Friday, December 11, 2009

Millbrook "The Homecoming"

The Millbrook Community Players, now in their second year and settling into their new home, are currently showing "The Homecoming", Earl Hamner's touching story adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel, and made familiar to television audiences as the basis for "The Waltons".

Joe Nolin, Jr. directs the production's large cast of veteran and novice actors from the local community. Although some of the staging appears static and cumbersome (moving some 28 actors around a small stage is no easy task), and there is some difficulty in characterization and vocal projection, the play's themes and messages for the Christmas season ring true.

Set on and around Spencer's Mountain in rural Virginia during the Great Depression, the story is a reminiscence of its narrator and central character Clay Boy [Daniel Harms], the eldest of the eight red-haired children of Olivia [Christine Lamar] and Clay [John Collier]. -- On Christmas Eve, with a blizzard paralyzing the community, Clay delayed on his return home from his job some 40 miles away, and only two-dollars remaining in their hands to celebrate Christmas, the family discover that they are rich in many ways despite their poverty.

Clay Boy's truthful accounts of his family -- flaws and all -- are his means to this discovery. Although he loves and admires his stern father, Clay Boy does not want to follow in his footsteps; rather, he wants to be a writer -- a profession his father bruskly dismisses -- and feels that his father does not understand him. His sister Becky [Katie Moore] throws tantrums at the slightest provocation (a sign of her frustrated adloescence); the younger sister Pattie Cake [Gracie Moore] wants desperately to believe in Santa Claus; and his mother is concerned for her husband's safety and her brood's happiness.

Resistant to accepting the charity of their neighbors, the family are nonetheless impacted by everyone around them: the simple friend Birdshot [Cory Jackson], the City Lady [Victoria Martin] who distributes hand-me-down gifts to the poor, the Rev. Dooly [D. C. Conyer] who guides his flock and Clay Boy with unaffected messages of the Christmas season, and most especially the Staples sisters [Kathleen McPherson and Ginger Collum] whose kindness belies their reputation for selling bootleg liquor.

Though Clay Boy's grandparents [Fred Neighbors and Gail Lombard] offer some practical advice, he must find out for himself that things aren't always what they seem, and it is the simple things that matter most: the homemade ornaments for their Christmas tree, the lovingly hand-made clothes from his mother, the gift of a turkey for their holiday dinner, the bonds of family that transcend poverty, and most of all his father's respect.

Monday, December 7, 2009

State of Alabama: ACT Awards

The Alabama Conference of Theatre presented its top three awards at a ceremony at Troy University on Saturday, December 5, 2009, in conjunction with the "Trumbauer" Festival.

The Outstanding Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award: Connie Voight, The Randolph School

The Marian Gallaway Award for contributions to theatre in the State: Chris Rich, Troy University

The Hall of Fame Award for pioneer service & contributions to Alabama Theatre: Michael P. Howley, Alabama State University.

"Trumbauer" Results

The results are in. -- The annual ACT "Trumabuer" Secondary School Festival was held this past weekend at Troy University. -- Individual awards were earned in numerous categories of acting, design, and other theatre areas.

In the "One-Act Play" competition, two schools earned the right to represent the State of Alabama next March at the Southeastern Theatre Conference's annual convention in Lexington, KY.

Kudos to:
(1) Huntsville High School -- "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
(2) Spain Park High School -- "Jedem das Seine"

ASF "A Christmas Story"

-- "What do you want for Christmas?"
-- "..a legendary official Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action range model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built into the stock."
-- "You'll shoot your eye out!"

These lines are repeated frequently in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's delightful production of Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" adapted for the stage by Philip Grecian, and brought to life under Geoffrey Sherman's clever direction by a company of professional actors and local students recruited from many Montgomery schools.

Anyone who has seen the television movie version -- and there were plenty in the audience for its sold out opening performance -- anticipates this dialogue and many of the signal moments in the life of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker: his imaginative adventures as a cowboy, his school friends and the local bully, the friend who gets his tongue stuck to an icy lamppost, the delivery of a leg lamp, an outrageous pink bunny pajama set, the unchanging meat-loaf and red cabbage dinner, and numerous exploits and anticipation on the way to Christmas morning's opening of presents.

And we see all of this through the lens of the grown up Ralphie reminiscing on his childhood in Depression Era Indiana, as he vividly conjurs his family, friends, teachers, and local characters for us to see...but more on this later.

The young student ensemble is top notch: from Hailey Covington's unnerving depiction of Helen -- the science wiz who can also fight like a boy; to MaryKathryn Samelson as Ralphie's younger brother Randy who always "has to go wee-wee" and hides in the most unlikely places; to Jackson Massey's bully, Scut Farcas, who gets his comeuppance in right good fashion; to Riley Segars' portrayal of Flick -- the bully's victim; to Claudia Hubbard's always patient Esther Jane, and to Schwartz [Nathan Looney], Sarah [Helen Taylor], and Bob [Matthew Sailors] who participate fully in each scene.

But attention must be paid to Seth Meriwether as Ralphie. No stranger to the ASF stage [he has appeared in "A Christmas Carol: the Musical", and made a significant impression in both "Over the Tavern" and "Richard III"], this young actor is in the process of mastering a comic technique and complex characterizations and already exhibits a high degree of proficiency and maturity. -- In "A Christmas Story", he is so natural in the role, and such a likeable personality, that we are continually engaged in his dilemmas and cheer him on to success.

The adults in Ralphie's life -- his Mother [Sandy York], his Father, the "old man" [Bryant Mason], and his teacher, Miss Shields [Jennifer Lyon] -- are more than cut-out versions of adults that children often perceive. Yes, they do have their foibles and peculiarities, yet: Ms. York is so unassuming in the role of the Mother, that we are delighted when she can supply answers to the trivia her husband is attempting to discover, and admire her ability to be the real strength in the family; Ms. Lyon's magical portrayal of the ever-optimistic teacher is a scene-stealer; and Mr. Mason's pompous "old man" with his "catalogue of invective...and...lexicon of curses" belies his compassionate treatment of his wife and children.

In a tour de force performance as the narrator -- Ralphie's grown-up self who can "triple-dog-dare you" to not love this show --Rodney Clark pulls out all the stops as the lively and masterful storyteller, a man who realizes the impact his childhood experiences had on him, an understanding of the adults who molded him with their love, an ability to see both the serious and the comic in life's everyday occurrences, and an actor's flexibility in developing each of these parts so completely and believably.

