Reviewed Performance 3/8/2013
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL by Glen Berger
Performed by Patrick O'Brien
Reviewed performance on March 8th, 2013
Reviewed by Mary L Clark, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
________________________UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL_______________________
To what lengths would you go to discover something that may, in reality, have no significance? To doggedly research and procure clues and information in order to satisfy your itch to find out about something or someone.
Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger is a one-man show about an eccentric librarian who lives in the same orderly world as his profession until one day he discovers a book that is 123 years overdue. Obsessed in finding the original borrower, the librarian leaves his small town in the Netherlands and embarks on a quest that takes him around the world. Following clue upon clue, the librarian meticulously collects the evidence, and in the process discovers both a mystery that transcends the ages and something about himself.
Performed by veteran film and television actor Patrick O'Brien, the show was voted Best Solo Show of the 2012 London Fringe Festival and the 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival. A well-know character actor, Patrick O'Brien has performed in hundreds of films, TV shows, and commercials including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pleasantville, E.R., The West Wing, Home Improvement, and if you're under 40 you'll remember him as Mr. Dewey, the math teacher in Saved by the Bell.
Glen Berger must be as fastidious and meticulous as this librarian character, as his play is a one hour whirlwind of historical facts, mysterious myth, philosophical musings, and is an original, funny, heartbreaking and amazing piece of work . In an Afterword pamphlet at the door as we left, Berger wrote, "All my plays are first inspired by music, and (this one) was inspired by certain klezmer/yiddish music from the 1920's. The "jaunty melancholy", the "dancing-despite-it-all" quality it contained, the defiance even . . compelled me to try to express it as a play".
Though the concept reads as comedy, it simply does not begin to explain the story this one man tells - of an eternal wanderer, the end of time, love found and lost, and the question of our existence on this earth. With jaw-dropping speed, O'Brien takes the audience on a worldwide journey, blending myth with reality in his "Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences". I am a pushover for an intelligent yet funny play that suddenly grabs you by the heartstrings while you aren't looking and makes you think. Underneath the Lintel does all that and so much more.
Patrick O'Brien's performance would test any man - a full out manic, ADHD, obsessive force coming out of a body that, on first or second glance, one would never believe possible. Every facial expression, body twitch, strange move or hand gesture, reflected someone whose personality, desires, love - his whole life - had been simmering in a conveniently arranged and orderly box, never fully developed or freed. . . . until now. His was a master class in losing yourself completely to the role.
The set is designed for one giving a presentation, but I don't want to ruin the humor found in it. I highly suggest you find a seat fifteen minutes before curtain to experience the full effect.
The hour went by all too swiftly, and though Patrick O'Brien was pretty much spent, I still wanted to hear more of this unusually wild librarian's mesmerizing tale. I urge you to make your way to the festival THIS WEEKEND, or you will miss a piece of theatre and a performance of a caliber not often seen.
PHOENIX By Scott Organ
Directed by Lisa Cole Denman
Lighting Design - Daniel Oertling
Sound Design - Ryan Joyner
Costume Design - Rachel Barnett
Stage Manager - Evangeline Whitlock
Assistant Stage Managers - Nicole Pepper and Kaitlyn Kennedy
Bruce - Lincoln Thompson
Sue - Lindsey Christian
Reviewed by Charlie Bowles, Associate Theater Critic For John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Life sucks sometimes. "There are no miracles; just the stupid shit that befalls us." The question is: what are we going to do, quit living or make it work?
This is the basis for Phoenix by Scott Organ, the play produced by American Actors Company for the 2013 Out Of The Loop Fringe Festival.
Phoenix is a love story about Sue and Bruce. There's the first night affair and the awkward silences during the next meeting and the question of whether they ever want to see each other again. Even with talk of abortion and Grand Canyon and time travel, there is this coming together of two people who don't know what to make of their unplanned relationship. And then they go to Phoenix.
The script presents dialogs between Sue and Bruce as they figure out why relationships can't possibly work for them. Their dialog is dynamic. From moment to moment there's nothing solid. It's just two people in the midst of their life going somewhere when they least expected it. It's a well-written play that put the audience on edge and kept us guessing. Just when we knew the direction they might take, it changed. Dialog was smart, funny and thought-provoking.
