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.

 

Cyra-no: A review of bad wigs

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Last night I saw Swift Creek Mill Playhouse’s production of Cyrano with two friends from Charlottesville and we were all mystified by the strange uneven-ness of the melodrama of comedia del arte and realism that ensued. We were all three simultaneously confused and amused at the attempt to overplay a beautiful tragedy with such silliness and felt that it, particularly cheapened the portrayal of Roxanne, the pivotal character of the play.

And then there were the wigs. Seemingly borrowed from various productions and plopped on the heads of the male actors, one looked like it was borrowed from the set of Gigit with bangs and Dippity Do flip in tact.

Things that were great about the play: Deborah Wagoner (Duenna/Nun), Jeff Clevenger (Ligniere/Cadet Vadim/Monk) and Dean Knight’s (multiple roles) performances, Joe Doran’s lighting design and Frank Foster’s set. Despite the problems with the production I was honestly entertained.

Gratitude to the Mill for dedicating the show to the late Andy Boothby who was slated to play the title role and died just before rehearsals were slated to begin.

Click here for more information.

Go because it is a classic (though I disliked this version of the translation).

 

I Saw a Beautiful Show: Once (a review)

 

Once

Every now and again I am really impressed with the whole of a production. Virginia Rep’s production of Once is one of them.

The play is about a moment in time when a broken Irish musician has a chance meeting with a dynamic Czech woman who becomes the catalyst for resuscitating his life. The story is primarily told through a clever script and some rollicking folk rock music. What blew me away the most in this show is the level of proficiency required by the actors. They must be able to act, dance, sing and play a musical instrument very well and all at the same time – which they did beautifully.

Aside from moments when accents seemed to get a bit muddled, I spent an evening of pure bliss in the theatre.

Highlights: Ken Allen Neely as Guy, Katherine Fried as Girl and seeing a kid (Trevor Lindley Craft) whose performance cracked me up in a Live Arts version of Xanadu all grown up and being fabulous onstage with some heavy weight actors.

This show is a gem that shines brightly in the Virginia Rep crown. I put it in my Must See category of shows for this season. Good for ages 10 and up – especially hopeless romantics.

Warning: The title song will get stuck in your head.

For more information click here.

 

Praising the Greeks, Amen!: A review of Oedipus, a gospel myth

Complete with the passing of a collection plate, Oedipus: a gospel myth is an exploration in how classic Greek tragedy is like a service in a gospel church. Director and set designer, Vinnie Gonzales, has done a great job conceptualizing this intriguing take on the full text of Sophocles’ play about a man who fulfills a gruesome prophecy without his knowledge.

Easter eggs include: the Greek Isles, the number 3 and rhinestone broaches.

Gonzales puts great care into his work and pulls out good performances in his cast. Highlights are the chorus (Shalandis Wheeler Smitth, Shalimar Hickman Fields and Shantell Dunnaville), Jeremy V. Morris as the Preacher, Toney Q. Cobb as  Terresius and Messenger, and Keaton Hillman as Servant whose monolog at the end seals the deal on the show.

Favorite line from the show: “You’d make a rock angry”.

This play is appropriate for anyone who can stomach the content. If you don’t know what I mean, look up the Oedipus myth. But you should see it because it is a very good interpretation of a classic that is rarely staged. Basically, Sophocles kicks our ass with this play even though he tells us how it will end at the beginning. (All High School students should definitely go.)

6_Shalandis Wheeler Smith, Shantell Dunnaville, Shalimar Hickman Fields, Jeremy V Morrs (photo by Bill Sigafoos)

For information 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.

WNRN Culture Connection for Feb 2 – 8

Punksatawney Phil master groundhog prognosticator has deemed we are in for six more weeks of winter which means it is a good time to explore some history.  This week’s WNRN Culture Connection features three events that offer you that chance:  Henley Street Theatre Company’s production of The Lion in Winter,  music from the swinging ‘60’s at Four County Players’ Songs in the Cellar: Broadway by the Decade, and a chance to view the VMI Cadets parade on post is full dress.