Thanks to Shepherd's [and Grecian's] wonderfully descriptive and insightful and imaginative dialogue, to a design team that provide the illusion of a nostalgic past, and to Sherman's sense of the comic proportion of this story, the stellar performances usher in a delightful Christmas season in Montgomery.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Red Door "Holiday Memories"

What a shame that there were only three performances of Truman Capote's "Holiday Memories" at the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs. Director Fiona Macleod is celebrating her first anniversary at the Red Door with this production -- a fine one that sensitively brings Capote's characters to life in a stage version by Russell Vandenbroucke.

Largely narrative, this stage version replicates Capote's stories pretty much as they first appeared in print, challenging the actors to bring the characters realistically to life. The stories set at Thanksgiving and Christmastime are reminiscences -- the "memories" of the title -- of Capote's devotion to his cousin Miss Sook Faulk in Depression Era rural Alabama when he was seven and she was sixty-something.

As the older Truman [the main narrator], veteran actor Stephen Dubberley shares much of the storytelling with the younger version of himself called Buddy and played by Thomas Dyer. Together, they control most of the action and demonstrate a fine rapport in connecting the older man with his younger self.

Miss Sook is personified by Eleanor Davis, one of Montgomery's most accomplished actresses, in an evanescent portrayal of the childlike woman who teaches Buddy his most important lessons: that simple things are often the best, that trust and friendship outweigh material possessions, that deliberate cruelty is the only unpardonable sin, and that life & truly living it are precious gifts available to everyone.

Into their lives come a succession of relatives, neighbors, school-mates, an Indian "moonshine" dealer, and assorted eccentrics that exist mostly as tangenital outsiders to their almost enchanted lives wherein they tell stories, invent games, and engage in numerous "projects" that are reminiscent of simpler, quieter times.

All these characters are played by Summer Pickett Rice and Mark Moore, and are defined so individually that one might think there were more than five actors in the production.

Capote's prose evokes a previous time and gets into the very souls of his characters so accurately, and with a sensitive touch that Ms. Macleod interprets in an elegaic style through mood-setting music, an almost mystical set consisting of platforms and hanging muslin drapes bedecked with Spanish moss, and period-looking costumes. The deliberately slow pace and gentle vocal qualities of the actors complete this tribute to Capote's text.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Faulkner "Man Day"

"Man Day -- the Psuedo-Musical" opened at Faulkner University's Dinner Theatre this week. Written by students Chris Kelly, Daniel Monplaisir, and Michael Morrow -- three of Faulkner's manistay actors -- this "work in progress" shows a lot of potential, much of which is realized in the two-hour production directed by Jason Clark South.

The premise is simple: the three students [they play themselves] are challenged by Mr. South [a clever impersonation by Bibb Herrod] to write, direct, and produce a play as a requisite for passing a course. Their fictionalized personae have rarely attended class and are at a complete loss as to how to proceed. They have been too caught up in celebrating "Man Day" -- any day they set aside to luxuriate in "being men" by excluding women, watching mind-numbing television shows, weight-lifting, and sleeping. The tests of their manhood and the challenges awaiting them in being responsible for producing the play become the premises for the play itself.

With no clue as to how to begin, and allowing any idea full consideration, they ultimately determine to write a "sci-fi-western-mystery-horror-action-comedy-Christmas play" -- and they actually manage to do it. Of course, much of it makes little sense other than to showcase the 22-member cast's abilities as well as the authors' sometimes self-indulgent wit.

Kelly, Monplaisir, and Morrow do have considerable talent which negates their on-stage character depictions. And they have the maturity to allow self-mockery as they target their own "real" foibles for the audience to view. This is not just an exercise in narcissism, though there is a lot of that too: witness the weight lifting scene with one character an out-of-shape contrast to the other two.

They know their way around the theatrical experience. For example, an audition scene parades many eccentricities of inexperienced actors' audition behavior and material, and exposes an assortment of recognizable character types with a good-natured critical focus.

And they have surrounded themselves with student actors with their own abilities: Rebekah Goldman's deadpan Goth named Mary Rose is both a laugh and a threat; Chase McMichen's personification of the forgetful Derrick who must also prove his manhood is a continual puzzle; Josh Saylor and Jason Peregoy as the seemingly inept sword-fighters create very effective combat that is both entertaining and seemingly dangerous; Peregoy is credited as the fight choreographer -- excellent work here.

There is so much in this script -- character types, popular culture references, linguistic oddities, genre analysis -- as well as an attempt to comment on relationships and identity themes in largely comedic ways, that the action often moves very slowly and without much purpose other than to draw attention to itself. It would benefit from judicious editing and a faster pace; but, as this is a "work in progress" much can be forgiven.

Faulkner University's talent pool is large, and this show -- limitations and all -- gives proof to it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Montevallo "On the Verge"

Eric Overmeyer's 1985 "On the Verge, or: The Geography of Yearning" is currently playing in the University of Montevallo's Chichester Theatre. -- The "Chi Box" has fewer than 50 seats and is set up in arena style, providing a lot of intimacy for this witty journey of allusions and illusions...the story of three intrepid Victorian women explorers seeking independence from the world of men as they both literally and figuratively hack their way through "Terra Incognita": the unknown land.

Probably the biggest challenge to the trio of women is Overmeyer's dense script, one that is simultaneously witty and stuffy. Victorian sensibilities are expressed in the more formal language of 1888, while the women's attitudes and experiences are infused with apparent anachronistic references to more modern times. -- In fact, they are travelling both through the Antipodes, Africa and Tibet, and through time, winding up in 1955 in America. As they travel, their language adapts to these changes, and is especially rich in references to popular culture.

Fanny [Jerrica Cleckler] is the most conservative of the group and the only married one. Mary [Leslie Baird Hinson] seems to be the eldest and perhaps the least willing to change and the most intent on discovering new lands and her place in them. Alex [Marie Pope] is younger than the others, more forceful and flighty. -- Together, these actresses make a good ensemble who share stage time generously while developing the complexities of their individual characters as they yearn for self discovery.

And they have to manipulate an extensive number of "props" that signal the world ahead of them, much of which is managed with Overmeyer's humorous analysis of the contemporary world as they attempt to figure out the uses of such items as egg-beaters, Presidential campaign buttons, and cream cheese by use of osmosis.