Phoenix is also a role reversal. Sue is aggressive, not wanting a relationship, and definitely wanting to break it off and move on. "One, I had a great time last night and two, let's never see each other again." Lindsey Christian played Sue with a strong resolve about her goal. We saw Sue's solid conviction to get out of the relationship, but we also saw a little waiver as she saw Bruce holding on to something she couldn't accept. Christian walked the line between Sue being very sure and not sure at all, which created a delicious conflict to play.
Lincoln Thompson played Bruce with an almost milquetoast quality, thinking he might have lucked into something good but unsure enough to take a chance on finding out whether or not he'll get hurt. Fear of pain keeps us from the most amazing things. Bruce doesn't want to put his foot in his mouth, and yet he does it a lot and Thompson allowed his character to step into that pit and then really feel the burn.
This was a strong acting team and they were a delight to watch together in the Studio Theatre with a few simple set pieces. Lisa Cole Denman directed them to keep their flow of text interesting and allow their dialog to remain crisp. She gave them room to move and grow. Lighting by Daniel Oertling, and sound by Ryan Joyner provided a blue and white mix, and a nice guitar solo during scene changes, all of which enhanced the moods of the characters. Costumes by Rachel Barnett gave them modern-day young adult clothing which changed from time to time. A nice touch was to allow the actors to change clothes onstage during the blackouts. We watched them change but also saw them maintain their character emotions, as if the changes were part of the story.
When you're worried about death, it's hard to make commitments to living, but often the antidote for this fear is another human to commit to. Phoenix makes this point nicely and the production team did a good job of laying out Scott Organ's arguments. This is a show that deserves a longer run, but I'm glad they played it at OOTLF so I could see it.
Diana Sheehan in NOBODY'S HART: THE LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Written and Performed by Diana Sheehan Music by Richard Rodgers
Musical Direction and piano by James McQuillen
Cello by Sarah Choi
Reviewed by Charlie Bowles, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The intimate surroundings of the Stone Cottage at Addison Theatre Centre is a perfect setting for an extraordinary and passionate celebration of "the original bad boy of Broadway", Lorenz Hart. His collaboration with Richard Rodgers from 1920 - 1943 probably did more to create the modern Broadway musical than any other writing team.
Leading us on this journey through the man's life was Diana Sheehan. A soprano with enormous range and power, it's no wonder she both loves the cabaret format and fell in love with Lorenz Hart. His music seemed to touch her soul and she connected with his genius as she presents a range of his songs from twelve of his best musicals which set the popular standard for entertainment. Sheehan not only presented his music, but educated us about his life.
Lorenz was a supremely talented writer and innovator in theater. He was the first to write music for the stage "just like we talk" and the first to demand that the book, lyrics and music be written simultaneously. He also initiated an idea of using unknown actors, no stars on stage, when he decided to cast unknown teenagers for his production of Babes in Arms,
For all that, Hart was sad, alone, lonely and self-doubting to the very end. He wrote evoking songs about being in love, yet he probably never was.
Irony runs through his music. In his "Didn't Know What Time It Was", which I found evoking of both sadness and hope, he writes of the happiness and magic of being in love, while he would not allow himself to feel those feelings. As she sang "He Was Too Good to Me" in a haunting duet with Sara Choi on cello, you could hear his pain as if he was watching other kids play in the snow outside. The piano work of James McQuillen and Choi's cello were a perfect background for Sheehan's beautiful voice.
Every song was based on a story and Sheehan, in a long purple gown made by John Ahrens from an original 1936 Vogue pattern, filled us in on the details of the life and accomplishments of Hart. And every song told its own story which Sheehan not only sang purely with impeccable phrasing but acted them as if she was on stage playing the role in that musical. Mesmerizing!
