Monday, May 30, 2011

Mondays are Dark

It's Memorial Day, and the holiday started early for some, so it's a somewhat darker Monday than usual.  But there's still a couple of tidbits

Talking With
Miami ArtZine catches up with The Promethean Theatre Company's Producing Artistic Director, the irrepressible Deborah Sherman.

The Drama Queen has Caldwell Theatre's summer schedule, while Broadway World has the summer schedule for The Stage Door Theatre.

Playwright Carter Lewis talks about his Cha Cha of the Camel Spider on 1st Draft.  And maybe he'll help you through some of the play's slippery bits.

uVu Video Goodies
Neal Hecker sent some links to the latest theatre-oriented videos at Channel 2's uVu Blog.
In no particular order, there's a clip of Ages of the Moon, opening this week at Mosaic Theatre, the final meeting of the Broward Center Teen Ambassadors for this season,  and last but not least, footage of the 2011 Cappies, the awards for High School theatre.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Scene for May 27, 2011

It's Memorial Day Weekend!  A time for family picnics, cookouts, lazing on the beach, and of course, seeing some really great plays.


The New Theatre opens Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire on Friday.

you still haven't missed...

The Promethean Theatre Company presents Three Days of Rain at Nova Southeast University's Black Box Theatre through June 5, 2011.

The 39 Steps plays at Actors' Playhouse through June 5.

GableStage opens Sarah Ruhl's IN THE NEXT ROOM or The Vibrator Play, through June 12.

Rising Action Theatre production of Two Boys in a Bed on A Cold Winter's Night runs through June 12, 2011.

The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider plays at Florida Stage through June 5.

Palm Beach DramaWorks' production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays through June 19.

Infinite Abyss Productions offers Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Empire Stage through June 4th.

The Music Man plays at the Stage Door Theatre through June 19.

passing through...

Don't miss Cocktails with Larry Miller, tonight, Thursday May 2 only, at The Broward Center.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Actors' Playhouse presents a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes through May 27.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Promethean Theatre: Three Days of Rain (3 reviews)

The Promethean Theatre Company opened its production of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain on May 20, 2011.
A newly discovered journal, filled with enigmatic entries, recalls Greenwich Village in the early 1960s when two young architects, unaware they’re on the brink of fame, struggle with plans for an important commission.  But it’s left to their children, thirty years later, to sort out the mystery behind their lives - and loves.
Margaret M. Ledford direct a cast that featured Matthew William Chizever, Terry Hardcastle, and Deborah L. Sherman.

It's easy to miss Phillip Valys' review; because the Sun-Sentinel has it buried.  That's right, this review is NOT in the Culture section.  It's not even in the Living section. No, to get to where the drooling mouth-breathers at the Sentinel tucked this original review, you'd have to click "Broward," then select "Davie," and only then do you find this review.  I guess they didn't stick it in Culture where people who aren't idiots would place a review because they need the space to run a review from their major competitor.

Anyway, here's what Philip Varys had to say that apparently embarrassed the Sun-Sentinel so much that they hid the review; BTW, the first page is a complete waste of time, so we'll skip to the second page:
...we're catapulted to the 1960s, where a freewheeling Ned and Theo are savoring a brave new world of opportunity. Their careers are fresh, prospects bright and success within grasp. Even the bachelor apartment looks classy: an ornate clock adorns the wall, an antique refrigerator glimmers white, and Robert J. Coward's remarkable lighting shines a fitting glow into this one-bedroom abode of promise.

Dan Gelbmann's crisp set design fills every inch of Black Box Theatre to stress the intimacy of Greenberg's play...
Credit to Chizever and Sherman for carving detailed emotion into the double lives. Hardcastle steals every scene with his characters, from Ned's believable chronic stuttering to the minute inflections he gives to Walker's defeatist personality.
Two pages of review, and that's all Phil has to say about this production.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
In The Promethean Theatre’s new production of Three Days of Rain, director Margaret M. Ledford and three artfully engaging actors deliver a beautifully shaded, first-rate interpretation of Greenberg’s mystery-laced script.
Creating a pair of related but different characters is a challenge good actors love, and Hardcastle, Sherman and Chizever do a persuasively detailed job of bringing to life six distinct people. Hardcastle’s Walker is a jumpy, unreliable soul; his Ned, a quiet dreamer whose demeanor hides an intensity. Sherman’s Nan is judgmental and emotionally complex, her Lina sultry and tempestuous. Chizever’s Pip is a fast-talking charmer, his Theo a driven man on the verge of torment.

Three Days of Rain is a play that roils with interpersonal storms. But thanks to Ledford’s graceful, insightful direction and the top-notch work of a fine cast, Promethean’s production is an engrossing, moving experience.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
...the first act of Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain is a torrent of memories, witty one-liners and nods to the Hegelian dialectic, Boolean algebra and pentimento, to name just a few of the esoteric seeds scattered throughout the piece.  (Thank you, dramaturg Jane Duncan.)
Three Days of Rain is a dense, talky piece with a strangely abrupt ending but with Margaret M. Ledford's direction and the talents of the three actors, the show is entirely engrossing.

The production values at The Promethean are high; Dan Gelbmann's scenic design, Matt Corey's sound and Robert J. Coward's lighting add greatly to this excellent presentation.
The Promethean Theatre Company presents Three Days of Rain at Nova Southeast University's Black Box Theatre through June 5, 2011.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mondays are Dark

Sorry it's a little late this week... but hey, it's still morning.

If You Build it, They Will Come...If You Fix It, They Will Stay
The Sun Sentinel breaks the news that the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is planning a major renovation.
"The original design of the performing arts center was a home run so we want to bring it back to a state-of-the-art condition and make it a new theater all over again," said Fort Lauderdale lawyer John Milledge, who is chairman of the Broward Center's board of directors.
Besides renovating the theatre spaces, they are planning on adding restaurants, bars, a lounge, as well as classroom and workshop space, to allow the Center to expand its educational mission.
"This is looking ahead at what the Broward Center should be for the next 10 to 20 years," said Kelley Shanley, the center's chief executive officer.
Joe Adler Interview
Miami Today staff writer Zachary Ferguson talked with GableStage artistic director Joe Adler about his work, and the proposal to take over the Grove.  And while the Today version of the story is locked behind a subscription wall, we're fortunate that Channel 2's uVu has it on video.

Speaking of Interviews...
The Cultist speaks with Ken Clement and his role in The Haircut.
Did this character even have a name?

I think he was just called The Barber. I didn't give him a name. I was having too much fun trying to give him some strange physical thing. Like he sort of didn't walk right. Something was a little bit off with him. How he spoke. How he moved. It was fun.

