostitute.
Travis Reiff is a grounded actor whose stage weight is always there. No missteps here as John Brennan.
There's no doubt this is a political play but this is forgiven and forgotten with the force of Adalberto Acevedo's direction and the performances of his cast.  Mike Stopnik designed the realistic set (check out the ingenious exercise yard). The equally good sounds and lights are by Howard Ferre and Will Cabrera.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The Alliance Theatre Lab production, one of the troupe's most powerful and polished shows to date, sends its audiences back out onto Miami Lakes' Main Street pondering forever-incendiary issues: justice, vengeance, the legal system, racism and the "why'' of horrific crimes.
Graham's play focuses on a pair of Texas death row inmates.  John Brennan (an intense, engaging Travis Reiff) is an educated man who once worked at the prison as a drug and alcohol counselor...John's new next-cell neighbor is Bobby Reyburn (Mark Della Ventura), a slow-witted, cheerful man...
...Coyote on a Fence doesn't settle for easy. Both Graham's writing and Della Ventura's masterful performance keep the play from becoming a clear-cut study of guilt and innocence.
Both women play their parts well, but casting Serralles in a role written for a male brings a slightly creepy dimension to her initial scene with John, who asks about her marital status then wants to see a picture of her 5-year-old daughter
Working on Mike Stopnick's set, with its lived-in cell for John and barren one for Bobby, the cast and director Adalberto Acevedo take the audience on an intense, difficult, thought-provoking journey.
Coyote on a Fence plays at The Alliance Theatre Lab  through June 27, 2010.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mondays are Dark

While the Theatre Scene is aware of the Tony Awards, as any good theatre blog is, we don't particularly follow the Tony awards.  So no comprehensive coverage of last night's award ceremonies; check out Playbill or TheatreMania or BroadwayWorld for that.  We'll only mention the South Florida connections, if there are any.  We're mono-maniacal that way.

Promises Promises
That said, the Miami Herald points out that Miami native Katie Finneran is up for what would be a second Tony, for here work in, well, Promises, Promises.

Talking With
The Fort Lauderdale Theatre Examiner interviews Joshua Conkel and Nicole Stoddard, respectively the playwright and the direct of MilkMilkLemonade, the current production at Empire Stage.  And we learn that their association is truly a sign of the times:
STODARD:   Josh and I met in true 21st century fashion through our respective blogs  and, and we found we were kindred spirits.
Shine On
The Shiny Sheet tells us how Palm Beach DramaWorks got involved with tomorrow night's Emerging Artists Showcase, featuring the best and brightest from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and gives us some background on it.
...the theater will spotlight the talent of 25 of the 60 theater students who graduated from the school this year. Sixteen graduates will perform songs and monologues and the rest will help run the show or display their set or costume designs.

In addition to the public, Dramaworks has invited representatives from South Florida theaters to attend.
Unfair & Unbalanced
That's the name of Robert Klein's 9th HBO comedy special, which first aired Saturday, June 12.  It was taped at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theatre, the small hall that hosts the Carbonell Awards every year.  You can see a promo clip on HBO's website, and the 588 seat theatre never looked so good.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' PATRONS...
Scott Covey at The Minnesota Playlist tells us we've been chasing down the wrong kind of customers.  And he may have a point.
...the word "patron." Hate it. Evokes all the wrong attitudes. We should be looking for "fans." And it's not a mere issue of semantics: "patrons" pay you money to do your art, either to their specifications (a la medieval panel painters) or at your whim. There's nothing in that word which indicates they like what you're doing, let alone love it.  I spent much of the late 80s and early 90s in the music business, working with indie bands, and we never talked about "patrons." Rock bands have fans—adoring, passionate folks who eagerly await your next piece of work, put up posters in their dorm rooms, will travel to other cities to see you perform, want to be your friend.
Barber Time
The Broadway revival of HAIR will come to an end on June 27, according to TimeOutNY
All good things must come to an end, and the Broadway revival of Hair—a very good thing—is now proving no exception...
South Florida's Rachel Bay Jones has been a member of the cast, as
Mother.  You've seen her here most recently in Urinetown, at Actors' Playhouse, but she's appeared extensively in the region since she was a teen too young to play Mother.

Meanwhile... Miami, The Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed.  The Coconut Grove Grapevine mulls over City Commissioner Mark Sarnoff's attempts to take over the Playhouse.
There has been lots of plans, but no action. Shame. It's a jewel with a lot of history and a very important economic engine for Coconut Grove which is decaying (the playhouse, not the Grove).
Well, actually, it's an empty building.  A theatre is people, and until the right group of people is assembled, there's little chance we'll see plays on that site anytime soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Scene Turns Three

No big retrospective this year, but Saturday marked three years since the South Florida Theatre Scene entered the Blogosphere.  This post was supposed to go up auto-magically, but didn't.  Anywho, thanks for reading!

