Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Scene for September 30, 2011

Last weekend the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center opened its doors for free entertainment, this week the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center does the same thing, but bigger.  The center celebrates its official grand opening this Saturday and Sunday with all sorts of free activities and entertainments; Florida Theater On Stage has the skinny.

And on Monday, The 24 Hour Theatre Project at the Caldwell Theater kicks of this year's South Florida Theatre Festival.

So here's what's happening on The Scene this weekend;

opening...

Karen Stephens reprises her tour-de-force performance of Bridge & Tunnel, this time at Bob Carter's Actors' Workshop and Repertory Company. But there's a little more time to see it this go-round; it's playing through October 22.


you still haven't missed...

Mosaic Theatre's production of Side Effects runs through October 9, 2011.

Rising Action Theatre presents As Bees In Honey Drown through October 9.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at the Stage Door Theatre, through October 9.


last chance to see...

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre  production of Jelly Belly, closes October 2.  "AAPACT regrets to announce that we must cancel the final three shows (9/30;10/1;10/2) of our play Jelly Belly scheduled for this weekend."

Anagram Entertainment presents An Evening with Mr. Johnson - The Penis Diatribes at Empire Stage, winds up on October 2.

The Brothers Size  at GableStage closes Sunday, October 2.


for kids...

Actors' Playhouse presents Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Saturdays through November 19.

Read more...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mondays are Dark

One of "Those People" Speaks
My very dear friend, Nancy Barnett, shares the story of the end of a dream over on HowlRound.
While still trying to get my head around what had happened, I said “I may be delusional, but…” intending to reiterate my request for the time to look into other options, to mount a campaign, to seek advice from others in our industry, and gather information. My partner reached over and patted my arm. “You are delusional,” he said.  “It’s over.”
The Once and The Future...
The Drama Queen reports that Arnold Mittelman, the man who drove the Coconut Grove Playhouse into the massive debt that killed it  once ran the Coconut Grove Playhouse when it went tits-up is back.  Advice to the New Jewish Theater; no knocks on his artistic abilities, but put someone else in charge of the purse strings. 
Joe Adler, slated to be the next Artistic Director for The Grove if when it's revived, has once again opened GableStage to host a benefit for Ground Up and Rising.  Monday and Tuesday the wandering troupe will present Jails, Hospitals, & Hip Hop, the proceeds of which will benefit the company and hopefully help fund a show later this season.
We're also told that Mosaic Theatre will be presenting a play reading of A Bouquet for Raven Poe Tuesday at 7pm, free admission.

Speaking of Mosaic...
...Broadway World has more details about Mosaic Theatre's play reading.

Notable Selections
Florida Theater On Stage notes that two of the plays listed in The Best Plays of 2010-2011 will be produced in South Florida this season.

Speaking of Praise...
...Alliance Theatre Lab is speaking of praise.  Specifically, its production of 'night, Mother has received nothing but great reviews.


Speaking of Speaking of Praise...
We've all done it.  You go to a show with friends, and find a glaring flaw in it.  Your friends, on the other hand, rave about it.  "That was fabulous!  So clever!"  And then they turn to you and utter those dreaded words: "What did YOU think about it?"
Well, Butts In Seats has figured out how to criticize the performance without criticizing those who enjoyed it.  And I suppose it's better than blithely stating "Well, I think they worked very hard on it" and quickly suggesting we out for drinks.

New Blog on the Block
One of the South Florida's newest theatre companies now has the region's newest theatre blog:  The Z-Spot.  It's the mouthpiece for Zoetic Stage, and after the first "Hello" post, they announce their Board of Advisors.

Speaking of Boards...
... Butts in Seats has good information for groups with board members who just can't get to all the meetings.

Green Room Chat
Florida Theater On Stage does its Q&A with Dan Kelly.

First Peek at HAIRSPRAY
Curious to see David Arisco as Edna Turnblad?  Here you go.

Theatre Festival Returns
Florida Theater On Stage reminds us that The 6th Annual South Florida Theater Festival starts in October.  It kicks off with The 24 hour Theatre Project, produced by Naked Stage and The Promethean Theatre at the Caldwell Theatre.  The complete festival agenda can be found at SouthFloridaTheatre.com.


Miami Tougher Than Russia
Anyone who has ever done business in Russia can tell you this; it is considered the most obstinate, impenetrable, and thoroughly corrupt bureaucracy on the planet, at least since the Mandarins stopped running China.  So when Rob Feldman, who spent years producing television and film in Russia, quits as the City of Miami's Film Industry Liaison after only two months on the job, it should tell you something; the city really earns that "Banana Republic" moniker. Read about it on Miami Today News.

A Trio of Tours
Broadwayworld tells us about the National Tours making their way through South Florida in the next month:  RAIN, A Tribute To The Beatles (Broward Center), The Addams Family (Arsht Center), and the umpteenth return of Mamma Mia (Kravis Center).  To summarize, RAIN is the Beatles in the concert they never did, Addams Family is a show that relies on the performers to make it into anything, and Mamma Mia is, well, still Mamma Mia.

Read more...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just In Time for Halloween

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – September 19, 2011 – Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre will be holding a Halloween Costume Sale Extravaganza on Saturday, October 8 from 6 to 11 p.m. in its second floor Black Box Theatre. Hundreds of items including one-of-a-kind costumes from past productions, costume pieces, hats and accessories will be priced to sell.

 
The varied collection, including some original designs constructed by the award-winning Actors’ Playhouse Design Team and other unique costumes acquired over 24 years of productions, guarantee to offer the sexiest, funniest, and weirdest Halloween costumes in South Florida. Ensembles range from science fiction showgirls to glitzy pharaohs to priests to princesses. Prices range from $5 to $150, only cash will be accepted.

The sale gives the community a chance to buy costumes and props from a number of the Playhouse’s award-winning productions as well as giving the Playhouse a chance to do some spring, or rather, fall cleaning. Costumes are mainly for adults with very few children’s sizes available. This is also the perfect opportunity for theatre companies to add to their costume stock. All proceeds will benefit Actors’ Playhouse, a not-for-profit organization.
 
For more information, call 305-444-9293 or visit www.actorsplayhouse.org. The sale will be held in the Black Box Theatre at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre located at 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL. View costumes before the sale on the Actors' Playhouse Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/pTMSGZ.

Read more...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Scene for September 23, 2011

There's a play reading group that meets the fourth Friday of every month, presented by Multus Productions.  This Friday it's Three Generations of Men by C. Denyce Shaw.  You download a script at their website, and head on up to the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach. 

Plus, we're only a few weeks from Naked Stage's 24 Hour Theatre Project.

