Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Empire Stage: Jamaica Farewell (reviews)

jamaicaJamaica Farewell opened at Empire Stage on September 25, 2014.
Written and performed by Debra Ehrhardt and directed by Joel Zwick. Based on her true-life story, Ehrhardt chronicles her escape from revolution-torn Jamaica in the 1970’s to fulfill her lifelong dream of going to America. September 25 is a preview performance.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Jamaica Farewell — Debra Ehrhardt’s semi-autobiographical comedy about her emigration to America... is a gently funny chronicle of Ehrhardt’s perilous journey – perilous in that she entered the country smuggling one million dollars for her businessman boss trying to protect his fortune from the socio-political chaos that engulfed the island in the 1970s.
Ehrhardt is a lifelong storyteller brimming with winning charm and a high-pitched musical accent that combines an island lilt with a shade of Irish cadence sanded down by a decade and a half in America. More important, this is the actress’ third play. She knows how to construct a story and pepper it with a bottomless supply of well-crafted quips that could only be written and persuasively performed by a survivor.
Ehrhardt steps into the vocal and physical traits of about 20 characters in her Alice Through The Looking Glass odyssey. The roster encompasses a 90-year-old cab driver, a well-endowed whorehouse madam, a cross-eyed drunken rapist and a self-assured American spy. She does this with rum-smoothness, understandable since she’s done this show more than 500 times. The lithe and kinetic Ehrhardt is always in motion whether she’s racing around the tiny stage, or dancing or, to illustrate an invasive body search, bending over.
Under the humor and despite the refusal to mawkishly pull at the heartstrings, Jamaica Farewell is an off-beat reminder of what this country once told the world it was about and how it served as a dream so profound that people would do anything to simply get a shot at it.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Ehrhardt recounts the journey from her birthplace to a fresh start in America in Jamaica Farewell, a beguiling solo show she’s now performing at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage. This touring production is her third play, after Mango, Mango and Invisible Chairs, and whatever dramatic license she applied in turning her life into art pays off. Jamaica Farewell is funny, engaging and irresistible.
Jamaica Farewell is largely a warm-hearted look at a then-naïve young woman’s determination to live her version of the American dream. Ehrhardt, a luminous presence who has performed her play many times in many places, knows how to deliver a comic zinger (Jamaica Farewell is loaded with them) as well as making theatergoers share in more deeply emotional moments.
Ehrhardt has lived in the United States since making that long-ago journey from Montego Bay to Miami. But with Jamaica Farewell she demonstrates that a trip through time to a place called home is not just possible but most entertaining.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
There's a fine line between laughter and hysteria and Ehrhardt dances along it with marvelous precision. She's a funny woman with a terrific flair for becoming other people. Vocally, physically and exuding the inner spirits of her subjects, she becomes those who delight and those who terrify her as she struggles to escape her island.
The performance pitch is at a shattering level, the crowd roaring, Ehrhardt stomping, whirling, flinging herself from one character to the next, one moment the fear ridden girl, the next the Devil himself, her face the personification of evil.
Debra Ehrhardt is no beginner at one woman shows. Not only did she write Jamaica Farewell, filled with humor and passion and based on incidents in her own life but she also created the award winning Mango Mango and Invisible Chairs later optioned as a sitcom by Fox.
Empire Stage presents Jamaica Farewell through October 19, 2014.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mondays are Dark

Tra-la!  The new theatre season has begun!
Not only are more shows opening, but more stories about upcoming shows are showing up in our media feeds.

Here’s our pick of the litter for your Monday reading list:
Everybody Loves Lucy
South Florida native Euriamis Losada returns as Ricky Ricardo in the national tour of I Love Lucy Live On Stage, opening this week at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing ArtsThe Miami Herald spoke with the creators and Losada, and so did the The Sun-SentinelMiami ArtZine also has an article, but only has photos from a previous tour. (ed. - we were informed that there was no press conference, they all interviewed independently, and we amended this entry accordingly)
Broadway World reports that Broward Stage Door will be opening The Last Romance next week, and they’ve got a big gun to direct:
Arthur Whitelaw has been producing, directing, writing and acting for the past 61 years. His productions have won every major industry award including the Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Olivier, Evening Standard, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, etc. He has discovered many future stars starting with his first production, Best Foot Forward which introduced Liza Minnelli and Christopher Walken to the New York stage. Others include: Marvin Hamlich, Stephen Schwartz, Gary Burgoff, Blyth Danner, Paul Michael Glaser, Christen Chenowyth to name only a few.
Tearing Down The Fourth Wall
Florida Theater On Stage checks in on the production of Murder Ballad, opening next week at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater.
Actors Playhouse has ripped up some of its second floor balcony auditorium to reconfigure it. It will not be just a cockpit theater-in-the-round, but features tables and chairs cramming the main performing area like a nightclub.
You can find extensive photos of the work in progress here.
Let’s Do The Time Warp Again
Entr’Acte Theatrix is opening The Rocky Horror Show just in time for Halloween, according to Broadway World:
This is the second time Entr'Acte Theatrix will present The Rocky Horror Show at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts' Crest Theatre. Their 2012 production was so successful that when an encore presentation was suggested, it was a 'no brainer'!
Top Ten
American Theatre Magazine posts its list of the Top Ten Most Produced Plays of 2014-2015.  Several of them are on the calendar for local theaters, and few have already played South Florida.
Another Theater’s Season AnnouncedBroadway World reports that Island City Stage has announced its new season at Empire Stage.
Pondering The Cuban School
HowlRound offers some thoughts on Cuban Theater.
Despite profound decentering from its source, Cuban theater has had a consistent representation in Miami. Mirrored by a repertoire of embodied theatrical practices, Cuban theater constitutes an important system of knowing and transmitting knowledge about Cuban culture... Overall, the retention of the art form and the formation and maturity of Miami’s exiled actors has depended on the Cuban modern theater performed in exile.  
Theater in the Gardens
Broadway World posts the next season by KWP Productions at The Borland Center for Performing Arts, in Palm Beach Gardens. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Scene for September 28, 2014