M Ensemble: The Bluest Eye (reviews)

The M Ensemble opened Lydia Diamond's adaptation of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye on June 10, 2010.
Based on Toni Morrison’s first novel … "Long hours she sat looking in the mirror, trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at school, by teachers and classmates alike." Little Pecola desperately wants to look at the world through blue eyes because people with blue eyes are pretty.
John Pryor directed a cast that included Shelly Miller, Janet “Toni” Mason, Keith C. Wade, Yaya Browne, Alexis Snyder, Tihirah Taliaferro, Stacy Rose and Chat Atkins.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
A hybrid that doesn't always live comfortably in the space between literature and drama, Diamond's The Bluest Eye relies too much on fourth wall-shattering speeches directly to the audience, as if the characters were simply reciting passages from the novel. Glorious and evocative as Morrison's prose is, a novel is not a play. But the story blooms -- with tenderness, humor, horror and more -- in those potent moments when Diamond has the characters interact.
On a barren set of multilevel platforms, director John Pryor (whose son Shawn links the many scenes together with an emotionally evocative jazz score) coaxes performances that range from sparkling to inadequate from a cast with widely varying acting skills.
The Bluest Eye plays at M Ensemble through June 27, 2010.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Entr'Act Theatrix: HAIR (reviews)

Entr'Act Theatrix chose to launch its first play on the stage of one of South Florida's most venerable theatre companies, opening its production of HAIR at the Caldwell Theatre on June 12, 2010. 
Get out your love beads, tie-dye shirts and jeans, and celebrate the 60's with the coolest tribe this side of Central Park.
K.D. Smith directed a cast that included Kyle Schnack, Ben Michaels, Lisagaye Tomlinson, Jessica Kris, and Mari Bryan.

Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
The new Entr’Acte Theatrix troupe has mounted a very worthy production of Hair as its inaugural offering, with smartly conceived choreography and imaginative direction by K.D. Smith. Surely it is not the company’s fault if its hard work seems more benignly ingratiating than confrontational.
Entre’acte, a professional offshoot of the decade-old Palm Beach Principal Players, aims to  bolster the resumes of emerging young performers in “edgier” musicals. There is certainly plenty of nascent talent in the 29-member cast, though by Thursday night’s opening Steven Fabian’s five-piece band was drowning out many of the song’s lyrics.
But Smith actually manages to make Hair more than a series of individual songs. She is particularly effective constructing stage images in Claude’s extended second act hallucinations and in her simple, but potent dance steps for the ensemble Tribe. And yes, they do doff their duds during the dimly-lit first act finale, a statement of their freedom — from clothes — which seems much more innocent than edgy.
The Entr'act Theatrix production of HAIR plays at the Caldwell Theatre June 10-13, and then moves to Palm Beach Gardens High School June 17-20, 2010.  The company is not affilliated with Caldwell or the Palm Beach County School Board.

Broward Center: Mary Poppins (4 reviews)

The National Tour of Mary Poppins opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on June 9, 2010.
Produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, Mary Poppins combines the stories of P.L. Travers and the Academy Award-winning film to create this perfectly magical musical, filled with priceless memories, timeless songs ("Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious") and more than just a spoonful of Disney stagecraft.
Richard Eyre directed a cast that included Caroline Sheen, Gavin Lee, Laird Mackintosh, Blythe Wilson, Bryce Baldwin, Kelsey Fowler, Bailey Grey, and Carter Thomas.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin'
Some scenes from the books that had been omitted from the film, such as visiting with the talking statue Neleus and the mystical candy store owner Mrs. Corry, have been inserted into the musical. Other moments, such as the "I Love To Laugh" scene with Uncle Albert in the film, have been removed. Purists of the Disney movie may find a few new moments delightful and others only puzzling. The addition of Neleus and the dancing statues in the park is a welcome surprise, and replaces the animated talking/singing animals in the movie beautifully. The addition of a Mrs. Corry the candy store owner, combined with her Jamaican accent and costuming and makeup for that scene that looks like it is out of a Dr. Seuss book feels very out of place. The scene featuring dancing dolls is a bit tedious, and added to the Mrs. Corry scene, bogs down the end of the first act.
The scenic design for Mary Poppins truly is "practically perfect in every way." As the curtain rises, the exterior of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Banks unfolds like a pop-up card to reveal the interior of the house. The kitchen later disastrously falls apart and miraculously puts itself back together.
Gavin Lee (Bert) is effortless in his dancing, smooth in his comedy, and totally and utterly charming. Caroline Sheen is a wonderful Mary Poppins (though be prepared for the character to be a bit more stern than in the movie). Ellen Harvey gives a standout performance as the nanny Mrs. Andrew. This fleshing out of this role is a great change in the musical, and Harvey leaves no stone unturned in exploring the villainesque nature of this character
...the entertaining and energetic choreography to "Step In Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" will stay with long after the curtain descends on this Disney classic.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Mary Poppins has come floating to the rescue of South Florida parents desperate to keep their school-liberated offspring occupied...Though ticket prices for Broadway-caliber fare are steeper than admission to most family-friendly shows, the payoff is far greater.
Lee, who originated the musical's Bert in London and on Broadway, is a rubbery charmer who actually seems to spell out the full-length title of Supercal with his body. On Step in Time, he does an upside-down dance -- from the top of the proscenium opening -- without breaking a sweat. ``Dazzling'' is an adjective critics trot out too often, but Lee's work is just that.
Not that he outshines Sheen's Mary. Crisply beautiful and quick with a quip, Sheen is a triple-threat leading lady whose wise Mary is intriguingly mysterious. Bert adores her; soon the Banks family feels the same way. And when Sheen's Mary takes her final leave -- holding her signature umbrella as she floats slowly from the stage -- the audience loudly goes mad for Mary too.
Beau Higgins reviewed for
I had a most difficult time falling asleep last night. It was one of those nights when something kept going over and over in my mind, preventing sleep from happening. As a creature of the theater, I get most excited by a show that gives me goose bumps and keeps me riveted from beginning to end. Disney and Cameron Mackintosh have teamed to bring us a stage version of MARY POPPINS. Last night, MARY POPPINS opened at the Broward Center. It is a "Jolly Holiday" for me to tell you, MARY POPPINS is one of the greatest musicals in years.
Let's answer the number one question right away. The stage musical, MARY POPPINS, is not as good as the movie. It is better. Much, much better.
...when it does indeed near its end and we are tricked and fooled by the stage magicians, we are finally paid off with what we came to believe was not going to happen. She does it. Mary Poppins, umbrella in tow, flies from the stage of the Broward Center, over the audience, to somewhere in the third or forth balcony. The fact that it was attempted is excellent. The fact that it is achieved beyond anyone's wildest dream is probably thanks to the combined talents of the folks at Disney and those at Cameron Mackintosh's office. Mary Poppins flying near the end of the show last night is something I will never forget. And do not dare think it was a cheap theatrical trick. It was as heartfelt as anything else in this show, and this show has heart...
Fashion editor Rod Stafford Hagwood was sent out by the Sun-Sentinel:
It's hard to remember exactly when Mary Poppins wins you over … or how … exactly.
Resistance is futile. This is Cameron Macintosh. This is Disney.
Yes, it's easy to see why the Sun-Sentinel is going down the toilet.  Writing like this makes me wish it would just hurry up and die, already. us when we say: Mary Poppins soars, she really soars. Thanks in no small part to scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley and choreographer Matthew Bourne, both "Supercalifrag-etc." and "Step in Time" become showstoppers.