The Big Three
Conundrum Stages talks about getting started.

The Thing about Critics
The Guardian has an excellent piece on the shortcomings of theatre criticism as it's being practiced today.
"Want to read an in-depth review of a star performance? Turn to the sports pages."
New Theatre's New Season
The Drama Queen has the skinny on New Theatre's 2011-12 play line-up.

3 Days of Rain, 2 Generations
The Miami New Times examines Three Days of Rain, now playing at The Promethean Theatre Company.

A Look Back
The Palm Beach Daily News recaps the past year in the performing arts.
Because all presentations are ephemeral, the best we can do in these pages is look back on the season’s finest and remember.
Personal Reflection
The Playground muses on all she's learned in her first year of study at The Boston Conservatory.
...I will forever be attracted to the theatre for its brash exploration of the feats and failures of humanity. Turning the light on in the darkest corner, and starting the conversation on the unspoken.
The Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.  The Shiny Sheet reports that the state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the lower court's ruling that the referendum pursued by Preserve Palm Beach violates the state constitution.
A lower court supported the town’s position that the proposed referendum was unconstitutional because it would have imposed a referendum on a development order pertaining to property that was five parcels or smaller, which is forbidden by state law.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Scene for May 20, 2011

FPTA statewide audtions are being held this weekend in Vero Beach, at The Riverside Theater.  Best of luck to all participants.

For those of us not looking to be cast in a show, here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


The Promethean Theatre Company opens Three Days of Rain at the Black Box Theatre on the Nova Southeast University campus.

you still haven't missed...

The 39 Steps plays at Actors' Playhouse through June 5.

GableStage opens Sarah Ruhl's IN THE NEXT ROOM or The Vibrator Play, through June 12.

Rising Action Theatre production of Two Boys in a Bed on A Cold Winter's Night runs through June 12, 2011.

The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider plays at Florida Stage through June 5.

Palm Beach DramaWorks' production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays through June 19.

Infinite Abyss Productions offers Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Empire Stage through June 4th.

The Music Man plays at the Stage Door Theatre through June 19.

passing through...

Caldwell Theatre Company stages its concert version of The Secret Garden, this weekend only - these concerts are legendary - don't miss it!

The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center presents the Asolo Theatre production of Lynn Notage's  Las Meninas.  May 20th-22nd.  Be forewarned - this new facility has the crappiest website of any performing arts center ever.  You have to dig around to find THIS LINK.

last chance to see...

Red White and Tuna plays at The Waterfront Playhouse in Key West, through May 21.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Actors' Playhouse presents a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes through May 27.

The Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents A Little Princess the Musical through May 22.

Max & Ruby: Bunny Party plays at the Kravis Center on May 22, two shows only.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rising Action Theatre: Two boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night (reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night on May 13, 2011.
The steamy, sexy and sultry Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night comes to Rising Action Theatre in an all new production. James Edwin Parker's play has been critically acclaimed in the US and on the International stage. Set in New York City in 1987, this play explores the sexual etiquette of one-night stands and is peppered with poignant, humorous and sly observations as its two boys yearn for a carefree time of days gone by.  The audience is a veritable fly on the wall as the couple slowly exposes secrets and yearning during their one night fling.
Jerry Jensen directed a cast that featured Angel Perez and Nigel Revenge.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Perez is perfectly cast as the strong and stoic Peter, delivering one of his best performances to date. Perez’s Peter is confident and sexy, but at his best near the end of the play when he must drop this fa├žade after the revelation he is cheating on a boyfriend hospitalized presumably with AIDS.
...Revenge presents a complex Daryl, a privileged pretty boy who is pushing 40 and knows it.  He has had little success with relationships and remains nostalgic about his boyhood love, but is at the same time calculating and bitter, offering an opportunity for Revenge to showcase a wide range of emotions, despite a clunky Northeastern accent that occasionally gets in the way.
Each character is individually delivered thanks to strong direction from Jerry Jensen, it’s the chemistry between the two that ultimately makes the production successful. We’ve come to expect a little gratuitous frontal male nudity from Rising Action, but here it’s integral to the story as the two alternately tease and torment each other through the night, rolling around in the bed and storming across the apartment. And, let’s be honest, solid performances aside, both actors are very easy on the eyes, too.
Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night plays at Rising Action Theatre through June 12, 2011 has been extended through June 26 July 17.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Infinite Abyss: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2 reviews)

Infinite Abyss Productions opened Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Empire Stage on May 5th, 2011.
In its original 1998 New York staging, the ground-breaking musical about an "inter-nationally ignored" transgendered rock singer (written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask) won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. It went on to inspire a 2001 movie of the same name, which itself won the Best Director and Audience Awards at the }Sundance Film Festival that year and snagged star John Cameron Mitchell a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Now, Infinite Abyss Productions brings the show to Empire Stage for a five week engagement. Don't miss this one- it's going to be tran-tastic!
Jeffery D. Holmes directed a cast that featured Joe Harter and Blaze Powers.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Ultimately, the success of the production lands on the shoulders of Harter, who not only must deliver musically, but also dramatically. And he was up to the challenge, belting out song after song while nailing the raw emotions caught up in Hedwig’s story.

Powers also shined as Hedwig’s new partner, Yitzhak, providing a steady bass line and lending her own voice to the back-ups.
The band on Empire Stage’s small floor leaves little room for Harter and Powers to maneuver, but with strong direction from Jeffrey Holmes, the production turns the liability into an opportunity for an intimate—albeit loud—theater experience.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...there’s nothing quite like watching a “gal” in spandex and a winged Farrah Fawcett wig strut her stuff just inches from your seat.
Directed by Jeffrey D. Holmes, the production features Harter as both Hedwig and the rocker’s beloved, Tommy Gnosis; Blaze Powers as bass guitarist Yitzhak; Dominick Daniel and Jhovany Castillo on percussion; Roger Blankenship on keyboards, and Jonathan Bellino on guitar. The able musicians do right by Trask’s songs...
Harter starts out slowly vocally and in conjuring a memorable Hedwig but gains power on both fronts as the 90-minute show goes on... The slender Powers nails her assignment, contributing vocals that blend well with Harter’s. And when she walks out in the waning moments of the show done up in a slinky hot-pink dress, she shows the fictional Hedwig what glam rock is all about.
Infinite Abyss Productions presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Empire Stage through June 4, 2011.

