Friday, May 29, 2009

The Daily News

Ms. Haubenstock's review of "Chapter 2" is in this morning's newspaper. Perusing the T-D website, I also saw this little item on the small bump in Broadway grosses this past season. That's good news, I think.

If you are thinking forward toward the Tony awards, Sycamore Rouge is hosting a Theatre Appreciation Party on Sunday, June 7th, where you can hang out with like-minded theater lovers, cheer on your favorite actor or production and just have a good time. I've seen it mentioned on Facebook, though it's not on the SR website. You could probably call the company (957.5707) to get the details. Unfortunately, it's the first swim meet of the season for Team Tline so I won't be able to attend. So I'll be doing my low-key rooting for Alice Ripley and "Next to Normal" at poolside.

Y'all have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My colleagues

If you haven’t been over to lately, John Porter’s reviews of “True West” and “I Ought to be in Pictures” are both now posted. A consistent comment on “IO2BiP” in all of the reviews I’ve read has been about the age of actor Matt Hackman, an issue Mr. Miller addressed on the Barksdale Blog which you may want to check out on the highly unlikely chance that you haven’t seen that post yet.

Ms. Tupponce had another one of those career spotlight columns in the paper on Wednesday, this time featuring the Properties Master for Theatre IV. I wish I could find a link to these pieces online but so far I’ve been stumped.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the Steingold sisters had what for at least half of my family would have been a total “OMG” moment, spotting Adam Lambert during a showing of “Hair” in NYC.

And speaking of OMG moments, I’m a little flabbergasted about the news that Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman are going to be in a show together. I can imagine this production being sold out within minutes of ticket availability on sales to women alone…

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A few weeks ago, I was prepared to go into some rant about the hypocrisy of Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons – previously divorced and currently going through a very messy marital breakup amidst allegations of infidelity – and his stated opposition to domestic partner legislation in Nevada. However, fairly well-reasoned rants have been posted elsewhere and frankly, I just didn’t have the energy for it.

Well, now a few weeks later, Gibbons has followed through on his threatened veto and, in another smack across gay folks’ faces, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 in a decision made public yesterday and immediately decried as illogical.

I still don’t have the energy to turn my frustration about this into well-reasoned prose. But I remain deeply deeply disappointed and will continue to believe that Americans will eventually embrace their better natures and end the institutional discrimination against homosexuals. For a couple of centuries, America asserted that “All men are created equal…” and blatantly, sometimes violently, enforced discrimination against blacks. That phrase also implicitly leaves out women, and gender discrimination still festers in some quarters.

For a country that so assiduously and proudly asserts its belief in freedom and equality, this institutional discrimination is hypocrisy, plain and simple. I know there are all sorts of legal arguments about the specific cases and rulings but, as you probably also know, there were similar arguments about inter-racial marriage. If you don’t “believe in” homosexual unions, just don’t enter into one, OK?

As if by some divine providence, the latest Richmond Triangle Players newsletter arrived at my house yesterday, talking about the progress they’ve made on their new performance space and the challenges they face to complete the process. I can’t do much of anything beyond squawk in protest over what’s happening in California and Nevada, but I can support the local gay-oriented theater company. I suggest you support it, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leading Roles

I’m looking back at this past weekend with a little bit of awe, recalling everything that my fam and I managed to squeeze in. As usual, there was a bit of theater in the mix. On Friday, we finally made it down to the Theatre Company at Fort Lee, a venue I have been encouraged to visit myriad times in the past 10 years. It is certainly a fine theater, though I have to admit that the build-up of all those years of encouragement made me expect something of Empire Theatre grandeur. Technically, it certainly is a notch above some of the fringier venues in Richmond. Two aspects were a little odd to me, though: the uncommonly deep house (without a balcony) which seemed to limit the site lines for seats in back sections; and the placement of the orchestra essentially in the house, in the front left section. Still, the set, the lighting and the sound quality for the show were generally good and the costumes, particularly for the fancy New York party, were great.