But even through the well-practiced precision of a first-rate road tour, it is the two leads that give this Mary Poppins a real radiating glow.

Caroline Sheen reprises her role as the title character from the original United Kingdom tour and she fills out the somewhat personality-deprived nanny with a bell-tone-clear voice. Gavin Lee has played her Jack-of-all-trades pal Bert in both the original West End production in London and the Broadway staging in New York and it shows: The part seems to be imprinted on his DNA.
Mary Poppins plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through June 27, 2010.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BAA Family Day at Broward Center

Because it's Summer vacation for most kids, and because it's Mary Poppins, Broward Across America and the Broward Center threw a little festival in the Peck Courtyard, prior to the matinee performance.
It was a jolly 'olly day all around.

The Scene for June 11, 2010

Quite a few plays are opening this weekend, most of them centrally located in Broward, and one in Miami Gardens.  A special treat this weekend is Carbonnell Award winning actress Lela Elam reprising her work in No Child, being presented this Sunday at 5pm by GableStage at Florida Memorial University's Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts.  FOR FREE.  The offering  is part of GableStage's educational programming.

Speaking of education, The Emerging Talent Showcase will be playing at Palm Beach Dramaworks on Tuesday June 15, and Wednesday June 6.  The Showcase features Dreyfoos School of the Arts theatre department graduates.  The grads will be singing & acting AND there will be designers/technicians on hand to show their work.  A lot of these kids will end up on South Florida stages, TV, and movies - because many of them already have.

There's lots going on: don't miss any of it!


Bruce Graham's Coyote on a Fence opens at Alliance Theatre Lab, and plays through June 27.

Mother/Son plays at Rising Action Theatre through June 27.

Stage Door Theatre opens its production of The Drowsy Chaperone, where it will play through July 25

The M Ensemble opens Lydia Diamond's adaptation of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison's first novel.

still playing:

The fledgling company Andrew Arts Studio offers its production fresh staging of Godspell through June 26th.  No reviews out on this one, but I saw it, and while some of the young voices lacked the strength to overcome the recorded accompaniment, the enthusiasm of the largely teen cast more than made up for it.

Ian Bruce's Groundswell plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 27, 2010.

City Theatre presents Summer Shorts, a play festival with two series: Signature Shorts, consisting of kind of short plays that put City Theatre on the map, and Under Shorts, racier adult themed plays.  The series plays in rotating rep at the Arsht Center through June 26th.  After that, they move to Nova Southeastern's University School for a limited engagement the first weekend in July.

Milk Milk Lemonade plays at Empire Stage through June 27.

When The Sun Shone Brighter plays at Florida Stage through June 20, 2010 (most reviewed show currently playing)

Laffing Matterz slings laughs and food at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through June 20.  Don't miss the fun!

passing through...

Cameron Mackintosh's new spin on Mary Poppins with songs from the Disney movie plays at Broward Center for the Performing Arts through June 27, 2010.

Entr'act Theatrix presents HAIR at the Caldwell Theatre, June 10-13,and at Palm Beach Gardens High School June 17-20.

last chance to see..

Edward Albee's Three Tall Women winds up its critically acclaimed run at Palm Beach Dramaworks this Sunday, June 13, 2010.

The Broward StageDoor production of Suds, The Rockin' 60s Musical ends its extended run on Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mary Poppins Blows Into Town

OK, it actually came in on a bunch of tractor-trailer trucks, like this one:

Like other shows with lots of special effects, an advance crew actually started loading stuff into the Broward Center last week, but the sets, costumes, and the rest of the show arrived Monday morning.

