It’s a weekend of newness: a world premiere of a new play has opened (“All’s Well that Ends with Monique”) and a new staging of “Hairspray” will arrive at the Dell this weekend. But I’d like to talk a little about renewal and revival.
I just recently became aware of Stacie Reardon Hall’s blog, an exploration of weight loss and body image, provocative subjects that she writes honestly and engagingly about. I think the issues she’s addressing are extremely important to tackle because we are pretty fucked up as a society about them. I grew up with three sisters, all who had various forms of body / food issues and, with a wife and two teenage daughters, weight and diet are subjects that are constantly under discussion in our house. I’ve had my own battles with weight, which I used to blog about 5 – 6 years ago as part of my rewarding experience with Weight Watchers and my inclusion in an irreverent band of fellow weight-loss questers called “the Knights of the Round Bottoms.”
But Mrs. Hall is tougher, more eloquent, and more insightful in many ways than we Knights ever were. I love her latest post where she explores the self-perpetuation of negative thinking. And I’m a little scared in anticipation of her letting the boys have it next (a preliminary self-defensive salvo: my most frequent evaluation of most any actress / model I am asked to comment on is “too skinny.” Really. You can ask the kids…) Her attitude is positive and she encapsulates some fundamental truths very well. One of her assertions is now forever stuck in my brain: Confidence is the sexiest thing you can wear. Amen to that.
But to turn this talk of renewal more distinctly toward theater, EW magazine recently ran some pictures from the Rent revival that just opened. They include a few short interesting comments from the director on his approach to the revival. If you go to the EW site, you can check out (and be either heartened by or enraged by) their listing of the “Funniest Musicals of All Time.” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is number 9. Richmond home boy Jason Marks is currently in a production of “The Producers” in upstate New York, a show that EW puts at #4.
Finally, you’re probably aware that there’s a restaging of a revival going on at Barksdale Willow Lawn these days as “Nunsense” gets an extension into the summer. This production has received so many kudos that I had to check it out even though, to be frank, this show has annoyed the hell out of me in the past. As I found out in LA recently, it is a universal bitching point for critics worldwide that they have to see some shows over and over again. A show's very popularity becomes a nuisance.
So I settled in to “Nunsense” with a bit of a stoic attitude that was very quickly melted away by the winning assembly of actresses that director John Moon brings together for this production. At the top of the bill is the flustered, forceful and very funny Cathy Shaffner as the Mother Superior who has a stand-up comedian’s instincts underlying her expert thespian chops. She never reminded me of the iconic Pat Carroll exactly but she certainly had the audience whipped into as much of a comic frenzy as Ms. Carroll used to instigate.
The rest of the cast is just as winning, Katrina Lewis playing Cathy’s wing-nun with an almost regal imperiousness, while Jan Guarino is convincingly world-wise in contrast to Brittany Simmons’s innocence. But big swaths of the night are given over to Debra Wagoner as Sister Amnesia and she certainly makes the most of them. Most entertaining to me was Ms. Wagoner’s easy manner in her interactive moments with the crowd. Not only is Amnesia delightfully ditsy, as Ms. Wagoner plays her, she is as innocent and open as a child. You would have to have a pretty hard heart not to have it melt in her presence.
So, what I’m saying basically is that, in case you don’t have enough theater-going on your schedule already, it’s worth it to fit in a trip to “Nunsense.” Luckily the theater is well air-conditioned, not just because of the heat outside, but because of all the exercise you’re likely to get laughing. Hey, you might even consider including repeat viewings into your weight loss plan.