Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Third Annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards

Another celebration of St. Louis theatre has come and gone, and with a nearly sold out house at COCA, a great time was had by all. And honestly, it's always nice for me to have the opportunity to geek out. I'm always blown away by the talent in this incredibly vibrant theatre community. Kudos and thanks to COCA, HEC-TV, our sponsor, Dominium Realty, and everyone who came out to celebrate.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and award recipients! Here's the list of the 2015 St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominees with the award recipients in red.


Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio 
Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nancy Lewis, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Caroline Amos, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nancy Lewis, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Ruth Pferdehirt, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Jamie Pitt, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Donna Weinsting, Chancers, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Paul Cereghino, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre
Joneal Joplin, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Michael James Reed, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Ben Ritchie, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Evan Zes, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Sarajane Alverson, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre
Nicole Angeli, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Nancy Bell, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Teresa Doggett, Shirley Valentine, Dramatic License Productions
Dale Hodges, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Raymond McAnally, One Man, Two Guvnors,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Ted Gregory, Quills, Max & Louie Productions
Raymond McAnally, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Ben Nordstrom, Reality, HotCity Theatre
Michael James Reed, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Jared Sanz-Agero, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
Paul Mason Barnes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Elizabeth Helman, All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Bobby Miller, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Suki Peters, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Edward Stern, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio 
Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics
The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre
The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Katie Donnelly, Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics
Amy Loui, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Susan Pellegrino, A Kid Like Jake, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Susie Wall, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
Sharisa Whatley, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Jason Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
Gregory Fenner, The Whipping Man, New Jewish Theatre
Bobby Miller, The Price, New Jewish Theatre
Tim Schall, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre
Eric Dean White, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Andrea Frye, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep
Linda Kennedy, Windmill Baby, Upstream Theater
Kate Levy, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Samantha Moyer, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Em Piro, The K of D: An Urban Legend, Blue Rose Stage Collective

John Contini, Death of a Salesman,
Insight Theatre Company
Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Jim Butz, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
John Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
John Flack, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre
Bobby Miller, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Jerry Vogel, Forget Me Not, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Fred Abrahamse, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions
Gary Wayne Barker, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Bruce Longworth, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Wayne Loui, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
Marty Stanberry, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Outstanding Production of a Drama (tie)
Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company
The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics
The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre
The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Jim Burwinkel, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre
Michael Ganio, Other Desert Cities, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Rob Lippert, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre
Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions
Mark WIlson, The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Susan Branch Towne, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Eileen Engel, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre
Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare
Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions
Michele Friedman Siler, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Susan Branch Towne, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Patrick Huber, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions
John Lasiter, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Bess Moynihan, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
John Wylie, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Justin Been, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre
Barry G. Funderburg, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Fitz Patton, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Rusty Wandall and Gregg Coffin, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Rusty Wandall, Opus, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Robert Mark Morgan, Seussical, The Muny
Outstanding Set Design in a Musical
Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Robert Mark Morgan, Seussical, The Muny
Michael Schweikardt, The Addams Family, The Muny
James Wolk, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
James Wolk, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Amy Clark, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Leon Dobkowski, Seussical, The Muny
Andrea Lauer, The Addams Family, The Muny
Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Alexandra Scibetta Quigley, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Rob Denton, Seussical, The Muny
Tyler Duenow, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Matthew McCarthy, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
Matthew McCarthy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Jeffrey Richard Carter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Outstanding Musical Director
Jeffrey Richard Carter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Valerie Gebert, Seussical, The Muny
James Moore, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Chris Petersen, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Justin Smolik, Rent, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Choreographer
Stephen Bourneuf, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Denis Jones, Grease, The Muny
Gary John LaRosa, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
Ralph Perkins, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Zachary Stefaniak, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Seussical, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Rachel Hanks, First Lady Suite, R-S Theatrics
Sara Kapner, The Addams Family, The Muny
Teressa Kindle, Grease, The Muny
Mamie Parris, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Sarah Porter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Patrick Kelly, Assassins, November Theater Company
Rob McClure, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Joseph Medeiros, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Whit Reichert, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Luke Steingruby, Rent, New Line Theatre

