Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Theatre: Not Ready for Prime Time (reviews)

new theaterNew Theatre opened its production of Not Ready for Prime Time on March 28, 2014.

Fall down this comedic "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll" anthemed rabbit's hole, back to the first five tumultuous years of America's funniest and most popular TV show - Saturday Night Live. Penned by the young and sexy local playwrighting team of Charles A. Sothers and Erik J. Rodriguez. Not Ready for Primetime bites into the twisted off-stage personalities, the steamy love affairs, the fights that fueled the Emmy Award-winning, funniest, and most dysfunctional late-night ensemble of Newman, Belushi, Curtin, Radner, Aykroyd, Murray, Morris, Chase and their ringmaster, creator Lorne Michaels.

Ricky J. Martinez directed a cast that included Jennifer Jill Lehr, Melissa Ann Hubicsak , Susie Taylor,  O’Neil Delapenha, Zack Myers, Luis Daniel Ettorre, Ivan R. Lopez, Danny Leonard, and David Samson.


Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:

New Theatre’s debut of the new, locally written work, Not Ready for Prime Time, has a way to go before it is actually ready for prime time. Kudos, however, to this theater company who has built a reputation on embracing new plays and playwrights. With a few more tweaks and an injection of depth, Not Ready for Prime Time could be a hit that has legs beyond South Florida.

The play, written by Erik J. Rodriguez, a student at Florida International University, and Charles A. Sothers, who has appeared as an actor at New Theatre, and debuts his first play, was embraced by New Theatre’s talented artistic director Ricky J. Martinez, who also directed Not Ready for Prime Time.  Martinez’s hand is evident in how the show moves in and out of the lives of the players, and to the on-stage dichotomy of the comedy troupe and their producer writing and starring in the demanding on-stage sketch comedy of SNL.

What’s missing from Not Ready lies in the writing — that three-dimensional, behind–the-scenes bio grit that this attempt calls for, but is lacking. The characters conjured by Rodriguez and Sothers never really feel the pain of drug abuse, the real angst of show biz backstabbing, divorce, sex addiction, women’s rights, getting-too-famous-too-fast — they merely talk about it.

The show does have some interesting bells and whistles built in. Michaels’ conveys the story from his P.O.V, however, in the second act, that’s stripped away from him and the cast has their turn to “tell it like it is” — this is a nice device. Studio Monitors Clara Hernandez, Erica Herrera, Christian Benabe, Wykeem and Randy Prophete appear every once in a while holding cardboard placards that signal the audience for “applause” or “ooos,” a nice touch that keeps the live studio audience ambience intact.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

The vibe radiating from New Theatre’s Not Ready for Primetime is a spirit of anarchic fun, a scrappy let’s-put-on-a-show aesthetic appropriate for a play about the early days of NBC’s late-night staple Saturday Night Live.

…the production contains an additional element that stirred pre-opening interest: Miami Marlins president David Samson is featured in the show’s meatiest role as Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

Not Ready for Primetime marks Samson’s stage debut in a full-length play...  As the sometime narrator and a driving character, Samson radiates a presence and confidence undoubtedly accrued from his day job. His speaking voice has a bit of a Michael Douglas timbre to it, and if his Lorne gets mired in repeated instances of ranting then relenting, that’s the writing, not the actor.

Director Ricky J. Martinez helped Rodriguez and Sothers transform their script from a collection of sketches into a full-fledged, behind-the-scenes play about how hungry young performers coped with the sudden fame that the 1975 show brought them. Carefully researched, Primetime explores backstage rivalries, hookups, drug use and, briefly, the frustration of the cast’s women at not getting a bigger piece of the writer-performer pie.

The playwrights and actors do get certain qualities of the originals... But audience members who watched Saturday Night Live in its first five years will have a harder time buying actors who feel like vaguely similar stand-ins for comedy legends.

Rey Dabalso wrote for Edge Miami:

It is an intriguing look at the Herculean effort it takes to get a live variety show on the air week after week while trying to balance egos, petty jealousies, drug addiction, and the monster that is fame. This ’behind the scenes’ look at what was to become one of the longest running shows in television history does have both its hits and its misses.

With one exception, the production features an incredibly talented cast that has no trouble whatsoever keeping up with the many characters and profound complexities required when portraying recognizable public figures (most of whom are considered comedy legends).

While his is a valiant effort, Samson is not a Thespian, and it shows. His delivery is forced and slow (the other actors seem to be waiting for him to deliver his lines) and his reactions are overly animated, formulaic, and child-like.