Most of the dialogue is convincing, though a number of mispronunciations distract from its very precise intentions.

Appearances along the way by an assortment of characters -- real and imagined -- ranging from Fanny's husband Grover to a cannibal, a Yeti, a motorcycle-riding troll, and a gypsy [all played by David Wencil and Logan Reid], the women's journey takes a number of unexpected comedic twists, all the while keeping in mind the script's and director Tammy Killian's focus on the play's feminist themes.

These are intelligent women who have been subjected to men all their lives. Risking their lives and reputations by daring such a journey without any men along and completely without the usual male porters, the bravery inherent in all women is highlighted. They yearn for independence and for knowledge. As they encounter the future with every step, their knowledge of themselves increases also. Though Fanny says that time travel is a risky business, Alex advises them to embrace the future with all their hearts.

Content with the world of 1955, Fanny and Alex settle there, while Mary, ever restless, must continue as a solo sojourner, and fulfills the sub-title of the play -- the geography of yearning.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Auburn "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

Neil Simon's 1982 semi-autobiographical "Brighton Beach Memoirs" may have closed recently in New York due to low ticket sales, but the production now showing at Auburn should have a successful run. Judging from the enthusiastic opening night response, director Scott Phillips has a hit on his hands.

Part one of Simon's so-called "Eugene Trilogy" [it was followed by "Biloxi Blues" and "Broadway Bound"], the play is set in the home of a Jewish-Polish immigrant family in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn in Depression Era 1937, and contains the playwright's trademark humor mixed with some serious issues and detailed character development.

Narrated by the 15-year-old Eugene Morris Jerome -- here played convincingly by Richard Davis -- the assorted family crises are played out for us through the prism of Eugene's clever and touching observations about both himself and the members of his family.

At 15, Eugene dreams of becoming either a famous professional baseball player or a "writer" -- he can't decide which -- and feels constrained by having to conform to all the adults' wishes [and being blamed for everything that goes wrong] and the sexual bewilderment of puberty.

Life is tough in Brighton Beach: the Depression makes jobs scarce and with low salaries for Eugene's father Jack and his older son Stanley, mother Kate struggles to make ends meet in the household where every penny counts, the Jerome's have been sharing their home with Kate's widowed sister Blanche and her two daughters, and World War II is about to erupt -- yet somehow the bonds of family and essential life values sustain them all.

Things come to a head when everyone, it seems, has a problem that must be solved immediately. Cousin Nora, the pretty one, thinks she has a chance of getting a role in a Broadway play, hoping to earn enough money to provide her mother's independence; yet, she has not finished high school and will need the diploma for her future. Stanley gets fired from his job on a matter of principle and does not want to sacrifice principle for anything. Blanche feels frustrated by her dependence on the kindness of her family. The long-suffering Kate seeks to protect everyone, especially the children, and maintain a peaceful home. And each must seek advice from Jack who has been working two jobs, one of which is ending.

There are a lot of contradictions in the characters' behaviors, ones that are made believable by Simon's script and the talents of the actors who say the lines with conviction. They emerge as very human characters. For example, Kate tries to find the good in all things, yet she hates the Irish neighbors she has never met, calling them "those people" and pigeonholing them as dirty drunks. Stanley and Eugene are constantly at odds with one another, yet their bond as siblings is strong enough to allow us to believe that they can either love or hate one another within a minute's time. Nora requests Jack's advice, though she resents the fact that he is not her father and therefore has no right to advise her.

Any number of these confrontational scenes are played truthfully by the individual actors. As Nora, Heather Rule's naive enthusiasm at her Broadway prospects and then her deflation and anger at being told there are more important things in life ring true. When Blanche [Laura Walter] and Kate [Bridget Knapik] finally have it out -- the sibling rivalry that has been festering for all their lives is out in the open --we believe them and accept Jack's [John Tourtellotte] hands-off attitude as he tells them it is about time they talked about it. We feel compassion for Ben Young as Stanley when he is made to stand up for his principles despite disappointing or angering his parents.

A quibble here: With so much at stake, it is unfortunate that so much of the heightened emotions were played at the same loud volume; it is tiring for an audience to listen to so much yelling when other choices are available to the actors, and variety would have made it more palatable.

Through it all is Eugene...commenting, criticizing, glibly poking fun, and coming to terms with his own place in the family and the human race. He is fixated on sex -- he is curious and eager to learn, and Stanley guides him through this journey as only an older brother can: honestly and openly, yet with a bit of derision that comes from his own flawed understanding. As Eugene darts from one subject to another, and lets us in on his thoughts with frequent aside comments directed at the audience, we become his co-conspirators, in a way...and that is the root of much of the humor of the piece. We like Richard Davis in the role, so we are inclined to share his roller-coaster ride with the same enthusiasm he brings to it.

Pip Gordon's scenic design replicates a detailed two-storey house of the period, giving more credence to the production. And the actors' attention to authentic Brooklyn dialect [thanks to vocal consultant Daydrie Hague] lends even more credibility to the performances.

What keeps us attuned to the Jerome family are the themes that transcend time and place: people of principle, the bond of family, sacrifices we make for one another, charity seeking no recompense, the dignity of the individual...and a sense of humor...that is essential.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Depot at ASF "The Wedding from Hell"

U p d a t e :
After a brief successful run in Wetumpka, "The Wedding from Hell" transferred for two performances at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, where it played to sold-out houses much to the delight of the audiences. -- Under Kristy Meanor's direction, the shift from procenium to three-quarter-round staging was successful in keeping characters audible and in view of the audience, though some of the movement got a bit distracting [the recitation from Shakespeare's "Richard III" worked better with less movement].

Written by Depot members Tom Salter, Kristy Meanor, and Mary Katherine Moore, this 90-minute comedy takes a Southern wedding to ridiculous heights and includes "every redneck stereotype in the book" going through their dysfunctional paces at the "Miller-Light wedding" [get it?].

All the bridesmaids are called Brittney [as is the "pregnant" bride], there's a Bible-thumping preacher named Wanker, an effeminate wedding planner named Dash LaRue, frustrated beauty queens, clog-dancers, assorted drunks, a shotgun-toting father of the bride and his over-sexed wife, a social climbing ex-wife, and an Elvis impersonator among the 24-member cast of characters.