It’s official: the summer has come to an end!  Of course, RAINY season still has a while to go.
A few more shows opening this week: but we warn you, the next two weeks is CRAZY for how many shows are opening.
Don’t forget that Conundrum Stages’ Ghost Light Series continues Tuesday at Empire Stage; this week, it’s Support Your Local Playwrights, and evening of of shorts, music, and poetry
Here’s what’s playing on The Scene this week:


Jamaica Farewell opens at Empire Stage, through October 19, 2014.


you still haven't missed...
GableStage presents its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons through October 19, 2014.
Microtheatre Miami is running its MicroTheatre Festival Wednesdays and Thursdays at the CCE Plaza through October 2, 2014.  See their website for playtimes in English.
Broward Stage Door’s production of What’s New Pussycat has been extended through October 19..

coming and going...
The Orphan Train plays at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts this Friday and Saturday only.

last chance to see...

Ground Up and Rising has reappeared on the scene with Dying City.  It winds up its run at Artistic Vibes  September 28.

Evening Star Production’'s The Subject Was Roses concludes its run at the Sol Children’s Theatre this Sunday, September 28, 2014,

community and conservatory...


Andrews Living Arts Studios presents Veronica’s Room through October 5, 2014.
The Crucible plays at Florida Atlantic University through September 28.


Florida International University opens An Ideal Husband, which plays through October 5.


Spring Awakening awakens at The Main Street Playhouse, through October 12.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GableStage: Mothers and Sons (5 reviews)

mothers_adGableStage opened its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons on September 20, 2014.
At turns funny and powerful, the play portrays a woman who pays an unexpected visit to the New York apartment of her late son's partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son. Values clash as they struggle to reconcile their vastly different worlds. A timely and provocative new work that explores our evolving understanding of family in today's world.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that featured Michael McKeever, Jeremiah Musgrove, Angie Radosh, and Gabe Sklar.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
What theater does better than any other art form is depict close-up the devastating pain when deep emotional wounds inflicted decades earlier are ripped open again… That’s what GableStage’s production of Terrence McNally’s script Mothers And Sons does even better than last spring’s world premiere on Broadway…
Everyone here is at the top of their game from Adler’s pitch perfect guidance to the paste-it-in-your-scrapbook performances of Angie Radosh, Michael McKeever and Jeremiah Musgrove.
Radosh’s absolutely outstanding performance is not better or worse than Daly’s but different…  Radosh alchemically makes us sympathize with Katharine’s loneliness and lack of connection even as we know she has inflicted much of it herself. We can see Katharine’s pain just below the carefully-applied makeup and tightly-controlled smile because the sorrow seeps out of Radosh’s eyes and echoes in her tight dry voice. That makes her angst credible as bits of her psychological backstory slip out in anguished revelations. The suffering that Daly successfully refused to expose is what Radosh so convincingly lets slip out of Katharine under the volcanic pressure of her interactions with Cal.
McKeever spends the first half exuding his trademark geniality as Cal’s natural politeness and compassion under pressure prevail over Cal’s banked anger and resentment at the woman he believes had emotionally blighted the man he loved. McKeever has shown this side of his acting skill set many times in light comedies. But as we saw last season in his concentration camp denizen in The Timekeepers, McKeever is an equally capable virtuoso at strategically pulling emotions out of his spleen.
Musgrove skillfully creates a 21st century denizen with an up-to-the-minute attitude. Musgrove’s Will sees no more reason to put up with homophobia any more than a black man would put with overt racism.
Young master Sklar is appropriately winsome in his non-judgmental directness and inquisitiveness that reflects a mental health we can only wish we could preserve as we get older.
Of course, these performances result in large part due to the emotional choreography of Adler at his best. He and his company have created a moving and illuminating evening writ large in letters of fiery pain and tear-stained regret.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The Tony Award-nominated Mothers and Sons, which was on Broadway just last spring, is now getting a fresh production at GableStage. Director Joseph Adler has sculpted a show that is at first dominated by guarded politeness, occasional jolts of comedy or absurdity, and a precisely controlled undercurrent of tension. But by the end of a 90-minute drama that grows in intensity, most in the audience are as deeply moved as McNally’s characters.
Radosh makes the tiny glimpses of vulnerability, the revealing moments when it’s clear how Katharine contributed to making her late life so empty, hit home.
McKeever’s innate warmth and likeability are a good fit for Cal. But working with Adler, he gets to a place of righteous fury that makes Cal someone who can pierce Katharine’s armor.
The appealing Musgrove makes the generational differences between Will and the 15-years-older Cal — and the differences in parenting styles — seem organic. And though Bud’s inquisitiveness includes plenty of awkward questions, Sklar is unfailingly sweet and adorable.
Mothers and Sons isn’t McNally’s best-ever play, but it’s another enlightening encapsulation of a moment in history. And at GableStage, it’s memorable theater.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
This is a one act history of the acceptance of gay life since the eighties. And perhaps this is why the whole thing seems familiar. The stories and the attitudes are not new; they can't be. But the strong performances of the actors do much to lessen the obviousness of a mother's grief, her belief that her son was not to blame for his own death, her bitterness at the unfairness of her unloved husband deserting her by dying, and the appalling knowledge of her own loneliness.
Radosh with her hooded stare is the complete pseudo grande dame. McKeever disappears completely into the deeply passionate Cal and relative new comer Musgrove is the well grounded, would be perfect husband and father.
Director Joseph Adler, despite the murmurings of "poor me" throughout the script, has delivered an intense piece, every sin exposed, every wish granted in a production that brought the opening night crowd to its feet.
John Thomason wrote for The Miami New Times:
Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, which opened last weekend at GableStage, is a profound inquiry into the human condition, delivered in a sweepingly emotional experience that fully justifies the art form. It's been far too long since I left an auditorium as teary, speechless, and physically affected. This production is why theater exists.
…Mothers and Sons is about the fact that times have changed even if people haven't. While McNally most obviously identifies with Cal and Will, he never demonizes Katharine for her regressive views, instead chipping away at the character until all of her emotional wounds are exposed.
Director Joseph Adler understands all of this, building McNally's lengthy, unbroken scene with the patience of an architect overseeing a building's construction one brick at a time. The performances of Radosh and McKeever are his towering accomplishment. McKeever dominates the first several pages of the script, but don't be surprised if your eyes spend more time on Radosh, overdressed-to-impress in a fur coat and sparkling brooch, her lips pursed, her eyes weary and judging. She at first seems to lack a reason to scream and cry at her overly polite host. It's a dynamic and beautifully restrained introduction, conveying a full worldview with a minimum of words.