So here's what's happening on The Scene this weekend;


coming and going...

Ground Up and Rising presents Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop, a one man show at GableStage, this weekend only.


you still haven't missed...

Mosaic Theatre's production of Side Effects runs through October 9, 2011.

Rising Action Theatre presents As Bees In Honey Drown through October 9.

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre opens its production of Jelly Belly, through October 2.

Anagram Entertainment opens An Evening with Mr. Johnson - The Penis Diatribes at Empire Stage.  Through October 2.


The Brothers Size opens at GableStage on Saturday.  This marks the first time playwright Tarrel Alvin McCraney has had a play produced in his hometown.  Through October 2.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
  at the Stage Door Theatre, through October 9.


last chance to see...


Alliance Theatre Lab production of 'night Mother plays at Barry University's Pelican Theatre (the space often used by Naked Stage) through September 25.

Song Man, Dance Man has been playing both Stage Door Theatre locations; Saturdays in Miami, and the rest of the week in Coral Springs.  It closes September 25th.

Ground Up and Rising's  production of True West at St. John's on the Lake also closes September 25.


for kids...

The Aventura Arts & Cultural Center is throwing their second annual Curtain Up.  It's free for the family, noon to 4pm on Saturday only.

Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Healthy Heroes is live at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, through September 26.

Read more...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mosaic Theatre: Side Effects (5 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Michael Weller's Side Effects on September 15, 2011.
Mosaic's 11th Season opens with an intense, beautiful play which is a harrowing and unique journey, expertly plotted by playwright Michael Weller, author of Loose Ends and the seminal masterpiece Moonchildren.

Hugh and Lindy's marriage seems picture-perfect, a beacon in their microcosmic Midwestern world of dinner parties and fundraisers. But behind closed doors-doors they can barely keep shut-they're falling apart, and Hugh's rising political star is suddenly imperiled.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that featured Jim Ballard and Deborah Sherman. 

Watch an interview with Ballard and Sherman on WPBT uVu.  Ms. Sherman was also interviewed by Florida Theater On Stage.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
For roles that require immersion into the entire spectrum of human emotion, casting is everything in a show like this, and director Richard Jay Simon chose a pair of wonderful duelists in Sherman and Ballard. Behind a workingman's stubble, the latter is perfect as the coupling's frustrated, self-centered bedrock; it's a performance of unwavering strength.

But don't be surprised if all eyes are on Sherman, a revelation in the role of her career. Outside of the stage, two of Sherman's family members suffer from bipolar disorder, and her understanding of the condition shows in this unrelenting tour de force. Taking complete ownership of the role, she's able to channel conflicting mental states — simultaneously ferocious and vulnerable. She's so subtle that it's impossible to differentiate Melinda's genuine moments from her manipulations. She convincingly inhabits the same underlying characteristics whether her character is on or off her medication, never swinging too wildly in any one direction. She's a pendulum who's well aware of her center.
The show is like Melinda off her medication: exciting, unpredictable, and difficult to contain.
Chrisine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Fresh from its New York world premiere in June, the emotionally harrowing and gloriously mesmerizing play is kicking off the new season at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre, where two highly skilled actors, an insightful director and a terrific design team are bringing it vividly to life..
...dig into the complexities of the relationship – something Weller, these two actors and director Richard Jay Simon do masterfully – and it becomes clear that Hugh and Lindy are bound by passion, by the way her sometimes-wild behavior can spark recklessness in him, by love and frustration and fury. And it is equally clear that these complicated emotional ties have become a hell of an iceberg, one that may soon sink the marriage.
Against the sleek, neutral backdrop of Douglas Grinn’s handsome living room set, Ballard and Sherman... give intense, multilayered performances, both turning in some of the best work of their busy South Florida careers. Ballard’s Hugh is a handsome, surprisingly sneaky, buttoned-down guy whose inner wild man still occasionally surfaces. Sherman expertly conveys Lindy’s emotional extremes and is equally convincing as she plays the rebellious seductress, an emotionally eviscerated mother, an unreliable wife whose razor-sharp words are her weapon of choice.
...Side Effects is a roller-coaster ride. And at Mosaic, it becomes must-see theater.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Side Effects by Michael Weller, a raw, visceral look at a marriage at the mercy of the wife’s mental illness, comes to stunning life at Mosaic Theatre in Plantation.
Ballard and Sherman have chemistry to spare...  Whether they are sharing a sweet memory, battling through an argument pummeling each other with sex, they are immersive and fascinating to watch.
Ballard does a fine job illustrating Hugh’s conflict between his head and heart, especially when his stoic face dissolves into lust.  He’s perfect as a husband who is as much on the edge as his wife, only he tries to hide it while she flaunts it.
Sherman delivers a searing portrayal of a woman eager to feel and experience both the pleasure and pain in her life to the extreme, disappearing into Lindy’s skin... This is a star-making, edge-of-your-seat, not-to-be-missed performance.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
It was an extraordinary evening of theatre at Mosaic.  Opening night of Side Effects and Deborah L. Sherman got so far inside herself that I worry about her health.  Five shows a week?  Twice on Saturdays?

Playing a bi-polar woman bouncing between the brittle, smarmy, self-satisfied smile that cannot be erased and the dull-eyed acceptance of the heavily medicated, Sherman pulled up emotions rarely seen on Florida stages as the terrific Jim Ballard tried to answer the question:  do you let your wife enjoy her madness or do you dose her into Zombieland?
With Richard Jay Simon directing, Sherman and Ballard hit every level of love and hate as they try to save their marriage in five scenes spanning eighteen months.
Fashion editor Rod Stafford Hagwood was sent by The Sun-Sentinel:
There is a whole galaxy created in the play "Side Effects" at the Mosaic Theatre in Plantation.

And in it orbit Hugh (Jim Ballard) and Lindy (Deborah L. Sherman), two fiery planets spinning through the curvature of time and space, yielding only to the gravitational force of love.

TWEEEET!  FOUL!
Illegal emulation of Carl Sagan; overly florid prose: loss of down; 15 yards, and mandatory submission of the offending article to The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The "review" continues:

It is a marvel of theatrics that Sherman, Ballard and director Richard Jay Simon fill up the two hours with just this world; much of what propels the plot happens unseen offstage, in between the five scenes... Sherman and Ballard are mesmerizing. Even if the play was bad (it is not) they are so good, so funny, so intense, it would still be worth the watching.
Mosaic Theatre's production of Side Effects runs through October 9, 2011.

Read more...