PROOF OF LIFE Contemporary Ballet Dallas
Courtney Beacham, Erin Mallar Boone, Haylee Dallas, Brandon McGee, Shelby Stanley, Jennifer Obeney, Leslie Hale, Lea Essmyer, Danielle Georgiou, Juliann Hyde, Colleen Pagnotta, Jaclyn Brewer Poole, Amanda Will, Valerie Shelton Tabor, Haylee Barganier, Emilie Rupp Skinner, Sandra Plunkett, Victoria Dolph, Rachael Hermann and Marielle McGregor
Reviewed by Mary L Clark, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Man proves his existence by marking his or her place in the world - a hand print or drawing on a cave wall, written words on paper, a painting or photograph of themselves or where they lived - "the creative urge to make images and designs is a specifically human characteristic", says the playbill note from Contemporary Ballet Dallas.
CBD's entry for the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, Proof of Life, "explores the evolution of art since the dawn of man and the impact art has played in our society throughout history. Through a series of six pieces, they examine both. Set on a blackened proscenium stage with back cyc, each is introduced via projections from an art gallery wall of paintings, and a voiceover that take the audience on a time trip.
The opening piece, Dawn, immediately brought feelings of sunrise on a Serengeti plain. The three women and two men resembled a lion pride, free to roam yet protective of each other. In simple black sportswear tops and shorts, the ballet was a fitting starter for the other pieces.
Second was Origin, all primal and mystical, like the drawings of animals on those cave walls. A small, lit "campfire" set downstage reflected into the faces of two female "tribes". One organic, one more "civilized", the sound of crackling fire enveloped the audience into that dark place. The feel was of female shaman power, and the cello/violin accompaniment was as rich and dark as the cave.
Next was the sad tale of the Little Match Girl, an odd choice within the realm of the art gallery/travel through history idea. A sweet song on violin played throughout, with the cyc a cold winter blue. The ragged-dressed girl danced solo on the sidewalk amongst the people walking by, layered in shawls and overdresses. Holding some awfully big matches, the dancer bravely turned again and again, begging the people to buy them. Her ending move, lying in the snow, was simple and poignant.
The fourth piece was Into You. The gallery showed Gustav Klimt's The Kiss while the voiceover spoke of "all art being erotic". The duet was hardly erotic, more touching and lovely as the lovers danced coyly or in an embrace to the Indigo Girls' song, Love Will Come to You.
After a seemingly unnecessary intermission of twenty minutes, things picked up dramatically as we rejoined the art gallery and headed into the literary world of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven and Reflections of Nothing More. This piece, accompanied by a violinist onstage, was raw, ritualistic and mesmerizing. Appropriately dressed in black, they flew, crawled, and moved in separate, static, disjointed leaps, twists and turns, as birds blown by the wind.
Sixth in the series was Glass Flowers, the idea taken from Van Gogh's famous work. A beautiful ballet, the women were ethereal, in flowing beige tops and skirts. Four danced in unison around a fifth, and the immediate impression was they were the gentle breeze that moved through those sunflowers.
My favorite piece was Time Signature, a lovely Martha Graham-esque blend of Mayan wood flute, electronic Afro pop, wrapped up with a deep booming beat. Four women intertwined sharp, angular movement with the deep bending and arm waving joy of African dance.
After the short history of both man and art, the final piece asked, What is Art? More vaudeville skit than dance, an art gallery owner displays her wares, in this case, a bowl of fruit, on a pedestal. An impish Harlequin-type character keeps shifting, changing and playing with the fruit, essentially declaring her opinion of "art". It ends with the two coming to terms, as if to say art is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Contemporary Ballet Dallas' dancers come with a variety of talent and obvious experience. For this production, the combination of ballet and modern dance brought out the best in each of them. While not the most engaging work I've seen, their efforts showed the passion of their endeavors and, on its whole, was worthy of those efforts.
PLUTO IS LISTENING by David Parr
Directed by David Parr
Lighting Design - Natalie Taylor
Stage Manager - Tiffany Fontaine
Nick Lewis - Benjamin McCoy
Joleen Wilkinson - Grace Grady
Reviewed by Mary L Clark, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The question arises - who watches out for the meek and lonely, the unusual, the outsider, the different. Who protects and keeps them out of harm's way, the harm of other people? And most importantly - is anyone out there listening?