To learn more about these featured events click on the links below. To hear a podcast of this week’s Culture Connection go to wnrn.org and click on the “features” tab to find Culture Connections.

The Lion in Winter:

http://henleystreettheatre.org/

Songs in the Cellars:

http://www.fourcp.org/SitePages/index.aspx

VMI Dress Parade:

http://events.lexingtonvirginia.com/events.php?view=d&id=6951&m=02&y=2015&d=6

Stay warm and have a great week!

Mary

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From wnrn Culture Connection Sept 16 – 22

It is important to take time to fill your spirit during the busy fall season and this week I have found some cool ways to do just that with some yoga, a lecture and a trip to a forbidden planet.

Get your OM on during a 36 hour Yogathon at nonprofit Project Yoga in Richmond starting at 6 am Wednesday through 6 pm on Thursday. This consciousness raiser features 24 class segments, 2 DJ’s and a class or two taught by local yoga rock star J. Miles. (I took a class with J. Miles at Floyd Yoga Jam a few weeks ago and let me tell you, it was totally fun.  He really knows how to combine his love for music and yoga into a true mind/body experience.)

Then dash to the Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville on Thursday night for    From Burundi with Love    a talk on forgiveness and reconciliation, by Burundi native and author, David Niyonzima. Sponsored by nonprofit African Peace Partners this event is free.

Now that your are full of peace love and understanding head to Staunton on SATURDAY  AFTERNOON (This is a correction from the actual spot broadcast on the radio. Check the ASC schedule to see what is actually playing Friday night. Apologies for any inconvenience.) to enjoy an evening of truly entertaining theatre at nonprofit American Shakespeare Center’s production of Return To the Forbidden Planet, a B-movie style Sci-fi musical loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest featuring rock-and-roll hits from the 50’s and 60’s.

If you have a cool event coming up shoot me an email at mary@rnwn.org .

See you out and about!

Mary

The Culture Maven

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Dark of the Moon Opens Tonight at Devil’s Backbone

I opened my wnrn email this morning to find this news from Wolfbane Productions, a five year old  nonprofit theatre company based in the Valley. They open their season tonight with DARK OF THE MOON, a play in which yours truly was in at the Dogwood Dell in Richmond back in the summer of 1981 (I played the baby of Barbara Allen….NOT! I was actually in the chorus of witches and wore my hair in corn rows!). It was a good production which included some McGranahan’s if I correctly recall but what stands out in my memory was the witch chorus’ opening entrance.  We entered via stage right from the roof and cascaded en masse down a series of stacked 4x4x4 blocks down to the stage.  This was the old roof that arched over the stage and was covered smooth gravel.  The director, former VCU Drama head, Dr. Parker (oops. forgot his first name and too lazy to look it up… but I think I always referred to him as Dr. Parker anyway) asked one of the Production Assistants to figure out a way to make the roof a less dangerous passage.  The solution:  Pour Coca-Cola on the part of the roof we crawled over to make it sticky and keep the rocks from sliding.  The problem: Bees.  Honey bees thought the dried coke a fantastic treat and were all over it until dusk when they went back to their hives to hobnob with their other bee tribe members.  Right up until about five minutes before our entrance the bees threatened to sting anyone who invaded their dried syrup feeding ground.  It was a challenge to remain un-stung during “places” when the show started.

Below is the information about Wolfbane’s production.  I checked out the trailer this morning and it looks REALLY GOOD. Click here for more information.

 

Dark of the Moon

Our season will open on August 15th with a magical production ofDark of The Moon, staged outside at the beautiful Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, located in the heart of the Blueridge Mountains. This haunting story follows John the Witchboy, an Appalachian mountain spirit, who sacrifices his immortality to be with the human girl he loves, Barbara Allen.

Based on the Ballad of Barbara Allen, Dark of the Moon features a live folk/bluegrass band, singing, dancing and a team of the some of the most talented performers we have ever worked with. Our two leads, John and Barbara will be played by Amanda Smith and Aaron Alan, both of whom have professional performance credits nationally and internationally. Returning from last season, leading our band will be Spencer Meeks from Chicago. They will be joining a stellar group of local favorites to create one of the most magical productions Wolfbane has ever produced.

