Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mosaic Theatre: Ages of the Moon (4-1/4 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Sam Shepard's Ages of the Moon on June 2, 2011.
A gruffly poignant and darkly funny play. Byron and Ames are old friends, re-united by mutual desperation. Over bourbon on ice, they sit, reflect and bicker until fifty years of love, friendship and rivalry are put to the test at the barrel of a gun.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that featured Dennis Creaghan and Gordon McConnell.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The volatile drama... onstage at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre ...serves as a reminder of why Shepard deserves all that reverence. And it provides rich performance opportunities for a pair of South Florida’s best actors, Dennis Creaghan and Gordon McConnell.
Director Richard Jay Simon and his dynamic acting duo mine the comedy, conflict and machismo so typical of Shepard’s work, even as they explore the autumnal mood of Ages of the Moon. The playwright is now in his late 60s, shifting his attention from violent sibling rivalry and toxic family relationships to the things that bedevil men as they approach the end.
Working the little porch of set designer Douglas Grinn’s weathered brick house, McConnell and Creaghan offer a master class in acting that seems casually conversational even as it hints at the explosive moments to come. Creaghan communicates Ames’ misplaced indignation at his current fate and his dawning realization that he really screwed up this time. McConnell takes Ames and the audience to a place of unbearable pain when he recalls Byron’s lost love.

John Thomason offers another freshman effort for the Broward New Times:
Shepard has transcended the meager necessity of narrative, creating a minor-key, twilight-era masterpiece.
For its regional premiere of the work, Mosaic Theatre has assembled an impeccable duo, the Tyson and Holyfield of over-50 actors in South Florida.
Under Richard J. Simon's appropriately understated direction, McConnell and Creaghan appear effortlessly calibrated to Shepard's verbal oddness. So many Shepard characters are formed by the experiences of a lifetime of hard luck; these two tireless workhorses certainly fit into that flock, looking utterly displaced in a physical, emotional, and existential Nowheresville. Ages of the Moon may not be the playwright's ultimate work, but it has the tender wisdom of a swan song.
Thomason (or whatever passes as his editor) still isn't getting what makes a play review, but it's closer.  He never says why he compared the two to a pair of heavyweight boxers; is there a fight scene?  And an example of "effortless calibration" actually comes before that phrase, rather than after, when it would make sense, and support the use of the phrase:
McConnell, in particular, is great at conveying a sense of unease in his character. He can never quite get comfortable in his surroundings, sitting with one foot in his Adirondack chair and tapping the other one on the ground nervously.
We never get an example of Creaghan's work, unless the descriptions of his character are meant to illustrate that.  But if the review doesn't separate script from stagecraft, the reader is left in the dark.  It's a positive review, poorly constructed,  a mish-mosh of ideas poured out of a blender instead of carefully edited to create a well-crafted and informative review.  But at least the elements are appearing.

Rod Stafford Hagwood (now credited as "staff writer") vomits up 466 words for the corpse of the Sun Sentinel, and when you sift through an endless narration of the script, what we're left with is:
It is that unease about time and place that director Richard Jay Simon has loosely tethered this lean production, unfolding the play without any tricks (some of Shepard's funnier lines could have been milked to death; thankfully they are not). The actors avoid corny the way their characters would apple-tinis, that is to say they get nowhere near it.

And while the ending feels like a swing and a miss, it is the previous 60 or so spellbinding minutes in this one act that leave a wistful impression about poignant loss and growing older.
So, they "avoid corny," and it's "spellbinding."  Gee, thanks Rod.  Not sure why I still bother checking out the "Stunned-Senseless."  Morbid curiosity, I suppose.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
These two guys know all the tricks.  And the beauty part is that they don't use them.   So we get Dennis Creaghan and Gordon McConnell sucking us so far into their portrayals of Ames and Byron that we worry for their health.  Physical and mental.
The seventy minutes fly by like seven when these two start on their stories.  Horses, fishing, honeymoons, bikers, flagellants and women, always the women.   An evening with great monologues ...but this show is not all talk, talk.  Anything but.  Their physicality is a delight.

Ages of the Moon is a surprising piece, full of humor, and director Richard J. Simon picks out every nuance.

This is not a cutting session between two actors; it's a performance that makes you realize just how far these two, Creaghan and McConnell, have come in their profession.  Right to the top.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
There seems to be a proclivity  for brilliant  playwrights to script plays in which the main roles – two ageing characters  —   are getting ready for their  final days. And, few do it better than author Sam Shepard, whose latest trip into the vast unknown takes shape at the Mosaic Theatre here.
Led by Director Richad Jay Simon, Creaghan and McConnell  provide an entertaining look at two characters trying to find meaning in their final days.   Creaghan provides  a knockout performance as the volatile Ames, ready to take on anything which displeases him, and McConnell, as always, is at the top of his acting game. Watching these two veteran performers pace themselves is like a semester course in acting techniques.
The desolate, remote cottage porch  where all of the verbal action goes on is the visible  creation of  Douglas Grinn, a  worthy set for this production, and sound by Matt Corey and  lighting by John Hall add to the intensity of this play.
Ages of the Moon plays at Mosaic Theatre through June 26, 2011.

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