Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Scene for June 30, 2012.

We're a bit late getting this week's SCENE posted; we're battling a summer cold.  Sorry for the delay.

A lot of plays are closing this weekend, and nothing's opening to replace them this week; everyone is waiting until after the Fourth of July holiday.  Of course, a few of them will be in rehearsals through the holiday.  In the meantime, you may have a number of shows to see if you've been putting it off.

Here's what's playing on The Scene this sweltering summer weekend...

you still haven't missed...

Cabaret Verboten plays at the Theatre at Arts Garage through July 30, 2012.

last chance to see...

Slow Burn Theatre ends its limited run of Xanadu on July 1, 2012.

Miami Stage Door Theatre production of Deathtrap at the Byron Carlyle Theater also close July 1.

The Edge of Our Bodies plays at Mosaic Theater through July 1, 2012.

Empire Stage presents Love Scenes through July 1.

The Immigrant plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through July 1, 2012.  They're also offering Backwards in High Heels, the musical biography of Ginger Rogers.


Florida Atlantic University's summer season kicks off with Showtune: A Jerry Herman Musical Revue, through July 21.  Love's Labor's Lost joins the lineup this weekend.

101 Dalmatians plays at the venerable Lake Worth Playhouse this weekend.

Florida International University offers The Maids this weekend.  This one has a tie-in to Edge of Our Bodies at Mosaic - that play is set on a school production of The Maids.  See one, then run to see the other - and share your findings with us.

coming and going...

The JQ Studio presents First Man/First Woman at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center this weekend.

for kids...

City Theater partnered with Orlando Repertory Theatre to produce The Brand New Kid.  Based on Katie Couric's children's book, it runs this weekend at the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre June 29-30.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater offers Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, through August 4.

Slow Burn Theatre: Xanadu (4 reviews)

.Slow Burn Theatre opened its production of Xanadu: The Musical on June 22, 2012.
As the song states “A place where nobody dared to go….” is right up our alley. We are proud to present the South Florida premier of “Xanadu ” This surprise Broadway smash hit won over even the toughest critics and theatre goers. XANADU follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time – the first ROLLER DISCO!. This hilarious musical adventure includes the hit songs “Magic”, “Suddenly”, and of course “Xanadu”. This tale of endless fun will keep you in stitches, while the legendary chart-topping tunes will lift you out of your seat. You’ll want to keep the music in your head, and XANADU in your heart, forever.
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that included Lindsey Forgey, Rick Pena, Larry Buzzeo, Lisa Kerstin Braun, Jerel Brown, Kristina Johnson, Conor Walton, Renata Eastlick, and Mary Gundlach, .

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
To be truthful, this is not among Slow Burn’s best work. The company was far funnier, crisper and engaging in Urinetown earlier this year, another spoofy satire. This is more the ragged romp you might find at a theater summer camp for some really talented kids. But it would take a congenital curmudgeon not to acknowledge that the company is having so much fun – and working pretty hard to entertain – that their enthusiasm is incurably infectious.
Fitzwater and Beane’s style of choice is at least two levels above over-the-top. The book is intentionally clichéd and clunky to make fun of the shortcomings of clichéd and clunky books, such as ham-handedly troweling on implausible exposition.
The cast is headed by Slow Burn’s regular leading lady, Lindsey Forgey, wearing a wig of flowing blond curls. Forgey is a lovely woman with a strong voice, but she is as visually as far from the waifish Newton-John or Broadway’s Kerry Butler as you can get. Being a comedienne, she revels in that.
Rick Pena... has that earnestness that delivers the humor in lines like “You make me feel so incredible, I feel I can go into downtown L.A. without a weapon!”
Larry Buzzeo... recreates one his urbane world-weary George Sanders characters as the owner of the dilapidated club and one of Clio’s amorous conquests on a visit during the 1940s.
If most of the show lacks electricity, the amperage suddenly shoots off the meter with every appearance of Renata Eastlick as one of two malicious Muses trying to sabotage Clio. Tall, gorgeous, sexy and full-voiced, she rips out songs like “Evil Woman” with enough topspin to melt the varnish off a billiard ball, especially when she’s partnered with fellow Muse Mary Gundlach, who was superb as the Witch in Slow Burn’s recent Into The Woods.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Arts Paper: companies such as West Boca’s Slow Burn that specialize in offbeat musicals have been reviving Xanadu with audience-pleasing success. Slow Burn tends towards shows of more substance -- like Kiss of the Spider Woman or Assassins -- but it is reassuring to know that director-choreographer Patrick Fitzwater and his company are also comfortable trafficking in sheer silliness.
...Slow Burn continues to impress with its ability to pull off musicals that should be beyond its physical and talent pool resources.
As Clio, Slow Burn’s go-to leading lady Lindsey Forgey (Blood Brothers, Urinetown) again displays a natural comic flair, adapting to her wind-swept Aussie alter ego Kira, mangling the accent and negotiating the set’s treacherous ramps on her roller skates. Rick Pena is aptly ditsy as her love interest Sonny and Larry Buzzeo finesses his way as Danny, the Gene Kelly role in the movie, the free spirit-turned-real-estate-magnate who was transfixed by Clio in his youth.
John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
The Broadway show began touring in 2008, but no South Florida concert halls would touch it with a ten-foot Greek pillar. Luckily, West Boca's Slow Burn Theatre has taken up the cause, producing a colorful, fun, and intelligently cast rendition of this brazenly insubstantial comedy.
There is not a dud among the local nine-member cast, led by Lindsey Forgey as the bubbly Clio and Rick Pena as the single-celled Sonny. Larry Buzzeo is dapper as always in the role of Danny Maguire, a real estate mogul who strikes a deal with Sonny to convert his abandoned theater into the Xanadu roller disco (believe me, I feel just as silly typing this as you do reading it). Conor Walton and Jerel Brown earn a lot of laughs as the two male "sisters" — another one of Beane's theatrical revisions — but it's Renata Eastlick and Mary Gundlach, as the evil muses, who stand out most among their castmates. The big-haired Eastlick is bold and loud, oppressive and expressive in the way villains were in old Disney fairy tales, albeit with the necessary comic self-awareness. Gundlach plays in a lower key, but her Kristen Wiig-ish facial expressions and deadpan delivery are no less on-target.
If this version of Xanadu doesn't always reach the high levels of hilarity for which it aims, it certainly hits enough of them, and I can't imagine a regional theater presenting a stronger production on a budget this lean. In a ludicrous show where sloppiness is forgivable — if not ingrained in the source material's DNA — this Xanadu skates along at a winning pace.
Eileen Speigler wrote for The Miami Herald:
If Xanadu, the much-maligned 1980 film, still hangs in your memory like one of the era’s ubiquitous disco balls, roll on over to West Boca and catch Slow Burn Theatre’s production.
And after a few wobbles at the start, the entire cast does a great job of belting out the songs penned by Jeff Lynne, of ELO fame — if you’re of a certain age, hearing Evil Woman and Have To Believe We Are Magic draws a twinge of nostalgia. Not to mention a little swing and some impressive, jump-on-the-desk tap dancing.
...two of the older muses... Calliope (Mary Gundlach) and especially Melpomene (Renata Eastlick) are wicked good, and threaten to not only tear asunder but upstage the star-crossed lovers...
Artistic directors Patrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko get the tone and energy of what makes the play so infectious where the movie failed spectacularly. It’s in on the joke and winks at itself, but not in a smug or savage way — although there are a few zingers.
Slow Burn Theatre ends its limited run of Xanadu The Musical on July 1, 2012.