Inspired by a true-life bullying incident in a small Midwestern town, David Parr's play, Pluto is Listening, explores the different ways of escape that often elude us, including the tenuous shelter of friendship and the dangerous spiral of drug addiction. He uses the technique of moving back and forth in time to tell of two decidedly different teenagers - Gracie, who is a geek for astronomy and Benjamin, who clearly loves his Shakespeare, words, and the power they hold. Opposites attract in small town Pluto, Ohio, and the two begin a most intimate friendship. Clinging to each other out of a need greater than either realize, they bounce words, strange ideas and fantasies off each other, making a complex world scenario that only they understand.
From teenagers to 32-year-olds, from their first meeting on the school bus to their several goodbyes, Parr manipulates the audience's emotions and their feeling for these two souls as each time shift adds another revelation layer to the story, another layer of understanding about what really happened to each.
For the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, Pluto Productions kept everything simple, letting the words tell the complete story. On a small stage with only a white screen as backdrop, Parr, who also directed this production, projected three planets - one looming in the foreground, one mid-range, and one brightly shining in the distance. For Gracie and Benjamin, the planets and stars truly aligned to help them find each other in their desperation.
Minimal walk-on props took us from school bus, lake shore and hospital room to apartment, park bench and bar. However, the play revolved entirely around the words. Parr took phrases, made up words and rhymes, spoken by each, and used them again and again in other scenes, twisting them into new meanings. The repetition of the words, spoken or on voiceover, became like a hypnotic drug, like the drugs both Gracie and Benjamin used to mask the pain, their surroundings, their lives.
Next to the brilliant format of the play were the brilliant performances by both Joleen Wilkinson as Gracie and Nick Lewis as Benjamin McCoy. The onstage chemistry between them was spellbindingly real and natural. It only helped a bit to know that both of them had worked together on another of Parr's short plays. Their friendship and unspoken love for each other was so real, in fact, that listening to their private conversations and observing their close relationship made me start feeling awkward, not wanting to be a voyeur on such private moments. And yet you couldn't stop listening, and in some of the quietest scenes where the words eluded the friends, you could have heard a pin drop in the audience. A few of them were leaning forward, not wanting to miss a single thing said.
The rather shocking revelation at the end made me go quickly back through each scene in my mind as I connected all the loose ends of these friend's lives with a huge sense of sadness, grief and regret.
An original use of language and the way it can transform us and two wonderful performances make Pluto is Listening one to see. . . and hear.
THE UGLY ONE by Marius von Mayenburg
Directed by Terry Martin
Assistant Director - Kelsey Ervi
Stage Manager - Ash Willeby
Montgomery Sutton - Lette
Jeff Swearingen - Karlmann
Ted Wold - Scheffler
Natalie Young - Fanny
Reviewed by Mary L Clark, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
How does the saying go - What price beauty? Truer words were never spoken and you can't get more to the point than with a play titled The Ugly One. Marius von Mayenburg's absurd farce works on the concept of identity and beauty and just what we perceive it to be. Lette has been informed, to his face, that he is unattractive, that he's ugly. His wife never looks him squarely in his eyes, his assistant scorns his appearance, and the plastic surgeon that is purchasing Lette's newest technological invention, finds him repulsive. In a moment of low self-esteem and despondency, he undergoes a physical transformation in order to have what nature denied. The consequences that follow are what make this farce come unsettlingly close to reality.
Made up of bland and unattractive shades of cream, gray and black, the set held three upstage panels and a white chair center stage, all on rollers. The flooring downstage was a checkerboard of pale gray and white. Scenes were changed with a spin of the chair, move of the panels or a spotlight. In a true turning of the tables, first one panel and then all three were turned around to reveal full mirrors, now reflecting the audience's appearance as they were now forced to look upon themselves.
Costumes were also cream, shades of gray, and black. Great acoustic sound effects made one flinch, with the horrific sound of the surgeon's drills.