Alliance Theatre Lab: 'night, Mother (4 reviews)

Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother at The Pelican Theater on September 8, 2011.
Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, ‘night, Mother  takes a deep look into a mother-daughter relationship while making a disturbing statement about responsibility and courage. In this 90 minute harrowing story, the character’s interactions culminate into a disturbing, yet unavoidable, climax.
David Michael Sirois directed a cast that featured Sally Bondi and Aubrey Shavonn Kessler.

It should be noted that the company lost a preview to a power outage caused when a bus struck an electric pole.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...a moving production at the Alliance Theatre Lab at Barry University’s Pelican Theatre... 90 taut minutes...
Bondi and Kessler bring poignance to Mama and Jessie, a mostly housebound pair who have their share of troubles...
Director David Sirois... whose play The Brothers Beckett met acclaim in its world premiere at Alliance earlier this year, proves here as he did with his own play that he knows relationships. Mama and Jessie feel real... the director and actresses, along with set designer Mary Sansone, immerse the audience in the world of the pair’s shabby little home and their sad little lives.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The play marks the professional directing debut of David Sirois, a multitalented New World School of the Arts grad who is also Alliance’s resident playwright... His staging of ‘night, Mother is sure and clear, so directing is obviously one more thing in his dramatic toolkit.
Sirois is also very fortunate to have the inventive, fascinating Sally Bondi in the role of Mama. As full of life as her daughter is deadened, Bondi’s Thelma Cates is a woman of ever-changing emotional colors. She’s honest, critical, scared, furious, loving, desperate, manipulative – well, the list goes on and on, as Bondi creates a thoroughly believable country gal who accepts the cards life has dealt her.
As Jessie, Aubrey Shavonn Kessler has the greater acting challenge. Life has been one long, disappointing challenge for Jessie...Kessler has to convey the determination beneath her character’s almost incomprehensibly breezy manner as Jessie runs down a long list of the preparations she has made for her mother’s future life alone. The actress shifts from an initial disconcerting cheerfulness to emotional flatness. Perhaps that’s what Jessie needs to follow through with her meticulously planned exit, but Kessler’s muted performance allows the vibrant Bondi to dominate what should be a more evenly balanced tug-of-war over Jessie’s future.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Sally Bondi is Mama and Aubrey Shavonn Kessler is Jessie and I confess I've not been greatly enamored of either in previous shows....  But as the clock ticked on the two actresses found their footing, with Bondi ably handling the shock and horror of her daughter's impending suicide and Kessler giving the epileptic, forlorn and depressed Jessie a nice balance between the sanity of arranging her mother's future and the madness of taking her own life.
'night Mother would seem a difficult piece to enjoy; a dysfunctional family, sickness, death, loneliness, and sad, wry humor.   Not much to laugh at.  But the play is engrossing.  The time, there it is again, flies by.  This is actor/writer David Sirois' first outing as a professional director and he has done well.
Camille Lamb is a marginal improvement for the Miami New Times;
Though both actresses were impressive, Bondi was purely astounding in her portrayal of a gritty, no-nonsense broad with a not-so-deeply hidden emotional underbelly. Her loping gate, slick head of curlers, dark under-eye circles and gravelly voice conveyed a simple woman who's been worn out by an uneventful and largely loveless life.
As she tried over and over again to strike an effective chord with her cruelly recalcitrant daughter, Bondi painted an awfully realistic portrait of a baffled and beaten woman. By the end of the production, we, along with many other patrons, were wrenched to tears by the emotional immensity of her performance.
The intimacy of Barry University's Pelican Theatre, coupled with the actresses' gripping work, made us feel as though we were locked into the convoluted debate along with the players. Smells of gunpowder and matches pervaded the 44-seat auditorium, adding to the effect.
With the exception of rushed line delivery on the part of Kessler during the first 15 minutes, opening night of director David Sirois's presentation went off beautifully. Anyone who appreciates high quality small theater or psychological, emotional drama would be an absolute fool to miss this Alliance Theatre Lab production.
Alliance Theatre Lab presents 'night, Mother at Barry University's Pelican Theatre through September 25, 2011.

Read more...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mondays are Dark

New Kids in Town
Broadway World reports that the latest new theater in South Florida is Outré Theatre Company, founded by Skye Whitcomb and Nori Tecosky.

Money Makes The World Go Around
At least, it helps the plays to go on.  Palm Beach Dramaworks just received a sizable gift to help them pay for their new home on Clematis Street.  The Shiny Sheet,  reports that the donors have a connection to other major regional theaters.  The Palm Beach ArtsPaper has the story, too.  Florida Theater On Stage also covers the story, and adds that another Florida Stage staffer has found a new home.

But FREE Is Good, Too
The Drama Queen reports that the Free Night of Theatre returns to South Florida, with some twists.

Speaking of Free
Have you been to the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center yet?  Well, The Miami Theatre Examiner reports that the venue is opening its doors for a free family fun day.  Bring the kids!  And if you don't have kids, bring someone else's!  With permission, of course.  And yes, you have to take them home, after.

We Got To Wear Shades
The Miami Herald says that the future's looking bright, at least through the coming theatre season.

...from new (well, newish) companies, to new spaces and new collaborations, to new theater series. And of course, there will be the usual harvest of new plays as theaters continue to explore the work of a growing group of regional playwrights along with scripts from writers based elsewhere.
What Came Before
Meanwhile, Florida Theater On Stage reflects on last season:

...imagine critics asking each other for a reality check whether their standards were still intact because they were writing so many near-rave reviews in a row.

That gives you a hint of just how unusually strong the 2010-2011 season was in South Florida.
We Certainly Did Better than Minnesota.
The Minnesota Playlist also had an article reviewing their last season, and boy, another reason I'm glad to live here.

...I realized, honestly, I haven’t seen that much. I could chalk that up to being busy - though that would be a lie. Frankly it comes down to the fact that there’s been nothing that I really want to see. Then, another realization: What I have seen, I just haven’t liked.
Do It Again
Conundrum Stages had such a success with Sirens & Strings: An Acou-Chix Experience, that they're doing it again.

No More Midnight Phone Calls
Broadway World reports that with the successful opening of As Bees In Honey Drown under the management of Andy Rogow, founding member David Goldyn has stepped down as Artistic Director of Rising Action Theatre Company.

It's A Wonder She's NOT Crazy
Florida Theater On Stage talks with Deborah Sherman, actor, director, producer, housewife, and mother.  Yes, all that and she still maintains that she's sane. 
Ms. Sherman is appearing in Side Effects at Mosaic Theatre.  BTW, they sold out their Sunday performance; get your tickets now or risk missing another great production.

Really Innovative Ticket Pricing
Butts In Seats tells us about a unique approach to selling tickets; don't.

