Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parker Playhouse: Looped (reviews)

The national tour of Matthew Lombardo's Looped opened at the Parker Playhouse on February 26, 2013
Southern, but by no means a belle, Tallulah Bankhead was known for wild partying and convention-defying exploits that surpassed even today's celebrity bad girls. Based on a true story, the play is set in a 1965 sound studio. Ms. Bankhead has been summoned to re-record, or loop, a single muffed line of dialogue from what would be her last film, Die, Die My Darling . It's a simple task, but ultimately takes hours when Bankhead arrives so inebriated she's unable to loop the line properly. What ensues is an uproarious showdown between an uptight film editor and the outrageous legend.
Rob Ruggiero directed a cast that featured Stefanie Powers, Brian Hutchison, and Matthew Montelongo.

Christine Dolen
reviewed for The Miami Herald:
On the face of it, Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers would seem to
have not much more in common than gender (female), profession (actress)
and a shared movie experience in the 1965 British thriller Die! Die! My Darling!. But watch Powers giving a bravura performance in Looped
at the Parker Playhouse, and you may forget that you’re not really in
the presence of the bawdy, misbehaving, notorious life force that was

Read more here:
Matthew Lombardo’s play, inspired by a real recording session in 1965,
earned a best actress Tony Award nomination for its original star,
Valerie Harper. They don’t give Tonys to touring shows, but if they did,
Powers might well get a nomination of her own, particularly as her
performance ripens and deepens over time. But already, in her second
performance of the too-short Parker run — the second performance of the
Looped national tour — Powers is doing an impressive job of channeling Bankhead.

Read more here:
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The proof that Stefanie Powers’ reincarnation of Tallulah Bankhead had thoroughly seduced the audience at the revival of Looped was not the waves of laughter at how adroitly she tossed off playwright Matthew Lombardo’s torrent of wry and wicked quips. It was in the crystalline silence that embraced her sudden turns of introspection as Bankhead exposed the emotional pain that she masked with the outsized persona of heedless hedonism that eclipsed her real life.
As good as Harper was in the part that she created, Powers brings a
reality that amps up the pathos resulting from this peek inside the
train wreck tragedy of Bankhead’s life. She’s a force of nature as she
should be, but it’s a banked force of nature, eroded by time and tides
of substance abuse anesthetizing her against early tragedies and later
The evening has been deftly helmed by director Rob Ruggiero who has been
with project since Harper debuted it at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2008.
His pacing is highly polished, especially given the short rehearsal
time with a replacement star.
Lombardo, a part-time Fort Lauderdale resident, has tweaked the script
in ways that are undetectable. But somehow the show seems funnier, the
exposition and backstory seem more smoothly woven in and the turn in
tone from non-stop hilarity to seriousness seems less like a
manipulative Lifetime movie than it did on its last visit to Florida.
Several people have said that they aren’t interested in seeing the
production because Harper isn’t in it, which is silly since Harper
submerged herself in the role to the point that Rhoda Morgenstern
disappeared. But they’re depriving themselves of perhaps an even more
satisfying evening thanks to Powers’ fearless and skilled evocation of a
human being committed to living life on her own terms come hell and high water.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
Whether it's Powers' insider perspective (she actually starred opposite Bankhead in the star's last film Die! Die! My Darling! — an incident from the movie is actually what Looped is based upon) or because she understands the trappings of Hollywood so well having started her professional career at the age of 15 — Powers is now 70 — she exudes a depth of the character that elicits heartfelt sympathy for the washed up celebrity.'s apparent that two other characters are merely pawns for Bankhead's verbal whippings. She spars the most with Danny, who, finally in Act 2 opens up to her with a confessional that plays a bit on the melodramatic side. Hutchison does his best to inject believability into what Lombardo has laid out for him, but he has a difficult task.
Lombardo's script is at its best when he's letting his leading lady toss out zingers rather than have her passing the tea and sympathy. One especially conjured moment is Bankhead lamenting the fact that she had never become a mother after having a hysterectomy due to getting a sexually transmitted disease.

Yet Powers pulls off that melodrama realistically, continually going for broke playing the out-of-control, larger-the-life Bankhead, from her highest highs to her lowest lows. And Lombardo gives her plenty of those, especially in the camp department, to hang her fur coat on. "Most of the men I meet these days either want to (expletive) me or be me."
Looped plays at Parker Playhouse through March 4, 2013.

AAPACT: The Amen Corner (reviews)

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre opened its production of James Baldwin's The Amen Corner at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center on  February 20, 2013.
Self-anointed Harlem store front preacher Margaret Alexander is the leader of her flock and about to see her world crumble.
Teddy Harrel, Jr. directed a cast that included Sarah Gracel Anderson, Leondra Mitchell, Yvonne Strachan, Jeffery Cason, Jr., Lamar Hodges, Toddra Brunson-Solomon, Regina Hodges, Adrian Bell, Carolyn Johnson, Brandiss Seward, Janet “Toni” Mason, and Hasani Morey.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre (AAPACT) and artistic director Teddy Harrell Jr. have put together a lively production of the play, enhancing it with the kind of roof-raising gospel music you’d hear in the storefront Harlem church where its main character preaches.

The production and the play itself are hardly flawless... the talent levels of the actors vary and Baldwin’s lengthy script would doubtless be surgically streamlined if the playwright were crafting it today instead of nearly 60 years ago. Even so, there’s plenty to savor in AAPACT’s The Amen Corner.
Director Harrell gets absorbing, layered performances from the best actors in his cast. Seward finds Margaret’s stern power but also conveys her doggedly repressed emotions as her life starts to crack. Janet “Toni” Mason is a supportive sidekick as the preacher’s sister Odessa. Gainey makes Luke a charmer, a physically weakened man who is stubbornly strong in his feelings for the woman who left him. As Brother Boxer and Sister Boxer, Hodges and his wife Regina are a formidable pair, evolving from dissatisfied parishioners into gossiping enemies. Carolyn Johnson is a comedic firecracker as Sister Moore, an older woman in cahoots with the Boxers. And Cason effectively conveys David’s tension as he’s torn between obedience and forging his own path in life.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
AAPACT’S ambitious undertaking is an earnest and heartfelt production laced with chuckles and tears under director Teddy Harrell Jr.’s leadership. But it’s a mixed bag: Most of the time, the characters and their tragic spiral simply don’t feel genuine or organic. These are actors acting, not being.

But every 20 minutes or so in this 2 ½-hour evening, the actors dig into their marrow and slingshot the play from pedestrian performances into an affecting truth that clutches the audience’s heart.
It’s the cast’s fearless work in such passages and AAPACT’s clear
commitment to serious African American work that redeem its flaws.
...real music lies in Baldwin’s dialogue, a sublime mixture of
inner-city-speak, gospel-tinged pronouncements and a philosophical
poetry that underscores the inner beauty of humanity. The cast’s ability
to embrace and deliver the varying rhythms is one of their strengths.

