Saturday, March 31, 2012

Must Be Spring

In case the glorious weather and the flocks of college students haven't alerted you to the change in season, theaters have started announcing their next season's line-up of plays.  We're linking to the stories here, and we'll be adding to the list as more theatres announce their seasons.

In no particular order:

The Miami Herald carries GableStage's season announcement: highlights include an adaptation of Hamlet by Tarell Alvin McRaney and Bijan Shebani, and Stephen Kram's Sons of the Prophet.  Of course, these plays appear nowhere on the GableStage website.

The Sun-Sentinel and  The Miami Herald and Florida Theater On Stage cover the new season of Broadway plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Season Highlight: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Florida Theater On Stage has the line-up for Palm Beach DramaWorks.  Season Highlight: we're not sure.  Everything they do is just so damned good.  We were Dancing at Lughnasa'd out when the play exploded all over the scene back in the 90s, and everything Albee has done since Virginia Woolf is over-hyped, so we'll pick A Raisin in the Sun, simply because no one ever does it.

The Drama Queen has the 25th Anniversary Season for Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.  Season Highlight: Lin Manuel-Miranda's Tony Award-winning Broadway smash In the Heights.

BroadwayWorld has the new season of Broadway plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts: Season Highlight: WARHORSE.

Palm Beach ArtsPaper covers the Maltz Jupiter Theatre's 10th Anniversary Season.  Season Highlight: it's a strong season, but we're going with Singin' In the Rain.
Florida Theater On Stage has the line-up for The Kravis Center.  Season Highlight: Catch Me If You Can - but only because the Arsht already announced Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Read more...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Scene for March 30, 2012

Well, we've rented our tux for Theatre Prom on Monday.  How about you?  The 36th Annual Carbonell Award Ceremony takes place this coming Monday.  It's 7pm at The Broward Center

In addition to all the previously announced nominations, Jay Harris will be presented with the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement, and Mary Brecht will be presented with the Howard Kleinberg Award for Contributions to the Development of the arts in South Florida.  Oh, and scholarships will be awarded - let's not forget those!

Once again, the South Florida Theatre League is hosting an after party at The Green Room,
located in the Club Revolution complex just a couple of blocks from the
Broward Center.  Admission is free to League members and Carbonell
Awards ticket holders.

Here's the scene for this week-


opening...

Zoetic Stage opens its next production; Moscow, a new play by Michael McKeever.


you still haven't missed...

New Theater presents the world premiere  production of Property Line at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through April 8, 2012

The Stage Door presents The All Night Strut at their second stage in Coral Springs through April 29th.

The Waterfront Playhouse in Key West presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee through April 7, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Miracle Theater through April 8, 2012.

The Alliance Theatre Lab's critically acclaimed production of Off Center of Nowhere plays at the Main Street Playhouse through April 8.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie through April 8, 2012.

Match plays at Key West's Red Barn Theatre through April 14.

Laffing Matterz plays the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, for its third season of dinner and comedy.


last chance to see...

Hello Dolly has been delighting audiences at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; it plays through April 1.

The Thinking Cap Theatre  presents Cleansed at Empire Stage through March 31.

Death and the Maiden
plays at Mosaic Theatre through April 1, 2012.

A Steady Rain plays at GableStage through April 1.

Working plays at the Caldwell Theatre Company through April 1, 2012.


passing through...

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn comes to the Parker Playhouse this weekend only.

Say Goodnight, Gracie  plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center through April 1, 2012.


coming and going...

Seth Rudetksy's Big Fat 70's Show plays this weekend; Friday and Saturday at The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, then Sunday he comes down to The Broward Center for the Performing Arts to teach an afternoon workshop before his evening  performance.

The Kravis Center presents Fiddler On The Roof, Sunday at 4pm.  No, I don't know how, either.


for kids....

Alexander Who's Not Not Not Going To Move plays at the Actors' Playhouse through Saturday, March 30.

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents Rapunzel on Saturdays and Sundays through April 1.

Read more...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Theatre: Property Line (reviews)

New Theatre opened its world premiere production of Juan C. Sanchez's Property Line at the Roxy Performing Arts Center on March 23, 2012.
In this relevant and funny play about real estate and territorial instinct, two long-time friends and neighbors are at war over 15 feet of green grass on waterfront property.
Ricky J. Martinez directs a cast that featured Bill Schwartz, Barbara Sloan, Evelyn Perez, Javier Cabrera, and Scott Douglas Wilson.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Comedy. Tragedy. Absurdist farce. Subtle satire. Family drama. Sociological tract about race relations. Juan C. Sanchez’s world premiere Property Line at New Theatre encompasses all this and more in an intellectually intriguing, promising script that needs a lot of work before it will gel into a satisfying evening of theater.

It’s not that all these disparate genres can’t be melded together in theory, but the script in its present form ranges so far and wide tonally that director Ricky J. Martinez and an earnest cast simply cannot make the melange credible.
Even so, acknowledge credit Sanchez’s skill that he has developed over the years... Sanchez has a real talent for funny dialogue as well as tender moments such as the Anglo couple teasing with each other about sex and the Hispanic mother trying to get her son to speak endearments to her in Spanish.
One serious structural problem is that we never see the two families at the starting point of the narrative arc when they are close friends or, at least, one family is fooling themselves into thinking that.
At the other end, the play has two extra scenes that show the aftermath of the inevitable nuclear explosion, but they seem dramaturgically unnecessary. One playwriting and directing tip (and we’ve seen this a lot recently): When the audience doesn’t applaud at the end of a play as happened here, it’s often because they don’t know it’s over.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Property Line, a wild in-your-face dramatic comedy (or comedic drama, take your pick)... has just opened at Miami’s Roxy Performing Arts Center, with a move to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center for a weekend in mid-April.
Stylistically, Sanchez’s sensibility is dark and edgy, mixed with humor that flows from his characters’ quirks. Those qualities are all evident in Property Line, a play about a changing Miami, the threat of violence, prejudice that is both subtle and overt, and the fragility of seemingly solid relationships...
Martinez has cast Property Line well, particularly in the case of Sloan and Schwartz. With a clear chemistry, the two become fully realized if flawed people. That Sloan makes Mag (rhymes with “nag”) interesting is especially impressive, as the woman has rampant ethnic biases and a truly filthy mouth. The latter is a trait most of the characters share to an extent that isn’t credible. That’s the playwright talking, not his creations.