DARK OF THE MOON will be running at the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company
Performance dates: August 15th 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 29th, 30th and 31st
All performances are at 8pm.
Tickets

As You Like It with Wine

I adore outdoor summer theatre.  But even better is outdoor summer theatre in a gorgeous setting and good wine to sip while enjoying the performance. Once again those of you who feel the same will have the chance to do just that.  This just in from Boomie Pedersen and the Hamner Theatre:

Summer Greetings from the Hamner Theater!

It’s been a while since we had anything exciting to announce, but now we do:

Following the success of last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Hamner Theater is proud to announce the Shakespeare Winery Tour 2013 production of As You Like It, a comedy of love and identity, family and friendship, honor and character.  This year’s tour travels to 7 venues, including *opening weekend at Del Fosse (Fri., Aug. 16 and Sun., Aug. 18); *Cardinal Point (Fri.,Aug. 24 and Sat., Aug. 25); *Labor Day (TBD); *Pollak (Fri., Sept. 6 and Sat., Sept. 7); *Mountain Cove (Sat., Sept. 14 and Sun., Sept. 15); on the levee at *Scottsville with James River Brewing Co. and Thistle Gate Winery (Fri., Sept. 20 and Sat., Sept. 21); and finally at *Albemarle Ciderworks (Fri. Sept. 28 and Sat., Sept 29).  Friday and Sat. shows are at 7pm; Sundays are at 5pm.  Tickets are $12 (children under 10 are $5 and under 5 are free) and are available at the gate.  Most venues will have some seating available but patrons are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, picnics and bug spray.  No outside alcohol allowed at wineries. There is a built in raindate this year for each winery, generally the Sun. after a Fri./Sat. or the Weds. after a Sat./Sun. – details may be found on the Hamner Theater website which is updated regularly –www.thehamnertheater.com.There will be two free preview shows in Crozet, Weds., Aug. 14 and Thurs., Aug. 15 at 7pm…1118 Crozet Avenue, across the street from Tabor Church, second house down from the Community Garage.  Bring chairs, a blanket, the children…

This year’s production features returning company members Jon Cobb, Alex Davis, Emma Givens, John Holdren, Jim Horstkotte, Kerry Moran, Rick Steeves and Alexey Zielinski and new company members Christian Anderson, Allison Bowers, Rose Harper, Bit Pressley and Kurt Vogelsgang.  Carol Pedersen and Boomie Pedersen share the director’s chair once again. Set design is by J. Taylor; costume design by Amy Goffman and original music composed by Emma Givens.

Local wine, local theater, local beauty…a perfect way to spend a summer evening.  I hope you’ll join us!

Cheers,
Boomie

Boomie Pedersen
Artistic and Managing Director
The Hamner Theater
PO Box 754
Crozet, VA 22932
434-960-5936
www.thehamnertheater.com

 

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Trouble in River City- The Music Man coming to Va Rep

I have said it before – musical theatre is far from my favorite genre and The Music Man is definitely on the short list of my least liked musicals. But other people LOVE it.  So if you are in the LOVE it camp this is good news…

Virginia Repertory Theatre announces the opening of The Music Man at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre on Friday, June 28 with a Preview on June 27.  The show runs through August 4, 2013.  Part of the “Broadway at the November” Series, The Music Man is the all-American quintessential summer musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Wilson.  The score features favorite tunes such as “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Ya Got Trouble”, and “Goodnight My Someone”. The story of Harold Hill, who attempts to con the naive townsfolk of River City, Iowa, and the unlikely courtship with librarian, Marian Paroo, is a sentimental classic.  The original Broadway hit in 1957 won five Tony Awards including “Best Musical”.

“Celebrity Saturdays” will feature walk-on cameo appearances by some of Richmond’s favorite celebrities during the Saturday evening performances, and   patrons can enjoy specially made local Dixie Donuts during most performances and ice cream during our “Sundae Matinees”.

Ticket Information

Box Office 804-282-2620

www.va-rep.org

 Tickets:  $30 – $60 with group and student discounts available.

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