...sponsoring a particular item, instead of purchasing a ticket, increases the audience’s emotional connection with the performance and with the company. Ritchey recounts, “A lot of times people would come up to us after the show and say I got you guys an hour of rehearsal space or I got that costume.” People get excited about what they have contributed to the evening’s performance.
An interesting idea, to be sure.

Read more...

Bridgett Bartlett 1942-2011

Costume Designer Bridget Bartlett passed away on September 16, 2011.  She was a major force in South Florida theatre, garnering 10 Carbonell nominations for her work at The Caldwell Theatre Company.  She took home four of the awards (The Boyfriend, The Women, The Royal Family, and The Barretts of Wimpole Street). 

In addition to the Caldwell, she designed for the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Flatrock Playhouse, and most recently served as resident costume designer at the Ocala Civic Theatre, in Ocala, Florida, an organization she has been involved with for years.

Her costumes turned up all over the country and parts of Canada; but she also taught workshops for groups such as the American Association of Community Theatre,  narrated historical fashion shows for fundraiser at OCT, and spoke at the Ocala Rotary Club

In 1985, she told the Orlando Sentinel how she got started in theater:
''I started sewing when I was 12 or 13. I had polio and rheumatic fever, and my grandfather made me a sewing table. I was a paper doll child. Actors, really, are paper dolls all grown up.''

A set designer friend, Frank Bennett, got Bartlett to help with costuming in little theater in Ocala...
Bennett, of course, was a founding member of The Caldwell Theatre Company, along with Ocala native Michael Hall.

In 1973, Jim Mills wrote his first play, By Damn, one of the first original plays produced by the Ocala Civic Theatre.  He wrote of the experience to the editor of the Ocala Star-Banner, and included a newcomer in his acknowledgments:
"A very special thanks to Bridget Bartlett who outdid herself with the costuming.."
It's a phrase we'd hear in conjunction with her name for years to come.

You can view her obituary here; arrangements are still pending, but you can leave notes on her tribute wall.

Read more...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Scene for September 16, 2011

So here's what's happening on The Scene this weekend;


opening...

Mosaic Theatre is opening Side Effects, through October 9.

Ground Up and Rising opens True West at St. John's on the Lake, through September 25.

Alliance Theatre Lab is offering The Lab Project through September 21.


you still haven't missed...

Rising Action Theatre presents As Bees In Honey Drown through October 9.

Alliance Theatre Lab production of 'night Mother plays at Barry University's Pelican Theatre (the space often used by Naked Stage) through September 25.

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre opens its production of Jelly Belly, through October 2.

Anagram Entertainment opens An Evening with Mr. Johnson - The Penis Diatribes at Empire Stage.  Through October 2.  And this just in:
I would like to offer $20 tickets to your readers this weekend. Both Shows (gay and Straight) either at the door (cash), mention Theatre Scene. Or they can buy online using the code SCENE.
So once again, it pays to read The Scene!  Yo can read more about the play at South Florida Gay News.

The Brothers Size opens at GableStage on Saturday.  This marks the first time playwright Tarrel Alvin McCraney has had a play produced in his hometown.  Through October 2.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
opens at the Stage Door Theatre, through October 9.

Song Man, Dance Man plays both Stage Door Theatre locations; Saturdays in Miami, and the rest of the week in Coral Springs.  Through September 25th.

Read more...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rising Action Theatre: As Bees in Honey Drown (4 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees in Honey Drown on September 9, 2011.
Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Sister Act, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar) spins a sexy and very funny tale of a young gay writer caught in the excitement of finding a rich socialite patron, Alexa Vere de Vere.  A campy diva, who claims Auntie Mame as her chief inspiration, Alexa is a self-described promoter of British rock stars, and is now in the market for an even greater dose of fame.  When she sees a near naked photo of a young gay novelist named Evan Wyler, Alexa is certain she's found the right man to do the job.  And Evan thinks he's found his destiny fulfilled...
Avi Hoffman directed a cast that included Amy McKenna, Andrew Wind, Sahid Arnuad-Pabon, Clelia Myers, Breeza Seller, and Peter Librach.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Beane’s trenchant satire was first done in South Florida at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre Company in 2000. Now Fort Lauderdale’s Rising Action Theatre is having a go, with a production directed by Avi Hoffman and starring Amy McKenna, who is (says Rising Action) the first Equity actress hired by the non-union company. Smart move.
The entertaining McKenna deftly conveys Alexa’s seductive appeal, her ability to top each lie with a better one, her cold-blooded ability to take what she wants from a victim and move on without a second thought.
Swirling around the key Alexa-Evan relationship are a host of other characters – mostly former and future Alexa victims – played by four actors. Best of the lot is Peter Librach, who plays a gay suit salesman, an angry British rocker and an artist who reveals the truth of Alexa’s geek-to-chic transformation.
The production values are a bit rag-tag... And yes, some of the references... now sound dated, given our insatiable appetite for moving on to the next trendy thing.

But in a world of manufactured “stars” – Kate Gosselin, anyone? – Alexa is an up-to-the-moment gem.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Amy McKenna as the bewigged and bejeweled Alexa struts and la-de-das from scene to scene, very much the cartoonish Vere de Vere with Andrew Wind quietly providing her foil.  Many times clad only in his underwear.
Complications, in the plot and otherwise, ensue when fifteen other characters appear.  And that's where this production runs into trouble.  The supporting actors, all of whom play multiple roles, are simply not of the best, although Peter Librach has moments with his three characters.  And a bright spot:  Paul Homza's fight choreography when Evan is brutalized by British rocker Skunk (Librach).
There's a lot of laughter in this piece... but this version can't really be rated a hit.  It's a slow show, with doubtful production values and an air of tackiness throughout the evening.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The production, the first under the leadership of new producing director Andy Rogow, is a few cuts above the typical Rising Action fare, but is not without its own missteps.