The opening night audience at Property Line laughed plenty, the laughs flowing from well-crafted funny bits, absurd situations and squirm-inducing moments. Like most new plays, this one would benefit from trims, the shedding of fleeting issues that complicate the plot, and a rewrite that might, in part, offer more justification of Blanca’s flip from friendliness to fury.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Juan C. Sanchez's new play, Property Line, is having its world premiere at New Theatre and it features, deep breath now, and in no particular order, a gang banger, decapitation, flower growing, racism, almost full frontal nudity (male), toking, a worn out hippie, a frustrated housewife, shooting the bird (in more ways than one), pistols and rifles, complete and utter destruction of any good neighbor policy, greed, vindictiveness, cursing one's mother, territorial rights, adultery, knife blade polishing, gay youth, endless nagging, dick jokes and, gosh, just about anything else that makes a pot boiler.
There's a lot to laugh at here, but also a lot that'll elicit a gasp.   Cuban-American relations could be set back a hundred years.
Scott Douglas Wilson as Joe, a real estate lawyer, makes his quiet performance count at every appearance.   Not so fortunate are the others, whose larger than life characters leave little room for subtlety.
Juan C. Sanchez has had other plays produced locally, two receiving Carbonell award nominations.  I really, really wanted to like this piece (Juan and I did Twelfth Night together many years ago), but  unfortunately Property Line does not live up to his previous work.   A tight rewrite, taking the missing kitchen sink and loading it up with all the excessive melodrama, would work wonders.
Chris Joseph serves up a tainted mess for the Miami New Times; do a review of the work, or do an interview with the artists talking about their work, but don't do both at the same time.
With charm, humor, and tension-filled moments, Sanchez deftly uses this synopsis as a commentary on fear, loss, change, and, ultimately, the conflict of culture and perceptions that permeates South Florida. "I'm exploring feelings of displacement," he says of the play's layered themes.
See?  This statement doesn't belong in the review.  Either that comes through in the play, or it doesn't. The artist doesn't get to tell us what we were supposed to see - that's not how reviews work.

The only input the reviewer should include is what comes from the stage.  Because when we, the audience, are sitting there watching it, that's all we're going to get.  The director isn't going to be explaining to us why he had the actors do that, and the playwright isn't going to be whispering in our ear to explain what each line actually means.  All we're going to get is what is actually happening on the stage, and that's what the reviewer is supposed to be critiquing.

The New Times really needs to hire someone who knows what they are doing; and I'm not necessarily referring to Mr. Joseph; he has an editor who should know better.  If he thinks this is how a review should read, he's obviously incompetent. We deserve to have worthwhile reviews, and the New Times isn't delivering.

There's no point in the rest of Mr. Joseph's so-called review.  It's hopelessly tainted.

New Theater presents the world premiere  production of Property Line at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through April 8, 2012

Read more...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mondays are Dark

With so many shows to review, articles about theatre are a little light this weekend.  Well, we could have filled it out  with some season announcements, but we're working on one post with all of the 2012-2013 listings linked.

So here's your brief Monday reading list-

Not So Dark...
there's a reading of a new musicals.  The Sun-Sentinel gives us the backstory on Unravelling, being staged as a reading at the Broward Center this evening.  It's based on the true story of the South Florida rock'n'roll band China Doll.

Filling in the Gaps
The Drama Queen tells us about the latest addition to the 2012-2013 season at Actors' Playhouse.

Incomparable
The Palm Arts Paper reports that Chita Rivera is sizzling hot in her cabaret act at the Colony Hotel's Royal Room.
To paraphrase a line said of Irving Berlin, “Chita Rivera has no place in musical theater history. She is musical theater history.”
Theatre Can Save The World
No news to us, of course, but it's still worth reading the Huffington Post article.

Choices
Drama Daily ponders the arcane formula which resulted in Thinking Cap Theatre producing Cleansed, Sarah Kane's freshman play. 
Finally, I would also add that I programmed Cleansed because it is a prime example of an experimental work that is informed NOT by arbitrary or amateur experimentation but by knowledge of centuries of theatre history. Kane was a T. S. Elliott of the stage.
Think about it; Sarah Kane has written plays where men engage in the most brutal behavior; torture, dismemberment, rape, infanticide, and homicide: T.S Eliot wrote the poem that became the script for CATS.  Makes sense to me.

Speaking of Cleansed
BTW, if you haven't seen Cleansed, South Florida Theatre News reports they're holding an Industry Night on Tuesday.

Read more...

One Week to Theatre Prom!

Next week the 36th Annual Carbonell Awards Ceremony will be held at the centrally located Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  It's tight races all around for this year's nominees, and we're told that we're in store for some real surprises this year; the dead will rise, the stars will fall from the sky, and who knows what else will come up in a show directed by Michael McKeever and produced by Amy London?

Once again, the South Florida Theatre League is hosting an after party at The Green Room, located in the Club Revolution complex just a couple of blocks from the Broward Center.  Admission is free to League members and Carbonell Awards ticket holders.

We hope to see you there Monday, April 2nd, at 7pm!

Read more...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Scene for March 23, 2012

You'll notice a few minor changes in the coming weeks; mostly tweaks and improvements.  One change you'll notice is a few companies we haven't listed in the past, or only included intermittently. While our mission is to support professional theatre hasn't changed, we will now include any theatre company that is a member of the South Florida Theatre League, as long as they have put the listing up on SouthFloridaTheatre.com.

Here's the scene for this week-


opening...

New Theatre opens Property Line, a new play by Juan C. Sanchez.

The Stage Door opens The All Night Strut at their second stage in Coral Springs.


you still haven't missed...

Hello Dolly has been delighting audiences at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; it plays through April 1.

The Thinking Cap Theatre  presents Cleansed at Empire Stage through March 31.

Death and the Maiden
plays at Mosaic Theatre through April 1, 2012.

A Steady Rain plays at GableStage through April 1.

Working plays at the Caldwell Theatre Company through April 1, 2012.

The Waterfront Playhouse in Key West presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee through April 7, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Miracle Theater through April 8, 2012.

The Alliance Theatre Lab's critically acclaimed production of Off Center of Nowhere plays at the Main Street Playhouse through April 8.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie through April 8, 2012.

Matched plays at Key West's Red Barn Theatre through April 14.

Laffing Matterz plays the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, for its third season of dinner and comedy.


last chance to see...

Last of the Red Hot Lovers winds up its run at the Miami Beach Stage Door  this Sunday, March 25th.

My Fair Lady  closes at the Broward Stage Door on March 25.

The M Ensemble production of Harlem Duet at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse closes March 25, 2012

Critics are raving about The Promethean Theatre Company's final production, Craig Wright's The Unseen, which ends its run of the play and of theatre at the Nova Southeastern University Black Box Theater this Sunday, March 25th, 2012.


passing through...

My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy  plays at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts through March 25th.

Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage plays at The Kravis Center through March 25.

Say Goodnight, Gracie  plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center through April 1, 2012.


coming and going...

Come Fly Away plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through this Sunday, March 25.


for kids....

Alexander Who's Not Not Not Going To Move plays at the Actors' Playhouse through Saturday, March 30.

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe presents Rapunzel on Saturdays and Sundays through April 1.

Read more...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mondays are Dark

It's the busiest time of the year in the theatre scene, so we're a little behind on all the news and reviews this week.  We'll be posting a bunch of reviews, as well as a comprehensive list of season line-ups, but in the meantime, here's your Monday reading list.

Bill's Briefs
No, not his boxers. Sheesh, what's with you people?  Florida Theater On Stage rounds up news on The Carbonell Awards, Urinetown at Barry University, a couple of play readings, and Andrew Kato's promotion.

Speaking of Andrew Kato
TheatreMania also tells us about his promotion; from artistic director to producing artistic director.

Speaking of the Carbonell Awards
Broadway World gives us background on the award, the ceremony, and some of the history behind it.  ArtsAmerica also tells us about the award and the organization, and includes the full  list of this year's nominees.  The Carbonell Awards Ceremony will be held April 2nd at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

Jupiter Theater Returns to its Roots
Burt Reynold's built the Jupiter Theatre, and then brought in all kinds of stars to play leading roles; often, they'd never performed live on stage before.  Palm Beach ArtsPaper talks with the leads in the Maltz Jupiter Theatre's production of Hello, Dolly; Broadway veteran Gary Beach, and  Vickie Lewis, who was a mainstay on the television comedy NewsRadio.  All that's missing is dinner.  And dessert service; they turned out a mean Key Lime Pie back in the day.