GableStage: In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play (3 reviews)

GableStage opened its production of Sara Ruhl's In the Next Room (or, The Vibrator Play) on May 14, 2011.
A comedy about marriage, intimacy and electricity. In the 1880s, a new medical device is developed to treat and pacify "hysterical" women, but it unknowingly produces a very different result. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright shares this story of repressed sexuality and physical exploration with equal doses of humor and emotion.
Joe Adler directed a cast that included Jim Ballard, Irene Adjan, Stephen G. Anthony, Julie Kleiner, Sally Bondi, Ricky Waugh, and Renata Eastlick

Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
...although he doesn’t’ appear until Act II, (Leo Irving), played by multi-Carbonell nominated and Silver Palm recipient Ricky Waugh, steals the show whenever he is on stage.   Playing a  gentleman still living in the age of of gallantry, Waugh  does a comical interpretation which  steals the spotlight in this courageously written  play. It is a prize-worthy interpretation.
Theatre insiders agree that Director Joseph Adler  — who has a mantle full of awards for his theatrical acumen – deserves  much of the credit  for the quick pacing of this production and certainly  for providing an appropriate  forum for a well-scripted play. The comic flow has the fingerprint of Adler, who has fine-tuned this terrific ensemble  of individual talent  into an outstanding theatrical  team.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald; an artistic director, Adler is passionate about plays that can be both discomfiting and enlightening, which In the Next Room certainly is.
There's a section where the review devolves to an examination of the play's characters, with bits of review-like adjectives randomly tossed in, almost as an afterthought -
(blah blah blah)...the vibrant Julie Kleiner  (blah blah blah)...a delightful Irene Adjan  (blah blah blah)...the moving Renata Eastlick  (blah blah blah) appealingly amusing Ricky Waugh... 
Eventually, we get back to solid review:
Costume designer Ellis Tillman has outdone himself with gorgeous gowns for the ladies...
The acting, including an appealing turn by Sally Bondi as Givings’ nurse, Annie, and Stephen G. Anthony’s portrayal of the sexist yet charismatic Mr. Daldry, is first-rate. And so is Adler’s staging, which allows for the artful interplay of unexpected humor, palpable longing and, at last, a grace note of eroticism, beautifully played.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2010, the piece by Sara Ruhl shows us how sickly ladies in the late 1800s could be brought back to blooming health, rosy cheeked and serene of brow, by the simple manipulation of the little man in the boat.  Interesting stuff for all, especially as portrayed by this excellent cast.
A typically excellent GableStage production, In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play is a wonderfully funny, yet tender, affair.  It does, however, slow down a little in the second act as plotting replaces inspiration and we get a two hour and twenty minutes running time.

Lyle Baskin has produced a gorgeously realistic period living room and examination room and Ellis Tillman's costumes, Omar Martos' lighting and Matt Corey's sound are, as usual, just as good as good can be.
In the Next Room (or, The Vibrator Play) plays at GableStage through June 12, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Actors' Playhouse: The 39 Steps (4 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps on May 11, 2011, a co-production with The Orlando Shakespeare Festival and The Florida Repertory Company.
This new play mixes a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel and adds a dash of Monty Python to give you a fast-paced, whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre. The 39 Steps is packed with hilarity: a cast of four ridiculously-talented actors playing over 150 zany characters, an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers, some good old-fashioned romance and nonstop laughter!
Jim Helsinger directed a cast that included Michael Frederic, Brad DePlanche, Brandon Roberts, and Deanna Gibson.

Mia Leonin reviewed "special to" The Miami Herald:
A few minutes into The 39 Steps, at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, you know you’re in for a very funny send-up of the classic spy-film genre.
With skill and spunk, Brad Deplanche and Brandon Roberts morph into policemen, train conductors, thugs, and farmwives at breakneck speed, creating a Keystone Kops sense of mayhem as they race around the stage, literally changing hats and accents at every turn. Frequently evoking the bawdy humor of the late Benny Hill, Deplanche is exceptionally funny.

Gibson and Frederic are also excellent. Their droll humor and spot-on comedic timing reminded me of Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman in the old Carol Burnett Show skits.
Jim Helsinger’s direction is impeccable, but at 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission, The 39 Steps does feel a bit long, and could, perhaps, be trimmed without losing its comic punch.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
If you like your humor broad, silly, and wildly imaginative, hurry on down to Actors' Playhouse and catch the hilarious The 39 Steps.
...Brad Deplanche and Brandon Roberts zoom through over 150 characters.  That's what the PR says, but I couldn't keep count.  Too fast and funny.
This is a play with outlandish accents, jokes, puns and wonderful performances.  Forgive me if I sound like a flack here, but it's just so damn gratifying to go to the theatre and see a piece that really is all you'd hoped it would be.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Leading man Michael Frederic is made the straight man by default. He ably carries the pacing forward. Deanna Gibson is more gal pal than vixen in most of her characters, but jumps on board the comic moments whenever possible. The show really belongs to Brad DePlanche and Brandon Roberts who play dozens of characters, handling the fast changes, assorted props, and ever-changing accents without a hitch.

Good staging and lighting really are key in assisting the two actors always hitting their mark for quick deliveries before moving on. Actors' Playhouse uses the smaller upstairs theatre well to achieve this.

The production is entertaining as both a theatre piece and an actor's exercise. Lovers of film noir and Hitchcock will get a kick out of the cinematic references and style of The 39 Steps as well. The production is just good, simple fun.
Chris Joseph reviewed for The Miami New Times:
Adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow, and directed by Jim Helsinger, a talented four-member cast playing 150 different characters delivered a satisfyingly witty and fast-paced version of one of Alfred Hitchcock'sfirst masterpieces at last night's Actors' Playhouse opening productionof The 39 Steps.
Brad Deplanche and Brandon Roberts, who play the majority of the roles, perform their comedy-relief roles with skilled precision, donning wigs and hats and leaping through wardrobe changes seemingly at the blink of an eye.
Deanna Gibson delivers a stand out performance... Michael Frederic makes a hilarious straight man as Richard Hannay. He seems straight out of an old 1930's British film, with his pencil thin mustache, halting way of speaking, cocked eyebrow and proper English chap demeanor.
The 39 Steps is a kinetic comedy driven by great performances, split-second wardrobe changes, and inventive stagecraft, and it's a unique and enjoyable way of experiencing one of Hitch's all-time classics.
The 39 Steps plays at Actors' Playhouse through June 5, 2011.

WONDERLAND Final Curtain Call

On Sunday, Wonderland closed, and then this happened:

Mondays are Dark

Things are starting to slow down for the season, but there's still a pretty good reading list for Monday.