Rogow has attracted some prestigious talent for this production, including director Avi Hoffman and actress McKenna. But even with these feathers in Rising Action’s cap, the cap is still somewhat askew.
In the first act, McKenna often stumbles over Beane’s rapid-fire dialogue, which hurts her performance as the seemingly flawless Alexa. She shines in the second act during an extended flashback scene, showing Alexa’s transformation from crass to class.
Wind is perfectly cast; his handsome, wide-eyed face is a canvas just waiting for the world to make its mark. Wind and McKenna play off each other well, his innocence and her queen bee worldliness.
Peter Librach tackles several roles admirably, but his flaming suit salesman and rough rock star wannabe do not come close to his pleasant turn in the second act as a refreshingly honest gay painter. The rest of the ensemble tries but does not make much of an impact
...the bare bones scenic design and shoddy lighting fails to transport the audience to the world of the play. The failures of these important design elements create a distance between the production and the audience, which keeps those watching from experiencing the transcendence of theater.
As Bees in Honey Drown is a good play, and while Rising Action’s production does have some redeeming qualities, it’s still not as sweet as it should be.
John Thomason supposedly reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, but all we get to read is basically this:
As Bees in Honey Drown is a witty satire on the vagaries and temptations of fame in the late ‘90s, on the apparent necessity of personal reinvention, and on the impossible reconciliation of art and commerce. It remains compelling until the climax, even if the show’s cynicism is ultimately too softened.
The production is backed by a mostly strong ensemble and above-average sound and lighting design. Under Avi Hoffman’s guest direction, As Bees in Honey Drown is the sound of an artistically struggling theater making a significant leap forward.
That's basically it.  Oh, they tell you that Amy's playing one role, and Andrew's playing another role, but that's it.  It LOOKS like there should be more; what there is is tantalizingly well -written.  We can only assume that some drooling idiot of an editor hacked Thomason's actual review into this utterly worthless pile of shit, either out of spite, or because they hate their readers. 

As Bees in Honey Drown plays at Rising Action Theatre through October 9, 2011.

Read more...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stage Door Theatre: A Funny Thing Happened...(4 reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on  September 2, 2011.
"Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!" Broadway's Tony-winning greatest farce is light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written – the perfect escape from life's troubles. This non-stop laugh-fest is an uninhibited romp of puns, gags, lechery, and surprises.
Dan Kelly directed a cast that included himself, Ken Clement, Lauren Cupples, Mark A. Harmon, Christine De Frece, Andrew Betz, Shane R. Tanner, Ricky Dain Jones, and Jack Livesy.  Choreography by Chrissi Ardito.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...the Saturday matinee audience at Stage Door applauded, laughed and seemed to enjoy this production, and it does have some truly enjoyable moments, but most of the show is just okay.
Dan Kelley, who also directs, plays Pseudolus... too broadly, mugging his way through scenes, goading the audience into laughing.  Kelley the actor would have benefited from a more objective director.
There are, thankfully, bright spots in this production. Shane R. Tanner is the picture of braggadocio as warrior Miles Gloriosus.  Mark A. Harmon is appropriately smarmy as Marcus Lycus, a seller of courtesans.  Ken Clement is delightful as Senex, a downtrodden, sex-starved husband.  The Proteans (Jereme Philip Marlow, Frank Vomero and Curtis Roth) do well with Chrissi Ardito’s acrobatic choreography.
J.W. Arnold reviews for South Florida Gay News:
Did I mention the show is pretty gay? From the gaggle of giggling eunuchs skipping across the stage to the fetish fantasies suggested by Gymnasia and Miles Gloriosus, it’s blatantly stereotypical and still hilarious. Hysterium is pretty fey and so is Pseudolus in the hands of Kelley, who frequently takes his performance over the top, completely overshadowing his costars.
Musically, the score, unlike many of Sondheim’s later works, is melodic and accessible and, under the musical direction of David Nagy, sung with gusto. Kudos to Stage Door for taking on relatively large shows at a time when most theaters are cutting back...
Chrissi Ardito’s choreography is once again superb, employing physical comedy, acrobatics and clever tricks throughout. And Anthony White’s lighting design accentuates the relatively simple staging of the show, which takes place in front of three cartoonish Roman houses designed by Ardean Landhuis.

Once again, Stage Door employs the vast resources of Costume World to outfit its cast in colorful—indeed flamboyant—Romanesque wear. More than one local drag queen is undoubtedly salivating over Miles Gloriosus’ ostrich plumed helmet and I know I’ve seen Gymnasia’s gilded metal D-cups on stage somewhere.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
There's nothing better than a well-done revival of a favorite old musical and that's exactly what's playing right now at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. 
Whoever cast this show (Kelley, I guess, as he's also the director) did a knock down job with the courtesans.  They're lissome, beautiful young women who move well and look great in their costumes...  All hail the courtesans!  Oh, yeah!
And as to the performances?  Kelley, Clement, Tanner, Harmon and Andrew Betz are all very good.  They're enjoying their play and you can tell it.
...Everyone sings well in this show and David Nagy's musical direction reinforces that.  If you don't leave Broward Stage Door humming some of these songs you better check your hearing aids.  The batteries are flat.

There's no denying that some of the performances are not all they should be and the door slamming scramble in the second act slows the show a little, but all in all this A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is a well produced, good humored show.   Smile some, sing some, you'll be in a good mood for hours. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is back at the Broward Stage Door Theatre a dozen years after the company first presented it. And once again, director Dan Kelley is doing double duty by starring as Pseudolus, a wily Roman slave determined to scheme his way to freedom.

Pseudolus is, demonstrably, the kind of role that wins awards. Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers and Nathan Lane all captured best actor Tony Awards for their takes on a comic gem. The way the amiable Kelley plays the part, though, is more comic cubic zirconia. Ditto with most of the rest of the cast, the happy exceptions being the forceful yet funny Ken Clement as the henpecked and lecherous Senex, Mark A. Harmon as slick courtesan procurer Marcus Lycus, Shane R. Tanner as the oafishly self-adoring Miles Gloriosus, Ricky Dain Jones as the oft-hysterical Hysterium and Jack Livesey as sweet old Erronius.
In 2011, Forum remains reliably enjoyable. Its jokes, mistaken identities, plot twists and pretty girls evoke both Golden Age musical theater and the glory days of vaudeville... The new production, however, is B grade at best. The actors sing to a recorded score, fixing tempo and eliminating the give-and-take flow of live music...  And the Protean chorus? Though some of their gymnastic dance moves are impressive (thanks to choreographer Chrissi Ardito), they’re often silly or annoying, especially during their stints as eunuchs in the house of Marcus Lycus.
The folks in the crowd, it should be noted, seem perfectly content with what Kelley and company are giving them. But for accuracy’s sake, maybe this one should be billed Some Sporadically Amusing Things Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed wrote jotted some stuff down for The Sun-Sentinel:
...the curious thing about this production... The more people onstage, the better it is. It's as if the cast has to reach a critical mass before their energies can bounce off of each other, before they hit a Vaudevillian groove, before the laughs come easily…naturally…without you helping them along.
And it must be said that the cast, for the most part, is a strong one, especially in song (a few solo singers managed to overpower the recorded orchestrations – by a few decibels it would seem). And that is a good thing, because Sondheim's score and the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart is rip-roaring funny. But all those pun-rrific punch lines need a vocal prowess tempered by the timing of a nightclub comedian.
The Stage Door Theatre  production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays in its Coral Springs theater through October 9, then moves to The Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach October 14 through November 13. (the move canceled September 25 due to poor sales at second location).