And what's better than Mary Poppins?  Student Rush Tickets!
  • $20 per ticket for best available seats (any price level).
  • Limited to two tickets per valid student ID
  • Available two hours prior to show time *at the box office only.
So it's not tuppence, but it's still a great price!

Monday, June 7, 2010

City Theatre: Summer Shorts (4 reviews)

City Theatre opened Summer Shorts at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Center on June 3rd, 2010.  The company has been producing its short play festival for fifteen years, and besides changes in venue, the festival has been broken down into 3 distinct sections: Signature Shorts, which is the same mix the company has pursued from the start, Under Shorts, aimed at more mature audiences, and a children's play section.  This year, instead of Shorts for Kids, they are offering a new musical called Camp Kappawanna, with music by Lisa Loeb.  That show will be reviewed separately.

Mary Damiano reviewed for the South Florida Gay News:
It’s short attention span theatre, so if you don’t like a play, there will be another one along in a few minutes.  This year especially, that’s a very good thing.

While the acting talent in this edition of Summer Shorts remains stellar—Elena Maria Garcia, Scott Genn, David Hemphill, Chaz Mena, Erin Joy Schmidt, Laura Turnbull, Stephen Trovillion, Breeza Zeller—the writing is not always up to par.  Word is that these 15 plays were chosen from more than a thousand submissions, so does the problem lie with the level of writing or the folks that chose the plays?
The main thing that’s off in this year’s festival is that there is less of an ensemble feel to Summer Shorts.  With two monologue plays in Signature Shorts, the actors seem underused.  There is also less of that frenetic energy that has been such an important element of Summer Shorts’ success.
While each of the eight actors have their moment in the spotlight, there are some stand-out performances.  Summer Shorts newbie Scott Genn gets to sink his teeth into some varied roles, and shows he’s adept at both comedy and drama.  Summer Shorts vet Elena Maria Garcia, who won a Carbonell Award for her performances in last year’s fest, once again proves she’s one of the best comediennes around.  And David Hemphill morphs seamlessly into terrified child, a diplomatic catcher, a klutzy gyno and a death-defying dude.
Fifteen plays are presented, eight in Signature Shorts and seven in Undershorts.  Both programs have their head-scratcher, what-were-they-thinking moments, but overall Undershorts is the better program, so if you can only see one program in the festival, go with Undershorts.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times, and as always, has his own take on things:
Just about every pro critic in SoFla has, at one time or another, privately expressed doubt that each summer's Shorts are really culled from 1,000-plus entrants, but this is the first time the idea seemed really ludicrous. If this motley assemblage represents the best of American short drama, the idiom is in very, very deep shit.
Take, for example, Michael Elyanow's truly terrible "Banging Ann Coulter," which is somehow more odious than its subject...I suspect Elyanow hasn't read Coulter's columns, never mind her books. In fact, he seems to know too little about Ann Coulter to finish the play he has written about her. Shortly after Turnbull's arrival onstage, "Banging Ann Coulter" devolves into a useless tangent about — get this — the playwright's fear of not being taken seriously as an artist.
Only one play in that grim slog knows when to quit. That's Bridget Carpenter's "Euxious," a heartbreaking vignette featuring Laura Turnbull (unhorned and clad in a smart business suit) in the aftermath of a car accident that very likely killed a minivan full of people.
But all credit must go to the actors — including the chameleon-like David Hemphill and Scott Genn, who leave the stage soaked in blood, sweat, and probably several other bodily fluids. City Theatre's actors know how to rock a short play. Doesn't anyone know how to pick one?
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Both the eight short plays in Signature Shorts and the seven in the R-rated undershorts offer the mixed-bag experience of festivals past: Some shows will make you flip, while others flop. True, the ``agony'' of a weird/flawed play doesn't last long, and there's usually something moving or hilarious just minutes away.
Among the pleasures of Summer Shorts is watching a top-notch acting ensemble. Chameleonic actors do best in this quick-change format, and this year's standouts are Stephen ``Mr. Summer Shorts'' Trovillion, David Hemphill and Chaz Mena among the men; Laura Turnbull and Elena Maria Garcia among the women. Erin Joy Schmidt, Scott Genn and Breeza Zeller also have some touching or funny moments, but their fellow actors make more of better roles.
The multicharacter hits in Signature Shorts are the opening play, Jay Rehak's The End of a Perfect Game... the reprise of Rich Orloff's Matterhorn, ... and the closing black-comic piece Not a Creature Was Stirring by Christopher Durang

Two intense solo pieces are also memorable. Trovillion plays a teacher who relates the story of a childhood tragedy in Dan Dietz's Lobster Boy; initially in pure lecture mode, he pushes into emotion at just the right moment, carrying the audience along with him. In Bridget Carpenter's Euxious, the compelling Turnbull portrays a mom and way-stressed executive being questioned after an accident involving a mysterious phone call that takes the play to an other-worldly place.
The bawdy, adults-only undershorts starts off with a bang -- specifically, Michael Elyanow's Banging Ann Coulter in which a monstrous version (Turnbull) of the hate-spewing conservative babe is portrayed as a gal who gets it on with one and all. Other pieces have their moments, thanks to the actors...
...the second-to-last piece in undershorts is so worth waiting for: In James' The Pap, Garcia and Hemphill play experienced patient and brand-new gynecologist, and though they keep their acting real, the two offer a master class in how to milk every imaginable laugh from observing a woman in stirrups with nary a horse in sight.
Roger Martin reviewed for
...It's a damn hard art form, writing an arc in ten to fifteen minutes and it's an even harder task finding fifteen successful plays to fill an evening. City Theatre has been trying for fifteen years, sometimes getting the gold, other times the iron pyrite.