The performances here are not especially subtle or complex – fortunately Baldwin’s script inserts those assets. But they are sincere and exude a restrained passion. These qualities are especially evident in Seward’s portrayal of Margaret, who doesn’t shy away from creating an admirable altruist undercut like Hamlet by a fatal flaw, in Margaret’s case that pride born out of her complete and utter sacrifice of anything that doesn’t link directly to unquestioningly serving the Lord.
...the finest, most consistent and believable performance comes from Carolyn Johnson as the obnoxiously self-righteous proudly-proclaimed virgin who slyly positions herself to bring down Margaret. Without ever slipping into caricature, Johnson simply inhabits her villain. Johnson has been one of the region’s best actresses, especially when she has a good director... Someone needs to find more roles for this talent.
There’s solid support, too, from Mason as the loyal sister and Anderson, who needs to be speak up a bit more, but who is heart-wrenching in her two scenes as the troubled mother. Gainey is a genial, winning actor, but he really only gives Luke a single note of benign and abiding affection.  Cason is convincing as a dutiful, devout son chafing at his mother’s demands. The father-son scene between Cason and Gainey, fraught with yearning for connections despite a sense of estrangement, is another of those slice into the gut moments.

Harrell keeps the show moving, even though it’s a long haul. He and the cast inject dozens of grace notes like the impromptu shouts and hand motions during the church service.
The AAPACT production of The Amen Corner plays at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center through March 17.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mondays are Dark, we've run out of theater photos, so we're back to a boring old logo.  Of course, if you send us pictures of your "dark" theater, we'll gladly run them.

And before anyone asks, no, we didn't watch The Oscars.  Or the Daytona 500. 

We meant to run this story last week, but somehow it dropped off the list.  We don't know how.  Anywho.  The Miami Herald reports that two Florida playwrights were highlights at the Colorado New Play Summit.

Tick Tock
If you need any more proof that the season is rushing past us, The Herald reports that City Theater has just announced the cast list for this year's edition of Summer Shorts.

Florida Theater On Stage reminds us that the Miami Made Festival starts this week, while TheaterMania reminds us that Flashdance opens at The Broward Center next week.

A Troop of Scoops On Looped (or at least the Straight Poop)
Is it a scoop when everyone has the story?  Stefanie Powers is stepping in for Valerie Harper to play Tallulah Bankhead in Looped, opening this week at the Parker Playhouse.  Florida Theater On Stage interviews Powers, who actually co-starred with Bankhead in the film for which she was recording the loop of dialogue referenced by the title:
“I think there’s very much a fine line between the person she created and who she was; I don’t think anyone knew who the real person was, least of all Tallulah. She had created this person that she became. And for better or for worse, that’s who she was and she maintained that even in her most private moments.”
The Miami Herald reveals how playwright Matthew Lombardo was inspired to write the play:
A partygoer asked if he had ever heard the story about Bankhead showing up less than sober to re-record this tongue twister of a line from Die, Die, My Darling: “And so Patricia, as I was telling you, that deluded rector has in literal effect closed the church to me.” 

Read more here:
“She had these ‘caddies,’ gay men who followed her around and helped her out, and one of them had recorded the session, unbeknownst to her,” Lombardo says. “The tape is 30 minutes long, and she cannot get the line. I listened to it over and over, and it went from a hysterical, laugh-out-loud experience to something else. The drinking, drugs and promiscuity all caught up with her, and she became a caricature of herself.”
miamiartzine also spoke with Powers, and others:
"Valerie has been such a cheerleader for me taking over this role," says Powers. In a statement released by her publicist, Harper praises the actress. "In my opinion, Stefanie is the perfect choice to take over this role. She is extraordinarily talented and will make one terrific Tallulah."
And South Florida Gay News:
The experience working on the film with Bankhead gave Powers a special insight into this role.

“She was a gay icon. Every drag queen did imitations of her and my challenge is not to parody her,” she explained. “This event (in the studio) occurred just after she was diagnosed terminally ill and given six months to live. That becomes very much a part of the underlying subtext.”
Looped opens Tuesday at the Parker Playhouse, and plays through Sunday.  Its previous runs predate The Scene's practice of aggregating the reviews, but we will say that three out of four theater critics gave it a thumbs up.

Brief Bio
The Roundabout Theater Blog has a great mini-bio of playwright Lanford Wilson.  It's chock full of worthwhile tidbits:
While supporting himself with odd jobs in New York, Wilson found a creative home in the Caffe Cino. This Greenwich Village coffeehouse, opened by retired dancer Joe Cino, had rapidly evolved from a place to grab a drink with friends into a theatrical venue where regular patrons were encouraged to explore and experiment with their art.

Not only was Caffe Cino the catalyst for the off-off-Broadway movement, it was also one of the first safe havens for LGBT artists to perform and write about their experiences without being ostracized. In 1964, Wilson’s The Madness of Lady Bright about an aging drag queen became Cino’s most successful production, receiving more than 200
performances and considerable mainstream attention.
You Know, For Kids
The New York Times reviews Tim Federle's latest children's novel, Better Nate Than Ever.
His new children’s novel, published this month by Simon & Schuster as part of a two-book deal, is “Better Nate Than Ever,” a twinkling adventure tale for the musical theater set. Like Mr. Federle back in the day, Nate Foster is also 13 and theater-obsessed, wide-eyed and exclamatory, and with an underdeveloped build that inspires his choice of audition songs, “Bigger Isn’t Better” from “Barnum.”
Sounds like the perfect birthday present for the kid in your life, to me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Scene for February 22, 2013

It seems to be slowing down just a little bit; or maybe it's just the calm before the storm.  Not much opening this week, other than the long-anticipated triumphant arrival of Waist Watchers: The Musical.  Yes, it's true, this legendary... show as finally arrived in South Florida.

AAPACT is opening The Amen Corner, both Palm Beach Dramaworks and Area Stage Company have extended the runs of their current shows, and the Maltz Jupiter Theater is holding its Gala Benefit to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

Here's what's playing on The Scene this weekend:


Waist Watchers: the Musical opens at The Plaza Theatre this weekend, through March 21.

you still haven't missed...

The critically acclaimed production of A Raisin in the Sun plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through March 3, 2013 has been extended through March 9.

Tres Hombres de Bien (Three Good Men) has been extended through March 3 at Area Stage.

Deathtrap plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, through March 3.

The Thinking Cap Theatre production of The Rover plays at Empire Stage through March 3, 2013.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

Broadway Babies plays The Kravis Center Friday and Saturday only.

The A national tour of Fiddler on the Roof plays at The Crest Theatre in Delray Beach this weekend only.

