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Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Bold, The Young, and The Murdered



Playwright:  Don Zolidis


Venue:  Funky Little Theater, 2109 Templeton Gap, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 25 minutes (includes 10 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, October 28, 2016 (opening night). 


Funky’s current production of The Bold, The Young, and the Murdered (hereafter The BYM) is a comedy/mystery mashup, but with the emphasis on comedy.  Set in the studio where The Bold and the Young soap opera is produced, The BYM starts with an eye opening and very funny taping of an episode.  Oli, the director (Kaitlin Porter) is rude, cruel, and never satisfied.  “Valencio” (John Zincone) is suave and debonaire on set, but between scenes he’s a demanding diva. “Jessica” (Ambrosia Feess) is devoted and perky when she’s acting, and BFF's with Bill and Keri when she's herself (Danielle).  

This is a cast of 13, the largest ever on the Funky stage.  It turns out that each of the characters has a job to do and an agenda that makes the job much harder.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the cast dwindles as a string of murders occurs while they are in an all night taping session.  The first one to go?  The director.  She not only doesn’t have a friend in the room; she probably doesn’t have a friend in the world.  Kaitlin Porter is bad here in a good way.  She makes herself so rude and obnoxious that she merits being first to make an early exit.

The all night taping session is a result of the producer, Mary (Teri McClintock) threatening to shut the whole show down if they don’t produce a decent episode in the next 24 hours.  The heat is on, the nerves are frayed, and the body count keeps climbing.  

The first act is heavy on the comedy.  The second act bogs down a tad in the (justified) fear and confusion of multiple murders.  Someone in the room is committing them, but who?  Everyone seems to have a motive.  I’m not that good at mysteries, so I really had no clue until the case was resolved.  If mysteries are your genre, you may figure it out before it’s over.

There are some standout performances, and not all of them make it to the final curtain.  Desiree Myers (Lily/“Sequoia”) is in the latter category, taking a knife in the back when she least expects it.  Myers is bold, brash, and seemingly unstoppable until her abrupt demise.  Dylan McClintock (Morris/“Jake”) is spot on as an insecure actor with body issues.  Dave Gallo (Tyler/“William”) is the self absorbed guy from central casting with more ego than talent.  Sallie Walker (Cybil/“Mona”) has been around forever, knows everything, and still thinks the show is all about her.  Luke Schoenemann (Bill/“Sebastian”) is The Bold and Young’s gift to women, nearly all of whom have opened that gift at one time or another.  Kim Bennett (Amy/"Eileen") is older and wiser than most of her colleagues, and she springs a surprise on them before it's all over.

Chelsie Bennett (Keri) has the plum role here, and she uses it to make a big splash on a crowded stage.  Keri is the perky but insufferable intern on her first day of work.  Bennett mixes innocence with deviousness, making Keri a perfect fit for the dysfunctional cast and crew.  She inserts just the right amount of idealism into the jaded “professional” group that creates The BYM.  Just like the others, Keri has her own agenda, and Bennett shows us how a wide eyed intern can be a destabilizing force of nature.  

Director/Set Designer Chris Medina pushes the production with a large cast and a complicated set in a very small space.  With creative blocking, the cast never overwhelms the stage.  Medina’s set functions well for various locations.  His crew moves set pieces on and off stage quickly, flowing from a living room to a hospital room in a blink of an eye.  

The BYM is not Shakespeare, but it’s entertaining and engaging.  You’ll laugh at the pointed parody of producing a soap opera, and you’ll wonder about who in the cast is taking out his or her competition.  You’ll also be reminded that actors are, well, actors.  When they take the stage, everything they do and say is carefully scripted.  When they walk off the stage, they become real people.  Remember that.  Actors are rarely like the people they portray.  Sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they’re not.  In that respect, they are just like the rest of us, except that they get to be someone else from time to time.


NOTES:

This show closes on November 12, 2016.  This show is appropriate for teens and up.

Where I have identified the actor’s roles above, the name in parentheses is the role that character plays in The Bold and the Young soap opera.  For example, Luke Schoenemann (Bill/“Sebastian”) indicates that Mr. Schoenemann is the actor playing the actor Bill whose soap opera role is “Sebastian.”

For those who saw John Zincone in Stocking Stuffers last year at Springs Ensemble Theatre, you’ll be pleased to learn that he still has excellent taste in footwear.  

