Sunday, March 31, 2013

Palm Beach Dramaworks: Exit The King (6 reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of Ionesco's Exit The King on March 29, 2013.
An incompetent, 400-year-old king has just 90 minutes to live, but refuses to be convinced of his imminent demise or cede control in this absurdist comic romp.
William Hayes and Lynette Barkley directed a cast that included Jim Ballard, Claire Brownell, Elizabeth Dimon, Rob Donohoe, Colin McPhillamy, and Angie Radosh.

 Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Professional productions of absurdist plays are not quite as rare as snow in South Florida, but they’re pretty scarce. Palm Beach Dramaworks put together a highly praised production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs in 2008, and now it has returned to the work of that masterful playwright with Exit the King.
Director William Hayes and assistant director Lynette Barkley have put together a production that embraces broad comedy and dramatic jolts. Michael Amico’s set suggests regal digs gone to ruin, because the palace is as wrecked as the rest of the kingdom. Sound designer Matt Corey and lighting designer John Hall immeasurably enrich and define King Berenger’s world. Leslye Menshouse’s costumes underscore the production’s playfulness...
McPhillamy, whose Berenger roams the audience telling hoary jokes before the show begins, is complex and brilliant as a man who refuses to accept his inevitable end. His loss of power and reason are funny, then unsettling.
Radosh brings imperiousness and compassion to Marguerite, two qualities that are beyond Brownell’s Marie, a woman who is as childlike as her much older husband. Donohoe, Elizabeth Dimon’s bustling maid-nurse and Jim Ballard’s goofy guard deliver deft performances that underscore the production’s tone. Perhaps theater of the absurd isn’t done often in South Florida because artistic directors are afraid there’s scant appetite for it. But in staging this accessible Ionesco play, Hayes and Dramaworks have given theater fans yet another invaluable chance to watch the wondrous McPhillamy work his magic.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Artspaper:
Early on... as he shows us the little king for the bumbling Everyman he is, McPhillamy is only moderately amusing. It is when his curly carrot top turns white with age and fright that the actor comes into his own, with a towering performance that is profoundly touching. Whether or not director William Hayes consciously pulled back on the comedy in favor of the pathos, that is the result, and it is extremely effective.
...this is no one-man show. Angie Radosh is both regal and level-headed as Queen Marguerite, his first wife, who guides him expertly towards what lies beyond ― perhaps nothing...
Supporting players Elizabeth Dimon, as Berenger’s nurse, and Rob Donohoe as his doctor, scurry about, adding choice bits of comic business. So does Jim Ballard as the palace guard, though his armor cuts down on the scurrying.
Jan Sjostrom actually made it across the bridge to review for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Playwright Eugene Ionesco said he intended the play to be an apprenticeship in dying, and that’s an uncomfortable lesson to impart. Still, the show, as interpreted by director William Hayes, exerts a ghoulish fascination, and the truth of its message — don’t squander your life — is undeniable.
In an unabashed performance, McPhillamy exposes Berenger as an overgrown baby. Alternately, in one of the show’s many hairpin mood swings, he achieves almost Shakespearean heights when Berenger roams the aisles imploring the dead to advise him. Brownell’s Marie is delectably childish. Radosh’s Marguerite surprises, developing unexpected compassion late in the show when she guides Berenger to his end. Skillful use of lighting, special effects and sound dramatize the end-of-the-world setting.
Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for miamiartzine:
...for a theater company to take a chance on an absurdist play, they need to have the confidence to pull off such a feat, and an audience that is willing to go along for the ride. Such is the case with Palm Beach Dramaworks' presentation of Eugene Ionesco's Exit the King. From the direction by William Hayes assisted by Lynnette Barkley to the wonderfully over-the-top and narcissistic portrayal of King Berenger by the talented Colin McPhillamy, this is a production that shouts from its rooftop: "We're doing something out of the ordinary and damn you're gonna love it!" And, there is a lot to love...
The supporting actors to McPhillamy's wonderfully bigger-than-life portrayal need to be up to the task, and, indeed they are. Angie Rodosh plays Marguerite unsympathetically, keeping the icy queen under wraps until a beautifully delivered monologue at the end...
Claire Brownell as Queen Marie, in her Alice-in-Wonderland inspired garb, amps up the hysterics of the vapid trophy wife to hilarious comic effect, while Rob Donohoe's crazy Doctor delivers the icing on the cake in the absurd humor department.
Ballard's earnest telling of the King's accomplishments, from being the real author of Shakespeare's work to the inventor of the iPad (a modern tip obviously not written in the original script), is believably poignant.
The true star of the show, as well he needs to be, is McPhillamy, whose King Berenger is astonishingly layered. By the time the curtain falls, you're as rung out as McPhillamy; his mastery of creating an emotional rollercoaster is well worth the ride.
All in all, it is wholly satisfying to see challenging work rise to the top. This Exit the King reigns supreme.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The word hilarious rarely applies to a bleak unblinking play about mortality, but Palm Beach Dramawork s superb production of Eugene Ionesco s Exit The King earns it, along with profoundly thought-provoking and other accolades. Simply, it ranks among the best work that the company has mounted in its 13 seasons. Part Marx Brothers, part Existentialism, this reimagining of Ionesco s most accessible and linear absurdist play includes two tour de force performances by Colin McPhillamy and Angie Radosh, and endlessly inventive direction by William Hayes with Lynette Barkley.
For the first half of the play, Hayes and company thread a playful, wacky vibe that embraces physical comedy, likely hundreds of humorous touches and such farcical set pieces as characters chasing each other under a strobe light like the flickering images of a Keystone Kops short. This is as daffy a tone as Dramaworks has ever attempted and it fully succeeds.
...then an amazing transformation of tone occurs in the final scene a stunning combination of brilliant acting, writing and direction worth the entire evening. Berenger has physically been slipping into an inert state, but his mind and spirit refuse to succumb. In the performance that will stick with you long after the house lights come up, Radosh gently and with inestimable compassion for a flawed and frightened being, she guides Berenger s passage from life to death. Praising Radosh whose regal imperiousness and disapproval for her husband turns into such care, is actually backing into a crucial facet of this success: McPhillamy. McPhillamy creates a baggy pants clown whose bottomless bag of broad vaudevillian tricks makes palatable a king who is unredeemably selfish, self-centered, ineffectual, childish, petulant, even downright nasty a Sears catalogue of human failings. With befuddled squinty eyes, gaping mouth and elastic body language reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, McPhillamy conjures an Everyman who has undeservedly stumbled into the benefits of being king without accepting any of the responsibility.
The supporting cast is uniformly fine and each gets their own spotlit scene. A favorite has to be Ballard s stenatorian guard who takes an introspective moment to admiringly enumerate the very long list of Berenger s accomplishments, which range from inventing the wheelbarrow to being the real author of Shakespeare s works.
In a year in which there already has been an embarrassing wealth of don t-miss productions such as Other Desert Cities, All New People, In The Heights, Lungs and Sideshow, this one soars to close to the top of the list.
John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
When the show commences, it opens with the lightness of a game show, as multicolored spotlights wend around the stage to introduce the characters, dressed in ludicrous period garb from no particular period.