City Theatre Branches Out
BroadwayWorld reports that City Theatre is teaming up with Orlando Repertory Theatre to produce The Brand New Kid, adapted from the children's book by Katie Couric. It will be playing at the Kravis Center in June.

In Case You Missed It
Come Fly Away played last week at the Kravis Center, but if you didn't catch it there, The Miami Herald reminds us that it's opening tomorrow at the Arsht Center.

Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?
Miami ArtZine is looking for a little support.
We are so proud of how far we have come and now we are taking big steps to improve the miamiartzine.com website.  It will still have its familiar, easy to navigate look, but with 30% more content and an interactive calendar showing the latest events in our community.

To continue our success we need your help. We are asking arts lovers to join our Arts Lovers' Circle for a contribution of $500.00.   Any other contribution will also be greatly appreciated.  This much needed funding will help us continue our work.
A Fine Line
The Examiner takes a look at Property Line, a new play by Juan C. Sanchez, which makes its world premiere at The New Theatre this week.

Moscow on the Bay
TheatreMania has the cast list for Moscow Zoetic Stage opens this new play by Michael McKeever at the Arsht Center on March 29th.

Training Day
The Florida Professional Theatre Association (FPTA) is offering a day of career coaching for the professional actor.

Read more...

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Hello, Dolly (reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of Hello Dolly! on March 13, 2012.
Dolly Gallagher Levi is in town. Dolly makes a living through what she calls "meddling" - matchmaking and numerous sidelines, including dance instruction and mandolin lessons.

She is currently seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder, a well-known half-a-millionaire, but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself.
Marcia Milgrom Dodge directed a cast that featured Vicki Lewis, Gary Beach, Shayla Benoit, Chris Brick, Daniella Dalli, Matt Loehr, Timothy Grady, Katie Emerson, and Kara DeYoe Curtis.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There’s a brand new musical comedy you’ve never seen before playing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre with an infectious score, ingenious choreography, inventive staging and a star turn you’ll have trouble forgetting.

It’s something called Hello, Dolly! and if you think you’ve seen it before (and before and before), we’ll argue with you. Because director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge and leading lady Vicki Lewis invest the Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart warhorse with a freshness that nearly obliterates the iconic images created by Gower Champion and Carol Channing.
Polished like a spittoon in a tony gentleman’s club, Dodge’s Dolly focuses less on Champion’s circus spectacle and more on the heroine’s joyous return to life after an enforced hiatus, something we can all relate to after the last few years.

Everyone has seen Champion’s brilliant choreography so often because most productions just try to copy of it what they can, especially the title number. But Dodge and her assistant Josh Walden started with a blank sheet of paper and created steps and patterns totally their own. Notably, the Waiter’s Gallop, more tap dancing here than the traditional high stepping, justifiably earned the most sustained applause of the night for the first-rate dance ensemble.
Lewis may be best known for her supporting turn on the TV series NewsRadio, but half a lifetime of leading lady roles in musical revivals has armed her with a star wattage and skilled musical theater chops to command the stage. Her Dolly Gallagher Levi melds the fast-talking spiel of Harold Hill with the celebratory sexuality of Mae West.
She has a strong foil in Gary Beach (memorable on Broadway as Roger Debris in The Producers and Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast) delivering a blustery sputtering curmudgeon in Horace Vandergelder... Unlike 90 percent of his predecessors in the part such as Walter Matthau, Beach made Vandergelder’s willing capitulation to Dolly in the finale completely believable.
Maybe even better is the rubber-faced Matt Loehr as the lovesick clerk Cornelius Hackl.  Loehr, who looks a little like a very young Paul Lynde before he discovered sarcasm, exudes that innate exuberance of the contentedly daffy.
Our advice is to give yourself over to the irresistible force that is Vicki Lewis, Marcia Milgrom Dodge and the entire company of the Maltz’s freshly-minted Hello, Dolly!
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Right up front, let’s acknowledge that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre audience loves, loves, loves the theater’s new production of Hello, Dolly! Director-choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge has delivered her own take on Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s beloved, Tony Award-winning Broadway classic, and the Maltz crowd pretty much eats it up, start to finish.
Yes, I’ve seen Carol Channing reprise her iconic role from the Gower Champion-directed original several times, but that’s beside the point. Each actress who plays matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi has the chance to make the part her own, and at the Maltz, Vicki Lewis certainly does.

The theater has also done its usual fine job of casting, with Tony winner Gary Beach as cranky Horace Vandergelder, clarion-voiced Daniella Dalli as pretty widow Irene Molloy and Matt Loehr (who’s up for a best actor Carbonell Award for last season’s Crazy for You at the Maltz) as the smitten clerk Cornelius Hackl.
But (and you knew there was a “but” coming), with a few welcome exceptions, the acting in this Hello, Dolly! is extremely broad, almost becoming a caricature of musical comedy performance.
The wonderful Beach gets to show his real power, the split-second timing and comic command that won him the Tony... only at the end of the show once Horace has been won over by Dolly’s less-than-subtle campaign for his heart. Then, he’s adorable and masterful. But leading up to that moment, Beach has little to do but huff, puff and yell, and he doesn’t wear bluster well.
Lewis, with her knockout voice, offers a Dolly who seems to incorporate influences ranging from Mae West to Groucho Marx to Barbra Streisand (who played Dolly in the 1969 movie musical). She’s a younger, smaller, more obviously seductive Dolly, and her timing is killer...
Dodge’s direction is fluid, incorporating the set’s pair of moving staircases in varied ways. As choreographer, she gives the dancing waiters a lengthy razzle-dazzle tap number, and she showcases Loehr’s impressive control and flexibility. Her steps for Elegance have Cornelius, Barnaby, Irene and Minnie Fay looking like bobblehead dolls at times.
Many of the performances of Hello, Dolly! are already sold out. There is, and always will be, great affection for this tuneful adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. For the way this Dolly is sung, Dodge and the cast do deserve the crowd’s thunderous applause.
Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
It doesn’t matter if you know the storyline, have played a 78, 45 rpm, or a CD of the songs, own an original  cast album, or know the names of those who have made this American  fictional character an icon of the theatre and cinema.  No matter what your connection,   the Tony winning Hello Dolly – as presented at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre  — is  a gem, a  high spirited and colorful production which only enhances the already solid reputation of this venue for its excellence.
This Dolly  is Vicki Lewis, veteran  stage and TV personality…and can she sing!!  She is the epitome of talent as she belts out the numbers written by Jerry Herman  for the 1964 Broadway opener.  Lewis, packed  with  youthful exuberance  and  star quality, floats around the stage in showy costumes...
Directed by Marsha Milgrom Dodge who also helmed the choreography, this Hello Dolly  boasts a terrific cast, including Gary Beach, as the grumpy  Horace Vandergelder,  the  shop-owning, half-millionaire who is the target of Dolly’s  affection.
Supporting Lewis and Beach are a handful of talented performers,  led by  Daniella Dalli as Mrs. Malloy, the hat shop owner, whose operatic  voice... is a wonder.  Add to that the acting, dancing and singing of Matt Loehr...and  you have another winner.
Hello, Dolly! plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through April 1, 2012.