Stage Door Theatre: Deathtrap (reviews)

Miami Stage Door opened its production of Deathtrap at the Byron Carlyle Theater on June 15, 2012.
The trap is set… for a wickedly funny who’ll-do-it. Broadway’s longest-running mystery is a classic pulse-pounding thriller with devilishly wicked characters and multiple twists. The plot thickens as a once famed playwright, now living on his laurels, is sent a more-than-promising manuscript from an aspiring playwright. His dilemma: Can he get the young author to collaborate with him? If not – is murder an option? Of course it is.
Clayton Phillips directed a cast that featured Kevin Reilly, Clay Cartland, Elizabeth Sackett, Glen Lawrence, and Paula Sackett.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Back in 1978 when the word “meta” didn’t have its current ubiquity as a pop culture definition of “something referring to itself,” Ira Levin’s ingenious comedy-thriller Deathtrap became the ultimate example of what would eventually become known as meta-theater.
Other than a few dated references, Levin’s script remains a brilliantly crafted and slyly knowing piece of theatrical cabinetry. The ensuing plot regularly corkscrews in on itself with reversals, but to reveal much more is to sabotage the audience’s delights in the twists. If you don’t know what’s coming, this marvel still holds up – as the gasps from Sunday’s audience confirmed.
This production could use a little more topspin under the direction of Clayton Phillips, the production manager for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and an experienced director of musicals judging by his bio. He leads his cast in an adequate rendition, but this iteration doesn’t maximize the suspense or comedy that this play is capable of delivering.
The best thing about this production is that it finally gives veteran local actor Kevin Reilley a long-overdue role that is a perfect fit for his talents... He flavors Levin’s bon mots with just the right seasoning of frustrated bile.
Handsome Clay Cartland (so good in last month’s reading of tick tick… Boom for Outre Theatre) invests Anderson with the slightly bizarre enthusiasm that makes some of the play’s less likely twists completely credible, showing the acting chops that made his performance as a demented industrialist the standout in Promethean Theatre’s Song of the Living Dead.
Less satisfying was Elizabeth Sackett’s Myra who starts off the play unremarkably bland, thereby robbing the first scene of crucial energy. Her performance deepens as Myra’s growing anxiety and dread give the actress something to play with.

Paula Sackett works hard to create the one out-and-out farcical character, a frowsy Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp, whose visits to the manse threaten Bruhl’s plans. But inexplicably, Sackett just can’t make Helga land as the delightfully daffy fly-in-the-ointment that Levin penned. Glen Lawrence portrays Bruhl’s stolid solicitor with appropriate stuffiness.

It’s not the best Deathtrap you’ve seen (or will see if this is your first time), but it works well enough to be worth a visit. And credit Stage Door for being one of the few companies left in South Florida willing to mount this kind of tired businessman warhorse that combined sheer craft with sheer entertainment.
The Miami Stage Door production of Deathtrap plays at the Byron Carlyle Theatre through July 1, 2012.

Theatre at Arts Garage: Cabaret Verboten (4 reviews)

The Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of Cabaret Verboten on June 22, 2012.
In the face of the Nazi machine’s insidious advance, Germany’s Weimar era art-scene was a hotbed of music, theatre, and art that used satire and irony to expose the affected bourgeois morality of the time. While “decadent” and “degenerate” were terms Hitler used to describe whatever he found objectionable, the cabaret of the day reflected the social degeneracy, dripping in decadence and menace, as a response to what their world had become.
Jeremey Lawrence directed a cast that featured Pierre Tannous, Wayne LeGette, Lourelene Snedeker and Alexa Green

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
With brilliant but unrelieved corrosive cynicism, the musical revue at the Theatre at Arts Garage mercilessly draws unnerving parallels between the dissolute Weimar Republic and 21st Century America, bluntly underscoring how ripe we are for fascist demagoguery in a heated election cycle.
This sardonic and carnal recreation of a Weimar cabaret isn’t the light musical fare Floridians are accustomed to seeing in the summer. Many intelligent discerning theatergoers will flat out hate this show. But an equal number will be intrigued and fascinated if not enraptured by the abyss-dark humor and timely political comment. For them, this is courageous gutsy programming.
Throughout, Lawrence’s double-entendre lyrics twist and turn like depraved Cole Porter, corkscrewing so intricately that it seems like language itself has been perverted.  That same quality imbues the rhyming couplets that he gives the vampiric Emcee to introduce each number.
LeGette as the pale-faced, gaunt-eyed Emcee, is especially effective with an angry leer that says, “Well, if this is the way you want the world, you asked for it.” He smoothly delivers Lawrence’s glib patter.
Snedeker (who received a Carbonell nomination for the 1996 edition) reminds us once again with her expressive face and lithe body language how we’ve missed her ability as a musical theater performer who is equally a fine actress.
In the end, Cabaret Verboten’s power is that while it initially seems meant to be a time machine, in fact, it has the feel of an endless Jersey Shore marathon interspersed with ads for The Kardashian Book of Etiquette, set in a very recognizable post-modern Hell.  Not for everyone.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Cabaret Verboten, directed, revised and slightly updated with contemporary references by its creator, should be a perfect fit with its four-person cast and three musicians. After all, where better to present an in-your-face revue than in a place where the performers can stroll among the tables, sometimes getting unsettlingly up close and personal? But Cabaret Verboten, 2012 edition, proves a hit-and-miss affair.
Lawrence’s minimal updates, however, stick out like a sore thumb. Or maybe a bad bratwurst. A sketch titled Lost: One Small Dachshund works in a reference to strapping a dog to the roof of a car (hello, Mitt Romney) and has cast member Alexa Green donning glasses and speaking with a Sarah Palin accent, don’t ya know. That material sounds like a reject from a show by the Capitol Steps, the company that specializes in of-the-moment political satire.
Wayne LeGette is the show’s versatile emcee, a guy with a powerful singing voice and the acting chops to shift from menace to manipulation to naughtiness in the blink of a heavily made-up eye.

Lourelene Snedeker, the only holdover from the 1996 production, has a Marlene Dietrich-like world-weariness down cold. Green is at her most powerful when playing a pregnant woman who’s not that keen on becoming a mother. Tannous does well in a sketch with LeGette, but his inexperience often shows.

Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
Ready for a smart night of theater? If you’re looking for mindless entertainment, Cabaret Verboten is not for you. But the musical... plays well to those who never shy away from the History and Current Events categories on Jeopardy.
There was nothing off limits to the cabaret writers then, and there’s nothing off limits still: stand your ground, unwanted pregnancy, Wall Street rip-offs, i.e. Bernie Madoff, gay marriage, cross dressing, shopaholism, and addictions of all kinds, all get equal treatment. Interestingly enough, many of these topical points come out of songs that were already in place: The Stock Exchange Song (1921), The Kleptomanic (1931); When the Special Girlfriend (1928); The Lavender Song (1920), and The Snag (1931). In fact, each song, whether peppered with a contemporary reference or left untouched recalls something current.
Wayne LeGette... plays the smarmy emcee. He also doubles as different characters throughout the show and in many sketches. However, his emcee dripped with such one-note sarcasm throughout, the portrayal rendered the character unlikeable. LeGette fared much better in the ensemble parts.
Veteran actress Lourelene Snedeker is the stand out of the cast. She’s absolutely frantic and fun as a woman addicted to shopping in The Kleptomaniac, and commands the stage in her solo, sprawled out on a settee as she sings about her vices in Shag Tobacco.
Ron Levitt, whose return key seems to broken, wrote for ENV Magazine:
It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, straight or gay, believer or non-believer,  you will get a lesson in politics, history and tolerance by  spending 75 minutes at The Theatre at Arts Garage  here , watching its musical summer production, the updated  Cabaret Verboten.
Despite its obvious title,  with songs and sketches from and about the Weimar German Republic – the time between the two World Wars –  this edition of Cabaret Verboten by  its creator/writer/director Jeremy Lawrence  is a modernized version of  the musical satire he wrote 16 years ago. Lawrence and producer Lou Tyrell – with an excellent ensemble of four vocalizing performers – somehow have managed to take the music of Germany’s years leading up to Hitler and have given it a modern twist.
A good part  of Cabaret Verboten’s  oomph  must be credited to an outstanding ensemble – award-winning vocalist Lourelene  Snedeker (who was in the original edition in 1966). The multi-talented  Wayne  LeGette (a veteran leading man who also must get some energy from his Florida Power and Light commercials),  and dynamic newcomers Pierre Tannous and b, all of whom look vivacious and alluring in costume by Erin Amico.
There are memorable numbers throughout the show, especially Tannous doing a transsexual striptease and you will find yourself  — if you are old enough — comparing Snedeker to Marlene Dietrich. The entire show is captivating and you will ask yourself how could such awful  things happen in a civilized country?
Cabaret Verboten plays at the Theatre at Arts Garage through July 30, 2012.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mondays are Dark

AS the rain has been pounding South Florida the last few days, it's a perfect opportunity to pursue indoor activities - like, well, theatre.  And don't forget to keep those ticket stubs to qualify for A Taste of Theatre, Theatre League's promotion tied into SummerFest.

Here's your Monday reading list.

City Theatre Still Going
Summer Shorts are packed away for the year, and Standing on Ceremony has come and gone, but you can still catch The Brand New Kid, City Theatre's co-production with Orlando Rep.  The Examiner tells us about the show's upcoming date at Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre's space in the Galleria Mall.

Speaking of FLCT
Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre is getting ready to mount its production of Hairspray at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and The Examiner has a slideshow.

Stuff in the City
New York City, that is.  Florida Theater On Stage reports that Michael McKeever's STUFF, winner of the 2011 Carbonel for Best New Work, will be getting a staged reading in The Big Apple. Playbill also has the story.

Why We Burn Out
Butts In Seats discusses the problems with overloading a job description.
Core job responsibilities are ones to which you should expect to devote a large portion of your day/week. If you have 25 core duties and even assuming you work at 10 hour day, you will only be able to devote 24 minutes each day to a duty. If indeed they are all core responsibilities.
If you give one person too many jobs, their ability to maintain quality drops because they must divide their attention to oversee the additional load.

Too Cool For School
The Huffington Post has the transcript to Robert Brustein's remarks to the Theatre Communications Group panel on Theater And The University.  Brustein is the founder of Yale Repertory Company, which is partnered with Yale University.
...America's continuing adolescence in regard to support for the arts helps explain why the so-called not-for-profit theater is now sometimes serving not as an alternative to the Broadway system, but rather as a tryout house for commercial interests. I'm certainly not suggesting that these two systems shouldn't have relations with each other, or even intermarry at times. Rather, I am criticizing a process in which commercial interest is aroused before the opening of a not-for-profit production and thereby has a hand in raising the baby...

Try to imagine how an institution of higher learning would react to a chemistry department whose professors develop new pharmaceuticals in return for enhancement money from Pfizer.
South Florida Center Stage - in Movies
LA Weekly explains why the film adaptation of the musical Rock of Ages was shot in South Florida, even though it's set in Los Angeles.
For Shankman, however, L.A. was never an option. "The second I said yes to this, I knew there was no version that we were going to be able to shoot in Los Angeles, because [the Sunset Strip] is one of the busiest intersections in the world," he says in an interview with Miami New Times. "I couldn't close it down for six weeks, which is what I really needed. So I looked all over the world, and [Miami] ended up being really the only game in town."
But it was Fort Lauderdale that sealed the deal.
Shankman says he had very specific needs for that space -- a rock club that looked intimate but had enough space and balconies for cameras and cranes. "I walked in [to Revolution] and it was exactly... what I saw in my head," Shankman recalls. "I didn't want [anything] to move in case the illusion was destroyed."
Shankman likes the idea of building soundstages in Homestead, but Miami Today reports that the state needs to do more to help attract the film industry to the Sunshine State.

... in Miami, the Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed.  And The Examiner reports that Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has said that it should be replaced with retail space.  I guess The Grove doesn't have enough empty storefronts.  And there's nothing new to be reported on the other two playhouse sitting empty across South Florida.

Friday, June 22, 2012

City Theatre/Broward Center: Standing on Ceremony (reviews)

City Theatre's production of Standing On Ceremony opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on June 21, 2012.
Experience an exciting, provocative evening of new short plays read by a dynamic, celebrity cast, written by some of America’s most illustrious playwrights as they offer their unique takes on the moments before, during, and after “I do.” Celebrate post-show at a wedding reception complete with music and wedding cake!Dealing in a personal way with same-sex marriage and equality, these American writers have created an evening that is at once as insightful and stirring as it is funny and heartwarming. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to Equality Florida.
John Manzelli directed a cast that featured Bruce Vilanch, Bryan Batt, Elizabeth Dimon, Elena Garcia, Steve Trovillion, Christopher De Paola, and Elizabeth Price alternating with jazz diva Nicole Henry, who will be singing a couple of numbers after the show on Friday and Saturday.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
As the two men eloquently pledge their lives and their loves to each other in the moving vows that close Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, theater reasserts its power to underscore the common humanity that transcends differences even as we treasure and celebrate those differences.
This production is really just a staged reading, benefiting from a few more rehearsals than usual with actors frequently referring to scripts in loose-leaf notebooks. But most of the personnel here are skilled enough to produce a satisfying professional evening...
The more overtly political skits are preaching directly to the gay men’s choir such as Craig Wright’s (I Am My Own Wife) edited transcript of a virulent debate on gay marriage that he instigated On Facebook. Only some heavy lifting by comic actress Garcia softened the one-dimensional feel of the piece.
...Dimon’s hilarious depiction of a conservative Ohio housewife whose equilibrium is unhinged when she hears a caustic “gay” voice in her head as she interacts with a couple in The Gay Agenda by Paul Rudnick(Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told). She becomes increasingly upset by the “incursions” of gay life such as all the sassy wisecracking sidekicks to women characters on sitcoms being gay men. “It’s taking jobs from black women!” she wails.
The high point was Batt’s performance of Moises Kaufman’s (The Laramie Project) affecting London Mosquitos, a surprisingly uplifting eulogy by a man in his late 50s, memorializing the intelligence and courage of his beloved long-time companion who died of cancer.
The City Theatre production of Standing on Ceremony plays at the Broward Center through June 24, 2012.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Scene for June 22, 2012

Don't you believe for a second that there's no theater in the summer.  This is one of the busiest weekends we've seen in months. City Theater and Slow Burn are both opening shows with very brief runs, so see those sooner rather than later; and four companies are winding up runs; New Theatre's A Bicycle Country has received particularly good reviews.  We have a couple of college offerings this week, and something for the kids, too.

Here's what's playing on a very very busy Scene this weekend:


City Theater opens Standing On Ceremony at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts tonight. This one only plays through Sunday, don't miss it!  Featuring Bruce Vilanch, Bryan Batt, and Nicole Henry, and some of South Florida's finest actors.

Slow Burn Theatre Company opens its production of the musical Xanadu this weekend.  But it only plays through next weekend, so see it soon!

Theatre at Arts Garage
opens its first home-grown production; Cabaret Verboten will play through July 29th.

you still haven't missed...

Miami Stage Door Theatre presents Deathtrap at the Byron Carlyle Theater through July 1.  It's Broadway's longest running murder mystery.

The Edge of Our Bodies plays at Mosaic Theater through July 1, 2012.

Empire Stage presents Love Scenes through July 1.

The Immigrant plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through July 1, 2012.  They're also offering Backwards in High Heels, the musical biography of Ginger Rogers.

last chance to see...

The Alliance Theatre Lab winds up its premier production of Small Membership at the Main Street Playhouse this Sunday, June 24, 2012.

The Andrews Living Arts Studio production of Avenue Q is selling tickets through June 23, 2012.

Don t Rain On Our Parade A Tribute To Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, and Carole King concludes its extended run at the Plaza Theatre this Sunday, June 24.

New Theatre's production of A Bicycle Country completes its run at the Roxy Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, 2012.


Florida Atlantic University's summer season kicks off with Showtune: A Jerry Herman Musical Revue, through July 21.

Florida International University
is offering Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You In The Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad through this Saturday only.  Sheesh, you need more time than that to say the title!

passing through...

The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles winds up its stop at The Broward Center this Sunday, June 24, 2012.  Christopher Seiber has been drawing rave revues for his "must-see" performance as Albin/ZaZa.

The Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre is offering An Evening With Bara Swain, this Saturday only at 7:30 pm.  The Examiner has a story on the event.

for kids...

City Theater partnered with Orlando Repertory Theatre to produce The Brand New Kid.  Based on Katie Couric's children's book, it runs this weekend at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. It moves to the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre June 29-30.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater offers Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, through August 4.

Stage Door Theatre: Backwards in High Heels (2 reviews)

Broward Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Backwards in High Heels on June 6, 2012.
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
And that's all they're saying about that.

Dan Kelly directed a cast that featured Kelly Skidmore, Nicole Davey, Kate Scott, Ryan Lingle, Jake Delany, and Jonathon Van Dyke.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Rogers’ rich life story is the subject of Backwards in High Heels, a show created in 2007 at Florida Stage by Lynnette Barkley and Christopher McGovern. The dance-driven stage biography is now at the Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, and though simpler in execution, the production delivers thanks largely to the distaff half of its cast.

Director Dan Kelley and choreographer Yoav Levin smoothly convey Rogers’ story, punctuating it with one dazzling dance number after another. Musical director Dave Nagy, bass player Martha Spangler and percussionist Julie Jacobs supply the live music so critical to the give-and-take between singers and musicians. Costume designer Jerry Sturdefant, lighting designer Ardeau Landhuis and Stage Door’s scenic designers largely keep the show’s palette in black, white and grays, appropriate for a star whose movie legacy was captured in black and white.
Determined to become a star, Ginger – played at Stage Door by the radiant, abundantly talented Kelly Skidmore – started dancing on the Orpheum circuit at 15
Rogers' less-fulfilling personal life involved five failed marriages and, at least according to McGovern’s take, a love-hate relationship with her mother. At Stage Door, Kate Scott plays Lela as an omnipresent redhead who tries but fails to control her headstrong daughter. The warmth in Scott’s voice as she sings You’ll Never Know underscores the Lela’s feelings of tenderness and pain.

Nicole Davey sketches miniature portraits of several stars – Merman, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn – and emerges as the show’s solid comedienne. Ryan Lingle is a persuasive suitor-turned-scoundrel as Rogers’ first husband, Jack Culpepper, but his Jimmy Stewart bears no resemblance to the affable star. Jake Delany gets the Astaire role, but he looks, sounds and moves nothing like the legendary dancer-choreographer, and Skidmore handily out-dances him.
Backwards in High Heels may play a little loose in spots with the facts of a fascinating life. But watching the cast sing and dance to such movie musical classics as Fascinating Rhythm, A Fine Romance, I Got Rhythm, We’re in the Money and Let’s Face the Music and Dance? That’s entertainment.
Michele F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs presents a super-energized rendition of the nostalgic musical that follows the life of the other half of the Astaire-Rogers dance duo, from the teenaged Virginia winning a Charleston dance competition that put her on the Orpheum circuit in 1926 to Ginger’s Oscar win in 1940 for a dramatic role in Kitty Foyle... It has been performed around the country since, but Stage Door embraces its tap-happy beat to put on a production that feels genuine to the core.
Kelly Skidmore as Ginger is nothing short of spectacular. She glows on stage from the moment she arrives in the opening number with the rest of the company for the rousing Gershwin ditty “Fascinating Rhythm,” which quickly propels the production into high gear.
...things continue to take off thanks to Dan Kelley’s swift direction that keeps everything moving on point so that the show never misses a beat. Add to that a live orchestra set above the action that adds even more energy. The trio is one of the hardest-working bands seen on a local stage — musical director David Nagy on piano, Martha Spangler contributing rich, deep sound on stand-up bass, and Julie Jacobs keeping time on drums.
Just as fetching is Kate Scott as Ginger’s mother, Lela Rogers, who plays the Mama Rose-esque part with a cool confidence. In Act II, her treatment of the ballad “You’ll Never Know” is so perfectly rendered it reveals true heartbreak.
The show calls on the ensemble to wear a number of different hats and there isn’t a weak link in the bunch.

For unlimited comic relief throughout, Nicole Davey has the most fun playing a veritable cast of characters... During a party scene, Davey’s quick change ups as Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn are wonderfully defined and comically spot on...
Jonathan Van Dyke takes on a number of different roles, too, but he’s a stand out in the tuneful “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” that he shares with the two leading ladies.
While Barkley and McGovern’s story travels a predictable road, there’s no denying it’s a musical gem. Stage Door’s Backwards in High Heels gets five stars for being a true original.
Backwards in High Heels plays at the Broward Stage Door Theater through July 15, 2012.

Empire Stage: Love Scenes (reviews)

Empire Stage opened Love Scenes, a co-production with Gato Flaco Productions, on June 7, 2012.
Moe Bertran plays 6 gay characters including a twenty-year-old hustler falling for his kinky mentor; a Broadway producer in a locker room brawl with the starlet who’s after his man; a sixty-something martini drinker whose partner wants to have an open sexual relationship; and a drag diva ending her search for a rich husband to settle for true love.
Rod Stafford Hagwood's review was picked up by The Miami Herald:
Written by David Pumo, the one-man show doesn’t spark until the third scene. But from that moment on, it’s a laugh-a-minute gallop through all sorts of gay relationships, each one getting its own monologue. To be sure, poignant points are scored, but it’s the zingers that linger.
Don’t think for a moment that the late-coming “wow” factor is due to a meandering attack by actor Moe Bertran, who has performed the show across the country and even aboard Atlantis Events’ gay cruises. It is not. It’s just that those first scenes seem to have very little new or particularly interesting to offer.
But for a six-scene play stripped of the usual theatrical tricks of one-person shows... we are left in Bertran’s capable and well-rehearsed hands.
Empire Stage presents Love Scenes through July 1, 2012.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mondays are Dark

Summer is upon us; but it was a lovely weekend with little rain, so we were out catching rays instead of combing the internet.  City Theatre has concluded Summer Shorts, and its CityWrights event was a smashing success; but they're not done for the season quite yet.  This week they open Standing on Ceremony at the Broward Center, a collection of short plays dealing with gay marriage, and features the talents of Bryan Batt and Bruce Vilanch.

It's a little tardy, but here's your Monday reading list.

A Taste of Summer
BroadwayWorld fills us in on a promotion sponsored by The South Florida Theatre League as part of WLRN's SummerFest.
Patrons who attend three Theatre League member theatre performances will be eligible to receive a $20 gift certificate to The Melting Pot, the popular restaurant that offers a truly unique dining experience created by the art of fondue.
Those Neon Lights Will Shine...
South Florida Theatre News reminds us that Slow Burn Theatre Company opens its production of the musical Xanadu this week.

Pulling Strings
The Examiner fills us in on the next production at Actors' Playhouse; the world premiere of Real Men Sing Show Tunes...and play with puppets, a new musical by Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria.  And leave the kids at home; this one's for grown-ups.

Ringing In A New Season
The Miami Herald reports that the University of Miami's Ring Theatre will start off its 2012-2013 season with "an ambitious festival showcasing the work of Cuban playwright Virgilio Piñera."  The plays will be performed in Spanish with English supertitles, while the one-acts will be done in English with Spanish supertitles.  The Virgilio @ 100 International Festival runs from August 17 through September 22 at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre on the UM campus in Coral Gables.  The rest of their season includes Boeing Boeing, Girls vs. Boys (with The House Theater of Chicago at the Arsht Center), and King Lear.

Rising Action Theatre closed in the middle of its season last year, but South Florida Gay News reports that the small company is returning as Island City Stage, kicking off with Michael Leeds directing Twentieth-Century Way. Playbill has the audition notice, and notes that the Island City Stage website is still "under construction."

Resurrected... Rented
Meanwhile, BroadwayWorld  describes the Entr'Act Theatrix rental of The Count de Hoernle theatre as "resurrecting the Caldwell Theatre."
“JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is now more relevant than ever, particularly with idealistic young people taking to the streets and challenging the political status quo from Egypt’s Tahrir Square to the occupiers of Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park,” says executive Producer Vicki Halmos. “Plus I can think of nothing more appropriate than a musical about resurrection to re-open this fabulous theater.”
It's one thing to put plays in the building, but it's not resurrection by a long shot.  However well-intentioned, student actors doing popular fare is no substitution for 37 years of professional production at the levels produced by The Caldwell.  It's nice to see the building being used as a theater, but it would be better to see the actual Caldwell Theatre Company back in production.

Money Makes The World Go Around
Via Parabasis, we bring you an... interesting approach to getting good press.  Superfluities Redux reports that a a small theater company in Brooklyn is, well, offering bribes to theatre critics. 
...the producers are offering a $100.00 “reprint fee” for any reviews that they excerpt on the show’s Web site...
They include a portion of the classified ad making the offer, and background on the company, and a good discussion of the issue.

Speaking of Critics
That last article linked to one on Onstage/Backstage, a Chicago theatre blog.  Jonathon Abarbanel discusses what it means to be a theatre critic.
The job of the critic is to be frank, professional and neutral. It's easy to be smart-ass and witty when lambasting a show ("And then I tore her heart out and stomped on it," we like to say), and sometimes it's fun, but it rarely makes for good criticism although it frequently makes for lively writing. Neutral does not always mean nice, but the voice of the reviewer (in print or on-air) never should sound like personal attack or a sermon, whether of the soapbox or high pulpit variety.
It's a good read, and if you're wondering what criteria is used when The Scene reviews a critic, here  you go.

Talking With...
Florida Theater On Stage has a green room chat with veteran actor Harriet Oser, while miamiartzine raps with the inimitable George Schiavone.

BroadwayWorld has more on the tribute to Jan McArt that's tied in with a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar
Ms. McArt will be honored at a Piano Bar/Pizza Party at the Count de Hoernle Theatre (formerly “The Caldwell”) following the Sunday matinee performance of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR on July 8.

“Just as this production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is resurrecting the recently-shuttered Caldwell Theatre, so too are we going to use this show to remember with great fondness another vanished cultural landmark in Boca Raton, the Royal Palm Dinner Theatre, and its guiding light and guardian angel, the always enchanting Jan McArt,” said Halmos.
Taking Care of Business
Butts In Seats discusses the issue of non-profit organizations doing business with their own board members.  The Minnesota Playlist notes that you are your own marketing department - something we thought should be obvious, but then we found out that Actors' Rep was still running ColumbinUS and hadn't put that up on their website.  Which is why your attendance has been down, Bob.

Speaking of Marketing
Mission Paradox describes the role of the marketer.

In Case You Missed It
Polly Carl of howlround was the keynote speaker at City Theatre's CityWright event this past weekend, and has posted the transcript of their speech.

One of her points:
During my fifteen years of making new plays, I’ve watched our field become more obsessed with the transactional and less obsessed with making good art. If I’m here for no other reason today, it’s to push you as artists and people who love the theater to rethink this momentum.
While we can see that more attention is being paid to the business of show business, has the art truly suffered? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Scene for June 15, 2012

This summer is just blasting past.  Do you have a summer camp happening at your theater?  Leave information in the comments, and we'll  see about putting together a summer camp show guide.

This weekend, City Theatre is presenting a playwright's conference called CityWrights.  The Drama Queen fill us in on the event, which includes playwrights Christopher Durang and Leslie Ayvazian reading some of their work.  Also this weekend, one night only on June 16th  Deco Drive's Louis Aguirre & SocialMiami's Aaron Glickman will star in a benefit reading of Sam Shepard's True West. All proceeds will be donated to the Miami Theater Center (formerly known as The PlayGround Theatre).

On the horizon; Cabaret Verboten at ArtsGarage, Standing on Ceremony at the Broward Center, and The Brand New Kid at the Kravis Center.  Two of these three shows are produced at least in part by City Theatre.

Here's what's playing on a very very busy Scene this weekend:


Miami Stage Door Theatre opens Deathtrap at the Byron Carlyle Theater.  It's Broadway's longest running murder mystery.

you still haven't missed...

New Theatre presents its production of A Bicycle Country at the Roxy Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, 2012.

The Edge of Our Bodies plays at Mosaic Theater through July 1, 2012.

Empire Stage presents Love Scenes through July 1.

The Immigrant plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through July 1, 2012.  They're also offering Backwards in High Heels, the musical biography of Ginger Rogers.

The Alliance Theatre Lab presents Small Membership at the Main Street Playhouse through June 24, 2012.

The Andrews Living Arts Studio production of Avenue Q is selling tickets through June 23, 2012.

Don t Rain On Our Parade A Tribute To Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, and Carole King winds up its limited  has extended its run at the Plaza Theatre this Sunday, June 17 June 24.

last chance to see...

City Theatre's 17th iteration of its famous Summer Shorts winds up its exclusive run at the Arsht Center through June 17, 2012.  Don't look for it in Broward, or anywhere else.

Palm Beach Dramaworks' critically acclaimed production of David Auburn's Proof  closes this Sunday, June 17, 2012.

passing through...

The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles plays at The Broward Center through June 24, 2012.  And we're not going to make any jokes about George Hamilton, because he's a hometown boy (West Palm Beach).  We're fairly certain those stories of Burt Reynolds giving him wedgies between classes at Palm Beach High are just vicious rumors we thought up for our own amusement.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Broward Center: La Cage Aux Folles (2 reviews)

The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on June 12, 2012.
Winner of three Tony Awards® including the award for BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL, this hilarious new production of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES was the biggest hit of the 2010 Broadway season, leaving audiences in stitches night after night!

LA CAGE tells the story of Georges, the owner of a glitzy nightclub in lovely Saint-Tropez, and his partner Albin, who moonlights as the glamorous chanteuse Zaza. When Georges' son brings his fiancée's conservative parents home to meet the flashy pair, the bonds of family are put to the test as the feather boas fly! LA CAGE is a tuneful and touching tale of one family's struggle to stay together... stay fabulous... and above all else, stay true to themselves!
Terry Johnson directed a cast that included George Hamilton, Christopher Sieber, Dale Hensley, Michael Lowney, Jeigh Madjus, Gay Marshall, Allison Blair McDowell, and Todd Lattimore.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Coinciding with Gay Pride celebrations here in South Florida, La Cage aux Folles, the musical about a charming nightclub owner and his flamboyant partner, has landed at Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale with a likable production containing a don’t-miss performance.
This version of La Cage aux Folles is scaled back, and feels smaller than previous renditions.  The musicians have been raised from the orchestra pit to theater boxes above the stage, a design that brings the audience further into the intimate world of a nightclub. Some of the production numbers by Les Cagelles have a darker edge to them, more Cabaret than classic, colorful La Cage. But it works, largely due to the exceptional performance by Sieber.
Sieber, who was nominated for Tony Awards for playing Lord Farquaad in Shrek: The Musical and Sir Dennis Galahad in Monty Python’s Spamalot, is the heart and soul of the show.  What’s most impressive is that Sieber excels at turning this old chestnut of a role into his own special creation through little nuances and laugh-out-loud bits. La Cage aux Folles is simply more vivid when Sieber is on stage.
Playing a charming nightclub host and master of ceremony is no real stretch for Hamilton, whose affable manner is as ingrained as his electric white smile and bronze perma-tan. And while his acting style is better suited to the screen than the stage, his low-key performance allows his co-star to shine all the more...
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
La Cage aux Folles has been entertaining audiences for almost 40 years, as a play, two movies and a Tony Award-winning musical. The reasons for the story’s enduring popularity are on plentiful display at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts...
With a lovely, moving score by Jerry Herman and witty book by Harvey Fierstein, director Terry Johnson’s grittier scaled-down La Cage delivers all of the musical’s laughs, its flashy cabaret numbers and its poignant story about love, pride and sacrifice. hear Sieber — dressed in glamorous drag as Zaza but singing as the deeply wounded, fierce Albin — perform I Am What I Am is genuinely transcendent theater.

The Broadway veteran is wondrous throughout La Cage, anchoring the show’s humor and touching truths. He is always commanding (even when he’s done up like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch), and his inventive choices in a role so many others have played make him fascinating to watch, start to finish.

Georges is supposed to be different from Albin, a bit more controlled, a lot less dramatic. But Hamilton and Sieber are a mismatch. The movie and TV veteran is a strikingly handsome, smiling, charming presence who doesn’t look 30 years older than Sieber, though he is. His singing voice and dance moves are passable, but the real trouble lies in his too-small, too-subtle acting. Performing in a musical, particularly one as bold and comedically bawdy as La Cage aux Folles, demands bigger, more powerful choices than the ones Hamilton makes.
Quick-thinking cast member Todd Lattimore, done up like a ‘40s Fort Lauderdale pinup girl, does a hilarious pre-show warmup that gets the audience in a happy, receptive mood before the curtain goes up. Sieber and company keep them that way, right through to the sing-along finale. Once again, La Cage aux Folles proves it’s a show with legs. They just happen to belong to talented guys in dresses.
Beau Higgins wrote for BroadwayWorld:
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, with all its makeup and heels, drag queens and Broadway stars, glided into the Broward Center last night and I simply loved it.
This production, as seemingly all productions of this show, gets its primary power from Jerry Herman’s magnificently funny and touching score. Along with the aforementioned Hello, Dolly! and Mame, La Cage is third in the trio of Mr. Herman’s masterpiece Broadway musicals. This production also features the unforgettable performance of Christopher Sieber as the flamboyant drag queen star Albin/Zaza.

Mr. Sieber had us in the palm of his hand about a third of the way through “A Little More Mascara.” He never let go. A larger than life performer, Mr. Sieber is physically big and he used this to great avail in bringing us the funniest Albin we have ever seen.
Mr. Sieber’s life partner is delightfully played by George Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton received warm, loud, and lovely entrance applause... As tanned and great looking as ever, Mr. Hamilton as Georges delivered the performance, we frankly expected. Understated and elegant, with a singing voice, that while not very good, delivered his two big solos well enough...
The national tour of La Cage Aux Folles plays at The Broward Center through June 24, 2012.

Stage Door: The Immigrant (reviews)

The Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Mark Harelik's The Immigrant at its Coral Springs Location on June 6, 2012.
Playwright Mark Harelik follows his grandfather’s flight from Russian pogroms to resettlement and struggle in early 20th century Texas. Speaking just a few words of English, Haskell Harelik totes bananas door-to-door in a wheelbarrow, selling his produce for a penny apiece. He walks miles just to get the bananas, many more to sell them. But his toil is in service of a dream: When he has saved enough money, he’ll send for his young wife Leah, and their new life will truly begin.
Hugh M. Murphy directs a cast that features Andrew Wind, Ann Chamberlain, Janet Weakly, and Ken Clement.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...The Immigrant has broad, enduring appeal because of the folk-tale warmth Harelik brings to his family story and because so many of its issues resonate in this country of immigrants. Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs is just one of the area theaters that has presented The Immigrant in the past, and now the company has returned to tiny, turn-of-the-century Hamilton, Tex., with a new production of the play.
...director Hugh M. Murphy draws particularly strong performances from the younger actors playing the Hareliks. Wind and Chamberlain both handle the Yiddish that their characters speak early on quite well. And both mature convincingly, changing from wary newcomers to thrilled new parents (times three, each baby a boy) to successful citizens whose sons are about to defend their American homeland in World War II.