Some tightening has been made to the production since its first appearance, and singular hilarious moments have been improved. Especially notable is Merilee Robinson's "signed" interpretation of "The Rose" done brilliantly in dead-pan. It brought down the house.

Without exception, the actors continued their remarkable sense of ensemble without ever breaking character and without any attempt to try to be funny. And it is clear that they were enjoying themselves.

There is a lot of clever dialogue, and the situations get more and more complicated as time passes. It is too bad that an intermission was included -- the whole running time was just 90 minutes; a sustained hilarity would have been preferable.

Outrageous costumes, wigs, and props completed the picture, making "The Wedding from Hell" a rambunctious romp and a total delight.

ASF "Ferdinand the Bull"

This season's Alabama Shakespeare Festival "Intern Company" is taking the stage for the first time in the Octagon Theatre with a visually stunning production of Munro Leaf's children's classic "Ferdinand the Bull" under Nancy Rominger's direction. -- Adapted for the stage by Karen Zacarias, and with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the version expands the number of characters of Leaf's story, adding subplots that,while clever inventions, distract somewhat from the principal title character. We forget about him for much of the time.

Made famous first for its pacifist bias in 1936 -- Hitler & Franco hated it, while Gandhi admired it -- and later for the Disney film that garnered an Academy Award in 1938, "The Story of Ferdinand" introduced the world to Ferdinand, a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in a bullring. Despite taunting from the other bulls, and an accident that brings him into the corrida, Ferdinand sticks to his principles and refuses to fight. That's it, plain and simple...and a good message for young and old alike: "be true to yourself" and "not all brave people fight" are lessons for everyone.

There are many clever and humorous aspects in this adapted script and in the performances of the likeable cast. Duque Dodo [Ricardo Vasquez] speaks in an exaggerated Castilian accent, Cochina the Pig [Lauren Sowa] spouts Shakespeare, and there are numerous cliches like "bring home the bacon", "take the bull by the horns", and "high on the hog" that punctuate the dialogue and shift the focus away from Ferdinand.

Ferdinand [Matthew Baldiga] is urged by Cochina to behave like all the other bulls and take his rightful place of honor in the bullring, though she does not know that the bull gets killed at the end of the fight. And she believes that the right humans will recognize Ferdinand as the best bull. When she finds out, she tries to save her friend. Peaceful & quiet through it all, Ferdinand sits on a bee whose sting sends him into wild behavior that the humans misinterpret as ferocity, so they take him to fight. This episode went by so quickly that there was little time to respond to Ferdinand's pain before he was taken away.

Duquito Danilo [Michael Pesoli] is a counterpart to Ferdinand; he wants to be a flamenco dancer, but is too meek to thwart his father Duque Dodo's demands of becoming a famous matador, and he does want to please his father. -- Once in the ring, the most important fight he has is to fight for himself by dancing...and the Duque relents and praises his son's talent as a dancer. Ferdinand too goes back to the country to smell the flowers.

Spectacular costumes by Jeffrey Todhunter are a visual delight: colorful, authentic, and suitable for each character. And the set by Peter Hicks provides a bright landscape and a red-orange-yellow color pallet evoking the Spanish terrain; and a simple device transforms it into a bullring.

The lyrics to the songs are witty and further the plot, and the score suggests the Spanish culture.

Performances are endearing, and engage the audience -- even the little ones -- to interract with the dialogue.

There are dark moments that might frighten the very young; this play seems suitable for children 5-years of age and up.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Millbrook "Cotton Patch Gospel"

At their new home in the Robinson Springs School, the Millbrook Community Players are presenting "Cotton Patch Gospel" by Clarence Jordan, with music & lyrics by Harry Chapin.

Originally performed by one actor and a musical quartet, this version expands the cast to six actors, accompanied by a piano and four guitars. The Gospels of Matthew and John are turned into a down-home gentle retelling of the Bible re-set in contemporary rural Georgia.

Jordan's purpose was to tell the Bible stories in language that reaches out to ordinary people so they might better connect with its messages than through the standard versions. The expressions of "modern feelings, frustrations, hopes, and assurances" that come from this play have an immediate relevance to us all.

Over its two hour running time, we are shown the life of Jesus through the eyes and mouths of various disciples, primarily Matthew, played by Chris Perry who also directed this venture. In fact, the play is a virtual monologue for Perry; the other actors have few lines, though they do supply much of the singing.

As "Matthew & Co.", Perry both narrates the chronology of Jesus' time on earth and plays numerous persons throughout the narrative: Jesus, Mary, Joseph [Joe here], John the Baptizer, the Good Samaritan, Herod, Pilate, Judas, and many others. It is a tour de force that Perry is well-equipped to handle.

He can be a neutral narrator, a soft-spoken or angry Jesus, concerned parents, stern politicians, an evangelical preacher, and a troubled betrayer with equal ease and conviction. Quite the performance.

The familiar Bible passages are instantly recognizable in Jordan's version, allowing us to nod approvingly of the change in style. Songs often reinforce the messages of the episodes; for example, the admonition to "turn the other cheek" is sung as "Turn It Around"; other numbers like "Jubilation" or "Everybody's Lost Now" establish moods and commentary.

Musical accompaniment was top notch. Unfortunately, the sound system at the theatre made much of the lyrics impossible to hear. A combination of over-amplification of instruments with inadequate microphones for voices rendered so much of it incomprehensible. We got the messages because the Bible stories are so familiar, but could not hear a lot of the words.

"Cotton Patch Gospel" is both an earnest theological presentation and a comfortable entertainment that garners tears and laughter -- and compassion for one another.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Theatre AUM "Lysistrata"

An enthusiastic standing room only opening night crowd witnessed Theatre AUM's lively production of "Lysistrata", a masterful Old Comedy by the Greek playwright Aristophanes known for its frank depiction of sexual relations, witty double entendre, and very direct and hugely comical obscenities.

First performed around 411 BC during the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta, today it is often played as an anti-war play [on March 3, 2003 it was produced around the world as "The Lysistrata Project" in an attampt to disuade the President from going to war with Iraq]; or with its title character the first female protagonist of its time, it is often seen as a feminist treatise.