Radosh and McKeever are at their finest when spilling forth their characters' guts and exposing their souls. They are consistently in the moment, never acting and always reacting. If we expect such immersion from Radosh, it's still something of a pleasant surprise (though it shouldn't be) that funny­man ­McKeever proves so capable of digging so deeply into a drama so powerful. Both actors' climactic breakthroughs are moving beyond words.
It's no accident that McNally pluralized the title of his play. It's not just about one mother and one son; it's about all of us.
J.W. Arnold wrote for South Florida Gay News:
Under Joseph Adler’s inspired direction, McNally’s emotional dialogue is perfectly paced and carefully avoids melodrama. Both Radosh and McKeever, Carbonell Award-winning actors, give powerful, yet nuanced performances that will certainly earn them more critical accolades and continue to draw tears from audiences.
Musgrove’s strong performance highlights the changing attitudes of a younger generation that is equally intolerant of intolerance and eager to engage “bigots.”
Adler and GableStage always offer thought provoking, high quality productions and “Mothers and Sons” is one of those “must see” shows of the fall theater season.
GableStage presents its production of Terence McNally’s Mothers and Sons through October 19, 2014.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Scene for September 19, 2014

It’s another slow September weekend, But we still got shows playing!
Don’t forget that Conundrum Stages’ Ghost Light Series continues Tuesday at Empire Stage; this week, they’re presenting a free reading of The Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams.
If you’re planning on seeing I Love Lucy Live On Stage at the Arsht Center, and you want to get a leg up on it, the Miami Herald reports that the Arsht is hosting a free community cocktail party from 9pm to 9pm Friday, September 19.
Here’s what’s playing on The Scene this week:

Mothers and Sons opens at GableStage this weekend, through October 19.

you still haven't missed...
Ground Up and Rising has reappeared on the scene with Dying City.  It plays at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on September 13th and 14th, then at Artistic Vibes  September 21-28.
Evening Star Productions presents The Subject Was Roses at the Sol Children’s Theatre through September 28, 2014,
Microtheatre Miami is running its MicroTheatre Festival Wednesdays and Thursdays at the CCE Plaza through October 2, 2014.  See their website for playtimes in English.
Broward Stage Door’s production of What’s New Pussycat has been extended through October 19..

last chance to see...
The Pigs Do Fly Productions production of Fifty Plus: A New Musical closes at Empire Stage on September 21, 2014

community and conservatory...

Lake Worth Playhouse presents Search and Destroy at the Stonzek Studio Theatre.
Andrews Living Arts Studios presents Veronica’s Room through October 5, 2014.
The Crucible plays at Florida Atlantic University through September 28.

Evening Star Productions: The Subject Was Roses (2 reviews)

SubjectWasRosesEvening Star Productions opened its production of The Subject Was Roses at the Sol Children’s Theatre on September 12, 2014,
A mother and father struggle for the love of their son, who has recently returned home after serving overseas, in Frank D. Gilroy's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning drama
Jeffrey Bruce directed a cast that included Alan Gerstel, Elli Murray, and Evan Gerstel.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The production directed by Jeffrey Bruce, a frequent actor in local theaters, underscores the insightful, pungent and well-constructed script. But the valiant effort leaves far too much crucial passion AWOL – all that antagonism barely stifled at first and then unleashed, causing irrevocable damage. It’s a kitchen sink drama, so perhaps they all feared being too volcanic or falsely operatic, but more is called for.
It’s not a ham-handed or dull production by any means; but the shortfall between what we hear in the script’s potential and what we see on stage is frustrating. Throughout, the trio of actors seem to play only what’s happening at the moment without communicating that everything said and done results from two decades of uncivil civil war.
Murray gives the most believable performance of someone whose pearl-wearing place in a traditional household is always to keep things together by keeping emotions under control. Her Nettie is genuinely overjoyed to have a chance to smother her son once again, but simultaneously sees the opportunity to use him as a tool against John.
Alan Gerstel, known as a television anchor and reporter in Palm Beach, has been in three supporting roles in musicals at The Wick Theatre down the road this past season. Physically, he is a perfect choice for John… But Gerstel is always acting a part. We never quite forget that we’re watching a play. His John just seems grumpy rather than deeply troubled.
Evan Gerstel… does a passable job at communicating Timmy’s discomfort and anxiety at returning between the jaws of the vise. But there is a distinct lack of intensity and fire that the role requires… his Timmy is a fuzzy, round-edged, even doughy character.
What Bruce and company do achieve is deftly depicting the slow disintegration of the shaky détente that the three have built and devoutly hope to maintain. They also make credible that a shred of diluted affection survives among them.
Despite all the welcome focus on new works in South Florida, Roses is part of a recent run of “period pieces” that remind us or deliver to a new audience a glimpse of what theatergoing used to be back – dare I say it – a half-century or so ago.
Evening Star is a young company that just produced a rollicking A Comedy Of Errors in its small theater where Sol Children’s Theatre is based and it will mount The Gin Game in February with Jim Gibbons. It’s a fledgling company worth watching in the future.
Hap Erstein wrote the first theater review that the Palm Beach Post has published in ages:
To understand why (The Subject was Roses) continues to be a mainstay of regional and stock companies 50 years after it first met audiences, visit Boca Raton’s humble storefront Evening Star Productions this month. There on view is an unexceptional but effective rendering of Gilroy’s autobiographical kitchen-table drama of a young World War II veteran returning to his Bronx home and seeing with adult eyes his parents and their loveless marriage.
At Evening Star, the three-member cast assembled by director Jeffrey Bruce never quite mines the subterranean emotions in the triangular tug-of-war, yet the story’s powerful cumulative impact remains evident.

Gerstel, a former local news anchor, projects John Cleary’s jovial salesman nature and manages his quick gear shifts to peevishness. In an intriguing casting move, Gerstel’s real-life son, Evan, attempts the role of Timmy, but seems ill-at-ease onstage, focusing his eyes on the ground or around the stage, rarely making contact with the other cast members. That might be an acting choice, but it comes across as discomfort.
Murray fulfills her role most completely, capturing Nettie’s stern manner and drawing audience empathy in an early morning monologue in which she ponders how her life might be different had she made other decisions.
Evening Star Productions presents The Subject Was Roses at the Sol Children’s Theatre through September 28, 2014,

Ground Up And Rising: Dying City (reviews)

dyingcityGround Up And Rising opened its production of Dying City at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on September 7, 2014. 
Christopher Shinn’s towering contemporary hit drama “Dying City”, an award winning meditation on bereavement, closure, and the amalgamation of contrasting philosophies on whether the perpetual search for power in interpersonal relationships is an inherently binding facet of humanity, or the symptomatic manifestations of unresolved traumas.The play is a dissection of the impact on society of the war in Iraq. When one man goes to war he leaves the city, his wife and his only sibling. A year later only the wife and brother remain. Amiability and politeness turn to examination and grasps at resolutions that may never come, changing their lives indelibly.
Colin Carmouze directed a cast that featured Christian Vandepas and Valentina Izarra.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The ultimate themes and intended resonances of Dying City dance just out of intellectual reach in Ground Up and Rising’s brave but flawed production, but the audience gets some reward sifting through the intriguing confusion as they seek graspable meaning.
This highly-acclaimed script is a complex labyrinth of mirrors that artistic director (and talented actor) Collin Carmouze never quite solves although he clearly is working hard to lead us through the maze. Not only are the characters lost, but the audience is as well much of the time.
The good news is that it gives audiences another chance to chart actor Christian Vandepas’ slow but steady emergence as an actor to watch… His Craig certainly has some classic (if not stereotypical) bubbly and fussy mannerisms, but Vandepas makes them organic and credible. His portrayal is so convincing that when he finally appears as the deeply troubled soldier Peter, it’s actually a bit of a shock that what we have seen of Craig has been acting. There’s a breakout role waiting for Vandepas somewhere.
Shin wrote a tougher challenge for Kelly. Izarra, who was admirable in Alliance Theatre Lab’s Savage In Limbo and Ground Up’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, has shown she needs some meaty emotion for her performances to succeed; she has difficulty investing an inner life when she is burdened with a mostly deadpan role like this one… Kelly is so shielded against her own feelings as well as interaction with the outside world that she comes off mostly as a sad brooder, especially compared to the extravagant Craig. As a result, her Kelly seems like she is just floating through the play. This may be faithful to the script, but it leaves Vandepas with not much to play off of
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Christopher Shinn’s Dying City is a challenging piece best watched while leaning forward, perched on the edge of the seat, mouth slightly agape and eyes squinted to catch every nuance skittering through a ninety minute message that all’s not right with a young war widow, her manly dead husband reappearing in flashbacks and her husband’s gay twin brother.
Izarra plays Kelly, the widow, with the resignation and quietness of bereavement that lends enthralling power to her story. Her rage and sorrow are real.
Vandenpas excels as both Peter the actor and his twin brother Craig the soldier.
Collin Carmouze directed and kept the pace such that the slowly fading afternoon light, the heat, the mosquitoes and noise of overhead airplanes could not distract from this performance of Dying City.
Ground Up And Rising present its production of Dying City at the Artistic Vibes on September 20-21, and 27-28, 2014. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pigs Do Fly Productions: 50 Plus: A New Attitude (reviews)