The production in the offing was “Annie Get Your Gun,” a spunky show directed by Amy Perdue highlighted by a winning lead performance by Jenny Fralin. I have to admit that the main draw for Team Tline was the talented Mercer family and they were, of course, exceptional. Makenzie and Kaylin dutifully bolstered many musical numbers as two of the younger Oakley sisters and Davis lent scads of personality to the role of Charlie Davenport. We kept hoping for a Mercer family trio to be worked into the mix but I guess that would have been stretching things. As with many non-professional shows with a large cast, the acting quality dropped off noticeably after the top 6-8 roles but still, it was an entertaining show and certainly will get me to check the Fort Lee schedule to see what they have in store in the future.

We also made a trip northward for a wedding on Saturday, where two actors who have made some Richmond-area appearances in the past had different kinds of starring roles: Patrick Bromley and Julia Rigby, two of the stars of last spring’s “As You Like It” by Richmond Shakespeare, were the best man and one of the bride’s maids, respectively. It was an uncommonly beautiful day for a wedding and the bride and the groom were both lovely.

Hope you had a great weekend, too, and enjoyed some sunshine because my weather-obsessed coworker tells me its supposed to be a somewhat dreary rest of the week.

Friday, May 22, 2009

California Screamin'

Reviews of "True West" and "I Ought to be in Pictures" are up on the Style site. Enjoy!

Learning about advertising…again

People always complain about advertising, or at least most of the people I know. “Do we really need to be assaulted by Viagra ads on TV, in magazines AND through email spam?” goes the common refrain…

But then, every once in a while, something comes around that makes you say, “well, I wish someone had told me about that!” Every theater pro has probably heard the phrase from a patron before, “I didn’t know that they did theater [like this] or [this good] or [in this location] until I heard about this production.” In many of the non-profit endeavors I’ve been involved in over the years, the realization has always dawned slowly but surely that in terms of actually getting on people’s radars, it is nearly impossible to do too much advertising.

Which is all a lead-up to yesterday’s revelation for me: who knew Patti Lupone was coming to town? OK, technically she’s not coming to Richmond, she’ll be in Williamsburg (on Sunday, two shows, details at:, but still, that’s really just right up the street. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t seen her chipper mug smiling up at me from the free magazine racks next to Style at Pleasant’s Hardware. She’s featured in FiftyPlus magazine, a mag that my denial about the ongoing creep of time pretty much demands that I ignore most of the time (note to FiftyPlus: it’s pretty lame to list a website address on your magazine cover that points to an “Under Construction” page. Just sayin’…).

But if Patti’s bright pink outfit hadn’t caught my eye, I’d be in ignorant bliss now. Instead, I’m thinking about how impossible it would be for me to see either of her shows and concerned about potential low turnout to her show, which would be a deterrent to other artists coming to the area in the future at times when I actually could see them. If only I had known about it a few weeks ago…

And so to offer my tiny little bit of advertising assistance to a new venture, I’ll mention that the Night Light Collective is holding auditions at Pine Camp tomorrow for the show “Aloha! Say the Pretty Girls” that they will be running the weekend of July 24-26. From what I saw, they are planning to pay their actors, technically making them a pro theater company. The more the merrier!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


You can say a lot of things about “American Idol.” As an Allison lover and Gokey disliker and a firm believer in the absolute irrelevance of the judges this season, I’ve certainly said plenty. But the ascendancy of "musical theater veteran with the killer vocal chops" Adam Lambert has done several things that I think are positive, at least from a theater-loving perspective. Adam has effectively undercut all future use of the put-down “too Broadway” in criticism of vocalists, in my opinion. He’s also reminded people that musical theater is usually populated by people who have serious vocal ability and the flexibility to use that ability in different contexts. His performances have been explicitly theatrical, also a reminder that performing ability and aptitude for interpretation are aspects that are key to a popular musician's success.

What I would hope is that young striving singers (and/or their parents) who really don’t have any interest in acting or dancing would realize that they have as much to gain from participation in a school-based theater program or a program like SPARC as the young striving actors and dancers.

As if finally realizing that theater programs need not only be the butt of “Waiting for Guffman” like parody, Fox will unveil “Glee” tonight in the prime location after “American Idol.” Based on positive reviews I’m reading, this show may be another rehabilitative step for school-based theater that (arguably) began with the “High School Musical” movies. I’m certainly willing to at least give it a look.