Director Neil David Seibel chose to set his AUM production in the 1960s, and fills the scene with assorted flower-children clad in knee-high leather boots, mini-skirts, and mis-matched colorful patterned outfits on a set reminiscent of television's "Laugh-In", and firmly embraces the anti-war interpretation that only occasionally gets serious and which exercises a good deal of decorum in presenting the play's sexual subject matter -- ribaldry here, not lewdness.

Adding to the nostalgic setting -- one which pre-dates virtually all the cast members -- Seibel has chosen numerous popular songs of the 60s to further his points. Bookending the play with "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as an anti-war anthem, other titles such as "These Boots Were Made for Walking" and "Hit the Road Jack" target the feminist theme.

The women of Greece are both tired of a seemingly interminable and senseless war and sexually frustrated while their menfolk are absent. They are lead by Lysistrata [Shaina Pierce] to end the war and bring their husbands home by going on a sex strike. She calls a meeting of women representatives of all the city-states and has them swear an oath to deny making love with their partners until peace is declared --not an easy task considering that the women become equally frustrated sexually, yet one which ultimately and preposterously succeeds.

Characterizations are broad and bawdy, but retain an innocence and naivete due in part to the reminiscences evoked by the 1960s. The AUM actors were energetic and seemed to enjoy romping through the play's silliness. It is one of the traps of such a time location -- we either overlook or de-emphasize the serious issues of the day in favor of a feel-good nostalgia. And there were real issues in the 60s as well as today that fade into the background as we concentrate on having fun.

Aristophanes satirized men and women fairly equally in this play, and most certainly proposed some intelligent solutions to war -- compromise through political diplomacy for example. After the men -- notably Cinesius [Wes Milton comically uncomfortable in extremis as he desperately tries to make love to his wife Myrrhine (Sarah Worley) as she taunts & finally denies his advances] -- give in to the women's demands, Lysistrata [Shaina Pierce] forcefully explains that former allies can yet again be friends, and that we all have a lot more in common than we remember during times of disagreement.

There are some moments of hilarity in this production, though there is some unevenness in the overall production: tentative movement and sustaining character for example. Laura Bramblette as the Leader of the Women's Chorus creates a fine impersonation of Ruth Buzzi's old woman on Laugh-In, and received applause & laughs on merely making an entrance. As the ditzy air-head Calonice, Laura Selmon, complete with blonde wig and high-pitched voice, deserves our admiration. And the Old Men's double act played by Chris Howard and Mark Dasinger keeps the disguise going with reminiscences of Tim Conway's old man from Laugh-In and the Carol Burnett Show.

Ms. Pierce's Lysistrata is matched by Phadra Foster's Spartan Lampito; together, they are a major force to contend with, whether through biting dialogue or sheer physical dominance.

The staging is "traverse" style, placing the audience on two sides of the acting area. While this aids the intimacy somewhat, there are some challenges built in: actors must not face one side more than the other, and when facing away, they must be heard clearly. -- There were a lot of lines that simply could not be understood because of this arrangement; and this was further complicated by a lot of physical movement, whole-company dances, and the deserved audience responses.

In all, this was an enjoyable production that clearly delighted the opening night crowd, yet somehow -- the pleasantness and naivete of the 1960s dominating the proceedings -- the bite of the satire didn't penetrate quite far enough.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Montgomery Ballet "An Evening of Romance"

On Friday evening at the Davis Theatre, the Montgomery Ballet demonstrated once again its committment to performing both standard ballet fare and modern approaches to the art of dance, incorporating jazz, flamenco, and popular movement -- all in some stunning selections.

"An Evening of Romance" showcased the talents of this young professional resident company in two ballets choreographed by Artistic Director Elie Lazar ["Niche" and "Surrender 2 Love"] that began and ended the program, with three more traditional Pas de Deux in between. Combined with costumes and lighting that reinforce mood and character, the romantic musical accompaniment created atmospheres appropriate to each selection.

"Niche" begins with a solo dancer in a pool of light, soon joined by others in separate similar pools, gradually opening up the entire stage -- a conceit that Lazar used in a recent performance of his "Gloria". Mostly lighthearted, it investigates a number of relationships ranging from family to innocent flirtations to competitive love triangles, and introduces us to the company's assorted strengths of leaps, turns, and quick footwork.

The Pas de Deux selections showed three of the company's strongest pairings, each using traditional choreographed movements -- predictable in form [pair, male solo, female solo, pair] -- which both tell stories and highlight demanding footwork, extraordinary leaps & turns, and afford each dancer opportunities to dazzle us with their virtuosity.

The selection from "Diana and Acteon" depicts the goddess and the hunter in love. Paul Gilliam makes a dramatic entrance, startling the demure Laura Villalobos, after which each dancer exhibits impressive skill. Their pairing establishes a good rapport and trust necessary for the lifts and support each needs.

The "Pas de Slav from Le Corsaire" features Molly Wagner and Joey Villalobos, she as a veiled "slave" who is rescued by the hero. Their exotic costumes reinforced her clean lines and his elegant postures that kept us engaged in their relationship.

"Flames of Paris" was the last of the "pas de deux" that required incredible leaps from Dana Lanz-Ross and difficult bouncing en pointe by Nicole Padilla, all the while maintaining a romantic relationship. -- Impressive though he might be, Mr. Lanz-Ross needs to sustain his character at all times, in order to maintain the fictional role he plays.

"Surrender 2 Love" completes the evening. Set in a cabaret, and with music that evokes flamenco and jazz, Lazar tells a story of complex relationships and courtship rituals that might have been taken from today's headlines. Various pairings that explore partnerships -- acceptance & rejection -- are told with humor and passion by the entire corps. The dizzying effect is palpable to the audience, as the dancers twirl, leap, lift, and maneuver for dominance, keeping in character and showing their skills.

This is a company to watch. Their stamina and grace disguise the athleticism and strength required to dance with apparent ease; their skills are already impressive for such a young company, and make audiences anticipate their growth; their dramatic abilities are being honed and their confidence is growing. -- Look forward to greater things in the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

November Openings

November is a busy month, with a lot of productions opening.
Check websites at the left for details:
Nov. 5 -- Theatre AUM "Lysistrata"
Nov. 5 -- Millbrook "Cotton Patch Gospel"
Nov. 7 -- ASF "Ferdinand the Bull"
Nov. 7 -- Wetumpka Depot at ASF "The Wedding from Hell"
Nov. 13 -- Auburn "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Nov. 18 -- ASU "Black Nativity"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Troy "Page to Stage"

Subtitled 'Searching for the Creative Habit', Troy University's Page to Stage performance showcased the talents of some 37 actors, singers, and dancers under the tutelage of the department's creative team of faculty & staff.