Pigs Do Fly September - On Stage copyPigs Do Fly Productions opened its production of Fifty Plus: A New Musical at Empire Stage on September 11, 2014.
Six BRAND NEW humorous short plays chosen to appeal to audiences of all ages, highlighting actors and characters over 50 as viable, fully involved, full of life individuals.
Beverly Blanchette, and Marj O’Neill-Butler directed a cast that included Troy Stanley, Adela Del Rio, Todd Caster, Elissa Solomon, Janet Weakley, and Kerry Sensenbach.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This edition is directed by Marj O’Neill-Butler and Beverly Blanchette who keep the evening moving smoothly, and they lightly butter the bread with nice touches like a man getting up stiffly from sitting too long, or a man using two different types of glasses with one hanging on a chain around his neck.

They have chosen a game repertory cast of Todd Caster, Elissa Solomon, Adela Del Rio, Janet Weakley, Kerry Sensenbach and Troy Stanley, all of whom are clearly of the appropriate age. Sometimes the sextet get material worthy of their variable abilities, sometimes their skill triumphs over less challenging material, sometimes they seem like amateurs auditioning for a sit-com.
As far as the six scripts culled from hundreds submitted, we have held forth many times about how deceptively difficult it is to write a satisfyingly funny or touching or funny/touching ten-minute play. These, at least, have a plot or character arc…  In keeping with the company’s commitment to avoid condescension to the target generations, sex or love figures in almost all of the playlets but pointedly avoiding lame jokes about Viagra. A common problem with most of them is that the narrative usually lolls around too long before staking out their premise and then going forward.
Buddhists in the Basement by Mary Beth Smith, directed by Blanchette, has a trend-obsessed wife (Del Rio) returning from a Buddhist retreat weekend with two wacked-out believers in tow... This one also would be in danger of falling flat if not for the energy of Stanley and the silly posturing antics of Caster and Solomon as choreographed by Blanchette.
Rainbow Sprinkles, by Stacey Lane and directed by O’Neill-Butler, has an uptight officious executive (Weakley) interviewing potential entertainers for her ten-year-old grandson’s birthday party… The script likely would not work but for the unbridled oil-and-water contrast provided by the actors (Weakley and Stanley) and O’Neill-Butler.
Your Kiss Is On My List by Christopher Lockheardt and directed by Blanchette, is the least farcical but oddly the most intriguing. A tired bespectacled business drone (Sensenbach) is waiting at a bus stop when a slightly younger woman with a sensual, playful Sophia Vergara voice (Del Rio) asks if he wants to kiss her... It’s an offbeat little piece that toys with the difference between physical pleasures and emotional love.
The evening saves perhaps the best for last. Sharon Goldner’s Mrs. Greenblatt’s Place In The Universe, directed by O’Neill-Butler, may not be a memorable piece of writing. But the director gets satisfying comic performances from the flinty byplay between Solomon and Weakley as a daughter and mother who have the same birthdate…  There is clearly affection and frustration between the two that will resonate with audiences.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Presented under the umbrella title Fifty Plus: A New Attitude!, the production features six actors in a half dozen plays. Most of the pieces are designed to be funny, some a little suggestive, others a bit edgy. The selections are plays, not sketch comedy, but some of the playwrights didn’t get the memo. More than one script ends with a surprise revelation or twist followed by a blackout. All that’s missing is a drummer delivering a rim shot.
The evening begins with Donald Steele’s Memoir, in which a former U.S. senator… is struggling to start his memoirs... Caster and Solomon are good actors, but they struggle as they try to sell Steele’s implausible conversation.
Mary Beth Smith’s Buddhists in the Basement spoofs older folks who bounce from one new “passion” to the next. Sadie (Adela Del Rio) returns from a week-long Buddhist retreat, much to the delight of her husband Joe (Troy Stanley), a big guy who’s fond of dropping f-bombs. He ups the pace when Sadie reveals that she’s come home with William (Caster) and Elizabeth (Solomon), a homeless Buddhist couple she intends to install in their basement. After more dickering, a twist comes, but this one is minor and predictable.
Rainbow Sprinkles by Stacey Lane seems simple enough, as a Type A businesswoman is trying to hire a clown to perform at her grandson’s 10th birthday party. But the playwright sends the piece into absurdist territory by making Miranda (Weakley) a control freak nut job whose notion of political correctness is ridiculous. As is the play. Poor Stanley, outfitted in full clown regalia as Rainbow Sprinkles, seems to deflate before our very eyes.
Christopher Lockheardt’s Your Kiss Is on My List is another oddity, a play about a woman (Del Rio) who seductively grants a stranger (Sensenbach) at a bus stop permission to kiss her. Turns out that’s her thing, kissing strangers and then ranking each kiss on a list. The guy is flummoxed but eventually complies, leaving him flustered and blustering
Mrs. Greenblatt’s Place in the Universe by Sharon Goldner features a senior citizen mom (Weakley) and her driven daughter Marcia (Solomon) meeting for lunch on their mutual birthday. The tightly wound Marcia can’t wait to get back to work, and she likes nothing, particularly the choice of restaurant and her mom’s new penchant for blurting out the word “vagina” at top volume. The piece devolves into a mother-daughter button-pushing session, with (you guessed it) yet another twist.
Directors Marj O-Neill-Butler and Beverly Blanchette keep the actors’ energy level high and each piece lively in its delivery. But given the plays’ less-than-artful writing and sketchy style, this time the pig fails to take off.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Miami ArtZine:
Tidbits and tasty morsels describe the mélange, with some of the shorts having more success than others. Yet, overall, A New Attitude is a worthy night of theater as a send off to summer and an ushering in of fall. The overall attitude carries a cohesive "last hurrah" vibe — carefree with not a lot of fuss and muss.
First up, Memoir, directed by O’Neill-Butler concerns a former D.C. senator (Caster) who has decided, in his retirement, to pen a memoir about his Inside the Beltway life… The short is thoughtful and the direction skilled as the two characters dart in and out of the truth and its consequences….
Any sketch that features Weakley is always drop-dead hilarious whether or not the script adds up. In Remote Control, she once again proves her comic timing as a cackling housewife who beckons her husband (Sensenbach) when technology gets the best of her.
Buddhists in the Basement is one of the weaker plays and it’s fall down is a combination of the script, its direction, and the players…. The premise is cute enough, but it plays more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a short play. Additionally, the ensemble, directed by Blanchette, seems a bit disconnected to one another in a script that calls for a team effort.
The play that picks things up after intermission is Rainbow Sprinkles, again featuring Weakley, who this time plays a politically correct businesswoman… Sprinkles is definitely the highlight of the evening with Stanley dressed as clown Rainbow Sprinkles (kudos to whoever created Rainbow Sprinkles’ clown makeup!).   Lane’s hilarious take on politically correctness being pushed too far takes on everything from Rainbow’s face painting… to the rainbow stickers that the clown wears as part of his makeup…
Your Kiss is on My List is a cute distraction…
The final offering is Mrs Greenblatt’s Place in the Universe, a commentary on mother-daughter relationships. Weakley as Mrs. Greenblatt shares the same birthday as her 50-year-old daughter, Marcia…  Solomon shows her acting skill here, really bringing the audience in to Marcia’s "been here, done this before" world, as Weakley plays up the narcissism that sometimes seeps in to senior moments after the children have left the nest. If there ever was a way to portray a character’s "it’s all about me now" in 10 short minutes, Weakley nails it.
Pigs Do Fly Productions has proven its muster with its short plays. Here’s hoping that they are in the process of searching for a long form play that suits their mission for their next outing.
The Pigs Do Fly Productions production of Fifty Plus: A New Musical plays at Empire Stage through September 21, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mondays are Dark

