Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reefer and Reflection

I’ve heard from at least three different individuals that “Reefer Madness” is a real hoot and shouldn’t be missed. It’s interesting to me that the last few shows that I’ve picked up the most significant buzz about have been the so-called “edgiest:” “Little Dog Laughed” at Barksdale, “Veronica’s Room” at CAT, and now “Reefer” at the Firehouse. It prompts many questions: do edgy shows spur people to do better work? Do these shows seem better because they grab and hold your attention? Are they just more fun to talk about? Will the dust-ups about them spur more people to actually attend performances?

One thing that I think is pretty ironic is that, while some other companies are doing “edgy” material, Richmond Triangle Players is doing a downright tame show right now with “The Two Svengalis.” As was probably evident in my review, I wasn’t blown away by this show. I have enjoyed both Mr. Morton and Ms. McMahon in other productions in the past and they both had their moments to shine in this production. But I think the script saddled the production with a somewhat basic problem: the portrayal of a quick rise to stardom. In my opinion, a show like this works best the more convinced an audience is that the songs and / or the performances portrayed would blow people away, that audiences throughout New York would be enraptured and clamoring for more (I found myself thinking about Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand in the different versions of “A Star is Born”). While some of the songs were amusing, none was transcendent and, while delivered well by Nancy and Kirk, they never knocked one out of the house. Maybe I missed something and the show was supposed to be campy. If that was the case, I don’t think it was quite campy enough because I didn’t pick up on it.

The most enjoyable parts of the show for me involved Nancy’s acting-while-singing. She does an awesome job at projecting attitude and feeling through her inflections and mannerisms and other subtle means. I enjoyed them a lot more than the more obvious bits involving being a flustered young housewife or a jaded, fading film star; Nancy did a good job with them, too, but again this is a script problem: obvious is kind of boring, to me at least. Because of the extremes that Nancy’s character goes through, Kirk’s Ricky is bound to suffer in comparison. He is somewhat forlorn, bitter and sarcastic in the beginning and he ends up there at the end. In between, I didn’t get a whole lot of sense of his excitement / anxiety / interest in their growing fame or anything that diverted significantly from the forlorn, bitter or sarcastic.

This is all just my opinion, of course. As I said in the review, there are several enjoyable bits in the show. In fact, in contrast to Ms. H’s opinion as stated in the T-D, I liked the “Man” medley. Anyone else have an opinion they’d like to share?

My thoughts are pretty scattered right now but I’ll try to gather the “Rosemary” –related ones in the next day or two.


Angelika HausFrauSki said...

I know I would go see theatre more in Richmond if more theatres were doing shows like "Reefer." Part of the reason I'm terribly about seeing shows is because many of the shows that are done here just don't interest me. Like, not the performers, but just the shows themselves.

Anonymous said...

I had a great time at Svengalis. Rarely anymore do I go to the theatre just for entertainment, but I did and I got it.

Anonymous said...

I have heard lots of loving Reefer Madness comments, but really didn't care for it myself. I found it to be incredibly sexually gratuitious and wanted to leave toward the beginning of the show when the woman actress had an orgasm on the couch with legs straight up in the air. The energy was quite high which is nice, but it didn't seem to be on par with the quality of work that the Firehouse has produced this season. Not all can be homeruns so they say.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

I'm curious as to why the sex was gratuitous to you but not the violence. There was cannibalism, and the orgasm bothered you more?

I'm not trying to be argumentative. I am genuinely curious.

Anonymous said...

How much cannibalism? How much GRATUITOUS sex?

The cannibalism served its humorous funtion.

The gratuitious sex was rampant.

It mostly was the poor quality that bothered me in the end.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed much to film Reefer Madness to combat the argument that I'm a conservative schmuck. Very much. But not recalling all that cheap, gratuitious sex stuff. A bit. But not to the extent I found here. Wanted to do a bit of anticipating to save the question from being asked. But I have said my piece (yes I know).