The hour-and-a-half production played to an enthusiastic full house who witnessed scenes ranging from Classical Greek theatre to Shakespeare to Modern & Contemporary drama, and featured Troy's new concentration in Musical Theatre as well as its 40-year resident Children's Theatre troupe, the "Pied Pipers".

Actor and Artist in Residence, Quinton Cockrell, served as narrator to the numerous scenes, provided historical background to each, and confidently took the roles of the Stage Manager in "Our Town" and Oberon in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", thereby affording students the opportunity of learning their craft by sharing the stage with an experienced professional.

Continuing in the spirit of educational theatre, the audience -- largely comprised of other students enrolled in Theatre Appreciation classes -- witnessed the cast in an assortment of vocal and physical warm-up exercises, and even a quick rehearsal of a monologue. With the insightful narrative comments from Mr. Cockrell, perhaps they can now understand better the kinds of preparation that go into creating a polished performance, the hard work and discipline that make it look easy.

A key component to the educational intentions of the production is its entertainment value; after all, from the Greeks through till today, live theatre's purpose is to simultaneously instruct and entertain. Whether it is through the somber tones of masterfully controlled monologues -- Sarah Looney's Linda Loman from "Death of a Salesman", and Sarah Gill's impassioned Rose from "Fences", and Maurice McCoo's "Othello", and Caroline Franklin's depiction of Nora from "A Doll's House" riveted the audience's attention -- or the dazzlingly energetic choreography and singing of the "Musical Theatre Ensemble", or the clever antics of the "Pied Pipers" as they told the story of "The Three Little Pigs" [and the Big Bad Wolf], the audience experienced the wide range of theatrical possibilities.

The 'search for the creative habit' continued throughout the evening. Regularly shifting simple set pieces -- blocks, steps, ramps, frames -- showed the flexibility of an otherwise bare stage in creating both creative designs and movement possibilities. Lighting enhanced mood and location, and focused attention onto the important actor in a scene. And, since no naturalistically detailed sets or costumes distracted attention, the audience's focus had to be on the actor and the words.

Clear and articulate speech was also evident in the performances, and we saw them 'in training' before they performed. It is difficult at times to control volume, pace, energy, inflection, and projection when an actor is also emotionally engaged in the scene or physically active. And they must communicate the script's meanings while telling an interesting story, an exercise that this company showed well in control.

Yes, there are a lot of demands on the acting company and the design and technical staff of any production. The creative habits that take years of training and committment pay off in the end. -- Troy's theatre department gave a master class in theatre, a theatre that respects the text's words & ideas as well as the elements of staging that teach & entertain, which benefits us all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kudos to Wetumpka Depot

The Wetumpka Depot Players returned from the Alabama Conference of Theatre's Community Theatre Festival held in Pell City this past weekend with many top awards for their production of "All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten":
Best Production [to represent Alabama at the Southeastern Theatre Conference annual convention in March 2010 in Lexington, KY],
Best Ensemble [the cast],
Best Direction [Sarah Looney Eckermann],
and Best Actor [Bill Nowell].

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ASU "Antigone"

Guest Reviewer:
Fiona Macleod is a professional actor who is currently the Artistic Director of the Red Door Theatre in Union Springs, AL. She is the former Head of Theatre at Huntingdon College, and holds an MFA in acting from the University of Alabama/Alabama Shakespeare Festival Graduate Acting Program.

Raising one of the several laughs last night at the Leila Barlow Theatre, with his comment, "We're not a particularly affectionate family, are we?" King Creon [Jerrel O'Neal] to his neice Antigone [Parnesha Ingram] reflects on why she should be executed, and ponders how it can be avoided.

We know Antigone comes from a renowned dysfunctional family and has seen her share of tribulations. When her father discovered that he'd killed his father before marrying his mother and begetting his own sibling children, Dad, King Oedipus, gouged out his eyes, and Mum committed suicide. Antigone's two greedy brothers began a civil war that ended with their corpses locked in battle. That particular image climaxed the striking opening of ASU's one and a half hour short, one act production of that Greek tragedy, originally written around 441 BC.

Not exactly Sophocles' "Antigone", Dr. Tommie Stewart chose to use an interesting modern adaptation by Lewis Galantiere of the French playwright Jean Anouilh's version. Then with the help of faculty newcomer to ASU, Shaneesa Sweeney, and student actors, they edited that notoriously long play down to the energetic production that is on the boards until October 17.

Galantiere's version isn't about Antigone's choice between human and divine law, as Sophocles' was, but about the conflict between integrity and compromise, touching on issues such as family loyalties, religious beliefs, civil disobedience and gender inequity.

So, choosing this modern script, the production team could have placed this play in any time frame. Instead, they decided to remain within the classic Greek era. This allowed the ideals to remain and the exciting costumes by Ramona Ward to lend flair to the physicalization and choreography by the students of the Theatre Department who consistently brought a good deal of intensity and great charm to the drama.

In the beginning, the performance is driven by exciting music, accompanied by the keening of the chorus dancers. They pull us into the action by entering through the audience to mourn over the empty thrones and grieve as the brothers fight to the death on a platform that overshadows the classic Theban set by Alton England. Shadows of the fight flung on the cyclorama, the image of the remaining dead body picked over by vultures, and then the heroic broken-hearted Antigone trying to honor her dead, despite her knowledge that the punishment for shoveling even a thin layer of earth over the carcass is death, remains with us as the play's characters and action is skillfully taken over by Chorus.

Flanking an interesting picture of Creon's court, Stephanie Adams and ElPaso Williams confidently playing Chorus, present the characters and situations we will confront. Like the sonnet at the beginning of "Romeo and Juliet", Chorus gives us all the facts. Allusions to Shakespeare subtly appear through this script and resulting action.

That the dead body remains above the action on stage to be revisited at various points in the play, is an ever-present reminder of where our choices can lead us.