Read more...

Thinking Cap Theatre: Cleansed (reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of Sarah Kane's Cleansed on March 8, 2012.
Thinking Cap Theatre presents Cleansed, a captivating and controversial drama, by the late, great Sarah Kane. Set in a university sanatorium, Cleansed explores the depths of love in the face of loss, betrayal, and brutality.
Nicole Stodard directed a cast that included Jim Gibbons, Christina Jolie Breza, Daniel Nieves, John Robert Warren, Andy Herrmann, Desiree Mora, and Robert Alter.

J.W. Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
...Thinking Cap Theatre, under the direction of founding artistic director Nicole Stodard, has taken on Cleansed, Kane’s third play, at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage in a spare, yet thought-provoking production that will leave audiences shocked, perhaps mortified, and forced to challenge every conventional assumption of love.
Director Stodard is the first to admit that Cleansed has been one of the greatest artistic challenges she’s tackled, but given Kane’s script, any seasoned director would struggle to mount a convincing production. She gets a lot from her mostly young cast and makes the most of Kane’s terse, fast paced and emotional dialogue.
George Kun’s minimalist set effectively transforms Empire Stage’s tiny space into the cold, hopeless institution with just a metal examination table, bench and school desk, but it’s the creative lighting from Jeffrey D. Holmes and Nate Sykes and extensive sound effects from David Hart and the Thinking Cap team that complete the nightmarish scene.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
....this minimalist script given flesh and form by the imagination of director Nicole Stodard is a harrowing and frankly upsetting descent into Hell jammed with random sadistic violence targeting those who dare love.
To be honest, I only caught glimpses of Stodard/Kane’s underlying themes.  I felt much better after the show overhearing one of the actors tell his friends that he had no idea what the play was about either.
It may not matter whether we “get it” or not. Drawing from the Theater of the Absurd and the Theater of Cruelty, Kane and Stodard create what may be the theatrical equivalent of contemporary visual art: The artist is not overly concerned that you walk away with a clear comprehension of his or her vision as the end product of the artistic process. Instead, they are pleased if the work stimulates each individual audience member in extrapolating their own vision from the experience.
Other than the always fine Gibbons, no one in the cast here is going take home a Carbonell any time soon. But you have to give them all enormous credit for gamely investing themselves completely in the situations and wrestling with the material as bravely as Stodard and the audience. Warren, in particular, as the much-mutilated lover, convincingly expresses the extreme regret at failing his lover for one fleeting moment.
To say this is not for everyone is beyond understatement. But buried in Kane’s intentional excess is a dimly perceived something that is thought-provoking.
Eileen Speigler wrote for The Miami Herald:
...Sartre’s famous line, hell is other people, is confirmed in Sarah Kane’s astonishing, disturbing take on love. The play premiered just a year before the British playwright committed suicide in 1999 at age 28.
Directed by Nicole Stodard, this could be the most bleak, provocative and intensely poetic 80 minutes of theater in recent memory. With few exceptions, the seven-member cast is not squeamish about taking on the play’s graphic sex, nudity and gore (artfully suggested in a way that doesn’t reduce its gruesomeness), even when we might be.
The sanitorium-cum-torture chamber setting is overseen by Tinker... played with chilling brutality and flashes of pathos by local theater veteran Jim Gibbons...
The dissonance is captured affectingly when siblings/lovers Grace and Graham (Christina Jolie Breza and Daniel Nieves) lean on one another and sing, off-key, You Are My Sunshine. It’s one of the many moments played skillfully by the talented cast; another is when Graham and Robin (Robert Alter), a cowering “patient” besotted by Grace and forced to endure many indignities, quiz Grace on an ex-lover. Speaking in one voice, their words couldn’t be more antithetical.
The coarser fantasy of love/lust is laid bare in Tinker’s visits to a peep show dancer, nicely played by Desiree Mora, who not incidentally may be the most honest character and gives Tinker a moment of redemption and humanity.
Thinking Cap Theatre presents Cleansed at Empire Stage through March 31, 2012.

Read more...

Theatre at Arts Garage: Woody Sez (2 reviews)

The Theatre at Arts Garage opened Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie on March 16, 2012
Woody Sez is a joyous, toe-tapping, and moving theatrical concert event that uses Woody's words, and over twenty-five of Woody's songs to transport the audience through the fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes tragic life of Woody Guthrie. Performed by a talented group of four versatile actor/musicians who not only play 15 instruments ranging from guitar and fiddle to jaw harp and dulcimer, but they also bring to life the many people who are the fabric of Woody Guthrie's amazing story.
Nick Corey directed a cast that included David Lutken, Helen J. Russel, Megan Loomis, and David Finch.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Of course, any musical revue of Woody Guthrie’s work must end with the anthem “This Land Is Your Land.” What the musical revue Woody Sez at Arts Garage does is put that expression of patriotism and brotherhood in a sobering context of Guthrie’s chastening life experiences.
And it goes without saying that on this, the centenary of his birth, the issues he wrote and sang about have a deafening resonance in these days of class warfare, 99 percenters and Occupy Wall Street. That said, Woody Sez is a rousing and touching production as affable and winning as David M. Lutken who narrates and sings as a stand-in for Guthrie.

He and equally skilled compatriots, David Finch, Megan Loomis and Helen Jean Russell, expertly play an orchestra’s worth of acoustic instruments from harmonica to mandolin, banjo to fiddle, jaw harp to spoons. They deliver more than 25 Guthrie songs illustrating the troubadour’s life and the tumultuous social upheaval he documented in his huge songbook.
A man sitting at the table with us said, “Folk music, not Walt Whitman, is the poetry of America.” The show goes a long way for making that case with crackerbarrel lyrics like “It’s hard to tumble we’ve you’ve got no to place to fall.”  And there’s the entire six-minute epic “The Ballad of Tom Joad” summarizing Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that this productions weaves stanza by stanza through the production.

What chokes your throat in this show is the profound pride in being the heir to people who despite struggling with real hardship, still believed in the inherent goodness of their neighbors and saw worth in banding together with them to make a better world for everyone. Pride, and shame at what we sometimes seem to have lost.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
With Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, the theater is up and running, offering a first hint at what the theater component at Delray Beach’s bustling new arts complex could become if Tyrrell’s vision has the time and backing it needs to develop.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/17/2699374/woody-sez-gathers-guthries-resonant.html#storylink=cpy
Granted, this modest four-person revue wasn’t produced or directed by Tyrrell. It’s a piece that has traveled around Europe and the United States... But two of the four performers, David M. Lutken and Helen J. Russell, were part of the cast when Tyrrell’s Pope Theatre Company (the precursor to Florida Stage) presented the Carbonell Award-nominated Woody Guthrie’s American Song in 1994. So the Theatre at Arts Garage is starting small and familiar in its cozy space, with grander plans ahead.
...if the narration sometimes seems as prone to rambling as Guthrie himself, the show’s nearly three dozen songs are its treasures, expertly and beautifully delivered by Lutken, Russell, Megan Loomis and David Finch. Under Nick Corey’s direction, the four sing solos, duets and as a finely blended quartet, accompanying themselves on guitars, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, dulcimer, autoharp – just about anything with singing strings – and harmonica.
During this centenary of Guthrie’s birth, it is sobering to realize how many of Guthrie’s musically rich, observant songs apply to our 21st century troubles. Woody Sez is a modest show, part theater, part concert. But as with so much of the theater that inspires Tyrrell, it’s a piece that provokes thought as it entertains.
Theatre at Arts Garage presents Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie through April 8, 2012.

