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.

Uneven Talk: Talk Radio Review (a love poem to John Minks)

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If you have ever listened to the rants of Rush Limbaugh and the like, you will recognize the switchblade narcissism of Barry Champlain, the host of a night time talk radio show deftly played by Scott Whichmann.

The plot is about Barry and the way he manipulates his audience, sponsors and co-workers with a twisted punishment and rewards system that makes him a radio star.

The shining stars in this production are Roger Price, the sound designer and technician who nails the critical sound cues making the show believable; our beloved, Scotty, who brings Barry to irritating life; and John Minks, who plays a drugged out teenager who gets to meet Barry in person and do a little air time.

Morrie Piersol directed, and I love you, Morrie but this was a little messy. The cast is drastically uneven in ability which would be more distracting if it weren’t for the powerhouses of Wichmann and Minks. In fact, Minks was such a breath of fresh air when he arrived onstage in the second act (both as his character who proves a gentle, balancing foil to Barry’s harshness and a beaming talent among a less nuanced group of supporting actors) that my perspective may have been skewed. At any rate I wanted to get on stage and hug him but waited until after the show like a good little theatre goer.

As an aside: My escort and I agreed that Minks is such a good actor at this point that he could have easily delivered a stellar performance as Barry. Hopefully, he will soon be pulled out of the “teenager” roles he is so often given and promoted to leading man.

This play is for people who can tolerate in your face cigarette smoke and foul language while enjoying some thought provoking theatre. AND for those who want to witness two brilliant performances of the season.

For more information, click here.

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