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AAPACT: Jelly Belly (2 reviews)

The African-American Performing Arts Community Theatre opened its production of Charles Smith's Jelly Belly on  September 7, 2011.
In Charles Smith's Jelly Belly, a convict returns from a brief prison stay to resume his position as the neighborhood kingpin. When Jelly Belly  attempts to regain the service of Kenny, a former drug runner who has gone straight; Kenny is torn between the hope of prosperity through hard work shared with his friend Mike, or the opportunistic life of a drug pusher Jelly Belly provides.

Jelly Belly is the winner of the 1985 Cornerstone National Playwriting Award, the 1988 Theodore Ward National Playwriting Award and the 1990 NBC New Voices Award for its opening at the Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Teddy Harrell, Jr. directed a cast that included Vaughn-Rian st. James, Finley Polynice, Anthony Roberts, Kathleen Robiou, and Kristoff Skalet.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...thanks to the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT), Miami is getting a look at a play that, despite the passage of 22 years since its creation, hasn’t dated at all.
Melodramatic but grounded in truth, Jelly Belly becomes a struggle over the soul and future of Kenny, a good-hearted young black man with a limited IQ. Pushing him toward honesty and hard work is Mike, his friend and mentor at a construction company. Pulling him back into a life of drug-dealing and violence is Jelly Belly , the neighborhood pusher, a man just out of prison after serving a mere six months on a murder conviction.
Directed by AAPACT founder Teddy Harrell Jr., Jelly Belly keeps that tug-of-war tension taut for the majority of its 90-minute running time. Laughs and tenderness get mixed in.. But mostly, Jelly Belly is a sadly relevant cautionary tale.
What gives this new production of Jelly Belly its visceral power are its performances, particularly the frightening, seductive one by st. James – who is, in fact, a woman playing a murderous male drug dealer. Dressed and made up to look like the rotund dealer, a pencil-thin mustache drawn just over her upper lip, st. James gives away her gender only by the pitch of her voice. Otherwise, she’s all persuasive, dangerous business...
...Robiou’s fearless Barbara is a warrior in standing up to Jelly Belly, a man who murdered his own brother-in-law. And Skalet is a mush-mouthed, loose-limbed marvel as Bruce, a man so bent on getting and staying high that any violence done to him is just a momentary distraction from his quest.
Jelly Belly is certainly no August Wilson-level great play. But it is resonant, relevant and, at AAPACT, well-acted.
Kimberly Grant wrote for The South Florida Times:
To succinctly state my take on Jelly Belly: Too much talking and not enough action to really move the plot along. It’s played too close to type as far as­­ the script is concerned. Harrell, who by all intents and purposes is a fine director, did not seem to do much with the script. Just because Smith wrote the play as more of a scenery chewer, doesn’t mean that it had to stay that way.
...Skalet’s Bruce is the life of the play and the saving grace for the movement of the plot. Without Skalet’s slapstick, faltering junkie, the play would have fallen with a thud.

Polynice, as Kenny, manages to convey to the audience his hesitation, despair, disappointment and inner turmoil. His casting in the role is perfect.

Likewise, Roberts is cast rightly as Mike, although I lean more toward type-casting. Having Roberts cast against type the next time around would be a great fit to really show his acting prowess.

Lastly, the character of Jelly Belly is supposed to be a menacing, really scary dude. However, St. James (a woman) as Jelly fails to strike fear in this audience member. It’s hard to see St. James harming even a fly. She seems to have a very nice and humble disposition. That’s great for her as a human being. But it doesn’t play well within a character that is supposed to be menacing.
The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre production of Jelly Belly plays through September 30, 2011.

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Stage Door Theatre: Song Man Dance Man (2 reviews)

Stage Door Theatre opened Jon Peterson's Song Man, Dance Man, on September 10, 2011.  It has been playing at both its Coral Springs and Miami Beach locations - check website for details.
In this tribute to Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Bobby Darin, George M. Cohan, Sammy Davis Jr., Anthony Newley, and Donald O'Connor, Jon Peterson performs the numbers that made them famous!
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
It's a simple show, this Song Man, Dance Man, just Peterson singing and tapping on a pretty much bare stage, but with Donald Chan's excellent piano accompaniment, this tribute to some of the great singers and dancers of the past is tremendous fun.
There's no doubt that Peterson is an excellent dancer and singer; his “Singin' In The Rain,” “Splish Splash,” “Candy Man,” “Mack The Knife” and “Be A Clown” are standouts in a song and dance list of 27 exceedingly well done pieces.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though the era of the song-and-dance man has faded into history, Peterson belongs in the company of those multifaceted entertainers, including the seven he honors in his solo show.
Peterson becomes a tour guide for a song-and-dance journey down memory lane, paying tribute to George M. Cohan, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Sammy Davis Jr., Anthony Newley and Bobby Darin (yes, Darin sounds like the answer to a game of “which of these is not like the others,” but Peterson makes the choice work).
Though Peterson is the only singer-dancer-actor onstage, he’s not quite alone. He has the great fortune of having Donald Chan — a composer, conductor, musical director and accomplished pianist who has served as musical director for more performances of West Side Story than any other conductor — as his accompanist. Chan’s evocative, just-right contribution enhances each of the numbers, which range from the effervescent pop of Darin’s Splish Splash and Davis’ signature Candy Man (which was actually written by Newley and Leslie Bricusse) to the hauntingly rueful What Kind of Fool Am I? (a true Newley/Bricusse gem).
...Peterson plays various characters as well as the stars he’s celebrating, though vocally he never sounds like any of them. Between numbers, he offers stories and anecdotes about the men he’s evoking, though his storytelling is meandering with a few bad segues and sudden shifts.

But as a song-and-dance man, he delivers. He does a joyous Kelly, splashing through imaginary puddles as he croons Singin’ in the Rain, a cool Darin singing Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Mack the Knife. He’s good with ballads, novelty songs and show tunes, and even better as a
dazzling dancer. Born too late? Maybe. But the title of Peterson’s show is an apt description of who he is as an entertainer.
Stage Door Theatre presents Song Man, Dance Man, through September 24, 2011, at both its Coral Springs and Miami Beach locations - check website for details.

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Mondays are Dark

How To Do It
Ken Davenport is producing GODSPELL on Broadway, and he's a blogger.  So he combined both things, and created the Godspell Blog.  Right now, he's counting down the days until the show is in front of an audience.  It's an informative peak into the process of getting a Broadway show up on its feet.