Got Sphinx?
ME Productions is holding an auction tomorrow, to clear out tons of props and sets it's accumulated for their event business, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The Miami Theatre Examiner reports that the Arsht Center is putting together a flash mob.

Backstage at DramaWorks
The Palm Beach Daily News talks with the cast of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, now playing at Palm Beach DramaWorks.

The Palm Beach Daily News also talked with playright Carter Lewis and director Louis Tyrell about The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider, now playing at Florida Stage.

They went TO N.Y
The Herald notes that some of the actors up for Tony Awards this year have South Florida roots.

Off With Its Head
TheatreMania reports that Wonderland, starring Janet Dacal, closed on May 15, after 31 previews and 33 performances.  Broadway World has video of a post-performance talkback with Dacal and co-star Darren Ritchie.

In Miami, there are definite plans to change management at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing arts, according to Miami Today News, but it's not in the clear, yet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The All New Theatre Calendar

A couple of years ago, a tourist asked what would be playing while they were in town - four months from now.  That's when we created our first comprehensive theatre listing.  It was a great way to see what was opening every month, but it was difficult to assemble and keep updated.

And as time passed, there was the issue of what to do with the older listings - do we delete as we go, or preserve the article for reference?  Updating was difficult, and it was easy to place a show's opening under the wrong date.

After consideration and a bit of work, the Theatre Scene has created a Google calendar with all the plays we know about.  It's accessible via the new Calendar button at the top of the page.

As we discover new plays, we'll add them.  If you're a producer, feel free to send in your dates, and we'll add them, and if you see we have the dates wrong, we can easily update them.

The calendar has some cool features;
  1. map links.  With a click you can see exactly where the theater is located.
  2. direct links to the theater's website, so you can buy tickets or learn more about the show.
  3. Different views - you can choose to see what's playing today, this week, or this month.  You can also select an Agenda view, which appears as a simply list.
  4.  It's interactive!  You can save events to your own Google calendar, and then invite friends to the event. You can subscribe to the calendar via iCal.  That means that when we update the calendar, it updates on your desktop, too. You can subscribe to the calendar via XML, so the listing appears in an RSS reader.
Eventually, we'll have a calendar dedicated to children's productions, for the convenience of our family-oriented playgoers.

We hope you enjoy this new feature, and please leave us feedback so we can tweak it to maximize its benefits.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Palm Beach DramaWorks: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (5 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened its production of Martin Mcdonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane on May 6, 2011.  It will be the final production in their intimate Banyan Street space before moving to their new home in the former Clematis Theater.
The darkly comic tale of a lonely woman and her manipulative mother, whose interference in her daughter's only chance at love sets the stage for deceptions, secrets and betrayal.
William Hayes directed a cast that featured Barbara Bradshaw, Kati Brazda, Blake DeLong, and Kevin Kelly.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
It's a delight, as always, to watch Barbara Bradshaw
electrify a stage, even in — nay, especially in — a role as odious as Mag Folan. It's a pleasure to watch her gears of manipulation turn in the play's best scene, in which Ray has come to the house to hand-deliver an important letter from Pato (who is in England) to Maureen. But Maureen is not home, and we watch as Mag tries every trick in the book — very much like the devil on the wall plaque — to persuade Ray to leave the letter with her, where she will inevitably incinerate
it in the fireplace. Refusing, an anxious Ray roams around the room, flipping the letter in his hands and tapping it nervously on any available surface. Though the action in the scene is entirely Ray's, we can't stop looking at the seated Bradshaw, whose eyes zero in, with radar precision, on the letter; she's like a salivating dog leering lustfully at the treat with which her owner nonchalantly toys.
For the most part, the rest of the players — all of them out-of-town talent
— manage to keep up with Bradshaw, something that can't be said in many
of the productions she stars in.    ...Brazda excels as the play's most tragic character, beautifully rendering Maureen's imbalanced, vulnerable psyche...
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
As its name implies, Palm Beach Dramaworks rarely ventures into the realm of comedy, but it has made an exception with Martin McDonagh’s darkly humorous and rather grisly The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the play that introduced the Irish writer to American audiences in 1998.
The interplay between them, particularly as performed to the hilt by fleshy, heart-on-her-sleeve Kati Brazda (Maureen) and stolid, rocking chair-bound Barbara Bradshaw (Mag), is wince-inducing yet perversely comic. They goad each other, picking away at long-festering emotional wounds with such skill that the only appropriate response is an uncomfortable laugh.
Director William Hayes’ great care with the play’s comic suspense is never more evident than in the scene between Ray and Mag, where he is impatient to deliver the missive to Maureen while her mother is eager to get her hands on it, to read and destroy it. The sequence is virtually choreographed, as Blake DeLong totes it about Michael Amico’s grimy, drab cottage set, inches out of Mag’s reach.
Although less heady than most of Dramaworks’ fare, the more visceral Beauty Queen of Leenane stands up well to the rest of the company’s season – more "theater that packs a wicked stomach punch" than the usual "theater to think about."
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The new production at Palm Beach Dramaworks showcases the playwright's gift for planting secrets that detonate to wound the soul, as well as his keen ear for the back-and-forth of a toxic relationship. Director William Hayes and a killer cast (in one case, killer turns literal) deliver a potent version of the play, mixing unexpected tenderness, the possibility of hope and cruel tragedy.
Bradshaw and Brazda are equally matched combatants, aggrieved victims one minute, victimizers the next. Kelly's Pato is a simple, compassionate charmer, and the actor's delivery of a monologue offering a life to Maureen would tempt any woman to say yes.

So, too, should anyone who appreciates powerful theatrical storytelling say yes to Dramaworks' The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane blends the grubby truculence of David Mamet’s plays about American lowlife with the banked horror of an Alfred Hitchcock film.  The play is propelled by brilliant performances from Barbara Bradshaw and Kati Brazda and note-perfect direction by William Hayes
Bradshaw, a powerhouse in any role she plays, portrays Mag Folan, an old woman who schemes to blight her adult daughter Maureen’s chances of an independent life. Brazda flourishes as Maureen...
Hayes balances the script’s violence with humor and gives all the characters, if not a sympathetic spin, at least a rationale for their behavior. The play’s world is as immediate as though we’d stepped into the Folans’ kitchen. 
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane – a melodrama which launched his career in 1996 – is given the royal treatment at Palm Beach Dramaworks here. It has not lost any of its dim, damp and dungy feel in this outstanding production, directed by William Hayes. In fact, this production proves to be one of the best two hours one can ever experience in a South Florida theatre. It is a showcase for fine acting, astute direction, technical excellence and, above all, a vehicle for fine writing. It once again proves why PB Dramaworks under Producing Artistic Director Haye’s leadership excels in providing thoughtful drama and superb performances in a splendorous manner.
It is easy to praise the two female actors – Bradshaw and Brazda. Author McDonagh has written two juicy roles and these two veterans play the nagging mom and combative daughter to perfection. But, the script also gives the two young men in this production – Blake DeLong as the fidgety neighbor and Kevin Kelly as his shy but love-seeking brother — a chance to dominate the stage.
The set by Michael Amico, with its simple furniture, rocking chair and sooty walls is home to this mother-daughter but also a “prison” for the younger woman. One can almost smell the decay of this country cottage. Credit also goes to costumer Brian O’Keefe, Scott Wagmeister for lighting and Matt Corey for his sound direction. Technically – and we sometimes forget their importance to the overall show – this production is also right on target.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through June 19, 2011.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Florida Stage: The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider (5 reviews)