A Tribute to Judy Garland starring Melissa Jacobson plays February 25th at The Plaza Theatre in Manalapan.

last chance to see...

Miami Theater Center winds up Hate! An American Love Story this Satruday, February 23.

The Whole Caboodle winds up its run at Parade Productions on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

The World Goes 'Round finishes its run at the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre this Saturday, February 24.

community and conservatory...

The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre
opens its production of The Amen Corner, through March 17, 2013.

University of Miami presents King Lear, through March 2.

Andrews Living Arts Studio production of Doubt runs through Saturday, February 23.

Florida Atlantic University presents Equus, through February 23.

Florida International University presents Incidents through February 24.

Area Stage presents Romeo & Juliet through February 24.

Cheaters plays at the Main Street Players through March 3.

Sugar Babies plays at the Tamarac Theatre of Performing Arts through March 10.

for kids...

The student production of Romeo & Juliet graces Area Stage Company through February 24.

Sol Children Theatre Troupe
offers Disney on Broadway & Musical Theatre Comedy Concert February 22 - 24.

Tarzan plays Saturdays at Showtime Boca through March 9.

Miami Theatre Center presents The Love Of Three Oranges, through March 10.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, it's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League with this week's Off Stage Conversations, looking at the interesting posts and articles about our industry at a national and international level.

Sex and Violence (On Stage)

Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune writes about the believability of sex onstage and how it differs from sex on film. (Beware Chicago Tribune is now paywalled, but you can sign up for five free articles.) Jones believes that sex onstage generally doesn't work and that nudity on stage becomes about the actor, not about the character.

Charles McNulty writes for the LA Times on violence in theatre, asking "What is the line between acceptable and unacceptable violence in art?" He notes that contemporary playwrights are using more detached violence, and notes that his personal taste for that is declining as he gets older. He compares the work of Sarah Kane with Martin McDonaugh, noting that the violence in Blasted never feels detached from the conflict of the play or from the author.

In light of our current society -- it's always good to ask when are shocking things organic to the work and when are they just extras? And more importantly, when do they detract more than they add?

The Power of People

Peter Miller (who is the board chair of Woolly Mammoth Theatre in DC) continues his series on marketing for 2amtheatre, saying that theatres should try and build a relationship between their stable of actors and their audience -- so that every actor can bring their own celebrity name power. Instead looking at marketing a concept or a pre-branded show, pitch stories around your people. Our audiences have a relationship with our work and us through their relationship with our work, and it's something that could be better utilized.

Working with Celebrities

However, if you're looking to use more traditionally defined celebrities, Know Your Bone has some great practical advice on approaching them. A lot of these make sense as general fundraising guidelines as well.
Even if a celebrity – or any person, for that matter – cares deeply about your cause, they are not your nonprofit. They have their own story, connections, and attitudes toward the cause. Successful organizations will do diligent research, find out where passions cross, and make an ask or create an event that caters to that unique focus.
There's smart practical stuff here.

Social Media

Eight Common Mistakes Nonprofits Make When They Join Twitter. It's a great tool for those of you who are venturing out into an unknown social media. Our community vastly prefers facebook, in my experience.

Speaking of facebook, Playwrights' Horizons is the first theatre to sell tickets directly on facebook. It'll be interesting to see if that takes off as a ticketing platform.


The way I would like you to think of failgreat is as a philosophy of making art in such a way that even if a particular project or your entire organization fails, it will be obvious to any observer, especially yourself, that you were credibly striving for greatness right up to the moment of failure.
Money, Entitlement and Audiences

Dave Malloy has a great piece for Culture Bot that came from him being completely silent on a Under The Radar panel discussion. He speaks about audiences, talent, challenging work, criticism, and wonders why we keep on complaining about the same things as a community, often when they aren't true.
The complaints that are so prevalent in this community seem based more in a selfish, sour grapes, “but why don’t I get that” mentality, than in an actual crisis of the system itself. Yes there are olden, sad theaters that produce play after boring play by straight white men, and there are olden sad critics who write about interesting work in ill-informed ways, but there are and more and more alternatives every season, and those genre-pushing theaters and pieces are often the ones that get the most attention.

There's a lot there to be unpacked that I haven't even mentioned, but it's nice to hear someone openly talk about entitlement in the industry. I don't agree with some of his conclusions, but they're well framed. I do think more theatre artists could benefit from Creative Capital workshops, so that they can become more active in their own careers and look to different ways to earn money from their work, but that's a side conversation to the questions of entitlement and talent that Malloy brings up.

And that's it for this week. I'm out of town next week and will be taking next Wednesday off from blogging. I will be back with Off Stage Conversations on March 6. Thanks everyone!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Sorry we missed last week; we were the victims of a nasty head cold.  That just means we should have more stories for this week's reading list.  Well, we would if there were more stories, but it seems to have been a slow couple of weeks for theater features.

Today's "dark" theater is the Carnival Studio Theatre, where the Alliance Theater Lab will be reprising their critically acclaimed original production of The Brothers Beckett starting March 7th.  This is a tremendous step up for the company, which usually stages their productions at the Main Street Playhouse.  A co-production with the center, Alliance ran an aggressive and original fundraising campaign to raise their portion of the funding.

Next  Year's Tours

The Miami Herald tells us a little about the 2013-2014 Broadway Across America season at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and so does Florida Theater On Stage.  But Florida Theater On Stage also has the line-up for Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which includes Book of Mormon.

Speaking of the Arsht Center

Broadway World reminds us that the fifth annual Miami Made Festival, co-produced by the Arsht Center, will run from February 26 through March 3.

Florida Theater On Stage reports that the Delray City Commission voted to postpone selling the Arts Garage for at least two months, so that all the parties involved can explore all their options.

BRIFT goes Radio
Broadway World tells us that the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Television will be present a radio play version of All About Eve, directed by Gordon McConnell.  McConnell, an instructor at the Institute, is a founding member of Airplayz, which specializes in staging radio-style plays, complete with Foley artists for the sound effects.

Latest Green Room Installment
Florida Theater On Stage interviews the inimitable Karen Stephens.

Coming to Aventura
Broadway World tells us about the next dramatic piece coming to the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.
Playwright, actor and Drama Critics Circle Award-winner Tom Dugan will present "Wiesenthal," updated from his play "Nazi Hunter - Simon Wiesenthal," featuring a newly premiered title and recently discovered details of Wiesenthal's important work...
Beach Come to Palm Beach
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Gary Beach will make an appearance at the Culture and Cocktails event at the Palm Beach Cultural Council in Lake Worth.  He'll be interviewed by Andrew Kato, producer of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, who has brought Beach in to perform on numerous occasions.