Fortunately this year's version has the glitter: Stephen Trovillion in Dan Dietz's Lobster Boy, directed by Gail Garrisan and Laura Turnbull in Bridget Carpenter's Euxious. directed by Marjorie O'Neill-Butler...
Technically the two shows work well. Good lights and sound by Sevim Abazza and Steve Shapiro with an ingenious set by Sean McClelland. Don't miss the set up for the opening pitch in The End Of A Perfect Game or the graphics during Banging Ann Coulter (my favorite title of the evening) and the excellent and imaginative costumes by Estella Vrancovich.

Six veteran actors and two rookies (Scott Genn and Breeza Zeller) work well here during a very long evening. Fifteen plays, some I liked, others I didn't, but in almost every one there was a beat that shone.
City Theatre will present Summer Shorts at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through June 27, before moving it to Nova Southeast University's Silverman Auditorium for its final weekend July 1 - 3rd, 2010.

Mondays are Dark

Summer is here!  The heat has rolled in, and the summer rainstorms are back.  I caught Unreasonable Doubt at Actors' Playhouse on Saturday - and got drenched by the storm that ended ten minutes after the show started. There was a good sized contigent from Palm Beach; Louralene Snedeker, Wayne Steadman, and Heidi Harris made the trek through the afternoon squall.  Joe Adler and Mark Durso were there, as was David Jay Bernstein. 

The weather was nicer and crowd thinner when I saw Godspell at Andrews Living Arts Studio;  director Bob Nation's cast of teens did an admirable job with his fresh staging.  Bob is a homey of mine; we're both from South Jersey, and he brought some folks down with him, and it was fun tossing names back and forth.  He was a player up there, and I expect we'll being seeing more of him as he makes local connections.

Anyway, here's your Monday reading list; enjoy!

Monthly Visit
Well, not that kind of visit.  The calendar has turned so The Sun-Sentinel posts its grudging once-a-month theatre article by Bill Hirschman.  Highlights: summer theater, some other South Florida connections to the Tony Awards, and Andrew Kato's musical Academy - which went on to success at the New York Musical Festiva - is headed overseas; to the Daegu International Musical Festival in South Korea.  Kato, co-creator John Mercurio, and the entire New York cast will go with it.

A. Sebastian Fortino spoke with Andrew Kato about Academy, and his role in producing the Tony Awards, for the South Florida Gay News.

A Quarter-Century Success Story
The Drama Queen reminds us that the International Hispanic Theatre Festival turns 25 this year, and gives us the rundown of what's playing.

Special Shakespeare
Never doubt The Bard's ability to connect to audiences and actors; that may well be the moral of The Miami Herald story about The Learning Experience School's production of Romeo & Juliet.  Cast members are from the school's "special needs" student body: Down Syndrome, Autism, and other disabilities.  But this production is proof that we should consider them "differently-abled" as opposed to "dis-abled."

Don't Get Left Behind
If you've missed Lela Elam in her critically acclaimed performance in No Child at GableStage, you're in luck: reports that GableStage is presenting her star-turn on Sunday, June 13.  It's one show only, at 3pm, at the Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts, which I've never heard of until just this moment.  It's at Florida Memorial University, in Miami Gardens.  Best of all, it's FREE.

Hair at Caldwell
I've had a few inquiries about "that non-union production of HAIR at the Caldwell Theatre."   No, Caldwell isn't going the way of Stage Door; the musical is being produced by a new company called Entr'ACte Theatrix, and you can read all about it in The Palm Beach Post and  It's being done AT the Caldwell, not BY the Caldwell.  But if you're worried about the Caldwell going non-union (which they are not), buy tickets to see their next production, Secret Order, starring the venerable Gordon McConnell.

And don't think Gordon's not going to make me pay for calling him "venerable."

The Play is not the Film
Rod Stafford Hagwood struggles through an article about Mary Poppins for the Sun-Sentinel.  Stringing the fragments together, his interview with Julian Fellowes outlines the changes from PL Traver's original novels, to the Disney Film, and to the stage version.

No Need for Nanny
Mary Damiano interviews Jeffery Solomon for The South Florida Gay News.  He's performing his show Mother/Son at Rising Action Theatre June 10 - 27.

More Upcoming Shows
The South Florida Sun-Times  lets us know that Curious George is coming to the Kravis Center, Bjorn Again to Parker Playhouse, and Tap Dogs to the Arsht Center

...the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.
Patrick Flynn's latest plan to save the Royal Poinciana Playhouse from demolition touched off a healthy but polite debate at Thursday's Palm Beach Civic Association symposium.

