Tuesday, April 1, 2014
There comes a time in any dynamic evolution, where the need to stretch and grow becomes a necessity. Such is the case at the Coach House Theatre with the creation of the Artists Choice: Black Box Series. As Nancy Cates, Co-Artistic Director, explains “This series will enable Coach House Theatre to flex their artistic muscle and attract a younger audience, new young-adult actors, and directors.” This program enables play selections that are not part of traditional programming. To start the series off, the offering is the wildly dynamic “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” by John Patrick Shanley. Mr. Shanley has quite the resume which includes the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning “Doubt.” With good material to jump start a new series, the next job is to cast the show with solid performers to prove the point that different can be a good thing. And director Sarah Coon does just that, while guiding the piece in terrific form and execution.
The story involves two damaged people that find comfort in one another. The setting is a rundown bar in the Bronx, where two of society's rejects, Danny (Joe Pine) and Roberta (Tess Burgler), strike up a halting conversation over their beer. This is a raw, funny and poignant romantic tale with adult language and sexual content--just what the Series ordered. This is a 70 minute ride without intermission delving into the lives of two souls who have not had a good day in a long time. Pine and Burgler inhabit these two shattered lives with intensity and sharp focus. These two actors are amazing. To be honest, I want to wear them as clip-on earrings and just go around and act. Thank you.
In the beginning, Roberta is a woman who states, “Sometimes, I just start screaming,” while Danny shares that, along with his anger issues, “It never seems like enough.” Both characters live at home and are struggling to make a life for themselves. Roberta is haunted by a past sexual encounter, and Danny is struggling with panic attacks that can completely shut him down. But this is visceral acting that we witness. Both actors convey their character’s faults and tortured connection with great acumen. And when the two decide to spend the night together, the entrance into the bedroom generates more heat than watching the movie “Body Heat” on fast forward. It wouldn't be a bad idea to have ice water available for the faint of heart. Then we journey through what real emotions these two can garner. Watching Danny’s tender moments is a scream. The resolution is touching. The physicality in the play was both excellent and disturbing. These are two actors that trust each other explicitly and, as a result, the purest of truth resides.
Congrats to Coach House Theatre on an exciting new journey. I know that I will be there supporting the next production.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
Monday, March 31, 2014
Near West Theatre empowers young people to believe in themselves through the process of theatre.
No greater an example will be the upcoming production of Once On This Island.
This is the second to the last show at the St. Pats location, before Near West Theatre moves into it's brand new theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District.
Come see what transformational theatre is all about.
Diverse kids from city, suburbs offer Once On This Island Jr. April 10-13
Musical about class, culture and love features cast of 31, ages 9 to 15
Boys and girls in Near West Theatre’s “Kids Loud and Musical Organic Revue” program are preparing a lively, mystical musical about two young people who cross lines of class, culture and race and how the communities around them react.
Caribbean-themed song and dance are featured in Once On This Island Jr., on stage Thursday, April 10, Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m. Performances will be at the theater’s longtime home in the St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. It will be the next-to-last production in that location before Near West makes a transition to its new home, now under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District.
Like the original Once On This Island, which received nine 1991 Tony nominations on Broadway, this “junior” version – shortened and modified for young actors – follows the orphan girl Ti Moune and the wealthy boy Daniel through journeys of beauty and struggle as they challenge boundaries that separate two cultures on a Caribbean island. The cast includes 17 girls and 14 boys, ages 9 to 15. They are African American, Euro-American, Hispanic American, and of multiracial heritage. Seventeen are from Cleveland; the rest are from Avon, Avon Lake, Berea, Euclid, Lakewood, Mayfield Heights, Olmsted Township, Sheffield and Westlake.
Tickets can be purchased at www.nearwesttheatre.org, or by calling the box office at 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Reserved Star Seats with special benefits are $20; general admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under.
Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Greater Cleveland Community Shares and the Ohio Arts Council.
Cast of Once On This Island Jr.
