As Blah as Any Given Monday

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Here are my thoughts on ANY GIVEN MONDAY, which closed last Saturday night.

My mother saw this show and said it was one of the funniest show she had ever seen – one of the best evenings of theater she had experienced in Richmond in her 30+ years as a regular season subscriber to many local theater companies.

I failed to see what she saw in it but to each her own.

The script was funny enough, a man acts out a lifelong fantasy in an effort to support his friend who is suffering from the pain of his wife leaving him for another man, but the script had its flaws and for me fell completely flat halfway into the second act where I found myself gazing around the room and thinking, “Crap, I could be snuggled up in my comfy bed right now instead of here enduring this drivel.” At that point Lenny, played by David T. Zimmerman and Starlet Knight (would make an excellent burlesque stage name), who played Lenny’s wife, Risa, were engaged in a non-plot moving conversation that had something to do with her affair or conditions on her returning home or something- I can’t even remember it was that tedious.

Part of the problem with this production was a complete lack of connection between any of the characters, a directorial problem rather than a script issue.  The show was horribly miscast.   Zimmerman must be almost the same age as Kerry McGee who played his daughter, Sarah while, Knight,  had on make-up that made her look much older than Zimmerman and so pale under the lights against her shock of red hair that I was reminded of the Joker of the Batman Cartoon series.  Although Nicholas Aliff who played Mickey the friend of Lenny, seemed a contemporary of the latter, the two had zero chemistry and seemed oddly matched as friends.

Ahhhh,chemistry, that mysterious element that binds a cast together and makes their character relationships believable.  Directors are responsible for generating chemistry between actors when it is organically absent and there was none that I could discern amongst this group. This is surprising as Director, Shanea N. Taylor, is usually better at this. It was like watching four different monologues happening simultaneously.

There were props issues as well.  All the action takes place in the family room of Lenny and Risa’s home.  There is considerable emphasis on Risa’s concern for the preservation of the furniture implying high-end stuff.  Her costumes and manner would also indicate sophisticated taste while the room was furnished inconsistently, a light blue velour covered Lay Z Boy chair paired with a contemporary couch covered with a striped wool blanket and a light-colored inexpensive chest for a coffee table.  The decor of the room didn’t make sense for the character’s taste and the demands of the script.  It was more “early attic” than coordinated chic.

I did enjoy the concept behind the play of carrying out a murder and the philosophical implications of that action. In fact despite the “connection” problems, I enjoyed the first act fairly well. But maybe I missed something regarding the collective whole. Who knows.  I honestly have to give this one a “C-” grade.  It just seems like the level of talent involved with this show could do better even considering the flaws of the script.

Looking forward to TIME STANDS STILL in April.

Rocky Reviewed

Terence Sullivan and Rocky Horror Cast Anticipate A Night Out to Remember for a Very Long Time

I can remember doing the Time Warp….way back before Jase Smith and his collection of usual suspects got a hold of it and made the older version (the one in the film) look as sensual as a pencil. Yep, the new version of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW delivered a lot of Smith’s re-vamped, ramped up, sexy-for-the-21st-century, vision as discussed in the pre-opening article I wrote for Richmond’s STYLE WEEKLY but some last minute doubts, a confusing set design and a mis-cast keeps this show from being the utter sensation it could be.

Let’s start with something chocolicious in the form of Joy Newsome who plays a sassy, sensual Magenta. Her song styling of the opening number, “Science Fiction Double Feature” lets the regular Frankie Fans (you know who you are) understand that this show will be different from the RHS you know but you can still love it. How could you not?  Newsome seduces with her sexy soulful sound and stripper choreography, a “Jackson” crotch grab coming on the last crescendo.  I was all in.

Then there was a little too much crotch grabbing too early in the play which sort of demystified the shock value of the act and maybe, just maybe jaded the audience a little. We need to be titillate by the crotch grabbing rather than bored by it.  But I digress…

Choreographer Maggie Marlin makes molten moves for the leather and mesh clad groupies making the scene at Frank N Furter’s sex club, The Castle, the setting Smith chose for his upgraded RHS.  They undulate and mock copulate all over the place with some kicks, spins and twists thrown in for good measure, the sexual energy perfectly tempered with utter wildness and/or flowing softness where appropriate. (HaHaHa, I just used the word appropriate in this story.) Particularly inspired is her version of “The Time Warp” so different from the standard now danced at weddings yet so true to the message and lyrics PLUS she mashed it with Madonna’s “Vogue” which totally worked in the “club” atmosphere, providing another type of time warp experience altogether. It was just so hot- I LOVED it.

Michael Hawke as the Narrator brings a mature man hotness to the role. He did play Rocky Horror in his younger days and well, he has still got it.  His Narrator is intense yet funny but towards the end of the show he gets a little too intense, rushes through his lines a bit and falls into a bad habit of dropping some words into unintelligible land.  This issue should be erased as the show continues its run and Hawke gets more comfortable with his ending speeches.

In great voice and kicking ass as the punk rocker version of Riff Raff is Nicholas Alife.

He personifies the tightly wound angst of that music genre and nails that punk styling in his songs.