About 30 people attended the symposium on a referendum to require voter approval before any public or private group use structures could be stripped of landmark status and razed. Those structures would include the landmarked Playhouse, shuttered since 2004. The referendum would not apply to private residences that are landmarked.
It's always interesting to read the comments on these articles.  It amazes me how people simply assume that opening the doors to the theatre will result in a viable business, even after local theater producers have walked away from the Playhouse.  There is actually a reason it's closed: it's no longer the right space in the right place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mosaic Theatre: Groundswell (3 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Ian Bruce's Groundswell on June 3, 2010.
On the barren, diamond-diving coast of South Africa, Johan and Thami, an ex-cop and a gardener from starkly contrasting backgrounds, maintain a beachfront guest lodge during the off-season while looking for a way out. When Smith, a retired businessman, shows up one foggy night, the two men think they've found an ideal investor for their scheme to buy into a government-run diamond concession. Soon, these ruthless men find themselves in a power struggle fueled by greed, desperation and entitlement. GROUNDSWELL is a psychological thriller about hunger and hope, and the glittering promises of a transforming society.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that featured Peter Haig, Marckenson Charles, and Gregg Weiner.

Roger Martin reviewed for
Richard Jay Simon's Mosaic Theatre is playing with the big boys. What was once a black box with barren sets and scant audience has now, over the years, become professional with every good meaning of the word. The production values and the direction and acting demonstrated in Mosaic's current show, Groundswell, are the equal of any regional theatre in this area.

Simon runs Mosaic as a business, evident in the packed houses watching his shows. Evident, too, in the people he hires and the shows he selects...

Throw this gang together and you get ninety minutes of really good theatre.
Richard Jay Simon directed the old pros Haig and Weiner and Charles, an old pro in this, his first professional production. There's not a mis-step to be seen here. I had the pleasure of seeing Charles recently in his original one-man show: Ballad Of A Child Soldier. Impressive. A young actor with a large future. the case of Groundswell you'll be singing the set and the lights and the sound regardless of the excellent performances on stage. Fog rolls, the warning bell tolls on its offshore buoy, bushes bend in the blustery winds and I swear I saw the shadow of his dog following Johan on his first exit.

It's good stuff.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times; well, almost reviewed.  Mostly, he recites the entire story for us. He does eventually give something like a review but it's fragmentary to the point of being useless.  First, it seems that he didn't care for the direction or acting:
...perhaps 25 minutes into the play, Groundswell simultaneously takes off and begins to disintegrate.

Yelling is a mode of dramatic expression that fast wears out its currency. Well before the end of the second scene — which is also the end of the play — volume fatigue sets in, and it's hard not to wish the involved parties would calm the hell down. Thami's play-ending revelation feels both too convenient and utterly false, and it does a disservice to Charles' sensitive, understated performance so far.
This is the first time he's mentioned anything about any of the performances.  Someone is apparently doing  a lot of yelling, but it may or may not be Marckenson Charles.  Was Charles' fledgling performance more, or less, "sensitive" and/or "understated" than those of his castmates, both of whom have won awards for their work?   Will the next paragraph shed light on the subject? 

But Bruce's one false step shouldn't diminish his otherwise powerful second scene, nor the complicated treatment it is receiving at Mosaic Theatre. That scene weaves danger and sweetness, the political and the personal, friendship and hatred into a darkly fascinating medley that could terminate as easily with the spilling of blood as with the fulfillment of dreams.
"Complicated treatment?"  What was complicated about it, and how did it diminish the otherwise powerful scene?  Is Brandon saying that "yelling" is the "complicated treatment?"    We sure can't tell from this "review." Brandon wasted the entire thing narrating the plot, and tells us almost nothing about the production.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Plantation's Mosaic Theatre has found an intense, compelling South African script to kick off its summer -- and no, the play isn't by the country's great Athol Fugard.
Director Richard Jay Simon and his artful design team -- particularly Douglas Grinn, whose handsome lodge set suggests both Africa and the seaside, and Matt Corey, who contributes the sounds of waves and a haunting bell -- vividly help bring the play's world to life.
But truly animating the relationships and tensions in Groundswell  falls to Mosaic's gifted trio of actors. Haig, who sounds more British than South African, expertly crosses the lines from self-confidence to defensiveness to bald fear. Weiner makes Johan a quick-thinking, volatile con man who would be at home in any Mamet play. And Charles, who only recently graduated from Miami's New World School of the Arts, gives such a powerful yet nuanced performance in his professional debut that he splendidly -- sometimes hauntingly -- holds his own against two powerhouse actors.
Ian Bruce's Groundswell plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 27, 2010.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Actors' Playhouse: Unreasonable Doubt (4 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened it world premiere production of Michael McKeever's Unreasonable Doubt on May 14, 2010.
...a penetrating look at American justice and how it sometimes fails the society it’s meant to protect with revenge and redemption intersecting in this thought-provoking drama. Unable to touch the man who savagely raped and murdered his daughter, Ty Boswoth does the next best thing; he kidnaps the defense lawyer who put the killer back on the street. Unreasonable Doubt uses one family’s tragedy to explore the impact of a legal system grown ineffectual in our society, as a tiny cabin in the woods becomes a courtroom from the American justice system itself.
(Winner of the Actors' Playhouse Pen to Stage contest)
David Arisco directed a cast that included Gordon McConnell, Terrence Hardcastle, Barbara Bradshaw, Antonio Amadeo, Patt Gardner and Sandi Jean.

