Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Theatre: High Dive (2 reviews)

New Theater opened its production of Leslie Ayvazian's High Dive on January 28, 2011.
Atop a high dive, a woman terrified of heights chronicles her comic misadventures of past vacations, while her son and a cast of 34 goad her to take the plunge. High Dive is a light comedy starring five-time Carbonell nominated actress, Barbara Sloan, where ½ hour before the performance begins she casts the show's supporting role (one-liners) from audience members who are willing to participate.
Ricky J. Martinez directed a cast that featured Barbara Sloan and Alex Eisenberg.

The mysterious Chris Joseph offers what appears to be his second-ever theatre review for The Miami New Times:
The concept and plot of Leslie Ayvazian's one-person play at New Theatre, High Dive, are certainly original and creative. The play features a neat audience participation gimmick and a solid, engaging performance from five-time Carbonell-nominated actress Barbara Sloan. But in the end, the concept and performance fall victim to a tepid script that delivers few genuine laughs or anything else of real interest.
...Sloan, who gave a tremendous performance, made the most of a weak script and stale, hackneyed jokes. But Leslie's stories quickly turned from zany, humorous anecdotes of misadventure to an interminable whine-fest... By the middle of the play, we didn't care if she jumped off the diving board, or if she just smacked her whiny kid upside the head and grabbed a mojito at a poolside bar.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...New Theatre is plunging anew into Ayvazian's tale of her disaster-attracting past. Only this time, the storyteller isn't the playwright.

It's actress Barbara Sloan playing Ayvazian, and she's terrific.
What helps make High Dive such an unusual piece of theater is its ever-changing "cast.'' Yes, Sloan and New World School of the Arts student Alex Eisenberg, who plays Ayvazian's young son, deliver the bulk of the script at every performance. But before each show, Sloan hands out 34 roles to agreeable audience members...Some of the instant actors are better than others, of course, but on opening night all managed to speak their lines... audibly and right on time. And some really added to High Dive: The fully clothed former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, for example, delivered a cheery little "bonjour'' in her role as a topless sunbather
But the success of New Theatre's High Dive rests on Sloan's slender shoulders... She is as funny, wry, ironic and engaging as the woman whose past she is retelling. As both her fellow "actors'' and those who merely watch would tell you, Sloan takes a masterful leap into a someone else's life and comes up smiling.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
High Dive is the shaggiest of shaggy dog stories, but with Barbara Sloan as the storyteller Saturday at New Theatre, it was akin to spending a delightful hour listening to an unusually entertaining luncheon partner.

The playwright Leslie Ayvazian performed the semi-autobiographical work at the Colony Theater in 2002, but Sloan slips inside the hapless, amiable character with seeming effortlessness.
The audience participation is a stunt, but it’s a fun one. Theoretically, this should slow the speed and rhythm of the show to a jerky crawl, but it worked perfectly Saturday night as Sloan picked up the cues from enthusiastic audience members drawn into the tales.

It adds a little spice and unexpected humor to Sloan’s droll litany of vacation disasters, figurative and literal, propelled along swiftly by Sloan and director Ricky J. Martinez.
While she is best known as a five-time Carbonell nominee for such dramatic work as the terminally ill professor in Wit, (Sloan) has finely-tuned comic timing, unflagging frantic energy and an infectious delight in dishing. Her “other” life as a dancer is evident in her ever-changing body language to illustrate every beat of her story-telling.

High Dive plays at New Theatre through February 13, 2011.

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