Photo Credit:  Funky Little Theater

TICKETS HERE:


CREATIVE TEAM:

Director:  Chris Medina

Scenic Design:  Chris Medina

Lighting Design:  Dylan McClintock

Original Music and Sound Design:  Chad Orr

Costume Design:  Delaney Hallauer

Props:  Ashley Gee

Stage Manager:  Ashley Gee/Will Sobolik


CAST:

Morris/“Jake”:  Justin Anderson (alternates with Dylan McClintock)

Morris/“Jake”:  Dylan McClintock (alternates with Justin Anderson)

Keri: Chelsie Bennett

Amy/“Eileen”:  Kim Bennett

Kaitlin:  America Copeland

Danielle/“Jessica”:  Ambrosia Feess

Tyler/“William”:  Dave Gallo

Louis:  Joshua Hsi


Lily/“Sequoia”DesirĂ©e Myers

Oli:  Kaitlin Porter

Bill/“Sebastian”Luke Schoenemann

Cybil/“Mona”:  Sallie Walker

John/“Valencio”:  John Zincone


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Game of Love and Chance




Playwright:  by Pierre de Marivaux (translated by Stephen Wadsworth)

CompanyTheatreworks

Venue:  Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes two15 minute intermissions).

Date of Performance:  Sunday, October 23, 2016. 

It’s October, and that means your entertainment choices include a wide variety of Halloween related ghoul fests.  Live theater choices this year include Night of the Living Dead, Cripple Creepshow, and The Bold, The Young, and the Murdered.  It is truly a season of blood and guts for all.

If, however, you’re not a fan of zombies, vampires, and stage blood, don’t despair.  Theatreworks has just the antidote to the seasonal fright shows.  The Game of Love and Chance (Game of Love) won’t scare you in the slightest.  Any tears in your eyes will be due to the nonstop antics of the stellar cast.

Theatreworks has a commendable record of reviving 18th century comedies, to the point of specializing somewhat in the genre.  Their recent productions of The Liar and The Servant of Two Masters built their reputation. 

The Game of Love cements it.

Pierre de Marivaux.  Credit:  Wikipedia.
Marivaux’s script may be formulaic and dated (“dated” as in first performed in 1730), but Director Murray Ross has assembled a combustible mixture of comedic talent that could get laughs reading a phone book. The Game of Love is a belly laugher timed at 2.5 hours, including two (2) intermissions.  It takes that long partly because of all the pauses required to let the laughter die down.  But don’t let the running time get in the way of a good time.  Malvaux’s masquerade may be the fastest two and half hours on any local stage in recent memory. 

The plot is silly, involving a hilarious charade as nobles and servants swap roles.  That’s really all you need to know to understand the story.  It’s a classic in the Commedia dell'arte style, featuring exaggerated stock characters, exquisite period costumes, and inspired direction by Murray Ross.  Ross adds what is, for me at least, a brand new category to the creative staff:  “Movement Consultant.”  If you’re not sure what that means (and who could blame you?), watch the actors.  They use exaggerated movements (both arms and legs) to enhance their lines.  You can’t miss it.  The effect is to focus the audience on what they see as well as what they hear.  The “Movement Consultant” (Catherine Turocy) has added a visual layer to the cast, generating a richer level of comedy.

Ross also gives his cast a fairly free reign, adding an appropriate level of ad libbing.  The invisible barrier between the audience and the stage gets punctured at times.  For theater purists, that’s a problem.  As far as I’m concerned, in a comedy it can (and here, it does) work.  

Russell Parkman’s set is simple; a parquet floor with period furniture and ornately painted doors at each end.  Its’ simplicity is its’ best feature; the space evokes the mood and the sense of an 18th century mansion.  Stephanie Bradley’s costumes are exquisitely detailed, and it’s not just about the cut and the color of the clothes.  She has obviously used the finest fabrics available to her.  

Comedies make us laugh, but it’s much easier for the cast to generate laughter if they are actually having fun.  I have no doubt whatsoever that this cast is having a ball with Game of Love.  Watch them when they aren’t speaking.  At times, they can’t help smiling or laughing at each other.