Lavonne Byers, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Lavonne Byers, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Kari Ely, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
Abigail Isom, Seussical, The Muny
Beth Leavel, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny
Larissa White, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Rob McClure, The Addams Family, The Muny
Ben Nordstrom, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Matt Pentecost, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Bruce Sabath, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis
John Tartaglia, Seussical, The Muny

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Michael Hamilton, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre
Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Rob Ruggiero, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre
Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre
Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis
Seussical, The Muny

Rebecca Gilman, Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976,
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Outstanding New Play
Jennifer Blackmer, Human Terrain, Mustard Seed Theatre
Rebecca Gilman, Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Nick Otten, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble
Stephen Peirick, Four Sugars, Stray Dog Theatre
Lia Romeo, Reality, HotCity Theatre

Special Awards
Donna Northcott, St. Louis Shakespeare
Agnes Wilcox, Prison Performing Arts

Monday, March 23, 2015

SIGHT UNSEEN • The New Jewish Theatre

The New Jewish Theatre's production of Donald Margulies' "Sigh Unseen" centers around Jonathan Waxman, a Jewish painter from Brooklyn, whose work has brought him fame and fortune. But a visit to an old flame spurs a look at his success, and his relationship to it, and the hard face-to-face realizations of what got lost along the way.

Jonathan Waxman (Aaron Orion Baker) is in England for his first London art exhibition, and after he makes an unexpected phone call, he pays a visit to his ex-girlfriend from college, Patricia (Emily Baker). Patricia, once Jonathan's muse, has settled into life in Norfolk with her husband, Nick (David Wassilak), an archeologist, who seems to be less than thrilled about hosting this guest. Afterall, a painting of Patricia that Jonathan illustrated still hangs in the farmhouse that Nick and Patricia share.
Aaron Orion Baker (Jonathan), Emily Baker (Patricia)
and David Wassilak (Nick).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
The play darts back-and-forth between Jonathan's time at the farmhouse, and a London interview with Grete (Emily Piro), a German arts reporter, with Jonathan confronting the consequences of his own success, fielding pointed questions about the meaning of his work. There are also scenes that reach back even further, to Jonathan and Patricia's college years. All together, these time shifts paint the full picture of Jonathan's struggles with his Jewish roots, his success, and grasps at closure.

Under the spot-on direction of Bobby Miller, there are strong performances throughout. Aaron Orion Baker's Jonathan is a sympathetic one, easy to bristle at questions about his art, and defensive in a way that hints at deeper issues of assimilation and sacrifice. Emily Baker's Patricia has a strong shell -- resolute in her present -- able to remain in England by marrying Nick after her student visa ran out, but aching underneath about her past with Jonathan.
Aaron Orion Baker (Jonathan) and Emily Piro (Grete).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Wassilak's Nick strikes a great balance between a polite host, bubbling with barely hidden irritation with Jonathan, whom he's no doubt heard more than a few stories about, and the fact that his success has afforded him thousands for work he hasn't even completed yet. Piro's Grete is single-minded, with a wry smile that hints at a pleasure she receives by getting under Jonathan's skin. Dunsi Dai provides the scenic design that includes the farmhouse, an interview space at the art gallery, and Jonathan's childhood bedroom that lies along a wall of NJT's black box space -- where the lives of Jonathan and Patricia take a decided turn, along with a college art studio, where their lives together began. Maureen Berry's lighting design beautifully sets the mood following the action across the space, and Michele Friedman Siler's costumes thoughtfully provide insight into each character.

Emily Baker (Patricia) and Aaron Orion Baker (Jonathan).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Only one more weekend to check it out. It's at the New Jewish Theatre until the 29th.


SIGHT UNSEEN

Written by Donald Margulies
Directed by Bobby Miller
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through March 29 | tickets: $38 - $40
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, Sunday the 15th at 2pm & 7:30pm

Aaron Orion Baker (Jonathan) and Emily Baker (Patricia).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Cast:
Aaron Orion Baker* (Jonathan Waxman), Emily Baker (Patricia), David Wassilak (Nick) and Emily Piro (Grete).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Dunsi Dai; lighting design by Maureen Berry; costume design by Michele Friedman Siler; sound design by Bobby Miller; properties design by Jenny Smith; stage manager, Monica Dickhens.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BUYER AND CELLAR • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

Jonathan Tolins' tasty one-man play, "Buyer and Cellar", uses Barbra Streisand's 2010 vanity project coffee-table book, “My Passion for Design”, as a jumping off point for the story of Alex, a gay, out of work actor in Los Angeles, and his stint as the sole employee in the underground mall at Ms. Streisand's Malibu estate. Alex, pitch-perfectly played by Jeremy Webb, makes it clear from the beginning that this tale is fictional, though the book itself, along with the basement thoroughfare of shops, is real, which makes this 90-minute gallivant even more delicious. Extra points if you have more than a passing knowledge of Barbra Streisand -- singer, actor, director, producer, diva, and gay icon.

After being unceremoniously booted from his job at Disneyland's "Toontown", Alex lands a job manning Streisand's basement street of shops, where she keeps a lifetime of accumulated knick-knacks.
Jeremy Webb (Alex).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Though he's relegated to the cellar with only old costumes, dolls, immaculately placed bric-a-brac, and a frozen yogurt machine for company, Alex is euphoric about the gig and happy for the steady paycheck. Then, like a bolt from the blue, the day arrives when he's visited by the mall's only patron, Babs herself, who's come down to admire her belongings, engage in light conversation, and haggle for goods she already owns. As Streisand's subterranean visits become more frequent and Alex's relationship with her evolves, Alex's boyfriend becomes more and more annoyed, and perhaps a little jealous, and warns him about flying too close to the sun. Alex is bound to get burned.

Jeremy Webb (Alex).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
While Tolins' play jabs and pokes fun at the more publicly assumed notions about Streisand's persona, it affectionately yields more weight that its clever but featherweight premise seems to offer on the surface. With buoyant direction by Wendy Dann, Webb, with nothing more onstage than a chair and a desk, sucks you in from the start with an affable ease, and his interactions with Streisand are characterized convincingly with a refreshing lack of overdone caricature. He also plays Alex's snarky screenwriter boyfriend, Barry, a chilly fellow employee at the estate, Sharon, with even a little James Brolin thrown in -- all distinctive and well-played. Steve TenEyck's lighting design changes with the text and tone, sometimes with just the snap of a finger, and Rusty Wandall complements the action with subtle, perfectly placed sound design and original music.

Jeremy Webb (Alex).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
No doubt Ms. Streisand has probably never seen this show in person. Oh well. Her loss. This play is great fun. "Buyer and Cellar" closes out the Rep's Studio season, and has already been extended until April 5th. Check it out!


BUYER AND CELLAR

Written by Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Wendy Dann
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through April 5 | tickets: $50 - $65
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays to Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm and 7pm

Cast:
Jeremy Webb* (Alex).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic and lighting design by Steve TenEyck; costume design by Marci Franklin; sound design/original music by Rusty Wandall; stage manager, Shannon B. Sturgis.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA • New Line Theatre

"Jerry Springer: The Opera", by Brits Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, premiered in London twelve years ago and received the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. If you've ever seen the infamously controversial tabloid talk show that inspired this musical, you can imagine that there's a generous dose of profanity throughout, and subject matter that could make the boldest blush. So, yeah -- while this isn't a musical for the faint-hearted, honestly, there is something disarming and inherently funny about the pairing of operatic music with dirty lyrics, and with this ensemble, under Scott Miller's zestful direction, the emotion churning below the surface of these outrageous stories goes a long way in making the profane more palatable.