All four actors seemed made for their roles. Ted Wold portrayed Scheffler, the plastic surgeon with a greedy heart and diabolical mind. Playing him in camp-style, Wold kept his character high energy and a bit manic, all necessary components for a good farce. Fanny, Lette's bubble-headed wife, was played by Natalie Young. Her vocal quality for Fanny was high pitched and one tone level, making her a bit annoying. Also playing an aged benefactor and one of Scheffler's frequent flyer clients, Young easily passed back and forth between characters with a mere turn of the body.
A chameleon of character acting, Jeff Swearingen always impresses with his interpretations. Here is played Lette's scientific assistant, Karlmann, as well as the overly nip and tucked woman's whiny son. He too rapidly changed characters by turning around or exiting and entering in succession. Swearingen's reactions, natural facial expressions and line delivery are always spot on, and here was no different. Montgomery Sutton portrayed the oh-so-beautiful Lette. Removing one's identity by changing your face is the severest sacrifice one could make for the sake of those around you, and Sutton played Lette with seriousness not often seen in farce, then shifted gears to comedy with his schmoozing of female audience members after Lette realized the power he possessed within the shallowness of beauty.
Mayenburg worked deeply on the subject of love of self vs. the desire to be different by being the same. Director Terry Martin clearly defined these ideas and stripped staging, props and other superfluous items to get down to both the skin and the absurdity of the matter - the labels we put on ourselves and others, and what those labels do to us. The Ugly One hilariously and reflectively reminds us that, while beauty is indeed only skin deep, it is actually what we believe we see when looking into those mirrors.
OUT OF THE LOOP FRINGE FESTIVAL
WaterTower Theatre Addison Conference and Theatre Center 15650 Addison Road Addison, TX 75001
In its 12th year, the 2013 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is a ten day celebration of theatre, dance, music, and art, featuring performances by arts organizations and artists from across the nation. Several changes highlight this year's Festival including a focus on Dallas-area artists, more performances of each show, many new artists, as well as a few returning favorites. The Festival will include, for the first time, opera, as well as dance, theatre, cabaret artists and visual arts, and a play produced by WaterTower Theatre.
PHOENIX - plays Sunday, March 10th at 7:30 pm, & Sunday, March 17th at 2:00 pm
NOBODY'S HART - plays Sunday, March 10th at 7:30 pm, & Saturday, March 16th at 2:00 pm
PROOF OF LIFE - plays Thursday, March 14th at 7:30 pm, & Saturday, March 16th at 2:00 pm
PLUTO IS LISTENING - plays Tuesday, March 12th at 7:30 pm. THE UGLY ONE - plays Sunday, March 10th at 5:00 pm; Wednesday, March 13th at 7:30 pm; Friday, March 15th at 8:00 pm, & Saturday, March 16th at 2:00 pm
Ticket information for the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival:
Festival Pass - $65.00, and $55.00 for WaterTower Subscribers (Pass includes one admission to each event)
Individual Event Tickets - $10.00 each, and selected reading - $5.00 each
***Please note - some productions may contain adult language, sexual situations, and/or violence. Please consult the Box Office for content information regarding a particular production.
For a list of all the events and information, and to purchase tickets, go to www.watertowertheatre.org/outofloop.aspx.
SHE CREATURES by Sarah Saltwick Nouveau 47
Directed by Tom Parr IV and Matthew Tomlanovich
Scenic Design by Scott Osborne
Lighting, Costume, Props Design by N47 Ensemble and the Cast of She Creatures
Danielle Pickard as Bianca, Female Villager Puppeteer, Cecilia, Helen, Hope Hilary Couch as Pandora Sherry Hopkins as Amelia, Dahlia, Marilyn, Medusa Ginger Goldman as Juno, Marilyn, Seal Skin, Aixa, Emma Ben Bryant as Jason, Male Villager Puppeteer, Allen, Greg
Reviewed Performance on March 6th, 2013
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Theater Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
"Her plays are built of hope and danger; fantasy and history; that which is impossible and that which is necessary." - From the press kit, speaking of the playwright, Sarah Saltwick
Plays that are non-linear and "weird" often take a bigger dose of Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief." While many playgoers find these shows a welcome relief from paint-by-the-numbers story- telling, and are grateful for a chance to stretch the imagination and gleefully follow the tapestry of images being woven by the playwright, others do not. For what I suspect is a pretty large majority, this kind of show is a pain in the ass. Why do you think sitcoms are so popular and "think pieces" rarely get produced?