The rest of the cast is solid. Zack Myers brings John Belushi to life with both his physicality and the infamous raw emotion of the troubled but brilliant comedian who left us way too soon. Ivan Lopez…does Aykroyd justice; his accent, delivery and subtle comedic intellect are palpable throughout his performance.

Danny Leonard as Chevy Chase also does a magnificent job of physicalizing Chase’s legendary comedic timing (pratfalls and all). O’Neil Delapenha portrays… Garrett Morris, with a smoldering intensity perfectly indicative of the oft overlooked but superbly talented Morris.

Luis Daniel Ettorre dazzles as Bill Murray…

Jennifer Jill Lehr bares an eerie resemblance to Radner but her performance does not simply rely on her physical likeness; Lehr perfectly depicts Radner’s legendary characters…

Susie Taylor’s portrayal of Laraine Newman… is riveting and real in every sense of the term. Melissa Ann Hubicsak plays the much more practical Jane Curtin. Hubicsak had the least challenging of the roles, but she does bring an authenticity to Curtin that does not go unnoticed.

Despite the noticeably unpolished script and shaky performance by the main guest actor, it is still worth seeing. Strong performances by the ensemble cast, a little levity, and a little heartache, with a heavy dose of nostalgia, all somehow come together to form a relatively entertaining evening of theatre.


The New Theatre production of Not Ready for Prime Time plays through April 19, 2014.

Plaza Theatre: Dirty Blonde (reviews)

Plaza Theater AprilThe Plaza Theatre opened its production of Dirty Blonde on March 27, 2014.

A funny, bawdy hit in New York that combines transformations and drama with a fabulous dollop of show biz magic. Dirty Blonde is a multi-layered study of the nature of stardom, as experienced by one of its avatars and two adoring fans. Dirty Blonde finds the enduring substance in the smoke and mirrors of one actress’s stardom, allowing Mae West to shock and delight once again.

Winner! 2000 Theatre World Award Nominee! 2000 Tony Award for Best Play! “Hands down the best new American play of the season… Take off your hats, boys, Mae West is back on Broadway…” – New York Times

Beverly Blanchette directed a cast that featured Margot Moreland, Ken Clement, and Terry M. Cain.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

…Claudia Shear’s 2000 play Dirty Blonde about provocateur Mae West and her fans sees celebrity as a more complex symbiosis. It traps a star as much as it rewards her, and yet their manufactured personas can still inspire adoring acolytes to change their own lives.

The Plaza Theatre’s production is similarly a conundrum of contradiction – the cast delivers appealing performances, but the play never captures the sex symbol’s blissful bawdiness and nova-like life-force that has invigorated other editions.

The effort led by director Beverly Blanchette isn’t poorly executed, but the vicarious thrill of being in the presence of a truly uninhibited, nose-thumbing iconoclast is simply missing.

This is strange since the dual role of Mae West and one of her present day fans are portrayed by the wonderful Margot Moreland who, indeed, played the role to critical and popular acclaim in GableStage’s production in 2003. And she is ably supported by Ken Clement as another West fan (among other roles) and Terry M. Cain in a gallery of parts such as West’s jettisoned husband.

Still, Moreland deftly slips on West like a second skin without trying to do a drag show impersonation. She wriggles and coos and dances and sings a few songs. One strength of her performance is that her Mae West always comes across as a real person, even when Mae West is portraying “Mae West.”

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

You’ve got to pay attention to this play; Shear doesn’t write the obvious and the piece doesn’t really jump off the stage at first sight, but if you do follow all the time shifts and character changes you’re going to see some mighty fine performances from Margot Moreland, Ken Clement and Terry M. Cain.

Moreland has Mae West cold; she’s red hot and steaming with sex. She looks like her, moves like her and sounds and sings like her so frankly there’s much more to like when she and Clement and Cain are playing the bio bits. There are five song and dance numbers and I’d have loved to see more.

Dirty Blonde plays at The Plaza Theatre through April 13, 2014.

Island City Stage: Have I Got A Girl For You (reviews)

Island City StageThe Carbonell Award winning  Island City Stage opened its production of Have I Got A Girl For You on March 27, 2014.

How does a newly sober, gay musical theatre actor get his life back on track?  By running the largest female escort agency on the East Coast!  Have I Got A Girl For You tells the hilarious true story of Josh, the newest member of the oldest profession.

After a sold out run and extenstion in the New York International Fringe Festival, as well as winning the coveted TheatreMania Audience Favorite Award out of 189 shows, this comedy is making its world premiere right where the true story happened.

Michael Leeds directed a cast that included Mike Westrich, Larry Buzzeo, Christina Groom, and Shary Peoples.


Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Island City Stage may be a relative newcomer on the South Florida theater scene, but the artists at a company that isn’t quite two years old know what they’re doing.

Josh Mesnik’s Have I Got a Girl for You is as riotously funny as The Timekeepers was moving and serious. Star Mike Westrich, director Michael Leeds and sound designer David Hart were involved in both, but their work on each bears no resemblance, except for its high quality.

Mesnik’s writing is sharp, funny and loaded with musical theater references that provide an extra layer of laughs for those who know the genre.

Leeds keeps the pace flying through 90 intermission-free minutes, which means quite a workout for Groom (who plays all the working girls) and Larry Buzzeo (he portrays the johns and Gina’s cheated-on hubby). Both actors use Peter A. Lovello’s costumes, different accents and changes in their physicality to create an amusing array of characters.

The tall, curvy Peoples, dressed by Lovello in a kind of trashy-chic style, makes Gina the sort of egocentric comic monster who happily crushes the weak. Westrich’s Josh, however, is anything but weak.

The actor nails the character’s withering wit, take-charge calmness and engaging charm. It’s an irresistibly juicy role, one that Mesnik originated in the play’s only previous production at the New York International Fringe Festival. Under Leeds’ direction, Westrich makes a man with a unique post-rehab story thoroughly appealing.

JW Arnold reviewed for SFGN:

“Have I Got a Girl for You,” currently playing at Island City Stage, is simply one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in years.

Under Michael Leed’s fast-paced direction, the one-liners and witty repartee hit the audience like well-placed gut punches, eliciting endless cackles and screams throughout. One woman was brought to tears on opening night.

Mike Westrich is likeable as Josh and Sharyn Peoples is a hot mess as the manic madam, but Christina Groom and Larry Buzzeo steal the show playing a range of wacky whores and the jerky johns. Some of the funniest moments come as Groom is forced to instantly transform from one girl to the next.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

Mike Westrich plays Josh and if you’ve seen any of Westrich’s work in the last couple of years you know he’s got the magic touch. He’s a fast, funny and endearing schemer you shouldn’t trust with your grandma if you don’t want her on the streets at night.

Josh works for Gina, the agency owner, the blow-you-off-the-stage Sharyn Peoples. She’s big, brassy and delivers a line like she’s biting the heads off chickens.

Christina Groom plays hookers perfectly and that’s better than it sounds: Nine different obtainable girls in all stages of undress and wiggery and with the facility to switch from innocent to whore in a broken heart beat.

A great comic touch from Buzzeo wraps up an ensemble that had the house locked in laughter for the ninety minute one act.

Big cheers for director Michael Leeds. Have I Got a Girl For You rockets along, not a missed beat in the stream of gags, visual and verbal, making this a memorably satisfying and fun evening.

Clifford Cunningham wrote for Sun News Network:

Larry Buzzeo, who has performed for 20 years, was featured in four plays reviewed in this newspaper, and Mike Westrich appeared in another one, The Timekeepers.  These excellent male actors are joined in the play by two talented ladies of the stage, Christina Groom and Sharyn Peoples.

Two of the actors, Buzzeo and Groom, are called upon to portray a variety of characters… Both actors rise to the demanding challenges required to display a cast of characters with different accents (including Russian and French) and mannerisms. Buzzeo delivered a show-stopping performance as a guy reliving a wild sexual encounter with a prostitute.

Fresh from a bundle of wins at the Carbonnell Awards a few days ago, Island City Stage has another winner on its hands with this production.

  Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for  was sent by The Stunned-Senseless:

The show is a real audience-pleaser, super smart with humor laced with venom. And the quick-change/persona-morphing is virtuoso-level stuff. The story is based on the real-life experiences of Palm Aire-based playwright Josh Mesnik. It’s directed here with focus and discipline by Michael Leeds.

The Island City Stage production of Have I Got A Girl For You runs through April 21, 2014.

Stage Door Theatre: God of Isaac (reviews)

StageDoorThe Broward Stage Door Theater Company opened its production of God of Isaac on March 14, 2014.

"The God of Isaac" is at turns entertaining, hilarious, and ultimately thought-provoking. The comedy concerns the identity crisis of Isaac Adams, a young Jewish man attempting to find out what it means to be a Jew. From the author of "Beau Jest", the play deftly addresses issues of faith, commitment, and truth.
It is the longest running play in the history of Chicago's Victory Gardens, one of the most respected theatres in the country.

