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Friday, September 21, 2012

DINNER WITH FRIENDS • Dramatic License Productions

As the plays opens, married couple Gabe (Christopher Hickey) and Karen (Michelle Hand) are telling their good friend Beth (Sarah Cannon) all of the details about their latest vacation.  Beth has brought over her kids to play with Gabe and Karen's kids, but her husband Tom (Chad Morris), is out of town on business.  In the middle of lemon almond polenta cake, a visibly shaken Beth tells her friends that Tom has left her.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

GOODBYE, RUBY TUESDAY • HotCity Theatre

This play was first introduced at HotCity's GreenHouse Festival, where new plays are workshopped and shown to the public.  Now, here we are, a few years later, and Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday is currently receiving its world premiere with strong direction, a spot-on cast and pitch perfect creative contributions.  The only thing it doesn't provide is easy answers.

Nobody in Lynn Hallaby's family can quite figure out what her deal is.  Lynn (Nicole Angeli) has come home to say goodbye to her family.  Seemingly out of nowhere, she's decided to hop on a Greyhound and head to Alaska to work on a commercial fishing boat, and the bus leaves in one hour.  Everyone in the family is desperately trying to get her to stay.  Her mom, Margie (Peggy Billo), even tries to hide her duffel bag under the sink.  Her father Hudson (Joe Hanrahan), offers to take her fishing, like they used to do when she was a kid -- to no avail.  Her brother Kelly (Charlie Barron), who thinks of Lynn as being "so drastic", insists that this just doesn't make any sense, and that she must stay.  Maybe only for his sake.  Kelly is gay, and has come out to everyone but his parents, and he and Lynn obviously have a close brother/sister relationship.  Lynn's husband Ray (Eric White), is also left angry, hurt and confused over her decision.  During an exchange with Lynn and Kelly, we learn that she unsuccessfully tried to "check-out" a decade earlier, but we never really learn why.  What we do learn is mostly revealed through the scenes with Lynn and her brother, and things escalate when Lynn's husband shows up.  Even Gary (Rusty Gunther), Kelly's boyfriend, tries to get under the surface of why Lynn has come to this decision, but like everyone else, he gets nowhere.  Kelly decides to come out minutes before Lynn has to leave, and here we see her take control of the situation, calm her parents, and emerge as the level-headed one, but she still holds her stance as needing to get away from her surroundings to save herself.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL • R-S Theatrics/Soundstage Productions

The last joint production of Soundstage and R-S Theatrics is quite a challenging choice.  Adapted from Elmer Rice's 1923 Expressionistic play, the musical premiered at the Next Theatre in Evanston Illinois and opened off-Broadway in 2008 at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  It received many off-Broadway nominations, and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.

The characters in this black musical comedy are not your typical musical theatre types.  Set against a score of complicated rhythms and quirky melodies, these people's lives are bleak, with just about everyone going by numbers instead of names -- like cogs in a machine.  Yet this show has a way of making you want to root for this cheerless, long-faced bunch, even though they may not strike you as likable at first.  The drudgery of their lives is by some means relatable.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

GOING TO SEE THE ELEPHANT • Mustard Seed Theatre


The title of this 1982 play that ushers in the sixth season of Mustard Seed Theatre, was an American idiom that indicated overwhelming emotion, and according to Belle "Maw" Wheeler (Nancy Lewis), it means going over the hill to see what's on the other side -- checking out the "unknown".

When the lights come up on Daniel Lanier's beautifully rustic set, we're drawn into Osbourne County, Kansas on July 3rd, 1870.  Preparations are underway for an Independence Day celebration the next day, and while Sara (Emily Baker) does the laundry and unsuccessfully tries to get milk from their cow Jezebel, Maw Wheeler, Sara's mother-in-law, is poring over a book that depicts the maps of the world.  Maw is restless, and is thinking about heading out to Colorado, once her daughter-in-law's baby is born.  But there's not too much time to think or talk about all that -- there's work to be done.  It seems that these hard-wrought frontier women always have work to do.  One of their nearest neighbors, Etta (Jessica Haley), ventures alone to visit them and see how the party planning is going.  Between the wild animals and the sometimes hostile natives, a young woman walking so far alone is a dangerous proposition in these parts, but Etta's lonely and needs the company.

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