Even the Dallas Theater Center is doing The Odd Couple. On a late episode of "Smash", while everyone agreed that the new script for the Marilyn musical was "brilliant" and one of "the best ever", there was also general agreement that it wouldn't sell, pointing to Follies and other musicals that were just too cerebral or difficult.
Not that there's anything wrong with that! A good evening's entertainment with lots of laughs, musical numbers and spectacle is not to be dismissed as trash, only appealing to the great unwashed. We can all appreciate a well-done production of that kind of theater. BUT, it takes a special kind of producing group to keep putting the new and unusual out there, and thank goodness, Nouveau 47 is one of those.
Following their mission statement to produce new plays, close on the heels of their staging of the new musical On the Eve by local band Home by Hovercraft (subsequently picked up by Theatre 3 for their new season), and "believe(ing) in the alchemy of audience and artist", Nouveau 47 is currently presenting She Creatures by Sarah Saltwick. This is a play that received an earlier staged reading by the company and is now being presented in a full production
Ms. Saltwick is a graduate of Hampshire College and is a playwriting and fiction Michener Fellow at the University of Texas in Austin. She has been a finalist for the Heideman Award and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and was nominated twice by the Austin Critics Table for Best New Play. She's written plays inspired by giant rabbits, Texas, guacamole, Dolly Parton and more. Publicity for She Creatures describes the play as being about "unicorns, shapeshifters, a dragon, and a woman with a very important box." (ahem). "She Creatures explores the power of myth and the shaping of female identity." A description like this will have some jumping at a chance to experience something different, and others jumping as far away as possible.
That's too bad, because if you are willing to let the evening just wash over you and allow yourself to absorb the sounds and sights and ideas as they come rolling in, you'll probably find this show an exciting and thought-provoking experience. For those who love being challenged and want to discuss its meaning after the show over coffee or a drink, there's plenty here to be discussed. In fact, like many new playwrights, Ms Saltwick loads her script for She Creatures with ideas and questions, and while all of them are fascinating, there are perhaps too many for just one evening. I think it would take several viewings to appreciate all the paths and poetic word play the evening sets forth. There are images of fire, "fire is a hungry beast," "not the pretty kind of fire", of food (there's guacamole), lipstick, mirrors, a ring, morphing beasts, and most of all, of boxes, like riddles, filled with questions and possibilities and maybe some answers. Perhaps greater focus on one specific idea or purpose would make the show more accessible to a larger audience. It's an evening filled with images and words both exciting and puzzling and rests on, and is surrounded by, marvelous sound, all created by the human voices of the cast both onstage and off.
The evening begins with these primitive sounding voices humming, "ahhing", blending harmoniously and in beautiful dissonance to a rising crescendo of sound backed by what sounds like a human heart beat. It's a stunning opening. The use of the voices continues with more offstage and onstage sound effects, and in a memorable scene early in the evening, an echo effect that is brilliantly right for the moment. Throughout the play, the use of the human voice, not just in the sounds of the words, but in the support given to the action by the music of the other voices, is a superb use of the natural and otherworldly at the same time.
The scenic design for the production is by Scott Osborne, and is triumph. In speaking with Mr. Osborne, he said that much of it developed organically during the rehearsal process as need arose. The space is small but Scott and his crew have filled it with platforms, ramps and boxes. Dozens of boxes! Boxes of every shape and size are used to construct walls, line pathways and present wonderful hiding places for Pandora's curiosity to explore. Also used are suitcases and containers of every imaginable kind. All are painted tan, heavily splattered and textured and the floor space in the center is covered in what looks like straw, dead grass or shredded paper. Packing shreds? The metaphor of the possibilities of Pandora's box is carried to a glorious excess that works perfectly for this production. Boxes, riddles, possibilities, choices, all are explored as the evening progresses. The audience is seated primarily in one section, though there are cushions and places all around, even on the set itself for any overflow.
