Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: A Measure of Cruelty (reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened the world premiere production of Joe Calarco's A Measure of Cruelty on April 19, 2012.
As a peaceful South Florida neighborhood is rocked by headlines, a local bar owner struggles to keep the peace with his son. But as a storm grows ever closer, the men are forced to come to terms with each other and their long-guarded secrets.
Richard Jay Simon direct a cast that featured Dennis Creaghan, Todd Allen Durkin, and Andrew Wind.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...Calarco’s script is a baffling surprise. This excoriating yet compassionate examination of the societal and human roots of violence has emerged on the Mosaic Theatre stage nearly fully-formed, a triumph that sears then cauterizes then rips open the scarred soul all over again.
...Cruelty has been truly blessed by director Richard Jay Simon’s steady vision and riveting performances from Dennis Creaghan, Andrew Wind and an indelible tour de force by Todd Allen Durkin eclipsing even his superb work last month in GableStage’s A Steady Rain.
...let’s make this crystal: The local familiarity with this specific incident has virtually nothing to do with this play’s devastating impact. You could switch in different names and specifics and have the same effect.
Likely, only other directors will appreciate Simon’s deft work at creating stage pictures and establishing a steady drive. But it his leadership in excavating precious ore out of this mine that is a signal achievement.
This is one of those benchmark productions that people will reference for the next decade in discussions about South Florida theater, as in, “Yes, such and such show was great, but did you see A Measure of Cruelty?”
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
As vital as the issues depicted in A Measure of Cruelty are, Calarco’s script isn’t likely to have a long life beyond its Mosaic premiere without some clarifying, significant rewrites.

Though it certainly isn’t a docudrama about the horrific 2009 attack on the 15-year-old Brewer, who was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire after a dispute stemming from a $40 video game debt, the then-fresh case is a vital element of the script.
Under the direction of Richard Jay Simon, who shaped the play while Calarco was busy with his own theater work, all three actors give intense performances – Durkin especially. At a critical moment, when Buddy is demonstrating to Derek how a terrified Michael Brewer must have felt, watching the confrontation is nearly unbearable.
Thematically, A Measure of Cruelty aims to demonstrate how one macho admonition – be a man! – can lead to disaster, as all three characters prove. Yet the relationship of Buddy and Derek is muddy, even mystifying... Though he writes vivid scenes and speeches, Calarco has crafted an 85-minute script that is too diffuse. A Measure of Cruelty simply doesn’t coalesce into a powerful, memorable theater experience.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Remember the Florida kids who poured alcohol all over a buddy and then lit him up? That the basis for A Measure of Cruelty and Joe Calarco has driven home all the horror of that act with a tight, almost poetic at times, one act that nails three generations of cruelty...
Durkin gives us a bitter soldier, horrified at the acts he committed and witnessed, anguished at the loss of his wife, perhaps assuaging his guilt by sheltering Derek, whom he despises... Durkin's range, as Buddy, is mesmerizing from start to finish.
Wind drowns the stage in words, an endless outpouring of teen cool...
And Creaghan ties it all together with his quiet regret at growing old, the secrets, the failures, the misdeeds.
Ultimately a sad piece, but you'll long remember the fine work by all three actors and the smooth direction of Richard Jay Simon.
Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
Director Richard Jay Simon moves this drama along at a stunning pace, with the prowess of Durkin and two other award-worthy performances –  Dennis Creaghan  as  Teddy (the father) and Andrew Wind (as Derek, one of the young criminals).   Both Creaghan and Wind give A-One performances, even though the intense dramatic role goes to Durkin.
Technically, this production is in an  A-class, with  set designer Douglas Grinn providing a realistic neighborhood bar for the action, and lighting and sound by the creative team of John Hall and Matt Corey respectively.
A Measure of Cruelty plays at Mosaic Theatre through May 13, 2012.

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