My preview on “All’s Well the Ends with Monique” is in this week’s Style. Also, the T-D had a review of AART’s “Langston is my Man” yesterday.
Speaking of “All’s Well” – the Shakespearean version, that is – Playbill has an interesting interview of the Artistic Director of the Public Theater who made a point of taking on the “problem plays” this summer. It provides a little insight into the decision-making process of at least one prominent AD.
A local AD was prominently featured last night as Barksdale / Theatre IV staged a preview of their 2011-12 seasons. As part of Irene Ziegler’s funny and engaging patter, Bruce Miller was the butt of a Muriel McAuley joke, which he himself then reinforced. It’s hard not to be charmed by such willing self-deprecation.
The event as a whole was pretty amazing, providing tantalizing snippets of what’s to come. I would love it if other companies in town did this sort of thing, though I expect it’s not as easy to throw together as Billy Christopher Maupin and the whole Barksdale machine made it seem. The most thrilling part of the night for me was hearing Ali Thibodeau sing a selection from “Spring Awakening” (backed by Robin Harris and Brittany Simmons). It had the exact effect I think the Barksdale / Theatre IV folks intended: I now simply cannot wait to see this show.
The most intriguing interlude of the evening was David Robbins introducing a scene from “Scorched Earth,” the world premiere adaptation of his novel that the Barksdale is preparing. I am hopeful for this show and would love to see it succeed. But centered as it is on a small southern town’s legal process and a black man’s prosecution, it is dangerously reminiscent of other popular entertainments (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” the entire John Grisham canon and its adaptations). It will be a challenge for this show to transcend its antecedents.
The talent Barksdale / Maupin was able to pull together for the night was impressive, with David Janeski and Aly Wepplo appearing often, the two of them making even “Lend Me a Tenor” seem like a promising prospect. The show wrapped up with a medley from “My Fair Lady” and really, any time spent listening to Stacey Cabaj perform is a good time. Nuff said there.
I was entertained by the night’s performances and expect it was an unparalleled success in most ways. I couldn’t help but catch a little whiff of a weird dichotomy about the evening, though. I’d say the average age of the crowd was (by very generous estimate) 65 years old. Ms. Ziegler got some mileage out of joking about texting and Tweeting, prompting laughs from the appreciative older crowd. However, “Spring Awakening” is a relatively in-your-face musical for a distinctly younger generation. “God of Carnage” is peppered liberally with ‘fucks’ and ‘shits.’ And considering that the staffers of Barksdale / Theatre IV are among the most prolific Tweeters I know in town, there was a definite young / old tension in the air, at least for me.
I realize that subscribers (who are always older) are still the bread and butter of many theater companies. And the older folks ate up “My Fair Lady” and “Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas.” But it is my fervent hope that Barksdale / Theatre IV is planning to go balls to the wall in using shows like “Spring Awakening” and “Carnage” to bring new patrons – younger patrons – into the theater and, to that end, using texting, Tweeting, blogging, and every social media possible. These new vehicles need to be embraced, not denigrated, and if your crowd is older, perhaps they need to be gently educated instead of coddled by comforting reassurances about how live theater is still that “old style” entertainment they love. For those wondering how best to do this, I’m sure you could bring Monique in as a consultant.