BLACK TIEby A.R. Gurney
Direction by René Moreno
Assistant Direction by J.D. Vineyard
Production Stage Management by Luisa Torres
Assistant Stage Management by Ash Willeby
Sound Design by Ashton McWhirter
Costume Design by Claudia Stephens
Lighting Design by Ryan Flores
Set Design by Bob Lavallee
Stan Graner as Curtis
John S. Davies as Curtis’ Father
Marcia Carroll as Mimi
Katherine Bourne as Elsie
Jordan Brodess as Teddy
Photo credit: Mark Oristano
Reviewed Performance: 6/3/2013
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The ninety minute one-act play centers on five members of one family. The father, Curtis, was raised in a world that's practically obsolete today… in a time and place where ingrained traditions of civility and decorum ruled and everyone in his privileged orbit was like-minded and educated. His wife, Mimi, came from a similar tribe but she's emerged as somewhat more enlightened. Their son, Teddy, and daughter, Elsie, have little use for such formalities. And Curtis' deceased father returns periodically in ghostly form to make sure Curtis sticks with the program.
Black Tie is basically a situation comedy with dramatic overtones. It's set in a hotel lodge in the Adirondacks where Teddy is to be married. The action takes place just before the rehearsal dinner to which Curtis plans to wear his dad's old tuxedo, or as his father prefers to call it, “his dinner jacket”.
The black tie is symbolic of course - some traditions die hard. But while Gurney pokes fun, he's not looking to satirize the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) culture. In fact he seems to cherish much of it, and the overriding message is basically that it's important to pass on a sense of cultural continuity from generation to generation even if some customs are not worth preserving.
WaterTower theatre is a stunning, uniquely designed facility that boasts a main stage and smaller performance venue. Black Tie is presented on the main stage, and upon walking in you are presented with a remarkably realistic and highly detailed interior set of an Adirondack lodge room.
Bob Lavallee’s set design is nothing less than spectacular, with details such as a stone fireplace that even has smoke stains, soaring roof lines and exterior balcony with a porch swing that overlooks a scenic backdrop of a lake and surrounding woods. The realism, detail and perfectly laid out set transport you into the location of the story and simply amaze. Special kudos has to be given to the construction and scenic painting teams on this set as they produced a visual masterpiece with Mr. Lavallee at the helm of the design.
René Moreno’s casting and direction in the production are executed very well. He has placed superb actors in the roles and uses their talent to the fullest. He uses his set perfectly, always placing action and intensity in the appropriate locations. You are always involved with what is happening on stage and follow the intent of every character without issue. I appreciate the detail in direction that was evident in the show. Having an actor turn on an outdoor porch light as the scenic backdrop lighting subtly changed to dusk is a perfect example of Mr. Moreno’s skill in direction. This detail is evident throughout the play and accents the script wonderfully.
The lighting design by Ryan Flores is another perfectly executed aspect of this production. It may seem like a basic interior lighting scheme but the subtlety and grace of his cues are wonderful.
The entire set is bathed in wonderful hues of ambers and white, supplemented by practical lamps and other accented area lighting. A truly remarkable element is the large full length mirror on the set and how it is used. I won’t give away the wonderful effect, but it will definitely impress you.
Costume design by Claudia Stephens is spot-on and very well done. Every character is represented perfectly; clothes fit well and assist in driving the storylines. Crisp tuxedos, I’m sorry, “dinner jackets” with exquisite accessories show the attention to detail Ms. Stephens paid to her designs. Even incidental costumes like running clothes for the daughter and multiple dress changes for the mother are excellent choices in the design that support the lines delivered by the respective characters in the scenes.
Every member of this ensemble cast deserved the standing ovation they received at the end of the performance.
Stan Graner as Curtis never leaves the stage for more than two minutes throughout the entire show and carries this difficult, heavy line-laden role with true professionalism and expertise, showcasing him as the seasoned actor he is. He captures the role of Curtis splendidly with sincere emotion and presentation. There is not a moment you are not captivated while he is performing.
The role of Curtis’ deceased father, played by John S. Davies, is another actor that shows his seasoned, well-honed skills in this production. He has perfectly-timed responses, great one-liners and eloquent line deliveries through the performance and never once lets you down as a performer. Mr. Davies expertly maneuvers through many emotions with his character, staying true to the authors work with a seemingly wonderful ease. This is Mr. Davies debut on the WaterTower stage and I would anticipate will be back for many more after this role.
Marcia Carroll as Mimi, Curtis’ wife, nails her character with precise acting skills and deliveries. Her character choices are wonderfully chosen and executed with perfection. You are captivated by her stage presence yet she never pulls focus unless the story requires it. Ms. Carroll is simply wonderful in this role.
The role of Elsie, played by Katherine Bourne, is another shining star in this ensemble. Her character has very awkward moments and emotional up-and-downs that Ms. Bourne handles with true skill and expertise. She is another actor making a debut on the WaterTower stage, and it is very clear why… she is a wonderfully talented performer.
Jordan Brodess as Teddy rounds out this amazing ensemble. He is exciting to watch on stage, deftly maneuvers through the sometimes awkward storylines of his character and never once falters while he’s on stage. You are truly engaged with his performance throughout the play and never disappointed. As another new face to WaterTower, I would be thoroughly excited to see him again there, as well as many others throughout the metroplex.
You will definitely enjoy this production of Black Tie, be intrigued and possibly even identify with some of the social situations of the story. Whatever you do take away from the play and its story, you will have definitely experienced an exquisite presentation of live theatre!
15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001
The Addison Theatre Centre
Production runs through June 23rd, 2013
Shows are Wednesday-Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday-Saturday at 8:00pm & Sunday at 2:00pm, with an additional performance on Saturday, June 22 at 2:00pm.
Ticket prices range from $20.00-$40.00 and group pricing (10 or more) is available.
Student Rush tickets are $12.00 each and available for purchase 15 minutes prior to curtain time, subject to availability.
For more info and to purchase tix: www.watertowertheatre.org or call the box office at 972-450-6232.