Not Quite Reading, but....
uVu BLOG has some video from Mosaic Theatre's upcoming production of Side Effects.

Caldwell 2 - Too Soon?
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Caldwell Theatre Company has had to cancel the first show in its Caldwell2 series at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center.  But just for now; they will be opening later in the season.

Heard It Through The Grapevine

The Coconut Grove Grapevine calls for some Grove landlord to offer space to soon-to-be-homeless New Theatre.

Plays for Gays do Great

The Sun Sentinel reports that gay theatre is thriving in South Florida.
Local professional theaters know the audience is there, and have been increasingly targeting productions that resonate with gays and lesbians. Census Bureau numbers released in August confirmed that same-sex households in South Florida soared over the past 10 years.
While Rising Action Theatre is probably the first name that sprang to mind, followed by Women's Theatre Project, and possibly Empire Stage, you're probably thinking, "But these are all tiny little companies."  But then there's this:
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is attempting to capture the audience by introducing a Pride Series featuring gay-themed musical and comedy performances scheduled from October through June.

"Look at it this way: Who else is doing a Pride Series?" asked Kelley Shanley, president and CEO of the Broward Center. "Not a lot of other markets are doing this. I think that speaks to the strength of the gay and lesbian market in South Florida."
While the Broward Center has always been fairly mainstream, the other "gay"companies insist that they're not "just" gay theaters, they are companies that do a variety of plays that include gay themed plays.  "Serving their audience" is a phrase that turns up in each case.  And indeed, all the companies have done a number of non-gay productions.  But it's their willingness to tackle gay plays that have gotten them noticed.

Speaking of Gay Theatre Companies

Rising Action Theatre, known for finding every excuse for full frontal male nudity in a play, is growing up.  Florida Theater On Stage tells about how Rising Action Theatre is rising to new heights of production, starting with this week's opening of As Bees In Honey Drown, directed by Avi Hoffman, and starring Equity actress Amy McKenna.

And don't worry, they'll still find opportunities for full frontal male nudity - as appropriate.

As Long as We're On The Subject...
South Florida Gay News tells us about An Evening with Mr. Johnson, being presented by Anagram Entertainment at Empire Stage.  Apparently, there are not one, but two versions, and we have an opportunity to see both.

Info You Can Use

Butts In The Seats has some great insight in how to get more bang out of your Facebook and Twitter postings.

Up On The Shelf
Florida Theater On Stage introduces its newest recurring feature with a review of a book about August Wilson, and his plays in Pittsburgh.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Scene for September 9, 2011

There's a new category for local production that are playing one week only.  We're calling it "coming and going" for obvious reasons.  And there are a lot of them this week.

So here's what's happening on The Scene this weekend;

opening...

For a change, Rising Action Theatre has a much-anticipated opening; As Bees In Honey Drown opens this week.  The production marks a shift in the company; Andy Rogow is producing, and has Avi Hoffman directing Amy McKenna.  Through October 9.

Alliance Theatre Lab is opening 'night Mother at Barry University's Pelican Theatre (the space often used by Naked Stage). Through September 25.

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre opens its production of Jelly Belly, through October 2.

Anagram Entertainment opens An Evening with Mr. Johnson - The Penis Diatribes at Empire Stage.  Through October 2.


you still haven't missed...

The Brothers Size opens at GableStage on Saturday.  This marks the first time playwright Tarrel Alvin McCraney has had a play produced in his hometown.  Through October 2.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
opens at the Stage Door Theatre, through October 9.

Song Man, Dance Man plays both Stage Door Theatre locations; Saturdays in Miami, and the rest of the week in Coral Springs.  Through September 25th.



coming and going...

Karen Stephens reprises her tour de force in Bridge & Tunnel, this time presented by the Boca Raton Theatre Guild at the Willow Theater.  This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only.  Read the reviews from her last performance HERE.

A group called The New Light Theatre is presenting four plays about love at Gallery 101 in Fort Lauderdale. Vanessa Garcia's The Proposal and Breaking Bread are paired with Wendy White's Marry Me! and I Want To Be Your Sculpture.  The evening is billed as Jump Into Love.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  We're not familiar with this company, although they apparently mounted a show back in July.

FUNDarte presents If You're Going To Pull A Knife, USAlo at the Onstage Black Box Theater at Miami-Dade County Auditorium. Wait, the Auditorium has a black box?!?  When did that happen?  Anyway,
the play, performed in Spanish and English, runs Thursday through Sunday only.  Tickets available through FUNDarte.

The Actor's Workshop & Repertory Company presents columbinus through September 11.

Ground up and Rising reappears to present Little Flower of East Orange and September 10, two free play readings.

last chance to see...

Ron Mangravite's adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V winds up its run at The New Theatre on September 10.

Promethean Theatre 's romp with the undead, Song of the Living Dead finishes this Sunday, September 10.

Mad Cat Theatre Company's production of So My Grandmother Died blah blah blah at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse also closes September 10, 2011.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

GableStage: The Brothers Size (6 reviews)

GableStage opened its production of The Brothers Size on September 3, 2011.  It marks the first time that the playwright, Miami native Tarell Alvin McCraney, has had one of his plays produced in South Florida.
Set in Louisiana's bayous, the play explores the struggles of two brothers locked in a fierce tug-of-war for their souls. This is the first Southeastern production of a work by this 28-year old Miami native and New World High School graduate whose plays are pushing the boundaries of form, language and sexuality in provocative and poetic ways. Winner of the New York Times 2009 Outstanding Playwright Award.
Tarell Alvin McCraney directed a cast that included Sheaun McKinney, Ryan George, and Teo Castellanos.

John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:

