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.