Weakley and Clement are good actors stuck playing folksy stereotypes, and Weakley’s wig doesn’t look like a hairstyle a rural Texan would have sported in 1909. Clement makes Milton a bombastic guy with a heart of gold (the sound level for all the actors is often ear-splitting), but finally, at the play’s end and with a single word, he achieves a moment that seems real and touching
The Immigrant plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through July 1, 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mondays are Dark

It's Monday, so it's once again time to run through all the most relevant theater stories we've been able to find this week.  And there's a lot of exciting things going on in South Florida.  Companies returning from hiatus, theatres reconstituting, and exciting partnerships with larger companies

But you're on your own for Tony stories.

Low-down on La Cage
The Miami Herald talks with Christopher Sieber, who will playing Albin/Zaza when the national tour of the recent Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles opens at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this week. Harvey Fierstein (who played Albin/Zaza when the revival first opened)  and George Hamilton (starring as leading man Georges) also weighs in.
“He’s very adorable, such a good guy and a trouper,” Sieber says. “We have gay and straight people in our show, but everyone has to be out there.  It’s big and bawdy, yet really intimate. La Cage has a good book and a great score and lyrics. Everything works together really well. We make people cry and laugh. Even guys who get dragged there by their wives.”
The Orlando Sentinel also has an interview with Hamilton and Sieber, from when the tour stopped in up there.

City Theatre Expanding The Brand
As you may have heard, City Theatre isn't moving Summer Shorts from Miami this year; instead, they're expanding their programming with additional productions in other locations.  BroadwayWorld fills us in on The Brand New Kid, which the company is co-producing with Orlando Repertory Theatre.  It's playing at the Kravis Center through June 17th.
South Florida Gay News fills us in on Standing On Ceremony, which City Theatre is presenting exclusively at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  It's a collection of short plays by a range of award-winning playwrights, and the cast includes Bruce Vilanch and Bryan Batt.

Return from Limbo
Florida Theater On Stage reports that several local companies return to the scene after laying dormant for varying periods:  Rising Action has resurrected as Island City Stage, Naked Stage is going to do a bit more than The 24 HourTheatre Festival, Arts Garage is producing its own production, and the company formerly known as PlayGround Theatre presents its first production as The Miami Theater Center.

Rented, not Revived
Florida Theater On Stage also reports that Entre'Act Theatrix will be presenting Jesus Christ Superstar at the Caldwell Theatre Company's space - sans Caldwell Theater Company.  They've arranged to rent the building from the court-appointed receiver, Scott Brenner.  Brenner evicted the 37 year old company just hours before the Carbonell Awards ceremony on April 2nd.  No explanation has been given for granting access to an outside group while a company that has a vested interest in the building continues to be locked out.

Related: Reunion at Rental
In a related story, Florida Theater On Stage reports that former Royal Palm Dinner Theatre employees and patrons will be attending Entr'Act's Sunday matinee of Superstar to honor Royal Palm's founder and producer, Jan McArt.

A Little Love for Labor
The Palm Beach Post reports that in this age when all the economic ills are place on union labor, the Tony Awards honor Actors' Equity Association.

Gonna Be Fun
Palm Beach DramaWorks will be opening its production of The Fantasticks on July 13.  We're especially looking forward to it because Broadway World reports that Craig Ames is on board as Musical Director.  We worked with Craig on this show many moons ago, and it was an amazing experience.  With an amazing cast and one of the finest production teams in South Florida, it should be a slam-dunk. If you've never seen this show, or have never seen a professional production of it, don't miss it. 

Speaking of Fun
Florida Theater On Stage announces that the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has announced that it's partnering with several small production companies:
Theater Up Close, the series co-produced by the Arsht Center, has announced a 2012-2013 season partnering with the home-grown Zoetic Stage, the University of Miami’s theater department, the House Theatre of Chicago and, for the first time, the Alliance Theatre Lab of Miami Lakes.
Congratulations to all the partners, and to us, the theatre-loving public.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Theatre: A Bicycle Country (3 reviews)

New Theatre opened its production of Nilo Cruz's A Bicycle Country at the Roxy Center for the Performing Arts on June 8, 2012.
Three characters whose lives seem to be moving nowhere set out to build a dream, even if that dream seems perilous. This stirring portrait of three Cuban exiles and their harrowing journey across the Caribbean Sea examines the universal themes of freedom and oppression, hope and survival.
Steven A. Chambers directed a cast that featured Evelyn Perez, Ricky J. Martinez, and Charles Sother.

Nathasha Waisfeld wrote an oddly truncated piece that seems to have been run through Google Translator for The Miami New Times:
New Theater is filled with an eager audience. Conversations in Spanish fill the room as men wearing guayaberas and moving to the rhythm of Guantanamera take their seats in anticipation of Nilo Cruz's celebrated play, A Bicycle Country. We know these are familiar words that will tell us a story that cannot be erased. A story some of us recognize from our own lives.
Evelyn Perez, as Inez, is beautiful in capturing her essence. She emits the tenacious beauty of a Cuban woman who sings and dances in times of hardship. She is the strength that convinces Julio to leave Cuba.
Julio, as played by Ricky J. Martinez is instantly heart warming. His physicality is striking as he fights to walk from one corner of the room to another.  Charles Sothers as Pepe, depicts a child's innocence; he brings laughter and purity in moments where they are much needed. 
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Passion, poetic language and vivid imagery infuse the work of Nilo Cruz, the Cuban-American playwright who brought honor to Miami and New Theatre in 2003 when he became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama...  Now the company is returning to Cruz’s world with A Bicycle Country, a 1999 play that had its world premiere at the now-defunct Florida Stage and a 2000 production in the Encore Room of the in-limbo Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Directed by Steven A. Chambers, New Theatre’s production, designed by Nicole Quintana (set), Eric J. Cantrell (lighting) and Ozzie Quintana (sound), is simple but evocative. The action takes place on a raised platform that serves first as Julio’s home, then as the raft that will carry the three to freedom or death.
Martinez, New Theatre’s artistic director, ends a six-year hiatus from acting with a strong performance as Julio, a damaged man whose spirit and sensuality are reawakened. Perez is the play’s life force as Ines, a woman who charges ahead no matter the obstacle. Sothers is solid as Pepe, the friend whose dangerous delusions make him see what is not there and want what he should not have.
In recent years, New Theatre has focused on new work, some of it inspired, some less so. Presenting an earlier play by a writer who has meant so much to the company and giving audiences a fresh chance to experience the language of an artist whose work resonates so strongly here is a lovely way to close out the season.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...every season or so, they deliver a moving, finely crafted gem of theater such as J.T. Rogers’ Madagascar or its fresh take on The Glass Menagerie. Add to that list of reasons to be proud its production of Nilo Cruz’s A Bicycle Country, a lyrical tragedy about three friends who escape Cuba on a raft.
These actors stumble making that verbiage credible coming out of their lips for the first few seconds of every one of these speeches. But under Steven A. Chambers’ direction, they quickly slip into Cruz’s unique rhythms and patois. At that point, you are drawn into a world of passions encouraged by hope and bridled by experience.
Martinez, the New Theatre’s artistic director, returns to his first acting role in six years. Time has robbed him of some hair and left him with a bit of a paunch (perfect attributes for the character), but it’s also deepened his acting skills considerably.
Perez... has found her perfect match in the difficult role of Inez, the character Cruz saddles with his most imagistic metaphors and ethereal prose. The final scenes in which her sanity is replaced by fatal fantasies are riveting and moving thanks to her complete commitment inside the madness of the moment.
Sothers is the least comfortable with Cruz’s ravings on the raft, but even he delivers an effectively heart-rending monologue as the hallucinations warp his mind. He also establishes a credibly ardent affection and camaraderie with his friends.
With a tenth of the budget that Florida Stage had when it gave the play its world premiere in 1999, New Theatre redeems itself with a stirring and harrowing paean to the power of dreams, the courage of dreamers and their cost.
New Theatre presents its production of A Bicycle Country at the Roxy Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, 2012.