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The Alliance Theatre Lab: Off Center of Nowhere (4 reviews)

The Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of David Michael Sirois' Off Center of Nowhere on March 16, 2012.
Jackie, 17 year old Brooklyn high school student, has a secret to tell her parents.  But, in confessing her one secret, it unleashes a string of confessions that can destroy her whole family.  As the story unfolds, the characters are faced with moral conundrums that deal with abortion, racism and religion.
Adalberto J. Acevedo directed a cast that featured Andy Quiroga, LaVonne Canfield, Breeza Seller, and Mcley LaFrance.

Bill Hirschman
reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The Alliance Theatre Lab’s world premiere is sit-com funny until it intentionally slams the audience into a concrete wall that will leave most observers stunned. That’s when you realize Off Center is really about the limits of how far people can bend their moral code for loved ones before breaking. How unconditional is unconditional love?
Sirois, Alliance’s resident playwright who penned its successful Brothers Beckett last season, shows an ever-deepening talent with his second produced full-length play. You can quibble that the script could use a nip and tuck here and there... But Sirois has a feel for dramatic structure, insight into interpersonal relations among characters and a gift for slipping a serious theme inside an entertaining comedy.
Sirois is well served by the Alliance’s Artistic Director Acevedo who keeps the intermissionless play barreling along with tight pacing and crisp exchanges among the characters. He only slows the subway express when characters need to have a tender moment or to absorb the latest surprise. He also has the characters underscore their genuine affection with frequent kissing, nuzzles and cuddling that belies their caustic dialogue.
...it’s hard to pin down what Breeza Zeller does to make Jackie such a believable teenager...
Andy Quiroga has the character most in danger of slipping into sit-com stereotype: the blue-collar father coping with the headaches of raising a teenager. But not for a moment does Quiroga succumb to a cardboard cartoon... Jackie may be the protagonist, but Quiroga makes Paulie the fulcrum.
Canfield’s depiction of love and trust as Lucy struggles with her daughter’s cascading revelations is as true as anything in the show.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The new play confirms that Sirois is an impressively talented young playwright with a distinctive voice; as a writer, he’s quick, funny, adept at lacing his text with old and new pop culture references that feel organic coming from his characters’ mouths. He creates believable, complex, interesting characters of both genders. As Off Center of Nowhere so amply demonstrates, he’s not afraid to tackle tough subjects. And he does so in a way that makes you consider warring beliefs, even as you’re laughing at what Sirois has cooked up.
Off Center of Nowhere packs more twists, turns, dips and rises than a thrilling roller coaster ride. Director Adalberto J. Acevedo has paced the play beautifully, helped by Sirois’ wonderful way with crafting scenes.

Wonderful, too, is the way the cast brings these characters to life. Canfield and Zeller have enough of a resemblance to be completely believable as mother and daughter, and the two play their parts with a similar feistiness. As reprehensible as Paulie’s racist remarks are, Quiroga finds a way to make the guy funny and likeable, and despite their little guy-big gal physical differences, he and Canfield make the couple’s ongoing attraction clear and credible. Lafrance is a charming, smart, tender-hearted and ultimately heartbreaking Ronald.
What happens specifically in Off Center of Nowhere is something you need to experience for yourself. And you should. Given Sirois’ writing skills, it probably won’t take long for the more lucrative worlds of film and television to beckon him. Here’s hoping theater will always call to him too.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
David Michael Sirois... just topped his last year's world premiere of Brothers Beckett with this year's Off Center of Nowhere, also a world premiere. 
Alliance Theatre Lab's Off Center of Nowhere boasts not only a terrific script but also a terrific cast.
Andy Quiroga was made for this role; his range is extraordinary.  As for the others?  Well, it's seldom you see a play that has been cast as well as this.  Surely Canfield and Zeller are really mother and daughter.  Tenderness like this can't be faked.   And Lafrance?   His embarrassment and resentment must be real. 
Director Adalberto J. Acevedo has a way with actors and writers that seems just right.   He draws out the very best and presents it to us on his stage.  Lucky us.
 Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
David Michael Sirois smacks of genius!   The South Florida playwright unwrapped his second full-length play – Off Center of Nowhere – with a world premiere at the Alliance Theatre Lab  here and it displayed once again that he is something special in the realm of theatre.
This cast is excellent, obviously well-paced  by Director Adalberto Acevedo, who gives his actors the freedom to move and yell with spontaneity.  Each scene is a wonderment, begging the audience to know what is coming next. Sirois’  four characters are totally believable and the actors spew reality.
I have a hunch that years from now, when the name Sirois appears on cinema  credits or  TV screens as the scribe responsible for “written for TV,”  people who have seen this enjoyable bit of theatre will say “I remember him when he just got started.”
The Alliance Theatre Lab presents Off Center of Nowhere at The Main Street Playhouse through April 8, 2012.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Scene for March 16, 2012

March is flying by; you're running out of time to rent your tux or buy your gown for the Carbonell Awards; do you have your tickets?  We do. 
We mentioned that we sat with Bill Hirschmann last week at the Mosaic Theatre fundraiser; somehow, the subject of Legends came up. It was a godawful show that was an excuse to tour two Broadway stars that had never shared a stage before, playing to aging Broadway divas who had never shared a stage before being cast a show that was an excuse to tour... well, you get the gist of it. The stars were Mary Martin and Carol Channing, who indeed, had never worked together before.  It was a famously bad play, and Bill was jealous that yours truly actually saw it.

Gary Beach was also in that production, and he's opening this week at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Hello, Dolly, a show that Carol Channing toured into the ground.  He had nothing to do with the failure of Legends, he was just caught up in the mess like everyone else.  With stars Beach, and Vicki Lewis, it's like the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre all over again.

Lots of great stuff opening this week; here's what's playing around South Florida this weekend...


opening...

Hello Dolly opens at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre this week, starring Gary Beach and Vicki Lewis.

The Alliance Theatre Lab production of Off Center of Nowhere opens at the Main Street Playhouse this weekend.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie through April 8, 2012.


you still haven't missed...

Death and the Maiden
plays at Mosaic Theatre through April 1, 2012.

The Thinking Cap Theatre  presents Cleansed at Empire Stage through March 31.

The M Ensemble production of Harlem Duet plays at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through March 25, 2012

Critics are raving about The Promethean Theatre Company's final production, Craig Wright's The Unseen, which plays at the Nova Southeastern University Black Box Theater through March 25th, 2012.

Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Miracle Theater through April 8, 2012.

A Steady Rain plays at GableStage through April 1.

Working plays at the Caldwell Theatre Company through April 1, 2012.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Miami Beach Stage Door  through March 25th.

My Fair Lady  plays at the Broward Stage Door through March 25.

Laffing Matterz plays the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, for its third season of dinner and comedy.


last chance to see...

The Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of Sweet Charity at The Willow Theatre closes Sunday.

Fathers and Other Strangers plays at the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre also winds up its run this Sunday, March 18, 2012

Palm Beach DramaWorks' extended run of The Pitmen Painters comes to an end this Sunday, March 18, 2012.


passing through...

