Saturday, July 20, 2013

Actors' Playhouse: Rated P for Parenthood (reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened its production of Rated P for Parenthood at The Miracle Theater on July 10, 2013.
Rated P for Parenthood is a new musical revue chronicling the 21st century joys and frustrations of raising children, from bleary-eyed late night feedings and private school kindergarten interviews, to nail-biting driving lessons and prom night. Whether in the midst of those parenting years or if those days are a distant memory, Rated P for Parenthood is sure to touch a chord with audience members of all ages, eliciting chuckles of recognition and maybe even a tear or two of remembrance.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Jim Ballard, Henry Gainza, Amy Miller Brennan and Julie Kleiner, with musical direction by Manny Schvartzman.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
I was in such a rotten mood Friday night that cartoon thunderclouds circled overhead...within minutes of the opening of Actors Playhouse’s sweet and silly vaudeville of skits and songs, I realized I was grinning, then chuckling and then laughing out loud.
This entry is a little stronger and more polished than most of these summer throwaways because the script by Sandy Rustin goes a step beyond the required scenes of teaching a kid to drive or facing a huge orthodonture bill. She throws some mildly inventive curve balls such as two gay dads trying to cope with their triplet sons simultaneously entering puberty by seeking out naked breasts on the Internet.
What makes this work at all is the enthusiastic, uninhibited performances by Amy Miller Brennan, Henry Gainza, Julie Kleiner and Jim Ballard playing a multitude of disparate characters under the inspired direction of David Arisco. All five have worked together before and their trapeze work here is enhanced by a palpable chemistry.
...Brennan is best known for her gorgeous soprano in musicals like Oliver and Joseph and the Amazing You Know What, so it’s a revelation to see her strut her well-honed comedy chops.
Any parent or former teenager for that matter will recognize Ballard as the manly father trying to keep cool as his lovely daughter prepares to leave for prom night. Kleiner morphs effortlessly from a concerned parent in one scene to your standard rebellious teen a few seconds later. Gainza tries to sidestep explaining to his young daughter what was really going on when a friend saw “Dad doing push-ups on top of Mom.”
 Civilians may not be able to identify precisely what Arisco does other than keep this intermissionless evening sliding by as smoothly as a baby’s bottom. But regular patrons of Actors Playhouse will recognize his style that blends in scores, probably of hundreds of little bits of comedy  — a tilt of the head, a double take, the timing of a line — that elevate the laugh level. His staging of the musical numbers is so fluid that you’ll look in vain for a choreographer’s credit in the program.
Don’t expect too much from the last show in the Playhouse’s 25th season.  It is no more than it wants to be: a less-than-challenging diversion. But it sure dispelled those thunderclouds.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Arisco, whose direction is smart and comically adroit without going over the top, made his smartest decisions in the casting process...
Ballard and Gainza strut their versatility... Miller Brennan and Kleiner are just as adept at embodying a broad range of characters.
Naturally, parents will dig the resonant situations in Rated P for Parenthood, but those who are childless by choice or chance can enjoy it too. This is one summer musical revue that should be rated G for “gem.” 
 Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Get by the awkward title: Rated P For Parenthood, and you'll find four terrific actors playing a cast of thousands in a funny, good natured and ultimately charming musical.
Each of the actors gets moments and it's a wonderful thing to discover the truly comic chops on stage. See Jim Ballard, the hunky soccer coach, with Amy Miller Brennan and Julie Kleiner drooling over his attributes. And as a distraught father on prom night, and a gay father with partner Henry Gainza as they worry about their triplet sons obsessing over breasts. Amy Miller Brennan gives birth with the delightfully graphic Push It On Out, and she's a nervous mom trying to get her child into a far too exclusive school. She suffers hilariously with her son at the wheel of their car. Henry Gainza takes hip hopping to a new level at the PTA and he's the gay father getting it that his sons may be straight. With his ditsy wife, Julie Kleiner, they embarrass their daughter at her first job. Kleiner gets a tad upset that her “hoo hah” is showing on social media, and she's the wonderfully slithering teenager with a condom. And these four can sing. And move. Oh, boy.
Directed at rocket pace by David Arisco with musical direction by Manny Schvartzman, Parenthood never stumbles as it covers partum to prom with wit, understanding and high five performances.
Actors' Playhouse presents Rated P for Parenthood through August 11, 2013.

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