Near West Theatre, Cleveland, April 10-13, 2014
Felix Albino (Papa Ge)
Corinne Howery (Asaka)
Louis Johnson II (Tonton Julian)
Joceyln Perkins (Ti Moune)
Stellina Scacco (Mama Euralie)
Cole Tarantowski (Daniel)
Nora Van Lier
Rafael Velez III
Colin Wheeler (Agwe)
Morgan Williams (Erzulie)
Allison Yellets (Andrea)
Director: Kelcie Nicole Dugger. Musical Director: Evie Morris. Assistant Director: Anthony Williams. Choreographer: Andrea Belser. Technical Director and Production Manager: Josh Padgett. Assistant Technical Director: Perren Hedderson. Scenic, Properties and Costume Designer: Laura Carlson Tarantowski. Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager: Ryan Wolf. Assistant Stage Manager: Anthony Williams. Lighting Designer: Tobias Peltier. Sound Designer: Joshua Caraballo. Properties Master: Jessica Rosenlieb. Artistic Director, NWT: Bob Navis Jr. Executive Director, NWT: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek.
Suggested performance listing:
Near West Theatre. St. Pat’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. 216-961-6391 or nearwesttheatre.org. Once On This Island Jr. April 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.; April 13 at 3 p.m. Star Seat, $20; general admission, $10 adults, $8 children (12 and under).
NOTE: Near West Theatre’s 3rd-floor performance space is accessible only by stairs. It is not accessible to persons with certain disabilities. We look forward to welcoming everyone to our future home in the Gordon Square Arts District, which will be fully accessible.
Once On This Island Jr.
Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based upon the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy
Originally directed and choreographed on Broadway by Graciela Daniele
Playwrights Horizons, Inc. produced “Once On This Island” Off-Broadway in 1990
Originally produced on Broadway by The Schubert Organization, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.
Suntory International Corporation and James Walsh, in association with Playwrights Horizons
“Directed by Sarah May.” Those words alone tell you the production you are about to see is going to be great. Actors turn out in droves to audition when she is directing, and her meticulous method of making the set look as authentic as possible is part of the artistic charm that exudes in her productions. Well, May has done it again with a terrific production of “Life With Father” at Weathervane Playhouse. Debuting on Broadway in 1939, it holds the distinction of being the longest running non-musical play in Broadway history. May does the production justice, transforming all of us back to a time when family entertainment was indeed just that -- laughter coming from actual events and conversations that we all have experienced in our own family dynamics. The play was dramatized by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, based on the stories by Clarence Day. These stories were first run in The New Yorker magazine. It tells the true story of Clarence Day, a stockbroker who wants to be master of his house, but finds his wife and his children ignoring him until they start making demands for him to change his own life -- the major change being his wife’s insistence that Clarence be baptized to avoid going to Hell. There are other family dynamics as well that seem to keep everyone on their toes. May even stays with the original story and all the boys in the household are redheads. That is an eye for detail.
Jim Fippin as Father, Clarence Day, Sr., is a bombastic blast. So set in his ways, Fippin does a great job at making this pompous father lovable and exasperating at the same time. He creates a textured father with a good heart but an overbearing way of expression. Tari Lyn Bergoine as mother Vinnie Day is spectacular. She owns this character and this time period in a beautifully nuanced performance with deft comedic choices. Watching Mother manipulate Father is a joy to behold.
The kids are terrific. You really feel that they are part of an actual family, with each inhabiting their character with resilient charm and presence. Clarence Day, Jr. is played with great effect by Eric Lucas. As the older child, he does a great job conveying the yearning of trying to become an adult with financial independence, and handling the ups and downs of a first love. Will Price is a hoot as John Day. Price has a great playful charm that he uses with great skill throughout the production. As a salesman, he has some great comic moments. The Desberg brothers, Owen and Spencer, are scene stealers as Whitney and Harlan Day, handling the roles with great focus and cuteness, and generating plenty of smiles along the way, red heads and all.
Cousin Cora is colorfully played by Jenny Barrett, bringing great charm and bubbliness to the role. You are happy to see her when she visits. As her daughter, Mary Skinner, Erin Moore brings an endearing quality that makes it easy to see why Day, Jr. would fall head over heels for her. Reverend Dr. Lloyd (Richard Worswick) is very fun. Under the character antics supplied by Worswick, the Reverend is a pleasure to watch as he looks for the right moment to encourage the baptism of the ages. Dr. Humphreys (Steve Boardman) reminds me of the Sean Connery of the medical profession -- great job, along with his back up physician, Dr. Somers (John Grafton).
