Tween Life Exposed: A review of Dance Nation

 

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Imagine a hybrid of A Chorus Line, Fame and any “R” rated coming of age show/movie with middle-schoolers and you would have something similar to TheatreLab’s production of DANCE NATION by Clare Barron. The play sort of jumps in and out of the minds and lives of pre-pubescents that make up a competitive dance team. There is a lot of confusion, discussion and acting out surrounding sex, ability and what the future holds.

Maggie Roop deftly takes this well-chosen cast and brings the essence of tween-hood to life with raunchy realness. The cast, like the tweens they portray, see-saws easily from child-like innocence to adults as the script demands. Choreographer, Nicole Morris-Anastasi (who also plays Sophia) is able to make a big show move beautifully in this little space- an impressive feat all by itself.

I loved it.

And if you like in-your-face, cutting edge theatre you will too.

For information click herehttps://www.theatrelabrva.org/on-stage

Side note: Everything I have seen at TheatreLab this season has exceeded my expectations. This company has grown into a artistic tour de force in Richmond, delivering thought provoking theatre at its best. It deserves attention. If you have yet to see a play there- get online and buy some tickets already.

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.

Big Hand to Hand to God

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I adore provocative, in your face theatre and the collaborative production of HAND TO GOD by 5th Wall and TheatreLab is ALL that and more!

The plot revolves around Jason and his mother, Margery and how they are coping with the loss of their respective father/husband through a puppet ministry at their church. Sounds innocent enough but when Adam’s puppet turns demonic and Margery lets down her guard things get WILD!

The cast is amazing! Adam Turck (Jason/Tyrone, the puppet) has mastered the art of the rapid fire character switch. Adam Valentine (Timmy) is sublime as the teenager with a MILF crush. Anne Michell Forbes (Jessica/Jolene) milks the most out of her short stage time and also does the incredible puppet character switch thing. Kimberly Jones Clark (Margery) is a badass at playing these naughty girl types. Fred Iacovo (Pastor Greg) Um, a little over the top for my taste. (Ouch. Sorry, Fred, I love you as a person.)

Gary Hopper’s direction is so flawless in this show that one might wonder if he was possessed by a mysterious power himself.

This is a play for people who like dark comedy and serious social satire. No weenies allowed.

If you haven’t seen this show – lucky for you it has been extended.

For more info click here.

 

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