Stage Raw: Much Ado | Public Spectacle | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
Loading...
Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Much Ado

Comments (0)

By

Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 7:48 AM

click to enlarge stagerawv2_480x100.jpg

Cover Story on LATE's The War Cycle

NEW REVIEW GO GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
click to enlarge rsz_muchado.jpg
Photo by Ivy Augusta

Don John (Sean Pritchett) is such a bastard. Really. He's the bastard son of Don Pedro (Luis Galindo), prince of Aragon. Imagine smearing the reputation of an innocent bride, Hero (Mary Alton) in order to cast doubts in the mind of her groom, Claudio (Erwin Tuazon) -- who believes the worst without fact-checking. If this weren't a comedy, it would look a whole lot like Othello. Oh, that's funny, what a coincidence: This same company just did that play earlier this summer, also al fresco in Griffith Park. Independent Shakespeare Company's artistic director and managing director, respectively, Melissa Chalsma and David Melville (also husband and wife in real life) play the dubiously romantic couple, Beatrice and Benedick, cousins who pleasure in hurling insults at each other with echoes of the Taming of the Shrew. That love resides beneath such hostility is an unflinchingly optimistic idea in an unflinchingly optimistic comedy. Melville's Benedick is a comedic masterpiece -- surly while lampooning his own world-weariness, in the tradition of English comedian Gerard Hoffnung. Chalsma, like the rest of the ensemble, bounces every syllable off the highest leaf of the farthest tree. No microphones. This is what old cranks like me call training. Director Ron Bashford throws in a Commedia parade, with masks and music. Characters who are hiding do so amongst the audience of picnickers. On the eve I attended, there were hundreds in the crowd, absorbing the multiple players of wit like a sponge. Independent Shakespeare Company in Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; through August 29. Free. (323) 913-4688. (Steven Leigh Morris)

For all NEW REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the More tab directly below:

NEW THEATER REVIEWS scheduled for publication August 26, 2010

NEW REVIEW GO

ALL MY SONS


click to enlarge rsz_allmysons.jpg
Photo by Agnes Magyari

With the recent BP oil disaster, the Enron

debacle, and the misadventures of financial moguls like Bernard Madoff,

it is no wonder that theater company artistic directors all over town

are dusting off their copies of Arthur Miller's magnificent

evisceration of capitalism, American corruption and moral hypocrisy.

However, it is difficult to come up with new and innovative ways to

present the often compelling piece. Shakespeare and Beckett, to name a

pair, can be staged in a variety of settings and directorial styles,

but Miller's play gets to the heart of a family standing around on a

front porch next to a fallen tree. Director Edward Edwards stages his

intimate and psychologically nuanced production almost like a mystery --

even during the play's seemingly banter-filled opening scenes, we sense

an underlying unease and sadness; the puzzle is spotting all the clues

and then piecing them together to understand what is really going on.

Edwards' production is anchored by crackling acting work. Paul Linke's

unusually crusty Joe Keller, the family patriarch who let an underling

take the rap for a mechanical error that killed a number of pilots

during World War II, is full of alpha male bluster and bonhomie, but

even from his first appearance, his eyes possess a resigned coldness

that suggests the truth he's hiding and has accepted only too well. In

Catherine Telford's turn as Kate, Joe's grief-sick wife, we see a

character whose denial-stoked belief that her beloved, MIA son will

return from the war is a means of tamping down the ferocious rage that

ultimately explodes in the play's final act. As Joe's idealistic son

Chris, Dominic Comperatore's shyness shifts to disgusted anger, a turn

that hints at the possibility he was aware on some level of his

father's sleaziness. Although uneven turns are offered by some of the

supporting cast, Maury Sterling's crushed boyish performance as the

scorned son of the framed co-worker is brilliant, as is Austin

Highsmith's unusually appealing Ann, whose shocking reveal about the

dead son (often one of the more contrived plot twists in most

productions) is here powerfully well-motivated and believable. Ruskin

Theatre Group, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through October 2. (310) 397-3244.