Sammie Joe Kinnett (Harlequin).  
The clown prince of Game of Love is Sammie Joe Kinnett (Harlequin).  Mr. Kinnett is perhaps the funniest guy in Southern Colorado (maybe in all of Colorado).  His resume is impressive; he brought down the house with a food fight a while back.  He only gets the chance to snack here, but the effect is the same:  Kinnett comes loaded for laughs.

Kinnett’s love interest Lisette is played by clown princess Caitlin Wise, and she’s a perfect match for him.  She’s as big a cutup as Kinnett, and her physical comedy and timing are spot on.  She can go toe to toe with Kinnett.  The two together are reminiscent of the best comedy couples we know (Lucy and Desi, Carol Burnett and Tim Conway, for example).  Ms. Wise is no stranger to comedy; she did a fantastic Lucille Ball impression earlier this year in Kind of Red.  For Game of Love, she’s on fire.  She struts.  She stalks.  She teases, she pleases, and she slays her prey.  With a killer smile and a wink in her eye, Wise enchants Harlequin/Dorante.  He can’t resist her, and neither can we.

Caitlin Wise (Lisette).
The royal couple, Sylvia (Carley Cornelius) and Dorante (John DiAntonio) do their best impressions of servants and still fall in love with each other.  Both are compelling, whether we see them as royalty or serfs.  Cornelius is as funny as she is devious, taking the masquerade to a needless extreme.  DiAntonio is dashing; his nobility is obvious though he’s dressed to work in the stables.  

Not to be outdone, Christian O’Shaunessy plays Sylvia’s brother with a sibling sense of mischief.  He sees the entire charade as his own personal playground.  O’Shaunessy gets the balance right; equal parts fun and shenanigans.  David Hastings is properly paternal as Orgon, granting his daughter Sylvia her wish to meet her arranged match in disguise.  Hastings lends some dignity to an otherwise chaotic experience.

My quibbles with Game of Love (a sugary sweet script with the nutrition of cotton candy and a challenging running time) are minor indeed.  Game of Love is a rocking good time when we need it most: there’s not a drop of blood shed here, and it’s only a week until Halloween.  Theatreworks demonstrates once again that it has absolutely no fear of formats.  Game of Love is a 270 year old script that comes alive, and Theatreworks puts it out right after a bold, non-linear contemporary love story (also featuring Ms. Cornelius).  These two shows could not be more different, and both followed a Shakespeare classic to kick off the season.  If you’re looking for a broad range of excellent theater, Theatreworks is the place to start your search.
Carlie Cornelius (Sylvia)
& John DiAntonio (Dorante).

Finally, a word to those who sneak out seconds after the last scene so you can beat the traffic.  You lose.  The cast takes their bows, breaks into a waltz, and finally busts some serious dance moves that didn’t exist in 1730.  I was hoping they might invite the audience to join them on stage.  You might want to wear your boogie shoes just in case it happens.


NOTES:

This show closes on November 6, 2016.  This show is appropriate for all ages.

Photo Credit:  Theatreworks and Emory John Collinson, photographer.

TICKETS HERE:





David Hastings (Orgon) & Christian O'Shaunessey (Mario).

CREATIVE TEAM:

Director:  Murray Ross

Movement Consultant:  Catherine Turocy

Scenic Design:  Russell Parkman

Master Electrician:  Eric 

Lighting Design:  Amith Chandrashaker

Sound Design:  Jerry R. Ditter

Costume Design:  Stephanie Bradley

Stitchers:  Mindy Coulson & Karen Holloway

Wig Master:  Jonathan Eberhardt

Props Manager:  Rebecca Dull 

Stage Manager:  Elise Jenkins

Assistant Stage Manager:  Kristen Wickersheim

Production/Shop Crew:  Will Blocker, John Cooke, Alexandria Ellison, Jennifer Gebhart, Ruth Geiger Jonathan Smith, Benton Gray, Natalie Kiel, Charles Redding, Salvador Placensia, Gia Zhuang, Jacob Del Valle, Jesse Whiteside.
  

CAST:

Silvia:  Carley Cornelius

Dorante: John DiAntonio

Orgon:  David Hastings


Harlequin:  Sammie Joe Kinnett

Lisette:  Caitlin Wise

Valet:  Galen Westmoreland

Chambermaid:  Taylor Dunbar

Friday, October 21, 2016

THESPIANA...New Play Festival



I thought I was pretty plugged in to the Colorado Springs theater community.  I was wrong.  