My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy  plays at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts through March 25th.

Say Goodnight, Gracie  plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center through April 1, 2012.


coming and going...

Come Fly Away plays at the Kravis Center through this Sunday, March 18.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Actors' Playhouse; Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened revival of its production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on March 9, 2012.
The international musical sensation created by the team that brought us Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, is a fun, hip, colorful and tuneful adaptation of the well-known Biblical tale of Joseph. The melodious contemporary score features familiar songs like Close Every Door To Me, Any Dream Will Do, and Go Go Go Joseph. Winner of the most Carbonell Awards ever and a favorite among Actors’ Playhouse’s award-winning musicals, Joseph... just had a recent revival and tour in the UK receiving rave reviews. The return of this colorful show validates that everyone’s a dreamer, and through Joseph..., audience members will experience a legacy of pure entertainment for the entire family.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Josh Canfield, Amy Miller Brennan, Nick Duckhart, Celia Lousie Merendi, Henry Gainza, and Christopher Kent.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...it’s heartening to report that the latest edition by Actors Playhouse is a playful and imaginative riff that will entertain audiences who haven’t seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical in a while.
...the real stars of this production are Director David Arisco, Choreographer-Musical Stager Barbara Flaten and Musical Director Eric Alsford who imbue the procession of production numbers with the irreverent feel of a cartoon by Warner Brothers or maybe the Blues Brothers.... Arisco and Company have heavily peppered the oratorio with scores upon scores of unique touches of silliness that make you laugh against your better judgment.
But the success of any Joseph still relies on its two leads and Actors Playhouse has two strong smooth performers in Josh Canfield as a fresh-faced Joseph and Amy Miller Brennan as the genial Narrator. Certainly, Canfield (the religious partner in Caldwell Theatre’s Next Fall) and Brennan (Nancy in the Playhouse’s Oliver) don’t set the house on fire, but both have more than enough amiability to win over the audience and undeniably melodious voices to caress the score.

Nick Duckart, the doctor in the Playhouse’s Next to Normal last month, is a delightfully daffy Pharaoh giving the Elvis impersonation required by the role...  Duckart nails the goofball groove better than anyone else in the cast other than the rubber-faced David Perez-Ribada as Jacob’s brother Benjamin.

Noteworthy as well are Christopher A. Kent, a long-time Playhouse stalwart who channels Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast in his droll rendition of  “Those Canaan Days;” Walter Kemp II (late of Hairspray) delivers the lively “Benjamin Calypso,” and Henry Gainza, (the Playhouse’s William Barfee in Spelling Bee), ratchets up the energy quotient with Grand Ole Opry style “One More Angel in Heaven.”
Flaten’s choreography and musical staging are in a class by themselves, covering the wide stage with everything from a hoedown to a tango. Sometimes it’s especially inventive, other times it uses classic moves as an intentionally satirical comment.
After the disastrous sound quality at Hairspray earlier this year, designer Alexander Herrin ratcheted up the audibility and clarity for the Next To Normal. His sound quality for Joseph may even be better; every word is as clear as each individual singers’ diction allows.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though Actors’ earlier and new productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s college-era musical have some key elements in common, the just-opened Joseph is overstuffed with singer-actors and underperforming as inspired musical theater. Though director David Arisco is again at the helm, with Carbonell winner Barbara Flaten’s inspired choreography once more proving to be the show’s most consistently entertaining element, too much of the new Joseph looks and feels like a battle that the creative team lost.
The overall letdown is odd, because the large cast is full of talented, seasoned performers. Some deliver standout moments: Nick Duckart’s Elvis-style Pharaoh, Celia Louise Merendi’s sharp-but-nimble Apache Dancer, Josh Canfield’s aching Close Every Door as Joseph, Henry Gainza’s country-fried One More Angel in Heaven, Christopher Kent’s tongue-in-cheek Those Canaan Days.

Amy Miller Brennan, an attractive and polished pro with a lovely voice, plays the key role of the show’s narrator.... But Brennan, who has been done no favors by the costume team (design by Mary Lynne Izzo, coordination by Ellis Tillman), isn’t always given enough focus or purpose in the staging. Sometimes, she seems to be wandering through the show’s 30-member children’s choir, randomly patting a kid or two on the head as though they were toddlers.
Anyone new to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat may find this youthful Rice-Lloyd Webber effort sweet, silly and/or charming. But this Joseph doesn’t offer any compelling evidence that a second Actors’ production was a great – or even good – idea.
Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Miracle Theater through April 8, 2012.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Mondays are Dark

We hope you had a good weekend of theatre.  We had the honor of attending the Mosaic Theatre fundraiser, and somehow cadged a seat at the table with Bill Hirschman, who was honored with Mosaic Theatre's Jack Zink Spirit Award.  It was a delightful meal, shared with Bill's wife, the writer Oline Cogdill, Tony Finstrom, Beth Holland, Alvin Entin and his wife, and Jill Kratish.  Dinner was followed by a live auction, which was followed by Death and the Maiden.

Congratulations, Bill. Jack would be proud.

Not So Dark
Florida Theater On Stage reports that GableStage is hosting a reading of plays under consideration by City Theatre for inclusion in this year's Summer Shorts.
Also, an audition announcement for student productions at the Maltz Jupiter Theater, and an update on Miami playwright Lauren Feldman.

Number 6!
The South Florida Business Journal reports that South Florida ranks 6th in the nation for arts and entertainment jobs.
The tri-county area has 38,838 workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, which has an average local pay per employee of $34,500.
It's proof once again that arts funding is jobs funding, too.

Palm Beach Mastery
BroadwayWorld fills us in on the upcoming Palm Beach DramaWorks production of Master Harold and the Boys.

Donation Inequity
The Huffington Post reveals that donations to arts organizations are even more uneven than wages to employees.
Let's put this in perspective: if there were one hundred people splitting $1 million according to the OWS breakdown, one lucky guy would get $250,000 and the other 99 would each get $7575, a ratio of 33:1. Now let's look at the nonprofit arts scene: if one hundred arts organizations were splitting $1 million dollars according to the NCRP breakdown, two lucky arts organizations would get $550,000 ($275,000 each), and the other 98 would each get $4591, a ratio of about 60:1. In other words, the income gap in the nonprofit arts scene is almost twice as wide as in the culture as a whole.
Keep this in mind when you get to the last story in our reading list.

She's Baaaack
Broadway World reports that the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts will be hosting the triumphant return of Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan.  Some of you may remember that she played her farewell tour back in 2005.  But apparently the 57-year-old former Olympian wants to give Ted Neely a run for "the actor most too old to play the role" slot in the Guinness book.  Ted Neely is more than twice the age Jesus was when he was crucified; Rigby is old enough to be the grandmother of the boy she's playing.  Well, to be fair, Mary Martin was 41 when she first donned the tights.

Silver Season
Actors' Playhouse is turning 25, and The Drama Queen goes over their 25th anniversary season line-up, which includes In The Heights, as does Florida Theater On Stage. Any bets on whether or not he gets Janet Dacal to reprise her Broadway turn as Nina?  And Oscar Cheda played Nina's father on the national tour...

Speaking of South Florida Broadway Stars...
Broadway World reminds us that Raúl Esparza will be opening Leap of Faith on Broadway next month, and includes a video interview with cast members of the show, including Esparza.  Meanwhile, TheatreMania reports that Mark Kudisch will be amongst the performers in the New York Philharmonic's Anywhere I Wander: The Frank Loesser Songbook, playing at the Avery Fisher Hall on March 26th.