The maids are kept busy in the show. Margaret (April Deming) is a scream to watch as she tries to make everything perfect and manage the staff. Watching her get a bit rattled is delightful. Annie (Kay Caprez), Delia (Sasha Desberg), Nora (Madelyn E. Francis), and Maggie (Jennifer Desberg) do double duty during the show, not only playing their parts and trying to serve the meals without setting the alarm off inside Mr. Day, Sr., but also being involved in the scene changes, making them interesting to watch. There is also an easel to the side that the maids switch with each scene, following the play’s timeline like we were watching in an old silent movie theatre.
The creative team does a tremendous job: Stage Manager Scott Crim calls a terrific show. Sound Designer Michelle Conner does a great job at blending the spoken word with the fabulous song choices. Properties Designer Jennifer Maxson Draher must have worked overtime on a marvelous set with incredible detail. Costume Designer Jasen J. Smith knocked it out the park with his designs. The family looked amazing, and the woman to die for. But leading the charge were the designs for the Mother. Bravo. Scenic/Lighting Designer Alan Scott Ferrall continues his streak of incredible professional work. The set is incredibly impressive and lit to highlight the action with a loving embrace.
This is what family theatre is all about. Weathervane kicks some creative butt with this production.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 27 - April 13
$5-$21 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
1301 Weathervane Lane
Akron, Ohio 44313
Currently at Actors’ Summit is the very funny romantic comedy “Handle with Care” by Jason Odell Williams. The play ran Off-Broadway recently and was the vehicle for the return of Carol Lawrence, who first struck Broadway gold as Maria in the original “West Side Story.” The story involves Ayelit (Natalie Sander Kern), who is visiting America with her grandmother Edna (Marci Paolucci). Edna unfortunately dies on Christmas Eve morning, and Ayelit is left with the task of shipping the body back to Israel for a prompt burial. Unfortunately, the delivery man, Terrence (Arthur Chu), loses the box with the grandmother inside. So he calls his best Jewish friend, Josh (Keith Stevens*), because he is sure he can speak Hebrew. Well, if it was only that easy! The results are comedic and surprisingly romantic, and a hot mess of characters navigating a crazy situation.
Constance Thackaberry* (director) does a great job with this piece, with great casting and keeping the pace cooking while knowing exactly when to dim the lights and let the moment simmer.
Kern (Ayelit) is FANTASTIC! If I were Actors’ Summit, I would rent a furnished apartment upstairs, install a fire station pole, and let her slide down into every show I produced. Kern is on full cylinders from the second the play begins and she never stops. A recent transfer from Pensacola, FL, she is an incredible addition to the acting chops in the area. She also handled the Hebrew with deft accuracy, while learning the language phonetically, and assisted by Hebrew Coach Oudi Singer. Both are masterful at what they do, as teacher and student. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Stevens embodies Josh with great comedic timing and one-liners to die for. With charm and a solid lovable character, he kills it in the role. He shows a beautiful arc of letting the past go and enabling himself to understand it is ok to have a future and love again.
Arthur Chu’s Terrence reminds me of Tom Arnold, if he graduated from Animal House--not the sharpest tool in the shed. Chu brings sublime dysfunction to his character. I would not be surprised if her had to use his own delivery GPS to get home. Playing it over the top with his amazing summations of life and intellect, he certainly is an audience favorite. Marci Paolucci brings a warm and loving quality to Edna. Without bravado, she establishes a great connection with the audience and with her on-stage daughter.
The production staff supports this production with aplomb. Kevin Rutan+ (Technical Director) does great work, as well as Anna Bose (Stage Manager) calling a great show.
There are a lot of laughs here, and some very impressive performances. I mean, seriously, where else can you see a Jewish Christmas play in the spring?
Kevin Joseph Kelly
*Member of Actors’ Equity, the professional association of actors and stage managers in the United States.