Somehow Thespiana 2016 got by me…it happened last February 27-28 at the Cottonwood Center for the ArtsThespiana is a new play festival of sorts, drawing most of the entries from The Drama Lab, which is calling itself “the best little playwriting group in Colorado Springs.”

I missed the Thespiana 2016 play readings, but I’ve already calendared the 2017 version (with five brand new plays) on February 25-26.  Tickets will be available after December 1.  Both dates will be the same scripts; the Saturday show repeats on Sunday.

Full house at Thespiana 2016.
This early notice may be helpful; the 2016 event packed the Cottonwood with two sold out performances.  Not bad for a “little” playwriting group event with just "word of mouth" advertising (and some email blasts to friends and acquaintances and a couple of radio interiews).  It was listed as a Facebook event, but it never hit my Facebook page.  I think the Cottonwood seats about 75 per show, so it’s impressive that about 150 people turned out for new work by local playwrights with virtually no advertising.

I met recently with Chuck Cabell and Jeff Schmoyer (both of whom had works featured at Thespiana), to discuss their goals for the 2016 event, as well as their plans for 2017.  “There are two goals for Thespiana,” according to Cabell.  “One is to bring focus and attention to local writers, directors and actors, and the second is to have fun.”  The 2016 event was a roaring success for both goals.

The 2017 event is already coming into focus.  According to Chuck and Jeff, the new works have already been selected.  Chuck will be the producer again this year, and will have an entry in the program, as will Jeff.  In addition, plays will include work by Warren Epstein, Phil Ginsburg and the team of Mark & Lauren Arnest,.  The directors will be named in the near future.  The readings will be rehearsed and feature local actors.  Just so you know…one of the goals at the next event will be the same as last year:  HAVE FUN.

Local actors Elizabeth Khan, Greg Lanning, Mike Miller, and 
Sally Walker at Thespiana 2016.
Heads up to all who are interested in writing, producing and seeing new work.  Thespaiana 2017 is headed your way.  I’ll update this post with additional information as it becomes available.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Elephant Man






Playwright:  Bernard Pomerance


Venue:  Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 East Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 20 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 (opening night). 

Springs Ensemble Theatre (SET) has a winner-The Elephant Man is a gorgeous script given a sensitive, profound production.  There are many lessons embedded in The Elephant Man, and SET nails the most important one:  beauty is more than skin deep.  

The Elephant Man is the tragically true story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century British citizen who suffered severe deformities.  Merrick was both a friend and patient of surgeon Frederick Treves, who treated him at the London Hospital.  Treves wrote of Merrick’s deformities:  ”(Merrick is) the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I had ever seen ... at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure displayed."

Despite his hideous appearance, Treves realized that while Merrick looked like a beast, there was a sensitive human being underneath.  Often mischaracterized as an imbecile, Merrick was intelligent, curious, and frightened.  

Bernard Pomerance put Merrick’s story on a Broadway stage in 1979 and won the Tony Award for Best Play that year.  Pomerance’s script was adapted for the critically acclaimed film The Elephant Man in 1980.  There’s a significant difference between the film and the stage play:  the film uses state of the art makeup effects to render Merrick’s physical appearance.  The stage play, in contrast, uses no makeup or effects.  The actor who plays Merrick (done brilliantly here by Micah Spiers) must convey the deformities with his posture and movements.

A hunk of a physical specimen, Speirs would never be mistaken offstage for an introverted, ugly invalid.  Onstage, however, he limps, he shuffles, he’s hunched over, and he uses only his left hand.  His right arm is bent at the elbow and his right hand is useless.  The physical challenge of spending more than two hours in such a posture is a considerable, but Spiers does it with a natural flow that conveys the agony of Merrick’s multiple deformities.  Spiers takes the stage in the first scene shirtless, and one can’t help but wonder how this perfectly sculpted actor can possibly play Merrick.  By the second scene, he has fully captured Merrick’s form and spirit.  

Jude Bishop plays Merrick’s surgeon, Dr. Frederick Treves.  The real Treves was an eminent surgeon, and a friend as well as a doctor to Merrick.  Bishop embodies both the professional and the personal qualities of Treves.  He sees the man beneath the deformed skin, and struggles with his inability to treat Merrick’s crippling disorder.  Bishop is particularly effective as he realizes that by trying to normalize Merrick he has done him no favors.  The realization that “normal” was never a suitable medical goal crushes Treves, and Bishop cleverly makes that moment a profound one.