Who Needs New York?
The Miami Herald reports that a number of local playwrights will see there work opening on local stages in the coming weeks.
The region’s most prolific playwright, McKeever has had work premiered at numerous theaters around South Florida. But he notes that things are different – and much better – now than when he started writing.

“There just weren’t world premieres here when I started 15 years ago,” he says. “Especially in the last five years, that’s changed. Florida Stage had a lot to do with it. Then the Caldwell and New Theatre and Actors’ Playhouse caught the bug. That’s Zoetic’s main focus. So many companies are developing and celebrating new work.”
Speaking of Zoetic
The Z-Spot gives us a look at the cast doing the initial reading of Zoetic Stage's next production, Michael McKeever's Moscow.

Final Exit
The Sun-Sentinel reports that the lead actor in a community theatre production of The Producers died on the day the show was scheduled to open.  And in the spirit of the ancient tradition, the show did go on at the Pembroke Pines Theater of Performing Arts.

Final Curtain for Promethean
The Promethean Theatre Company has struggled with little funding and poor attendance throughout its eight year existence, but always managed to attract the region's top talent and garner rave reviews.  They've even won the coveted Carbonell Award for their work.  But with support dwindling, the company has decided to close after the completion of its current production, the critically acclaimedThe UnseenFlorida Theater On Stage spoke with executive director and company co-founder Deborah Sherman about the decision.

Read more...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Promethean Theatre Company: The Unseen (reviews)

The Promethean Theatre Company opened its final production, Craig Wright's The Unseen, on March 9, 2012.
Imprisoned by a totalitarian regime and mercilessly tortured for unknown crimes, Wallace and Valdez live without hope of escape or release. When an enigmatic new prisoner arrives and begins communicating in code, both men develop new relationships to each other, their captors, and themselves. A darkly humorous examination of faith in an uncertain world.
Margaret M. Ledford directed a cast that featured Alex Alvarez, Antonio Amadeo, and Andrew Wind.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The cruel irony is that The Unseen, the last show before The Promethean Theatre closes its doors forever, is one of the finest productions that the company has mounted in its eight-year history.

Craig Wright’s tale depicting two political prisoners tortured in a Kafkaesque dungeon is one of the most incisive explorations of existentialism since Waiting For Godot and No Exit. But the script is elevated to agonizing, visceral life by actors Antonio Amadeo, Andrew Wind and Alex Alvarez, led by the inestimable insight of director Margaret M. Ledford.
This often bleak, deeply intellectual, highly metaphorical work will horrify some people, even bore audiences unwilling to invest their own analytical skills in decoding an evening of drama. It occasionally dances on the precipice of losing the audience in the lengthy Byzantine tunnels of its characters’ insane musings. But the faithful can be assured: You’re in good hands.
Ledford long ago proved her skill at keeping weighty ideas engrossing by grounding them in the behavior of people we recognize from our own lives. But here she meets the considerable challenge of preventing two guys standing around in claustrophobic cells and talking all night from becoming a static tableau. Her prisoners are only at rest when they are too emotionally pole-axed to move.
Wind... delivers a strong portrait of a man whose haunted eyes reveal that he knows his worship of reason is meaningless in a life of arbitrariness.
...Amadeo is almost a brand name in his reliability in portraying an amiable human being... We’ve seen him use this character of a slightly daffy naif before, but his warmth and humor is a perfect foil to Wind’s cold Wallace.
Alvarez only has two scenes, but he is terrifying in his rage at feelings he is does not want to acknowledge. His operatic fury is so powerful that it is nearly impossible to recall him as the amiable gay cousin he created for GableStage’s recent The Motherf***er With The Hat.
David Radunsky accentuates the bleak scene with his focused spotlights and more subtle lighting shifts as emotions change. Dan Gelbmann’s honeycomb-shaped cells seems simple, but is masterfully designed, painted and decorated. Special mention is due sound designer Matt Corey: Not only does he provides the ominous soundscape of maddingly random buzzes, beeps, clicks and sirens designed to unhinge the prisoners, but he has dropped in a subtle underscoring of unearthly mechanical noises of no recognizable origin.
Farewell, Promethean, Producing Artistic Director Deborah L. Sherman, Associate Artistic Directors Ledford and Jane G. Duncan, and its roll call of actors and designers. Thank you for eight years of theater you could see nowhere else. The Unseen is a hell of an exit.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
A small company’s constant need to raise funds can grind its tiny staff down, so that the art gets clouded in worry or compromise. Producing artistic director Deborah L. Sherman and associate artistic director Margaret M. Ledford weren’t willing to let that happen. So with The Unseen, they’re sending Promethean off to the land of defunct theater companies on a thrilling, disturbing, dazzling high.
Ledford’s direction and the collaborative work of set designer Dan Gelbmann, lighting designer David Radunsky and sound designer Matt Corey keep the audience on edge. The atmosphere in the “prison” is dark and creepy, pierced with sudden, unsettling sounds.
But what really sells The Unseen is the haunting performances by Wind as a man on the verge of finally breaking, the sweet presence of Amadeo as an optimistic soul who can pluck a world of hope from a tiny sound, and the explosive fury of Alvarez as a psychopath with one of the most horrifying descriptions of violence ever devised by a playwright. Alvarez, last seen locally as the funny gay cousin Julio in GableStage’s The Motherf**ker with the Hat, comes off as utterly disturbing and unhinged in The Unseen. And that, folks, is great acting. Unlike money, that has never been in short supply at Promethean.
The Promethean Theatre Company's final production, Craig Wright's The Unseen, plays at the Nova Southeastern University Black Box Theater through March 25th, 2012.

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Mosaic Theatre: Death and the Maiden (3 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden on March 9, 2012.
Set in an unnamed country that is, like the author's native Chile, emerging from a totalitarian dictatorship, the play explores the after-effects of repression on hearts and souls. This white knuckle thriller is a riveting intellectual and emotional tug of war.
Avi Hoffman directed a cast that featured Stephen G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull, and Oscar Cheda.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
...consider this review as both a recommendation to collaborative audiences and a warning to concrete thinkers: Death and the Maiden leaves much unexplained, and it's all the better for it.
South American playwright Ariel Dorfman wrote the play in 1990, just as Chile was wresting democracy away from a military dictatorship, but if Death and the Maiden shows us anything, it's the universality of tyranny: Replace Chile with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, or any of the Arab Spring nations and you wouldn't have to change a word.
Eschewing the comedic personality for which he is most known as an actor, Avi Hoffman as director is bracing in his commitment to material that is as dark and sordid as an unmarked grave.
He guides his wife, Turnbull, toward another laudable performance. Her story of abuse is a microcosm for the rape and torture of an entire nation, and she takes it on with chilling alacrity, as believable when firing a gun as she is choking back a tear. Anthony is perfectly compelling in the unflashiest part, and Cheda, in his meatiest role in some time, performs with Machiavellian desperation, a conflicted poker face that gives away nothing until the very end.