+Member of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
March 27 - April 13
$10-$33 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
Actor's Summit at Greystone Hall
103 High Street, Sixth Floor
Akron, OH 44308
Friday, March 28, 2014
Currently at the Cleveland Play House is the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, presented in association with Geva Theatre Center, Directed by Geva Artistic Director Mark Cuddy. Clybourne Park (2010) was inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun (1959). This play will certainly generate discussion. One discussion point is about suicide and how family members and loved ones cope with and mask their emotions. But the major discussion will be about racism.
We journey to 406 Clybourne Street, in the near northwest of central Chicago. In Act One, we are taken to September, 1959, where an anxious group of white neighbors attempts to talk a couple out of selling their home to an African-American family. Seeing as this is a response to Raisin in the Sun, I was quite taken by surprise. Instead of a dramatic edge, we meet a cast of characters that could have lived in Pleasantville, with racist tones intact. There are a few liberals thrown in the mix, but they are dealing with their own son’s suicide. It is a bizarre ride. But what I began to notice is that the characters were caricatures of racist white people. It is disheartening to hear it thrown in your face, but after a while, you have to admit you actually know people like that.
Act Two is 50 years later in the same house, but now it is dilapidated. Once again sparks fly when a white couple presents a plan to knock down the house in order to build their dream house in the now predominately black neighborhood. The same actors assume new roles; some of the characters are direct descendants from 1959. This group is much more careful about stating racist remarks, which is our new found “political correctness.” Respecting the memory of what the house represents becomes important, and also forces frank conversation about racial issues. It seems to me that the black couple now has been empowered by their predecessors struggle and has found confidence in protecting the value of the past.
As I stated before, the cast does double duty. Roya Shanks (Bev) unfolds as a hilarious, emotional train wreck directly from the Pleasantville station. In Act Two, she (Kathy) turns into an uptight lawyer who obviously didn’t have to pass a geography lesson on her bar exam. Remi Sandri (Russ) is a knock out as the father, riding the emotional waves perfectly. And then is a very funny ‘Dwayne F. Schneider’ of Clybourne (Dan).
Kristen Adele (Francine) brings class and elegance even donned out as a maid, and then morphs into Lena, an Angela Bassett spitfire who has impeccable comedic timing and delivery. Daniel Morgan Shelley brings stature and grace to Francine’s husband (Albert), then transforms beautifully into Kevin, a modern day preppie with a wonderful connective energy with the audience.
Jessica Kitchens is a blast in both acts. We find her as Betsy, a deaf and pregnant wife. She handles the disability with such care that she is able to generate some terrific laughs. Then Kitchens becomes a confident mother-to-be who is an emotional rollercoaster handling the conversations around her, especially her husband. Along the way, she creates some great laughs and social commentary. Christian Pedersen has the assignment of issues throughout both ends of the play. As Karl, he comes across like a pre-superman uptight jerk as he attempts to convince the couple not to sell and ruin the neighborhood. Later, as Steve, he excels at being someone who just can’t keep his mouth shut.
Jim Poulos arrives to the party as Pastor Jim and must confuse bigotry with a religious freedom. Poulos is great. Later, he comes back “light in the loafers,” and contributes his sexual preference in a very funny moment. The final moment of the show features Bernard Bygott as Kenneth, the son who left their world way too soon. It is handled with beautiful honesty and is a very touching moment to end the show.
I am left with the theme of being in fear of others--the others that we don’t understand and who scare us. We must not remain in a bubble. One by one we must reach out and extend openness to what is uncomfortable and seek those who are based in truth. That is what I left with.
The technical elements were excellent. Embellishing the beautifully restored Allen Theatre were Scenic and Costume Designer G.W.Mercier, Lighting Designer Ann G Wrightson, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, and calling a great show was Stage Manager John Godbout.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 12 - April 13
7:30pm Thursdays (1:30pm show on Thursday, April 3)
2:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays
$15-$61 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
Cleveland Play House
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
Monday, March 24, 2014
Today’s Adventure: Medina County Show Biz Company presents “The Importance of Being Earnest” directed by J.T. Buck. Once again, I am surrounded by a group of ladies who are local theatre fans, and this time they came from a pre-show talk at Miss Molly’s Tea Room. They filled me in on the theatre and they also did something else. When we were instructed to turn off our cell phones, I tried to do that but my cell phone was gone. The woman behind me offered to call it and when she did, lo and behold, one of the ladies was sitting on it. Oscar Wilde would have been pleased.