Don't be fooled: It's all false advertising. Dramaworks' Exit the King is about as funny as a heart attack or, more appropriately, as funny as the final death throes of a cancer patient in his last hours on Earth...
...there are obvious comic devices, mostly inserted by Rush and Armfeld in misguided attempts to inject levity into the proceedings. Ballard's guard has an annoying tendency to sing lines of dialogue like they're famous rock lyrics... McPhillamy engages in some exaggerated, silent-film-style mugging, but it doesn't suit him nearly as much as the show's dramatic core. I'm not alone here — aside from a few isolated pockets of nervous chuckles, the response that accompanied most attempted quips on opening night was that of the proverbial cricket.

I'm not sure if the show's absence of comic potency is a flaw in William Hayes' direction, but it ultimately doesn't matter, because as a drama, this production is masterful. For all his characters' impotent laugh lines, McPhillamy's performance is more rooted in Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief, touching all of them over the course of the show.
McPhillamy is backed by a perfect ensemble, with Dimon, Donahoe, Ballard, and Brownell offering flawless support. It's Radosh, though, who deserves singling out... We've seen Radosh surprise us again and again on the South Florida stage, and this remarkable turn is another revelation.
It's not often that a 100-minute play feels like a goddamned eternity — and it's even less often that such a statement is presented as praise rather than criticism. Despite its comedic veneer, if you're enjoying yourself too much, you're not really getting it.
 Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Exit The King through April 28, 2013.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Scene for March 29, 2013

The weather's been running hot and cold the last week or so in South Florida; literally.  It was in the 80's one day, plunging to the 40's the next.

But the theatre scene is nothing but smoking hot; we caught Janet Dacal filling in for Sarah Amengual in In The Heights at Actor's Playhouse; Janet was excellent, but so was the entire production, which played to a packed house on a Wednesday night. 

And there's star power to spare in Bare, the Musical, playing at Broward Center this weekend.  The cast includes Jodi Langel, who is nominated for a Carbonell for her performance in Next To Normal last year at Actors' Playhouse, as was musical director Eric Alsford.

Oh, and have we mentioned the Carbonell Awards Ceremony is Monday?  No fooling!  If you're not going to be there, keep an eye on our Twitter feed; we're going to try to post updates throughout the evening.

And we'll be at the after-party at Revolution Live, hosted once again by The South Florida Theatre League.  Yes, after two years of being crowded into The Green Room, the event is back in the space that is immortalized in the movie Rock of Ages.

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


Dreamchild Productions opens Bare, The Musical at Broward Center and closes Saturday.

Palm Beach Dramaworks
opens Ionesco's Exit the King this weekend.

you still haven't missed...

New Theatre offers Bird In The Hand, the latest in its Boomfrog! Series.

4000 Miles plays at GableStage through Aprll 14, 2013

Theatre at Arts Garage presents Lungs through April 12, 2013.

Actors' Playhouse presents a critically lauded production of In The Heights through April 7, 2013, and word is that tickets are selling like Piraguas in July.

Island City Stage presents Body Awareness at Empire Stage through April 7, 2013. It's been getting nice press. 

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

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

coming and going...

Bare, The Musical plays at The Broward Center through Saturday.  Check out reviews from their smaller 2010 production in the center's Abdo New River Room.

A new national tour of Jekyll & Hyde plays at The Kravis Center through Saturday.

Montana Rep' touring production of Biloxi Blues plays one night only, March 29 at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.

You would never know this from their homepage, but South Miami Dade Cultural Center offers Broadway Unplugged this weekend only.  But we found it.  Hm. 

last chance to see...

Miami Theatre Center offers Pie Solo through March 30.

If you find yourself in Key West, The Drowsy Chaperone plays at The Waterfront Playhouse through March 30.

community and conservatory...

The Last Romance plays at the Delray Beach Playhouse through April 7.

Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts offers You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown through April 14.

Neil Simon's The Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Andrews Living Arts Studio through March 24, 2013.

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

Lake Worth Playhouse
offers The Foreigner through March 17. And Palm Beach ArtsPaper liked it.  You don't see many reviews of community theater productions.

for kids...

Showtime Performing Arts presents Mulan through May 4.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21, 2013.

New Theatre: Bird In The Hand (reviews)

New Theatre opened its production of Jorge Ignacio Cortinas’ Bird in the Hand at the Roxy Performing Arts Center on March 22, 2013.
In this wry comedic play, an adolescent Felix recalls working summers at his father’s tropical-bird theme park in Miami, where imported flamingos serve as a metaphor for his feelings of entrapment, estrangement and disconnection. Through movement, video and sound, the birds played by actors help Felix reconstruct foggy and embellished memories of his past.
Ricky J. Martinez & Steven A. Chambers directed a cast that included Ivan R. Lopez, Gabriel Lose Bonilla, Michelle Antelo, Vanessa Thompson,Fidel Urbina, Sammantha Hernandez and Kristina Abreu.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
(a) melding of ludicrousness and loveliness echoes throughout Jorge Ignacio Cortinas’ tale of one young man recalling his last gasp of adolescence before graduating from high school into the real world of responsibility. Awash in an acerbic and intelligent drollery, it’s Holden Caulfield and Thomas Wolfe as reinterpreted by Carl Hiaasen.

Cortinas’ scattershot script is a little too unfocused and the earnest energetic performances don’t always ring true, but there’s undeniable wit, insight and even poetry in this scruffy entry in New Theatre’s  youth-oriented “Boomfrog” series...
Co-director Ricky J. Martinez and Steven A. Chambers have led the cast in finding Cortinas’ wry and wacky groove...  The script is a bit confusing and the actors are not seamlessly convincing throughout the entire play.  But thanks to Cortinas, Chambers and Martinez, Bird in the Hand is an intriguing little hoot.
Save some credit for Antoinette Baldwin’s costuming of those wacky flamingos and Amanda Sparehack’s fluid lighting.  And those flamingos are Fidel Urbina, Sammantha Hernandez and Kristina Abreu.
New Theatre presents Bird In The Hand at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through April 7, 2013.

Kravis Center: Jekyll & Hyde (reviews)

The national tour of Jekyll & Hyde opened at the Kravis Center on March 25, 2013.
After four years on Broadway and multiple world-wide tours, this dark and dangerous love story from Tony® and Grammy® Award nominee Frank Wildhorn returns in a stunning new pre-Broadway production that first grabbed audiences and transformed JEKYLL & HYDE into a theatrical phenomenon.
Jeff Calhoun directed a cast that featured Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Let’s get it out of the way: Shaggy Constantine Maroulis is far better than you expect in the title role of this Broadway-bound revival of Jekyll & Hyde ending its national tour at the Kravis Center – although that might not be saying much.