The play speaks loudly of a longing for freedom. Oshoosi speaks longingly of a book he cherished while in jail that contained photography of Madagascar. To Oshoosi that may represent both the open spaces just out of his imprisoned reach, and a place (Africa) where he may feel liberated from his perceived oppression of being an African American. The use of music/singing is also freeing. One of the best moments in the show is when Oshoosi and Ogun engage in a playful, Motown-inspired rendition of the song "Try a Little Tenderness." In that happy moment they are just two brothers free from care. Their love for one another is apparent at last.
McCraney's use of imagery is strong, and his language is at times rough (including liberal use of the n-word). The roughness is part of the painting of the characters, however, as are their fast speech patterns and speaking over one another.
All three actors—Castellanos, George and McKinney—work as a well-oiled machine to create the right mood of the piece, the pacing of the show, and the tension between the characters. While it is not usually a good thing for a playwright to direct his own work, in this case, McCraney's direction is impeccable.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The middle play in three related dramas of McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays, this deeply moving version of The Brothers Size is (as a homecoming celebration should be) quite special. McCraney is its director, the first time he has staged his breakout work, and he imbues the production with a sense of rhythm, ritual, precision and illumination.
This simply-produced play is constantly in motion, both achingly real and highly stylized... With his original and singular voice, McCraney crafts an intense story about the unbreakable bond between brothers, a bond that is equal parts love and despair.
Blending humor and heartbreak, McCraney focuses on two brothers. Ogun Size (played with multifaceted depth by Sheaun McKinney) ... His brother Oshoosi (a joyfully charismatic Ryan George).... Serious Ogun and free-spirited Oshoosi clash, inevitably and daily. And when Oshoosi’s friend and fellow ex-con Elegba (a playfully seductive Castellanos) turns up, the tug-of-war over Oshoosi’s future begins in earnest.
McCraney’s script blends street talk and poetic insight, and his three actors handle the text, the movement and the exquisitely calibrated pace equally well.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...what should overwhelm anyone with a brother or sister is how McCraney depicts the conflicting/complementary synergy of sibling relationships as incisively as any play in the American canon.
That the brothers here are young black men trying to scrape a life out of the unforgiving underclass of a Louisiana bayou doesn’t erase a smidgen of easily recognizable universality.
McCraney... has quickly earned an international reputation as the young up-and-coming playwright who transmutes traditional theater into something to entice a younger, more diverse audience.

He blends contemporary settings and minority characters with West African folktales and classic epic themes without seeming forced or pretentious. Instead, McCraney relishes the collision of cultures.
Among several achievements as actors, George and McKinney create that sense of people bound by past joys and betrayals, and who feel that brings a debt of responsibility even when one or both let the other down. McCraney paints a portrait of how relationships bind people both the positive and negative definitions of the word.
In theory, the play is set on a bayou. But McCraney stages it in a bare black box with a cyclorama behind a scrim for dream tableaus... With such a spare set, Jeff Quinn’s nimble morphs of lightscapes carry much of the heavy lifting in creating shifts of time, place and mood.
It’s all emblematic. McCraney revels in the sheer theatricality of theater, the use of artifice to communicate thoughts, ideas and emotions unhindered by the naturalism that dominates most work in South Florida.
McCraney is blessed with a cast perfectly in tune with the work. They inject the 70-minute play with an infectious energy and dexterity that resembles the teamwork of a major league infield. All three mischievously recreate a run-in with an abusive lawman like storytellers around a campfire. It’s almost a vaudeville turn with a slight flavor of irreverent minstrelsy. McCraney’s directing this edition likely contributed to the actors’ preternaturally fluid delivery.
Theatergoers owe Adler a deep debt of gratitude for persevering two years to get McCraney to come work here and for modestly acknowledging that the piece needed a director with a different sensibility than his own.
Bill really goes into a lot of detail about this show; please be sure to click through to read it in its entirety.  You rarely get to see a critic unleash his enthusiasm for a piece.  It's worth reading.


Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
A small tin garbage can is a drum; a metal bowl is struck like a bell and stroked into a crystal hum.   The set is bare and black and the back wall is occasionally shifting ethereal colors.  There is nothing else but a length of bright red cloth.   And on this set at GableStage the fascinating The Brothers Size is showing us the street world of the black man.
There's beautifully ideal casting here:  Sheaun McKinney's grounded Ogun, despairing at his lost life after swearing to his dying mother he would raise his younger brother, sacrificing his future to do so and then seeing he has failed; Ryan George's likeable bad boy Oshoosi, desperate to return to the pleasures denied in prison; Teo Castellano's Elegba, the hustler with the moves both emotional and physical, tempting and seducing.

The bareness of the stage is matched by the bareness of the performances.  To go to bed they lie on the bare floor.  To eat their dinner they sit on the bare floor.  There is no mime; actors break the fourth wall with stage directions.   And the simplicity of this gives the poetic power to the acting.   Street struts and posturing, cursing, violent arguments, love and kinship, rapping, singing (rejoice for the brothers as they sing “Try A Little Tenderness”) and tough humor meld into an imaginative telling of hardship and few pleasures. 
Chris Joseph actually managed a proper review for The Miami New Times:
Performed on a stripped down stage, native Miamian and New World graduate Tarell Alvin McCraney's seminal one-act play about two brothers living in the Louisiana bayou is steeped in West African mythology and religion And it tells a rich, dense tale through fantastic acting and simplified direction.

This was McCraney's first crack at directing one of his own plays, and the kid knocked it out of the park with direction that got the hell out of the way and let his actors tell the story.
The story rests entirely on the actors' shoulders, and all three turned in flawless performances as men with frayed souls, each dealing with the past while struggling to grasp their future. McKinney carried Ogun's heavy heart with quiet intensity, while George was charming and affecting as the restless Oshoosi. The always-amazing Castellano kept the production anchored as the enigmatic Elegba.
The Brothers Size is provocative, charming, heart wrenching, hilarious, and emotionally charged all rolled into one. It's a heady brew of awesomesauce that once again proves how GableStage is head and shoulders above all other stage companies in this town while also shedding light on McCraney's insane talent. For a play that is essentially a coming-of-age story featuring three men riffing, expounding on brotherly love and mythic themes for an hour and a half, every note has to be hit perfectly, and all parties involved nailed it.
Since he likes baseball metaphors, we'll just observe that just as there is no crying in baseball, neither is there "awesomesauce" in theatre.  Othewise, Mr. Joseph has crafted a perfectly acceptable review.

Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
There are times when a play is filled with such realism, style and honesty that  one must admire its production.  There are other moments in the theatre when either the actors, director or playwright are so outstanding, one also feels the need to find laudatory words.

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size  –  currently at GableStage – is one of those productions which defies the odds and is eligible for all of the above praise. It can only be described as powerful and original...
....it is distinctive because it combines many theatrical elements, including music, beating drums, dance and body movements and twisting  which will throw one for a loop... It is a lesson in “street talk” which, at first,  sounds alien but, as you become attuned and engrossed, you will pick up the rhythm of the vocabulary. McCraney also uses verbal stage direction as part of this distinctive dialogue to emphasize the theatrics  and moments which we visualize as  coming from a foreign ritual.
As good as the material is, so too are the three actors. McKinney – “the good guy” – has you pulling for him. He gives an extraordinary tear-stained performance. and George, is especially notable.  It is not just the words he speaks but the rhythmic, writhing, precision body movements which are so  powerful. Ditto for Castellanos whose movement and speech talks volumes about talent.  It’s an impressive trio of actors.
The Brothers Size plays at GableStage through October 10, 2011.

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