Dan Kelley directed a cast that included Patrick A. Wilkinson, Phyllis Spear, Tom Bengston, Christian Vandepas, Kelli Mohrbacher, and Rebecca Diaz.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

Isaac offers wry lampoons of pop culture to rib Judaism such as the backseat scene in the film of On The Waterfront in which the Brando character bemoans not pursuing his bar mitzvah: “I could have been a mensch instead of a goy, which is what I am.“ None of them are especially meaningful, but all are droll like an early Saturday Night Live skit.

The final lesson for Isaac is not especially shattering: Each person finds their own definition of being a Jew, and the object of life may be the questioning itself and the journey, not the arrival in the Promised Land…

Much of this works because director Dan Kelley, best known for outright comedies, has found Sherman’s difficult meld of humor and poignancy.

Kelley’s casting is especially solid, mostly newcomers to South Florida theater. Patrick A. Wilkinson plays Isaac with a stand-up comic’s attitude, a kind of Seinfeld vibe, but it doesn’t quite hide Isaac’s growing anxiety as the search takes over his life, even driving a wedge in his marriage. He exudes an energy and amiability that wins over the audience instantly and drives the play forward… He’s well-supported by Stage Door veteran Phyllis Spear as Isaac’s mother who sits in the audience, kvetching and kibitzing through her son’s play.

The God of Isaac intentionally indulges almost every cliché and meme of modern American Judaism, but Stage Door’s mounting delivers a production that also manages be thoughtful while entertaining.

Dale King reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:

Wilkinson acts as both narrator and performer, focusing the audience’s attention on the story while guiding them through the religious dearth that has muddied his life to date. It is a confident performance that rarely strays from the subject, even as Isaac deals with a series of interruptions from his meddlesome but loving mother, portrayed with much maternal panache by Phyllis Spear, who is sitting in the front row with the audience.

Among cast members, Spear is a seasoned pro who can deliver the goods from the stage or audience. Bengston, Diaz, Mohrbacher and Vandepas are top-drawer, well suited to their many roles.

Director Dan Kelley does yeoman duty keeping the action from spilling too far off the stage… The play is wonderfully entertaining, though a few segments are a bit sad. Overall, though, it’s a howl.

Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Stunned-Senseless:

You sit there, enjoying the heck out of a breezy production of “The God of Isaac,” but wondering when the pot will boil.  That’s the neat thing about this production at Coral Springs’ Broward Stage Door Theatre: it’s a quick-witted and clever comedy that puts its seriousness on such a slow, but steady, burn that you’re unaware of exactly when you began to feel the prickly heat.

It must help having such a strong script from James Sherman (“Beau Jest”) and such comedic-timing proficient direction from Dan Kelley.

God of Isaac plays at The Broward Stage Door Theater through April 20, 2014.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Scene for April 4, 2014.

Another month has passed; it’s April.  Spring is here!  Pretty soon the snowbirds return north, traffic will go from horrific to merely terrible, and the south Florida theatre season will come to an end.  Which doesn’t really mean that much, as most theaters now have summer programming for those of us who live here.

Here's all of the many shows playing on the scene this weekend:

The Wick Theatre presents Steel Magnolias  through May 4, 2014.  
The Broward Stage Door offers Over The River And Through The Woods through May 11, 2014.

you still haven't missed... 

The M-Ensemble's production of
Brothers of the Dust at The Miami Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through April 13.
Palm Beach Dramaworks offers Horton Foote's
Dividing The Estate through April 27.

Outré Theatre Company’s
production of Mr. Marmalade plays at the Mizner Park Cultural  Arts Center, through April 13.
Juan C. Sanchez's Paradise Motel plays at the Miami Theatre Center through April 12.
New Theatre offers Not Ready for Prime Time at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Ridge (yes, the New Theatre is opening a new play at its new space).
The Plaza Theatre presents Margot Moreland as Mae West in Dirty Blonde, through Aprul 13.
Island City Stage opens Have I Got A Girl for You, through April 27.
Slow Burn Theatre Company’s production of Chess plays at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater through April 5,  and then plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center the weekend of April 10 - 13.

GableStage presents The Mountaintop through April 13, 2014.

God of Isaac plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through April 23rd. 

last chance to see...
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre offers The King and I through April 6, 2014.
Zoetic Stage premieres Clark Gable Slept Here at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, through April 6.
The National Tour of  American Idiot is rocking out at the Broward Center until April 6th.  You should go have the time of your life.

Delray Beach Playhouse offers The Pajama Game through April 13.
The FAU Theatre Department presents Rhinoceros through April 13.
The Curtain Call Playhouse of Martin County presents Avenue Q at the Jensen Beach Performing Arts Center through April 13.

for kids...
Showtime Performing Arts Theater presents Sleeping Beauty through April 26, 2014.