He’s totally miscast and is unlikely to get another Tony acting nomination as he did inexplicably for Rock of Ages. But he’s giving it his earnest all in the vocal division...
And second in the must-get-it-said department: R&B recording star Deborah Cox as the doomed prostitute Lucy steals the entire show right off the stage of the Kravis Center with a gorgeous voice perfectly suited to Frank Wildhorn’s pop opera score.
Director Jeff Calhoun, late of the introspective folk musical Newsies, has started out this version with some restraint as a theater piece that happens to have an addiction to power ballads. He and his design team have come up with a fresh visual style and some nice moments of staging...
But by the time the show has reached its penultimate two-faces-of-Eve showdown “Confrontation,” the whole thing has devolved into a screaming, unintelligible mess in which everything is way too much, from the wall of noise passing for words and music, to the pyrotechnic projections designed for a future arena tour, to whatever passes for acting.
Within Bricusse’s script and Wildhorn’s vision, J&H does harbor an innately exciting story, it does raise intriguing moral questions, and when done right, it should touch your heart with the tragic tale of a good man who lost his soul trying to better humanity’s lot. But this edition is simply trying to overwhelm you with vocal and visual spectacle.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
The 1990s creation, with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics and book by Leslie Bricusse, has been revamped to showcase the talents of rocker Constantine Maroulis in the title role and R&B singer Deborah Cox as Lucy, the prostitute who falls for Jekyll. As a result the show bowls along from one over-sized number to the other.

Admittedly, the strategy provides some megawatt moments, but ultimately the production sinks into sameness and bombast.
Maroulis fills the twin shoes of the hero and anti-hero with conviction. His transformation from the idealistic Jekyll to the malevolent Hyde is compelling, and he nimbly navigates the distance from introspective tunes such as Lost in the Darkness to full-out songs such as the raw-voiced Alive.

Cox makes a fetching Lucy, with her big, expressive voice invariably at ease, whether in come-hither mode, as in Bring On the Men, or wistfully lovelorn, as in Someone Like You. Teal Wicks, playing Emma, Jekyll’s unfortunate fiance, has a golden, seamless voice, but spoils her appeal when she affects a too plummy British accent in her spoken lines.
When Jekyll loses his moorings and degenerates into chaos, the show does, too.    It’s doubtful the audience needs flashing lights, booming music, fiery projections and distorted voices to appreciate the tragedy of Jekyll’s collapse. A lighter, brainier touch would have served Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale much better.
The national tour of Jekyll & Hyde plays at the Kravis Center through March 31, 2013.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, this is Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League with Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at what's being talked about in the national and international theatre community. I'm sorry to have missed last week, but I've been working on a really exciting new project for the South Florida Theatre League -- Get In Bed With the Arts, which will make it's debut at the Carbonell Awards and the Theatre League's After Party on Monday Night. So once you're done being envious of Betsy Graver's hat, be sure to take a picture in bed at the South Florida Theatre League's Carbonell After Party.

Happy World Theatre Day!

Today is World Theatre Day.

Thoughts on Season Selection

Howard Sherman asks why do so many regional theatres produce the same ten plays each year? He looks at the positive and negative parts of this issue, noting that the decline in tours of major productions of plays lead to this ecosystem.

Flexible Scheduling

The Guardian has a piece on why theatres and other cultural workplaces need to be smarter about flexible scheduling.
Our current culture promotes underpaid and overworked staff, relying on our passion for what we do. The return on this approach is a lack of workplace diversity. Poor financial rewards for risky leadership roles result in talent leaving the sector – or going freelance.
Why Feminism Is Important in Theatre

Velina Brown has a piece on Theatre Bay Area (the San Fransisco Bay equivalent to the South Florida Theatre League) on why feminism is still needed in theatre. I agree with all the points in this article, but the one that I think is most important is that we need feminism "because very talented women are leaving the field since there doesn’t appear to be a place for them."

There are people fighting the good fight, including Elissa Goetschius who is compiling a list of female directors across the country. South Florida is weird in that artistic directors direct their entire seasons (a practice that does not help us grow artistically and I think is financially short-sighted), but there are still some really wonderful local female directors. Join me in letting Elissa know who those folks are.

Digitizing 990s

Cinthia Ottinger takes a look at why digitizing 990s and having an aggregate of data on non-profits would be beneficial to the field.

Things I Wish I Had Been Told in Theatre School

Callam Rodya lists 32 things he wished he had been told in theatre school. All of them are pretty good advice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mondays are Dark

The season is moving right along here in South Florida.  We've had a taste of summer this past weekend with a blast of heat and humidity, but by week's end we'll be into the 40's overnight. 

A reminder, next Monday is the Carbonell Awards Ceremony at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and yes, there's an after-party at Club Revolution courtesy of the South Florida Theatre League.

Today's "dark" theatre is The Delray Beach Playhouse. This venerable community theatre has provided the artistic heart to Delray Beach since 1947.  Their current production is The Last Romance, which plays through April 7.

Movin' On Up
Florida Weekly reports that Kenneth Kay is joining the staff of The Plaza Theater as Director of Education and Outreach. 
“We are thrilled to add Kenneth to our team at The Plaza Theatre,” Mr. Jacobson said in a prepared statement. “He has extensive experience in prestigious theaters, building educational and outreach programs, and under his supervision we will be creating new programs that are both entertaining and enlightening, with an emphasis on exposing young people to topical issues that affect their peers.”
Kay is no stranger to South Florida theatre, or that space in particular.  He appeared frequently in plays at Florida Stage, the former occupant of the theater at Plaza Del Mar.  His first project will be a production of Sleepwalk, a William Mastrosimone play that deals with teen suicide.

They Shoulda Been Contenders
Florida Theater On Stage's Bill Hirschman offers up his list of people and plays that ought to be up for nominations for this year's Carbonell Awards, along with those who were nominated.  But he also makes this observation:
The surprise is that I’m hard pressed to find more than one nomination this year that makes me wonder what we were smoking in the judge’s nominating meeting – almost a world’s record. No one who wins will be a head-scratching embarrassment. Everyone who takes home one of the lovely bronze eggs will richly deserve it.
We've had a long run of unusually good theatre all across South Florida.  Everyone should be pleased.  And if you weren't nominated, and you think the awards are "just political" and that "it's all fixed,"  all we can do is quote Robert Anson Heinlein, who was not only way smarter than you, but way smarter than anyone you know:
"Of course the game is rigged!  But don't let that stop you; you can't win if you don't play."
We'll see you at the awards on April 1st.  But if we don't, we won't be surprised if you're overlooked next year, too.

Understudy Overkill
South Florida theaters have long produced shows lacking the proverbial safety net of having understudies for major roles.  Directors and stage managers have often ended up going on for sick or injured accidents.  Burt Reynolds famously went on stage with script in hand to read the part of a leading lady - to thunderous applause.