Florida Stage opened its production of The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider on May 4, 2011.
An electric and timely new play from Carter W. Lewis, the author of The Storytelling Ability of a Boy. What happens when “soldiers of fortune” outnumber our army troops? Fortified with a BFA in Slam Poetry Performance, a young woman finds herself caught up in a frightening and darkly comic journey with two rogue mercenary soldiers and a vaguely magical Afghani cab driver who has a penchant for Led Zeppelin.
Louis Tyrell directed a cast that included Elizabeth Birkenmeier, Laura Turnbull, Todd Allen Durkin, Eric Mendenhall, and Antonio Amadeo.

John Thomason relates the entire story of the play, getting mired in various details, and eventually gets around to reviewing the play for the Broward/Palm Beach New Time;
Like Lewis' last effort for Florida Stage, The Storytelling Ability of a Boy, Cha-Cha is about the power of youthful artistic expression to overcome the violence surrounding us — an admirable if naive proposition that Lewis conveys well. The wordplay-infused slam poetry that Bethany uses to bend bullets, warp time, and spread Zeppelin could have been spat by an HBO def poet. The acting kudos go mostly to Durkin, though. If Amadeo's and Turnbull's solid performances are imbued with familiar tics that trigger memories of past performances, Durkin's take on his brutal, lonely soldier of fortune is altogether new; he is emotionally unrecognizable in the part.
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
Ostensibly a darkly comic rant about America’s use of mercenary private armies, it becomes instead a surreal exercise in the transporting power of verbal poetry. Or maybe the play was always about the potency of the arts, and the initial emphasis on Blackwater-like combat forces is just an attempt to misdirect us.
The theatrical journey begins in the offices of "e," a corporate military training facility, where Loretta Hanrahan (an aptly stressed-out Laura Turnbull) and her daughter Bethany (verbally nimble Elizabeth Birkenmeier), a recent college graduate with a virtually worthless degree in spoken word poetry, are hacking into the company’s computer system to ensure they receive the death benefits owed them.
Even if he is steamed, Lewis has not forgotten the value of comedy nor vivid characters. Hanrahan’s hit men, Stack and Denny (Todd Allen Durkin and Eric Mendenhall), are bitter buddies, demoted to the dull purgatory of security detail at stateside "e" headquarters.
The guards are an amusing, if grouchy and timid pair, but even better is Muslim Ahmad Ahmadazai, a wisecracking cabbie who may actually be dead. It is that kind of play. As played with dry wit by Antonio Amadeo, the character all but steals the show, or at least deserves his own spin-off script.
Among the things that are clear: Director Louis Tyrrell delivers everything Lewis could hope for in this world-premiere production and Victor A. Becker’s scenic design cleverly goes from glossy corporate offices to a wilting greenhouse in another showy display of Florida Stage’s new home.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Lewis has crafted some funny, observant dialogue for Cha-Cha, and he has also cooked up poetry for Bethany that is deliberately bad (her natural state) and pointedly deep (her “inspiration” flowing from an artificial heart removed from a torture subject). Bethany refers to herself as the poet-avenger and the iambic pen-Terminator. But as played by the teenage-looking Birkenmeier (an actress-playwright who is currently working on a master’s degree), the poet wannabe registers as a lost, wounded kid.
Turnbull has little to do but shout... Durkin’s Stack is faux-fierce and funny; Mendenhall’s Denny is a guy trying to remember what it felt like to be young and alive. Given what the other actors have to work with, Amadeo easily walks away with the play, creating a full, rich, mysterious character who is simply adorable.
Set designer Victor A. Becker creates, for the play’s final location, a beautifully weathered greenhouse jam-packed with plants, a place belonging to Denny’s grandma. Why do Denny and Stack take the kidnapped Bethany there? Why does Ahmad show up? Why does raging Loretta wait outside? Why does the play end with a sitcom-pretty, happily-ever-after tableau?

These and way too many other questions are never clearly, satisfyingly answered in The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
Though the set is serviceable, the production is lacking the impressive nature of other recent Florida Stage sets such as that for Cane.
Todd Allen Durkin tries a bit too hard to be the luggish, macho Stack. He is convincing most of the time, but sometimes is on the verge of a "Saturday Night Live" caricature, puffing out his belly and strutting about. This might have worked better if the actor playing his sidekick Denny were following the same style, but Eric Mendenhall's portrayal is much more realistic.
Laura Turnbull is interesting and impactful as Loretta, but we do not get enough time with her on stage.
Elizabeth Birkenmeier captures the artsy flavor of her character Bethany, and some of her yearning, but misses some of the tenderness that would make this character more relatable...
The best performance in the play is Antonio Amadeo as Afghani cab driver Ahmad Ahmadazai... His comedic timing in his responses to his captors and his observations on life are the most entertaining things in this production. They are done with a passive playfulness that still drives home his valid points.
The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider is not without its problems. There is a mixture of the use of magic or altered reality, flashbacks and overt symbolism... There is also so much... "slam poetry" that it becomes a bit indulgent, and stops moving the plot forward... While Carter Lewis has chosen a worthy subject, he loses his grasp on it by mixing together too many conflicting elements and no palpable resolution.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
“Wow-manship” neatly fits the bill for Carter W. Lewis’ latest play – The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider — currently weaving its spell at its Florida Stage premiere....For simplification, let’s refer to Lewis’ latest play as CHA, but there is nothing simple about this production.
Topnotch director Lewis Tyrrell once again utilizes his skills to fine-tune this production. That includes utilizing his unusually large set at Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse to give credibility and reality to a story.
Long after you leave the theatre will you be talking about Antonio Amadeo as the music-loving Afghani cab driver. The Carbonell award-winning actor perfectly captures this character’s personality and spirit, adding humor to a dramatic event. It is a milestone portrayal of an American Muslim who has been in the States for 22 years, but is still considered a stranger (or worse yet, a terrorist).