Take Me Out Out

I just found out that RTP’s last planned production of the season, “Take Me Out,” has been postponed. I expect the decision was made ages ago but the news never made it into my clogged brain. I can understand the explanation but I’m still disappointed. I enjoyed “Pulp” and I think RTP is the company I find most consistently unpredictable, regardless of production. I was looking forward to being surprised again with this story that seems incredibly timely. Oh well, best of luck getting things going again next season, RTP...

Monday, May 18, 2009


Y'all hear about the apparent screw-up with the "Billy Eliot" Tony nominations? Like with so many things, the devil's in the details, no?


I’m still in recovery after this past weekend, which saw the opening of Barksdale’s “I Ought to be in Pictures” and Henley Street’s “True West” (click on the links for the T-D reviews).

But I will mention that, though in a dazed and confused state, I am feeling great feelings of gratitude toward:

> Jerold Solomon, ensemble member of “South Pacific” and former Richmond-area star who was exceptionally gracious in showing my son and I around backstage after the performance on Saturday. Cooper was equally dazzled by the little library & green room area for the actors and individual dressing rooms for the stars as he was by the full-sized Navy bomber in the theater’s fly space. Personally, I could have stayed and talked to the show’s charming star Laura Osnes for a few hours.

> The wonderful people in line – essentially strangers – who moved the stuff we had left in their keeping when we ran over to the Walgreen’s just at the moment that the rain decided to really come down.

> The swell Russian woman with the glittery pink nails at the Skyline Hotel who let us keep our car parked there until 3pm without additional charge (I think it’s hotel policy but still, she was nice about it).

> The nice parking lot attendant off West Ave. who only charged me $8 for Lincoln Center parking when I think she could have charged me $20.

> My lovely wife who rescued Coop and I from the Tire Center as dawn was breaking on Sunday, the left rear tire of my old Subaru being fairly well shredded.

> My awesome boss who has showed great understanding at my distracted and sleepy state of concentration during most of today.

> I also want to thank J.J. Abrams for making the new "Star Trek" movie such a blast. Almost makes up for the frustrating "Lost" finale...

Should sleep ensue at a reasonable hour this evening, perhaps I’ll be able to generated some authentic critical commentary tomorrow….

Friday, May 15, 2009

New York

I was almost 17 the first time I went to New York. I was on an east coast tour of potential colleges and, on the way up to see Cornell, my mom and I stopped in the Big Apple. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight but I remember being fairly dazzled and more than just a little overwhelmed. I had been to Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, and I lived just outside Cleveland so I was familiar with big-ish cities but, as you know, nothing really compares to NYC. My mom and I share a love of Impressionist painting and we went to the Met (I think) where there was some ridiculous number of Monets on display, like 30 of them or something. I remember just wandering around that museum for hours with my eyes popping, totally wearing my poor mom out.

My feelings about NYC have changed dramatically over the years and these days I look forward to my increasingly sporadic trips up there with giddy anticipation. My trip this weekend is going to be a quick one – really just 24 hours in the city itself – and more logistically challenging than other trips, but man, I’m just smiling madly through this Friday thinking about getting on the road northward. On Saturday, I’ll be able to see “South Pacific” which I’ve been wanting to see for what seems like forever so I am grateful for even the small window of time up there.

What’s funny to me is that, nearly 30 years after that first visit, this time I’ll be dragging my son around town and probably wearing him the heck out. Oh well, some things just don’t ever change.

Before blowing town, I was able to catch the final preview of Henley’s “True West” last night (many theater pros in the crowd – Joe Inscoe! Jolene Carroll! Bill Brock!) Great work by the cast with a truly quirky little play. More next week after I get that pesky review written…

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Yo all! Sorry I’ve been silent for a coupla days but my prime blogging time (that is, lunch time) has been taken up by meetings with some very fine theater folks lately. I’m also gearing up for a trip to NYC this weekend – not even believing that my last trip up there was about a year and a half ago – so time has been tight. But I said I’d get at least something on here about “Altar Boyz” so here goes:

I should get this out of the way right now: I really enjoyed this show. I came in with some reservations and, particularly early on in the show, I found myself self-consciously checking the bearings on my internal faith-related gyroscope. At best, I am a Jeffersonian Christian (look it up if you like; also try Deist) and have all sorts of baggage about religion that I continue to sort through on a regular basis. But it wasn’t long before I put all of that aside and gave in to the fun of this show. I think the show does a pretty exceptional job of playing right at the edge of making fun of devotion but also honoring it; not an easy balance to maintain.