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

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin'
The set for this production is the detailed main room of the cabin. Since the cabin is described as small, references to keeping Burke in the unseen den seem odd, as one wonders where the bedrooms are located.
McConnell's performance as Ty is haunting, and his character's pain is palpable. McConnell gives us layers of flawed logic and motivation like a flower dropping petals as it dies. Hardcastle is rather straightforward in his performance. Burke is a lawyer who was just doing his job, realizing too late that the man he was defending was guilty. The writing for the character of Terry puts Amadeo at a disadvantage. Terry seems to have no clear commitment to the understanding of the enormity of what he has agreed to do. At one point, his character seems to be comedically out of the movie Fargo. It doesn't quite fit. Patti Gardner has a serene presence that calms the tension of the piece. She, Bradshaw and the rest of the cast work together beautifully in this production of Unreasonable Doubt.
Brandon K Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Unreasonable Doubt is a mess... The play's messiness has nothing to do with the cast (stellar), set (ditto), or even David Arisco's direction... The play's problems are purely textual, and only its author can fix them.
I hope he will, because Unreasonable Doubt could be an important play...
...the play's central idea is so very worth contemplating. No one wants to live in a country where an alleged criminal can be punished without due process, because we all know that, in such a system, we could all be bound for the gaol. As revolted as we might feel by the work of a skilled defense attorney — Johnny Cochran, say — most of us understand his existence is a necessary evil.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami
The pleasure begins immediately, watching (McConnell and Hardcastle) arc their way through Michael McKeever's Unreasonable Doubt, receiving its world premiere at Actors' Playhouse.
There's a fine cast working on Gene Seyffer's excellent set besides McConnell and Hardcastle: Antonio Amadeo (brother Terry Bosworth), Barbara Bradshaw (widowed step-mother Willa Bosworth), Patti Gardner (Bosworth's ex-wife Claire Hoffman) and Sandi Jean (daughter Alexandra Bosworth).
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though the plot may sound altogether grim, you should know that McKeever isn't that kind of playwright. With the help of director David Arisco and a first-rate cast, Unreasonable Doubt becomes an examination of bedrock virtue and contrition as well as theforever-altered loved ones of a murder victim.
Working on Gene Seyffer's beautifully detailed version of a knotty pine cabin, the cast delivers a fine, always watchable first production of Unreasonable Doubt. Hardcastle makes Burke self-satisfied, then terrified. Amadeo and Bradshaw lighten the intensity, and Jean is a zen-like presence as Alexandra. Patti Gardner is a radiant presence as Ty's ex-wife Claire. The truly superb performance, however, comes from McConnell. The layers of complexity he brings to Ty, the torment and longing he conveys, simply magnify the impact of Unreasonable Doubt.
Unreasonable Doubt plays at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater through June 6, 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Empire Stage: MilkMilkLemonade (2 reviews)

Empire Stage opened its production of Joshua Conkel's Milk Milk Lemonade on May 29, 2010.
In this hilarious satiric comedy, adults playfully and poignantly occupy a child’s world. Set on a chicken farm in America’s heartland, the play examines with measured shrewdness and tenderness, the growing pains of adolescence compounded by societal and familial prejudices against difference.
Nicole Stoddard directed a cast that included Damian Robinson, Craig Butler, Allie Rivenbark, Scott Douglas Wilson, and Christina Groom.

Warren Day reviewed for the Florida Agenda:
When you consider all the live theater that’s available from Miami to Palm Beach, you realize how lucky we are that there are so many opportunities to see stage productions that are not the tried, true and very tired that make up the community offerings in most of America, and which never threaten anyone’s understanding of theater or of life.

So you want to applaud Thinking Cap Productions and Empire Stage when they attempt a different and difficult play never performed in Florida before, yet you still have to review the results and not the intentions.
The key to understanding the playwright Joshua Conkel is to realize you’re seeing these characters and how they interact with each other through the imaginative eyes of that “sensitive child,” a perspective the director Nicole Stodard could have made more creative use of in the set and costumes.
MilkMilkLemonade belongs to the Theater of the Absurd...Because such shows deal with the discrepancies between what we’ve been told life is and what it actually is, most absurdist plays are comedies, but in order for it to work, that zaniness requires razor-sharp timing and the whimsy needs a feather-light touch. They get neither in this heavy-handed production.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote it up for The Sun Sentinel:
...this is "PeeWee's Playhouse," with the censor turned — most decidedly — off.

A lot of it works and is very funny. For example, when Emory channels Blanche Dubois during the "playhouse" scene, he stares mistily at an imaginary bug zapper. "Funny how I always root for the moths. Don't go into that light I think. And just for a second I think they won't. Then zap."

But a lot of Milk Milk Lemonade falls flat too. Part of the problem is that Joshua Conkel's script is really about how childhood is dark, scary and full of pitfalls. A juxtaposition of bigger, brighter, happier primary colors in the production would have punched the point home. As directed by Thinking Cap Productions' Nicole Stodard, Robinson and Butler are a tad static and too inert for 10- or 11-year-olds, so the contrast between childhood and adulthood is not as sharp as it could be, blunting the satire and dulling the farce.
Milk Milk Lemonade plays at Empire Stage through June 27, 2010.

Weekend Promos

Rather than wait for Monday, here's a smattering of articles about shows opening this weekend.