Things are starting to pick up a little bit; we know that a lot of companies are in rehearsal for shows that will be opening across South Florida in the next few weeks.
Here’s your Monday reading list:
Happy Tenth!
Conundrum Stages is now in its tenth season, and it’s celebrating with another edition of The Ghost Light Series of play readings.  You can read about it in Florida Theater On Stage, and the Sun-Sentinel interviews Conundrum’s founder and artistic director, Kevin Johnson.
Broadway comes to South Beach
Broadway World fills us in on the 2015 South Beach Broadway series at The Colony Theater.  Among the stars is Billy Porter, who played the voice of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors at Actors’ Playhouse back in 2002. He won the Tony award for his performance as Lola in Kinky Boots.
MTC Takes On The Classics
The Miami Herald reports that the Miami Theatre Center will be staging their own adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Geoge Axelrod’s The Seven Year Itch.  Their work on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard garnered much critical praise.
Actor Directs
The Palm Beach Post interviews local actor Jeffery Bruce, who directed The Subject Was Roses, which opened last week at Evening Star Productions.  The show features a face familiar to Palm Beachers:  it starts Alan Gerstel, who was an anchor on WPEC-TV not so long ago.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Scene for September 12, 2014

It’s another slow September weekend, But we still got shows playing!
We also want to make sure to let you know that Conundrum Stages’ Ghost Light Series starts Tuesday at Empire Stage; this week, they’re presenting a free reading of Gods of Vengeance by Donald Margulies.
If you happen to be attending the Gallery opening at the Bakehouse Art Complex this Friday, be sure to stop by the South Florida Theatre League offices on the second floor.  You can meet Executive Director Andie Arthur or the incoming President of the Board, Christopher Jahn, and learn more about the League.  There will be chocolate, while it lasts.
Here’s what’s playing on The Scene this week:

Pigs Do Fly Productions opens Fifty Plus – A New Attitude! at Empire Stage, through September 21, 2014.
Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All on Tidy Endings at Actors’ Rep in West Palm Beach, through Sunday.
Evening Star Productions opens The Subject Was Roses at Sol Theatre, through September 28.

you still haven't missed... 
Microtheatre Miami is running its MicroTheatre festival Wednesdays and Thursdays at the CCE Plaza through October 2, 2014.  See their website for playtimes in English.
Ground Up and Rising has reappeared on the scene with Dying City.  It plays at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on September 13th and 14th, then at Artistic Vibes  September 21-28.
Broward Stage Door presents What’s New Pussycat, through September 18.

last chance to see...
The Broward Stage Door Theatre production of  Butterflies are Free finishes its run on September 14.
Brice, Cantor and Jolson winds up its run at The Plaza Theater Cabaret this Sunday, September 14.

community and conservatory...

