I have been away from this space for awhile, not physically but mentally and emotionally. I’ve seen several shows but my mind has been preoccupied by work and home life. The little spare brain space that I’ve had has been busy with the struggle between a) exploring options for leaving Virginia for somewhere where leaders are more concerned with people walking around trying to make a living versus fetuses, and b) figuring out how best to work toward rationality and equality right here. Leaving looks more attractive every day.
The productions I’ve seen have mostly been very good, though I still feel like there are just scads of things I’m missing. “August: Osage County” seems to be the show on everybody’s lips these days, making me especially happy that it’s been extended a week as it may take another week for me to get out to see it. With “Next Fall” and “Shakespeare & Galileo” now up and running, the slew of openings seems to have abated so I can catch up.
Some quick thoughts on what I’ve seen lately:
I was very happy with “Macbeth.” The last time RichShakes staged it, I was distinctly underwhelmed, the only stand-outs I remember being Laine Satterfield as the leader of a particularly bewitching coterie of witches. This recent production moved quickly (perhaps a little too quickly in places) with scenes that were consistently impactful. Ryan Bechard was a perfect choice for the underhanded but conflicted Scot. I was captivated by two actors I don’t remember seeing on stage before, Andrew Mitakides and Zoe Speas. In different ways, each of them was formidable both physically and emotionally on stage. Judging from their bios, they may not be seen locally again for some time so I was glad to get a chance to see them in action.
“Topdog / Underdog” was/is exceptional. The script can be a little puzzling at times and there is a lot of time spent repeating the same basic ‘3 card monte’ patter. I remember thinking the dressing-up-as-Lincoln bit was just bizarre in a previous production I saw. But I felt Ms. Saine minimized the surreal and zeroed in on the characters for this production. And, as I said in my review, she really chose well when casting. Ronnie Brown is simply an electric presence on stage, as anybody who saw him as the devil in “Judas Iscariot” last season can verify (Correction: Mr. Brown of course portrayed Pontius Pilate and masterfully. Vinnie Gonzalez was a delightfully evil devil. Oops!). Here he is both eager and street smart and deeply angry in ways that don’t really become apparent until the second act. Most remarkable here though is Delvin Young’s transition during the play, from downtrodden to triumphant. None of it was overplayed, making the conclusion especially devastating.
I enjoyed “Lion King” much more than I expected to. I appreciate Liz Jewett’s review of the production because, based on a previous production I saw, I expected to have a similar reaction. In the end, however, I couldn’t deny that the technical wizardry – plus some very strong performances – had truly transported me. I don’t usually go in for spectacle for spectacle’s sake but obviously I was taken in by it at the Landmark. The acoustics were pretty darn bad though, which was a little surprising because I thought they were pretty good for “Wicked.”
I had some problems with “Lord of the Flies.” The kids were mostly good, with Eric Evans getting a lot of deserved praise and Sean Wyland simply heart-breaking as Simon. I thought Connor Wilkerson didn’t get the attention he deserved, his innocence coming across plainly and naturally. But, in an effort to streamline the show, I think Josh Chenard cut out too much of the story and the results did not have much modulation. The energy on stage was often manic versus enthusiastic. In the end, I felt like I was shouted at for an hour and a half. But if I didn’t categorically love the results, I appreciated the boldness of the effort. The staging was very clever (if a little cramped) and Joe Doran’s lights were fantastic as usual.
I’ll be seeing a couple more shows this weekend, I hope, and continuing to be thankful for the thriving art scene here in Richmond. To paraphrase Monty Python, I’ll be trying to look on the bright side of life (and if that’s kicked off a little earworm for anyone, you’re welcome!)
UPDATE: Though I had it scheduled as opening last week, it looks like "Shakespeare and Galileo" is NOT open at this time. Sorry for any confusion!