Ditto for two other award-winning actors – Laura Turnbull (one of Florida’s most beloved performers ) as the widow of a slain Company man, and Todd Allen Durkin as one of the mercenaries. (“privileged thugs”). Durkin – fresh off a noteworthy performance at Mosaic in The Irish Curse – once again shines in a role demanding a streak of violence and bravado. Relative newcomers Mendenhall and Birkenmeier (the protagonist who believes her poetry and love of life can make the world a better place) apparently benefited from being part of this star ensemble. Both give excellent performances.
Credit Victor A. Becker for outstanding scenic design, Erin Amico for the costumes, sound by Matt Kelly and especially Suzanne M. Jones for effective lighting. All of this technical support helps bring the military facility to life at the West Palm Beach theatrical venue.
The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider plays through June 4 at Florida Stage.

The Scene for May 13, 2011

It's starting to feel like summer, and it's not because so many shows are closing this weekend.  Fortunately, there are also a couple of shows opening this weekend, and more coming in the next few weeks.

Don't forget, the FPTA statewide audtions are rushing up on us: this year, they are being held in Vero Beach at The Riverside Theater on May 21-23. The deadline to register is this Monday, May 16.  If you are an actor trying to make it in this business, you should be there; not only do you get seen by every major theater in Florida, there are seminars and workshops.

Now, here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


The 39 Steps opens this weekend at Actors' Playhouse, through June 5.

GableStage opens Sarah Ruhl's IN THE NEXT ROOM or The Vibrator Play, through June 12.

Rising Action Theatre opens 2 Boys in a Bed on A Cold Winter's Night.  And if you suspect that the title suggests there will be a lot of male frontal nudity, it only means that you've been paying attention.

you still haven't missed...

The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider plays at Florida Stage through June 5.

Palm Beach DramaWorks' production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays through June 19.

Infinite Abyss Productions offers Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Empire Stage through June 4th.

Red White and Tuna plays at The Waterfront Playhouse in Key West, through May 21.

The Music Man plays at the Stage Door Theatre through June 19.

passing through...

The Color Purple stops in at The Kravis Center this weekend.

Celebrity Autobiography plays through May 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

last chance to see...

God of Carnage winds up its run at The Caldwell Theatre Company on May 15. 

The Women's Theatre Project ends its production of Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks on May 15.

Fifty/Fifty finishes at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Laffing Matterz winds up its season at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, this Saturday evening.  Last call for dinner, drinks, and laughs - at least until next fall.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Actors' Playhouse presents a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes through May 27.

The Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents A Little Princess the Musical through May 22.

Is this thing on?

Our web-host, Blogger, has been down for the last 24 hours or so.  As you can see, several posts were removed while they were restoring service.  We're told that they may return later in the day, but we do have them backed up.  So one way or the other, the Theatre Scene will be fully restored later today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Open Letter to South Florida Theater Companies.

Dear South Florida theater producer,

The bad news is that the South Florida Theater Review has closed because local theater producers didn't buy advertising space.  As the blog's editor, Lawrence Johnson, noted, certain theaters proudly quoted SFTR reviews and articles, but somehow failed to see its value as a marketing tool.  You know who you are.  And so do I, frankly.
One executive director of a major company was lavish in her praise of one of Bill’s feature advances saying she must get a copy immediately, so she can hang it in the lobby. When Bill mentioned that I was concerned about the lack of ad support, she abruptly changed tone and said, “We don’t have any money.”
That's BS on so many levels.  The truth is that they did and do have money, they're just wasting it, spending their few dollars in the wrong places, as we'll discuss below.

He also stated that some smaller companies DID advertise, or at least inquired.  I would suspect that they are the same companies that have approached The Scene over the last few years. (FYI, Google AdSense handles all of The Scene's ad space, so you can stop asking us and start asking them.)  It' s interesting that a start-up company has the money to advertise on a weblog, but Actors' Playhouse, for example, does not.

I've heard comments from marketing people and producers over the last few years.  Some of them say they only have limited funds, and have to choose them carefully.  And then I see their ads in the Sun-Sentinel, a paper that no longer covers theater in South Florida.  And I have to say, that's simply, well, STUPID.  If you're interested in theater, the Sun-Sentinel is no longer a source for original articles and reviews.  Since one is unlikely to go to a source that has no information on the subject of interest, it means that any advertising pertinent to that interest will go unseen.

Oh, I know the counter-argument; "A lot of our older patrons still read the Sun-Sentinel, so we need to keep them in the loop.  A lot of them don't even own a computer."

And that's probably true.  But it's also true that
  1. They are already your patrons.
  2. They are a shrinking minority.
No offense, but one should consider that possibility that one of the reasons fewer people are reading the Sentinel (and other newspapers) is that people who grew up reading newspapers are dying.  We talk about "newspaper readership dying off" but we tend to gloss over the fact that it is literally true. 

That's not to say that people are no longer interested in reading reviews and articles about theater.  I can attest that they are.  They are doing it online.

We are turning to online media because print media is gutting its coverage to keep expenses down.  And if that sounds as sensible as a restaurant cutting food from its menu to cut costs, well, it is.  Both the Sun-Sentinel and The Post have stopped covering theater.  So for theater lovers, both of these papers are now irrelevant to their lives.  Either they read newspapers that still cover theater - which means The Miami Herald on a daily basis or The New Times on a weekly one - or they go online.

The lesson is clear - if you want your advertising dollars to matter, you need to put them where people are looking for theater.

The good news is that Bill Hirschman is going to try it again - in about a month, he'll open his own site: Florida Theater on Stage.  We'll be linking to his stories.  Why is that important?  Because of the way search engines work.  Or specifically, how Google works.

From Wikipedia:
The company achieved better results for many searches with an innovation called PageRank. This iterative algorithm ranks web pages based on the number and PageRank of other web sites and pages that link there, on the premise that good or desirable pages are linked to more than others.
That means that the more links leading to a web page, the more visible it is to the search engine.  The more connections, the higher the rating, the more likely it is to show up in a search.

So every time someone reviews a show or posts an article about your theater, it increases your visibility - GLOBALLY.  And of course, we link to those stories and reviews, which increases your visibility AGAIN.