E. Amber Singleton plays Merrick’s companion and love interest with an awkward understanding that any relationship is doomed from the start.  Singleton is an actor playing an actor.  Her audition for the role as Merrick’s companion has a single line (“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance”).  Singleton reads her line several times until she gets it just right, and then performs for Merrick.  It’s an award winning performance.  She captivates and inspires Merrick, stuffing her repulsion and baring her soul to him.  Singleton makes a difficult transition look natural, as she moves from befriending Merrick and fulfilling his fantasy to abruptly breaking his heart into pieces.  

Taylor Geiman has a dual role, but it is his portrayal of Ross that stands out.  Geiman’s Ross is a cruel, greedy character out to sell Merrick’s hideous appearance in a freak show.  Geiman gets to be both heartless and humble as Ross, and he sells both with a convincing performance.

Director Matt Radcliffe has a clear vision, emphasizing Merrick’s essential humanity despite his grotesque disorder.  The beauty of Pomerance’s script is the connection we should feel with Merrick; Radcliffe gets it and has brought that message to the SET stage.  To expedite costume changes, Radcliffe has put some of the necessary items onstage.  Using projections, Radcliffe sets up each scene with a quote from the script, giving the audience a preview of the action to come.

The staging of Merrick’s death scene is stunning; Radcliffe puts him front and center, stretched out on a bed.  Merrick usually slept sitting up, as his head was too large and heavy to lay down.  Radcliffe and Spiers combine to deliver a visually gripping scene of terminal suffering followed by eternal peace.

Radcliffe uses musical interludes between scenes (music by The Rogue Spirits).  The music enhances the entire production, but one recognizable melody stood out:  You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (John Lennon & Paul McCartney).  It was an instrumental, but I could hear the lyrics in my head:

Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you've got to hide your love away

The music perfectly captures Merrick’s predicament.  He will always have to hide himself from others.  Love is a forbidden notion for The Elephant Man.

Sarah S. Shaver’s costumes are magnificent, detailed, and meticulously true to London in the 1890’s.  Two of those costumes stand out:  the London Bobby and Mrs. Kendall’s bustier and bloomers. 

SET’s production is first rate, although there were some fumbled lines on opening night.  The Elephant Man is a true story, and one that speaks eloquently of the human condition.  We are more alike than we are different.  That’s a message that rang true when Frederick Treves treated Merrick, and it rings true today.  

Given the divisiveness of current events, Merrick’s story is perhaps even more urgent 126 years later than it was when he lived.  The Elephant Man still walks among us today, disabled, disfigured, and standing on street corners everywhere.  

I went away from the SET stage, with Pomerance’s words ringing in my ears:

Merrick:  Do you know why my head is so big?

Kendall:  No.

Merrick:  Because it’s full of dreams.

We are more like those people on the corner than we realize.  We are full of dreams.


NOTES:

This show contains brief nudity.

This show is closes on October 30, 2016.


Photo Credit:  Springs Ensemble Theatre Company

TICKETS HERE:


CREATIVE TEAM:

Executive Producer/Technical Director/Director:  Matt Radcliffe

Scenic Design:  Brianna G. Pilon

Assistant Director/Co-Producer:  Brianna G. Pilon

Co-Producer:  Micah Spiers

Fight Choreography:  Gregory Farinelli

Lighting Design:  Emory John Collinson

Sound Design:  The Rogue Spirits (Travis Duncan & Jeremiah Walter)

Costume Design:  Sarah S. Shaver

Costume Construction:  Jillmarie Peterson

Special Props Design:  Charles Redding

Projection Operator:  Anthony Grimaldo

Stage Manager:  Rebecca Savage

Dramaturg:  Jessica Weaver


CAST:

John Merrick:  Micah Spiers

Frederick Treves:  Jude Bishop

Mrs. Kendall:  E. Amber Singleton

Gomm/Conductor:  Richard “Buck” Buchanan

Ross/Bishop How:  Taylor Geiman

Miss Sandwich/Princess/Pinhead:  Danine Schell

Countess/Pinhead:  Alicia Kensington Franks

Duchess/Pinhead:  Hannah McCullough

Snork/Man/London Police:  Emory John Collinson

Prince/Porter/Belgian Police:  Gregory Farinelli