Thoughts on Local Theater
Minnesota Playlist - which isn't local to South Florida - ruminates on what can or should be done to nurture local theatre scenes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Scene for February 15, 2013

The plays just keep coming in South Florida.  Not much opening this week, but lots of stuff to see.

If you're looking for a special show for Valentine's Day, nothing says "I love you" like I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, playing this week only at the Broward Center.  This play was one of South Florida's longest running productions under the partnership of Actors' Playhouse and Alan and Kathy Glist (now GFour Productions).  The partners ran this show for the better part of four years in various venues across South Florida.

A bunch of good plays are closing this weekend; Wicked, Gloucester Blue, the Jupiter Theatre production of Doubt, and Agnes of God all wind up their runs.  If you've been waiting to catch these shows, well, don't wait much longer.

Here's what's playing on The Scene this weekend:


Dreamchild Productions offers I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! this week only at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

you still haven't missed...

Deathtrap plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, through March 3.

Miami Theater Center offers Hate! An American Love Story through February 23.

The Thinking Cap Theatre production of The Rover plays at Empire Stage through March 3, 2013.

The Whole Caboodle
plays at Parade Productions through February 24, 2013.

The World Goes 'Round opens at the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre, through February 24.

The critically acclaimed production of A Raisin in the Sun plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through March 3, 2013.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

Canciones de Broadway with Carla Bordonada plays at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this Friday and Saturday only.

passing through...

The National Tour of Wicked winds up its run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this Sunday, February 17, 2013.

last chance to see...

Doubt: a Parable plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through February 17, 2013.  Yes, it only opened last week.

Gloucester Blue winds up its run at the Theatre at Arts Garage on February 17, 2013.

New Theatre's production of Agnes of God finishes its run at The Roxy Performing Arts Center this Sunday, February 17, 2013.

If you find yourself in Key West, check out Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks at The Waterfront Playhouse.  Its run ends on Saturday, February 16.

community and conservatory...

Andrews Living Arts Studio production of Doubt runs through Saturday, February 23.

Florida Atlantic University presents Equus, through February 24.

Florida International University presents Incidents through February 24.

Area Stage presents Romeo & Juliet through February 24.

Cheaters plays at the Main Street Players through March 3.

Delray Beach Playhouse offers Ethel Waters: His Eye Is On The Sparrow through February 10 Held Over through February 17!

New World School fo the Arts
presents the student version of Chicago through February 17.  (The grown up version will be opening next month at Boca Raton Theatre Guild)

for kids...

Tarzan plays Saturdays at Showtime Boca through March 9.

Miami Theatre Center presents The Love Of Three Oranges, through March 10.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Miami Theatre Center: HATE! An American Love Story (reviews)

Miami Theater Center opened its production of Hate! An American Love Story on February 8, 2013.
Christina Alexander shares stories of love in America and the country’s
struggle to understand or accept that different doesn’t mean wrong. One
actor plays eight characters who deliver 16 monologues in a multimedia
work that offers varied perspectives of what and who defines love in
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Admit up front that the world premiere of Christina Alexander’s one-woman show Hate! An American Love Story is a tad unfocused, undisciplined, even sloppy theater. Then acknowledge that it’s also one of the most insightful and moving depictions that South Florida audiences have seen of the emotional viscera inside inter-racial, inter-gender relationships.
Alexander’s monologues portraying eight people seem like a report from deep in the trenches of a world struggling with redefining the previous cultural norm of “acceptable” heterosexual, homoethnic love.
Several monologues just end without a discernible climax. Alexander’s connective introductions to the pieces, in which she speaks to the audience and offers them Oreos, are mostly unnecessary interludes that allow Alexander to indulge in screeds of her own.
Alexander, a graduate of New World of the Arts, Barry University and the University of Miami, created this evening based on interviews over several years.  When the work bowed at a workshop at M Ensemble in September, Alexander had the directorial guidance of Karen Stephens, a veteran of her own acclaimed one-woman show, Bridge and Tunnel. Alexander could use an extra set of eyes and ears again.
But even with its flaws, the gallery of portraits – by turns witty and contemplative – produce a poignant and illuminating evening.
Hate! An American Love Story plays at Miami Theatre Center through February 23, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, this is Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with Off Stage Conversations, where I look at some of the issues that are being discussed in the national and international theatre community. Also, I post nifty theatre finds when I find them.

You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The Guardian has a piece on overused words and phrases in arts related press releases. Not everything is ground breaking, thought-provoking, challenging, etc. And after a while of reading press releases (and in my job I read a LOT of press releases) all these words stop meaning anything anymore.

As artists and administrators, we need to be smarter about how we describe our art. And part of that is to stop being lazy in how we describe our work and really find the few words that get to the heart of the show that we're doing.

Theatre and the Internet

The DramaLit blog bemoans the lack of e-book plays from the major publishers and asks if there is a way for us to read hot new plays legally, without having to wait the normal couple year process until they are published. There is Indie Theatre Now and Original Works Publishing, but both of those companies focus on smaller, lesser known plays and playwrights.

In more internet theatre capability, this weekend I discovered OnTheBoardsTV, which provides high quality video of theatre and dance performances. You aren't going to find a traditional play there, but you can find some brilliant examples of devised theatre, including The Rude Mech's The Method Gun. The Rude Mechs were in Miami with this show last week and I've been thinking about it ever since. I haven't rented the performance yet, but I plan to.

I realize not everyone is going to be as jazzed about devised work as I am. But if you are, On The Boards TV is a great resource to see work you can't normally see in Miami.

The Old Theater vs. Theatre Argument

ArtVoice has an article on the spelling of theater and theatre. What makes this article worth posting is that it has historical background on how the theater spelling came to be -- and no, it isn't the building vs. the art form.

Funding, Diversity and Mission

Diane Ragsdale has a great piece on ArtsJournal on how foundations' requirements for funding fit into the larger narrative about diversity in the theatre. There's a lot of great stuff in here: she points out that if you want to diversify audiences, not only do you need to change your programing and your marketing, but you need to give it time. You have to be able and willing to lose some of your current subscriber base in order to grow a new one and that process can take a decade. And foundations that are funding diversity initiatives need to recognize that change doesn't happen as a grant cycle.

Ragsdale also makes the point that arts organizations will apply for funding just because its funding and not because they are committed to diversifying audiences. And she makes two good points that apply to all grant seekers, not just those seeking grants for changing their audiences:
Don’t apply for the money, no matter how desperate you are for resources, if the proposal guidelines make you roll your eyes.
If you read the application and the funder appears to be interested to support a change you do want to make in your organization (cultivating more diverse audiences, for instance), don’t apply for that grant until you have calculated the total cost of that change on your organization over the next decade and can present that number in your application to the funder, letting the funder know (a) how long you reasonably expect it to take for the change to be implemented; (b) how much you expect it to cost; and (c) the amount you would need from the funder to commit to making the change.
Taking on funding simply because it is there instead of because it organically fits with your organization so often leads to trouble down the line.

Can Art be Universal?

In part of his recent slate of blog posts looking at diversity, Clayton Lord asks if there is such a thing as universal art -- or do we just ascribe the majority's experiences as universal? And if we can reach true universality, how can we go about looking for it instead of the "lip-service" universalism paradigm we're currently working with?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thinking Cap Theatre: The Rover (3 reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of The Rover at Empire Stage on February 7, 2013.
A raucous 17th C. sex comedy by Aphra Behn Adapted & directed by Nicole Stodard.  "This ain't your great, great granny's 17th century comedy!"
Nicole Stodard directs a cast that includes Giordan Diaz, Mark Duncan, Lela Elam, Carey Hart, Mickey Jaiven, Yevgeniya Kats, Noah Levine, Desiree Mora, Emilie Paap, Theo Reyna, Nori Tecosky, and Scott Douglas Wilson.

Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There’s more to Thinking Cap Theatre’s inventive The Rover than staging a 300-year-old play with oomph enough to keep a 21st century audience interested. What director Nicole Stodard... has done is to craft an inventive, ambitious and quite delicious offering of England’s first professional female playwright’s navel gazing study of the dating games people play. And watching Stodard’s adaptation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover proves that the battle of the sexes hasn’t changed much since 1677.
It is a large cast... but Stodard has reconfigured the small space to a three-quarter seating arrangement, therefore leaving room to create different levels through the middle of the small house. The limited mainstage area, surprisingly, never seems crowded...
Wilson owns this play and well he should. He makes the words his own, creating subtle nuances to deliver the language in a contemporary flow, plus he’s a master at never letting a double entendre go unnoticed. His Rover is drawn almost as if it’s a cartoon character, but never caricatured — part Jack Black, part Snagglepuss...
Elam (the casting of an Equity actor is the first time for TCT) is the other stand out as Angellica...
Tecosky has the most chemistry with Wilson and when the two are on stage together, it’s pure delight.
Duncan as Blunt will be an audience favorite because of the built-in buffoonery, but there are times that the clownish portrayal is forced and over-bloated. The same criticism goes for Gordon Diaz, who inserts a never really explained facial tick into his character of Don Antonio, which proves more of a distraction than something that adds to the characterization.

Fight choreography by Paul Homza adds to the overall punk picture of the play...
This is smart, elevated theater made palatable, but not pandering, to the masses. As Behn so succinctly said in her sequel to The Rover, “Variety is the soul of pleasure.” Thinking Cap Theatre’s production carries that torch with its era-hopping variety, classically modern soul, and as an evening of pure theatrical pleasure.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Were Ms. Behn able to time-travel to Fort Lauderdale to catch the new Thinking Cap Theatre production of her play, she would doubtless be astonished at the lusty, wildly comic contemporary sensibility that director Nicole Stodard and her sharp cast have brought to a 336-year-old sex comedy.

She might also be amazed at just how engaged a 21st century audience is by her 17th century tale of bawdy men and romance-hungry women.
Stodard has trimmed the script, and the actors sometimes toss in a contemporary word or phrase, but Thinking Cap honors and delivers The Rover . Giving a vintage sex comedy a hip, hot, entertaining makeover that makes sense is no small achievement. Yet that’s exactly what Stodard and the Thinking Cap crew have pulled off in their new production at Empire Stage.
The well-schooled acting company makes what might otherwise be difficult dialogue easy to follow. The bombastically charming Wilson, the magnetic and moving Elam, the saucy and seductive Tecosky, the earnest and funny Levine, the alluring Kats and the cleverly clownish Duncan, in particular, are deft at communicating the meaning in their characters’ words. The physical performance style helps too, as gestures and movement further illustrate meaning.

Staging a lesser-known, large-cast theatrical classic on a modest budget is a risky move for a small company. But with the intelligence and imagination Stodard has brought to The Rover, Thinking Cap’s risk pays off.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
If your lexicon includes lascivious, lecherous, lewd, libidinous, licentious and lustful you're not only stuck in the Ls but you're also going to laugh out loud pretty much all night long if you catch The Rover at Empire Stage.
Thinking Cap's artistic director, Nicole Stodard, cut the original from three hours down to two and didn't change a word. So that's the challenge: getting twelve of today's actors to mouth 300 year old dialogue and make it sound just fine to our eager ears. Did it work? Oh, you bet, but with the caveat that the acting talent covered a broad range, topped with the brilliance of Scott Douglas Wilson as The Rover.
Over the top, that vilified sin, is the order of the evening. And, by gosh, it's an admirable directing choice by Stodard, who incidentally is using the mounting of The Rover as part of the dissertation for her Ph.D.
This is not a static piece, it's groping and nuzzling, whipping and grimacing, arms flailing, feet tripping and as funny a picking of the short straw as you'll see on these stages. The fight scene, staged by Paul Homza, is an absolute delight.
Wilson's handling of the role is a triumph. Nothing escapes him, not a nuance, not a gesture, not a glance, not one of the limitless double entendres. His command of the language is exemplary.

Second banana is handily won by Mark Duncan as the country fool.
The Rover is an endlessly entertaining piece and although not all the cast reach the heights of Wilson and Duncan, each contributes more than enough to make me say: I could easily watch this again.
The Thinking Cap Theatre production of The Rover plays at Empire Stage through March 3, 2013.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Doubt (reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt: a Parable on February 3, 2013.
When a priest’s relationship with an altar boy is questioned, a nun takes matters into her own hands to prove it. In this brilliant Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, the nun becomes intent on exposing his dark secret and the mystery unfolds. But are his actions innocent? This story will leave you questioning your own faith and the cost of the pursuit of truth.
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that featured Maureen Anderman, Julie Kleiner, Jim Ballard, and Karen Stephens.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...the Maltz production under J. Barry Lewis’ direction merits being seen for three finely-crafted performances by Maureen Anderman, Jim Ballard and Julie Kleiner, plus an outstanding portrait by Karen Stephens.

But thematically, it’s thrown out of whack because the deck seems stacked toward one truth for much of the play and then irreversibly stacked the other way. Few people will leave this production indecisive about the priest’s guilt or innocence. That misstep undercuts the point of the play and turns it into a cautionary tale about the dangers of certainty rather than the conundrum of uncertainty.

On the other hand, this is the kind of play and production in which that fine-tuned calibration can change nightly. What I saw may not be what you see the next night. Heck, so much of this is perceptual and susceptible to personal baggage that what I saw may not even be what the fella across the aisle saw the same night.
That said, this team has mounted an insightful thought-provoking production highlighted by Lewis’ trademark of leading an earnest cast through an excavation of every moment, peeling back layers of meaning in Shanley’s script and then skillfully communicating their findings to the audience.

Anderman unreservedly dives straight into Sister Aloysius’ flawed nature, portraying someone who cares not a whit about being liked, caring only about being an effective instrument for the greater good, no matter the cost to herself or anyone else. She submerges herself in Sister Aloysius’ severity in both appearance and affect.
Ballard is a fine actor whose underrated work as the beleaguered husband in Mosaic Theatre’s Side Effects and whose portrayal of the anguished man in Dramaworks in All My Sons were essential to the successes of both shows. Here, his linchpin performance is the one that needs more shading and ambiguity, but he makes a solid adversary for Anderman.
Kleiner works hard to bring plausibility to the young woman who says, “I want peace of mind” in a terrified tone that it will never come again. She makes it clear that Sister James could not have imagined two authority figures actually being in conflict.
All three are solid, but it’s Stephens’ performance in just one scene that turns on the light switch. Lewis has kept a lid on the emotional intensity through the production up to this point, perhaps because Sister Aloysius must proceed gingerly. But the electricity starts flowing from Stephens’ appearance and on through the rest of the play. Stephens inhabits a stunningly pragmatic character whose decisions on paper are seemingly indefensible, yet she makes the woman’s internal logic absolutely convincing.
In this ever-mutating 21st Century world in which many people seem to require certitude in every facet of their belief system, regardless of contravening facts, the Maltz production raises questions about unyielding convictions.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
See John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and you may well walk back to your car wondering: Is Father Brendan Flynn one of those priests?
Staged by J. Barry Lewis, the excellent Maltz production has just a two-week run — which is too bad. Even at the show’s first performance, the power of this play and the cast was undeniable.
Kleiner’s sweet, naive, overly emotional Sister James becomes the audience proxy in the clash between the priest and the nun... The Broadway-tested Anderman conveys steely resolve, yet her wonderfully expressive face betrays a wild array of emotions: anger, craftiness, triumph, repulsion. Ballard is just as formidable, a man aware of his power and the ingratiating effect of the well-timed smile.

As always, the Maltz’s physical production is first-rate. Set designer Timothy Mackabee gives Sister Aloysius an office with just-right ‘60s details, from the cinderblock walls and silvery radiator to the photographs of Pope Paul VI and President John F. Kennedy. Paul Black’s lighting design suggests the play’s wintertime setting. Anna Hillbery supplies the nuns’ Sisters of Charity habits, the priest’s cassock and vestments, and a dress-up ensemble with hat and gloves for Mrs. Muller to wear on her visit to the school. Marty Mets’ sound design, particularly the tonally varied “ping” of bells, is lovely.
Doubt: a Parable plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through February 17, 2013.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Scene for February 8, 2013

It's another busy weekend on the South Florida theatre scene; more great shows opening, lots of great stuff playing from one end of the scene to the other.

We have not one but two productions of Doubt; a fully realized professional production at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and ALAS's conservatory production; lots of small tours blowing through for the weekend, and on Monday, there's a reading of Proposition 8 at Lynn University, part of Jan McArt's New Play Reading series.

Here's what's playing on The Scene this weekend:


The Maltz Jupiter Theater opens Doubt this week.

Andrews Living Arts Studio also opens Doubt this weekend, but it's a much smaller production.

Thinking Cap Theatre opens its production of The Rover at Empire Stage this week.  (Yes, it's THAT Rover.)

Deathtrap opens at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, through March 3.

Miami Theater Center opens Hate! An American Love Story this weekend, through February 23.

you still haven't missed...

Gloucester Blue plays at the Theatre at Arts Garage through February 17, 2013.

New Theatre's production of Agnes of God plays at The Roxy Performing Arts Center through February 17, 2013.

If you find yourself in Key West, check out Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks at The Waterfront Playhouse.  It plays through February 16.

The Whole Caboodle
plays at Parade Productions through February 24, 2013.

The World Goes 'Round opens at the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre, through February 24.

The critically acclaimed production of A Raisin in the Sun plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through March 3, 2013.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

Sister Robert Anne's Cabaret Class plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center this weekend only; it's a one-nun entry in the Nunsense series.  No, really.

The Actors' Gang brings its version of Tartuffe to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center this Friday and Saturday.

Miami-Dade College Live Arts presents Rude Mechanics in The Method Gun at The Colony Theater this Friday and Saturday only.

passing through...

The National Tour of Wicked plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through February 17, 2013.

last chance to see...

Slow Burn Theatre Company critically acclaimed production of Side Show is already finishing its brief run at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater this Sunday, February 10, 2013.  And if it feels like it just opened last week that's because, well, it did. Don't miss it.

Chapter Two winds up its run at the Plaza Theater on February 10. the bridge is still out, but it's pretty drive along A1A when you cross at Lake Worth or Boynton Beach.

Damn Yankees also winds up at the Broward Stage Door Theatre on February 10.

at GableStage also closes February 10, 2013.

Other Desert Cities at Actors' Playhouse will also be closing February 10, 2013.

community and conservatory...

Cheaters plays at the Main Street Players through March 3.

Delray Beach Playhouse offers Ethel Waters: His Eye Is On The Sparrow through February 10 Held Over through February 17!

The teen version of In The Heights plays at Showtime Performing Arts Theatre through February 10.

New World School fo the Arts
presents the student version of Chicago through February 17.  (The grown up version will be opening next month at Boca Raton Theatre Guild)

for kids...

Broward Center presents Bella and Harry: Let's Visit London! on Friday and Saturday.

Aventura Arts & Cultural Center presents Ellis Island..Gateway to a Dream on Monday at 10:00 and 11:30 in the morning.

Tarzan plays Saturdays at Showtime Boca through March 9.

Miami Theatre Center presents The Love Of Three Oranges, through March 10.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello. It's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with this week's Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at what's being talked about in the national and international theatre community.

Sometimes You Just Want Mac and Cheese

Travis Bedard uses a great metaphor in equating personal taste in food with personal taste in theatre. So often we equate our personal taste with what is good. But really, theatre is much more like food. Some days you're going to be adventurous and try a new cuisine, and some days you're going to want comfort food. And some people may really dislike a certain dish, but that doesn't mean it's bad or wrong -- it just means they don't like it. Bedard expands the metaphor, looking at how we define risk and offers some great suggestions.

Speaking of things I don't like...

Hannah Hessell (writing on Gwydion Suilebhan's blog) has a post that says everything I have ever wanted to say about David Mamet. There was a lot of discussion last week in response to Mamet's Newsweek article on the nature of the division between art and artist. A lot of people who love Mamet's work don't like his politics. Hessell sums up basically everything that I would have said before I had a chance to say it.

I realize that not liking Mamet's work is unpopular in South Florida, but going back to the first post -- not everyone likes the same food. Some people dislike pizza.

Why is So Much Theatre So Dull? And Other Good Questions

It's been a great week for theatre critics to ask hard questions. Chris mentioned in Mondays are Dark that Peter Marks, the Washington Post Theatre Critic, asked if too many regional theatres pull their seasons from what was popular on Broadway and off Broadway last year.

Meanwhile, Lyn Gardner of the Guardian asks why so much theatre is so dull?

I love that critics are asking both of these questions.

Price and Experience

The Guardian has another piece on how the price you pay for a ticket is related to how much you enjoy the experience. Counting New Beans actually matches up this observation with data.

On Diversity and Mission

Clayton Lord (the main driver behind the Intrinsic Impact Study and Counting New Beans) has a great piece on how we evade questions on diversity with mission.
"A mission is a driving principle, not a shield. Unless your mission is “we make art for white, old, rich people,” that pain you’re feeling at the thought of diversification isn’t mission-based, it’s bottom line based.
And Something Bittersweet

Cuban American playwright Maria Irene Fornes has been suffering from Alzheimer's for over a decade. She's recently been moved to a new nursing home in New York City, which allows the theatre community to visit her in her final days, which over 2,700 people petitioned for.

New Theatre: Agnes Of God (3 reviews)

New Theatre opened its production of Agnes of God at the Roxy Performing Arts Center on February 1, 2013.
A riveting classic psychological drama about morals and faith where a young nun, accused of killing her newborn baby, declares the child is the result of a virgin conception.
Ricky J. Martinez directed a cast that featured Christina Groom, Barbara Sloan, and Pamela Roza.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...for a bare-knuckled battle between the forces of God and the forces of ratiocination, no script is as much an intellectual slugfest as John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God, now getting a consistently intriguing, occasionally engrossing and, in its final scenes, riveting production at New Theatre.
If the chemistry among Christina Groom, Pamela Roza and Barbara Sloan isn’t as electrifying as it could be, all three actresses individually create vigorous and robust characters under Ricky J. Martinez’s direction to deliver one of the stronger offerings that New Theatre has produced in the past couple of seasons.
What this production is missing is the flinty antagonism needed between the psychiatrist and Mother Superior. We’re supposed to sense that each sees this as a very personal life and death struggle; each sees the other woman as threat to something precious in the way each views the world. Instead, we feel each woman only resents the other.
Groom succeeds completely with the toughest job — making credible Agnes’ naiveté that makes the audience vacillate between thinking one moment that she is genuinely touched by God and the next convinced that she is just certifiably psychotic. The looming abyss ofoverplaying both extremes is huge, but Groom deftly sidesteps the danger.
Sloan has proven herself year in and year out as one of New Theatre’s most skilled leading ladies, often putting together a performance that supersedes the material she’s been handed. With a bit of hard-edged sass to her voice, she’s perfectly cast here for her ability to make Mother Miriam Ruth someone with a pragmatic past, thereby investing her spiritual yearnings with integrity. And welcome back, Pamela Roza. Time was when Roza’s presence was enough by itself to make a play worth going to see... Roza smoothly slips on the persona of a haunted woman whose ghosts are just out of sight but never out of mind. Her doctor is suffused with both genuine caring for Agnes and an almost physical need to find a temporal explanation at all costs. She’s especially effective in her monologues to the audience, savoring the precise phrasing of the words.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Staged and designed by artistic director Ricky J. Martinez, Agnes of God features a trio of strong South Florida performers: Pamela Roza as psychiatrist Martha Livingstone, Barbara Sloan as Mother Miriam Ruth and Christina Groom as Agnes, a novice nun accused of murdering her newborn baby. (Yes, you read that right.)
Martinez gets solid performances from all three women, but Roza has a tough time making Dr. Livingstone s back story compelling, Sloan can t disguise the ridiculous nature of some of the older nun s pronouncements, and Groom (who is clearly not the kid Agnes is meant to be) has a rough time with Agnes more unhinged speeches. She does, however, have a lovely singing voice that adds immeasurably to the production.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:'re going to see the soul of the writer and the actors and the essence of a well-written, well staged deeply moving performance.
Raise your arms high and give thanks to Ricky J. Martinez for casting Christina Groom, Pamela Roza and Barbara Sloan. These three pin you in your seat from lights up to lights down... John Pielmeier's script is tight and suspenseful, posing mystery after mystery in an ever building arc that gives Groom, Rosa and Sloan everything they need to remind us once again why we go to the theatre.
Pamela Rosa as the psychiatrist, Dr Livingstone, carries the bulk of the play. A world weary cynic whose life is changed forever by Agnes and the Mother Superior...
...Groom's Agnes, from innocent angel to raging, instantly aged depraved devil, is a woman of secrets, a sly manipulator and victim in more ways than one should imagine. All three actresses demonstrate great talent, range and stamina during the two hour evening. The scene where Agnes relives the birth of her child reaches a completely unexpected level of intensity and yet, somehow, that intensity is always there, start to finish throughout the play. Director Rick J. Martinez has excelled himself here.
If someone trots up to you in the next three weeks and asks where to find good theatre just point them over to New Theatre and their presentation of Agnes of God.
New Theatre's production of Agnes of God plays at The Roxy Performing Arts Center through February 17, 2013.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Slow Burn Theatre Company: Side Show (reviews)

Slow Burn Theatre Company opened its production of Side Show at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on February 1, 2013.
Based on the true story of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton who became stars during the Depression, Side Show is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip whose extraordinary bond brings them fame but denies them love. Nominated for four Tony awards, the show follows their progression from England to America, around the vaudeville circuit and to Hollywood on the eve of their appearance in the 1932 movie Freaks.
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that inlcluded Kaela Antolino, Courtney Poston, Matthew Korinko, Rick Peña, Jerel Brown, Conor Walton, Karen Chandler, Krissi Johnson, Lisa Kerstin Braun, Sabrina Lynn Gore, Alisha Todd, Justin Schneyer, Ben Solmor, Dan Carter, Michael Mena, Bruno and Faria.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There is more passion pouring off the stage in Slow Burn Theatre Company’s thrilling Side Show than in ten other musicals we’ve seen in the past year put together... a poignant, but very dark tale skillfully delivered, Side Show is a powerful example of what the modern musical can be.
Far from being a bizarre exploitation worthy of a tabloid, composer Henry Kreiger (Dreamgirls) and bookwriter/lyricist Bill Russell have created a heart-breaking depiction of how every human being searches for love – sometimes in vain.
... this choice by co-founders Korinko and director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater is downright courageous. It’s a title that only theater geeks have heard of and even fewer have actually seen because its Broadway run in 1997 didn’t last three months. And yet the opening night crowd was once again larger than previous ones. Slow Burn, like the late Florida Stage, is becoming a brand name for dependable work independent of whether anyone is familiar with the actual show.
This particular cast is blessed with vibrant soul-stirring voices, but several shows elsewhere this season can boast voices as impressive. The troupe’s virtue is a passionate commitment to acting through the music, exuding heartbreak and hope without overplaying the angst.
Among the high spots are duets by the sisters... These anthems of soaring melody lines and harmonies are carried to the rafters by Antolino and Poston like intertwining streams of silver liquid.
Equally mesmerizing is Korinko’s anguished solo “Private Conversation” in which Terry reveals that his pragmatic exterior is protective armor against feelings for Daisy that he is certain he cannot fulfill... Peña’s clarion voice struts through the vaudeville song and dance One Plus One Equals Three, which belies his growing concern that he cannot follow through on his proposal. Walton purloins the spotlight anytime his side show barker slithers across the stage with a muscular voice marinated in snideness. Even the ensemble is stronger than you find in many shows.
Fitzwater’s work, once again, is so smooth that almost no one will recognize the craft involved.  It’s easier to appreciate his eclectic choreography. With his leading ladies sitting still through much of the first act, he keeps his ensemble circling the twins. But once the women begin performing, Fitzwater finds modest but ingenious dance steps for them to do without seeming like contestants in a three-legged race.

