Some people fail to realize that though I spend quite a bit of time holed up in my apartment/writing cave for a good chunk of my life that I actually do get out and experience some of the things I write about for WNRN’s Culture Connection. Last week, despite a full scale Mom duty, I made it to Sunday night Salsa at R2 in Charlottesville, Bachata night (Wednesday) at club M&M (also in C-ville) to David Niyonzima’s Talk at Tandem and to two fantastic shows at The American Shakespeare Center and the season opener party.
Since Salsa and Bachata are weekly occurrences I will refrain from expanding upon how much fun Latin dance is, what a fantastic, fun, eclectic group of people go regularly to dance, what a wonderful, patient teacher Edwin Roa is or that lessons are from 8 – 9pm for both events with a dance party following and that it is only $5 for ladies and $8 for gents. No, I shall go right into describing the other events…
David Niyonzima’s talk was powerfully moving. He described some of the horrors he survived during a massacre in 1993 in Burundi that was directed at him and a group of his Quaker students. The students were all brutally killed as was his brother. This tragic incident began his incredible journey of advocating and working with forgiveness and reconciliation plus learning how to heal traumatized clients. It was truly inspirational. He is now the Director of nonprofit THARS (Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services) in Bujumbura, Burundi, where he developed a wide range of services including Listening Rooms, Support Groups and Community Mediation. His story is one of hope for healing a divided country. To learn more click here.
The weekend offered much lighter fare – it is after all important to have a little yin with your yang. I forayed across Afton Mountain to Staunton ( one of my favorite places on earth due to its unbounded charm, great restaurants, local chocolate, Kazzie’s Granola and the American Shakespeare Center). The first show I caught was the matinee showing of RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET a rollicking mocking homage to 50’s and 60’s Rock music, science fiction and Shakespeare. Shakespearian Drama Rock Star Jim Warren’s talent for camp and comedy are displayed to their best advantage in this play which seriously benefits from a jolt of energy to the ASC regular cast of actors (Allison Glenzer, Tracie Thompson, Rene Thornton, Jr., Benjamin Curns, Gregory Jon Phelps, John Harrell, Chris Johnston) brought by new-to-ASC- main stage talents (Tim Sailer, Dylan Paul, Josh Innerst, Lee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown).
“PLANET” is loosely based on THE TEMPEST but no less than 16 Shakespearian plays or sonnets are quoted or mock quoted in the script while Bob Carlton, who made the show a musical in 1985, adds great songs like, TEENAGER IN LOVE and GREAT BALLS OF FIRE.
The first act of this play is so funny and perfectly executed I laughed almost non-stop for an hour. The casting is simply flawless. Dylan Paul makes the quintessential Captain Tempest with an Osmond worthy smile and Kirk-like swagger, a swoon-worthy love interest for Emily Brown’s, Miranda. Brown obviously has a dance background and moves gracefully across the Blackfriars stage in all her numbers and is a skilled singer and actress – a joy to watch. Rene Thornton, Jr. surprises those of us who have seen him portray mostly serious rolls throughout the years as he loosens up to this version of Dr. Prospero – who knew he could do a body wave? Gregory Joh Phelps is stupendously romantic as Cookie commanding “Awws” from the audience both purposefully and spontaneously. But the best fun of all (and that is saying a lot due to the tough competition) was Lee Fitzpatrick’s Gloria, a wildly feminist Science Officer who now reigns as the Queen of the blues at ASC.
If you like science fiction, mid-20th Century Rock & Roll, Shakespeare or just plain old good fun you must go see RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET before it blasts off the ASC stage November 30th.
During the break between shows I went for some nibbles and a nip of bubbles at my dear friends’ M & J’s (no names mentioned to protect identities). They are the loveliest of hosts who always have great food, fabulous wine and interesting company to make my visits extra special. (kisses to you guys!)
Then at 7:30pm Round II at ASC for the opening night performance of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. If laughter is therapy then go see this play for a good dose of mental health. Benjamin Curns’ and Allison Glenzer’s performances alone are well worth the tripple the ticket price or the average cost of one visit to a psychiatrist. Curns, who won my highest esteem as THE BEST Richard III I have yet to witness (and I have seen quite a few) has flawless comedic timing, line delivery and body language as the confounded Mr. Hardcastle. Glenzer, as seen scores of times on the ASC stage, makes a formidable spousal foil as the long suffering, Mrs. Hardcastle. They have the chemistry of long term marrieds and they instinctively know how to bring out the best in each other as actors. The other shining couple where Lee Fitzpatrick’s Kate Hardcastle and Gregory Jon Phelps’ Young Charles Marlow. The accents Fitzpatrick whips up in her disguise as a barmaid were as hilarious as they were mixed up. Phelps demonstrates his shapeshifter versatility as Young Marlow pulls sort of a Raj (as in BIG BANG THEORY) where he becomes tongue tied with the ladies of his station yet is a smooth operator when it comes to ladies of a lower class.
Both of these plays move at a fast clip, are light fare yet highly satisfactory. And the costumes were FABULOUS thanks to the magic of Jenny McNee (STOOPS) and Erin M. West (PLANET).
Following the show, I headed to Redbeard Brewing Company to hobnob with the actors and other ASC celebs and taste the special beer Redbeard has created in honor of ASC’s 25th anniversary. Cheers to a fantastic fall season, ASC. And many more to come!