We start with Jonathan, the warm-up man (Matt Pentecost), who lays down the general rules for the show to the boisterous studio audience, who await the appearance of Jerry Springer (Keith Thompson) with joyous anticipation. The first act carries on like a typical Springer show, where we meet Dwight (a reliably engaging Zachary Allen Farmer) who is cheating on his fiancée Peaches (Taylor Pietz) with Zandra (a very funny Lindsey Jones), a dope addict. Dwight's also making time with Tremont (Luke Steingruby), a transexual. Fights and profanity ensue. Second up is Montel (Marshall Jennings), who needs to tell his girlfriend, Andrea (Christina Rios), about the secret fetish he harbors and the woman he's been cheating with -- Baby Jane (Pietz). Jennings embraces his number with uninhibited gusto, while the disgust Rios displays is hilarious. The last guests of the act are Chucky (Ryan Foizey), a back-country hick whose girlfriend Shawntel (Anna Skidis) has dreams of being a pole-dancer.

Zachary Allen Farmer (Dwight) and Taylor Pietz (Peaches).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
During the proceedings, Jerry's director of security, Steve Wilkos (Matt Hill), has his hands full breaking up fights, and Jerry is periodically admonished by his Inner Valkyrie (Kimi Short), but it's the blasphemous third act that has drawn the most controversy. After a purgatorial second act, Jerry finds himself in hell, trying to straighten out the long-held differences between Satan, dynamically played by Pentecost, and Jesus, a righteously confident Jennings. Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee's script loses a little steam during this third act, but is no less infused with frenzied energy by this committed cast.

Keith Thompson (Jerry Springer), Christina Rios (Andrea)
and Marshall Jennings (Montel).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Pentecost, Jennings, Farmer, Foizey, Skidis, Pietz and Jones double, and even triple-up on roles, while Thompson holds the center as the title role with appeal and earnest detachment. The music, a mix of operatic arias and the more traditional Broadway-type fare, is challenging, and the cast handles the score admirably, with Jones, Pietz, Skidis, Jennings and Rios tackling the demands of the music with standout talent. The mix of harmonies when the ensemble's voices come together is beautiful, and the New Line Band, under Jeffrey Richard Carter's music direction, manages the score nicely as well. Scenic designer Rob Lippert pulls off a smart reproduction of the television show's set, and costume designer Sarah Porter (who also appears as an extremely tanned member of the studio audience) outdoes herself with a huge number of insightfully informed outfits for the 19 member cast.

Anna Skidis (Shawntel) and Ryan Foizey (Chucky).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Beyond the chicks with dicks, fecal fetishes and tap-dancing Klansmen, there's genuine poignancy in numbers like "I Wanna Sing Something Beautiful" and "I Just Wanna Dance." Of course there are also numbers like "Foursome Guests", "Diaper Man" and "Mama Gimme Smack on the Asshole", but in the context of the show, these people aren't freaks. They're all yearning for their "Jerry Springer Moment" -- bigger than life characters who get bigger than life numbers, with common themes of treachery, love, desire, loss, vengeance, and the craving for 15 minutes of fame, running behind the veneer of vulgarity. So go on. Have your "Jerry Springer Moment." You'll likely not have the chance to see this again.

Matt Pentecost (Satan) and Marshall Jennings (Jesus).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Also, don't forget that this year's St. Louis Theater Circle Awards will be held on the 23rd of this month at COCA, with New Line Theatre among the nominees. It promises to be a fun night, and will be telecast 'live' on HEC-TV (Charter channel 989, U-Verse channel 99) and streamed 'live' on the HEC-TV web site.


JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA

Music by Richard Thomas
Book/lyrics by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas
Directed by Scott Miller
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through March 28 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Tap-dancing Klansmen
Cast:
Keith Thompson (Jerry Springer), Matt Pentecost (Jonathan Wierus/Satan), Matt Hill (Steve), Zachary Allen Farmer (Dwight/God), Ryan Foizey (Chucky/Adam), Marshall Jennings (Montel/Jesus), Lindsey Jones (Zandra/Irene/Mary), Taylor Pietz (Peaches/Baby Jane), Christina Rios (Andrea), Anna Skidis (Shawntel/Eve), Luke Steingruby (Tremont), Kimi Short (Jerry's Inner Valkyrie), Studio Audience: Reynaldo Arceno, Tyler Cheatem, Joel Hackbarth, Ann Hier, Sarah Porter, Michelle Sauer, Kimi Short and Christopher Strawhun.