Mosaic Theatre: The Edge of Our Bodies (4 reviews)

Mosaic Theater opened its production of Adam Rapp's The Edge of Our Bodies on June 7th, 2012.
The Edge of Our Bodies was a tremendous hit at this year's Humana Festival and features Bernadette, sixteen, on the train from her New England private school to New York City to give her boyfriend some big news. Achingly articulate about all she can't know or control, this play captures a young woman at the threshold of vulnerability and experience.
Margaret M. Ledford directed a cast that featured Lexi Langs and Jim Gibbons.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
The Edge of the Our Bodies is less a play than a monologue, like a New Yorker-fiction story read aloud. For an uninterrupted 80 minutes, Bernadette (Lexi Langs), a 16-year-old woman who ceased being a girl a long time ago, will share a few days of her life while sitting, standing, leaning, smoking, dancing, and disrobing.
As a theatrical experiment, it’s a little pretentious, but playwright Adam Rapp can be forgiven — he’s clearly using the familiar solo-theater platform to reach for something postmodern and metaphysical, to disrupt the known with a few jolts of the unknown. And anyway, his words are brilliant enough to permit some obscure stagecraft.
If it seems like I’m praising the playwright too much, it’s because the actor, Langs, leaves something to be desired. An NYU student pursuing a degree in acting, Langs knows the part, and her physicality is spot-on. But her cadences are off; emphasis is placed on the wrong words, so the lines don’t land the way they should. Tears are effectively shed, but her performance is largely one of rote memorization without capturing the feelingbehind the diction. She’s wonderful at the steely-eyed glance, but the emotions beneath it remain elusive.

Part of this responsibility lands on director Margaret Ledford’s shoulders. For long stretches, especially at the beginning, Bernadette reads from her journal in static positions, losing a number of battles against monotony even if the show itself wins the war.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
There are coming of age stories and then there are coming of age stories that dig deep, make waves, and genuinely move audiences, no matter what their ages. This is Adam Rapp’s The Edge of Our Bodies, presented with authentic soul and sincerity by Mosaic Theatre to close out its eleventh season.
Throughout the 90-minute play, Langs holds court in a one-woman show, save for a disruption three quarters into the play by a maintenance man (Jim Gibbons). Through Rapp’s detailed and descriptive script, Langs’ focused characterization, and Margaret M. Ledford’s particular direction, the stage may be populated by a single actress, but Edge is brimming with characters.
We’re left to somehow figure out that the action takes place in the black box theater where Whitney Academy is about to produce The Maids. We become then a built-in, captive audience for Bernie to tell her tale. When the school’s maintenance man appears to clear the stage leaving only a ghost lamp standing, it could be that Bernie has acted out this whole charade for the benefit of us. Is her story true or the fabricated musings of a teen fiction?
There are many remarkable moments in Mosaic Theatre’s The Edge of Our Bodies, made even more spectacular by the intriguing scenic design by Douglas Grinn, sound by Matt Corey, lighting design by Suzanne M. Jones, the beautiful props by Terry Lawrence, and costume design by K. Blair Brown.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This extended monologue by a high school girl reading from her journal and acting out what she has written is by turns illuminating and opaque, precise and equivocal, comprehensible and incomprehensible. It rarely comes head on at what its heroine is feeling let alone whatever Rapp is trying to say.

If forced to guess, it’s something about a girl on the cusp of womanhood grappling with various incarnations of sex as a form of human relations. But it is likely far deeper, subtle and complex than that. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. For once, a director’s note in the program might be of some help. may find Bodies intellectually stimulating and artistically intriguing, if not emotionally fulfilling. The trick is to stop fighting the confusion and just let the play take you wherever Rapp is trying to go, much like admiring a work of non-representational art in a gallery.

You can also enjoy the calibrated performance by Lexi Langs under the precise guidance of guest director Margaret M. Ledford who unreel and reveal the heroine’s inner turmoil inch by inch.
Langs plays Bernadette, a high school junior seemingly travelling on a train from her Connecticut boarding school to New York City... she is reading to us from her journal what initially seems like a recap of the train trip.

This construct makes no sense since she seems to be telling what happened as it is happening before us. This was explained only when I Googled the original production at the Humana Festival of 2011 and discovered that this entire play is a flashback that she is relating on the stage of her school’s theater after her performance in a production of Jean Genet’s The Maids.
It’s a little purple with metaphors, just as budding writers and Rapp himself are wont. Her diary reveals that she is pregnant and is en route to tell her sweetheart, a wealthy college student in Manhattan. Initially, she seems an archetypal disaffected, emotionally blunted and precociously bright 21st Century teenager...

She continues to narrate the day’s events that include visiting her boyfriend’s terminally ill father, allowing herself to be picked up in a bar by a creepy businessman...
If not for the sudden appearance near the end of the play of a maintenance man (the always wonderful Jim Gibbons) clearing away the set of The Maids, you might think Bernadette’s just having a breakdown in an institution. Or maybe she is. Or is this Sartre’s Hell? Or….  If this seems to the Mosaic team be overthinking the play, the confusion ought to be a red flag.
Praise Ledford, a meticulous and insightful craftswoman, for divining as much as one could ask for from Rapp’s script and helping Langs forge this character.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The play is an almost-solo show, a slice-of-young-life story told by 16-year-old Bernadette, a student at an upper crust New England school. Rapp throws in snippets of dialogue from Jean Genet’s The Maids (Bernadette is in a school production of the play)...  But mostly, The Edge of Our Bodies consists of articulate, observant Bernadette reading aloud from her journal, sharing the story of her train trip to Brooklyn to tell her19-year-old boyfriend that she’s pregnant.
Lexi Langs, an experienced young actress... at first plays Bernadette as a slightly nervous, quietly introspective girl who barely manages to raise her eyes from the pages of her journal. But Langs and director Margaret M. Ledford start small for a reason.
When the school maintenance man (Jim Gibbons) finally appears, lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones floods the space with bright, unforgiving light as reality abruptly invades Bernadette’s world of remembrance, disappointment and make-believe.
The Edge of Our Bodies is vividly written, provocative, shocking, reflective. Thanks to the intricately collaborative work of Langs and Ledford, Mosaic’s production is absorbing, infused with wintry melancholy and, like a sudden snowfall, delicately beautiful.
The Edge of Our Bodies plays at Mosaic Theater through July 1, 2012.