But it's rare for an actor in regional theater to be replaced by an actor who played the role on Broadway, especially when it's just for a few performances. 

But when Sarah Amengual took ill, it makes sense to call on another Miami actress who's not only played the role, but has performed at Actors' Playhouse a number of times.  Janet Dacal may have originated the role of Carla in the Broadway hit musical In The Heights, but her last turn in the show was as Nina.

The Drama Queen, Florida Theater On Stage, and Broadway World all jumped on the story, of course.  And you still have a chance to catch her performance on Wednesday.

A Moldy Oldie
TheatreFace goes over all those stage terms that some people find confusing.

Radio Active
Broadway World reports that Gordon McConnell will once again be directing a radio play with actors from the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and TheatreThe Third Man plays at The Mirror Ballroom on April 13, 2013.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Scene for March 22, 2013

Well, we've officially left winter behind; the calendar assures us that it is, in fact, spring. Whatever that means.  I guess it means that we're about two weeks until the Carbonell Awards ceremony at the Broward Center.

As you can see, it's another busy week on the Theatre Scene; there really is something for everyone out there.  Hot tickets for musicals include the final weekend of Thoroughly Modern Millie in Jupter, In The Heights at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables; not your thing?  If you want something more dramatic, try Lungs at the Theatre at Arts Garage, or 4000 Miles at GableStage.  Wanna laugh?  Brothers Beckett at the Arsht Center, or Waist Watchers, The Musical at the Plaza Theatre.  PLUS there's a plethora of community theatre and conservatory offerings to choose from.

Yep, we got plays from one end of South Florida to the other; get out and see something!

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


New Theatre opens Bird In The Hand, the latest in its Boomfrog! Series.

you still haven't missed...

4000 Miles plays at GableStage through Aprll 14, 2013

Theatre at Arts Garage presents Lungs through April 12, 2013.

Actors' Playhouse presents a critically lauded production of In The Heights through April 7, 2013, and word is that tickets are selling like Piraguas in July.

Island City Stage presents Body Awareness at Empire Stage through April 7, 2013. It's been getting nice press. 

Miami Theatre Center offers Pie Solo through March 30.

If you find yourself in Key West, The Drowsy Chaperone plays at The Waterfront Playhouse through March 30.

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

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

coming and going...

Fela! plays at the Arsht Center through Sunday.

Capitol Steps stops in at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center through Sunday.

A national tour of Biloxi Blues swings through The Crest Theater this weekend.

last chance to see...

The Maltz Jupiter Theater production of Thoroughly Modern Millie winds up its run this Sunday, March 24.

The Alliance Theatre Lab production of Brothers Beckett finishes its run at the Arsht Center through March 24, 2013. 

Jerry's Girls ends its run at the Broward Stage Door Theatre on March 24, and the critics say they've got it right.

community and conservatory...

The Last Romance plays at the Delray Beach Playhouse through April 7.

Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts offers You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown through April 14.

Neil Simon's The Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Andrews Living Arts Studio through March 24, 2013.

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

Lake Worth Playhouse
offers The Foreigner through March 17. And Palm Beach ArtsPaper liked it.  You don't see many reviews of community theater productions.

for kids...

Showtime Performing Arts presents Mulan through May 4.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21, 2013.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Today's "dark" theater is the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, which completely  sold-out the single performance of the national tour of A Chorus Line on Sunday.  It's run by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, which explains why it has a long and complicated name that doesn't turn into an acronym or something.  I guess we can call it "Smedcack" for short, until they come up with something less unwieldy. 

If you go to the "about us" section, you learn about the high-brow design, and the story between the "two sculptures" that look like someone cleaved the great-grandaddy of all Pet Rocks in half, but you won't learn how many seats are in any of the performance spaces in the building, or what its overall artistic mission is.  But it's sure bright and colorful.  And while we might tease them a bit, the fact is that they've been providing remarkably diverse programming for the residents of the far end of metro South Florida, who have been attending the Center in droves.  Even if they have the ugliest Main Rag in all of South Florida.

And now for your Monday reading list...

Not So Dark
Broadway World reports that Jan McArt's next entry in her play reading series is tonight.  You can catcher her in Champagne and Bosom Buddies - A Salute to Jerry Herman at Lynn University's Wold Performing Arts Center tonight at 7:30 pm.

Bigger and Better
BrowardNetOnline reports that the Broward Cultural Division has expanded its Arts Teacher of the Year program.
For 27 years the Broward County Arts Teacher of the Year Program has showcased the artistic excellence of students and faculty in  Broward County schools, by honoring one outstanding arts teacher each year for his/her contribution and dedication to arts in the classroom. This year, they will be honoring FOUR teachers and FOUR artistic disciplines AND this is also the first year that private schools have been invited to apply.
It's a great program, and we're glad to see it expanded to give more coverage.

MTC And The Golden Egg
The Drama Queen fills us in on Miami Children's Theater and its new summer camp at The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road.  Oh, and The Carbonell Awards!
The 37th annual Carbonell Awards, a.k.a. South Florida's "theater prom," are set for Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Read more here:
We hope to see you there.  Tuxes and/or evening gowns are optional; clothes, however, are not.

Success Story
Broadway World reports that Palm Beach Dramaworks raised over $18,000 for The Actors' Fund during their run of A Raisin In The Sun.  The fund has been serving the essential needs of artists since 1882. The critically acclaimed theater company will be raising money for its own needs at its annual gala this Friday, March 22nd.

Opening Tomorrow
The Miami Herald fills us in on Fela! opening tomorrow at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Just Over The Horizon
Florida Theater On Stage brings us up to date on New Theatre's Boomfrog series, and free readings coming up at FIU New Plays Festival.  And Playbill fills us in on Bare, The Musical, opening at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in a couple of weeks.
The cast of Broward's bare includes Chris McCabe as Peter, Jacob Aaron Cullum as Jason, Nicole Piro as Ivy, Mike Westrich as Matt, Jodie Langel (Les Misérables) as Claire, Mimi Jimenez (Rent national tour) as Sister Chantelle, singer-songwriter Ray Boltz as the Priest, David Tracy as Lucas and Marissa Rosen as Nadia — the role she performed at the Broward Center in 2010 — with Ric Ducosin, Lindsey Johr, Kali Rosendo, Laurence London and Angela Moorman.
-- Playbill
Jacks support a wall of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
In Coconut Grove, the Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed.  But The Coconut Grove Grapevine reveals Plan F; Florida International University suddenly wants to get involved.  The Miami Herald describes the 13 page proposal as "not yet full fleshed out."  It quotes Michael Spring, the county’s director of cultural affairs,as saying "It's not a deal; it's an idea."

Read more here:

We will caution everyone once again with the warning that there is only $20 million put aside for the Playhouse, and that isn't even enough to simply make the building safe to be in, given its current condition; the entire south wall is being held up by jacks. You might have noticed them cleverly concealed behind the unsightly plywood structure running along that side of the building.

In Palm Beach, The Shiny Sheet reports that Sterling Palm Beach has a signed letter of intent to lease the Royal Poinciana Playhouse to the National Arts Institute.
“We are enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing the performing arts back to the Royal Poinciana Playhouse,” said Chief Operating Officer Gregory Moross, who represented Sterling at the meeting. “It was a pleasure working with the prospective tenants, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
Does anyone have any details on the mystery party that reportedly bought the Hollywood Playhouse with the intention of doing plays there?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Throroughly Modern Millie (reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its production of Thoroughly Modern Millie on March 5, 2013.
A high-spirited musical romp that has all of New York dancing the Charleston, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the story of a small-town girl who travels to New York City to marry for money instead of love. Come relive the roaring 1920s in this Tony Award®-winning musical featuring jazz, thunderous tap dancing, frisky flappers and dashing leading men!
Mark S. Hoebee directed a cast that included Laurie Veldheer, Ashley Kate Adams, Brenda Braxton, Jeff Kready, Burke Moses, Lenora Nemetz,  and Amy Van Norstrand.

Theatre at Arts Garage: Lungs (3 reviews)

The Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of Duncan MacMillan's award-winning Lungs on March 15, 2013. 
The clock is ticking! What’s it going to be, the baby or the bomb?  Lungs tells the story of a couple contemplating having a child in a world of global anxiety and political unrest. If they over think it, they’ll never do it. But if they rush, it could be a disaster. What will be the first to destruct – the planet or the relationship?
Louis Tyrrell directed a cast that featured Cliff Burgess and Betsy Graver.

The Palm Beach ArtsPaper published their interview with MacMillan just before the show opened.

John Thomason
reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:

You've heard of theater in the round? Lungs is theater in the raw. Popular among adventurous, budget-conscious regional theaters, Duncan Macmillan's renegade dramedy features just two people on a bare stage, acting for 90 minutes. No set, no props, no pantomiming, no costume changes, no sound cues, no breaks... no theatrical crutches. The actors are fully clothed but emotionally naked. It makes Our Town look like Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Graver, Burgess, and director Lou Tyrell should be applauded for even attempting something so ambitious... When the actors meet the show's challenges, Lungs is as riveting as Macmillan's intent, and both of them handle the tough and jolting transitions through space and time with grace. There is no stage direction in the script, yet Tyrell keeps the action fluid, his directorial hand invisible (though it must be noted that Tyrell's almost imperceptible lighting cues, employed against the playwright's wishes, provide atmospheric support.
The problem is, with no onstage bells and whistles, the actors have to be unusually exceptional, because these are warts-and-all performances. And Graver manages to capture an endearing tone for her character only occasionally. Too often, she sounds abrasive. When she's saddled with the show's longest monologue, a virtually uninterrupted 786-word ramble, the result is exasperating and labored...
Burgess fares better, and you can sense the spark of inspiration in his eyes even when he's given nothing to say for extended stretches of the show — which is often. But he seems to be acting in a different play, resulting in a rough chemical imbalance. Graver's Woman is untethered so extremely from Burgess' perpetually grounded Man that it's a miracle they can ever get through a conversation, let alone an intimate evening or a night in the sack.
By the end, though, Macmillan has sunken his ship all by himself. Lungs follows a bell-curve trajectory of quality, ascending in depth and intelligence toward a perfect narrative apotheosis, the action of which I will not spoil. But after this key moment, it begins a slow and excruciating plunge of head-shaking plot twists and inelegant dialogue... If ever there were a modern play in desperate need of an editor, it's this one, to the extent that it begins to feel like we're watching a workshop draft prior to its inevitable trim.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Funny, moving, insightful and incisive, Lungs is a never-static kaleidoscope of ideas and emotions... director Louis Tyrrell and actors Betsy Graver and Cliff Burgess... have astonishingly found Macmillan’s quirky emotional groove, deciphered the sadistically difficult to comprehend script and mastered the broken field running rhythms in his dialogue.
The ability of Burgess, Graver and Tyrell to make such convoluted verbosity on the page sound on stage as effortless and smooth as a flowing fire hydrant is nothing short of miraculous.
One of the joys is watching Tyrrell’s staging. With only the subtlest of lighting changes (which Macmillan discouraged) Tyrrell has his actors convey the passage of time — minutes, months, even decades — simply by slight inflections in speech or changing body language.
Burgess deftly creates a deeply anxious man trying hard to be supportive of this wonderful creature, but who in fact does not quite know how and knows he doesn’t. Graver makes credible rather than laughable Eve’s concern for the world situation. She creates a woman who is a tiny bit goofy, but who is also unassailably genuine in her emotions. You can almost see feelings play on the outside of her skin like electrical arcs. Anyone who knows how theater is made will know that Tyrrell deserves significant credit for their performances, the pacing and the plumbing of the script for meaning.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Lungs is theater at its most stripped down and simple: two actors on a barren stage, no props, no costume changes, artful lighting and sound. But as the new production of Lungs by the Theatre at Arts Garage so vividly demonstrates, a minimalist production of a gloriously acted, astutely directed play trumps many a big Broadway hit for emotional impact.
Tyrrell, Graver and Burgess deliver Lungs with absolute, impressive clarity. Shifts in place, time or action are accomplished with changes in the actors’ positions onstage, alterations in vocal tone or looks that speak volumes, as when the two communicate sexual satisfaction after an impulsive romp in a public place.

Graver and Burgess, both nominees for the upcoming Carbonell Awards, do some of their finest work in Lungs. Theirs is a journey of hairpin emotional turns, highs and lows, and it requires a believable bond between the two, an intense connection these excellent actors convincingly deliver. Mapped out by Macmillan, guided and shaped by Tyrrell, the resonant and relatable journey through life in Lungs is a moving, intense and thought-provoking ride.
Theatre at Arts Garage presents Lungs through April 12, 2013.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Scene for March 15, 2013

The temperature's taking another plunge as we prepare this week's offering of plays.. wait, wasn't that last week?  But my thermometer... never mind.

We're only a few weeks from the Carbonell Awards ceremony at the Broward Center.  You don't have to wear a tux or evening gown. 
But many of us will be, and it may not be who you expect.  And that's
not even considering the more.. exotic... attire sported by some.

And no, we're not talking about the new Pope, who as far as we know will not be attending this year's ceremony.  But word is he might make the Coconut Grove Bed Race, with a special Vatican entry, complete with a plastic Jesus on the headboard.  Or so we hear.

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


The Theatre at Arts Garage opens Lungs, a new play by Duncan Macmillan.

Amy Herzog's 4,000 Miles opens this weekend at Gablestage. It plays through April 14.

Miami Theatre Center opens Pie Solo this Friday, through March 30.

you still haven't missed...

Actors' Playhouse presents a critically lauded production of In The Heights through April 7, 2013, and word is that tickets are selling like Piraguas in July.

The Maltz Jupiter Theater production of Thoroughly Modern Millie plays through March 24 - expect this one to sell out quick, too. Heck, we should just say that about every show that opens there and at

The Alliance Theatre Lab production of Brothers Beckett plays at the Arsht Center through March 24, 2013.  This one might already be sold out; we've heard rumors.

Island City Stage presents Body Awareness at Empire Stage through April 7, 2013. It's been getting nice press. 

Jerry's Girls plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through March 24, and the critics say they've got it right.

If you find yourself in Key West, The Drowsy Chaperone plays at The Waterfront Playhouse through March 30.

Waist Watchers the Musical has been packing them in at The Plaza Theatre - it's been extended through May 12!

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

coming and going...

Broward Center for the Performing Arts presents You Say Tomato; I say Shut Up! Thursday through Saturday in the Amaturo Theater.

The Pirates of Penzance plays the Parker Playhouse this Friday.

Wiesenthal: The Conscience of the Holocaust
plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center through Sunday.

The Capitol Steps plays at the Kravis Center through May 24.

The national tour of A Chorus Line plays the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center this Sunday only. Yes, that's in Cutler Ridge: they really needed that job, after all.

passing through...

The Broadway-bound national tour of Flashdance: The Musical winds it up at The Broward Center this March 17.  Oooh, Channel 10 has pictures! Nice.

last chance to see...

The Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of Chicago at the Willow Theater in Sugar Sands Park winds up its run this March 17, 2013.

community and conservatory...

Neil Simon's The Last of the Red Hot Lovers plays at the Andrews Living Arts Studio through March 24, 2013.

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

Lake Worth Playhouse
offers The Foreigner through March 17. And Palm Beach ArtsPaper liked it.  You don't see many reviews of community theater productions.

for kids...

Miami Children's Theater offers Gypsy through Saturday.

The Roxy Theatre Group presents Thoroughly Modern Millie through March 17.

Cinderella plays at Actors' Playhouse through March 21.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, I'm Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, and I'm here with Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at items of interest and discussions going on in the national and international theatre scene.

Time Sensitive Cool Stuff

Tomorrow March 14 at 5PM, NewPlay TV will be hosting Watch Me Work, where you can watch Suzan-Lori Parks work on a new play in the Public Theatre lobby via livestream.

And if you're on twitter, tomorrow's weekly Howl or HowlRound/#newplay discussion is on black theatre in the 21st century. Just jump on twitter March 14 at 2PM EST and check out the hashtag #newplay to join the discussion.

Video Game Shakespeare

The Statford Festival in Ontario is developing a video game to draw audiences. Players will find themselves staging a virtual scene from Romeo and Juliet, being able to change lights, costumes, and sound to create their own version.

The Importance of Being Mobile

Nicole Wallace writes on why non-profit's websites need to be able to be mobile phone friendly.

Social Media Campaigns

The Stage talks about successful social media campaigns and that the most vital cost involved is time.

Why Do We Distance Ourselves from Community Theatre and Entertainment?

Pete Miller continues his marketing series for 2amtheatre by asking if the way non-profit, professional theatres distance themselves from community theatre and being considered "mere entertainment" actually helping us build audiences?

Stage Door Theatre: Jerry's Girls (reviews)

. The Broward Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Jerry's Girls on March 1, 2013.
This Broadway hit features all the best Jerry Herman songs from such immortal musicals as Mame, Hello Dolly!, Milk and Honey, Mack and Mabel, A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine and  La Cage Aux Folles.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...Stage Door’s director/choreographer Jonathan Van Dyke has brought in six chanteuses to deliver Herman’s numbers with more belts than you’ll find in the leather booths at the Festival Flea Market.
As long as you have competent singers who invest some energy in their performances – and Stage Door does — there’s no way this show can fail; the material is simply that good.
Having six performers instead of the usual three gives the group numbers extra heft and gives Van Dyke a chance to move the ladies around in modest dance steps.
First among equals is Elizabeth Sackett who may have been the best thing about Stage Door’s recent Damn Yankees. Her renditions of the lilting “Ribbons Down My Back” from Dolly and the genial “Shalom” from Milk and Honey are warm and lyrical. Sarah Smith hits the back of the auditorium with her “Before The Parade Passes By” and “I Don’t Want to Know” from Dear World.
Erin Pittleman’s lovely “I Won’t Send Roses” makes you forget it was originally sung by the Mack Sennett character in Mack and Mabel. Amanda Kuchinski is equally good on “Time Heals Everything,” the song that Bernadette Peters nailed in the same show. Leah Sessa applies verve to everything she sings but is affecting in “Song on the Sand” from La Cage aux Folles. Bethany Wagner is cast with primarily comedy numbers including “Gooch’s Song.”  All have charming voices that are much stronger in the lower registers and tend to wander a bit in the higher reaches.
The most stunning part of the production is the costumes chosen by Dan Kelley. The ladies have a new cocktail dress or character outfit fornearly every scene. And when the first act ends with all six singing“Hello, Dolly!” each wears a unique floor-length red sequined gown.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Directed and choreographed by Jonathan Van Dyke, the Stage Door revue has exactly what it needs to succeed: six versatile performers with strong, lovely voices.
David Torres’ set provides the requisite Hello, Dolly! staircase... Costume designer Dan Kelley more than fulfills the task of bringing visual variety to the show by dressing the women in an ever-changing array of outfits... Those design elements, however, are really just packaging. What makes Stage Door’s Jerry’s Girls worth a listen are its performers.
Amanda Kuchinski shines on the soaring It Only Takes a Moment... and a gorgeous duet with Elizabeth Sackett on If He Walked Into My Life, then delivers an aching Time Heals Everything. Wagner takes the audience on a journey full of heartache, from a movie theater to a failed attempt at stardom, on Best in the World. Sackett finds the delicacy in Ribbons Down My Back and the myth-busting comedy in Nelson.

Erin Pittelman imbues I Won’t Send Roses with irony and melancholy, and sings a fierce I Am What I Am... Leah Sessa gets the beautiful Song on the Sand from La Cage, as well as the furious Wherever He Ain’t from Mack and Mabel. Sarah Smith impressively meets the acting and vocal challenges of Before the Parade Passes By, I Don’t Want To Know and Kiss Her Now.
Jerry's Girls plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through March 24, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alliance Theatre Lab: Brothers Beckett (23 reviews)

 The Alliance Theatre Lab opened its production of Brothers Beckett at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on March 7, 2013.  The company premiered the work at the Main Street Playhouse back in 2011.
Kevin Beckett, Yale alumnus, is awaiting the arrival of his beloved girlfriend named Tuesday, who will be spending a perfect week with him and his roommate/brother, Brad. When Kevin divulges to Brad that he plans on proposing, Brad tries to find any way possible to keep his brother from moving out of their bunk-bedded, pink-walled studio apartment.

A hilarious and irreverent riff on friendship, family, and adult boys who don't want to grow up, Brothers Beckett is a satirical portrait of slacker siblings laced with sharp banter and dark humor, written by Alliance Theater Lab's own Carbonell Award-nominated resident playwright, David Michael Sirois.
Adalberto Acevedo directed a cast that included David Michael Sirois, Gabe Hammad, Mark Della Ventura, Julie Daniels and Ashley Price.

Although it seems they've stopped reviewing shows, The Miami New Times published a good advance feature on the piece in February.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

This production of David Michael Sirois’ serio-comedy feels deeper and richer under the auspices of the Arsht Center’s Theater Up Close program to develop local art. Sirois has said that he only tweaked the script and the changes are nearly invisible.
...far from a retread, this edition has a freshness that might draw fans back to the work and certainly commends it to first-timers seeking a funny, insightful work of theater by, for and about a generation not a decade out of college trying to find its way in a Kelvin cold world.
Once again, the production is remarkable for the actors’ chemistry made evident by the unique banter among the four buds. Some of this is Sirois’ skill; Della Ventura showed the same talent last season in his play roomies. But it’s more than what’s on the page. Since Alliance’s rebirth a few years ago, Artstic Director Acevedo has gathered together actors and playwrights who were already friends or became friends, and who have created a working relationship that borders on an artists’ collective.
Since the play is tailor-made, the “acting” evaporates instantly. Sirois’ Brad is sardonic and taciturn with that kind of faux pouting that a lover uses to silently prevent their partner from going out with friends.

Hammad, one of the newcomers to the cast, slips on Kevin’s persona like the proverbial glove. Affable and earnest, Hammad’s verbal give and take with Brad persuades the audience that these two men have been sparring for two decades.

Della Ventura’s Doug is simply an inspired creation: a goofball savant who seems dimwitted about social niceties, but is surprisingly perceptive and empathetic about emotional matters.

Price is wonderfully uptight, an upper-crust denizen who is an easy target for Kevin’s taunts, but who is subconsciously mourning the half-realization that Beckett World has no place for her. Daniels is a fetching combination of enough seeming normality to function in the real world, but crippled by her own neuroses.

Inside the Arsht’s Carnival Studio Theater – six or seven times the size of Alliance’s digs in Miami Lakes — the set remains a delightful slobby playroom that has never seen a maid or a mother: walls painted in Pepto pink, dominated by a bunk bed with comic book sheets and strewn with revealing detritus thanks to set designer Jodi Dellaventura and prop mistress Anne Chamberlain.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...Brothers Beckett... got its world premiere in 2011 at the Miami Lakes-based Alliance Theatre Lab.

Scott Shiller, executive vice president at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, saw that production and thought that Sirois deserved a larger audience for his funny, observant play. So Brothers Beckett has finally made the move from the cozy Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes to the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht’s Ziff Ballet Opera House.

Coproduced by Alliance and the Arsht as part of the Theater Up Close series, Brothers Beckett has had its design scaled larger, three of five roles recast and some work done on the script. Happily, Sirois and director Adalberto J. Acevedo have delivered what Shiller intended: an insightful comedy about just how tough it can be to get going in life.
The actors, particularly Sirois and Della Ventura, work together with intricately timed ease. Hammad communicates Kevin’s yearning and greater focus, and he and the often-smirking Sirois are both connected and combative as siblings. Price is a bit less edgy as Tuesday, robbing the Kevin-Tuesday dynamic of some beneficial intensity, while Daniels makes the most of her character’s love affair with hand sanitizer. Della Ventura, whose Doug is a caring friend, a nut case and a recurring sight gag, pretty much gallops off with the show, earning the loudest applause and craziest cheers. Not that anyone, including his impressive pal Sirois, seems to mind.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:'s all so well written, directed and acted that this play, premiering first in Alliance Theatre Lab's small studio in Miami Lakes in 2011, has moved with barely a twitch to the big time of the Carnival Studio space.Adalberto J. Acevedo directed once again and, as is usual with his projects, all is smoothly natural.

You have to stand up and cheer for Sirois, not only for his acting, but also for his writing. What could be a door slamming sit com is anything but. It's hilarious, sure, but the quiet moments always ring true.

And if you're standing up for Sirois, you'd better be jumping on your chairs for Della Ventura. He's an actor, who, like Sirois, is a master of comic timing. But more than that, once you see him on stage you want to be his best friend. I guess that's called stage presence. A gift from the gods, indeed.
The Alliance Theatre Lab production of Brothers Beckett plays at the Arsht Center through March 24, 2013

Island City Stage: Body Awareness (2 reviews)

Island City Stage opened its production of Annie Baker's Body Awareness at Empire Stage on March 9, 2013.
Body Awareness was the 2009 Drama Desk Award winner for Best Play. As described by Nelson Pressley of The Washington Post, “Take a Vermont lesbian couple - Joyce, a high school cultural studies teacher, and Phyllis, a feminist academic -- and their 21- year-old son, Jared, who may have Asperger’s and who trawls the naughty stuff on the Internet. Add an extremely macho visiting artist named Frank Bonitatibus who photographs nude women and girls. Combine during a consciousness-raising “Body Awareness” week on Phyllis’s progressive campus (Shirley State College). Stir gently”
Michael Leeds directed a cast that featured Merry Jo Cortada, Janet Weakley, Clay Cartland, and David R. Gordon.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Fort Lauderdale’s Island City Stage has chosen Body Awareness as its newest co-production with Empire Stage. Though the play itself veers from interesting to odd and from baffling to insightful, the production is another winning effort from Island City and Empire.
Director Michael Leeds gets fine, rich performances from Janet Weakley and Merry Jo Cortada as Joyce and Phyllis, a lesbian couple in a small Vermont college town; Clay Cartland as Joyce’s smart, testy son Jared; and David R. Gordon as Frank, a visiting photographer whose images of nude women and girls are being displayed during the college’s Body Awareness Week.
Though Cartland’s interpretive choices are limited by the way Baker defines the character, his fiery, intense Jared is one more memorable portrait in the young actor’s gallery. Cortada captures Phyllis’ inflexibility and insecurity, while Weakley makes Joyce a battle-scarred nurturer. Gordon, unsettling as Frank doles out romantic advice to
Jared, keeps the audience guessing as to whether Frank is the exploitative creep of Phyllis’ imagination or an anything-goes artist.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This observer had trouble sussing out the cerebral depths that playwright Annie Baker intended in her quite funny meditation Body Awareness at the Island City Stage/Empire Stage production.