Creative:
Assistant director, Mike Dowdy; music direction by Jeffrey Richard Carter; scenic and lighting design by Rob Lippert; costume design by Sarah Porter; sound design by Benjamin Rosemann; props master, Kimi Short; severed head design by Patricia Edmonds; choreographer, Robin Michelle Berger; dance captain, Michelle Sauer; fight choreographer, Nicholas Kelly.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Jeffrey Richard Carter; guitar, D. Mike Bauer; second keyboard, Sue Goldford; percussion, Clancy Newell; trumpet, Patrick Swan; reeds, Robert Vinson.

Friday, February 27, 2015

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? • St. Louis Actors' Studio

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," one of playwright Edward Albee's most notable works, premiered in 1962 and picked up five Tony Awards. The play was also selected for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1963, but the subject matter (a corrosive marriage, filled to the brim with booze, naughty language and sex) was controversial for its time, resulting in an overrule of the awards committee, and no prize for drama awarded that year. Typically, what may have been scandalous in the 60's seems tame to modern audiences, but the ability of Albee's play to still stun speaks to its potency. Under John Contini's shrewd direction and a rock solid cast, none of that potency is lost at St. Louis Actors' Studio's production. So, yeah. Get a ticket and buckle up.

We begin with George (William Roth) and Martha (Kari Ely) returning home from a college faculty party late at night, where George is an associate professor of history, when Martha tells him that she's invited a young couple over for a nightcap. George complains that it's way too late for guests, but Martha's father, the president of the college, insisted that they be nice to the couple. These first minutes of the first act contain laughs and jabs shared and launched between this couple of 23 years, and lay down the general brush strokes of their marriage, with Martha landing harsh insults at every turn, and George parrying every incoming attack with seemingly tepid counters.

William Roth (George), Betsy Bowman (Honey),
Kari Ely (Martha) and Michael Amoroso (Nick).
Photo credit: STLAS
Shortly after their guests, Nick (Michael Amoroso), a handsome biology professor -- new to the college, and his wife, Honey (Betsy Bowman) show up, the games George and Martha play become more interesting and intense, because now there are two new players. Nick and Honey are caught in the crossfire of the brutal rituals George and Martha have learned to practice, and after a truly staggering amount of alcohol, bold flirtation, allusions to a mysterious son, and uneasy interaction, Nick finds himself on the defense, and poor Honey finds herself in the bathroom, out of her depth and praying to the porcelain god, sweetly but obviously not able to keep up with the happenings.

William Roth (George) and Kari Ely (Martha).
Photo credit: STLAS
Though George gets his jabs in during the course of the night, it isn't until near dawn when he chooses to shatter the myth that gives weight to one of the only things he and Martha share, playing his last card in this battle royale. After a wrenching night (for the actors as well as the audience), George and Martha are left alone, tending to the bruises they've inflicted, with an unexpected, but true love for each other.

Ely's Martha, frustrated at her husband's lack of fight -- always pushing his limits, cuts with the precision of a surgeon, but Ely is able to show a vulnerable glint that surprises, and makes your heart ache by the end. Roth, as the rather schlubby George, catches you off-guard when he comes on, and after his abuse, makes you root for him (in a somewhat subversive way). Amoroso turns in a great performance as Nick, an up-and-coming professor who seems confident enough to adjust to whatever he encounters early in the play, but sympathetically buckles under the weight, as Martha's unrelenting come-ons persist and the punches of a more mature colleague ropes him into a night he never bargained for. Bowman provides not only a slice of comic relief, but also a skillful representation of a victim, genuinely wounded, whose personal information has been spilled during the course of the night. Patrick Huber makes his usual magic, making his wood paneled, jumbled set at the Gaslight's space seem bigger than it is, also lighting the action, with Teresa Doggett's costumes, Contini's sound design and Carla Landis Evans providing the property design.