The Rock Musical
gives us the skinny on Andrews Living Arts Studio's
second (at least, the second one I know about) production, the classic
Rock Musical GODSPELL.
...this production produced by ANDREWS LIVING ARTS STUDIO may extend into the summer at a larger venue.
They did extend their first production, The Fantasticks.  I'm curious to see where they move to.

The Docu-Musical
Steve Rothaus takes a look at Rising Action Theatre's current production, Escorts: the Docu-Musical for The Miami Herald.  Rothaus talks with some of the escorts interviewed for the piece, and spoke with author Richard Leddick.
"What's most fascinating to me was the clients,'' Leddick says. ``It's part of American hypocrisy -- all the married men who are running around with other men."

The Short Play Festival
Sure, we had a lot of stories about City Theatre's Summer Shorts on Monday, but Christine Dolen did one more for today's Miami Herald.
In the 15 years since producer Stephanie Norman, playwright Susan Westfall and actor Elena Wohl sat around a kitchen table to cook up what has become a much-loved part of South Florida's theater landscape, Summer Shorts (despite the occasional head-scratching oddity) has repeatedly validated its founders' belief in the power of short-form theater.
This year, the festival plays in Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, but when it comes up to Broward for a final weekend, it will be playing at Nova Southeast's University School auditorium instead of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Broward Center:Laffing Matterz (2 reviews)

Laffing Matterz relocated to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in October, 2009, where they perform in the renovated Abdo New River Room banquet hall.
Laffing Matterz, a live, original, musical comedy revue spoofing current events, combines the best of dinner theater with the hilarity of topical satire in a one of a kind evening that everyone will enjoy.
Winner,  New Times' "Best Dinner Theatre 2010"
So — Laffing Matterz didn't face much competition for this commendation, but that doesn't mean it doesn't kick ass. One of a dozen extremely competent servers brings you a very-decent three-course meal, and then the whole wait staff mounts the stage for 90 minutes of raucous, topical song and dance that is politically acute and naughty enough to make the elder half of the audience blush. New Times' fave: a number in which the actresses morph into a troop of Broadway-obsessed Afghani ladies and then jazz-finger across the set in burqas, singing show-tune classics with Talibanized lyrics
John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin'
Producers Rita and Mark Wells provide a welcome and fresh reworking of today's dinner theatre with Laffing Matterz... Their new locale in the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room provides easy and familiar access, and a crisp and elegant setting. Airy, open and inviting, this is a far cry from the outdated, dark, and heavily draped feel of the sort of South Florida dinner theatres spoofed in the movie Soap Dish.
A cross between "Saturday Night Live" and "Capitol Steps" with original songs instead of parodies, the show may be frequently updated to reflect the current topic in the news. The risqué nature of some of the comedy warrants a PG-13 rating, so it may not be suitable for children (regardless of how funny the adults find it).
From the opening song "What's Funny?" to the closing song "Get Out" the show covers a variety of comedic styles. Some are more situational, such as a number about a certain politician caught engaging in inappropriate behavior in a men's bathroom. Some is more physical, such as wiggling behinds in a hip-hop style number about the swine flu, or tap dancing in cowboy boots in a number about being gay. The songs dealing with local events garnered the strongest response, such as the true terror of driving on I95, and the alarming (and also true) outbreak of STDs among area senior citizens.
Standout performances are turned in by Angela Thomas, Louis Silver, Joey Zangardi and Kimberly Martins. Thomas is the strongest natural comedienne, unafraid to mug the audience or milk a comedic moment. Her tongue-twisting delivery of the song "The Mom" is pretty impressive. Joey Zangardi is the strongest dancer, and is able to add the most interest physically to any choreographed moments because of his technique. He is quite funny as the tap-dancing cowboy. Louis Silver is able to switch between dapper and nerdy rather neatly, and has a strong voice and mature presence. Kimberly Martins also has a strong voice and turns in a humorous performance in song about "owning" I95.
Brandon K. Thorpe reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Things begin well at Laffing Matterz when your leggy waitress brings the special appetizer of the evening: risotto balls in a mushroom and goat cheese sauce. The mere mention of the dish is sufficiently food-pornish to make even those who don't dig dinner theater begin to feel a cautious optimism.
Your dinner date gets the sea bass with some kind of citrusy, pineapple salsa on top. It's divine — it tastes the way everything in the tropics should taste.
Then it's dessert, and you're wondering when the show's gonna start, if they're gonna make you wait until every single person finishes every single plate... You have been here for well over an hour. Laughing matters, or so you've heard, and thus far, there's been very little of it.
Then there's your waitress and the entire freaking wait staff on the stage, singing...
...then there's "The Mom Song," sung by zaftig bombshell Angela Thomas, and everything's OK. Simultaneously trenchant and giggle-worthy, it's a rapid-fire recital of all the commands and coos uttered by a mom over the course of the day. There's no telling what kind of waitress Thomas might be, but she's a helluva singer.
Miraculously, that's true of all the actors and actresses who were, moments ago, fetching your Sam Adamses and skirt steaks. I'm not sure where Mark and Rita Wells found these guys, but they will make you cough up your risotto balls with laughter.
Laffing Matterz resumes serving up great food and hilarious satire at the Broward Center on March 4, 2010, and runs through June 27, 2010.