Guided by James Knight's lighting design and the impassioned performances of Antigone [Parnesha Ingram] and Creon [Jerrel O'Neal], presented as a rational, complex man, the play quickly grabs our attention. Every actor on stage takes his or her moments in stride. Articulate and strong performances by Haemon [Andrew Preston], Guard 1 [Quincy Rucker in a humorous takeoff of Dogberry from "Much Ado"] involve us throughout the evening. In this production, Guards 1, 2, and 3 echo the comedy of Shakespeare with a liberal dousing of the Keystone Cops.

Ismene, sweetly portrayed by freshman Janaye Rogers gives the "too little too late" support to Antigone as she continues her struggle to have their brother successfully laid to rest. I found Eurydice [CharaieCelia Hamilton], Creon's wife, constantly "knitting", to be a regal presence making the most of her few lines, and observing with the intellect of a wise thoughtful woman. Her image reflected Mme. Defarge in "A Tale of Two Cities" again reminding us of revenge and death. The Nurse [Monece Starling] gives a sterling performance as an aging and fond servant.

Several of the actors frequently directed speech to the audience, giving a stilted presentational quality to the work which reminiscent of Greek theatre is understandable, but with the use of modern jargoned language, a more realistic approach could perhaps also have been enjoyable.

All in all, this was a night at the theatre to be enjoyed and mulled over. It is one that deserves to be discussed for its content: politics, civil responsibility, and principles. Last night, I witnessed a production that Dr. Tommie Stewart staged with abundant creative dexterity. She, her faculty and students should be proud, and as an audience member you probably would more than enjoy the experience. Last night's plentiful audience seemed to agree with me. Take the time to enjoy that passage through time to reflect on old themes which sadly remain with us today.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Faulkner "Wait Until Dark"

"Wait Until Dark", English playwright Frederick Knott's 1966 spine-tingling suspense drama, is currently playing at the Faulkner University Dinner Theatre. Best known for the 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn as a recently blind woman being terrorized by a trio of thugs who are after some heroin hidden in a doll that was brought home from a business trip by her unsuspecting husband, its jump-out-of-your-seat ending is a classic moment in film history. Knott had written "Dial M for Murder" in the 1950s, and combined with the impact of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960), had set the standard for the genre; Americans delighted in being scared then, and the momentum of such entertainment fare has not slowed down.

The major challenges of this and similar plays are to avoid melodramatic interpretation, which director Angela Dickson's cast does very well, and to sustain the cat-and-mouse tension throughout its two acts, which is not so successful. Complicated plot contrivances notwithstanding, the action needs to move purposefully from point to point with careful attention to the slow and fast rhythms inherent in such maneuverings. As it is, the slow steady pace of both the dialogue and the actors' movement had little variety, and there were a number of silent moments that drew attention to themselves, resulting in an over-long almost two-and-a-half-hour production that could not frighten us as intended.

Jason Clark South's 1960s period Greenwich Village basement apartment setting provides many authentic details, from a formica dining table to a rotary phone to a photographic darkroom with an enlarger, red-light, and other materials that would be totally unfamiliar to many people today. It's too bad that the Faulkner stage is so wide; filling its breadth with a set lessens the claustrophobic feeling that Knott's script suggests. And with a script that relies on lighting -- and pitch-darkness -- it is too bad that there were a number of glitches here that illuminated too much of the stage at moments when darkness should have prevailed.

As the two small-time con men, Michael Morrow and Tony Davidson bring significant sinister aspects to their roles, occasionally breaking the tension with off-hand remarks that draw smiles if not laughs. Morrow is particularly adept at appearing concerned for his victim's well-being, though this ruse is eventually seen through by Jaynie Casserly as the blind Suzy Hendricks. And Davidson's portrayal is effectively sly and a bit bumbling. They are a good pair who just need to bring up the energy to keep us engaged in their pretenses.

Rebekah Goldman plays the teenaged neighbor Gloria, whose petulance and whining give way to concerned helpfullness.

Jason Peregoy plays Suzy's husband Sam with conviction. The couple's scenes together provide some domestic stability and appear natural enough to warrant our concern.

Chris Kelly, wearing an arm sling just one night after an injury during a performance of the play, does yeoman's work in taking the stage at all; and he creates an evil character whose duplicity and paranoia are very real threats. Occasionally overusing an almost comic-book laugh verges on the ridiculous, but Kelly rescues his character from it by his persistence in the performance.

Casserly is utterly convincing as a blind woman. The set of her eyes, the stiffness of her walk, the tentative searching with her hands, and the subtle adjustments of her head and face reflect a blind person's compensating for the loss of sight. A vivacious actor, Casserly imbues her role with a mixture of innocence and strength; as she figures out her dangerous predicament and takes matters into her own hands, she subtly demonstrates the character's independence and assurance.

The big question is: Do we care? -- Though there is sufficient text to achieve this, and the actors appear to know their characters, the deliberate slow pace and lengthy pauses can't sustain our emotional engagement in Suzy's predicament.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Depot at ASF

The Wetumpka Depot Players will present "The Wedding from Hell" at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for two performances -- Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 2:00 p.m.
For information and tickets call (334) 868-1440 or go to the Wetumpka Depot website available at the left of this page.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Count Dracula" -- Wetumpka Depot

The cool autumn air marks a new season, the night comes on a bit earlier, there's an almost full moon, Halloween is just around the corner, an organ blasts Bach's "Toccata & Fugue in D-Minor" signalling the start of the Wetumpka Depot Players' "Count Dracula", a 1977 witty spoof by Ted Tiller.

Forget about "Twilight" and "True Blood", Dracula remains -- from Bram Stoker's original through its many incarnations -- the ultimate vampire. Everyone knows the story in some guise or another, so they come prepared for any version they see.

Tiller's play takes a lot of liberties with the original novel, omitting and adding some characters, changing their names, and writing overtly melodramatic dialogue that is meant to garner laughs at a once serious subject that has become so much a part of popular culture that it passes for sheer entertainment. -- And, it succeeds in not taking itself too seriously, so purists ought not be dismayed.

Director John Collier creates a two-act production out of Tiller's three-act format, a wise move to sustain audience interest, though much of his first act is Tiller's rather belabored exposition setting up the circumstances and the characters. -- Dr. Seward [Tom Carmony] and his eccentric sherry-tippling sister Sybil [Hazel Jones] are concerned that Seward's ward Mina [Rae Ann Collier] is suffering from an unexplained disease, coincidentally soon after a visit to their home by the mysterious Count Dracula [Phil Tankersley]. Mina's fiancee Jonathan Harker [Brad Moon] and the eminent Doctor Van Helsing [Paul Travitsky] are on hand to soothe Mina's distress and determine the cause of her ailment.