Fortunately, witty dialogue, intriguing performances and insightful guidance fromdirector Michael Leeds make for an entertaining evening if not a completely comprehensible or cohesive one.
But this production has elements worth seeing, starting with Baker’s real talent for snappy repartee which Leeds and his cast know how to deliver. Cortada, in particular, has a pronounced skill for firing off cutting rejoinders that will make the stoniest audience member chortle.
Similarly, Cartland’s comic timing is dead perfect as Jared’s total lack of understanding of social niceties allows him to speak harsh truths that are startling but hilarious. Cartland is wickedly accurate portraying Jared’s blithely hurtful pronouncements that barely mask his inner fear.
Weakley is adequate as the Joyce but she plays such a weak, wounded character susceptible to the whims of shallow vogues that she isn’t terribly believable. Her strongest scene comes when she is on the cusp of undressing for Frank’s camera, her discomfort both funny and touching.

Gordon, who owns the Empire Stage, fearlessly plays the self-involved artsy fathead for all he’s worth. You want to slap him sometime.
Island City Stage is to be commended, once again, for seeking out thoughtful and funny plays that mainstream theatergoers in South Florida are unfamiliar with. But even with proven talent like Leeds, Cortada and Cartland, it’s still striving to produce a thoroughly satisfying piece of theater.
Island City Stage presents Body Awareness at Empire Stage through April 7, 2013,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mondays are Dark

Today's "dark" theater is The Fillmore Miami Beach.  Originally built as the Miami Beach Auditorium, it was home to The Jackie Gleason Show, which taped in front of a live studio audience there from 1966 to 1970.  Morris Lapidus renovated and relaunched it later in the 1970s as The Miami Beach Theater of the Performing Arts, and it was a regular stop for national tours of Broadway shows.  The space was re-christened The Jackie Gleason Theater of Performing Arts in 1987, and the tours continued to stop there until the Adrienne Arsht Center opened.  Now run by LiveNation, it's mostly home to concerts. 

But on April 17, Mad Cat Theatre Company will perform Charming Acts of Misery in a space identified as "Backstage @ the Fillmore" as part of this year's South Beach Comedy Festival.  How sweet it is!

And now for your Monday reading list.

Movin' On Up
Former Florida Stage GM Nancy Barnett has just been named the new executive director of the National New Play Network. WE only have one problem with Florida Theater On Stage's story:
An actress as well as a business manager, Barnett was a founding company member of Florida Stage when it began in 1987 as a college-based troupe.
Well, no. Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches did PERFORM at a college. It premiered in 1987 with On the Verge at Palm Beach Community College's "Little Duncan" theater with a cast that featured Barnett, Lourelene Snedeker, Mellisa Hart, and Edgar Allan Poe IV (no, really!). None of these people were college students at the time.  And we're pretty sure they weren't on staff at the college either.

The Drama Queen described it a little better.
Nan Barnett, the theater professional whose business savvy helped grow Florida Stage from a college-based professional company to the country's largest regional theater devoted to new plays, has just been named the new executive director of the National New Play Network (NNPN).

Read more here:
That's a little better; and perhaps we're nitpicking, but in fact the company was based in Louis Tyrell's kitchen, at least at first. The Learning Stage started off producing original plays (primarily for children) at The Norton Gallery Auditorium in 1985. By the time Theater Club started its second season, it had take over the entire house.  Learning Stage was absorbed into the company entirely around the time Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches gave way to The Lois Pope Theater, the interim name of the company that became Florida Stage.  By the time the theater moved out of his house, he'd already moved out to larger diggs around the corner, where he and his wife hosted legendary Halloween Parties.

We've known Nancy Barnett for a long time, and as always, we're proud of her success.  Although frankly, we miss her performances on stage.  She was the best Rita in Educating Rita.

Miami Gets Blue
Broadway World reports that Blue Man Group will be among next season's offerings at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
"In order to create a touring version of our theatrical production, we knew we had a creative challenge to tackle," says Blue Man Group co-founder Philip Stanton. "We needed to find a way to transform theatres of all shapes and sizes into spaces in which the Blue Man can intimately connect with the audience, where the audience can become engaged with the spirit of the show and the Blue Man himself. We think we have finally figured it out, and hopefully we will accomplish our goal, which is always to help audience members reconnect with their own sense of wonder and discovery, with their own sense of what is possible in their lives."
The Arsht line-up also includes We Will Rock You, Elf, Once, Warhorse, and Evita.

From Blue to Black
HowlRound discusses the history and tradition of Black Theatre in America;
These are original stories, American dream stories, “I have a barn” stories, against all odds, “let’s start a theater” stories. Why should any brave soul be denied this freedom? If nothing else, what is remarkable is that these contemplations and queries document a wonderful tradition of discourse that stands as a vibrant reflection of the resilience of the African American artist in the American theater.
Lots of references cited in this one; it's the kind of article that can lead you into a whole new field of inquiry.  Good stuff.

Actors' Playhouse Gets Ruthless
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Actors' Playhouse has announced four of its six schedule productions for 2013-2014 season; Ruthless The Musical, Making God Laugh, End of the Rainbow, and the regional theater premiere of Monty Python's Spamalot.

Down, But Not Out
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Jack W. Jones is retiring as the organist and director of music for the Royal Poinciana Chapel.
Founding The Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches in 1979, Jones served as its director until 2010, when he retired. He is now director emeritus. He was the artistic director/pianist of the Florida Repertory Theater from 1984 to 1991, and also served as the pianist for some of the productions and training classes at the Burt Reynolds Theater in the 1980s and ‘90s. He has worked as artistic director/pianist and/or conductor for various theater and performing groups throughout the area.
As you can see, Dr. Jones liked to keep busy.  And while he's stepping down from his final full-time gig, he's not stepping out entirely:
Even though Jones is retiring from the chapel, he’s not retiring from the music profession. He said he would like to substitute as an organist for a church or churches in the Franklin area. He also would like to get involved with some musical theater groups and choirs performing Christmas programs.

“I could envision myself in another position as organist or director of music, but not with as busy a schedule as I’ve had at the chapel,” Jones said. “My life centers around music and its activities, and that’s what makes me happy.”
Best wishes, Jack! 

Florida Theater On Stage tells us about some new additions to its calendar; you've already missed Karen Stephens as Zora Neale Hurston at Actors' Rep, but you can still catch Weisenthal: The Conscience of the Holocaust starting Wednesday at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, the Palm Beach Dramaworks fundraiser on March 22, and Blue Man Group next year at the Arsht.

Five Years Eleven Years On
National Public Radio discusses the off-Broadway revival of The Last Five Years its composer and lyricist, Jason Robert Brown. It premiered off-Broadway in 2002.  This is actually a podcast, but there is a summary of the interview.

You may recall that Actors' Playhouse stage the regional premiere production of the 2 person musical.  It garnered 3 Carbonell Award nominations; Best Actor for Christopher Kent; Best Actress for Janet Dacal, and Best Musical Direction for Emmanuel Shvartzmann.  So who takes home the golden egg?  Come out on April 1 and find out!