Speaking of which — and this isn't a spoiler, because there's nothing to spoil — the end isn't so much an end but a new beginning or an alternate reality or something like that. The audience at the production I attended didn't know what to think or even when to clap. To Dorfman, Hoffman, and the cast, I can't think of a better compliment.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Death and the Maiden, which takes its title from a string quartet piece by Schubert that Paulina’s rapist played during her torture, is a taut psychological thriller, and Mosaic Theatre’s production is impressive.

Director Avi Hoffman keeps the pace brisk and the tension building.  Douglas Grinn once again creates a set which fits the play and has a few surprises.  Matt Corey’s soundscape, which include the soothing undulating ocean waves, enhances the juxtaposition of horror and serenity, as does the lighting design by Suzanne M. Jones. Her realization of each moment, from the bluish tones of moonlight and the sultry shadows cast by a waning ceiling fan, to the stark beachy daylight and evocative memory scene, is evocative and gorgeous.
The performances are compelling. Cheda is remarkable, veering from jovial affability to self-righteous indignation, then resignation and finally defiance, in less than 90 minutes. Anthony is terrific as a man caught in the middle of whether his moral obligation belongs to his wife or the legal system, and his performance illuminates Gerardo’s inner struggle, especially in his moment of epiphany.

Turnbull is marvelous. She imbues Paulina with a practicality one might not expect, outlining her intentions with the matter-of-factness of checking off a grocery list. She is often wistful, then angry, then sarcastic, and Turnbull colors every emotion with glee and heartbreak.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Newly revived at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre, Death and the Maiden offers its three actors the chance to deliver psychologically rich performances designed to keep the audience off balance. Under Avi Hoffman’s direction, Mosaic’s cast – Laura Turnbull as a forever-traumatized torture victim, Stephen G. Anthony as her lawyer husband and Oscar Cheda as the doctor who may or may not have been the woman’s tormentor – make good on the script’s potential.
The acting, particularly the intense performance by Turnbull, is absorbing, even if none of the characters seem particularly of that time and place. Mosaic’s fine design team delivers a lovely beach house (Douglas Grinn), mood-shifting lighting (Suzanne M. Jones) and the sounds of the sea and of Paulina’s past torment (Matt Corey). But a final brief scene, designed to underscore that evil-among-us idea, is a hot mess in every way imaginable.
Death and the Maiden plays at Mosaic Theatre through April 1, 2012.

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M Ensemble: Harlem Duet (2-1/2 reviews)

The M Ensemble opened its production of Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet on March 8, 2012.
“In Harlem Duet, history does not comfort a woman abandoned; it drives her mad. As the play opens, in Harlem in the 1990's, a young black teacher at Columbia University called Othello has just walked out on his wife, Billie, to marry a [white] colleague, Mona. This play brought a raft of literary and dramatic awards to Ms. Sears when it first appeared in Toronto.” - New York Times.
Lowell Williams directed a cast that included Christine Alexander, Ethan Henry, Yaya Browne, John Archie, and Rachel Finley.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
A new production of the 1997 play, which is laced with references to and influences from Othello, is the latest offering from M Ensemble at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. Miami’s oldest black theater company has taken on a huge challenge in Harlem Duet. And the fact that much of the script’s comedy, emotional turmoil and contextual connections work as they should is due to director Lowell Williams... and one of the stronger casts M Ensemble has ever brought together.
...it’s a pleasure watching Henry passionately delivering lines from the real Othello, and he persuasively makes the academic Othello a complicated man, a guy brimming with charm and roiling with conflict, guilt, stupidity and stubbornness. Alexander brings real passion, intelligence and a believable mental disintegration to Billie, though she really needs to work on making herself heard when she’s speaking quietly. Both Finley and Browne find the warmth and humor in their roles. And the always-impressive Archie compellingly delivers a gorgeously tender, moving speech about why the father-daughter connection, in Canada’s mind, will never be broken.

Harlem Duet does have its flaws. But judging from the knowing laughter, the whispered commentary and the moans at Othello’s more thoughtless words and deeds, this version of an old story has plenty of resonance.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...Sears’ insightful script gets a hodgepodge treatment in M Ensemble’s production. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lowell Williams, this edition is by turns subtle and overly-melodramatic, illuminating and opaque, clear and confusing. Some performances are deeply affecting and touching, some are just plain affected and stilted – sometimes from the same actor.
It is in their long debates about race that the two lead actors, the production and the script come alive, although that comes 40 minutes into the play. Sears’ 1997 script contains a torrent of thought-provoking observations and the sparring chemistry of Alexander and Henry elevates these scenes into the play Harlem Duet should have been all along.
The play may be called a duet, but the burden rests on Alexander’s shoulders. Her performance is also all over the landscape. She can pierce your heart at times, especially as she descends into madness; other times she is so melodramatically overwrought and mannered that she veers dangerously close to being a cartoon.

Henry is uniformly strong and brings out the best in his scene partners. But it’s still a halting, unsure acting performance compared to his deft incarnation of the tainted drug counselor in GableStage’s The Motherf**er with the Hat a few weeks ago.
Archie, one of the region’s strongest actors, turns in another fine portrait. He digs deeply into the truth of the scenes where the father, suffused with shame and guilt, tries to reconnect with his daughter. But this has to be the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen him give a nearly identical characterization of a charismatic ne’er-do-well on the brink of codger-dom. He does it so very well, but we’d like to see a director demand Archie stretch himself.
Much of Harlem Duet falls in the plus column; in fact, it ranks as one of their best productions. But it remains seriously flawed.

Chris Joseph wrote a rambling mess of an article for the Miami New Times, a mish-mosh of review and preview and interview:
...Djanet Sear's Harlem Duet weaves back and forth through time, from the plantation fields of the 1800s to the streets of Harlem in the late 1990s. Inspired by Shakespeare's Othello, the production tediously tows the line of racial identity, sexual politics, and mental illness in the black community. It's a lengthy, weighty play, and one that leaves us with no easy answers.

But thanks to a solid, impressive cast from the M Ensemble — Miami's premier African-American troupe — and the fluid direction of Lowell Williams at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, the story's complexity is made easy to grasp.
Now, that's review.  Fine.
"The play deals with relationships on a racial level," Williams says. "What Djanet Sears is saying, I think, is interracial relationships have been going on for years but no one has talked about it."
What the fuck is THAT?!?  Did the director sit next to the reviewer and whisper in his ear the entire time?  Dude, interviews with the director don't go in the review of the play.  They go in their own separate article, preferably before the review comes out.  Then the review either validates that what the director intended got through, or enumerates where it missed.

And then we get a history lesson:
Starting in the Edison Community Center and going through many incarnations, with plays performed in schools, churches, and libraries, the M Ensemble has made a mark. It was chosen to represent the Southern region of the United States at the 1972 World Festival of Black Arts in Nigeria, pioneered the nation's first drama workshop for the visually disabled, and implemented Miami-Dade's first drama program for at-risk youth at the Juvenile Detention Center.
Again, that's great information.  But it has fuck-all to do with the review of this play.  It belongs in a separate article.  At this point, we can no longer trust anything said about the play; is he relying on a viewing the production to inform the review, or what the director is telling him he should see in the play, or is he being sympathetic because of the company's history?  It's impossible to tell, so the entire review is compromised and worthless.

And he was doing so well up to this, this, this crumbling meatloaf of an essay.  Too bad, too bad, M Ensemble's work deserved a proper review, and so, too, do theatre patrons in South Florida.

The M Ensemble production of Harlem Duet plays at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through March 25, 2012

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