Having said that, I also think it finesses some things less than successfully. The Abraham issue, for instance – they say he’s Jewish but then he’s singing along about Jesus, and there’s nothing really distinct about how he reconciles that. Also, seeing the Mill’s “Altar Boyz” really made me wish I had seen the production that RTP did. So many aspects of the show could be played up or played down. The most obvious difference in choices I could see between the two companies would be how to handle Mark’s coming out as a…Catholic. Hmmm…. All sorts of subtext to work there that the Mill didn’t soft-pedal exactly but also did not take pains to accentuate either, in my opinion.

But looking beyond all of that, there is no denying the strength of this production. The lights (yay, Joe Doran!) and fog effects were awesome and Mickey Nugent’s choreography was top-notch. The performances were exceptional. I’ve liked Brandon Becker in everything I’ve seen but I gained a newfound respect for his star power in this show. Brett was a hoot, as was David, as was Eric! They each could have made their characters broader but I was kinda glad they didn’t. The fresh new face that I left the production eager to see again was Sean B. Williams as Abraham; he’s got an awesome voice and holds his own in some pretty exceptional company.

My whole family had a great time and I’m hoping my two youngest get the idea to start a boy band of their own thanks to this show. I’d love for them to get rich so I can retire to managing their careers full-time. Ha!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


One of the more surreal aspects about last week for me was seeing Kimberly Jones Clark at the Science Museum on Thursday and then at the Firehouse on Friday. As the proper and articulate 19th century wife (and cousin!) of Charles Darwin, Jones was decked out in a plain, conservative frock with a tidy haircut. As the stripper-on-the run in “Trailer Park,” she wore a garish blonde wig and a skimpy skirt – oh, and there were those pasties, of course.

It was fun to see such a significant range in characters portrayed by one actress in such close proximity. But while it was cool that Ms. Jones could pull off such dramatic differences so well, it was even more intriguing to pick out the similarities in the portrayals. Both women were smart, insightful and surprisingly supportive of the men in their lives. Jones infused both with an admirable pluckiness, the kind of backbone that shows some kind of innate strength. With that kind of similarity between two desperate roles, it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t an aspect of Jones’s own character.

There was a lot to laugh at in “Trailer Park” but I have to be honest and say that I was ready for it to be over well before it was done. I have really enjoyed everything I’ve seen Chris Hester in before but his character here did nothing for me. I didn’t believe in him for a second. Afterwards, I thought back to Dennis Hopper’s Frank in the movie “Blue Velvet,” a similarly unhinged (though exceedingly more threatening) character. He was just as extreme as Duke but I believed in Frank – and feared him. But by the reaction of the crowd during the second act, though, mine was a minority opinion. Oh well, can’t argue with the masses.

I went back and reread Ms. Haubenstock’s review and have to say that I agree with most everything she had to say. There is a lot of leeway I can give a production based on charm alone but after too many scenes where people aren’t lit or songs where lyrics are unintelligible, I lose patience. As Randy would say, I’m just keeping it real, dawg.

But in the spirit of also keeping it positive (thanks for the nice comment, Anonymous!) I’ll finish up by saying that the “white trash chorus” – Nancy McMahon, Durron Tyre, Aly Wepplo – was consistently entertaining. Even though the weird revelation of “Lin” at the play’s end was an incomplete and clumsy misfire, these “girls” provided the spice that made this otherwise unappetizing entrée palatable.

Next up (at least in this space): “Altar Boyz.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Spy

In a week chock full of plays, I finally managed to stay all the way through “Trailer Park Musical” on Friday and traveled with most of the Tlines to the rollicking “Altar Boyz” out at the Mill on Saturday. I’ll try to get some more distinct words down on virtual paper about each of them but the first quick thing to say is how cool it is that each performance I saw had a smattering of other theater folks in the audience.

There was a little clique of “Annie” cast members taking advantage of the night off to see “Well” when I went on Thursday. Then I chatted with two lovely Thibodeau family members, Sophia Foley’s lovely mother and lovely director-around-town Deb Clinton at “Trailer Park” before taking my seat next to the lovely and enthusiastic Jackie Jones. It certainly made for a lovely evening. And I’m not sure but I think I spied Elise Boyd – a semi-regular down at Sycamore Rouge – at “Altar Boyz.”

I just think there’s no better support of theater than to actually go see the shows, whether you’re in the business or not. Excitement in the theater translates into excitement about theater, right?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Well Most Wonderful

I pulled off a two-fer yesterday, seeing “Endless Forms Most Wonderful” at the Science Museum and sneaking out to “Well” at Barksdale while another chunk of Tlines went to SPARC’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” That’s a lot of theater being absorbed by one family.

I want to talk more about both of the shows I saw but this morning has gotten busy here at the mayo mill so I’ll just say these quick things right now:

Doug Jones has been encouraging people far, wide and often to go see “Endless Forms” and for good reason. It’s fact-filled and educational – which usually blunts drama, action or comedy – but also still ends up being a very nice human story of Darwin’s family life. Larry Gard and Kimberly Jones Clark are superb and Lynne Hartman’s lighting is extraordinary within the limitations of the space.

“Well” was great – a show that may confound some people with its meta-theatrical mashup that pretty much threads (UPDATE: threads? Huh? I think I meant 'shreds' here. Oy.) the fourth wall. As someone who sees dozens of shows a year, this kind of challenge to the basic forms is exciting just on that basis. But the performances are also awesome with some excellent actors navigating the shifting realities of the show with precision.

Jenny Hundley does a fine job in the lead role where she basically gets to have the least amount of fun of anyone. Steve Perigard is a stitch as the clinic nurse; Molly Hood is compelling in all of her roles, perhaps most of all as herself; and Joshua Boone is a fresh and energetic newcomer who clearly has some great skills, portraying both an alcoholic father and his young son convincingly.

But the people I left this production thinking most about were Katrinah Carol Lewis who gets to show off some of her extensive range, playing everything from a terrifying bully to an angry clinic patient who delivers one of the most poignant “breakthrough” scenes of the show. This is an actress who should have a one-woman show to do so she can really blow some audience's minds. And Jody Smith Strickler. What can I say? I just adore her and she is so organic in a role that almost begs to be cliché. I was absolutely rapt during her extended monologue late in the show that is like a little master class on how to make a potentially static monologue live and breathe. I have to say I had flashbacks to her doing the same thing in “Quilters” a billion years ago but this one is even more impressive because there is no patina of frontier courageousness here. Just a mom talking about life and her daughter and its sweet and clear and real. Nicely done, Ms. Strickler.

OK, so I wasn’t so quick with the thoughts. Gotta run! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Local Playwrights

Hey, did ya see that nifty career piece on Bo Wilson in the Times-Dispatch classified section yesterday? It really was cool to see a really different career spotlighted. I particularly enjoyed the very-staged looking photo with Bo on his computer and on the phone. I'm not sure how that was supposed to represent the activities that make up his career; was he berating a director about changes to his script perhaps?

Anyway, congrats on the exposure Mr. Wilson (and nicely written Ms. Tupponce). In recognition of local playwrights, (in addition to my shout-out to Sycamore Rouge for doing Woody Eney's world premiere next season) I'm going to sneak away from work to see Doug Jones's play on Darwin at the Science Museum. It closes this weekend folks!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Challenge, Ambition, and Fun (or Seasonal Affective Disorder, Part 2)

I know I saw a listing of the Firehouse’s upcoming season somewhere but can’t remember where (a Firehouse Flash, perhaps?) and now can’t find it anywhere on the web (I don’t have access to Facebook at work so maybe it was there?)

Anyway, the point is that I can’t comment on their season right now except for “Boy’s Life.” I have a one-degree of separation kind of thing with this play (an old friend of mine was a good school friend of Howard Korder’s) and I saw it in New York years ago. All I remember about it is that I didn’t particularly like it, a vague memory of it being a ‘boys being stupid’ kind of play. You might think this would prejudice me against it but it actually does the reverse. In general, I want to like plays so I’ll go into this production hopeful that maybe it was the specific production or something specific about me at the time that made me form that opinion way back when.

UPDATE: I just walked down the street from my office and realized that I probably first saw the new Firehouse season on the banner they have currently hanging in front of the theater that announces it. Now I have the deets; commentary to come...

In terms of outright ambition, I really have to hand it to the Barksdale. They are really going all out to capture a wide audience and do some interesting work at the same time. I’ve heard of Jose Rivera, though haven’t seen his work yet, so I’m most intrigued by the Barksdale’s first show next season, “Boleros for the Disenchanted.” The shows with Broadway pedigrees (“Putnam Spelling Bee” and “Is He Dead?”) should help draw patrons due to name recognition and, with “Bee” in particular, I can imagine them doing a really kick-ass version of this fun show.

“Sound of Music” I’ve already mentioned and really, I expect every person in town with even a vague knowledge of theater to see that show. Then the collaborative productions at CenterStage should continue Barksdale’s expansion into new realms and hopefully build a younger and more diverse audience. I expect that, if Barksdale keeps putting out the bait, every company in town should benefit from the patron pool getting more crowded, as it were.

I like Sycamore Rouge’s season because I think that the shows may be challenging but, as long as they get some good actors, they can really pull off some good work. ‘Jar the Floor,’ ‘The Crucible,’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are all great raw material and none of them really require extravagant production values. But they do require some folks who can deliver performances not just good or above average but really extraordinary. ‘Jar the Floor’ I believe is a regional premiere and something I’m very curious to see.

And of course, kudos need to go to the SycRou folks for mounting a world premiere. Overall, I think their season shows a good balance between challenging, intriguing and appealing to the average theatergoer.

As far as shows that make you smile just reading the title, RTP’s “Scrooge in Rouge” definitely has my interest peaked. I hope that this show is a welcome antidote to the usual onslaught of holiday shows with a bit more polish that last years “Scientology Pageant.” My disappointment with another “A Christmas Carol” from Theatre IV (still no King Island Xmas revival?) may be assuaged by this production.

And by all accounts that I’ve read, “The New Century” is hilarious so I’m hopeful for a resurgent RTP this Fall, full of fun and the usual envelope-pushing we all love and expect from them.

A ‘Part 3’ to this series may have to wait until I see all of the Firehouse season again and get the word from Stage 1, the Mill, CAT, AART and any others I may have missed. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Alarming Idol

Here's a list of the Tony nominees, for your info. Folks should take notice of the regional award to the Signature, a designation that my comrades at ATCA (American Theatre Critics Association) and I are responsible for. Given that I've only seen one show there and that I did not like it, that was not my vote. But congrats to them just the same. I'd like to at least check out their adaptation of "Giant" before I write them off...

I also like this little commentary on the nominees. And as far as the final question it poses, my response is a resounding "NO!"

Seasonal Affective Disorder, Part 1

One way I can tell I’m a theater geek is that I get a kind of giddy anticipation around this time of year as companies announce their upcoming seasons. I imagine it’s a little like what hardcore fashionistas feel like when they see the Fall lines announced – what here will really be worth buying? What offerings have the potential to be something really revolutionary? What old favorites will be refurbished? And what shows seems downright shocking or confusing or otherwise extreme?

Also, at least one show each year lends itself to a particularly delightful game of the casting guessing game. Last season, it was Swift Creek Mill's “Side Show,” though that one stood out because of its comic potential (my favorite: Jason Marks and Durron Tyre as the sisters…)

For the upcoming season, Theatre IV's “The Sound of Music” has already got the people I know guessing. There is the iconic role of Maria – has to be young, spry and maybe a bit quirky but also charismatic and of course madly talented. The possibilities are myriad and the choices each with their own pros and cons. For some reason, my thoughts immediately went to Angela Shipley, though I wonder if she’ll still be in town then. I wouldn’t be adverse to a certain out of town crush of mine (named Rita). Then there is Captain Von Trapp and all of the kids. The combinations and permutations are endless! Any guessing now is way too preliminary but still, it sure is fun to imagine.

