Sunday, July 22, 2012

Arsht Center: The Donkey Show (3 reviews)

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts engaged American Repertory Theatre artistic director to create a Miami edition of The Donkey Show, the immersive theatrical experience inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream that she created for ART, and again for Broadway.
It's the ultimate night fever - a crazy fun house of disco mirror balls and feathered divas, of roller skaters and hustle queens, enchanted by an ever-so-light sprinkling of Shakespearean magic.

Come party on the dance floor to all the '70s disco hits you know by heart as the show unfolds around you! Get the bouncer's attention—and you'll hustle right in! Get down and boogie with the star-crossed lovers, or watch from the sidelines - if that's the way you like it. And don't stop til you get enough! You can party into the night and live out your own fabulous disco fantasy.

If you love the night life, The Donkey Show will be your midsummer night's dream come true.
Allegra Libonati interpreted Diane Paulus' staging with a cast that included Stephanie Chisholm, Leah Verier-Dunn, Inger Hanna, Rudi Goblen, Derick Pierson, Shira Abergel, and Jimmy Alex  . Choreography by Rosie Herrera.

Michelle Petrucci reviewed for BroadwayWorld:
An infectious blend of Miami heat and Studio 54 spice, The Donkey Show brings the 70s alive by way of an over-the-top, rollicking disco extravaganza.... A fantastical night out with the girls or the gays, this gender-bending piece of immersive theatre is just pure fun.
Although there is some semblance of a Shakespearean storyline buried in there somewhere, it hardly matters if we are even aware of the connection between these lovers swapping lovers here beneath the disco ball and the original characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Even the most traditional theatre-lovers can easily get swept away with both spectacle and nostalgia.
Stephanie Chisholm is a commanding Tytania in both stature and attitude, and her turn on silks is breathtaking. Plenty of dudes played by chicks resulted in humorous bouts of lust and jealousy, most significantly by Carolina Pozo and Leah Verier-Dunn.

If one question mark remains after the confetti has settled and the glitter washed off, it is the strength of the voices and sound design throughout the evening. Overpowering tracks seemed to drown-out the weaker singers or make us wonder if they were in-fact singing live.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The Donkey Show is the Arsht’s attempt to lure a younger, broader, more diverse audience into what some might call theater, but it’s really theatrically enhanced performance art. Set in a sensory overload environment evoking Studio 54, the show is a hybrid of circus, karaoke, dance, light and sound. It’s loud, infectious, silly. Is it fun? Absolutely. Entertaining? You bet. Theater? I’ll go out on a trapeze hanging from the ceiling and say no. Narrative or theme isn’t even secondary; it’s tertiary.
The minimal dialogue was not written by the Bard. Instead, the creators selected and programmed disco songs whose lyrics echo the skeleton of Shakespeare’s plot. The words are inserted in the mouths of a fantasia of 1970s stereotypes whose characters are a very rough analog to the residents of Will’s Athens.
The overall experience is overwhelming and, if you allow it, thoroughly satisfying.
This version, produced by the Arsht, is helmed by Paulus’ associate Allegra Libonati who has vastly expanded the project’s scope with the direct involvement of Arsht exec Scott Shiller. The production team features the real stars: Libonati, local choreographer Rosie Herrera, imported lighting designers Al Crawford and Zakaria M. Al-Alami and production stage manager LisaMichelle Eigler. They move the audience’s focus so fluidly from one end of the stage to another so that actors who were over here a moment ago, magically pop up 50 yards away.
First among equals, certainly the most noticeable, is Miami-based Stephanie Chisholm as Tytania. Tall, lithe and wearing hot pants, mask, a gossamer cape and butterfly pasties, she marched around the stage with a regal air appropriate to the Queen of the Fairies. She delivered the high point of the show when Tytania is hoisted above the crowd in a cargo net and gyrates in various aerial acrobatics, sometimes barely hanging on with one limb. Another standout is local actress Shira Abergel who brings the strongest voice in the cast to the music.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Call it immersive theater, interactive theater, environmental theater — whatever rings your bell. Label it or don’t, but know that The Donkey Show, the big summer deal at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, isn’t like any other version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream you’ve ever seen.
How much of Shakespeare’s story you extract depends on several factors: how well you know the original, how carried away you get dancing to songs like YMCA and You Sexy Thing, and how many of the club’s $10 drinks you consume. But craft and cleverness, artistry and humor are all at work in The Donkey Show, and Shakespeare’s tale of love misguided and requited, the malleability of identity and a sexually charged fantasy world gets played out in a novel way.
What’s particularly impressive is how unrecognizable the performers are when they switch from male to female roles, and how quickly they go back and forth. Kudos to Abergel, Chisholm, Leah Verier-Dunn and Carolina Pozo, along with Luis Cuevas as Dr. Wheelgood (aka Puck on Rollerskates), Felix Sama as DJ Rudolph Valentino (Rudi Goblen assumes the role for the rest of the run) and singer Inger Hanna, who belts a fierce It’s Raining Men as a post-show treat. Dancing to Rosie Herrera’s choreography, the guys and gals playing fairies and club kids pump up the crowd in Club Oberon...
To purists, The Donkey Show probably comes off as faux Shakespeare and faux disco. But whatever this immersive-interactive-environmental thing is, it’s genuine fun.
The Donkey Show plays at the Arsht Center through August 12, 2012.

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