Aly Wepplo and Nick Shakelford make a great Brad and Janet.  He is nerdy and goofy with a Beavis and Butthead physicality that totally works in the dynamic between his lack of lust to Janet’s looming lust.  In other words, Brad is stuck in a quixotic sophomoric mindset and he never quite goes the distance with his desire for sexual exploration as does …

Wepplo’s sexually awakening, Janet. Janet is much more freewheeling than I have ever seen her. She seems to “get it” almost from the beginning – maybe a tad too much too soon. But  Her lust IS so sincere and particularly well portrayed in during “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch -A Me” were she is ALL over Chris Hester’s (Rocky Horror) mostly naked bod on top of a bondage table. (Lucky girl!) So that at the end the audience is unsure whether Brad and Janet are really going to go through with the marriage as there is an obvious discrepancy in their sex drives.

Smith’s idea of using drugs as the catalyst for the groupies to worship Frank is a thought provoking concept. As anyone who has any inkling about addiction and how it can drive people perform all manner of degrading acts it makes total sense for Rocky to be formed into Frank’s willing sex slave through a need for Frank’s special alien powder- and to actually enjoy it as many addicts seem to embrace punishment as part of the addiction cycle.  This concept was apparently dropped last week making Hester’s Rocky a brainless idiot, victim without context  – way too docile and complaisant and often cutesy (I love you, Chris, Honey but man it up a little here, please).  Rocky seems to just sort of bumble through the play, often running to cower in his go-go cage rather than simply running out the door of the club. It just doesn’t fly. The statement on gay marriage was also weakened with this extra victimized Rocky as the audience is at a total loss as to why he is participating in it at all, cheapening the idea that two sober consenting people of the same gender should be allowed to be married if they wish (a statement I thought Smith wanted to make- I could be wrong).

Neither did the set make a clear statement.  It was awkward for the actors and the audience as it was often unclear whether characters were in the club or out of the club unless you really knew the story.  But it did have some cool smoked glass doors that allowed for some fun shadow play and the extension built for the show gave some fun added room for Marlin to play with.

But the most painful flaw of the show was a casting gaff in which an obviously talented, Maggie Horan was misused as Columbia. The role is simply incorrect for her as a fresh ingenue type who sings (rather than being a singer who acts).  Columbia as a character is a skanky, drug- loving whore who falls madly in love with Frank, then Frank’s next plaything, Eddie.  She is the codependent female version of Frank, a self deprecating, pleasure seeker looking for approval from people who will fail to give it for long.  Horan is a sweet faced wisp of a thing who is just so adorable that in her provocative costume one might suppose Annie Warbucks fell into the set of CABARET and sang the the sexy title song as if it were “Tomorrow”, all smiles and warm fuzzies.(that might actually be hilarious to see on stage)  The problem is most apparent during “Round Like A Record” a ballad added to the show where Columbia is supposed to be exposing her inner dialog of having her fill of Frank and his emotional abuses.  There were giggles instead of tears form the audience because rather than heart-wrenching the song came off as light  “Oh well-it’ll-be- Ok-golly-gee-ish” kind of way. Her singing voice, though perfectly competent was overshadowed by the powerhouses in the cast adding to the diminishment of the character. But her valiant attempt at filling Columbia’s tap shoes made me sure I would enjoy seeing Horan in a role better suited to her talents.

The stars of the show were clearly the Sullivans.  Terence Sullivan stood out above all on the stage both literally and figuratively.  At something like 6’10” in his spiked out heals he lorded over the other actors. Operatically trained, his clear tenor singing voice boomed over the audience while his manipulation of the character produced a varied and engaging Frank N Furter.  Scantily clad in Holly Sulllivan’s (no relation) magnificently tawdry costume designs he makes Frank his own, really blossoming in the second act with “Wise up, Janet Weiss” and invoking tears from several audience members with his moving rendition of “I’m Coming Home”, sung while decked in a ostrich plume collar, gently swaying on a swing. (I get choked up just thinking about it.)

If there is ever a dull second in the show one can marvel over Ms. Sullivan’s costumes which look like a parade of this season’s hottest S&M collection. Lots of strappy, meshy, leathery, spiky little nothings up there on stage making for good food for naughty thoughts.

One other stand out moment that must be mentioned is another added song sung by Shakelford called, “Once in a While” where three band members come onto the stage to accompany him.  It is just a really fun moment.  The scruffy sweet band members in contrast to this half dressed guy singing a tender ballad- you get it.

Overall there is much more to marvel over in this show than to gripe about.  It is not perfect but it is really good and totally fun for RHS virgins and sluts. It is the fifth, and on of  the best, of Jase’s Naughty Firehouse Summer Musical Theater Camp for Wayward Actors productions so get your leather on and go see it.  Besides, Smith challenges us fans to stretch our perceptions of the story while indulging us in a little traditional Time Warp Action at the end. Why would you want to miss out on that?

Who knows you might get so hot and bothered with this sexy summer sizzler that you would be inspired to explore a little more, more, more, more in some intimate areas of your ….life.

Sullivan brings it home in fishnets,fringe and ostrich plumes                                                                     photos by Jay Paul

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