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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"Into the Woods" @ Broadway Rose

"Into the Woods" proves once again that Dan Murphy needs to step on stage more often, and not just to tell the audience to "turn-off anything that's not implanted."His Narrator is the most consistent source of humor in the production. He's a natural goofball, and does more with the part than one would expect. Another standout is Tyler Andre Jones as the lovably dumb Jack. It's a fun romp through  familiar fairy tales, put over with the flair we've come to expect from Broadway Rose.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Native Gardens" @PCS

The most striking thing about "Native Gardens" is the perfection of its casting. The neighbors actually look like the types of people they are meant to represent. This is particularly true of Anne-Marie Cussion . She is the very embodiment of the weathered, tough-as-nails woman who fought her way up.

Most of the script is amusing. Although, it does underline its "we're not just talking about plants" topicality a little hard at times. I assure you that you'll get its drift. All in all, "Native Gardens"is a comedy about heavy themes, but also manages to end on a light note. Much like the hobby at its center, it is a pleasant way to while-away an evening.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"The Breath of Life" @ PCS

First things first, I'd watch Gretchen Corbett read the phonebook. Unfortunately, much of David Hare's script made me wonder if that is what I was watching. There is a shocking lack of tension in this play. One of the reasons is that the script drops countless hints that the unseen man at the center of the show is someone of importance. I was waiting for a big-reveal that never came. That Julia Brothers is forced to be "on-book" due to the unexpected departure of Sharonee McLean, doesn't help matters, Add in the odd angles of the set yielding poor sightlines, and I must regretfully suggest you skip this one.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

"The Revolutionists" @ Artists Rep

The most intriguing aspect of  "The Revolutionists" is its deft juggling of tones. From the wrenchingly sad to the silly. It even manages to finesse the bumpiness of the play-within a play. This is mostly accomplished by effective self-referential humor . I Joellen Sweeney, as assassin Charlotte Corday. Her murderous exuberance is hilarious. There are also effective little theatrical-touches I enjoyed, such as the use of red-ribbons to signify death by guillotine. It is strange play, but if you like your violent European History served with a side of laughs, this is your show. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

"Crossing Mnosose" @ PCS

"Crossing Mnosose" has some of the most impressive scenic design I have seen in years. Unsurprisingly, the scenic designer (Todd Rosenthal) has many Broadway credits. Also worthy of note is how well the historical story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with the modern story of Standing Rock, and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sadly, I must admit that Standing Rock had almost completely disappeared from my memory, until the play brought it back to mind. This play has a strangely short run, so if you'd like to see some of the most wow-inducing stagecraft you'll see in a Regional Theatre, you'd better hurry.

Friday, April 26, 2019

"Jesus Hopped the A Train" @ CoHo

I fell in absolute love with the writing of Stephen Adly Guirgus when I was introduced to it via Artists Rep's production of "The Motherfucker with the Hat", had it rekindled with "Between Riverside and Crazy", and now it continues with "Jesus Hopped the A Train." In my review of "Motherfucker" I described Guirgus's dialogue as "verbal sprints." That description holds true for "Jesus Hopped the A Train. This time, however, I was struck not only by the incredible speed, but by the dialogue's near-musicality. It's basically a symphony of profanity.

"Jesus Hopped the A Train" was one of a handful of shows I have anticipated from the beginning of the Season. it continues Coho's long tradition of presenting productions with minimalist-sets that let local actors take the well-deserved spotlight. In this, it's Bobby Bernea, as a serial-killing Christian Convert, of  all things. I've said a version of the following in my reviews of Guirgus's work: it embodies the essence of the violent, visceral reasons I love the theatre. Plays like this are what I hope to see.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

"A Grand Night for Singing" @ Broadway Rose

"A Grand Night for Singing" is a collection of Rogers and Hammerstein classics, arranged in revue. This revue is bookless, and so I was grateful for the detailed playbill, which noted where each song was from. This made things more grounded than they were in the similar  Kander and Ebb revue Broadway Rose did a few years ago. I overheard someone else say that despite the fact she was a pretty big fan of the duo, there were songs she hadn't heard, which suggests that material varies fairly widely. Of the numbers I recognised, quite a few if them were from previous, equally good Broadway Rose full-productions. If you liked their versions of "Oklahoma" and "The Sound of Music", you'll enjoy this show. If those I hadn't heard, the solos were my favorite. These songs are a lot to have on a single person's shoulders, but the vocalists at Broadway Rose never disappoint.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"Taking Steps @ Lakewood

"Taking Steps is a classic farce with a British-lilt. Once I made peace with the fact the promotional material had exaggerated the "haunted manor" aspect, which is what caught my attention, I found it to be an amiable entry into the genre. As always with a Lakewood production, the cast was top-notch, and the set worthy of a theatre twice its size. It's a pleasant way to while away the last of the cold, as we inch ever closer to Spring. There's just a wintery feel about it, and as the season itself ebbs, so does the length of the run, if dry British wit strikes your fancy, rush over to Lakewood.

"Until the Flood" @ PCS

My first exposure to Dael Orlandersmith's work was "Forever" Reading that review again., I see I rained down superlatives upon it. "Until the Flood" is even more entrancing, and at times seems like a impossibility. I was silently awestruck at the way she inhabited such diverse characters. At times Olandersmith disappears so completely into the roles that she seems almost like a conduit.

"Until the Flood" examines the Michael Brown Shooting through the eyes of several residents who live near the scene. The most admirable aspect of the production is its even-handedness. Even the unapologetically racist electrician is given space to describe events in his life that may have led to misplaced anger. The bravest thing about the show is its unabashed excoriation of the fence-sitting White Liberal, having one characters state  "At least with a bigot, I know where I stand." That's bold remark to make in a show where that category of people is likely to make up a large segment of your audience. Still, virtually no character or group emerges unscathed, except perhaps the Universalist minister who pleads for love among all, ultimately she's the only one who deserves to be unblemished, because her view is the best we can hope for.

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Wolf Play" @ Artists Rep

"Wolf Play" gets off to a rough start. It begins as a metaphysical rumination on wolves, acting, theatre, and the nature of the universe. It registers as a gigantic "Huh?" This is especially unfortunate because there are some fairly important details of the plot in this rapid-fire mishmash.  However, it doesn't take long for the play to find its groove. "Wolf Play" explores the legal pitfalls of same-sex adoption, which exist even following the Supreme Court victory in gay-marriage, Much more surprising, and even less widely known, are issues involving the internet and adoption. The production is well-acted, particularly the genuinely motherly performance of Ayanna Berkshire. Despite my disappointment with its opening, I must also note that there is a harkening-back to some of the more esoteric details, which do seem to help bring the play full-circle. But, I do hope that some editing is done, as this play is world-premiere, and it is on it's way to more productions elsewhere.