Lake Worth Playhouse presents Search and Destroy at the Stonzek Studio Theatre.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mondays are Dark

We’re in the post-summer lull here in South Florida.  Things are quiet while theatre companies and promoters plan their big-shebang capital-S-season kick-offs.

So not in the local news outlets this week.
But it’s promising to be a very busy season this year – we’ll be overflowing soon enough.  In the meantime, here’s your Monday reading list.
Not So Dark
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Plaza Theatre will be hosting a read through of Rough Patch tonight.  They discuss the project with director Avi Hoffman, and with playwright Charles Gluck, who has been developing the piece for a few years.

Speaking of New Pieces
Miami ArtZine talks with the Antiheroes Project about their current project under development, Nomadis.
The collaborators behind this project have envisioned an adaptable format for the presentation of the work in traditional and non-traditional venues. The piece features text in Spanish and English to appeal to South Florida’s diverse and multilingual audience, and the presentations will also include Spanish and English supertitles. Organizers have said that some of the presentations will have other programmatic accessibility components such as ASL interpretation, large print and Braille programs, touch tour, audio description and assisstive listening devices.
Casting Announced
BroadwayWorld reports that Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre has cast its first production of the coming season, Murder Ballad.  Blythe Gruda will be returning (Songs for a New World, Floyd Collins).  She will be joined by Chris Crawford, Mark Sanders, and Mariand Torres.
Two from Florida Theater On Stage
In honor of the coming season, Florida Theater On Stage discusses some exciting new performance spaces that are opening this season, and also lists their 15 Best Bets.  And you may be surprised at some the choices.
The Wick in the Spotlight
Boca Magazine takes a look at The Wick Theater, occupying the theater built by the late Caldwell Theatre Company.
In the Green Room
Florida Theater On Stage interviews Deborah Sherman.
Spend five minutes around Deb Sherman and one adjective becomes inescapable: passionate.
The award-winning actress, playwright, theater impressario and trained clown exudes an aura of intensity in virtually everything she does and says with bracing honestly.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Scene for September 5, 2014

Ah, the kids are back in school, and while the calendar says otherwise, we all know that summer is effectively over.  Sure, it’s still going to be hot and humid as only South Florida can get, but everything is starting to gear up for The Season, at least in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where the season still holds sway.
But in the meantime, this becomes the slowest part of the season for theater, the gap between the Summer Theatre Season and the regular Theatre Season.  No children’s shows (since the kids have to get back in the swing of school), and heck everyone’s in rehearsals for shows that will start opening at the end of September and the beginning of October.
But that doesn’t mean every theater is dark: here’s what’s playing on The Scene this week:

Microtheatre Miami is running its MicroTheatre festival Wednesdays and Thursdays at the CCE Plaza through October 2, 2014.  See their website for playtimes in English.
Ground Up and Rising has reappeared on the scene with Dying City.  It plays at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on September 7th, 13th and 14th, then at Artistic Vibes  September 21-28.

you still haven't missed...
The Broward Stage Door Theatre offers Butterflies are Free through September 14.
Brice, Cantor and Jolson plays at The Plaza Theater Cabaret through September 14.
Broward Stage Door presents What’s New Pussycat, through September 18.

last chance to see...
City Theatre and Island City Stage brings Shorts Gone Wild, a collection of 8 short plays with an LGBT spin, to Empire Stage through September 7.
Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Let My People Come, through September 6, 2014.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Broward Stage Door: What’s New Pussycat? (reviews)

Broward Stage Door Pussycat - On Stage copyBroward Stage Door Theatre opened its production of What’s New, Pussycat? on August 22, 2014.
ME 'cause OUR DAY WILL COME and we’re gonna be HAPPY TOGETHER.
How do I know…?
Michael Leeds and Kevin Black directed a cast that included Leah Sessa, Mike Westrich, Sara Ashley, Shane Tanner, Brandy Lee Ward and Clay Cartland.  Music Direction by Eric Alsford.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The secret of the highly improbable but undeniable success of the new ‘60s musical revue What’s New PussycatThe Soundtrack of an Era at Broward Stage Door is encapsulated in the second-to-last musical number.
The smooth solid voices of six performers are caressing the first familiar strains of “Moon River” when something happens. The canned background music stops and the singers, sitting on the edge of the stage, launch into a six-part a cappella harmony that is ineffably and ethereally lovely.
More important, the delicate intricate arrangement takes the overly-familiar classic and bends it just enough and the cast invests it with just enough genuine sentiment that the tune seems as fresh as the first time you heard it.