Since Van Helsing is an expert on such matters, he concludes that Mina's anemic condition and strange mood-swings are the result of her victimization by a vampire none other than Dracula, who has conscripted a mad man named Renfield [Michael Snead], a patient under Dr. Seward's care, as his assistant.

On a set that evokes an Edwardian feel with its deep red walls and plush furniture and a lot of clutter, and a series of eerie sounding wolf howls and a classical musical score reminiscent of silent movie melodrama, we are -- despite no real attempt at executing the English accents dictated by the script -- taken into the world of the vampire story.

Collier's actors try mightily to deliver the goods of melodrama, but only partially succeed. All too often, hesitation and slow responses to cues slowed down the necessary intensity of the genre; perhaps this was brought on by opening night jitters, something that needs attention in order to not only keep our interest, but also to get more of the laughs that are inherent in the sophisticated script and bring the show to an end well under its 2 hour and 20 minute running time.

Even though the characters are all too familiar to us, and though caricature is certainly an option in their presentation, what came across frequently was broad brush-strokes without sufficient character development -- or possibly a tentative approach to the melodramatic style that allows and indeed encourages larger than life portrayals, broad gestures, passionate delivery of dialogue, energetic movement, and a significant amount of tongue-in-cheek attitude.

Whatever the reason, much of the production remained flat; however, there were some performances that got it right. -- Newcomer Brad Moon's Harker came across as a convincingly romantic hero whose concern for Mina was very real. His naturalistic voice and movement lend credibility to his portrayal. And veteran actor Tankersley's comical tribute to Bela Lugosi as Dracula was debonair as all get out, complete with several self-indulgent glances and winks at the audience.

Once the actors settle into their roles and gain more confidence, this production ought to become a laugh riot. The germs are there. Let them grow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

State and Regional Events

If you are interested in Statewide and Regional theatre events:
University students & faculty,
Secondary School students & teachers,
Community Theatres
----- Scroll to the bottom of this blog and read the various websites.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Montgomery Ballet

This past weekend only, the Montgomery Ballet performed "Gloria" -- a tribute to the late Haynes Owens -- and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, both choreographed by the dance company's Artistic Director, Elie Lazar.

As choreographed by Lazar, both pieces represent some of the very essences of theatre: emotionally charged stories told through characters that engage us by their humanity. Combine this with interpretations of great music by the elegantly expressive bodies of principal dancers and a talented corp de ballet, and the result is an entertaining and impressive theatrical experience.

The sheer athleticism of the dancers is enough to garner praise, but add to it the merging of strength & agility and seeming ease of staggering leaps, spins, and extensions that provide a narrative without words that make the stories easy to follow.

"Gloria" is the more introspective piece, using Vivaldi's score to underpin Lazar's exploration of mankind's understanding of himself and his relationship to his God.

Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- with its familiar score by Mendelssohn -- is given a traditionally romantic setting & expression, complete with the humor of the original. Though the Montgomery Ballet's version edits some characters and story lines [no Theseus & Hippolyta, nor "rude mechanicals" other than Bottom], it is true to the spirit of its source, and tells a clear story.

Applause punctuated the performances as the dancers proved their dexterity in fluid movement and masterful interpretation of score and story. And a true test of its success was that the audience left the theatre enthusiastically discussing the performance.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"The Shadow Box" -- Theatre AUM

The university theatre season in Montgomery opened this week with Theatre AUM's production of Michael Cristofer's 1977 Pulitzer and Tony award winning drama, "The Shadow Box." Directed with a calmness that emphasizes its themes more than its characters, Val Winkelman has provided a thoughtful and provocative piece of theatre that engages audiences' introspection and discussion in this, Theatre AUM's 35th season.

Set in three hospice cottages at a hospital -- one instance of the "box" of the title -- three terminally ill patients at first are interviewed by an 'off-stage' counselor [Rebecca Dennard] whose calming voice, while meant to keep them at ease, does occasionally provoke agitation.

Soon, each patient is joined by family & friends who complicate the situations through an assortment of personal issues ranging from denial to anger to jealousy, fear, and hostility. Mixed at times with characters' desperate attempts at humor, grotesque and vulgar ones at that, Cristofer targets numerous recognizable methods that people use to deal with a topic most would rather not, leaving audiences to figure things out for themselves.

Through the course of its two acts, alternating episodes of each character have a cumulative effect that captures the audience's thought if not its emotions. We might feel for the characters in their respective situations, but are more likely to grapple with our own attitudes regarding death and dying.

A rather long exposition brings us into the situations of the various characters. In Cottage One, everyman Joe [Wes Milton] is visited by his wife Maggie [Sarah Worley] who has not been able yet to tell their son Steve [Billy Goff] that his father is dying. In Cottage Two, the seemingly sensible writer Brian [David Wilson] is divorced from the flambuoyant Beverly [Nicole Smith] and being cared for by his young lover Mark [Landon Ledbetter]. And Cottage Three has an aggressive senile woman named Felicity [J. Diboll] pestering her daughter Agnes [Laura Bramblette] while being wheeled about.

All of them are boxed in, both literally and figuratively; the cottages are the patients' last living quarters meant to provide a semblance of normal living, but all the characters are confined by their individual issues and inability to address the very real problem.

Ultimately, some of the dialogue resonates: a sense of uselessness while waiting for the inevitable, an attempt to "leave nothing behind, nothing undone", "dying gets a little messy now and then", "life doesn't last forever", "who are you?", letting go, and distinguishing between what is important and what is petty.

Performances are distinctly individualized, yet there is a limited range of pace and volume expressed -- other than the occasional outburst or rude joke. In all, the production's elegaic style challenges audiences to be tolerant of one another in times of stress and to give due consideration to one's own life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Welcome to a new blog with a purpose of service to the theatre community in Montgomery.
With several years of contributing theatre reviews in print, my plan is to continue writing reviews for the local theatre companies and the public at large.
With their permission, I would like to provide links to these theatre companies as well as to other theatre organizations on the blog.
Please spread the news that local theatre will receive critical attention here.