Kari Ely (Martha) and William Roth (George).
Photo credit: STLAS
Don't think you can pass this play up because you've seen the film. The opportunity to see it onstage is worth every penny. Don't miss it. Only a few performances left.


WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

Written by Edward Albee
Directed by John Contini
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through March 1 | tickets: $30.25 - $35.25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Cast:
Kari Ely* (Martha), William Roth* (George), Betsy Bowman (Honey) and Michael Amoroso (Nick).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic and lighting design by Patrick Huber; sound design by John Contini; costume design by Teresa Doggett; wig design by Will Vicari; props design by Carla Landis Evans; fight choreographer, Shaun Sheley; stage manager, Amy J. Paige.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

STICK FLY • The Black Rep

The Black Rep continues its 38th season with Lydia Diamond's "Stick Fly", a family drama with a bit of a twist. The two Levay sons, Kent and Flip, are bringing their significant others over for a weekend at their summer home on Martha's Vineyard. Like most residents on Martha's Vineyard, the Levays are wealthy, but unlike most residents, they're also black.

The patriarch of the family is Joe (Erik Kilpatrick), a neurosurgeon, who would have enough money on his own, but has married into more money through his wife's family, who's owned a shipping business that reaches back to slavery times. He shows up later, but first to arrive is Kent, (Chauncy Thomas) the youngest, with his fiancée, Taylor (Sharisa Whatley). He's a writer who is on the verge, after many career stops and starts, of becoming a full-fledged novelist, and Taylor is an entomologist. Her father was a distinguished academic, so Taylor grew up with prestige, but she didn't grow up with money -- estranged from her father, and overwhelmed by prospect of marrying into this affluent family. Flip (Reginald Pierre) is a plastic surgeon, who is bringing his girlfriend Kimber (Meghan Maguire), also highly educated, and white. Added to the mix is 18 year old Cheryl (Rhyan Robinson), university-bound, who is currently filling in for the duties of her mother, the Levay's ailing maid. The mother of the family, Michelle Levay, is mysteriously absent, and despite needling from the sons, Joe remains silent about her whereabouts. The advantages of money and education can't be enough to propel you past some things -- particularly race, and Diamond's script offers a heaping helping of soapy dynamics, family secrets and bombshells.

Thomas and Pierre display an easy chemistry as brothers, and Whatley and Maguire do great work as the studious Taylor and the slightly reserved Kimber. Kilpatrick comes across as a powerful father, still able to control his grown sons, and Robinson has some great moments as the entertaining but mature Cheryl -- letting the lightly veiled derision occasionally thrown her way roll off of her back. Colt Frank's scenic design makes wonderful use of Emerson's generously intimate performance space, with lighting provided by Jim Burwinkel, costumes by Ali Turns, and atmospheric sounds of the seashore provided by Robin Weatherall. Director Lorna Littleway moves the action along nicely, though Diamond's script seems exposition heavy during the first act. Still, "Stick Fly" is worth checking out and spending a provocative weekend with the Levays.


STICK FLY

Written by Lydia Diamond
Directed by Lorna Littleway
Emerson Performance Center, Harris-Stowe State University
through February 22 | tickets: $35 - $45
Performances Thursday at 7pm, Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm

Cast:
Sharisa Whatley* (Taylor), Chauncy Thomas* (Kent "Spoon"), Rhyan Robinson (Cheryl), Reginald Pierre (Flip), Erik Kilpatrick* (Joe Levay) and Meghan Maguire (Kimber).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Colt Frank; lighting design by Jim Burwinkel; sound design by Robin Weatherall; costume design by Ali Turns; dramaturge, Diamond Skinner; stage manager, James Anthony.

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...