First produced in 1895, marriage is of paramount importance in the themes of this play, both as a primary force motivating the plot and as a subject for debate. Morality and the constraints it imposes on society are explored as well. However, in the hands of Oscar Wilde, the result is a comedic farce of infamous proportions. We take flight with John and Gwendolen, Algernon and Cecily, Rev. Chasuble and Miss Prism, with Lady Bracknell as the pilot and Merriman and Luke handing out the peanuts.
J.T. Buck (Director) has assembled a fine cast for this presentation. He certainly understands Wilde and goes right after the farcical elements of the play with a fever pitch. Almost vaudevillian, the actors push themselves to find their inner over-the-top muscles and flex them onstage. The pace is mostly sprite with some lags in the scene changes and minor staging choices, but overall plows through the lengthy material with vigor and laughter for days. His style is clear and consistent.
Andrew Deike (John Worthing) plays the protagonist of the play with a full arsenal. He cuts a fine leading man persona and gives John a refined, educated, and well balanced richness. His accent is tight and he handles the part with supreme confidence and a classic gate. He also knows when to let go and have some fun. On occasion, as a result of low volume, some of the dialogue was lost. But overall, this was a strong turn with great comedic elements.
According to the program, Amanda Davis (Gwendolen Fairfax) states she is happy to share the stage with her dashing fiancé, Adam Vigneault (Algernon Moncrieff). Well, you have heard “misery loves company” -- in their case, “excellence loves company. “ Both of these entertaining actors knock it out of the Victorian era. Vigneault is a terrific Algernon. He is funny, wild, and has a great sense of connection with the audience and the material. He consistently is a firestorm of energy throughout. And complimenting that energy is Davis, who is beautiful, charming, and funny. Hers is a great embodiment of the character with deft comedic choices. Both Davis and Vigneault have clear voices with diction that is essential in the world on stage, but especially in the Wilde. (See what I did there?) Bravo to both.
Then we come to the masterpiece theatre. Patrick Michael Dukeman as Lady Bracknell is a scream, with a commanding presence, clear elegant diction, and a character that resembles Maggie Smith on steroids. Dukeman is all over this part, and thankfully so. Very funny! And he owns what I call the comedic fade away jumper. He is dressed to the nines by designer Jasen Smith, who designed and built Bracknell’s costumes. I have to admit with the slender hips and the full bosomed look towering over the cast, I think Bracknell would easily go in the first round of the draft. Tremendous work! Lady Bracknell can steal the play, and in this case, she does.
Cecily Cardew (Katie O’Connor) was a crowd favorite. She brought bubbly dynamics and physical Burnett-esque chops to the role. One caution: diction was lost in some of the over the top moments. O’Connor was a frenetic entity and very enjoyable in her verbal duets with Davis. Diann Gorsuch brings a regal touch to Miss Prism. She is a hoot when being wooed by her suitor. Charles Cover brings a Burl Ives feel to Rev. Canon Chasuble. He is pleasant, enjoyable and lovable throughout the evening.
Kudos to Brett Agular for playing double duty with Merriman (Butler to Mr. Worthing) and Lane (Mr. Moncrieff’s manservant). These two roles could easily be thrown away but due to great character focus—and, in the case of Lane, bringing back the ghost of Tim Conway—were enjoyable and added to the proceedings.
Technical staff did a great job:
Stage Manager: Mary Smeltz
Set and Scenic Design: Kathy Elias (tremendous work with the garden and interior sets)
Lighting Designer: Manuel Aguiar (nice foot light effect)
Sound Design: Larry Mohler (good balance of music and spoken word)
One last note, I hope Wendy the poodle has insurance--careful with the luggage!
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 20 - March 30
$10 General Admission
Order Tickets Online
Medina County Show Biz Co.
144 North Broadway Street
Medina, OH 44256