All Dressed Up and Nowhere to go: A review of ATLANTIS

 

Atlantis

Last spring I traveled to the Sivananda Ashram on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Among several sacred spots on the 7 acre plot of pristine prime real estate on which the Ashram stands is a temple built around a rock which is supposedly, according to the late Swami Sivananda, is the tip of a spire of an ancient temple of the legendary city of Atlantis which he claimed was sunken underneath the island. Thus the name of the famous resort located right next door to the Ashram.

That tidbit has nothing to do with my review. I just wanted to boast that I have been to the most likely geographic location of the play’s namesake and touched with my own hands the supposed top of that ancient temple.

Anyway, the play, Atlantis, like Paradise Island, is beautiful. A feast of perfectly executed production values in lighting, props, set design and execution,  costumes, make-up, hair (wigs), and sound design. The actors are flawlessly cast, including Broadway worthy leads who are great looking and wonderful singers. Kristen Hanggi’s direction is thoughtful and effective. Anthony Smith’s musical direction is spot on. Kikau Alvaro’s choreography is meaningful and exciting. A beautiful world is created in the script complete with politically correct same sex couples and mixed race families.

So, what’s not to like?….

Despite all of the production perfection, this show is as hollow as a summer fling at the beach. It feels good in the moment to be with that sun tanned, hot-bodied surfer but it lacks the kind of substance that makes a lasting relationship.

The script is so thin that I did not give one rat’s ass that Atlantis was going to disappear into the ocean or that some of its inhabitants were going down with it. (Oh, Oops! Spoiler Alert.) The Disney-esque feel to it made me nauseated. If I wanted to see a Disney show I would go to one.  Most of the songs sounded the same and seemingly all of them ended in a loud crescendo! which left me thinking, “Enough already!”

Please know- I was entertained.

This play is for Andrew Loyd Webber fans.

For more information click here.

Uncontrolled: A review of Animal Control at the Firehouse Theatre

 

 

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As audience members stood to give Friday night’s performance of ANIMAL CONTROL an ovation, I was genuinely confused. Perhaps, like the two sides of the Notre Dame re-build situation, I felt overwhelmingly different about the play than they did. In fact, if they thought the show was deserving of such kudos, I know we were in different camps because I found it inane, boring and generally a poor production.

Since this is a short review I will deliver my observations succinctly:

I liked that all sides of the dog story were presented, giving the audience  thought provoking perspective.

In all three acts, there were characters on stage waiting for another character to appear. It felt like 15 minutes of each act was filled with script that neither provided any information about the characters nor moved the plot as the waiting commenced. That is a lot of time on stage in plot purgatory.  And it wasn’t just me that seemed to think this. The woman sitting directly in front of me took to checking her emails on her smartphone and sharing them with her husband halfway through the third act.  A man in the second row nobly fought sleep.

The play is supposed to be about people and how they behave like the dogs they are discussing. There is A LOT of talk about the dogs. Dogs are special to their owners. Discussion of specific dogs and their issues is interesting to the folks directly involved.  To the rest of us it is dull conversation. And even though I personally experienced a similar situation as the plot presents with my own dog biting another dog, I felt nothing for the characters.

I did feel sorry for the actors, however. They had to stumble through this insanely inane script, trying to bring rather one dimensional characters to life with perhaps, little to no direction. They all appeared a bit unsure of exactly what they should be doing on stage.  One actor was so choppy in their line delivery and disengaged from the other actor in the scene, that I thought they might be a last minute substitute allowed to read their lines off of a phone.

My favorite line from this play is:

“What’s taking so goddamned long?”

Because it summed up my feelings as I waited for the ending.

This play is great for people who like theatre for the sake of it and want to cheer on our local actors and new playwrights.

For more information go to the Firehouse website.

 

7 Thumbs Up: A review of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England

 

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I shall start in the way of the bad critic in this review of Seven Mammoths Wander New England by clearly stating: I love this play. And not just because one of the main characters is a yogini, like me, but because it is clever, charming and wrangles with the subject of life and death in a way that feeds my soul – with pop culture references, hometown newspaper columns, alternative kinship structures and talking dioramas of ancient peoples.

I also love the thought and care that Lucian Restivo used in directing RTP’s production, giving his actors the space to be authentically vulnerable without falling into the sap trap. Annie Zanetti, Shaneeka Harrell and Meg Carnahan give intrigueging performances in their roles of Dean Wreen, Greer and Andromeda (respectively) a complicated triangle of former and current lesbian lovers living together as one goes through cancer treatments. Special shout out to Carnahan who kept me in stitches as the yogini, providing a true-to-life mirror of some of the slightly woo woo oriented women who choose yoga as a medium for self-transformation. The supporting cast of David Clark, Maura Mazurowski and Ray Wrightstone are hilarious in their roles balancing out some of the deeper moments of the play.

This play is best for people who love thought provoking theatre with a lighter side.

For more information go to the RTP website

 

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Hear them Roar!: The Women’s Theatre Festival

The first thing I want to say about the Women’s Theatre Festival which is touted as 4 Weeks, 4 Companies, Four Fantastic Shows is:

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!

Because if you don’t get your tickets now you will miss out on some wonderful performances by some awesomely talented and obviously hard working actresses who are bringing some provocative plays to life.

And if you do get your tickets now and go to see these plays you will be spellbound by the talent and expanded by the stories presented not to mention support women as badass bosses of masterful theatrical productions.

I have now seen 4 of the 5 shows that are part of the festival. In My Chair, Eva DeVirgilis’ play that was presented at the Theatre Gym under the auspices of Cadence Theatre Company and co-produced by Virginia Rep, was reviewed on this blog several weeks ago and closed last night. You can find my review here.

All of these plays are written by, produced by and performed by and everything else by women.

Over this weekend I planned to see the other 4 offerings, all performed in the Basement operated by Theatre LAB but the Saturday night presentation of Bad Dates, featuring Maggie Bavolack, Directed by Melissa Rayford and Stage Managed by Morgan Howard was cancelled due to Maggie being sick.

But I did get to see The Richmond JCC’s offering, Golda’s Balcony on Thursday night; Message From a Slave, produced by the Heritage Ensemble Theatre Company on Friday night; and 5th Wall Theatre’s offering, Pretty Fire, on Sunday afternoon. They were all thought provoking plays delivered via powerhouse performances brought forth by adept direction and production elements.

Golda’s Balcony is about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir with an emphasis on the crisis she faced during her tenure when Israel was almost lost to the Arabs. Jacqueline Jones brings “Goldie” to life under the direction of Debra Clinton. I barely remember this incident as it unfolded but the names were familiar and Jones does justice to the hard scrabble woman who made history.

 

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Pamela Archer-Shaw was mesmerizing in Message From a Slave, an interesting amalgam of slave life and life advice. I was particularly moved by the first act where African woman, Chaku describes how she came to be a slave and how she survived her bondage henceforth. Archer-Shaw simply owns the audience throughout both acts, holding us spellbound in her hand as she sings, dances and shares characters with us.

 

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Lastly but definitely least, I was pleasantly surprised by Haliya Roberts’ deft performance in Pretty Fire as Charlayne. I say this because I was unimpressed with her performance in Talk Radio but she really shows some real acting chops in this one. Directed by Carol Piersol and choreographed by Melanie Richards, Robert’s maximizes the use of a single prop and crisp clear movements to define spaces and specific actions. The perspective on racism in this play is pure genius.

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These plays are for anyone who wants to see some intellectually stimulating , kickass, well executed theatre.

For more info and tickets click here.

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