(Paul Birchall)

NEW REVIEW GO

CHESS IN CONCERT

click to enlarge rsz_chess.jpg

Photo by Gabriel Griego

This rock opera, with lyrics by Tim Rice,

book by Richard Nelson, and music by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus

of ABBA, was first produced as a concept album. Now, after a number of

unsatisfactory theatrical variations, Rice has wisely named the concert

version as the official one. Like the game of chess, the show is

abstract, and the concert version matches that, putting the focus on

the characters, their emotional conflicts and the virtuosity of the

performers. The action is set at the international chess championship

matches. Act 1 pits Soviet champ Anatoly (Peter Welkin) against the

willful, petulant, show-boating American, Frederick (Blake McIver

Ewing). Anatoly wins but immediately defects to England, setting the

stage for the dynamic Act 2. Defector Anatoly is pitted against a

high-powered Soviet player (Christopher Zenner). Soviet official

Molokov (Gregory North) is hell-bent on making sure the disloyal

Anatoly loses and will do anything to make realize that outcome,

including psychological warfare, blackmail and ruthless meddling with

the personal lives of Anatoly, his estranged wife (Emily Dykes) and his

Hungarian girlfriend, Florence (Nicci Claspell). Director Robert Marra

provides a crisply elegant production, musical director/conductor Greg

Haake impeccably renders the challenging score, and the performers are

terrific, including Gil Darnell, Rich Brunner and the excellent chorus.

Met Theatre, 1089 Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through

August 29. (323) 960-7735. Produced by The Musical Theatre of Los

Angeles. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW GO GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

click to enlarge rsz_muchado.jpg
Photo by Ivy Augusta

Don

John (Sean Pritchett) is such a bastard. Really. He's the bastard son

of Don Pedro (Luis Galindo), prince of Aragon. Imagine smearing the

reputation of an innocent bride, Hero (Mary Alton) in order to cast

doubts in the mind of her groom, Claudio (Erwin Tuazon) -- who believes

the worst without fact-checking. If this weren't a comedy, it would

look a whole lot like Othello. Oh, that's funny,

what a coincidence: This same company just did that play earlier this

summer, also al fresco in Griffith Park. Independent Shakespeare

Company's artistic director and managing director, respectively,

Melissa Chalsma and David Melville (also husband and wife in real life)

play the dubiously romantic couple, Beatrice and Benedick, cousins who

pleasure in hurling insults at each other with echoes of the Taming of the Shrew.

That love resides beneath such hostility is an unflinchingly optimistic

idea in an unflinchingly optimistic comedy. Melville's Benedick is a

comedic masterpiece -- surly while lampooning his own world-weariness,

in the tradition of English comedian Gerard Hoffnung. Chalsma, like the

rest of the ensemble, bounces every syllable off the highest leaf of

the farthest tree. No microphones. This is what old cranks like me call

training. Director Ron Bashford throws in a Commedia parade, with masks

and music. Characters who are hiding do so amongst the audience of

picnickers. On the eve I attended, there were hundreds in the crowd,

absorbing the multiple players of wit like a sponge. Independent

Shakespeare Company in Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, L.A.;

Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; through August 29. Free. (323) 913-4688. (Steven

Leigh Morris)

NEW REVIEW 

GO

KARMA THE MUSICAL

Is Hindsight really 20-20? In this

engaging musical, a baby boomer named Christine (book writer Susan C.

Hunter) travels back to the 1960s to counsel her younger self on how to

avoid error and heartbreak. Supremely confident, perky college-age

Chris (Katie McConaughy) dismisses Christine's cautionary exhortations

("You're old!" she snaps at the woman she will become), then treks off

to a rock concert to hook up with peace marcher Greg (Trevor Murphy),

who will father -- and later abandon -- their child. Bolstered by

composer Les Oreck's spirited score and lyrics, the play cruises through several decades, tracking Chris' struggles as a single mom

while noting, Forrest Gump-like, the broad societal changes our nation

undergoes. One funny scene depicts the hippie "commitment" ceremony

that Greg persuades Chris is as binding as a marriage. It isn't. The

piece also replays the bitterness surrounding the Vietnam war,

integrating that conflict via Chris' brother Frank (Matt Pick), a

marine who resents Greg's politics. And the production gains traction

from Liz Heathcoat's lively choreography, executed by an enthusiastic

ensemble, and from videographer Scott Hunter's background montage of

cultural icons. That said, the show has multiple rough edges, including

an uneven standard of performance and vocals that need improving.

Director Michael Eiden does a respectable job of maneuvering a large

cast in a small space, but this show does require more room. Among the

ensemble, Brittany Beaudry stands out as Chris' supercool pal, Gloria.

Heathcoat as Greg's sanctimonious mom and Pick as the upstanding Frank

are notable in smaller roles. Write Act Repertory Theatre, 6128 Yucca

Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 28. (323) 469-3113.

(Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW 

LONG BEACH POPPIN' PLAY FESTIVAL

For the third consecutive year the CSULB

alums present four to five courses of theater per night, divided into

three different prix-fixe menus. The appetizer common to all three

nights, "What Can We" by Craig Abernathy, is a five-minute exploration

of making theatre. The concept is interesting, but the flavors don't

quite gel, so the meal gets off to a shaky start. The meat-and-potatoes

main course is Nathaniel Kressen's "Jumper's with the Gypsy," a tale of

two lost souls in the city that never sleeps. From the start, it's hard

to invest in either character, and outside of a couple of good lines,

the scenario seems contrived in its attempts at being deep. Lloyd

Noonan's "An Agreement Between Father and Son" is a dark comedy in

which a father and son make a pact to deal with pain-in-the-ass

Grandpa. It is dark all right, relentlessly, so that darkness seems its

only purpose. Finally, "Eddie, A Musical About Failure" by R. Edward

and Ellen Warkentine provides the sweet ending to the evening.

Unfortunately it's less a chocolate soufflé and more a bowl of vanilla

ice cream. The generic score consists of series of character songs

that, while amusing and fun, don't tell much of a story. In fact, the

entire meal is perfectly encapsulated in a line from one of its songs:

"I know it's light on consequence and plot, but it's what I've got."

The Lafayette Ballroom, 528 E. Broadway Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat.,

8: p.m.; through September 11. (562) 818-7364. alivetheatre.org An

Alive Theatre production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

NEW REVIEW MACBETH

click to enlarge rsz_macbeth.jpg

Photo by Amanda Marquardt

You can almost always expect generous

displays of the gleefully grotesque from the folks at Zombie Joe's, and

this production of the Bard's Scottish play is no exception. Director

Amanda Marquardt has added some ghoulish effects that neatly embellish

the play's supernatural elements. But any minimalist staging of a play,

especially Shakespeare, places much of the burden of success on the

actors, and this group doesn't quite pass muster. Aaron Lyons and Skye

Noel acquit themselves passably in the key roles of Macbeth and his

blood thirsty Lady. But there's something amiss in their onstage

chemistry; too often they give the impression of spoiled, squabbling

siblings rather than a conniving, ambitious king and queen. Some

liberties taken with the original narrative proffer some jarring

surprises and fun. The biggest problem is the overheated pacing: There

are many, many instances where the actors simply tear through their

lines, rendering them all but unintelligible and spoiling the potency

and beauty of Shakespeare's prose. The showstoppers and scene stealers

are, however, Lauren Parkinson, Nicole Fabbri and Lana Inderman, who

are from start to finish terrific as the three witches. Zombie Joe's

Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.; N.Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.

thru Aug. 20. (818) 202-4120. (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW GO

MASTER CLASS

In the wooded Theatricum Botanicum, though

the crickets are competing to hit the high "C," they can't rattle Ellen

Geer's imperious turn as Maria Callas -- the soprano is used to swatting

down her rivals. Today, her targets are the overconfident Julliard

students in her master class: they're too soft, too simple. When it

comes to la Divina and her precious time, these three coeds (Elizabeth

Tobias, Meaghan Boeing and Andreas Beckett) can't win. Weak voices are

an insult, better voices an affront. Would you expect hugs from a

scrapper who saw even the audience as her enemy? Terrence McNally's

fanged comedy is gleeful schadenfreude when Callas destroys these

hopefuls and burnishes her own legend but sublime when discussing the

art of opera -- after she's shredded the students' egos, she gifts them

a foundation to rebuild. But while director Heidi Helen Davis helps

Geer sharpen her knives, both are lost in McNally's too on-the-nose

inner monologues. These are meant to expose Callas' vulnerability,

particularly in her memories of Aristotle Onassis, who by the play's

setting had already dumped the diva for Jackie Kennedy. Here, these raw

pains ring like fluttery pop psychology -- if Callas heard them, she'd

shriek. "This isn't just opera, this is your life," she commands, and

like Tosca and Medea, she is the heroine of her own tragedy. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug.

28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.

