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Thursday, February 23, 2012

AUTOBAHN • Soundstage Productions/R-S Theatrics

A girl on her way home from rehab, an inappropriate trip to a cabin in the woods, and a series of pre-interpretations that turn "make-out" point into "break-up" point and then back again -- these are some of the situations explored in Neil LaBute's 2003 collection of seven brief one-act, two-characters plays, and it's getting a fittingly intimate production by Soundstage Productions/R-S Theatrics.  (<-- Sorry.  Longest sentence ever.)

While these vignettes are unrelated, they all take a look at relationship dynamics, and take place in the front seat of a car.  The additional common denominator is the fact that they are also language-oriented.  David Mamet is one of LaBute's favorite playwrights, and in like fashion, connotations and perceptions of meaning are examined and the "here's the dark underbelly" of things are uncovered.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL • Stray Dog Theatre

First of all, get a ticket.  This hilarious show, superbly co-directed by Justin Been and Gary F. Bell, lampoons everything from political corruption, the legal system and bureaucracy, to the musical form itself, while constantly obliterating the fourth wall.  Speaking of the fourth wall, there's this thing called "Brechtian theatre".  It's a term that used to intimidate the hell out of me, but not anymore.  Thanks to a conversation with a buddy of mine, I learned that, in a nutshell, Bertolt Brecht, a poet and playwright who played a huge part in developing what's called "epic theatre", didn't want the audience to get too caught up in the story by constantly reminding us that we were watching a piece of theatre.  He "intended to provoke rational thought rather than to create illusion."  Little did I realize that this works brilliantly in comedic satire.  Hello, Urinetown: The Musical!  
Thanks to a devastating 20 year drought, a town has had to suffer no private toilets in an effort to conserve water.  Public amenities are controlled by the corporation UGC, or "Urine Good Company".  These toilets are scattered throughout the city, and there is a fee to pee.  The big guy kicking the shit… no pun intended… out of the little guy.  Sound familiar?  Sure it does!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

WAY TO HEAVEN • New Jewish Theatre

"Himmelweg", translated from German, means "Way to Heaven".  In the context of this absorbing play by Juan Mayorga, it means the sound of the train, and the way to the gas chambers.  The third show of The New Jewish Theatre's 15th season is based on real occurrences, and it is arresting.

In the 1940's, there was a concentration camp at Theresienstadt, where scenes from everyday life were orchestrated by the Nazis for the appearance of normalcy for a group of Red Cross inspectors.  It's within this settlement that our Red Cross representative (Jerry Vogel) found himself years ago.  During a good bit of the first act, he talks about the time when he went to visit that community in the woods, and how something about the place seemed oddly fabricated, although there was a school, a synagogue, a theatre -- all of the trappings of relative comfort.  He also talks about his regrets about what he couldn't, or refused to see back then.

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