Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ANGELS IN AMERICA PART TWO: PERESTROIKA • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog's repertory cycle of Angels in America culminates with Part Two: Perestroika, and it continues to impress.  The themes introduced in Part One: Millennium Approaches (you can read about that here) are plumbed even more deeply as the paths of Tony Kushner's cast of characters continue to cross, in the most remarkable ways, providing the connective tissue that makes this play a challenging but incredibly rewarding journey -- for the actors (whom I have the highest respect for), as well as the audience.

When we left off, Prior Walter (again, an amazing Ben Watts), suffering from AIDS and abandoned by his boyfriend Louis Ironson (Aaron Gotzon), is visited by the vision of his fever dreams -- the powerful and splendid Angel of America (a compelling Sarajane Alverson), who tells him that he must "prepare the way", for soon, "the great work begins".  This is where we pick up.

This Angel doesn't come with good tidings.  She comes with a prophecy for Prior, whether he wants it or not, and a plea for humanity to "stop moving".  In an arresting scene spiked with humor, The Angel explains how the migratory tendency of human beings drove God from heaven (on April 18, 1906 -- the date of the devastating San Francisco earthquake), leaving the Council (of Angels) powerless and alone.  Angels can't create -- they can only observe, and The Angel of America's mission is to get Prior, and everyone else on her part of the planet, to be still.  To halt progress.  So hopefully for heaven's sake at least, God will return.  Prior tries to make the argument that humans aren't rocks, so for us, migration and change are innate.  <-- Major theme going on right there.  Movement and progression are inevitable for the earthbound.  How we steer it though, is a decision heftily laid on us alone, cause it seems that God has left the building.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ANGELS IN AMERICA PART ONE: MILLENNIUM APPROACHES • Stray Dog Theatre

"Prepare the way…" -- a supernatural admonition given to a young man in 1985, new to his first lesions of Kaposi's sarcoma, a devastating indication of the AIDS virus.  Meanwhile, a valium-addicted housewife calls on "Mr. Lies", her hallucinogen-induced travel agent, ready to take her wherever she needs to go, for an escape from her phobias and suspicions about her husband, Joe.  Across town, Ethel Rosenberg, a woman executed for being a Communist spy in 1953, appears as a ghost to Roy Cohn, a right-wing closeted lawyer, chiefly responsible for putting the Rosenbergs in the chair.  He counts this among his major accomplishments.  He's also infected with AIDS.

The scope Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award winning two-part epic, subtitled "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes", is broad.  Incorporating the topics of AIDS, religion, death, politics, corruption, and then some, with a few supernatural visits thrown in, could seem over-whelming, if not for Kushner's ability to bring all of these subjects down to a common denominator.  A responsive chord that brings Reagan-Era philosophies and the hopeless devastation of the AIDS virus together under the ageless umbrella of an undeniable humanity.

Monday, April 9, 2012

KILLER JOE • St. Louis Actors' Studio

This first play from Tracy Letts takes a look at the Smiths -- a brood that gives the phrase "trailer trash" a whole new meaning.  Killer Joe is the third play I've seen from Letts and so far, they all have this flavor of damage mixed with dark comedy.  Like sour candy or bitter chocolate…  …  You know what I'm sayin'.  At any rate, under Milton Zoth's direction, it's a hearty blend going on right now at Actors' Studio.

The swastika tattooed son of the Smith family, Chris (James E. Slover), is in debt to some tough guys for thousands of bucks he doesn't have.  His wounded, naive little sister Dottie (Rachel Fenton) walks and talks in her sleep, and his dad Ansel (Larry Dell), whom Chris shares joints and Stag beer with, doesn't care about much outside of old detective shows on television.  In addition, they all look like they kinda don't shower very often.  Sharla (Missy Miller) is Ansel's new but maybe not so improved wife.  When her stepson asks why she answered the door half-naked, she replies, "Well, it's the middle of the night!  I didn't know who you were!".  Yep.  A nice bunch.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Seventh Annual Kevin Kline Awards • Loretto-Hilton Center

I love this night.  I get to dress up (thanks, K9) and stare at the St. Louis actors I've admired all year.  Yes, I'm a geek, but I managed to gawk and point way less than last year.  And what do you know -- it's my 100th blog!!  Yay!  And if you can get a seat in front of Troy Turnipseed, do it.  He's a blast!

Here are the winners (in red) from this year's Seventh Annual Kevin Kline Awards.  Congrats to all!


Lifetime Achievement Award • Joe Schulte, veteran drama teacher and resident stage manager at the Muny

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