Now consider what happens when you advertise on a website like The Review; you're linked by the article, you're linked by the review, and you're linked by your advertisement.  And it's all visible on a global scale.  That means that you're not just getting the attention of the people who live here, but also that of the people who are coming here.  The Theater Scene started its Seasonal Listing because we kept getting inquiries from people coming down for vacations asking what would be playing here on certain dates.  That means that what plays were running often affected when these people would visit here.

At this point, some of you might be asking "Well, what does The Theatre Scene care?  You're not asking for these advertising dollars - they didn't turn YOU down!"

But yes, you did.  The Theatre Scene is primarily a meta-blog; our focus has not been original content, it's been finding content elsewhere and linking to it.  But we can only do that if there's content elsewhere to link to.  Every time a news organization stops covering arts, or a blog shuts down, the Theatre Scene is diminished.  And yes, we mean the literal theater scene as well as this blog.

The lesson to take from this?  When Bill's new site opens in June, buy some advertising, because in the long run, it benefits your theater company far more than it benefits Bill.

And the reality is that you can't afford not to.

Best Regards,
South Florida Theatre Scene

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sightings: Dan Leonard

Dan Leonard is no stranger to the south Florida theatre scene; he's been gracing area stages since 1985.  This week, the Daily News reports that he is being honored with the Randolph A. Frank Prize for the Performing Arts.

He is also a playwright of some merit. His most well-known play is undoubtedly the biographical Ernie Pyle:
Here Is My War
, a one-man show he has performed around the country.  He has also created a prolific number of plays for Florida Stage's children's theatre program over the years.   A generation of actors toured Florida with Uncle Dan in any one of a dozen school tours. 

Congratulations, Dan!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mondays are Dark (Updated)

The Most Important Thing
I just had to include this late addition by The Producer's Perspective on the value of having the right artistic director.
It's a challenge for ADs, because their job is to serve a mission, challenge an audience, stretch, push, educate, etc . . . but they must remember that if the audience doesn't enjoy what they are seeing, they'll go somewhere else.  Period. 
I think that having an AD who respects the budget is also important.  Because you can sell out a show and STILL not make money if you're not minding the numbers.

What's the Buzz?
The Miami Theatre Examiner reminds us that In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play opens this week at GableStage.

Will Bill Bail?
The Palm Beach Post reports that IATSE local 500 is hoping that Bill Maher won't cross their picket line to do his May 28 show at the Kravis Center.
The stagehands union and the performing arts center in West Palm Beach remain at odds after an 11-year contract fight in which a federal judge ruled in 2008 that management had engaged in unfair labor practices.

"Bill Maher's a guy that speaks about injustice and hammers it home to everybody about hypocrisy," said Terry McKenzie, a former stagehands union president. "In a perfect world, Bill Maher wouldn't cross a picket line."
All The World's a Stage
Broadway World reports on Gen Z Global Stage, an initiative by Florida Stage in association with Dreyfoos School of the Arts to facilitate global collaboration via digital technology (making plays through the Internet). 
With a dialogue that functions via a Google Groups website, young people from all of the participating countries share their thoughts, ideas, fears, hopes and triumphs. The project has at its heart the desire to teach young people that even though they are separated by thousands of miles, and in very different cultures, they have more in common than they would have previously realized.
South BEACH Theatre Scene?
CBS-Local 10 looks into a movement to create a theatre district in Miami Beach's South Beach district. Apparently, we missed the story when it ran in The Herald last month.
Led by Paris Theater owner Eugene Rodriguez, former mayor Harold Rosen and attorney Steve Polisar, the Miami Beach Theater & Show District Association has been meeting with city administrators and officials to promote a concept in which the two blocks would become a hotspot for investors looking to open small theaters and live performance venues. - The Miami Herald, 4/18/2011
The plan: to turn Washington Avenue from Fifth to Seventh Streets into a strip of off-Broadway playhouses, jazz clubs and dinner theaters.  Polisar said the idea was inspired by the enormous, 1945-built Paris Theater on the west side of Washington Avenue. Currently, it is only used for private events, but its owner, Eugene Rodriguez, said it could be transformed for public use.  Rodriguez said the empty nightclubs across the street that are half its size would be perfect for up and coming acts.  - CBS Local10
It's an interesting concept, but hard to imagine in the current economy.

"I see...FAMOUS People..."
James Cubby writes up Celebrity Autobiography for Miami ArtZine.
"The show features a rotating cast of celebrities reading celebrity autobiographies on stage..."
This week, the readers will include Sharon Gless (who lives here, making this "legitimate" to South Florida), Bruce Vilanch, Paul Provenza, Cady Huffman, Roger Bart (yes, THAT Roger Bart), and Dayle Reyfel.  Who's Dayle Reyfel?  He's one of the creators of the show.

Video Trailers for Live Theater
The Naples Stage Door posts the latest clip for a show at Florida Rep, and mentions that while it's easy for bloggers to share video on YouTube, Facebook videos - and articles - are only visible to other FaceBook users.  (That's a hint, son.  I say, a HINT.  Send us links to your You Tube videos, and we'll probably post them.)

Does Theater Matter?
The Tony Award nominations are out, so TimeOut New York reflects on the purpose of it all.

Edward Albee Expounds
The Telegraph has an interview with Edward Albee.  At 83, he hasn't mellowed, and that's just fine.
'Let me remind you of something,” says the spiky, donnish voice on the line from Texas, where the playwright Edward Albee is taking an hour on the phone before his day’s teaching begins. “You may not need reminding, but a lot of people do. A playwright or any creative artist is his work. The biography can be distorting, or it’s just gravy. The work is the essence of the person.”
Purple Prose
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that the national tour of The Color Purple returns to South Florida, this time to the Kravis Center.  This show sold out at the Arsht Center, and did a brisk business at the Broward Center.  Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post talks with playwright Marsha Norman about her work on the musical.

Full Frontal Nudity
Of course, we must be talking about Rising Action Theatre, infamous for its gratuitous inclusion of nudity.  BroadwayWorld reports that their next production is Two Boys in Bed on a Cold Winter's Night.  Subtle.

This Business We Call Show
The Minnesota Playlist has the testimony of the wife of a theatre owner.
I’m sure the long hours and countless demands of a theater are not dissimilar to that of any new entrepreneurial venture. What I think is different about theater is the social nature of it. Anyone can come in off the street and see my husband at his theater. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! Which begs the question: Why don’t you hang out with him there?
Stars on Parade
uVu Blog has video from the Broward Schools' 12th Annual Stars on Parade showcase, held at the Broward Center on April 26, 2011. The show features the best talent from Broward County Schools arts programs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Scene for May 6, 2011.