How Slow Burn creates its evocative production values on such a tiny budget is baffling. Peña’s costumes range from the drab print dresses to tattered side show attire to sparkling Follies outfits. Ian T. Almeida’s set of canvas tent drapery and weather-beaten wooden slats are later covered (but never completely) by more elegant appointments of silken swaths. But the real triumph is Lance Blank’s artful lighting design that not only changes from scene to scene to create a different sense of place, but morphs with the emotional temperature changes within every scene.
...we’ve said it before: Every other musical theater producing house in Florida that prizes Carbonell Awards should be grateful that Slow Burn is so admirably cautious in its business plan that it doesn’t run enough performances to qualify for consideration. Because, frankly, they would blow most shows out of the water. Their productions like Side Show are a triumph of talent, intelligence and commitment.
Slow Burn Theatre Company presents Side Show at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater through February 10, 2013.

Palm Beach Dramaworks: A Raisin In The Sun (2 reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of A Raisin in the Sun on February 1, 2013.
Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play about black pride, racism and dreams.  In this powerful, classic drama, a substantial insurance payment could have life-changing consequences for a poor black family living on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s.
Seret Scott directed a cast that included Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Shirine Babb,Mekiel Benjamin, Pat Bowie, Kyle Barrett, Marckenson Charles, Lanardo Davis, Ethan Henry, Dave Hyland, Mcley LaFrance, Jordan Tisdale, and Joshua Valbrun.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
It starts slow, so slow that you fear it may never get going. Not boring, just eavesdropping on a domestic slice of life that isn’t inherently dramatic. In fact, it’s 45 minutes before the family banter and kitchen sink naturalism of Palm Beach Dramaworks’ A Raisin in the Sun finally gets the electrical jolt that a 21st Century audience is jonesing for.

But when they do come, the emotional wallops arrive in every deepening wave of gut-wrenching, heart-rending passion, arguably all the more potent for having emerged from such a quiet, prosaic run up.
Equally remarkable is that while this Raisin has superb performances by Pat Bowie as the matriarch Lena and Ethan Henry as Walter, Seret Scott has kept these protagonists life-sized, not self-conscious icons. The result is that this production is as much an ensemble piece about a family as we’ve ever seen it.
They rarely seem like actors delivering spotlighted moments from a script, even when the characters are scraping emotions out of their souls. We’re just peering through the fourth wall of their apartment into scenes of real life. And yet, almost contradictorily, Scott and her actors have somehow captured the near poetry of Hansberry’s stirring speeches plausibly emanating from the mouths of everyday people.
Scott deserves a good deal of credit for what we see, but she has also assembled a fine cast of local and out of town actors. Start with Ethan Henry who the last 12 months or so has gifted us with the corrupt drug counselor on The Motherf**ker With The Hat, the smooth attorney in Race, and the best performance last year that no one saw, the title character in M Ensemble’s King Hedley II. which won him a Carbonell nomination last month. Henry fulfills that promise with a multi-dimensional portrait of a decent but seriously flawed individual still searching for the fulfillment and even the definition of his manhood.
Audiences may remember Pat Bowie’s standout performance as the pragmatic mother in the Caldwell Theatre’s production of Doubt soon after it moved to its new building five years ago. The way Bowie just inhabits Lena is notable for the very fact that you rarely catch her acting.
Babb has the thankless role of Ruth who wonders if she can bring another child into this world and her damaged marriage. Babb makes you see that Ruth sees the child as much as a cause for fear as joy. The actress convincingly charts the spectrum from Ruth’s beaten down moments to her exultation at the prospect of escaping the rattrap of an apartment and all it represents.
Pratt does a solid job throughout, but something special happens when she sits stunned at the top of Act 3 after the money has vanished... in this scene, Pratt’s dreamer is nakedly consumed with despair and a terrible lack of faith in humanity.

Fortunately, to give her and the audience some hope, Hansberry and Scott have Marckenson Charles as Agasai to deliver Hansberry’s signature belief in the future. Charles has made a reputation with such roles as the aspiring writer in Superior Donuts at GableStage,.  Here, Charles takes the supporting role of Agasai and invests it with a heartfelt sincerity and earnestness that is moving.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Palm Beach Dramaworks has just opened its new production of Hansberry’s play, one that underscores the drama’s edge-of-your-seat timelessness. Staged by guest director Seret Scott, the show features a seamlessly blended cast of South Florida performers and other regional theater veterans, actors whose unifying quality is excellence. Anyone who loves a great production of a well-made play should seek it out.
Bowie and Henry are superb as a mother and son at odds, two people bound by love but certain their way is the best. Each delineates and illuminates the journey Lena and Walter Lee take, Bowie’s Lena coming to understand that some of her actions have mirrored what a crushing society has done to her son, Henry’s tormented Walter Lee finally stepping up for his family.

Babb’s stoic Ruth and Pratt’s free-spirited Beneatha are a study in contrasts, as are Jordan Tisdale’s George and Marckenson Charles’ Joseph Asagai.
The Dramaworks production is beautifully designed, from the set with its faded floral wallpaper to Brian O’Keefe’s just-right ‘50s costumes, Joseph P. Oshry’s lighting and Richard Szczublewski’s sound design, which ties together scenes with jazz that seems to warn of conflicts to come. with Death of a Salesman or The Glass Menagerie, a great production of A Raisin in the Sun — and that’s what you’ll find at Dramaworks — can move you just as much as the 1959 original did with its audiences back in the day.
A Raisin in the Sun plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through March 3, 2013.