Hillary Couch is Pandora and we see her birth (Eve?) at the beginning as she is pulled from the mud and slowly learns to speak and move and become aware of her surroundings. It reminded me of the opening scene of Frankenstein recently performed by Benjamin Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, broadcast from London's National Theater. The newly formed creature exploring and discovering who I am, what this body is and what it can do and where I am and what it all means. Ms. Couch never leaves the stage and is the catalyst or everywoman that experiences all the various stages of a woman's life as presented by the other members of the cast. She is lovely and fluid and manages to make the early speeches, mainly composed of disconnected sounds, words and phrases, perfectly believable. She grows before our eyes as the evening progresses. Her final moments as she discovers hope as the final object in the box, "the thing with wings", are heartfelt and uplifting.
Danielle Pickard is Bianca, Female Villager Puppeteer, Cecilia, Helen and Hope. Throughout, she gives a strong and well-delivered performance, culminating in a riveting monologue as she prepares guacamole. Yes, guacamole! "Eat all the avocados you can," she tells us, "they are not plentiful." Does the pit of the avocado represent the secret? The journey of the guac itself, as it is made and consumed, seem to represent our journey in searching through the riddle and striving to find an answer. Later, as another character, she says that she is "more afraid of the journey" than what may be found. She brings a strong and confident presence to each role, even the female puppet!
Amelia, Dahlia, Marilyn, and Medusa are played by Sherry Hopkins, who brings an earthiness to her characters not necessarily found in the other women, and it adds a necessary dimension to this tale of all women. I really like her Medusa, at once terrifying and pitiful, yearning and threatening at the same time. All of her characters are brought to fully realized life.
Ginger Goldman is Juno, Marilyn, Seal Skin, Aixa and Emma. Her characters are the spice, the "ginger" if you will, in the story and she delivers each of them with a full bite, aware of their purpose in the moment. She gets the final monologue, delivered directly to the audience about riddles - about paying attention to those riddles, listening to each word for clues - and maybe even a joke or two, even while you may not find an answer. She also seems to tell us to be alert yet unafraid of the changes in our lives and not to shrink from asking the important questions.
Ben Bryant is Jason, Male Villager Puppeteer, Allen and Greg. Ben is the everyman in this everywoman tale, and he plays each character completely "there" and latched into the moment. His Male Villager puppet is delightful and all of his characters come across as real people. While he is not present on stage as much as the women, when he is, he manages to make his presence felt and necessary.
All of the actors speak the playwright's words beautifully and to full effect. There are lots of lists in their speeches and non-sequiturs and lots of ideas and poetic images. These are not easy to deliver in a relaxed and natural-sounding manner, and yet each of these talented actors does just that. It makes the evening what it is, an evening of words and sounds, ideas, questions and insights.
Co-Directors Tom Parr IV and Matt Tomlanovich have created a magical and challenging evening of theater. They have taken what could have been a difficult script and illuminated it with movement and visuals that all somehow seem to come together in a unified whole: primitive, evolving, sophisticated and questioning all at once. The script is wide open to interpretation, and I suspect when it is performed elsewhere the production will be quite different, but the approach taken by Misters Parr and Tomlanovich seems particularly suited to their vision and the vision of the playwright.
This is a dense, challenging play that asks much of its audience and offers great rewards. Take the opportunity to see this show even if you might not regularly attend this type of event and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes more than jokes, music and spectacle can be deeply rewarding. The music and the spectacle are certainly here (and even some jokes!) and the costumes, props, and sparse but powerful lighting provided by the Nouveau 47 crew and the actors, combine for an unforgettable evening that will leave you looking for answers, even while feeling strangely fulfilled and seeking out your own riddles.
Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
SHE CREATURES Nouveau 47 Magnolia Lounge, 1121 First Ave. Dallas, TX 75210 Runs through March 17th
Thursday through Saturday at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm, and Sunday, March 17th at 8:00 pm
Ticket prices are $15.00-$20.00
For tickets and information go to www.nouveau47.com or call 214-810-3605