(310) 455-3723. (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW GO

ON THE VERGE (OR THE GEOGRAPHY OF YEARNING)

When you receive the hieroglyphic text,

"omg r u going to b here l8r?" from your mother, not your preteen

cousin, the days of spitting at the spelling of "Quik," or "E-Z," seem

positively quaint. Indeed, "language takes a beating in the future,"

says Harriet Whitmyer as Fanny, one of three spirited, prefeminist

explorers in Eric Overmyers' time-tripping, word-whirling play. For

those greedy geeks of us who've always gobbled sentences faster than

they're written, Overmyer offers the equivalent of a buffet table

buckling under the weight of one of each of Jonathan Gold's "99 Things

to Eat in L.A. Before You Die": All deserve your undivided attention,

but the next tastes equally as delicious as the last. Yet the true coup

is that Overmyer actually says something with all those lovely words.

Though the women (a terrific Anna Kate Mohler and Susan E. Taylor

complete the trio) are trekking -- lustily, not fearfully -- through

"terra incognita," they are unmitigatedly familiar with their internal

ranges. This is an Eden where women can take nips of liquor from their

own flasks, eat "bear chops and moose mousse" and wield knives and guns

with the ease of gangsters, while simultaneously bemoan "life without a

loofah" and sweat over the sight of a man (the funny Diego Parada).

Fear steadily increases, as the future begins to tumble into their

consciousnesses but so does their inclination to embrace it, for better

or worse. Daniel Bergher's and Sean Gray's light and sound designs

nicely complement the dialogue-thick script. Andrew Vonderschmitt

directs. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St.; Long Beach.

Fri.-Sat., 8:00 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through September 18. (562)

494-1014 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

NEW REVIEW SAD HAPPY SUCKER

click to enlarge rsz_sadhappysucker.jpg

Photo courtesy of Lyric Hyperion Theatre

If the devil is truly to be found in the

details, then playwright Lee Kirk's painfully pallid homage to French

Absurdist master Eugène Ionesco isn't in need of a dramaturg so much as

an exorcist. The play begins promisingly enough, with the introduction

of Eddie (Eddie Bell), a young suburbanite whose feet have become

mysteriously rooted in place where he stands in the back yard of his

dotty Mother (Lauri Johnson). It's the kind of patently surreal premise

whose real-world, life-and-death consequences Ionesco would have

explored with a deliriously relentless logic to foreground a deeper,

ontological inquiry. However, unlike on planet Earth, where the first

responders to such a crisis might be an EMT unit or the fire

department, Kirk sends in a spectacularly inept doctor (Valentine

Miele), who somehow still makes house calls. When the physician becomes

likewise immobilized but is told no rope is available for an attempted

winch to freedom, even that obstacle is given the lie by an ignored,

albeit handy garden hose pointlessly ornamenting Christian Zollenkopf's

incongruously realistic backyard set (convincingly accented by Alicia

Ziff's diurnal lighting). Director Sean Gunn and his supremely gifted

cast do manage to milk Kirk's situational ludicrousness for sporadic

laughs. But these are not enough to finally push the text's

bantamweight dramatic stakes (the characters' imperiled dignity) and

non sequitur-laden plot into the heavyweight division of Ionescan

existential despair. Lyric Hyperion Theatre, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver

Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 10. (323)

342-2261. brownpapertickets.com/event/121721. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW GO

A WITHER'S TALE

The Troubadour Theatre Company, led by

writer-director and chief jester Matt Walker, is renowned for witty

mash-ups of Shakespeare with pop tunes. Watching this lampoon of A

Winter's Tale and Bill Withers, die-hard Troubie fans may lament the

less-than-usual ratio of comedy to drama. Combining a handful of

Withers' gentle pop hits with Shakespeare's problematic play (is it a

drama? is it a romantic comedy?) makes for a more low-key experience

than usual. Echoing Othello, an irrationally jealous King (Matt Walker)

incarcerates his pregnant wife, Hermione (Monica Schneider), on

suspicion of fraternizing with his best friend, King Polixenes (Matt

Merchant), and orders the execution of their baby girl. The somber saga

builds to Walker's showstopping rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine,"

enhanced by Jeremy Pivnick's elegant lighting design. Clocking in at 90

minutes (no intermission), this show's strength lies in the plaintive

musical numbers. The five-strong band is superb and features some

haunting underscoring and solos from John Krovoza on cello and violin.

The entire cast sing, harmonize and dance exquisitely -- credit Ameenah

Kaplan for her deceptively simple yet tight choreography. Sets for a

Troubie show are typically spartan, which makes Sharon McGunigle's

luscious period costumes particularly noteworthy. Falcon Theatre, 4252

Riverside Drive, Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through

September 26. (818) 955-8101. A Troubadour Theatre Company production

(Pauline Adamek)

Related Content

Related

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets