Monday, October 25, 2010

The Js Have It

I’ve fallen into a bit of a bad habit, one that I expect plagues many theater fans but that is a bit inexcusable in a part-time critic. A production will open, I’ll tuck away the thought in my mind that I really should see that show, and then, by the time I untuck that thought it’s too late.

Or, in the case of “The Foreigner,” almost too late. I was able to finagle my schedule to catch the second-to-last show of the Swift Creek Mill show this past weekend and I was glad that I did. I was struck first by the warmth of Tom Width’s set – the sturdiness of all that wood hardly made the set look like a set at all. In a theatrical era often dominated by minimalist sets that force a lot of mind-construction, it was nice to see a set where the construction was all there on the stage.

I can’t really provide a full-fledged review but my quick take was that I was particularly impressed by the work of the “J”s in the cast. Jay Welch, whose great work in “Take Me Out” last season was often overlooked because of how many other phenomenal talents were on stage, was pitch-perfect as Ellard. With a role that would be easy to make too big, he put in a “Goldilocks” kind of performance: not too big, not too small, but just right. James Rees was also excellent as Froggy and Jonathan Hardison balanced the various aspects of his wily, smarmy, and dastardly Reverend David with much skill.

I don’t want to short-change the rest of the cast. Seeing Richard Koch and Bill Brock face off at various times in the show – both chewing the scenery in their own ways – was a real treat. My appreciation of Mr. Koch’s portrayal – an incredibly entertaining as it was – may have suffered a little because I absolutely adored him in the last two shows I saw him in: Henley Street’s “A Servant of Two Masters” and the Mill’s “Greetings.” The women in the cast were solid but I think the play gives them a little less to work with. Having said that, I did appreciate the subtle dawning of awareness that Sarah Legere communicates as Catherine in the last scene. Very fine work there.

It seemed that several theater folks were also sneaking out to catch “The Foreigner” before it’s close because a number of actors were attendance on Friday, as well as recent Top 40 Under 40 recipient, artistic director James Ricks. I hope they all enjoyed the show as much as I did.

Speaking of bad habits, I’ve also been bad lately about getting links to reviews up in a timely manner. I can’t promise that I’ll get any better soon but here, only a couple of days late, is the Times-Dispatch review of “Dixie Swim Club.” I’ll be looking for something from Mr. Porter later in the week.

1 comment:

Thespis' Little Helper said...

LOVED Jamie and Jay in The Foreigner.

And you can catch Jay in the upcoming staged reading of Suzan-Lori Parks' F#ck!ng A at the Firehouse Theatre Project on November 8!