…there are many, many standout moments and they all benefit from the same sensibility envisioned by Michael Leeds and Kevin Black who conceived and directed this show. Perhaps because the entire cast wasn’t born when these songs were part of the fabric of Boomers’ lives, they bring an actors’ chops to interpreting these numbers as if they were new.
Stage Door has hired four of the best young voices in the region in Tanner, Cartland, Sessa and Westrich, and brought in two superb ringers, Ward and Ashley. It’s unfair to single out anyone, but Westrich just keeps getting better and better as he proves with his take on “Unchained Melody.”
The music is digital, much of it is taken from Kevin Black’s extensive library of pre-recorded music and karaoke discs, but most of them are passable professional tracks.
But under Alsford’s baton, the singers never sound less than first-rate…
Is this music for the ages actually worthy of such treatment? Boomers like me can’t judge fairly. This is the music we listened to in our middle and persisting adolescence. But there’s a bit of revenge here for our parents who watched us Boomers snicker while sitting through the songbook revues of their music for the past decade or two at Broward Stage Door. And 20 years from now, I expect we will be sitting in Stage Door listening to the nostalgic Bieber, Beyoncé and Backstreet Boys revue.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
…what matters most in a revue with barely a spoken word, of course, is assembling a cast of strong, versatile singers. What’s New Pussycat? is certainly blessed that way, with South Florida favorites Shane Tanner, Clay Cartland, Mike Westrich and Leah Sessa joined by Sara Ashley and Brandy Lee Ward. Working with musical director Eric Alsford, the six ably deliver the show’s wide-ranging goods, both individually and as an ensemble.
As with most revues without an elaborate set, the actors in What’s New Pussycat? change costumes a lot, and the women… are done up like beautiful birds from the fashionably swingin’ ‘60s.
Because the show is so well sung, the revue is fun for those born after the 1960s (the entire cast, for example) and for older seniors whose teens dug that music back when it was new. But it’s Boomers who are most likely to get their groove on with What’s New Pussycat?.

Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
The 1960s-era musical revue is enormously entertaining, visually vibrant and stylishly staged by Kevin Black and Michael Leeds. The dynamic duo conceived and directed the show first as a Bacharach homage, but then kept expanding it until they had covered the entire decade.

This cast has stagecraft bordering on witchcraft. It also has sincerity, which is just as important an element in a revue. It would all crumble under the weight of the sheer number of medleys if not for the sincere performances from Sara Ashley, Leah Sessa, Brandy Lee Ward, Clay Cartland, Shane Tanner and Mike Westrich. In this age of wailing vocal pyrotechnics, – we’re giving TV singing contests such as “The Voice” and “American Idol” some serious side-eye on that one – it is refreshing to hear singers relaxing and settling into rhythms, sitting in melodies with no straining. Instead of blasting, they caress.


The Broward Stage Door Theatre presents its production of What’s New, Pussycat? through September 28, 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mondays are Dark

Happy Labor Day!
It’s been a long hot summer here in South Florida.  But despite summer being the “off-season,” there isn’t a single weekend without  a show on stage somewhere.
You might have noticed our “new” old look.  After a lot of consideration – and people asking why there wasn’t stuff on the page that has been here all along – we’ve returned to our former template.   Everything is in view and easy to find.  But you may notice some strange formatting in some articles as we migrate back.
And now here’s your Monday reading list.

Photo by Gabriel Zenone, nipped from FacebookLabor of Love

While it IS Labor Day, and a national holiday, and a Monday, there is one theatre that is not actually dark.  Actors’ Playhouse is hosting the wedding of local actors Shane Tanner and Amy Miller BrennanThe Miami Herald tells us about a romance that could only happen in theatre.
Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Miller!

South Floridian On Tour

Florida Theater On Stage fills us in on the girl playing the title role in the national tour of Annie, which will be opening the Broward Center’s 2014-15 season on October 7.  Issie Swickle of Davie has been studying at Broadway Kids Studio.  You may recall that another BKS student, Kellie Kessling, took a star turn in Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy at the Broward Center back in July.  That Michelle Ameerally is doing something right.

South Florida Favorite  Steps In

Talley Sessions is not from South Florida, but he’s played here often.  Playbill reports that he’s joined the cast of Holiday Inn at the renowned Goodspeed Opera House.  You may be familiar with the Goodspeed: it’s where Annie was born.  Not South Florida enough for you?  OK, Karl Skylar Urban is also in the cast – you’d have seen him at GableStage in The Whale.  Of course, some of us are stuck remembering him as the title role in Stuart Little at Actors’ Playhouse because we’re old like that.

New Company In Town

Boca Mag reports that there’s a new theatre company in town – The Nicest Theatre Company
The Nicest Theatre Company—which actually derives its name from a portmanteau of its three founders’ first names, Nick Rapuano, Celine Boccia and Stephanie Suau—will launch the first show of its 2014-2015 season, “Cabaret,” this Friday at Showtime Performing Arts Theater in Boca Raton.
Who knew?

New Plays a Comin’

Florida Theater On Stage reports that Palm Beach Dramaworks is committing to developing new plays over the next few years.
…Hayes and Dramaworkshop chairman Mark Perlberg are certain the market for new work exists because a portion of their audience has told them so.
“One of the reasons our organization started so small is because we had to find that audience and build that audience,” Hayes said. As far back as when Dramaworks was mounting Albee plays in a small storefront, “people said we need to do this; we need some intellectual theater going on.”
If they do this even half as well as they’ve done everything else, we’re in for a treat.


The Royal Poinciana Playhouse remains closed.  The theater, which was shut down by its then-owner Clear Channel Communications in 2004, has been in the news once or twice, but the Palm Beach Daily News reports that the property is under new management.

Cooley said he hopes the new company will be more serious than Sterling has been about bringing the long-shuttered Royal Poinciana Playhouse back into operation. Sterling’s lease with the National Arts Institute to operate the Playhouse “was really nothing more than a stall tactic,” he said.

The NAI still has a valid lease, although we haven’t heard much from them since they signed it.