Whew!  It's May already!  We'd better start compiling the list of the Summer season shows, and next year's theatre season. Most theatre have already started selling subscriptions to next year's plays. Of course, we don't list them by theatre, we give you the month-to-month breakdown.

And don't forget, the FPTA statewide audtions are rushing up on us: this year, they are being held in Vero Beach at The Riverside Theater on May 21-23. The deadline to register is Monday, May 16.  If you are an actor trying to make it in this business, you should be there.

Now, here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider opens at Florida Stage, through June 5.

Palm Beach DramaWorks opens The Beauty Queen of Leenane, through June 19.

Infinite Abyss Productions opens Hedwig and the Angry Inch, through June 4th at Empire Stage.

Red White and Tuna opens at The Waterfront Playhouse in Key West, through May 21.

you still haven't missed...

The Music Man plays at the Stage Door Theatre through June 19.

The Women's Theatre Project presents Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks, through May 15.

God of Carnage plays at The Caldwell Theatre Company through May 15. 

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Meshuggah-Nuns, the 4th sequel to the zany Nunsense, plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center through May 8, 2011.

Celebrity Autobiography, May 5-1 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The Miramar Cultural Center presents Loose Lips on May 8, one night only.

last chance to see...

The Andrews Living Arts Studio closes its production of EQUUS  this Saturday, May 7.

The Slow Burn Theatre Company
opens Blood Brothers at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, through May 8, 2011.

for kids...

Doktor Kaboom! One day, two early shows only at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, this Saturday, May 6.

The Miramar Cultural Center presents the Hudson Vagabond Puppet Company production of Caps for Sale/Three Billy Goats Gruff, one day only on May 6, 2011.

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Actors' Playhouse presents a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes through May 27.

The Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents A Little Princess the Musical through May 22.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Playground Theatre: The Red Thread (reviews)

Children's theatre productions rarely get reviewed in South Florida, although they reach a much greater audience than adult-oriented theatre.  But the Playground is known for the kind of fantastically high production values usually reserved for opera or ballet.  So perhaps that is why The Red Thread has gotten attention rarely lavished on "kids shows."

The PlayGround Theatre opened their production of The Red Thread on April 13, 2011.
A widowed weaver has dedicated three years of his life to creating one magnificent silk tapestry. Anxious to sell the tapestry so they can use the money to create luxurious lives, the weaver’s two older daughters steal his work before it is finished. Mortally betrayed, the weaver collapses, and his youngest daughter takes it upon herself to retrieve his masterpiece. Her ensuing adventures challenge her mind, body, and spirit and ultimately bring her true love, inner strength, and a glorious reunion.  This original play is inspired by Chinese folklore, myths and mysticism.
Stephanie Ansin directed cast that included Jesus Quintero, Christina Jun, Troy Davidson, Kate Shine, Melissa Almaguer, Christian T. Chan, and Marjorie O'Neill-Butler.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
...Stephanie Ansin, director, co-scriptwriter and chief visionary of The Red Thread, has once again led her core corps of artists in melding stylized movement, an original exotic soundtrack, ornate costumes worthy of Chinese opera, disciplined choreography, earnest performances and a parade of visual images that keep you asking, “This is children’s theater?”
The actors never perform like adults condescending to children. They play each emotion for the reality that they can elicit from the situation, although, frankly, the material has no subtlety and neither do the performances. But it’s for kids, you know?
Ansin’s creative team each deserve a Carbonell Award (although the theater is inexplicably not eligible) including the idiosyncratic choreography by Octavio Campos and the music by Luciano Stazzone, which combines traditional Asian sounds with an electronic undercurrent.

But standing above all are the stunningly integrated costumes, set and lighting designs by Calzadilla under Ansin’s direction. Other than the baroque wedding clothing and royal robes, Calzadilla’s costumes are not so much ornate as deftly designed.
 (Editor's note: when you read Bill's review, you'll note that he felt the show move a little slow.)

Chris Joseph wrote for The Miami New Times:
..the PlayGround Theatre... has unveiled yet another foray into myth and fantasy: The Red Thread.
We then scroll down through Chris Joseph wasting our time and valuable space by reciting the entire fucking play, until we finally abandon pointless narration for a few more morsels of actual play review:
Christina Jun gives a stalwart performance as the vulnerable but heroic Ling Shih, and Troy Davidson is a spellbinding presence as Guairen the mystic...
One of the play's better performances comes from the cast we don't see. Much of the story is told through the use of shadow puppets (another ancient Chinese tradition) masterfully manipulated by a crew dressed in black.
Co-writers Stephanie Ansin (who also directs) and Fernando Calzadilla have created a wholly original fantasy rich in Chinese mysticism, magic, and wonder.
I'd blame Chris Joseph for the rancid piece of crap being paraded as a review, but the fact is that his editor should be cutting out all the endless plot spoilers and pointless narration, and make Joseph write more actual analysis of the production.  So I'll give Joseph the benefit of the doubt, but I'd still like to spend an hour in a room with his editor strapped to a chair and attached to a car battery.  Ve Haff Vays to Make You Edit.

Mia Leonin reviewed for ArtBurst Miami, a blog that seems centered on dance:
The PlayGround Theatre’s visually striking productions have become the trademark of a team that creates captivating performances for children – and the adults who schlep them.

The PlayGround Theatre’s latest creation, The Red Thread, is no exception. Fernando Calzadilla’s set, lighting, and costumes are so vibrant and vital to the story, it’s as if the design elements are characters. And Octavio Campos’ choreography adds to the fluidity of the movement on stage.
Troy Davidson is exquisite as the mystic who helps Ling Shih uncover her inner strength and balance. Jun is a perfect fit for the role of Ling Shih. She possesses the agility and athleticism to do the more harrowing physical parts believably, but she is also an actress with a lot of character. Christian Chan is also charismatic as the Prince of Khotan. He and his demanding mother, the Queen of Khotan (Marjorie O’Neill-Butler) add humor to the play’s drama.
The Red Thread pulls together elements of adventure, drama, and humor to create a rich theatrical experience. The PlayGround Theatre is one of the few theaters in South Florida that consistently manages to engage, inform, and delight a multi-generational audience, but don’t take my word for it. I attended The Red Thread with my seven-year-old daughter and my stepsons who are 15 and 16. Miraculously, everyone was speechless for 90 minutes. The grade schooler didn’t fidget and the teenagers couldn’t come up with one sarcastic remark. Silence speaks volumes.

The Red Thread plays at The PlayGround Theatre through May 21, 2011.