In terms of a whole season I find intriguing just on titles alone, I have to say Henley Street’s got my interest peaked. I haven’t seen “A Doll’s House” since high school, I think, and would love to see what a more modern reimagining of it would be like, since I wasn’t able to make it up to the Tony-award winning production in 1997. The other two shows should be challenging and fun (the intense 'Shining City' by Conor McPherson and the wacky 'A Servant of Two Masters' by Carlo Goldoni) and their Bootleg Shakespeare project has all sorts of possibilities for unexpected surprises (though I kinda wish they were doing a lesser known comedy like “Two Gentlemen of Verona” rather than something as iconic as “Romeo and Juliet.” Still intrigued though…)

More on other companies and their season in the days to come… In the meantime, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts!

Monday, May 04, 2009

If at first you don’t succeed

There was this indeterminate slice of free time that I found myself with Friday night, between dropping off one daughter for “Annie” and picking up another from her soccer game. I thought that within this gap I could see most if not all of “Trailer Park Musical.” The return trip from ‘away’ soccer games is notoriously squirrelly in terms of time of arrival, running as much as an hour later than the stated return. Well, this time the squirrel was more punctual than expected and I ended up only seeing about 20 minutes of “TPM” before I had to sneak out. As I skittered toward the door, I caught the last bit of Kimberly Jones Clark’s first striptease (perhaps there are others?), complete with big-star pasties. While I was very disappointed to go, it was at least a memorable moment to leave on, that’s for sure.

I had another possible window on Sunday but thanks to the iffy weather, I ended up being responsible for one of the 8-n-under crowd at my house and, while I don’t know that they would have been exactly shocked or dismayed about the striptease, there certainly seemed to be enough other “adult moments” that suggested perhaps bringing a younger one along would not have been wise.

(Along those lines, I hope you’ve been keeping up with Mr. Porter’s reviews at the site or their archive. I had to chuckle though, as he recommends theatergoers leave their young ones at home when seeing “Chicago.” The missus and I brought an 8-year old and a 5-year old to that one. Please don’t call social services on us.)

So this week, the challenge will be how to fit in at least one, if not two, of the many shows that are imperative for us to see. I’ll be looking into acquiring one of those time-turner things that Hermione Granger has…

Friday, May 01, 2009


Every once in a while, someone will contact me in defense of something – anything from a whole play to a specific choice in a production – and they will argue along the lines that it works just fine exactly the way it is. They will do so in a tone that can vary from “it’s unfortunate you didn’t appreciate this” to “what kind of an idiot are you that you didn’t get this?”

I always like those kinds of communiqués because it reflects someone’s passion about their art. There’s a lot to be said about honest passion in a world that often seems bent on blunting it.

But there’s even more to be said, I think, for looking critically at something and trying to make it better. I was perusing the Entertainment Weekly theater review page, mostly to see what they said about ‘9 to 5’ (loved it) and the latest star-laden Broadway production of ‘Waiting for Godot’ (mostly loved it).

While there, I saw this older review of “Next to Normal.” I found the breakdown of the changes made to the production fascinating. Clearly, the creative team behind this production took a hard look at things and decided to make some fairly significant changes. By this account, at least, the changes made a dramatic difference.

I know most productions do not have the luxury to try things out, gauge audience or critical reaction, and then make significant changes. The days when you had a week of previews are over. But there are successful directors that maintain flexibility within the constraints they are working under, e.g., Andrew Hamm recently posted something on his blog about a joke not working and getting dropped from Richmond Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (have you seen this show yet? Why not?)

What’s my point? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just saying that, next time I get an email from someone saying something is just perfect the way it is, I’ll keep this link to the 'Next to Normal' review handy. I expect there are few things that are impervious to improvement.